Friday, February 29, 2008
Hasmoneans! I can't remember my Hasmoneans!
New Complete Works of Josephus, translated by William Whiston and edited by Paul L. Maier. Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids): 1999. ISBN: 0-8254-2924-2. 1142 pages. $24.99.
Well, here we are. Because of Leap Year, I actually have one more day to read than I had calculated. This might save my bacon.
We are now a little over halfway through Lent, and so, appropriately, I am now a little over halfway through Josephus. Not yet out of the Antiquities, I should have gotten through the death of Herod the Great (Book 17, Chapter 8) by the time my head hits the pillow tonight.
Much study does indeed weary the body. The push to get through this volume is beginning to wear on me, but it wouldn't be a challenge if I didn't pick a formidable work, would it?
It was tough getting through the Hasmonean Dynasty. Somewhere around Book 12, Josephus's major source is 1 Maccabees. As a work of history, 1 Maccabees is probably one of the best in the Bible, but it is also one of the driest and densest books in the Bible. Josephus's work keeps going in this vein after 1 Maccabees is finished. There are too many wars and rumors of wars, and too many people named John, Jonathan, Alexander, and Ptolemy. I can't keep it all straight.
Things get interesting again when we get to the Herods. In partcular, Josephus spends a good long time with the life of Herod the Great. The Herods were the ultimate dysfunctional family. The tree of this family didn't fork much, if you know what I mean, and they spent most of their time trying to assassinate each other. Herod the Great's favorite pastime was torturing people he suspected of plotting against him; after a long life, he eventually died in a hideous manner, the medical explanation of which is still open to some debate. Intestinal blockage is the only explanation I remember off-hand.
For our purposes, one of the most interesting stories of Herod the Great related in Josephus involves the tomb of Kings David and Solomon. According to Josephus, these two monarchs of the United Kingdom had a large and richly decorated sepulcher in Jerusalem. A certain Hasmonean, Hyrcanus, had previously opened the tomb and retrieved money in a time of need. Herod later despoiled the tomb himself; after entering it, he took out the lavish furniture he found there, but, upon an attempt to proceed further into the tomb and find the very bodies of David and Solomon, "two of his guards were killed, by a flame that burst out upon those that went in, as the report was" (Ant. 16.7.1 [16.182]).
What do we learn from this? Probably very little, as it is unlikely that such a rich tomb would have survived intact from the time of David until the first century, so whatever tomb was there probably wasn't really David and Solomon's. Also, this story in general appears fantastic and is likely only legendary.
Nonetheless, what we do learn from this is that ancient tombs full of rich treasures do indeed have booby traps, just as you have seen in the movies. Also, we learn that it is always the expendable workmen who fall prey to these booby traps and not the principal hero.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
This is the summer movie I'm looking forward to.
Okay, the first one was a disappointment, but still...
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
There are many things that annoy us about science fiction: godlike beings, lazy time-travel paradoxes, actions that don't have consequences... but luckily, there's one thing that epitomizes all of them: the reset button. Whenever the unthinkable happens, you can be pretty sure science fiction will unthink it. Click through for the many evils of the reset button. [more...]
Actually, I like the original series, but the spin-offs suck bad. I see that one commenter on io9 is of the same opinion as myself: "Star Trek has sucked since they started having star ships with carpeting." Yeah, whose dumb idea was that? Spaceships should have exposed bulkheads and pipes and slime dripping off the walls.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
...And I honestly can't say I'm looking forward to his return. I anticipate that this will be yet another example of how unlimited money and modern special effects can ruin an adventure film, courtesy of George Lucas.
Of course, that's not to say I won't be there. I've already oiled up my jacket and brushed off my hat.
On another note, I am unorthodox in my Indy fanboydom. I hold the obviously correct opinion that Temple of Doom is the best of the original trilogy. To those who believe The Last Crusade is best just because it has Sean Connery in it, let me refute you with the following things:
Short Round, mine cart chase, heart getting ripped out, weird chanting, rope bridge, three central characters named after dogs, PG-13 rating, monkey brains, lowering ceiling with spikes in it, volcano, human sacrifice involving a volcano, and (for the ladies) Harrison ford sans shirt. That ought to convince you.
Sigh. Yes, I'll be there for the new one. In costume. Probably at midnight. Maybe if I close my eyes and pretend it's entitled The Mummy Returns Yet Again, I can enjoy it....
Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Acronyms are by their very nature exclusive; they exclude everyone who doesn't know (or can't remember) what they stand for. There are two groups of people in particular who use acronyms to excess, and they are unfortunately the two groups in which I most often find myself: fanboys and Catholics.
Fanboys are by nature an exclusive group, so their use of acronyms is to some degree justifiable. Nonetheless, when in an Internet discussion forum, I always feel a little out of touch because, while everyone else is glibly tossing around LOTR or ToD, I'm sitting there struggling to remember that those stand for Lord of the Rings and Temple of Doom, respectively. That's why, on this blog, I try always to spell out movie and book titles and then shorten them only in non-acronym sorts of ways. I am, however, guilty of using sf (always lowercase and without periods) as a substitute for science fiction. This acronym is the standard one, appearing as it does in the fanboy magazine Locus. But from now on, I will try to spell it out first whenever I use it, or maybe I just won't use it at all: as Strong Bad would put it, I totally have time to say all the syllables.
Unlike fanboydom, Catholicism is not supposed to be an exclusive group. I realize that theology requires some specialized language that won't be readily accessible to the uninitiated, but do we have to make things worse by using acronyms? All the RCIA and CCD around here is about to drive me nuts.
Particularly irritating, whenever I see a priest's name in print, it is almost always followed by an obscure, indecipherable acronym, as in "Fr. Peter B. Phlogistion, M.O.B." or "Fr. Horatio K. Flaggelate, L.M.A.O." I have asked around, and so far it seems that absolutely nobody has a clue what those stand for. Sometimes, people like to put their degrees after their names, as in M.A. or M.Diddly,* but I have never heard of an F.O.B. degree.
