Archive for July, 2014

A chapter ends: 22 August 2003-1 August 2014

It’s the Barretts’ last night as residents of Bloomington, at least for the foreseeable future.

I got here 3 weeks shy of 11 years ago, coming here with the specific objectives of finishing an undergrad degree in voice, possibly going on to a Masters, all in the service of the overall goal of setting myself up to be A World Famous Operatic Tenor. Seattle was a place you could be from and do that, but not if you never left Seattle, and IU seemed like just the kind of place where I could get what I needed in terms of final polish and stage time. I figured we’d be here three years tops.

11 years is almost 30% of my life, over 80% of my marriage, 100% of my time as a father, 100% of my time as an Orthodox Christian, 100% of my time as a Byzantinist.

I arrived thinking, based on what I had been told in Seattle, that I had most of what I needed to put together a great operatic career, and I just needed to get the right opportunity onstage in front of the right people. I leave with such musical successes as I have had being elsewhere than the operatic stage, with the vast majority of my success being in the academic arena rather than in the performance arena, and with the platform I have had for that success being largely hard-won.

I arrived hoping I would get to learn French, Italian, and Russian. I leave with some competency in French and Italian, yes, but also having studied Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Arabic (and brushed up on my German).

I arrived thinking I’d be making my name as somebody who sang high notes down center onstage. I leave building a profession of lecturing at the front of a classroom.

I arrived thinking that maybe I’d get a Masters. I leave in the process of finishing a PhD.

I arrived thinking my wife is brilliant; I leave knowing that she is, and that that is only one of her many amazing qualities.

I arrived scared of fatherhood. I leave loving it, and wanting more.

I arrived having wanted the chance to travel really badly since I was a little kid. I leave having been to some pretty cool places like Greece, England, New York, Washington, D.C., and so on.

I want to wrap this up with a simplistic “I arrived a boy; I leave a man” but that’s false. I’m 37, married, with a toddler, and I’m still — as one person phrased it — in the U-Haul stage of life. Whenever it is we do wind up in a position to buy our own home, I expect that we will probably live in that first bought home for less time than the nine years we have spent in our little rental house. I hope and pray that I will have a real job before I’m 40; God knows. I had what would count as a “real job” from the time I was 21 to the time I was 26; I guess I’ve done some things in the wrong order. Oh well. For the last five years I’ve enjoyed the ride at least, which is more than I could say about big chunks of the previous six years, and I can look at the experience in its totality and see that nothing was lost, only that some things were transformed.

Two organizations/communities in particular have meant a great deal to me in my time here and have a special place in my heart — The Archives of Traditional Music, where I worked from April 2008-June 2009, and Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church of Indianapolis, where we have gone to church since January 2013. These were both places where warm welcome and appreciation were expressed at very key moments, and they both allowed the space for me both to do things I was able to do as well as to consider bigger possibilities I hadn’t thought of before. Another thing they have in common is that I got to spend far too little time at both places — just over a year for ATM, and about a year and two-thirds for Holy Apostles. Much gratitude to Alan R. Burdette, Marilyn Graf, and Susie Mudge at ATM, and another generous helping of thanks to Fr. John Koen, Debbie O’Reilley, Panos Niarchos, Angelo Kostarides, Dr. Thomas Kocoshis, Peter Americanos, and so, so many more at Holy Apostles. Special mention to Dean Maniakas and Fr. Bill Bartz of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis, who have made us feel incredibly welcome and who have made it clear that we have friends at Holy Trinity.

I have not always enjoyed the experience of the last 11 years, as both of my longtime readers doubtless well know. Still, I am grateful to have had it, even if I still massage some literal and figurative scars that serve as reminders of certain lessons.

Time to go. Tomorrow we’re out of here. See everybody in Boston when we arrive. Glory to God for all things.



A vision for Orthodox university ministry — at Indiana University, and beyond

I’m somewhere between 3-6 weeks from leaving Bloomington. Our lease is up 1 August; we have a move-in date at Holy Cross of 21 August. We’re seeing if we can close the gap at all, but we won’t know if that will work until next week. We’re getting ready to sell one of our cars. We’re packing. I took a load of clothes to Goodwill two days ago. We just wrapped up our last moving sale. We’re selling books.

