Upcoming Episodes; and Sunday Shrine

 

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St Aubin Church in Treves. By Rensi at German Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

UPCOMING POSTS

Soon we are going to do something that we haven’t done in a long time…  A Margot’s Wino Night. Instead of babbling about wine I’ve had in the privacy of my own humble abode, I actually went to a Winery in that place that isn’t The Hamptons.  I went to a great place, with wines I both liked and didn’t.  Stay tuned…

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St Aubin Church in Treves.

I’m also going to be reviewing the second in Declan Finn’s  “Codename” Series, Codename: Unsub.  But that might take me a week or so. I’m in the middle of other reading projects that are taking a lot longer than expected.

I also have a GF recipe that I want to try out… it partially comes from a mix, so we’ll see.   Hint: It’s a dessert, and it’s not pumpkin pie spice related. But it is a good representative of the essence of Fall, so be not afraid.  IT will be seasonal.

St Aubin Church in Treves.

St Aubin Church in Treves.

Today I cheated with the Sunday Shrine.  The pictures are from Nortre Dame church in St Aubin’s, or L’église Notre-Dame à Cunault. The Church dates from the 12th Century.  To put that in perspective, Thomas Aquinas might have known about this church.

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St Aubin Church in Treves.

Also, I’m looking for suggestions. I figure I have about three people reading me at this point.  If there’s something you want to see here, please post.

Comments? Please? Hell, I wouldn’t mind tomatoes thrown at this point.

No canned tomatoes, however. I have to draw the line somewhere.

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The Crucifix and the Cross: Questions Answered

Cristo_crucificadoThere have been a lot of articles about banning crosses lately. Bridging the differences between east and west, we see people on two continents strive to get rid of them. On pretty much every article in question, I see at least one Facebook comment, “People should note the difference between a cross and a crucifix.”

I am not certain if the problem lies in the fact that no reporter bothers to investigate the difference, or if that the commentariat wishes that the difference be expressed in the  banning.

I’m inclined to believe in the former. The latter is too depressing to think about.

Just in case, I aim at both ideas.

First, the crucifix depicts Christ on the cross. (see painting above) There are many styles, from the dramatic, bloody, and starving, where suffering is plainly evident. There are stylized crucifixes, which suggest a shadow of a body to an almost generic figure. Others show a more loving aspect to our Lord while pinned to the cross, thus speaking plainly the closeness of the Resurrection to his suffering and death. These are almost exclusively Catholic. There may still be high church Anglicans that carry the crucifix, but they are swimming cross the Tiber by the day, as their own church, drunk on letting it all hang out, lose their flock to the howling wilderness.

By Dmitry Ivanov (Own work) [Public domain or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dmitry Ivanov (Own work) [Public domain or CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Orthodox among us have the twin cross which might carry the corpus. (That’s what a representation of Christ on a cross is actually called.)

Even they are a bit more temperate than those Catholics at showing off the corpus. Catholics seem almost mad over it.

A plain old cross is, just that. Two planks of wood tethered together, used to describe almost every other flavor of Christianity other than Catholicism. There are an almost infinite number of ways to describe two sticks tied together, two planks of a tree, two rods of iron that intersect, welded unbreakably together.

By Kehlmann Studio Archive (Kehlmann Studio Archive) [CC BY 1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Kehlmann Studio Archive (Kehlmann Studio Archive) [CC BY 1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

So I must point out…

If both the crucifix and the cross both refer to Christianity, you will never convince a Marxist that there is any difference. To a bourgeois, you could argue that a cross without a corpus is a kinder and gentler thing. If he already believes that Catholics are harmful but another sort of Christian is benign, he will sleepily go along with what you say. But never, ever will a Marxist or any form of communist see the difference. If it points to God, he will destroy it, no matter how kind or benign the object. He will destroy the Easter bunny rabbit, along with the empty tomb.

You must understand that the Marxist revels in that which shocks, that which marvels and that which makes one uncomfortable. Inhumanity to man is the mark of his faith. Man’s inhumanity to God might make God plausible, and that must be eradicated first of all.

For Christ’s crime was not that he was kind, not that he was a wise teacher, that he healed the sick, or that he banished demons, that he sang or ate on the Sabbath day. It was not even that he raised his friends from the dead, or broke us free from the bonds of sin. It is that he is God and we are not. That is the full stated crime of Christ Jesus. And for that He must suffer for all of our sins.

I argue that a crucifix speaks this truth more eloquently, but a cross points to the same truth with a more general sort of point. An empty cross is a stage, a sentence without an object. A crucifix points to the lengths God would go to love his children.

