Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Stupid, It Burns

I read an article today whose author assumed that all lady schoolteachers who lived together in the early twentieth century did so because they were long-term lesbian lovers.

First off, the obvious. More than one woman in a house meant help with the rent, the grocery bill, and the housework. If they could afford a full-time servant or a part-time cleaning lady, it was also someone to share that expense (and outnumber the servant, if labor relations got tense). It was the same reason that single men who weren’t rich usually shared rooms with a friend or two or three. As the old saying goes, “two can live cheaper than one.”

Women schoolteachers, and women of many other professions and jobs, shared apartments and houses and boarding houses with other women because they were poor, were not living with their families, and wished to reduce the chance of scandal, rape, and murder. A woman living totally alone was a potential target. A woman living with other women had built-in chaperonage. She could discourage the burglar or the over-eager suitor, because she had witnesses around.

Teachers were in a particularly sensitive position, because many schools insisted that all women teachers be single, never married, constantly ladylike (ie, not constantly brandishing pistols and shotguns), and of spotless public character. If they lived alone, they had to guard their honor (and hence, their livelihoods!) from whispers. If they lived with relatives or with other single women, there were witnesses around.

Maiden ladies alone had only their force of character. Maiden ladies in twos or in gaggles could go places and do things with impunity. And they did.

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Why You Don’t Write Books Addressing Popes Emeriti

Because an ex-pope who isn’t dead can reply to your rhetorical “open letter.”

I don’t think he would have felt the need, except for the groundless accusations toward his own handling of the issue of kids who were abused. Since then-Cardinal Ratzinger basically kept going around slapping the Curia and then-Pope John Paul II into dealing with the issue, and even went to the lengths of getting his own CDF put in charge so they could move cases along and get rid of the bad apples, it’s pretty disgusting to blame the man. It’s like telling Lincoln that slavery was all his fault, especially since he didn’t wiggle his nose and make it disappear in 1840.

But Benedict being Benedict, he goes after the debate in his own typical style, picking up his opponent’s points, agreeing with them, admiring them, and then using them as his own points to the contrary.

This always cracks me up, particularly since the atheist guy disses theology as “science fiction” (in a context which seems to be dissing science fiction as well), and our little pope emeritus comes back defending science fiction, including his opponent’s right to his own crazy speculations! Hah!

Anyway, for those of us who’ve heard the debate before and are more interested in the sf part, here’s Benedict’s definition of science fiction and speculative fiction:

“…science fiction in the good sense of the word… views and forecasts in order to reach real understanding, but… imagination with which we try to get closer to reality.”

This is a pretty typical Benedict view — that fiction and art go wide of reality, or overemphasize certain choice bits, in order that those experiencing the art will understand actual reality better.

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There Are Always Heroes

Presenting Mr. Abdul Haji, one of the heroes who saved people in the Kenyan mall massacre.

Typically for heroes, Mr. Haji insists that he just did what any other Kenyan would have done.

I’m trying to find that story about the Royal Marine guy, too.

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What Sukkoth/Sukkot Is a Feast of

Here’s an interesting article on Sukkoth’s connection to the harvest, or rather, to harvest-processing.

Of course, we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6th (thanks to the vagaries of lunar vs. solar calendar), whereas Sukkoth is whenever it comes up in the lunar calendar. But I bet you all remember the bit where Peter offers to build Moses and Elijah and Jesus “booths” on top of the mountain so they can all celebrate the feast together. The booths or tents are where people camped out during the harvest and harvest processing season. Urban people were commanded to build them also, and to remember the people’s nomadic past and the exodus from Egypt too.

Anyway, since “harvest” is one of the big Biblical and Gospel eschatological images, you can see how the Transfiguration ties into it. First Jesus harvests us, then He gets rid of the chaff at the Judgment with the threshing and winnowing, then the good grain is sifted and purified and brought into the barns of eternal life, and then there’s bliss and feasting after the processing is over.

Sukkoth also includes prayers for rain, since the end of harvest processing is the beginning of the rainy season. This ties in with the traditional water games played at the Feast of the Transfiguration, both to cool people off while reminding them of Baptism, and because most of the folks in the Eastern parts of the world are also waiting for rain. But also, since folks in Israel had been praying for it _not_ to rain, and rot the grain before the processing was done and everything safely under cover, it was a ceremonial reversal of what they’d just been doing! 🙂

Here’s a good talk from the “Feasts of Faith” series of talks comparing the great Jewish and Catholic feasts. This one is “Tabernacles: Old Testament Feast and Eucharistic Fulfillment.”

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Good Stuff about Cloaks

Good stuff about cloaks from the guy who does weapons talks.

A lot of people believe the anti-cloak propaganda of Diana Wynne Jones’ Tough Guide to Fantasy. No, cloaks are good. For some purposes, they’re better than coats; for other purposes, they’re less good but still useful. (But yes, rolling up in only your cloak isn’t advisable; you’ll want at least another blanket beside your cloak, and a ground sheet.)

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The Chronicle of Melusine (Middle English translation)

Now here’s a really popular romance of the Middle Ages: Melusine of Lusignan, as told by Jean d’Arras and company.

Melusine is normally drawn with a fish tail or tails. (In fact, the German woodcut that Starbucks first used for their trademark was not a mermaid but a melusine, as you can tell by the lack of mirror and the twin tails.) But in the actual legend, she had a lower half that was a snake (or dragon!) on Saturdays.

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Dragonfighting Saints of France

This page has a good list of “sauroctones,” or dragonslayers, of French legend and hagiography:

Saints Agricol (Avignon), Amand (Tournay), AndrĂ© (Villiers-sur-Loir), Aredins (Gap), Armel (PloĂ«rmel), Armentaire (Draguignan), Arnel (Vannes), Avit (Dordogne), Bertrand (Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges), BienheurĂ© (VendĂ´me), ClĂ©ment (Metz), Derrien et Neventer (Landerneau), Donat (Sisteron), DiĂ© (Saint-DiĂ©), DyĂ© (Saint-DyĂ©-sur-Loire), Efflam (Plestin-les-Grèves), Florent (Anjou), Front (Lalinde), Georges (Velay), Germain d’Auxerre, Germain d’Ecosse (Flamanville), Hilaire (Poitiers), Jacques (Aix-en-Provence), Jean AbbĂ© (Tonnerre), Jouin (vallĂ©e de la Dive, dans les Deux-Sèvres), Julien (Maine et vallĂ©e du Loir), Liphard (Meung-sur-Loire), Loup (Troyes), Marcel (Paris), Martial (Bordeaux), Martin de Vertou, Mauront (Saint-Florent-le-Vieil), MĂ©en (vallĂ©e de la Loire), Mesmin (aval d’OrlĂ©ans), Neventer et Derrien (Landerneau), Nicaise (Rouen), Nicaize (Moret-sur-Loing), Ortaire (Normandie), Paul (Lyon), Pavace (Maine), Pol-AurĂ©lien (Ă®le de Batz), Quiriace (Provins), Romain (Rouen), Samson (estuaire de la Seine), Saturnin (Bernay), Saulve (Montreuil-sur-Mer), Tugdual (environs de TrĂ©guier), VĂ©ran (Fontaine-de-Vaucluse), Victor (Marseille), Vigor (Bayeux), ainsi que saintes Marthe (Tarascon) et Radegonde (Poitiers).

Plenty of laypeople were non-saintly dragonslayers too, of course. Generally they were either noble knights or condemned prisoners fighting for life, but there were also clever peasants.

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