I’m thinking a lot about what I’ve learned from living in Bloomington the last 11 years. The vast majority of my marriage has been here. The entirety of my experience as a father has been here. I have been in school for all but eight months of that time. I converted to Orthodox Christianity here. We’ve not only outlasted just about everybody who started here with us, we’ve outlasted just about everybody who ever knew them. The nine years we’ve lived in our little rental house has been the longest I have ever lived in the same place, and it has been a home even when, at times, Bloomington itself has defiantly refused to be.

I have written a lot in this blog about the experience of this town (like this, for example) from my vantage point as a university student, an Orthodox Christian, a worker bee, the spouse of a graduate student, and a church musician. I have found myself deeply concerned about and involved with mission from those perspectives; I have been, in many ways, an envoy on behalf of Orthodox Christianity to this strange university town that is Bloomington, but I have also had to represent the university to Orthodoxy at least as often.

As a result of these activities, I believe very strongly that there is much to be done in and for Bloomington that is not being done. Before I go into that, though, you need to read this. Also, there’s something we have to establish first.

There is not an Orthodox church in Bloomington.

There is an Orthodox church with a Bloomington address, yes, but particularly from the standpoint of an Indiana University undergrad without a car, that really is not the same thing. Regardless of what post office serves it, it is two and a half miles into unincorporated county; none of Bloomington’s municipal services reach it (including the bus), it is part of Perry Township, and it is closer to Smithville’s town center (1.6 miles) than Bloomington’s (6.2). (“But Smithville isn’t a town! It’s nothing!” I’m hearing some people say. Right. That actually underscores my point.) For all practical purposes, it is the closest Orthodox church to Bloomington, perhaps, but it is not a Bloomington church. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself; it’s a great thing for the people who go there. As I’ve written before, its own population is made up largely of people from areas peripheral to Bloomington; a fair number of people drive up from points south to attend there, and it serves that population very well. But, again, it is not a Bloomington church in the sense of being accessible to people who live and work in and around the university campus and the downtown area. This is manifest in the fact that IU’s OCF chapter isn’t even part of the Campus Religious Leaders Association here.

Along those lines — a friend of mine posted this on his Facebook timeline today:

it’s not a competition, but today I remembered that Bloomington is the best place to live in the world. Everything you could ever want in a city…on a much smaller scale.
Walk from church to coffee shop: 15 seconds. From coffee shop to music store: 2 minutes. From music store to comic book store: 30 seconds. From comic book store to amazing restaurant: 45 seconds. From restaurant to bike shop: 2 minutes

Now, there are multiple churches in Bloomington for which this is true, and what is further implied is proximity to the university; if you are Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Unitarian, Methodist, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Disciples of Christ, Mormon, Christian Scientist, American Baptist, Church of Christ, United Church of Christ, Korean Methodist, Jewish, or Muslim, there is at least one congregation within a 5 minute bike ride or so from campus if not a 5 minute walk. Then, yes, from there a short hop, skip, and a jump to a coffee shop etc. And, if you’re Lutheran or Anglican, there’s even a campus house for you.

Let’s at once broaden and narrow the scope. Let’s broaden to the whole of the Big 10, and narrow to Orthodox churches specifically. Here’s a quick ‘n dirty chart for Orthodox churches in the Big 10 (click to enlarge). For each school, I list the number of parishes within 10 miles of campus (according to Google Maps and, the parish that’s closest to campus and its distance from campus (again, according to Google Maps), whether or not that’s walkable (that is, 2 miles or less from campus), walking time if so, transit time from campus to church via public transportation if applicable (again, according to transit data provided on Google Maps), drive time, the size of the metro area by population, and other relevant data.