Speaking of which, how many non-Catholics even know that Fr. stands for Father? In C. S. (Clive Staples) Lewis's Screwtape Letters, the only named human character is a certain Fr. Spike,** an Anglican priest. When I first encountered that book as a middle school Baptist boy, I kept reading the name as "Friar Spike." I had no idea what Fr. stood for.
I couldn't even escape the acronyms if I went into schism, since our schismatics like to call themselves SSPX. I have never seen what that stands for*** because everyone who uses it assumes this incredibly obscure acronym is commonly known. They forget that, in any document, the phrase or title represented by an acronym is always to be written out the first time the acronym appears because somebody somewhere has never seen it before. Like me.
Aargh! My distaste for acronyms knows no bounds. Perhaps I should pray to the BVM to help me overcome my anger.
*From now on, I expect everyone who comments on this blog to address me as Mister Douglas Graham Damasus Davidson, M.A. Well, not really, but you can mark this as the historic moment in which I finally revealed my full name. Damasus, incidentally, is my confirmation name and the patron saint of archaeologists. Actually, commenters can call me anything they want as long as it is not the legendary Late For Dinner.
**Would anyone else be intimidated if he went to the confessional and saw the name "Fr. Spike" on the door?
***Supercilious Specialized Punk Xylophone being my best guess.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
With thy mighty arm destroy the army of aliens which now besetteth us, O Mistress, as the army of Sennecherib was destroyed.
Also, Simon Owens of the interestingly named Bloggasm has noticed our post on free online books. He has a more extensive article on why Tor is offering free books and what that might mean for online publishing.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Reading freaky e-mail so you don't have to.
When you post your e-mail address on the Internet for everyone to see, you never know what you'll get. Or rather, you know exactly what you'll get: you'll get messages promising free pharmeceuticals, secret techniques to improve your manhood, or millions and millions of dollars if you just release private account info. Sometimes, every rare once in a while, I even get legitimate e-mail from readers.
But then come those rare, delectible moments when somebody sends me something weird enough I get to make fun of it. This too is spam, but it's a special kind of spam.
So here it is, once again with my own snide comments inserted in brackets:
Learn to communicate with the Creator Father GOD, as [name removed] learned from his Jnana Yogi Guru over 10 years ago and has used the technique every since.
[Man, everything takes a technique these days. Remember the good old days when you could just kind of look upward and, you know, talk?]
How many times have you wondered what GOD would say about any given situation or happening? [I've frequently wondered what he would say about Crummy Church Signs.] How many times have you thought, “Why does GOD allow that to happen?” [Twice.] Or is GOD aware of me and what does HE think of me? [Once.] Or “Will HE let me go to heaven even though I have sinned?” [Three and a half.] There are so many things to ask and get answers for. Have these things crossed your mind?
[Now I wonder what God thinks of seeing his moniker in all caps. Is GOD in this e-mail standing in for the tetragrammaton or what?]
[Name removed] says, “I personally wanted many things answered in my life. I started my spiritual journey over 40 years ago and I never felt sure of the answers I was getting from Organized Religion. [That's why I practice disorganized, chaotic religion: you know, love your neighbor this week, shank him twixt the ribs the next--it's all up in the air!] I went along with it [which?] because I didn’t know any better and didn’t know where to go for the correct answers. Since I opened my mind to answers and asked GOD to show me the way, knowledge has flowed to me ever since and that was 40 years ago.”
[I don't trust organized religion. I much prefer whatever pops into my head!]
“In my desire to be an instrument of GOD and server mankind [somebody clearly needs to read "To Serve Man"], HE has blessed me with the ability to communicate directly HIM whenever I need to make an important decision. The more faith and confidence I have in the answers HE gives me the better I prosper as his instrument.”
[Gee, this sounds a lot like something I heard from an organized religion recently...except maybe for the "prosper" part, depending on what he means by that. I too have the ability to "communicate directly HIM" and I don't need any weird gimmicks; he doesn't even criticize my grammar.]
“The ability to communicate with GOD to me is priceless. [You're going to ask for money, aren't you?] The experience of helping beings to understand what life is really about makes my spirit complete. [The experience of creating a horcrux tears my spirit in half (sorry, had to).] Love, Truth, Peace, Non-Violence and Right Action is what brings mankind closer to GOD. [Yeah, you certainly won't here that from an organized religion...oh, wait.] I’m not asking you to join a religion or to change your way of worship [then what the heck do you want?], as long as they teach the above five basic teaching of the Creator Father GOD. [I see you listed truth in there; do you expect every organized religion, no matter its doctrine, to be capable of teaching that?] These are also the same teaching of the spiritual being that GOD sent to us in the past and that we find ourselves worshiping today.”
[I woke up this morning and, much to my surprise, found myself worshiping a spiritual being! Is he talking about Jesus? If so, why doesn't he come out and say it?]
“I try to live life without burning desires, but if I had one, it would be that all politicians and clergy would learn to communicate with GOD as I have. [This one is making my head spin. If he has no burning desires, how can he have a burning desire for...no, I give up.] I the meantime while you are learning to use the communication technique that I will teach you, you can ask GOD a question through me and I will pass along the answer to you that HE gives me or that I know from experience He will answer.”
[Mark that last sentence as the place where the e-mail took a turn for the creepy. The more I read, the more this sounds like an organized religion. Indeed, it sounds like the supremely organized religion, the sort popularly known as a "cult"*--the sort of do-everything-this-one-guy-says-or-else kind of religion.]
“There is so much more that I can teach you if you have the desire to know. I will give you the information on how to learn more and I will send you my CD or email the information you need to communicate with GOD. All I ask [here's the zinger] is that you send to my non-denominational non-profit organization, a love-faith offering to help cover the expense of mailing my cd to you.” The name of the organization is: Universal Service Dedicated to GOD. Send your name, address, and email address to: [information deleted]
Well, he's certainly not alone in claiming a unique ability to communicate with God. I saw an ad sometime back from someone who claimed he uncovered the original Urim and Thummin while kicking around Israel, and that you could pay him money for answers from God. Personally, I'd send money to him first--Urim and Thummin are way cooler than some yogic technique: according to the Dead Sea Scrolls, they were magic stones that lit on fire. Until you can beat that, Yogi, you won't be getting any love-faith offering out of me. Besides, I suspect you'll just use the money for the overhead costs of sending spam e-mails.
