Monthly Archives: September 2004

Adventures in Anime Song Translation: “Lilium”

I wish to emphasize that I do not recommend the anime Elfen Lied. It is apparently really gorgeous, but also really really nastily violent, really really full of Akira-type psychics who explode heads, and has decided that normal anime fan service with naked women just isn’t naked enough, besides having some silly stuff about God sending mutant horned women to destroy the world. Some would say I shouldn’t judge this anime until I’ve seen it. Aehhhh…I say no. Bleaching images out of braincells is just too much work.

However, since the Anime Powers That Be have decided that the perfect theme song for this show is one with Latin chant, lyrics, translation, and annotation must be provided. The song is all in Latin.

OS IUSTI MEDITABITUR SAPIENTIAM
The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom
ET LINGUA EIUS LOQUETUR IUDICIUM
And his tongue shall speak judgement
BEATUS VIR QUI SUFFERIT TENTATIONEM
Blessed the man who resists temptation
QUONIAM CUM PROBATUS FUERIT ACCIPIET CORONAM VITAE
For when proved he shall receive the crown of life
KYRIE, IGNIS DIVINE, ELEISON
Lord, Divine Fire, have mercy
O QUAM SANCTA, QUAM SERENA
O how holy, how serene
QUAM BENIGNA, QUAM AMOENA,
How benevolent, how comforting,
O CASTITATIS LILIUM
O Lily of Chastity.

“Os iusti meditabitur sapientiam et lingua eius loquetur iudicium” is from the Latin Vulgate translation of Psalm 36:30. “The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom: and his tongue shall speak judgment.”

“Beatus vir qui suffert temptacionem quoniam cum probatus fuerit accipiet coronam vite quam repromisit deus diligentibus se” is James 1:12. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for, when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life which God hath promised to them that love him.” It’s also an antiphon used for the Common of One Martyr. More to the point, a setting of said antiphon was on the Dominican Monks of St. Silos’ album Chant. The first chapter of James has a similar theme to Psalm 36.

“Kyrie Eleison” is the old Greek words for “Lord, have mercy”. They are still occasionally used in the Catholic Mass, both in the vernaculars and in Latin Masses. However, the text “Kyrie, Ignis Divine” comes from Nicolas Melchior Cibenensis’ Alchemical Mass. If this sucker wasn’t heretical, it certainly wasn’t approved by canon law. Boy, and I thought they came up with pretentious liturgies in the seventies!

The final part of “Lilium” uses words from the sequence “Ave mundi spes Maria” (Hail Mary, Hope of the World). “O quam sancta, quam serena, quam benigna, quam amoena esse virgo creditur!” translates out as “O how holy, how serene, how benign, how comforting is this maiden who believed!” Then “O castitatis lilium, tuum precare filium, qui salus est humilium” is “O lily of chastity, pray to your son who is health to the humble”. (A more readable version is here, but it’s on a rather strange site….)

Presumably, the point of the song is that the “just man” (the kid who’s hiding the genetically engineered girl) has to undergo trials, while the mutant girl is being compared to Mary. Or possibly the producers just liked the tune.

Whatever.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to a defender of Elfen Lied, with an article on the newer series Mirai Nikki‘s similarities and differences.

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More Nochnoi Dozor News

Glubina is a new fan site dedicated to Russian sf/f films. It archives articles from the Russian press. This talkshow transcript contains a lot of good information straight from Lukyanenko’s mouth. He says there will be one more book in the Nochnoi Dozor series, but only one; he doesn’t want to be “one of those writers who pulls the veins out of his work”. He also said that the third movie, the one to be co-produced with Fox, will not use the same storyline as the third book, Sumerechnii Dozor. Instead, there’ll be a whole new storyline as Russian and American Night Watches join together to fight crime in both Moscow and the US. The Russian actors will keep their iconic roles; Lukyanenko will create brand new American characters for the American actors. Sounds like fun to me!

I also learned the amusing fact that in Night Watch stories written by one of Lukyanenko’s friends, the Samarkand Night Watch shares its building with the Day Watch to save money on the lease!

