Monthly Archives: November 2006

Saints of Ankara

Since we’re seeing a lot of Turkey for the next few days, time to point out a few important saints from there!

Yesterday the Pope visited Turkey’s capital. But Ankara was once known as Ancyra. (Also Angora, as in cats, goats, and rabbits with silky fur.) Probably its most popular saint was the heroic innkeeper St. Theodotus of Ancyra. (If he actually existed and Nilus really was an eyewitness to his tale.) The story goes that his clever foresight and leadership made his inn a secret center of Christian activities. He also secretly buried Christian martyrs’ bodies. But finally he got caught and killed, and somebody else had to swipe his body and secretly bury it. His feast was celebrated along with the deaths of other martyrs, with the euphonious names of: “the saintly virgins Thecusa; his aunt, Alexandra; Claudia; Faina; Euphrasia; Matrona; and Julitta.”

More sober and historically grounded saintly folks included: St. Basil of Ancyra, anti-Arian priest martyred by the Emperor Julian; St. Clement of Ancyra, made its bishop at the age of twenty, and martyred along with his disciple St. Agathangelus; St. Platon (called “the Great” in the East), philosopher and martyr; and his brother St. Antiochos, physician and martyr; and St. Philoumenos, bread seller and martyr (who’s commemmorated today! Right next to a saint from Regensburg and a Carmelite who was tortured to death by Malaysian Muslims, oddly enough….).

Yesterday’s commemmorated saints included Ss. Basil, Andrew, Peter, feisty Abbot Stephen the Younger, and 300 other folks martyred in Constantinople for opposing iconoclasm. (Byzantine doctrinal conflicts tended to be lively and committed.) Also celebrated was a saintly Byzantine hagiographer and secretary of state who is (enviably enough) known to history St. Simeon the Logothete.

(Logothete was the name of his office, but it just sounds snazzier. Condoleeza Rice the Logothete. Logothete Kissinger. Awesome, eh?)

You can learn tons more about Ankara in church history over at Way of the Fathers. (We need him to square off with Dawn Eden in some kind of pun contest, ne?)

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Llanbeblig Book of Hours

I’ve never seen these particular illuminations before, but some of them are very striking!

The angel Gabriel kneeling before Mary at the Annunciation. The lily on the table contains a vision of the crucified Christ. But the chibi crucifix thing is a bit odd….

A very nice drawing of Mary and the Christ child,  also showing how a breastfeeding woman’s clothing would look.

Jesus Christ on the cross, with the Father and the Holy Spirit being with Him in His agony. A nice combination of affirming the Trinity and the impassibility of the Divine Persons, while not denying Jesus’ suffering and humanity. But yeah, that chibi crucifix thing is stranger in this drawing! I guess maintaining unity of composition within the book is important, though….

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Why I Wish My Parents Were on the Net, Part 4000

When you’re talking to your mother about an online annoying person, and she assumes at once that he’s some kind of stalker troll.

When you try to explain that someone can be annoying without being an actual troll, and you learn that her magazine sources have worked up trolls to be some kind of online bully stalkers who are worthy of fear, as opposed to a minor annoyance of online life.

When she gives you the novel advice that you should steadfastly ignore trolls while looking up their antecedents and complaining to their ISPs. Because nobody’s ever heard of doing such a thing before.

When you try to explain that you’ve been dealing with trolls since before the Forever Autumn, so you don’t need advice from talk shows about it, and by the way, this guy isn’t a troll, he’s just annoying….

I’m working on that patience thing. Really I am.

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At the Tomb of Ataturk

In 1881, a boy known simply as Mustafa was born in Thessaloniki — then a city not of Greece, but of the Ottoman Empire. His father, Ali Riza, died while Mustafa was still young; so he was raised by his mother, Zubeyda. (None of these people had surnames, folks. Surnames just weren’t a feature of the culture then.)

Mustafa was first sent to a traditional madrassa-style school; but was soon switched into a modern school. This enabled him to enter a military high school in 1893. There his math teacher gave him the byname “Kemal”, perfection, for his outstanding performance. Thus his name changed to Mustafa Kemal.

Mustafa Kemal went on to attend the army officer academy and serve as an officer. But when posted in Damascus (yes, that was also part of the Ottoman Empire then, and Syria didn’t even exist), he joined up with a secret army political society. In 1908, this group launched a coup which toppled the Sultan from his throne. (The Ottoman Empire stayed in business for the moment, though.) Mustafa Kemal’s army career took him higher and higher, until he became a national hero for being the colonel responsible for causing the Brits and their allies to suffer disaster in the Dardanelles. (Including Gallipoli, IIRC.) This won him his generalship. (And the title “Pasha”.)

