Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Holy Mary, Mother of Abortion?!

This is just sick: pro-abortion prayer cards of Our Lady.

In a way, of course, the text on these "prayer cards" is correct. Yes, Mary had to make the difficult choice, again and again, to say "yes" to life for her baby; so she would understand how parents could fall. And Mary prays for all of us sinners, as all Christians should do for each other.

But...and this is a big and understanding of a sinner doesn't translate into forgiveness from God unless the sinner admits she did wrong, and at least intends to make reparations and not to sin again. Passing out pro-abortion prayer cards -- well, it does not sound like these ladies have been able to face their own guilt yet.

Now, time for a little alternate universe speculation in poetry form.

Yes, God had overshadowed her,
And yes, she had agreed.
But when her mother saw the month she didn't bleed,
They told her it was better that her Child should die,
For the sake of her future
(Though that's what he was.)
And they ground her down with 'because, because'.

John leapt to warn Elizabeth,
But not in time to stop the death.

And so he was one of us
For three months or so,
Till she took their pill and she let Him flow
Down to the sewers. They would be His only tomb.
He never broke the bread.
He never had a chance to speak,
Cure the dying, heal, or help the weak.

And noone knew what they did;
But the Earth shook, and the Sun hid.

And when He rose on that third day
And manhole covers rolled away,
And asphalt rocks cried out His Name --
When folk were licked by tongues of flame,
Then spoke in tongues from every land
Strange words that all could understand
Weeks after He rose through the sky --
They didn't have the first clue why.

(It kinda had to be the abortion pill, or else there definitely would have been broken bones involved and hence a broken prophecy. Also, if Mary had fallen, that would have been a really bad thing for the human race -- a second Eve in a bad way. No doubt God could work around such a thing if necessary, but...I don't think it would have been pretty.)

How to Create Controversy

It's so easy to make an inflammatory statement these days. Just try saying one of the following: "Some people like to have lots of kids." "I don't want a cellphone." Or better yet....

From: Dorothy J Heydt
Subject: Re: You know, we have a word for that
Newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.written
Date: 2004-06-30 07:45:05 PST

Karl M. Syring wrote:
>Dorothy J Heydt schrieb:
>>Jesper Lauridsen wrote:

>>>Marriage without prior sex seems like a much bigger risk than sex without prior marriage.
>Because inevitably the question "Did I miss something?" comes up. That is the beginning of the end.

Inevitably? No. Beginning of the end? No.

Here's one data point for instance. My husband and I did not have
sex before marriage. The question of did we miss something has
never come up. Thirty-three years now and no beginning of the
end in sight.

Dorothy J. Heydt

This was not exactly a revelation, as her life story and general values are well known. She's a highly respected, long-time member of the sf community, and has published two justly acclaimed (though not well-marketed) novels. She's also a feminist in the positive sense.

Yet you would think she'd confessed to killing and eating babies, from the critique that followed. Which is ironic, since sf.written is completely capable of having a polite discussion of the pros and cons of Swift's modest proposal. (Science fiction fans are generally good on speculation.)

One more reminder that many people now regard virginity as the only perversion and a happy traditional marriage the only really disgusting 'alternative lifestyle'. Even in the sf community, which keeps telling itself it's welcoming and openminded. Bah.

Remind me again why I don't gafiate?

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

PODness Fun with Books of Hours II

It occurs to me that making a prayerbook would be a good activity for Catholic schoolkids or homeschoolers. You could print out a copy of some prayers or one of the offices (unless the kids really needed a lot of penmanship practice chunked into many days). Then you could have the kids decorate the margins however they wished, and draw big pictures at the beginning of major sections. (You could leave pages blank for this.) Finally, you could have the kids make a cover for the book out of cloth, wallpaper samples, etc., then bind the pages into the cover. Voila -- a prayerbook of their very own!

Naturally, you could also associate all sorts of subjects with this activity: religion (obviously), history of languages, art history, European history, economics, the Church name it.

PODness Fun with Books of Hours

First of all, thanks to Shrine of the Holy Whapping for explaining what POD stands for and where it came from. I understood the definition by context, but didn't get the rest.

Now, onward. As you know, on this blog I amuse myself by pointing out that the Council of Trent is just as modern as Vatican II. (We've got to get back to the good ol' medieval days, mwhahaha!) So, a couple of interesting sites.

Medieval General Intercessions features some really fascinating info and Mass prayers, as well as the full text and large chunks of translation of a rhymed prayer to Mary written by Christine d'Pisan. And that's just one page of this liturgical scholar's site.

