Friday, July 31, 2009

And Now for Some Good News--

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, six-foot redheaded Charismatic Mennonite baristas with glasses and overbites are unlikely to get those charming overbites fixed. CNN reports:

New research published in this month's Journal of American Dental Association found that painful experiences at the dentist might cause more anxiety for men and women with red hair, who were twice as likely to avoid dental care than people with dark hair.

"Redheads are sensitive to pain," said Dr. Daniel Sessler, an Outcomes Research Department chair at The Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio, who is one of the authors.

"They require more generalized anesthesia, localized anesthesia. The conventional doses fail. They have bad experiences at the dentist and because of the bad experiences, they could avoid dental care." [more...]

Excellent! Those of us with IASFRCMBGO couldn't be happier!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Personal Update and News of Sorts

I'm taking a lull in my schedule to spend a little time working on my personal project, which I've been neglecting lately as I've been preparing to move. The project is script for a comic book, which I originally thought would fill 10 modestly sized issues, but appears to be growing--probably indicating I'll need to cut it mercilessly when the draft is finished. I had one scene where one of my major protagonists got beat up, and I originally had in mind a light beating, but I realized as I was writing it that this was the low point for the series, and such a mild low point could not work. I had to break my protagonist until he lost his tough-guy facade and was thoroughly humiliated, and that ended up taking almost an entire issue. Now I don't know how long this thing is going to be.

In other news, John C. Wright posts on the Sci Fi Channel's (I admit I can't bring myself to use the new name either) promise to have more sodomitic characters in its future programming.

Wright's comments on the subject are harsher than mine would be, but I will say one thing, one thing that has nothing to do with the morality of the subject (which would take a long time and more skill than I possess at present, which is after two beers, to lay out), but does have a lot to do with personal taste: I was thinking about working a couple of homosexual characters into my comic...and it just didn't happen. I couldn't bring myself to be, so to speak, excited by the idea. That's not to say my comic contains no awkward lovey-dovey stuff; it contains so much that a professional editor I admire and respect has told me repeatedly to tone it down. But can I fit in a couple of dudes confused by their growing feelings for each other? Nyah. I just can't work up the energy to go there. Besides, I'm not interested in gaining my comic the nickname Brokeback Post-Apocalyptic Exotic Temple City, or whatever.

I can thrill to a pulp adventure story as readily as any schoolboy, and I can drool over a cheap love story as readily as any schoolgirl (though I do the latter in private, as it's kinda disgusting), but whenever I'm watching television or reading a book and a character turns out to be homosexual, and it's treated as if that's supposed to be shocking, unexpected, noble, avant garde, fresh, or whatever, my response is always the same: "Oh, is that all? Boooorrrinngg!!" My reaction is not disgust or hatred (I've even lived with a homosexual without experiencing either sensation), but a sense of dreariness.

Maybe society is just so homo-obsessed that the freshness has worn off and the whole thing has grown tiresome to me; after all, nowadays, getting married and having kids the normal way looks weird and avant garde. But I can't help thinking the real reason it's boring is because homosexual romance, however much it may thrill the slash aficionados, is plainly lacking something--the complementarity and fertility, most obviously, but something deeper and harder to define as well. The mysterious and exciting elements of real romance--which probably grow out of that aforementioned complementarity and fertility--are missing, no matter how hard a writer might work to put them in. Good grief, I've even dabbled in slash, but I went back later and took the slash elements out because they didn't fit. After everything else I mucked up in my fan fiction, it was the slash, above all, that was plainly and obviously wrong.

Monogamous marriage is so wholesome, I think it must look too plain and simple to some in the artiste crowd. It's like whole-grain bread: Those who reject it out of hand or have had bad experience with a slice or two may dismiss it as bland and go hunting for more exciting if less nourishing fare, but those of us blessed to have been fed on it from birth know it's toothsome, satisfying, and inexhaustibly interesting (especially if it's got a thick, hard crust you really have to tear at with your teeth, and if you have a block of cheese...mmmm!) In my childhood, I was raised on whole-wheat bread and surrounded by healthy monogamous marriages; I can never grow tired of either.

The ultimate end of the relentless pursuit of perversity is probably something like the world of Charles Stross's Glasshouse, a novel depicting a post-singularity society that must be one of the most miserable and monotonous places I have ever read about. It is a future world in which men are like gods, yet can think of nothing to do with their limitless power except find new ways to masturbate. In this novel, the narrator fondly remembers being in a polygamous, polysexual relationship with several other people, their sexual appetites expanded by the surgical attachment of bonobo endocrine systems. Yet even this wasn't good enough for the narrator, who also had to keep a number of "fuckbuddies" on the side--an inadvertent admission on Stross's part, I think, that perverse relationships really are unsatisfying.

Does that disgust me? Not really. For something like that, I can't even work up the energy for disgust. Boooorrrinngg!!

Give me an old-fashioned love story any day: plain and dull to artistes like Stross, yet to those in the know, endlessly good and satisfying.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Deej to Seminary, Part 3: Contact your Government and a Serious Reflection

Americans United for Life has a handy way you can contact your congressmen and sign a petition to President Obama to put a stop to the abortion mandate in the new health care bill. The website is Keep Abortion Out of Health Care, which is about exactly what it says on the tin. Please take the time to go there, look it over, and send a message to your government.

Now then, onto other matters--

I've meant for many months to write a serious reflection on why I'm going to seminary, but have so far only churned out a humor post on the subject. That's because humor posts are easier to write. I still mean to produce a serious reflection, but I'm busy right now.

Here, however, I will reflect seriously on a related matter--clothes shopping. Yes.

Back in high school, I often dressed nicely. I wore Dockers and shirts with buttons on them and sometimes I was even color-coordinated. I don't know why I did this, but it might have been a way of rebelling against the typical dress of my high school peers, which consisted, usually, of gym shorts and tee-shirts with the sleeves ripped off. If you could see how the guys usually dressed at my high school, it would make you an instant believer in school uniforms. Looking back on it now, I don't know why the teachers didn't kick them out of class and tell them they couldn't come back until they were dressed decently. This is the time in my life when I learned never to buy Dockers ever again, for, even though they are "nice pants," they have a habit of ripping during strenuous activities like walking. I once ripped a knee on a pair of Dockers the day after I bought them, simply by squatting down to pick something up. That's a lot of money for such a cheap pair of pants.

