Monthly Archives: January 2004

Anime Update!

Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim will begin showing in April not only the fun giant robot show Gundam Seed, but also…Detective Boy Conan! Hoody-hoo! Yes, after many years of disappointment and rumors, the incredibly long-running and popular kids’ mystery manga and anime is finally coming to American TV. Late at night. When kids can’t watch it. Because? It deals with real mysteries, including murders.

Given that most kids are reading Agatha Christie by the time they’re twelve — heck, our whole class had to read Ten Little Indians! — this is incredibly stupid. And I know it wasn’t Cartoon Network’s idea, which means it must be their parent company’s. Siiiiigh.

Anyway, here’s the plot. Imagine Encyclopedia Brown as a teenager — known throughout the country as a brilliant young detective. He’s just about to admit his feelings to his best girl-friend when he gets doused with an unknown chemical. Which turns him into a little kid. With no prospect of getting turned back into himself soon, he claims to be a little kid named Conan (Named after Doyle, of course.) and catches the criminals anyhow. In the wake of the teen detective’s mysterious disappearance, the boy detective wangles his way into moving in with his girl-friend’s family. He then proceeds to brilliantly solve mystery after mystery, while being himself trapped in problems with no easy solutions.

I understand the mysteries are quite good, but I suspect a lot of the appeal is Conan’s amusing but horrifying plight. Age can be a terrible trap to us all.

If I’d been able to go to Ohayocon, I probably would’ve gotten to see a fansubbed episode or two of the latest anime excursion into the world of Catholic schools, Maria-sama ga Miteru (Lady Mary Is Watching/Lady Mary Watches over Us).

AnimeNfo has a nice short page on the show. Nowhere’s comments are perhaps less than helpful, but the pictures are nice. This Spanish page’s summary of the first ep as translated by Google, is actually reasonably helpful. Anime News Network’s Spring 2004 Anime Preview is actually the most helpful, but you have to scroll alllll the way down to the bottom to read it. These pencilboards look ominous. Here’s some character information, which includes all of the Student Council members. Another show review with more pictures.

Basic plot: Yumi is a student at the Lillian Girl’s School. (Or maybe Women’s Institute is a better translation?) It’s a mission high school, part of a huge campus containing everything from a kindergarten to a post-graduate college. Yumi is new to this world; she’s a freshman, and she can’t even keep the bow on her uniform straight. As she walks by the statue of the Virgin Mary, a girl from the upper grades straightens her bow for her — the popular sophomore Sachiko. One of the other girls takes a picture of this for the school magazine, but can’t publish it without both Yumi and Sachiko’s permission. Meanwhile, Sachiko finds she isn’t allowed to vote on anything in Student Council until she gets herself a “petite soeur” to mentor, because them’s the rules. So when the photographer drags Yumi along to meet Sachiko and get her permission, Sachiko seizes the opportunity to announce that she’s now Yumi’s “grande soeur” and they will, as is customary, exchange rosaries forthwith….

I hope this truly turns out to be a school story and not another stupid teenage lesbian plotline. Nobody’s ever done a really good TV series about Catholic schools. Ever. If this show could break that jinx, its potential viewership would be huge. Also to the point, I’d really like to know what it’s like to be a Catholic girl in Japan. If it turns out to be just an excuse to indulge some weird fetish for long-skirted uniforms, I’ll be deeply disappointed. Especially since these girls are lucky enough not to have to wear UglyPlaid.

However, since the Lillian campus is on the same hill as the Hanadera, a boy’s Buddhist school, there might actually be some interest in actual religious questions (and boys) going on in this show! But I don’t know. Japanese men can’t seem to picture women alone without yuri occurring. No matter how spectacularly offensive to Catholic sensibilities it might be to associate the Virgin Mary with such goings on.

Hmm. According to Zahara (scroll down), the show is adapted from a manga that’s been adapted from a very popular series of novels for girls. According to her, the girl’s school is “seemingly obsessed with the Virgin Mary”, which is actually a really good argument for actual Catholic content. Of course, adaptations are notoriously unfaithful to the source material…and this site seems very sure it’s all about the yuri theme…I will be very annoyed if that’s true. Waste of a good setting, if you ask me.

Well, I guess I’ll just have to wait and find out, for good or ill.

The lyrics to the show’s themesong are interesting, to say the least. This probably isn’t an exact translation (my Japanese stinks and I haven’t the foggiest notion of the kanji), but this is probably close since the sense is consistent.

Maria-sama no kokoro, sorewa aozora, watashitachi wo tsutsumu hiroi aozora.
(Lady Mary’s heart, this clear blue sky, we are wrapped in the broad blue sky.)
Maria-sama no kokoro, sorewa kashi no ki, watashitachi wo mamoru tsuyoi kashi no ki.
(Lady Mary’s heart, this live oak, we are protected by the strong live oak.)
Maria-sama no kokoro, sorewa safaia (sapphire), watashitachi wo kazaru hikaru sapphire.
(Lady Mary’s heart, this sapphire, we are adorned by the shining sapphire.)

Which just about sounds over-the-top enough to be a Marian hymn from the fifties, no?

Sigh. Well, if it does turn out to be some stupid yuri or shoujo-ai series, I shall just console myself by watching Detective Conan. “There is only one truth!” Yeah, mysteries are the most moral genre.

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Attending ConFusion XXX

ConFusion has always been one of the better science fiction conventions in this part of the Midwest. They’ve survived for thirty years, after all! Now, with the new hotel, it seems to be on its way back to being one of the major cons. The attendees were amazing. I ended up happening to hang out with Eric Raymond the Linux guru for chunks of the weekend. Nice guy. (We did not talk about Linux, as I warned him that I knew very little about it and would just smile and nod a lot. He, like most older computer guys, was perfectly willing to talk something other than shop.)

