Monthly Archives: August 2004

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RNC Notes

*rueful look* God love ‘em, but those convention organizers have surely put in a heapin’ helpin’ of cheese. Ironically, there’s a lot of interest once you get past the stupid bits…but geez, those stupid bits!

They should also feel free to get rid of those “hosts”. At any time. Now.

OTOH, I really liked the firemen and that county chairman from somewhere in the Appalachian bits of Ohio. He got “chillbumps” on his spine…what a great way to say it!

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Now THAT’S a Patron Saint!

From National Review’s Corner, where Michael Novak informed us:

Just past 39th St. I remembered that Mother Cabrini, the first New Yorker declared a saint, is the patron saint of parking places and taxicabs. Swift prayer for help.

Taxi swings around 39th corner, out of nowhere, stops and takes us in.

That might even beat St. Anthony. But do follow the link to learn less folkloric facts about Mother Cabrini.

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Get Well Soon, Pippa!

It seems that Simon and Talis’ daughter, Pippa, is in sick and in the hospital. Your prayers and thoughts would be appreciated!

I remember being in the hospital when I was a kid. The experience was much softened by getting to pick out a toy from the Ruth Lyons Children’s Fund, as all kids in the hospital around here did and do. (I got a yellow dog/bear.) You forget about that sort of thing until this sort of thing happens, so I am mentioning it here now.

I wish Pippa lived in the Tri-State, so she could get a toy from Ruth Lyons, too!

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Things Get Better

To soften the pain of bibliocide, I got to watch (or listen, mostly) the live broadcast of President Bush’s rally in Troy today. It was a good long speech. We then went to “the dollar store that takes credit cards” to buy some snacks for my Worldcon travel nourishment. I also got to refresh my soul at St. Ignatius of Antioch Maronite Catholic Parish’s famous Lebanese festival. This year it lasts two days and has even more Lebanese dancing and food. (Good thing, too.) I bought a sampler of all the Lebanese desserts except the brownie. And then I got up and danced on stage when they went and pulled people up. Mwahahahaha! This was, however, an extremely humid day here in the Miami Valley, so piglike sweating did occur.

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Bad News, Good News

Interesting things tend to happen when I’m about to go on a trip. Fortunately nobody I know seems to have decided to die on me this time (cross my fingers and knock on wood). But I did have a (somewhat) traumatic experience.

Every so often, I’ve thought to myself, “I know I bought that book, and I don’t remember selling it or giving it away. So where is it?” Well, this week, I found out where it was. In a box in my parents’ garage.

Good news — it wasn’t where the washer-hose flood was.
Bad news — it had been a temporary nest for mice.

So not only did I have books that were moused along the edges, I also had books which had provided a latrine for mouse byproducts. If that wasn’t bad enough, several books contained, or had been stained by, their stash of poison peanuts. (Thus the temporary nature of the nest. Fortunately, the mice had the consideration to die elsewhere.)

In the end, it turned out that most of the books were only lightly soiled. I simply cleaned off the bits of spine which had happened to receive bombs from above, and then deodorized every book. (I’ll do this again before I reshelve them — maybe several times, depending on how the odor returns. But it must have happened several years back, so there wasn’t much stink except when I cleaned things off.) Only the top layer of books were dead losses, and most of them were easily replaceable. But the third book of a Carole Nelson Douglas series, Dickson’s Young Bleys and The Chantry Guild, and Drake’s Old Nathan had to be sent to the dump. A Fish Dinner in Memison‘s front right corner did become a Mouse Dinner in Beavercreek, but was surprisingly clean for all that and remains readable. The Eddison book next to it was also moused. But on the whole, I was lucky. I blame myself for forgetting to retrieve them.

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Another Person Who Writes like Joy

Elliott posted “I’m Not the Only One”. Check it out, everybody, and spy into Joy’s head! Also, go over to Screaming Writer and follow JCF’s comment. Joe Clifford Faust is a decent sf writer with some interesting stuff to say. And he’s from Ohio, which makes him even more Righteous.

