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Some Authors Should Not Read Their Own Audiobooks

I checked out an audiobook from my local library: Lafayette and the Somewhat United States, by one Sarah Vowell.

She allegedly works for radio.

She does not have a voice for radio.

I make allowances for the Northern Cities dialect, as heard by someone like myself, who speaks Midlands and hears a lot of Southern accents. I really do make allowances. There are plenty of people who are from New York or Chicago or Milwaukee who use their accent and vocal qualities pleasantly.

So trust me when I say that this woman has the whiniest, most annoying voice I have ever heard. When she’s not whining, she sounds flat, but in a whiny way.

Her voice also has that weird little girl quality, which can be a handicap to a middle-aged woman. Most people I’ve met who have that vocal quality strive to have a pleasant and perky personality.  This person is trying to sound snarky and funny. Unfortunately, she sounds like a Halloween movie about evil dolls.

The audiobook publishers really did their best. They had actors read all the quotes. They’ve got a yummy French voice for Lafayette, a Southern voice for Jefferson, etc. But the other actors are so good, or at least so reasonably pleasant, that they make Miss Whiny sound even worse.

Listen to a voice sample on Audible. (This section is actually not as bad as the beginning chapter, to which I briefly subjected myself.)

I can listen to some pretty crappy narrators. Material and storytelling ability can overcome vocal problems or awkwardness.

What makes this audiobook so special is that she calls the Fathers of Our Country “terrorists.”

In the first paragraph or so. And she is proud enough to do it in her own whiny voice. Ugggggh.

On the dark side, my taxpayer money paid for this piece of library audiobook crap. But on the bright side, it was on Overdrive; so the county library system is only renting the crap temporarily. Someday, it will be gone!

There’s a better, recent biography out there: The Marquis, by Laura Auricchio.



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Ornery Saints Vs. Ornery Popes

If you read a lot of Church history, you notice that popes were usually respected by the saints, and their maintenance of good doctrine was praised to the skies. But on temporal matters, or at times when good doctrine was in danger?

Well, let’s just say that a lot of saints quoted St. Paul, and “withstood Peter to his face.”

One of the more unusual examples of an ornery saint was St. Clare of Assisi. Sweet, gentle, kindly, and a big pope fan. When Princess Agnes of Bohemia wanted to join the Poor Clares and live their rule, the deceased St. Francis’ old friend Cardinal Ugolino had become Pope Gregory IX, and he was a friend of St. Clare, too.  So the princess consulted the pope… who told her to become a Benedictine instead.

St. Clare wrote a very nice, very pretty, very heartfelt letter to Princess Agnes… telling her not to let anyone stand in the way of her vocation to the Franciscan life. Anyone. And if you need advice from a guy, write Brother Elias — who was then the head of the Franciscan order — and obey him.

Clare never explicitly says, “Don’t obey the pope in this, because it’s none of his business,” but that was the strongly implied gist. (And heck, St. Clare had already disobeyed her parents and her entire family when they overreached their authority over her.)

Medieval Catholics had a very strong sense of obedience to superiors, as far as their right to command extended. But right after that point, they had no hesitation telling their superiors where to go.

Now, there are a lot of saints out there who did obey their superiors on matters that weren’t their superiors’ business. But it was their choice to obey, as a form of ascetic mortification. And usually it was the superiors who were being taught and tried by it.

In all times that the popes have lived in Rome, the Roman people have regarded it as their special task to let the popes know if they are messing up. Their attitude is reverential in regards to papal liturgies and processions, but they have always reserved the right to talk about the popes however they feel like, and to talk to them with great freedom, including anonymous nasty poems and drawings, and even the odd riot. He is their bishop, after all, and they know they should be able to talk freely to their spiritual father, no matter how much drama it takes.

Many of the popes have not particularly appreciated this. But Pope John Paul II acknowledged it in a sidelong way, when he ostensibly asked for them to correct his dialectal grammar, but actually talked about them correcting him. But then, he was too savvy to fight against the sensus fidelium of his own local flock.

Which brings us to the recent correctio filialis. Of course priests and bishops have a right to correct Pope Francis, or to ask for him to clarify his words and stop confusing the world on doctrinal matters. They don’t have fewer rights than laypeople on this subject.

In modern life, obeying and supporting the pope in general is still very important. But if the pope is being unfair or not doing a good job, it is — and always has been — the right and duty of good Catholics to let him know.


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James Cameron Vs. Patty Jenkins

Apparently there is a Hollywood hissyfit in progress.

James Cameron claimed that the Wonder Woman movie didn’t represent a step forward in the portrayal of heroines, because she was just a beautiful “sex object” wreaking havoc. He then claimed that actually, his Terminator movies were much more of a step forward in the portrayal of women.

Patty Jenkins fired back some stuff about how moody women aren’t more feminist than cheerful ones, and that boys just don’t understand Wonder Woman. She then opined that only women can judge women’s progress. Which was amusing but also pretty stupid. If you’re going to champion the right of women to have every kind of role, surely that means that both sexes of movie viewers have the right to judge said movie roles, if they feel like it.