I didn’t mean to buy anything this con. But then I found out Marty Fabish of Second-Hand Silk was there. (She’s the Dorsai lady with the white hair, amazing voice, and great figure.) I bought a black woman’s haori, a sort of kimono-style jacket that Japanese folks wear over a kimono. It only cost me 68 bucks, which I thought quite reasonable, given the quality (and the nice fit!). I wore it at the con over my turtleneck, but I mean to use it mundanely as a coverup for my nicer dresses. (More elegant than a shawl, and black goes with everything.) This haori, unlike my kimono, has a mon (Japanese heraldic insignia) on its back. Three leaves in a circle. I have no idea whose family I’m being presumptuous to, and I really feel I should find out before I find out the hard way. (I’m not entirely joking about that, either.)

I also learned that, since my kimono is made of cotton, it’s technically a yukata. Well, live and learn. I’ll have to remember to show it to Marty at some point; I’m very proud of it. A nice fall pattern, made from sturdy material. I will never part with it, but I’d love to learn more about it; and Marty’s plenty knowledgeable.

(Btw, Marty’s got lots of lovely kimonos and haoris and obis and fans and such, and I’m sure she’d be willing to sell you one. So…email Martha Coady Fabish at secondhandsilk at sbcglobal net, or see her at a convention near you!)

Anyway, my haori is made out of silk with auspicious designs in it. I commented that you really wouldn’t expect to see designers picking out inauspicious designs! Marty then commented that maybe inauspicious kimonos were behind the bad weather problems she’d had….

I had a great time at the con, but I must admit my good mood was seasoned by getting to argue with a few folks. The primo panel for this was the deliberately provocative panel “Is Religion Evil?” They put Robert Sawyer (excuse me, Hugo winner Robert Sawyer) on this panel. He proceeded to demonstrate why so many people seem to despise him. If you’re gonna espouse atheism and logic, my friends, it’s prudent not to argue yourself into six logical fallacies a minute. Honest to God, this is what he kept doing. Now, fans don’t mind egotism or argumentativeness. Properly deployed, these character traits can make you a beloved curmudgeon. But Robert Sawyer is unbelievably smug while demonstrating his lack of qualifications to have any pride in his own intellect. My only regret was that the panel was so crowded that folks debating him stepped all over each other.

The filk side of the con was excellent. I was particularly struck by guitarist Jerre Morgan (sp?) and the band Riverfolk. Also, I finally got to hear Fred Levy-Haskell, who I’ve been hearing about for a long time. I believe these folks were drawn to Confusion by the effects of Steve Macdonald’s visit to Minnesota last year…. Rand and Adam (half of the band Ookla the Mok, and its only current founding members still in the band) did a very good show, which I frankly liked better than the album it was supporting. Tom Smith apparently did a very good silly songs concert with Barry Childs-Helton. (Luckily, Barry’d gotten over that infestation of talking nothing but Academe-ese that he kept manifesting all weekend at OVFF. I couldn’t figure out whether he was serious or just having a very dry joke on everyone….) Judith and Dave Hayman didn’t quite make it down from Canada (Judith got sick) so I was stunt-Judith and Mark Bernstein was stunt-Dave on their panels. Since I’d just seen Steve Macdonald last weekend (while working on the album), and then saw Eloise who I was going to go see this coming weekend at Capricon, I really felt how small a town the science fiction community can be.

Unfortunately, I missed most of Hal Clement’s wake. We left about then. But it was a good con, all the same.

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An Unplottable Parish: Lovable and Loony

A lot of us Catholics (or Catholic bloggers, anyway!) like to categorize parishes as being conservative or liberal or moderate, orthodox or un-. The problem is that this doesn’t always work. Just as with people, a parish can be difficult to explain with a single word.

Presented for your consideration: St. Alexander’s in Farmington Hills, Michigan…or, excuse me, “The Servant Church of St. Alexander”. That was the first thing that had my eyebrows raised as we went into the former school building now acting as a church. Was this some kind of Eastern Rite parish? Or, God forbid, had I misjudged the guy who invited me and was about to enter some kind of weird RadTrad or superliberal parish not in communion with Rome? I mean, science fiction fans have been known to be a bit wacky, and I was going with this guy I knew from the local science fiction convention….

A look at the multiple bright banners and posters in the parish hall portion of the church complex could have given me the answer. But my native guide filled me in. The parish is very big on service, particularly to the poor, and spends most of its budget (and more than their budget, sometimes, said my native guide) on that. The “Servant Church” thing was supposed to remind them of that. But among the bright banners also hung, in a place of prominence, a big old brightly painted crucifix. Usually in your really liberal parish, they try to hide any Catholic art which predates the sixties.

It’s a small parish, but apparently very tightknit. The people were very welcoming to me, and, like my native guide, seemed very proud of their parish. (My native guide drives a decent distance to attend here.) There was a veil-wearing sister, a bright-eyed, cheery older lady who reminded me strongly of the nuns at my school. The priest at our Mass was the short beardy guy who’s second from the right in the back row of their webpage’s picture. The photo doesn’t show that he has a walker and some kind of breathing apparatus. (I don’t know the story on that; I didn’t like to ask my native guide.) He gave me the impression that he was a good priest, both personally pious and beloved by his congregation. We’ll get to the other impression he gave me later.

The church area itself…hmm. Well, it seemed to have been renovated recently. It wasn’t totally unattractive, either. But…um. I think I’ve seen and disliked the renovators’ work before. You know — build a little tile dais, with the altar and priest’s chair and oils and such standing on it, all in the same wood? (I must admit it looked a lot nicer in a converted school building than that old German church in Toledo. Mostly because it fought wildly with said Toledo church.) But I can deal with tile — though why there wouldn’t be a handicapped ramp in a parish that has a priest with a walker baffled me. (The Toledo church had ramps galore up to the dais. Stupid ramps, but ramps.) It took me a while to figure out where the tabernacle was, because it was in this BIG tube thing of decorated wood. But at least it was right next to and behind the altar, instead of somewhere halfway to BFE. (The Toledo church had it over in the wall off to the right, where many would be seated with their backs to it. It made my skin crawl, sitting there. If I’d realized, I would never have sat on that side.)

