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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Suvudu Free Library: Well… It’s Free.

Every so often, I remember why I never buy Del Rey books any more. Suvudu Free Library is full of the reasons why.

Don’t want to read more McCaffrey and Scarborough. Don’t want to read about office workers with tragic problems with going into heat and their two boyfriends (or whatever). Already got through my lifetime quota of Star Wars novels.

There are a few books in here that I could think about seriously, but honestly, my desire to be up on all things sf/f has already led me to read boring Jerry Cornelius novels, so there’s my lifetime allowance of Moorcock used up. And I’ve read way too many steampunky broody urbany fantasy/alternate world skiffy novels, so what’s the point of reading Perdido Street Station? I’m not interested in worldwide riots in 2010 (not for those causes, anyway), I’m not interested in most of this stuff, and I seem to remember having gotten stuck halfway through The Briar King. Maybe I finished it. Either way, not remembering doesn’t bode well. Oh, and there’s Weapons of Choice, which IIRC, one of my friends made me swear an ink-oath never to sully my eyes with, because it’s stupid and because it’s stolen from a manga about Japanese guys and that cool movie The Final Countdown, anyway. Oh, and of course I swore back in the eighties never to read Terry Brooks again. I know Magic Kingdom is supposed to be “less putrid”, but… no.

So what’s left? My choices would be the Pip and Flinx novel I’ve never read, and the Mary Sue Queen of Orcs novel. Probably not hideous. And maybe The Briar King, since it’s possible that I stopped reading for reasons not to be blamed on the book.

Oh, well. It’s free. I don’t have the time and energy anymore to read everything available to me, but some of you out there still do. So don’t let my grumpy self dissuade you from taking advantage of “free”.

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About that Erin anime….

Um… the mom gets executed in episode 7, for a crime she didn’t commit in episode 6. (And of course that jerk Wah-Dan set her up to take the fall.)

So maybe it’s not so great for younger kids. At least, not episodes 6 and 7.

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Onmyoji: Good Flick to Watch When Sick

When you’re sick, you don’t want anything too flurried, but you also don’t want anything that drags along. You might doze off at any moment, so you want reasonably soothing soundtrack. In the past, I’ve turned to sports for this sort of thing: ski jumping, Tour de France, etc.

But there’s also a lot to be said for watching martial arts flicks, for example.

Onmyoji isn’t quite a martial arts flick, though it does have swordfights. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a Japanese historical fantasy, set in Heian period Kyo (Kyoto). Everybody is dressed up in a zillion layers of silk robes, just like in The Tale of Genji, and bitterness turns people into demons. In this universe, however, the onmyoji (diviners and mages) actually manage to do something about all these problems with unlucky directions and unappeased spirits. But then, they also do kung fu wirefighting and come back from the dead, which we didn’t really see happening in Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book.

(Although it would have been entertaining.

“Annoying Things:

“Just as a woman is about to tell me something interesting and I’m dying to hear it, her baby starts crying.

“After we spend hours setting up the funeral arrangements for someone I never liked, the person is brought back to life.

“The onmyoji keeps urging the emperor to cut costs by replacing us ladies with animated paper dolls, and this is terribly boring.”)

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Laryngitis Land

If you’re not sleeping well for a couple of weeks, you’ve been working hard but feeling stressed, and the weather is constantly flipping from hot to cold, the chances are good that you’re also going to catch something.

Well, I did. Laryngitis. (Right at the beginning of choir season. Yay!)

So I spent most of today trying to call into work when people could barely hear me (fun!), going to the doctor, taking my medicine, and then sleeping for six hours straight. Obviously I needed it, as the fact that building maintenance was working with screaming power tools most of the day was not a nuisance, but rather something I barely noticed. Birdsong, cars coming in and out of the parking lot, power tools — all the same.

So I’m not going anywhere this weekend or talking much. Unfortunate, but laryngitis isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

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Rifqa Bary Speaks

You can follow a story for a long time, figure everybody knows about it, and then find out that most people haven’t heard about it. So here’s a quick summary.

This is old, pre-run footage by friends of the 17 year old girl who ran from Westerville, Ohio to Florida, fearing that her parents would kill her for apostasy from Islam. (Which is a justified fear, given the death rates for apostates from Islam, and the nature of Sharia law on apostasy.) But honestly, I think she should have run before she converted.

The eye that is covered by hair in the video is the eye that got whammed by her loving family. When she says she was abused, though, she’s probably referring to her uncle who molested her.

Her parents claimed to the Florida court that they were indigent and needed a court-provided lawyer. But her parents run lucrative jewelry and bridal businesses. They have now started claiming that she is a juvie lowlife. They also just sold her alleged diaries and private emails and files to the Orlando newspaper. (Which is actually publishing this stuff — what rancid behavior!)

Yeah, folks, that’s the kind of safe home provided by this normal Westerville family. Sigh. So I hope Rifqa manages to win her case and become an emancipated minor. I’d be afraid to trust a stray dog to her family for a couple of days.

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Happyyyyy Knitttttting!

