3.5 Time Outs: Glocks.

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who is nothing if not capable of punching a man-card.

Click and be amazed.


Darwin reminded me I needed to write a Glock post.  No blog is complete until you’ve done that.  And look what I brought home from the library the other month, when I needed something completely different to get my mind off life for the weekend:

The boy took one look, and asked, “Why would Barrett write a book about Glocks??”  He recognized the name of the CEO of a competitor, because um, because he did.  Y chromosome on that child, confirmed.

I pointed him to the inside back cover.  “I think it’s a different Barrett.”  It is.


Anyway, I enjoyed the book even more than I’d expected.  Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun tells the story of Glock Inc. from the time Mr. Glock decided to try his hand at designing the weapon, through it’s rise as a market leader in the US, and into the human resources nightmare that ensued when radical success met original sin.  Well told — Paul Barrett is a great story teller, and he explains the technical bits with the detail you need in order to understand the story, but without losing the non-technical audience.

As a business book, it is top-notch.  Great look at the talent and plain old good fortune that made the company so successful — including some surprising twists in the gun control movement that helped spur sales and raise margins.  Ideologically, Barrett is pretty firmly in the middle of the road on gun topics, and he keeps his politics out of all but a few annoying paragraphs of opinion* near the conclusion — you can just skim and move on.

Language caution:  Don’t let the Amazon preview fool you, Barrett’s sources get quoted saying all kinds of words not allowed around my house.  It isn’t overdone and I did not find it bothersome as an adult reader, but it’s not a g-rated book by a long shot.

As a morality tale, Glock is a brilliant study in human weakness, and the way that vice unchecked leads to perdition**.  Barrett is Mr. Neutral through all of this — neither disturbed nor impressed by Glock’s sales tactics, other than to observe that they worked and they were legal.  Turns out men are fairly predictable in certain realms.

–> For this reason, the book makes a great parent-teen book study . . . but only once your boy is already aware of the various perils men need negotiate.  I held off on letting Mr. Boy read the book just yet.


Why is it that it only takes 2 seconds to accidentally upload a profile pic on Twitter that, taken out of context, will totally horrify 98% of the people who have often suspected as much . . . but it takes about an hour to get Twitter to accept some innocuous substitute hiding in the same file folder?  I suspect a plot to trap the careless.


Speaking of talented Catholic young men who like guns abridged anime – if you share the same interest, check out this guy: Mattroks 101’s You Tube channel.  And with that you know more than I do, for I am utterly out of my depth on all things anime, except maybe you are wondering how I ended up linking such a thing . . .


PS: Link day.  Help yourself if you are so inclined.  Post as many as you want, but only one per comment or the spam dragon will eat you up and I’ll never even know.

*It is possible that if you read here, you secretly enjoy reading annoying opinions.  Good for you.   There’s three or four paragraphs you’ll just love.

**Not just eternal souls, though of course those are not to be neglected.  But also small things teens can appreciate, like your colleagues trying to kill you, stuff like that.

7 Quick Takes: Catholic Family Fun

Land of the 700 Takes.


Today for my Quick Takes I’m reviewing Sarah Reinhard’s new book, Catholic Family Fun.  This is a stop on Sarah’s virtual book tour, so she should be lurking around the combox ready to answer any questions you have.

FYI, Sarah is not only a super-friendly person, she is also an extrovert, which means that her life as a writer is made tolerable by finding people to chat with.  So say “Hi Sarah!”.  She’ll be excited.


This is what the book looks like:

It’s about 140 pages, paperback, nice sturdy glossy cover.  It’s designed to float around your house and be abused.


What’s inside?

You know how women’s magazines have those little articles about fun things to do with your family?  This is like 10 years of those ideas all in one place.  Only you are spared those obnoxious photos of pristine toaster ovens and closets organized by that sect of hermits who take a vow to own nothing but three pieces of splashy, sassy, ready-for-spring ensembles to pair with their strappy heels.  Also, no perfume ads.