A cross states there is room on his Throne for everybody. Think carefully, and tell me again which message is more gentle.

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The Special Hell

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I found another category of “specially damned” individuals rampant in modern times. All those people who morph the faces of their friends or famous people (who can tell) on classic paintings. If that weren’t bad enough, they share them to the point it uselessly pollutes Google image search with the world’s most wretched and ugly Photoshop.

For goodness sake, what did Velasquez ever do to you?!  Just search for Velasquez if you really want your eyes to bleed.

OK, Fine. This is by far the best of the lot. It’s even funny.

So I guess sentence reduced to eating desert first and purgatorial probation.

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Announcement, continued.

Yep, more about my personal weirdness with hubby and cancer. I don’t really want to focus on the cancer here, and yet I’d like a soap box where I can talk about how the cancer stuff is actually going. I have decided to start a new blog, and just use this for “all the stuff I want to talk about that *isn’t* cancer.  Also, I would like my family to be able to go to that blog and see how things are going at a glance.  So, in the interests of doing that, I’ll leave my new blog link here.

http://angelinunquamlamentantur.blogspot.com/

I will still put up some art, and thoughts about that, and some links to the sad puppies things, and whatever updates about writing you may need to know.

What is Freedom? Of Speech? (Part I)

What is Freedom? Freedom of Speech?

Before we get into Freedom of Speech, Let’s look at Freedom first.  My reason? Too many people do not know what freedom is.

Illustrative of this is a Chesterton quote, who sums it up neatly.

“Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.”
What’s Wrong With the World, GK Chesterton

What isn’t a bid to avoid responsibility is an attempt to avoid suffering at all costs.  This explains how the Left can simultaneously claim to support “free speech” and decry anyone who speaks and is threatened– or killed.  I mean, it’s easy to decry a dead man when he isn’t there to refute what you say.  And… now we understand.

Rights aren’t issued by consensus.  If they were, the strongest arm would always win.   Rights are God given– innate, if you prefer.

It’s not just me.  Let’s look at the definition in detail.

1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint:
He won his freedom after a retrial.
2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3.the power to determine action without restraint.
4. political or national independence.
5. personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery:
a slave who bought his freedom.
6.exemption from the presence of anything specified (usually followed by from):
freedom from fear.

Does that really sound like something that is under the shadow of a death threat?  Sure, speaking your mind can be dangerous. You know what? When it becomes that dangerous, that means you have to escalate beyond words to defend your rights. There are other options outside of giving up because it’s scary or hard.

Oh, and here’s my personal favorite definition of freedom:

14.civil liberty, as opposed to subjection to an arbitrary or despotic government.

Hint: killing people over ugly words or pictures is not only despotism, but barbarism.  You want to live under such a government? Make haste and move there. Please. We just might rescue this faltering republic that much more quickly without your…”help”.

Some people only think they can revoke the right to free speech by censorship, threats or taking lives.  They are gravely mistaken. Free American mouthpieces that pander to those who would put  our freedom to the sword aren’t any better.  These are not citizens but mewling slaves for hire, ratting their self-imposed chains so they can force them on the rest of us.

Drama Llama comes home to roost

The Drama Llama comes home to roost.

Remember when I said…

 

I have a fair degree of experience with the whole feminist culture warrior shtick, and I took my leave based on experience. I was also not born in an echo chamber. My family spanned the culture war from both ends, so I had a good look at the best and worst of both worlds​”?

I had relatives arming themselves against the attack on Idlewild, defending the rights of black people, even though they were not. I had relatives wearing white hoods– even blood relatives shooting at each other in the middle of it all. I had relatives running for office on a Communist Party platform in the 1930’s. I had lots of family fleeing Germany– both the poisonous fallout from the Weimar republic and the guns and gas chambers of the Gestapo. I have a relative who was quoted extensively by the NAACP, yet was a republican icon for most of his life. I have relatives who have served with honor for the military and with distinction in the clandestine service. I had relatives on both sides of the pro-life debate, and I spent my formative years caught in the middle.

My mother was a leftist, and a radical feminist. She knew enough about Aristotle to criticize him and sound like she knew what she was talking about. It would take a scholar to refute her, mostly because much of the so called Enlightenment agrees with her.

My father was a fiscal conservative, but would have been called a social liberal, before we started forcing businesses to go against their consciences. He had a certain preference for ‘leave me alone’ standard of law that has a long glorious history in this country, that would find sympathy among the tea party. So if dinner time conversation ever meandered into politics, things got… exciting, to put it charitably.

