The Classical Source of LOGH

I promised to write this article a long time ago, and I’m very happy to see it published.  Legend of Galactic Heroes has garnered many fans throughout its three decades of existence.  (The OVA itself needed nearly a decade to complete: 1988-1997.)  Part of the charm of this series is that it asks an eternal question: what is the best form of government?  Monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy?  The dress and cultures of our heroes reminds us of the First World War, and we recall that great cataclysm in the obscene casualty levels of each interstellar battle.  Yet, does the Empire really represent the Second Reich and the Free Planets Alliance the Allies?

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The question on the best form of government has its antecedent far before World War I: Herodotus’ Histories contains a scene where Persians debate over the best form of government for themselves.  In the end, they decide on monarchy, since they argue that aristocracy and democracy are too unstable.  They say that the natural course of affairs is for one person to gain all political power anyway; so, they might as well establish a monarchy!

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Quick Takes: Turkish-style Coffee and Other Things

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Welcome to a suitably random series of quick takes, as you can tell from the first topic.  Those who wish to read a random assortment of things about yours truly are encouraged to continue.  Which reminds me, there are two award posts I should do in the near future from Josh W and Lynlynsays.  Look forward to them!

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I’ve determined that my favorite method of brewing coffee is the Turkish method: stirring very fine coffee grinds into some water, simmering it for five minutes (I try to keep it between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit), and then stirring before pouring it into a cup.  My grandmother uses this method, though I never employed it myself until the past month.  One interesting thing about this method is how one can stir up the grinds on the bottom of one’s cup to heighten the flavor.  The end result is very strong–especially with the Death Wish Coffee (the most caffeinated coffee in the world) I’m using now.

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The Importance of a Personal Philosophy

The latest episode of 91 Days inspires this topic, especially in light of what happened at the end of that episode.  Angelo has lived without purpose for the seven years following the murder of his family.  He exists in a cheap apartment with no signs of individuality and makes a living through theft.  He constantly thinks about his one great treasure, his deceased family, and has no desire to really live.  This makes him easy to manipulate as Angelo becomes embroiled in the power struggle within the Vanetti mob.  While he shows himself resolute, resourceful, and tough, he soon becomes a pawn barely able to exercise his own will.

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The above shows the importance of having a personal philosophy and of being true to oneself.  Indeed, one cannot ever be true to oneself without some personal philosophy.  The most warped mindset is that of relativism, and the relativist stands as the most miserable of all men, because his stance changes with the zeitgeist.  In terms of mindset, a racist imperialist is superior to a relativist.  Sure, it’s an awful thing to judge other men purely on external characteristics and to support a program of conquest for the benefit of the fatherland.  But, the relativist can morph from a classical liberal to a socialist to a monarchist to a democrat depending on what the majority prefers.  In England, the relativist abhors female circumcision; in Indonesia, he deems it a cultural practice worthy of toleration.  Contention and ostracism are feared above all.  At least, the racist imperialist has objective standards which he is willing to fight for.  Also, because he has objective standards, the racist imperialist can be convinced that his objective standards are not true and be brought closer to the truth.  The relativist blows with the winds of expediency.

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On the Athanatos Christian Arts and Apologetics Festival

Over one week has passed since I’ve written a proper blog.  (See “Examining Old School Anime: The Saints Point to Christ“)  I still need to comment on the new season among other things, but this post will be on my trip to Greenwood, Wisconsin in order to attend the Athanatos Christian Arts and Apologetics Festival.  Placing third in their short story contest of 2009, being a semi-finalist of the 2015 Novel Contest, and counting as a great friend of one of the contest judges ensured my invitation to the event.  Part of the idea behind the festival was that attendees would camp on site, but my friend (the blogger of Dusty Thanes) and I declined this opportunity in exchange for a comfy hotel room.  At a high of 81°F, the weather was appreciably cooler than here in Alabama, for which I was grateful.

