Monthly Archives: June 2009

Honorary Doctorate Wielder

Crimony. The University of St. Andrews just gave Stephen R. Donaldson an honorary degree, in the same ceremony as it gave one to N.T. Wright. Via Paleojudaica.

(That sound you hear is me biting my tongue.)

Although I will mention that anyone who complains about Tolkien’s wordiness does not even know the meaning of verbosity. Donaldson, OTOH…..

(Biting my tongue again.)

Anyway, one understands that St. Andrews is a very pretty town in the summer, and one is very glad for both men, even if one of them made me suffer hours of agony without even counting what he did to his characters, and I don’t mean the one who writes a lot about St. Paul.

UPDATE: To be totally fair, I should say that Donaldson is extremely erudite and well-informed when talking about writing and how to do it, and probably does indeed deserve a doctorate for his work in that area.

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The Register apparently ran a passionate but inaccurate article on the topic of grabby people claiming copyrights that don’t exist or which have run out. (Like, say, the Conan folks threatening legal action against the Broken Sea folks, who were only doing Conan stories in the public domain.) It called this “copyfraud”, which is a catchy name.

Apparently, Creative Commons got dragged into this, so here are their comments, with a link to the original article.

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Westphalian Folksong Archive Online

In happier news, you can apparently now listen to Westphalian folksongs until they come out of your ears.

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St. Albert the Great: His Cologne Autograph Manuscripts Did Survive l

UPDATE: I panicked too soon! Or rather, too late by half a month and more…. They did find both of the St. Albert manuscripts in his own hand, which makes me very happy. The link also shows where you can learn about other Albert mss in the city, but not in the same archive.

The moral of the story is that your resident Banshee should keep up better with the news.


Well, heckydarn. This stinks. It seems that, of the few manuscripts preserved from St. Albert the Great’s own time and hand, a few more may have been destroyed, in that horrible archive collapse into an inadvertently-manmade sinkhole, in Cologne. Copies exist, yes. But for the scholars trying to put out a new edition of his complete works, who intended to use all the new technology available since Borgnet did his edition in Victorian/Edwardian times… well, it looks like it’s not going to happen.

Read the bad news from the Koln (Cologne) Statsarchiv here in German, or in Google Translate here. (Yes, I know this article was from March 6, but I just read it today. Sorry.)

You can read earlier accounts of the horrible fate of the archive here from Roger Pearse.

Other accounts of stuff which may or may not have been lost forever, here at Google Translate.

Here’s the current state of matters, also through Google Translate. Archivalia is a German archives blog, so I’m sure it has tons more on this subject.

Anyway, there’s a video in German, and it shows some kind of book that’s only got its binding ripped while they talk about “handschriften”. (I mean, yeah, sad for the binding, but after a building collapse, not bad.) Are they saying this is one of the autograph manuscripts, or just something like them??

The autograph manuscripts still lost back in March, and possibly still lost, are Quaestiones on Aristotle’s On Animals (of which there’s an English translation from CUA), and St. Albert’s Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew.

Which brings us to our next order of business. Clearly, this is a time to pray. (More than before. I mean, obviously any time when I first heard about this place getting destroyed, I couldn’t help but pray.)

Found via the website of the folks in Cologne who are putting out the new edition. Seriously, everybody, pray for them. This stinks.

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“Aurea Luce et Decore Roseo” from Rome

Elpis, Boethius’ first wife, was said to have written this great hymn for the morning of the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, which celebrates the beauty of the Roman sunrise, and Rome as a city made truly imperial red-purple by the blood of martyrs.

Here’s a choral version of the hymn, sung today at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, at the same Mass where it was also announced publicly that archaeologists had confirmed that the tomb on which the basilica was built is almost certainly that of St. Paul, as history and tradition have always agreed. The tomb will now be able to be seen more easily by visitors.

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Heather McDonald vs God

Apparently God doesn’t always give you what you want, does do things you don’t want, and doesn’t always explain His actions. This is news to us theists.