Nochnoi Dozor has its controversial side, too. Apparently the movie has brought out the moonbats and created new business for professional fortunetellers, witches, and psychics. Lukyanenko was careful to say that he doesn’t believe in magic, that he likes to make up his magic rather than research the occult, and that really believing in magic is not healthy. (He’s a psychologist, and before he became a full time writer he worked at the Alma-Ata mental hospital. I know this because one of his old coworkers actually called in.)

One listener asked pretty much the same question, mentioning that he writes about magic, and asking if he was a believer. Lukyanenko turned the question to something not previously covered. “I am Orthodox. I was baptized three years ago. I wrote the books _Cold Shores_ and _The Morning Comes_ on the idea that Christ died in infancy, and an ordinary man took his place. It was necessary for me to immerse myself in the Bible. And after writing them, I understood that I was ready to accept the faith.”

Cool, eh?

The interview also provided some reliable Lukyanenko “potions”: pickle juice or brine for wives to use on husbands’ hangovers, meeting the wife at the door with chilled champagne as a love potion for husbands to use.

Finally, Lukyanenko provided a recipe for a “Twilight Chicken” casserole (no measurements in the transcription, I’m afraid). First, put some of that cooking parchment in the pan. Cut raw potatoes into circular pieces and use them as the first layer of the dish. Then cut your chicken up into small pieces; that’s the second layer. Make a sauce out of mayonnaise, sour cream, and herbs and spices, and pour it over everything. Put cranberries on top of that. Then another layer of potatoes. Then grated cheese on top (parmesan is best). Bake in the oven till it’s done.

The cranberries sound weird, but we do eat them with turkey….

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Nochnoi Dozor: The Addiction

I finally got my younger brother, one of my cousins, and the cousin’s girlfriend to watch my DVD with me. They loved it as much as I did (which is good, because I’d _really_ been bugging them about it). The whole Russian magic thing just blew their minds, they loved the magic truck even more than I did, and the looks on their faces as the twists kept coming and the stakes kept rising were _priceless_.

My younger brother’s comment: “Better than The Matrix“, “dark”, and “really innovative”. During the whole movie, he kept alternating between laughing and sucking in his breath. He agreed with me that Richard Tucholka, creator of Bureau 13, should see this movie — and use it in his own movie pitch. Also, “I’d have no problem with paying full price to see this.”

The cousin’s comment: “That was really messed up!” “Where did you buy this movie? I want it!” “_I_ want a sword like Zavulon’s!” “The next movie? Oh, yeah!” He really liked the videogame foreshadowing. He really liked the whole movie, in fact, and I almost expect to see a Gorsvet logo on his wall when I next see him.

The girlfriend’s comment: “Wow. That was good.” (She said other stuff, too, but I was tired and she was soft-spoken.)

It’s a fun, fun movie to watch with other people. And now, when I mention Olga and Tiger Cub and Anton and Zavulon, not to mention Yegor, they’ll know what I’m talking about.

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An Ancient Mariner of Earthsea

I’ve just been doing a re-read of Ursula K. LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. It’s always had a very strange feel to it, IMHO — a sort of spookier version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, with the Shadow substituting for the Albatross. I was never satisfied with LeGuin’s explanation of what the Shadow was supposed to be. But this time around, older and aware of LeGuin’s abortion, I suddenly realized something very odd: Ged being followed around by the Shadow seems like a very accurate depiction of a post-abortive woman’s grief and pain. (I’m not the first person to think this; but I thought the folks who did were on crack until I did my first post-adolescent rereading of the book. Yeah, it’d been a good fifteen years.)

It would explain why Ged’s a guy (it’d hit too close to home otherwise). It’d explain why the Shadow’s initial appearance on Gont is the result of being tempted by the opposite sex, and why the Shadow is so very nameless and faceless, and why it keeps calling to him. Most of all, it explains why the Shadow wants to come after Ged and _live inside him_. The possessed body called a gebbeth sounds like a horror movie version of pregnancy itself!

