Monthly Archives: January 2011

Yes, Nitpicking Makes Me Crazy. But.

I finally got a Russian copy of Alexey Pehov’s fantasy novel Shadow Prowler. It turns out that in the first few paragraphs, the translator translated the word for “halberd” (eminently suitable for a well-trained city guard patrol marching through a fantasy-medieval-Renaissance city, and possessing multiple weapon uses in the way of hooking and poking as well as chopping) as “heavy battle-axe” (not very comfortable on a long patrol of the city, and mostly useful for chopping people in half or threatening to do so).

The Russian word for halberd (alebarda) even sounds like halberd. It’s not that difficult. So I’m sure he deliberately dumbed this down to something that “more people would understand”. But I don’t think most people are ignorant that a halberd is a fearsome weapon.

Between “battle-axe” and “halberd”, the picture I get in my mind of the city guards is fairly different. Halberds are for professional soldiers or well-trained militia. Battle-axes are more for individual warriors, or knights fighting together but separately in a melee. Maybe this isn’t a fair evaluation, but it’s the usual connotation for these things.

Halberds also set the scene with a fairly high level of weapons technology. When cannons show up a chapter later, the previous revelation of halberds makes them quite believable.

I know in my heart that this translator guy never played Dungeons and Dragons, or he’d worry about this. I’m not what you’d call a weapons aficionado, but sheesh, even I know that this sort of thing is important story-knowledge. (But then, this is the same guy who, in translating another Russian fantasy novel, removed a whole discursion on why you might want a Desert Eagle with special bullets as your home defense gun if you have vampires in your neighborhood. Language geek, yes. Fannish geek, no.)

So yeah, it’s a good thing I’m not translating Russian novels and he is, because he’s good at it. But when somebody who’s perfectly competent messes around with stuff in the novel even though he knows better, it makes me crazy. It’s not because I don’t like mistakes and variants that I nitpick; it’s the lack of respect and appreciation for facts and authorial choices. It bugs me.


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Kaminari-Okoshi: Japanese Rice Krispy Treats

Nothing human that involves sugar is alien to me. 🙂 But I have a special love for Rice Krispy Treats, which I very seldom indulge these days, alas. So this info made me very happy.

Kaminari-okoshi appeared on this week’s episode of the mystery anime Gosick (which you can watch over at Crunchyroll). They are apparently a bit more solid sort of rice krispy treat, being made of popped sweet rice, other stuff like peanuts and/or sesame and ginger or green tea, and a mixture of sugar and a starch syrup called mizuame. Apparently they are thought of as a bit nostalgic of old Edo. Here’s a guy making it — not the way you’d think!

Thai food has its own version, Grayasat, made of two kinds of rice, sesame seeds, and caramel’d palm syrup. This guy uses honey and puffed rice, and adds chocolate.

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The movie of The Rite: better and worse than expected.

Okay, so the trailer I saw was not what happens in the movie. Anthony Hopkins is playing a diocesan exorcist and a priest. At least at first. (Whether or not he gets possessed later in the movie, which I assume he does.) Steven Greydanus says there’s a generally positive portrayal of Catholicism, particularly once they get to Rome, and a non-magical view of exorcism. There’s also a main female character who doesn’t make it her business to stalk and capture the seminarian or the priest. So some major positives. This is something you don’t have to cringe about, when your non-Catholic friends tell you they’ve been to see it.

All the same, if you’re a nitpicky person like me, go to a theater with a liquor license. You’re gonna need it.

1. It’s really hard to get accepted into a bishop’s seminary program, and sometimes you even have to apply to go to school at a seminary outside your diocese, increasing the difficulty level. But in the world of the movie of The Rite, it’s so easy that your father can use seminary as the easy part of an ultimatum. Seminary or mortuary business. Yeah. Even though the mortuary business is also a competitive job requiring extensive schooling and licensing. Even though the US is very big, and there’s no real reason for an adult to stick around accepting such ultimatums.

2. Seminaries particularly try not to accept people pushed into religious life by their parents. An unwilling priest is the opposite of a good offering to the Lord. But nobody notices the ultimatum thing.