According to organized religion, or at least according to mine, absolutely anyone can talk to God with no secret technique and no fee. You can't beat that with a stick.
*I have to apologize to the Deej for my use of cult. He has before insisted that the word should only be used as a value-neutral term referring to a formal religious ritual or system, whereas those religions popularly called cults are better termed "new religious movements," but my use is justified by the dictionary, so there.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
More Josephus than you can shake a stick at.
New Complete Works of Josephus, translated by William Whiston and edited by Paul L. Maier. Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids): 1999. ISBN: 0-8254-2924-2. 1142 pages. $24.99.
In my copy of Josephus, I have just this morning completed Book 10, Chapter 7 of Jewish Antiquities, which falls on page 344, putting me slightly behind for our Lenten Read-a-Thon due to a flurry of writing I was engaged in over the last few days. I now must play catch-up.
So far in the Antiquities, Josephus has been using mostly biblical texts as his sources, but has drawn a few embellishments from other places, particularly Herodotus's History. Some embellishments are, as far as I know, of unknown origin. One of my favorites is in the story of King Uzziah. In the biblical text of 2 Chronicles 26, Uzziah goes into the Temple to burn incense and is stricken with leprosy for his presumption. The same story in Antiquities 9.10, however, is more dramatic: when Uzziah enters the Temple, an earthquake cracks the Temple's roof and sunlight shines through, striking Uzziah in the face and causing the leprosy. William Whiston mentions in a footnote that Zechariah 14.4-5 refers to an "earthquake in the days of Uzziah." It's likely that passage gave rise to the version of the story we find in Josephus.
Sometimes, Josephus alters details, probably because he would find them embarrassing if they were known to a gentile readership. One of these I most readily noticed was in the story of Samson. In Judges 14.5-9, Samson kills a lion and, upon returning to the carcass later, finds a beehive inside it. He eats some of the honey from the hive and also gives some to his parents without telling them where he got it. Josephus, apparently realizing that eating from an animal's torn carcass violates Jewish law, says instead that Samson only gave the honey to his Philistine wife and her relatives (Antiquities 5.8.5-6 [5.287-289]).
This incident with the lion and the honey gives rise to one of my favorites of Samson's exploits: in revenge for an insult from the Philistines, he captures 300 foxes, ties torches to their tails, and releases them in the Philistines' fields. I'm sure every energetic young boy has dreamed of doing something similar.
And that passage always reminds me of one of the odder verses in the Song of Songs, "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes" (2.15). In his commentary in The HarperCollins Study Bible, Michael V. Fox suggests "foxes may be a metaphor for lusty youths, vineyards for nubile girls," and I suppose that's as good an explanation as any.
And the Song of Songs puts me in mind of an embarrassing incident that occurred a few years back when I was still a catechumen. I was hangin' with my Catholic homies when one of them came up to me and said, completely serious and apparently much shocked, "Did you know there's erotic poetry in the Bible?" How do you answer a question like that? I considered replying, "I've annotated mine," but eventually I just said, "Uh, yeah." When commentators note that Americans today are quite interested in religion but at the same time religiously ignorant, they ain't kiddin'.
Speaking of religious ignorance, the book description for the above-cited HarperCollins Study Bible claims that the revised edition of this Bible includes an essay on the "literary history of the Pentateuch (those books between the Old and New Testament that Catholics include in their Bible)." Man, if the editors of a study Bible don't know the difference between the Pentateuch and the Deuterocanon, I definitely don't want their Bible.
Speaking of the Bible, I notice Josephus has a habit of taking certain independent books and sticking them into the course of his narrative where he feels they belong. So, for example, the story of Jonah is inserted into the history of the Kings and the story of Ruth is inserted into the history of the Judges. Speaking of Ruth, an old acquaintance of mine who is author of an obscure little book entitled Notes from the Margins of an Old Preacher's Bible refers to Naomi as "the picture of a backslider" (p. 15), which I don't think is very nice. But also speaking of Ruth, you know who Ruth reminds me of? Kyoko Otonashi from Maison Ikkoku. But now I'm getting out of line.
Who else is reading? Where you at?
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Photo by Dazzie D
LUNAR ECLIPSE TONIGHT
As reported by Joe Rao with MSNBC, a total lunar eclipse tonight should be visible in North America and in several other places.
Lunar eclipses are important events. Aristotle used the shape of the Earth's shadow on the moon to argue that the Earth is round.
According to Max Frisch in his novel Homo Faber, the lunar eclipse is also a sign that you're going to be severely punished by the powers that be for sleeping with your own daughter, you weirdo.
According to the above cited article, the eclipse begins at 7:01 PM Mountain Time. Adjust accordingly. Those of you on the west coast may miss part of the show. Hawaiians will miss it entirely.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Regular readers know I'm off fiction for now, so I can do little besides introduce this month's blog tour, which is the novel The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley.
The book's website is here.
The author's blog is here.
Your blog tour is here:
Carol Bruce Collett
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Heather R. Hunt
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika or Mir's Here
John W. Otte
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Clearly, His Holiness reads The Sci Fi Catholic.
Orson Scott Card says sf writers will receive only ire and detestation if they plug themselves for awards, and so even though self-promotion is more acceptable in the blogosphere, I will adhere to Card's advice and refrain from saying anything about the Catholic Blog Awards beyond this: I encourage you to go to the website, linked here, and nominate whatever Catholic blogs you like.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
You may notice on our sidebar a link to science fiction texts at Project Gutenberg, which collects public domain and Creative Commons-licensed texts on the Internet. In particular, I notice they have a link to Nick Mamatas's Move Under Ground. I strongly suggest you stop reading this post and start reading that novel, seeing as how it is much better written and has the potential capability of, like, totally blowing your mind.
Cory Doctorow makes his books available on the Internet and writes in Forbes that he believes it paradoxically causes them to sell better. Doctorow also notes that science fiction is more frequently copied illegally than any other form of literature and argues that anyone well-known enough to be ripped off is probably doing alright in sales and marketing. Snuffles, who is sitting across the room, has just pointed out that, back when anime was more obscure in the U.S., fans got the word out largely by ripping off their favorite shows and movies and passing them around.
