Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Reader's Guide to Me

Quick update on school. Wow. Tons of work - easily the hardest work I've had to do, ever. I'm starting to get excited about the challenge, though. Okay, update over. Now, onto the real post. (Thanks, Muad'Dib, for the rating link!)

This is not a list of books I’ve read recently, since I’m pretty sure that nobody other than me would really get into those (at least, out of those who read this blog). In fact, I'm pretty sure not even I was into all of them. This is a list of books that have been highly influential in my life, for various reasons. Any listed as “first book only” does not mean that I didn’t enjoy the other volumes – it just means that the volume listed tells a story that either was more influential OR it tells the whole story that the other books elaborate upon (OR, it means I haven’t taken the time to read the other umpteen volumes, since life is short and I have too much else to read.) I’m sure that this list isn’t all inclusive, but it’s close enough.

Links take you to Amazon. I'm not encouraging you to buy them as opposed to checking them out from the library (though, in case, I did pick links to the less expensive copies and better translations), but Amazon's got synopses and reviews to help you decide whether it's the book for you at this time. Titles arranged by genre then by alpha for your convenience. Hope you enjoy.

Last Chance to See (Douglas Adams)
The Mother Tongue (Bill Bryson) *
How the Irish Saved Civilization [first book only] (Thomas Cahill)
Into the Wild (Jon Krakauer)
The Fourth Crusade (Thomas Madden)
A River Runs Through It (Norman Maclean) *
The Deer on the Bicycle (Patrick McManus)

Historical Fiction:
Baudolino (Umberto Eco)
The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco)
The Source (James Michener) *
An Instance of the Fingerpost (Iain Pears)
The Crystal Cave [first book only] (Mary Stewart)
The Once and Future King (T. H. White) *

Beowolf (Anonymous)
Gilgamesh (Anonymous) *
Bacchae (Euripides)
Ars Amatoria (Ovid)
Antigone (Sophocles)
Eunuchus (Terence) *
Aeneid (Vergil)

Watership Down (Richard Adams)
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Douglas Adams)
Ender’s Game [first book only] (Orson Card)
My Side of the Mountain [first book only] (Jean Craighead George)
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Robert Heinlein) *
Dune [first book only] (Frank Herbert)
The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis)
Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) *
The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien) *
The Silmarillion (J. R. R. Tolkien)

Update I decided to put asterisks (*) after those I suggest reading first. This was extremely painful – like picking a favorite child. I asked myself: which of these are most likely to be influential to just me, and which have the potential to be highly influential (and enjoyable, of course) to the widest audience of my friends and family. The results are above.

Updated 8/31/07 – 8:40am CST

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ahem! A Hem!

My free time is almost at an end. Tomorrow, August 27, I begin my MA in Medieval History at SLU. I’m excited, scared, and all types of anxious. But, I’ll post more about school later.

Since there’s no telling how long it may be before I update again, here’s a little longer post to keep you busy/bored. I spoke in sacrament meeting today, and the following is an epiphany I tried to work into the talk, but it never quite felt right there. So, I post it here for your terror/amusement/insight. It’s still in early rough draft form (I need to edit it so it feels a little bit less like I’m showing off), but you’ll get the idea.

A Little Lesson on Fashion: the Hem
I want to talk about clothes, and how clothes relate to faith. The very clothes I wear are symbols of my faith – not the clothes visible to you – for you know I’m wearing those – but the clothes underneath that you must merely believe I’m currently wearing. Of course, clothes have been representative of the holy priesthood for some time. I am a big fan of ancient history, so please pardon a little historical background to the tradition and symbolism of “The Hem,” in the Bible. The Law of Moses stipulated what all the holders of the priesthood, while in the tabernacle or temple, should [Ex. 28] wear. Among other vestments, priests were told to wear a blue robe and a blue mitre, connected to the robe at the “hem” or “tassel” with a blue string or cord. A mitre is a cap with a flat top: one which is worn by millions of graduates every year – but anciently, the reason for the flat top was to help support the weight of a crown. The symbolism is quite striking: in Hebrew tradition blue is the color of the heavens and represents God’s dominion. The tying of the blue thread to the robes symbolized the connection between the crown that God gives his anointed and the power of the priesthood. In other words, through covenant, the robes of the holy priesthood are inseparably connected to the power of heaven, and keeping that connection where it should be entitles us to the crown of righteousness for which we’ve been anointed (cf. D&C 121:36). In other words, it is nothing less than the right of celestial government: the right to rule and reign in the House of Israel, forever [side note: Israel translates = those who prevail with God]. It may be much more, besides, but that lies outside the scope of this talk.