The thing is…why would you renovate a church with tile floors and then choose gray and gray-blue as your tile colors? In Michigan, where it’s winter most of the year? Dang, they could have made pictures on the floor in green and gold and red and deep blue!

The walls are pitilessly white. Most of the windows are plain, but there are two or three abstract blue pattern ones. I think they portrayed water. There was one cheap-looking framed print; I couldn’t tell the subject as it was toward the back of church — maybe Jesus, maybe St. Alexander. No statues. There were flowers in front of the altar, though, and the priest wore a bright-patterned stole. (He apologized for it making him “look like a Christmas tree”, but explained that it had been made by the parish kids by putting their handprints in rainbow-colored paints on the material.) There’s a dignified-looking but very plain wood screen behind the altar and dais. At first I thought there was no crucifix; that was brought in in the procession. It was a very nice metal crucifix which seemed to have the crucified Christ on one side and the risen Christ on the other, though I didn’t get as close a look at it as I’d like. No pews, but wide and “churchy”-looking wooden chairs with some kind of carpet seat.

I was there to help out with the music. This was an unalloyed pleasure. The music director is (said my native guide) the youngest in the archdiocese of Detroit, and I’d believe it. He was just turning 21 this Monday, was just this year taking his first formal music classes, and had been music director since his teens. A quite talented pianist, he also had good taste in music. Most of it was more modern stuff; he knew how to make it work. The choir area was to the left of the altar dais all the way to the windows. There were four or five levels of sturdy carpeted tiers for putting chairs on. We used microphones, but honestly, if the acoustics weren’t quite so school cafeteria, you’d hardly need them. The tiles and wood did do a good job of helping the acoustics, I think. The piano was adequate. I think we did a good job with the music. (For once in my life, my voice was cooperating and singing in that weird new silvery way I’ve picked up now that my voice has matured and I’ve been in choir.)

Anyway, Mass was fine and inspiring and all that…mostly. I could really have done without the weirdy bits. “God, have mercy” instead of “Lord”, and as little use of “Lord” as possible. “God, you remember how the rabbi Jesus….” was perhaps the weirdest bit. It just sounded so Arian! But clearly, that wasn’t how Father meant it, since he didn’t do anything like that anywhere else. Meanwhile, there’s apparently a “Hail Mary” every week for the unborn killed by abortion. (I think this came after the Creed and before the petitions.) Okay. Then the petitions were almost all the “add your own” I remembered from college. You’ve seen that before, too? Well, would you believe that the petitions lasted almost ten minutes? People had brought lists of prayer intentions! It was obvious that a lot of folks in this parish know sick people, a good many with cancer. (Father prayed especially for a cure for cancer before bringing the petitions to a close.) It was moving but also…very different. Very. Much more conservative in bent, somehow, than these things usually are.

And just when I was feeling those pre-Vatican II vibes…Father apologized to all Catholic women for their oppression by “the machine” and prayed for justice for them. Um. Well. I just feel soooo oppressed, I’m tellin’ ya.

Father also prayed for our soldiers in Iraq and the Iraqi people. His obvious love of peace and of people would have swayed my heart more, if he hadn’t seemed to be under the impression that our soldiers had caused all the violence and death, instead of greatly reducing it. At this point, the informality of the setting caused me to be doing some audible muttering into my praying hands. This was inexcusably rude and wrong of me, and I hope nobody could hear me doing it. Mass is not the time to be talking.

ANNNNyway, of course we held hands during the “Our Father”, but that’s not really a biggie to me. I was startled to find myself being ushered over to the dais to hold hands with the eucharistic ministers as well as my native guide the choir guy and the music director, but eh. With a parish that small, no biggie. I already mentioned the bizarre Arian image created by Father’s creativity with the Eucharistic Prayer, but on the whole he was even more solemn about it than most. Everything was going along great. (No, I didn’t see how the fractioning thing was handled. I was back over on the choir side and singing the Lamb of God and thus pointed out at the congregation, not the altar. For the first time in a long time, I only had to sing the thing three times, so I was happy.)

Then we came to the forgiveness thing. Of course everyone was shaking hands with everyone else, and of course there was much roving. But…it must have lasted a good five to seven minutes! We’re not talking a quick “Peace be with you” and a muttered extra comment here; we’re talking whole little conversations! Usually I don’t feel that this “breaks up the Mass” or takes away from the solemnity of Communion. This time…um…sorry, guys…this time it took me all the way out of any sense of contemplation I was contemplating.

Finally, it was actually time for Communion. The choir and music director took Communion before the singing started. We did a good job on the Communion song, I think, but it was a good thing there was music for me to focus my prayer with. “One Bread, One Body” does do a good job of putting people in a meditative state. But the whole solemn mass of the Mass is supposed to be what sets you up for the supreme moment of taking Communion, not one song.

Announcements. Um. Well. This is where things got contradictory on the Ursula K. LeGuin “That kid in Omelas? Oh, well, it’s a darned good thing for all of us that she’s imprisoned there, and all my happiness, marriage and kids depend on my decision to abort my first child” scale.

(That poor confused and sorrowful lady. My heart goes out to her, since her dad (Kroeber the famous anthropologist) could obviously at times be a BIG JERK from what he sounded like in his book Ishi. It sounds like he and her mom pressured Ursula into going along with the abortion. Otherwise, she’d be “useless” and “never get married”…geez, you can hear the family ranting at her, can’t you?)

Father announced that he was only reading this announcement because the Cardinal said so. The announcement was just asking people to sign petitions for a law against partial birth abortions! Sheesh! Then Father announced that, although he was absolutely opposed to every form of abortion, he was also absolutely opposed to any limiting of a woman’s right to choose.

