We’re living through a really campy, cringe-inducing mid-summer release B-flick geared toward imbecilic sophomores (who smell funny and have sticky palms). You know—where the villains look so ridiculously unbelievable that no sane, reasonable person would ever expect anyone to accept them even in a work of comic stripy fiction. I expected a Matrix envisioned by the Wachowski brothers, but it turns out that the Wachowskis, like the rest of the nonsense run through our collective consciousness, are a bad plot twist in a shitty script by Rick Sloane.
It’s a terrible feeling when you realize that you cannot wake up from a nightmare. There appears to be no satisfactory way to unplug from this simulation before it completes its cycle.
I wish Western Christians a blessed Triduum. For the Orthodox, we still have many weeks until Pascha. For lenten fare today, I offer an episode of the Greek television series Δεν Είσαι Μόνος: “Basil the Great: The Lion of Christ.” The episode recounts a letter by a monk whose adventures introduce him to the Arian controversy and to the imperial politics of late antiquity, wherein he meets the illustrious Orthodox Fathers of the Age. The narration is complemented by beautiful footage of the Eastern Empire. The video has English subtitles for you βαρβάρους out there.
Below is a short film by Neel Kolhatkar, Modern Educayshun:
The resistance will continue to spread. Vive l’art! Vive la raison!
The Orthodox Life has a list of films with themes of interest for Orthodox Christians: “Films for Orthodox Christians.” The list includes links to many movies that you may watch online. It is easy to find even more, though English language films or ones with English subtitles are limited. Russian Christians, though, recognize the power of our lingua anglica in reaching the world beyond their borders, and they have rediscovered their missionary zeal. Expect an abundance of new media in the near future. The Russians remember with gratitude when Christians abroad sent them bibles and religious literature and broadcast religious programming into the Soviet orbit, and they appear ready to return the favor.
Behold “real life” Star Wars photography by Zahir Batin. Impressive. Most impressive.
James Joiner explores similar but more urban photography by Thomas Dagg in Esquire: “17 Amazing Photos Mixing Star Wars and Real Life.”
Happy October! I hope that you are enjoying the beautiful autumn weather.
For today, I present another example of the Russkies’ brick by brick strategy to reinculturate their nation in its ancestral faith—a cartoon set during the Second World War about a girl who has some saintly help. The movie will come out next year, but a preview has been released:
Many Orthodox Christians will recognize the opening scene as Saint Seraphim’s cell, with his famous Умиление icon of the Theotokos shown prominently. A nice touch, as are the paschal eggs. For the saint always lived in Eastertide, no matter the season.
I like the little seraphim cum sprites—quite fitting, I suppose, given the subject matter. I imagine that seraphim would be terrifying, but I suppose that they would adapt their appearance to their audience, so to speak.
I also inwardly smiled at the little girl’s precarious footing sequences. Of course, children everywhere will find such thrilling, and it makes sense for it to be a small element in the film for that reason. However, the Russians never adopted the Nerf-ball approach to childhood danger, and the little girl’s actions are more indicative of what those folks over there do than an American Soccer Mom would expect—or tolerate (e.g. this and that).
Several weeks ago, I wanted to share a series of posts by author John C. Wright, but I deferred in order to post more holiday related items. I heartily recommend that anyone with an interest in science fiction, fantasy, pop culture, and contemporary cultural matters read Wright’s tome on women in the sci. fi. and fantasy world: “Saving Science Fiction from Strong Female Characters.” It is witty and insightful, as I would expect from Wright—you may remember that I discovered Wright at last year’s Doxacon, which I covered in detail in “Doxacon Eidomenos.” Though lengthy and somewhat repetitive at times (as later posts recapitulate earlier points for the sake of those who just started reading Wright’s argument), the posts are full of gems. For example, I found Wright’s analysis of Buffy and of what Wright calls the Urban Fantasy brilliantly spot on (from part 3):
What is the wish in this picture, drawn, I assure you, in all serious and earnest good faith by a feminist who was being serious:
[It is a cartoon still of Aurora from Sleeping Beauty with a sword confronting the Maleficent dragon]
The wish is to do without Prince Charming. The wish is to be as good as a man at men’s work. This is from a Disney movie where all the main characters are female and everything that happens, happens because some female makes it happen. (The female are fairies, but so what? Women are magical in real life anyway, as far as I am concerned).
The Prince does little more than dance one waltz with the maiden fair and get his butt kicked by orcs and end up in chains while the evil fairy queen mocks him. Not only is he rescued by women, they are women no bigger than my pinky finger.
But his is the task to face the poisonous thorns and slay the dragon, who is filled with all the powers of Hell.
That anyone would see this, this small role occupying only a few minutes of screen time, as an insult to women, or as a threat, or as an imposition, is madness. So what is the wish being fulfilled in that picture above, where the Sleeping Beauty needs no rescue and needs a man only about as much as a fish needs a bicycle?
