Monthly Archives: February 2012

Free Story by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko

Marina and Sergey Dyachenko are prolific, award-winning Russian/Ukrainian fantasy/sf writers. Their novel The Scar is coming out in translation at the end of the month.

But right now, you can read a translation of their 1999 award-winning story “The Burned Tower” for free on the Kindle.

You never know where trouble’s waiting… and there are some beings out there that you shouldn’t give rides. But it may be even more dangerous to charge them something.

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The Secret World of Arrietty: Review

Miyazaki and Ghibli meet The Borrowers, for an adaptation better than the rest.

I’ve never been much of a fan of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, but mostly I haven’t liked the movies made from it. The basic story is good, but I never quite got into the movies.

I think I’ve figured out what I didn’t like before.

In most adaptations, the father of the Borrower family isn’t a very strong father. In this one, he’s a quiet and peaceable man, but he’s not at all weak. In other words, he’s more like a father and less like a comic relief. The same is true of the mother. Even though her character is a bit overemotional and easy to worry, she’s still a strong center for the family circle. She’s not just a comic relief or a frail fragile violet. She’s somebody’s mom.

The movie itself is very well made, with the usual amazing Ghibli visuals and with a lot of thought put into the worldbuilding. But the levels of danger and tension are very carefully metered, so that little kids won’t be too scared and big people won’t be bored. It was obvious that the kids in the movie theater were having a great time and paying close attention.

Stay until the credits actually turn dark. As often happens with Ghibli, the ending credits form an epilogue for the story that you’ll be sorry to miss.

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St. Salsa, Pray for Us

No, seriously. In Tipasa (now Tipaza), one of the North African cities, there once was a virgin and martyr whose name was Salsa. She was martyred by pagans at the beginning of the fourth century, and a basilica was built in Tipasa that bore her name.

She may have borne a Carthaginian or other African name, but it may have just been a Roman joke-name for a slave; it meant “salty”, “preserved in salt”, or “witty.”

There is also a text about her, called “Passio S. Salsae”, which comes from a diligent Tipasan hagiographer at the beginning of the fifth century. It says that St. Salsa was the daughter of pagan parents, but became Christian. At the age of fourteen, attending the annual dragon/serpent festival with her parents, she spiced things up by slipping away, getting hold of the city’s serpent/dragon idol, and throwing its head into the sea. A thorough sort of girl, she went back for the rest of the idol, and was caught. Thus she achieved both an exorcism of the city’s Punic god and her own martyrdom by stoning shortly afterward. Her body fell or was thrown into the sea, but was miraculously recovered by the Christians in town and buried.

At this point, without having the actual book to consult, I’m a bit puzzled. The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Tipasa says that she was buried up on the hill opposite the big city administration building, the Basilica Alexander, and a chapel was built over her body; then, after the local populace converted to Christianity, they built the big Basilica of St. Salsa in its place. (Possibly going off the 19th century archeology results.) The Persecution of the Jews in the Roman Empire says that “Passio S. Salsae” says the pagan dragon/serpent temple was cleansed and turned into a synagogue, and then later the synagogue was turned into St. Salsa’s Basilica. So I totally don’t know what the deal is.

This basilica was excavated by a 19th century French archeologist named St├ęphane Gsell. Unfortunately, most of the place was used as a quarry by the locals (after the Vandals and then the Muslims took over). Camus wrote a book set in the modern town.

Her feastday is on May 20 or May 22, along with that of St. Marcelliosa and St. Victoria, also African virgins and martyrs.

Old newsreel footage of a procession in honor of St. Salsa, at her basilica’s ruins.

YouTube slideshow video: “Tipasa, la ville de Sainte Salsa”. Very beautiful. There are lots of other Tipasa/Tipaza videos online.

St. Salsa’s Basilica in an old lantern slide. And another. Both from U of Notre Dame’s architecture library.

A thread with a bunch of gorgeous but uncaptioned pictures of Tipaza’s ruins. Way down at the bottom, I think the mosaic pictures come from St. Salsa’s.

Stunning picture of the Tipaza amphitheater.