3. This movie depicts the BIG HUGE SIN of attempting to administer a Sacrament without the power to do so. The seminarian guy is confronted by somebody dying who mistakes him for a priest. Instead of just urging contrition and praying, the guy pretends he’s a priest and has the power to hear Confession and give Anointing of the Sick and last rites. This combines a sin, an abuse, and an offense against canon law (Canon 1378, Section 2), as well as against the right of every Catholic to receive honest treatment. He would automatically be interdicted (similar to excommunication). If he’d become a deacon, he’d be suspended automatically from his clerical deacon faculties. The bishop of his diocese would have to write up the initial report to the CDF. So grave an offense could only be judged by the CDF, and so great a sin only absolved with permission of the Pope. Serious serious stuff.

4. A seminary only sends good students to Rome, not slaves of their parents who refuse to deal honestly with the dying. They might help send the guy to Rome to be judged by the CDF, but he sure wouldn’t be getting near any kind of ordination. So the idea that a seminary head would send this guy to Rome for further training, on pain of having his student loans come down on his head, is silly.

5. You can’t even get into a seminary with student loans outstanding. That’s why we have funds for that.

6. They don’t let seminarians take exorcist training. A mature priest with plenty of experience dealing with people and a lot of solidity, who’s also someone living a blameless life with lots of personal prayer — that’s who they choose for exorcists. It talks about it in the book, remember? The book this movie is supposed to be based on?

7. Diocesan exorcists don’t have sidekicks. If they did, they wouldn’t be confused seminarians under canon law indictment and automatic interdict.

8. As you’d imagine, exorcists are always running into people with psychological problems and having to shunt them to shrinks and doctors. Weeding out such folks is part of their job, and pretty much everybody they see gets a psychological evaluation first. People with legitimate possession problems often have psychological problems too. This is one of the big points of the book, but is only used as a Scully comment in the movie.

I suppose that if you lurk outside the theater, and wait until the movie gets to Rome, you’ll spare yourself at least half of the stupidity. The movie house’s liquor license may help you bear up under the rest. OTOH, if you can ignore Hollywood and only see the good parts, this looks like a good movie.

UPDATE: Check the comment box for important ameliorating info! And hello to everyone coming over from The Anchoress. I’m afraid you get to see me as my most protective and my most pigheaded….

But it’s essential to pre-judge movies based on their marketing. I’m not made of money or time, and it’s the movie marketers’ job to convince me to give them some of both. When I do give people access to my mind, I’m not the sort of person who can turn off what I’ve seen when the screen goes dark. There’s no point going to see a movie if it’s going to raise my blood pressure for the rest of my life, as well as costing me eight bucks.

I did try to go see the movie yesterday, but it was a case of “the best laid plans of mice and men/Gang aft agley”. I’ll see it soon, though. And I did finally get to see True Grit.


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Review: The Mass: The Glory, The Mystery, The Tradition

Guess what I found in the mail tonight?

The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, The Tradition is a collaboration between Cardinal Donald Wuerl (the current archbishop of Washington DC) and Mike Aquilina. The cover shows a beautiful carving of the Last Supper. It’s a nice sturdy book; it’s small and physically easy to read. The book itself (without the forewords and back matter) is less than 200 pages long. It focuses on the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite, but many other forms and Rites are mentioned as examples.

The book gives a basic but deep explanation of what we do at Mass and why. It consists of very short chapters (which often helps the reader to concentrate). First you get a brief rundown of beliefs and practices related to Mass, and then there’s a step-by-step explanation of each part of Mass. The new translation is used, and some of the new wording is explained. There are a fair number of photo illustrations. There are also many quotes from the Fathers of the Church and other historical sources.

But this is not a book trying to be hard to understand. Each chapter is just the right length for a short moment of reflection, if you want to use this as a devotional book. It doesn’t explain too much or too little. It also doesn’t soften the obligations of a Catholic, or hide the importance of things which American priests and parishes often don’t do. It’s apolitical and sticks to the truth. Finally, it provides many good suggestions for further reading.

The only real complaint I have is a passage conflating responsive singing with antiphonal singing. I don’t know if that was by mistake or on purpose. (Some recent scholars like to argue that antiphonal singing didn’t come about until the fourth or fifth century, or something like that.) Anyway, that’s just one passage in one chapter.

Kids could probably get a lot out of this, but it’s written towards adults. I recommend it.

I’d also like to thank Mr. Aquilina and Doubleday for sending me a review copy. The book comes out February 1 (St. Brigid’s Day).

