Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Meme?

Needing something to post fast and not having anything prepared, I...sigh...will do a meme, the One-Word Meme, borrowed from Fructus Ventris.

1. Where is your cell phone? None
2. Your significant other? None
3. Your hair? Head
4. Your mother? Forest
5. Your father? Forest
6. Your favorite thing? Books
7. Your dream last night? Complicated
8. Your favorite drink? Port
9. Your dream/goal? Publish
10. The room you're in? Motel
11. Your church? Catholic
12. Your fear? Anime
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Jupiter
14. Where were you last night? Undisclosed
15. What you're not? Rabbit
16. Muffins? Sure
17. One of your wish list items? Books
18. Where you grew up? Forest
19. The last thing you did? Edit
20. What are you wearing? Crucifix
21. Your TV? None
22. Your pets? Complicated
23. Your computer? Huh?
24. Your life? None
25. Your mood? Blah
26. Missing someone? Misplaced!*
27. Your car? Truck
28. Something you're not wearing? Pants**
29. Favorite store? SBFDTS***
30. Your summer? Busy
31. Like (love) someone? *Blush*
32. Your favorite color? Khaki
33. Last time you laughed? Today
34. Last time you cried? WRSSRP****
35. Who will re post this? Anyone

*I didn't think I was missing anyone until I realized I can't find Phenny the Phoenix. Anybody seen him?

**I'm wearing shorts, people.

***The Shady Bookstore Further Down the Street, but its name is more than one word.

****While reading some sappy romance, probably.

Update

Apparently we had technical issues yesterday because my post didn't go up (I've no idea why). We're currently working on a movie review for you, so hopefully we'll be able to get it in gear again in the near future.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Late, Tired Miscellany

1. I am still in the field, but again have access to the Internet. So we'll try to gear back up with a few odds and ends.

2. A reader sends us a news item: Newsarama reports that the Top Cow limited-run comic book series The Magdalena is to be made into a movie. I admit I've had little contact with Top Cow comics (they produce Witchblade, if you didn't know), so I haven't read this title; however, it does sound vaguely like Ben Dunn's Warrior Nun Areala (see my review here), which I was thinking some time ago should be made into a movie. So it seems my movie prophecy abilities were a little off-target this time. Basically, The Magdalena is about a line of scantily clad female warriors descended from Mary Magdalene and dedicated to protecting the Catholic Church. This site has an interesting overview and a hodge-podge of rumor and information.

3. In other news, somebody thinks the kid in this picture looks like me.

4. On my list of books to read in the near future is James A. Herrick's Scientific Mythologies. If you can't wait, you can read a negative review at Exploring Our Matrix, where James F. McGrath gives a very thorough and decidedly negative review. Here's a money quote:

The reference to those other views as “alternative”, and the Christian one Herrick takes for granted as “traditional”, warns the attentive reader of a problematic slant the author has from the outset. For Herrick will rightly point out that some of the views that are coming back into favor are in fact rather ancient. Indeed, the author delights in sticking the warning label “pagan” on numerous other viewpoints. Yet this point ought to lead naturally to an acknowledgment that at one time those ideas were traditional, just as Christianity was once alternative (see p.41 as just one place where this issue ought to have been addressed but is not). And so, although the book’s back cover makes reference to “our post-Christian West”, in fact, the book demonstrates clearly the author’s inability to understand, and thus adequately address, that very situation. [more...]

It's a great review, and I highly recommend it. I look forward to evaluating the book myself.

5. The blog Spoiled for the Ordinary has an interesting little post on the question of whether or not it's okay for Christian authors to use dragons in their fiction. This is worth reading, especially since around here we're fond of poking fun at Michael D. O'Brien's Landscape With Dragons.

6. The blog Sci-Fi / Journalist has posted an evaluation video for the Anime Jesus Project (dare I ask?). (Hat tip to Dark Parables.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

July Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour Day 1



DragonsAreAwesome!

Snuffles the Dragon here. Deej over there, apparently on "request" from a reader, wants me to talk about some novel or other for some Blog Tour or other, and I was right at a cliffhanger (will Miaka and Tamahome ever get back together?), so I'm a little grumpy.