It was a blessing, because the madness that has struck our country is for me, merely deja vu. I can’t run away from it by running away from home. It is as if a family disease leaked into the aquifer and now affects millions.

I used to pretend there is a place where I can go where it is not a factor. That place used to be the internet. I am so old I even remember when SF fandom was a shelter against politics. Well, now what it has affected both , and neither can seem to let go of it. Like the Drama Llama, it goes looking for you, even if you don’t seek it.

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I went off to become a writer in the safest place I could think of– in Science Fiction. And lo, the disease has found me still, and affects dear friends both past and present. Though it appears to be about the Hugos, it is about far more than that– it is about whether or not the umbilical fannish culture that birthed me will survive, or simply be supplanted by consumerist fandom. Come to find I have some friends on both sides, here, too.  Since it has decided not to engage or embrace the large influx of new people, is it will be starved to death by it’s staunchest defenders. It is worth pointing out that only one side is still talking to me. And that was true even before I declared a side. Running only changes the scenery. Hiding is an illusion.

Cuidado e Llamas, homes. That’s all I’m saying.

Keep in mind: being careful is not the same thing as hiding, giving up, or giving in.

The Phyrric twitter Barrage

JW with script

From my last post… (Age of Ultron Review, for those just arriving)

Speaking of gauntlets, I guess I have to talk about the Pyrrhic twitter barrage.

Joss is so not one of my political compatriots. Yet these women… can’t even wrong properly. Seriously. Why attack and devour one of their own? They call that a win? If they think they scored points in the culture war, well, let’s just say they were engaging in some deliberate friendly fire, just because.

Hell of a way to lose, mon cheri. God Speed, and enjoy those ashes in your mouth. If this keeps up, those of us in the “leave me alone” contingent won’t have to fire a shot.

So I said above, “You can’t even wrong properly” as if a retrograde reprobate such as myself knows what I’m talking about. Well, you see, just because I’m not flinging poo from across the isle does not mean I have always been what I am today. I have a fair degree of experience with the whole feminist culture warrior shtick, and I took my leave based on experience. I was also not born in an echo chamber. My family spanned the culture war from both ends, so I had a good look at the best and worst of both worlds.

In order to fisk these criticisms, I don’t even have to dip into the well of my knee jerk libertarianism– or probe the depths of my Catholic sympathies. Logic and reason don’t even have to enter into it. All I have to do is channel my mother, who was also a second wave radical feminist. Compared to these people, she had nuance. She had read a bit more history. But it is still the putrid foundation from which their culture springs.

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She would have given him points for quoting Abigail Adams at a critical juncture, when we learn that a certain character with leadership qualities gets many of them from his SO. We have seen Black Widow be nothing but a strong, dispassionate warrior for two or three films, and now we see what is behind those eyes, what she struggled against to overcome. When she shows some sign of regret… how can you truly struggle without it? We are informed that she is insufficiently strong, because she did not celebrate a decision that was forced on her. Excuse me? So now we aren’t pro-choice, but no choice?

Well, at least you are being honest for a change. And I guess the fact that she has rescued several heroes and has the massive Hulk wrapped around her little finger means nothing.

Now for a place where they really fell down on the job. The Red Witch. Oh, sure, she’s the bad ass who brings the strongest heroes down low, and is the only reason why her unassailable speed-demon brother bothers to get up every day. She even catches Ultron unawares and manages to get her and her sib away alive, which is a real accomplishment when dealing with that cruel and vindictive robot.

But she had a massive breakdown in the middle of a critical battle– and has to get a pep talk from a strong male character to move on. And guess what? He’s the closest to the straight white male the whole movie has. Burn. Aaaaannnnd, they miss it completely.

Where are the haters when you really need them? Do they have the true courage of their convictions, or do they fling poo because that is all they know how to do? They can’t even do it particularly well by their own standard.

You need a flipping Catholic libertarian to school you on how it’s done. You had one job…

Age of Ultron, the review

avengers

So I went with some friends to see Avengers. We went full hog and saw it in 3D with excellent front and center seats. The screen curved around our location… so I had an optimal view of the action.

Yes, I have good friends.

Unlike most Hollywood ventures, I went in with high expectations. The original was a truly excellent movie. And so is about everything that Joss has set his stamp on in the Marvel franchise. As a matter of fact, everything the Marvel studio has put forward has an enviable track record for quality storytelling. There has been some sideline noise and nonsense that will be addressed on, but I’m mostly focusing on the work itself.