We have to be careful here — these numbers don’t adequately take into account the size of the campus’ footprint and how that might impact distance from church, for example, and not everybody lives on campus. Still, I think there’s a decent initial picture that emerges here, even if it is a little rough.Orthodox Churches in the Big 10

So, with those numbers, on average, throughout the Big 10, there are about 5 Orthodox churches within 10 miles of the campus, and the closest church is an average of 3.14 miles away. Again, we have to be careful with what we’re looking at; these averages are driven up by Northwestern, for example. Northwestern has 19 Orthodox churches within 10 miles by virtue of being in Chicago, but their closest church is also, across the Big 10, the second farthest, at 5.3 miles away (and a pain in the neck to get to from campus, I’m told).

Also, Penn State, University of Iowa, and University of Urbana-Champaign are doing really well in terms of proximity; I know from personal experience how walkable St. Raphael of Brooklyn Orthodox Church is from University of Iowa, I’ve visited St. Nicholas at UIUC, friends of mine live in State College, PA, and those parishes really are standouts in terms of making themselves accessible (plus UIUC’s OCF has a house and an alumni association). Throughout the rest of the Big 10, in the main it’s not too bad, with churches being basically a 5-10 minute drive away. Public transportation doesn’t tell a great story there, with 5 schools not having Sunday bus service, and it taking 30-40 minutes to go 2-4 miles in those places that do have it on Sunday. We could be doing better in specific cases; we could also be doing a lot worse in terms of averages.

Here in Bloomington, the church that’s here is the one that’s the farthest away from campus in the whole Big 10; if you look at the campus religious guide linked to above, you’ll see that, except for an independent Baptist church one town over, it’s the farthest listed congregation away from campus of all of them. A 15 second walk to a coffee shop afterward? Heck, even a 15 minute walk? Nope, the nearest coffee shop according to Yelp is 2.6 miles away. My friend’s praises of Bloomington’s walkable accessibility simply don’t apply here; for an Orthodox undergrad without a car, getting to church on Sunday here is an exercise in tracking down a ride and going out to the middle of nowhere. To refer back to the linked article above, in which ACROD’s Bp. Gregory expresses the hope that “our young college students will not only stay connected but deepen their faith during their years in post-secondary education and graduate to be faithful stewards of parishes across the country”, I have seen this lack of proximity and accessibility function as a major barrier from keeping young college students connected. I have also seen it work, to be sure, but the distance remains something that has to be overcome a lot of the time.

Indiana University is home to around 42,000 students, 3,000 faculty members, and I have no idea how many other staff members. There is a humongous international population here. It is home to major centers of scholarship for early Christianity, Modern Greek, the Middle East, Russia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe (and that’s all about to become a much bigger deal with the School of Global and International Studies). It is a very attractive place to be for people who are either cradle Orthodox or otherwise interested parties. There are a lot of thoughtful people here in general who would likely be open to what Orthodox Christianity is if it were but visible in the middle of the community. The parish with a Bloomington address but that isn’t actually in Bloomington is not in a position to engage such a population; they are more of a mission to rural southern Indiana, and, again, they are doing very well with that as their mission field.

The situation that is here in Bloomington is one that is ripe for a jurisdiction to take advantage of, and to build a flagship parish that would be a model of pan-Orthodox (in the best sense, where distinct traditions are acknowledged and embraced) university ministry. A parish close to campus, that can be accessible to students and faculty (and anybody else), that can be a resource for the departments and faculty whose work involves Orthodox Christianity, that can be a resource to the greater community about Orthodoxy. A congregation that can be connected to the IU community, and that can be home-away-from-home for students, be they Greek, Russian, Arab, Anglo, Georgian, or whatever. A place where serious, sincere conversations about Orthodox Christianity, be they with students who need an ear or with adults who have hard questions, can happen on Orthodoxy’s own turf and terms. Perhaps a parish that can support a house. A parish where students who want to learn more about Orthodox music can do so. A place where the greater Bloomington community is just a walk of a minute or two away, where the parish can throw open its doors to the greater community and the university, and where the parish can function in a manner that is connected with the community and the university.