The book on tour is none other than Donita K. Paul's DragonLight, volume 5 of the Compound Nouns that Start with Dragon Series. I understand that the first volume of the CNTSWD* saga was the first ever volume featured on the Blog Tour, so as our good Lord Vader might say, now the circle is complete. After this, the Blog Tour will automatically self-destruct.

So, if you want to know about Donita K. Paul, DragonLight, CNTSWD, and other cool stuff, you might slide your pants** on over to the official Donita K. Paul blog. You might also check out the official Donita K. Paul website, which as far as author websites go is totally sweet.***

And when I say totally sweet, I mean cool...er, I think I have that backwards. I mean, her website even has games. How many author websites have games? The present one doesn't. Of course, the present website doesn't have a published author either, and no, Deej, your two little short stories in e-zines don't count.

So what have we got on this whole Tour thing? Well, on the one hand, we have The Lina Lamont Fan Club, where you can not only learn who the heck Lina Lamont is, but you can also see a link to a free sample chapter of DragonLight so you can decide if you want to buy the whole book. You can also see a dire warning that your present blog host is Catholic. The warning, I notice, is specifically aimed at women, but I assure you that women have nothing to fear from the Deej: I think the last time he even actually saw an actual woman in three dimensions was in '97.**** I, on the other hand, collect them as a hobby.

Also, check out the interview with Donita K. Paul at Figments of Imagination. The title of that blog makes me wonder: did the blogger really interview Paul or just make it up? In the interview, Paul discusses her writing process, which consists of the Theodore Sturgeon Method: just make it up as you go. (At least I think that was the Sturgeon method, but I might have made that up.)

I'm having a tad bit of trouble finding a book review on any of the tour sites (presumably, the reviews will appear in the next few days), except at WORD Up!, where the review reads suspiciously like a blurb from the novel's back. I don't trust any reviewer who tells me I'm going to experience anything "as never before." I've been around the block a few times and don't run into "as never before" stuff very often.

Oh, my bad. I guess that actually is from the novel's back. The real review appears below that, where it says "A non-Christian audience will not only be entertained, but also receive a basic education in Christian theology without being preached at." Hmm. Entertaining Christian theology without preaching...yep, I believe that sentence has enough paradox to destroy the universe.

And while I'm on the subject, what's with dragons and compound nouns anyway? We've got Dragonheart, Dragonswan, Dragonlance, loads of compounded Dragonriders of Pern novels...sheesh. Maybe I should change my name to DragonSnuffles.

I'm not going to use one of Deej's stupid jokes as I introduce the other members of the Blog Tour (those who participated in the first ever Blog Tour have an asterisk, not to be confused with my copious footnotes, which appear below):

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
* Beth Goddard
Mark Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Magma
Terri Main
Magma
Margaret
* Shannon McNear
Melissa Meeks
* Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
Steve Rice
* Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
* Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams

*Hey Deej, put that acronym in your pipe and smoke it!

**"Slide your pants" is my cool new phrase for navigating between web pages. I expect it to become a major part of on-line lingo within the next week.

***"Totally sweet" is my cool new phrase for stuff that's totally sweet. I expect it to become a major part of totally sweet lingo within the next six months.


****I was reading this aloud as I edited, and Deej shouted from the other side of the living room, "That's not true! There were women characters in the last 3D movie I saw!" Pathetic.

Sluggish Summer Continues!

It's too bad my schedule wreaks havoc on the blog just as the summer sf blockbusters hit the theaters, but oh well. I'd just give Snuffles some cash and send him to review all those movies himself, of course, but he's not interested and I live in Utah where I can't send him out wthout a harness and an escort because of those previously discussed dracophobic laws we still have here. I might send Lucky, but, you know, she's a goldfish, and I might send Frederick the Unicorn, but he has said on more than one occasion, "I want nothing to do with your foolish Internet enterprise. Not now, not ever." Sheesh, I get the point.

Anyway, I have no idea, when I go back to the field tomorrow, if I will have Internet access for the following ten days. If I do, I'll post. If not, I won't.

Sometime in here, we're going to have a review of Hellboy II: The Golden Army. We have a special guest reviewer joining us for that, so the review may take a few days (as many as ten, depending on whether or not I'll have Internet access!). In the meantime, let me just say that I highly recommend it: it has wire-fu, Ron Perlman, lovesick monsters, wire-fu, surly backtalking elves, wire-fu, and Ron Perlman. It also corrects most of the dumb mistakes made in the first movie and brings the film universe closer to the comic book universe. Obdith yug jahood!