Then came college and I discovered cargo pants, which are practical and more durable, even if they are less nice-pantsish. Then college ended and work came, and if there's one thing you don't want when you work as an archaeologist, it's nice clothes. Since college, my clothing has become positively slovenly, a practical thing for my clothing to be. Before a few days ago, I don't think I owned a single decent pair of slacks.

As I prepare for seminary, one of the things I have had to do is get proper clothes, including clerical attire and a good set of slacks and dress-shirts. This is not a complaint: I am a strong believer in dress codes; a dress code is a simple way to ensure that order is maintained and that the dignity of people and institutions is respected. I am pleased at the prospect of once again dressing decently.

Shopping for an entirely new wardrobe has been a surprising pleasure--I say surprising because I am a man and I detest shopping for clothes. My usual clothes-buying tactic is to find something that more-or-less fits and then buy seven of it--ta da! I have a week's worth of clothes. However, when I went down to a suit store to buy a black suit, I told them what exactly I was about and soon found myself with an enthusiastic clerk eager to dress me like a cleric and give me the discount usually given Mormon missionaries. Getting a suit that actually fits me, unlike the suit I got in high school that I was supposed to "grow into" even though I shrunk after high school and have continued to shrink, was such a nice experience that I forgot suit stores are pure evil and fell for all the usual trickery, walking out of there with not only a suit, but with a greatcoat and ten pairs of overpriced socks. They're really cool socks, though; they're antimicrobial bamboo fiber, or something. The clerk told me I really need a black fedora to go with the whole ensemble, but alas, there appears to be no suitable haberdashery in this whole state. Which is good, as that saves me from the temptation to spend a few hundred more bucks.

My next stop was the clothing retailer that happened to be closest to where I parked at the mall, where I bought black slacks that could sort of match the suit jacket from a distance in dim lighting, and dress shirts. Once again I walked up to a clerk and told him what I was about and found him enthusiastic to dress me--and give me the missionary discount.

Everyone at clothing stores has been so gosh darn nice when I tell them I need clothes for a Catholic seminary. I don't know what to make of that, exactly. Perhaps its a testament to the skill and personability of Utah clothing retailer clerks. Perhaps it's because, both times, I got lucky, or blessed, and found my clerks were Catholic--well, the first guy was Catholic; I'm not sure about the second guy, though he sounded Catholic. I will say, if you're going to buy clothes for a religious purpose, do it in Utah; that missionary discount is really nice. Makes me glad I told them exactly what I wanted the clothes for.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Awesomest Thing Ever?

Sorry I've been derelict in posting, but please go here to see what may be the awesomest thing ever. I mean, really, that's awesome. I gotta have one of those.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour

The Deej said that, since I wasn't any help packing, I could post today on the blog instead. That made me mad, so I called him a sexist, and then he said that word didn't mean anything, and I said yeah it did, and it's in the dictionary and it has his picture next to it, and then he said it only had his picture next to it because I xeroxed his photo from his high school yearbook and used a glitter glue stick to put it in the dictionary next to the word sexist. Then I said that if the guys who made the dictionary knew him, his picture would be in there already anyway so I was just helping them out. So there.

This month, the Blog Tour is about The Enclave by Karen Hancock. Hancock's website is here and her blog is here.

Now I'm gonna look up some reviews or something.

Check out Virtual Book Tour, which at first I thought might be one of those 3D video tours of a library, but it's not. It has a book review that tells us this novel is about a genetics research institute, a dark conspiracy, and maybe an alternate universe.

Krysti's Books tells us the novel is not for young adults, so if you're still in your twenties or something, hands off. This is for people forty and older, I guess. Maybe all the characters are old, or maybe they do boring stuff like taxes or tell stories about the good old days. Anyway, Krysti's Books says the book is scary, or at least I think it says something like that, because I can't hear it over the soundtrack.

The Enclave is apparently about an evil genetics institute with lots of frogs, and there are some nephilim running around, and this evil dude sits on a throne at the top of a big tower like the one in Blade Runner maybe, and he plays games with people's minds and has an obsession with pretty girls. He sounds like this one sexist I know. Anyway, the story follows a girl who's new to the business and has to take care of the frogs, which sounds kinda fun, and uncover a dark conspiracy involving clones and such. The novel, based on Krysti's Books's description, sounds like a goofy but entertaining horror of the sort appropriate for young adults.

The Lina Lamont Fan Club complains that the book has two narrative threads that only become intertwined in the second half, and that this doesn't work well.

The Least Read Blog on the Web has a spoilerish "gripe" about the nephilim thing. That's worth reading.

Monday, July 20, 2009

ACLJ Petition and Blog Tour

Once again I didn't get much of a post in today. You can probably understand, as I'm packing to move to the seminary and such. I recently ordered my clerical attire, but no, you can't see it, as it's for seminary use only. I will say, though, that sending a fanboy, who of course loves to play dress-up (oops, I mean "cosplay") into a clothing store, especially a religious clothing store, is like sending a kid into a candy shop and telling him to pick out anything he wants. You'll be glad to know I resisted the urge to buy the clerical shirts with the French-cut sleeves and cross-shaped cuff links. I did splurge and buy the greatcoat, but I refrained from buying the fedora. In spite of the lack of goofy accessories, I can say the result is still aw3som3sauc3.

Before I sign off for the day I'd like to point you to a petition at the American Center for Law and Justice to ask Congress to leave out the part of the new health care bill that would enforce mandatory abortion coverage in both federal and private health care plans. Please sign it, and call or write your congressmen, too.

Also, today begins the July Blog Tour. I'll see if I can make Lucky do a lengthier post on it tomorrow, but in the meantime I will simply point you to the homepage here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

View-Master Movie

No, it's not a sequel to Beastmaster. Somebody mentioned this to me a week ago and I assumed it was simply a joke, but it's not...I think. DreamWorks actually wants to make a movie based on the View-Master. You know, the little toy that's basically a primitive portable slideshow.

I posted on the toy-movie thing earlier. But this is too much like a bad joke. How could anyone working on this movie ever live it down? "Yeah, I played Slide #25 in View-Master."

