Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

More Signs of the Smallness of the Fannish Universe

(If any were needed after the post below.)

I know Michael Zecca through the ol' B5 newsgroup. I know Michael Burstein by sitting next to him during several parties surrounding Solomon's wedding. And Michael Burstein is Admiral Zecca's evil twin.

And they say the world is a cold and unfriendly place. Why, you're never alone with an evil twin!

Nunc Dimittis

I am listening to a (pleasant!) Turkish Pernese heavy metal song (sung in English) which I found through a Russian filk site. I can die happy now.

( for the mp3, and for the lyrics, since I can never make 'em out on my own in heavy metal songs.)

Seriously, let's not get jaded about this wonderful Web we have. We can do neat things, interesting things, silly things, marvelous things with it. Don't get stuck in a rut of just visiting the same sites over and over. Take some time to look around. More than that, contribute by putting up your own fun stuff and telling others where to find your own discoveries. We don't have to be starry-eyed, but we don't have to pretend we're too cool to enjoy what we have. If you're bored with the Web, it really must be you. :)

Monday, December 22, 2003

Death of Democratic Party Imminent: Film at 11

You know that a party's gotten a leeeeeetle bit extremist when you see things like this from Thomas Cahill (and never mind what he wrote, 'cause he ain't gettin' my money ever again till he apologizes). In fact, I feel like a little fisking is in order.

Republicans: Others have taken the trouble to tell me how disturbed they were to read reports that I had said (in answer to a question at the end of a talk) that I failed to understand how someone could be a Republican and a Christian.

Can't understand why they'd be disturbed. I mean, wasn't my meaning self-evident?

What I actually said was that it seemed to me that "Republican" -- at least in its current usage -- and "Christian" had become contradictory terms.

Ohhhhhh! Well, that makes it all better!

Of course, I know there are many people who consider themselves to be both (and some of them are even good friends of mine).

And very loving and forgiving Christians they must be, too. Still, we are supposed to take care of the mentally ill and those who have lost their way.

I am also well aware that historically there have been many Americans who were both good Republicans and good Christians, Abraham Lincoln perhaps most preeminently.

Well, garsh, that's mighty nice of you, Mr. Cahill, sir. And historically, I'm sure there've been at least a few Democrats who didn't go to Hell for worshipping strange nameless gods in caverns under the sea, their vestigial gillslits flapping as they chanted, "Ia, Ia, Cthulhu fhtagn!" In fact, my little brother claims they've even stopped doing readings from the Necronomicon at the Democratic National Convention.

But the Republican Party in its current incarnation is racist (racism being the clear premise of its "Southern strategy," pursued so singlemindedly since the days of the ineffable Richard Nixon)...

Ohhhkay. So everybody down South is a white racist. Now that'll be a surprise to all those black and Vietnamese voters, nevermind the Cherokees.

Do remind me which party is obsessed with categorizing people in terms of race.

... and the enemy of the poor.

And that would be why so many blue-collar and working-poor folks support the Republican party. They enjoy getting their faces ground into the mud by the relentless assertion of their party leadership that they are somebodies and can make something of themselves because America is still the land of opportunity. Creating jobs and a better economy and encouraging entrepreneurship makes the poor starve and die in hopeless squalor; and if that ain't enough, Laura Bush stops by their houses and steals their candy.

I would find this more amusing if I hadn't just been reading, on one of my mailing lists, a rather bizarre complaint about sf writer Orson Scott Card's editorial about how "Some of my fellow Democrats are unpatriotic." Now, I would expect criticisms from a liberal Democrat such as 'Card is all wet', or 'too severe'. I might even expect the odd ad hominem attack based on Card's rather erratic levels of excellence in writing, or the fictionalized fantasy version of Joseph Smith's life that is his Alvin Maker series. But what the lady in question said was, "How can someone as conservative as Card even pretend to be a Democrat?" And others agreed.

Note that. Nobody said, "Well, of course Card's a Democrat. His father was a Democrat, his mother was a Democrat, and his family still feels grateful for the New Deal and winning World War II." Noooo. Ideology -- one axis of ideology -- is the only allowable criterion for party affiliation as a Democrat.