Recently, the publishers Tor and HarperCollins have announced that many of the books they sell will be publicly available on the Internet. Tor appears to be doing this in a limited fashion and demands that people who get free books also get Tor's newsletter, as reported in FantasyBookSpot. Tor's website for the free book sign-up is here.
The Huffington Post has reported that HarperCollins, too, is making books available free online in the hopes that it will encourage people to buy those books. A visit to the HarperCollins website reveals that it's true. Doesn't look as though they're demanding newsletter subscriptions, either.
So what's the point of making books available online? Well, in the case of public domain texts, the copyrights have run out and the books are fair game, but as for the others, the publishers and writers are guessing--and Doctorow suggests they're guessing correctly--that many or most people would still rather read a book on paper than on a screen, so after seeing a chapter or two of a novel they might like, they're likely to buy the physical book.
Update: Jeff Miller of The Curt Jester has just pointed me to the Baen Free Library, which has plenty of Baen titles to choose from.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
It is indeed paradoxical that Western spirituality in the twentieth century has been so influenced--indeed, awakened--by a man [Nietzsche] who declared the death of God and who defined himself as the Antichrist. Yet, Nietzsche's "hammer" of questions has been taken up time and again in the modern age by spiritual seekers who felt their paths were blocked by the walls of convention and dogma, and who have felt compelled to initiate unconventional acts of personal salvation out of a yearning for new nectar to satiate a very old thirst.
When we survey the spiritual landscape of the Western world a century later we find that there is wide interest in a movement that has its origins among these late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Nietzschean currents. This is the international movement centered on the transcendental ideas and the idealized personality of Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), the Swiss psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and founder of the school of analytical psychology. Jung is best known today as Sigmund Freud's ungrateful disciple, breaking with his master in 1913 to go his own way and establish his own movement. The legend is additionally framed in the context of Jung's advocacy of the essential spiritual nature of human beings over the narrow, sexual view of Freud, who was by his own admission "a godless Jew." Those who read Jung and participate in the activities of the Jungian movement are often individuals seeking to increase their own sense of "spirituality."
Speaking of movies and Valentines, the critics have given a nice Valentine to The Spiderwick Chronicles. After a long string of miserable fantasy films for kids, it's nice to know that a good one has been released.
On the other hand, the critics turned up their noses at Jumper, which disappoints me; I had been looking forward to that one, even though I'm pretty sure a Nickelodeon special back in the early nineties had an identical premise.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
First on today's list of silly news stories is a new line of Jesus-themed cosmetics, "Lookin' Good for Jesus," which has been removed from stores in Singapore after Catholics complained, according to National Nine News.
Catholic customers have complained about the packaging and marketing of the products, saying it trivialised Christianity and was disrespectful.
The products, which are still available on the company's website, encourage you to "get tight with Christ", and include "Virtuous vanilla" lip balm, and bubble bath that makes "you feel like you're walking on water". [more...]
The products are just as sacrilegious, but not nearly as hilarious, as Jesus' advertisement for Budweiser.
SCIENCE FICTION RESOURCES ONLINE
Shocking news flash: science fiction resources are available on the Internet. You can read about it and see some of Ronald Hawkins's favorite sf websites at Reporter-Times.com.
CHRISTIANITY TODAY'S LIST OF "MOST REDEEMING" FILMS OF 2007
I'm unsure what it means for a film to be "redeeming"; perhaps a redeeming film is one that offers grace. Is attending a redeeming film therefore a sacrament? I'm confused.
(Yes, I know they explain it at Christianity Today, but I'm trying to be funny.)
At any rate, James Pawlak of Crusader Knight has kindly passed on a link to the blog Marquette Warrior, which has posted Christianity Today's link of most redeeming 2007 movies. Juno made number 3 and Into the Wild make number 6. No one here has seen any of the others.
ARCHBISHOP JOSE GOMEZ OPPOSES CLINTON RALLY AT CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY
Michelle Roberts with the Associated Press writes:
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Archbishop Jose Gomez complained Wednesday about plans for a rally by Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, an abortion rights supporter, at a Catholic university.
The archbishop released a statement noting that Clinton and some other presidential candidates' support for abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research were not in line with Catholic values. The Rev. Pat Rodgers, an archdiocese spokesman, said Gomez was responding to telephone calls and e-mails from concerned Catholics. [more...]
For Catholics who may have forgotten basic moral rules regarding voting, here's a quick refresher: certain positions, such as support for abortion, homosexual marriage, or embryonic stem cell research, are so morally reprehensible that anyone who holds them is unfit for public office; a voter is morally culpable for his vote if he knowingly votes for such a candidate when a morally more acceptable candidate is also running. If all candidates are unfit, the voter may choose the candidate who he reasonably believes will do the least moral harm.
And for those who believe politics and religion should never mix, you need to learn to think consistently.
LIMAN VS. MIT
Doug Liman, director of the movie Jumper, recently met with scientists at MIT to discuss the physics of teleportation, as discussed by Alan Boyle at MSNBC:
Everyone knows Anakin Skywalker can't really teleport himself to the Great Pyramids of Egypt, even though Anakin ... er, Hayden Christensen ... does just that in the movie "Jumper," opening Thursday. But isn't it possible to go through a wormhole in the space-time continuum? Wellllll, maybe - if you've got a galactic black hole's worth of power. Such are the issues that come up when science meets fiction, at the movie theater as well as in the classroom.
When scientists met up with Christensen and the director of "Jumper" at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last month, neither side knew what to expect. But the result wasn't at all like the battle between the Jumpers and the Paladins in the movie. Both sides came away with that most sought-after Hollywood ingredient: a happy ending. [more...]
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Mail that makes you ask, what the heck?
I recently got an e-mail message that I have been unable to decipher. I suspect it wasn't originally written in English, and I'm unsure of what it's trying to say. It contains a website address that appears not to be a real website. I reproduce the message here, complete with my MSTing, in brackets.
Pilgrimage to Assisi Info
Why a Pilgrimage … in Italy?