So, like, does that mean he also hates murder, but believes that outlawing murder is wrong? Is he an extreme libertarian or feminist or Constitutionalist or what?

After that, I honestly wanted to sing the last song and get the heck out of there before I said something truly injudicious. Because, really, they were all such nice people and so obviously full of love and devotion that I’m fairly sure they’re closer to God than I. But…they were so far out there! People in Yellow Springs are more logical than this! The looniest loon I met at the science fiction convention was more logical than this! But how can you go and harangue a nice priest who can hardly get his breath enough to say Mass but still does it?

God love ’em, I couldn’t help but feel for these folks. They’ve got so much going for them, but they obviously need some basic instruction in logic and doctrine to help direct all that love!

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The Definition of Evil–and Giant Robots!

The Definition of Evil–and Giant Robots!

So here I sit once again missing church because of the truly hideous cold virus I have picked up. And since Maureen is away making beautiful music, y’all get the benefit of my random neural firings.

Maureen and I have known each other for a long time. She has a true talent for introducing me to books, music and media to which I then become as hopelessly addicted as she is. Just call her the pusher of pop culture (and high culture too).

Her newest project was to get me to watch the anime series The Vision of Escaflowne which combines truly visionary fantasy, great storytelling, romance and. . .em. . .giant robots. I never thought I would care about a giant robot show but this show is so much more than that. It is a meditation on responsibility and honor and friendship and love and–well check it out if you can.

The show also asks the following important question about evil:

Is it worse to do evil because:

A) one is an insane sadist who cares for nothing and no one


B) one believes it will create a glorious new world of some kind?

My money is on B. I’m much more worried about someone willing to do terrible things in order to “help” me than someone who just has no control at all.

Some people think that because spiritual people are concentrating on the afterlife, they are more dangerous because they are willing to act now according to what will happen then. This was certainly true of the September 11th hijackers.

However, as Lois McMaster Bujold has pointed out, the teachings of most religions encourage their members to always put people before principles. It is when we are willing to sacrifice people for some abstract notion of “right” that we get into problems. You should read LMB btw. She is another one of Maureen’s contagious obsessions.

Which leads to the next question: Is it evil to get someone hooked on a show and then leave town before said show can be exhaustively discussed?

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Space Stuff

Lileks talks about the stars.

Fact: In the middle of a war against medieval-minded foes, we decided that we should also head back into space. We�re not going to close the borders, curl up under the covers. The right hand holds the sword, the left hand holds the sextant. If you�d asked me on 9/12/01 what headline I thought I�d see on 01/14/03, I would have said something depressing like �Seattle relies on Israeli experts for help in nuke damage� or some such apocalyptic concept. Back then it all seemed ready to tumble into the deep black pit. I would have been cheered to learn that attacks on our troops in Iraq were down 22 percent. I would have been gobsmacked to learn we had decided to return to the moon as well. That’s the sort of news that transcends today and defines tomorrow.

Real life continues to be some kind of Republican version of The West Wing. Aaron Sorkin, a space enthusiast himself, probably was wishing he was on Bush’s staff yesterday. But the real president’s speechwriters didn’t do too bad a job. Here’s the text of President Bush’s space speech.

“….much remains for us to explore and to learn. In the past 30 years, no human being has set foot on another world, or ventured farther upward into space than 386 miles — roughly the distance from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts. America has not developed a new vehicle to advance human exploration in space in nearly a quarter century. It is time for America to take the next steps.

Today I announce a new plan to explore space and extend a human presence across our solar system. We will begin the effort quickly, using existing programs and personnel. We’ll make steady progress — one mission, one voyage, one landing at a time.

…With the experience and knowledge gained on the moon, we will then be ready to take the next steps of space exploration: human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond. (Applause.) Robotic missions will serve as trailblazers — the advanced guard to the unknown. Probes, landers and other vehicles of this kind continue to prove their worth, sending spectacular images and vast amounts of data back to Earth. Yet the human thirst for knowledge ultimately cannot be satisfied by even the most vivid pictures, or the most detailed measurements. We need to see and examine and touch for ourselves. And only human beings are capable of adapting to the inevitable uncertainties posed by space travel.

As our knowledge improves, we’ll develop new power generation propulsion, life support, and other systems that can support more distant travels. We do not know where this journey will end, yet we know this: human beings are headed into the cosmos.

…Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn into unknown lands and across the open sea. We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives, and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey.

Mentioning The West Wing, of course, leads to some obvious questions about the difference between realistic, pragmatic planning and dramatic, fantasy-based dreams that don’t have to be paid for. Well, obviously space will cost. NASA is still a bloated bureaucracy which may drag this down, and the new space program has to get votes not only from this Congress, but from many to come. It has to get bipartisan support. We also need a lot of wisdom and luck.

But the United States and the rest of the world are fully capable of taking up a challenge. We badly need more positive goals than “defend ourselves” and “keep the mall economy going”. The space program, assuming we go out there to live, to work, and to stay, will be such a goal.

I really want to write a song about this. Somebody has to. I’m ashamed to say that my compadres are more concerned with ripping on the president than celebrating a little bit of momentum. Right up there with giving Gingrich no support when they for once had a Speaker of the House who supported space and even private space initiatives. Some people can’t take being given everything they’ve always wanted…if it’s being offered by the “wrong” person. Bah humbug right back at ye, ye poor bitter Scrooges.

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And Then There Were Two….

Preach it, Joy!

Hee! I told you big things were going to happen.

As you can already see, Joy’s got an interesting POV and a lot to say. She’s also a great deal wiser and braver person than I am. Finally, she watches a great deal more EWTN than I do…so as a loyal “parishioner” of St. Blog’s, I obviously need her around to increase this blog’s “Latin Mass” quotient! As an independent, she will also provide a little more political diversity of opinion. For this and for so many other reasons, I’m glad to have her here.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to leave you in Joy’s reliable hands for a while, and I will again. I still haven’t gotten over this silly cold, so I stayed home from choir practice. This weekend, I’m going up to my friend Steve’s place to work on my album. So…I’m resting up determinedly.