Is this all a tall order? Yes. This would require, first and foremost, a great deal of prayer and guidance; it would require a bishop (if not multiple bishops) with vision and savvy; it would require a multitalented priest; it would require some cooperative and interested faculty (perhaps the easiest part, frankly); and it would require a lot of money and clever marshaling of resources, plain and simple. This is a big idea. At the same time, I have seen how this place works for the last eleven years; I’ve been an undergrad, staff, and a grad student here; I was actively involved in OCF for three years, hosting it at our house for one of them; I’ve organized a lot of events on campus; I was part of an attempt to cultivate an IU Orthodox alumni association; I have listened to what a lot of people have to say about why some things work here and some don’t in terms of church, university, and community. From what I’ve seen and heard, I firmly believe that it can be done with good planning, good leadership, and building of goodwill. More importantly than it being possible — it is needed.

There’s another component that’s vital here, and that’s creating an opportunity for Bloomington’s cradle community to fulfill the Great Commission in their own lives. For various complicated reasons, some of which I understand and others I don’t, many of them choose to not attend the parish that has set up shop in unincorporated county; some of them have lamented to me that, were there a church closer to campus, they would be more involved. Well, this would be exactly that chance — but besides being close to campus, it would be a chance to reach out to young people who wouldn’t really be able to pay them back, or even really be able to support the parish. Nonetheless, this would be good soil for those young people and students. It would be an opportunity for Bloomington’s cradle community to gather together, pool their resources, build something, hire someone, and pray hard. Even beyond that — here’s an opportunity to make this a movement, a change in the way jurisdictions think about how they plant churches in college towns, with cradles and converts alike encouraging their families in other college towns to make sure that there is a church within walking distance for Orthodox young people, and supporting exactly that in their own areas. Bloomington definitely isn’t the only college or university that needs this vision; it isn’t even the only Big 10 school that needs it. Still, it might need to be the place where it gets started.

How might such an undertaking be planned? Well, as long we’re dreaming here — if there were already sufficient seed funding to get something established, as well as a blessing from a bishop to form a parish with an assigned priest, two things would be important immediately, from where I sit. The first thing to do would be to form a non-profit organization that would serve as the umbrella organization for the education and culture side of things, with the board consisting of people in the community, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, who have an interest in furthering those aims, with at least one student representative. Then, what would be great in terms of establishing initial visibility as well as the pan-Orthodox nature of the effort, would get it set up at a location — even if it is temporary at first — that is visible and easily accessible from campus, then inviting all of the bishops for the area — Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit (GOA), Bp. ANTHONY of Toledo (AOCANA), Bp. Peter of Chicago (ROCOR), and whomever else would be appropriate — along with somebody like Donna Elias, National Programs Manager for OCF, and then the priest for the chapel as well as all other area clergy to come to open it, with a procession from the Monroe County Courthouse in the square to the chapel’s location. It would be vital to see that it is well-publicized, and to treat it like a public event of community interest.

That’s where I think it could start. You’d have to do it in phases, certainly, and those would be negotiable — but something that would need to be treated as absolutely non-negotiable and vital to the exercise is proximity and accessibility to the university. It would be a tragedy to start out in a temporary location that’s a 30 second walk from Kirkwood Avenue only to wind up on the far west end of town halfway to Bloomfield. That would require, again, being smart and careful in terms of planning.

Now, I know full well that nobody is going to read this and say, “Well, heck, what are waiting for? Let’s do it!” I have no illusions about that. My point is simply that there is so much that can be done here, so much that needs to be done in terms of revealing Christ to Bloomington in the Orthodox Church; it’s not going to get done by one person with a vision, not by a long shot, but somebody has to be willing to commit to forming a vision for this kind of university ministry, articulating it to the people who can participate, and then bringing it about with God’s help. It can be done here, it can be done right, and I think it can even be a model for how you do it right. The harvest is plentiful if the workers will be there.

Okay, back to packing.


Last call — books for sale

still books for saleUpdate — slight reprieve, because most of these aren’t going in the moving sale on Saturday. It has been recommended that I take them to an academic book buyer here in town, and I will do so Monday. So, you’ve got until then to get in touch with me about particular items. Contact me at rrbarret AT indiana DOT edu.

