Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hopping Towards Sainthood: Marc Barnes Contra Determinism


Why did Marc Barnes choose to hop towards his bathroom on one leg? Because HE CAN!

HT: Bad Catholic


Now, my question is why did Marc Barnes cross the road?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stop the HHS Mandate



We interrupt our regularly scheduled poniness to bring you a very serious message regarding the threat to religious liberty posed by the HHS mandate (HT: CatholicVote.org):


For the movie watcher, SDG has a list of recommended films for all 14 days, beginning with A Man for All Seasons about St.Thomas More, whose feast day marks the start of the "Fortnight for Freedom."

Also worth noting is Brandon's response to Peter Singer's ridiculously restrictive definition of religious liberty.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Octavia: Behind the Music


There apparently is more to the Octavia and Vinyl Scratch story after their unlikely pairing. (Disclaimer: non-canon fanfic ahead!)

 

Octavia: "I was going to be first-chair cellist for the Royal Canterlot Symphony...how is this my life?"     


DJ-Pon-3: "Don't worry everypony... I GOT THIS!"


At first it seemed that Pinkie Pie had single-hoofedly caused Octavia's fall from the Canterlot musical elite...
 
Pinkie Pie: "Yo, Octavia, I got a song request. Do you know how to play 'The Pony Pokey'?"
Octavia: "I mostly only know classical music, but I could give it a shot..."
 
Big mistake!
 
Octavia: "My bow tie, my cello, my career, nooooooooo!"
 
Miraculously, Octavia and her cello survived the precipitous drop, her future prospects for Canterlot gigs, alas, did not...

...forcing Octavia to move to Ponyville, die her hair and mane, adopt country manners, and forge a new musical career as a fiddle player. She boarded with another musician, Vinyl Scratch, who went by stage name "DJ Pon-3." Despite their differences in personality and musical taste, the two became the fastest of friends. There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and letting another pony eat the rest of your sandwich is one of them.


The devil went down to Ponyville... and made a bet with Octavia. Turns out he's a fiddle player too...

...The devil bowed his head because he knew that he'd been beat.
He laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Octavia's hooves.
Octavia said: "Devil just come on back if you ever want to try again.
"cause I told you once, you son of a gun, I'm the best there's ever been."

Octavia must have impressed a music agent attending the Nightmare Night celebration since she received a new gig to play at a Canterlot party and she didn't even have to sell her soul to do so!

Octavia's a pretty good fiddle player, in fact, she's the best, but the cello's always been her true passion... wait, who's that clone next to her?

Octavia and her band (the Royal Canterlot Symphony) once again became one of most sought-after acts in Equestria and she made enough bits to move back to Canterlot. Thus, reluctantly Octavia and Vinyl parted ways, ending their odd-couple fellowship... They still kept in touch, of course, because everypony likes happy endings.

What of her friend Vinyl Scratch? Well, after defeating Discord with her bass cannon, she was given the great honor of DJing at the wedding party of Shining Armor and Princess Cadence, and DJ Pon-3 even showed us her eyes, AH YEAH!
 
And the ponies lived happily ever after... until 4 a.m. in the morning, when the pegasus guards were called in to break up the party for disturbing the peace.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friendship is a Sandwich




Octavia, the classically trained cellist of MLP: FiM, shows Vinyl Scratch, aka "DJ Pon-3," that the magic of friendship is expressible in even the simplest of gestures, like sharing a delicious sandwich!


Check out the rest of the fan-produced video for more epic wub action! (HT: The Sci-Fi Catholic)




Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Make Some Friends! Lauren Faust on Philia: Part 2


[Fr. Z points out that today is the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer. I guess it makes sense to make this the time to post the second part of my review of  My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, considering the ponies themselves mark the occasion  in the episode with a "Summer Sun Celebration." The first part of my review is here.]

Friendship is Magic: Part 2 (Character and Plot Overview)

Luna and Celestia


Now, I neglected to mention the prologue to the first episode of MLP: FiM in the previous post so I’ll remedy that oversight right now.  The first episode begins with a narrator telling us the back-story to the Friendship is Magic series. Apparently, two alicorn (unicorns with wings) sisters ruled over the ponyland of Equestria with tremendous power. The older sister, Celestia, moved the sun, while the younger sister, Luna, moved the moon. Peace prevailed throughout the land until the younger sister started to feel a little sad. It seems that most of the admiration of the pony subjects went to Celestia, in fact, the common ponies seemed to shun Luna, staying awake only during the day and going to sleep at night. Right off the bat we see the moon princesses’ main motivation, which Nate Winchester identifies as “a lack of appreciation.” Luna thinks she got the raw end of the regency deal and decides to make things right…by shrouding the land in never-ending darkness and moonlight so now everypony can admire her at all times. Celestia stops Luna’s rebellion and banishes her to the moon using the Elements of Harmony.

