Monthly Archives: May 2006

Why I Keep Praying for Christopher Hitchens

I realize that the world is full of traps for atheists, as Lewis said of himself. But Christopher Hitchens is no more an atheist than I’d be a solipsist if I just refused to talk to you or acknowledge your existence.

Yet another exhibit to that effect:

“Since all efforts at commemoration are bound to fall short, one must be on guard against any attempt at overstatement. In particular, one must resist efforts to ventriloquize the dead. To me, Cindy Sheehan’s posthumous conscription of her son is as objectionable as Billy Graham’s claim, at the National Cathedral, that all the dead of Sept. 11, 2001 were now in paradise. In the first instance, we have no reason to believe that young Casey Sheehan would ever have supported, and in the second instance we cannot be expected to believe that almost 3,000 New Yorkers all died in a state of grace. Nothing is more tasteless, when set against the reality of death, than the hollow note of demagogy and false sentiment.”

If the man was really an atheist, the state of dying folks’ immortal souls would hardly be something he’d worry about. No, he’s a man wrestling with God and his own soul as hard as he can, going for chokeholds and throws with all the strength and fury he has. He has good reason for that fury. But it is fury at a Person, not an abstract nonexistence.

But if he makes it, he’ll be a far greater saint than I’ll ever be.

The problem, of course, is that if Mr. Hitchens read this post, he would be so hacked off at me and the world that it would set him back a long way. But you can’t take him out to dinner if you live several thousand miles away from him (not that I’d be any more effective as an evangelist or a cheering presence than your average planarian). So prayer’s what I’ve got.

UPDATE: You see? You see?

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In Which the Versifier Attempts to Prove Her Point.

Every so often, I hang out over on the forums for Megatokyo, a rather unique fannish webcomic. One of the forum traditions is separate threads for discussing the newest comic and for commenting on it in haiku. (Or even as a renga. Also in the "Irish haiku" form, better known to the rest of the world as a limerick.)

Every so often, folks float in who just don't get the point. There are those who despise all haiku in English, those who despise haiku that doesn't have the traditional seasonal references (though actually, a lot of folks do throw those in), and those who just plain despise haiku. This week we got someone who despises haiku that don't follow the full rules and is "deformed" by being in English, and who advised us all to write sonnets, which are better than haiku anyway.

(Why is it that I absolutely can't stand someone who's even more persnickety than me? I'm all for overaccuracy and scholarliness. Must be the incredible humorlessness that gets me.)

Anyway, the upshot was that I wrote this poem, of which I'm rather proud. Both forms, plus seasonal and individual webcomic references! I'm no Seanan, but I have my clever moments. 🙂

My friend, the sonnet is a simple form
For those who've read enough. Also, haiku
Does not require some great mental storm
Or superpowered skill from me or you.
The art of poetry is what is hard;
It's never mastered by the greatest pen.
But that's no reason not to mount your shard
Of what is beauty next to Will's. Write, then!

A Tokyo spring
More cherries and less thunder
Lightning stabs two hearts —

And inkstained paper
Conducts the charge to readers
Astound with wonder

For silicon and dream have
Made them no insulator

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In the Twinkling of an Eye

Leigh Ann Hussey, well-known fan, filker, longtime SCAdian, and fiddler for the bands Annwn, Brazen Hussey, and Nuit, died suddenly yesterday in a motorcycle accident. She was apparently on her way home from geocaching. (She had only recently begun the hobby, and was already close to making six hundred finds.) She had a concert slot coming up at Baycon on Memorial Day weekend, as well as a geocaching event she was sponsoring this Sunday. She will be missed by her many friends, and by the many who knew and respected her.

I only knew her slightly, I'm sorry to say. I live in Ohio — of course I only knew her slightly. But it is true to say that science fiction fandom and the SCA are communities; and in that sense, she's someone who's been living down the street or across the road for almost as long as I've lived there. Also, I know people who knew her well, and I grieve for them as well as for the loss of a darned good musician whom I knew slightly. At moments like this, human connections seem both more powerful and more fragile.

The news story on her death

Please drive carefully, folks. And remember that we don't know when we'll have to go.

Someone quoted this song by her:

I'll bless the bonny ship that brings
me leave and liberty
to wend the way of saints and kings
and souls across the sea
I'll seek the voice that sings to me
and draws me on my way

Where the twilight seals the day,
to the West, to the West,
I am summoned as the dreamers come before.
With my wounds all healed away,
like the sun I will rest,
where my vision leads, along the Western shore.

(Lord, may Leigh Ann Hussey's commitment to creating beauty, her kindness and good works even to strangers, and her search for truth, have numbered her among those who died in Your friendship. Grant that she be one of those who will come from the east and the west and sit down at Your banquet table. May she join in the songs of the angels, and may light eternal shine upon her.)

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I Swear It’s Good. (And It Only Costs a Buck, So Trrrust Me.)

Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths, Legends is without a doubt, one of the most complex cartoon series ever written and produced in the US. You can now buy ten of its forty episodes at Wal-Mart. For a buck each. 

Yup, Digiview (aka Those Guys with the Cheap Slimcase DVDs) has put out two volumes of a forgotten masterpiece of American cartooning. Many of America's best cartoon writers worked on this series: Greg Johnson of Transformers: Beast Wars. Reboot alumni. Comics writers, too. Good folks, I'm telling you. (Heck, Greg Weisman of Gargoyles even contributed some important story elements, though they didn't end up using his story bible and pilot.) 

You're going to like and care for the characters. (Some of them have great chemistry together, too.) But don't expect that first impressions will be the whole story; you'll have to get to know some of them. Give it a little time, and expect to be surprised again and again. 

So get out to Wal-Mart soon. The boxes have been on the shelves since the beginning of May, and you're going to have to search through them. You want Volume 1: The Bait and Volume 2: Bounty Wars

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Nuclear. Duct. Tape.

3M sells Nuclear Grade duct tape.

"High Performance Duct Tape Nuclear Grade. A unique construction of high tensile cloth and aggressive adhesive. Designed for applications in the shipbuilding, nuclear power plant and stainless steel industries… Nuclear Grade is designed for both permanent and temporary applications both indoors and outdoors… provides clean removal with little or no adhesive residue from most opaque surfaces up to 6 months after application. It offers sunlight/UV resistance for up to 1-Year without the backing deteriorating or delaminating… temperature use range: Up to 200 ° F (93deg C)…"

And it's available in either red or slate blue. (Though some supply houses on the Net still carry the less-identifiable silver version.) Here are the specs. (You can also buy nuclear grade duct tape that isn't from 3M.)

(Hat tip to SCA Today.)

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Hat Links

As we all know, I rather like hats. They usually don't like me — at least, once you get past the Middle Ages — but I am broadminded and forgive them for not looking good on my face. 

However, I have found a very nice hat. I bought two at Stein Mart — first the black one, which goes nicely with my raincoat, and yesterday the white one, which should be very useful in the summer sun. You can buy it all sorts of places on the Net; the link is provided for illustration purposes. (You will note that this hat does not have a rolled-up brim. For some reason, that sort of brim is in; but I cannot wear such things.)

I have also found a Quite Useful article about hats. These are the sorts of things our mothers and grandmothers absorbed by osmosis, but which we were never told. Read and remember. (The snarky fashion remarks are a bonus.) 

For those pious ladies who enjoy wearing hats for devotional purposes (or those thrifty ladies who just can't justify paying all that money at the RenFaire), here are nifty articles on the basics of barbette and fillet hats, stuffed roll hats, circlets for wearing over veils, hoods, crespinettes, cauls, wireframe headdresses for stuff like hennins… (pant, pant, pant) …how to wear veils gracefully, how to braid stuff into hair, how to store heavy garments, and lots more.  As a bonus, the resident maven also provides us with a Highly Useful series of articles on modern fabric and how to tell if modern clothing is well-made.

You can also take a look at the construction of St. Birgitta of Sweden's coif, and a few other surviving medieval hats. You can also look at more hats and hat patterns and learn how to make straw braid hats. You could put up your hair with ribbons to distribute the weight. Or you could go a little further east and later in time, and make Russian regional headdresses

If you decided to make hats or join the SCA, you'd probably end up going to the fabric store. All fabric stores are as fascinating as hardware stores can be. But some fabric stores carry weirder fabrics than others.

Finally, if you've ever had a yen to own a pith helmet, go forth and live the dream.

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Marian Hymn Translation: “Salve, Salve”

Here’s my translation of an interesting song I found last night. A MIDI file of the music is right beside the linked lyric. I couldn’t find any credits for this, so presumably it’s “Trad.”

“Salve, salve,” they sang to you, Mary,
“Only God is more pure, more pure than you.”
And in Heaven, a great Voice repeated,
“Only God, only God is more than you.”

With torrents of light how they flood you,
The archangels kissing your feet.
The stars now encircle your forehead,
And God sees, and is well-pleased with you.

Then, calling you pure and without sin,
All the worlds fall down upon their knees;
And your spirit expands in your rapture —
So much faith! So much love! So much zeal!

Oh, blessed the Lord who upon Earth
Was able to make you pure and clean
Like the mountain range forming a diamond,
Like the sea coalescing a pearl.

Seeing you between being and nothing,
And shaping your body, He exclaimed,
“Immaculate her womb will be,
For from her I have to be born.”

Since you were His pure Virgin Mother —
He said, “Let there be light!” and there was light;
From your breasts He drank your tender caring,
To your arms, He came down from the Cross.

Flowers, flowers! still come to the temple,
And on your throne of light and at your feet
Archangels and cherubim scatter
More of them than there are seeds in sheaves of wheat.

Flowers, flowers, the clouds all are pouring
On the Virgin whose honor’s unstained,
She whom the heavens call their Queen
And whom men call their mother and their love.

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