Martha and Mary

Besides enjoying a reunion with my friend and his delightful family, the contest brought me in contact with several fiction writers and thinkers.  The most interesting of the bunch were Joseph Courtemanche, Robert Cely, Paul J. Bennett, David Zach, Bernard Bull, and Jamie Greening.  (I’m afraid that I skipped the apologetics part of this festival and focused more on the fiction writing aspect of it.)  Courtemanche, a former member of Navy Intelligence and a former police officer, stood out as the largest personality and person there; but, a deep humility made him very approachable.  Meeting the author of Assault on St. Agnes, whom my friend coached for countless hours on how to improve his novel, was a great honor.  (The preliminary judges act as editors after the initial cut before submitting their final recommendations to the deciding judge and founder of Athanatos Christian Ministries, Anthony Horvath.)  Assault on St. Agnes concerns a main character who is essentially a fictional version of the author: a “polyglot Rambo” called Bobby Kurtz.  Kurtz prevents Jihadists from committing a massacre in a church and soon finds himself enlisted again in the ranks of the U.S. military in order to prevent a bloodier attack from taking place.  Courtemanche’s experience makes for a very accurate and exciting novel, and I find myself enjoying every minute of it.

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On the Danger of Flying Witch and Its Ilk

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Here is the article I promised on magic in anime, which will especially focus on Flying Witch.  My arguements proceed from several premises, developed from Catholic theology and my years reading fantasy fiction, which I shall list here:

  1. All occult magic–i.e. not the kind resorting to deception or sleight of hand–in the real world is evil.
  2. Magic in the real world is evil because it involves the diabolic.
  3. To encourage or to support magic or the occult is always wrong.
  4. In fiction, there can exist types of magic not associated with the diabolic because the rules of fictional world and settings are not those of the real world.
  5. The decision to approve or condemn a fictional work’s portrayal of magic depends upon its similarity to the occult and whether it presents the magic as positive or negative.

Reaction to Ostrich Ferns

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Reasons to Remember Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1st to July 3rd of 1863, and yours truly tries to make a point of reminding people of this battle each year.  In part, I wish that more people learned about the outstanding characters of the people who fought then.  Also, the heroism displayed in the steadfast defense of General John Buford (July 1st), the battle for Little Round Top (July 2nd), and Pickett’s Charge (July 3rd) are worthy of remembrance.  Lastly, despite being limited to muzzleloaders, percussion revolvers, canons, bayonets, and sabers, Gettysburg stands as the fourth deadliest battle in American history (WWI’s Battle of Meuse-Argonne, WWII’s Battle of the Bulge, and WWII’s Battle of Okinawa rank above it in that order), and people ought to learn the causes behind that awful period of civil strife and make sure that history does not repeat itself.

Unfortunately, several parallels to the antebellum years which ignited the Civil War do presently exist.  (As do parallels to the Decline of the Roman Empire and the last days of Tsarist Russia–but, that is for another article.)  Here are the parallels: 1) the constant debate over an extremely divisive moral issue: slavery then and abortion now; 2) various states (New Hampshire, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas) have experienced an influx of citizens from states with the intention or unintended result of slanting a state’s politics, as 19th century America saw in Kansas and Texas; 3) the existence of secessionist movements; 4) unrest caused by the federal government either passing laws against the interests of certain states or trying to impose a uniform culture; and 5) the excessive demonization of the opposing side and the difficulty of rational argument as a result.

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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.

Shadowy Zagato

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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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

Christmas Post!

Merry Christmas, my dear readers!  (And no, it’s not belated: Christmas is an octave lasting until the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on January 1st–also a holy day of obligation.)  I’m on hiatus for a little longer, but I wrote the post linked to below for Beneath the Tangles’ Twelve Days of Christmas Anime series.  The post is essentially a meditation on how episode six of Re-Kan! reminds me of what God wished to accomplish in sending Christ to Earth.  I manage to quote G. K. Chesterton and my patron saint, St. Leo the Great,  in this post–both of whom have written very eloquently on Christmas.

Tenth Day of Christmas Anime

All the characters in Re-Kan! are fun, especialy Uehara.

All the characters in Re-Kan! are fun, especialy Uehara.