I know a good number of knitters are out there in the blogosphere. So it may interest you that the Rev. Sherwood Forrester is the headliner of a local news story on Men Who Knit.

I think this is very cool, and a very characteristic depiction of him.

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Translation — from Letter 16: To a Great Prelate, by St. Catherine of Siena

There’s a big kerfuffle going on with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Basically, some religion teachers want to simultaneously fight the Catholic Church and deny the truth of its ancient teachings in public, while continuing to collect paychecks from the Archdiocese and parishes for teaching religion when back at home. After years of this being acceptable behavior, Archbishop Pilarczyk made it known that it’s not. Whining ensues.

(I mean, I’m sorry they lost their jobs, but they really are like science teachers lobbying for the repeal of the law of gravity. What did they think would happen? And why would they have wanted to collect paychecks from an evil evil repressive Church hierarchy, if that was really what they thought it was? Wouldn’t they rather go be truckdrivers, doing honest work?)

Anyway, one of the ladies quoted St. Catherine of Siena to the other lady, under the impression that this quote was encouraging and supported their case. Everybody agreed that it was from Letter 16. So here’s how the given quote goes:

Cry [out] as if you have a million voices; it is silence that kills the world.

Well, I wondered about it, and set about finding Letter 16 to read the quote in context. I couldn’t find a public domain translation of this letter, so I made my own by hook and by crook (aka by Google Translate and by online dictionaries and texts). I intended to check with the standard English translation by Noffke, but the closest copies are in the parts of the local university library that are only open weekdays, 8-5. I work on weekdays! So… I didn’t get a chance to check this translation the way I would have liked to. However, the original Italian is on line and public domain, and here’s Letter 16. Fact-check me through that.

This letter is addressed “To a Great Prelate”. (His name doesn’t seem to be given, out of some discretion.) St. Catherine calls herself “servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ crucified” in the salutation.

She begins with reminding this particular prelate that Jesus not only loved us, but hungered to suffer and die for us more than even the Cross could provide. She urges the prelate to feel just as hungry for Jesus, and just as eager to suffer and die. (Very beautiful stuff.) And then she gets to the meat of the letter:

Alas, alas, my unfortunate soul! Open your eyes and regard the perversity of the death that has come into the world, and individually into the body of Holy Church. Alas, your heart and soul breaks to see so many offenses to God. Father, see how the infernal wolf does not carry off the creature, the little lambs that graze in the garden of Holy Church, and does not find him who moves to reduction of mouth. The shepherds sleep in their self-love, in greed and garbage; they are so drunk with pride that they sleep and do not feel it, because they see that the devil, infernal wolf, if he does not carry off the life of grace in them, takes that of their subjects. They do not care; and all the cause is the perversity of self-love. Oh, how dangerous is such love in prelates and subjects!

If he is a prelate and he has self-love, he does not correct the defect of his subjects; because he who loves himself for himself falls into servile fear, and therefore does not reprimand them. For if he loved himself through God, he would not fear with servile fear; but boldly, with a virile heart, he would reprimand defects, and not be silent nor make pretense of not seeing.

I wish you personally to have such love, dearest Father. I beg you to make it so, so that hard word will not be said to you as a reprimand from the First Truth, saying, “Cursed be you who were silent.”

Oh, be silent no more! Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues. I see that, through being silent, the world is spoiled, the Bride of Christ has paled, her color taken from her, because they have sucked the blood from her; that is to say, that the Blood of Christ that is given by grace and not by being owed, they plunder out of pride, taking the honor that is due to God, and damning to themselves; and so they steal through simony, selling gifts and graces that were given by grace, at the price of the Son of God’s Blood. Alas! how it kills me, but I can’t die.

Don’t sleep in negligence any longer. Act at the present time, however you can. I believe that there will come a time when you can no longer act; but now, at the present time, I invite you to strip your soul of all self-love, and dress it in hunger and real, true virtue, to the honor of God and the health of your soul. Be comforted in Christ Jesus’ sweet love, for soon we shall see the flowers. Study how the banner of the Cross may rise quickly, and don’t let your heart and affection fail through any inconvenience that you have seen coming; but be comforted more at that time, thinking how Christ crucified is the Maker and Taker of the pangs of desire of God’s servants. I say no more.

Remain in the holy and sweet love of God. Drown yourself in the Blood of Christ crucified; put yourself on the Cross with Christ crucified; hide yourself in the Wounds of Christ crucified; bathe yourself in the Blood of Christ crucified.

That’s pretty much the end of the letter, except for the sign-off.

I think you can see that it’s not exactly the kind of quote to use against an archbishop who has been out there reprimanding people, especially if you were one of the people who got reprimanded! 🙂

Oh, and if you like the vampire imagery above, you might like to know that John Florio’s 1611 Italian-English dictionary included an entry for a “succhia capra” — a chupacabra — which the dictionary claimed was a kind of bird also known as a “wind-sucker”, which sucked milk from goats’ udders. I know that my life has been enriched by this piece of data!

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