Centuries after the Law was given, we read (1 Sam 24:4-5) that the young David snuck into the apostate king’s camp in the middle of the night, and cut off the “hem” or “tassel” of Saul – symbolizing that Saul’s divine sanctioned authority to rule and reign in the House of Israel was severed. In Isaiah (22:21-23) the sacred vestments are referred to as the “key of the house of David,” which will be laid on the shoulder – giving him power to open, and none [else] shall shut; and shut and none [else] shall open. The one who wears this connection – this key – upon his shoulder will be fastened “as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.” [aside: can you think of any robes with a symbolic hem or tassel at the shoulder? those who have ears to hear, let them hear.]

Okay, so right about now (or maybe right after I started talking) you’re probably all thinking, “Okay, so bring it on home! What’s this got to do with faith?” I would answer you, “much.” The prototype and role-model of him who is fastened “as a nail in a sure place” is, as in all other symbols of ultimate righteousness, the Savior, Jesus Christ who had all the authority of his godhood, kept the principles of righteousness, and exercised his priesthood perfectly. The woman with the issue of blood (Matt 9:20. cf, also, Matt 14:36)had faith, not just in the Lord’s anointed – the Messiah; the Christos – but in the authority of the priesthood that was his by divine right, symbolized by the hem ["kraspedon" G2899 κράσπεδον (edge, border, hem, fringe or tassel)] of the Messiah’s robe. Her trust in Christ’s priesthood – manifested by her touching the symbolic garment of the holy priesthood he wore – made her whole. “[Unto] you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings,” wrote Malachi. The Hebrew word for wings, [H3671 פנף] “kānāp,” is exactly the same word used for “hem.” I think it fitting that one possible way to interpret this verse is to say that the Sun of righteousness (i.e., Jesus) will arise with healing in his priesthood authority - and that is something worth having faith in.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gravois Creek

Ovid may have been a great fan of artifice, at the expense of raw nature, but I’m afraid that’s a position where our preferences part. As a new adventure, Bree and I decided to explore the creek that runs behind our place. Gravois Creek, one of the tributaries to River Des Peres (itself a tributary to the Mighty Mississippi), at this time of year is fairly wide and slow moving. In Northern Utah it might even be named a river, but here it’s pretty insignificant.

Fish galore swim in its shallow shoals. Given its geographical make-up, the warm weather made its waters very pleasant until we got to the swimming hole. Yup, that’s right: it’s got a real, honest-to-goodness, Tom & Huck style swimming hole. Complete with preadolescent boys splashing around, occasionally glancing back to the shore where their fishing poles still stood straight, devoid of the hoped-for fish. We were unprepared to find this unexpected treasure in this particular Creek so Bree and I didn’t swim. We will. On our way back Bree played while I caught a little crayfish (since re-released). Good times.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Suson Park

Bree and I took a mid-morning excursion to Suson Park (ca. 15 minutes away) to play with animals. It made a nice break from the usual swing/slide/run around type park play we've been doing in the hot, hot weather. Because the temperature was far more congenial than it has been, the trip was great!