Instead you get page after page of practical, realistic ideas for unplugged family activities that you can customize to match your kids’ ages and interests.  The chapters are organized by types of activities (crafts, meals, outdoor adventures, etc.), and there are several easy-to-read indexes in the back to help you quickly find the ones that match your budget and energy level.  Most of the suggestions are either free, or involve money you were going to spend anyway.   (You are going to eat today, right?)

Other than the chapters on prayer and on the saints, the activities themselves can be purely fun family time, or they can be explicitly tied to the Catholic faith.   Every activity includes suggestions on how to make the faith connection.


What if you aren’t crafty? Don’t panic on the crafts, there aren’t that many and they are very low-key.  Indeed, I’d say this is the perfect book for people who don’t do glitter glue, foam art, or anything involving popsicle sticks, ever.  Did I mention Sarah R. is a real mom of young children, with a farm, and a writing job, and . . . you get the picture.  You may find yourself wanting an internet connection to pull off a few of these activities (I see you have access to one, very good), but no glue gun will ever be needed.

What if you are, in fact, the grumpy, curmudgeonly type? See the next section.  I advise letting your kids pick the activities.  That way you never need fear you’ve gotten all goofy and relaxed for nothing.  Also you could tell the kids you aren’t going to do Chapters 1 and 2 yourself, but you’ll give them five bucks if they’ll just be quiet while your finish reading the paper.  (Um, wait a minute.  No, that’s not how the book’s supposed to work.  Oops.)  Chapters 3-9 are Curmudgeon-Safe, though the one idea about a backyard circus makes me a little nervous . . .


Who could use this book?  Three groups of  people come to mind, and last was a surprise to me, but it’s true:

1.  Parents, grandparents, and other relatives.

  • If you’re trying to think up new ways to connect to the kids, and get out of the rut of doing the same old things.
  • If you have a long summer vacation ahead, with stir-crazy children and no money for expensive camps and activities.
  • Or if you didn’t have a satisfyingly Catholic childhood, and you want to find ways to share and practice your faith without being all stodgy and dour about it.

2.  Kids.  My daughter is fighting me for custody of our copy.  The book is eminently readable, so you really can hand it to a late-elementary or older child, and say, “Pick something out for us to do Saturday.”  I like that because then the onus is on the kids to decide which activity sounds fun — and I’m always surprised by what kids come up with when given the choice.

3.  Catechists, VBS volunteers, scout leaders, and anyone else charged with keeping a group of kids busy for an hour or two.  Some of the activities will only work in a family setting, but very many of them are well-suited to using in a classroom.  The suggestions for faith tie-ins make this an awesome resource for religious ed and VBS.  If your parish doesn’t have money for a high-priced pre-packaged program with talking pandas and cheesey chipmunk videos, you could seriously just go through this book and pick out activities to assemble a home-grown series of your own.


You know who loves a good VBS program?  Allie Hathaway.  It’s Friday, so we’re praying for her.  And hey, offer up a quick one for Sarah Reinhard’s intentions as well.  Thanks!


What else do you want to know?  I’ve wrestled the book out of my daughter’s hands, so I’m happy to look stuff up and answer questions.   Sarah’s around here somewhere, and if she doesn’t get to you today, she’s a very reliable combox-attender, so feel free to ask her questions as well.

You can also take a look at the Catholic Family Fun Facebook page, where people are sharing ideas, and the Catholic Family Fun website at Pauline Media, where if you click around there are a pile of useful resources in case maybe you don’t know any camp songs or g-rated knock-knock jokes.

Click the picture to find out where the book tour is going next.

PS:  This and a package of pre-cooked bacon would make a great Mother’s Day gift.


Updated to toss in three bits of full disclosure, which together give the most accurate picture:

7.1) Pauline Media sent me a review copy.

7.2) You might have caught on, Sarah & I are friends, and perhaps you’ve noticed we work together at the CWG blog.  Which means that if she wrote a lousy book, I just wouldn’t review it.  I’m very grateful she doesn’t write lousy books, because that saves us a lot of awkward moments.