Celestia stops Luna with Love and Tolerance!


A thousand years later Luna (or “Nightmare Moon,” both names are interchangeable) returns to Equestria and once again plans to bring about “nighttime eternal.” Since Celestia disappears for most the second episode (DGD speculates she was banished to the sun), it is up to the “Mane 6” to Save the World ™ this time. What’s that, you say? How can Twilight suddenly become friends with other ponies despite showing no interest in friendmaking the previous episode? Well, the first two Friendship is Magic episodes do serve as a pilot for the series, so they carry the burden of establishing the world, characters, and relationships. So we find the Mane Five breaking into Twilight’s home, kidnapping her, and forcing her to become their friend at hoofpoint…no, I mean Twilight finds out the secret of the Elements of Harmony can be found in some ancient castle in the Everfree forest and departs, the rest of the gang sort of tagging along.

Twilight Sparkle accepting 5 new friend requests on Facebook


Before she left, Twilight mentioned six Elements of Harmony, Kindness, Laughter, Generosity, Honesty and Loyalty, with the final element unknown. Thus, the journey to the ancient pony castle allows a chance for each of the mane six to display a particular virtue. Applejack, the country pony, is the element of honesty, as she tells Twilight the “honest truth” about letting go of a cliff and being safe. Next, Fluttershy, the bashful one, displays the element of kindness by calming down a Manticore, essentially a lion-scorpion cross, with her gentleness (and taking a splinter off the lion’s paw doesn’t hurt either). Pinkie Pie, the party animal, giggles in the face of danger, the menacing trees of the Everfree Forest no match for the element of laughter. A song and dance number follows but for our purposes we move forward to the glamorous unicorn Rarity, the element of generosity, who graciously gives up part of her tail to a dragon guarding a river, who happens to be missing one half of his mustache (Luna’s doing).

Once past the river, the Mane Six run into, well, another obstacle, a cliff separating them from the ancient pony castle. Rainbow Dash, the element of loyalty, remains true to her friends by ignoring Luna’s illusionary distractions to extend the broken bridge across the cliff. Finally, our heroes arrive at the ancient pony castle, where Luna awaits. An epic battle follows where the six and final element is revealed: friendship, duh. When Twilight finally acknowledges her friends, the element of friendship magic is unleashed, which not only gives the Mane Six new fancy jewelry, but the ability to wield the power of the Elements of Harmony to banish Nightmare Moon once again.

Nothing can stand against the power of friendship!


Princess Celestia finally makes an appearance to congratulate our heroes, where she reveals that she knew all along that Nightmare Moon would return! The solar princess groomed Twilight to defeat Luna but the purple unicorn lacked only the magic of friendship. What better way to celebrate than a party thrown by Pinkie Pie! But, first, another friendship to renew, Luna (now shorn of her Nightmare Moon guise) agrees to work together once again with her big sister.

Luna and Celestia: S.B.F.F. (Sisters, Best Friends Forever)

Celestia gives Twilight a new task, to stay in Ponyville and write regular friendship reports.

Um, princess, didn't Aristotle already write you friendship reports? Oh well...


      Review

Well, overall, I did like the first two episodes.

First off, I’ll mention some criticisms. Nate is partly right to point to some of rushed aspects of the pilot. Based on how unwilling Twilight is to talk to any other pony in the beginning of episode 1, she does seem to befriend the other Mane Six rather fast. Ponyville must be the friendliest place in Equestria, where if you stop in Sugarcube Corner for only a minute to buy some banana muffins you’re already somepony’s PFF (Pony Friend Forever)! I also kind of share DGD’s complaint that the FiM villains are pushovers compared to the baddies from G1. Nightmare Moon just doesn’t give off the same sort of menace of a Tirek, who doesn’t think twice about enslaving ponies to turn into ferocious dragons. Still, Luna is an interesting villain in her own right, similar to a classic tragic character, done in by a serious flaw, in this case her misguided manner of loving others. Plus, she really does know how to make an entrance.