Meanwhile, it doesn't even occur to the Republican Party that an ideology test is required. If anything, conservatives sometimes think of Bush as being a little too willing to flirt with moderate and liberal stances.

Two words, kids. 'McGovern'. 'Whig'.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Irish High Crosses!

Oooooh. Dr. Deborah Vess' Celtic High Crosses site is a must-see for St. Blog's parishioners. They're not painted anymore, they've been out in the Irish weather for over a thousand years, and a lot of pagan folks like to try to claim them for their own. But these great works of art and faith survive, still literally placing Biblical and Irish history inside the context of the Cross. As a bonus, you also get three Welsh high crosses! Did you even know there were Welsh high crosses? Me neither! What a site!

Note that, when you're looking at a Celtic cross' wheel-shaped halo, the line in "The Dream of the Rood" about 'eaxlgespanne' makes perfect sense. If the cross looks like a wheel, it's bound to have an axle. (I'm sure I'm far from the first person to notice this.)

Btw, as long as we're talking Unknown Facts (Pinky Carruthers would be proud), I recently learned that Echternach (of the beautiful illuminated Echternach Gospel) is not an Irish or Scottish place. No, it's in Luxembourg. (From that post about dancing procession for St. Willibrord.) Man, if I'd known that, I could've gotten Kev to visit there when he was doing Guard in Germany.

(Btw, does anyone know if the maze-like decoration behind the Lion of St. Mark in the Echternach Gospel is really supposed to be initial letters? And if so, what's the significance. There's pretty obviously an A and a B in the top left and bottom right corners, but beyond that?)

But alas, all I knew about Luxembourg was that it has a Grand Duke and that a Canadian syndicated Dracula TV series was shot there. (It was the one with Mr. A. Lucard the zillionaire, being fought by some Van Helsing kids and their grandpa.) Looking at IMDB, I see that the ubiquitous Geraint Wyn Davies was even in this sucker...ironically, as a Helsing, though he'd later play vampire cop Nick Knight in Forever Knight! Not a bad cast for a cheap little series with some pretty decent writing.

Luxembourg seems to have a really good set of Christmas customs.

In Case You're Wondering Why I'm So Energetic Today...

...I finally finished my story for the 'obscure fandoms' Secret Santa fanfic project, While We Tell of Yuletide Treasure. I realized I was going to find it hard to write my story immediately when the project started early in November, since important stuff was due to happen in the fandom I planned to write about. But for some reason, I didn't manage to finish my story till today. I went through several ideas, mind you, but I couldn't get to an actual plot that fit the gift parameters and spirit. I got a particularly good plot idea today, but it wouldn't have made a good present. (Too angsty, too little romance.) So I dropped the (sorta) innovative and went for the (sorta) tried and true. I'm also sorry that its natural length was rather short. But I loved writing it, so I hope my gift will be accepted -- and enjoyed -- in the spirit it was given.

I'm also eager to see my present on Christmas morning, of course. *BigEvilGrin, while crossing fingers for a Daniel/Adele romance* I'll also be interested to see everybody else's stories on January 1. I love obscure fandoms, and while many of these aren't all that obscure, I'll still be interested. A good few of my old favorite writers from X-Files and the like are involved, so l can't wait to catch up with their doings. (Too bad so many folks seem to have been asking for slash, as this means their presents will not be of much interest to me.)

What disturbs me is how very easy I find writing romance. Personal experience does not seem to be a major factor here; the graceful manipulation of literary tropes is. Too much lyric poetry in my youth is undoubtedly to blame.

Cain Adomnain and the Rights of Women

Hunh. Cain Adomnain usually gets a bad name in feminist Irish studies, as being the law which disarmed women. To be honest, however, I think it seems to be exactly what it claims: a reform that, overall, improved the status of women. The picture of Irish women formerly fighting with polearms is interesting, too, as Japanese women usually used naginatas and other polearms for castle defense and the like. (Which is not to say there weren't good Japanese swordswomen, but if you're shorter, polearms are a great equalizer of reach.) The big advantage is that killing any woman, child or cleric, whatever their legal rank, became a very grave matter. The bad part of the deal is that any woman who kills anyone gets the death penalty, no matter what her rank. Unfortunately, this is exactly what you'd expect of a legal system in which women in general had a lot of rights (especially compared to other legal systems of the time), but not the same rights as men. Read it and see what you think.