7.3) See “free book” above.  I gave a copy of this book to my DRE, who is a mom and grandma of 10 bazillion children, and always griping observing that all the grandkids do is play Angry Birds.  I knew she’d love to pass it around her family, and I was thrilled to see she could use it for religious ed ideas too.  But you know what?  I did not give her my free copy.  See, that’s what I would have done if this was a so-so book.  Instead, I paid cash to buy her a brand new copy of her own.

Hey and a gratuitous 7.4: Let’s just clarify: If you want a collection of pom-pom art ideas, this is not your book.

3.5 Time Outs: On Tour

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who pulled the ol’ you-vacationed-where?? trick on me.  Works every time. I’m easy to surprise.

Click and be amazed.


We unplugged for Triduum, and wow:  Peaceful.  But look, the power of scheduling made it look like I was on the internet: In Defense of Pretty Good Schools, at CatholicMom.com. Technically it’s a homeschooling column (because that’s how I tricked Lisa H. into letting me write for her — I said, “Gosh, do you need any homeschooling columnists?”), but actually it’s for everyone.


Remember that whole girl problem I was having before?  That Christian LeBlanc answered so easily, like he always does? I stole his answer, of course.  He’ll probably cringe when he sees what I went and did with it.  My post on the word “Women” goes up at Sarah R.’s blog on Thursday morning.  She says she likes it.  But if you want something really smart, with Doctors of the Church and all that, you’d better just read Jeff Miller’s post about “Among”.  Or for a reflection about intimacy and Old English, you’d want Julie Davis on “Thou”.

But Sarah’s going to be nice to me at least until Friday, because her Catholic Family Fun book tour visits right here at this blog, when I’ll be reviewing her book in seven quick takes, for the other evil overlord who we won’t mention just now.  What you need to know today: It’s good enough I actually bought a copy with my own money to give as a gift to somebody.  Admittedly I buy a lot of books.  But when I acquire a second copy, that’s your hint.


Look, more things for smart people:  Barbara Nicolosi let us post the transcript of her workshop on “Towards a Literature that is Catholic” at CWG.  I think maybe she doesn’t read the Hardy Boys much, because she says things like:

My theory is that the secular world is not anti-Catholic as much as it is anti-bad art.

Me, on the other hand, I’m all about bad art*.  Then again, I’m not real secular.


In more book tour excitement, this coming Monday I’m reviewing Karina Fabian’s Live and Let Fly, and let me tell you, it is absolutely . . .



Well, that’s all for today.  It’s Link Day once again, which is not an obligation, just an opportunity.  Because no one likes having their perfectly good link stuck in my inbox with a little star next to it, when it could be down in the combox for everyone to enjoy.  One link per comment so you don’t get accidentally caught in the spam dungeon, where even detective dragons dare not prowl.

And hey, Happy Easter!

*This is not a strictly factual statement.  I’m good with hokey genre fiction as long as the story is fun and entertaining, though I reserve the right to joke about it over a cup of coffee with the boy afterwards.  But even I have my limits.

7 Quick Takes: Things We Don’t Talk About


I would like you to know that there are many, many reasons you should be grateful I gave up complaining.  Of course I cannot tell you what they are.  Just enjoy the peace and quiet for a change.


Don’t panic, the reasons are all very petty.  If I had something big to complain about, I’d cleverly disguise it as a “prayer request” or something.


Dear Self,

Compulsively surfing the internet does not count as “praying”.  Even if you do read highly edifying Catholic blogs.  Even if you do toss out Hail Mary’s here and there for good causes.  Please get your act together.  Right now.


The Person Who is Dragging You To Confession Tomorrow, Do Not Even Try One of Your Excuses to Get Out of It.


Am I the only person whose spouse is obsessed with filling the freezer with venison this year?

If your sensibilities are easily offended, skip #5.


PSA: How to Have Almost Free Meat

1.  Do not take up hunting.  Hunting saves no money.  Ever.  It is a giant financial black hole.

2.  Instead, cultivate a general interest in hunting.   An ability to make hunting talk.

3.  The people who just like to shoot things will eventually come out of the woodwork.  Oh, yes, you’d be surprised.

4.  Get yourself a good sharp knife, a pile of freezer paper, and this book:

5.  Also, sturdy rubber gloves.  You don’t want mad deer disease.

6.  Tell your crazy hunting friends to shoot all the big furry animals they like.  And then to drop the carcass off at your place.  Immediately.  None of this ridiculous “aging” business.  Gross.

