Saturday, February 27, 2010

Weird Things

I have just learned of the existence of a lawsuit called United States v. 449 Cases, More or Less, Containing Tomato Paste.  I say the tomato paste was framed.

On a not entirely dissimilar note, a reader sends along an anecdote which I strip of its context and reprint with permission:

...reminds me of something that happen when I was still on the farm. My dad and I were stringing fence when one of the neighborhood cats cut through the field on his way to his hunting grounds. A new coon hound we had bought suddenly sped across the field, grabbed the cat, and threw it into the air. As he waited, jaws agape, for the cat to come back down, my dad heaved his hammer. It took the dog in the back of the head, dropping him. The cat lit on all fours and stood there shaking as the dog came to. The dog took one look at the cat and left the area of engagement at full afterburner. Thereafter, when any cat came into view, the dog would retreat to his doghouse and, I suppose, peruse his collection of Playmutts (last month's centerfold, a fox terrier, is really hot by the way). He probably wasn't sure how the cat did it, but he seemed convinced cats pack one heck of a punch.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2010 Lenten Read-a-Thon

I'm late this year getting out the notice for the Lenten Fiction Fast and Read-a-Thon, largely because I was debating within myself whether this year we would even have such a thing.
Well, we're having it.  But now the notice is so late that those of you joining us will have to scramble to get a book by Ash Wednesday, which is next week.  Mea culpa.

In case you're just joining us, we do this thing around here where every year we give up fiction for Lent, including novels, comic books, movies, and television shows.  We also dedicate ourselves to reading through some nonfictional work, preferably a formidable one we've been putting off.  Now that I'm in seminary studying philosophy, I'm reading plenty of nonfiction and not very much fiction, but we're still doing the Fiction Fast, and we're still doing the Lenten Read-a-Thon, though I have selected for this year a book much shorter and lighter than what we've read in years past, mostly because of my limited time for extracurricular reading:


We'll start reading on Ash Wednesday and finish before Easter Vigil. It is a short book, so even with my schedule, it's possible I'll finish well before Easter, in which case I'll choose another book and continue from there.

You are free to join in with either the Fiction Fast, the Read-a-Thon, or both, and you can join us in reading this book or another of your own choosing. You can post comments or send me an e-mail to tell how it's going.

One additional note, though--please do not write me e-mails asking casuistic questions about whether or not it's okay to read something or other during Lent (I've gotten a few in the past). The Church has a set of minimal instructions for Lenten fasting; beyond those, how you celebrate Lent is your own decision. I suggest setting yourself simple and realistic goals, and sticking with them. I happen to practice Lent by fasting from fiction as much as is realistically possible, with the exception of my own work I'm composing, or the work of others I'm obligated to read, as in a writer's group. You can do something different if you like.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Sci Fi Catholic Reloaded

Previously, this blog was using a comment system called HaloScan. For whatever reason, HaloScan is kaput, and I've had to reload the blog template with Blogger's default comment system. This means all existing comments on the blog have been lost.

I have backup files of all the past comments except the most recent. At present, there is no means of importing them, but I will do so if the software to do it becomes available and reaches my notice.

If anyone commented with links to something--something relevant and non-trollish--that I hadn't mentioned on the blog and that you wanted to make sure didn't escape my notice, shoot me an e-mail. My e-mail address is in the sidebar. Relevant and non-trollish things do include your free on-line novels but do not include your shady online college degrees or pharmaceuticals.

I currently have comment moderation off. With HaloScan, this worked just fine, but if lots of spam, trolls, and flames start showing up now that we're back to the original system, I will gradually raise the security level as needed. So everyone please continue to play nice.

I apologize for the inconvenience, and for the comments that have been lost permanently.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Avatar--An Addendum

Shortly after I posted my review of the movie Avatar, I was dissatisfied with it. I read some other reviews that accused the film of racism, which I didn't agree with; the movie did not seem to be particularly concerned with matters of skin color or place of origin per se. So I went a different route and suggested it was simply misanthropic, but that didn't quite fit, either.

I recently ran across a link (which I now can't find, but which was probably over here someplace) to the essay, "A Nostalgia for Mud," by Esther Pasztory, in the Precolumbian Art Research Institute Newsletter. Though it doesn't discuss Avatar specifically, it discusses the ideas in Avatar, clarifies what I was thinking about the film, and plants a convenient label on what the film represents:

"Nostalgie de la boue" means ascribing higher spiritual values to people and cultures considered "lower" than oneself, the romanticization of the faraway primitive which is also the equivalent of the lower class close to home....

This primitivist terrain has been with us at least since the eighteenth century when Bougainville published illustrations of those charming and elegant Tahitians, Rousseau found man good in his native state, and Marie Antoinette played milkmaid at Versailles. Primitivism is part and parcel of the Enlightenment, of the classification of peoples, of the concept of progress, the democratic revolutions, nationalism, ethnicity, and multiculturalism....

But in fact it is more global and cuts more deeply than the recent history of the West. As Freud noted in Civilization and its Discontents, the civilized have always longed to be uncivilized and attributed great virtues to them. Tacitus admired the Germanic tribes, Herodotus the barbarian Scythians, Ibn Khaldun the nomadic Beduin, and the Chinese the Mongols. [more...]