Back to previous post: Robert M. Fletcher of Boca Raton, Scammer. Part IV

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Oh No Lev Grossman No

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

August 30, 2009

Flash of insight: swift, blinding, pointless
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:09 AM * 56 comments

Saints were the Pokémon of the Middle Ages.

Comments on Flash of insight: swift, blinding, pointless:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 06:13 AM:

Now we get to tally the people who say, "Pokémon? Wha?" verses the people who say, "Why do you say that about saints?"

#2 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 06:15 AM:

Gotta pray to 'em all!

#3 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 07:08 AM:

Relics as trading cards! Some are rarer than others!

#4 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 07:15 AM:

"What saint have you got a special devotion to, Adgar?"
"Saint Lucy. Martyr-type and virgin-type."
"Neat! What are her special abilities?"
"Eyeballs. How 'bout you, Guillaime? Still a fan of Saint Lawrence?"
"Naw, I've decided I'm gonna do Saint Cecelia. Still a martyr type, but she's virgin-type too, and has music as her special ability."

#5 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 07:56 AM:

On the feast days, we will eat not but Pez and drink not but Kool-Aid.

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 08:18 AM:

Venerable Sergius of Radonezh (Сергий Радонежский, Sergii Radonezhsky)—also translated as Sergey Radonezhsky or Serge of Radonezh was a spiritual leader and monastic reformer of medieval Russia. Together with Venerable Seraphim of Sarov, he is a venerated Russian saint.

#7 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 08:20 AM:

Abigail the Matriarch

Jewish laywoman. Wife of King David. Old Testament matriarch. One of the seven women considered a prophet by the Talmudic scholars.

Born c.1000 BC, Died c.950 BC

"...Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves, and two vessels of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and a hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of dry figs, and laid them upon asses..."

#8 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 08:48 AM:

Ah, LOLSaints! (warning: site contains munitions-grade blasphemy)

#9 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 09:18 AM:

Heh. Taking the other end of the equation, I figured out years ago that Pokemon was pretty much Shamanism for Kiddies. I once did a lengthy article on the first season or two, but I think it got lost in a disk crash (it might still be up at some Pokemon discussion site or other).

I kinda lost interest in Pokemon after 9/11... see, the way I first found out about the attack was when my daily fix was pre-empted -- by the destruction of its broadcast antenna!

#10 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 10:01 AM:

Here's the Book of Revelations as Pokemon. Sample card: The Lion of Judah.

#11 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 10:05 AM:

The Blessed Virgin Pikachu has got to be in there somewhere.

#12 ::: Remus Shepherd ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 10:38 AM:

I loved it when the Venerable Florian evolved into Saint Florian and was all like, "Watch my flame strike now, be-yotch!"

Also, if Pikachu's a virgin, there are many internet sites out there lying to people. I suspect the Blessed Pikachu is angling to be the saint of electrical whores. Which, let's face it, will eventually be a position with a lot of worshippers.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 10:58 AM:

Remis Sheperd @ 12... the Blessed Pikachu is angling to be the saint of electrical whores

I swing the Body Electric.

#14 ::: MorganJLocke ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 12:15 PM:

Oh. Muh ghod. That is brilliant.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 01:23 PM:

Pokémon, yes; but also the equivalent of the local point of pride, and the subject of local urban legends.

And now, for your amusement/edification: the all-BVM annual calendar.

#16 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 01:44 PM:

David Harmon, #9: I figured out years ago that Pokemon was pretty much Shamanism for Kiddies.

I've always thought of it as dogfighting for kiddies. Dogfighting, but with cute, hamster-like creatures. It's like Winnie the Pooh, as written by Michael Vick.

#17 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 02:23 PM:

Serge @13. schwing

#18 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 03:30 PM:

Mark Wise @ 17...

"My name is Buro Houtenfaust. I was named for a Saint who was a very wealthy man. He had the wine, the women, the songs, the whole bit, and then inexplicably, took a vow of poverty and became a hermit. Ran off to live in the forest, in the nude."
- Simon Templar in 1997's The Saint

#19 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 04:05 PM:

I herd you liek Iehosephatz.

