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Archive for May, 2008

Poking my head back up…

…at least for a moment. The thing about blogging is, when you’re doing it, you’re able to do it. When you’re not doing it, it’s hard to get back into it because you feel like you’ve got so much catching up to do.

In brief, I was deliberately keeping blogging on the downlow the first half of April or so while a couple of situations finished playing themselves out, and they did, and everything turned out okay, but then it was Holy Week, and my mom was here, and then it was Finals Week, and then I’ve also been adjusting to a new job, and, and, and…

The other thing is that my new job is significantly less stressful than my old one. By metric tons, even, and for every imaginable reason. Between that and having a break from classes, the decompression rate is astounding. One of the things this has underscored for me is the sheer amount of stress with which I’ve lived for about the last year and a quarter — it’s been a pressure cooker, and not entirely for great, rewarding reasons. There are details on which I’m not going to elaborate here, so let’s just say for the moment that when somebody stops communicating with you, or intentionally communicates poorly, but still makes you responsible for what you would have known had they been communicating with you, and makes that standard operating procedure, there is no longer any reason to stick around — that person has already decided you don’t belong there. You’re not going to win, nor are you going to be able to fix anything.

Anyway, the point is, in decompressing, I have found myself picking up threads of particular projects that have lay fallow for much of the last year. This has been a good and productive thing — although the main one is not something I’m yet ready to discuss here — but it’s also taken time from other things I might have done more readily a month ago. Like blogging.

But here I am now, nonetheless.

I’m in the midst of reading Sunday Matins in the Byzantine Cathedral Rite, the doctoral dissertation of Dr. Alexander Lingas, the founding Artistic Director of Cappella Romana. I don’t have a lot of specific commentary on it just yet because I’m only about a quarter of the way through it, but one thing I will say is that I’m somewhat bemused by the fact that I’m having to read it in the form of a copy ordered from Proquest rather than an actual published book. Amazon.com lists it as having a publication date of 28 June 2008, but it is not yet available for pre-order; on the other hand, it is available for pre-order on Amazon.co.uk. However, if you go to the publisher’s website, it isn’t listed anywhere — neither as a forthcoming release nor anything else. Thing of it is, this has happened before; two years ago it had a publication date listed on Amazon of June 2006, and then right around May the date was yanked. An e-mail to Ashgate generated a reply that publication had been rescheduled to 2008, and here we are, but there’s nothing from Ashgate right now to suggest this is in fact happening. And, so far as I can tell, this has been going on with this particular work, with more than one publisher, for about ten years.

Gotta love academic publishing. I mean, it’s going to be approximately a $100 book, and I suspect that a thousand copies is a fairly optimistic estimate of the print run for this specific of a project, so I’m sure that whoever the publisher ultimately is, they’re not going to pull the trigger until the numbers make the most sense possible, and everything I hear about academic publishing says that, frankly, the numbers suck more often than not.

I’m also reading Bp. Hilarion Alfeyev’s The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian, and that’s another fascinating case with regard to publishing. It is readily available from its publisher, Cistercian Publications; however, for whatever inexplicable reason, it is not available through Amazon. That’s not all; the current edition really looks like it needed an editor. Capitalizations are extremely inconsistent, for example; a sample sentence tells us that “[t]he christological position ofthe Council of Ephesus was purely alexandrian: it took no account of the antiochene position, and it was precisely the antiochene (and not ‘nestorian’) Christology that was the Christology of the Church of the East” (p22, entire quote sic). Bp. Hilarion is a native Russian speaker, I believe, not a native English speaker, so perhaps that explains it, but one might expect that a native English-speaking editor would normalize these things.

In terms of my own adventures with academic publishing, I submitted my “Sensory Experience and the Women Martyrs of Najran” paper to a particular journal that had a call for papers that seemed appropriate. I got the response on Monday, and it was a bit curious. It wasn’t a “yes,” but it was a “no” that I wasn’t totally sure what to do with, since it wasn’t a form letter rejection (I’m very used to those). Basically they said, “This is really interesting, but in its current form it’s not appropriate for us. If you wanted to make it appropriate for us, here’s what our reviewers suggest.” The letter specifically says, “While we are not asking you to revise and resubmit, we would be happy to look at the paper again, provided you address all of our reviewer comments.”

So, what does this mean? Is this how journals try to let people down easily (“You’ve got a really great personality”), or does this mean it might be worth my time to make the revisions they suggest? If the latter, I’m going to need some help deciphering the editor-ese, so I’ll make dinner for whoever might be interested on that front.

Humorous note: The salutation of the letter was, “Dear Prof. Barrett”. Heh. Uh, no, to say the least.

I will eventually have pictures and a more detailed report regarding Lazarus Saturday’s baptisms and chrismations, but there is a related matter I wish to mention regarding a couple of the people involved, and it’s not completely public knowledge yet. Watch this space.