Upcoming Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince



This one's obligatory. Appears to be an all-or-nothing film; every review either says it's great or it totally sucks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Now That's Steamy

Goofing off when I should be working, I ran into Mark Shea's post, "Scott Hahn Revealed to Be the Most Evil Human Being Who Ever Lived," on Randall Paquette's series of four essay on Scott Hahn. Mark Shea pokes fun at the essays' outlandish titles, but I have to say I'm thrilled by Paquette's prose, if not his errors and slovenly research. Still, check this out, from the essay, "The Desire of Scott Hahn":

In the long and weary history of the Church, one testimony remains unaltered: The Lord knoweth them that are His. And should the roll of the “faithful” increase or diminish; should her fortunes ebb or flow; should the warm tracery of sunlight caress her face, or the cold darkness of night press her sore, He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. All great and noble causes; and good and righteous men, have endured traitors, betrayers, and Judases.

Despair and trepidation are for them who are devoid of all hope, and not for those whose help is the Lord. There appears some panic, amongst certain Christians that some notable ones have run to Rome, and with mouths speaking great things, defend her institutions, justify her liturgy, and laud her power. But what of it? Is our cause lost? Shall some now fail to be saved who might have been otherwise? I fear not that the truth shall loose, nor do I fear the truth being lost. In short, I see Christ victorious, and Babylon the Great, cast down. And I see Jesus, with nary a jewel absent from His crown.

Or again:

What will Hahn’s “biblical theology” amount to? He will call upon half-truths, and untruths, to parade themselves as the Word of God. He will spin a few threads of scripture together, and declare that he has fashioned robes fit for his queen. He will attempt to burnish the pyrite of the papal crown, and present Rome’s High Priest as “the sweet ‘king of kings, and lord of lords,’ on earth.” He will defend the devil’s doctrine of celibacy as a holy sacrament of Christianity. Then he will have to pervert, distort, and deny the verity of Christ’s completed propitiation, and pretend to crucify Him afresh upon a myriad of altars by a hoard of priests. In other words, he will offer the world no new thing, but the hoary head of paganism peering out of the temple.

Whew. I have to catch my breath after reading that. Clearly, here is a man who has studied at the feet of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon. Never mind our theological disagreements, I'd go to this guy's church just to hear him preach, especially if he has a deep, gravelly voice.

I do, however, hope Paquette changes careers; a man who can write like that should not be wasting his time attacking Scott Hahn. He should instead be writing dirty paperback novels. If this were a penny dreadful about thewy barbarian swordsmen rescuing exotic princesses from slavering cannibal hordes instead of an essay about ex-Protestant Catholic converts, I'm sure I'd be reading it late into the night and singing its praises on the blog.

I believe I will study these essays closely for their style, if not their substance. Let's take a look at a few of the casual errors in that second quoted paragraph:

1.) Rome does not teach that celibacy is a sacrament; actually, it's marriage that Rome teaches is a sacrament. We can give Mr. Paquette a pass on this if he is using the word sacrament in a very broad sense. In that case, if he wants biblical support for the practice of celibacy, he can look first to the words of Christ in Matthew 19.12. It dismays me to see Protestants, who ought to join us in championing self-control and the subjugation of the passions to the intellect, treating something as mundane as celibacy, which everyone has to practice at some point, as something "devilish."

2.) I rather like the way he describes the Mass here. There's something about a "horde of priests" that sounds so much more sinister than merely "a bunch of priests" or "some priests" or "a priest." I suppose I need merely point out that the Church does not "deny the verity of Christ's completed propitiation" or "pretend to crucify Him afresh upon a myriad of altars." Catholics, too, can read Hebrews 9.25ff without blinking. This notion of Christ being crucified repeatedly is a Protestant error, and if Paquette has read the apologist he's discussing, he should have a good basic grasp of this subject.

Paquette commits the other errors of the overwrought Protestant polemicist, most especially confusing infallibility with impeccability, misunderstanding what the pope could define as dogma, and talking as if Catholics think the pope is God. These errors are embarrassing enough I would think more Evangelicals would have gotten over them by now. Some have, of course; there's a fine book by a Baptist called the Primer on Roman Catholicism for Protestants, which I would recommend to Paquette if he ever stumbled upon my blog.

Of course, a big part of Paquette's essay is a certain unspoken doctrine--the doctrine that all Christian doctrine must derive directly from the Bible. Without explicitly stating so, the essay assumes this doctrine is agreed upon by all parties. He mocks the possibility of a Catholic biblical theology because some Catholic doctrines exist--the Assumption being the most obvious--that are not found in scripture. In failing to mention this Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, which is not held by Catholics, he never clarifies the basis for his rancorous attacks, and since he is attacking the Catholic Church for failing to abide by a doctrine she doesn't teach anyway, his attacks miss the mark. Of course, sola scriptura cannot be found in the Bible either, and therein lies a dilemma.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kung Fu Night! Double Feature: The Swordsman II and Chocolate

I've been sitting on this movie review for too long, so you're getting it as is. Brace yourselves.



Dude looks like a lady!

The Swordsman II (a.k.a. Legend of the Swordsman), directed by Siu-Tung Ching and Stanley Tong. Screenplay by Tin-suen Chan. Starring Jet Li, Brigitte Lin, and Michelle Reis. Film Workshop (1992). Rated R.

See other reviews here.

Based on the wuxia novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer by Louis Cha, this movie is the second in a trilogy, each film of which contains a different cast. I've never seen the original Swordsman, but you don't need to see it to understand and appreciate The Swordsman II, an influential film that has inspired others, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which makes references to it.

As far as chop-socky flicks go, The Swordsman II has an unusually well-constructed and intelligible plot. That means I only had to watch it twice to understand it. I was only confused the first time around because I didn't realize Brigitte Lin was playing a dude. Kind of. Once I had that figured out, it all made sense. More details on that below. Watch in breathless awe as I get my personal pronouns mixed up--

As the movie opens, a group of expert Wah Mountain swordsmen led by the easygoing but hard-drinking womanizer Ling Wu Chung (Jet Li) has grown weary of war and constant bloodshed. To end their troubles, they have decided to go into seclusion on Ox Mountain and leave the world behind. Alas, they may never make it, for they discover some of their friends from the Sun Moon Clan, including the clan's leader, Master Wu (Shi-Kwan Yen), have gone missing under mysterious circumstances. Wu's daughter Ren Ling Ling (Rosamund Kwan), who has an unrequited love for Ling Wu Chung, asks the Wah swordsmen for their help in finding her father.

Replacing Wu as leader of the Sun Moon Clan is his brother Asia (Brigitte Lin), who has a wicked plan to conquer all of China by means of a magical scroll that will give him Real Ultimate Power and transform him into Asia the Invincible, with the side effect of (gasp!) turning him into a woman (also Brigitte Lin), thereby proving indeed that men are created equal, but women are created superior. Also, I should mention that Asia has ninjas who've hopped over from Japan apparently for the sole purpose of making sure this movie has ninjas.