#20 ::: Michael Martin ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 05:01 PM:

This made me go search the ML archives for the tales of the Three Explosive Virgin Martyrs.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 05:17 PM:

"Allow me to introduce myself. My name is August Christopher. I was named for St. Augustan, who coined my favorite phrase, 'Give me chastity and give me constancy, but do not give it yet.' "
- Simon Templar in 1997's The Saint.

#22 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 07:10 PM:

I choose you, Boniface!


#23 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2009, 11:51 PM:

A.J. @22 used up my sole contribution to this thread while my mind was still attempting mightily to absorb Rob@10's Apocamon, which I am really, really enjoying. A lot.

I've actually read the Book of Revelations, but clearly so very, very long ago that I remember nothing at all of it.

#24 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:16 AM:

Wai, wai, wait. The Apocamon is by Patrick Farley of the Electric Sheep?!?!? No wonder it's good!

#25 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:29 AM:

As I was telling TNH, while in Montreal I attended Mass at St. Patrick's Basilica. The place dates from 1847, built to serve a wave of Irish immigrants to Quebec, and the Mass I attended was said in English.

What distinguished it from other big fancy churches I've visited was many, many niches with statues of saints. There must be hundreds of them.

Here's a modest example behind the main altar. There's a pretty big statue of Patrick himself, flanked by four fairly big statues of other saints. Below them six smaller saints are visible in the picture.

The side altars have rows and rows of further saints, in multiple sizes. Here's a shot that shows part of the right side altar.

If you have a favorite saint, chances are St. Pat's has a statue of him or her. There are paintings and stained-glass windows too.

I've been wondering if a "who's where" guide to these saints could be found on the Web, but a little searching has not turned up an answer yet.

#26 ::: Max Kaehn ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:44 AM:

I figure that the real test of sainthood is being made patron saint of something. “I was shot to death and now I’m patron saint of archers?” “I got martyred on a hot iron plate and now I’m patron saint of cooks!” Truly a test of the foregiveness of a saint.

#27 ::: James Moar ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 05:10 AM:

Wesley @ 16:

Dogfighting is close -- Pokémon is inspired by a Japanese kids' tradition of setting up insect fights.

See the first two cartoons on this thread for a very relevant demonstration (read right to left):

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 07:37 AM:

Bill Higgins @ 25... There's a pretty big statue of Patrick himself

Next to St Teresa?

#29 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 11:00 AM:

Pokemon amuses me because it was invented BEFORE we found that young humans are pretty much hardwired to want to, at a certain developmental stage, become obsessive experts about some corpus of data with 100-250 records, each record having 2-15 attributes/datapoints.

When I was a kid, dinosaurs was a common obsession-aim (or following space missions and astronauts; or, for that matter, sports or cars). Now it's Pokemon/Digimon/etc.

And once, it probably was saints. All for a set of brain-tendencies that probably evolved to deal with food animals and food/medicinal plants ...

In re Bill Higgins @25 ... I was somewhat interested to read all the walls of the Orthodox church my brother-in-law attends, in California; along with several 'attribute' saints (Hagia Sophia and her three daughters, frex) and a bunch of medievally ones, they actually also had several Native-North-American saints (Arctic peoples, converted by the Russians) in the icon parade painted all around the walls of the main sanctuary.

#30 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 11:09 AM:

Max Kaehn @ #26:

My favourite odd patronage, though perhaps not as straightforward as the instances you cite, is that St Clare of Assissi, whose life was based on simplicity, productive labour, and the renunciation of worldly luxuries, is now called the patron saint of television.

#31 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 12:26 PM:

Paul@30 you mean, it's not St. Vidicon?

#32 ::: ppint. ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 01:36 PM:

saints and demons!
(or would that be yu-gi-oh! ?)

and individual games would correspond to trials of spiritual strength,
and sanctified^H^H^H^Honed match-play, the equivalent of holy tourney?

and what'd equate with pilgrimages ?
and crusades ?

