Monday, July 29, 2002

From W David Buschart's essay on Jaroslav Pelikan in Historians of the Christian Tradition comes this quote from A N Whitehead, apparently a favorite quote of Pelikan's:

When you are criticizing the philosophy of an epoch, do not cheifly direct your attentions to those intellectual positions which its exponents feel it necessary explicitly to defend. There will be some fundamental assumptions which adherents of al the variant systems within the epoch unconsciously presuppose. Such assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know what they are assuming because no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them. With these assumptions a certain limited number of types of philosophic systems are possible, and this group of systems constitutes the philosophy of an epoch.

This is well said, but still leaves quite open the question of how to identify these assuptions. And all questions are a bit more difficult for me at the moment since my AC gave out this afternoon.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Made it back home safely. The wedding went fine, though my performance, to not put too fine a point on it, sucked. I did play better in the ceremony than I did during the rehearsal, but that's not saying much. Just glad it's over from that standpoint, and glad that Ehren is married now. He's one of the more introverted introverts I know, so I'm glad to see that that is not necessarily an impediment to marriage.

As I mentioned, the wedding was in SW Penn. We were about 30 miles or so from the trapped miners. I'm glad that they all got out safely, but I got a bit tired of seeing the governor on tv all the time. Why does a politician have to take credit for every important event in the world? Don't answer me on that.

I did finish my Christian historians book and the McGrath bool on the trip. Both were excellent in their own ways. That McGrath fellow seem to know a thing or two.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Just about to head out of town for the weekend. I'll be in the DC area tonight to get rid of our extra kitten, then off to SW Pennsylvania in the morning for my b-in-law's wedding. Pray that my piano playing doesn't ruin the service too badly.

See ya Monday.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Is it ok to gripe here if I just pretend no one reads this? I lost the music I'm suppposed to play for my brother-in-law's wedding on Saturday. Fortunately I have it all on a cd, so I'm printing it out this morning again. But when I try to print, I get an error message, "printer is out of paper". I wouldn't mind this if, in fact, the printer WAS out of paper. Eventually got it working. I still have about a 50% chance of the printer grabbing two sheets each time it prints a page. The old traction printers never did that, if you remember those.

Enough griping. We had quite a good weekend. Had about 14 people over on Saturday for ice cream and "Apples to Apples". Also had a friend come up from Georgia to look for a job here. She seemed to enjoy our church, which was gratifying to me for some reason. We had a great SS class, but I didn't get to hear the sermon since I was in the nursery. Had a wonderful ministry opportunity in the afternoon; our men's singing group went to a local nursing home for their afternoon service. As we were pulling up, my friend Larry Clarke (one of the finest people God ever made) said: "I've been in all the nursing homes in the area. Some of them are nice. This one isn't." It wasn't that bad though. We had a good time, and I was shocked to see a very elderly, begloved black woman softly singing along all the words to "I heard the voice of Jesus say."

Saturday, July 20, 2002

I'm sure no one wants to know this, thus making it appropriate for MY blog, but nothing quite makes me want to cuss like trying to replace strings on a piano. Had a customer on Thursday who had about eight broken strings, and the rest were pretty rusty too. I took the old ones off without much problem, but I spent almost an hour trying to get the first new one on. Part of the problem is that this was my first try on a grand piano, though that should have made it easier. Another problem was that for some reason when I would measure the new wire lengths, they would always seem to lose about 3 inches when I put them on, thus making me throw them away and start over. The third and most disturbing problem was that I just seem to be an idiot when it comes to mechanical tasks. Maybe someday I'll get better (like next week when I go back to try to finish).

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

In dinner conversation this evening I mentioned the Parisian Asphalt Initiative, but I unfortunately gave the wrong url. The correct one is
I hope this clears things up.

Monday, July 15, 2002

By request from Jim, some comments on Jonathan Lethem:

I became interested in Lethem when one of my interesting internet buddies sent me an article Lethem wrote about the science fiction ghetto. The article started by remembering the national book award Philip K Dick won for The Man in the High Castle. Oh wait, he never won an award for that (BTW, there's a subtle joke in there for those who know the plot of that book). In any event, Lethem made some comments about the sci-fi writing world and its relationship to mainstream publishing, all of which I've now forgotten. He struck me as thoughtful and humorous though, so I made a mental note.

Lethem's first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, is very much a hard-boiled detective story, but set in a somewhat ridiculous future america, one populaed with "evolved" animals, no television to speak of, nearly the entire poplation on drugs to keep them happy and forgetful, and news told in abstract format--events are represented by musical motifs.

Lethem's style is intentionally satirical of the hard-boiled genre, but yet follows it pretty faithfully. The main character comes up with some absolute howlers for metaphors. Plot twists abound. The ending caught me by suprise ("NO WAY, don't tell me HE did it!" I said to myself). As the folks who write book jackets and reviews for newspaper movie ads would say, "A delightful romp."

Amnesia Moon, I believe Lethem's second novel, is in a differentgenre, but picks up on a few of the same themes. This time around it's a post apocalypse story. The twist, and it's a big one, is that no one can remember what the apocalypse was. All they no is that things are different now. Thinking about the story from a little distance now, it seems to talk to the role of community in maintaining memory.

A wouldn't want to walk you through the plot of this one, first because it would sound like it wouldn't work, and second I wouldn't want to spoil it. But I'll just say there are lots of memorable places and characters, including a community where people can only see green. Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

I installed some new comment code today. Lets see if this works.

