Monthly Archives: January 2010

On the Bright Side, Paksenarrion Is Back

“Paladin, Paladin, Where do you roam?”

Er… I meant the other kind…. The ones with swords and healing powers….

Coming soon in March, Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon.

Chapter One over at Del Rey, in which we return to Verella of the Bells, and Bad People Doing Bad Stuff What Needs Paladins (as written by an ex-Marine) To Stop Them.

A largish snippet over at one of Moon’s blogs.

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SF/F writer Kage Baker just passed away

Quick-moving cancer is really nasty stuff.

I never really got into any of her oeuvre, but I’m not really into horror-y stuff. I know she was highly thought of by many, and that she was pretty prolific for such a brief career.

May light eternal shine upon her, and may St. Thomas More greet her at the gates.

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Because Chariot Racing Wasn’t Fast Enough.

More power!

I think we know what Emperor Dale Price is doing this summer, because clearly Detroit needs the Byzantine-X version of this. The only question is whether the Emperor will cheer for the Blues or the Greens. 🙂

Via Lawdog.

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Not to Speak Ill of the Dead or Anything

But just because I choose to say nice things about a reclusive short story writer, doesn’t mean that I have softened my stance toward that other thing he ‘wrote’, Catcher in the Rye. Honestly, I’m about to lose my cookies, running into all this praise for a book I only finished by dint of sheer willpower, desperately fighting sleep with the force of my contempt for the main character and the school system that made me keep reading about him. I earned my grade on that one, sure that some literary value must be in there somewhere. But no, it really was stupider and less funny than Catch 22.

I would say I hated that book, except it wasn’t as bad as stupid Earth Abides. It stunk and it was overrated, but there are worse books out there. Like Stranger in a Strange Land, although that actually has some entertainment value. Just not many that are universally acclaimed as classics, and which some people actually claim to like, the dear Lord knows why.

However, the constant insistence that it’s still an edgy book? That’s delusional. Nobody’s impressed by a bad word here or there, and they haven’t been for the last thirty or more years. This book is jawdroppingly naive. There are fundamentalist Christian homeschoolers who do edgier stuff than this for service projects. Maybe now that the author’s dead, the Baby-boomers will finally acknowledge that it’s an old man’s book, far behind the times, but not in a charming way.

Any one page of Boswell’s Life of Johnson will teach you more about humanity and life.

That includes pages composed entirely of bibliographic footnotes.


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Eat This, Webster!

My clan has its own dictionary. In two editions. So there.

It’s really very useful for reading Gaelic/Irish stuff written before all the modern spelling changes. There are also entries for famous clans and people and landmarks, and a lot of gratuitous but enjoyable commentary.

I have to say that I find the 1768 first edition more relaxing, though. The font is prettier, and there’s none of that switching back and forth to Irish font. (I can read Irish font, but it’s not really uncial and I don’t really like it. Dots are very easy to leave out, too.)

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From the Files of “Never Trust a Reporter”….

One of the altos in our choir has a lot going on in her life. Her daughter got the swine flu. Her husband the tenor got sick, too. His mother has Alzheimer’s and was just in the hospital with severe cardio problems. Etc, etc.

So she talked to one of her friends about it, and her friend talked to another friend, and that friend was a reporter for the Dayton Daily News who wanted to do a story on health care as a lead-up to the State of the Union speech this week. So my alto friend talked to the reporter about her troubles, got her picture taken, and so forth. Apparently they had a nice chat about health care, about which the alto is knowledgeable, and about financial stuff, which is her business.

Then the reporter asked her whether she supported ObamaCare, because it would help out her situation. She said no, she didn’t support ObamaCare; and that even if she didn’t have ideological problems with it, none of the provisions actually would improve her situation, and would actually make the money tighter in some instances. Again, she provided examples in detail. She’s that kind of woman — studies up and likes to tell you all about it. And why not? You need to be a detail person to do financial work.