It is not a wish for female equality. This is one fairy tale where every female character is either royalty or is supernatural.
It is a wish for sexlessness. It is a wish to do away with everything feminine, and to be better at Prince Charming’s task than the Prince. Ultimately, it is a wish to do away with human nature itself.
But human nature cannot be done away with. Consider that epitome of liberated strong femalehood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who has spawned as many homages and imitations in her day as John Carter did in his. He created a genre of his own, called the Planetary Romance. She created a genre of her own, sometimes called Urban Fantasy, but which should really be called Monster Romance.
It should be called Monster Romance because the main story arc for Buffy was about her love life. First she was sweet on Angel, but that did not work out, then Riley, and then Spike. Despite that she was a kick-ass wire-fu superheroine with a smile full of quips and a hand full of stakes, the main point of the drama was, as in most stories of this kind, her love life.
And Anita Blake? And countless others? Where is the main conflict? Where is the reader’s interest? Where is the drama? It is all about Jean-Claude or Spike or whomever the semihuman male lead is. It is all about the romance.
Most if not all of these urban leather clad ninja-babes and modern swordswomen feed a need in the audience. The males, by and large, just like seeing cute girls dressed as catwoman. The females, by and large, like the romantic drama. There is no drama if the boy and the girl kiss on the first page and get married on the second. The drama exists if something prevents the marriage. These days, there are no real taboos to marrying whomever you would like, and the guy can even start out married to someone else, because divorce is no fault. Modernity allows no dramatic and realistic obstacle to romance.
The solution is to employ dramatic, unrealistic obstacles, such as by having your male lead be a nonhuman from the Night World. In urban fantasy, the vampire or the werewolf can fulfill this role neatly. Also, the half monster can be masculine in a fashion no soft modern man is likely to be: werewolves can be badass as Conan, and vampires as seductive and dangerous as Lord Byron. (Who no doubt was a vampire, anyway). And since the heroine is the Chosen One, and destined to kill monsters like him, she is placed in a situation where she must overcome both his fallen nature, and the powers of hell, and her own best judgment, and defy the Council of the Illuminati, to win his heart and restore his soul.
Which is a perfectly satisfying book because this is exactly what finding and domesticating a man feels like or should feel like to a woman.
And, of course, in the modern age, where the despair of women is at a historical all time high, and the divorce rate is high and the suicide rate is high, romance feels like a back alley brawl with a supernatural monster. These books are a picture of the despair of women in the sexual free-for-all that exists in a postchristian, feminist world, a world where women are defended by no one but herself.
A leather-clad street fighter with a sword and a chainsaw, covered in blood, is what life feels like to the female readership, who need an image of strength and security to admire. No wonder such books are popular.
Perspicacious, eh? Vampires are needed when contemporary Jane Austens no longer may count on social convention to provide the proper obstacle to the heroine on her mission.
Hristos se naște—and a blessed synaxis of the Seventy Apostles!
Earlier this week, I posted on funny foreigners, in which I linked to Steve Sailer’s thoughts about ethnic humor. Sailer notes that we delight in recognizing patterns and in simplifying knowledge of human differences in stereotypes. I do not understand the common objections to stereotypes, as they are repeatedly substantiated—with every bus ride in D.C., every county festival in Ohio, every passing of a Starbucks in Dupont or on U Street, every shopping experience at a farmers’ market or organic grocery, every liturgy or mass, and so on. Yet, it remains surprisingly droll when we witness the confirmation of less founded stereotypes. For instance, I recently watched the documentary Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, which focuses on the life of Siberian trappers. The main character is one such trapper—a real Russian Daniel Boone fellow who makes pretty much everything with his bare hands. During the course of the documentary, this man who lives in the freezing Russian boonies ruminates about the human condition like a Solovyov or Tolstoy on the frontier of civilization.
Speaking of Russkies and stereotype confirmation, I found the following image last month on English Russia:
The photograph captures my experience of Russian life remarkably well. The tank-built women work like horses, while the men drink, slouch, and play. Another thing that I noticed in Russia was feline ubiquity. There are cats everywhere, from the Hermitage to convents to churches under construction. So, when I read “Two Months Underwater: The Life of a Russian Submariner” in Russia: Beyond the Headlines, I laughed when I saw the picture of the sailor with his cats on the submarine. Are vermin really a problem in the great deep? The article also recounts a humorous story about miscommunication and crow eating men in authority:
The most colorful character among my commanders was Capt. First Rank Gaponenko. Once he came down from the bridge, looked at us, and asked: “What are you guys up to?” We replied that we were practising formation maneuvers, and were about to coordinate actions with the other boat, No 685.
Suddenly, the commander reached for the mike: “No. 681 to 685, please kill your engine.” The reply came instantly: “No. 685 to 681, unable, over.” Gaponenko didn’t like this at all. “Kill your engine now, it’s an order!”