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Rate Your Language Skills!

Here’s a fun set of pages brought to you by the US State Department. They explain the skill levels that State Department language tests rate you at, in such detail that you can probably rate yourself. (Even in your native language, if you like!) The skill areas they test are reading, writing, speech, translating, and interpreting.

(I found it through an ad asking US citizens with good Portuguese to apply for jobs in Brazil. Man, I studied the wrong languages for sun and fun, I’m telling you.)

It told me what I pretty much already knew: I’m surprisingly good at reading most of my other languages, and surprisingly bad at speaking. Everything else kinda falls into line with that. Another skill to work on….

Anyway, the other interesting thing is that they actually have definitions for their vision of some important concepts.

“A successful translation is one that conveys the explicit and implicit meaning of the source language into the target language as fully and accurately as possible. From the standpoint of the user, the translation must also meet the prescribed specifications and deadlines.”

The essential translation skill is to “choose the equivalent expression in the target language that both fully conveys and best matches the meaning intended in the source language (referred to as congruity judgment).”

Congruity judgment. It’s not a lovely expression, but it says what you have to do.

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Staedtler Markers: Now with More Colors

Oh, man, these Staedtler fineliner markers are so awesome to use, you can’t even know. (Yup, still doing a lot of underlining in different colors for my Beatus project.)

Now they have 30 colors and a bunch of different gift sets and convenient school and office packs. You can even buy a coffee mug full o’ markers.

They don’t dry up if you accidentally leave a marker uncapped.

And they still don’t have a nasty smell, or any smell at all.

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Happy St. Valentine’s Day

Because marrying in the Church is romantic, but following man’s law is cold.

(Oh, and of course the Google doodle for today includes Political Correctness Content, the way Canadian radio has to have a certain amount of Canadian content. Just like it’s amazing how far back in the search results you have to go to find an article on St. Valentine, when this is the shared feastday of several. Especially when there’s a commercial site to promote….)

Valens, Valentinian, and Valentinus were reasonably common Roman names, borne by people as diverse as emperors and Gnostic heretics. The meaning was “strong, powerful, effective”. There are fourteen known saints named Valentine.

We know for sure that there was a St. Valentinus who was the bishop of Interamna (now Terni) who was executed on the Via Flaminia near Rome, next to a milestone. Rome’s old Flaminian Gate (Porta Flaminia) had a basilica near to it which was probably originally dedicated to him, because in the Middle Ages they called it the Porta S. Valentini. The original basilica of St. Valentine was built by Pope Julius I, a kilometer outside the gates (at the second milestone), and there are Christian catacombs nearby, as with many famous martyrs’ burial sites. But when that area became dangerous and depopulated, a new smaller church was built inside the gates. (Today that newer church is called Santa Maria del Populo.) His relics are now kept in St. Praxedes (Santa Prassede) in Rome, and at Terni. (When the outskirts of Rome became unsafe in the early medieval period, a lot of martyrs’ bodies also got moved downtown to St. Praxedes.)

There’s also a fifth century St. Valentine who was the first bishop of Passau and is known as “the apostle of Rhaetia” (the non-Helvetii parts of Switzerland, southern Bavaria, the Tyrol, etc.)

The older St. Valentine story that we know was part of the legend of Ss. Marius and Martha, Persian travelers to Rome who got martyred along with their two sons for daring to bury Christian martyrs in AD 270, on January 19th. We don’t have the legend in any more recent form than the 5th century, so it’s probably not super reliable; but it does feature St. Martha getting drowned to death near a nymphaeum (public water source dedicated to the nymphs of water), which is kinda cool. Nymphaeum Catabassi was at the thirteenth milestone outside of Rome, along the Via Cornelia. (Supposedly this is a few miles past another old church built by Pope Julius I, S. Rufina and Secunda at Buccea, later called Selva Candida. I’m sorry to say that the modern church there looks like a mall.) Anyway, that legend tells us that Valentine was a holy priest who refused to renounce Christianity and was beaten to death with clubs.

