Boy Detective Day!

Today’s daily Mass readings include almost an entire chapter of the Book of Daniel — the exciting story of Susanna and the Elders!

Susanna is the gorgeous and pious young wife of Joachim, a rich Jewish man even in Babylon. Joachim holds open house for the elders of the community, but they repay his hospitality by lusting for his wife. They plot to surprise her alone in her garden while her husband is not home, then extort her into sleeping with them.

St. Susanna refuses, reasoning that it is better to be threatened by men than to do wrong before God. She screams for help. (Thus claiming legal protection and refusal to go along.) The elders double down when help comes, and claim that they saw her committing adultery under a tree. (The classic Bible prostitution as pagan worship scenario.) Acting as false judges, they order her to be stoned to death.

And then, who should speak up but young Daniel, a little boy, sent by God to prove Susanna’s innocence?

To make a long story short, Daniel persuades the crowd to separate the elders and take their testimony separately. He asks them each about what kind of tree Susanna was under, when they saw her doing the hanky-panky. Each one answers quickly and definitely — but one says it was a mastic tree, while other says it was an oak.

St. Susanna is saved, and the elders are punished instead. God has judged the matter fairly, through the wit and wisdom of the boy Daniel.

This shows the close Biblical relationship between prophecy and judgment.

You also get a comparison with the Gospel reading with Jesus saving the woman caught in adultery. She really was guilty, but Jesus judged that she should receive mercy and that the crowd be forced to judge themselves guilty. In each case, only a few words are needed to show the truth.

The Lord God is a sleuth of minds and hearts. He walked down those mean streets, but was not Himself mean. He is the Mystery with the ultimate happy ending.

But He is also the stern just Judge, Who will make sure that the wicked get what’s coming to them. Maybe not the ones we assume, maybe not the way we think, but soon and forever.

May You count us among Your clients, O Great Detective.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

TV to Adapt Japanese Light Novels about Vatican Investigators

Yes, my children, it’s that time again. It’s time to enjoy or shudder at the Japanese pop culture idea of Catholicism!

Anime company J.C. Staff is making a Gothic/horror/mystery anime called Vatican Miracle Investigators (Bachikan Kiseki Chousakan).

Behold. There is a trailer.

Fr. Joseph Kou Hiraga is a brilliant scientist. Fr. Roberto Nicholas is an expert in archives, paleography, and codes. Together, they investigate miracles!

(Yeah, that’s not how priests usually look. Albeit priests sent to the Vatican to study for the Vatican diplomatic service often are attractively presentable.)

To be fair, they are giving these guys some interesting features. Fr. Hiraga has a twelve year old brother with terminal bone cancer. (Ow.) Fr. Nicholas the archives researcher is an Italian bon vivant, as opposed to the more serious Fr. Hiraga.

The light novels by Rin Fujiki have been running since 2007, so there should be plenty of backstory to work with.

So yeah, it’s gonna be a doozy. Coming this July to a computer screen near you!

Leave a comment

Filed under Cartoons/Animation/Video, Causes for Sainthood, Church

Awesome Churchill Deal!

If you like Winston Churchill, you may know that he also wrote history books.

You may not know that, during his “exile” years between the wars, Churchill wrote Marlborough: His Life and Times, a four volume biography of his famous ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. It is extremely informative on a wide range of subjects and a broad expanse of English and European history. You meet royal mistresses and Puritan widows, D’Artagnan, the Duke of Monmouth, and all manner of other people of note. You meet the original Winston Churchill and find out about his descent from a blacksmith who married well. You also hear from Marlborough’s redoubtable wife Sarah, a woman of strong opinions who, in old age, talked back to the historians.

But you also see our Churchill being quite open about drawing comfort from the lessons of history. He celebrates the stubborn persistence of John Churchill in the long years of disappointment after early success, and his readiness to respond to his country’s need after all that time. He draws parallels between WWI and the various messy European wars, often fought at the same messy places. He describes Marlborough’s long changeover from hardcore Tory to Whig. Finally, he points out that you don’t become the winningest general in a big swath of history by being lazy or an idiot. ¬†(Throughout the¬†entire book, he conducts a big feud against Macaulay on this point. Yeah, it is family pride, but backed up with documentation.)

