Monthly Archives: June 2006

But Tragic Opera Will Cheer Us Up!

Seriously… I am highly cheered to learn from rec.arts.sf.written the following piece of old, yet still juicy, news.

It seems that our well beloved Somtow Papinian Sucharitkul (aka Somtow Sucharitkul or S.P. Somtow, to eighties and nineties science fiction fans, respectively) has a perfectly good reason for not having put out many novels lately, and for not hanging around the ol’ con suite.

He founded the Bangkok Opera! And put on the Ring Cycle! With Thai and Buddhist staging!

If you’ve read anything by Somtow (that’s his family name), you already know that this is the PERFECT fit for his talents. After all, he already wrote an entire novel cycle that was just like an opera. He’s also intensely proud of his native land, and determined to help it get forward in the world. So this is awesome.

I do love the uncharacteristically scruffy artiste look….

It also amuses me that the New York Times cannot bring itself to mention those unmentionable words which most aptly describe Somtow’s output: “science fiction”, “fantasy”, and “horror”. Cult. Well, admittedly, Somtow’s horror is splatterpunk, ie, grosser than normal horror, which is why I don’t read his horror. Maybe that’s what they mean by cult.
I’m also vastly amused to learn that Somtow, in his composer mode, did his own finishing off of Turandot‘s last act. I bet it’s awesome. He’s got scads of talent and skill. I don’t normally like “modern” music, but I have to say I appreciated Somtow’s album of music for his big huge galactic cycle o’ books. Not too many filk symphonies out there, I’m tellin’ ya.

You don’t meet too many Renaissance men these days (except in the SCA, where you also meet a lot of Renaissance women and large weapons). Somtow is definitely one. I will always enjoy the memory of talking to him in a con suite he was minding while everyone else was still asleep, with no other company but somebody’s kitten. I hope we meet again someday.

And I shall definitely have to think about tourism in Thailand. If I can raise the cash and the opera’s got tickets, I really want to see the Bangkok Opera and Somtow’s productions. They look like his novels looked like in my head, and that’s a good thing.


There’s a DVD of Somtow’s Aida!  (With sample clips I could see if they weren’t .wmv, sigh.)

There are CDs out of Somtow conducting opera! With free sample songs! Yay!

Nancy Yuen – Somtow Sucharitkul: Per l’Amore

Somtow Sucharitkul: Requiem: In Memoriam 9/11 (I think I’d heard about this.)

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2,996: The September 11th Commemoration

Since today already has a distinctly elegiac tone, I guess it won’t depress anybody any worse to mention that I’ve signed up for the September 11th blogburst of memorials for individual victims. If you would like to participate, please go to the 2,996 site and sign up.

I don’t agree with the site that we remember people to keep them alive. (Not a very nice thought, that any anonymous person is dead. No, the dead live whether we remember them or not. They’re more alive than we are.) But I do agree that it is important to remember the dead. For our own sake. We are better for remembering what we have lost, and for refusing to allow the dead to become an undifferentiated mass of sadness. We need to hold the wake, and tell the fun stories about the dead, and raise a toast to them for being what they were — for being what they are.

The gentleman I will be reminding the world about is named Brian E. Martineau.  I am glad to have the honor of learning about him, and telling you what I find.

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The Passing of Jim Baen

Jim Baen passed away at five o’clock last evening. Before I heard about his coma, even.

I know a lot of folks who read things here aren’t big science fiction fans. But I assure you that in this field, the editors are still a big deal. Editors shaped the field traditionally, and they still do. Probably no modern editor has had quite as much power to do as he wished, though, as Jim Baen of Baen Books. His empire was small, quirky, outspoken, cheerfully political, occasionally tacky; but shrewd, hospitable to differing views, open to new writers, and unafraid to experiment. The reason for all of that was mostly Jim Baen.

His life was a very good thing for the field, but he did not die without preparing his little empire to go on without him. (He was always one of the field’s more prescient members.) His care for his legacy alone would mark him as great.

He will be missed.

