Lenten Reflections: Book of Esther

The past couple of years I worked through Job and Amos. This Lent I’m going to look at the Book of Esther. Esther is one of the Five Scrolls or Megillah it is in the third section of the Hebrew Bible the Ketuvim or the Writings. In the Christian church it is one of the Historical books. This book is interesting as it deals with a woman Esther who becomes Queen of Persia and wife of Xerxes the great, perhaps. In Esther we hear about the events that are celebrated during the feast of Purim. This book is unique since it does not explicitly mention God.

There is an interesting thing about the book is that there are additional chapters of the book that are in the Greek Septuagint. In the Vulgate these are placed at the end of the book and depending on your translation these might be indicated by letters or as numbers. To make it more confusing some Bible translations put these within the text of the book so you get a like chapter A or 11 before the first chapter of Esther.


Oscars and Razzies Recap

Well, it was a fairly uneventful Oscar night as about all the projected winners those that had already won all the other awards took home an Oscar as well. La La Land was the big winner of the night taking home 6 of the 14 awards. The biggest surprise of the night was Moonlight taking home Best Picture and it was for a surprise for everyone as La La Land was announced and then it turned out that Moonlight was the real winner. Viola Davis with her win became the most recent to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting (Emmy, Oscar, and Tony), is only the 23rd person to do so and the first African American to do it. Lin-Manuel Miranda will have to wait another year or two to get his EGOT, but now we’ve got to add Pasek and Paul to this list as it seems like Dear Evan Hansen has a chance to win them a couple Tony awards come June. The OJ Simpson documentary won an Oscar and seems like the odd on favorite to bring home an Emmy as well. Disney got another Animated Feature Oscar for Zootopia.

On Saturday at the Razzies there was also a bit of a shocker as Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party took home the big award (Worst Picture, Director, Actor, Actress) and the suspected Batman v Superman movie won almost everything else.


Great Lent and Lent

On Monday the season of Great Lent begin in the Eastern Church and two days later on Ash Wednesday Lent begins for the Western churches. Great Lent begins on Clean Monday which refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods, some individuals call it Ash Monday. Although the season liturgically begins at Vespers on Sunday night where the church is all decked out in Lenten colors and at the end of vespers there is a ceremony of mutual forgiveness, where everyone asks for forgiveness from one another. During Great Lent just like in Lent prayer, fasting and abstinence and almsgiving play a role, although in the Eastern church it is a abstinence from meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, wine, and oil. There are some caveats on this but in general it is no meat or dairy until Easter. In the West the rules get confusing sure there is the abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent, but  There are other difference as in the West the alleluia disappears but in the East it actually increases since as the Bible says in Matthew that Christians should be joyous when fasting and the general since sense of unworthiness must always be tempered with hope in God’s forgiveness. Lenten Joy comes thorough where in the West there is only one week the pink Sunday and the fourth week of Lent.

In many ways they are similar and in several way the observance is different. This year both the Eastern and Western churches will celebrate the great feast of Pascha or Easter on 16 April. I hope that we all can use this Lenten season to grow deeper in our faith.


Oscar/Razzie Predictions

This is going to be a tough one to predict this year as I haven’t seen many of these movies, but thanks to all the other award shows it’s a bit easier. The Golden Raspberry Awards are handed out on Saturday before the Oscars are handed out on Sunday

For the Razzies it seems likely that Batman v Superman will be taking home a bunch of awards but it won’t be a sweep since there were like three women and none were very important in the film.

On to the Oscars: Will it be a La La Land sweep as many people are predicting since it’s another film about Hollywood being so amazing and they like to award these masturbatory films about themselves as seen with Argo and The Artist.

Best Picture: La La Land or It could also be one of the films about actual people like Hacksaw Ridge or Hidden Figures, however it’ll be La La Land.
Director: The guy who Directed La La Land has won this award at every other award show so Damien Chazelle is the best guess here.
Actor: This is going to Casey Affleck, although Denzel Washington could sneak in and win it.
Actress: Emma Stone might win but it might go to Natalie Portman or even Isabella Huppert it seems likely a new actress will win it.
Supporting Actor: It’s a two horse race Dev Patel took home the BAFTA but Mahershala Ali won the SAG. This is one of the harder categories to pick.
Supporting Actress: Viola Davis
Animated: Once again Disney seems to have this locked up it looks like Zootopia will bring home the award over Moana.
Song: City of Stars from La La Land has won the other awards for best song but who really knows will they just give it to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song from Moana so he can EGOT or will he have to wait another year or two.


Aging limits and expectancy

This was an interesting article from The Guardian and Gizmodo about life expectancy. In a recent study published in Lancet and funded by UK Medical Research Council and the US Environmental Protection Agency indicates that by 2030 there will be some places with big increase and other with more modest gains. In 2030, girls born in South Korea will have an expectancy of 90.8 years and boys will be about 84. These were the highest points and if accurate we will be seeing many more supercentarians, those over 110, in the years to come. This points towards the advances in health technology that have happened and the ease of access to it. These were the reasons that the United States was given modest gains, with several problems including obesity and general violence. The article notes “Not only does the US have high and rising health inequalities, but also life expectancy has stagnated or even declined in some population subgroups.” Hopefully, Trump and the Republican can do something to fix what they call the “awful” Affordable Care Act other than just changing the name to not Obamacare. With an increase Life expectancy more people should be living into their 100 or so, these might help us figure out how long a human life span is, as many scientist think that it’s about 122-125. As the oldest living person lived until 122 and no one has lived longer since. If more humans are living into their 100s space travel and manned expedition that last for years like of Mars seem logical and perhaps eventually to some exoplanets as we have decades which we previously didn’t have.


