Monthly Archives: August 2008

Tom Holt, Meet Sarah Palin

If you’ve read any Tom Holt fantasy novels, you’ve heard about the world-dominating works of the dreaded Milk Marketing Board.

Sarah Palin went up against Alaska’s Creamery Board — and won.

I know, not as amusing as the Sarah Palin – Chuck Norris list, but it had to be said.


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Wrongest. Anime. Theology. Ever.

Yes, you want to read this description. Don’t hide your eyes.

To Aru Majutsu no Index is a “light novel” series that’s coming out as an anime this fall. The concept?

“Set in a city of scientifically advanced superhuman students, but in a world where magic is also real. Toma Kamijo’s right hand, the Imagine Breaker, will negate all magic, psychic, or divine powers, but not his own bad luck. One day he finds a young girl hanging on his balcony railing. She turns out to be a nun from the Church of England, and her mind has been implanted with the Index Librorum Prohibitorum – which in this world is all the magical texts the Church has removed from circulation.”


It gets weirder. This Church of England — in which nuns apparently dress like Russian Orthodox folks or something — is also known as “The Church of the Necessary Evil”.


Oh, and Aleister Crowley appears. Except that in this alternate universe, he dumped the magic/religion gig to go be a mad scientist instead.

No, I have no idea whether this anime will be any good, or whether the manga is. But these new heights of bizarro-religion must be noted.

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Yakushiji Ryoko no Kaiki Jikenbo (The Strange Casefiles of Ryoko Yakushiji)

We all know by now that I’m a sucker for atmospheric mystery shows, even if the basic premises behind them are… um… unlikely. I guess all the “unlikely detectives” and “impossible mysteries” of the Golden Age trained me to ignore mere narrow naturalism.

So it’s probably no surprise that I’m a sucker for The Strange Casefiles of Ryoko Yakushiji.

The show is apparently adapted from a long-running but seldom-appearing series of novels by the author of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Sohryuden, and Heroic Legend of Arslan. Unlike these sprawling epics set in strange worlds, The Strange Casefiles of Ryoko Yakushiji is set in modern-day Tokyo.

The narrator/Watson is Junichiro Izumida, a hardworking, kindly assistant inspector (keibuho) of the Tokyo police. He’s been assigned to a new unit of the Tokyo police that deals with inexplicable crimes and incidents. Unfortunately, he didn’t go to the right college so he’s not a “career bureaucrat”. Superintendent (keishi) Ryoko Yakushiji did; so even though she’s much younger than him and he supervised her when she was an intern, she’s now his boss.

His annoying boss. His irresponsible boss. His boss who sexually harasses him (because she won’t just come out and say she’s got a crush on him). His boss who solves cases in mysterious ways, treads on the powerful, and uncovers strange supernatural occurrences that everyone else is ignoring or being paid off to ignore.

Ryoko (aka O-Ryo) doesn’t get away with all this just because she went to the right school. She’s also insanely rich, and the heir to a security company which employs a lot of police bureaucrats after they retire. So nobody wants to reprimand her, lest they lose their revolving door. If that wasn’t enough, she also has access to background information on prominent people and doesn’t hesitate to use it.

(So picture Lord Peter Wimsey as heir to Boeing, working for the Air Force in the Pentagon, crossed with Colonel Genghis John Boyd, except he’s investigating the X-Files and…. um… Doesn’t work, does it? Okay, ignore that part.)

The show spends a lot of time on the humor of the situation of a detective whom nobody can rein in, and on the serious Japanese national problem of government and business and Yakuza all being happy little corrupt bedfellows. (Yes, we do plenty of it too, but honestly, the extent of this stuff in Japanese society is mindboggling.) O-Ryo is always outrageous but usually right, and she constantly bets her life on her deductions. But it’s also strongly implied that behind the brash facade, she is practically suicidal. (Which is how you’re supposed to feel, of course, when you break the conventions of Japanese society all the time.)

