Politics mingles with post-Reformation Europe in Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love

Politics mingles with post-Reformation Europe in Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love. The book as written by Dava Sobel offers the reader a baited hook in terms of the close relationship between iconic scientist and Roman Catholic Galileo Galilei and his eldest daughter and cloistered nun,  Maria Celeste. While the book certainly offers crumbs to the bond between these two based on the limited surviving correspondence, the truth of the matter is that the book justifiably brings more focus into the life and times of Galileo.

The book does an engaging job of laying out the career, travels, brilliance, and creativity of the scientist that we know as the biggest influence in arguing for the sun as the center of the solar system. The many distresses that Galilei endured in his efforts to explain the nature of the world came into sharp exposition and challenge by the Roman Catholic church of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in and around Rome.

The Roman Catholic church was a largely political animal in this time that had suffered challenges to its political and spiritual authority spurred by the Protestant Reformation as notably instigated by theologian Martin Luther, theologian and journalist John Calvin, and King Henry VIII of England. Galileo suffered from findings of heresy and censorship as a response to that Reformation through the Roman Catholic church’s Counter-Reformation efforts. The story of Galileo’s one trial at the hands of the Roman Inquisition makes up a more forceful component to Galileo’s Daughter, in my opinion, than does the telling of the relationship between Marie Celeste and Galileo.

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Galileo’s Daughter drew me in from the beginning and held my interest throughout the telling. The hook for me was having a front row, biographical telling of the human story of who Galileo Galilei was to those that loved him, were his friends or many dependents, and those that ultimately were there at the end or vacated their sense of decency, open-mindedness, and political courage in the face of Pope Urban VIII’s inquisitor, Father Vincenzo Maculano da Firenzuola.

The 1633 heresy conviction that resulted in house arrest for the remainder of Galileo‘s life (he outlives his daughter Maria Celeste) is captured well with tension, interest, and excellently with the hook of Maria Celeste’s loving interest. The earlier telling of Galileo’s telescopic inventions, motion experiments (including in Pisa), and increasingly earned influence were phenomenal. I think that I concur with one of author Dava Sobel‘s earlier arguments; namely, Galileo Galilei was able to reconcile science with his religion. That Galilei was clearly ahead of western culture in reconciling these two, then as now, is a story still with us today.

My overall grade for Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love is 4-stars out of 5.

Matt – Thursday, March 30, 2017


Top 20 Movie “In Bruges.”

Top 20 Movie In Bruges (2008) ranks 11th in Matt Lynn Digital’s Top 20 Movies in ranked order listing. This gem as directed by Martin McDonagh holds the distinction with Calvary (2014) as the second movie in the Matt Lynn Digital movie listing to include a McDonagh brother as director. John Michael McDonagh directed Calvary, which starred actor Brendan Gleeson.

Gleeson co-starred in In Bruges as Ken, the senior partner to guilt-stricken hit man Ray as played by Colin Farrell. Bruges is the town in Belgium where ruthless boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) banishes Ken and Ray to await further orders. It is through the cantankerous relationship between these two that we later learn why Ray is guilty. The hit that Harry sent these two went horribly wrong when Ray botches a hit on a priest by killing a young boy in the process of killing the priest.

The comedic brilliance of placing Gleeson and Farrell as Ken and Ray in Bruges is that the city itself is so full of history and vacationing possibility. Ray simply cannot bring himself into the mood of a trip of a lifetime because he’s so straddled with guilt. For Ray, drinking away his feelings is the only thing on his mind following the murder, beyond following the orders by Harry to sit tight.

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The comic relief of the side characters brought into the story adds a degree of light humor that works well for being juxtaposed to the serious turmoil that Ray is experiencing. These characters later play a role in why Harry ultimately orders Ken and Ray to stay put. Namely, Harry aims to rectify killing the boy in the hit by bringing about Ray’s demise.