Luna by day, Batman by night


What can I praise? One aspect in which FiM is superior to previous MLP shows is the characterization, among several commendable aspects of the writing. Faust gives us six distinctive, appealing characters. For an interesting comparison, watch G1 MLP and just try to remember the names of any of the ponies (Megan doesn’t count). The moral lessons on friendship given at the end of episode are obviously praiseworthy, but more on that in the next part of the post...

The Theme: Friendship is Magic

What do we learn from the first two episodes of FiM? Yes, as Twilight Sparkle suggests, friendship is magic, but what precisely does this statement mean? What is friendship along with the other elements of harmony?

Friendship, according to Aristotle (NE, VIII, 1561), is simply the mutual willing of the good of another person, loving others for their own sake. Notice that the popular Brony phrase “Love and Tolerate” takes on a new light when the nature of friendship is clear. To love someone, to be a friend, is to will the good of another. Therefore, if someone were truly the friend of another, that person would not tolerate that which goes against the good of the other (in the same way a friend does not bear ill will and do bad against a friend). For example, a friend does not put up with another friend’s disordered will (such as drunkenness).

Friends, don't let friends drive drunk or be drunkards, for that matter


The “tolerate” part of the Brony phrase refers to putting up with the non-moral quirks of friends, such as Pinkie Pie’s hyperactiveness, Rarity’s prissiness, Fluttershy’s bashfulness, Applejack’s country mannerisms, and Rainbow Dash’s tomboyishness.

Now, if only Bronies could start distinguishing the love that is friendship from lesbianism


What Twilight Sparkle discovered at the end of the two-part episode is that the “magic” that friendship consists in is simply love. Luna’s mistake involved misunderstanding the nature of love, especially the mutuality of love. The moon princess wanted other ponies to love her, but didn’t seem to have any clue how to reciprocate. Perhaps Luna desired honor (appreciation) instead of love. As Aristotle puts it, “Because of a desire for honor most people seem to wish to be loved rather than to love” (NE, VIII, 1639).

I’ll cover the “Elements of Harmony,” the nature of virtue ethics, and the meaning “the good” in a future post.
           






Monday, June 18, 2012

John C. Wright and the Great Books



John C. Wright, sci-fi writer and another fellow Brony, posted an interesting interview over at his blog. I never understood until now what JCW meant by being a "ninja-trained philosopher." I didn't suspect ninjas to be a contemplative sort, aside from being skilled in the ancient art of kicking ass. John gives his Catholic conversion story, adding that he attended St. John's College, a liberal arts school with a great books program. Ah, it all makes sense now, St. John's must be a fine school to hire deadly ninjas to serve as faculty, helping students go through the classics of western literature, philosophy, history,  and science, along with a grounding in the liberal arts (the Trivium and the Quadrivium). An aspiring writer of fantasy and science fiction can hardly ask for a better education!

I wonder if Thomas Aquinas College nearby LA also has trained ninjas on its staff. Maybe not, but I certainly do still wish I had attended TAC (as James Chastek did) as opposed to currently trying to piece together an education in the UC system. Just check out TAC’s curriculum (HT: Brandon).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

MLP Fan Fiction Update

Huzzah! My friend and fellow Brony DGD managed to get his MLP fan fic story "Assassinate Princess Celestia" mentioned on Equestria Daily, the heart of Bronydom everywhere. I don't want to spoil the story, but I can say one thing, there will be cake!

This mule don't like Ponies laughin'


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Coming Attractions


With another semester of college out of the way, I'm planning to start and finish a few writing and blogging projects this summer. Some of these posts deal with philosophical and theological topics, others with MLP. There are even projects that combine MLP with philosophical and theological subjects!

Here's what's coming soon (I hope)...



- My thematic review of some of the MLP: FiM episodes

- My MLP virtue/vice spotlight series

- A series of posts on classical theism (the God of Aquinas vs. New Atheist caricatures of God)

- A MLP fan fiction story currently titled "Citizen Luna," which combines MLP, Citizen Kane, and Star Wars into what might be an entertaining and cautionary tale of a misguided quest for love. I'll post a link once I finish chapter one.

CITIZEN LUNA Concept Art


I should also mention, for all you fellow Catholic Bronies out there, that I've just started watching G1 MLP, which isn't as bad as I imagined (though still not as good or as cool as FiM). After catching the first MLP TV Special, "Return to Midnight Castle," I'm beginning to fear I might turn into a fan of G1 MLP. DGD, my journey towards the dark side is nearly complete...

