Monday, March 30, 2009

The Deej Goes to Sundance


It's me, Lucky the Goldfish. Some time ago, the Deej went to the Sundance Film Festival (he wouldn't take me, for some reason), and I figured he'd post it on the blog sooner or later, but he never did. He wouldn't talk about it much when I asked him, either. This week, when he went to the field, he left his camera behind, the camera he took to Sundance, and I thought maybe I'd take a look--


This is the look Deej gets when he's having his picture taken, because he thinks it makes him look tough. I think it makes him look constipated. What do you think?


And this is some big face walking down the street. I don't know what that is...oh, wait! I think it's a fish! A fellow fish! Hey there, fish friend! (He looks so sad! I just wanna give him a big hug...but I don't have arms anymore. That makes me sad...maybe he's sad because he doesn't have arms.)


Here he is looking constipated again. He mentioned that he stood in line for a while trying to get into a movie, but didn't get in. I bet this is from when he was in line. He sure looks like a Mr. Grumpypants, doesn't he? Well, he is one. He is so moody, like, all the time. In fact, if you look close, he kinda looks like he's gonna cry. I bet he's gonna cry cuz he's not gonna get to see that movie.


I, um, guess he really, really hearts Cafe Bustelo...


Mm, I really don't like it when the Deej hangs out with other enchanted animals besides me. He's getting a little too friendly with that cow...


What the...? Oh, I get it: He didn't wanna talk about Sundance because he was ashamed--he left behind his goldfish so he could go hit on hot she-bears! That jerk! I shoulda known! Give him a couple of beers and he's chasing the first cursed princess he sees. Rrrgggghhh!!! That is it, Deej! That is it!! Our ambiguous relationship is so over! I never really liked you anyway! And I hope that she-bears's boyfriend showed up and totally ripped you a new one!!


Yeah! That's what I'm talking about!

So, I guess that was Deej at Sundance. And the moral of the story is...um...don't hit on she-bears at Sundance. And buy tickets ahead of time. The end.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flotsam and Jetsam

I have been neglecting the blog of late, "of late" being for about the last half year. But you'll be pleased to know this is because I am actually working hard on my writing project, having received a much-needed kick in the pants from one of our readers. Now remind me to fact-check my drafts before sending them to potential artists. Yeesh. I don't even want to count the embarrassing errors I've found too late over the last few weeks.

Meanwhile, John C. Wright also bemoans his lack of production over this last year, "lack of production" being the publication of six short stories, which isn't so hot if you're a dedicated short story writer, but for a novelist, that ain't bad. He also announces that his next novel will be entitled Lesbian Swedish Bikini Team of Gor, which inclines me to wonder, will I be able to get away with jokes like that on my blog when I'm famous? Probably not.

In the non-Wright-related news, we have Tor.com, which has a round table discussion featuring irate people attacking the conclusion to the Battlestar Galactica remake. I have not read this panel, and I will ask you not to spoil it, as I haven't finished watching the BSG remake, and by "haven't finished," I mean I stopped in the middle of Season 2.5 to watch the original series and the made-for-TV movie Razor, and I haven't seen any more of it, but I plan to, as I was enjoying it, in a masochistic sort of way.

(Okay, I peeked at the round table discussion, but I deeply regret it, so don't read it if you don't want spoilers. They do make it sound frakking awful, but I have a sneaking suspicion I might actually like it; at least a few of the comments sound like "It's frakking awful because it's not as nasty and cynical as we would have liked." And while I'm at it, it's spelled fracking, not frakking, because the original series roolz. And also while I'm at it, the discussion and the comments that follow satisfy me that the sf crowd is still full of smug elitists. "Barely self-aware subsistence of agrarian primitives," hmm? I'd like to see how long you last in the wild with only the tools and supplies you can make and procure yourself, and then try developing a complex culture, language, and religion in your off-hours, and if you survive, let's see how "barely self aware" you still think such an existence is. "Barely self aware" probably describes us better than any culture that has preceded us.)

Speaking of surviving in the jungle and all that, we have the recent...news...regarding Dora the Explorer, which I will file under "vaguely but not really all that disturbing." According to something that doesn't quite look like a news source, Nickelodeon has come up with the idea of creating an older version of Dora the Explorer, by which we will learn, dishearteningly, that the popular cartoon character has grown into a miniskirted teenybopper. I give this new version...hmm...half a season.

In an equally vaguely disturbing story about a similar boneheaded marketing move, New York Magazine informs that American Greetings is remaking the Strawberry Shortcake character, transforming her from a distinctive figure into a generic one. To try to reach the modern market, they've slimmed her down, made her look like a Bratz doll, and given her a cell phone.

Yuck. I have to say, it happens that I'm currently working on a cartoonish production about children (and like Battlestar Galactica, it's also about war and terrorism, so I've linked it to two items in this post), and one of the first things I decided while designing my creation is that it would take place in an alternate universe where technology has developed differently and there are no cell phones. Actually, I didn't really "decide" this, because it was a given, something I did automatically without thinking about it. Frack, but I hate cell phones. I dare to write a comic book about kids who run around, play sports, read books, and absolutely do not watch television, play video games, or chatter on their cell phones. And I will probably never be able to write legitimate futuristic sf because I will never be able to come up with a plausible explanation for why all the cell phones have mysteriously disappeared and everyone is using rotary dial and the apartment building full of eccentrics has only one phone or maybe a party line in order to create comedic situations. And Dick Tracy's watch! Does everyone remember Dick Tracy's watch? Screw your cell phone, I want a radio watch!

While I'm getting my rant on, let me note, too, that the people responsible for redesigning and marketing the new, hipper Strawberry Shortcake have apparently decided that preteens will be more interested in the character if the character is just like them. Really? When I was in grade school, I didn't have much interest in reading, mostly because the books pushed at me were books about grade-schoolers! I didn't want to read about grade-schoolers. I was a grade-schooler. I wanted to read about youthful yet manly war veterans who build fantastic jet planes and fly to floating islands to battle giant grasshoppers and rescue languishing maidens from murderous dwarfs, dammit, and it was just such a book, the beautiful, badly written City Beyond the Clouds, that finally turned me on to reading. Do modern children who talk on cell phones really want to watch a show about a modern child who talks on a cell phone? Somehow, I doubt it. At least if they're like me, I think they'd prefer something more fantastic and imaginative--like, say, the original Strawberry Shortcake.

And while I'm on the subject of Dick Tracy's watch--because I, at least, have been thinking about Dick Tracy's watch all this time--Lucky the Goldfish has just sent me an article from CBS News on a recently developed, actual communications watch similar to Tracy's...with a built-in cell phone. Sigh.

MegaTokyo is right. There are no more heroes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Virus

We've had some computer issues lately that are, we hope, behind us.

Due to foolish behavior on my part, I recently contracted some pernicious viruses on my system. Of course, I should have seen this coming, though I didn't: with my cheapo antivirus software, I, like a Democrat with a condom, believed I had invincible protection. Believing thus, I proceeded to swap files in a most promiscuous and irresponsible manner--mostly with women, of course, but not always--and I even ignored certain warning signs that the discerning would have noted immediately, but to which I was blinded, insisting as I did that the misuse of my uploading and downloading faculties was right and natural. The results of all this, as even a fool could have predicted, were ruined families and shattered lives, a sense of purposelessness and ennui, and to top it off, some rather embarrassing infections.

Let that be a lesson to all of you.

Friday, March 20, 2009

You've Gotta Be Kiddin' Me

It's tax time over at The Sci Fi Catholic, and there will be no posts until those taxes are finished.

Except this one.

Who's writing Utah's tax laws, anyway? I don't remember this from last year, which is a good indication I did my taxes wrong last year, but apparently, Utah wants me to pay taxes on everything I bought out of state but consumed or "used" in Utah.

Right.

So, if I carry the food I recently bought in Nevada back over the state line before eating it, is it okay if I don't pay that tax? While I'm at it, can I get a refund on the sales tax I paid on food I bought in Utah but ate in Nevada?

And if the Utah legislature can find records of all the books I purchased on-line in 2008 and didn't pay Utah sales tax on, I'll gladly pay those taxes. But I certainly can't find those records, so forget it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

March Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour



If you're wondering why I seem to have dropped off the face of the earth, it's because I thought I was going to be somewhere with a reliable internet connection during this session of archaeological fieldwork, but have instead ended up back in Rump's End, Nevada, where I don't think they've even heard that there is an internet. In fact, they're still working on getting in those new-fangled telephone thingies. My motel room doesn't have one, at any rate.