Ling, in between bouts of drinking, whoring, and developing a complicated relationship with Asia, who he doesn't know is a former dude, will have to find Master Wu and help him defeat Asia before Real Ultimate Power makes her unstoppable. However, imprisonment and torture haven't been good for Wu's emotional stability, so Ling may find his ally is an even greater enemy. (Cue ominous organ music.)

This movie has the craziest martial arts sequences I've ever seen. Among other things, we have one guy who can use his sword to slice trees in half without even touching them, a guy who can dive underground and travel at high speeds with his sword point sticking up like a shark fin, a woman who can use her whip to make people explode, a guy who can use his bare hands to suck out life force and turn people into shriveled mummies, and, most importantly, ninjas who throw giant throwing stars, jump on them, and ride them through the air like flying surfboards. Besides that, every sword fight includes one or two swords that fly around like crazed boomerangs. Awesome. These things by themselves could make any movie the best freaking movie ever, but what really carries The Swordsman II is, surprisingly, the acting.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing Oscar-quality here, and most of the actors ham it up. Nonetheless, fine casting and a few solid performances, coupled with the above-average plotting, make this a memorable movie. For starters, Jet Li plays Ling with the same good humor he uses in several of his other movies, and it works as well here as it does elsewhere. As his female sidekick Kiddo, Michelle Reis overacts but nonetheless carries her part with tomboyish charm. Shi-Kwan Yen plays Wu as one of those cackling villains who make being evil look like a whole lot of fun. But the one actress who really makes the movie is Brigitte Lin, who plays Asia and has the difficult task of portraying a man transforming into a woman.

Remarkably, in a movie laden with campy special effects, Asia's transformation from male to female--a transformation nearly complete by the time the movie starts--contains none. Early on, Asia speaks with a deep voice and acts more-or-less like a man, but as the story progresses, two quiet scenes set in the midst of the action portray her increasing femininity: In the first, Asia swings a wine jug on the end of her finger and daydreams about an earlier chance encounter with Ling, for whom she has a growing infatuation; later , in a beautifully edited scene symbolizing the completion of her transformation, Asia dons makeup, much to the horror of her beautiful but slow-witted concubine (On-on Yu), who somehow up to that point has failed to realize her lover is not the man he used to be.

Helping to make Brigitte Lin's performance a stand-out are a couple of minor characters whose behavior contrasts sharply with Asia's. First, we have Zen (Shun Lau), the honorable and loyal servant of Master Wu, who, after Wu goes missing, willingly mutilates his own face in order to integrate into the ranks of Asia's hired Japanese thugs. (Why this requires self-mutilation is unclear.) Then, at the end of the film, Zen willingly slices his own arm off in order to protect his friends, a stunning act almost as breathtaking as seppuku with a frisbee. Asia and Zen both make serious and irrevocable physical alterations to themselves, but their motives are strikingly different: Zen mutilates himself out of loyalty and love for others, whereas Asia mutilates himself solely for power and personal gain.

Second, there's Kiddo (Michelle Reis), Ling's sidekick and one point of the film's love-quadrangle. Trained in the Wah sword technique, she is subjected to the usual tomboy jokes as she tries to appear alluring to Ling even though he and the other swordsmen see her as just another one of the guys. Near the film's beginning, she has her own ill-fated experiments with makeup in a scene symmetrical with the scene marking the final stage of Asia's transformation. Kiddo's attempts to lay claim to a femininity rightfully hers, with humorous results, contrasts with Asia's attempts to lay claim to a female body and femininity that are alien to him, resulting in disaster and destruction.

Good action and interesting characters, but let's not forget the writing. I've only managed to see the dubbed version, which has been chopped up by the American distributor and probably translated with a lot of creative license, but I love the cheesy dialogue in this movie. In particular, I'm fond of this little exchange between Asia and Wu during the final battle sequence:

Wu: Bwahaha! Do you use your power to become a warrior, or to seduce men?
Asia: You're jealous. I can have it both ways.

Ahem. As for the gender-bending conceit at the heart of the movie, I'm going to send you next door to The B-Movie Catechism's review of Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, to which I have nothing to add. Besides, I figure EegahInc deserves some of that extra traffic I've picked up lately.



Lady looks like a...lady!

Chocolate, directed by Pracha Pinkaew. Screenplay by Napalee and Chukiat Sakveerakul. Starring JeeJa Yanin, Hiroshi Abe, and Pongpat Wachirabunjong. Baa-Ram-Ewe (2008). Rated R.

And now we head to Thailand for another martial arts movie that works largely because of a female character. In this film, rather than the pillar-like Brigitte Lin, we have the slight twenty-something JeeJa Yanin in her first-ever movie.

In the film Ong-bak, director Pracha Pinkaew introduced the world to Tony Jaa. Although Jaa has martial arts and gymnastic skills that could raise even Jackie Chan's eyebrows, he has the charisma and acting ability of a fencepost. Pinkaew's newest discovery, JeeJa Yanin, is no Tony Jaa when it comes to fighting, but she has a million times more charm, and she still kicks a whole lot of trash, thereby proving indeed that men are created equal, but women are created superior.

Let's see if I can summarize Chocolate in one sentence: A Japanese yakuza kingpin with a heart of gold (Hiroshi Abe) goes to Thailand and has an affair with a Thai crime boss's moll (Ammara Siripong), who bears an autistic daughter, Zen, who rapidly grows into JeeJa Yanin; when aforementioned moll starts dying of cancer and needs expensive medicine, Zen, who's obsessed with martial arts, takes her chubby sidekick Moom (Taphon Phopwandee) and uses her mad savant fighting skillz to hunt down all the people who owe her mom money--and soundly kick their posteriors when they refuse to pay.

Yes, you read that right. It's about an autistic girl who's trying to save her mother, who's dying of cancer, by beating people. This movie is too tasteless to live, too kick-awesome to die. It's one of my favorites.

What I first notice here is the poor plot construction: All the story development is in the first third of the movie, and all the action is in the latter two-thirds. The plot is delivered so rapidly it's virtually a montage, a prelude to the endless fight scenes that will fill out the rest of the film. Though the fight scenes are certainly quite good, they are not remarkable when compared to other martial arts flicks on the shelves. What holds up the movie and makes it worthwhile--which is impressive, considering it's her first time out--is JeeJa Yanin.

