Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Friday, September 23, 2005


I've been reading The Dialog of St. Catherine of Siena from CCEL for a public domain audiobook (for Maria Lectrix and's Open Source Audio/Spoken Word section).

It's pretty interesting. (And with those run-on sentences, it's a lot easier to read out loud than by eye.) But I've also been learning a lot. For some reason, I really liked the explanation of how all sins are against the neighbor (yourself being your chief neighbor), either by commission or by omission of gaining grace, which would let you help your neighbor more. Also, it's strangely relaxing it is for someone as nitpicky as me to get reminded that other people, and God, are even nitpickier about sin -- and yet we get delivered from our sins. Finally, I'm pretty sure St. C is the ultimate source of Mark Shea's "Sin makes you stupid", since she pretty much says that about the "eye of the intellect" in a more lengthy way. I'm not sure what else to say about the book, though. It's got a lot of meat in it that I'm still chewing on.

I'm currently in the middle of "The Book of Discretion", and boy, do I need it.

For example, I probably should just accept seeing a tiger in the middle of a display of African animals. And I did manage not to freak out like a flame war in Mark Shea's comment box, or anything like that. I told the proper people; the proper people refused to change the display; and I guess I just have to accept it with as much love and grace as I can muster. Nobody is going to budge on this, so making more fuss would just make things worse. After all, it's just a silly little display, and it's coming down very soon.

E pur si muova. Dang it.

Still, there's a difference between concern for the truth and intellectual pride, and I've got enough of the latter that I can't really assume I've got the former.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Golden Age Catholic Comics

First of all, I'd like to thank Opinionated Homeschooler for bringing the phenomenon of Catholic comics for parochial school kids to my attention. These are just too cool! (Michigan State has a lot more issues, but they didn't digitize 'em.)

There's a lot more information about Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact at Toonopedia, which notes that this monthly comic was all part of Pflaum's publishing line of church bulletins, religious magazines, and a Weekly Reader-like weekly newspaper for parochial school kids (kindly recalled by my mother).

Now, what I noticed was that Pflaum was from Dayton (which is why I asked my mother about the comics -- she didn't remember them). What I didn't realize is that I was about to receive an answer to a long-standing question in my mind.

The late Lloyd Ostendorf was a Lincoln expert and collector of Lincolniana. He also was the guy who came up with the infamous Lincoln-Kennedy parallels. (He was a total Lincoln geek. Of course he would make the connections. He said he wrote the thing up just for filler, and in a very short time. He didn't take them seriously at all.) For proof, he had a copy of the parallels' publication as part of a comic. But I never got to ask him which comic. I had assumed he'd lived in New York if he was working in comics at all; and yet later, I found out he lived in Dayton all his life. So how had he worked in comics at all?

Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, my friends. Check out his work on this story: "Passports to Paradise: Extreme Unction".

Unfortunately, CUA's collection of Treasure Chest only goes up to 1960, whereas Toonopedia says it survived until 1972. Mr. Ostendorf's Kennedy parallels couldn't have appeared until 1964, at least. But now I think we know.

Internet info about Mr. Ostendorf:
-- His last appearance before the Surveyors Historical Society, and a sketch of Washington and Lincoln as young surveyors
-- His painting of George Rogers Clark
-- An old picture of him
-- A story about his Lincoln collection
-- An explanation of Ostendorf's catalog system for Lincoln photographs
-- OTOH, experts can be fooled. (I regard Mariah Vance/Adah Sutton as a fanficky sort of history source.)
-- A nice plug from him for a sculptor.
-- A student and friend's reminiscences and Ostendorf sketches.
-- Article containing a spooky Ostendorf daguerreotype-like sketch of Nancy Hanks Lincoln.
-- A guy who wants a giant Lincoln statue made from an Ostendorf painting, with an Ostendorf gallery inside the giant barrel behind him.

New Audiobook Blog

I've started a new blog called Maria Lectrix Audiobook Club, inspired by the Public Domain Podcast and other audiobook and short story podcasts. This will give me a way to point out to all of you the audiobooks I'd like to make and stick up on's Spoken Word section of Open Source Audio. If I can do stuff weekly, then it becomes more like a real continuing project.

Also, nobody but CCEL seems to be doing Catholic religious books (except Verbum Domini doing the Bible readings!), which is a shame. Remember that it's only in the last few centuries that reading became more of a visual than an audio experience.

(I'd do a podcast, but I fail to understand what makes it different from an audiolink blog. Also, I have no iPod or iTunes, so obviously iAin't doing a podcast per se. I've got an RSS feed. That ought to be enough.)