I fail to see how this makes God any different from, say, an editor. Yet clearly McDonald has no problem devoting her entire working life to the process of submitting articles to a mysterious, powerful being who doesn’t necessarily feel the need to explain his editorial decisions, give writers the assignments they want, and not give writers the assignments they don’t want. She blithely enters the roulette wheel, knowing in advance that she may meet the judgment, unappealable and unexplained, of “This does not meet our needs at this time.”

She doesn’t examine the whole matter from the point of view that, if real life is eternal life, that death might eventually turn out to be the equivalent of a paper cut. She is sure that God must take suffering and death seriously or not be worthy of worship, which is an awfully monotheistic ethical idea. People were willing to hoick offerings and prayers to many of the old pagan gods on the off-chance they’d get a positive response or be left alone. She is sure that a capricious god would also be forebearing about being ignored or too weak to do anything, it seems; she doesn’t seem to have any idea of grand defiance against the entire power of an omnipotent being. That’s too bad. I always like those declarations for Ethics vs the Universe. The people who make them never wonder where they got their ethics, but there you go.

Considering that she’s willing to celebrate the human spirit, and that the human spirit continually does the inexplicable or returns evil for good and good for evil, she apparently has no real problem dealing with the black boxes of other people’s personalities.

So basically, the only one who gives her a rash on this score is… God.

It’s a personal fight against a person, not an idea or principle. She just wants to be convinced that God is the Logos, Reason and Truth Himself. (And most likely, she also has something else going on which has nothing to do with reason and logic, which is usually how people work on all deep philosophical issues.)

This is why I’m glad I’m not an apologist, because honestly, I believe all people are capricious and hidden in unapproachable weirdness, and only God makes any sense. This is probably a heresy against humans being made in the image of God, of course. 🙂

Anyway, there are serious books and articles out there on the problem of evil and the reasons why disasters and tragedies are allowed. This isn’t one; it’s one of those mannered, disguised cries to the heavens that you can’t help but feel for.

A real convinced atheist, however, wouldn’t waste a moment’s time or emotion on this sort of theodicy/power of prayer thing, other than on the human level. Bad stuff would just happen, and there’d be no point dwelling on it. He wouldn’t care that people went to church about it; he couldn’t be bothered to worry or to decree how people should spend their energies. Prayer would be useless, but it wouldn’t be as if there were any particular way to deal with such troubles, other than acceptance or resignation. So it wouldn’t be his business, and his article would be one long “Eh. Why’d the editor wake me up on the weekend for this?”

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Thomist Fried Chicken

Apparently this is an instructional video for some kind of philosophy of religion course.

It’s followed up with Thomist architecture.

There’s also a video on the problem of evil pop.

I’m not really into philosophy and haven’t watched these yet, so I don’t know if they’re any good. But I thought I’d put them up so I’d remember they’re there!

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Most Creepy-Cool Idea for a Book in a While

Sid Fleischman, The Entertainer and the Dybbuk.

“After World War II, Sergeant Freddie T. Birch’s ventriloquist act takes a radical turn when he is possessed by the ghost of Avrom Amos, a twelve-year-old Jewish boy killed by the Nazis.

“Though Freddie is deeply annoyed by the little invader, he finds that working together his act goes from third rate to top notch.

Unfortunately for Freddie, Avrom has other things in mind besides just making people laugh. He’s on a quest for revenge, and despite the sometimes hilarious havoc it wreaks on Freddie’s personal life, the dybbuk plans to track down his Nazi murderer and bring him to justice.”

Check out that creepy-cool cover, too. Brrrr.

I know I’m usually not into horror. But heck, yeah. Bring on a movie. Put Jeff Dunham in it. Holy crud, it’ll be freaky-good.

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Best Band Name in a While

Roy G and the Biv.

You can tell they’re not a funk band from the Seventies, because the song assumes that nicotine sounds dangerous. 🙂

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More CMAA Colloquium Fun!

There’s a group called Corpus Christi Watershed filming a documentary at the Church Music Association of America Colloquium this year. (Yes, the CMAA’s name sounds pretty grandiose. It’s one of those things where an old organization was pretty big, shrank for various reasons, but has been making a big resurgence.)