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Like Calvary, In Bruges has a component of dark humor. Like Calvary, In Bruges is bloody, touches on religion, and deals in vengeance. Both movies are emotionally tense while aiming to hit you with ethical questions of a film noir variety that ask you to contemplate if morally ambiguous things can still be subject to a morality, even or especially after violating a basic tenet of something that we can grant is wrong…that murder is murder, and the act of accidentally killing a kid doesn’t abdicate murdering a priest.

In Bruges is our eleventh (11th) ranked film. I recommend that you see it.


Matt – Monday, March 27, 2017

Kent Haruf envisioned a spare end of life in Our Souls at Night

Kent Haruf envisioned a spare end of life in Our Souls at Night. The book was published posthumously as a a poignant, longing, spare, and other’s thoughts matter little love story in the face of old age, loneliness, and satisfying thyself.

The story is presented in a spare, bare bones, comprised strictly of the basic or essential elements of the love story of Addie Moore and Louis Waters. The opening proposition from the small Colorado town of Holt strikes you as kind of an unconventional surprise. Specifically, lonely widower Addie invites neighbor and fellow widower Louis to sleep together, without sex, in her bed.

The notion raised isn’t one of saving souls, or finding religion to fill a soul’s need as folks face mortality with the end of life. If you want something shocking or radically unconventional on this subject with cleverness yet less subtlety, perhaps the recently reviewed Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is more your book. Our Souls at Night raises questions of decency or small-mindedness, sympathy or self-interest, the present or the past.

The moving part of Our Souls at Night is the dialogue of Louis and Addie. The two tend to push the envelope for getting to know each other. The process of giving and taking in a way that expresses hopes, fears, and curiosity while setting boundaries for the information to share or not share, was sweetly done. Addie was the braver soul in pursuing the relationship. Both were conspiratorial in putting themselves on view to the neighborhood for review and perusal. Each had pasts and a need to share.

The point was the sharing of souls at night when time with self was the most difficult. It was perhaps in this space where I most appreciated Haruf‘s spareness (or colloquialism) while conversely wanting to rebel against Huxley‘s boldness (or provocativeness). It is my sincere hope that I am in touch with my own feelings in saying that my response is to the effect of the message rather than in the style of the message’s delivery.

Overall, I appreciated Kent Haruf’s final novel. I stand by the point that Kent Haruf envisioned a spare end of life in Our Souls at Night. My rating is 4-stars out-of-5.

Matt – March 22, 2017

Aldous Huxley offers an appalling vision of conditioning through pleasure and distraction in Brave New World

Aldous Huxley offers an appalling vision of conditioning through pleasure and distraction in Brave New World. The ready view of controlling the civilized world through the state is achieved through conditioning things like art, science, religion, history, old age, family, individualism, solitude, or meaning to serve the will of the industrial complex are the cachet that Brave New World deals in.

As far as my review of the novel goes, the novel has really good and really hard going concerning the narrative itself. The first third of the book provided the basic devalued, conveyor belt morality. The notion of the Director of Hatchery and Conditioning providing students a tour of the facility as a way to introduce the methods and basics of “civilized life” was cleverly done in both language and effect. We learn of the cloning/birthing process, the caste system, and many of the fundamental tenets for the way that society is organized.

The crash course in the history of this world feels natural, obvious, and demonstrated with an appealing economy of demonstration. Huxley‘s mass production-based society of enforced hedonism and anti-emotion was editorially compelling in its styling.

Beyond this setup, the really important conversation of the book to me was the conversation, or philosophical debate, between John (called the “savage” by Huxley) and Mustapha Mond, the World Controller. Ultimately this is where you see Huxley attempting to argue as Mond for crassness, mindless hedonism, and wanting nothing but conditioned happiness with chemically controlled feelings as a replacement for the human condition with John as the “savage” arguing for a world of pain, suffering, disease, familial structure, and pain that we see in the world.

The storyline of Bernard Marx, where he had spent maybe the first half of Brave New World looking as though he would be the champion of the individual against the conditioning, is dashed more by his interest in excelling socially than in defining his individuality, that is, he cannot exceed his conditioning. Bernard’s conditioning outweighed his capacity for bravery.