By defending Marlborough, Churchill seems to work off some of his ire against his own critics. But he also seems to measure himself pretty sternly against his peers in the past, along with all of modern times. In short, it is the old concept of history as a mirror or a yardstick, but Churchill’s use of it is a little more naked to our eye than Tacitus or other great historians.

We sometimes forget that Churchill was a socialist of sorts. His blended admiration of France under the Sun King as collectivist, and hatred of it as anti-liberty, will strike you as weird. This is balanced by his Whig/Protestant view of history, which is equal parts old-fashioned and wrongheaded, but also very devout and sincere. Finally, his defense of some of Marlborough’s less glorious moments is downright eyeroll-worthy. “Betraying the king while you live under his roof is totally justified if your heart is pure.” Sure, Churchill, just keep telling yourself that.

(After hearing this detailed account of the work done before the “Glorious Revolution,” I don’t want to hear anybody from the UK talking about the American Revolution as treacherous. Our folks were extremely open and aboveboard about their actions. The lords who threw the Glorious Revolution were snakes.)

OTOH, you really can’t beat a Parliament politician’s insider ideas about Parliament’s history of wheeling and dealing. If he’s wrong about this stuff, it’s a very knowledgeable way of being wrong. You also learn a great deal about his sources for writing about Marlborough and his contemporaries. He is excellent at using period sources to make his portrait of Marlborough more accurate and more human, and he delights in the odd coincidences and fun bits of history.

You won’t be sorry if you get this book. You may spend large parts of some chapters having to listen to the book somewhere that you can growl back at Churchill, but you won’t lose by it.

If you already subscribe to Audible, you can get all four volumes of Marlborough: His Life and Times for one credit. That’s 81 hours, folks.

The downside of the audiobook is that you do not get footnotes.

The upside is that the narrator does a really good job with Churchillian prose, without being super-blatant about the fact he is doing a Churchill imitation.

So consider checking it out.

Leave a comment

Filed under History

The Green Dragon on Pub Signs

If you see an English pub name that consists of an animal and a color, it usually has something to do with heraldry. If it’s not a modern name that somebody pulled out of his butt, then the original namegiver was usually expressing his loyalty to his local lord, or to a hero he supported, or to the king. It was often a sign of what kind of customers he wanted to attract.

“The Green Dragon” has long been a popular pub name in the UK. A few years back, one newspaper counted 41 Green Dragons. Tolkien also gave the name to the inn in Bywater where Sam often resorted, which made it a popular name around the world. And of course, Americans should know that Boston’s Green Dragon was one of the cradles of the American Revolution, the favorite tavern of people like Paul Revere.

Now, mind you, there was a Masonic lodge that met in an upstairs room in the Green Dragon. So I recently read a paranoid author not just complain about the role of Freemasonry among the Founding Fathers (which was justified), but claim that the Green Dragon was a sign that the pub was dedicated to Satan.

Arrrrrgh.

As I have pointed out before, there are a lot of English, Scottish, and Irish heraldic associations with dragons. Arthur Pendragon and the Red Dragon of Wales were symbols of the good guys, associated textually with Mordecai’s dream vision of himself in one version of the Greek Book of Esther, as a good guy dragon/snake fighting the evil dragon/snake of Haman. Dragons were a symbol of heroic and fierce fighters, as well as the Roman imperial cavalry. They were also borne in arms by those whose ancestors had legendarily slain dragons, or in places where dragons had legendarily dwelt.

The usual explanation for the Green Dragon name was that pub owners were showing support for the Earl of Pembroke and his family, the Herberts. The green dragon was not his arms, but it was his livery badge (along with a bloody arm usually being eaten by the dragon – sadly I have found no pictures of this!). Pembroke had supported Henry VIII and his son Edward. After a lot of stuff happened, he had supported Queen Mary’s right to rule over the pretensions of Lady Jane Grey. He supported Elizabeth too. Pembroke held extensive lands both in Wales and in England.

But there were other heraldic green dragons. The Maules of Scotland have a green dragon, emitting flames before and behind. (From the tip of the dragon’s curly tail, not in a farting way.) The Ely/O’Neylan O’Carrolls bear a green dragon spitting flame in a more conventional manner. More relevant to Tolkien, the Tames of Oxfordshire bear a green dragon, which is part of the joke behind his fun little story, Farmer Giles of Ham.