The first scene drew me in with a sense of deja vu, yet tinged with tension. Yes, we’ve seen this set before in previous movies, but there was more. The fight scenes were… different. I don’t know how someone watching this on a conventional screen would see it, but there was a fourth dimension to battle that I hadn’t noticed before. It stirred older memories, those of me reading this very sequence in the comics as a child. He’d captured them so well the panels they were based on flickered in my brain. The fight scenes were as punchy, smooth and vivid as if I’d imagined them. This is the best use of 3D technology I have ever seen. There was no color bleed, there was no gratuitous projectiles grazing the audience. Never the less, you felt a part of the action. Granted, I had the front and center seats of platonic ideal, but even in the back the framing was so perfect it was seamless.

Right away we introduce two new characters, and with a stab of your heart you realize they are villains. Yet you want to like them, you want to identify with them, even as they side with Hydra–, that is, nifty Nazi analogues. For a while I thought it was because of my fondness for Eastern Europeans, especially Croatians, but it was also the deft way the characters were defined through the way they used their abilities in the fight scenes themselves. Quicksilver and The Red Witch are fun both to watch both as an audience member and from the writer’s perspective, so much potential for harm, and trouble.

These storytelling assets were used powerfully throughout, and with deep seated plot based consequences. This is a bold, refreshing move. With mind altering characters, they most often come off as cosmetic, a bald excuse for character development that skims the surface of the plot, or as a diversion. Any similarity between a red herring and the Red Witch is entirely coincidental.

And this is not just the usual “beginning fight scene to whet your appetite and draw you in” either. This is a setup for a twist of the knife that directs the thrust of the entire rest of the film.

Because our mind meddling witch twists the perceptions of all of our heroes, and curses them with premonitions that reveal their darkest fears. The tone is prophetic. The results are devastating.

Stark is racked by self doubt, a convincing reversal of his cocky nature. Because of that nature, his introspection powers are… crippled.

Though Bruce Banner is stronger with introspection, he literally becomes his fears and destroys a neighborhood– and a building. Stark –with all his resources — can only stop him by literally dropping a skyscraper on him. I know you are screaming about spoilers at this point– but seeing how he does it is the real payoff. Trust me.
Stark taps on the fourth wall by proclaiming themselves mad scientists, and furthers his journey into dubious territory, by building the solution to “all our problems”… and quotes the great Quisling proclaiming “Peace in Our Time”. Those scare quotes should be scary. These troubling words echo the peace treaty undermined by Adolf Hitler. Funny how comic books are more culturally literate, yet tell better stories than many ‘sophisticated’ arthouse efforts.

The secret: Joss hasn’t forgotten that strong characters have to overcome difficult circumstances. They have to move past thwarted hopes, broken dreams, and tear free from some serious shit. The development of Black Widow through out the film, happily spurred on by meddling courtesy of the Red Witch. Her addition to the mosaic is a dark lace throughout the film. The flashes and implications of her history make La Femme Nikita – or even Dark Angel — look like a jaunt through happy land.

The effect on Captain America is subtle, but has strong implications for later movies. He becomes more introspective, less receptive to friendship from his compatriots, and gives up hope on ever finding love. Yet this is subtle background to the “Empire Strikes Back” of the Avengers canon. Like the original Empire, it is even better than the first film. Yet the film owes it’s stunning success to the effective build up from it’s predecessor.

We could not understand the mayhem or it’s consequences, or even the dramatic shift in Stark’s character– had we not had the previous movies giving us a clear picture of the limits of his introspection. The companionable bonding between him and Dr Hulk makes no sense without the tension they fought through earlier in series. Even Black Widow’s apparent insanity– falling for Hulk– is a dramatic non-sequitur had we not seen her flirting with Captain America. Indeed, it doesn’t make sense until we start thinking about the effect of her nightmare journey through her past, and remembering the path she was denied.

Though these choices, we start seeing the character of the Red Witch in stark relief, as a wounded shadow in the background of every hero. Between this and her playful banter with her beloved brother Quick Silver, we know she is not only likable, but disturbed. And this carries through to the end game, where we see her innate fragility that allows her to sniff out weakness behind the toughest exterior. Look out for the scene where we see a brilliant stroke from the only hero she did not damage– that affects her deeply, likely for movies to come.

For all that it is a wide ranging ensemble piece, Joss is very good at ensembles. This is tightly written, and not a single detail goes unused throughout. I haven’t even started on the movie’s namesake… who, as mostly a voice and a rendered CGI figure, whose skillful delivery and clever dialogue would have stolen the show in a lesser film. Though he did get close more than once. You won’t find a stereotypical, emotionless AI here. He is snarky, alternating hot and cold in stunning vivid fashion.

Even through crippling and betrayal, he manages to score one last gambit.

