Monthly Archives: August 2014

Black People and K-Pop

In many inner cities, there’s a lot of resentment between Korean-Americans and black Americans.

OTOH, there is a decades-old black fanbase for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai martial arts, animation, and musical groups. Black martial arts films and groups like the Wu-Tang Clan are evidence of this.

So although individual black people who are fans of anime, K-drama, and K-pop are not super-common, it is common for there to be such people around – probably about as common as white and Asian fans are among white and Asian people.

So here’s somebody doing a story about it.

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And This Is Why I Don’t Watch the New Doctor Who.

Brickmuppet describes the latest travesty exhibited under the name of a once-good show. It seems that the Doctor now claims to hate all soldiers, refuses to choose them as companions because they are just horrible people, and basically is in favor of leaving people to die. Again.

First off, it’s stupid. The Doctor loves soldiers, sailors, et al, and of course the Brigadier and the UNIT guys were some of his closest human friends. He tangled with their protocols and command priorities, but he never disliked them as people or their profession as a principle. Even in the crappy novels, he had multiple soldiers as Companions, and of course Lt. Harry Sullivan traveled with the Doctor.

Of course, in recent years the Idiots in Charge have done their best to retcon this out of existence: killing most of UNIT, deciding that the UK government had always been running Torchwood to try to kill the Doctor, killing UNIT personnel and replacing them with alien impostors, etc. But it’s still ridiculous. Also treasonous and suicidal, in time of war — and in a time when UK welfare-supported terrorists are slaughtering and raping the innocent, at home and abroad.

I don’t blame the actors. I blame the writers.

Since most of the writers (particularly Paul Cornell) who made the old Doctor Who novel series putrid* also work on the new series, this is not a surprise to anybody. (It also allows you to see the recycling of novel plots in the new series, much of which is also the direct responsibility of Paul Cornell. Of course, when you can persuade Neil Gaiman that it’s a good idea to recycle other people’s old Doctor Who novel plots, and then people give an award to it, I guess you can’t blame it all on Cornell.)

Anyhow, the creepy pogrom-against-the-unworthy thing? It constantly recurs in the new series, but it started very early in the novel series. I can’t remember the exact novel, and apparently it’s not something worthy of being remembered on the fan sites… but there was a pre-9/11 novel where a NY skyscraper was about to be destroyed. The writer opined that the Doctor would not only refuse to rescue a poor immigrant night shift _cleaning woman_ from a NY skyscraper about to be blown up by terrorists – because she hadn’t been proactive enough in fighting corporate crime, that being the natural business of cleaning women who don’t really speak English – but that he would take the time to scold her first, because people need to be scolded as you leave them to die a horrible death.

* Not every novel was putrid and morally offensive, but they usually managed at least 30-50% putrid in any given year. Naturally some of the other novels were stupid or blah, but at least they had good intentions. The remainder would be amazingly good, which would tempt you to go on buying novels even after you learned the score. This was similar to what was going on with Pocket Books Star Trek novels at the time, which went from being about 80% awesome to 10% awesome in the course of a couple years in the 1990’s.


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My New Bede Translation Is Live


On the Valiant Woman (De muliere forti) by the Venerable Bede. Translated by M.S. O’Brien. (That’s me.)

This classic early medieval commentary on Proverbs 31:10-31 is both a Bible study and a call to action in our everyday lives. If Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is His Bride, what can we learn about her from the Valiant Woman, the ideal businesswoman and wife? As part of Christ and His Church, how do we take the initiative is using our talents for other people’s good?

The book includes the respect for women which is typical of Bede’s writing. (For example, he composed his commentary On the Song of Habakkuk for a religious sister, and the obvious affection found in the section of his Ecclesiastical History dedicated to St. Aethelthryth (Audrey) which goes to the point of including a poem about her.)

Only a few years after the pagan English of his region had been converted to Christianity, the Venerable Bede became the greatest Scripture scholar and historian of his day, as well as writing about astronomy, music, mathematics, grammar, theology, poetry, and anything else that needed a textbook and creating Old English translations of various books of the Bible. His works were influential all over Europe, and he is counted as one of the early Church Fathers and a Doctor of the Church.

This book also appears as the final section of De Proverbia Salomonis (On the Proverbs of Solomon), a commentary on the entire Book of Proverbs which has never been translated into English.