But I do have to say…I’m really excited about finally ditching the outdated bits of the space program and moving on to the real business of living and working in space. Permanent moonbase. Headin’ to Mars. (Not giving up and leaving space to China.) Yes, this is a good idea. Let’s do this, folks.

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My very erudite friend Maureen has offered to let me share her blog when I have a desire to spout off. What do you need to know about me? I enjoy fantasy and SF. I teach Composition and Literature to bored community college freshmen. I’m a non-denominational Christian with a slightly odd bent.

This week I’ve been suffering a particularly bad cold. It isn’t as bad as the one I suffered through when we went to the Big Jewish Wedding, but near enough. I also have had to put up with my body’s monthly–well you know–at the same time. Since I was introduced to this particular aspect of my life as a female, I have suspected that the human body is not particularly well designed and this has caused me some philosophical difficulties.

Did I mention that I majored in Medieval and Early Modern Literature? Well, anyway, Medieval people believed that since God is perfect, creation must also be perfect. They loved categories and they believed that everything had a logical place. Modern theorists, having taken God out of the picture, are much more in love with chaos and its theories both mathematical and philosophical.

Which brings me back to the messiness and imperfection of the universe. There could be several reasons why God allows this:

1. Things aren’t as imperfect as they seem. Since I am not God and don’t know the reasons for everything, I can’t be expected to grasp this.

2. The world is fallen. Everything was perfect in Eden, but since then sin has entered the world and so we get a mess.

3. #1 and #2 plus God likes imperfection

Now I know that number three seems unlikely, but go with me for a minute. There are several passages in the New testimony in which Christians are called upon to be “perfect,” however I am informed by a reliable Greek scholar I know that the Greek word is more accurately translated as “mature.” In other words, God wants us to grow up, and I wish Him good luck with that, but he is not requiring that we be absolutely perfect. Since so much of life is manifestly not perfect, and since there isn’t much we can do about that, but strive to improve, I believe that God must like imperfection. Messiness must appeal to Him in some way.

Some people see God as the kid who upsets the ant hill to watch the ants scurry about. That’s not what I’m saying. God isn’t a sadist. However, He also doesn’t seem to be like the kid at the science fair who is elated when all of the equations match. Who would have expected Moses to free his people or Saul to become Paul? God has a sense of humor.

At least that’s what I like to believe as I sit here sniffling, missing church and wondering how I’m going to teach two three hour classes tomorrow with a sore throat and cough.

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Adventures in Hymnwriting, Again

I wrote most of this back on the 5th, couldn’t figure out the last verse, and lost the tune. This morning I figured out one and found the other. Based on the psalm and the other sheep/shepherd references, of course.

Strayed Like Sheep
Lyrics and Music: Maureen O’Brien, 1/8/03

We have all strayed like sheep,
But the Lord will keep
Looking for us till we are found.
He will bring us to rest
In the grass that’s best;
He knows where the cool water’s found.
A protecting rod
In the hands of God
Is a comforting sight to see,
And we won’t be afraid
Of death’s icy shade
When we walk through its dark valley.

Hear Him call. Know His voice.
We must make our choice:
To trust Him or the wolves and night.
He knows each sparrow’s fall.
He will count and call;
He will seek us with all his might.
He will hold us near;
He will calm our fear;
We have only to turn around.
We have all strayed like sheep,
But the Lord will keep
Looking for us till we are found.

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Why I Got Out of Linguistics

Amaravati explains it all. Through U.S.S. Clueless.

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I’ve Put Up Some Pictures

I want to look festive! Now that this blog is one and a half years old, it’s time for something new and exciting to happen…. Stay tuned!

The picture on top is St. Virgil/Virgilius of Salzburg, originally named Fergal. (Irish monks, like others throughout the world, often changed their name when entering religious life. The poet Virgil was regarded as practically Christian, He was apparently one of the O’Neills, and became abbot of the Benedictine Irish monastery of Achadh Bo (Aghaboe). He was learned in history, math, philosophy and theology, and knew so much geography that the monks called him “the Geometer”. But it seems that Virgil also had itchy feet and a tendency to get into disputes. After one of these, apparently over missionary work, Virgil got fed up and headed out with a party of like-minded monks in 742 or so. Some say he planned to go to the Holy Land. Where he ended up was at the Frankish king Pepin’s court; he stayed there for 2 years or so. Pepin then sent him to the defeated Duke Odilo of Bavaria. Virgil advised the duke for a while, then got sent to Salzburg in 746 or 747, since the bishop had died. Virgil moved into St. Peter’s Monastery on the Monchsberg (founded by St. Rupert) and became abbot. As in Ireland, he as abbot ran the diocese, with his companion Dub Da Chrich as his bishop subordinate.

Before that happened, though, Virgil managed to get into a little bit of trouble. The pope had a legate in Bavaria — the Saxon St. Boniface. Apparently, personalities and worldviews clashed, and both thought the other gravely in error. There was the whole “abbot bossing the bishop around” thing. Then there was the poorly educated local priest who’d been baptizing people in the name of the Patria, Filia et Spiritus Sanctus — the Fatherland, the Daughter, and the Holy Spirit! St. Boniface wanted them all rebaptized. St. Virgil said there was no need. Boniface wrote Pope Zachary. The Pope agreed with Virgil. Then Boniface heard Virgil teach something that shocked him. The Latin is apparently a bit ambiguous, but it was something about there being “other men” in other lands “under the earth”, whom Boniface understood to be men who weren’t descended from Adam. Humans not descended from Adam would be a big no-no, of course…so Pope Zachary demanded that Virgil explain himself.