The problem with Cameron’s self-admiration is that Linda Hamilton in the Terminator movies was essentially playing a noir woman in jeopardy, albeit one with a gun. Long before the Terminator movies, there were plenty of noir, martial arts, and blacksploitation flicks showing women in jeopardy, as well as women fighting back. And of course Linda Hamilton was at least as much of a “sex object” as Gail Gadot. It’s just that Cameron obviously has a thing for girls with guns (which is why he tried so long to make a Battle Angel Alita or Ghost in the Shell movie, and why he made the Dark Angel TV series that merrily ripped off an entire anime subgenre).

Not really caring about this.

That said, both Cameron and the Wonder Woman director, Patty Jenkins, would have done better to point out that their heroines are both part of a very long tradition of worldwide moviemaking. Spunky heroines are not anything newfangled, in either one’s preferred format.


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Intermittent Internet Leads to Intermittent Posting

My internet connectivity has been fixed. I am hoping that I can maintain a posting schedule, too!


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Bad Euphemisms: “Deaf Friendly”

“Deaf friendly” is apparently the new way of saying “I know American Sign Language.”

But instead of people having a little sign that says “ASL Understood Here” or “I Know ASL,” they are being denoted as “Deaf Friendly.”

Which sounds like, “Most people hate and fear deaf people, but I am friendly to them.” Yeaaaah.

I suppose that the inventors of this euphemism are trying to make an analogy to “user friendly.” Unfortunately, this implies that ASL translators are machines, not people, and that their skill is best demonstrated by robotic obedience.

Euphemisms. Nothing “eu-” about them.

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Fair Pay Is Not Usury.

Apparently some segments of the Catholic blogosphere are worrying about usuria again. The same people who understand that the Bible teaches that the laborer is worthy of his pay, and that the Valiant Woman has textile and real estate businesses on the side, do not understand that it also teaches (on the side) that investment and earning interest is better than burying your money in the ground.

A laborer’s time and work (and risk of injury or other problems) is paid back with money. In undeveloped countries, he is often paid per piece of work: so many widgets or so many bales, for so much money. But this does not adequately compensate the worker for his time or insulate him against risks that would prevent him from doing as many pieces as he would like. This is why wages are usually paid per hour, or why salaries are paid per year.

The owner of a rental object or real estate is paid back with money for the time of the rental. Usually any damages must also be paid by the renter. This is fair, because the owner cannot use the car or the house while the renter is using it. (The owner also risks the destruction of his property. Even getting a replacement isn’t as good as keeping the original and not having the stress.)

An investor’s time and money (and risk of getting nothing) is paid back with money. (If he makes anything.)

A lender’s time and money and risk is also paid back with money. (Hopefully.)

If I lend money to Bob, and Bob does his business and gives back every penny to me in the next ten seconds, obviously I have not lost any opportunities to do other stuff with my money. (Unless I missed a really sweet stock market deal that was only open for ten seconds.)

But if I lend money to Bob for a year, I cannot spend or invest or lend that particular bunch of money to anybody else… for a whole year.

If he just pays me back the exact amount of money I lent him, I have not been compensated for that year. If Bob is my brother or son, then maybe we have enough of a gift economy going that I can give him a year as a gift. But if we are doing business, and I’m not giving out interest-free years as a loss leader to attract buyers… then Bob needs to pay me for renting my money for a year, just like he would pay me for renting a house for a year.

We cannot pay back in kind for time or opportunity, because humans are not God. Therefore, we pay rent and pay interest.

Fair interest rates are fair payment for time and risk.

Unfair interest rates are loan sharking.

In a gift economy, interest is irrelevant because it all evens out. In an undeveloped economy, it is not fair to expect that people will be able to pay much interest. So even low rates of interest could constitute loan sharking, or usuria.

But in a developed economy, interest rates are just fair pay for fair work.


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Tolkien on the Heresy of Soulmates

I have a lot of favorite blogs that I don’t read every day, but that I tend to explore every month or two. Video Meliora is one of them. I should read him more often, especially since he’s an Ohio blogger and thus has a lot of relevance to my immediate concerns. But I’m a slacker by nature, so I get my fun in widely separated doses.

Anyway, he pointed out a Time magazine essay that included some thought-provoking quotes from Tolkien.

“Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgment concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably to have married,” Tolkien wrote. “Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates.”

Tolkien blamed our “soul mates” obsession on the Romantic chivalric tradition: “Its weakness is, of course, that it began as an artificial courtly game, a way of enjoying love for its own sake. . . . It takes, or at any rate has in the past taken, the young man’s eye off women as they are” — that is, “companions in shipwreck not guiding stars.”

Our old notion of soul mates is not helpful. “The ‘real soul-mate,’” Tolkien wrote, “is the one you are actually married to.”

The desert monks used to teach that anybody you happen to be living around or working with is someone God has sent to you. Okay, sometimes as a penance… but sometimes to learn from, to teach, to pray alongside. Married people obviously have a pretty serious connection. Even if the initial connection was a mistake, people shouldn’t waste time looking for a redo. They should make things better where they are. (Unless you’re actually in a situation of danger, of course.)

We fans tend to get caught up in the romance of young John and Edith Tolkien’s persistence against the odds, and of course the whole Luthien and Beren motif. But we forget that there was a lot of nitty-gritty living between them, for years and years after they were young. Romance only counts if you do something lasting with it — and they did.

There is a lot of sense in the idea of a joint sainthood cause for John and Edith, and this is why. There are a lot of saints who became great individually; but usually people come from families of saints and communities of saints. Mother Teresa learned almsgiving out of poverty at her impoverished widowed mother’s side, not in India.

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