Review of The New Concise History of the Crusades

A while back, I had the pleasure of reading Thomas F. Madden’s The New Concise History of the Crusades.  This introductory yet detailed work covers all the major Crusades to the Levant, certain minor ones–including the Children’s Crusade, and the important Crusades within Europe: the Reconquista, the Albigensian Crusade, and the Northern or Baltic Crusades.  (The last might be especially interesting to fans of the Spice and Wolf light novels, since Hasekura’s fantasy world is reminiscent of Northern Europe during that time.)  The most important thing to note about many popular recent histories of the Crusades is that they often come from an unfriendly perspective: Marxist, of the Enlightenment, or pro-Islam.  (Runciman’s famous history, for example, falls into the pro-Islam category.)  This is to say that many historians of modern times have used the historical data with the purpose of discrediting the notion of a just holy war, tarnishing Christendom, or imputing false motives to the Crusaders and the Church.  Madden’s history diverges from those sorts by taking the Crusaders’ and the Church’s words and deeds for what they are rather than as a cover for greed.

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However, Madden does highlight the greed and lust for power of certain participants, especially the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.  (Frederick II may be credited for many good things, but he both delayed egregiously the fulfillment of his oath to crusade and then used his time in the Levant for personal enrichment.)  Madden also notes how the Fifth Crusade might have become the greatest success since the first one had it not been for the papal legate’s greed: the Caliph of Egypt, due to internal strife and initial setbacks against the Crusaders, had offered Jerusalem and its environs on a silver platter.  Yet, the papal legate, a cardinal, wanted more.  It is true that others also argued against the initial treaty and subsequent offers because they did not fully secure the Kingdom of Jerusalem against invasion; yet, as the position of the army became more untenable prior to the final catastrophe, this cardinal’s desire for more territory was primarily responsible for the Fifth Crusade’s failure.

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Battles and Hope

Angry Thrust

We’re in the eighth week of the season, and I should write my mid-season review soon–perhaps this Sunday.  Yet, so many shows are about to expire on Hulu: Tide Line BlueProject ArmsMagic Knight Rayearth, etc.  My determination to at least sample from these fine old shows has inspired me to write the following article on Magic Knight Rayearth.  (Also, I did finish the Dirty Pair OVA, which I hope to review soon–and no, that show is not as bad as the title makes it sound.)  This series falls into the genres of shoujo and fantasy, along the lines of Pretear and Escaflowne.  (I apparently have completed five shows which fall into both categories, all of which have a rating of four stars or higher from me.)  Magic Knight Rayearth has greatly amused me by the realistic reactions of Umi and Fuu when faced with monsters: scream and run away!  (There is a reason why history has not recorded conquering armies of high school girls.)  However, Hikaru is much more spirited than the other two, and they are gradually rising to the challenge of saving the world from the evil Il Pallazo Zagato and his minions.

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This manga from which this show is adapted was published in 1993, but its focus on hope, following one’s dreams, and the importance of will power manifest strong influence from the eighties.  The eighties were an incredibly upbeat time, which can be felt especially in its popular music, and that quality draws may people to have a fondness for that decade.  What made it so upbeat?  From an American perspective, I can point to two reasons: 1) economic prosperity and 2) Ronald Reagan.  The latter reason probably made someone’s eyes roll, so I shall endeavor to explain the mood of the country prior to his election, as I have gleaned it from books, my parents, and others who experienced them.  (I myself only lived through four of those years.)

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DooM: Never Back Down, Always Double Down

The following article comes from the pen of TheOneYeti, an avid gamer and one of my choicest friends.  I have told him that he’s welcome to write a post for my blog anytime, and readers among my audience will appreciate certainly his views and sense of humor.  You might catch him on his twitch channel or on Steam, where his handle is simply Yeti.

*Disclaimer* I played Doom on a Playstation 4. I purchased this game with my own money for full retail price and did not receive a review code. I played through the campaign twice, once on the third and once on the second hardest.  Just to be clear, this is only a review of the single player mode.*

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The first minute of Doom pulls no punches and hedges no bets. The player is given a 10 second cutscene where it’s established that there are demons on Mars, and you need to kill them – here’s a gun. It lays all its cards on the deck and establishes the tone, setting, and gameplay immediately. The first 10 minutes are some of the best first 10 minutes of any game I’ve ever played.