But World War I didn’t go particularly well for the Ottoman Empire as a whole, and Mustafa Kemal Pasha led a revolution — a Turkish war of independence — that brought down the weakened Ottoman Empire. (The Lausanne Treaty of 1923 apparently carved off the non-Turkish bits of the old Ottoman Empire, but agreed to let Turkey be.) Mustafa Kemal Pasha became Turkey’s first president. He served as president for fifteen years, until his death.

In the Ottoman Empire’s place, he built modern Turkey as a completely secular state. Completely secular, because he did not think Turkey could prosper under oppressive sharia law and Muslim custom, and because he didn’t particularly want to play with the new Muslim fundamentalists.

Women were to have equal rights and education, and they were forbidden to wear the veil. Polygamy was abolished. The Turkish language was to be written in the Latin alphabet, not the Arabic one, to facilitate relations with the progressive half of the world. But while Turkish language and culture were to be promoted, all sorts of education, knowledge and industry from the European world were also to be spread. He also tried to spread democracy, but felt that Muslim fundamentalism prevented him from allowing Turkey to become a democratic society.

In 1934, a law was passed to make all Turkish people adopt surnames. The National Assembly voted Mustafa Kemal Pasha the surname “Ataturk”, meaning “Father of the Turks”. He died in 1938.

Clearly, there’s a lot of stuff going on today in Turkey that Ataturk wouldn’t approve of.

But then again, how much can we approve of Ataturk? Was his bottling up of Islam the only way? Did his reforms truly free Christians, Jews, and other non-Islamic peoples to practice their religions, or did he just modernize dhimmitude? Hard to say. What about his attempt to make Turkish culture and language replace that of the Kurds, Greeks, Armenians, and other ethnic minorities? What about some of his crazier plans and statements? Clearly, some of the lunacy reaped by today’s Turkey is of Ataturk’s sowing.

So it should be interesting to see the Pope visit the tomb of Ataturk, as he is scheduled to do. Will he just politely lay a wreath on the bones of the father of that country? Or will he have something to say?

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For Those Searching for “aliens” and “wright patt”

 A top secret airplane once crashed in our high school parking lot. The Air Force lied about what model it was, but every air-knowledgeable civilian in the area knew perfectly well it hadn’t been that. And held their tongues, of course. Also, Soviet spies did live in the area.

My gamemaster’s dad used to be in charge of Hangar 18, and his mom runs an airplane program. We’re always joking about how Mulder and Scully should have stopped by, and everyone in the gaming group would of course have been dead meat when they did. Unless we were all part of the conspiracy, of course.

Man, don’t you wish you lived in Beavercreek?

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If Only Protestant Pastors Could Marry….

Dennis Bowling, pastor of the Kingdom Harvest Church in Riverside, has been arrested for raping and assaulting at least a dozen women and girls over at least a ten year period. Allegedly, some of the rapes occurred while on mission trips at Haiti, but most occurred in the church. Police are very interested in finding out if non-church members in Ohio were also raped by Bowling, as the women claim he raped Haitian women, too.

Bowling is married with children.

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Creepy Anti-Catholic Romance Plots

Kathleen O’Neal Gear, best known for her co-written archaeologically based historicals about Native Americans, has a Native American romance series out. (It’s apparently a re-release of books from the early nineties, which I mercifully missed the first time around.) Instead of being all “People of the ____”, these are all on the classic romance novel trope of Native American girl meets white boy. (Well, actually, I thought this sort of thing is usually white girl meets dreamy, muscle-y Native American boy, so maybe there is some innovation taking place.)

*WARNING! ICKY ROMANCE PLOT AHEAD!*

Gear has decided that what the world really needs is a romance between committed, ecologically sound  Huron shaman girl and French Jesuit boy.

Yeah, ’cause the Blackrobes were known for their lack of commitment to both their duty and their religion, never mind their celibacy. That’s why most of them ended up martyred, maimed, or maimed and THEN coming all the way BACK to New France to get martyred — because they were the kind of guys who were unsure about their vocation and their religious beliefs.

Riiiiiight.

And really there’s no acceptable plot for a priest or nun romance but relatively tame “His  discernment sucked, and he took on something he wasn’t called to do.” See, otherwise, you’re talking something much darker and creepier — more like a story about how much it can stink to fall in love with somebody creepy. Think about it. Why would you want to get involved with someone who’ll easily drop a lifelong commitment? I mean, obviously that sort of person wouldn’t stick by you, either. Why would you want to get involved with someone with the intention of making them betray their deepest beliefs for you? What’s attractive and romantic about turning a good, strong, committed man into a worm who lives only for your will?