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The Mirror of My Work

Last Wednesday, the hose on my mom and dad’s suddenly decided to let go, and the treasurehouse that is our garage got soaked. Of course the water headed straight into the old schoolbooks my mom had saved for her tutoring and home instruction. Of course it headed straight for all the old schoolwork she’d saved for my brothers and I. And of course my mom didn’t call me when she needed help. She’s very good at giving it, but not at taking it!

But I finally found out what had happened (on Saturday). So last weekend I was going through some old schoolwork at my parents’ house, and discovered that in kindergarten I had drawn a picture of “A MARCIAN HOW IS HAF-HUMAN”. I guess back then I paid more attention to Dad’s Star Trek reruns than I’d remembered. No pointy ears or other discernable alien traits, though; I guess that’s why I put a caption on it.

I didn’t remember as much of it as I used to. I could look at my own stuff and not be able to tell it apart from my brothers’, until I realized that I was the only one who drew such heavy, jagged crayon lines that it looked like an attack. (I do remember my aesthetic objections to crayoning too lightly, because I liked solid color. But clearly my artistic aims did not translate well to paper. No wonder they kept sending me to the counselor.) I still recognized my old teachers’ handwriting, though.

I did remember one Thanksgiving project, though. I remembered being upset that I’d accidentally spelled “cornucopia” as “CORNUCORPIA”. (The “R” was indignantly scored out.) I didn’t remember what I’d shown coming out of the horn of plenty, the things I was thankful for: a very doggy-looking “HORSE” and a pinkly convoluted, but reasonably realistic “BRAIN”. Similarly, when they gave my brother Kevin the pencil, he told them all about our visit to an Army museum down South, and how when he grew up he was going to drive “a big Army truck”. (He now owns a surplus, camo-colored deuce-and-a-half.) He also made a “SCIENCE MUSEUM” out of construction paper shapes, complete with three “PLANETARIUM” half-circle domes — which served as a sort of tribute to our brother Sean’s obsession with them.

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Happy Bloggiversary!

Two years. Wow. I hope I’ve said a few things worth saying.

You know, it never occurred to me to look up the relevant feastdays. Apparently my blog is under the illustrious patronage of such folks as the sainted King Louis IX;
St. Genesius (the patron saint of actors); St. Yrieix (who sounds like an alien!); St. Gurloes (a nicely Celtic saint from Brittany); the Shimabara martyrs Bl. Louis Baba, Bl. Louis Sasanda, their mentor, Bl. Louis Sotelo, and Bl. Peter Vasquez; the appropriately named St. Marcian and St. Magi; the well-meaning St. Menas; and the niftily named martyrs Ss. Nemesius and Lucilla.

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Iraq Lost in Olympic Soccer

But if they beat Italy, they can still win bronze! Go, Iraq!

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Shadow of the Lion review

I previously reported in this blog about This Rough Magic, a book in which magical Jesuits scry for information in Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity (in liquid form). I’m a masochist, though, so I wanted to know why even alternate universe versions of the founders of the Company of Jesus would be performing sacrilegious acts upon their Commander-in-Chief. So I broke my usual rule (Don’t read Mercedes Lackey until she becomes a good writer again) and looked into Shadow of the Lion. (It’s available gratis in electronic form as part of Baen’s Free Library, and it’s probably at your local library if you can pry it out of the Lackey fans’ hands.)

First off, I’ve got no problem with the political maneuvering. Good stuff. I’ve got no problem with the writing, in general; it’s competent, and Lackey may finally be getting better again. There are sufficient fun bits for anyone, and the co-authors are at least willing to acknowledge the importance of religion to society.

There’s one story problem. The project was apparently conceived so that Lackey could get another day’s wear out of the stories she wrote for Cherryh’s shared world anthology series, Merovingen Nights. So serial numbers were filed off and names changed to protect the guilty. The problem is that, while the new versions of the characters are lively and interesting, the parts where their old identities show through are lukewarm and summary-like. So the second half of the book (which has less of a basis in previous stories) is much better than the first.