Concrete Revolutio & Moral Relativism

Well, I haven’t posted for over a week now.  Most of my writing time and energy has gone to a novel I’m writing and the rest to answering Jubilare’s excellent arguments prompted by my article concerning the inequality of the sexes.  How often on the internet does one see people arguing intelligently about something and both profiting from the discussion?  It helps that Jubilare and I come from a similar theological background, but one should not absolutely need a common background in order to profit from an argument.  The only thing absolutely needed is a belief in absolutes.  Most modern argumentation, especially in the political arena, falls to the level of a shouting match where each person vies for more time to air their viewpoints, because confidence counts more than truth to the masses.  That modern man relies more on rhetorical tricks and sophistry shows the lack of logical and philosophical training in people’s education and the atmosphere of moral relativism in which we live.  Political correctness and ideological purity have taken the place of philosophy.

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Yesterday, I almost watched two episodes of Concrete Revolutio in my quest to finalize my watch list for this season.  I’ll admit that I was in a black mood, which caused me to see the bad points of the show more than the good.  Though, the episode at first excited me with it’s allusion to Black Cat.

Tell me that no one else is reminded of Sven Vollfied in the cafe during episode one of Black Cat.

Tell me that no one else is reminded of Sven Vollfied in the cafe during episode one of Black Cat.

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Anime’s Robert E. Lee

The idea for this article was ignited by my fascination with Robert E. Lee, with the flames of my imagination first stoked by Robert E. Lee on Leadership by H. W. Crocker III and fanned into a blaze by Emory Thomas’s Robert E. Lee: A Biography and Michael Korda’s Clouds of Glory, the latter of which I could not finish because its repetitiveness wore me out.  At the same time as I read the latter, I started watching Captain Harlock and could not but note the similarity between the personalities and struggles of Lee and Harlock.  Sure, they hold polar opposite views and habits concerning alcohol, but most of their other differences are superficial.  When you’ve finished the article, be sure to tell me whether you are struck by the same fact as your humble author: that Captain Harlock is the closest approximation to R. E. Lee among anime characters.

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Both figures impress one with how their polish and perfection mingle with a spirit of humility.  Lee was dubbed “the Marble Man” at West Point for his perfect obedience to his superiors and adherence to duty.  (Lee graduated West Point without a single demerit.)  With Harlock, we have also yet to see a real character flaw, save for Harlock’s audacity and alcoholic indulgence–though, Harlock even carries his indulgence to perfection as he never behaves drunkenly.  The characters of Space Pirate Captain Harlock look up to their captain in the same way that many looked up to Lee as a peerless soldier during his lifetime.

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What Makes Seraph of the End Enjoyable

People rightly point out the flaws in Seraph of the End.  The middle of the show exhibits many high school anime tropes, some facets of the animation can be lacking despite the incredibly immersive backgrounds, the plot is not so straightforward, and it may be accused of being an Attack on Titan look-alike.  However, with Attack on Titan, the story only dragged me along by way of suspense.  After nine episodes, the only character I cared for was Mikasa, the world was too horrific to be loved, the society was filled with too many treacherous and cowardly people for me to root for their survival, and the bold lines of animation and still frames bothered me.  With the exception of the use of still frames, Seraph of the End proved to be the exact opposite and provided some interesting ideas for me to chew on.

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Recently, my friends introduced me to a fascinating book called The Way of Men by Jack Donovan.  They had been prompted to recommend it by my article “The Post-Modern Fallacy on Manliness.”  (A while back, I mentioned that I was contemplating an article on the topic of manliness, and the result of that meditation seemed to fit Aquilon’s Eyrie more.)  Few works explain male psychology so well.  In particular, Donovan displays a perspicacious degree of Classical learning (he quotes Cicero, St. Augustine, Livy, and others) and knowledge of psychological and sociological studies.  Though, I will say here that his atheistic perspective gives an incomplete picture of man, and one wonders whether the tactical virtues of strength, courage, mastery, and honor are a good replacement for the cardinal virtues of temperance, courage, prudence, and justice.

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Seraph of the End and the Family

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Seraph of the End besides its scenario–a post-apocalyptic world with man vs. vampire (Well, that was done in Trinity Blood, but this setting feels different.)–is its emphasis on human relationships.  Our hero, Yuuichiro, loses his parents to join another family in an orphanage.  He loses this family while leaving the vampire held city were he was taken following the plague which broke out.  The head of the anti-vampire unit, Colonel Guren, demands that Yuuichiro gain a friend or a lover before he may join this unit.  In the last episode, Yuuichiro is forced to pair with another person having trouble forming human relationships.  One might list more examples of how this show focuses on the importance of relationships.