Also, the shaman chick is having dreams that warn her that men in black are going to destroy her people. Boy, there’s some gratitude from the gods for the enlightened French policy of not killing off Native Americans and working with their governments instead of wrecking them.

However, I have to say this still doesn’t beat Father Greeley’s creepy romance plot about the woman masquerading as her twin brother the priest, and then living happily ever after. ‘Cause it’s always a good idea to lie to a whole parish about whether they’re getting valid sacraments or not. And the ability to lie boldfaced like that is such an attractive quality for a girlfriend to possess, much less a woman you want to marry.

Yes, I realize I’m clearly not the target audience for these stories. But yick, who’d want to be?

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Top Fifty SF/F Books

Via Mixolydian Mode, a list of the Top 50 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books according to the Science Fiction Book Club. I will bold which ones I’ve read, and add a few comments.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien If you don’t like it, that’s a sad handicap for you.
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov Justly famous; wouldn’t really work.
3. Dune, Frank Herbert Science fiction Islam with economics fun.
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein Fluff that thinks it’s deep.
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin Actually deep.
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson Eh.
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke Not all that great.
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley Pretty poor quality, and unrealistic too.
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe Worth the pagecount, and good for vocab.
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras I think I’ve read this, but can’t remember.
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett The later books are much better, but the Luggage is awesome.
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison Influential, but pretty poor reading value.
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
Well-written but depressing.
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
Extremely clever and fun.
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany Has anyone actually read this nihilistic brick?
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey Worthy of love and rereading!
22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson Waste of time and dictionary.
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman Influential boring waste of time.
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl Ditto.
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Should be much higher.
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice Gothic vampires. Borrrrrring.
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

31. Little, Big, John Crowley Overrated.
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny Zelazny has done much better.
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement A must for worldbuilding.
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith Awesome! Fun, too!
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke Eh.
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys

41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien Very good in places, very full of ideas.
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut  Almost total self-indulgent waste of time.
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
Not bad, actually.
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein If you don’t read it, you can’t understand the gun-thread arguments.
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks Sucks and blows like a tornado.
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford  I can’t remember finishing this.
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

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We Are Not Amused.

I’m getting more than a bit annoyed at computer systems. Archive.org is playing tricks on everybody, what with its search engine overstressed. WordPress had some huge surge in stats on Saturday. And WordPress is also saving my posts fairly often as drafts, rather than publishing them.

Annoying….

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“Bede’s Journal” and the Prohibition of Witchcraft

Bede has an interesting post on witchcraft prohibitions in the Bible, comparing the Vulgate and King James versions of the same passage. (Seen via Claw of the Conciliator.)

In fact, I have read a very interesting history-of-ideas book on the history of witchcraft’s treatment in Europe by the Church. (I don’t recall the name and author, but it was somebody big.) The major point was that, for the most part, early Christians were not all that fearful of witches. Witches were just one more form of idolatrous worshipper, and the power and name of Christ was inevitably victorious over mere spells and prayers to demons. (In your face, Simon Magus!)

The whole thing with witches wasn’t of much concern until Christianity got wayyyyy out into the countryside. At that point, the urbane Christian missionaries found that one of their major charitable responsibilities was that of saving the butts of supposed witches and pagan priests from angry countryfolk who had bad weather, dead cows, sick kids, etc.

Christian decrees of that day said that it was quite possibly heretical to attribute any magical power whatsoever to witches, sorcerors, pagan priests, et al. Priests were encouraged to scold their congregations for holding such heathenish beliefs. The only power demons held over Christians was the power of illusions and lies. So it was strictly forbidden to punish or kill any pagan or witch for magical crimes; doing magic was foolishness which couldn’t actually have any effect. Only normal poisonings and killings proved by evidence could be punished.

It is only much later that you find Christians beginning to consider again that magic might work, that the demons might have more material powers, and that witches might be killed for practicing witchcraft. It again seems to have been set off by civil unrest, bad weather, outbreaks of disease, and crop failures more than any change in religious belief — though the turmoil of the Reformation does seem to have triggered a lot of the witch scares.

Also, as regards the Hebrew word for witch — I believe it is a word associated strongly with poisoners, just as the Latin and Greek words for witch are. The idea, at least in Roman society, was that you went to a witch for a poisonous potion if you wanted to get rid of somebody. (Some of the noble Roman ladies allegedly did this a lot.) IIRC, “veneficium”, poisonmaking, was synonymous with “maleficium”, evil magic.

