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Posts Tagged 'nanowrimo'

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality…

December is here. This means any number of things. It means NaNoWriMo is over, it means the semester is almost over, it means West European Studies will hopefully get back to me soon one way or the other, it means we’re hip-deep in the Nativity Fast with the Christmas feast fast approaching, and it means we just got back from a much-needed, if shorter than ideal, vacation over the Thanksgiving break. It also means that a week from today, this blog will be a year old. Sheesh.

There were no natural disasters; I simply did not finish Pascha at the Singing School last week. Between preparing to go on the trip, going on the trip, and Megan getting sick the night before heading out for the trip, it just didn’t happen. I wrote most of Thanksgiving Day, got about 2,000 words into the ending, and I am within spitting distance, I just didn’t get there. My hope is that this weekend I’ll be able to make one last push to finish a first draft. I wrote approximately 11,442 words during November for an average of 381 words a day; not a stunning average by any means, but at least it’s an average, and the bottom line is that it was a busy month without NaNoWriMo. I am on the whole pleased that the event broke me out of the gridlock that had kept me stuck since probably April or May, now I just have to keep myself honest. Next year I might have another project for NaNoWriMo; we’ll see. There is something I’d very much like to write, but this would probably be much longer than 50,000 words, and it would require a lot of skill as a writer I’m not sure I have at this stage of the game. Maybe I’ll be brave enough to give it a shot, and maybe I won’t.

The Thanksgiving break spent in Nashville was fantastic, and a very welcome getaway for us Barrettses. Check out pictures here. As noted, the Daisy Hill Bed and Breakfast (pictured at right με γυναίκα μου) comes heartily recommended by us; do consider them if you’re looking for a place to stay in the area.

Friday we had lunch at The Pancake Pantry with our friend Chelsea; it’s an experience worth having and the food is good, but if you don’t like lines and prefer a quieter dining experience, it probably won’t be your thing. We also saw the replica of the Parthenon, which is impressive, but I gotta say, it loses something being made from poured concrete rather than marble.

Country music is decidedly not my thing, but I nonetheless have to admit that the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a fascinating place to visit. Short version is that it is organized chronologically; you start at the third floor with early folk and gospel and work your way down, and you’re at the present day by the end of the second floor. I find that I am able to relate to and enjoy the early stuff a lot more than the music of the last 30-40 years; it seems to me there came a point where the musicians became very self-conscious and their music subsequently sounds, at least to me, extraordinarily contrived and false. The closer the connection to an actual folk tradition, the more genuine it sounds to my ears — to put it another way, somewhere along the way the musicians decide, “We’re going to play it and sing it this way because that’s what country music sounds like,” whereas before the mindset was perhaps more akin to, “Country music sounds like this because that’s how we play it and sing it.” As a result, at least to me (let me re-emphasize that this is subjective opinion) performers like Garth Brooks sound 100% calculated and processed, with everything intended to support a synthetic sound and persona. None of this is to say that musical forms can’t be codified or that something is inherently lost once there’s a formal idiom or tradition to which one adheres; that’s certainly what most classical is, and it’s definitely what liturgical music generally is. On the other hand, for a genre which — rather arrogantly, I find — claims to be “three chords and the truth”, it seems disingenuous to me that this would become prescriptive rather than descriptive. To quote the much underappreciated movie Singles, “You have an act, and not having an act is your act.” Good music is good music regardless of genre, but poseurs also transcend genre.

Anyway, back to the museum. There were a number of clever uses of speakers and acoustic tiles to create very localized sound exhibits, which in and of itself was interesting to see and hear. One of the things to which I found myself drawn was the archive section being visible in the center of the gallery behind glass; you can see all of their compact shelving, their sound editing stations, everything. It’s actually a useful reminder that the museum isn’t just a tourist attraction; it’s also a professional and scholarly resource. The stuff we see as the general public is really the tip of the iceberg at best.

But then, Elvis’ gold piano is pretty cool, too.