It would also explain why the Shadow is so closely associated with dreams of fame, power, and education — because LeGuin’s pro-choice speech explicitly said that it was good that she’d had the abortion because otherwise she’d have to stay at home and not go to school and be nothing. (Which makes the whole thing about how Ged really should’ve stayed on Gont and learned patience and quietness kinda ironic…not to mention “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, but everyone spotted that.) It would explain, as well, why Ged kills more creatures than any other LeGuin protagonist I
can think of.

Finally, it would explain why LeGuin’s other Earthsea books almost always seem to be about unwriting and retconning this one. If I’d written a book about something that made me feel really guilty, I guarantee I’d keep picking at that scab, too.

I realize I could be all wrong about this, because I usually think psychological explanations for writers’ writing are either too all-encompassing or too bizarre. But I honestly think this explains a great deal of the odd emotional power LeGuin seems to have invested into the story. It is a story of sin and admitting one’s own accountability for evil actions. It is a story of recovery from grief. If I’m right, moreover, this is one of the greatest literary elegies of all time, a children’s book written for a child that, like the Shadow, has no face and has no name.

Some possibly relevant quotes:

Then he fell forward as if to embrace earth with his outstretched arms, and when he rose he held something dark in his straining hands and arms, something so heavy that he shook with effort getting to his feet…the shapeless mass of darkness he had lifted split apart. It sundered, and a pale spindle of light gleamed between his opened arms, a faint oval reaching from the ground up to the height of his raised hands. In the oval of light for a moment there moved a form, a human shape: a tall woman looking back over her shoulder. Her face was beautiful, and sorrowful, and full of fear.

Only for a moment did the spirit glimmer there. Then the sallow oval between Ged’s arms grew bright. It widened and spread, a rent in the darkness of the earth and night, a ripping open of the fabric of the world. Through it blazed a terrible brightness. And through that bright misshapen breach clambered something like a clot of black shadow, quick and hideous, and it leaped straight out at Ged’s face…Ged fell, struggling and writhing, while the bright rip in the world’s darkness above him widened and stretched…the lump of shadow that clung to Ged, tearing at his flesh. It was like a black beast, the size of a young child, though it seemed to swell and shrink; and it had no head or face, only the four taloned paws with which it gripped and tore…

The intolerable brightness faded, and slowly the torn edges of the world closed together…The shadow-beast was gone. Ged lay sprawled on his back, his arms flung out….

See? Sort of an odd birth metaphor going on there, with the shadow-beast as some sort of “bad seed”. Ged spends a long time out of school recovering, btw, and when he gets back, he acts more like somebody depressed and grieving than somebody badly hurt and embarrassed. Read these passages as if they were talking about a high school girl in the early sixties, and see what you think.

For four weeks of that hot summer he lay blind, and deaf, and mute, though at times he moaned and cried out like an animal. At last, as the patient crafts of the Master Herbal worked their healing, his wounds began to close and the fever left him. Little by little he seemed to hear again, though he never spoke. On a clear day of autumn the Master Herbal opened the shutters of the room where Ged lay. Since the darkness of that night on Roke Knoll he had known only darkness. Now he saw daylight, and the sun shining. He hid his scarred face in his hands and wept.

Still when winter came he could speak only with a stammering tongue, and the Master Herbal kept him there in the healing-chambers, trying to lead his body and mind gradually back to strength. It was early spring when at last the Master released him…

None of his companions had been allowed to visit him in the months of his sickness, and now as he passed some of them asked one another, “Who is that?” He had been light and lithe and strong. Now, lamed by pain, he went hesitantly, and did not raise his face, the left side of which was white with scars. He avoided those who knew him and those who did not….

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The Ugly Side of England

In my mind, England usually stands for civilization, good taste, good humor, fair play, and traditional democracy. But every so often, England shows its fallen side. Suddenly, the English government makes itself busy with persecution and prejudice, viciously restrictive laws designed for temporary political gain, and using the police to beat up anyone who protests.

But this time, it’s not the Catholics, the Irish, the Scottish land clearances, the Welsh miners, skilled workers displaced by the Industrial Revolution, or poor factory workers displaced by the economy. No, this has nothing to do with imperialism or an abrupt upgrade of Britain’s economy; indeed, it will only do economic harm. So this is purely selfless hate, hate which acts against England’s very environmental well-being. Hate for hate’s sake.

