Not so obscure

Joseph Bottum today reprinted a July, 2000 article in which he called for a revival of Melville Davisson Post’s Uncle Abner stories:

In the deliberate tone of the stories and the matching of the writing’s pitch to its subject, in the uniting of the religious element with the detective’s action and the sense of good’s battle against evil in the solution of a crime, only G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown belongs beside Melville Davisson Post’s Uncle Abner.

I’ve never read Post; perhaps I will.

Bottum’s article is outdated in one respect: it’s not hard to find Uncle Abner in 2007. Bottum himself includes a link to amazon.com, where Uncle Abner, Master of Mysteries is listed as “in stock.” If you’re broke or impatient, you can read the collection online, courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

Practical details

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Bishoujo Celeb Panchanne is a live-action mahou shoujo spoof in which a former magical girl, now a happily married mother, is persuaded by a rather seedy kami-sama to wear the short skirt again. I’ve only seen the raw for the first episode, so I don’t know what the silly/stupid ratio is, but it looks quite cheesy, as Pixy observed. It’s also very low budget: the alien space ship looks curiously like the device I use to steam peas and corn. It does feature one element of realism missing from every other mahou shoujo show I’ve seen: we get to see Panchanne’s costume designed and constructed. ((Cardcaptor Sakura is a special case, and I don’t think we ever actually see Tomoyo sewing.)) (She still undergoes the usual magical transformation when it’s time to face the monster of the week.)

Silliness

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Ludicrous though it is as Shakespeare, if you ignore the characters’ names, Romeo x Juliet becomes a generic fantasy action show, a bit slicker than most but otherwise of no particular distinction. If it’s something truly ridiculous you want, I recommend Sisters of Wellber. In the first episode we have swords, guns, sword-guns, plate armor, a fairy, cigarettes, facial markings, a guy named Galahad, artificial intelligence and a tank that talks too much. There’s also mention of a “Killer Bee Man.” This isn’t schizotech; this is just plain silly. I suppose it’s part of the writers’ strategy: if anything can happen, you don’t have to worry about consistency. What’s frustrating is that there might be a decent story about interesting characters here — the principals are a princess who may or may not have killed a prince from a different kingdom, and the thief who becomes her protector — but it’s lost under all the senseless gimmicks.

“There can be a Last Judgement …

… but no last non-judgementalism.”

This is not to say that great art and writing requires Christianity. Far from it. But I think that art beyond a certain level requires belief in something beyond the everyday material reality. Homer wrote great poetry because he wrote of the struggles of men against fate and the caprices of the gods. Virgil dealt with the conflicting moral claims that resulted from an emerging sense of objective, philosophically-based morality vs. a lingering conviction that it was necessary to do the will of the gods. Norse mythology dealt with a pantheon which was itself doomed, and yet that sense of looming destruction also held out hope for a world reborn without the pain and conflict of the present one. All of these can inspire great art.

Perhaps because it is such a modern, urban, middle-class phenomenon, the current round of strident atheist writers project instead a sense of inward-looking self satisfaction. A smallness. How could someone produce much interesting in the way of art who adhered to Richard Dawkins’ “secular commandments” which include things like “Do not indoctrinate your children” and “Enjoy your own sex life (so long as it damages nobody else)”?

Movies and dreams

Here’s an interview with Satoshi Kon. There’s nothing particularly startling or revelatory there, but one of my favorite writers does get a mention:

As far as Phillip K. Dick is concerned, I haven’t read all of his works but I have read several. He is one of the authors that I prefer to read and it is also similar to the Kurt Vonnegut situation in that before I read the novel I saw the movie Blade Runner. I am very interested in the nightmare image. That is the influence I have from him which I have been saying that quite a bit in my interviews. Last year at the Hawaii Film Festival that was held, and the small synopsis they had in the program with Paprika said is was like a collision of Hello Kitty and Phillip K. Dick. I felt that was correct.

Awakenings

Very quick first impression: I just watched the first episode of Toward the Terra. It’s potentially first-rate, but I’m reminded strongly of RahXephon. This is not necessarily bad. The first half of RahXephon had some serious flaws ((The most annoying was the profound incuriosity of the protagonist, who never asked the obvious questions.)) but was quite watchable, even with the damned mecha. It did eventually collapse into pretentious twaddle, though. I hope the people behind Toward the Terra have thought their story through.

Wabi Sabi has begun a weblog devoted to Toward the Terra that might be a useful resource.

The closing song is just enough like Pachelbel’s “Canon” to be seriously irritating.

Booked

MamaT has begun the project of taking a picture each day for a year and posting it on her site. This could be fun, and I already carry a toy camera with me everywhere I go, so why not? Here’s the first in a series of 365:

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This is the stack of books on the chair next to my bed. (There are additional piles under the chair and spreading across the floor, but this is representative.) The visible titles are:

Fuyumi Ono, The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow
R.A. Lafferty, Iron Tears
Novala Takemoto, Kamikaze Girls
Joshua Elder, Mail Order Ninja
Caryll Houselander, Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls
Terry Teachout, All in the Dances
Nicholas Slonimsky, Lexicon of Musical Invective
Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Non-Fictions

The other books in the stack are:

Robin McKinley, The Blue Sword
Thomas J. Craughwell, Saints Behaving Badly
G.K. Chesterton, Four Faultless Felons and The Flying Inn
Robert Benchley, The Benchley Roundup

Some of these are old favorites. Others are potential gifts for nephews and nieces I want to read before I mail. The rest were recommended by various people or just looked interesting.