[Why indeed? I can't think of a single reason a Catholic would make a pilgrimage to Italy.]
Saint Francis and Saint Anthony, the Seraphic Founder and the Learned Apostle (meo episcopus) of the Franciscan Order, are two great "figures" [not real figures, mind you, but the fake kind that need to go in quotation marks] who have stirred the perpetual engine [the what?] of humble and simple spirituality, a perpetual source for all people who are suffering from an existential aridity.
[If that engine is perpetual, why didn't they just let it run by itself instead of tweaking it?]
Thanks to these suppositions [Supposition: noun, a guess or assumption. Are Sts. Francis and Anthony suppositions?], the wish to offer a Pilgrimage was born [by and from whom?] aimed at fulfilling the new spiritual requirement. [I was unaware that pilgrimage was a spiritual requirement.] Differently from the past, it is a research of "movement" [a what?] where the pilgrim wants to explore in primis original experiences just to open himself to the compassion of that Love "that moves the sun and the other stars".
[If anyone can interpret that last sentence, please do; "the compassion of that Love" is driving me bonkers. And let's see if we can tuck that period inside the quotation mark where it belongs.]
Apparently the purpose of the pilgrim is to walk to Assisi, but in reality "he advances towards himself" to join the Divine within. [Apparently, apparently no longer needs to be set off by a comma when it opens a sentence.] The Pilgrimage to Assisi is not a recognised pilgrimage as you might suppose, but it is the fusion of many other short traditional pilgrimages, that already existed in the local sphere (See: Assisi, La Verna, Casella, Cerbaiolo, Montecasale, Montepaolo). [Oh, the local sphere. Suddenly, everything is clear.] These ways are linked to peculiar devotions and, lived in this spiritual dimension again, will give a new surge to the interior research, renewing the essence of Francisco’s doctrine. So it should be, not only the stones to testify to the stranger His Teaching [the Teaching in this e-mail is not only stranger, but strangest], but also the renewal of the original Franciscan fraternity along the pilgrimage and in the community of Assisi itself.
The town of Assisi will be raised as a "Landmark of Universal Reference" for all men of goodwill [that's great, but can we call it something less lame than "Landmark of Universal Reference"?], overcoming in this way any distinction of Culture and Belief in syntony with the Fundamental Principles of every True Religion.
[NAME REMOVED] for the www.caamminodiassisi.it
[Since both St. Francis and St. Anthony are Catholic saints with distinctly Catholic teaching, I fail to see how they can help overcome any distinction of culture or belief (why are those capitalized?). I've got news for whoever wrote this: you don't overcome distinctions of culture and belief. They exist whether you like it or not because people have now, and always will have, multiple cultures and opinions. You can ignore differences of culture and belief, but that only makes you ignorant; it can never make you more spiritual or more enlightened. And as for syntony, what is a fifty-cent word like that doing in a message like this?]
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
For a week, I'd like to visit one of those futuristic metropoli. Maybe the city in Isaac Asimov's Caves of Steel, or perhaps the future Atlanta in Michael Bishop's Catacomb Years. Perhaps I'd see the sights of the city in Metropolis or Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis or perhaps even Blade Runner, which I understand is the best place to see attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion...uh oh, going into trance again....
Ach! Ach! "Tenser," said the Tensor...okay, I'm back. Whew. I always go into a trance when I hear you-know-what. Anyway, why would I go to a metropolis? Obviously, for the hustle and bustle of the big city, for the interesting people, for the robots, and for the Marxist uprisings--could anything be more exciting? One thing is certain, though: I'd like to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
Besides, they serve great food in the big city. It's called Soylent Green, and...you say it's what?
I would spend a month in The Land Before Time. I know what you're thinking--you're thinking my choice sucks, but I'd enjoy a month adventuring with cute dinosaurs with funny voices and if you're honest with yourself, so would you. Besides, if there's some kind of crossover or something, I understand I have a chance of meeting Racquel Welch in a fur bikini.
For a year, I want to visit The Valley from Bone by Jeff Smith. In fact, I'd like to visit for just about exactly one year. I'd hike through the western desert and arrive in late fall. After hanging with some talking animals during the winter, maybe in early spring I'd meet a beautiful young farm girl....
Half My Life
Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings. Everybody wants to live there. Duh. And I understand they just got a new king who's going to make the roads safer.
Wait a minute, was I supposed to pick real places? Argh, who makes these rules? I'm calling Snake Plissken in here to take care of this. Your rules are really starting to annoy me....
For this meme, I tag the living daylights out of Orthometer, The B-Movie Catechism, and, let's see...Claw of the Conciliator.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
I wanted to post on this and Deej says I can even though I just posted. According to the Sunday Morning Herald, two Catholic girls' schools in Melbourne, Australia, have banned the delivery of flower or other gifts on St. Valentine's Day because "some students could feel left out." The schools have apparently decided to alleviate this problem by making everyone feel left out.
Two Catholic girls' schools have banned the delivery of flowers - and teddy bears - from admirers on Valentine's Day.
The Melbourne schools enforced the ban because of fears some students could feel left out, News Limited newspapers report. [more...]
The article gives no word on whether exceptions will be made for Valentines sent by paramours about to be fed to lions.
Snuffles has just interrupted to note that, in Japan, the girls are supposed to give the boys chocolate on St. Valentine's Day instead of the other way around. He and Deej both agree that's a better practice because they're both jerks.
The Sci Fi Catholic, especially me, sympathizes with these girls who will miss out on Valentine's Day because of obnoxious, politically correct rules set by oversensitive school administrators who probably don't like mistletoe at Christmas, either. I don't get anything for Valentine's Day because Deej always forgets, though Phenny sometimes gives me extra goldfish food, but that's not really good for me. So I feel their pain.