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Translating Pop to Shakespeare

Demonstrating that it’s not the idea, it’s what you do with it.

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Sisters Vs. Selling Sex

The Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries, both vowed religious sisters and their associates out in the world, are fighting prostitution in the Philippines by visiting the brothels and the streets.

Here’s a case where it really, really helps to wear habits. They aren’t elaborate, they aren’t expensive-looking, but they do make their mission and identity absolutely clear.

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Post St. Augustine’s Day Post

Actually, I ended up celebrating St. Augustine’s Day by finishing the editing of the bibliography and footnotes for my next translation, St. Bede’s On the Valiant Woman. This is the standalone section (about Prov. 31:10-31) of his Book of Proverbs commentary. It was probably written first, and there were a fair number of manuscript versions of it. The Glossa Ordinaria notes for the Bible at times drew heavily from it, and it was quoted as authoritative by a lot of later guys. It was also a prime source of readings in the old Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours, especially for St. Mary Magdalene’s feast, and for the feasts of holy women who were married.

This was supposed to be an easy little project. It was supposed to come out last year, with only about two weeks’ work. Unfortunately, it turned out that the Hurst critical edition didn’t really dig deep into finding either Scriptural citations or quotes from the Fathers that were being referenced. Obviously it’s a lot easier overall to find those quotes nowadays, what with the magic of search engines; but it’s a lot of work all the same. Also, Hurst found a fair number of Scripture and Fathers quotes that zipped right by me, so I definitely appreciate his work! Both Beatus and Bede throw in some secular Latin quotes from the poets, too. Not super-often, mind you, but a bit more often than past critical editions gave them credit for.

Anyway, Bede’s not nearly as intricate in his quoting as Beatus of Liebana, but it’s still pretty noticeable that he does quote. We know that his own handwritten manuscripts included citations of his quotes in the side margins, and apparently he asked people to copy these. If they had just done as he asked back then, we’d have a lot easier time today!

My basic policy was to look at the interesting phrases and run a search (sometimes but not always including grammatical variants, like versions in different case or number), then record any pre-Bede results as footnotes. If it turned out to be a common Latin idiom or apparently original to Bede, fine. If it looked like a deliberate quote, I wrote it down. I’m sure this sort of search process will eventually be standardized and automated, probably assisted by the sort of “authorial voice” analysis programs that are being worked on now. But even my crude process did produce some pretty decently plausible results! I hope it will help scholars.

So now On the Valiant Woman (including a fair number of St. Augustine quotes) has been uploaded to the KDP Kindle publishing site, and it’s “in review,” getting checked by Amazon ebook distribution folks. With any luck, it’ll be out later today.

Re: pricing, I’m experimenting. Amazon wants me to raise my prices, but I also have the mighty power of running sales. So we’ll see.

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Happy St. Brian’s Day!

Today is the feastday of St. Brian Arrowsmith, martyr. During the horrible persecutions of Queen Elizabeth I, he managed to work among English Catholics for 15 years. When he was finally caught and went to prison, he was unexpectedly released by King James I and expelled from England. So he got his strength back, joined the Jesuits, and returned for five more years’ work before he was caught again and executed.

He’s better known by his Confirmation name, as St. Edmund Arrowsmith. He preferred that name, so normally I’d say “go with it.” But I’ve seen people doubting before whether Brian really was a proper Christian name, so here you go! His parents were Catholics, they gave him a perfectly reasonable Christian name at his Baptism, and now it’s the name of a martyr. Good stuff all around.

Another martyr with roots in the North of England was Blessed Brian Lacey. Betrayed by his own brother, he was tortured and martyred just for encouraging his fellow Catholics and for helping and hiding priests.

Of course, Brian also applies from the martyrs of the clan of the ui Bhriain (O’Brian or O’Brien).


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Boys’ Adventure in Real Life

It began with a paleontologist dad getting the kids out of his hair.

Of course, the next step is for the kids and the curator (or his kid) to overhear some burglars planning to loot the exhibition, and to foil their nefarious plan.

In other boys’ adventure news, four kids strike gold — and obviously there is some kind of ghost or strange destiny involved, if you read all the way to the end of the story!