Virgil returned triumphant to Salzburg (though he did agree to become a bishop in 749 and do his bossing from that position). So whatever he said, it wasn’t what St. Boniface wrote. Probably he was talking about people in the Antipodes; the Irish still knew, by way of the Greeks and Romans, that the Earth was round. But others have speculated that these other lands were other worlds, and that St. Virgil was talking about aliens. Still others believe that he was talking about the Otherworld of Irish legend, and the Fair Folk — which Irish legend identified either with the neutral angels or the Nephilim.

Salzburg prospered under St. Virgil, and he set up a school for priests. He then sent missionaries out into the surrounding lands of Carinthia and Slovenia. Under him the first cathedral in Salzburg was built (from 767-773), which people called a wonder. In 774 he held a Bavarian church council which resulted in the establishment of schools throughout Bavaria. He encouraged the production of books and probably wrote a few. (Some say the “Libellus Virgilii” and the first Life of St. Rupert, the first bishop of Salzburg; the travelogue of Aethicus Ister has also been attributed to him.) He also had relics of St. Brigid and St. Samthann of Clonbroney brought to Salzburg. He died on November 27, 784.

After his death, there was a coup and a new line of rulers came into power over Bavaria. St. Virgil was largely forgotten. Then in the 1100’s, a fire destroyed part of his cathedral. The bishop then in power really wanted to build a new cathedral instead of fixing the old one and sent his men to wreck the surviving bits of building. The people of Salzburg were outraged by the destruction. But as the rubble was cleared for new construction, they discovered the long forgotten tomb of St. Virgil, with the inscription “Virgilium templo construxit scemate pulchro” – Virgil constructed this temple in its beautiful shape. Salzburg already had St. Rupert, his cousin St. Ermentrudis, and St. Vitalis…but they did some historical investigation, and in 1233 St. Virgil of Salzburg became one of the few officially canonized Irish saints. (Most were canonized by public acclaim long before the canonization process existed.)

St. Virgil has two feast days — one with St. Rupert on September 24 (celebrated in Austria), and one by himself on November 27 (celebrated in Salzburg). He is a patron saint of children, and of birthing problems. He is usually shown in bishop’s garb with a model of Salzburg Cathedral at his feet; sometimes he carries a globe, or a dish of money (recalling how he personally paid the cathedral workers their wages). Often he is pictured together with St. Rupert, since both are patron saints of Salzburg.

St. Virgil in art:
Wall art on St. Rupert in Gaden
A statue in the Pfarrkirche at Oberalm.
Another, by the same artist, on the High Altar of the Filialkirche in Wallersee.
A wooden statue on the Graz-Seckau diocesan webpage
Holy cards of Ss. Virgilius, Rupert, and Vitalis, among others.

Meanwhile, St. Virgil is remembered throughout the world in churches, schools, and halls dedicated to art. At Salzburg Cathedral, The Salzburger Virgilschola choir is dedicated to preserving the Salzburg Liturgy and singing other medieval music.

He’s a good saint for a science fiction fan to know.

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Messing About While Sick

I made a terrible mess yesterday. I spilled the top portion of a cup of hot chocolate all over a pile of books! Probably the only really valuable thing I damaged was my took-me-ages-to-find copy of Paula Volsky’s The Luck of Relian Kru. However, a number of cheaper books are now much browner and stickier along the edges than before. Sigh.

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Adventures in Hymnwriting

I am stuck at home with some kind of creeping drippage and achy bones. I do not have the flu, pneumonia, laryngitis, or anything else which will prevent me from recording my album in good voice. I refuse to have it. However, I am sleeping, taking medicine, and wondering where my extra box of Kleenex got to.

I have been brooding over said album, of course. I really need to work on it, but obviously practicing is not on the agenda today. I will just have to listen to my scratchtracks again. And again. And again.

ANyway, before I got caught up in the Endless Translation below, I wrote a song adaptation of Psalm 72 today, to the fine old tune of “Brian Boru’s March”. (There’s a beautiful MIDI of it available at the latest incarnation of Taylor’s Traditional Tunebook. Do download and enjoy.) I’ve said before that the old slow airs and marches are probably the most appropriate Irish tunes to use as hymn settings, and I think this proves my point.

I used as much of Psalm 72 as I thought I could get away with, but had to leave out a line here or there to make the verses work out. The verses and choruses are doubled, because traditionally Irish nstrumentalists play the verse twice, then the chorus twice, etc., and I thought I’d go along with that. I was interested to see how much the translation was changed and how much was left out between the daily readings and the actual Bible verses…I guess enemies licking the dust aren’t really the thing for church, though!

Psalm 72
Lyrics: Maureen S. O’Brien, 1/6/04, after the NAB online.
Music: “Brian Boru’s March”, Irish trad.

O God, give your judgment/ to-o the king,
And gi-ive your justice/ to the king’s son.
With ju-ustice he/ will govern your people,
With judgment your/ affli-icted ones.

And so the mountains/ bounty will yield,
And so the hills/ give much to the people,
And he will defend/ those who are oppressed,
Sa-ve the poor/ and crush their oppressors.

CH: (2x)
Lord, every nation, nation, nation,
Lord, every nation, nation, nation,
Lord, every nation, nation, nation
On the earth will/ ado-o-re you.

Ma-ay he live/ as long as the sun,
Li-ike the moon,/ through generations.
Ma-ay he be/ like rain on the fields,
That plenty will flourish/ till the moon is no more.

Ma-ay he rule/ from se-ea to sea,
fro-om the river/ to the earth’s ends.
Ma-ay his foes/ all knee-eel before him,
Ma-ay his en-/ -emies lick the dust.

CH: (2x)
Lord, every nation, nation, nation,
Lord, every nation, nation, nation,
Lord, every nation, nation, nation
On the earth will/ ado-o-re you.

Ma-ay the kings/ of Tarshish bring tribute,
Kings of Arabia/ and Seba bring gifts.
Ma-ay all kings/ bow down before him,
Ma-ay all nations/ come to serve him.

For he rescues the poor/ whenever they cry,
He helps the oppressed/ with noone to help,
Pities the needy,/ saves the poor’s lives,
Frees them because/ he counts their blood precious.