A couple days ago, Deej posted a press release for a comic called Mecha Manga Bible Heroes. Since then, Snuffles has been poking around and has found a number of other "manga" adaptations of Scripture, including The Manga Bible and Manga Messiah. Snuffles and Deej argued over the subject and afterwards had the following comments:
D. G. D.: I'll stick with what I said before; Mecha Manga Bible Heroes may have a good idea in it, but I don't think it's a good idea to simply tell the biblical stories straight with mechs and monsters thrown in. Such a massive alteration to the stories' background calls for a massive revamping of the stories. To really make Bible Heroes worthwhile, I think the writer should consider expanding the biblical stories and making the biblical heroes into fully developed characters. I hope, too, that the mecha technology and the world are fully developed and not merely atmospheric flourishes. I don't see the point of putting stories from the Bible into an sf setting if that setting is meaningless.
I would point readers again to Rod Espinosa's Amerimanga, Neotopia, which will be interesting to compare with the first issue of Bible Heroes, "David vs. Goliath." Neotopia also features aliens, mechs, manga-influenced artwork, and the story of David and Goliath with Goliath played by a mech, but all of it is couched in a fully developed world and a larger narrative.
To stick close to the biblical narrative in a mecha setting while neither being slavish to the Scriptures nor merely using biblical motifs in an essentially non-biblical story, a writer could do something like the following: the tale of David and Goliath could be the first encounter of the Hebrews with a superior alien mech technology; after defeating the robotic Goliath, David removes its mechanical head and some of its weapons and carries them to the Temple so that the priests might study them and build their own mechs; over several generations, this developing mecha technology leads to the construction of a prototype super-mech, but unfortunately, it is developed too late for use against the invading Babylonians; however, after the exile, Judas Maccabeus discovers this super-mech hidden away in a secret cave in Jerusalem and uses it in his battles against Antiochus. Such a story sticks more-or-less to the biblical narrative but makes the introduction of aliens and mechs relevant to the overall story, transforming the biblical histories into a generational mecha adventure.
But for those who are skeptical of the entire Bible-to-sequential-art idea, I will note that it is nothing new. Comic book Bibles are a Medieval invention, not a modern one. The so-called Biblia Pauperum or "poor-man's Bible" is essentially a collection of biblical stories told in illustrated panels.
Snuffles the Dragon: Yes, yes, all that, but let's look at these titles: Mecha Manga Bible Heroes, Manga Bible, and Manga Messiah. There's a desperate crying out here: "Look! It's manga! Really!" Why in the world would anyone put manga in a title? Especially when none of these is really manga.
I know Deej is more relaxed on this issue than I am, but honestly, manga is a Japanese word referring to a Japanese product. It is not an art style. An American comic in which the characters have big eyes should not be called manga. The stereotypical style of Japanese comics, in which this so-called "Amerimanga" is drawn, is not the only style of Japanese comics. Mecha Manga-Influenced Bible Heroes or Manga-Inspired Bible would be more accurate titles. Besides, when I see a book called Manga Bible, I naturally expect it to be a book about manga.
For a list of links to other sites and blogs that have posted about Mecha Manga Bible Heroes, see Enlightened Words.
Friday, February 8, 2008
One book gone and still going strong.
New Complete Works of Josephus, translated by William Whiston and edited by Paul L. Maier. Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids): 1999. ISBN: 0-8254-2924-2. 1142 pages. $24.99.
The Vita is now behind us and I have just finished Book 1 of Jewish Antiquities, putting me just about where I need to be on Day 3. In other words, we're right up to speed.
Is it just me, or does the edition I'm using have the world's ugliest cover?
The Antiquities, in its first several books, is an outline of biblical histories with some interpolated material. For someone who's read through the Old Testament multiple times, Josephus's version makes for a nice, fresh angle. He tends, like some other ancient historians, to give the characters lengthy speeches, which are fun. He also attributes a great deal of astronomical and mathematical knowledge to the Patriarchs; of particular interest to me are the two pillars containing astronomical data, supposedly constructed by the Sethites before the Flood. A little tidbit like that sparks the imagination of a fantasist.
Also fun are translator William Whiston's footnotes. Whiston comes across as a congenial, credulous, and slightly verbose man of letters. Barely able to contain his own eccentric theological ideas and fond of quoting various texts that he apparently accepts uncritically, he makes for an entertaining guide to Josephus's writings. In particular, Whiston is of the strange opinion that Josephus converted to Christianity. Paul L. Maier, editor of this volume, usually adds no comments to Whiston's rambling footnotes, but at that one, he steps in to mention that Josephus's conversion is attested in no source whatsoever.
Maier's own commentary is quite sparse and appears in a few boxes placed at intervals through the text. So far, he has merely summarized what Josephus says and has sometimes added a few historical details.
Book 1 of the Antiquities ends with the death of Isaac. Tomorrow, I will start in on Book 2, which begins with Esau and Jacob dividing their inheritance and continues with the story of Joseph in Egypt. Biblically, we're still in Genesis.
Who else out there is reading? Tell us where you're at.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
THE COOLEST COMIC BOOK YOUR SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER EVER CONFISCATED!
New Comic Series Brings ‘New Twist’ to ‘Old Testament’
FLANDERS, NJ (February 5, 2008) – JMG Comics, a division of JMG Studios is pleased to announce the upcoming release of its first comic book series, MECHA MANGA BIBLE HEROES.
MECHA MANGA BIBLE HEROES brings classic bible heroes to life in a whole new way! Drawn in the popular manga style and featuring “mecha” (robots), a mainstay of manga, this new series is sure to satisfy fans of imaginative action and adventure. The characters, themes and stories remain the same, only the setting has changed – to a futuristic world of aliens, robots and advanced technology!
“Just like modernized versions of Shakespeare's plays, by taking a solid, meaningful story and translating its elements as faithfully as possible into a new setting, we hope to bring out some of the more amazing details that might get missed by today's readers,” said co-writer Tom Hall.
The first issue, shipping in May, re-imagines the legendary tale of David, the shepherd boy who took down the giant, Goliath. The 32-page, full-color comic book retails for $2.25 US.
“David is a young kid who has to go toe-to-toe with a giant super robot covered in every conceivable type of weapon,” said Hall. “Other than that, everything is what the Bible describes, down to the small details that most versions of the tale gloss over.”
“The series is designed to appeal to anyone, whether religious or not” said Managing Editor Paul Castiglia, a veteran comic book writer and editor who has worked for Archie Comics among other notable comic publishers. “Our aim was to create an all-ages series with broad appeal, so that even those who consider the bible ‘mythology’ on par with Greek and Roman legends may embrace it.”