Anyway, the Watershed people did a little videoblogging from the Colloquium. It gives you a pretty good idea of what people get up to, during the Masses and classes. But it might need some annotation!

1st organ guy: Horst. He’s also a conductor, director, etc.
1st stained glass window: That’s Christ getting baptized.
Lake Michigan. Too gorgeous to believe, no? But yes, that’s how it sometimes looks at Loyola.
Waving hands – that’s the desired flow or rhythm for Gregorian chant.
Dapper guy with the bowtie – Jeffrey Tucker.
Round thing with singers gathered around it in the back of the chapel – Yes, that’s the baptismal font.
Really skinny director with his mouth open – Wilko Brouwer. Good director.
Comments about people wandering in and being stopped by the music — Oh yeah. Happened all the time last year, too.

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In Praise of Strong Women, by St. Albert the Great

It’s fairly obvious to me that feminist scholarship didn’t work itself as hard as it thought it did, back in the day, and didn’t really scour all sources the way I naively believed it had.

First of all, I’m annoyed that nobody pointed out to me before that Proverbs 10: 10-31 is an acrostic poem. Apparently we can have Hebrew letters galore pointed out in Psalms, but the editors of Bibles I own are too lazy to do it for the Book of Proverbs. Gee, don’t you think the importance of the format change, the way it sets it off, might merit more than some teentsy-weentsy footnote!!!????

What it amounts to is that, yet again, we have a probable example of early poetry by a woman (“King Lemuel’s mother”), and said woman is not properly pointed out and honored. Neither is her work and the point of it. Neither are feminists apparently all that concerned. Bah. In all directions.

But St. Albert points it out. The scholastics point it out. Those allegedly misogynist, evilevilmedieval, crabbed obscurantists point it out, by gum. It’s our enlightened times dropping the ball. Again.

Secondly, apparently St. Albert the Great wrote an entire book (“most useful for preachers”, says the subtitle) with a line by line interpretation this “encomium on strong women”. It apparently goes into all sorts of stuff about the inner life of the Church and so on, which is probably very interesting. Since it’s now online, albeit in Latin, this does make it a lot easier to find and use.

Do you know what I found, just skimming the first chapter?

St. Albert says that “the fourth thing that differentiates men from women” is the “fons sanguinis”. Which is just the classiest way of putting it, especially since he goes on to give its figurative meaning as “piety”. Yes, he goes there. With the Church, no less. He’s not ashamed of something God gave us women, he’s not calling it nasty names. He’s not afraid of the logical consequences of divinely inspired metaphors, either.

So yeah, I’m sure there will be some not-so-feminist stuff in this book, where I’ll roll my eyes or be insulted. But on the whole, I’m thinking St. Albert the Great was one darned classy man, a scholar and a gentlemonk.

UPDATE: Okay, so “fons sanguinis” is in fact what they call all sorts of blood flow in the Bible, in Latin. But it’s still very cool.

UPDATE: Okay, so actually it’s talking about the four things women use to produce offspring, and he’s actually talking about blood supply to babies, not the kind that doesn’t go to babies. Sigh. Skimming is fun, but boy can you get misled. I still hold that this is very nifty. But yeah, I should have known that anything to do with the Church was going to be talking about re/production of Christians.

UPDATE: Hey! Later in the section, he _does_ go there! With Aristotle, too! Whoa.

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You remember that raccoon I saw over the weekend in my parents’ neighbors’ yard? The one I was surprised to see, out in broad daylight, and was glad that the dog didn’t try to go after it?

Well. My mother spoke to the neighbors about it, and told them she thought it must be living in their woodpile. The neighbors were disinclined to do anything about it, and she thought the matter would rest there (until the raccoon went after our trash or something).

But yesterday, my dad spotted the raccoon again, in the yard of the neighbors on the other side. The raccoon was now not just out in broad daylight, but walking painfully and slowly like a geriatric raccoon, going in crazy circles, and stopping and starting in a very strange way.