If anybody else would like to read public domain stuff for Maria Lectrix, let me know and I'll link to it. is open to everybody, after all!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

To Diet to Oneself

1. I have never been particularly good at the whole weight loss thing, mostly because:

A) I love sedentary pursuits
B) I love to eat
C) I'm really bad at making new habits
D) I live in a fallen world
E) I blame society

2. I snack a lot on Gaming Day because:

A) The snacks are in reach
B) I love to eat
C) I can't chew my dice or they'll be ruined
D) That is the canonical custom of gamers
E) I blame society

3. I will improve matters by:

A) Putting all the snacks out of reach
B) Stuffing myself with high fiber, low calorie snacks
C) Drinking a gallon of water instead
D) Doing a novena to the Baptist and starting the Locust and Honey Diet
E) Suing society

Yes, I was bad yesterday. I did a three mile walk yesterday morning for charity, and by Saturday night I had managed to bloat myself so much on gaming snacks that I could hardly eat any dinner. If worst comes to worst, I will have to start drinking more caffeine on weekends, as that's an appetite depressant. But I've been trying to avoid caffeine. Sigh.

So I walked to church this morning and got back on my exercises. I really am noticing a difference with my muscle tone and endurance. I'm just not losing any weight, and then I'm gaining more on Saturdays. Sigh.

Catholic Radio

First off, I have to admit that originally I shied off from the very idea of Catholic radio. As with EWTN, I was disgusted by exposure to decades of annoying media preachers and couldn't picture Catholic media being any better or more interesting. In fact, I assumed it was going to be worse -- some kind of rad trad empire -- and the 'cable access' look and feel of EWTN back in the day confirmed me in my prejudices.

(But let's remember that I was of a generation that had never seen Bishop Fulton Sheen, but got to hear all about Father Coughlin in history class.)

But Catholic radio, like Catholic TV, has turned out to be a great blessing. I don't think I'm particularly ignorant, but Catholic radio is constantly teaching me more about the richness of the Faith, and the uses of the gifts God had given us. I'm not alone, either. A huge number of the spiritually hungry people out there are finding their faith, rediscovering it, or having their most troubling questions answered. Catholic radio isn't about hate or using God as a cover for speechifying and greed; it's about peace and grace and service. I like that very much.

Ironically, I now find Catholic radio even easier to digest than EWTN. A good number of the new Catholic media folks have better voice presence than physical. (For example, Marcus Grodi kinda has the big-hair preacher thing on TV, but his voice is very reassuring.) There's also a lot of Biblical apologetics on the radio, which I have come to love. Nice juicy scholarly answers -- mm, mm! Also, the direct confrontation with real world problems -- whether it's kids who won't behave or a caller who thinks priests are servants of the Antichrist -- is very enlightening. You also get news of truly interesting Catholic activities. This is good, because the diocesan newspaper seems simultaneously to favor boredom and dissent from Catholic teaching as a means to salvation, and I'm not sure what's worse. :)

I will admit that there are still some folks on the radio who scare me. Teresa Tomeo is a sweet and knowledgeable lady, but waaaaaay too fond of spiritual warfare and apparitions. Not that I don't believe in devotions or mystical visions, really shouldn't believe in all of them all the time, ne? It starts to remind me of people who believe herbs can cure everything all the time, too. (This is not to say anything against the lady herself or to accuse her of going so far as to be unfaithful. Just that there's an unhealthy tone to some of her healthy belief in prayer's power, and I hope she'll keep an eye on that. Especially since some listeners need guidance about such things, based on what I've heard on the air.)

But of course radio and TV both come with a channel changer and an on/off switch. So I don't have to listen to what I don't like.

There is one more problem I have with Catholic radio. It's good that a lot of stations have a "Listen" button on their webpages. (Especially since I couldn't tune in the nearest Catholic radio station without some kind of Huge Antenna Array of Doooom.)

But some require you to use the latest version of Windows Media Player to do so. This is bad -- not to mention a huge waste of bandwidth. (And in violation of the principles of subsidiarity!) However, many radio stations do work with older versions, so just ignore warnings and try clicking anyway.

Here are some links to Catholic radio:

EWTN streaming radio and TV
Ave Maria Radio: EWTN, syndicated, and Detroit-local programming. Probably the best mix.
Relevant Radio: another mix of their own network shows with EWTN and syndicated.
Features "The Right Questions", a news analysis show hosted by a lady trained by the old school at Dayton's Journal Herald and WHIO. I can't wait to hear it.
Immaculate Heart Radio
Covenant Network

By contrast, there's not outwardly a lot of difference between the campus radio stations at Catholic UD and secular Wright State, except that Wright State's station includes more annoying Flash on their website. UD has a two hour show of Christian music, and Wright State has a one hour show of Gospel music instead. Big flippin' deal.

I'm not saying everything has to be different, or that a Catholic institution has to be REALLY CATHOLIC ALL THE TIME -- LOOK HOW CATHOLIC I'M BEING! LOOK! LOOK! I mean, that's all show, too, and encourages being a whited sepulchre. But there ought to be some kind of discernable difference, ne? Otherwise, what's the point of being Catholic instead of being First Church of Christ Monosodium Glutamate?