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  Is Captain Fantastic is a fantastic film? –Yes. Is it a fantasy? –I hope not. Is Captain Fantastic a fabulous film experience? –Yes. Is it a fable? –I suppose, but in a good way. For everything else it might or might not be, it is one of most inspiring movies I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s an organic film, though that could be construed to mean that it’s about carbon footprints and healthy food and hippie philosophies. It’s beyond those things. The story carries themes of independence and self-reliance. It’s also about a family that rejects conformity and convention–not to be rebellious, but because they see modern conventions as flawed and wrong. And it’s about courage–not the physical kind (though that’s there too),

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    [Author’s Note: I wrote this seven or eight years ago, before I moved back. Every time it snows during the night, I am reminded of this piece.]     I AM IN THE NORTH for a family visit. My elderly parents manage their simple life with a grace that humbles me. They could be threatened by the simplest acts. My minor setbacks would be their calamities: a fall, the flu, a minor accident driving to the store. Today they were mirthful and sweet and I could not decide if they were revisiting childhood or auditioning to become angels. Last month, I watched the movie “Amour,” an intense look at a couple managing change after half a century of life together (they managed it

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In my mother’s kitchen, and taped to the door of a cabinet where cups and plates are kept, is a laminated Catholic Diocese card. The card is divided into two distinct sections. The top part is titled The Corporal Works of Mercy. The “works” are ministrations to be made and observations to be kept in caring for –to name some of them–the poor, the sick, and the dead. The lower part describes The Spiritual Works of Mercy. This section addresses, among other items, forgiveness toward the wretched and prayers for the dead.  The Diocese card made it clear that Mercy took the form of both Thought and Deed. Earlier this week, after a spate of cool, damp weather had broken and given way to a

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A very long time ago, my brothers and I slept three beds across in the same room downstairs. Several times each week our father made popcorn, drank soda, and read his magazines in the kitchen at the top of the stairs.  It was a ritual of his, and my mother apparently gave him that space; he worked long days and Saturdays, too. Some nights, after we were supposed to have been asleep, we heard the sound as he shook the iron skillet across the stovetop. This while the smell of fresh-popped corn wafted down.  Occasionally one of us would creep upstairs and ask for a bowl–but we would not be asking for a bowl of just any popcorn. The kernels came from the farmers in

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IMPORTANT SPIRITS FROM OUR PAST summoned their experiences, perspectives, and talents to deliver blessings and admonitions—invaluable gifts–to posterity. Homer, Shakespeare, Dickens, Hugo, Sappho, Simone De Beauvoir, Ursula Le Guin are just a few that come to mind. They used books, plays, and poems to craft messages and warnings that would be relevant for millennia. After all, the human drama is nothing if not a series of remakes and sequels. Because human group behavior is so repetitive, many such messages and warnings have the clarity of a premonition or a revelation. I just finished reading the George Orwell (his real name was Eric Blair) classic 1984 for about the seventh time. I have read it every four or five years since I was in college and

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[Author’s Note: this year marks my 27th anniversary] Until I saw the date, February 2, it hadn’t occurred to me that it was my “birthday” again. This birthday–which is more of an anniversary–marks for me the first day of uninterrupted sobriety 22 years ago. It hadn’t seemed like a very important day at the time; in fact, if anyone had asked then, I would have said it was the worst day of my life.  I was bloated and quaking. My eyes were yellow like a cat’s–from jaundice. And my store of courage was so low I had to be led around like a child. There’s no question that on that day, my second life began. It would help to note here that I am not

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