When it rains it pours.

I've spent the last two months wishing someone would visit me in New York; it gets a bit lonely here with all of my friends 3000 miles away. Now I have three people visiting in the next week. Elaine is coming this weekend and we've arranged to meet on Friday. Natalie is coming to interview with Columbia Med in the middle of next week, and hopefully we can get together then. And to top it off, who should I get an e-mail from today but John Thomas, who not only is in New York City but in Morningside Heights. Now I wish I'd taken the time to learn more about the buildings around campus; I get the feeling I'm going to be asked to play tourguide and, whereas I could do it reasonably well by the end of four years at Berkeley, I'm somewhat beyond my depth here.

In other news, I spent fully two hours practicing the banjo today. Curse you, Cotton-Eyed Joe! Soon I will conquer you!

I bought a book by Roger Zelazny at a used book store called "This Immortal." It apparently won a Hugo, so it's got that going for it, but so far it seems unforgivably pulp. Its saving grace is that he elected to name the conquering alien race "The Vegans." Thus it is filled with unintentionally humorous lines like: "Now this-this bootlicking gesture!-having a Commissioner take a Vegan scribbler on a tour any staff guide could conduct! Vegans aren't gods!"

Also, you people should go see Serenity. It's not doing as well in theaters as it should. Orson Scott Card says it's the greatest Science Fiction movie ever made. On the other hand, Card also isn't too keen on gay people, so your mileage with respect to his opinion may vary. Still, I say it's well worth two hours of your time and $10 of your money!

Finally, in more news of stupid word choices drawn from legal terminology in science fiction, I found out today that some years back a fairly popular space strategy game was released called "Pax Imperia 2: Eminent Domain." Eminent Domain is the constitutional doctrine that permits the government to seize private land for public use, provided they give just compensation for it. Words mean things! Stop using them just because they sound cool! That goes double for you, Japan!


Splinter Cell: Puppy Helmet! Popcorn Eyeglasses! Peanut Butter Monkey!

Anyway, it's good to hear that Vegans will take over the world. All kneel before the Vegans!

In fairness to Mr. Zelazny, I think he probably meant for it to be pronounced "VAY-guns," like the star Vega, not "VEE-guns." Still, it's more fun to say it my way.

I wonder how Vegans would go about conquest, anyway. Deadly force seems like it would be proscribed. Perhaps the power of moral suasion?

OR! They could do it like the ancient Catholics! Ooo, this gives me a chance to talk about a random point of early medieval history!

See, Catholics used to be a LOT more serious about sin and redemption. That is, once you were officially a Christian, sin was right out, and there were precious few opportunities to wipe out the black marks. Baptism gave you a clean slate, but there was almost no other way after that to expurgate your sins. Since then, of course, they've developed confession, last rights, and all manner of other means of obtaining absolution post-baptism. But in the late ancient period/early middle ages, you got one "Get Out of Sin Free Card" and that was it.

Moreover, they interpreted the whole "Thou Shalt Not Kill" thing much more strictly than we do now. Now we tend to think "Thou Shalt Not Kill Without Good Cause," but back then it was interpreted to mean "Thou Shalt Not Kill, Ever, Period." So executing criminals was immoral (to their credit, the Catholic Church has now come to the opinion that it still is), killing someone in war was a violation, etc.

So you have these Christians who, if they become soldiers, are condemned to eternal damnation. Moreover, at the time there were a whole bunch of Christian sects, heathens, etc. that all needed to be "persuaded" that Catholicism was the One True church. Generally speaking, this persuasion was at sword point. So: Once you're Christian, you can't be a soldier, because killing is immoral and you can't absolve your sins. But: There're a whole bunch of non-Catholics who need to have the One True Faith beaten into them. How did they resolve the conflict?

They baptized people really late, for one. Baptism in ancient times was like the modern Deathbed Confession. You stayed technically a heathen your whole life, then were baptized when you didn't really have an opportunity to sin any more. It was thus a sign of great devotion that people got baptized at younger ages, showing they were willing to take the whole Christian thing seriously. So you have a population that believes in Christianity but which, by and large, is not technically Christian yet because they're not baptized. You use them for your soldiers. They were called "Defenders of the Faith," supporters of the ideology who, for practical reasons, can't convert yet.

So I suppose a Vegan conquest could involve enlisting an army of Defenders of the Vegan Faith, people who buy into Veganism but aren't technically vegan until the conquest is finished.

And that would leave them conveniently able to eat the animal-laden food products of the conquered world until they could get a proper, Vegan, food production system up and running. At that point the rest of the Vegans could safely inhabit the conquered world, and the fore-runners could get their official V marked on their foreheads (or a brightly-colored seductive-looking tattoo of an artichoke, as the standard mark seems to be).

And now your "V" remark reminds me of V, the science fiction mini-series from the mid-80s. Only there the V stood for Visitors, not Vegans. And the Visitors were most definitely not Vegan, considering their master plan was to befriend the foolish humans with offers of technology and then secretly kidnap humans to be taken to the Visitor homeworld and eaten.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on October 6, 2005 12:32 AM.

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