Meanwhile, O-Ryo and Junichiro end up battling a lot of odd people and things. Most of the problems are caused by humans doing something they shouldn’t, usually with a big glob of misappropriated government and/or corporate cash. The feel is something like an episode of The X-Files in which a whole lot of trouble on the Metro occurred because some guy at the Library of Congress got himself a grant to study the Necronomicon, under the guise of doing a children’s literature promotion. (So maybe it’s more like Bones and NCIS meets The X-Files and The West Wing?)

The monsters and dangers tend to have a native Japanese flavor to them, which makes them very interesting. Some of the ideas are really horrifying, at a gut level; others are almost more wonder than horror. It’s an interestingly mixed bag.

So anyway, cool creepy stuff happens. Watch and enjoy (except for the sexual harassment theme, which is stupid).

Oh, and the opening credits are stupid and derivative. Skip them. The real show starts about 01:30.


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Catholicism in Anime: Rosario and Vampire

Rosary and Vampire/Rosario to Vampire is a fairly bizarre little anime that came out in 2008. It did well enough that a second season has been announced, and apparently it’s based on a reasonably popular manga.

The premise of manga and anime is pretty simple. An ordinary Japanese boy has failed to pass the admission tests for any of the good high schools in town. So when his father (by chance?) obtains an admissions packet for a high school he’s never heard of, he doesn’t ask too many questions.

But it turns out that, as fate assigned Adam Lyon to an animal school, chance has sent Tsukune to Monster Academy, a school where monsters (yokai) learn human etiquette and how to pass for human by going to school in human form. And that cute girl Mocha he just met, who wears the big Goth necklace? She’s a vampire, and that “rosary”, as she calls it, is all that keeps her in human form. She chose to wear the rosary, because only through the power of the cross could she be freed from vampiric power and bloodlust enough to go to school, learn, and make friends.

Of course, then we meet Mocha without the rosary. There’s apparently a whole long storyline about these two opposing versions of Mocha, which one is the real her, and whether Tsukune can come to see the Mocha he loves in them both.

You can see that a series like this could be lots of fun and a good think piece, too, with a nice blend of horror adventure to keep it from being too fluffy. But the manga apparently was focused on making it a fluffy harem comedy full of monster girls all mysteriously falling in love with Tsukune, along with some suggestive high school situations and action plots. Unfortunately, the anime producers decided that they needed lots of panty shots and gratuitous flesh, so I can’t really recommend it even as fluff.

I really wish anime companies would make more of the tasteful anime they can do if they try. They are such bottomfeeders. Sigh.

Btw, the “rosary” really isn’t one. Mocha wears a big leather choker around her neck, with a cross — not a crucifix — attached in front and rosary beads along the back. Mocha can’t remove the cross, since it seals her vampire form, but Tsukune can. Maybe they were afraid a real rosary would look too much like Buddhist beads?

Another amusing fact: Just as in the Tanya Grotter series, Medusa is on staff at Monster Academy. This version of Medusa likes creating chaos and destruction, however. Art teachers. Always the radicals on staff. ;)

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Wow. Happy St. Augustine’s Day to Me.

I was #29 on WordPress’ growing blogs list, yesterday, thanks to St. Augustine and Nancy Pelosi.

The last time I made a jump like this on the podcast, was when I posted the Life of St. Martin right before Martinmas, and all the Germans came to visit. The last time I made a jump like this on this blog, it was thanks to Amy Welborn.

So… I guess I need to spend more time posting about male saints and female professional speakers.

(grin, duck and run)

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So… That “Draft Palin” Thing Worked….

The local Republicans called me and told me I could get tickets. But me, I didn’t want to go. I took a personal day to do library research instead. And not at Wright State.

(Sorry. I’m a nerd without a car. It really was too much trouble to try and get tickets. So, sorry, guys. No liveblogging from me! And hey, it’s not as if I could have posted anything from the Nutter Center. I don’t think I can get on Wright State’s wireless.)

Hee. Don’t really mind. The news is just as good when you get it late and weren’t there to see it made. I’m feeling very chuffed, and even contemplating making a fanvid. (But I will not gloat in front of my little brother the Democrat. No. Not at all. Just behind his back.)

And hey, maybe that Hermeneutic of Continuity blogpriest will become the Archbishop of Westminster!