Also, I guess I better review Hancock, huh? Okay, okay, I will--it goes like this: some writer in Hollywood suddenly had the revelation that the word ass is hilarious and that people will laugh every time they hear it, even if it's already been used as a punchline half a dozen times previously in the movie. The writer is wrong. At least, I hope he's wrong. Then he turns around and does the second half of the movie like a bad TV drama.

We're also miserably behind on book reviews, which take longer than movie or comic book reviews, which is why we have fewer of them. We'll try to grind some of those out. In particular, I want to draw your attention to R. A. MacAvoy's debut novel, Tea with the Black Dragon, which may be the closest thing to a perfect novel I have ever read. Also, I intend to discuss John C. Wright's Orphans of Chaos, but probably only after I've read the rest of the series.

Also, today is the first day of this month's Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Once again, I haven't read the feature novel (though that will change next month), which happens to be DragonLight, book 5 of Donita K. Paul's DragonKeeper series. It may very well be a great book, but BattleTech taught me to fear compound words with capital letters in the middle.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Movie Review: Yo-Yo Girl Cop



...Seriously?

Yo-Yo Girl Cop (Sukeban Deka: Kôdo nêmu = Asamiya Saki), directed by Kenta Fukasaku. Screenplay by Shoichi Maruyama. Produced by Naoki Yamazaki and Mitsuru Kurosawa. Starring Aya Matsuura, Riki Takeuchi, and Rika Ishikawa. Magnolia Home Entertainment (2006). Runtime 99 minutes. Unrated.

Read other reviews here.

Yo-Yo Girl Cop, a Japanese film that can be more literally translated as Delinquent Girl Detective: Code Name Asamiya Saki, is the resurrection, or maybe the last gasp, of a popular franchise, known as Sukeban Deka, that's been out of commission since the early 90s. It began as a manga in the mid-70s and became a TV series, two movies, and a two-episode anime OVA released in 1991. This was followed by something obscure in the late 90s that one source alludes to but doesn't discuss. Wikipedia appears to have a decent summary of the franchise's history.

Admittedly, I have no experience with any of Sukeban Deka's previous incarnations, but the movie clearly sets itself up as a sequel to one of the TV series. The story follows Asamiya Saki (J-pop singer Aya Matsuura), a teenage delinquent tough girl whose mother gets arrested in New York as a possible spy. Saki herself is deported to Japan where the police offer to cut her a deal: they can get her mother out of trouble if she agrees to become an undercover cop and infiltrate an elite high school, the Seisen Academy, where someone is running a website called Enola Gay, on which an enigmatic villain called Romeo encourages bullied students to be suicide bombers. For her equipment, Saki receives a sailor fuku as well as a steel yo-yo, which she wears in a garter holster and wields as a weapon. Her mother, incidentally, is the original Asamiya Saki, played by Yuki Saito, who had the part in the TV series.

I was a bit dubious upon picking this up, mainly because it sounds like an opportunity for creepy school uniform fetishism and because Rotten Tomatoes inaccurately describes the villains as a cabal of lesbians (I'm unsure where they got that idea, though a little research indicates the manga and anime have some yuri [lesbian] content, whereas the present movie has only fleeting, possible yuri content, depending on how you want to interpret some of the friendships). Actually, the fetishism is absent--at least until the climactic battle, in which Saki replaces her sailor fuku with a tight leather outfit and has a yo-yo fight with the school's resident nasty girl (played by J-pop singer Rika Ishikawa), who, for the occasion, dons an S&M ensemble complete with studded-leather shorts and fishnet stockings. In other words, the girls spend most of the film dressed like Japanese high school students but finish up dressed like American high school students.

The back of the DVD case promises that the film contains "intense non-stop action," an exaggeration if ever there was one. In reality, Yo-Yo Girl Cop has little action; it spends most of its time being an unsettling teen drama about suicide. Early on, we see a put-upon female student slicing her wrists in the bathroom. Later, two geeky chemistry students try to end the pain by building bombs and strapping them on. One of them escapes death when Saki knocks him out, and the other escapes when a mysterious figure walks in, sees the bomb, and says, "You build that yourself? That is so cool. Let's be friends," and then hugs him as the bomb's timer continues to tick down. In the next shot, a hand holds the bomb out a window just as the timer squeals that it's about to explode. I found this scene remarkably poignant and disturbing even though I wasn't sure what was going on. In the midst of all this, teachers turn a blind eye to hazing and suicide in the school and refuse to acknowledge there's a problem, even though one student was almost successful at blowing herself up the previous year, another student actually does blow herself up at the beginning of the movie, and more and more students are getting obsessed with the Enola Gay website and seriously considering blowing themselves up as the ultimate demonstration of their pubescent angst.

The teen suicide stuff, which occupies most of the movie, is played dead serious. It's hard to reconcile with the teen cop walking around with a killer yo-yo in her garter. When the final action sequences arrive, it feels as if we've jumped into a different movie, a goofier, light-hearted movie in which teenagers can be invincible warriors and defeat heavily armed baddies by hitting them with yo-yos. The mix is strange, and I honestly can't decide if I think it's a brilliant experiment or merely an exercise in bad taste. One way or the other, it isn't entirely successful.

On the one claw, the teen drama stuff, while melodramatic and sometimes hard to watch, is well handled and reasonably compelling, but Saki's "investigation" consists of looking bored, cussing at most of her fellow students, and making friends with one of the bullied girls. The thin plot layered on top of the raw emotions made me wish the titular girl cop would go away and just let the movie be a story of angsty high school students. On the other claw, the teen drama is so unexpected given the movie's title and premise, I was wishing the serious stuff would go away so I could see some cool yo-yo stunts, but even when a real yo-yo battle finally occurred at the end, I was disappointed at the dearth of impressive tricks. Somebody should have hired Tommy Smothers as choreographer.

When it's all over, I just wish Yo-Yo Girl Cop would decide what kind of movie it wants to be.

Content Advisory: Contains pervasive language (mostly Japanese but some English--get it?), scenes of suicide, action violence, revealing outfits, and ineffectual weaponry

The Sci Fi Catholic's Rating for Yo-Yo Girl Cop:

Myth Level: I don't know man, who put this category here?

Ethics/Religion: Medium (frequent swearing; appears to be trying to dissuade from suicide and bullying)

Quality: Medium-High (creative cinematography, generally solid writing and acting, a short-shrift in the action department)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kung Fu Night! The Buddhist Fist



After a while, they all start to look the same--but I'm not complaining!

The Buddhist Fist, directed by Yuen Wo Ping. Starring Shun-Yee Yuen, Sui-Ming Tsui, and Lung Chan. Peace Film Productions, 1979. Runtime 90 minutes. Unrated.

Just to be perfectly clear, the only thing I won't forgive in a Kung fu movie is bad Kung fu (curse you, House of Flying Daggers!). I don't come to these films to see deep characterization or clever plots, but to see some cool moves. Watching Kung fu is sort of like attending the ballet, except the dancers are trying to kill each other and aren't dressed like pansies. You might think of it as ballet for men.

That being said, The Buddhist Fist has most everything you could want in a Kung fu movie: it has a terrible script, plenty of lowbrow slapstick humor, a simple narrative that's somehow still hard to follow, characters who walk on and off with no development, extremely bad dubbing, and some really, really awesome Kung fu.

The plot, such as it is, follows two boys, Shang (Shun-Yee Yuen) and Si-Ming (Sui-Ming Tsui). Si-Ming for some reason or other becomes a reluctant Buddhist monk at a very young age, whereas Shang grows up to be a barber. Both of them practice Kung fu: Si-Ming is master of the Buddha Palm, and Shang is master of the Buddha Fist.

After going to the city to find his fortune and shave some moustaches, Shang returns home to find his godfather has gone missing and all the locals are curiously indifferent. Meanwhile, some masked man is blackmailing some other masked man, and the two masked men are trying to steal a priceless jade Buddha statue in order to sell it to eeeevil foreigners. While Shang hunts for his godfather, a lot of minor characters, all of whom bite large chunks out of the scenery, try to kill him, apparently on orders from the aforementioned masked men. Best of the hired killers is an outrageous hunchback whose Kung fu involves moving like a zombie from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" while making loud bone-cracking noises. The fight ends only after Shang punches him so hard in the back that his hunch bulges out of his chest. Yeah, I mentioned the low-class humor already, right?

The centerpiece of the film is of course the fighting, and Yuen Wo Ping demonstrates his characteristic inventiveness and skill at using set pieces as the characters perform limb-bending stunts in intricately choreographed bouts of chess-fu, chopstick-fu, giant-freaking-sword-fu, barbershop-chair-fu, street-vendor-fu, birdcage-fu, jade-Buddha-statue-fu, and probably several other fus I can't even remember. Even though some are quite lengthy and the lighting changes dramatically between shots, I never grew bored or confused during the fights. The plot certainly confused me, but when they stopped talking and started punching and flipping and kicking, which was frequently, my confusion turned into open-mouthed wonderment.

The movie seems to be over when Shang has discovered what happened to his godfather and subsequently flipped and slid and kicked and stabbed the man who appears to be the main villain, an evil and mysterious figure known as Big Small Feet. But that's when the plot twist happens! I won't tell you what the twist is since, if you watch the movie, you'll see it coming from miles away anyway, but for a Kung fu film of this sort, I found the twist to be an unusual surprise. It leads into the longest and most impressive of the movie's many one-on-one battles.

I find it particularly interesting that Shang in the last battle does not merely attack his opponent in blind rage and rip him to shreds as many other Kung fu heroes would do. At one point, he actually holds back a little and says, "It's time to stop fighting and start repenting." Of course, that doesn't work and they immediately start fighting again, but I found it to be an unusual bit of graciousness. At the very end, there are even strong hints that the villain showed some mercy of his own and found a sort of redemption.

So I recommend the movie, but be warned that you won't enjoy it if you have a low or even merely moderate tolerance for cheesiness and camp.

The Sci Fi Catholic's Rating for The Buddhist Fist:

Myth Level: Medium-High (pretty much the same narrative as any other Kung fu movie)

Ethics/Religion: Medium (quite violent of course, mild sexual humor, surprising redemptive ending)

Quality: Medium-Low (low quality makes this kind of film extra good)

New Books on Religion in SF Acquired

In a recent attempt to build my library on the blog's central topic, I procured several tomes, some of which have begun trickling in. Here are the titles of our library's new additions:


Gabriel McKee's history of religion in science fiction.


A collection of essays on religion in science fiction.


A collection of short stories dealing with religious themes; includes classics like "A Canticle for Liebowitz," "The Cold Equations," and "The Nine Billion Names of God."


A discussion of how science fiction sometimes gives rise to new religions.


A book on how to use science fiction parables in Christian sermons (ugh).


Deals with apocalyptic visions in science fiction.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not Dead Yet

Hello, faithful readers. I've been in the field doing archaeology-type stuff. Because we are staying in a tiny town in Nevada, and because the only Internet access in the entire county is available at our motel, and because the Wi-Fi at our motel was down for our entire nine-day work session, and because Snuffles is in the Himalayas right now counting his gold, reading his manga, and hanging with his virgins, and because nobody was thoughtful enough to place Lucky's bowl near the keyboard, and because there was no keyboard to place her next to because I had the computer with me in Nevada...we have had an unofficial blog hiatus that has rivaled our real official hiatuses (or perhaps hiati) for length. The good news is, judging from the comments in the comboxes, nobody noticed. Or is that the bad news?

The last official hiatus and this latest unofficial one have taught me two things: when I don't post, comments and site traffic both increase. That makes me wonder...

Anyway, in this eclectic little post, it's time to play catch-up.

First, Sister Mary Martha has an entertaining post on the what the discovery of sentient extraterrestrials might mean to Catholics. The post is copiously illustrated. She wrote it in response to an interesting news article in Newsmax, which reports that the Vatican's chief astronomer, Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, has reassured Catholics that it's okay to believe in aliens. Well, that would be a load off my conscience, I guess, except the article doesn't mention if it's okay to be an alien agnostic, which strikes me as a better position to hold on the subject, at least at the moment. According to the article, "Funes said that ruling out the existence of aliens would be like 'putting limits' on God's creative freedom." Fair enough, but what's with the scare quotes around putting limits?

In other news, I recently discovered that I mistyped my own name on FaceBook. Does anybody know if it's possible to fix that?

Meanwhile, the blog Orthometer, run by my priest, has a series of hilarious Star Wars parody videos, beginning with Chad Vader, probably the best of the lot.

Also, I got word, but was back online too late to post on it, that the online bookstore Abunga has live chat with an author every other Wednesday at 2:00 PM EST. Their chat today was with Melanie Wells. The next chat is with Susan Konig on July 30.

Regular readers know I'm a fan of Amerimanga creator Rod Espinosa, whose comics are usually good-natured, wholesome fun. His latest, Prince Of Heroes, a new addition to the Chronicles Of The Universe saga, is available for pre-order. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can see my reviews of Chronicles Of The Universe and its sort-of sequel, Battle Girlz, here and here. Bring on the super-powered, miniskirted space-babes!

Did I say that out loud?

That's it for now. Now that I'm on break, we'll hopefully have some book and movie reviews for you in the near future.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Blog Discovery: Leave the Lights On

I recently discovered the blog Leave the Lights On when I got a link from there. Perhaps I shouldn't say this, but when I first went there, I thought it was a splog due to the layout, but it's got legit posts, some of them quite good.

In particular, I draw your attention to the post "Can You Believe in Aliens if You Are Catholic?" The blog's author, who goes by the name Ginko100, puts it well when she writes, "To the typical Catholic, this question is not even very interesting, let alone important." That's about how I feel, though I did earlier attempt to argue that extraterrestrials, when and if encountered, would be able to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

Also check out her series "Aliens and Origins."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What I Did over July 4th Weekend

Well, as I said, I spent the weekend with family, so I didn't have much time for the blog. Of course, as regular readers know, my family isn't exactly a traditional one. I should probably say that I spent the weekend with some close friends I think of as family.

No, in case you're wondering, Harman and Nattie, my adopted parents, did not come down to visit for July 4th. Utah is, I'm sorry to say, a hotbed of dracophobia where many unjust anti-dragon laws are still on the books; living here has been very hard on Snuffles, but he has no choice since I have a job here and he has to live with me because of that magical blood oath we so foolishly made in our youth. Anyway, Harman and Nattie didn't visit because they don't want to deal with the paperwork they would have to fill out, nor the indignity of Utah's dragon-harness laws. I can't say I blame them.

However, we did get a visit from a good friend of ours who I haven't seen in quite a while. In fact, I don't think I've seen Trisha since before Rocky the Space Mouse took off on his most recent expedition, which was well over a year ago.

Trisha and I are just hangin' out.

Trisha is a Protoceratops. She lives in Wisconsin. She's a particularly good friend of Lucky the Goldfish, though they don't get to see each other very often. Trish and Lucky spent most of the weekend chattering and catching up on "girl talk." Snuffles snapped this photo of Trish and me while we were relaxing in the front hall. This "pose" might look weird to some people, but you have to understand that Trish is cold-blooded and likes mammals' body heat.

Hans and I go walking through his cave.

This is Hans, a bear who lives near our apartment. Snuffles, Lucky, Trisha, and I all went to visit him. Snuffles snapped this photo while Hans and I were chit-chatting. As you can see, Hans doesn't like having his photo taken. Hans was never a close friend of mine, but he knew Rocky the Space Mouse quite well, and Rocky and Lucky have always been close, and of course Trisha is good friends with Lucky, so add it all together and Trish wanted to visit Hans while she was in the area.

Now, though Harman and Nattie didn't visit us, we thought we might be able to visit them: as it turned out, Hans had a Graviton Teleporter left by a group of extraterrestrial religious cultists who get some kind of kick out of "seeding" esoteric technology on primitive planets, which they say appeases the wrath of the Cosmic Trickster God or something like that. Anyway, after several years, Hans had gotten the thing working, and though I don't really get the physics, I'm made to understand that the device enables a person to move from one brane to another by manipulating gravitons: gravitons are massless of course, and can readily move between branes; if you imagine the visible three-dimensional universe as two-dimensional information imposed on the exterior surface of a sphere, and then imagine that this sphere is one of several spheres within a large multidimensional area known as the bulk, which is itself formed of interactions on the surface of a supersphere, and then imagine it were possible to use gravitons to transmit a sort of "code" that rewrites the information on the supersphere's surface in such a way that matter and energy can be moved instantaneously from one place in the bulk to another, you might be grasping how the Graviton Teleporter works, or maybe I messed up the explanation. Either way, to make a long story short, we tried to use the Graviton Teleporter to get to the Fairy Wood to visit Harman and Nattie.


The Fairy Wood.

Turns out the Teleporter isn't too precise, apparently because of something having to do with information entropy. It did take us to the Fairy Wood, but to an area hundreds of miles away from Harman and Nattie's cave. The particular area where we landed is controlled by an unusually industrious and peaceful race of elves, who have carefully cultivated their land so that it's a good deal less wild than most of the Wood.

A waterfall in the Fairy Wood.

So there you go. That's what I did over July 4th weekend. We managed to get the Teleporter to bring us back safe and sound. Trisha headed home, and now we're getting ready to start our week. Here's hoping everyone else had a great weekend, too.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Full Print of Long-Lost Metropolis Found

Snuffles and I have been planning a lengthy joint discussion of Fritz Lang's silent epic, Metropolis, for some weeks now, and have been gradually assembling our source material. Now it turns out that a complete copy of the film, previously thought permanently lost, has been found. For the sf fan, this is serious stuff, an unbelievable, mind-blowing discovery. Here's the article from ZEIT Online:

Last Tuesday Paula Félix-Didier travelled on a secret mission to Berlin in order to meet with three film experts and editors from ZEITmagazin. The museum director from Buenos Aires had something special in her luggage: a copy of a long version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, including scenes believed lost for almost 80 years. After examining the film the three experts are certain: The find from Buenos Aires is a real treasure, a worldwide sensation. Metropolis, the most important silent film in German history, can from this day on be considered to have been rediscovered. [more...]

Hat tip: John C. Wright

Movie Review: Hancock: Delayed

In my usual habit of getting done what I say I'll get done sometime after I say I'll get it done, I'm putting off the movie review a bit. I am spending July 4th weekend with family, so I hope readers can forgive me for neglecting the blog a little.

News from the FIsh Bowl: Forced Religion

SCHOOL CHILDREN IN UK FORCED TO PRAY TO ALLAH

In an event that sounds like something from a reactionary dystopian Christian sf novel, children in Alsager School near Stoke-on-Trent, England, were forced to kneel and pray to Allah during a religious education class. Two boys who refused were given detention. Here's the article from Mail Online:


Two schoolboys were given detention after refusing to kneel down and 'pray to Allah' during a religious education lesson.

Parents were outraged that the two boys from year seven (11 to 12-year-olds) were punished for not wanting to take part in the practical demonstration of how Allah is worshipped.

They said forcing their children to take part in the exercise at Alsager High School, near Stoke-on-Trent - which included wearing Muslim headgear - was a breach of their human rights.

One parent, Sharon Luinen, said: "This isn't right, it's taking things too far.

"I understand that they have to learn about other religions. I can live with that but it is taking it a step too far to be punished because they wouldn't join in Muslim prayer.

"Making them pray to Allah, who isn't who they worship, is wrong and what got me is that they were told they were being disrespectful. [more...]

America's Conservative Christians already imagine some pretty weird things are going on in Europe, and I suppose this will confirm their prejudices. At any rate, the teacher appears to have things backwards: refusing to participate in a religion you don't believe in is not disrespectful; practicing a religion insincerely or falsely is disrespectful. That is to say, the teacher was commanding disrespect for Islam from the students.

Speaking of which, we have Melinda Henneberger's opinion column from Slate, "How Sally Quinn Made Me a Better Catholic," in which she criticizes Sally Quinn, a Washington Post reporter and non-Catholic, for taking communion at Tim Russert's Catholic funeral, which Quinn writes about here. As Henneberger complains, Quinn shows disrespect for Catholicism by participating in a practice that isn't intended for outsiders.

Religions are not games of make-believe; their members take what they do seriously, or should, and whatever exclusions those religions make are not made arbitrarily. A news reporter should be able to grasp that, and even if she can't grasp it, a schoolteacher who teaches on religion should be able to.

Hat tip: Dispatches from TJICistan

Friday, July 4, 2008

Upcoming Movie Review: Hancock

After I had a big fight with Snuffles over whether or not I was going to take him to see Kitt Kittredge (dragons, go figure), I decided to sneak out and see Hancock. I'll try to put up a review tomorrow.