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The West Coast Is Trying to Kill You

As the California tourist bureaus aren’t anxious for you to know, everybody who goes out to Monterey for the Defense Language Institute gets the “creeping crud,” otherwise known as “Valley fever” (that doesn’t sound scary) or “coccidioidomycosis” (that does sound scary!). It can give you a nasty fungal pneumonia, or in really bad cases, infest your whole body and give you meningitis. Ew!

In fact, Monterey may be the ideal place to catch it, but the fungus is all over the Southwest (especially Arizona), just waiting to get you. I caught it in LA on a brief visit, for example, and it made me sicker than a dog. It took me months and months to get over it, because NOBODY TOLD ME what it was or how bad it could get. Nor am I the only one. The CDC calls it “a silent epidemic.” Earthquakes and construction stir up the soil the fungus lives in, so outbreaks of the disease tend to follow. It travels on the wind. Yay!

Your dog, cat, and many other mammals can also catch the disease (because really, it’s not so much a disease as fungus using you as its Petri dish). There is no vaccine, but there are antifungal drugs you can taken internally (if you know what you have!). A lot of people have it and get over it without any symptoms, though.

Also, the Southwest is full of bubonic plague carried by mice.

Now if that wasn’t bad enough, LA and British Columbia have a new happy little fungus also trying to destroy your lungs and give you fungal meningitis. Unfortunately, it’s a lot better at it. Meet Cryptococcus gattii!

It’s a great life if your immune system doesn’t weaken….

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Tired But Making Progress

My translation of Bede’s commentary On the Valiant Woman has been sitting on my computer, mostly done, since last year. So I spent all of the last couple days and a good part of today cleaning it up, finishing searching for Bible citations and references to the Fathers, making footnote links active in both directions for Amazon’s benefit (it’s now a requirement, with tablets having so much easier a time following in-book links) and creating a cover.

I still have to finish cleaning up the material inside the footnotes to be standard and consistent throughout the book, and getting the bibliography done and looking professional. Ugh. I don’t really mind editing, but I hate realizing I’ve inadvertently made myself a mess. My preferred work mode is to have all the format questions decided ahead of time, so that I can just work.

On the bright side, Amazon does let people upload epubs now, and the results end up looking pretty good. So I won’t have to go converting anything.

Also, I took some time to redo my Beatus cover, and it’s looking much more professional.

New Amazon cover Aug 2014

And here’s my proposed Bede cover.


Please tell me what you think!

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There Is a Balm in Galahad

If you read older sources, the older name for Galahad is “Galaad.” That’s the Latin Vulgate spelling of “Gilead.” Sometimes you see people adding an extra H for their pronunciation convenience, and that probably would be where the H in Galahad came from.

Of course, Gilead probably came in as a Latin/English/Frenchification of his original name, Gwalchavad, which is super-Welsh and would be way too hard to say if you weren’t from Wales or Brittany. Defaulting to a nice Biblical name would have been a good compromise. It may have led to Galahad becoming more saintly of character, too.

Anyway, I’ve known this for a while, but it’s not something obvious or well-known, so I thought I’d throw it up there for the Internet’s sake.


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Sometimes “Pueri” Means Children, But Sometimes “Boys.”

I love reading the Vulgate. Seriously, it is so fun that I imagine reading the Greek must be really, really fun.

So I run smack dab into a familiar reading from John 21:1-14, but it’s in Latin, so I read it a little differently:

“Dixit ergo eis Jesus: ‘Pueri, numquid pulmentarium habetis?'” (Jn. 21:5)

“Therefore, Jesus said to them, ‘Boys, don’t you have any relish?’

Heh. First of all, since the apostles are out fishing nekkid (in the practical ancient Mediterranean way when it was warm enough), it’s pretty clear that you can read it as “boys” or “lads,” not the generic “children.” If you want to, anyway.

Second, it cracks me up. “Any luck, kids? Wanna sell me some fish?” When of course He knows they’ve pulled up nada all night. Hence Jerome using “numquid,” which expects a no. (The Greek has to be less succinct and actually include “not.)

Third, the Greek ancient world felt that bread was your main dish (“opsarion”) for filling your belly, whereas fish was “relish” (“prosphagion”) that you ate as a condiment or improvement to your bread. Greeks thought it was greedy to eat more fish than bread. This comes up a lot in classical Greek stuff, so I guess it makes sense that it continued into later history.

