The Smell of Victory

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A man paralyzed after a knife attack is walking (assisted) again after a transplant using cells in his nose.
Within three months, the treatment was reaping rewards. Fidyka — paralyzed from the chest down — regained feeling in his lower extremities; his left leg developed muscle mass; and bladder, bowel and sexual functions even returned, the BBC reports. Most importantly, he can now walk once again with the assistance of a frame. Researchers published their results Tuesday in the journal Cell Transplantation. ....
Professor Geoffrey Raisman, whose team at University College London performed the technique, hopes to similarly treat three more people in Poland over the next few years if funding for medical trials can be obtained. He told the Guardian:
“We believe that this procedure is the breakthrough which, as it is further developed, will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury.”

Look Who's Discovered the Birth Dearth

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Formerly Grey Lady reports:
Recently, Sex and Society, a nonprofit group that provides much of Denmark’s sex education, adjusted its curriculum. The group no longer has a sole emphasis on how to prevent getting pregnant but now also talks about pregnancy in a more positive light.
It is all part of a not-so-subtle push in Europe to encourage people to have more babies. Denmark, like a number of European countries, is growing increasingly anxious about low birthrates. Those concerns have only been intensified by the region’s financial and economic crisis, with high unemployment rates among the young viewed as discouraging potential parents.

But oh: the comments! the comments!

Alleluia!

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Stanislav Zhukovsky, Easter Table

Hope your Easter table was something like this one.  Here's what the Holy Father had to say at the Easter Vigil.

“Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe…” (Mk 16:5). The women were the first to see this great sign, the empty tomb; and they were the first to enter…“Entering the tomb”. It is good for us, on this Vigil night, to reflect on the experience of the women, which also speaks to us. For that is why we are here: to enter, to enter into the Mystery which God has accomplished with his vigil of love.We cannot live Easter without entering into the mystery. It is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about… It is more, much more!“To enter into the mystery” means the ability to wonder, to contemplate; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us (cf 1 Kings 19:12).To enter into the mystery demands that we not be afraid of reality: that we not be locked into ourselves, that we not flee from what we fail to understand, that we not close our eyes to problems or deny them, that we not dismiss our questions…To enter into the mystery means going beyond our own comfort zone, beyond the laziness and indifference which hold us back, and going out in search of truth, beauty and love. It is seeking a deeper meaning, an answer, and not an easy one, to the questions which challenge our faith, our fidelity and our very existence.

Indiana: Sound the Alarm

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You know a tipping point has been reached when Rod Dreher & John Zmirak agree and strike the same note.  More on the astonishing reaction to Indiana's RFRA law later, but first, Dreher: Indiana, a Religious Liberty Bellwether. He does his homework, reading up on the statute and all the law professors -- including those who support gay rights and gay marriage-- who say that those freaking out about discrimination are just flat-out misinformed about what the law does.

His conclusion: things are so bad, I will even vote Republican:
The overreaction, especially the blatant lies and completely invented controversy, in which the media and big business have engaged in the past few days about Indiana and religious liberty, has been a shock to my system — this, even though I am by now used to just about anything from that side. Because religious liberty is the most important political issue to me, it is hard to imagine sitting out the 2016 presidential election, as I have done the past two times because I couldn’t stomach the Republican nominee. It is impossible to imagine voting Democratic in 2016, because the Democrats are actively committed to legislating contempt for traditional Christians like me. If even mild attempts to give minimal protection to religious dissenters is condemned as Jim Crow redux by the Democrats, it genuinely frightens me to think about what a Supreme Court dominated by Obama-Clinton justices would do.
Voting Republican is no guarantee that religious liberty would be strengthened in SCOTUS rulings in the future, but there is some hope that a GOP president would nominate justices sympathetic to religious liberty concerns. With President Hillary Clinton, or any conceivable Democrat, there is no hope at all.
Je suis le First Amendment. Indiana shows why for social and religious conservatives, 2016 is all about the Supreme Court and religious liberty. The past few days have made someone like me, a conservative independent who has little use for either party, realize that I cannot afford to be on the sidelines in 2016. Religious conservative voters must be focused like a laser on religious liberty, right now. It’s that important.