Friday, July 12, 2002

It's been fun reading Historians of the Christian Tradition. In the last two days I've learned a bit about F C Baur, Merle D'Aubingne, J H Newman, William Cunningham, I A Dorner, Johann Adam Mohler, Josef Rupert Geiselmann, and Philip Schaff (or, as he was born, Philipp Schaaf). I'm learning that though the 19th century more or less saw the birth of church history as a discipline, there were some strange ideas floating about then. I guess that would make it no different than now, just different weirdnesses.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

I was poking around on the site of a sheet music retailer, looking for music for the men's acapella group I'm in, and came across the name of one of my favorite musicians. I hadn't thought about Ken Medema in quite a while. He is apparently still keeping busy. I'm listening to one of his sample tracks right now--Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws. If you know about Ken, or would like to, he's got a nice site at He's certainly the best improvisational musician I've ever seen perform. Every concert he performs a new song based on suggestions from the audience. I noticed on his site that the had an offer to write personalized songs for people and mail them out. Not sure if this offer is still open. They apparently had more requests than they thought they would.

Monday, July 08, 2002

En arche en ho blogos.

Dang. I've gotten quoted by AKMA twice now. I feel like a celebrity. If only I knew how to write Greek characters. Updating my book list to the left, again. I just seem to start a book, then, whoops, it's over. BTW, Amnesia Moon is terrific, but the Swanwick book I'm pretty neutral on.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

I've been meaning for a week at least to share with you the charm of Stephen Dobyns' The Wrestler's Cruel Study. You may remember my comments on Dobyns two weeks ago. Well, forget those. TWCS is a comic novel about how a group of heretics, and I mean ALL the heretics, Albigensians, Valentinian gnostics, montanists, donatists, and several non-Christian groups as well, try to formulate or explicate the struggle between good and evil by scripting professional wrestling events. This does not become completely clear til halfway through the book, so I hope you don't mind me giving that much away.

The central theme is somewhat obscured by a number of elements, many of which are entertaining enough on their own. First is the "plot" which involves the fiancee of a pro wrestler being kidnapped by a couple of gorillas. The attempts to find said fiancee provide a convenient thread to hold the rest of the novel's activities together.

The second distraction is the wrestling manager and gym owner, Primus Muldoon. Mr Muldoon has read far too much Nietzsche and tells his portions of the story in essay form in chapters throughout the book. I wish I could quote you everything he says, but I would violate the copyright, plus my fingers would get tired. I'l lhave to content myself with one paragraph from the second chapter. He has been talking about the nature of wholeness, forms and masks:

So form equals substance: the mask is the face, the layers of onion are the onion, the bandage becomes the wound. What name do we give to this mask? I call it Gimmick. And what do I do that makes me a manager, a manipulator of men? I train them in the perfection of the Gimmick. And who are these men? I call them grapplers with the chimaera, strugglers against desolation, contenders with the mystery. You might call them charlatans. You might call them bogus. Together it is possible to call them wrestlers. I direct a school. You would say I run a gym. I call it Pforta after the school near Naumber which Nietzsche entered in 1858 ten days before his fourteenth birthday. You would read the name over the door and call my gym the Meat Market. I say that I teach Sparta in the morning and Athens in the afternoon. You would say that before lunch we engage in the tricks and subterfuges of fraudulent wrestling and after lunch we work on our Gimmicks, which you consider little more than stage names, cartoon titles. But didn't Nietzsche argue that one should always live in disguise? After all, if form is substance, then one exists as one's disguise: to be is to be the Gimmick. You would call this illusion. But didn't Nietzsche also say that truths are illusions whose illusoriness has been overlooked?

In any event, Muldoon is unaware of the religious purposes to which his wrestlers are being put.

The last distraction I will mention is that many of the characters in the story have steppes straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales, which, fortunately for me, I had just read. The story of The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage, is converted into three deconstructionist English professors(or, as they would have it, "theorists in textual studies"), Maus, Vogel and Sosage. If you are fmiliar with the origianal tale, this actually works quite well.

I hope that from what I've said so far that those who might like such a thing would be hooked. Not a book for everyone, for sure, but terrific for those with that sort of taste. He who has an ear, let him hear.

Saturday, July 06, 2002

I have an acqaintance who teaches journalism at a local university which I will not name here. He was telling me yesterday about the problems he's been having with plagiarism among his students. He caught one student this semester. He said her writing quality improved overnight. So he looked up her paper on Google and found it right away. He made up a full presentation showing the original paper and the student's paper with all the copied sections highlighted in yellow and presented this to the school's "honor court", which is, btw, made up mostly of students (and, as it turns out, some admitted plagiarizers). The "court" deliberated for over 90 minutes before returning a unanimous verdict IN FAVOR OF THE STUDENT.

He was pretty upset by this so he called a faculty meeting , or presented it as an agenda item on the next sceduled meeting--not quite sure on this. When he told the faculty that he had "Googled" the student, none of them had the foggiest idea what he was talking about. This means the faculty are pretty well ignorant of how students cheat these days.

When he finished telling me this, I said, "you know, you could contact the original copyright holed of the copied paper." He paused for a moment, then said, "that's a great idea." I doubt much would come of this action, and he doubted as well. But as I mulled it over, it occurred to me that if a really aggressive lawyer got inolved, he might just sue the school for countenancing copyright infringement, which strikes me as quite humorous. I love getting people into trouble :)

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

For some reason the H. L. Mencken line that pops out in my head the most often was from some review he wrote which said, in part, "Even an English professor could write a better sentance than this." This pretty well sums up my view of Robert K Johnson's Reel Spirituality. As far as I could tell, the only two purposes of the book's 200 pages were: one, to tell Christians that it's ok to see movies and talk about theological implications, and, two, to prove the old adage that in English, there is no noun that cannot be verbed. Don't ask me for illustrations of the latter. It's just too painful to recollect. I should stop shopping the discount aisles of the Christian book store.