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However, a few remarks of Shinoa’s I found particularly fascinating: “Virginity is evil” and the above comments.  (Just seeing the words on screen does not do justice to Saori Hayami’s delivery.)  In another article, it might be worthwhile to compare the idea of virginity and loneliness, but I want to focus on her hearty exclamation above.  It seems to me that Shinoa states two mutually opposed ideas: breeding and illicit sexual realtions.  It is important for the decimated human population to repopulate the world, but that can in no way be accomplished through illicit sexual relations.

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Joyful Christmas Music

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May all my dear readers be enjoying a happy Advent season!  This week marks our final week to prepare for the great celebration of Christmas.  Buy those presents, decorate your abode, participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, meditate with wonder on the Incarnation, show extra kindness and patience, and, first and foremost, be joyful!  Buying presents for those near and dear to us in itself helps make us happy as we look forward to the smile on their faces.  Many people complain about the spirit of commercialism that runs through Christmas, but this applies mostly to businesses and may easily be avoided as long as we don’t focus on buying things for ourselves.  When else do so many people spend so much of their time and treasure in order to bring a smile to other people’s faces?

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During some years, however, people can get wrapped up in various misfortunes–suffering, sickness, over-absorbing work, stress, worry, financial strain, death of loved ones, etc., which prevent us from entering into the spirit of joy, love, wonder, generosity, and peace that is Christmas.  Also, like me, your environs might show none of the expected hallmarks of the season.  Nothing says Christmas as much as seeing a panoply of Christmas lights and decorations against a snowy background.  Without snow, it is incredibly difficult for me to think about the holiday.  Snow always brings to mind the following verses, which describe Christ’s mission: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

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Without the aid of the environment, song provides the best avenue for entering into the spirit of the season.  But, Christmas music, which begins mid-November, has lost its charm by this time.  What was intended to bring us into the joy of the holiday now annoys us.  I’ve discovered a trick this year: if English Christmas music bores you, you might simply listen to other countries’ Christmas music.  They convey the same joy and sound fresh even if we’ve already heard the English version of a song one hundred times.  ( Zvončići sounds great even though I don’t want to hear Jingle Bells until next year.)  Check out any of the playlists below.  Croatian, German, and Latin are my favorite languages for Christmas music.

And there's one of my favorite German anime characters: Satella Harvenheit.

And there’s one of my favorite German anime characters: Satella Harvenheit.

Croatian Christmas Songs

Danish Christmas Songs

French Christmas Songs

German Christmas Songs

Italian Christmas Songs

Latin Christmas Music

Spanish Christmas Music

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Finally, Lord Drako Arakis has combined several fine Christmas songs with pictures drawn in the anime style.  Their selection of Christmas music is great and much cleaner than many of his other pieces.  I have picked through the following songs, but have a care if you explore his channel!  Enjoy!

If you want to hear a sad and touching song, you can listen to the following:

Also, an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

A First for Medieval Otaku: Cigar Reviews

Sometimes blogging brings about some interesting surprises.  An employee of Cigars City, an online tobacco retailer, discovered my article, Danna ga Wakaranai and Smoking, and then contacted me to see if I would be willing to do a couple of cigar reviews.  Who am I to turn down free cigars?  I accepted immediately, even though my expectation was to be sent something along the lines of “Cuban Magic cigars” or “Papa Bubba’s stogies.”  Instead, he sent me two fine cigars indeed: Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve and and Partagas 1845 Toro Grande.  The former company is especially renown for being Winston Churchill’s favorite–the Cuban ones anyway.  The Romeo y Julieta cigars sold in American come from Nicaragua, which happens to be my favorite cigar producing country.  Partagas, having been established in 1845, also has a long history.  It’s tobacco seems to primarily derive from the Dominican Republic, another country with prolific cigar production.

Apothecary smoking

And so, I shall endeavor to write two reviews worthy of these cigars.  Let’s start with my favorite of the two.

1) Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve (toro size)

I recently wrote about the need to wait and ponder an anime series before coming to a well-founded opinion.  Cigars differ not at all from that: the first part is called the bitter, which does not tell how good a cigar will be.  Eventually, one hits the sweet spot, whose flavors will sometimes evolve over the course of a smoke.  And most people will throw the cigar away upon reaching the label, though I often like to smoke a cigar to the point where I can only take two puffs before it gets too hot.

churchill with thompson

So, let me begin by saying that the bitter lived up to its name in this cigar.  Still, many cigars have had worse bitters.  My palate has not been as well formed for tasting cigars as for judging alcohol, but I discerned some white bread and cedar notes in the sweet spot.  The aftertaste evinced white pepper notes alongside of a leathery sweetness.  Overall, I thought that this was a great cigar.  Once which I would hand out at a celebration or in meeting a friend I have not seen for a while.

While my initial light was somewhat uneven, the burn evened out somewhat through the sweet spot.  The draw was very smooth until towards the end, where it tightened up a little.

Now for some suggested beverage pairings:

Scotch – Bowmore 12 or Glengoyne 17

Cognac – Courvoisier VSOP (Courvoisier happened to be Napoleon’s favorite cognac, by the way.)

Bourbon – Eagle Rare 10 Year Old

Wine – a slightly sweet and nutty amontillado (Hartley & Gibson’s Amontillado perhaps?  I haven’t had it in a while, so I might be wrong.) or Sandeman’s Rainwater Madeira

Beer – Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot Barleywine (Barleywine goes very well with cigars.  I might have also recommended Brooklyn Brewery’s Monster Ale, but they stopped producing it!  Quel dommage!)

One of my favorite anime cigar smokers: Sir Victoria Hellsing

One of my favorite anime cigar smokers: Sir Victoria Hellsing

2) Partagas 1845 Toro Grande

Unlike the Romeo y Julieta which features tobacco exclusively from one country, the Partagas features an Ecuadorian Habano Wrapper, Connecticut Broadleaf binder (Yes, some of the most famous tobacco is grown in Connecticut), and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler tobacco.  A good smoke, but I cannot say that the cigar impressed me too much.  It lacked the complexity of the Romeo y Julieta.  I’m not sure whether I would buy it, but it does make for a good casual smoke.

To my surprise, the bitter was slightly sweet.  The draw felt a little tight, but nothing to complain of or capable of marring the experience–at least, until I got toward the end of the cigar, where it tightens up considerably.  It burned unevenly with the bottom burning faster than the top portion.

At any rate, the sweet spot revealed bread flavors like the kind made by mixing wheat and white flour.  The smoke also included some leather flavor.  The two flavors are not an unpleasant combination in a cigar.  (Sort of like how iodine and seaweed can be found in a good Islay Scotch.)  The aftertaste possessed a sweet walnut flavor–tasty, but not very complex.  I would like to reiterate that the Partagas is a good cigar, just not one I would seek out.

Nico of Earl and Fairy as he enjoys some scotch.  He's possibly the most awesome cat in anime

Nico of Earl and Fairy as he enjoys some scotch. He’s possibly the most awesome cat in anime

Scotch – Macallan 12, Glenlivet 12, or a Glenfiddich 15

Cognac – Pierre Ferrand Ambre

Bourbon – Woodford Reserve

Wine – Alvear’s Cream Montilla (Very tasty stuff!)

Beer – I’m going to recommend Weyerbacher’s Blithering Idiot again.  (It’s about time for me to get over the last unpleasantly chocolaty barleywine I had and to start drinking them again!)

Well, that’s my opinion of the cigars.  I hope that you liked the reviews and that the cigar smokers among you will be on the lookout for the Romeo y Julieta.  Will there be other cigar reviews on here in the future?  That depends on whether any of my dear readers have found this interesting and whether Cigars City or other people find this review done well enough to warrant sending me more free stuff.

How Something Slightly Vexatious to Me May Turn to Your Advantage

Those of you who’ve read my twitter feed know that I have submitted an entry to Athanatos Christian Ministries 2015 Novel Contest.  With the deadline at 12 PM today, I ardently burned the midnight oil in finishing off my novel and submitted it with around an hour to spare.  I might have used that time to make more adjustments, but my brain felt and still feels rather fuzzy after only two hours of sleep.  And so, after returning from a half-day at work, I was speaking to a friend of mine who made the comment that I had until the 20th to make improvements to my novel.  At first, I did not understand him; but, checking out the website again, it now indicates that the deadline has been extended to October 20, 2014!  I could have had another fortnight to write the book!

Shippou on Inuyasha's Head

In a way, it affords me the opportunity to advertise the contest, and the extension itself indicates that the organizers would like more submissions.  I had felt guilty for not doing so after my friend reminded me of it through a Facebook post on October 1st, but I felt five days was not enough time unless someone–like me–was nearing the completion of his novel.  But, with a fortnight, a very gung-ho individual could write an entire novel.  Their suggested length is 40,000 to 90,000 words, which means one would have to write 2,900 words per diem.  Though rather high, such an output is possible for certain people.  I invite those of my dear readers would hold to the Christian faith and have a novel in progress to submit their work.  Even people outside of the United States may submit an entry as long as the story is written in good English.

Dog x Scissors

I mentioned that I felt guilty for not mentioning the contest sooner.  That is because Athanatos Christian Ministries began the contest with a very laudable goal: to offer talented Christian writers an avenue to publish their work.  The best stories these days seem to be written by people with secular humanistic beliefs, and this has a discernible influence on American culture.  We need more people who adhere to the principles of Christian culture to not only teach doctrine, but to also help people see the nobility of Christian ethics and beliefs through story.  Few mediums are capable of influencing the heart and mind as deeply as story.

A picture of the master himself.

A picture of the master himself.

Though, I have a few caveats for those who are now interested in entering the contest.  First, your essential goal should be to write a story, not to preach.  The values you hold in your heart will be apparent in the story.  No need to belabor the truths of the Faith to the detriment of telling a good tale.  The organizers say that a work like Tolkien’s would be acceptable.  The Christianity in his works is hidden very well, but this does not change the fact that its foundation is Christian.  Whatever you do, don’t bore the judges!

May you have good luck and much fortitude in writing!

Sabagebu: An Introduction to Gun Culture

Just when you start to think that anime shall produce no new kinds of stories, something like Sabagebu! jumps onto the screen.  The show is essentially a zany comedy, but episode 7–if this fact has not struck the viewer beforehand–makes it manifest that this show is meant to introduce Japanese teenagers to the gun culture.  They have referenced gun laws throughout the show, especially in regard to airsoft guns; but in episode seven, they explained how to obtain a hunting license in remarkable detail–even giving the web address of the Japanese Hunting Association!  Rare does an anime with such a conservative worldview appear.

Group of Hunters

In addition, the show argues that hunters are desperately needed.  Wildlife causes millions of yen in damage to farms, which may increase due to animals losing all fear of man.  Also, Japan has an aging population of only 100,000 hunters.  I will say, of all the shooting sports, hunting is the most difficult and expensive to enter.  People’s ignorance of what hunting involves gives them a feeling of trepidation: how many of us grew up in a household where our father guided us through the ins and outs of hunting?  But after watching this episode, I felt my own desire to try my hand at hunting rekindle.

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Episode seven of Sabagebu! brings up something people often overlook: modern man’s withdrawal from the sport of hunting has effected nature sometimes for the worse.  For example, wild boars run rampant in parts of the South and cause much property and crop damage just like one saw in Sabagebu!  Also, Sarah Palin is famous for permitting aerial wolf hunts because hunters noticed that it was becoming more difficult to bag moose.  (Though this article reveals that bears might have been more to blame than wolves.)  Basically, hunting–as long as animals are not overhunted–has beneficial effects for ecosystems and people whose living is tied to the land.

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And so, I applaud Sabagebu!’s efforts to introduce people to the joys of firearms.  I have not watched a show which felt this conservative since Blassreiter, and that was a religious conservatism.

Violence in Anime and Society

Sadly, a wrench was thrown into our vacation plans to visit Montreal, but my brother’s move to Indiana and our time spent at both Richmond and the Cedar Point Amusement Park were all quite successful.  In addition, I was able to see one of my best friends, thompdjames of The Dusty Thanes, for a few hours in Indiana.  The joy of meeting him after a little over three years is worth a thousand Montreals.

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But, Richmond produced my most interesting meeting of the trip.  This particular old gentleman was most voluble touching his life spent in the South.  One story he told concerning one near and dear to him, however, shocked and infuriated me.  Six abandoned and wicked men committed an unspeakable crime against a man and his fiancee–let it suffice to say that this crime would not be out of place in the pages of Akame ga Kiru.  One might read of such a crime in the papers, but one never expects to meet someone of such close propinquity to it.

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For the most part, crimes of shocking villainy seem far removed from us.  Even more unreal is the experience that some people would find inflicting traumatic mental and physical pain on others great fun.  Akame ga Kiru has many people just like that; but, there’s no way we would actually meet such villains as those in our lives, right?  We live in states far from the southern border, out of the traditionally violent South, and separate from crime-ridden major cities.  There’s no chance of extreme violence happening to us in civilized societies!

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Yet, why not?  What prevents us from becoming victims besides the Providence of God?  And we know that evil things happen to people despite their decency, virtue, and innocence.  The case is, as Akame ga Kiru shows, that people are targeted by the predatory elements of society merely because their intended victims seem weak.  Episode one featured a family who targeted hapless people from the countryside.  In the world of Akame ga Kiru just being weak ensures that one will meet a gruesome end.

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In modern society, there similarly stands no guarantee of us escaping a confrontation with violent men during our lifetime.  People take steps to eliminate or compensate for their weaknesses.  In forty of the U. S. states, people often carry firearms concealed or openly, practice using them, and take classes on the legal ramifications of self-defense with a firearm.  Where firearms are not permitted either to be owned or carried about the person, people take up the study of martial arts.  (Great Britain was the best example to come to mind.)  Stringent gun laws give the citizens of most major cities no other option, unless they’re the sort to rely solely on the police for protection.  Yet, a famous court case did rule that the police have no responsibility to protect individual citizens–just to maintain public order.  Translation: If they can help you, they will.  But, if they can’t and you get murdered, robbed, etc., the police are not liable.  Do you really want to count on the police now?

Nothing inspires confidence like a policewoman who's no more than a waif.

Nothing inspires confidence like a policewoman who’s no more than a waif.

It is a shame, however, that stringent anti-gun policies, inadequate anti-crime policies, and other factors make for dangerous inner city environments.  That city dwellers cannot use firearms as a means of self-defense and need to take up martial arts reminds one of feudal Japan or medieval Europe, where the constant threat of violence in their societies also required them to study the art of combat.  One cannot help but wonder that the people who would benefit most from concealed carry are usually denied it!

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To conclude, the threat of violence posed by nefarious individuals in society is not as remote as one might think.  This practically makes learning how to defend oneself a duty, despite a loss of leisure.  Of course, one can also take no precaution and live in the hope of never being targeted.  Crime in the U.S. is on a steady decline after all; but, the best policy is always to be prepared.

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I hope that you enjoyed this ramble!

Drinking in Early 19th Century America

I have a couple of comments on my recent article On Vanity about the per capita drinking rate of early nineteenth century America.  According to their calculations, people would only be drinking three ounces of pure alcohol per diem if the per capita rate of drinking were 18 gallons of pure alcohol.  And if everyone from the age of fifteen onwards only drank only three ounces of alcohol per diem, it strikes one as crazy that any sort of Temperance movement would start.

But yes, many temperance ladies were crazy anyway.

But yes, many temperance ladies were crazy anyway.

So, I decided to examine how 18 gallons of pure alcohol would translate across the spectrum of beer, wine, and hard liquor (most probably rye whiskey, rum, or gin at that time) in terms of bottles and cases.  Now, look closely at my math and see whether I’m correct in my calculations.  My specialty is Classical languages after all, not mathematics.  But if I am right, early Americans must really have been having a good time!