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Observations on How Religion Rolls Back Superstition

Many watching Mayoiga have no doubt discerned that the characters are stupid.  Not that this sort of thing is rare in the horror genre, but here it should be pointed out that much of their stupidity derives from their superstitious ideas, which plainly comes forth in that most believe Masaki to be a ghost.  What is a ghost?  The soul or spirit of a deceased person.  It is in the nature of ghosts to be immaterial, and so they can’t be touched and don’t need food, which explains why Our Lord had St. Thomas the Apostle touch His wounds and why He ate fish before the apostles after His Resurrection.  I might add that one cannot tie up or wound ghosts either, as the protagonists of Mayoiga were able to do to Masaki.  The point of the above is that no Christian would take seriously the contention that Masaki was a ghost, but particular nonbelievers, lacking the education provided by the Faith, are more susceptible to superstition in this matter.

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The concept of religion guarding against superstition sounds odd to us: we’re trained to think of religion as promoting superstition.  Even in the days of Plutarch (c. 46 – c. 120 AD), the Romans were held to be superstitious by the Greeks because of their fervor for religion.  There are even some Catholic superstitions, which often base themselves on certain acts or rituals guaranteed to gain the object of our prayers.  In reality, there are several elements which much be present for a prayer to be effective, such as humility, devotion, confidence, necessity for salvation, and the will of God.  Believing a pious practice will obtain one’s prayers may increase one’s confidence and devotion, but without the other three conditions, one’s prayer will not be answered.  Sometimes a prayer to a lesser saint is more effective because one’s devotion to that saint is greater; but, as George MacDonald wrote, God would “instead of being a merciful Savior, be the ministering Genius of our destruction” if He answered every prayer exactly as we wished it.  Not everything we want advances our salvation or is in accord with God’s will.

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Whether to Emphasize God’s Justice or His Mercy

This topic came to the fore of my mind recently while having a talk with my father on the burial of suicides.  I brought up the fact that suicides were much fewer in number when they were forbidden a place on hallowed ground.  This very practice highlighted the gravity of suicide, i.e. damning in and of itself.  My father brought forward that there may be many extenuating circumstances (mental illness, extreme pain, or the threat of extreme pain) in each individual case, which diminish the suicide’s culpability.  Also, the mercy of God is beyond imagining.  Contrary to the opinion of the Church of the Middle Ages, we cannot be sure that every suicide is in hell.  I countered, but, does that not diminish the seriousness of the sin in most people’s eyes?  I might have even added that we now have people who hold suicide as a natural right or that suicides might now understand that they can gain the Kingdom without carrying their cross.

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We went forth back and forth on this issue, I emphasizing justice and my father mercy, which leads us to the interesting topic of which of these attributes should be emphasized.  (If you were curious, yes, I was playing devil’s advocate above: suicides ought to receive a Christian burial because God’s mercy is infinitely greater than human wickedness–even in the case of something as final as suicide.) Many say that we can reasonably assume that most are saved.  Others, however, contend that this lackadaisical attitude toward salvation causes many to be damned.  Rather, it is reasonable to assume that most or even all penitents are saved, but most of humanity do not seek or even want God’s forgiveness.

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Article Ideas for May through July

My dear readers!  How little I write these days!  Day to day worries and trivial pursuits so easily distract the mind, even though writing posts for your enjoyment is more worthwhile.  And so, I have decided to take a page from the YouTuber Lindybeige and will write at least two posts per week starting tomorrow: one on Sunday and one on Friday.  Far from being difficult to conjure up with things to write about, I devised so many that it shall take me until July to finish with them.  Though, I must confess that I usually only get around to 80% of the topics on lists like this.

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Below, I list the order in which these articles occurred to me.  Feel free to both chime in and steal ideas from here.  That’s right: steal them.  There are as many possible views on the topics listed below as there are people.  If any of you are so bold, link your article back to this post, and, within three days, I shall write an article on the same topic taking your post into consideration and linking back to yours!  (By the way, this includes posts taking the opposite point of view, and you have to beat me to the punch.) This sounds like a fun innovation, and I look forward to you taking me up on it.  If an anime spawned the idea for a topic, I have included its name.

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Insecurity vs Loving Yourself? Kiznaiver Ep 4&5

SLOANER

Welcome friends and foes of anime! I you recall, in a previous blog I mentioned that I switched out Cerberus for Kiznaiver, since Kiznaiver was just so much more substantive. Although the fourth and fifth episodes were not as fantastic as the third, this series still proves itself to be a solid watch. 