Anyway, I'm currently poaching internet service off one of the more up-to-date neighbors so I can bring you word of this month's Blog Tour, so don't ever say that The Sci Fi Catholic doesn't go the extra mile for you the reader. It doesn't, but I don't want anyone to know.

Anyway, it has been a rough session, so if my humor seems unusually sarcastic or abrasive today, that's why. Good grief, I'm a Catholic, an archaeologist, and a science fiction writer, and I'm stuck in Rump's End where there's nothing to do but drink. With all that against me, it's amazing I even survived St. Patrick's Day. I had no idea I could hold that much beer.

So, this month's tour is dedicated to a little book entitled Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow by the Brothers Miller. Being stuck in Rump's End, I know nothing about it, but I do think that if Hunter Brown and Encyclopedia Brown got together, it would be totally awesome. I mean, Hunter could, like, shoot stuff, and Encyclopedia could, like, look up stuff... That would rock.

So, this is another one of those Christian fantasies about a kid who gets zapped into an alternate universe where there's magic. Prank-pulling protagonist Hunter S. Brown, a teenager, finds a magic book and then lands in a fantasy world called Solandria (is there a rule that the names of Christian fantasy otherworlds have to end in ia?), which is ruled by the ee-vil Shadow, which can cloud men's minds so that they cannot...oops, wrong Shadow. Anyway, Hunter joins a resistance group known as The Codebearers (whoa, my Thinly-Disguised-Christian-Allegory Dectector is pinging off the charts) and does some warrior-type stuff with a "Veritas Sword," which is apparently similar to the lightsaber ripoff carried by BibleMan.*

Good basic premise for a children's book, in other words. The Christian allegory comes through pretty strongly just in the product description, and for whatever reason I've never been a fan of obvious Christian allegory, but the reviews I've found have been quite positive. Of course, all the reviews I've found have been from this Blog Tour...

First of all, check Phyllis Wheeler's review at The Christian Fantasy Review. According to Wheeler, "In this middle-grade Christian fantasy novel, Hunter Brown keeps making bad choices. Nevertheless, he finds redemption." The rest of the review confirms my suspicions: very thinly disguised Christian allegory here.

The more flippant review at Back to the Mountains is amusing and delves more into the novel's cosmography, which looks reasonably interesting and rather complex, with Solandria intertwining with the real world; also, Solandria is apparently made up of "floating chunks of rock." For reasons I'm unable to explain (I'm dead serious here), I have a real soft spot for fantasy worlds containing inexplicably floating chunks of rock. I mean, heck, that was more-or-less the only good thing about Robota, besides the evocative picture of a robot riding a horse, I mean.

Then we have Rachel Starr Thomson, who complains about the book's numerous typos. Writing for Christ complains of a slow start.

Anyway, to learn more about the book and the Miller Bros., go to their website and blog, and I'll refrain from making any "Miller Time" jokes...oops.

It's Blog Tour Time:

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Magma
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Wade Ogletree
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

*You all know BibleMan, right? Cuz if Batman and BibleMan got together, it would be totally awesome. Batman could, like, punch stuff, and BibleMan could, like, look up stuff...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Putting Off Doing My Taxes

John C. Wright posts a copy of the Periodic Table of Awesoments, a handy guide by which a work can be evaluated for its awesomeness, and evaluates his own novels thereby. I thought I might do the same with my comparatively sparse work.



Let's see...in the case of "Dragonsaint," we have a Dragon (59), obviously, as well as Coffee (15), Fire (50), Helicopters (28), Lightning (49), and a Wizard (54)...huh, that might be it. That's no good. Arguably, though, it does contain Boobs (13), since I used the word breasts once in reference to the female anatomy and a few times in reference to a mountain range.

Now how about my present project? This comic book I'm supposedly scripting? It's in much better shape: we have a Dragon (59), Grenades (12), Miniguns (24), Tanks (40), Mecha (46), a Fortress (107), Metal (114), Coffee (15), Bacon (1), a Sniper (10), Chocolate (7), Liquor (51), Battle Axes (74), Rockets (38), Swords (39), Bombs (20), Explosions (4), Boobs (13), Ribs (84), Sunglasses [at night] (97), Assassins (18), Storms (83), Fire (50), and probably even Sex (113), though that last will be implied and off the page, thank you.