In theory, this should be a fun sort of alternate world. The philosopher Hypatia was converted and became a great theologian. The Orthodox/Catholic breakup seems to be over the issue of who’s allowed to practice magic. The Orthodox (Petrines) still control Rome and much of Italy; the Pope is called the Grand Metropolitan, and St. Ignatius and his buddies are sworn to him. The Paulines (founded by baaaad ol’ St. Augustine, of course) think magic should only be done by priests. They are found from Milan north and are supported by the Holy Roman Empire. There’s also a separate Irish church (yes, I rolled my eyes, too) and an Iceland/Ireland/Vinland axis called the League of Armagh.

But there’s this little problem. A lot of the worldbuilding doesn’t make sense.

We are eventually told that the magic system (for Christians) consists solely of prayer. This begs the question: why don’t Christian people in this world call it prayer, then? Why don’t people say, “Ooh, my cousin went to the holy man down the street and had him pray over her fever” or “It was a miracle” or “What a grace from God!” For that matter, why would a visionary mystic like St. Ignatius Loyola have to scry at all, when he could just close his eyes and ask?

Later on, when we see actual “sacred magic” being worked, they use almost the exact same warding prayer/spell to four archangels that Katherine Kurtz used in her Deryni books. Then two saints are petitioned, and they appear to one character. As self-described sexless spirits.

Now, if they were supposed to be angels, that’s okay. But “soul” does not equal “spirit”, nor are human saints ever supposed to be sexless. (Unless this is bringing in the Neoplatonic notion that Matter is Evil, to which I say Bah and Humbug.) So this is pretty silly. It gets sillier if you’ve actually read St. Ignatius on the discernment of spirits, in which he notes that true visions and religious experiences from God make you feel joyful, content, and rested. Flint, Lackey and Freer follow the standard take — magic makes you tired. Ergo, if you asked Eneko, he’d tell you those “saints” were evil spirits, and the warding spell obviously didn’t work for beans! Heh!

There are some other problems. The major one is that there’s an Italian witchcraft religion running around, and this is what the St. Ignatius analogue says about it:

Again, Eneko bestowed that mild gaze upon the Savoyard. “The Church does not consider the Strega to be ‘pagans,’ I would remind you. Outside our faith, yes. Pagans, no. The distinction was implicit already in the writings of Saint Hypatia�-I refer you especially to her second debate with Theophilus�-although the Church’s final ruling did not come until�”

No doubt this explains why later in the book we find the Strega praying to Janus, Aradia, and a host of other deities. ‘Cause, see, they’re not pagan or Jewish, so this must be some strange form of Judeo-Christianity I’m not familiar with.

I was also annoyed by the random comment that St. John Chrysostom was anti-Semitic, when a short Google found that Chrysostom wrote Against the Judaizers, not Against the Jews. We then get some commentary, again put in St. Iggy’s mouth:

He gestured with his chin toward the frescoes above him. “He was a false man, you know, in many ways. Intemperate, harsh, often arrogant, full of error and wrong-headedness. Still, they made him a saint. And do you know why?”

He swiveled his head to bring his companions under his gaze. Diego and Pierre said nothing. After a moment, Eneko looked away.

“They made him a saint,” Eneko said harshly, “because whatever his faults the Golden Preacher understood one thing clearly. There is such a thing in this world as evil. Not simply�”

The next words came out almost like a curse: “�error and misunderstanding.”

Lackey likes to make a point of pointing out that there is evil in the world, and for this she should be praised. But unfortunately, this is not why Chrysostom is a saint. Nor is there a requirement that all saints must be gentle of word and deed at all times. There is more to being Christian than being nice, because love manifests itself in many ways. Fighting evil is a sign of love for the good, and for those whom evil preys upon.