(That’s also the feast of Ss. Pionius, Asclepiades and companions. During Decius’ persecutions in 250, the parishioners in Smyrna heard they were going to be arrested on St. Polycarp’s Day. So the night before, St. Asclepiades (a layman) headed to church with fifteen likeminded Christians and started an all-night prayer vigil. Sure enough, after Mass early on Sunday morning, they were arrested. But they’d already donned chains and shackles that they’d thoughtfully brought along, to show the pagans that they didn’t intend to abandon Christ. They were put on the rack and torn with hooks, but still refused to sacrifice to the Emperor. After a couple of weeks, they put them in the games and they died martyrs. Here’s a slightly different account with more names of companions.)

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Good News Post for Sailorette

Via Instapundit, a UK engineer develops a new kind of heart implant — and has it tested on himself. Amazing story of crossover tech applications.

John Carter of Mars is actually no-kidding coming to a theater near you, in March 2012.

If you’re feeling bored, there are 42 (!) new “urban fantasy” and “paranormal romance” books coming out in February. That’s FEBRUARY ALONE. That’s the power of romance-reader voraciousness.

Anyway, the bizarre mind of the Doctor Who writer Ben Aaronovitch is behind one of them, as he tells the tale of a cop whose star witness is a ghost. Other February authors include Tom Holt, Mary Stanton, Sheryl Nantus (formerly of Canadian X-Files fanfic fame), and an urban Roman Empire fantasy called The Curse-Maker which sounds like tons of fun. (Nantus’ Blaze of Glory has a great premise: What if superhero battles were scripted shows, like professional wrestling? And then, what if the superpowered showmen had to fight a real and overwhelming enemy?)

Ain’t It Cool News was founded by Harry Knowles, who spent a lot of time on the Internet because he’d become unable to walk. Just in the last month, he underwent spinal surgery to remove pressure on his spine — and after all these years, he’s beginning to walk again. Read the continuing saga on Twitter.

YouTube premieres a new documentary on its website at 8 PM EST (5 PM PST) today (Thursday). It’s the story of one day on Earth, created by user-submitted videos edited together. Just go to this evening, and doc’s u mentary. 🙂

An ice skater has overcome a bizarre muscle condition to aim for the Olympics.

Father Z’s latest “post your good news” thread.


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Lang Lang: Fawning over Mao

About Lang Lang’s little “prank” of playing the themesong of a Chinese propaganda flick about the Korean War in the White House – here’s the real kicker. Lang Lang is a classical pianist.

Who killed more classical pianists and other musicians than anybody else in history, including Stalin? Who killed hundreds of millions of his own people? Oh, yeah. That’d be Mao, who was behind the Korean War.

Whom our Lang Lang apparently holds in fond memory. Sorta like if Jews loved Hitler so much, that they often would do a little singalong of the “Horst Wessel Song”. Mmm, mmm, mmm. You just keep walking on the corpses of your murdered relatives and fellow artists, Lang Lang. Steppingstones to success, yuppers.

Of course, the Korean War’s not exactly a shining Chinese patriotic moment in many other ways. The Chinese peasant conscripts being sent out as nothing but waves of cannon fodder. The fact that there was only a war because the North Koreans and Chinese could hide behind the USSR’s nuclear skirts. The way China did nothing but provide itself with crazy military-heavy nuke-happy neighbors by propping up North Korea. Oh, yeah, nothing but good memories there. Way to show us!

Of course, if Lang Lang were really trying to make a point that the current Chinese expansionism, imperialism, and military ambitions would inevitably lead to more disasters for the Chinese people, he ought to man up and admit that’s his game.

Here’s a Chinese art tradition that was totally stamped out in the Cultural Revolution: Shanghai animation.


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The Dark, Dark Side of “Greek Medicine”

Remember when I posted about how the medieval Muslim and Indian versions of ancient “Greek medicine” were still out and about, including in Afghanistan?

Here’s a story about the dark side. Just as many people in ancient Rome used opium cakes as a cure-all (panacea), so do the Afghan people today.

The classical world isn’t dead. Sometimes that’s not a good thing.

On the bright side, elements of the party fun of the Adonia (“certain vessels full of earth, in which the worshippers had raised com, herbs, and lettuce, and these vessels were called the gardens of Adonis”) and the ancient Persian New Year survive in Mideast celebrations of Easter and modern Iran’s Nowruz/Persian New Year.

(I don’t see any pictures of girls throwing away the grass while wishing for husbands, at the end of the celebrations; but I’ve got a YouTube video of grass being given as a prize to the winners of some kind of Nowruz “chicken wrestling” in Azerbaijan. Well, maybe that’s more dark side, sorry, though the chickens don’t seem torn up and it only lasts about two seconds in the video. The dunce cap I think is supposed to be a depiction of Zoroastrian priest gear.)