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Since I have yet to have the chance to talk about the opening, it seems appropriate to bring it up now. This opening is easily one of my favorites of the season, and captures the complex swirling emotions this anime has to offer. The semi-psychedelic images, flashes of memorial scenes, and individual focus fully reflects what this series is. The song itself is super catchy, yet simultaneously calming. Really, this opening is just great, not just for the anime, but also just in general. 

Moving on to episode 4! After watching the entirety of the episode, I think…

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The Heroic Spirit Manifesto (Anime Ver) | Cafe Talk

Be sure to check out Takuto’s analysis of heroism across various anime series.

Takuto's Anime Cafe

Hi guys, so it would appear that I’ve missed this deadline by quite awhile. This post is about two weeks late, in fact. I’ll be posting some sort of mid-May update here soon to caption what’s been going on and why I haven’t been posting (though you could probably guess). This way, I can avoid cluttering up the hero week celebration. Welcome to café talk . . . ?

weareheroesreformattedWhat was this post supposed to be about again?

That’s a good question, haha. Hero Week was ideally supposed to encompass my thoughts and reviews for four anime with heroes in them followed by a café talk to wrap everything up and conclude with a few of your guys’ thoughts.

Unfortunately, there were very few comments. On two posts, exactly zero. so I won’t be doing that part.

In huge part, this was all my bad. While I did get the first…

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Spiritual Books for May

Those of you who remember my Candlemas Resolutions, recall my wish to write a review of one religious book per month.  Spiritual reading is of great necessity for Christians.  The Bible holds first place, but the Bible has been called “God’s Hidden Book” with good reason: it can be hard to understand, and the reader needs the special grace of the Holy Spirit to properly learn from it.  (Happy Pentecost, by the way!) However, there are three things which shed light on how to apply and understand Scripture: 1) the lives of the saints; 2) theology; and 3) devotional/spiritual books.

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I said that I wished to concentrate on theological works in that past article, but they are slow reading.  I’m still not finished with Peter Kreeft’s Practical Theology, which was reviewed in February of last year.  (Mostly due to laziness, it is true.) Now, my theologically heavy book is Matthias Joseph Scheenben’s A Manual of Catholic Theology.  It’s very interesting, but don’t expect a review of it any time soon.  In any case, I hope that one of the following three books, two saint’s lives and one devotional work, peaks your interest and enriches your life.

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1) Humility of Heart by Cajetan Maria de Bergamo

This book was written by the esteemed Capuchin missionary Cajetan Maria de Bergamo.  This might be the only work of his to have been published in English, even though his eulogist praises him as “second to none in religious life and easily first in all types of writing” and Pope Benedict XVI claims his work as equally satisfying the heart and the mind.  So, it should come as no surprise that his work on humility is considered one of the best on the virtue.

Humility of Heart does its best to paint a picture of how beautiful humility is and how ugly is its opposite, pride.  He uses many apt examples, especially from Scripture.  Most striking for me is how he reminded us that if humility is enough to move God to save us, then pride alone can cause damnation.  Indeed, that unforgivable sin against the Holy Ghost, refusal to repent, is rooted in pride; and many persons who are considered decent or even virtuous go to hell because they refuse to let God in their lives. 

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Haifuri and Remembering the Sea Cadets

Every time I watch Haifuri, I can’t but recall my time in the Sea Cadets.  This group can be compared to the Civil Air Patrol, but with a naval orientation.  The cadets are divided into two groups: Sea Cadets proper (made up of teenagers from 13-17) and the Navy League Cadets (ages 11-14).  I started at the age of eleven in the latter, and that section kept me until well into my fourteenth year due to my position as Company Commander of the Navy League Cadets.  Usually, they wished to keep experienced cadets in that leadership role for as long as possible.  The primary goal of the Sea Cadets was to give people a taste of Navy life so that they might join the Navy or an ROTC program after high school.  In my case, it rather had the opposite effect, and the rest of this article will show why.

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As to how I found myself in this program, the story begins with my father having entered the program for a time as a teenager.  Like the heroines of Haifuri, he sailed in real navy destroyers or other ships for stretches of time.  How glorious being a Sea Cadet in those days!  Hobnobbing with sailors and observing the operations of a navy ship underway!  He even claims to have been on it while a storm struck–a storm with waves taller than his ship! 

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2nd Fujinsei Blog Carnival: All Otaku Bloggers Welcome!