Gadzikowski's Doctor Who/AbFab Crossover

You gotta love a cartoon with the punchline, "It has been 117 years since my last confession."

Regionalisms Poll

I got this through Elizabeth Bear.


1. A body of water, smaller than a river, contained within relatively narrow banks?

A stream or a creek. ("Crick" is old-timey Greenville.)

2. What the thing you push around the grocery store?
A grocery cart.

3. A metal container to carry a meal in?
A lunchbox.

4. The thing that you cook bacon and eggs in?
A frying pan.

5. The piece of furniture that seats three people?
A sofa if it's the good one in the living room; a couch anywhere else.

6. The device on the outside of the house that carries rain off the roof?
A gutter or a pipe, depending on which part of the assembly we're talking about.

7. The covered area outside a house where people sit in the evening?
A porch.

8. Carbonated, sweetened, non-alcoholic beverages?

9. A flat, round breakfast food served with syrup?
A pancake.

10. A long sandwich designed to be a whole meal in itself?
A sub.

11. The piece of clothing worn by men at the beach?

12. Shoes worn for sports?

13. Putting a room in order?

14. A flying insect that glows in the dark?
Lightning bug or firefly. (Lightning bug just sounds friendlier, doesn't it? Firefly is so formal. If Josh Whedon's show had been called Lightning Bug, it would've had higher ratings!)

15. The little insect that curls up into a ball?
Pillbug! Also, kids called them roly-polies.

16. The children's playground equipment where one kid sits on one side and goes up while the other sits on the other side and goes down? Seesaws are the big ones on playgrounds. Teeter-totters are the little ones you might have at home.

17. How do you eat your pizza?
With my fingers, preferably off a paper towel instead of a plate. And by the way, it should be cut in wedges unless it's from Marion's Piazza. Donato's Pizza is just a cruel, cruel game.

18. What's it called when private citizens put up signs and sell their used stuff?
Garage sale!

19. What's the evening meal?
Dinner usually, but supper sometimes.

20. The thing under a house where the furnace and perhaps a rec room are?
The basement. It's only a cellar if it's entered from outside the house.

21. The shoes with two straps you wear at the beach?
Sandals, then thongs, and now flip-flops.

22. A machine you can drink water from?
Drinking fountain.

23. Wash or warsh? Washington or Warshington, D.C.?
Both, of course.

Dayton, Ohio. Where dialects meet, and we steal from 'em all.

Airboy's Catholic Roots

Heh. Little did I know that Airboy, star of Air Fighters comics, flew a plane designed by one of the Franciscan monks that ran the orphanage where he lived. Check out this article for the friar/engineer's sad fate.

Man, and they think comics today are violent!

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow!

Sky Captain looks like it could be the greatest 30's pulp movie ever. Lessee, we got your Captain Midnight-type steely-eyed aviator Sky Captain. Your daring girl reporter Miss Polly, Perkins. Your Angelina Jolie with an eyepatch mystery lady/flyer. Your giant robots straight out of Superman cartoon shorts. You've got skyscrapers in all their silver-gray glory. And you've got the Flying Legion. What the heck else could you ask for?!

(Well...Doc Savage, maybe....)

Btw, here's my list, in no particular order, of the greatest pulp adventure movies ever:

Zorro's Fighting Legion.
Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The Rocketeer.
Buckaroo Banzai. (He's Doc Savage.)
The Adventures of Jake Speed. (He just uses Doc's company.)
The Phantom.
Big Trouble in Little China.
Those Superman cartoon shorts.
The Shadow, until the exact moment when the trumpet solo plays.
Batman: The Animated Series.
The Mummy. (The Brendan Fraser version isn't horror, but pulp adventure.)

You can get more pulp adventure movie names from this discussion. I'd love to see the Hong Kong movies they list.

My Brother Graduated....

...From the Air National Guard's Satellite NCO Academy. He got pretty good grades, too.

(The idea is that you attend classes for X-many weeks over satellite TV, with an "audio bridge" so the classes can ask the teachers questions. Then the final two weeks, the NCO school folks go to McGhee Tyson in Knoxville and do more intensive classwork and testing. It's a lot of work. Kev was one of only a few staff sergeants who got to go; most folks were higher up in rank.)