CH: (2x)
Lord, every nation, nation, nation,
Lord, every nation, nation, nation,
Lord, every nation, nation, nation
On the earth _will_ ado-o-re you.

So long may he live,/ with Arabian gold,
Prayed for without pause,/ blessed day after day.
May plenty wheat grow,/ right up to the heights,
Fruit trees like Leb’non,/ grain grown like weeds.

May his name be blessed/ long as the sun lasts.
May all the Earth’s tribes/ bless things in his name.
May all of the lands/ regard him as favored.
Blest be God, who/ alone does such wonders.

CH: (2x)
Lord, every nation, nation, nation,
Lord, every nation, nation, nation,
Lord, every nation, nation, nation
On the earth will/ ado-o-re you.

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Bunessan/”Leanabh an Eigh”

I was Googling around for a question about “Morning Is Broken” that came up in the comments section at Confessions of a Recovering Choir Director and ended up doing more research than I intended. And none of it posted, for some reason. (Sigh.) So I’m posting it here.

The lyrics of “Morning Is Broken” (which, by the way, I like — you don’t have to sing the song syrupy, you know!) are of course by Eleanor Farjeon, a very gifted minor mid-century American poet. She was also the author of some very good fantasy books, mostly for children. I don’t know whether or not Farjeon was Catholic, but our parochial school library certainly included both her books and poems.

The music to which the lyrics are set is a 19th century Highland tune. Its composer is unknown, but it was used as the setting for “Leanabh an Aigh” (Child of Wonder), a Gaelic Christmas carol written by a poet from the island of Mull, Mary Macdonald, or to give her her full Gaelic name, “Mairi Dhughallach NicLucais, bean Neil Dhomhnullaich ann an Ard Tunna”. Which means, Mairi Dhughallach (Dhugallach’s her nickname, distinguishing her from all the other Marys), daughter of Lucas, wife of Neil Dhomhnullaich, from Ard Tunna. She would have been one of the clan of the MacDonalds, but she wouldn’t use that as a last name. (And not much point, really, given that practically everybody else thereabouts was a MacDonald, too!) The tune is called “Bunessan” (or Bun Easain for the Gaelic-ly correct) after a nearby village on Mull.

(UPDATE: Here’s a gorgeous picture of sunset at Bunessan.)

“Leanabh an Aigh” is apparently found in English hymnbooks in a translation called “Child in a Manger” and done by Lachlan MacBean (for his 1888 book Songs and Hymns of the Scottish Highlands) . This is apparently where Cat Stevens heard the tune.

As with most folk hymns, there are at least two slightly different versions of the Gaelic lyrics to “Leanabh an Aigh”. This one is online at Let’s Sing and is more complete, but also more “grammatically correct”. Which way Mairi actually sang it is anybody’s guess. There’s a shorter version online at this Esperanto site, believe it or not! The English translation is not by me and is not the same as “Child in a Manger”. I found two online translations called “Infant of Wonder”. One is by Hilda Leslie and was done in 1978. The other I found in the church history of Cambuslang Baptist Church. It was done by a former minister of the church, the Rev. D. Gunn Sutherland, back in the late 19th century. (Unfortunately, the church transcription left out the last line of the song!) Anyway, I’m doing a baaaad thing and combining the translations to better fit the Gaelic verses we have here, as well as making picky little changes which I’ve asterisked.

(‘S e) Leanabh an aigh an leanabh bh’aig Mairi,
(A) Rugadh ‘san stabull, Righ nan Dul,
Thainig do’n fhasach dh’fhulang ‘nar n-aite,
Is sona do’n aireamh bhiteas dha dluth.

Infant of wonder, infant of Mary,
Born in a stable, Lord* over all,
Came from on high to hear our transgressions,
Happy are those who may on Him call.

Is ann an Iudea chualas an sgeulachd
As binne r’a eisdeachd na teudan ciuil,
Armailt na Flaitheis is ainglean Neimh
Ag ard-mholadh Dhe ‘s a’seinn a chliu.

Town in Judea* echoes the tidings,
Sweeter than music’s trembling chords;
Armies of angels, hosts of the Highest,
Loudly are lauding God, the Lord.

Iriosal, striochdach thainig an Ti so,
‘S deacair dhomh innseadh meud a chliu;
Prionnsa na sithe a rugadh mar chiochran
Ann an staid iosal is gun mhuirn.

L: Lowly and humble He came to save us,
Boundless His power and mighty His name,
Prince* of peace, He was born of a virgin
In lowly estate without pomp or acclaim.

Eisdubh an fhuaim le sgeula nam buadh
A dh’aithris na buchaillean o thus:
“Gheibh sibh an t-Uan ‘s a’phrasaich ‘na shuain,
‘S e shaoras a shluagh le buaidh is le cliu.”

L: List to the sound and the tale of His glory
That to the shepherds there was told:*
“The Lamb will be found asleep in a manger,
He who will save us from Satan’s fold.”

‘S e teachgdaire ‘n aigh a thainig o’n airde
A dh’innis le gradh na bha ‘na run:
“Geibh sibh ‘san stabull ‘m fochar a mhathar
Naoidhean thug barr air cach gach uair.”

L: The herald of tidings wondrous and joyful
Came from on high his good news to bear:
“There in the stable next to his mother,
Your mighty savior, beyond compare.”*

“Seallaibh ged tha e ‘m prasaich ‘san stabull,
An armailt ro-laidir air a chul:
Ainglean o’n airde a’frithealadh dha-san,
Cumhachd is gras is gradh ‘na ghnuis.”

L: “Behold though you find Him asleep in a stable,*
Mighty His army stands in its place,*
Angels from heaven haste to attend Him,
Power and grace and love in his face.”*

Ged a bhiodh leanaban aig righribh na talmhainn
Le greadhnachas garbh ‘s le anabarr muirn,
‘S gearr gus am falbh iad ‘s fasaidh muirn,
An ailleachd ‘s an deabh a’searg ‘s an uir.