As for Chrysostom, he was an outspoken man of holy life who always cared for the poor and his flock, and who was both a great theological thinker and speaker. He then finished off by being exiled and essentially martyred for his opposition to unjust government. (Martyrdom, of course, is a sainthood guarantee. A martyr with a shady past is a saint who repented his sins.) If that’s not enough for sainthood in the world of Flint, Lackey, and Freer — I’m glad they’re not the Holy Trinity.

There’s an unfortunate lack of interest in the different sorts of spirituality favored by the different branches of a religion. Why make St. Ignatius Loyola an Orthodox if you’re not going to take advantage of it?

I probably shouldn’t even mention that Loyola changed his name from Eneko to Ignatius shortly after he began his new life of serving God, because he so admired St. Ignatius of Antioch. Or that St. Augustine, St. Justin Martyr, and the rest did a perfectly adequate job of adopting the good bits of Plato and Neoplatonism, so a St. Hypatia is hardly needed. (I find her legend rather charming, but the effects of a vision of Truth on an Alexandrian mob are more likely to be positive than punishing. I would expect joy and sorrow with a few prostrations, not the staggers and jags.)

However, I did find out where they got the last name “Lopez”. The Catholic Encyclopedia says it’s an old scribal error. So…how much research did Flint, Freer and Lackey do?

As always, the problem with Baen Books is insufficient editing…though at least this one is tightly bloated. Eric Flint is overworked, and reallllllly needs to hire a junior editor in charge of this sort of thing.

But it’s an interesting story, once you get to the second half.

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Add Blasphemy to Taste

Or, how to take a Japanese comic that’s skating the edge and push it right over in English translation.

Now, I generally feel that God has a sense of humor, can look out for Himself, and doesn’t need constant defense by His children. So I’m not throwing around the term ‘blasphemy’ lightly. I think ADV Manga has crossed the line with their translation of Chrono Crusade. I think they did it more out of ignorance than malice, but they did it just the same.

For the uninitiated, Chrono Crusade is the saga of the Magdalan Order, priests and nuns who fight demons with the power of God and guns. Sister Rosette, a novice of the Order, is one of the more enthusiastic and destructive members. Her partner is a demon named Chrono who’s willingly been bound to a pocket watch and her own soul; this makes him look less demonic and act nicer. He can’t use his full demonic powers while he’s bound, although she can allow him to draw on her own life to do various magical things. She also interacts a good bit with the Order’s technical consultant, a layman who’s the usual sort of anime dirty-old-man. Since the show’s set in the Roaring Twenties and she’s a nun, though, the usual “pantyshots” are replaced with pantaloon shots. When Rosette goes undercover, though, her action sequences almost always require showing some leg.

Ohhhkay, you’re saying. A nun who hangs out with a demon under magical contract, and some fan service. Yes, that’s skating the edge (and probably isn’t good theology), but it’s not necessarily offensive. In fact, the manga has a remarkably wholesome spirit about its slapstick, and some very nice bits in its dark fantasy combats.

So what’s the blasphemy?

Sister Rosette is equipped at present with two special types of bullets. One is a sort of enspelled silver bullet originally known as a “Good Word Bullet”, which ADV Manga translated as a “Gospel” bullet. Okayyyy. The second type’s center is filled with chrism instead of explosives, more or less acts as an incendiary, and was originally known as a “Holy Fire Bullet”. ADV Manga translated this as “Sacred Spirit” bullets.

Well, number one, it’s dumb. Obviously the manga was referring to the Easter Fire, which is appropriate to an incendiary, especially since chrism is blessed at the same Easter Vigil Mass where the Easter Fire is kindled. It skates the edge, but it is a great image.

Number two, it’s dumb. While I appreciate that ADV Manga attempted to avoid calling these “Holy Spirit” bullets, I think it’s fairly obvious that that’s just what they’re doing.

Number three, it’s dumb. Not only does this translation do violence to what was meant, it also sounds stupid. If you’re gonna blaspheme, at least make it cool. Call them “Paracletes” or “Advocates” or “Doves” or something!