In short, they have banned all hunting with dogs, from that done by the lowliest villager to the richest foxhunting millionaire. They intend to bypass the House of Lords’ veto if the Lords veto it. They have used the police to beat up perfectly nice, respectable, law-abiding citizens who dared go to Westminster to protest. (I knew they must pay the police for fighting something these days, since they obviously aren’t fighting the decade-long surge in British crime.)

As with most wrong turns in English history, it is an idea of breathtakingly ruthless stupidity carried out beyond the point of reason. Nice to know that while all those rural hunting traditions are being ditched, the tradition of hunting down and hurting good citizens remains.

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More Modestly Foolish Proposals

Today my blog’s gonna live up to its original purpose as my rantboard! So hold on!

I’ve been reading Old Oligarch again. And make no mistake, I like Old Oligarch. He is a fine writer on practically every subject. (And usually, he agrees with me.) But his ideas on modesty are really starting to wear on me. (Not just because he disagrees with me.) The basic concept is fine; the recommended course of action is overkill.

Yes, this is the kind of thing that actively helps people think that Christians are stupid. This is also how Muslim women got stuck wearing ahistorical hijab.

Look. Not to complain or anything. But although these swimthings at Swimmodest.com and Stitchin Times are at least not as ugly as the previous “modest” swimsuits I commented on, they are also covering more skin than swimming women did in the thirties and forties.

What’s more, parents are apparently expected to put their kids into such “modest” clothes. It’s not enough for a parent to search through stores to find something to wear that’s not some weird fashion designer’s Lolita dream. Nooo, she must instead
send her girls out to play in little white dresses with frilly white bloomers
underneath. (Which actually does sound rather like an invitation to get beaten up by other kids and kidnapped by pedophiles. But maybe I’m just paranoid.) Because otherwise the girls obviously must look totally shapelessly mannish — no middle ground.

What, in God’s name — and that’s not swearing! I mean it! — and in the name of all that is natural, reasonable, and just, do these people think they are doing? If they were not born Muslims, Orthodox Jews, or Amish (heck, even if they are), why are they signing up for this?

And what next?

See, this is not giving me the impression that folks just want to take a step back and stay there. This is not “I have my grandma’s old veil in the closet somewhere, why don’t I wear it to Mass so it’ll get some use.” No, this sounds more like religion-as-hobby, as done by people with too much time on their hands. So first modest swimsuits were the kind with the little sarongs, then bodysuit shorts, and now they’re full skirts. Next year or the year after that, even total coverage and hair hoods won’t be enough. Hairshirts to counteract the pleasures of swimming will be optional accessories.

The worst thing is, society does need to take a step back, and Christian men and women really should dress modestly. But when women overreact and begin dressing not like Grandma or even Great-grandma, but rather like Great-grandma’s rather fashion-backward mama, it undercuts the entire concept of modesty and paints it as something only a fanatic would worry about.

Furthermore, it’s an insult to all other Christians concerned about modesty who take a less radical stance. If something very long and ultra-concealing is defined as just plain “modest”, then clearly everyone else’s nice swimsuits from J.C. Penney must be as “immodest” as if they were thongs. Somehow, body-shy little ol’ me objects to being defined as a shameless hussy and scarlet woman.

It’s a good thing I’m not a rebellious kid of one of these people. I mean, if everything else is as immodest as a thong, then why not buy a thong?

The biggest binge-drinker I knew at college was a kid from a family who didn’t drink for religious reasons. Within the first quarter, she decided drugs must also be okay, since her family had also been against them. But her family had been relaxed about clothes, so she didn’t feel the need to do anything worse than dress like a hippie chick. I, meanwhile, had been allowed to drink occasionally since I was first communion age, and therefore probably drank about the least (and with the best quality liquor) of anyone on campus.

I predict, therefore, a lot of casualties of this modest part of the culture war.