“The stories of the Old Testament are universal – they can be found among several religions and cultures. Our creative team consists of Christians who approach the material with a Christian worldview and we’ve strived to make this the coolest comic book your Sunday School teacher ever confiscated!”
He added that the series is meant to appeal to anyone who enjoys manga (especially “mecha”), video game heroes like Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man, Transformers and other robot toys, and the animated versions of DC and Marvel superheroes.
The creative team for MECHA MANGA BIBLE HEROES #1: DAVID VS. GOLIATH includes writers Tom Hall (King, Robot 13) & Joey Endres (Megazeen), with pencils and inks by Thom “Kneon Transitt” Pratt (Disney) and colors and letters by Daniel Bradford (King, Robot 13). Also included are bonus comic strips by popular Australian writer/artist Dean Rankine. Each issue features fully painted covers by fan-favorite Jeff Slemons, who has done covers for several comic book publishers and whose work has been featured in successful ad campaigns. The series is edited by Paul Castiglia (Archie, DC, Dark Horse, Antarctic Press). JMG Studios owner John-Marc Grob (Marvel, owner-producer of FriendFish and various animation projects) is editor-in-chief.
Future issues will present the the further adventures of David as well as classic tales of such bible heroes as Daniel, Joseph, Jonah and others. Other series are in development, including “Beyond,” a horror/sci-fi/fantasy anthology aimed at older teens and beyond.
ANCHOR DISTRIBUTION is the exclusive distributor for the initial launch of MECHA MANGA BIBLE HEROES. Anchor will handle distribution for comic shops, Christian bookstores, libraries, churches, schools and other retailers. JMG Studios will provide flyers and wall posters for free upon request, and a customized ashcan at a portion of cost to help promote the comic book. For ordering and promotional information email email@example.com
While Anchor will also handle reorders, JMG Comics is currently exploring partnering with additional reorder distributors.
MECHA MANGA BIBLE HEROES can be found on the Internet at http://www.mmbibleheroes.com/ and www.myspace.com/mechamangabibleheroes
For press, licensing/merchandising, movie/TV rights and all other inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
MECHA-MANGA BIBLE HEROES 1: DAVID VS. GOLIATH, ships May, 2008. 32-page, full-color comic, $2.25 US.
MECHA MANGA BIBLE HEROES Copyright © 2007, 2008 by Paul Castiglia, Tom Hall, Joey Endres, Jeff Slemons, Thom Pratt, Daniel Bradford. All rights reserved.
Okay, I can see this. Bible comics are nothing new, and Christian Amerimanga is nothing new, either (see Serenity if you don't believe me).
If I were to make a complaint, something I probably shouldn't do about a press release, it is that they are telling the stories as authentically as possible but giving them a sci-fi veneer. The introduction of mechs into the biblical world, however, would produce a number of complications; I would prefer a comic that elaborates the sparse biblical tales in order to explore the alien setting more fully. That being said, I am eagerly wondering how they will depict Deborah. I'm also thinking I should mention this to Old Testament Space Opera.
The Sci Fi Catholic commits such errors.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
"I have come to chew bubblegum and to get ash, and the priest doesn't like it when I chew bubblegum."--Snuffles the Dragon, overheard at Ash Wednesday Mass
It aint' over til the Against Apion sings.
New Complete Works of Josephus, translated by William Whiston and edited by Paul L. Maier. Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids): 1999. ISBN: 0-8254-2924-2. 1142 pages. $24.99.
Our Lenten Josephus Read-a-Thon is underway. First up on the agenda is Josephus's Life or Vita, the historian's account of himself and how awesome he is. We'll easily be through it tomorrow, as I have just completed Vita 215 (Loeb's numbers), which is on page 30 in my volume, putting us slightly ahead of schedule on this Ash Wednesday, first day of Lent.
Gettin' ash and takin' names!
(Photo stolen from Orthometer.)
So that's our Lenten reading so far. The introduction by Paul L. Maier is quite engaging. He begins thus:
Josephus was a first-century Jew whose life as a diplomat, general, and historian was crammed with contradictions. He studied in the desert but wrote in the city. He was a pacifist who went to war, a military commander who (to our knowledge) had no training in the martial arts but fought as if he had. He battled the Romans, yet was befriended by them. He joined a suicide pact but survived, while thirty-nine lay dead around him. He was the mortal foe of a future emperor--who later brought him into the family! [p. 7]
That should whet your interest. And check this out:
At Cluny...the famous monastery that sparked the Cluniac Reform in the tenth century, Josephus was specified for Lenten reading. [p. 15]
So for a very long time, Christians have been reading Josephus for penance, and we're proud to continue the tradition.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
"I have come to kick butt and to chew pancakes...and I'm all outta pancakes."--Snuffles the Dragon, overheard on Fat Tuesday
As I write this, Super Fat Tuesday (contracted to "Phat Tuesday") is drawing to a close. This unofficial holiday is also known as Carnival, which roughly translates as, "Hasta la vista...meat."
Or, in our world, "Hasta la vista...fiction." As you know, I'm taking Lent as an opportunity to kick my fiction addiction (ooh, that rhymes) and read some nonfiction that has kept sliding down my list from where it belongs because new comic books keep showing up in the mail.
But Phat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, is an opportunity to get rid of all that spare whatever-you're-giving-up by finishing it off, so Snuffles and I have both been hard at work finishing off our spare fiction. He's over there plowing through volumes of manga at twice his usual rate, and I of course am looking at the seventh color volume of Bone, Ghost Circles. Though I won't be able to review it until after Lent, I can tell you now that Steve Hamaker's color keeps getting better. This is one volume that, probably more than any other in the series, has cried out to be colored, and at last that cry has been answered with stunning virtuosity. I'll tell you about it when the Read-a-Thon is over (stunning virtuosity, incidentally, is one of those things we book reviewers keep in reserve for those times when we can't think of anything meaningful to say, but the color really is good!).