#33 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 02:21 PM:

Paul @30: Didn't you know St. Clare of Assissi was known to have visions (i.e. clairvoyance), and that's why she is patron saint of television?

IIRC, she's also patron saint of needleworkers...

#34 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 02:38 PM:

Oh good. Now whenever I see an image of that robed and tonsured fellow surrounded by birds, I'm going to be hearing him in my head saying nothing but "Francis Francis."

#35 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 02:39 PM:

Malkovich Malkovich?

#36 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2009, 05:24 PM:

Was I ahead of my time with this back in 1999?

#38 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 12:01 PM:

Lori Coulson @ #33:

Oh, I know why St Clare got picked - but I still think it's odd to make her patron saint of something that, had it existed in her lifetime, she would probably have disapproved of.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 12:18 PM:

Doctor Doctor
With St Matt Frewer?

#40 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 12:27 PM:

Lenny Bailes @36: Your link gets me to a Google groups "topic not found" page for rec.arts.sf.fandom. Tinyurl considered harmful.

#41 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 12:50 PM:

Dan@40 -- Google's fault, not tinyurl. I tried doing the search directly on Google's site; it gave me the same URL, and the same error at the end of it.

#42 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2009, 05:15 PM:

Wesley #16: No, not dogfighting, nor insect fighting either. In dogfighting, you have animals that are completely controlled by the humans, being forced to fight for the amusement of humans.

In Pokemon, the mons are champions of their humans, representing their various talents, arbitrating their conflicts and negotiating between humans and the world at large. for them. Indeed, the mons represent the various spirits of not only nature, but technology as well (humans are also part of the world). They have to be won by their trainers, and then nurtured, in their individual ways. Likewise, they each have their own lessons to teach....

#43 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2009, 03:43 AM:

Elliot @29 - wait, that had to be discovered? Didn't we already know this? I mean, when have children not gone through a phase of cataloging the dinosaurs? (Or sports cars. Or fighter planes of WWII. Or the books of the minor prophets. Etcetera as appropriate to the catalogables of the era.)

(It always irked me, as a seven-year-old cataloger of dinosaurs, that the grown-ups were less impressed with what I'd learned about the prehistorical reptiles than they were with my ability to pronounce "archeopterix." Here I was, [marvin]brains the size of a planet[/marvin], able to recite data concerning wing-span and mass and evolutionary implications and so forth, and what did I get? "Hey, Niki, tell Mrs. So-n-So what your favorite dinosaur is!" ... "Isn't that cute? She can spell it, too!" WRATH OF A THOUSAND SUNS)

#44 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2009, 08:01 AM:

Dan Hoey @ #40:

The tinyurl worked for me when I first clicked on it, and it worked when I tried it again just now.

I think that, as Andrew Plotkin says, the problem is at Google's end.

#45 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2009, 12:08 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @43: Yes. Yes, I have felt that pain ...

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2009, 12:15 PM:

Nicole @ 43... I think you should write a YA novel about a 7-year-old girl who can recite data concerning wing-span and mass and evolutionary implications of flying dinosaurs and call it "Wrath of a Thousand Suns". That's how the story begins. Then one day, a timegate opens and dinosaurs come flying out, and the young lady saves Earth from a horrible doom.

#47 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2009, 02:01 PM:

...or saves the Earth from dinosaur sodomy. Because once you've got a dinosaur infestation, you know what happens next.

#48 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2009, 07:28 PM:

In re Serge @46, in general:

I really, really like it when we get a string of movies where (a) sciencey people are the heroes, AND (b) they win/live because they KNOW STUFF, not because (to pick a random example that I do in fact enjoy) they're good with a bullwhip and have a very cool hat and leather jacket.

For a while there we were getting some: Dante's Peak and The Relic, for example. Haven't seen one in quite some time. Even the 'sciencey' movies usually have the heroes win/live because of their innate moral value, or their physical rad-itude, or something, of late, it seems to me.