I may, of course, be overreacting myself. But I’ve been reading Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran by Elaine Sciolino. A quote comes to mind from a very conservative Islamic woman named Leila:

“I’m a very religious person and I always wear a scarf and a chador over it. But when some stranger comes up to me and says, “Lady, fix your hejab, it hurts me. Because inside I know I am very religious. Who is he to tell me I’m not?”

So how would I put it?

“As a daily act of piety, I like to go beyond normal modesty of dress. Like
wearing a chapel veil in church, abstaining from meat on all Fridays, or
saying the Rosary, this is an act of popular devotion, not a requirement.
It is probably not for everyone, but it is one way I try to show my love
for God and my fellow man.”

Now, see how much less presumptuous that is? These are words of humility, not of imposition upon others. None of this presumption that other women are dressing “unfemininely” or “too sexily”, when all most of them are trying to do is wear normal, mildly attractive clothing. It might even encourage other women (who don’t
have money for a whole new wardrobe, much less a whole new wardrobe of stupid ugly
modern dresses, ew) to think about similar acts of private daily piety.

Anyway, I do recommend a brief but thorough Old Oligarch takedown of a site using traditionalism for evil instead of for good. See, he really is a fine writer. (And you have to like a guy who loves both single malt and absinthe.)

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Great SF Writer You’ve Never Heard of: Sergei Lukyanenko

You know, sometimes we Americans are just out of it. Here’s a living SF writer who wrote Nochnoi Dozor (Night Watch or Night Patrol), a fantasy novel which not only won the Russian equivalent of the Hugo, but then went on to become a blockbuster movie that grossed more money in his country in a month than either Return of the King or Spiderman 2 did. (You can buy an official all-region DVD with English subtitles at www.russiandvd.com.)

Now, that’s just one book out of a trilogy, each of which will be coming out as a movie. He also wrote cult cyberspace thriller Labirint Otrazhenii (Labyrinth of Reflections), funny fantasies, and tons of science fiction series, all of which made him the youngest person ever to receive a Russian award for lifetime contributions to SF.

So of course American SF/F publishers are racing to be the first to get translations of his work on the shelves. Right? Right?!

I seem to hear nothing but crickets out there. And no, it’s not copyright issues this time. No, SF publishers basically have some strange aversion to making money. After all, there are plenty of good fantasies written in the US. Why would you want to go outside and spend money on some foreigner like Tolkien?

Well, if you can read Russian or use the Fish, Mr. Lukyanenko has a good selection of his works online in Russian on his webpage. I highly recommend the eight sample chapters of Nochnoi Dozor, a dark fantasy about the Others who live beside us, the battle between Light and Dark to recruit us, and one vampire cop trying to enforce the law while dealing with his ex-girlfriend.

Who wouldn’t want to read this stuff?!

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Having a Life

Yesterday I was going to post a more normal post about the fun things I did and saw at Worldcon, but that had to wait. My mom’s birthday dinner is in fact more important than my blog. :)

We enjoyed it. Happy birthday, Mom!

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The Last Time I Saw Worldcon

TTTO “The Last Time I Saw Paris”,
Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, 1941

The last time I saw Worldcon,
We were a world at play.
I heard a happy, bubbling heart
In every word we’d say.

The last time I saw Worldcon,
We had worlds on our string.
The old fans smiled at every child
And filkers flocked to sing.

The last time I saw Worldcon, it was in Chicago in the year 2000. It was a time only shadowed by economic ills. People worried about how unenthusiastic people were about politics. It was a time when Leslie Fish could talk blithely in her smoker’s filkroom about how she had ways to smuggle weapons through a metal detector, and nobody much minded. Everyone was talking about Galaxy Quest and happily shouting, “Never retreat! Never surrender!” Nobody thought we’d be called on it any time soon. And me? I was working on a JAG fanfic featuring that Osama Bin Laden guy’s terrorist group…what was it called? I couldn’t remember. But anyway, terrorists striking with Tom Clancy-ish fireworks. Way over the top, of course. Who could possibly imagine that terrorists could do anything as bad or as coordinated as blowing up a whole hotel full of fighter pilots or hitting the Academy at Annapolis? Geez, that was as unbelievable as attacking the Pentagon.