Number three, it’s blasphemous. And the manga writer is blameless; this is all the fault of Americans, who live in a country where Christianity is not a minority religion.

Sigh. It grits me, especially since the translation is otherwise well done, includes all the relevant English sound effects without deleting any Japanese sound effect art, and even uses attractive and readable fonts. The manga seems very cute, fun, and has a good heart, while still providing realistically tense and dark adventures. Sister Kate, the Mother Superior, is great. There’s a well-deployed Fatima subplot (this is, after all, only a few years after 1917, though the Order must have good sources to know about the Secrets). Plus, you gotta love a manga with a character named “Father Remington”.

I am concerned about seeing yet another demon contract, especially since it’s in a Christian instead of a Shinto or Buddhist context. (Shinto/Buddhist demons aren’t necessarily all that evil; they’re just nasty monsters.) Demons, one feels forced to point out, are eeeevil. Traditionally, they made their choice back in the beginning of time and will not get a second chance — can’t, because angels are beings of spirit, not soul. But if you take Chrono as being able to repent, then you can enjoy his backstory of rebelling against the rebels against the rebels against God, and allying with a human holy woman (the founder of the Magdalan Order) in order to defeat his fellow demons. OTOH, an equal partnership is better than the coercive elements originally included in Inu Yasha, and still found in many fantasy anime and manga. (Yes, I’m all for grrrrrl power. No, I’m not for magical enslavement or “Sit, boy.”)

Anyway. Buy the manga, read the manga, but scratch out every “Sacred Spirit” and replace it with “Holy Fire”. Then send a letter to ADV-Manga telling them to mend their mistranslation.

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Iraq and Roll!

First they beat Portugal. Now they’ve shut out Costa Rica, 2-0! Go, Iraq!

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My Plans for Worldcon

I’ll be flying into Logan in the early afternoon. Very early. Unfortunately, I can’t check into my hotel room till 4 PM. So I need to find out if I can dump my stuff in the filk lounge or at the hotel. I’d love to kill time downtown, of course, but I’ll probably already have eaten and you can’t do the Freedom Trail encumbered with luggage! (Not after 9/11, anyway.) So I’ll try to dump my stuff and then head for that Gardner museum, or the MFA, or something. All this is of course subject to change; if I run into fans I know, I’ll probably head off with them.

Thursday morning I want to hit the Freedom Trail. If I go early, I won’t run into too many crowds. I can hit the North End for goodies, and get to see the Constitution as well. Then I’ll head back toward the hotel. If it’s early enough, I’ll visit one of the Russian bookstores for my Tanya Grotter fix. Maybe some more museum-ing. That’s about all the sightseeing I’ll probably do. (If there’d been any North End festas that weekend…but there aren’t.) Worldcon tends to be all-consuming. If I get to run up to Chinatown for dim sum and Chinese bakery goods, I’ll think I’m doing well.

So what will I be doing at Worldcon?

Filking, of course! In addition, I’ve agreed to be part of the chorus for The Filkado, so I’ll be attending rehearsals on Thursday and Friday nights and performing on Saturday afternoon.

Gawking: I really want to see the retro art show. The one at Chicon in 2000 was one of the highlights of the con and stood up well against the nearby Art Institute’s collections; this one is trying to be just as great, though with more emphasis on the post-pulp era. Another must-see is the Doc Smith exhibit. Anybody who thinks he wasn’t a heckuva writer has never tried to write that way. Fifty Years of Hugo Awards, Worldcon history, and fannish history exhibits also sound fascinating. This is the kind of stuff Seattle’s science fiction museum is apparently not going to do, so somebody has to. Also, I fully intend to gawk like a fangirl at all the cool hall costumes and writers I’ve adored since youth. (I’ll try to put on a cool exterior while I do so, but I’ll still gawk.)

Shopping: the huckster room, the art show, all that good stuff. I don’t have much money to spend or room to pack, and I’m slightly booked and CD’d out at the moment. But that’ll make it more fun to windowshop without guilt. (And if I find something I can’t live without, there’s always UPS.)