It would have been foolish to visit Nashville without hearing any live music, and we decided to go to a club called The Station Inn to hear The Roland White Band. Roland White is a bluegrass mandolin player who has been there, played that. He’s got a lot of institutional memory, as it were; he knows every song, knows who wrote it and when, and has probably taught somebody how to play it. He also has surrounded himself with a lot of absolutely fantastic younger musicians, most notably David Crow on the fiddle and Richard Bailey on the banjo. His bass player was also really good; tall, skinny younger guy named Andy, but I didn’t catch the last name. If anybody knows his last name, I’d love to know and find out what else he does. It was a show that was a lot of fun to see, and I plan on seeking out one of David Crow’s solo recordings. The Station Inn is also a neat little venue; it’s a dive that has Bud and hot nacho cheese sauce on tap and not much else, but it’s a dive with a long history, and best of all, it’s smoke-free!

On Saturday, we went to Andante Day Spa for much-needed and long-awaited massages, as well as an aromatherapy sauna. If you’re looking for something nice to do with a spouse or even just by yourself, these guys are very classy and quite reasonable for the services. We left there probably more relaxed than we’ve been in a looooooooooong time. Ramona is who did my massage, and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

After massages, we tried to go to Alektor Cafe and Books, the Orthodox bookshop in Nashville, but alas, they were closed unannounced. Perhaps this is not surprising.

Next we spent a couple of hours at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, seeing their Rodin exhibit as well as their photography and film exhibit. Both were interesting; I’d say I liked the latter more. I don’t really have the vocabulary to discuss sculpture (or much else, let’s be honest) intelligently; let’s just say that to my eyes, Rodin goes beyond glorification of the human body and into the realm of fetishization, and leave it at that for now. The photography exhibit included a section on Moroccan photographer Lalla Essaydi, and that was captivating. She does a lot with Arabic calligraphy on the body as well as on everything else; it was interesting to me for several reasons, and I may talk a bit more about it later.

Vespers, to say nothing of Matins and Divine Liturgy on Sunday, at Holy Trinity was something else; it’s a beautiful church, they’ve got a large number of psaltes who know what they’redoing (three of them evidently having studied wtih Lycourgos Angelopoulos) and as a result they’re able to utilize a traditional two-choir setup, they’ve got a very broad 

demographic and economic base while keeping their practice pretty unapologetically Byzantine, people were nice, and Fr. Gregory is a young convert priest who seems very enthusiastic. Every parish has its problems, to be sure, but these guys seem to have a lot of very good things going on.

After Vespers Saturday we had dinner at a delicatessen called, appropriately enough, Noshville; the food was plenty good, but it was also on the expensive side for what it was — my one complaint. To put it another way, it was authentic New York delicatessen in every way, including price.

Another bit of a walk through Lower Broadway followed, as did some rain. We saw Ryman Auditorium, and we also found something neat for which we weren’t looking was a life-sized statue of Chet Atkins; Megan decided to play air guitar next to him.

We relocated to Tāyst for drinks and dessert; Tāyst is a restaurant with similar goals to those of FARMBloomington, but I’d say with significantly less of a gimmick quotient and without the self-consciousness. They have a terrific bartender, and wonderful desserts — next time we’ll actually try a meal.

Sunday was something of a demonstration that there are no accidents; we had loaded up the car before going to Holy Trinity and intended to just hit the road after Liturgy. Halfway through Liturgy I realized we had forgotten our large bag of Maggiano’s leftovers at the bed and breakfast, which necessitated a return trip to get them. It being 1pm or 

so by this point, we needed to eat something as well; being right in the neighborhood, we decided to return to the Pancake Pantry. While in line, we were chatting about the morning at Holy Trinity, when the two gentlemen, clearly a father and son, turned around to us and said, “Orthodox Christians?” Turned out the son was also Orthodox. We ended up eating breakfast with them and having an awful lot to talk about; it doesn’t seem impossible that we could have met somehow one way or the other — it is a small world when one is Orthodox, after all — but given attendance at different parishes that morning, it was one of things where the odds of running into each other randomly were infinitesimal. Had we not forgotten the food at the bed and breakfast, we would have had no reason to return to that part of town, and it certainly wouldn’t have occurred to us to go the Pancake Pantry again. As I said, there are no accidents, we know some of the same people (although not the ones I would have expected) and hopefully we’ll keep in touch. He’s going to be attending Cambridge University (yes, that Cambridge) next fall for the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, and I’ll be very interested to hear about his work.

And with that, we were back on I-65 heading northbound. We had a ball in Nashville, we hope to go back at some point, and we were really happy with where we stayed and what we did. It was a much-need and much-appreciated getaway for us, and hopefully it won’t be another five and a half years before we get to do something like that again. I will say that I wasn’t thrilled to go back to work yesterday, but I also wasn’t exhausted from the vacation as I have often been on little whirlwind trips, so maybe we did something right in that regard.

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The final week of NaNoWriMo and so on

My gold coffee filter was soaking in soapy water all night; I rinsed it out before using it this morning, but the coffee still distinctly tasted of soap and had a decidedly viscous texture. My tongue still feels slimy. Blech.

I will definitely not reach 50,000 words by Sunday. However, there is no doubt in my mind that, save a natural disaster, I will finish the first draft of Pascha at the Singing School by then. I think it will end up around 20,000 words; right now, with Matthias having just confessed in the Saint Catherine Chapel and skipping off to the warmup for the Paschal liturgy, I’m just shy of 15,000 words with just the final plot point and dénouement to go, and depending on how carefully I choreograph the action in the finale, we’re probably talking 3,000-5,000 words. I think I can do this with relative ease over the Thanksgiving break. Then I will stick it in a drawer for two weeks and see what I’ve actually got afterwards. When I’m done crying, I’ll figure out what needs to be fixed and then see what I can do about having some pencil sketches done of some key moments. Maybe, just maybe, I can start trying to shop this thing around in January.

By the way, if you’re at all like me and annoyed that store-bought cereal appears to be increasingly expensive for what you get, I have found that this recipe yields absolutely wonderful results. I made a batch last night, using a cup of walnuts and a cup of pecans and following the suggestion to add hulled sunflower seeds, and tried it this morning; it’s tasty (particularly with raisins added), it’s healthy, and it’s easy to make. I’m not certain that it’s necessarily any less expensive than store-bought cereal, given what nuts cost, but I am certain that it’s more satisfying one way or the other, and likely to be a lot healthier.

14 NaNoWriMo 2008 et cetera

I find it rather unlikely that I will complete 50,000 words within the next sixteen days. Nonetheless, I find it entirely possible that I will finish the first draft of what I’m working on — which, as I said before, I’m doubtful is 50,000 words long in the first place. Maybe more like 25,000 to 30,000; possibly even more like 15-20,000. We’ll see. It’s intended to be more of a shorter children’s book anyway.

Word count notwithstanding, I have been able to work on this at least a bit every day, and it’s taken me down some interesting paths. I realized that Petros and Matthias share a dorm, and that there’s a good reason for it — but I’m only going to be able to allude to that reason. I’ll have to save the full story for… well, later. I also had one of those experiences where the characters just up and decided to leave the room, leaving me behind sputtering, “Wait! Where are you going? Come back!” Unfortunately, they didn’t listen — typical 10 and 11 year-olds — meaning I had to run outside after them, only to find out that they were playing something called campyon, and now I had to learn the rules (such as they are) in order to keep up. (And, who knew, turns out campyon actually exists.) Not altogether certain about the propriety of “playing at ball” on the Feast of Feasts, but nobody asked me. Maybe once they’re done with their game, these kids can be bothered to, y’know, actually start following my outline again.

In other writing news, one of essays I put up here while lamenting a lack of a publisher seems to have found a publisher. Again, this was not a case of anybody stumbling across it online and saying, “I’ve got to have this!” Rather, I sent a revised (and ultimately, better) version of the piece to the editor saying, “I understand your theme for an upcoming issue is such-and-such. What would you think about this for that issue?” The editor wrote back saying yes, I like it, let’s do it. As before, I’d rather not say anything concrete about what or where until the issue is out, just because I know that nothing’s a done deal until the printed matter is actually in your hands, but this looks hopeful.