7.  Quit being so squeamish. Tofu is over-rated.

8. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.

9.  Long slow moist heat solves all cooking problems.

10.  Eat.


Don’t forget to pray for Allie Hathaway.


We label all our venison with the date it was wrapped, name of the hunter, a note about what animal it is, and the cut of meat.  So you might see a package that says something like, “Eddie – Buck – 10/2011 – Shank”.

Which is all very well until we have to explain why there are packages in our freezer saying, “John Doe Shoulder 12/2011.”

7 Quick Takes: Reading List

Sign of the Apocalypse: I’m organized enough to come up with 7 things to say on a Friday.


A reader sends in a link to Diary of a Gold-Digger.  I liked the Morocco stories especially.  Look forward to reading more.


I keep forgetting to pass on that Dan Castell’s second installment in the Marx Brothers series is out.  Excerpted from The Marx Brothers Meet the Doctors of Death:

“I do have this.” Groucho pulls up his shirt and exposes a fine swath of swarthy tummy.
“Und what is that supposed to be?”
“It’s a rub that itches when I scratches.”
“Ach,” says Dr. Mangler, “a rub that itches when you scratches is simple schtuff. You haff the acute dermatitis.”
“Acute dermatitis!” Groucho cries. “And me…so young…so much undone…so many dames still to fun. Acute dermatitis—and I thought it was just an itch.”
“Ja,” says Dr. Mangler, “that is what I haff said. Acute dermatitis—you haff an itch.” He pulls out a prescription pad, scribbles a scrawl, and hands it to Groucho. “Here, that should help.”
“My prescription!?”
“Nein, mein bill. Fifty dollars, please.”
“I thought you said this would help.”
“Of course fifty dollars helps. You don’t think scalpels grow on trees, do you?”

My boy loves this guy.  Also available at Barnes & Noble.


Speaking of the boy, do you know why I have an inordinate fondness for the Young Chesterton series?  Because the other night I go check on the progress of homework.  Recall the child is supposed to be writing a review of Emperor of North America for his composition assignment, so he isn’t being a total slacker when I catch him with both novels open.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“I’m looking something up.  I thought the ‘Oliver’ character might be the Oliver from Oliver Twist.  I had to check and see.”

That’s why.  Basically if it makes you think about Dickens, in a good way, I’m okay with that.


Grammar Girl is my new favorite grammar book.


I put new blogs into my feed reader all the time, and sometimes I forget where they came from.  I clicked on Servant of Truth, which had something or another about a history curriculum the author was putting together, or, oh, gosh, where did I hear about this blog from?  Who is this person?  I click through for a clue.

Oh yeah.  Kolbe.  Idiot.

Have I mentioned I would have been sunk this fall without their ready-made course plans?  You begin to see why.


Okay I am not that organized.  No apocalypse.


And anyway, my five counts as seven if you give Castell and McNichol each credit for two.

Will there be fake news in Heaven?

The IC is having a book-release party for Felon Blames 1970s Church Architecture for Life of Sin. Go take a look.

Someone was asking me yesterday which blogs I follow, and of course I completely blanked out.  (Um, look at my sidebar?).  But I believe I’ve read every single post by the Ironic Catholic since however many years ago it was I discovered the place.   And probably on that day I scrolled through the entire archive.

Intelligent, clean-cut catholic satire that *is* funny and *is not* mean.  How many other writers could sit in the middle of that venn diagram?

Book Review: Sex Au Naturel

Sex Au Naturel: What It Is and Why It’s Good For Your Marriage

By Patrick Coffin

Emmaus Road, 2010

Having already blushed my way through the opening lines of Dark Night of the Soul, of course I had to jump on any Catholic Company review book featuring a picture of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss on the cover. Survival of the species might very well depend on it, you know.

Well, sorry, go ahead and put away the candles and silk sheets; turns out Patrick Coffin’s book isn’t quite about that.  What it is, however, is a pretty good one-stop overview of the Church’s teaching on birth control, in the context of contemporary culture.