The newer story says that the authorities were upset with another St. Valentine because he helped a young Christian man and woman to get married, obeying God’s law rather than the oppressive power of men. It wasn’t politically correct, and it got him killed. (And this sort of thing does happen to priests, even today, often because a family is unhappy over the bride or groom converting to Catholicism or daring to choose love over dowry money.)

This story seems to have surfaced in the Renaissance, both supporting the new emphasis in Church teaching on marriage as a Sacrament, and probably growing out of the medieval English factoid that birds choose their mates on February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day. (Which in England is about right, even though birds around here don’t start nearly that early.) The legend goes with the St. Marius date of AD 270, and thus is stuck with Claudius II as emperor. He was known for beating back the Goths, so the legend has fun claiming that he forbade single men to marry so that they’d be free to join the army. (Perhaps a satirical take on contemporaries who felt that early marriage ruined a young man’s drive to succeed, and thus favored middle-aged men marrying teenaged girls, despite the obvious problems created by age disparity and unattached young men.) The couple who got married in the legend, Sabinus the centurion and his beloved Serapia, seem to be making a comeback these days.

There’s also a famous Valentine who comes into the legends of Charlemagne; but he and his twin brother Orson were famous knights, not saints.

A lot of people like to connect St. Valentine’s Day to Lupercalia’s fertility festival (except men don’t run through the streets symbolically whipping fertility into young married women), or to “Juno Februata” (except Juno Februtis was all about purification, and Valentines are a medieval invention). Here’s a good page on the Roman festivals in February, and why they saw it as a purification month as well as the barest beginning of spring.

Unfortunately most of the online materials come from the days when people were not being very helpful about the legends. Sigh. Here are some boring articles that helped me crossreference.

Butler’s Lives of the Saints article on St. Valentine. His article on Ss. Marius and Martha.

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica on St. Valentine.

Here’s the Golden Legend‘s article on St. Valentine, which goes with the Emperor Claudius II bit. This was also elaborated to include the saint writing a nice thank you note “From your Valentine” to his jailer’s kind daughter, when the English invented Valentines.

A page explaining the legend of Sabinus and Serapia. Also includes a legend of Valentine roses.

A 2007 essay about the story, by today’s bishop of Terni.

A modern stained glass window from Terni’s Basilica di San Valentino. Relics of St. Valentine in Terni.

Sabino e Serapia as an Italian play, on YouTube.

St. Valentine’s skull versus a plague of mice at Jumieges.


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Mouretsu Pirates #5: Poetry Battle Exchange

Too bad Kirk and Uhura never got to play the poetry reference game….

I think all the poetry references are from the medieval poetry collection Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, as far as I can tell.

“White robes….” = the change from spring to summer, and no more tears. Also, “Surrender!” A nice way to demand surrender, but Captain Doolittle is showing that she’s wide awake and smart, and that they’re stupid old farts.

“You say you’ll love me forever….” I think is a sarcastic comment about how the Lightning II is sad that the high school girls mean to leave so soon, along with more sarcasm about being ooh, so confused. But mostly it’s saying that the schoolgirls are lying and bluffing. It’s a veiled threat.

“….pushes forward….” I think is a poem about a boat traveling over the deeps of love, but don’t quote me on it. I’m not certain about this one; it may even be newly composed for the occasion. Anyway, the girl is saying, “You can’t stop us.”

“Mountain cherries….” is about how the girls are all alone with the Lightning II, and nobody knows its identity or what’s going on. Another veiled threat in the terms of a love poem, but probably also a veiled warning that the girls don’t know what their opponent is about to do next.

These poems have been translated lots of different ways, since they are both brief and involve ambiguous wordplay. I find the Crunchyroll translator’s speedy job amazing.

Linking to Steven Den Beste’s post asking for such an analysis, since I’m not a commenter at his site.

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ConvertCon episode of The Journey Home on EWTN right now

Okay, so it’s “The Coming Home Network’s Deep in History Conference.” But it’s the same weekend as OVFF, and it’s in the same Columbus convention hotel as Ohayocon, so I think we know what we’ve got here!