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Sound and Sensibility

Some of you may have seen that our friends at Digiview Entertainment have introduced a new line of “bargain audiobooks”. You can buy single CD audiobooks two for five dollars, and longer ones are two for seven dollars.  Finally, the same quality and cheapness we get from Digiview’s DVDs. Wonderful, right?

Um. Well.  No.

Today I finished listening to Digiview’s production of Sense and Sensibility. It’s not exactly a full cast production, but there are two actors involved: the narrator, Claudia Tyler, who also performs all the female characters’ dialogue, and an uncredited male actor whom I swear I’ve heard on audiobooks before. Neither are English, but both are fairly competent and convincing. I could ask for more vocal variety from both actors, but you can tell characters apart just fine. The only serious problem is that both actors mispronounce words fairly regularly. (And I suspect that’s more a problem of rushed production.)

But the production problems are pretty serious. The ends of many tracks are clipped off — and by “many”, I mean more than half. Important bits of quite a few chapters appear to have been accidentally abridged. At least one track on the last CD seemed to have been sped up to make it fit. Most spectacularly, the seventh track of the fourth CD consists not of the course of Marianne Dashwood’s illness, but of static and bits of some radio station. And finally, the whole thing ends with the words, “End of Project Gutenberg’s text of Sense and Sensibility”, which in a non-Gutenberg project is a breach of Project Gutenberg’s terms of service, to my understanding. (Not that anybody would care in a non-money production, but….)

Yeah. Those are some impressive technical difficulties. And I speak as one who is extremely experienced with screw-ups!

Well, tomorrow I have a ton of billing to do, to the accompaniment of my second Digiview audiobook (Wuthering Heights, which I have sworn I will wade through before I die). This is pretty funny, as Charlotte Bronte apparently regarded Jane Austen’s work with abhorrence, as being produced by someone who didn’t have an ounce of real womanly feeling in her body. (Which just makes Charlotte sound even more like Marianne Dashwood, and probably made Austen laugh heartily from the hereafter.) I will recall Jasper fforde’s dictum that every character in Wuthering Heights needs counseling in anger management issues, and try to regard the characters with the same sympathetic understanding I give to opera characters yodeling their way to insanity. In short, I’m fairly sure that any audiobook actors will give the Gothic Miss Charlotte a good deal more sympathetic rendition than my mind ever has.

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From the Banks of the Maumee

Just a Comment is a blog dedicated to the beauties and wonders of Toledo, Ohio.

Yes, seriously. Go take a look, o cynic, and see. The same blogger also runs The Roving Medievalist.

I think this kind of city blog is a real service to humanity.

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Roman Filks!

For all of you Latin lovers and legionary-wannabes, click on over and sing some Legio XX Songs! These aren’t from Roman reenactors, btw, but rather from Roman LARPers.

Possibly the best song is a rewrite of “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General”:

My family’s patrician, we’re descended from a deity
With pietas and dignitas, but never spontaneity
We clap politely at the games when gladiators spear their foes
And when we write a speech it always sounds like one of Cicero’s

Fittingly, we also have math/linguistics/filk guy Kevin Wald’s oldie-but-goodie:

I am the very model of a heroine barbarian;
Through Herculean efforts, I’ve become humanitarian.
I ride throughout the hinterland — at least that’s what they call it in
Those sissy towns like Athens (I, myself, am Amphipolitan).
I travel with a poet who is perky and parthenian
And scribbles her hexameters in Linear Mycenean

However, this otherwise excellent site features an unaccountable absence of Kipling’s quite wonderful marching song from Puck of Pook’s Hill, “Rimini”:

And I’ve tramped Britain, and I’ve tramped Gaul,
And the Pontic shore where the snow-flakes fall
As white as the neck of Lalage—
(As cold as the heart of Lalage!)
And I’ve lost Britain, and I’ve lost Gaul,
And I’ve lost Rome and, worst of all,
I’ve lost Lalage!

But Suetonius is the guy who kindly preserved real Legion marching songs for us. Read his Lives of the Twelve Caesars for that and many other fun scurrilous tabloid details.

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Still Sick.

Bah. I hate being sick.It is no fun at all, I’m telling you.

On the bright side, the weight loss project continues to go well. I’ve lost sixteen pounds since I started two months ago. Unfortunately, I need to lose a good many more pounds than that.

Yes, these are the joys of spending years alternately eating too little on most days and then eating a decent amount on the weekends. You both starve yourself and gradually gain weight! However, now that I am actually paying attention to my daily calories — and keeping it above starvation level every day — instead of eating random food when it happens to occur to me, I find I am feeling a lot better as well as losing weight.

Well, yes, right now I don’t because I’m still fighting this gunk in my nose and the soreness in my throat. But when I get well again, I’ll feel better. :)

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