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Continue reading

On Vanity

Though the Lincoln Island episodes (I love the nod to Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island) of Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water stand as some of the most ridiculous and boring episodes of anime (John Samuel even advised me to spare myself the pain of watching them), they at least inspired the present article on vanity.  You see, Nadia has an absurd attachment to her vegetarian and technophobic ways.  Now, there is nothing wrong with with either declining to eat meat or preferring low tech or archaic things.  These are personal choices, the first perhaps makes for a healthier lifestyle and the latter less slavery to technology.  Problems arise, however, when the person ceases to believe that these things are personal choices, but rather the only correct choices for everybody.  In the anime, we see Nadia calling Jean a bad person for eating meat and exclaiming that Marie is on her way to fiery damnation for her carnivorous ways.

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It sometimes surprises me that Nadia can be so likable with all her vanity and pride, but elevating one’s personal preferences to the objectively best manner of thinking is a common fault.  In the Gospels, we see the Pharisees do this when they complain of the Apostles eating with unwashed hands as if they have committed a terrible transgression.  In our own time, we can point to various snobs who vaunt their peculiarities over the erring ways of the rest of humanity: vegans, vegetarians, non-smokers, teetotalers, hybrid car drivers, anti-hunters, anti-gunners, literary snobs, wine snobs, health fanatics, exercise fanatics, tea connoisseurs, fountain pen connoisseurs, art enthusiasts, classical music enthusiasts, people who use organic foods only, cigar snobs, cosmopolitans, nationalists, intellectuals, otaku, lengthy anime series haters, popular anime series haters, and the list might go on forever.  All the above are personal inclinations–no more that that.  If someone tries to argue that these choices are clearly superior to other choices, intelligent people can easily peg them as a snob.  Why does following a particular fad or predilection so easily make people believe they are superior to people following different fads or predilections?

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But, my favorite feature of human vanity is the anti-snobbery snob.  This occurs when a person develops opposite habits to those whom he perceives to be snobs in order to further disassociate with them: eating red meat with every meal, never buying organic products, having one beer a day, owning a gas guzzling truck, having animal trophies in every room, refusing to read literature, never touching wine, etc.  Avoiding the arrogance of the snobs often causes one to become a snob oneself–and occasionally to one’s detriment.  When I advised one person to use a glass mug with his craft beer, he deliberately picked up a plastic mug and would not change his mind!  Why?  What pleasure is there in putting one’s lips to a plastic mug rather than a glass one except whatever pleasure anti-beer connoisseur snobbery affords?

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In the case of reverse snobbery, I confess myself to have fallen into such concerning alcohol.  The only creature worse than a wine snob is a teetotaling snob: the wine snob is superior to you because his tastes are more refined; the teetotaling snob claims moral superiority over his fellows.  Reading about the Temperance movement birthed this anti-snobbery.  After all, we see that people in the Temperance movement resorted to violence in order to further their goals, founded religions with teetotalism as a fundamental tenet, lied to influence the passage of Prohibition, and made clearly exaggerated claims against drinkers–such as that drinking was un-American.  (Those German and Irish immigrants were terrible drunks, you know!  But, I don’t think the per capita consumption of 18 gallons of pure alcohol at the beginning of the 19th century can be laid entirely on Germans and Irish.)  Meeting and listening to people whose teetotalism was infected by moral superiority helped my prejudice along.  Only in the last three years have I softened my discrimination against non-drinkers as I met people whose teetotalism was unmixed with hauteur.

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However, perhaps the worst forms of snobbery and anti-snobbery find themselves in the realm of religion.  The groups having members most likely to be guilty of this are atheists, militant agnostics, Catholics, fundamentalist Protestants, Anglicans, and Western followers of Eastern religions.  Of course, believers and proponents of these systems can wrongly be perceived as arrogant merely because they believe their ideas are true–especially with the plague of relativism affecting the modern world.  But, some proponents of these worldviews go further than that.  They despise people of other backgrounds as backwards, uneducated, unthinking, unintelligent, unsophisticated, or morally defective.  They say to themselves, “If those people were not so stupid, stubborn, or wicked, surely they would believe what I believe!”  The worst thing about the arrogance of these people is that they drive away people who would otherwise be interested in the Faith.  (For obvious reasons, I am not as concerned about arrogant atheists or agnostics.)  When the stench of arrogance surrounds anything, people not inclined to examine it–whether it be Bordeaux or dogma.