An even more insistent reply came: “Repeat, unable to comply, over.” Gaponenko flew right off the handle: “I am ordering you to kill your engine, right now, do you hear me? It’s Capt. First Rank Gaponenko speaking! I’ll hang you out to dry when you return to base!” Uneasy silence fell.
Then the radioman, who was half dead with fear, whispered: “Comrade Captain 1st Rank, I am sorry, it was my mistake. We need to coordinate with No 683; No 685 is an aircraft.” Gaponenko broke the communications panel in wrath, stormed out, and stayed in his quarters until we surfaced.
This coming Sunday is Theophany on the old calendar, but most Greeks currently celebrate the feast according to the new calendar. The Orthodox bless their holy water on the feast, as the Lord sanctified the River Jordan upon his baptism, which Theophany celebrates. It is common to bless nearby bodies of water, as well, and such has led to another custom for Theophany where men and/or boys dive for a cross that is thrown into the river, lake, or sea. I have written about the practice in “Happy Theophany,” “Theophany, A.D. 2010,” and “As Many As Have Been Baptized into Christ.” Well, this year when I was reading about such celebrations in Australia in “True believers take the plunge,” I found yet another amusing example of stereotype confirmation in the article’s featured image:
Seriously? At least, the cross retriever wasn’t wrestling a crocodile. The Aussie’s fit fitting the stereotype reminds me of Russian spy Anna Chapman (Kushchyenko) in leather pants and with a pistol.
Among other stereotype confirmations recently experienced online (which is always representative of statistical normality) are the dancing hillbilly and his coon buddy
as well as Ann Coulter and a logos-challenged termagant on Dr. Drew:
Let us not forget the youth in our panoply of human predictability. Last summer, I read “Drunkest D.C. Intern Ever Loses Shoe While Stalking Paul Ryan.” Sad, but not really surprising. I followed a link in the comments to DC Interns, where I found this gem:
Our “new intern” has been incredibly helpful and professional, so my story fits more into the category of laughing with him rather than laughing at him. On his first day, our “old intern” took the new intern down to the supply store to show him around. When they got to the flag section, the old intern explained that constituents could ask to have a flag flown over the Capital for special occasions. New intern proceeds to ask, “Do they just put them in a plane all together and fly them over the Capitol once a day?” Amazing.
Patterns continue. About a year ago, a local story made the Drudge Report: “Man in court after posting Facebook photo of baby & gun.” Sad, but not really surprising. Note that Wilson Dykes is Domonic Gaines’ father. At least, he did not name his child Shitavious.
Lastly, I leave you with this wonderful stereotype confirmation involving a Jewish flash mob. I sent it to my family with the caption, “When Hebes Plot.”
Enjoy the last days of the Yuletide.
Here is a short film from last year by Russian students—1937. It appears to be something of a senior project for graduation, but it serves as a good reminder of what Christians had to do in Soviet times to have their child baptized.
Seventy-five years after the period depicted in the film, the next generation of Russian artists find inspiration in small acts of pious defiance by everyday people against the Soviet spirit. These young Russians see the curse of the old ideology—the terror and the lies and the alienation (irony of ironies!) which “scientific materialism” blighted upon the Russian people. It is a marvel when a man—and a people—repents!
This weekend, I shall venture into the intersection of piety and geekdom in northern Virginia. The Protection of the Holy Mother of God Orthodox Church is sponsoring a Christian science fiction and fantasy convention at a NoVa Hilton with an emphasis on theological themes in popular sci fi and fantasy culture—Doxacon:
DOXACON is an opportunity for Christian fans of the science-fiction & fantasy genre, to engage in positive exploration of themes held in common between Christianity, Fantasy and Science Fiction… especially in a time in which this genre is seeing a renaissance among popular culture. If you enjoy engaging in meaningful dialogue on subjects concerning Middle Earth, Hogwarts, Narnia, Star Trek, Star Wars, Arrakis, or Doctor Who, to name just a few, then this is the conference is for you!
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes—and there will be optional “break out sessions” titled “Battlestar Galactica as Preparation for the Gospel” and “Firefly: Browncoats and The Beatitudes.” What is not to love? If only Pratchett, L’Engle, Dick, and Le Guin were featured, as well as some comic and anime representatives, there would be endless joy. For a starter, though, it looks like a promising time. I hope that it goes well, and perhaps it will grow into an annual event. Doxacon may even help to encourage contemporary Christian writers, and, if nothing else, it will serve as a networking aid for such people. We counterrevolutionaries certainly need to invest more in offering intelligent and high quality alternatives in popular culture, though far-sighted pagans like Herbert and Whedon have created much worthwhile even despite their world views due to the power of their natural reason and aesthetic intelligence. There is still much to be done, if not to rebuild civilization, then at least to shore up the ramparts. As Fr. Z. would say, “brick by brick.”