Talking: the real reason for Worldcon’s existence. I will attend panels and listen to other people talk, then mouth off myself in the ancient custom of fandom. I will also chatchatchatchat with pretty much everybody I meet, also in the ancient custom of fandom. I will also meet up for the first time with people I’ve known for years and years.

Swim: If I remember to bring my suit.

Eat: Either at really nice restaurants with food from heaven and plenty of company, or hurriedly at the cheapest greasy spoon I can find. The first option will probably occur fairly frequently. If it does, it will probably start with me and two other people trying to head out for dinner and end with twenty or more folks who agglomerated with us along the way. This fannish dining procedure can either occur speedily or take more than an hour. It is also quite possible that I will eat many meals for free in the filk lounge or con suite when someone brings in a pizza or some delectable dish, but I’m not counting on that. I do plan to get some seafood while I’m there…mmm, fresh! Dim sum from Chinatown for sure, as I must eat chicken feet and unidentifiable rolls of goodness. Spanish food if I can. Also, I’d like to get some Malaysian food (Tiger Lily nearby, Penang in Chinatown, Pinang in Quincy Market), since I still miss it from college.

Sleep: Probably from three in the morning until ten or so, if the curtains are thick. If not, I’ll wake up ravenous for breakfast at seven or earlier, and have to come back to my room for a nap afterward. My total number of sleep hours will probably be adjusted to include shower time, since everyone knows a shower equals two hours of sleep.

Church: there’s a Catholic chapel in the Prudential Center, right on my way to the Convention Center. It has about a zillion Masses a day as well as on the weekend, so getting my Sunday obligation done will not exactly entail hardship. After church, the Movenpick or dim sum!

So I fully expect to enjoy myself this Worldcon. If I don’t, it’ll probably be my fault.

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Solemnity of the Assumption!

Today’s the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary for Roman Catholics, and the Feast of the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos for the various flavors of Eastern Orthodox. Pretty much the same thing, though. Mary, the new Eve, joins her Son, the new Adam, in Heaven. Like Him, she must “fall asleep”, but also like Him, she lives and is taken body and soul into Heaven, leaving behind an empty tomb. All this is remembered according to the ancient traditions of the Church. But it’s not so surprising, really, considering that folks like Elijah and Enoch also got taken up into Heaven. (Btw, some believe that, like them, Mary didn’t even have to die. Official Catholic teaching doesn’t say either way — just that she was taken up into Heaven.)

In this, Mary represents not just herself, but the Church and all humanity. God uses Mary to show us what the end of life might have been for all of us, if Adam had not sinned — merely a step from one world into the next. But He also shows us that death is still not anything a Christian need really fear, for Jesus wouldn’t have sent his old mother into anything too dire.

The readings for the Vigil Mass on Saturday night are pretty interesting, by the way. The first reading is all about the Ark of the Covenant and the people, and the psalm is about the Ark and God: “Lord, go up to the place of your rest, you and the ark of your holiness.” This may seem weird, but why was the Ark holy? Because it contained the Commandments — the Word of God. And what did Mary contain for nine months but the Word? The first Ark also contained manna from the desert; Jesus is obviously our food provided by God. Finally, the first Ark contained Aaron’s budded staff — and if you can’t make the proper Flower of Jesse and virga/virgo poetic comparisons here…. ;) (I’m sure you could also say much more meaningful things about how this compares to Jesus’ authority to speak.) After showing us Mary as daughter of Israel, we see her again in the Gospel as Christ’s first follower and Mother of the Church. Very cool.

But let’s face it: it’s the Sunday readings that we all like the best. We get the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” We get the psalm where “The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.” We get the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” and the Magnificat.

This weekend, the Pope visited Lourdes. In Boston’s North End, they have a great Fisherman’s Feast celebrating the Madonna del Soccorso (Our Lady, Help of Christians). It’s a happy thing, this Ladymass. We celebrate not only Mary and God’s favor to her, but the eternal life we may look forward to ourselves.

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