(You might rather look at this video, which shows the tribal Azerbaijani ladies in their traditional, largely non-face-veiled outfits. This is an example of how, in many places in the Muslim world, women only wore face veils against dust or sun, same as the men. Having a nice warm or cool hat was more important to their outfits than hiding from men. Alas, it looks like the women attached to the dignitaries/apparatchiks are wearing less fun outfits than the tribal ladies and are more Saudi-ized. Anyway, the music is even catchier in this video than in the first one, though I warn you that I like drone instruments. Here’s Tajik immigrant ladies in New York at Nowruz, same thing as the Azerbaijanis.)


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Backtracking on Quicktime

After fighting with Apple’s worthless new Quicktime version for the last several days, uninstalling, reinstalling, going into Safe Mode, watching my computer refuse to turn on, going into System Restore more times than I’m comfortable admitting —

I’ve tried going back to the old version. Obviously a lot of sites won’t let me view video at all, but some will; and my computer will be able to turn on.

Honest to goodness, I get tired of updates trying to kill everything I own. It’s usually Adobe and Apple running neck and neck in this department, though Windows Media Player has had its moments.

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Why Nobody Asks Me to Review These Things

I see shadow puppet animation of Regency people instead of Javanese monkey kings, and it causes me to wonder why the heroine has a hunchback and a goiter instead of thinking how elegant it is.

(Not that I’m against goitered, hunchbacked Regency heroines, although I believe she’d have to sedulously avoid the fish course and many other common English foods, to suffer from the former.)

I’ve got no particular opinion of Kowal, good or bad. She’s yet another one of those recent writers I’m not really familiar with, which is very odd when you’ve run into them at conventions and still aren’t the wiser about their work. I believe people think well of her writing skill. And Regency magic is a pretty old trope by now, but I’m sure there’s quite a lot of fun left in it.

(See what I mean? Reviews from me are either purple prose, black unhappiness, or a set of beige neutrals. It’s not very useful.)

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Joy Asked about How to Pronounce Cu Chulainn

For all your old British Isles language needs, Cambridge’s ASNC Spoken Word site. It includes the story of how Cu Chulainn got his name, read by an Old Irish scholar in that language.

So there’s my best guess. Listen as the lenition and mutation and all of that consonant weirdness melts your mind…..

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Immoral Purposes

It used to be the case that hotels were not allowed (knowingly) to rent out rooms for “immoral purposes”. This was primarily meant to discourage pimps and prostitutes from being able to play rent-a-brothel or rapists and “white slavers” from having safe havens. But it was also meant to forbid hotel stays by couples not married to each other, and not brought together by cash. (This was why couples used to sign in under false names as Mr. and Mrs.)

You still see remnants of this with laws or hotel policies which forbid minors (or even young legal adults) to rent rooms even if they have the money, and so on. But on the whole, even the prostitution bits seem to have gone by the wayside. When did this happen? Was there a legal justification given?

I bring this up because a Cornish hotel-owning couple was recently sued for discrimination for trying to ban unmarried couples at their hotel, when in the past they would have been fined severely by UK or US law if they hadn’t tried to ban unmarried couples. There are a few twists to the story, of course; but the reversal of the whole course of the law is interesting, to say the least.

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Summary of New Drug Scare

New drugs not well-explained. Bath salts won’t get you high. Epsom will just dry out your nose. Don’t throw out your Epsom salts.

Drug chemists in Europe are making designer drugs, then shipping them over here. Dealers here sell them labeled as “bath salts” or “plant food”. The specific chemicals aren’t against the law over here just yet; but that won’t save you from being incredibly messed up by them. Sooner rather than later, the chemicals will be added to the list of illegal substances, and/or some kind of interstate trade or customs regulation will be written or found. Meanwhile, comment box druggies suggest that their friends didn’t like this nasty stuff, either.

Don’t use these fake bath salts in a bath. I suspect you would be sicker than a monkey or dead. They probably don’t make good plant food, either.

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Site Cracker “Selling” .gov, .mil, and .edu Sites

According to this security blogger, he claims to have root access to, the state of Michigan’s website. Also, the joint warfighter CECOM site, and the DOD’s pharmaco-economic site. Also, the websites of the South Carolina National Guard and the Albanian Army, among others.

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Our Crazy Church Choir

I don’t think you can see me on this one, but you might take a look at the worthies in this particular choir. We didn’t know we were being recorded, so have mercy on us.

Note the small size of our loft. 🙂

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