Original post — Tomorrow’s our last garage sale, and then whatever doesn’t sell there is going to Half-Price Books, so if I’ve got anything you want, now’s the time to tell me.

Besides what I’ve got here, here, and here, I have a complete set of the English translation of Apostolos Makrakis’ The Logos and Holy Spirit in the Unity of Christian Thought (as well as his The Political Philosophy of the Orthodox Church), lots of language resources for Arabic, Italian, French, German, Russian, and Latin, and various and sundry language and medieval history textbooks (inquire if there’s something that you’re looking for). I also have a few DVDs: Alien, Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Fountain, The Grifters, Heat, and The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition Box Set; Green Lantern: Emerald Knights on Blu-Ray; and Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World on VHS (the only commercial home video release it has gotten stateside, sadly).

– Applebaum (ed.), The Oxford Book of Prayer

– Belloc, Essays of a Catholic

– Bernard of Clairvaux, Cistercians and Cluniacs: St. Bernard’s Apologia to Abbot William

– Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Song of Songs III

– Bernard of Clairvaux, The Steps of Humility

– Calian, Icon and Pulpit

– Cunningham, Faith in the Byzantine World

– Duffy, Faith of Our Fathers

– Dvornik, Byzantium and the Roman Primacy

– Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion

– Fortescue, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy

– Goodrick/Kohlenberger, The NIV Exhaustive Concordance

– Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West: A Source Book, 3rd Edition, Vol. I

– Kadloubovsky/Palmer, Writings from the Philokalia

– Kimball, Song: A Guide to Style and Literature (1st Edition)

– Martin, Sacred Doorways

– Martindale, Gothic Art

– McNeill, History of Western Civilization: A Handbook (6th ed.)

– Meyendorff, The Orthodox Church

– Michalopulos/Ham, The American Orthodox Church: A History of its Beginnings

– Murray, Losing Ground

– Nichols (Ed.), The Marvels of Rome

– Pearce, Literary Giants/Literary Catholics

– Pearce, Small is Still Beautiful

– Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture (2 copies)

– Platt, The Abbeys and Priories of Medieval England

– Pokrovsky, The Way of the Pilgrim (Annotated and Explained)

– Raboteau, A Sorrowful Joy

– Ramsay/Bell, The Thousand and One Churches

– Rex, Henry VIII and the English Reformation

– Savin (trans.), The Way of a Pilgrim

– SBL Handook of Style

– Stavropoulos, Partakers of Divine Nature

– Taushev/Rose, The Apocalypse

– Temple, Icons and the Mystical Origins of Christianity

– Thomson, The Western Church in the Middle Ages

– Veronis, Missionaries, Monks, and Martyrs: Making Disciples of All Nations

– Velimirovich/Popov, The Struggle for Faith (A Treasury of Serbian Orthodox Spirituality, Vol. IV)

– Whelton, Two Paths: Papal Monarchy/Collegial Tradition

– Wilson, The Blood and the Shroud

– Wybrew, The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship (1st Edition)

More books for sale

Still more books have popped up for sale. Again, make offer if interested. E-mail rrbarret AT indiana DOT edu.


Aleksiev, The Forgotten Medicine: The Mystery of Repentance.

Allen (ed.), Orthodox Synthesis.

Elder Cleopas, The Truth of Our Faith.

Fletcher, The Russian Orthodox Church Underground, 1917-1970.

Hopko, All the Fulness of God.

Ioannidis, Elder Porphyrios: Testimonies and Experiences.

Quenot, The Icon.

Moore, Formation of a Persecuting Society.

Riché, Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne.

Schaeffer, Sham Pearls for Real Swine.

Thompson, Who was St. Patrick?

Verhovsky, The Light of the World.

Webber, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail.