The Hypertext Book of Hours presents the text (and translation of Latin bits) of a medieval English book of hours. You can download the whole thing and use it to pray at home. It can also be used as a cheatsheet for other online medieval books of hours, such as The Artz Hours, Les Tres Riches Heures de Duc de Berry, and Brandeis' Flemish book of hours (which features surprisingly readable medieval calligraphy, btw). So now you can be even more POD than the folks who pray the normal Daily Office over at (mwhahaha!) and learn some nifty new old prayers, too.

Seriously, though, this throws a very different light on the Books of Hours, both as prayerbooks and art objects. It's worth knowing that the illustrations of the Annunciation are accompanied with a prayer to "open my lips" so one can "announce" the Good News. The juxtaposition of the following "open my lips" prayers with moments in Christ's life is even more striking. All the calendar pages (like those in the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry) have always been beautiful, but then, they have to be because otherwise they're intrinsically kinda boring; we already know the Church Year. It's the interesting bits that I haven't known anything about before.

More Books of Hours, mostly showing illo pages only: Wellesley (5 mss), Spalding U, Willamette, U of Pittsburgh, Kirby I at Claremont, an Angers-use ms, Leaves of Gold (a Books of Hours art exhibition), a strewn-border ms, a Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis, and Queen Isabella's Book of Hours.

There are a lot more illustrations out there. Also people who will sell you single pages of Books of Hours. (I don't like this practice much more than I like people who frame magazine and comic covers and throw away the rest. Even if the rest is in pretty bad shape, it all ought to stay more or less in the same place.)

Think I've justified the "Catholic" part of my blog description now?

Vain Repetition?

I forget where I ran across it (Disputations, maybe?) but someone was complaining about the "vain repetition" of prayers in the Rosary. Well, hopefully the repetition is not being done in vain, but instead quite purposefully. Repeating prayers is of course a good way to focus and calm your mind for meditation upon the Mysteries of the Rosary (incidents in the life of Jesus, and that of Mary, which are all pretty much her cooperation with things Jesus/God was doing). Beyond that, however, repeating a prayer causes you to focus again and again on the prayer itself and what it really means.

Frex, you might be praying the Our Father. One time, you might say, "Our Father...." and find yourself thinking about how your own father's love points to the infinitely greater love of God for His creations and adopted children. Another go-round, you might say "give us this day our daily bread" and start thinking about how you really do depend on God for everything, or His faithfulness in continuing to do so. "Deliver us from evil" is always an attention-grabber.

Praying ten Hail Marys at a time gives you time to think about the event associated with the decade and its implications, but the words of the Hail Mary have you returning again and again to the basic mystery of the Incarnation, the communion of the saints, and "now and at the hour of our death".

Then, at the end of every decade, you come out to the Glory Be -- into glory beyond time and space and the eternal contemplation of the Trinity.

In effect (Maureen realizes after a lifetime, being rather slow), the Rosary tells again and again the story of the creation of the world, Jesus' life and the Christian life, and life forever in Heaven with God. Just as reading the Bible again and again does. Sorta like the Mass does (though that's got actual sacramental things operating, and the Rosary doesn't). Hmmmmmmmm.

Howl's Moving Picture

Diana Wynne Jones' wonderful fantasy novel, Howl's Moving Castle, has been adapted into a movie by Hayao Miyazaki and the usual suspects at Ghibli. It'll be out this fall in Japan, so the trailers have started appearing. has an 18mb Divx copy of the 2 minute trailer available for download. (They also provide a translation of the Japanese trailer's script.)

It looks (and sounds) wonderful.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Judge Ooka: A Real Meitantei

Judge Ooka (Ooka Echizen), like the Chinese Judge Dee, was a real person. Ooka Echizen no Kami Tadasuke was born in Mikawa, lived from 1677-1751, was magistrate of Yamada, and ended his career as magistrate of Edo (Tokyo). In fact, he started the famous Edo fire brigade. But he is best known in story (the Ooka Seidan) for innovative ways of finding the truth of a case, fairness to the poor, and bizarre ways of making the punishment fit the crime. And his cherry blossom tattoo. Yes, during his misspent youth among lowlifes, Ooka went and got a tattoo (which no high class person would do). In later life, this helped his disguises. On his TV show, whenever anyone protested that they were innocent because they thought there were no witnesses, he'd bare his tattoo again and the criminals would confess abjectly.

The major source in English for Judge Ooka stories are J.C. Edmonds' collections: Solomon in Kimono, Ooka: More Tales of Solomon in Kimono, the children's book Ooka the Wise aka The Case of the Marble Monster, and Tricksters' Tales, which includes at least one Ooka story. There's also a collection of Japanese folktales about Ooka from a lady named Hrdlickova, but it's well out of print, too.

There are some webbed handouts which include Ooka stories, although you'll have to scroll on down a bit. The Concept of Wa I includes the story of the tatami-maker vs. the cabinetmaker; The Concept of Wa II includes the story of Hanshichi the Carpenter.

Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler currently have a series of young adult mysteries starring Judge Ooka: The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn, The Demon in the Teahouse, and In Darkness, Death. Dutch author Bertus Aafjes wrote a series of Ooka mystery stories, based both on Edmonds and on original translations made by a friend. There's also a German collection which is noted in this bibliography.

Kabuki and movies (from the silents on) have both celebrated Judge Ooka. There was also a long-running (1970-1998) TV series, Ooka Echizen based on his character. Here are some short non-Japanese plays about the judge. Oh, and manga too. Here's Judge Ooka as drawn by "the god of manga", Tezuka Osamu.

Finally, there's even an Ooka Echizen Festival in late April, in Chigasaki city, Kanagawa prefecture. He is also remembered in Katsushika-ku, the site of the story of the bound Jizo (told in this article -- scroll down).

Stories of wise judges tell us that the law and justice are for everyone. I find them inspirational, and clearly their popularity shows I'm not the only one. Check out the bio of Judge Bill Rhea!

Monday, June 28, 2004

Meitantei Who?

The one real drawback to being a native English speaker is that everybody else knows your language's literature but you don't know theirs. This is particularly sad when it comes to Japanese lit. I mean, here are a book-loving, book-writing people if there ever was one, and the genres they love to write are the genres I love to read. But how many Japanese sf books have I read (that weren't manga)? And what about mysteries? I tell you, it's enough to make a fan cry.

Inspired by the eensy-weensy bit of information connected to Detective Conan/Case Closed, I'm going to make a bit of a list here of Japanese "famous detectives" (meitantei). At least then I can't lose the info, and I won't have to make another directory in my webpage either.

Edogawa Rampo is generally regarded as the father of the Japanese detective story. (You constantly see things telling you his name is a pun on Edgar Allan Poe...but this is apparently a Japanese urban legend, and he took the pseudonym for other reasons.) One of his famous sleuths is the private detective Akechi Kogoro (parodied in Detective Conan as Mouri Kogorou/Richard Moore). Akechi and his friend, the novelist Kobayashi Monzo, appeared in many works for adults before the war. During WWII, Edogawa started a series of stories for kids in which Akechi is assisted by the Shonen Tantei-dan (Boy Detective-gang) in fighting "The Twenty-Faced Monster", a thief with a talent for disguise. They were the only boy's magazine stories which weren't chock full o' propaganda, and were wildly popular. These Irregulars soon had their own series of movies as well. (They are obviously the inspiration for the Boy's Detective Club/Junior Detective League in Detective Conan.) Just this year, a new Akechi film has come out from famous director Teruo Ishii. Moju vs. Issunboshi sounds like a really creepy tale of parallel Victorian Japanese monster criminals and damsels in distress.

Edogawa himself appears as a character in a bizarre movie adaptation, The Mystery of Rampo, of what must have been one bizarre story -- a story about a writer who sees one of his characters in the real world. Is he crazy, dreaming, all-powerful, or is reality getting a little less real? However, there's apparently an even more bizarre movie adaptation of another story, Black Lizard, because Yukio Mishima (yeah, the coup/suicide guy) was behind it. And in it, as a nekkid bishonen murder victim, part of the murderer's extensive collection of human corpses turned into dolls. (*Rapidly backing away from Mishima* "Uh huh. Um. Well. Yes, I'm sure people will find this original. Gotta go back to the US now....") Oh, and Akechi of course is the detective character in this thing.

Akechi also appears as a teacher in the CLAMP manga Man of Many Faces, as well as its sequel CLAMP School Detectives. (Both manga are obviously spiritual descendants of the Shonen Tantei-dan stories.) Akechi also appears in the Lupin III pilot film, as a guy in a tan trenchcoat with shaggy gray hair. This was perfectly fair, as in The Gold Mask, Edogawa actually pitted Akechi against the original Arsene Lupin!