The graduation ceremony was very nice. It included a POW/MIA ceremony. (I can't help thinking that whoever composed this ceremony was influenced by the Passover seder. All that bit with the lemon symbolizing the bitterness of captivity and the salt thing, too...not the same, but way reminiscent.)
There was a speech that wasn't too long by the head chief master sergeant in the Air Force, and the first commandant of the Satellite NCO Academy also visited. He was a Bataan Death March survivor named Paul Lankford. (Here's more about him.) Kev stayed in a barracks named after him. I also noticed a building named Spruance Hall, which seemed positively bizarre on an Air National Guard base but would have been normal in the Navy. Apparently it must be named after this guy. Busy family, eh?

It was a nice trip. I'm glad I went along. Too bad I don't have any pictures of the dress I bought to wear to the thing; it was a really good one. I didn't mean to buy a darkish blue so as not to be too conspicuous in the sea of dress uniforms and mess dress, but it worked out that way.... :) It all looked like an episode of Stargate SG-1 or JAG was about to break out.

Adventures in Hymnwriting

All right. I have totally lost it. This is quite possibly one of the weirdest, most obscure things I've ever written. But for some reason, the Holy Muse has decided that I had to write an adaptation of "The Dream of the Rood" (the oldest dream-vision poem in English...and that's Old English I mean) to the tune of "Brennan on the Moor". The medium speed MIDI is ugly but gets the tune and timing right, unlike most of what I found on the Web in these MIDI-degenerate days. (Oh, and all these lyrics folks are on crack. It's "Brave and undaunted", not "Bold, brave and undaunted". Heck, how the heck would you get all that in?)

*hangs head in shame* I don't know what the heck I was doing. But the image of Jesus as the valiant young hero is just as important to the Middle Ages as the suffering Christ was. And at least this is a lot more flattering than my hymn to the tune of "Whiskey in the Jar".... *attempts to look into own head* Boy, it's awfully weird in there!

Jesus on the Cross
Lyrics: Maureen S. O'Brien, 12/21/03
(after "The Dream of the Rood", Saxon trad.)
Music: "Brennan on the Moor", Irish trad.

I'll tell you of the best of dreams
I had one dark midnight.
I saw a cross, that reached above
The Earth, all ringed in light.
I saw the angels and the saints
All gazing on this tree,
It never carried criminals;
It was the vict'ry tree.

And then I heard that best of trees
Begin to speak, it's true.
"It's long ago, but I recall
The day that I was hewed.
They told me to hold evil men
And give the folk a show,
But then I saw all mankind's Lord
Eager toward me go.

(And it's)
"Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.

"I wanted so to kill them;
The Earth was trembling, too.
But God had bid me to stand firm;
That's what I had to do.
He stripped as if to wrestle
And embraced me in his arms.
He bore the pain unflinchingly
To save his folk from harm.

"Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.

"They pounded nails through both of us --
The wounds you still can see.
They mocked us both together, and
His blood's still staining me.
Then He released His spirit;
Clouds covered up the sun
To shade His corpse upon me.
All creation mourned as one.

"Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.

"His warriors came to fetch him,
I bowed, let him down light.
They gazed on his poor body there,
A-resting from his fight.
His warriors they buried him,
But soon in His glory,
The Lord rose up again -- so now
All people honor me.

(All for)
"Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.

"I've known the work of evil,
I've known how sorrow feels.
God's Son once suffered on me, and
That's why I now can heal.
Once I was worst of torments, and
Once all folk hated me;
But now I tell folk how to live,
God blessed me among trees.

"Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.

"One day the Lord will judge you,
And all folk fear that day.
He'll ask, "Which one would die for me?"
Folk won't know what to say.
But you won't have to be afraid
If my sign's in your breast,
For every soul who wants to,
Through the cross, with God will rest."

On Earth I've few to help me;
They've gone to dwell with God.
So I look forward to the day
I'm taken by the Rod
To where joy's great, God's people feast
Forever in delight....
May my Lord be a friend to me;
He freed us by His fight.

Jesus on the cross,
Jesus on the cross,
Brave and undaunted was our Jesus on the cross.