Books for sale

books for saleYesterday I posted some “special-interest” things I have for sale; I’d also like to give everybody a heads up on the highlights of some more books I’m still trying to sell. E-mail with offers; I don’t necessarily have a set price in mind for anything, but serious offers are of course preferred. If you see anything in the picture that you can’t find below, drop me a line. E-mail address is rrbarret AT indiana DOT edu.

In alphabetical order by author’s last name (or by title if that’s more appropriate):

– Benz, The Eastern Orthodox Church: Its Thought and Life

– Berkowitz/Squitier, Thesaurus Linguae Graecae: Canon of Greek Authors and Works, Third Edition (cloth)

– Bouyer, Rite and Man

– Braga, On the Way of Our Faith: Faith, Freedom, and Love

– Cameron, The Last Pagans of Rome

– Constantelos, Understanding the Greek Orthodox Church: Its Faith, History, and Practice

– Cormack, Painting the Soul

– Crane, Prose and Poetry

– Deuchler, Gothic (Universe History of Art and Architecture)

– Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground (Katz translation)

– Dyck, A Commentary on Cicero, De Officiis

– Grant, Constantine the Great: The Man and His Times

– Grant, Roman Myths

– Griffen, Names from the Dawn of British Legend

– Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers (paperback)

– Heather, The Fall of the Roman Empire

– Herrin, Byzantium (cloth)

– Herrin, The Formation of Christendom (cloth, mylar sleeve)

– Hoare, The Western Fathers (cloth with mylar sleeve)

– Met. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition

– Kaczynski, Greek in the Carolingian Age

– Kenworthy, The Heart of Russia: Trinity-Sergius, Monasticism, and Society after 1825

– Kirk, The Conservative Mind (Seventh Revised Edition, paperback)

– Küng, Truthfulness: The Future of the Church (ex-library copy, cloth)

– McGuckin, Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy (paperback)

– Momigliano, The Development of Greek Biography

– Nasr, Resource Book for Mission and Evangelism

– Newell, Celtic Prayers from Iona

– Nicene/Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume IX: Hilary of Poitiers and John of Damascus

– Norris, McTeague

– Oakley, The Western Church in the Later Middle Ages

– Ousterhout, Master Builders of Byzantium (paperback)

– Palmer/Sherrard/Ware, The Philokalia, Volume One (paperback)

– Payne, The Holy Fire: The Story of the Early Centuries of the Christian Church in the Near East

– Pelikan, The Riddle of Roman Catholicism

– Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy

– Rose, The Place of the Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church

– Russell, The Sparrow

– Schmemann, Liturgy and Life: Christian Development through Liturgical Experience

– Temple, Icons and the Mystical Origins of Christianity

– Vasileios, Hymn of Entry

– White, Introduction to Christian Worship (Revised Edition)

Liturgical/Prayer books/Devotional

– Baz, The Book of the Epistles (Antiochian Archdiocese, 2010)

– A Book of Personal Prayer, Bideaux, Upper Room Books.

– The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, bi-lingual service book, Byzantine Design Works (Bouras/Tomaras, 2003)

– Orthodox Daily Prayers, St. Tikhon’s Press. Comb bound with laminated covers.

– Orthodox Prayers of Old England, St. Hilarion Press.

– Papadas, Holy Week & Easter, bi-lingual service book, Patmos Press (1990 edition)

– A Pocket Orthodox Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians, Antiochian Archdiocese.

– The Saint Ambrose Prayerbook, Lancelot Andrewes Press, 2009.

– Service Book (“the 2 Pounder”), Antiochian Archdiocese.

– Service Books of the Orthodox Church, Volume 1, The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, St. Tikhon’s Press.

For your consideration: Robotech Academy on Kickstarter

I am bringing the Kickstarter campaign to fund a proof-of-concept pilot of a new Robotech TV series called Robotech Academto your attention. I think you should fund it. However, I’m not happy about it.