Some have suggested that later Green Dragons may have been subtly expressing support for King Charles II’s Catholic queen, Catherine of Braganza. She bore her family’s badge, the Green Wyvern. After the restrictions of Cromwell’s time, a lot of pub signs honored Charles II; so honor to his queen would not have been surprising.

In Boston, the tavern was founded in 1657 and had an elaborate copper sign shaped like a dragon. Of course within a few days it had oxidized green, so it was obviously a Green Dragon.

Not particularly Satanic, guys. (And it’s an awful idea for any Tolkien fan to swallow.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Good Christian Dragons

Pea Butter and Medieval Lent

In the 1995 book The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages, Terence Scully apparently talks a lot about how European medievals coped with Lent. Back then, we Latin Catholics had the same tough fasting regulations as Eastern Catholics do. In other words, it was forty days without milk, butter, lard, or eggs, as well as without meat.

It is well known that medieval cooks used almond milk as a dairy substitute.

What Scully points out is that there was also a butter substitute, and it wasn’t olive oil. (Olive oil was used more like shortening, at least by Northern European cooks who usually stuck to butter.)

The butter substitute was “pea-paste,” also known as “pea butter.” It was so common that medieval cookbooks don’t even bother to tell you how to make it. You already knew. And even peasants could afford pea butter. Food historians were a bit mystified.

Cut to modern times. Apparently the techie foodies have rediscovered pea butter. (Of course they do it with a centrifuge running for hours, but the medieval peasant version wouldn’t have been quite so pure and perfection-happy. It was probably more like pea guacamole.)

How do you make it?

First, take peas, preferably nice sweet green spring peas. (Fresh or frozen, or possibly dried and reconstituted if you’re medieval and the spring peas haven’t sprouted yet. The foodies say it actually works better with frozen peas.)

Mash and beat the heck out of the peas, or stick them in your blender. (Or your centrifuge, in which case you should add water.)

Strain out the pea solids, like the skins, and the pea juices that are too sloppy. (Or watch them magically separate in your centrifuge.)

Everything else is pea butter.You can eat it on bread, or even cook with it to a limited extent. (Obviously it will burn a lot faster than real butter.)

(And if you don’t feel like straining out the skins, I guess you don’t have to; it will be tasty pease-camole. But it might be a lot more spreadable if you get out the cheesecloth. Medieval cooks loved straining things, I’m telling you.)

So… if you are an Eastern Catholic who wants to get in touch with your European side, or if you are a Latin/Roman Rite Catholic with kids or a blender that need occupation, you can make pea butter for Lent. Or just for spring yumminess.

If you don’t like green butter or you’d rather not get out the blender/minions, here’s a modern recipe for a peanut butter substitute, a “roasted pea butter” made with yellow peas. It seems pretty simple. The agave would definitely make it sticky like peanut butter. (But then, so would sugar.)

Not to be confused with butter peas, which I think are a New World vegetable.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Important Vitamin B12 Advisory!

In general, you can’t hurt yourself by taking Vitamin B12.

In specific, however, you should remember that B12 is used as a treatment for anemia, and that a lack of B12 can cause anemia. Pernicious anemia is caused by your gut not being able to process food-borne B12, which is why folks with pernicious anemia get B12 shots instead of taking it orally.

B12 helps your body make blood.

So as the Mayo Clinic points out, if you take a lot of B12 and your body increases your blood volume by making more blood (a good thing), you can actually end up with too much blood. And that would cause a sort of high blood pressure, which is signalled by redness in the face, etc. (And if you already have high blood pressure, THAT WOULD BE BAD.)

Now, obviously you don’t want to tempt your doctor to bring out the leeches or the bloodletting equipment! (Although I guess you’re okay if you live in a paranormal romance and have a vampire around the house.)

Therefore… if you have really high amounts of micrograms listed on the side of your Vitamin B12 bottle (like 5000 mcg), do not pop them like candy. If your face looks weirdly red, ease off. And if you already have high blood pressure or heart problems, talk to your doctor about safe amounts of vitamins, as customized for you.

Other safety notes from the Mayo Clinic.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Alas, I Have Been Hideously Busy

But I really am blogging. Really.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized