Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

You Know You Miss the SCA When... start wondering whether you could possibly do a last minute Pennsic War.

No, I'm not that insane. Attending Pennsic takes Proper Prior Pre-Planning, and I'm not really in condition to tramp the hilly roads, eating dust all day and breathing campfire smoke all night. But the beginning of August cometh, and Cooper's Lake would be a very fine destination.

Anyway, here's a link to one of the many lists called You Know You're in the SCA When....:

- you overhear the 10-year-old at the next picnic table quoting Macbeth... accurately.

- a sideless surcoat is the sexiest thing in your closet.

- you heard two stories this evening that started "No sh*t, there I was..."

- you provision all the props and costumes for a school production of a medieval play from your closet.

- you have period garments for a black-tie event, but no mundane ones.

- bad heraldry and/or costuming has ruined an otherwise decent movie for you.

- the axe you're using to chop wood was one you made yourself.

- you're a burly guy who looks like a Hell's Angel, but you do embroidery in public.

- at a formal dinner party, you politely grab your sleeve to keep it from dropping in the food, only to realize you're wearing a suit.

- during a conversation, you avoid using the other person's name, not because you don't know it, but because you can't pronounce it.

- you return to work after a weekend event, only to find you left all your money in your belt pouch.

- your teddy bear has better garb than you do.

- your garb closet is bigger than your clothes closet and the clothes are in better condition.

- you watch the old replay of the Coronation of Queen Elisabeth II and you recognize people's ranks by the coronets they are wearing.

- while watching the crowning of Queen Elisabeth II, you all of a sudden tell your lady, "We could use that stuff at Our Coronation".

-your kid gets a cardboard punch out castle and you take it away from him and put it together yourself, point out the flaws in the architecture, and based on your assessment of the flaws in the architecture, figure out how you and your household could, hypothetically capture it if it was a real castle.

- your idea of a sack lunch is mince-meat pie, cold mulled cider and wafers left over from the feast the week-end before.

- your hobby takes more of your time than your job.

If this sort of thing sounds fun...well, that's because it is! When the SCA's good, it is very, very good. It does have its bad sides, though, as some of the above lines may have disclosed. Screwtape has written a few letters about that which have been published by Viscount Galen.

You can learn more about the SCA at

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Thou Must Be Joking Me.

First off, I'm one of the more modestly dressed women you'll ever meet. If I dressed any more modestly, I'd be an old lady or a nun. (This from my mother, who's also one of the more modestly dressed women you'll ever meet. But I don't even wear lipstick.)

Second, I do support those who choose to step away from the world and pick out a higher standard. If you want to wear Wholesomewear, then yay for you.

But, much as I respect modesty, I refuse to take this kind of stuff seriously as anything other than as a personal spiritual exercise, or one maintaining an ethnic/religious identity. If I wear a one-piece bathing suit without a skirt, I'm not exactly showing everything I've got to the world. Heck, if I wore a bikini I'm sure I could and would pick one that wasn't particularly revealing. (Okay, it would reveal that I have an enormous gut, but I don't think that would entice any men into sin. More likely to drive them into a monastery than anything else -- hey! Bikinis for Vocations!)

It's all very well to compare swimming suits to underwear; but when it comes right down to it, the semantics of a garment matter just as much as its actual form. Many men would be embarrassed to stand in front of strangers in their boxer shorts. Very few would be embarrassed to do the same thing in swimtrunks. Both garments cover similar amounts of skin, but they are made for different purposes. Everyone knows that swimtrunks are not intimate garments, but public ones. Every maker of swimtrunks designs them with liners to preserve men's modesty and the trunks' opaqueness. Similarly, women who would be embarrassed to be seen in front of strangers in a regular bra aren't embarrassed by a sports bra, because it's designed for a firm and flattening hold and total opaqueness. Same thing for a swimsuit. It's not a single layer (unless it's a really cheap suit), it's not transparent (ditto), and it's not intimate.

Conversely, if I climb out of my fitted business suit, hose and heels and change into a long-sleeved, ankle-length thick woolly bulky nightgown and huge slippers, I feel that I am less covered than I'd been during the day, even though the square footage of skin exposed is far less. If someone should come to my door while I am thus in deshabille, I must put on a robe to maintain my modesty. The semantics of the clothing trumps their actual appearance.

Modesty is restraint, not ostentatious nonconformism or conformism. Modesty is acting naturally, not teasingly. Modesty is just plain decency. It's a virtue of minimalism, and if you have to think about it too much, you're probably mistaking shyness or personal style for modesty.

I've been in the SCA (medieval recreation group), and I've seen women clothed in voluminous garments from head to foot, with sleeves that covered even the hands, having no trouble at all being immodest. I've seen women wearing burqa doing the same. (And not just in play, either. There's a segment of the SCA that's a strong family group; and then there's all the unattached college kids, who are often out for other things. As the song says, "If ye cannae get laid at Pennsic War, ye cannae get laid at all.") So I'm hardly convinced that summer's bare arms and legs are to blame for the sins of modern society.

This site's got a pretty decent "outfit test". (It's pretty much what your mom taught you about finding clothes that fit.) However, its claim that the Church never had teachings about clothing until the twentieth wrong. Can you say "sumptuary law"? As for other sorts of immodesty, there were edicts handed down about all sorts of pre-modern fashion crimes. the top of my head...the pointy shoes called poulaines, when the points got stupidly long. (Note the "under pain of cursing by the clergy".) Horned women's headdresses. The infamous sideless surcoat, or "Gates of Hell". (Check out the lady on the side who's wearing a gray surcoat trimmed in white. As you can see, the tightly laced-up kirtle underneath reveals the lady's figure in detail.) So if we were wearing medieval gowns today, we'd still see women posing; they'd just pose like this.

Not liking Britney Spears' fashion choices doesn't mean you have to promote total coverage bathing suits. (Which actually are probably coming, but are not at all Wholesomewear. Today's total coverage competitive bathing suits are as skin-tight as today's running suits, as you'll get a chance to see in the Olympics.) There's a happy medium -- really! -- that won't make other people keep asking you, "Are you hot?" or tell you about their cousin who also had horrible burns over twenty percent of her body. (Wholesomewear really does have that "covering up scars" look.)

However, if folks want to be concerned about modesty, I suggest they start with the Scotsmen. Those immodest Celtic barbarians not only wear kilts that bare their knees, but also let it be known that some go bare beneath them. Now that's a custom bent on inspiring lascivious thoughts!

But if we do go back to total arm and leg coverage and nothing but skirts, I ain't wearin' hose or slips ever again. Give me a nice comfy shift or chemise any day....

Change of Residence

My Auntie Bun passed away this morning and went to join her husband. She's my great aunt, and she had a good long life; but I wish she could have stayed with us a little longer.

She was my Grandma O'Brien's twin. They got along the way sisters do -- with a bit of wrangling. When she moved out of her house a few years ago, I remember the bit of controversy caused when Grandma found out that Auntie Bun had had certain of their mother's things all those years.... But both of them teamed up against their older sister, a domineering woman who's been pretty lonely since her kids moved away and her own health's turned frail. Maybe Auntie Bun's death will bring the surviving sisters closer together. I hope so.

She had a good life. She and her husband lived in Celina, in a lovely house about a block away from the shores of Grand Lake St. Mary's. They had a "woody" boat that looked a lot like the ones that chased Indiana Jones in Venice. Auntie Bun had many friends and participated in a lot of community activities.

She also painted some pretty nice pictures in her time...but in her final years, her hands shook and she went almost blind. She was in pain much of the time, because she was so determined not to depend on drugs. Eventually this was discovered and her prescription changed to a dose that allowed her more useful hours in the day, but her strength had already been sapped.

Now her fight is over. Grant her eternal rest, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she share the blessed vision of Your infinite beauty, and create reflections of it to Your glory. Amen.

A Few Thoughts on Movies

There's a long essay that's been passed around since shortly after 9/11, which you can read (among other places) over at Emigre with Digital Cluebat. Here's the parts I found interesting, with a little comment by me in italics.

I sat in a movie theater watching "Schindler's List," asked myself, "Why didn't the Jews fight back?"

Now I know why.

I sat in a movie theater watching "Pearl Harbor" and asked myself,"Why weren't we prepared?"

Now I know why....

I sat in a movie theater watching "Triumph of the Will" and asked myself, "How could people fall for a movie full of crap?"

Now I know why.

... I sat in a movie theater, watching "Saving Private Ryan" and asked myself, "Where did they find the courage?"

Now I know.

We have no choice. Living without liberty is not living.

In related news, a vintage film find. Heh.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Brand New Really Old Elgar!

It seems that Manfred Mann bought a box of stuff and came up with parts from his old choir, and some hymns he'd written then. So it seemed like a good idea to release an Elgar choir album! You apparently can't buy it on, but will set you up with some brand new old Catholic hymns. Cool, eh?

Stargate Atlantis: Scottish Clan Show!

I realized last night that this is the first show I've watched on which most of the main characters can claim a tartan. There's Dr. McKay (of course), Weir, and Sheppard (Shepherd). Ironically, the guy with the Scottish accent is named Dr. Beckett, so I guess we'll have to hope he lets us know his mother's maiden name sometime. Just to increase the Celtic atmosphere, the black guy is named Aiden Ford. Fits right in with Jack O'Neill. Yup, there's Celts everywhere!

Other main characters that can claim tartans:

The Cunninghams, Happy Days

Constable Benton Fraser , Due South; also Dr. Janet Fraiser, Stargate SG-1

Commissioner and Barbara Gordon, Batman

Peter Gunn

Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek. (Another Scots-heavy show.)

Lt. Col. Mackenzie, JAG. (She can also wear US Marines and Leathernecks.)

Dr. McCoy, Star Trek, is part of the MacKay clan, too!

Both MacLeods of the Clan MacLeod from Highlander (Of course.)

Angus McGyver

Stewart McMillan, McMillan and Wife

Lt. Commander Scott, Star Trek

Commander Sinclair, Babylon 5

Constable Turnbull, Due South

Dr. Watson

Stargate Atlantis: Marian Show!

In the second episode, Sheppard said to Weir that the Atlantis project was "the biggest Hail Mary in history."

Okay, so it came up while he was showing Teyla a taped football game. But he also explained that "a Hail Mary is a kind of prayer. And Mary was a woman who...." He boggled on trying to explain Christianity at that point, and changed the subject to, "Did I ever tell you how much I like Ferris wheels?"

But it's too late to take it back now. Mwhahaha! Especially when the head female's name is Elizabeth!

Neat Marian Poem!

With free bonus Hail Mary! From the TEAMS site, where you can also get a good translation of both the Middle English and the Latin bits.

Hayle, glorious lady and hevenly quene,
Crownyd and regnyng in thy blysfull cage,
Helpe us pylgryms in erthely tene,
In worshyp of all thy pylgremage.
Thy holy concepcion was thy furst pylgremage,
Cuius honore tu nobis fave;
And here we knelyng before thyne image
Tibi concepte dicimus "Ave."

Hayle, glemeryng sterre now in thy byrthe,
To all this world thow spredyst thy lyght;
Thy joyfull name yeveth us myrthe.
Now blessyd be he that Mary thee hyght,
For thorow all the worlde thow yevest thy lyght,
O maris stella, domina pia.
With all oure hert and all oure might
Tibi clamamus "Ave Maria."

Hayle, gloryous lady, as Gabriell seyde (Annunciation)
When he came doune on hys message;
God was made man, hys modyr a mayde:
Lo, lady, thys was thy swete mariage.
So full of grace, unbynde oure bondage,
Mater divina, virgo serena,
And thus shall we sey for oure homage,
Ave Maria, gracia plena.

Hayle, joyfull lady in the byrthe of Cryste,
God is with thee, kyng in thy lappe;
With ox and asse in a crybbe thou lyest,
With Joseph, and Jesu sokyng thy pappe.
Well ys thee, lady, that dydyst hym wrappe,
Ipsum exora que manes secum
That he wold yeve oure enemy a knappe:
Gracia plena, dominus tecum.

Hayle, floure of clennes without corrupcion,
Thow beryst the frute of all chastitie,
And yet thow madyst thy purificacion,
To puryfy oure sowles for thy charytie.
Have mynde, good lady, of oure freeltie,
Et vita nostra plena reatu;
Now pray thy son of hys benignitie,
Dominus tecum, benedicta tu.

Hayle, wofull lady in hys swete passion,
Scorgyd and naylyd, dying on the roode;
Sende us thy comfort in oure tribulacion,
For thy sonnys love that shed hys bloode.
But joyfull gladnes dyd change thy moode,
Cum surrexit sanis vulneribus,
And ever in the feth, full trew thou stoode,
Benedicta tu in mulieribus.

Hayle, blessyd lady in Crystes assension,
Bothe glad and hevy when he dyd sty;
Make in thy prayers for us som mencion,
That we may folow when we shall dy.
Aftyr thy socoure we call and cry
Ut mereamur luce frui,
That we may deserve the blessyd lyght to sty,
Et benedictus fructus ventris tui.

Hayle, blessyd lady in thyn assumpcion,
Next to the Trinitie syttyng in trone,
And holde excusyd our gret presumpcion
To whom we make oure carefull mone.
Oure hertys ar dry and hard as a stone:
Funde lacrimarum nobis consolamen,
And he be oure comfort hens when we gone,
Fructus ventris tui Jesus Christus. Amen.

Now farewell, lady, and pray for us,
For thy fyve festes and thy joyes fyve,
That thy son swete, oure Lord Jesus,
Wyll save us all, bothe dede and alyve.
For thyse fyve joyes on thee woll we clyve,
And above all angeles now joyes has thou sevyn;
Helpe us, fayre lady, thys lyfe whyle we dryve,
And after our endyng God send us hevyn.

Adventures in Translation: "Edi Beo Thu, Hevene Quene"

Once again, I present another singable translation, with a few compromises to make it so. Once again, I include a whole bunch of syllabobble dashes to show you how the line scans. This is a song from the days when England was the land of Our Lady of Walsingham, translated into modern English. (Here's the original and an exact translation, along with other Middle English poems about Mary.)

If you don't have this song on Anonymous 4's album An English Ladymass or another medieval album, this page has pretty good MIDI files of the song. A little Googling will also bring you a piece of sheet music or two. You can hear the first verse at Schola Cantorum Daytoniensis. Enjoy!

Edi Beo Thu, Hevene Quene
Lyrics and Music: English Trad.
Translation: Maureen S. O'Brien

Blessed a-are you, heavenly Queen, oh,
Humans' heartsease and a-angels' bliss.
Mother unblemished and maiden clean, oh,
As in this wo-orld no o-other is.
Of you it is easily seen, oh,
Among all women you are the most blest.
O my sweet La-a-dy, hear my plea, oh;
Take pity on me as pleases you best.

You rose up like rays of dawn do, oh,
That separate da-a-ay from the dark night.
From you sprung up a glimmer new, oh,
That a-all this wo-orld has fi-illed with light.
There is no maiden of su-uch a hue, oh:
So fair, so lovely, so rosy, so bright.
O my sweet Lady, have mercy true, oh,
Take pity on me, your po-o-oor knight.

Blossom sprung up from a root, oh,
Who-om the Ho-oly Spirit rests on,
That was for all mankind's good, oh,
And for their so-ouls to be saved on.
Lady softhearted, you've understood, oh.
I cry for mercy, I a-am your man.
And I'll se-erve you hand and foot, oh,
In ev'ry wa-ay that ever I can.

You-ou are grou-ou-ound for the good seed, oh.
O-on you lighted the heavenly dew.
From you ble-essed fruit sprung free, oh,
The Holy Spirit here sowed it in you.
You bring us ou-out of worry-y and dread, oh,
That for us E-eve had bitterly brewed.
Into Heaven, us you will lead, oh;
So very sweet is each drop of that dew.

Mother full of gracious virtue,
Ma-aiden pa-atient a-and well-taught,
All of me-e is drawn on to you.
I-in your lo-ove's bonds I-I am caught.
Shield me, plea-ea-ease, fro-om the fiend, oh.
You're noble, able, and willingly've fought.
Help me ti-ill my li-ife's end, oh,
And make me make peace with your Son as I ought.

An Interesting Sunday

Yesterday was my cousin Mark's birthday, and my parents invited me to spend the day over at their house beforehand. So my dad came over to pick me up after his church (we've gone over the bit where his side of the family are the Methodists, yes?) and I went to Wright State's university parish with them for Mass. (Don't tell the archbishop!)

I don't know if I've explicitly enthused about the university parish on this blog, so here's a good time for it. Father Chris is the kind of priest I wish we'd had at my university's parish. He's scholarly, fatherly, doesn't take himself too seriously, orthodox, active in good works, and good at getting everyone in the parish both to do things and to pray. He gives good homilies, too. He also always remembers to start Mass a few minutes late, which is an important feature in a college parish. (I'm quite serious about this!)

The parish itself is very interesting, as it has a tiny little building right in the middle of campus on a parcel of land actually belonging to the archdiocese instead of the university. This was donated by the folks who originally owned the land, back when the church was on the back end of Wright State's campus...which wasn't so many years ago. IIRC, the parish voluntarily allows its building to be used by campus ministry for offices, but not for services. (There's a wonderfully large poster in the front window giving all the various religions' service times and places.) The building is one of those little buildings was the seventies that looked like tiny Swiss chalets. This has its disads, but the high pointy ceiling does make for good acoustics. The offices are in the back half of the building, both upstairs and down.

The congregation is as varied as you'd expect from a state university like WSU, and has included people from just about every nation you could ask for. Then there's folks like my mom and dad and other folks who live close to the university and like the close community. The only problem is that the building is so small that it's hard to fit everyone in. The original land donors have a bigger patch of land available for the purpose, and there's plenty of interested alumni who are interested in helping the cause. But it can't be done without the archbishop's permission.

There's been a lot of petitioning of the archbishop, but since there are other parishes in driving distance, he doesn't want a bigger church built. Even though Wright State is getting bigger and bigger. Even though it's become more of a residential university than a commuter one. Even though more and more Catholics are attending, and a lot of foreign and residential students don't have cars.

Yes, St. Luke's is ten minutes away by car. Yes, that Fairborn parish is fifteen minutes away by car. Do you know how long it takes to bike to St. Luke's from Wright State? Half an hour to forty-five minutes. Do you know how long it takes to walk? An hour and a half at least. And while I have in fact negotiated the roads to Fairborn from the back of Wright State on a bike, including crossing the two-lane highway, I don't really recommend it as good for your health...and it takes almost two hours on a bike. It's a far better option to take the bus downtown, which runs every hour, takes only half an hour to get there, and is far warmer in winter. Of course, the bus only started running on Sundays this year and the archbishop rejected the new building last year...but let's be thankful for small blessings for the students.

Anyway, back to the subject. I went to Mass there with my parents and got asked to do the first reading. I was very happy to oblige, especially since it was the story of Abraham bargaining with God for the survival of Sodom. How can you not love to tell a story like that? It's got everything: dramatic tension, daring, mutual love and respect. And doing a reading like that is one of the few legitimate ways to play God!