Coffin opens with some background: How we got the encyclical Humanae Vitae, and why from the very beginning it was not universally embraced. He shares his own spiritual history by way of example, and also the reasoning that made him eventually accept the church’s doctrine.

From there the book moves into a comprehensive review of the major elements of NFP-apologetics.  There are chapters on:

  • Church Tradition concerning the use of birth control
  • Birth Control in the Bible
  • The Sacrament of Marriage as a reflection of the Holy Trinity
  • Natural Law arguments against contraception (including a nice explanation of what “Natural Law” actually is)
  • Contraception myth-busting — one chapter covering a potpourri of topics, and a second addressing the question of population control
  • How sterilization fits into church teaching – both for those considering the procedure, and those who have already been sterilized
  • What, exactly, are the differences between contraception and Natural Family Planning?
  • How do modern fertility treatments fit into church teaching?

An appendix provides a useful array of recommended resources for those who want to learn more, including contact information for the major NFP methods taught in North America.

The book is short (134 pages) and the tone is conversational.  Each chapter is compact and easily readable — at times to the point of being a mite choppy.  I think the book would be most helpful to a catholic reader who wants to quickly dive into the subject and get a good grasp on the major issues. Between the appendix and the many well-known authors quoted throughout the book (Kimberly Hahn, Janet Smith, Christopher West, etc.), for any given topic, Coffin’s book is a jumping-off point: You get the main ideas, and he gives you clues for where to look if you want to dig deeper.

I don’t, however, think the book would normally be helpful to a reader still struggling with the church’s teachings on sex.  In such a compact work covering so many topics, there isn’t space to develop arguments as thoroughly as such a reader would need. At times as I read I thought, “But what about____ objection?” or “But that wouldn’t makes sense to someone who has ____concern” or simply, “This argument needs to be developed more explicitly”.

I am hopeful that Sex Au Naturel will go into second and third editions. There are areas where I think a more thorough or carefully developed treatment would be helpful. But at its base this is a great first go-round at attempting to put a lot of material into a compact and readable form, accessible to ordinary catholics.   I firmly intend to keep it on my own shelves for future reference, and should also add this is a good title for the shelves of any parish library.



Cover art courtesy of Emmaus Road.

Book Review: Saint of the Day

Our pastor included  Saint of the Day (6th edition, Leonard Foley ed.) on his recommended reading list this past Advent.   I’ve never gone wrong in taking his advice, so when the book showed up on the Catholic Company’s review list, I saw my big chance.    The result was consistent with Father’s track record: Not something I would have chosen myself, but I’m glad to have given it a try.

Saint of the Day is a compilation of lives of saints spanning from the time of Jesus through our day.  Most entries are about one page front and back, and include a brief biography, a reflective commentary, and a quote which is either from that saint, or which is connected in some way with that saint’s life and teachings.   There are also entries for most (but not all) of the event-related feasts.  (Think: the Visitation or the Immaculate Conception.)

To answer the most common question I received while reading this book:  No, there is not an entry for every single day of the year.  So, for use as a daily devotional, it will meet many readers’ needs far more precisely than we would like to admit.

Because the entries are brief, the editors naturally had to be selective about what information to include.  The general pattern is this: If it is expected that the average reader already knows about the saint, the focus is on analysis and spiritual lessons to be learned.  If the saint is either relatively obscure or relatively new, the entry provides more concrete biographical details.  Certain major saints and events don’t make the book, either because they are too specialized (St. Genevieve – Patron Saint of Paris) or so well known they needn’t be discussed at all (Feast of the Incarnation).

I  found the book most helpful for learning about new saints — especially those newly canonized, but also some of the more obscure historic saints.   I found that if I already knew quite a lot about a saint, invariably the editors had chosen to leave out some crucial detail I thought terribly important.    I was also frustrated with some entries that omitted even bare biographical details such as where the saint lived, in favor of more reflective commentary.  For example, the entry for “Teresa of Jesus” never tells us that this Teresa of Avila — I was only sure they were one and the same because I happened to have The Way of Perfection sitting on the bathroom counter,  which work was mentioned in the “Teresa of Jesus” entry.

