Monthly Archives: September 2009

Jewish People Are Tough!

Even their gefilte fish glows in the dark!

The comment from the store about “Eat it! It’s good for you!” is hilarious. Apparently from the same school of thought as the German/Swiss side of my family — that as long as it’s not rotten or moldy, anything weird about food that’s bought and paid for is probably good for you. 🙂

Found via Agatha’s Minions’ Journal. This also allows me to point out that being cousins with Neil Gaiman probably makes you a weirdness magnet.

This also seems to support young Master Peters’ theory that Catholics should go back to eating fish on Friday before the fish deploy their plan of world domination. We are fortunate to have Jewish people and deli fans on our side in this chthonic struggle of surf vs. turf.


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Books Not to Give My Little Brother

My younger brother served in the Air Force and still is in the Air National Guard. So when something military happens in a book or TV show which he deems… unlikely… it tends to ruin the whole show for him, whereas for civilians like me, it’s just grounds for an eyeroll.

For some reason, people have been writing a lot of military sf lately that strikes me as just that… unlikely. I mean, I believe that the deeds they chronicle could happen; but I also believe that the door wouldn’t hit the butts of those who did it, on their way out of the armed forces and into permanent bad consequences.

On the bright side, when it’s so very hard for the mavens of forbidden love to find any romance that strikes most of their contemporaries as forbidden, I suppose it’s a gift from God that love between officers and enlisted remains forbidden. But they never seem to have any idea of why that would be so. (*faceplant*)


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Do-It-Yourself Choir

The Choir of Cheahs (ie, one guy named Cheah, recording himself singing all the parts, and then mixing them together) performs the 40-part motet by Thomas Tallis, “Spem in Alium”. (Via the Recovering Choir Director.)

The story goes that the original performance idea was that the choir of 40 (or rather, the 8 choirs of 5 parts each) stood upstairs circling a room to sing the piece, and the listeners stood below in the middle. In this recording, we miss the beautiful interplay of voices against the ceiling and the floor and the listeners, and one cannot turn in a circle and experience the change in stereo. Also, you miss the rainbow of vocal colors provided by a choir of more than one guy, although the vocal blend is perfect. 🙂 But that said, it’s incredibly awesome. Take a listen!

It was not unusual at that time to have small choirs in which every person was the only representative of his or her part. Knowing how to sightread and sing one’s own part was a fairly common accomplishment, and there were a lot of choral exercises designed to build confidence in singers so that they could go it alone. But a lot of modern choirs can’t or don’t do this; and of course, having twelve zillion parts is more effective if you’re playing with polyphony.

The text is rather interesting, when you consider that it is delivered by 40 people — “Hope in any other I have never put than in you, Lord God”. Forty is a symbolic number, too. Overall, it’s a penitent piece, but an overwhelmingly hopeful one.

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Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

The trouble with most urban fantasy or fantasy mystery novels (besides their lousy excuses for love interest) is that they’re a quart low on imagination. If someone’s idea of worldbuilding is to copy every idea Stephanie Meyer or Laurell K. Hamilton ever had, why the heck are they writing fantasy at all?

I always knew that Seanan McGuire did not suffer from a lack of imagination. So I wasn’t worried about that.

The next problem with urban fantasy mysteries… well, it’s a lack of respect. Often the heroines are stupid, or trashy, or simply begging to be shot so that the reader will be put out of their misery. I mean, it’s one thing to be flawed; quite another to be the villain of the tale while supposedly the good guy.

This is not a problem with the private eye in this story. She does have to be injured repeatedly in order to find out the truth, but only in the traditional fashion of hardboiled private eyes. You can care about her and the people in this story. You will.

Finally, however, the real beauty of this story is how good a fantasy and how good a story it is, and how well it’s written. This is a darned good read, and a fast read, but one that will stick with you. It is not potato chips. It has meat on its bones.

This is real urban fantasy, in short, and not the McDonald’s equivalent that’s been crowding the shelves for the last few years. Buy it, buy it, buy it, before the last few copies disappear from your bookstore.