In related news, we find out that both the Juneau Empire and the Associated Press think Wright State is in Dayton, Massachusetts.

Wright State. Wright Brothers. Which Dayton could it possibly be? HMMMM?

Alleged journalists. Alleged editors. And yet, they make money.

That’s what makes me sigh.

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Context, Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi’s people say that she’s studied the Fathers on abortion, and takes all her inspiration from St. Augustine. They said it was “On Exodus”, but that’s not what you want to look for. What you want is Quaestionum in Heptateuchum. Liber 2 is Quaestiones in Exodum. Go to Section 80. It’s about Genesis 21:22-25 — but a different version from the usual one.

(Btw, did I mention that cool Section 1 at the very beginning of Book 2? The one about how it was okay for the midwife to lie to Pharaoh, because it helped save babies’ lives and was no skin off Pharaoh’s nose? No, you want to hear Section 80….)

Okay…. Prepare for yet another incredibly ugly and incompetent Latin translation, courtesy of me! But hey, if I mess up enough, the Latinists will come out to tell me what I did wrong. (UPDATE: I’ve moved the bulk of St. Augustine’s Latin down to the bottom of the post, but it’s still available for factchecking.)


Utrum quod in utero formatum adhuc est, animatum posset intellegi.

(Whether what is already formed in the womb can be understood as ensouled.)


First, the Bible part. Literally, the Latin quote from the version of Exodus that St. Augustine is using says: “If two men quarrel, and they strike what a woman’s womb is holding, and her infant not yet shaped should come out (be miscarried, or be born prematurely)

The middle part isn’t quoted. (Not unusual, in the Fathers. They quote only what they’re talking about.) Then the Latin goes on to say: “…the damages permitted will be as much as the woman’s husband announces, and he will give it at request.

Augustine’s commentary goes on from there:


To me it seems that this is said for some cause of significance; more is done than what this kind of Scripture seems to be busy with. For if only that were being paid attention to, a struck pregnant woman would not be forced into miscarriage (abortum), two quarreling men would not be provided when by one it could be done and admitted that he would quarrel by this same woman — or would not even quarrel, but would do willing harm to another’s posterity. It [Scripture] thus truly did not will homicide to be extended to an unformed newborn, because surely what is so carried in the womb is not classified as a man.

Here the question of the soul is accustomed to stir: whether what is not formed can indeed be understood as not ensouled; and therefore that it is not homicide, because it can be said not yet to have been determined whether it did not have a soul yet.

Following that, it says: “Si autem formatum fuerit, dabit animam pro anima.”

[“But if it was formed, he will give life for life.” Literally, “breath for breath” or “soul for soul”.]

Whereby what else is understood, except that he himself would die?

For in this and in the others it now instructs on this occasion: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” — clearly the justice of retaliation.

That Law therefore is set up so that it demonstrates what vengeance is owed. Namely, if it is not understood through the Law what is owed by vengeance, from which it is understood what was relaxed by pardon, how can it be said: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors“?

Therefore, debtors are shown through the Law, so that as much is seen to be pardoned as is forgiven. Namely, neither are we forgiven debts, unless we did discern by the sign what is owed to the Law.

If, therefore, this newborn was still formless as yet, but already ensouled in a formless way (because the great question of the soul is not thrown down, unpleaded, by rash opinion), therefore the Law does not will that it be extended to homicide, because a live soul cannot yet be said to be in this body that lacks feeling, if such is in flesh not yet formed and therefore not yet gifted with senses.

But it also said: “And he will give it at request” — what the woman’s husband decided would be given for the removed formless one — is not to be understood easily. “Asioma“, of course – what the Greek holds — is understood in many ways, and more tolerably is said “at request” than if it were understood another way.

Indeed, perhaps he will demand what he should give; so that in this way, he does something adequate for God’s sake, even if the woman’s husband should not ask it.


First of all, notice that it’s a question of accidental manslaughter, not intentional murder or intentional abortion.

