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Wednesday, September 10, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So I haven't been reading weblogs much lately; I'm feeling rather disconnected from the whole Blogging Scene. Not that that's a bad thing *8) or that it'd be hard to reconnect in a handful of instants. Just noting that I haven't been there.

(I haven't run the RSS feed reader in many days; I'm sure it will scold me with dozens and dozens of unread articles.)

Which means that I haven't been harvesting lots of links to pass along to you. But passing on lots of links wasn't really the idea in the first place, so that's okay. It's a fun thing to do, but it's not necessarily What It's All About.

I'm still greatly enjoying "Lost Christianities", and by a complete coincidence I'm also once again having an interesting email discussion with certain nutters about knowledge and faith and science and creation and morality and all that sort of thing, which sometimes touches on the same subject.

Lots of fascinating stuff in there. Did you know that the Catholics and the Protestants have different versions of the Old Testament? Not just different translations; actual different material. The Catholics have some extra books, and some extra bits in some other books, that the Protestants (most of them? all of them?) don't consider scriptural.

So I ordered a Catholic Bible, used, from Amazon, and then noticed a couple of days later that I'd ordered just a New Testament. Ooops!

So then, because both of them were cheap, I ordered an entire Catholic Bible, used, from Amazon. When it comes, I'll be able to spend long lazy hours comparing it to the ("usual") Protestant one, and writing insightful monographs on the differences.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Unless I'm misinterpreting everything I'm reading, it appears that the oldest copy of the New Testament that we have is the Codex Sinaiticus (that Wikipedia entry, and the Catholic Encyclopedia entry, tell a wonderful story about how it was found, full of monasteries and Czars and things found in rubbish baskets and so on), or perhaps the Codex Vaticanus (some pictures here), which date to like the year 350 AD or something.

There is (as should have been unsurprising, but I'd never really thought about it before) vast amounts of Bible Scholarship out there, including notational systems for referring to particular copies and editions and manuscripts, big debates over what came from where when and who faked what, and what was a source of which translation and so on. One fun debate is about a piece of apocrypha, The Secret Gospel of Mark, which is noteworthy for containing an erotically suggestive scene between Jesus and a feller he raised from the dead, and which may be authentic, or any one of quite a number of possible sorts of forgeries. In any case, it has another interesting and novel-worthy story behind it; someone should do a whole series of potboilers about ancient Biblical manuscripts and forgeries. (There's my free idea of the day.)

Wow, look, it's actually Thursday; I think I will go to bed. Good night!

Tuesday, September 9, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

"Burning Toast." Do you like it?

Man, this Katchor guy is a flippin' genius.

Monday, September 8, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Finished "Mansfield Park". What was Austen thinking? (Spoilers follow, I suppose, for those who haven't read the book and plan to.)

It's sort of the mirror world to "Pride and Prejudice"; all the witty lively people turn out to be the villains, and the sickly retiring easily horrified overly pious people turn out to be the good guys.

Austen herself seems to have gotten tired of writing it at the end; the last bit (even the final Happy Resolution of the main love interest) is done as a one-chapter synopsis, a narration of events without any action, all telling and no showing. The resolution of what's nominally the main tension of the book is done as dry narration in the last nine paragraphs. Sheesh!

(Look, here's the whole book online. Oh, and of course here it is on Project Gutenberg.)

Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You?

The edition I have has an afterward by Marvin Mudrick, author of "Jane Austen: Irony as Defence and Discovery". He pretty much blames it all on growing up (Mansfield being Austen's first work after she became a grownup famous writer, as opposed to a cheeky kid writing entertaining stories for the family), on wanting to appear serious, on perhaps dipping too many toes into the idea of religion.

"Elizabeth Bennet, that paragon of sense and vivacity, would have been nonplussed to catch her author setting up so crude a tableau of evangelical complancency; but then Elizabeth is one of the last bright spirits of the eighteenth century, and could not be expected to approve the thickening pieties of the nineteenth."

(Here's a book chapter about Mansfield Park, from 1920. "About half the time Fanny is in a state of fright, or at least of flutter." Indeed!)