Well, the newspaper story came out this week. They got her town wrong. They said her daughter lived with them, when she’d told them all about her daughter’s nice condo; she’d only stayed with them during the swine flu episode. They told everybody how old she was in the lede. They made it sound like she was starving to death, simultaneously panicking her friends and her customers into endless calls and offers of money and help. They didn’t say her husband the tenor makes a really good chunk of cash, working directly for the Ohio Supreme Court at their facilities, and that she’s doing pretty well herself, which is why they can manage care for two chronically ill people in the family. And they said she would benefit from the health care bill, even though she’d documented that she wouldn’t, with figures down to the last penny; and they didn’t say she didn’t want the bill as it stands.

It was a good story just by giving the facts. The “contradictions” would have made the story stronger, and it would have interested people regardless of their politics. But once again, you got a reporter who wasn’t interested in fact-checking, but was interested in puppeteering.

All the reporter had to do was do a good job with the basics, and everything would have been fine. (Though including her true age as the third word in the first sentence… was not… well-thought out.) Instead, he tells a whole bunch of people not to trust him and that he doesn’t care about other people’s ideas; and makes more trouble for a lady who’s already got plenty.

The really sad thing is that the guy who wrote the story was not a cub reporter. He’s written books. He ought to have known better. But he didn’t. (I believe the word is “putz”. Though I’m sure I could think of some worse ones.)

Anyway, here’s the moral of the story. There are folks out there with good work ethics and journalistic morals, but you probably won’t get interviewed by one of them. (Murphy’s Law.) So… no matter who you are or what opinion you hold…

Never trust a reporter: always bring a recorder. Be prepared to broadcast what you really said.


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Handy Lent Words

I just found an interesting book online of Irish language expressions from Donegal and points north. This is very handy for my Danta De project, because some of the old poetic expressions used in the hymnal are a bit hard to find.

Anyway, a few words for Lent coming up:

Aifreann: Mass. In the north, the F can become silent. 🙂

Beigligh: Abstinence from flesh. “Tá beigligh ar an lá seo.”: This is a day of abstinence. Donegal. In the official government Irish from down south, it’s tréanas.

Caisc or Casc: Easter. (From Pasch/Pesach, “Passover”.) Domhnach Casc = Easter Sunday, in Donegal.

Cáitín: The Lenten fast.

Carghas: Lent. Down south, there’s an expression “an Carghas a dhéanamh” — to keep the Lenten fast.

Ciallanaí: Fasting.

Troscadh Brónach: ‘Sorrowful fast’ — a severe fast, a ‘black fast’.

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The Lady from Poltergeist Just Passed Away

From Quint at AICN, an appreciation of Zelda Rubinstein, the woman with the big presence and the sweet little voice.

Also, J.D. Salinger passed away. I’m kinda surprised that his son let the cat out of the bag before the funeral, since his dad didn’t seem to want a lot of notice and so much stuff is going on in the world.

Anyway, I like to think of those two together. There’ve been so many horrible deaths recently, but those two, with their picaresque lives, got to die in peace. You just never know, do you?

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Crikey! Reckless Etymological Speculation!

This morning, I was driven out of bed by speculation and the need to run the search engine. Where did “crikey” come from? What does it mean?

Personally, I’ve always heard that it’s one of the large group of euphemisms for swear words. “Crikey” is supposed to be a replacement for the name of Christ, “For Christ’s sake!” or “By Christ’s X”. But most of those sound-alike euphemisms… well, they’re accented differently. They’re forceful. Cripes! Crimony! Crimonently! You could even see it if somebody yelled Crikes!

What I didn’t notice until this morning is that “Crikey” just doesn’t sound right. People don’t say that “Cri” the same way as the others. The vowel sound and the R both sound weird, if you’re trying to replace “Chri-“. Nobody has good documentation for it, and it first shows up in 1838 in print. Even the OED can only speculate in vain on what it means.

However, there’s another word I’ve just been running across in Danta De and other Gaelic-language materials, which would be a good swear word and would explain a lot of the weird features.

Croch or croich.

“Croch” is a great old word. According to MacBain’s Dictionary, in Gaelic it’s part of the verb “to hang”, and it’s also a noun for things you hang people on, like a gallows or… a cross. The soft, Latinate word for “cross” is “crois”, and the hard-sounding Celtic one is “croch” or “croich” — though they both probably come from “crux”.