John the savage, and the way he dies, ultimately explains if you feel Brave New World is individually redeeming or not.

Do you take John’s death as optimistic? Does John achieve freedom in death? Did the state kill free will with John? The abrupt end perhaps is the least courageous thing that Aldous Huxley did with Brave New World.

The drawing in of the first third of the book was amazing in it’s mental picture. The philosophical debate between Mond and John was interesting and worthwhile. The Bernard Marx storyline was too much, overdrawn, and ultimately unsatisfying. The rhetorical question of free or not as the overarching point brought not enough to me. My final rating is 3.5 stars out of 5.

Matt – Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Secret History by Donna Tartt feels like a modern day roller coaster ride

The Secret History by Donna Tartt feels like a modern day roller coaster ride. The ride lands in the middle of a Grecian Classics novel. The book is part psychological thriller placed within a half dozen college students in a television show reminiscent of Real WorldThe Secret History is a large part commentary on the intrigues of manipulated and manipulating self-absorbed rich kids and insufficiently critical professors overly-focused more on their self-interested academic snobbery and interpersonal subterfuges than on who lives, who dies, and coming to account for firsthand roles in bringing about such life decisions; that is to say that the novel succeeds as a philosophical bildungsroman more focused on the dark underbelly of the ghastly indifference to the morality of it all than demonstrating how these characters decide how to engage or grow.

The Secret History did well at grabbing my attention early and keeping it throughout the novel; that is, pace was better for a first novel than in other first novels that I’ve read. The many allusions, both literary and classical throughout the book acknowledge an undergraduate’s comprehension of specifically Greek literature, and can potentially be distracting for some readers. The good news for some is that the book does not provide a deeper meaning to much of the referencing of these references. That is, the book offers some payoff at the end to the inclusion of the classical references, and that tie largely bears fruit in bonding this group of students, and their professor, with a sense of intimacy. The Secret History simply does not give the allusions a deeper context for those fluent in the texts being referenced.

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Richard Pappin is the lonely narrator of the book. Much of what you see is through his eyes of his firsthand experience and, at times, uninformed incomprehension. To say that Pappin is an unreliable narrator would be unfair…the issues of Richard’s incomprehension owe largely to the information withheld by the likes of Henry, Francis, Charles, and others. It felt to me like the Richard offered legitimate context and insight at the relevant times. The proper understanding of him is as a young man aiming to develop what and how to feel and think in a trying time. Richard was drawn sympathetically, regardless of whether the reader should feel him worthy of that sympathy. My argument is that Tartt intends for you to consider both perspectives of this question.

A subject that I am still puzzling over for this book is the heavy focus on the concept of beauty. The story comes back to this frequently with some of the sexual intrigue among the main characters in addition to the thoughts of the charismatic professor, Julian Morrow. Morrow’s philosophy is criticized for being superficially focused on beauty, which is to say this focus should have been taken in service towards adding deeper focus as well. Answering much of the why do the murders indicated by the novel can come back to asking many questions about Julian’s motivations, actions, insights, and ultimately his lack of insight or actions aimed at bringing in a larger moral advocacy.

The Secret History raised worthwhile questions, and failed to resolve a few. The book further failed to address some practical questions that I’ve raised above, though I forgive the book on these scores for it was done with the license of serving a larger purpose of the storytelling. Overall, my grade is 4-stars out-of-5.

Matt – Saturday, March 18, 2017

Top 20 Movie “Interstellar.”

Top 20 Movie Interstellar (2014) ranks 12th in Matt Lynn Digital’s Top 20 Movies in ranked order listing. This gem as directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan also holds the distinction with Calvary (2014) as the second published in the 21st century to be distinguished by a Matt Lynn Digital listing.

