Monthly Archives: March 2008

Spot the Assumption: The Home Game!

Here’s a history article by an anthropologist. She explains a battle’s outcome from the losers’ side, and it’s a good explanation. But alas! In doing so, she unwittingly revealed her own cultural biases, because they blinded her to the winners’ experience. Read the whole thing, and see if you can spot the huge, gaping hole in her explanation caused by this assumption.

Hint: I do not mean that she has to believe in Christianity to be a good anthropologist. But she does need to understand “things that humans experience”.

(Usually, anthropologists are pretty eager to point out that humans do experience all sorts of things, so it’s a rather odd bias to exhibit. Maybe all the sixties anthropologists are retiring.)

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Filed under History

Technology for a Better Life

If you are reading a fanfic on your computer, and the author names one of his characters

A) something twee, and

B) after someone you despise,

you can easily solve the problem with a global search and replace. What’s more, you can use this to deal with overly elaborate Mary Sue names, foolish errors in historical naming, and the like. (As long as you remember what you’ve done, and never write any reviews of scholarly articles based solely on your version, that is.)

Now, let’s see. Wouldn’t it be better if people didn’t use Merlin’s name so gratuitously to name their characters? Aren’t there a wide variety of other magicians about, like Michael Scott, Gerald Fitzgerald the Wizard Earl, Jan Tregeagle, Virgil, and Maugis? And wouldn’t it be better if everyone with a pretentious name were renamed things like Bob or Ann? So… if somebody is named, say, Pretentius Myrllllyn, you just rename him Bob Tregeagle or Mac Mogie.

Ahhhh. Much better.


Filed under fandom

Don’t Fear the Hat!

I’m sitting here awake at 4 in the morning, watching Catholic Compass on EWTN. A bunch of Catholic movie stars are saying a rosary in a Hollywood church, interspersed with dramatizations of the Glorious Mysteries, and then each Mystery capped off with a song. The year of production is 1950, I believe.

During the church scenes, would you care to guess how many girls or women are wearing veils?

One. Said veil is part of her hat, and is apparently made of net that swirls up into the air above her head.

How many women are wearing every kind of cute little hats perched on the very top of their heads?

Most of them.

How many are wearing big garden hats?

Only one.

And now one of the Hollywood ladies, who has a much higher voice than me, is singing “The Holy City”! Heh! Makes me feel a bit better about my ignominious pre-Mass performance of the thing on Palm Sunday. It’s higher than I thought. (And she too is wearing a hat. A nice sensible one.)

I say it again: Most American Catholic women did not wear veils, before Vatican II, until the beehive hairstyle came into fashion and hats went out. If you really want to look traditional, instead of looking like the sixties, do like the old ladies and get yourself a church hat.


Filed under Church, Pre-Vatican II Hats

Don’t Work for This Company!

A German grocery store company named Lidl has been spying on its own employees.

I thought maybe Lidl was the same as Aldi, but actually Lidl’s a competitor chain.

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Filed under Politics

Ven. Pierre Toussaint — Business Saint!

Sometimes those well-meaning folks who promote multicultural saints kinda leave out huge chunks of their story. We’ve talked about how St. Martin de Porres is promoted in the US as a charitable saint, while in South America he’s more of an animal saint and in Peru he’s that wonderworker who bilocated and teleported other people.

Now, we all know Ven. Pierre Toussaint. Haitian-American slave apprenticed to a hairdresser, who became the best hairdresser in New York. Freed by his owner at her death, he went on to become a very charitable hairdresser.

Except they left out the bit where he had a mini-business empire, as well as a fairly large charity empire. He founded a credit bureau and an employment agency as well, to help the poor get off charity.

They also left out the bit where he was married to a woman he paid to free, and who was his partner in everything, include raising his dead sister’s daughter.

They also left out the bit where he funded huge chunks of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

They also left out the bit where huge numbers of people of all colors stayed at his house.

I’m not knocking the ‘kind hairdresser’ thing, you understand. But holy cow, that’s a lot of the story to leave out! Is there something wrong with a black American saint’s biography including the line, “Toussaint, you’re the richest man I know”?

As for me, I find it to be a sign of hope that Venerable Pierre Toussaint’s body lies in the crypt beneath the altar of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in the heart of New York. He was a business saint, and so it is fitting that his relics lend grace to Madison Avenue.


Filed under Church, History

Because It’s There

I’ve always liked Vathara, who is one of the better exponents of the theory that any sufficiently interesting universe can be crossed over with any other. I don’t like all her stuff, but I couldn’t go to sleep last night until I finished “Shadows in Starlight”.

Even if you don’t normally like fanfic, this one you might enjoy. It is a work in which we learn what Rurouni Kenshin would be like if the people and situations had been born into the Star Wars universe, circa A New Hope. However, she also manages to retcon the chronologically-earlier first trilogy,  such that I don’t hate and despise all its works and pomps at the moment. (Though I still say Alec Guinness was thrice the Obi-Wan that anyone else could possibly be.) Anyway, tons of fun. If we have to have Those Other Movies, I’ll explain ’em to myself like this.


Filed under fandom

On Taking a Saint’s Name

John C. J. M. Wright asks whether one takes only the first name of one’s Confirmation saint, or both first and last.

First off — what did the guy who confirmed you say, and what did you request as your name? “Justin” or “Justin Martyr”? That would be the usual determinant. (If the deacon/priest/bishop mispronounces your name, of course this doesn’t affect anything. You get the name you asked to have. If you had asked to be baptized with the name of the locally sainted Bishop Lucifer of Cagliari, and the priest had given you a steely-eyed stare and firmly baptized you “John”, your baptismal name would be John, and serve you right.)

There is nothing wrong with baptizing or confirming someone with a long saint’s name that includes the saint’s nickname or surname. The most common example in America are the countless Irish gentlemen named “Francis Xavier O’Someclan” after St. Francis Xavier. (Hence all the “F.X. O’Someclan” folks, too.) But there are plenty of people named “Juan de la Cruz Spanishfamilyname”, “Lawrence O’Toole McSomeclan”, and the ever popular “Charlemagne”. The French have traditionally been much given to hyphenated names of this sort, whether or not they use them these days. There was even some obscure fellow who was baptized Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.

So feel perfectly free to style yourself “John Charles Justin-Martyr Wright”, if that is in fact your name. You will be following the conventions with perfect propriety.


Filed under Church