His full obituary, written by David Drake, is on (Mr. Baen requested this the day before his stroke. See, I told you he was prescient.) But there is also a tribute up on‘s front page which you should go see.

Here’s a few words that aren’t mine, but which seem fitting. They really should be decorated with bright yellow and orange lettering, a lady in space armor with a big laser gun, several dragons, and an exploding spaceship. And Prudentius himself, in his toga or his soldiering uniform, of course. And St. Michael, with a side order of Belisarius.

Fountain of life, supernal Fire,
Who didst unite in wondrous wise
The soul that lives, the clay that dies,
And mad’st them Man: eternal Sire,

Both elements Thy will obey,
Thine is the bond that joins the twain,
And, while united they remain,
Spirit and body own Thy sway.

Yet they must one day disunite,
Sunder in death this mortal frame;
Dust to the dust from whence it came,
The spirit to its heavenward flight.

For all created things must wane,
And age must break the bond at last;
The diverse web that Life held fast
Death’s fingers shall unweave again

Yet, gracious God, Thou dost devise
The death of Death for all Thine own;
The path of safety Thou hast shown
Whereby the doomèd limbs may rise:

So that, while fragile bonds of earth
Man’s noblest essence still enfold,
That part may yet the sceptre hold
Which from pure aether hath its birth.

For if the earthy will hold sway,
By gross desires and aims possessed,
The soul, too, by the weight oppressed,
Follows the body’s downward way.

But if she scorn the guilt that mars–
Still mindful of her fiery sphere
She bears the flesh, her comrade here,
Back to her home beyond the stars.

The lifeless body we restore
To earth, must slumber free from pain
A little while, that it may gain
The spirit’s fellowship once more.

The years will pass with rapid pace
Till through these limbs the life shall flow,
And the long-parted spirit go
To seek her olden dwelling-place.

Then shall the body, that hath lain
And turned to dust in slow decay,
On airy wings be borne away
And join its ancient soul again.

…Yet till Thou dost build up again
This mortal structure by Thy hand,
In what far world wilt Thou command
The soul to rest, now free from stain?

— from “Hymn for the Burial of the Dead” by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius

(translated by R. Martin Pope)

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Prayers Needed

Publisher Jim Baen, of Baen Books, had a stroke on June 12 and is still in a coma down in Chapel Hill. Please pray for his healing, and for the comforting of his loved ones, friends, and employees.

Lord, You are the Word, and so all publishers serve You. You are the Physician, and You can heal if You only say the word. Look with favor upon Your servant Jim Baen, Lord, and aid him. If it be Your will, bring him back to work, healthy and strong. May all his suffering and that of his friends and loved ones turn into a blessing in the end. And may Baen Books prosper despite this time of uncertainty, and spread all the best dreams of Your Truth.

Also, please pray for the soul of blogger and curmudgeon Rob “Acidman” Smith, who died on Monday and will be cremated tomorrow.  “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He was loved and hated, did good and bad, but could never be accused of being lukewarm.

“Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, save the souls of all the faithful departed from the punishment of Hell and from the bottomless pit. Free them from the lion’s mouth, lest Tartarus swallow them up, lest they fall into darkness. May the standardbearer, St. Michael, lead them into the holy light which was promised to Abraham and his seed…

“May angels lead you into Paradise; may the martyrs receive you at your coming and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May a choir of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.

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More Joy in Heaven

Poor Dryden doesn't get much respect, but he got even less back in the day. I went looking for something Drydenish today, and found these charming words from the editor of his collected poetic works:

….when we consider the blasphemy, profanity, and filth of Dryden's plays, and the unsettled and veering state of hisreligious and political opinions, we are almost glad to find him becoming "anything," although it was only the votary of a dead and corrupted form of Christianity. You like to see the fierce, capricious, and destructive torrent fixed, although it be fixed in ice.