So this time my parents did call Animal Control, tout suite, and sure enough, it turned out that our daylight raccoon was dying of distemper.

Luckily, it seems so far that all the animals in the neighborhood had been staying away from the raccoon, either because most small animals don’t like to mess with raccoons or because they sensed something was wrong. But we’ll have to wait and see.

The moral of the story:

1. If something strikes your instincts as weird, you should listen to it, at least to the extent of adopting caution and telling others. People tend to pooh-pooh their instincts as somehow ignorant and biased; but they’re what kept our ancestors alive long enough to have us. Yay, instincts!

2. Our guardian angels probably do a lot more than we realize. My guardian angel apparently works more than full time keeping me out of trouble. Thanks loads, Guardian Angel!

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Paragraph Farmer’s Daughter Is Home!

I was so happy to see it, I forgot to post about it.

It’s not the end of the story; but it’s getting there. Score one for the amazing power of children’s resilience, doctors’ diligence, family love, and prayer.

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Having a Neurotic Week – Wish You Were Here

Well, this hasn’t been a very pleasant week or so. There have been a good few businesses in my area which have closed down recently. (A gas station that had been struggling under new ownership, a fast food restaurant that used to do okay but was having troubles under its most recent management, and a franchise restaurant whose owners closed down their other couple of restaurants without warning.)

Now, a new restaurant just opened, and seems to be doing okay. It’s not all gloom. But it’s very depressing to walk by a storefront or building that used to be bustling, and see nothing there.

Similarly, everybody at work is nervous. Our business is doing reasonably well, but there’s some stuff going on that’s not so great.

In other news, there is such a thing as over-centralization, alas. Also, a lot of companies seem to think that, if they dump a bunch of verbiage on their website, that they have done their job of informing their employees. Sigh. Human resources personnel used to get a lot of guff, but they used to take real responsibility for explaining this sort of thing. Now that such folk have been centralized and put behind a faceless website, I think they are missed. A lot.

On the podcast front, I was interviewed the other night. Of course it went lousily, as my phone decided to make the person on the other end hard to hear, and as my nervousness made me talk too fast and say crazy things. Oh, well. Could have been worse, and the interviewer was very nice.

On the bright side, cantoring on Sunday morning went well. I was in surprisingly good voice. (For some reason, all my allergies held off on Sunday until afternoon.) We’re all pretty sad to be losing our associate pastor next week, but he’s moving on, getting assigned a parish of his own. We’ll be getting another associate to replace him, though. (I know we’re lucky, but our parish makes a good pastor school. Central location, decent-sized rectory, close to major roads and highways, and practically every common parish institution.)

The CMAA Colloquium is this week, and I’m missing it. Oh, well. I’m still too tired to really make a good go of it, though I’m much stronger than I was. Also, all that good Loyola food would be too much for me! I’ll go again someday, never fear. Similarly, I didn’t go to the Catholic New Media convention in San Antonio. I don’t really know that I would’ve found it useful, and it seems like it’s a long way away.

But mostly, I think my arm put me into a real homebody mode, which I’m only gradually emerging from. Usually I’m antsy to go Places and do Things. This Saturday, I got tired out going to UD’s library for a couple of hours. (Sigh. Though of course, I wasn’t sleeping well during last week’s sinus days, which was probably the real reason I kept dozing off. That or insufficient caffeine levels.)

I don’t know what it is, but summer is always a season of regrets and memories for me. (And of course I put regrets first. Nothing like seeing that glass half empty!) Probably some of it is that I haven’t really taken any vacation this year, not even little ones for conventions.

But I don’t really have any place I want to go. The older I get, the fewer goals I seem to have. I wouldn’t mind going somewhere, but I don’t really have any need or inner urge to do it. I’m not unhappy, I guess, but I just don’t really feel like doing anything except go to work and then go home. I don’t even watch much anime or TV; it doesn’t really hold my attention. I have a lot of trouble focusing and staying awake at the same time, which is the wages of middle age.

I’d like to get more translation done, I guess, or write a story, but that’s it.

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