No holiday is more (unofficially) self-indulgent than Phat Tuesday, and no form of fiction is more officially self-indulgent than fan fiction. I've spoken of fan fiction previously on this blog. Many authors dislike fan fiction, and the site Fanfiction.net even maintains a list of writers and publishers who have asked that their work not appear in fan fiction stories (don't ask me how I know that). Even Strong Bad hates fan fiction. But personally, I think fan fiction is the greatest compliment to an artist's work; it proves that he has built something so wonderful, it invigorates imaginations in a way that demands responsive creative output.
But it recently occurred to me that no form of fan-fiction could be more indulgent than self-referencing fan fiction. Now that this blog actually has a moderately respectable readership, and now that we are in the midst of a self-indulgent holiday, I have decided to produce, in honor of Phat Tuesday, some examples of what Sci Fi Catholic fan fiction might look like if someone out there were actually producing Sci Fi Catholic fan fiction. So grab your plastic beads, put on those pants with the butt cut out, and gather 'round for some serious self-indulgence.
First, we have that form of fan fiction tht attempts to be as true as possible to the original material. SF Cath fan fic of this nature would look something like this:
Around 10:00 on a Monday night, D. G. D. lay in the middle of his living room floor with a cheap paperback open across his face.
"Hey, Snuffles," he muttered in an alcohol-slurred voice, "get me 'nother beer, huh?"
"You're pathetic and stupid and I hate you," Snuffles said from across the room where he had his snout buried in yet another volume of Cardcaptor Sakura.
"Man, this is lame," D. G. D. said. "Maybe instead of getting drunk and reading sci-fi every night, I should get a woman or something."
"Yeah," Snuffles agreed, "but before you can do that, you have to get something else first."
"What?" D. G. D. asked. "Axe Body Spray? Already got some."
"No," Snuffles answered, "it's called a life. You should seriously think about getting one."
See? The characters and situations are true to life. This is a conversation these two could really have...um, because we actually had this very conversation last night.
Another type of fan fiction is the sort written by fourteen-year-old girls, who are fond of taking underdeveloped or ambiguous relationships in their favorite fiction and blowing them up into sappy, cliché-laden romances. Observe:
D. G. D. sat down next to Lucky the Goldfish's bowl. "Lucky," he said in that deep, charming voice, "it's time we talked...really talked."
"You mean...?" Lucky gasped, her fish-sized heart missing a few beats.
D. G. D. lay a hand tragically against his forehead. "I know I've been neglecting you," he said, "but I can't deny my true feelings anymore. I can't deny my passion for you. I don't want to be like that lame-o Darren who so totally dumped the author of this fan fic just so he could go out with Melissa, who he only likes because she's a cheerleader, not to mention a little slut."
"That Darren is, like, a total jerk-wad," Lucky agreed.
"But I don't want to be a jerk-wad anymore," D. G. D. said manfully. "Even though you've been cursed to be a goldfish, I know what kind of person you really are. I can see the beautiful princess you once were and can be again, unlike Darren, who can't see the beauty of this fan fic's author just because she has glasses, braces, and acne."
"Oh, like, wow!" Lucky gasped, her golfish heart skipping for joy.
Lucky's curse made him so sad, D. G. D. cried two pure, perfect, beautiful, manly tears, which fell into Lucky's bowl. Because of the purity of D. G. D.'s love for her, the magic tears transformed Lucky back into a princess. She rose with joy out of her bowl, restored to human form, and melted into D. G. D.'s arms.
Then they, like, totally made out.
And they say fan fiction has no literary merit. Take a close look at that last piece and you might notice what appears to be a second narrative running under the main narrative! It's, like, genius!
But that brings us around to sappy romance's twisted uncle, or maybe twisted younger brother--you guessed it, the fan fiction known as...slash.
"I can't help it," Snuffles the Dragon said with a fierce gaze in his draconic eyes. "When you came home from the field in that all-leather outfit, it seriously turned me on."
"Oh, really?" D. G. D. said, lifting one eyebrow and--
Whoa! Hold the phone! I'm cutting that one off early; it was, like, totally grossing me out.
So there you have it. Sci Fi Catholic fan fiction. And here's from all of us--me, Snuffles, Lucky, Frederick, Phenny, and even Rocky--hoping you have one really super Phat Tuesday!
Monday, February 4, 2008
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
This is bad. I don't keep the interesting books near my desk: the nearest book is the phone book, the second nearest book is Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, and the third nearest is probably either Hacker's A Writer's Reference or the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the first of which is no fun and the latter of which feels like a cop-out for a meme like this. So here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to walk over to the bookshelf with my eyes closed and bring back the first non-comic book of sufficient length that falls into my hands.
Oh look! It's Reginald Scot's The Discoverie of Witchcraft!
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
For there it plainelie appeareth, that the adder heareth not the voice of the charmer, charme he never so cunninglie: contrarie to the poets fabling,Frigidus in pratis contando rumpitur anguis.
The coldish snake in medowes greene,
With charmes is burst in peeces cleene,
But hereof more shall be said hereafter in due place.
You get all that?
4. Post the next three sentences.
Okay, you asked for it:
I grant that words sometimes have singular virtue and efficacie, either in persuasion or disuasion, as also diverse other waies; so as thereby some are converted from the waie of perdition, to the estate of salvation: and so contrariwise, according to the saieing of Solomon; Death and life are in the instrument of the toong: but even therein God worketh all in all, as well in framing the heart of the one, as in directing the toong of the other: as appeareth in manie places of the holie scriptures.
That which is forbidden in the scriptures touching inchantment or witch craft, is not the wonderfull working with words. For where words have had miraculous operaton, there hath beene alwaies the speciall providence, power and grace of God uttered to the strengthening of the faith of Gods people, and to the furtherance of the gospell: as when the apostle with a word slue Ananias and Saphira.
That's right, Scot! You tell those Papist heretics...er, wait a minute.
5. Tag five people.
Five, huh? This thing's already made the rounds, too, so who'm I gonna tag? I know! I'll tag people who regularly comment here, including some who don't appear to have blogs. I tag Mary, Thomas, Xena Catolica, Templar (what's a guy with a name like Templar doing without a blog?), and Esther.