I don’t think it was such a thing with the Romans (or they didn’t care if the Greeks thought they were greedy). Anyway, there was a Gentile city close to the Sea of Galilee and the apostles and Jesus apparently spoke Greek and were influenced somewhat by Greeks, so that’s why Jesus said that. Jerome’s “pulmentarium” is a direct translation of the Greek.

Interestingly to me, cheese and eggs also were regarded as “prosphagion” by the Byzantines, while vegetables didn’t really count as anything, and bread was still opsarion, the main dish. So maybe the fasting from cheese and eggs and fish in the East is really fasting from “relish,” whereas most of the West never thought of protein as optional for meals even when protein was hard to afford. (And there’s a lot less protein in Western grains than in ancient Greek grains, and we don’t have olives to add more protein to beans; so there may be good reason for that.) So that’s probably part of why fasting regulations have been loosened by the bishops of the West for pastoral reasons (although there’s a fair amount of individual loosening by priests in the East for pastoral reasons).

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That’s One Hardcore Apple

Okay, it’s time to lay off the jokes about Apple for at least one week. They have at least one employee who is a bonafide hero.

During the same cowardly attack that killed Major General Harold Greene, an unnamed US reservist wearing body armor jumped in front of a UK colonel who wasn’t wearing any, and then returned fire with both rifle and pistol. Three shots were stopped by his body armor, but he was hit twice in the legs and once in the shoulder.

And yeah, his real job is as a customer service manager for Apple, out in Cupertino on their main “campus,” but he’s done three tours.

UPDATE: The original story about this actually came out August 12, based on the casualty report, and was reported by the Washington Post and other US sources. But I hadn’t seen it before today.

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Our Lady and the Founding of Modern Greece

Here’s another famous story I’ve never heard before!

In the early 1820’s, Greece was trying to break away from the Ottoman Empire and various European powers, and become an independent nation again. (We don’t hear much about this, except Byron’s involvement in the fight.)

In 1821 in Tinos, a gardener started having dreams that Mary wanted him to go dig up an ancient icon of her, which was buried in a local landowner’s field. He dug around a bit and found nothing. Then in 1822, a Greek Orthodox nun named Sister Pelayia (Pelagia) also had dreams, on three consecutive Sundays in July, also asking her to dig up the icon in that same field. Sister Pelayia told her Mother Superior, who told the local bishop, who decided they needed to scale this thing up and dig up the whole field.

So he got together all the people who wanted to participate, and they started digging in September. They found the remains of an old basilica dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, which the Muslims had burned down in the 10th century — but still no icon. Enthusiasm waned. But they got back to it after Christmas, and on January 31, 1823, a guy named Dimitris Vlassis found the icon. (With a pickaxe, by splitting it apart. Luckily it was an Annunciation, and the pickaxe miraculously hit right between the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary looking up from her Bible, thus doing no damage to the actual pictures.)

This page in Greek has pictures of the jewelled icon cover that protects it from the light, and a drawing of what the actual icon looks like underneath. I guess it’s too fragile for photography, as I don’t find anything better. The icon is apparently from early Christian times, and is in a more naturalistic Greek/Roman painting style, instead of in the stylized icon style that developed later. Here’s a page with a picture of an icon of Pelayia holding the icon of the Panagia Evangelistria.

Anyway, the icon was responsible for several healings right on the spot, so people concluded that this was it! A new church was built on the site of the old, and people still travel to it from all over Greece and the world.

The Greeks also took it as a sign of divine approbation of their revolution. The icon is known as the Panayia Evangelistria (All-Holy Lady of the Good News), and under this title, the Virgin Mary is the patron saint of modern Greece. The visionary nun Sister Pelayia is a saint of the Greek Orthodox Church.

But sadly, there’s more!

August the 15th (Feast of the Dormition/Assumption) is one of the four big festivals at Tinos, and many boats and Greek Navy vessels anchor in the harbor. In 1940, an Italian submarine took advantage of this and torpedoed the destroyer Elli without warning, while Greece was neutral. This act brought Greece into the war on the side of the Allies. The bones of the Elli‘s crew are buried in a mausoleum in the basilica’s crypt.

So there you go. It is amazing what we never hear about.

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