And then Zmirak:
The expected Supreme Court decision imposing on 50 states an entirely new understanding of marriage, and the frenzy of hatred that gay activists have stoked against Indiana for trying to shelter religious believers from crippling lawsuits should wake us to a cold and stark reality: The age of tolerance in America is vanishing before your eyes. The question is how Christians and other people of faith and good will are going to respond.

Some Like It Hot

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Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA, obviously, on both counts) introduced a House resolution claiming that climate change will force women to become prostitutes.

“Women will disproportionately face harmful impacts from climate change,” Lee’s resolution reads. It continues claiming, “Food insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health.”
Lee’s document goes on to urge Congress to agree on the “disparate impacts of climate change on women,” and goes on to demand that Congress use “gender-sensitive frameworks in developing policies to address climate change.”
I am now confused as to "weather" sex work is fempowering or not.

Happy Feast of the Annunciation

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Just yesterday I was complaining that Lent was too Lent-y this year and I needed a break. Completely forgot that today's a Solemnity, and there is a little break from ascesis today.


In Florence & Pisa, Happy New Year.

What some nuns do on the Annunciation Feast.

I Like Him!

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This is about to be a review of Man of La Mancha, but I never got around to plugging The Metromaniacs, which closes today, so you should rush and see it if you can. I have something of a crush now on David Ives, the translator. He's now done three collaborations with the Shakespeare Theatre's artistic director, Michael Kahn, and the man's use of language is breathtaking. He takes French plays written in rhyming couplets and converts them into English with true rhyme, perfect meter, nimble word-play, adroit comic timing and just the right sprinkling of anachronistic jokes. It's absolutely dazzling, and in the case of Metromaniacs, one has the distinct impression he's rendered a better play than the original.

Onward, then, to Man of La Mancha.

Blessed is she who expects nothing, for every now and then she'll be tickled by a delightful surprise. I'll be blunt: I expected to hate last night's performace. Let me count the ways:

  • I'd never seen a live production of the play, but I hate the Peter O'Toole movie version, considering it virtually unwatchable;
  • I truly dislike the famous number, "To Dream the Impossible Dream," and don't think much of the rest of the music, either. 
  • I know, I know, but I really didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition. The actual Cervantes never faced the Inquisition, but that doesn't stop playwright Dale Wasserman from staging his play in prison, where fictional Cervantes awaits his appearance before Bad Catholics. Gratuitous Church digs tick me off. 
I was surprised therefore to find myself completely drawn in to this performance. It's cleverly staged and the ensemble is strong, but credit has to go to Anthony Warlow (Cervantes/Quixote), who's apparently a bigshot in Australia and beyond, but I confess this my introduction to him.  (He's from NSW, Brett, if you're out there!) He has a powerful, clear baritone voice, but he's simultaneously an actor with wit and subtlety. His ability to adopt and shed at a moment's notice the bearing, voice and mannerisms of an old man is a thing to behold -- and yet, he doesn't call such attention to his craft that you are aware of watching "acting." You just believe.  I think it's rare when watching a musical not to be aware you're watching a musical. I credit Warlow.

Holding her own against him as Aldonza/ Dulcinea is Amber Iman, a 20-something local gal made good. I was impressed with her singing and acting too -- usually real singers can't act and real actors can't really sing.

The lady next to me pretty much wept her way through the whole two hours.  That wasn't me, but still: well done.

P.S. Man of La Mancha trivia: author Dale Wasserman's play is sort of like fan fiction. It's an exploration of his own using Cervantes' characters. It doesn't even pretend to be true to either Cervantes' life or his story and Wasserman's pet peeve was people who called his show "the musical version of Don Quixote."  No it isn't!

Also: the play was originally not a musical, but Wasserman couldn't get anyone to stage it until he took the suggestion to make it a musical. W. H. Auden was originally hired as the lyricist, but they never used his lyrics, as they were thought to be too acerbic. (I'd like to read those. Wonder where they are.)

Update:  a kind reader found some of the Auden lyrics