Despite plenty of foreshadowing it comes as a surprise. It gives plenty of scope for both kicking ass and heroics– and is utilized to it’s fullest. They do things that they would have only hinted at in any other film. The final fight scenes have the same 3D quality to them as the beginning, except on a grand scale. The action is so fast you are afraid to blink, lest you miss something. Each and every detail pulls you closer to a satisfying finish.

There is a bit of a hint at the end of the film, that I’m afraid only comic book nerds would get the reference… and I’m not one of those nerds. I did not follow the whole Marvel opus closely, and my access was sporadic at best.

One last bit I’d like to highlight is the development that goes into Hawkeye, that comes as a great surprise, even to fans of the comic books. Well, I hate to destroy the surprise, but, well, let’s just say you see him in his home environment. Had the timing been better, I would have snarked that Joss’s choices hinged on the popularity of American Sniper. Yet… it couldn’t have. The timing on production is literally impossible for this to be true. No, it is just Joss’s innate knowledge of character chemistry and delivering exactly what our pot of heroes needs to function. That is, a leader, someone who knows what they were fighting for, and came home to it when work lets him. You see that leadership shine in several beautiful and unexpected moments, but it is never contrived, or spelled out in a definitive scene. Also look for a surprising but pleasing quote from one of the greatest unsung feminine heroes in American History, Abigail Adams. Joss’ degree in Women’s studies has some meat.

The last thing to mention was the eminently likable scientist, and her girl crush on Thor, and how you desperately hope she’ll come back in a different film. She played a small but vital role in the mosaic. It would not hold together without it.

Oh, and I haven’t seen such great use of parties to build character since True Lies. The sort of drunken games that men and women play are used to great effect, and a surprising cameo leaks some nerdy goodness that refers back to the original comic source. It is even used to pull in some old friends in the form of side kicks, and adds a little tension and humor later on– in the middle of a fight scene.

Stay tuned.

Suffice to say, a cosmic Gauntlet has been thrown.

infinity-war

Speaking of gauntlets, I guess I have to talk about the Pyrrhic twitter barrage. Update: Not chased.

Joss is so not one of my political compatriots. Yet these women… can’t even wrong properly. Seriously. Why attack and devour one of their own? They call that a win? If they think they scored points in the culture war, well, let’s just say they were engaging in some deliberate friendly fire, just because.

Hell of a way to lose, mon cheri. Godspeed, and enjoy those ashes in your mouth. If this keeps up, those of us in the “leave me alone” contingent won’t have to fire a shot.

I have more to say. Same blog time, same blog topic.

The Economics of Piracy

consider-piracy

Read this.  Below is a comment on the same link from masgramondou, who fortunately weighs in at the first comment. It’s important enough, I re-posted the whole thing.

Piracy. Yes you want to stop it but, yes, it may be the best marketing tool you have as an unknown author.

Eric Flint (and others, e.g. Cory Doctorow) said it originally about a decade ago but it still remains the case. Remember the average reader is not in fact a criminal and, these days, understands that authors need the royalties to survive.

If you make it easy to purchase and consume then the majority of people who might consider pirating your work will buy it. However the price has to be right (i.e. $4.99 not $14.99 or $24.99) and you have to make it so that they can easily get it on the device(s) they want. Do that and most people will buy not steal. And the ones who will steal, probably wouldn’t pay no matter what you did so if the piracy is electronic you aren’t losing anything

 

 

This reflects some data I’ve seen from folks in the ad industry, who normally study what makes an on-line ad effective. What is interesting is that the numbers reflect very nicely, except that pirated works (especially text based fiction) are a better return on investment than internet advertising. Think on that a moment.

In the Tabletop Role Playing business, where razor thin margins are a way of life, there are companies who upload free copies of their games into torrent as an advertising strategy. They say that it is by far the best advertising dollars they spend– by a long mile.

FWIW, the company used something like paper chase to collect data on where their copies went. Only they weren’t hunting for pirate 0. (Or, in this case, pirates 1-500+)They did a distribution survey and how much pattern matching they got in their purchase database. The numbers they reported on that return were absurdly high. I mean, sure, they make good games, but… would you base your economic model on that unless the numbers were definitive?

Also, professional musicians are known to upload free videos to youtube, with full production quality sound. Everybody knows there is a way to download and strip away the video. More often than not, if somebody likes it, they will fire up Amazon or iTunes and pay up to get the produced version, even if there is little practical difference.

Remember: MTV and terrestrial radio were started on the theory that people buy what they like when they hear it for free. Note that MTV started in the 1980’s, when it had been established that the radio music sales model works.