There are all sorts of expressions, at least in Irish and Scottish poetry, that use this word — and I keep running across it in the genitive form. “Crann na croiche” — bough of the cross. “Toras na Croiche” — the Cross Pilgrimage, aka the Stations of the Cross. “Cnoc na Croiche” — Gibbet Hill. “Tobar na Croiche Naoimhe” — Holy Cross Well. “Comhartha Croiche Chriost” or “Sighin na Croiche” is the Sign of the Cross. “Croiche ceasta” — torment of the cross — shows up in a lot of songs and poems. There’s also a Scottish proverb that was apparently made to be yelled at people: “Baobach air an leisg a tha ann, bheir i a clann chum na croiche!” (“Confound that laziness, it brings its children to the gallows!”) Apparently somebody in an Irish play was going around yelling “Siol croiche!” (Gallows-seed!) at somebody. Similarly, “A chladhaire na croiche!” (You deserving of the gallows!) There’s also an insulting Scottish expression, “Mac-na-croiche” — son of the gallows. And apparently “Taigh na croiche air (x you don’t like)” appears to be a curse or nasty comment that’s much in use in the comments section of Scottish newspapers.

How do you say that “croiche”? In Irish, probably something like “cro-i-keh”. (I don’t know about Ulster or Scottish pronunciation, though I’m sure it’s similar except for the vowel sound.) If you said it fast, or if you picked it up off some Gaelic speaker and didn’t speak it yourself, it might sound remarkably like “Crikey!” It would fit in with the euphemistic expressions so well that uninformed people could well assume it was just another such word. And once people were saying “crikey” instead of “Croiche Chriost!” (or whatever), it would be just a euphemism!

There were an awful lot of Irish and Scottish people immigrating to London and Australia in the 1800’s. A lot of them were coming from the poorest and least developed parts of their countries, where people still spoke Irish/Gaelic. I suppose the next step would be to see if, indeed, “oi” sounds in Gaelic expressions were being transliterated or mangled this way. Another thing would be to see if Irish or Scottish people were swearing in English with swearwords including the Cross. And you know, you do hear people saying stuff like “Jesus H. Christ on the cross!”, although I’m not sure if that’s not more an Americanism than a feature of one’s heritage being Irish. 🙂 Also, people did used to tell people a lot that they should be hanged, so it could happen.

Like I said, it’s reckless speculation. But crikey! It’s a lot better swearword that way, isn’t it!

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Same as It Ever Was

I once met somebody (a native of the US) who’d never seen anybody swab her plate with bread before. I don’t remember if this was toast at breakfast cleaning up remnants of egg, or garlic bread at dinner gathering the last bits of spaghetti sauce. But it was a bit boggling for me to be boggling him.

I spent a good deal of boggle-time rewinding to see if I’d been doing anything bad with my table manners, but no. He was genuinely interested. Since bread-swabbing seems to have been around about as long as bread, I still find it hard to believe that I was such a novelty.

Which brings me to another great moment of academia. 🙂 Okay, not really anything ludicrous, but it’s almost like someone declaring that there is this thing called rain in Spain, without seeming to think that it might happen elsewhere:

“Devout medieval people collected prayers the way twentieth-century cooks collect recipes.”

Somebody named Reinburg, in an article called “Prayer and the Book of Hours”, said this, which was fine — but then somebody else quoted it in their article, like it was news that needed supporting evidence. I realize that academics love quotes and documentation, but I seriously worry about this one.

Collecting prayers? How would that would be different from the habits of a good chunk of devout Christians in other ages, or devout folks of other religions, for that matter? Obviously not all of the devout would; obviously not all prayer collectors would be devout. But if there were no market in collecting prayers, would there be a market in prayerbooks and devotional books and weird little chain emails over the Internet? Would there be clay tablets in Sumerian with collections of prayers if nobody wanted ’em? Would there be weird little books in weird little Mexican botanica shops? Do you have to have every volume of Carmina Gadelica dropped on your head to know that this stuff is always around for those who want it?