As a side note, Dante's Peak is the single most geologically-fact-filled fiction movies I've seen in a really long time, and is a great way of driving home to a bunch of blase recent-high-school-grads that, dude, geology/earth science MATTERS, and here's what it LOOKS LIKE.

#49 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 01:59 PM:

For the pokemon-as-shaman above, I'll contribute ... lemme find it again ... The Bridge,

... from a site which is chock-full of Rebecca/R. Sean Borgstrom-y goodness. (Read from the archives, because the next/previous links leave out the letters columns and jump around oddly in places.)

Recommended, among everything else: Aslan Shrugged, and The Abbey,_After the Rain.


#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 02:24 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 48... movies where (a) sciencey people are the heroes, AND (b) they win/live because they KNOW STUFF

On TV, there was numb3rs, where Mathematics, of all things, saved the day again and again. There is also Eureka, where problems usually are solved by people who, like you said, know stuff. Even Jack does. He may not be the brightest person in the neighborhood, but he has his own kind on smarts, and he very much respects intelligence.

#51 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 03:12 PM:

Elliot Mason @48:

While I love Dante's Peak, and while the geological activities are fairly accurately portrayed, some of the things that happen only occur on certain types of volcanoes, and the one in the movie *isn't* that type.

The geology fans in the Fluorosphere can explain it much better than I can, but briefly, volcanoes that produce pyroclastic flows generally don't produce lava flows.

#52 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 04:41 PM:

David DeLaney #49: Thanks, and yes that guy was clearly thinking along the same lines.

#53 ::: ASG ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 05:20 PM:

You might be interested in a classic computer game from the early 1990s called Darklands, the only game I'm aware of that really does use medieval Christian saints in the same way that other fantasy games use gods and faeries. Need to get busted out of prison or translated over a city wall? Need to scare off wolves who are terrorizing your camp, or bandits who just rolled you for your extra set of cuirbouilli? Get in touch with the right saint for the job and you're golden. The history is actually surprisingly accurate and the world is beautifully thought-out; it's like de Voragine come to life. I'm sorry they never made a sequel.

#54 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 07:06 PM:

Eliot Mason@48 (a) sciencey people are the heroes, AND (b) they win/live because they KNOW STUFF

So one vote for "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus"...


(The movie actually DOES fit both criteria. Of course, the sciencey stuff is about as accurate as it usually is in monster movies. I suspect the military stuff isn't any more accurate than the sciencey stuff.)

#55 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2009, 10:03 PM:

Michael I @ 54: I blame Vladimir Putin for that movie.

In Soviet SyFy, shark jumps you.

#56 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2009, 01:16 PM:

*puts on geology nerd hat*

(This is from memory and may include small errors).

Volcanoes are classified by their class of lava, which varies from Mafic to Sialic- the first are high in Magnesium and Iron, strangely enough, and the lava is fluid and the eruptions are non-explosive (think Kilauea) and the resultant rocks are black in color and highly reactive. Sialic, AKA Rhyolitic lavas are high in Silicon and Aluminum, and the eruptions that occur are very explosive: Vesuvius, Yellowstone the explosions producing either aerisolized cloud of molten rock or pyroclastic flow (particulates composed of molten and near molten rock, forming tephra and pumice when cooled).

The thing is, most volcanoes, especially continental/subduction zone ones, are an intergrade: my lady goddess The Mountain (Rainier, Tahoma) Fuji, Redoubt... St. Helens. The magma pools they draw on vary in chemical composition, and they can produce small melts of Mafic lava, or more energetic ash-cloud explosions and lahars, both of which are mostly fueled by hot gasses of surface origin and not melted rock. There are also limited pyroclstic flows, but temperatures are usually too low for Herculaeum-style disasters. Then there's the main mountain-building activity: dome building, where thick dioritic lavas are extruded.

*sigh* It's wonderful to contemplate, the chemical and physical machine that drives volcanoes, but I'm pretty sure that whoever made Dante's Peak didn't spend much time thinking about it, being more interested in people running and shouting and dying, pointlessly or heroically.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.

(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.