Beyond being a fantastic movie with complicated science and science-fiction theming aligned with overcoming environmental threats to planet Earth, we at Matt Lynn Digital are impressed with the notion that brought Christopher Nolan with “his cerebral, often nonlinear storytelling” to this project. As indicated by Michelle Lanz with Cameron Kell in The Frame:

Christopher Nolan “said it was actually the family themes in “Interstellar” that attracted him to the project, one that he hopes will bring back the glory days of the classic family blockbuster and inspire its audience to dream big.”

It’s interesting to hear Nolan frame the movie in those terms, for the movie delves into some emotionally intense themes. For one example, the movie depicts a future Earth full of dust storms and a worsening food shortage; the storytelling implies a frightening scale of human death.

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Ostensibly in response to that, you see Cooper (as portrayed by Matthew McConaughey) leave his father (portrayed by John Lithgow) and kids (15-year-old Tom and 10-year-old Murph) behind to pursue a long shot attempt to save humanity by flying into a black hole. Later, the fight between Cooper and Mann (as portrayed by Matt Damon) results in one astronaut breaking the helmet visor of the other. Further, one of these two pushes the other off a cliff on a foreign planet, betraying the mental harshness of deep space.

Family is certainly at the center of the Cooper and Murph storyline. The dynamic between Brand (played by Anne Hathaway) and Professor Brand (portrayed by Michael Caine) further cement the notion that Christopher Nolan isn’t wrong in saying that family feelings are relevant to Interstellar. In fact, I think that these story lines are central to providing some emotional pull to the quality of the story here.

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The truth is that in the Christopher Nolan universe of movies, Interstellar is perhaps the most family-heavy movie he has offered us. The remaining quality is the science fiction themes of invoking a very cerebral notion of applying Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity in invoking multiple notions for experiencing the passage of time. The further notion of extending the use of worm holes is intriguing. The essential resolution of the film partakes in a notion that Nolan articulated for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), namely that (in Nolan‘s view) as shared in The Frame:

both movies have “a lot of complicated science…that you don’t need to understand when you first watch…You really need to go along with the emotions of the characters and follow the emotional story…”

Interstellar is not a family movie in the sense that Matt Lynn Digital reviewed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Toy Story would be, for sure. The Sci-Fi theming is particularly pleasing for me, as is the overall cinematic quality. Consider seeing, or rewatching this movie.

Matt – Thursday, March 16, 2017

The satiric parody that is Voltaire’s Candide pokes fun at a few interesting sacred cows

The satiric parody that is Voltaire‘s Candide pokes fun at a few interesting sacred cows.

Pointed first, last, and mostly at the classic philosophical notion of Gottfried Leibniz‘s Essays of Theodicy on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil, Candide the novella lampoons Leibniz through the philosophical transformation of the character Candide from indoctrinated follower of mentor Professor Pangloss’ “best of all possible worlds” and instead chooses to see the end resolution as one where “we must cultivate our own garden,” a calling out of self-reliance rather than an Edenic result.

Voltaire brings his satiric wit that aims to parody the adventure-romance plot that we saw in part with the recent book review of The Three Musketeers. The rapidly articulated yet detailed series of horrible events that Candide encounters is obviously tongue-in-cheek for having been so vast and overwhelming within such a short span of storytelling. Characters nearly and neatly escaping death over and over tells anyone willing to think about what is happening with the compounding psychological of each tells you to laugh and see that larger, satiric points are being made.

Further attacks are taken against European governments contemporary to the novella’s 1759 publication. The Jesuit order of the Roman Catholic church is also lampooned. The singling out of an El Dorado on earth, when taken in positive contrast to mostly everything else in the novella, points to the fact that nothing is so good as this while certainly the rest is not as bad as it is declared. None of the characters could realistically be as two-dimensional as they are presented unless, as should be clear, they were drawn as such by authorial intent.

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Overall, the novella Candide is pithy, witty, and tackles serious subjects with an irreverence that mostly hits the mark. As some point out elsewhere, the piece is perhaps Voltaire’s most influential accomplishment. My overall ranking is 3.5-stars out-of-5.

Matt – Monday, March 13, 2017