Yeah, I know the writing and pacing need work, but check out Twilight Sparkle's mom and G1 Applejack!


Update: No, wait, the dark side is becoming a G3 Brony, which has to be a violation of the law of contradiction or something.




Friday, June 8, 2012

SALSA COOKIES!


This hilarious video has been making the rounds in the Catholic blogosphere (HT: Mark Shea, Mrs. Darwin, and Brandon). Well, what can I say? And I thought my Bronyness was strange....


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tolkien on the Theological Virtue of Hope


Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach -- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Elizabeth Scalia on Charity and Man's Best Friend


From The Anchoress comes this rumination on our friendship with God:

The God of Abraham is a very strangest Being ever encountered and called “god”. He is One who does not have to attend to us at all, but because of love — because he IS Love — chooses to surrender himself to us, in love, so that we might learn that it is safe to surrender ourselves back.

I love this God, and I want to surrender myself and yet do it so poorly, and incompletely, and always with a string of distrust by which I pull back my surrender, still so certain — in my deluded way — that my sense of control is what is reality.

Being a dog person, I also appreciated Liz's thoughts on the loyalty of dogs. So without further ado, I present to you the official RPG Catholic mascot:

Chunky

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Reading List Meme


The Darwin Catholic posted a list of six recommended books for summer reading, hoping to start a summer reading list meme. Here's mine..

Watershed Reads:


1. The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion, by J.R.R Tolkien (or better yet, both!).  I think Brandon would second me on this one, but in addition to The Lord of the Rings as one the watershed reads, I would add The Silmarillion, which covers the epic history of Middle Earth, from creation to the lead up to The Hobbit. How epic? Well, the entire events of the LoTR only occupy a single paragraph out of the 300 or so pages. I especially enjoyed the “AinulindalĂ«” and “Children of Hurin” chapters. And if you thought the Battle of Pelannor Fields a massive battle, wait until you read about the War of Wrath in the First Age. We may never see a cinematic version.


2. The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I read this the summer before my senior year of high school. Two aspects stand out to me from the Karamazov tale, first, the harrowing results of living a nihilistic philosophy (as Ivan says, “Without God all is permitted”). The other is the Grand Inquisitor chapter. I guess I can also recommended Crime and Punishment, which features a similar plot where a nihilistic character attempts to go “beyond good and evil” by committing murder.

3. The Divine Comedy, by Dante. If I had to decide which of the three books had the most pivotal impact on my life, I’d pick the Inferno. After reading Dante’s tale of the journey through Hell, I immediately began to puzzle over the justice and love of God, which led me to reassess my so-far simplistic thinking of God. Thus, I began studying philosophy and theology, discovering Thomas Aquinas. Also, I should mention Ed Feser once said the Divine Comedy is a kind of sci-fi for Thomists!

Waterside Reads:

1. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I just finished reading Bronte’s tale of “Plain Jane” this past spring, finding it an enjoyable yarn of one spirited woman’s quest to overcome the constraints of Victorian society ("I am not an automaton!"). There’s also a love story (with the eccentric Mr. Rochester, who dresses like a gypsy at one point) and some gothic, horror imagery (red room) thrown in for good measure. You won’t mind at all that this is a “girl’s book.”

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling. By far my favorite of the seven HP books, Deathly Hallows concludes with the final battle between Harry Potter and Voldemort. I should mention the Christian themes that run through this book, especially regarding the right way to face death (the “death eaters” vs. the “order the phoenix”).

3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. The dystopian future developed in this book, the soma, the artificial reproduction, and so forth, looks less fantastical and more prescient given our current post-sexual revolution era.

Alfredo vs Alvin Plantinga


My friend and fellow Thomist Alfredo Watkins, the "Analytic Scholastic," asks a question about presuppositionalism to the prominent philosopher Alvin Plantinga at the "Christian Scholarship" conference at Biola University, in May (HT: Walking Christian):



If you look closely to the right of Alfredo, you might spot the humble blogger of the RPG Catholic site.

Here are the brief musings I posted on Facebook:

Just got back from Biola from the first day of a conference on Christian Scholarship. Alfredo, Gil, and Dave were shrewd enough to score us seats behind Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff. Peter Van Inwagen may even have made a brief cameo appearance. I didn't have “The Analytic Theist” on hand for Al to sign, but I did get a picture and a chance to comment on his striking resemblance to Abe Lincoln.