Being an eight year old kid enamored with Star WarsStar Blazers and Transformers, I remember that all the advertising for Robotech caught my eye, and I thought it looked awesome. My interest was piqued, at least in part, because I had the Jetfire Autobot amongst my Transformers, I didn’t understand what this whole intermediate mode was supposed to be, and a lot of friends of mine had the Bandai/Takatoku Valkyrie VF-1S version that Hasbro repainted for Jetfire. (There used to be this extremely awesome toy store in Woodinville, Arnie’s Toys, that had a whole freaking wall of imports of the Japanese versions of lots of things. While I wish I still had a lot of the original Generation 1 Transformers I had back then, I also wish I had asked for more of the Japanese versions.)

But there was a problem — Robotech wasn’t on when I could, y’know, watch it. It was on at some ridiculous time like 7 or 7:30 in the morning, when my dad was watching the news on one TV and my mom was watching The 700 Club on the other TV. I think all I ever saw when it was broadcast was like five minutes of the Southern Cross episode “The Final Nightmare”, and I was really confused because all of the advertising was about this guy named Rick Hunter, and he was nowhere to be found. Then, by the time my family figured out how to program our VCR, it was off the air.

There was this older kid I was friends with, Stefan Hahn, who had all of the “Jack McKinney” novels (little did I know at the time that Brian Daley, writer of my beloved TRON novelization and the Han Solo books, was one half of “Jack McKinney”); he loaned them to me, and I devoured them all over the course of about a month. I was captivated. I started buying the Palladium role-playing game books. I bought the Robotech Art books. I read the comics. I kept hearing about this sequel series called Robotech II: The Sentinels that was supposed to come out. I bought the Perfect Collection soundtrack album on vinyl. My first published writing anywhere was Robotech fanfiction and a book review in the fanzine Protoculture AddictsI was into it, man.

I just had never actually seen any of the friggin’ TV series. It was kind of like reading a whole bunch of Orthodox liturgical books and listening to a lot of Orthodox music without ever having the chance to go to a service.

Somewhere along the way, Robotech Art 3 came out, which told the whole sad story of why neither The Sentinels nor the promised Robotech The Movie: The Untold Story would ever see the light of day as envisioned. What it boiled down to was that Robotech’s holding company, Harmony Gold, wasn’t a production company, as such; they were a dubbing and distribution company, and they had no facility or finances to produce anything on their own. All they really had the wherewithal to do was adapt existing properties. Carl Macek had accidentally hit upon something that resonated with people when he came up with the idea of stringing MacrossSouthern Cross, and Mospeada together, but it wasn’t like he could create animation out of thin air (even if it seemed like maybe he came up with Protoculture as the MacGuffin across the three generations out of thin air). Harmony Gold and Macek were dependent on toy sales to make the economics work for anything beyond the first couple of runs of the 85-episode cycle, and, well, to say Matchbox’s toy line fell short of expectations both in quality and sales — heartbreaking, really, when you think about how toy-friendly the series actually was, even with interesting human characters in the foreground — doesn’t even begin to cover it. It didn’t help that the dollar collapsed against the yen during the initial phases of production.

Harmony Gold squeezed out a video release of what little had been completed of The Sentinels; ironically, I think it was the first actual animation from Robotech I ever saw. Over the years I caught bits here and there; a local Blockbuster had the Family Home Entertainment VHS releases (that cut each episode down to 15 minutes from 22), and then I bought the first wave of Robotech DVDs when they were released.

Toynami started a new toyline about 13 years ago, but basically they were incredibly expensive, slightly-smaller retoolings of the Bandai toys with an extra bell here and a whistle there, and they got a small production run of a few thousand apiece. I got a couple of them, but it just wasn’t worth it. I would have loved to have gotten one of the Alpha/Beta Fighter pairs, but that was going to be a poor use of $200+, and let’s not even talk about what the Cyclone toy cost. That thing cost something like $20 at Arnie’s Toys back in 1985; don’t even try to tell me that $200 is a reasonable price for one made today.

The website seemed to promise a new series, which became a different series, which then became a movie, which then became a direct-to-video release, which took them forever to release because whatever distribution deal they’d had — or thought they’d had — when they started production fell apart. The Shadow Chronicles came out a good year or so after the website had assured people that it was done and just around the corner from a major release that surely would re-ignite the franchise and only be the first of several new OVAs, if not a new TV series, that would give the Robotech saga its due at long last.