Although once again there are no Oscar-winning performances here, Yanin's portrayal of an autistic girl is convincing and sympathetic. Both in the movie itself and in the all-too-brief interview in the DVD extras, Yanin oozes likability. She has the same youthful energy and charisma that make guys like Jet Li and Jackie Chan bigger than the dorky movies they star in. Besides that, Yanin is cute and slight of build, looking as if she couldn't weigh more than a hundred pounds; her appearance contrasts sharply with the Muay Thai beatdowns she delivers, yet her fight sequences are entirely convincing, undoubtedly because she underwent intense martial arts and gymnastic training in preparation for this film, and because she does her own stunts, mostly without wires.

Even though her autistic character doesn't give Yanin opportunity to display her dramatic range, the movie effectively portrays her as an unstoppable force, constantly fighting because she's a fighting savant, probably largely unaware of what she's doing, and certainly unaware of the potential consequences, but unable to stop. The grandeur of the fights escalates steadily until, in the movie's final sequence, the Big Bad attacks Zen with wave after wave of apparently limitless henchmen in a blood-soaked battle that moves from a restaurant to a training hall to the facade of a seedy motel, which gives plenty of opportunity for bone-crunching multistory plummets. The fights involve a lot of slo-mo midair spins and a lot of wince-inducing contact, especially in that sequence where Zen battles an epileptic whose seizures make his attacks unpredictable, a sequence that raises the tackiness to unprecedented levels.

Observed in rapid succession, these two movies make for interesting contrasts and comparisons. Both films, of course, tell us that girls kick butt. One is a straight-up fantasy film with exaggerated fighting, depicted through camera tricks and obvious wirework. The other, set in contemporary Thailand, claims that its sequences were done without wires (though that's not entirely true). The one makes no serious attempt at realism because it is an escapist film. The other is attempting to be gritty.

Plotwise, the films are on opposite sides of the chop-socky spectrum. The Swordsman II eschews, or perhaps subverts, the standard revenge premise; though he's certainly a flawed character, Ling genuinely wants to help people, to protect the innocent and vanquish evil, and to find peace and tranquility. The only character who's out for Kung fu-style revenge is Wu, a villain as nasty as Asia, if not moreso. With the innocence common to campy story formulas, The Swordsman II says, in the end, that greed, revenge, and skirt-chasing will get you in trouble, and that peace is good, even if nobody in the movie manages to find it. But in Chocolate, almost every character is a mobster, and extortion drives the plot. Zen is endearing anyway, since she's both powerful and adorable, but none of the characters come across as good people, and on no occasion I can remember does anyone do a noble deed. There is perhaps a thin moral in that Zen and Moom's free-for-all extortion enterprise gets them tangled up in bigger underworld dealings than they can handle, but it hardly helps.

These movies are also on opposite ends of the spectrum for another reason, and it concerns me because I worry there might be a potentially large market for more movies like Chocolate. I have no idea how many people, if any, were hurt in the making of The Swordsman II. Shoestring martial arts movies always carry a risk of injury, but at least in The Swordsman II the action is done largely with tricks.

Chocolate, on the other hand, advertises itself with (I kid you not), "real fighting" and "real injuries," as if getting his actors injured is something for a director to boast about rather than a dishonor. In its attempt at realism (but who could call such a crazy movie realistic?), Chocolate steps over the line: without the wires or nets or safety precautions that ought to go into the making of a high-flying action flick, especially one like this with a higher budget, people get hurt. And people were indeed hurt in the making of Chocolate; the movie brags about it. Its end credit sequence is similar to one of those Jackie Chan outtake reels, only it has paramedics and hospital trips, and it's not funny. Any athletic activity necessarily carries some risk of injury. Martial artists, like other athletes, have the right to display their skills, either in competition or in the choreographed dance-like routines typical of martial arts films, but reasonable precautions must always be taken to protect the people involved. Graphic violence in the cinema is already an oft-discussed concern, but it's even more frightening to imagine audiences might start demanding real blood in their movies.

Content Advisory: The Swordsman II contains fantasy violence, some gore, and a nongraphic sex scene. Chocolate contains action violence, frequent gore, some coarse language, and a moderately graphic sex scene.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why Christians Should Go Ahead and Be Pagan

Today's post is, alas, a rerun. But it's summer now, so you should expect that. Remember: it's new to you.
The relationship and dependence of the early chapters of Genesis on ancient Near Eastern myth raise the question of whether these chapters can themselves be designated as myths. The problem is compounded by the controversial issue of the definition of myth.
--John S. Kselman, HarperCollins Bible Commentary, p. 84


But if that which tends to make us happier and better can be called useful, then we claim that epithet for [mythology]. For Mythology is the handmaid of literature; and literature is one of the best allies of virtue and promoters of of happiness.
--Thomas Bulfinch, Bulfinch's Mythology, preface

A concerned reader writes,

I note that one of your interests seems to be the use of myth and mythology in fiction and popular culture. Here's a question I'd like to see you address and invite your other regular readers to weigh in on. The question is: Can a Christian author appropriate elements of a pagan mythology for narrative and dramatic purposes without appearing to endorse that mythology? If so how? Admittedly these questions are broad, and there is no definite answer, but I would be interested to see what you and your readers think.

The answer to the first question is yes, and I say this because Christians and Jews have been doing it for a very long time. The most important scriptural passage related to the subject is Genesis 6.1-2,4:

When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose.... The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, men of renown. [NRSV, with emendations]

I know of three interpretations for this passage. Early Church Fathers such as St. Justin Martyr and Tertullian, following a text then popular, the Book of Enoch, understand these sons of God to be fallen angels whose congress with human women produced a race of giants. Enoch depicts these giants later transforming into injurious spirits, which St. Justin takes to be Satan and his demons.

Later, when this interpretation and the Book of Enoch both fell out of favor, Church Fathers generally explained the passage by claiming that the "sons of God" were actually the Sethites, that the "daughters of men" were Cainites, and that the mixing of the two lines led to an increase of immorality, though why these immoral offspring should be "men of renown," I do not know.

The first interpretation stands at the end of a long and colorful line of mythological development that has probably masked the Genesis author's real intention, but the passage in question does not really allow the second interpretation, which I consider a means of explaining the text away rather than of explaining it. A third interpretation, which I arrived at independently, but which you can find in the footnotes of the NAB and probably in some other places, is hinted at by the tantalizing fragments in The Dead Sea Scrolls of a text sometimes dubbed the Book of the Giants. In this book, which is similar to the Book of Enoch, one of the Nephilim is named Gilgamesh.