Notice the humble “if” and “whether”. St. Augustine is eager to grapple with the fascinating question of ensoulment, but he shies away from definitely saying the soul is not there. All he is saying is that it’s impossible to say, given what was known to him and his time, whether or not the soul’s there when the senses aren’t yet. Also that, since the Israelites couldn’t tell for sure whether the unborn child had a soul, it wasn’t quite fair to make someone pay soul for soul. (In his opinion. Being careful to avoid “rash opinion” or overly certain pronouncements.)

He says this based on a Bible translation not the same as that used by modern scholars; so there’s another factor.

Furthermore, the whole thing should make us more careful not to offend God, more eager to be more forgiving than the Law — but at the same time, the offender should pay more than the Law requires, of his own accord. Everyone should be in awe of our forgiving but just God.

None of this is considered in Nancy Pelosi’s interpretation.

(Especially not the mendacious, baby-saving midwife in Section 1.)

Btw, here’s a good modern take on the wording of this Bible passage.

UPDATE: Father Z has a good reference on St. Augustine and abortion which, among other things, explains a lot about the Bible wording that St. A used above. Basically, he was working off the Septuagint version in Greek, which apparently translated “harmed” as “formed” and “unharmed” as “unformed”. Everybody working off the Greek, and the Latin translation of the Greek, assume that the Bible was talking about the age of the fetus rather than whether the premature baby got hurt in the process. Ooops.

UPDATE AGAIN: I guess my translation wasn’t hideously inaccurate, as Fr. Z has very kindly linked and reposted it in a post encouraging bloggers to keep passing on the truth about this issue. Had I known he was going to repost it, I wouldn’t have moved things around so much when I updated. Hope I haven’t confused people too much!


St. Augustine in his own words, moved down here for readers’ convenience:

80. (21, 22-25) Si autem litigabunt duo viri, et percusserint mulierem in utero habentem, et exierit infans eius nondum formatus; detrimentum patietur, quantum indixerit vir mulieris, et dabit cum postulatione.

Mihi videtur significationis alicuius causa dici haec, magis quam Scripturam circa huiusmodi facta occupatam. Nam si illud attenderet, ne praegnans mulier percussa in abortum compelleretur, non poneret duos litigantes viros, cum possit et ab uno hoc admitti, qui cum ipsa muliere litigaverit, vel etiam non litigaverit, sed alienae posteritati nocere volendo id fecerit. Quod vero non formatum puerperium noluit ad homicidium pertinere, profecto nec hominem deputavit quod tale in utero geritur.

Hic de anima quaestio solet agitari, utrum quod formatum non est, ne animatum quidem possit intellegi, et ideo non sit homicidium, quia nec examinatum dici potest, si adhuc animam non habebat.

Sequitur enim et dicit: Si autem formatum fuerit, dabit animam pro anima. Ubi quid aliud intellegitur, nisi, et ipse morietur? Nam hoc et in caeteris ex hac occasione iam praecipit: Oculum pro oculo, dentem pro dente, manum pro manu, pedem pro pede, combustionem pro combustione, vulnus pro vulnere, livorem pro livore: talionis videlicet aequitate. Quae Lex ideo constituit, ut demonstraret quae vindicta debeatur. Nisi enim per Legem sciretur quid vindictae deberetur, unde sciretur quid venia relaxaret, ut dici posset: Dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris? Debitores igitur Lege monstrantur, ut quando ignoscitur appareat quid dimittatur. Neque enim debita dimitteremus, nisi quid nobis deberetur Lege indice disceremus. Si ergo illud informe puerperium iam quidem fuerit, sed adhuc quodammodo informiter animatum (quoniam magna de anima quaestio non est praecipitanda indiscussae temeritate sententiae), ideo Lex noluit ad homicidium pertinere, quia nondum dici potest anima viva in eo corpore quod sensu caret, si talis est in carne nondum formata, et ideo nondum sensibus praedita. Quod autem dixit: Et dabit cum postulatione quod maritus mulieris, informi excluso, dandum constituerit, non est in promptu intellegere: quippe, quod graecus habet, pluribus modis intellegitur, et tolerabilius cum postulatione dictum est, quam si aliud diceretur. Fortassis enim postulabit ut det, ut eo modo satis Deo faciat, etiamsi maritus mulierve non expetat.


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