We have one bomb that works sort of like a Proximity Mine (88), some characters who look kind of like Cheetahs (63), and there's Kung Fu (26). Ooohhh, there's Kung Fu. Assuming that by "Moon Jumps" (45), they mean characters' abilities to jump further or higher than in real life, we have that too, and of course everybody knows that when you combine the Kung Fu awesomement with the Moon Jump awesoment, you get the Wire-fu molecool. We have the Wire-fu molecool.

Wright notes that Space Princesses are missing from the table, but I would point out that Space (31) is already up there and that Princess is actually previously undiscovered awesoment 103. Someone else notes that no small arms are on the table; in particular, the AK-47 deserves a spot, and is probably undiscovered awesoment 105. I would also point out that glasses of the non-sun variety, at least if worn by females or capable of reflecting light in a creepy fashion, are awesoment 102. We have a complex molecool here known as the Wire-fu-fighting AK-47-wielding Princess with Glasses, which I think pretty much shatters the glass ceiling of awesomeness.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

2009 Lenten Read-A-Thon Day 11

Day 11 and I've already failed. Last year, I was much further into Lent before I goofed up. Here I was looking at some art stuff, and I...I read a comic strip. Yes. During my Lenten fiction fast, I read a comic strip, and I didn't even think about it until later. Kind of like when you find yourself eating beef jerky on Friday: It didn't seem like meat...at the time.

Come to think of it, I think I read some newspaper comics last week, too. Also without thinking about it. Until just now. I'm not sure those count, though, because newspaper comics suck. You could read those for penance.

PENITENT: Father, I lied to my wife and got angry at my boss.

PRIEST: Go read a collection of "For Better or For Worse."

PENITENT: Oh Father, not that!

I should start paying better attention to what I'm reading. After all, the exterior practice is only worthwhile if accompanied by an interior disposition and by prayer. Fasting from food, or from certain foods, gives us opportunity to be more attentive to what we put in our bodies, and fasting from fiction gives us opportunity to be more attentive to what we put in our brains. And attentiveness, of course, is vital to effective prayer.

Anyway, I'm now posting the comic strip I read so I can damn you the same way I damned myself, dammit:



You read that, didn't you? See, you're no better than me. You think you're better, but you're not.

Notice how this comic strip is quite relevant to our present project, which is the reading of Man and Woman He Created Them by Pope John Paul II, or J.P. Deuce, as we affectionately call him. The comic is about Lent, and in it, Poland and Italy are hanging out together. Now, in our present reading project, we are for Lent reading a series of catecheses presented by J.P. Deuce in Italian, based on an unpublished manuscript he originally wrote in Polish. So Poland and Italy come together. For Lent. Awesome, huh?

Where was I? Ah, yes. I have already gotten some of the inevitable legalistic questions about how to observe the Lenten fiction fast, so here's my answer:

The Church requires us to observe a day of fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstinence on each Friday of Lent. These are opportunities to join in with the Church for days of mortification and prayer, in which we all come together as one body, and so forth. Any additional fasting you do or don't do for Lent is between you and God. I decided to fast from fiction during Lent because I thought it would be a good way to get under my belt some hefty nonfiction tomes that I had meant to read but hadn't, and to see some documentaries I had meant to watch but hadn't. It started with Josephus, who I had meant to read all of because of my Archaeology degree, and it's continued from there. I invite my blog readers to join in because that's fun and because I assume others have meant to read some of the same books I have meant to. Everything beyond that is your business.

Speaking of which, how many of you have made it through Michael Waldstein's magisterial introduction? Rough going, huh? Man, that blew me away; what a great overview. Contra Archdeacon Smiter, I'm glad Waldstein didn't go on for a few hundred more pages about J.P. Deuce's patristic sources. After all, an introduction must necessarily be limited both in aims and length, and I think 128 pages is a good place to stop on the length end of things. Besides that, for the skeptical modern reader, or even for most Christians, it is more important to outline what assumptions underlie modern thought and how J.P. Deuce has answered, used, or rejected those assumptions, rather than to show how he has used patristic sources, which the skeptical modern reader, and even some Christians, won't care much about. Besides that, because it focuses where it does and criticizes certain modern assumptions, this introduction, as it stands, potentially prepares the reader to take greater interest in, and to have greater appreciation for, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, an interest and appreciation the reader wouldn't likely have if Waldstein had simply jumped into the subject. So there.