Well, um, about that. The Shadow Chronicles wasn’t bad, exactly, it just wasn’t really worth the wait, and it didn’t exactly set the world on fire. As yet, a promised followup — Shadow Rising — has yet to materialize, and a live-action deal made in the wake of the success of Transformers in 2007 has gone nowhere. Carl Macek passed away in 2010. I didn’t bother at all with the 2012 OVA Robotech: Love, Live, Alive (a Robotech-izing of Mospeada: Love, Live, Alive, which was released in 1985). Harmony Gold, as I understand it, has largely transitioned into being a real estate company at this point; there is a team that still works on Robotech, but mostly what they seem to do is appear at conventions, maintain the website, and talk about how they can’t talk about anything.

So, now there’s a Kickstarter campaign for the pilot episode of a new series. This is being sold as an idea of Carl Macek’s, it would happen in the Sentinels timeframe, and the pilot would be used as a proof-of-concept for selling a new series.

In other words, at the end of the day, if it’s funded, you’ll have yet another standalone video release of a Robotech project that may or may not be continued or finished. This is Sentinels all over again, but instead of Matchbox’s failing toy sales paying for all of an hour’s worth of footage, the viewer is being asked directly for money to come up with “an entire 24 minute episode”. Well, okay; as dinky as the deal has gotten (“A new 65 episode series in syndication plus a movie!” has, almost 30 years later, become “Buy a Blu-Ray of a pilot that we have so little confidence will get picked up as a series we won’t pay for it ourselves!”), I’d love to see a new Robotech series get completed, and I’d love to see it breathe new life into a franchise that never seemed to get its due or be managed by people who truly knew what to do with it. The truth is, Carl Macek seemed to catch lightning in a bottle back in 1985, but he needed a bigger player behind him than he had. Harmony Gold has played small ball with the Robotech property since day one, and it’s really irritating. It’s a franchise that wants to be, can be, by all rights would be the animated version of Star Wars, and instead it winds up being Starship more often than not. It’s the right series being shepherded by the wrong people.

Still, all right, take my money. Veronica Mars has set the precedent, done so reasonably well, and heck, it can even work for Orthodox music projects. So, yeah, go support Robotech Academy, I guess. Best case scenario, there’s a new Robotech series that comes out of it that might have a chance at fulfilling the promise of those TV and print ads back in 1985, that might have a chance as being as good as Carl Macek wanted the original to be. Worst case scenario, it goes on the shelf next to Shadow Chronicles as a reminder of what could have been. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I guess… but can we do it right this time, please?

A few items of special (read: “geeky”) interest for sale

Howdy — with twenty-five days left before we have to be out of our house in Bloomington (with it being somewhat up in the air when precisely we’ll land in Boston), I have a few special items for sale that it may be easier to deal directly on rather than wait for somebody to find them on Amazon. (I also have several books that I’ll devote a blog post to shortly, but I’ll start here.) All serious, conscientious offers will be, well, taken seriously. If interested send me an e-mail — rrbarret AT indiana DOT edu.

Update, 11 July 2014: I have listed all of these on eBay. Links to the eBay listing are with each item.

The items are:

  • Batman Original Motion Picture Score, Composed by Danny Elfman. Expanded Archival Collection, La-La Land Records LLLCD 1140, Limited Edition 2 disc set, 5000 printed. eBay listing.batman 1989 expanded score






  • Batman: The Animated Series, Original Soundtrack, Music Composed by Shirley Walker. La-La Land Records LLLCD 1082, Limited Edition 2 disc set, 3000 printed. eBay listing.BTAS score






  • The Dark Knight Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Music Composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. Warner Bros. 511104-2, 2 disc Special Edition. eBay listing.TDK special edition









  • Akira: The Special Edition. DVD, Pioneer 11537. 2 disc special edition in tin case. eBay listing.AKIRA Special Edition DVD


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