This sounds like a fun idea. Be sure to participate!

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Happy Monday to all of you, my dear fellow otaku bloggers!  I officially declare the 2nd Fujinsei Blog CarnivalOPEN!  Let’s see those great posts.  But before anything else, please read the following rules to avoid your submission from getting deleted.  Thank you.

Duration:  May 2 to May 8

Rules of Participation:

  1. This carnival is OPEN ONLY to people who blog about anime, manga, or anything related to Japanese culture and media, and of course the otaku world.
  2. Share the link to a specific blog post at the comment section below, NOT just your blog address.  Include title of blog post and a short explanation of what your post is about.  It doesn’t have to be a recent post, but it has to be a post that you’re proud to show off.
  3. Only 1 link per blogger.
  4. Please visit at least one participant’s link; don’t just leave yours and move…

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1 May: St. Joseph the Worker

From Father Z’s Blog :

In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, on Sunday 1 May we celebrate the Feast of St Joseph, Opifex or Worker.  We don’t ignore the 5th Sunday after Easter, of course (6th Sunday of Easter in the Novus Ordo): prayers from the Sunday formulary are added after those for Joseph.

Joseph the Worker is a modern feast.  Celebration of his principle feast on 19 March goes back to at least the 10th century.  In 1870, Bl Pius IX declared Joseph to be the Patron of the Universal Church and gave him a feast on the Wednesday of the 2nd week of Easter.  In 1955, however, Ven Pius XII abolished that feast and instituted St Joseph The Worker on 1 May.  This was a response to Communist celebrations of “May Day”, which in part commemorated a bombing, riot, and massacre in Chicago in 1886…

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BFI Anime Weekend 2016 in June

Here is a very solid lineup of movies for the BFI Anime Weekend. Many are worth adding to the list of anime one want to see.

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The BFI is hosting a weekend of contemporary anime films at the BFI Southbank in June. This is a regular event which collects a diverse array of anime movies and a lot on offer in this year’s programme are some of the best and flashiest to be released in recent years.

Ghost in the Shell Motoko Kusanagi

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Random Thoughts on the Anime of Spring 2016

The past couple of years have introduced us to one solid season after another.  (It reminds me of the days where I despaired of the anime industry, which lead to posts like “Anime Spring Season 2012: Only Two Worthy Shows?“. Click on that if you want to read a really old post!) This season was no exception.  So, I limited myself to seven regular length shows lest I become overburdened.  (I’m not concerned about shorts taking up too much time.) See below for the shows which made the cut.  The shows are in no particular order.

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1) Space Patrol Luluco

The first two episodes greatly amused me, and I found myself surprised by the serious turn taken in the third episode.  Trigger is nothing if not creative, and I can’t wait to see how they meld the insane antics of this show with the more serious elements.  Fans of Kill la Kill will no doubt see similarities between Luluco and Mako Mankanshoku.  Having a Mako-ish character as the heroine ought to make for a very memorable short.

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On Creating an Anime for Christians Page

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Pondering the examples of other bloggers, particularly those at Beneath the Tangles, has encouraged me to create a page devoted to anime imbued with Christian ideals.  Many bloggers will tell you that there are no Christian anime besides Superbook and My Last Days, but I beg to differ.  Five other anime come to mind which have a clear Christian ethos behind them:

1) Arpeggio of Blue Steel
2) Ashita no Joe
3) Blassreiter
4) Mardock Scramble
5) Wings of the Honneamise

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Feast of St. George

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Happy feast of St. George to all my dear readers, especially to those of you who are English!  Below, I have included G. K. Chesterton’s poem “The Englishman,” which happens to be my favorite poem on St. George and one of my favorites to derive from Chesterton’s pen.  St. George, pray for us!

The Englishman

ST George he was for England.
And before he killed the dragon
He drank a pint of English ale
Out of an English flagon.
For though he fast right readily
In hair-shirt or in mail.
It isn’t safe to give him cakes
Unless you give him ale.

St George he was for England,
And right gallantly set free
The lady left for dragon’s meat
And tied up to a tree;
But since he stood for England
And knew what England means,
Unless you give him bacon
You mustn’t give him beans.

St George he is for England,
And shall wear the shield he wore
When we go out in armour
With the battle-cross before.
But though he is jolly company
And very pleased to dine,
It isn’t safe to give him nuts
Unless you give him wine.

-G. K. Chesterton