That he found comfort in his new religion, and proved his sincerity by rearing up his children in the faith which his wife had also embraced,and by remaining a Roman Catholic after the Revolution, and to his own pecuniary loss, has often been asserted. But surely there is a point where the most inconsistent man is obliged to stop, if he would escape
the character of an absolute weather-cock; and that there are charms and comforts in the Popish creed for one who felt with Dryden, that he had, partly in his practice, and far more in his writings, sinned against the laws of morality and common decency, we readily grant. Whether these charms be legitimate, and these comforts sound, is a very different question…On the whole, this passage of the poet's life is not very creditable to his memory, and his indiscriminate admirers had better let it alone.

Reforming yourself, living a decent life, and raising your children to do the same isn't worthy of much credit. Also, maintaining your faith in the face of persecution is just another way of avoiding your neighbors thinking ill of you. Yeahhhhh. Uh huh. The Rev. George Gilfillan had a very strange idea of both Christianity and logic, I'd say.


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Cantus Gettus Back from DC before 10 PM

I've been at the CMAA Colloquium in DC the last few days, and saw a few folks there that I knew. (Most importantly, my brother and sister-in-law, who live in northern Virginia and whom I visited with, but not for as long as I'd have liked.)

The big surprise was seeing Fr. Martin Fox, whom longtime readers of this blog will remember was my parish's assistant pastor before he got his own parish. It was logical to see him there, though, as he loves chant. It was pretty neat to see him say Mass again (which he did at one of the daily Masses… more on that stuff later.) He also blogged during the colloquium, so go take a look at his take.

He, like me, was in the sad position of missing my parish's Big Farewell Party yesterday for our pastor of fifteen years, Fr. Manning. (Which wouldn't have happened if the parish folks had scheduled the farewell as soon as they knew what was happening, instead of three-four weeks ago….)  But my mom and dad went, along with huge chunks of Kettering and a lot of the priests in our area, and it was a very big deal. The big joke was that the parish people timed the homilies and Masses this weekend just as Fr. Manning always did, and for once his homilies got longer, as the time got closer to his last Mass in the parish. At the 12:30, his homily lasted a good twenty minutes!

Also, somebody noticed that, after all these years of driving across town to keep an eye on his mother at night instead of sleeping in the rectory, Fr. Manning's car had a lot of miles on it. So there was a secret raising of donations to buy him a new car, as well as a secret installation of some kind of commemorative stained glass window in the sacristy. (Which is on the side toward the rectory, and which Father is in and out of every day, so the Secret Plan of Installation must have been very good.) Also, my mother said the music at the last Mass was very good (though of course she said she missed my voice — she's my mom!) and that the reception afterwards was a feast. So apparently everybody went all out. (But we'll still see Father, as he'll be working right up the street at Alter High School and assistant pastoring at St. Henry's.)

I also saw Fr. Geoffrey Keyes, another member of St. Blog's. (Rifugio San Gaspare is the new version of the old New Gasparian.) He's a Missionary of the Precious Blood, just like our older priest, Fr. Tom Beischel. (I knew this, but I had the info stored in different boxes.) It's a small world, isn't it? 

I am still extremely tired from the demanding schedule, but mostly I'm sleepy from having my plane get in late. So much for not taking the later flight!

I was planning on going back to work today, too. Oh, well, back to billing. I'll blog more about the colloquium later. Which, btw, a lot of the 80-some attendees found out about from the dancing note ad and the mentions on blogs, especially Amy Welborn's. This was said so often that even the non-blog readers got to know her name. So…
When we were getting our picture taken at the end of the colloquium, the photographer kept saying stuff to make us laugh, like "This is for the New York Times!" At the end, he said, "This is the really important one!" So I said, "It's for Amy Welborn."

This got a pretty big laugh. 

Oh, and thanks to Mike Aquilina for his nice mention of this blog. Nobody's ever called my prose "sparkling" before. 

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Lead Pipe Pinch.

In yet another stunning example of EU bureaucratic protection of the people, pipe organs are about to be declared illegal throughout the European Union.

Yes, lead is very bad. Nothing with lead in it must be allowed. But organ pipes are made of a lead alloy.


When they banned lead gaming miniatures, I said that was just the tip of the camel's nose. Now the camel's standing not just inside the tent, but directly on top of the campers. Spitting at them.


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