I was very happy to confirm the commentary is all 100% straight Catholicism — neither to the left nor the right.  Because the book was assembled from the work of many contributing authors, and because my mood is highly changeable, sometimes I found the quotes and reflections a little wanting, other times they seemed to be dead-on.  For many entries, the related quote comes from a papal encyclical or other modern church document. I found myself  frustrated at times by their ponderous style, but also glad the editors chose to introduce the reader to these momentous and undeniably relevant works.

I’m still looking for the perfect one-volume, general-interest saints book.   Saint of the Day takes an honest stab at that effort, and if it isn’t perfect, I wasn’t able to find another book on the shelves of my local catholic bookstore that did as well.   For the fairly informed catholic adult looking  for a combination devotional and historical brush-up, this is a sound choice.  It probably will not be the one book that meets all your needs, but it is reliably catholic, and certainly does what any good saints book will do:  it points you in the right direction.

Depression & Creativity

Essay in the Journal this morning, in the weekend section, about the connection between mental illness and creative genius.  I try not to pay too much attention to the WSJ’s Saturday essays, and my mental health is the better for it.  But I thought today’s page W3 piece by Jeannette Winterson (“In Praise of the Crack-Up”) wanted a little reply.

[For a very thorough, sometimes too thorough, exploration of this topic, see Peter D. Kramer’s Against Depression.  But my thoughts, different from his, are what follows.]

No one extols the virtues of depressed Pizza Guys. Read an essay like Winterson’s, you’d get the idea that writers and artists were the only moody people out there.  Perhaps artsy people don’t have a very wide circle of acquaintance.  So let me assure you: mental illness, including but not limited to depression, knows no professional barriers.  Accountants, Wal-Mart Managers, Engineering Professors — keep an ear out and you’ll quickly discover these people, too, can suffer mood disorders.

The difference being, of course, that your average laboratory technician doesn’t get asked to write an op-ed about the experience.  And no one pores through the details of the billing-clerk’s private life, in order to write a riveting biography about the “real story” behind that face we know so well.  Thus we never ask ourselves, “But what would interstate commerce come to, if we didn’t have depressed truck drivers??”  [Who would cover those long-haul routes without the work of those who long for solitude?  Mmn, I suppose the guys who are so fond of CB radios, and, these days, cellphones.]

But in fairness, the nature of literature and art does mislead.  I was struck the other month reading through a collection medieval poetry: it’s 98% about love, death, and combinations of love-n-death.  And pretty  much that seems to hold true through the centuries.   As much as *I* like to write about exciting topics like doing the dishes, or changing diapers, apparently themes with a little more drama tend to be more enduring.

–> So whereas the janitor has little to gain, professionally, by letting his personal agony shine through in his work, a writer or painter can use the depths of despair or psychosis as raw material for a riveting masterpiece.   Of course ordinary grief and heartbreak are plenty dark for those purposes, and most of us will get to enjoy a fair bit of both by the time we’re old enough to write decently;  but sure, if you happen to have episodes of mental illness to draw on, that works too.

And it *is* consoling for other suffering readers to know they are not alone in their experiences. So not such a bad contribution to the art, if you go in for that type of reading.

Which leads to a final point: Writing about difficult experiences is helpful to the writer. Or painting for the painter, and so on, I imagine.  (The other arts are beyond my skill, so I can’t be sure.)   Though honestly, most of us, when we work through our feelings this way, end up with a piece that is dreadfully boring — ‘maddening’ you might say; it takes true genius to be able to write about the experience of  mental illness without causing it to become contagious.   For the average depressed person, best to keep those feelings in the personal journal, far, far, from an editor’s desk.

But none of that makes it necessary to keep around the assorted mental illnesses just for literature’s sake.  Any more than we need to keep around cancer because it has produced so many great works of art (I like this one), or encourage warfare in the Mediterranean that we might get another Iliad in the process.   Given effective, no-obnoxious-side-effects cures for mental illness, there will still be plenty to write about.