PS. If you don’t believe this is real fantasy, bear in mind that this PI had to spend twice seven years and a day as a fish, which is the sort of thing that really would happen if you were investigating around fairy tale critters and fairies. Does this happen to Anita Blake? Alas, no.

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To Say Yes and Not No

You hear a lot nowadays about people wanting to express what they’re for and not what they’re against — to be positive, and not trapped in a position where they are seen as only being negative. Pope Benedict XVI even talked about this: that people perceive the Church as always saying no to this and no to that, when it’s really all about saying yes to God.

The trouble is that there’s a lot of people who refuse to take no for an answer. On anything.

I was just reading about a book coming out, for example, whose author urges the reader not to accept criticism from anybody about anything. Anybody who points out anything that you are doing wrong, either factually or morally, is some kind of hateful person. Your job was to be “bulletproof”, serenely ignoring all comments not entirely admiring of your greatness.

Eheheheh. Wonder what the editing was like with that author.

“On page 57, the second paragraph could use some work.”

“I refuse to accept your right to make such a comment, which hits at my personhood and my craft.”

“Ohhhhkay. And on page 293, did you really mean to imply that all your critics murder goats for fun?”

“I affirm my right and duty to speak the truth about goatmurderers in all walks of life, including editors.”

The thing is, you can’t get around to being positive without clearing out all the underbrush first — or at least a good proportion of the bad stuff you do that holds you back. If you do something positive, you have to go back and take care of the negatives that would undermine it. If you try to focus on all the good things you do while ignoring all the bad things you do, you could become kind of person who gives lots of money to charity while ripping off everybody you meet. (Or something equally stupid.)

It’s true that some people are overly critical of themselves, consumed with inverted pride. But never checking back to see if your actions are good, effective, efficient, useful, helpful, etc? Not caring at all what other people think of what you do? That’s insanity, literally.

There’s a happy medium out there. Of course we’d all be happier if our yes and our love led us naturally not to do anything that would make us need to say no. Practically speaking, most people are a far ways from perfect love of God and neighbor. It’s rough that teachers of morality get cast as the bad guy. But then, if they ever fail to mention that you shouldn’t do X while teaching lyrically about the wonders of whatever is the opposite of X, people announce that the morality teacher told them it was perfectly okay to do X. Teachers of morality in the public square need to embrace being the bad guy, just like their moms did. 🙂

That said, however, we do need to make sure to showcase examples of virtue and achievement. People who are doing it right are a lot more interesting than starlets or Mafiosi who are doing it wrong. (Heck, anybody can be nasty and do nothing with their life. Doesn’t take any effort at all.)

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St. Macrina the Younger: Patron Saint of Robots and Roboticists?

I think I mentioned here before the charmingly steampunk moment when, in a dialogue written up by her brother from his memories of her deathbed, we read St. Macrina’s contention that the building of Greco-Roman automata was a pointer toward the existence of the soul and God.

Well, it occurred to me today that we’ve had robots and robotmakers for a while already, and automata a long time before that. But there’s no specific patron saint.

St. Macrina would be a charming choice. She was brilliant and learned, interested in all sorts of things, including both religion and science. You could even abbreviate her name and call her St. Mac. 🙂

Also, she lived her whole life in her parents’ house. (Kidding!)


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Darn This Zeitgeist.

An acquaintance of mine, of fertile and vast literary talent and winning personality, has just published her first novel. Yet despite my faith in her abilities, I cannot recommend it sight unseen, because darn it, that’s the world we live in. I’m painfully afraid that it’s going to be full of Things What Gripe My Soul. So I’ll have to get to the bookstore and read it first.

On the bright side, I did just figure out what the next Great Urban Fantasy Mystery Novel ought to be. Given that the overwhelming majority of supernatural PI’s are women with a touch of strange, and given that they are generally ladies of talent levels that defy belief, it would seem that the obvious heroine would be:

Mary. You know, the Theotokos.

Surely, down those mean streets of Jerusalem and Ephesus a woman must go, who is not herself mean. 🙂

She even has a built-in Watson — St. John.

Advances will be accepted by my bank.

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