S: Scions of kings, though greeted with grandeur,
Festal rejoicing’s vain display –*
Swift ebbs their life’s stream, strength quickly waning*,
Beauty and form in dust decay.

‘S iomadh fear treubhach, gaisgealach, gleusda
Chaisg air an steud ‘s nach eirich dhiubh
A chaoidh gus an seidear trompaid Mhic Dhe
Ag ar-mholadh Dhe ‘s a’seinn a chliu.

L: Brave men of valour, powerful and mighty,
Go forth to war in carnage to die,
They shall arise at God’s son’s own trumpet,*
Praising our Lord, our Saviour on high.

Cha b’ionnan ‘s an t-Uan a thainig g’ar fuasgladh,
Iriosal, stuama ghluais e an tus,
E naomh gun truailleachd, cruithear an t-sluaigh
A dh’eirich a suas le buaidh o’n uir.

S: Not thus the Lamb who came to redeem us,
L: Humble and meek but mighty to save,
S: Spotless and holy, his hosts’ Creator*,
L: Ever victorious over the grave.

Seallaibh cia ard E nis ann am Parras
Ag ullacgadh aite d’a chairdean ruin;
O’n cheannaich a bhas dhaibh sonas do-aireamh,
A ghealladh gu brath cha teid air chul.

L: Now far on high in Paradise waiting,
Welcome prepared for all of His own;

S: Those by death purchased, them he has promised
Ne’er to forsake or leave alone.*

Athair nan gras, neartaich ar cail
Chum moladh gu brath thoirt dha le cliu,
Do’n Ti as ro-airde a dh’ullaich dhuinn Slanighear
A dh’fhuiling am bas ‘nar n-aite ‘s nar rum.

L: Father of grace, O strengthen our purpose
To praise Him forever, great is His name;
God from on high who sent our Redeemer
To die on the cross, from heaven He came.

Teagaisg a Righ dhuinn slighe na sithe,
‘Nad cheumaibh direach cum sinn dluth;
Thusa bha dileas dhuinne bho shiorruiddheachd,
Urras ro-chinnteach air an cul.

L: Lead us, O Lord, on life’s peaceful pathways;
Thee we would follow, close by Thy side.
Prize for the faithful, life everlasting,
Through life’s dark shadows be Thou our guide.

Neartaich ar dochas, meudaich ar n-eolas,
Cum sinn ‘nad roidean direach, dluth,
Le ola ‘nar lochrain mar ris na h-oighibh
A’seinn ann an gloir an orain uir.

L: Hope will sustain us, knowledge will guide us,
Staunch in Thy footsteps we follow Thee,
Singing Thy praises on highways to glory,
Happy and joyful, Lord, we shall be.

So leanbh an aigh mar dh’aithris na faidhean
‘S na h-ainglean arda b’e miann as sul,
‘S e as airidh air gradh ‘s air urram thiort dha,
Is sona do’n aireamh bhitheas dha dluth.

S: Infant of wonder, theme of the prophets,
Angels adore, eyes full of longing,*
Worthy of love is He and of honour,

L: Happy those who may call on the King.*

*King: Leslie has “Lord”. Well, yeah, there were a lot of kings loose in the Irish and Scottish countryside, so, yeah, you could translate it “Lord”. Except there are other words for that. “Righ” means king. Sigh. I’ll leave it be.

*That town in Judea: Sutherland has “Bethlehem’s city”, Leslie has just “Bethlehem”, and both of them obviously have some dislike for kennings. Bah. I stand with Mairi on this poetic issue.

*Prince: Mairi has “prionnsa” and Leslie goes with “Symbol”?! Oh, pleeeeease. Singing translations are one thing; nonsense is quite another.

*Leslie has this line as “Told to the shepherds there in the fold”. But once you’ve used “List”, why hold back and introduce repetitiousness?

*Leslie has “�There in the stable lies your sweet saviour,/Peerless and mighty, beyond compare.�, which completely leaves out the reference to his mom.

*Leslie has “manger”, but you can see Mairi repeated “stable” again. Again, I stand with Mairi.

*Leslie has “Mighty His army, wondrous His power;” and “Love and compassion both are His dower.�. I changed the former to make the latter closer to the original.

*Sutherland had “Festal rejoicings -vain display;”. I changed the punctuation a bit, that’s all. I also changed “waneth” to “waning” so as to fit in with the rest of the song. I feel depressed about that.

*Leslie had “when sounds the last trumpet”. Which actually sounds better in English, but yes, I’m picky about translations, darn it!

*Sutherland had “spotless and holy” in his second line. Neither Sutherland nor Leslie translates Mairi’s “Creator of the troops/hosts” straight, so I helped ’em.

*Sutherland: “Whom he hath purchased, them He hath promised” is really nice, but it left out “by death”. Sorry about the mutilation.

*Sutherland: “Angels adoring, see the king”, but Mairi had something more like “with longing in their eyes” and no King. I didn’t change Lord into King in that one verse, so I had an extra one hanging around. Unfortunately, this means the ending line of the last stanza isn’t the same as the first. But it was that or “Angels adore with longing eyeball”, and I don’t think we wanted that.


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I Would My True Love Did So Chance

Man with Black Hat told us the true Christmas story of “The Tablecloth” a couple days back. I just found it. Bet you tear up!

Also, here’s the old English Christmas carol “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” from

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man’s nature
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father�s voice heard from above,
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance;
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love’s dance. Chorus

For thirty pence Judas me sold,
His covetousness for to advance:
“Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold!
The same is he shall lead the dance.” Chorus

Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
Where Barabbas had deliverance;
They scourged me and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance. Chorus

Then on the cross hanged I was,
Where a spear my heart did glance;
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance. Chorus

Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love’s deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance. Chorus

Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance. Chorus

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

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