Institution of the Eucharist

The fifth and final Luminous Mystery is the Institution of the Eucharist. This happened at the Last Supper so it’s perfect timing with Lent starting next Wednesday. If we remember that the word eucharist comes from the Greek and means thanksgiving or grateful. This is where we need to come from as we live our lives sure the world seems to suck but if we can go out there being thankful for another day and grateful to be alive. Let us remember the words of Jesus “Do this in memory of me” now this wasn’t just the sharing of the bread and wine but it points toward the general idea of giving of oneself for others just like Jesus does. The Eucharist and therefore the sacrifice of Jesus is the core of the Christian faith. This should be our focus during Lent to be more grateful and willing to sacrifice for others.


Power Rangers

To be completely honest I’ve been a fan of this show since it came on, I watched it the first five iterations (MMPR to Lost Galaxy) and tuned in the Forever Red during Wild Force, but basically i didn’t watch it in high school, then in college Disney had the show and aired it at a great time so I watched the new series Ninja Storm-RPM and caught up on the older series I missed. When the show moved over to Nickelodeon I watched the first one Samurai but Megaforce and Dino Charge are a bit out there and never got sucked into these season. So with the new movie along with the new season Ninja Steel, and the comic book series It seems like a great time to be a fan of Power Rangers. However this news make it even more fun although it seems unlikely but remember that gritty violent Power/Rangers video from a couple of year ago, well it’s producer has said that he is working on an ‘R-rated’ Power Rangers. It sounds something like Akibaranger, the Unoffical Sentai series that was developed for adult who were fans of Super Sentai as children. This series was a parody of Super Sentai shows but the adult take on Power Rangers is something that seems reasonable. A couple of friends and I worked on a comic book version of this idea, Stronghold, it went through many iterations and never really did much but it was a unique idea and we all liked it.  So if Netflix would want to do some crazy adult version of Super Sentai, I would watch it and am sure that several others would as well.  Netflix already has a bunch of the older seasons that you can watch so there is that audience already there.


Political Roundup

In honor of the upcoming holiday we turn to Politics before this weekend. First up there is some great news out of California where there is a great idea in the state legislature about making election day a holiday so more people would be able to get to the polls and vote. It a real simple idea and with the amount of absentee and other early voting options available it seems reasonable thing for states to do to improve the quality of elected officials. This however really needs to be adopted on the National level as currently voter turnout in Presidential years is a little over 50% and that goes down for the mid-term and off year elections.

The other is a in case you missed it the great Shepard Smith from Fox News, the best part of the network, wasn’t a huge fan of Trump’s “news conference”. Here’s a video of Shep’s response to the President, in which Shep says “We aren’t fools” and that the people have the right to know what’s going on in the country. These are simple things but it seems Trump hasn’t gotten over his election as it seems like his favorite talking point along with his love of Fox and Friends.



Washington’s Birthday/Presidents’ Day

This upcoming Monday is Presidents’ Day in the United States and one of the traditions associated with this day is that Congress reads the Washington Farewell Address at some point. I really hope that they listen to the words of the speech and start doing their jobs. There are plenty of problems in America and it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican we have to work together to become that shining city on a hill. Yes, this holiday is complicated as there are different ways and times that it is celebrated around the US. Some states have a Lincoln/Washington birthday others wait until different times of the year to honor their own Presidents. However it is celebrated it is a day to remember not only Washington but all the others as well including Millard Filmore and William Henry Harrison. Sure some weren’t that great but they all tried their best they could and sure reflecting from the present on the events of the past always seems to put them in worse light.


Strikes and Protests

With the Trump Presidency there as been a lot of discord in the populace. On the day after the Inauguration there was the largest march in DC with sister marches across the US and the globe with close to 5 million in total. There has been talks of a science march on Earth Day, a Tax Day march urging Trump to release his tax returns, a general strike on Friday, and perhaps even a Women’s strike in the near future (March 8). This Thursday, many restaurants in DC are going to hit by a “Day without Immigrants” strike where Latino immigrants aren’t going to be showing up to work. Posters for the event reads in Spanish  “Mr. President, without us and without our contribution this country is paralyzed.” With the crappy first almost month that Trump has had with the whole Inauguration size debate, the Nordstrom’s thing with Ivanka and Kellyanne Conway’s plug, going to “winter White House” for another weekend and with Japan’s Prime Minster Abe during a wedding reception while North Korea launched nukes at Japan to Mike Flynn resigning after 20-some days. Hopefully things will turn the corner in this administration either for the better with things actually getting done or for the worse with a probe launched into Russian involvement within Trump’s White House or impeachment. Something is going to happen and it will come from out of left field.