If we were to take Waldstein's intro and my present place in the volume (page 190, yo!) and try to relate the pope's work to something much easier to understand, like, say, the Apostles' Creed, it would be fair to say the book focuses on the Christian belief in the "resurrection of the body." Last I heard anything on the subject, a poll had revealed that even most conservative Christians in America do not believe in a resurrection, or have no real concept of one, but tend to view their eternal destiny as involving some sort of disembodied state. This would seem to reflect what Waldstein calls a "Cartesian dualism," a view of the body as essentially a meat machine, only the spirit being of any real importance--and this belief, as Waldstein discusses only briefly, leads naturally to a disbelief in a spirit altogether, and a view of the human being in his entirety as nothing more than a meat machine, which in turn leads to a view of the human being as open to any kind of modification, exploitation, or abuse.

Meat machines. Mmm...meat. What day is this? Oh good, it's not Friday.

Where was I? Ah, yes: As Waldstein nicely puts it, with a bold and forceful use of EM dashes,


In contrast to the dominant mentality, John Paul II sustains Humanae Vitae to proclaim the good news--and it is indeed good news--that the human person "also is a body"--not merely "has" a body, but "is a body--e corpo." [pp. 103-104]

And when a man has to put a single word in both italics and quotation marks, you darn well better listen to what he has to say. Humanae Vitae, in case anyone doesn't know, is Pope Paul VI's encyclical reaffirming the Church's ancient and unchanging teaching on the immorality of contraception, which is controversial partly because Pope Paul VI went against the majority opinion of the Papal Birth Control Commission, thereby annoying some critics who apparently think the pope can change the moral universe on a whim, or that he is somehow obligated to concede to majority opinion or the winds of fashion. Is is amusing to watch the way so-called liberals will one moment complain that the pope has too much power and the next moment demand that he overstep the limits of his power to effect some change they want. For example, some time back, before I was Catholic, I read (most of) Hans Kung's bitter Catholic Church: A Short History, in which he one moment complains that the Catholic Church is not more like the Orthodox Church, the next moment complains that it is not more like the liberal Lutheran churches, and the next moment complains that it is not more like him. The petulance and self-infatuation of that little book put me in mind of a naughty child; I'm unsure if Kung needs an excommunication or a spanking.

So what J.P. Deuce is affirming, and what Paul VI affirmed, is that our bodies are not merely tools we have, but who we are, and that they by their nature communicate certain things and serve certain ends, and that in the resurrection they are destined for eternity. As J.P. Deuce explores in his opening chapter, which focuses on the first first few chapters of Genesis, a biblical anthropology does not permit of a sharp duality between body and spirit, but sees self and body as inextricably intertwined even to the point of identity. It is perhaps no wonder, then, that when a developed concept of afterlife appeared in Judaism, it appeared as a doctrine of resurrection.

We may add, in anticipation of something J.P. Deuce will probably discuss later, that when Christ fed his disciples, he fed them with his body; as the Church affirms in teaching that the "body, blood, soul, and divinity" of Christ are present in the Eucharist, when Jesus said, "This is my body," and "This is the cup of my blood," he was offering them all of himself, a self that, thanks to the Incarnation, is a body. And so after the crucifixion, Christ did not merely ascend spiritually to Heaven, but rose from the dead.

The difficulty modern people have in grasping all this can be startling; I myself experienced a small paradigm shift in my thinking while reading Waldstein's overview. The blithe, unquestioning acceptance of "Cartesian dualism" reaches so far, in fact, that it becomes difficult not to project it into the past. When I obtained my useless Philosophy minor largely under the yoke of so-called historical Jesus "scholar" Marcus Borg, for example, I heard more than once that the Apostles' original conception of Christ's rising from the dead was of a merely spiritual resurrection, revealed in visions, and that the details of the empty tomb were only added later. (This notion, like so many things, comes from a misreading of St. Paul.) I don't know who came up with this clever idea first, but it might have been Johannes Weiss, whose Earliest Christianity is considered a sort of classic, and which also makes a fine example of how bankrupt this branch of "scholarship" is: Being without many sources, Weiss speculates wildly and presents his wild speculations as facts.

So, I think that's enough of my reflections for this fine Saturday afternoon. I'm going outside to play. Have fun reading.