Hat tip to Joy, who’s feeling better and who inspired this post.

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India and Dickens

India loves English literature, from Wodehouse to the more sober great writers. So here’s a news story about India and Dickens.

I was never a big fan of Dickens, except his funny bits and some of his short stories. But his sprawling novels’ breadth of vision, and his identification with the most vulnerable adults and children, are very relevant to today’s India — and unfortunately to today’s US.

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St. Dorothea and the Swordmaker’s Wife

Today is the old feast of St. Dorothea, one of the most popular of the early virgin martyrs. She died after promising to prove Heaven’s existence to a skeptical friend. And the story says that she sent fruit and flowers from Heaven to him, along with a heavenly odor of roses.

The Little Flower, St. Therese, and many another saint, have been inspired to try to follow her example, and plenty of people know they have done so after death. But she was the first. Respect St. Dorothea’s seniority!

Today is another old feast that’s far more forgotten — the feast of St. Dorothy of Montau. At seventeen, she married a swordmaker named Albrecht of Danzig (today’s Gdansk). Her love healed his hot temper and made him pious, and the middle class couple went on many pilgrimages together. Alas, he died, and so did all but one of their nine children. After their surviving daughter joined the Benedictines, St. Dorothy became a hermit near the cathedral in Marienwerder, where the Teutonic Order hung out. As she lived her austere life of prayer and penance, many people sought her advice. Her confessor wrote her biography in seven volumes, the Septi-Lilium.

After her death, she was locally venerated as not only a saint, but the patron saint of Prussia. She was beatified, but various stuff got in the way of her canonization (Teutonic Knights not being popular, mostly). So she did not finally have the local practices confirmed by canonization until 1976.

With all the shimsham about how medieval women never got biographies, there sure seem to be a lot of medieval women saints with extensive contemporary or immediately post-mortem ones. Not just nuns, either, but family women.

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Salt Pork for Nosebleeds

There’s no home remedy like an obscure home remedy, especially one that stops massive bleeding by a four-year-old girl, and then gets written up in the journals.

The thing that was killing me is that there’s no backstory in the Guardian article. But never fear, the Daily Mail was on the job with details!

Extremely salty stuff that’s a lot like human flesh is probably the key here. Also, the fat may help clotting. But you want to use only cured salt pork, because trichinosis is pretty deadly stuff. (Don’t just slap a chunk of pork chop up your nose, in other words, and probably regular cured bacon or ham won’t do much either.)

U of Minnesota’s nosebleed page includes instructions on how to stuff salt pork up your nose in an effective way. (Scroll down to the very bottom.)

This is particularly interesting to me, because practically all the males in my family on both sides are subject to nosebleeds. (Not life-threatening ones, just annoying ones.)

An old article from Time Magazine in 1940, advocating the same thing.

Via Instapundit.

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Ancient Syrian Cities That Died

Beautiful pictures of Byzantine Syrian cities.

Via American Digest, I think. (Can’t find the link now.)


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I Slept Twelve Hours Today.

Not all at once. I got nine hours in last night (for the first time in ages), and then had a three hour nap in the afternoon. I’m still a bit sleepy.

OTOH, I didn’t have any annoying nightmares the moment I closed my eyes to nap, either. (That was part of how I’ve gotten behind on sleep.)

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“Establishing a Religion, or Prohibiting the Free Exercise Thereof.”

Blogger Marc Barnes lays out the constitutional argument against forcing religious institutions to provide insurance for procedures they find immoral.

More than 150 Catholic bishops and eparchs, and 51 Orthodox bishops, have issued statements decrying the law and explaining the duty of believers to refuse to obey. Leaders of many other non-Christian religions, Christian denominations, and atheists have also spoken up in support of religious exemptions. (Atheists who are smart know that any breach of Constitutional religious rights will hit them too.)

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi says she’s standing with all her fellow Catholics — in supporting the new law. (I guess she’s only counting those Catholics who answer to Pope Sebelius the First in the HHSican.)

SIGN THE PETITION. Protect the Constitution and women’s rights. Men’s rights too. :)

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