Fylme ane hour bifor mydniht. *

Another annoying thing: apparently some academics speculate that these devout medieval people had lots of prayers written down (and/or memorized, for most of history) because they were “distant” from the Mass. These people have obviously never met any of the daily Mass people stuffing St. Jude novenas into the hymnal racks on the pews.

Sigh. I’m the one who’s supposed to be so geeky as not to understand human nature. These days, I’m starting to feel like part of the mainstream. Stop making me normal, people!

* Yes, I can’t be bothered to make sure all of this is spelled correctly for a certain era and area. I know it’s wrong. I do feel guilty about this, but even I can’t obsess about everything.

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Pohl, on His Blog, on Asimov

Frederick Pohl (long may his years increase!) just blogged about Asimov the other day. He has promised to write more.

I know at least one of my readers will be interested!

In the comments, somebody linked to this post on the building which once housed the Asimovs’ candy store, and which has survived down the years with various businesses as tenants. Nice looking place. It should have a plaque on it. There’s also a picture of the rowhouses across the street where the family once lived, and a reminiscence in the comments about the Asimov family.

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Meanwhile, in the Real World

Unfortunately, it looks as if Spirit the Martian Rover is stuck in that sand trap for good. NASA is crossing its fingers, and hoping Spirit’s electronics can survive the harsh Martian winter while stuck out in the open.

UPDATE: Cheering news from Fr. Z’s combox commenters!

“My friend Mike is also a Spirit driver at JPL and says that this report is misleading and they have not at all given up on getting Spirit moving again. Here is a post from his Facebook page:

“to clarify things: Spirit is NOT currently stationary. She will move to an orientation to survive the Martian winter. Once into Martian spring Spirit will begin a stationary radio science campaign. We can’t move for 6 months for SCIENCE reasons. Once all of that is done we can evaluate working towards extrication once again and moving to new interesting areas with our four working wheels.”

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Margaret Atwood Thinks the Moon Landings Were Faked

Atwood’s disbelief in the Apollo program can be heard in her own words in this interview with a Canadian high school radio reporter. Good work, Spartan Youth Radio. Good link, SFFAudio. Apparently, it had been previously reported, which was how the high school kid knew to ask; but I guess I hadn’t heard that particular fact.

My goodness, how I hated The Handmaid’s Tale. I am so glad I never gave her ideas any credence whatsoever, and will never have to read another book by her. You kids who get assigned her work in school, however, may enjoy informing your teachers that you’re reading the equivalent of a book by the cat lady or the guy who harangues you about his tin foil hat and the orbital mind control lasers.

(Of course, Philip K. Dick had some problems with conspiracy ideas, too. But he wasn’t being feted by the literary establishment or being assigned in school from day one of his career, and I’ve never gotten the impression he was smug about his disconnect from reality. But he wasn’t typical. SF writers’ mental illness of choice seems to be depression, not delusions.)

I suppose one could put it up to lovable eccentricity. But there’s a nasty contempt for one’s fellow man that most Apollo-deniers seem to share. Everybody else is either a venial fraud or a know-nothing tool; only they know the truth about how little man can do. They make themselves believe in a movie shot in the desert, because something as epic as a trip to the Moon couldn’t possibly be true.

In her case, she seems to believe that, since the present time is the greatest time ever, and since nobody at present is walking around on the Moon, nobody in the past could possibly have been capable of doing anything that cool. I will grant that there’s some wistful tinges to this one, as if she would like to believe. But not if it makes her admit that government programs and politics might work on different lines than she thinks. I guess.

This of course fails to explain why Canada used to have — allegedly — all these railroads. Why, think how much money and technology it would take! Nobody today is blasting through mountains and using deadly dynamite to create iron-shod roads. Obviously, the scope of the thing has been made up out of wholecloth and faked with clever set-building. 🙂

Oh, well. I’ve had my own times of insisting on things that were false-to-facts, so I can’t be too into the schadenfreude. I hope she gets better.


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Interesting Discussion on an Old Post

My old post about Lauren Ford, a well-known Catholic painter in her day whom we don’t hear about much these days, has attracted a very interesting set of comments over the years. Recently there was a really interesting set of comments. You might want to go read them.

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