The passage itself actually tells us what it means. If we ask, "Who are the Nephilim?", Genesis 6.4 answers, they are "the heroes of old, the men of renown." In other words, you already know them. You are familiar with their stories. They are the half-man, half-god heroes who walked the world in days of yore. They have names like Heracles, Achilles, Gilgamesh, and the like. Within the mythological primordial history of Genesis, in these few short sentences of chapter 6, the author gives place to the great stories with which his readers would have been familiar. He makes room for the pagan myths.

Other passages throughout scripture evidence the heavy influence of the Near East's shared mythology on the biblical writers. Perhaps one of the best examples is in Isaiah 14.12ff. In this passage, Isaiah calls the king of Babylon "Day Star, son of the Dawn" (NRSV), and describes him trying to ascend to the very throne of God on Mount Zaphon (not, interestingly, Mount Zion), but failing in his endeavor and being cast down into Sheol. Isaiah is here drawing from Canaanite mythology: when Baal the Thunderer, whose throne was on Mount Zaphon, was swallowed up by the god of death, Mot, then the god of the morning star, Athtar the Awesome, attempted to ascend to his throne and take his place. However, Athtar discovered that his feet did not reach the footstool and his head did not reach the headrest, and he realized he could not take the place of Baal the Thunderer, so he instead became a god of the underworld (cf. Coogan's Stories from Ancient Canaan, p. 116). Clearly, Isaiah here is unafraid to use pagan myths to get his point across.

In doing this, Isaiah is only doing what many Christian writers, and others, would do after him. Thomas Bulfinch, who produced the classic Bulfinch's Mythology, writes in his preface,

Without a knowledge of mythology much of the elegant literature of our own language cannot be understood and appreciated. When Byron calls Rome "the Niobe of the nations" or says of Venice, "She looks a Sea-Cybele fresh from ocean," he calls up to the mind of one familiar with our subject, illustrations more vivid and striking than the pencil could furnish, but which are lost on the reader ignorant of mythology. Milton abounds in similar allusions. The short poem "Comus" contains more than thirty such, and the ode "on the Morning of the Nativity" half as many. Through "Paradise Lost" they are scattered profusely. This is one reason why we often hear persons by no means illiterate say they cannot enjoy Milton.

Then of course there is Beowulf, which is, more or less, a Christian telling of a pagan myth, or the Heliand, which is, so I understand, a Christian mythologizing of the Gospels. Nor can we forget the Arthurian legends, a complex stew of Christian and pagan-derived elements. And what shall we say of Dante's Divine Comedy, in which he pictures Hell peopled with historical and mythological figures side by side, all in a world drawn from the Aenid? Dante takes all the myths at hand and, like the aforementioned author of Genesis, places them under the umbrella of monotheism.

There are more recent Christian authors as well who make heavy use of myths:


The Atlantis story also comes to us from antiquity, through the Greek philosopher and mythopoet Plato, who grew up under the spell of Homer's epics as well. Thus Tolkien also comes under the spell, connecting his Middle-earth Legenderium to the Greek myth of Atlantis; when he wrote The Lord of the Rings, he identified it as the story of the inhabitants of Middle-earth after the fall of the kingdom of NĂºmenor, a rough parallel to Atlantis. Though Lewis is perhaps most famous for his Narnia stories [which also use pagan mythology], his favorite of his own works was Till We Have Faces, a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth. His source for that was Apuleius's Latin classic The Golden Ass. [Dickerson and O'Hara, From Homer to Harry Potter, pp. 94-95]

Instead of asking if Christians ought to use myths, we should ask instead why there would be any reason they ought to stop. I can think of none.

As for the second question, regarding how to use mythology, the answer is another question: how do you want to use it? You can use it through metaphor or through the appropriation--or subversion--of mythological characters, settings, and artifacts, or even by making up your own mythology, drawing on existing ones. If you're concerned with creating an explicitly Christian sub-universe, you can always do what Dante and Tolkien did and settle everything under a monotheistic umbrella, which you will find is a broad umbrella indeed. You may even have reason, if it better suits your story, not to mention monotheism, as Tolkien usually didn't. I am currently designing three works, one of which takes place in a universe ruled by 32 gods, 12 of which incarnate from time to time, another in which the closest thing to a god is a collective of superintelligent bacteria that produces avatars by infecting people and rearranging their DNA, and another in which all the myths and legends I can get my hands on are jammed together and syncretized within a decidedly Christian universe. The people who would be offended by this sort of thing aren't in your target audience anyway: because you only live inside your own head and not inside other people's, you can only write for your own tastes, so your target audience is people who share your tastes. The sort of legalists who get offended by the content of fantasy novels (but read them anyway) and then write books about how offended they are cannot possibly be the target audience for a fantasist.

I do not make this last remark facetiously. I realize that allowances must be made for differences in taste and life experience, but we seem to have reached a time in which a great many Christians are suspicious of mythology and its less dignified (due to lack of age) younger brother, fantasy. This attitude of suspicion and tendency to interpret stories in the worst possible light is a reaction--an unhealthy reaction--to a perceived increasing hostility toward (or at least lessening patience with) Christianity in the culture at large. To cure this disposition of suspicion regarding fantasy, we should first relax and remember that we are talking about fiction, and second, we should remember that literary works are generally open to more than one interpretation. After remembering those two things, we will be better able to approach fantasy works fairly. As for mythology, we must only remember that we really have nothing to fear from it, because the pagans became Christians and now their myths are ours. It isn't only Padmasambhava who can contend with deities and transform them into guardians of the dharma; our missionaries, too, are god-wrestlers--we turn deities into saints.


And that dismal cry rose slowly
And sank slowly through the air,
Full of spirit's melancholy
And eternity's despair;
And they heard the words it said,—
“Pan is dead! great Pan is dead!
Pan, Pan is dead!”

Gods who die sometimes refuse to stay dead, but when they rise, they may rise as Christians. Pan still plays his pipes, and his train still follows, but the tune he plays is "Ave Maria."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Deej Does Triple Duty!

I will try to post later, and that much-delayed review is almost done, but I am currently engaged in the difficult and manly task of packing, drinking beer, and watching cartoons--all at the same time!

So I'm getting ready to move, doing something Catholic, and doing something science-fictional, simultaneously. Don't ever say I don't work hard. I must say, though, it's a little sad watching all my icons and all my dragon figurines go into bubble wrap and boxes. It's even more agonizing deciding what to take and what to send into storage.