In the meantime, happy Fourth of July, Americans. And for our readers across the pond, I'll simply quote King Ralph: "We kicked your--" Well, okay, maybe I won't quote King Ralph.

The Fourth of July always reminds me of a little story I dreamed up in fourth grade, in which a bunch of battle-axe-wielding dragons who lived in the clouds believed the fireworks fired into the sky during Fourth of July celebrations were an attack on their sovereign nation, so they flew down to earth to fight back and ended up slaughtering the unsuspecting humans.

Make of that what you will. I suppose it could be an environmentalist parable if you squint hard enough. I make of it that little kids can handle grittier material than we give them credit for.

But at any rate, happy Fourth of July, and watch out for dragons with battle-axes.

Why Liberal Christianity Is Doomed to Fail

The only sustaining support possible for the human spirit, the one pure unsullied good men can hope to attain [in Norse religion] is heroism; and heroism depends on lost causes. The hero can prove what he is only by dying. The power of good is shown not by triumphantly conquering evil, but by continuing to resist evil while facing certain defeat.

Such an attitude toward life seems at first sight fatalistic, but actually the decrees of an inexorable fate played no more part in the Norseman's scheme of existence than predestination did n St. Paul's or in that of his militant Protestant followers, and for precisely the same reason. Although the Norse hero was doomed if he did not yield, he could choose between yielding or dying. The decision was in his own hands. Even more than that. A heroic death, like a martyr's death, is not a defeat, but a triumph....

This is stern stuff for humanity to live by, as stern in its totally different way as the Sermon on the Mount, but the easy way has never in the long run commanded the allegiance of mankind. Like the early Christians, the Norsemen measured their life by heroic standards.

--Edith Hamilton, Mythology, p. 444, emphasis added

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Marbles in a Blender

So, I'm looking up information on marbles (I have my reasons) and run into a video by Blendtec demonstrating that their blender can powderize marbles. This is sort of like those ads for knives that can cut through copper pipes--does anybody really need a blender that can destroy anything? I mean, I'm only planning to blend food in there.

July 4th Movie Weekend

The July 4th weekend is on its way, and that means it's time to think about big-budget sf movies. Last year at this time, I found myself watching a muddled, incoherent, overly loud mishmash called Transformers, and judging from the reviews, I have the opportunity for a similar annoying experience this year with Hancock.

On the other hand, with everything that's been going on, I somehow missed the release of WALL-E, a movie I could probably convince Snuffles to see with me. Its reviews are quite positive, though the claims that it's super-serious sf sound far fetched; I'll believe it when I see it.

What I'm really impatient for, however, is Hellboy II. I may need to prep for that in the near future by watching some of those animated Hellboy films. Anyway, the reviews for that one are so far quite positive.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Fan Fiction Update

Blogging here becomes more sporadic in the summer because I spend more time in the field, which is where I am now. But while you're waiting for us to get our act back together, I have a new chapter posted of my Bone-based fan fiction.


In this seventh of nine chapters, the already shaky relationship between Bone and Thorn collapses as the true nature of their monstrous offspring is revealed. Elsewhere in the Valley, Phoney Bone's terrible purpose comes to its fruition. It may be that nothing can stop an all-out war between humans and bones.

People would spot him climbing Tarsil’s tower on the outside, clinging to the narrow clefts between the stones with his razor-sharp but dexterous claws. As the sun lowered at night, worried mothers snatched their playing children from the streets and dragged them indoors, all the time looking about the darkening silhouette of the city’s shingled roofs and low pagodas, fearful that a hulking shape might appear as a stark shadow outlined in monstrous form against the purpling sky. As the people huddled in terror in their beds, they would sometimes hear the clump of heavy feet upon their roofs as Ishmael romped through Atheia, for he never slept and the night was his natural domain. Whispered rumors abounded regarding his terrible origins and his mysterious designs, and they were often as vulgar as the truth. Since Ishmael’s advent, in the short span of three weeks, the name Harvestar had ceased to be a word of blessing and had become a term of ridicule, and wizened old women often passed the forbidding tower at the city’s center and spat, and they made the sign of the Evil Eye. Old men sitting in the city gate said, “Dark times are upon us, and a monster from the primordial days has come forth from the Dreaming to punish us for our sins,” and they nodded their hoary heads at one another, and they too cursed the name Harvestar. [more...]