Below is a great little gadget introduced to me by friends and fellow bloggers. Use your mouse to manipulate the cube. It's fun, don't be shy.

bright red playground slide
scorches thighs in summer’s height –
play must wait a while

Friday, August 17, 2007

Turtle Park Trip

Here's a little flicker of parentheses that encapsulates a trip that Bree and I took to St. Louis's Turtle Park. For some reason, the music won't play, so you're stuck with an audioless flick. I'll fix it, if I can. Well, if I can, and if I remember... My textbooks are beginning to arrive, and that might divert my attention. But, for now, my intention is to fix the soundtrack. Buon Appetito.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Welcome to Saint Louis II

Thank the gods, Pulcheria's sisters came this weekend and helped get the house in livable condition. Below is a documentary tour of the final product. I hope you enjoy it. It's not a small flick, so you may want to click and then (if you have high-speed internet) make yourself a sandwich or (if you are still on dial-up) take a weeklong vacation.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Home-court Advantage

Muad’Dib and I have been having a little discussion over on his weblog, and I’ve decided to change the venue. I've also decided to change the tone and style so it makes me look better (in my own eyes.) Therefore, I write: I heartily concur with his interpretation of Acts 4-5, and have written up a little to say why. If you like what’s discussed, leave a note explaining why. If you find it too dull, Talmudic, or overly focused on the minutiae, leave a note explaining that too. In other words, I like hearing from everyone who reads my posts. Please let me know that you’re out there reading. Anyway, on with the show.

I agree with Muad’Dib’s assessment of the translation. I love the KJV, and find it, by far, the most pleasant to listen to and to recite. One the one hand, the Ol’ 1611 is fine enough for church meetings and regular discussions, but on the other hand, if we’re analyzing the text, I’d stick with the NRSV. Wait! What’s that? Ah yes, if any of you have read through my Amazon Wishlist, you’ll see that I don’t own a copy of the NRSV. Fine. Chicken Little will do it herself.

In 4:32, exempli gratia, “ought” is an anachronistic hold-over spelling of “aught” (“anything.”) In Middle English the two spellings were perfectly compatible versions of the same word, but in Early Modern English “ought” began to assume powers of obligation and debt and the twain were cloven by the softest laws made: the laws of linguistics. The only reason this text – and the whole of the NT – is not eternally ambiguous is that it is possible to look it up in the original Greek. The word used is a simple ti (no accent), meaning “some” or “any” – an egal word befitting an egal people.

All that work for one little word. Ouch. I guess I don’t have time to analyze ‘υπαρχόντων, ’έλεγεν, or ‘άπαντα (aside from saying that I very much doubt that ‘άπαντα was referring only to “trials, persecutions, a feeling of unity with common problems.” In this context I can’t force myself to think it doesn’t mean “all things” including the ‘υπαρχόντων “possessions” that they will all sell.)

If I had to translate this passage on my own, I’d do it far more literally, just so there’s no confusion as to what words mean, as sometimes happens with the KJV. As a matter of fact, I think I will. My interlineary Greek-English NT is still submerged in one of the manifold black holes innocently disguised as cardboard boxes, currently adorning my living room. Poor décor, indeed. They still infest my domicile. I will empty them yet. “Hear ye! All ye corregated fiends! Your days are numbered! I will strike thee with the rod of my sister-in-laws and thou shalt spill thy bowels each upon their rightful place in mine house!” (Book of Daniel [Webb], Vol. 29, 8:8). But I digress. As I was saying, without my interlineary I’ll have to do it the hard way, with Lexicon and Strong’s Strongest at my side. But, I’ll only focus on the verses I mentioned above (4:32, 34-35). That’ll be more than enough work for me - several hours, I expect - but this conversation is worth the effort.

4:32) The quantity [i.e. the whole group] of those trusting [i.e. those who believed] was one in heart and soul, and not one [of those believing ppl] claimed some/any of the possessions to be his own for him, but, for them [i.e. for the believing ones], all was common.
4:34) For, there was not some/any impoverished among them; for as many as were possessing acquisitions of small-fields or houses – selling [the acquisitions], they were bringing the values of those things having been being sold.
4:35) And they were setting [the values] alongside the feet of the delegates [i.e. the apostles] and it was thoroughly given to each according to some/any need he had

Alright, so it only took me 50 minutes. Don’t laugh, that’s a pretty good speed for me these days, I’m so out of practice. For those who wish to mock me for my slowness of mind, I stand with Billy Madison, who spoke thus:

‘Now, I know a lot of you are saying, “Big deal! Any idiot can [do that]!” Well, it was hard for me, so BACK OFF!”