In other matters… in case you were wondering, no, as it happens, melted wax from a beeswax candle does not improve the functionality of a laptop keyboard. My wife felt compelled to perform this experiment this last Friday, so please don’t think that you need to determine this for yourself. Now, thankfully, Dell laptop keyboards appear to be designed to have things spilled on them and are incredibly easy and inexpensive to replace with no further trouble; Triangle Laptops was a terrific source, and I have no complaints about their pricing or their service. Should this happen to you, that’s the first place I’d look.

There is an effort at All Saints underway to explore ways of “greening the church”; without wishing to get into an argument here and now about whether or not this is a concept with which Orthodox need concern themselves, I’ll pass along that there were a few ideas which immediate came to mind for me:

  1. Commit to burning only olive oil and beeswax (excluding incense) — no paraffin, in other words. Olive oil and beeswax are, first and foremost, the traditional materials to use for candles and lamps in the church, and they have the added benefit of being clean-burning. St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Ohio, I believe, does this.
  2. Start an herb garden. Given the various liturgical uses of basil, at least, this strikes me as a no-brainer. No reason to spend tons of money on fresh basil for Holy Saturday and house blessings and so on when, for a small fraction of that cost, a church could grow its own. Grow enough and there might be a reason to have a regular presence at the local farmer’s market, which could itself be a form of outreach.
  3. On a completely basic, practical level–have a rain barrel, or two, or three, or however many would be useful to have.

Anybody have any other thoughts?

I will wrap this up for the moment with a plug for the book The Oldways Table. If you’re a Michael Pollan or a Rod Dreher person, you may very well find that this book helps to suggest practical ways that some of their ideas might be put into practice. I’ll have more to say about it later once I’ve tried a few more of its ideas (and more importantly, adapted them into some of my own).

(And yes, I did in fact finish the Patriarch’s book on Lazarus Saturday; I’ve got plenty to say about it, but it can wait. Suffice it to say, for the moment, that I believe his intended audience for the book is not comprised of the Orthodox faithful, but that this does not in and of itself have to mean that the Orthodox faithful are justified in viewing what he says uncharitably.)

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Testing from flickr…

Nachos on Pascha, originally uploaded by richardtenor.

For your viewing enjoyment, Der Nachoberg…

The Final hours of Bright Week

All Saints on Pascha just before Agape VespersMeshiha qam! Bashrira qam!*

So, I find it more than a little ironic that, having opened the doors of the iconostasis for Bright Week, tonight will have been my first time in the nave since Agape Vespers, and the doors will be closed fifteen minutes or so after I get there.

On the other hand, since Bright Week did double duty as Finals Week, I’m not really sure it could have been any other way, at least not this year.

I had two finals this week; Latin and Syriac. Latin was relatively easy; I’ve commented before that studying a language like Latin, one is the beneficiary of all kinds of useful pedagogical editions of things with helpful features like half of the page being a glossary and 75% of the words being glossed. With Syriac, as I have commented before, one, well, isn’t.

Going into the Syriac final, we were all rather panicked; we read three longish texts — The Gospel of Mark chap. 14 through the end, The Doctrine of Addai, and the Life of Ephraim — with just an impossible amount of vocabulary being contained therein. (And make no mistake: at least at this stage of the game, until we get to texts that don’t have vowel-pointing, it’s the vocabulary that’s the killer. Syriac grammar is actually remarkably uncomplicated, at least so far.)  We studied one of the passages from the Life of Ephraim that we thought might be on the exam the evening before, got it down pretty well, and we all felt a bit better. The next morning, the professor handed out the exams and just said, “Do what you can.” Of course, the three passages that actually wound staring up at us from the page were nothing from any of those three texts which I had actually spent any particular time mastering. As my Syriac co-sufferer Diane acknowledged, “There were a lot of made-up words and grammatically-appropriate blanks in my translation.” Um, yeah.

Nonetheless, the school year is over, and as soon as grades were posted yesterday morning (not to mention no e-mails having arrived from my Syriac professor asking, “You know, have you ever considered a direction change? Like, say, becoming a shepherd?”), I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders. I survived the school year, something that at points felt unlikely for a whole host of reasons. Between classes being over (at least for six weeks) and settling into the new job, I am getting to truly decompress a bit for the first time in perhaps a year and a half — certainly since before I broke my ankle last February, one way or the other. We’ll see if I know what to do with myself.

(By the way, Iron Man rocks. Hard.)

* Just to prove I learned something in Syriac — “Meshiha” is “Christ”, being a passive pe’al participle used attributively in the singular masculine emphatic (from the root mshah, “to anoint”), therefore carrying the meaning “anointed one”; “qam” is the 3rd person masculine singular pe’al perfect form of the verb which means “to stand”; “ba-” is a preposition meaning “in”; and “shrira” is “truth”. So — “Christ stood/arose/got up!” “In truth He arose!” Isn’t this fun? Next year I’ll do it in Coptic.


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