District 9 Has Slick, Halo-esque Marketing Campaign

The Salt Lake City Examiner has an article on the upcoming sf movie District 9, directed by Neil Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson. Its ad campaign is another one of those hint-dropping things with a made-up propaganda website, which is actually pretty cool, and a "hacked" phone hotline (866-666-6001) you can call to report suspicious non-human activity.

Possibly an entertaining movie, with a cool trailer involving mech suits (though the thinly allegorical premise makes me say, "Meh"), but I can't help noticing this line in the article: "The film seems like it will feature mature themes unlike any science-fiction film ever made."

Hm.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Catholic Fiction.net

And now to deal with my backlog of obligations--

Take the time to visit Catholic Fiction, a handy website about exactly what it says on the tin.

The site features quite a nice collection of reviews and other articles. You might check out the article on Ross Douthat's take on Dan Brown, and the brief list of reviews sf titles, which include some notable volumes. In particular I must point you to Tannia Ortiz-Lopes's positive review of Infinite Space, Infinite God, mainly because it's co-edited by Karina Fabian, an author-editor who's had to put up with me a number of times in a number of situations.

The site is also attempting to put together a complete list of Catholic fiction in English. Good luck with that.

So go check it out. I believe the site is still quite new, but it looks like it's off to a good start.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Did Anyone Notice...or Care?

So, a couple of days ago, according to this article, the Sci Fi Channel changed its name to Syfy, thereby likely resurrecting the stupid "skiffy" debate. On the plus side, this means this blog is now the only game in town to improperly leave out the hyphen.

What really intrigues me about the above-linked article is the impassioned and mostly angry comments below it. Apparently, people really do care...a lot.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Is This Real Life?

I am really sorry about the lack of posts lately, especially now that we have all these new visitors, but my work has me getting up even earlier and getting home even later than usual, and as you might imagine, I have a few other things to deal with. I will try to give you some significant content this weekend, but I think posting will be slow over the next few months.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Yeesh

Okay, so I didn't finish that movie review I promised. But I wrote a good chunk of it. Actually, I spent most of my weekend running around so I didn't have much chance to write anything, blog post or otherwise.

The good news is that the apartment is now probably cleaner than it's been since we got here. Since the occupants of this place include a bachelor and several fantasy animals, it usually smells like a cross between a bathroom and a barnyard, but now it smells almost okay, thanks in part to this industrial strength odor-neutralizing bomb thingy I got. Basically, you put it in the middle of the apartment, set it off, and then run for the door as fast as you can. It's kind of awesome. When you come back in an hour later, the whole place smells like Febreze. And your toothbrush tastes like Febreze.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Book Warning Labels

Over at Mark Shea's blog, Shea discusses a copy of G. K. Chesterton's Everlasting Man
, which in a 2008 edition includes the warning that, "This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race have changed before allowing them to read this classic work."

Shea is generous with this insidious, bigoted notice, this ignorant besmirching of an author's name and work because he lacks the over-sensitivity and mealy-mouthed, tip-toeing cowardice of a modern writer, the cowardice that forces said modern writer to bad grammar and laborious euphemisms, this politically correct fear of offending all the professional victims and media darlings that prevents academics, students, and politicians from speaking plainly and speaking their minds, this assault on decency, honesty, and generosity disguised as politeness. I cannot be so generous.

This adding of a label to Chesterton's book reminds me of some conversations I've had, during which certain people felt justified in completing my sentences for me in order to make me sound like a dunderhead. Once, some years ago, when I stated that I wished to join a church, a listener added, "that meets your needs," assuming incorrectly that I was more concerned with my appetites than with true religion. I found the addition a severe insult. Even less to my liking is the additive, "in your opinion," that some companions have been in the habit of appending to my absolute statements about the way the world works. The next person who completes my sentences in such a manner is going to get mauled.

Speaking of obnoxious literary warning labels, I have here a copy of Metropolis, an early manga by Osamu Tezuka. Incredibly prolific and commonly known as the God of Manga, Tezuka is best known around here for Astro Boy. Metropolis is the middle part of Tezuka's so-called SF Trilogy, which also contains Lost World and Nextworld. It is rather primitive by today's standards of comics, and even Tezuka himself, in his latter years, disliked it enough to oppose the anime adaptation (which was made anyway after his death), but Metropolis was important in shaping manga as we know and love (or hate) it today, and introduces themes Tezuka would explore again in Astro Boy and Princess Knight.

At any rate, I have here the 2003 Dark Horse printing of Metropolis, which can boast of being the first English-language edition. But inside the front cover, I found a notice that very nearly prevented me from enjoying the rest of the book's contents. I print it here in full so you can gape in wonder at the condescension and assumed reader stupidity as well as the veiled insults the publishers have decided to hurl at this most beloved and influential of manga creators (my comments are in red):

Many non-Japanese, including people from Africa and Southeast Asia, appear in Osamu Tezuka's works. Sometimes, these people are depicted very differently from the way they actually are today. In a manner that exaggerates a time long past or shows them to be from extremely undeveloped lands. [Since when is being undeveloped something that comes in grades? Perhaps they mean extremely underdeveloped.] Some feel [not think, mind you] that such images contribute to racial discrimination, especially against people of African descent. [Who are these "some"? The publishers?] This was never Osamu Tezuka's intent, but we believe that as long as there are people [who?] who feel [feelings again] insulted or demeaned by these depictions, we must not ignore their feelings [feelings again].

We are against discrimination, in all its forms [except against manga artists from the past], and intend to continue to work for its elimination. Nonetheless, we do not believe it would be proper to revise these works. [Discrimination we're against. Censorship we might consider.] Tezuka is no longer with us, and we cannot erase what he has done [*sputter*], and to alter his work would only violate his rights as a creator. [At least they have that part figured out. I wish these guys would talk to the translators of the NRSV Bible.] More importantly, stopping publication or changing the content of his work would do little to solve the problems of discrimination that exist in the world. [You can start by solving this problem of discrimination against manga creators who don't fit your PC trendiness.]

We are presenting Osamu Tezuka's work as it was originally created, without changes. We do this because we believe it is also important to promote the underlying themes of his work, such as love for mankind and the sanctity of life. [Oops, that last one's not PC either; are you sure you shouldn't apologize for that, too?] We hope that when you, the reader [who we apparently think is an idiot], encounter this work [or, you know, just read it], you will keep in mind the differences in attitudes, then and now, toward discrimination, and that this will contribute to an even greater awareness of such problems.