Update: More thoughts on the conference from Gil Sanders.

Monday, June 4, 2012

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy: Aquinas on Games



Brandon picked a good time to bring attention to Aquinas's thoughts on games or playfulness in the Summa, as I've read and thought over the same passages in the past few weeks (albeit in the concise translation of the ST). As my blog's namesake implies, I do enjoy the occasional role-playing video game (e.g. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) and I do have a bit of a jocular streak, as witnessed by my frequent pony-related references. The worry I've had on my mind is whether my video gaming or Bronyness distracts from more important and grave concerns, such as theological and philosophical studies, in addition to a life of Catholic devotion. In short, what role do entertainments such as video games and MLP play in the journey to the beautific vision, the knowledge of God that is the final end of man? Can a Catholic have fun?

Here's Johnny!

The Angelic Doctor seeks a balance between work (the virtue of studiousness) and good play (the virtue of eutrapelia). According to Aquinas, much study is tiring to the soul in the same manner as much labor is wearying to the body. Therefore, Aquinas suggests relaxation (playing games or telling jokes) from study, from intellectual contemplation, similar to bodily rest from physical labor. In Brandon's words, "We play because, despite being rational creatures, real thinking is hard work; thus the more we do it, the more we need to relax our minds, lest we wind ourselves up so tightly we break." Exactly, we need to unwind sometimes from the hard work of thinking less we break... or risk going completely insane like the writer Jack Torrance from The Shining, who's "all work and no play" (okay, perhaps this isn't the best example). In short, we need to have some fun!

"Fun? What is this "fun" thou speakest of? Pray tell, what purpose do these serve?"


Aquinas reminds us, however, that though games or play don't seem to have ends in themselves, they do serve the important purpose of "recreation and rest of the soul, and accordingly if this be done with moderation, it is lawful to make use of fun" (ST 2-2.168.2). The key word is moderation, the virtue of temperance. We can play to rest from our more serious work within reason. A clear vice would then be to make of fun or play an end in itself. A modern example would be the video game addict, who seemingly devotes his life to play to the neglect of any higher end.

So in my own life, the video games I play and the MLP-inspired comedy I enjoy can serve the purpose of allowing me to rest from my mental labors (and believe me, thinking about Thomism is hard work), in the same way sleep allows my body to rest. I can have some fun as long as I don't forget my final end, which is God.

Or as Applejack (for non-Bronies, the one with the scarecrow costume) tells Princess Luna in the MLP: FiM episode Luna Eclipsed, sometimes you have to:

"...Loosen up a bit, be positive, play a few games, have some fun."


Thus, you can sometimes relax, play games and have fun, sometimes even double the fun!






Friday, June 1, 2012

A Link to the Past

A few notable posts from around the Catholic blogosphere, mostly dealing with friendship and the "pelvic issues" that blind sight our culture, according to Dr. Peter Kreeft...


MLP: The Magic of Friendship not Lesbianism

- DGD, sci-fi writer and fellow Brony, responds to the prevalence of slash (lesbian) MLP fan fiction and deals with one of the many distortions of modern thought on sex, that is, the conflation of close same-sex friendships with homosexual relationships. The Sci-fi Catholic also briefly defends an Aristotelian-Thomistic view of sexuality, arguing, among other things, that the end of the sexual act is procreation, which sounds like common sense. But as G.K. Chesterton might say, the prevalent modern thinking on sex is more like common nonsense. (Check out DGD's MLP fan fic Princess Trinity, which boasts an opening right out of Dante's Infernocomplete with a sign above the gates of Tartarus, and finally addresses the glaring lack of way cool mechs in the magic-dominated pony world of Equestria.)

Frodo and Sam: A literary example of male friendship

- While DGD considers Brony misunderstandings of female friendship in MLP, Dr. Phillip Blosser sees a similar corrosive effect of modern sexual thought on male friendship.

- Edward Feser, who offers a brief overview of Thomistic sexual morality in his highly recommended The Last Superstition (132-152),  summarizes the major differences between classical/scholastic philosophy and modern philosophy, especially the modern rejection of teleology or final causes in favor of mechanistic philosophy, and clears up a few confusions. (For more on Aristotelian-Thomism, let me once again shamelessly plug Feser's Aquinas.)



- Since we're still on the subject of sex, I'd like to mention this gem from Aquinas unearthed by Brandon.