I think it may have been at Worldcon that I found out I was going to be an Interfilk guest. Probably it was later, at OVFF or at the beginning of 2001, but it’s all tied together in my mind. So about a month before September 11th, I flew to California. It seems a golden time to me now, that summer before the war. But I was depressed, tired, and worried about Lee Burwasser’s odd ng postings. I was also a gamer, and so of course I tried to look at airport security as Leslie might. It was all so simple then, so amusing to imagine what I’d do if some idiot terrorist tried to hijack my plane. But there very well might have been terrorists on that flight, doing a dry run. Those guys waiting for the restroom up front, for example, whom I blithely ignored for the greater charms of desert and mountain and geyser. So I still wonder, as I wonder about Lee, if I could have done something.

There is part of me still caught in the amber of that past, as there is part of me still sitting in my cube insisting that plane on TV looked no bigger than a Learjet and surely everyone would get out. Part of me is still thinking the Pentagon thing couldn’t be all that serious, and inadvertently insulting a hurting friend. And part of me is still attending the Ohio Valley Filk Fest at Halloween in 2001, as every filker who could manage it packed his bags for a sort of funeral family reunion full of comfort and sorrow.

But the rest of me is living in the present. There is a war to fight, and we’ve got no time for the sillier bits of partisanship. I would love to say that this election offers two candidates I can trust to do a good job as president. The fact is, there’s only one. I can understand why people with libertarian leanings might want to take the weak and untrustworthy one in preference to big defense government and compassionate conservatism of the checkbook. But on the whole, they don’t. Instead I have spent a week with people who fear Bush worse than Osama. It was…unsettling. I kept trying to remember who they were, since they seemed to have forgotten. Which was strange, since only a day before we had all been one in prayer and thought, hoping only for good news about a filker’s kid in hospital.

It is difficult to take people seriously when they insist that only they understand the horrors of human nature, and it is contrary to the spirit of a Worldcon to insist that some parts of the world are not touched by evil. I grew up a mile from a primary nuclear target. I was one of the ones who, although horrified by 9/11, was nevertheless very cheery about how much worse it could have been. No tac nukes, no dirty bombs, no smallpox…this was all good. There is part of me, then, that feels that one thousand dead American soldiers and sailors is an incredibly small number. That’s not even a tenth of the people at Pennsic this year. If blood be the price of security, Lord God, we have got off cheap.

All the same, I hope that I have left no part of me behind to sit and stare incredulously at fellow fans talking like crazy people while whole families were killed in Beslan. I couldn’t even argue with them; they were talking nonsense and clearly weren’t responsible for what they said. I don’t want to remember that. I want to recall the cobblestones of Boston, the cool halls of the Athenaeum, kids scrambling down into the Constitution‘s gun deck, a bookstore where I bought the Tanya Grotter books, the eyes of a San Damiano crucifix, the metallic flames holding up a Hugo rocketship. I want to remember the determination of both the Columbus and Yokohama bids, and their gentle courtesy with each other. I want to think back on Jack Speer’s Oklahoma accent, serenading Forrest J. Ackerman in the con suite, and a couple of nice Israeli filkers I only knew online before. I don’t want to remember missing my plane, but I don’t want to forget the kindness of those who helped me get my luggage back after I lost it, or the taste of an apple when I felt like I’d gone through the mill, or my mother’s calm voice, or the security guy who told me God had a reason for me to miss the plane.

I’m very good at forgetting the good things. I try not to be.

It wasn’t an unshadowed Worldcon. But…someday there will be one again. Maybe not in this world, for some of us…but then, that will be a Worldcon not only without sorrow, but without end.

Meanwhile, we will keep fighting this war until it’s won.

May God bless and keep all of us in fandom, and bring us home at last.

Between my trips to Worldcon, we had shed so many tears,
But Worldcon’s weathered wars before, and there’ll be better years.

The first time I saw Worldcon,
We were a world at play.
No matter fandom’s changes,
I’ll remember it that way.

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