Kindaichi Kousuke was created by Yokomizo Seishi back in the forties. Kousuke dropped out of college (thus rejecting any chance of a corporate career) and went to San Francisco, where he happened to solve some cases. When he returned to Japan, he opened a detective agency. His shaggy hair and wrinkled kimono don't inspire much trust in his clients, but like Columbo, he likes being underestimated. It's useful, because he tends to investigate incredibly tangled family situations and motives. His friend Inspector Todoroki is very fond of saying "I've got it!" Best of all, one of his adventures, The Inugami Clan, has actually been translated into English! There's also untranslated manga of his novels Gokumontou,
Honjin Satsujin Jiken, Yatsuhaka Mura, Akuma no Temari Uta, Akuma ga Kitarite Fue o Fuku, Akuma no Chouji, and Inugami-Ke no Ichizoku (The Inugami Clan), all drawn by mystery mangaka JET. Fumiko Nagao also did her own version of The Inugami Clan.

I look forward to meeting Kousuke, because I am very fond of the manga written about his grandson Hajime. The Kindaichi Case Files, written by Kanari Yozaburo and drawn by Sato Fumiya, start with The Opera House Murders and go on for many volumes. The stories generally stand alone; all you have to know is that Hajime is a brilliant slacker who isn't doing very well in school and refuses to admit that he's got a thing for his female best friend, Miyuki. But he can solve crimes as brilliantly as his dead grandfather did, especially when they're tangled webs of Gothic motives and gruesome murders. I love 'em.

Matsumoto Seicho (whose real name was Matsumoto Kiyoharu) was apparently a very famous mystery writer; he even has a memorial museum in Kitakyushu. Here's a partial bibliography of publications in English. Also translated were Points and Lines, Inspector Imanishi Investigates, and The Voice and Other Stories. French readers apparently also got to read Tokyo Express and The Black Vase, and called him "the Japanese Simenon". But he doesn't seem to be associated with any one sleuth. Apparently, he preferred to let an ordinary person involved with the mystery be the hero. He also seems to have had a very lean style.

Then there's Akimitsu Takagi. His first novel, The Tattoo Murder Case, is postwar noir. But The Informer and Honeymoon to Nowhere both are Law and Order-type police procedurals that follow both State Prosecutor Saburo Kirishima and his detective colleagues.

Uchida Yasuo is another very popular Japanese mystery writer. He has written over 100 novels just since 1980 -- over 86 of them in a single series! Most of them are set in picturesque places. (I guess business travel's deductible in Japan, too....) His private eye, Asami Mitsuhiko, is very modern; he still lives with his parents! Detective Conan's Mitsuhiko/Mitch may be a tribute to Asami.

More than ten of Uchida's novels have been serialized as manga, and still more are currently running. Thanks to manga, I know that Mitsuhiko wears a goofy Gilligan hat. Among the manga adaptations are: Tama Kohan Satsujin Jiken and Asami Mitsuhiko Satsujin Jiken, both drawn by Tsugumi Tsukishima. Biwako Shuukou Satsujin Ka, drawn by Miyuki Tokitomo. Finale no Nai Satsujin, drawn by Akino Matsuri. Fuusou no Shiro and Togakushi Densetsu Satsujin Jiken (The Togakushi Legend Murders), drawn by Fumiko Nagao. "Hagiwara Sakutarou" no Bourei by Yuu Satomi. Hakata Satsujin Jiken by Ryouko Shitou. Ueno Yanaka Satsujin Jiken by Yuu Eguchi.

For More Information:

"Mysteries in the Land of the Rising Sun", a brief history of the genre in Japan, Nippon Noir, on the coming of the hard boiled detective, and Reading Japanese Pulp, an excellent and beautiful site. Also, a page about Japanese popular literature, including detective fiction, and a list of Japanese mysteries translated into English. Japanese Business Novels are mostly thrillers and mysteries, so they count.

Japanese movies based on Edogawa Rampo stories, a review of a Shonen Tantei-dan TV movie, a review of a recent Edogawa story adaptation by a famous Japanese director, a Shonen Tantei-dan art exhibit, and Edogawa Rampo's World.

My Sojourn with Suzuki includes some information about Voice without a Shadow, the 1958 adaptation of a Matsumoto novel. There's also another noir movie called Harigomi (The Stakeout) which was based on his work.

Detective Academy Q (Tantei Gakuen Q), an anime about a private high school training kids to be detectives! Looks like good clean fun. If Case Closed gets good ratings, it'll probably be licensed and brought over here.