Apparently (and amusingly) this has been the subject of endless discussion on the net for many years: "the most disputed topic on AUSTEN-L".

"One of the questions, besides whether Fanny Price is a prig, which garners the most heat, is whether or not Jane Austen was overly influenced by Evangelical religion when she wrote the novel. Another is whether there was any basis for the scenes P. Rozema added to the movie of MP. A third is whether the treatment given to Maria after her divorce was too harsh. These questions rouse more heat than the sun in summer in Death valley."

I love the Net.

In Miscellany tonight, we have only a couple of notable links from Morford's latest Morning Fix: the very memorable Boohbah, and "The War in Iraq is Over Ancient Alien Technology".

Which should come as no surprise to anyone.

Saturday, September 6, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

A reader writes in the input box:

what is this thing anyway

Well, in theory it's a box where my readers can write me quick (or slow) messages, and I can eventually display them here in the log, respond to them, be witty or profound with respect to them, and so on. (Idea originally stolen from Miranda.) Lately, though, I've been too lazy to do that, and I have lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of worthwhile reader input waiting in my mailbox for the attention it deserves.

(Hey, at least I did one tonight!)

From some posting of Steve's, we are reminded of good old Jack Chick, and one of his endearing hate-filled cartoon tracts leads us to do a search or two, which lead in turn to lots of interesting information, including the Wikipedia articles on Textus Receptus, the Vulgate, and the Deuterocanonical Books of the Bible(s). (While we're there we also can't resist improving those Wikipedia articles a bit; Wikipedia is great).

All this stuff about alternative and questionable books of the Christian Bible fascinates us; we're also currently taking ("taking") a Teaching Company audio course titled "Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication". It's pretty good. (It's also available on CD, so we can rip it to the iPod and listen to it without having to dig up a "casette player".)

Does anyone know what CAP Alert means by "belly sin"? I'm always interested in new sins. *8)

"The brazen airport computer theft that has Australia's anti-terror fighters up in arms". Or "if you make your computer too secure against remote breakins, they'll just waltz in and steal it instead".

Very silly.

Speaking of very silly, I got the following email the other day:

Subject: chess

I have school project please ansewr these questions:

1. What year did chess begin?
2. How many players?
3. describe at least two positions?
4. Is this sport aprt of the olympics? yes/no
5. Describe 5 rules
6. Describe the uniform.
7. Describe some of the equipement used.
8. What person was last famous for playing?
9. How do you think the sport isgoing to played in the future 2050?
10. Descibe the field or stadium the sport is played.

I helpfully replied:

1. What year did chess begin?

I was born in 1959.

2. How many players?

I am an only child.

3. describe at least two positions?

At the moment I'm sort of lying on my left side, propped up on my let elbow on the bed, with my knees bent, typing on the computer. Sometimes I sleep on my back, with my head on the pillow.

4. Is this sport aprt of the olympics? yes/no

No, I have never competed in the Olympics.

5. Describe 5 rules

Look before you leap. Keep right. Always wear a dust mask. Thou shalt not steal. Don't ask other people to do your research for you.

6. Describe the uniform.

Generally I wear cargo pants, a t-shirt, and a shirt over that. On my belt I have a pocket watch and a Swiss Army Knife in a belt sheath.

7. Describe some of the equipement used.

In addition to the above-mentioned watch and knife, I carry a fingernail clipper, a notebook, some bandaids, and a number of one-dollar bills (as well as my wallet and its contents). I also own an Apple iPod.

8. What person was last famous for playing?

That's a very personal question.

9. How do you think the sport isgoing to played in the future 2050?

In the year 2050 I will be nearly 100 years old, but I hope to be still going strong.

10. Descibe the field or stadium the sport is played.

An attractive blue planet, third from the Sun.

Oh, or were you asking about the *game* of chess? Despite having "Chess" as my last name, I'm not really an expert on the game. You should be doing your own research anyway, not asking someone else to do it for you (see the answer to question (5) above). I suggest googling for sites that are about the game of chess, the Olympics, and so on, and finding the answers to your questions on them. See for instance


and of course


Good luck with your project!

David M. Chess

I received a reply in turn, but I'm afraid it wasn't very polite.


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