Delays

Ugh. Well, I said I'd have a movie review up by now, but a number of more urgent matters are demanding my attention, so we have a delay. That's what I get for trying to schedule my blog posts, I guess. I hope to have it up this weekend, though.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Asteroids Movie?

Whoa. My weird movie prophecy powers come through again. I actually thought of this myself, like, five years ago. I guess someone in Hollywood thinks the same way I do, which probably isn't good for either them or me.

Orthometer reports that a Universal Studios movie based on ye olde Asteroids video game is in the works, a news item he gets from Dark Horizons. The original news article comes from Hollywood Reporter. In case you don't know, Asteroids is that video game where you guide a triangle-shaped spaceship to shoot at a bunch of asteroids, all while trying to avoid getting hit by the flying rocks your laser blasts create. It has no story. In other words, it's not really, you know, movie material. However, you can play it online here.

Looking over the Wikipedia article on the game, I'm inclined to say the movie should rip off material from some of the Asteroid spin-offs. Check out these titles: Astrogeddon, Spheres of Chaos, Stardust, and Astro Fire. I would so go to a movie called Astrogeddon or Spheres of Chaos. I would even go to a movie called Stardust. Oh, wait...

Hollywood Reporter, in the same article, notes in passing that Universal is also attempting film adaptations of Battleship and Candy Land.

Hm.

I guess the success of Transformers has wider repercussions than any of us would have supposed. They really are going to make a bunch of movies based around our old toys, something predicted in humor, now a hideous reality. I'm not sure what a Candy Land movie would look like, honestly. Maybe like a magical girl cartoon crossed with The Nutcracker, on crack. Personally, I vote for filming it as a horror movie; I don't know about anyone else, but I always thought that game was creepy.

Honestly, though, I would probably go see a live-action My Little Pony movie. I used to watch that cartoon as a kid, though I had to do it furtively and keep the volume on the TV really low, since my parents frowned on me watching cartoons for girls. (Now I watch all the girls' cartoons I want! Bwahaha!) I don't remember much about it--something about a girl with a magic rainbow and pastel-colored ponies with big hair--but I did think it was good. I stopped watching around the time I realized the ponies were never going to mount machine guns on their backs, or learn Kung fu.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Deej to Seminary, Part 2

Goodness, look at all those new readers. I appear to have been Mark-Sheaed, which is, I suppose, the Catholic equivalent of being Penny-Arcaded. Mark, you can link my blog anytime you want.

Guess I better put up some real content to keep them coming back. Hmm...okay, tune in tomorrow and we'll have a movie review DOUBLE FEATURE!

In the meantime, I must explain yesterday's post at more length. Yes, I am going to seminary to study for the priesthood, and some of you will, no doubt, want to know why. I list my reasons here:

  1. Power. Over you, specifically. One aspect of the priesthood has a particular appeal to me, and that's the ability to exert control over superstitious parishioners via their deceased loved ones. If you don't do what I say, or give me sufficient money, I'll have the ability to cast your dead relatives from purgatory into hell. Think about that for a minute and then tell me who wouldn't want to be a priest.

  2. Wealth. Speaking of sufficient money, we all know the Vatican has gigantic vats full of it, so much that if the Church only opened her greedy coffers, she could instantly solve all the world's problems with her enormous monetary assets and still have enough left over to fund an ill-fated space program involving flying cathedrals and confused nuns. Fortunately, she's not going to do that, because every good bishop knows money was made for swimming in, Scrooge McDuck style. As a mere priest I won't have a big vat of moolah like the pope, but I'm sure I can acquire a small bathtub full, which is sufficient for my modest needs.

  3. Influence. As a priest, I might be able to speed up the process of the canonization of Isaac Leibowitz. I mean, let's get this show on the road here. What's taking so long?

  4. Secrets. If I manage to acquire enough power and influence through the regular channels of backstabbing and simony, I might gain access to the secret vaults where we keep the fifty-four other, more accurate gospels, and I might even learn the truth about our architecture, about the aliens, and about the vampires. I might see all the artifacts that the Church somehow managed to nick from the Temple of Solomon, which will be particularly special to me as an archaeologist. And since nicking artifacts from the Temple of Solomon would require the Church to have a time machine, I might get to see a time machine. That's pretty sweet.

  5. Style. I have never yet seen a priest with enough guts to wear a leather trenchcoat and dark sunglasses with his clerical garb, and somebody needs to do something about that.

  6. Praying Directly to Jesus. We let the ordinary folk like you pray to saints, of course, or go through the mediation of a priest and his esoteric, intentionally obscure rituals in another language, and sometimes we even let you pray to Jesus' Sacred Heart (though that's pushing it, so don't do it too often), but only the ordained get to talk to Jesus himself. If I'm ordained a priest, you'll have to go through me to get to Jesus, and that gives me a certain feel-good rush (see no. 1 above).

  7. Assassination. Let's face it, assassins are cool, and priest assassins are extra cool. Admittedly, I jumped the gun on this one; I was so excited about my future carrying out brutal murders to perpetuate the lies of Holy Mother Church, I went and shot a museum curator who was studying Leonardo Da Vinci a little too closely. I then followed this up by taking out a couple of kids who appeared to be about to commit the vile act of eating fruit in the forest together (an act that can change the multiverse!). Afterward, my pastor had to take me aside and inform me that, though assassination is indeed an important part of ministry, it can only be carried out by those who have done penance for murder ahead of time. I asked if that meant I was in some kind of trouble, but he reassured me that I could take care of it with an indulgence if I shelled out some cash for a new cathedral. In the end, my first assassinations were expensive, but worth it.

  8. Great Retirement Benefits. At the end of my life, after I have gained dizzying power through my clever maneuvering in the corrupt hierarchy of Rome, and after my flesh has been engrossened by gluttony, drunkenness, and sexual excess (made all the more grotesque by unrelieved celibacy, which, by the way, causes hallucinations), I will lie on my deathbed suffering from fever and dropsy. I will have an excruciating itch over my whole body, as well as difficulty breathing. I will have extremely foul breath. Then, in my last moments, I will see a vision of raging fire--a premonition of my eternal fate--and at last my body will burst open with worms, a devastating symbol of heavenly displeasure. I'm really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Deej to Seminary

It appears to be official. I will be starting seminary this coming fall. Details to follow.