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Character Construction

I recently updated my "about me" section in my Facebook account. In case any are interested, here is what I wrote:

The Veneer:
I was an actor and singer in high school, and got into college with an arts scholarship. I served a religious mission in Southern California (the heathens) in 1996-1998. I was married in 1999, and had a daughter in 2004. I graduated from USU, having studied History and Classics. I'm now working toward an MA in Medieval European History at SLU.

The Plywood:
Like most, I've slowly worked at building my persona. I didn't start out this way.

As a child I loved to be by myself as much as with a small group of close friends.

I loved spending time out-of-doors, and wished to become a scientist; particularly an entomologist. I remember this from a very early age.

I am an introvert who has worked very hard to develop the persona of an extravert. Discovering my talent for theatre was one of the turning points in my transformation. Most of the time my persona works well, since my theatrical experience has given me many memorized lines to draw upon. My exercises in improvisation have aided me, also. When my persona falls, and I am exposed as the imposter I am, it is nearly always because it is a scenario I haven't rehearsed in my mind. I spend the next days/weeks/months replaying the situation - not to relive the emotional pain again, and again - rather, to develop witty repartee and dialogue which I will utilize next time a similar scenario arises.

The Frame:
I am discovering more about myself now, and have been for the last few years, than ever before in my life. I've been reaching into my more stage-shy memories to see why I act and think the way I do. I usually find myself revealed as a happy, anxious, semi-fearful child who's developed a very sophisticated and complicated persona in order to combat my anxiety and fear.

The Hinge:
Perhaps this is universal to all, and I will realize in time that my story is simply the story of growing up; a universal tale, applicable to all. When that realization solidifies, I will thank the gods that it took so long for me to be sure. For now, I'm glad I can experience the process of discovering myself.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Welcome to Saint Louis

It’s been long enough. I shall wait no longer for the great insightful message that you all will marvel at. Instead I shall simply post my undiluted emotion. My blather begins:

I’m here. Sometimes I can hardly believe it. Other times I believe it all too well. The drive was tortuous, the unloading was rapid, the unpacking continues. The landscape is bland, the weather is horrible (hot and humid), the skies are bereft of my beloved redtails. Even as I wrote that last comment, I could feel the tingling in my chest, the lump in my throat, the fuzzy vision.
Worst of all, my friends are far away.
Real tears now.
Breathe breath.
Calming down.

I have my wife and child. The main joys of my life. Pulcheria is bedridden with morning sickness (surprise and congratulations are, indeed, in order) 23.2 hours a day. Bree is solely my responsibility. The unpacking is a monumental task that I try to avoid thinking about. Pulcheria is bedridden. The love of my life, and my respite from constant childcare is inaccessible. A mess of emotion fills me, now. Freedom-deprivation depresses me more than anything. Loneliness. What a feeling. I haven’t felt lonely in quite some time. I usually relish my alone time. But now, it’s more than mere loneliness; it’s the loneliness of the single mother in a strange new city with no local friends. Of one who wants to pick up job applications, but knows that it will hurt her chances to go in with a child at her hip. Of one who knows that her babysitter lives right next door, and is home, but is unable to help watch for more than a half hour. And there are thousands of these people. Probably hundreds within 50 miles of me. And, now, I am one of them.

Now comes the guilt. What a horrible person am I to be thinking of myself and my poor lot in life at a time when Pulcheria is sick because she is making a child for me. Self-absorbed bastard. It is her body being tortured, not mine. She wants to feel better and participate a thousand times more than I want her to. Bree wants to play more. To see her friends, too. Bree suffers from a father who feels depressed because he has to perform his fatherly duties with more intensity than usual. Poor me. What a schmuck I am.

Oh! Great. What is this new feeling? Survivor’s guilt, now? COME ON! Please get a hold of yourself, dude.

And now, I go back to my life. Thanks for your attentiveness. Know that within five minutes, I won’t feel this bad, anymore. It’ll come back, but it’ll also go away again.

For now, though, I must feel.
And breathe.