I urge you to listen to the final address to the OCA’s All-American Council of the newly-elected Metropolitan Jonah. (For that matter, just go here and listen to everything.) You may recall that I heard him, back when he was still Abbot Jonah (Paffhausen), at the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius Conference back in June; missing a good chunk of his talk and being in the Antiochian Archdiocese, I lacked some of the necessary context to understand what he was saying, but the reaction of those who were in the OCA and who got to hear him from the beginning was palpable. His manner is, to me anyway, rather reminiscent of that of Bishop MARK; I will be interested to see if they ever have cause to work together on anything. The address linked to above is prophetic and visionary at the very least; now, as he himself says, they’ve got a lot of work to do. He, and all of the OCA, have my fervent prayers.

Graduate Application Tip of the Day: Turns out, at least at IU, a formal IU transcript doesn’t need to be ordered (read “paid for”) for an internal application. They can just access your record electronically. If your GRE scores are already part of your record, you don’t need to pay to have those sent, either. It would have been nice to know this the last, oh, three times I applied for grad programs here, but at this stage of the game, I’ll take what I can get. If you’re in a similar situation someplace, know that it doesn’t hurt to ask.

I will wrap this up for the moment by noting two news items. First, I’m wondering, in response to this story, if perhaps somebody posted a sign saying “Free Orthodox Church.” Certainly, every time I see a sign for a “Free Methodist Church,” I think to myself, “Great, but where would I put it?”

Secondly — well, all I can say is that sometimes you can’t make this stuff up. I should go back and re-read William Gibson’s Neuromancer to see just how much stranger today’s reality of media and computers networks has become than the fantasy of twenty-some years ago.

Okay, back to waiting for these kids to finish their silly game of campyon.

Yesterday, tomorrow, and beyond (with a little bit about today)

Local coffeehouse The Pourhouse Cafe is a ministry of Sherwood Oaks Christian Church, one of the bigger (if not the biggest) evangelical megachurches in Bloomington. They don’t have “owners, but donors,” it’s staffed by volunteers, it’s part of their college ministry, and all of the profits go to charities in Third World countries. I’ll also note that what it cost to get it up and running is more than All Saints’ entire annual budget, which gives you an idea a) of how big and how rich Sherwood Oaks is, b) the converse truth with respect to All Saints, and c) why All Saints is not in the coffeehouse ministry business (although it’s something Fr. Peter has said he’d like to get into eventually).

Anyway, they have live music every so often, and last night my friend Lacey Brown was playing (with husband Phil Woodward on guitar and all-around personification of awesomeness John Berry on drums), so I dropped in. I also got to hear Brooks Ritter (who reminded me a lot of Glen Hansard) and Jamie Barnes (maybe somebody can tell me — any relation to Paul Barnes? They sure look alike). I enjoyed the music and the musicians a lot, and while I was very much aware that this wasn’t exactly my scene (for reasons of age, at least — it scares me that that at not-quite-32, there’s already at least a narrow generation gap between me and people in their 20s), I was also scratching my head thinking, “How do we get some Orthodox Christian musicians/musicans who are Orthodox Christians exposed in this venue?”

Well, to some extent, it’s already happened; The SmallTown Heroes played here a couple of weeks ago. Still, I kinda wonder — what if, say, a men’s sextet did a set of Byzantine chant in English? No context, no preparation, just did it? What would the pomo crowd get out of something like that? Would it just turn them off? Would they connect with it, instinctively sensing something genuine, and want to know more? Maybe it’s worth a try… maybe not.

What does seem to be worth a try is NaNoWriMo, which starts tomorrow. I can easily write 50,000 words in a month; I’m pretty sure I’ve done at least that some months with this blog (hard to say for certain, since WordPress.com blogs don’t provide you with a way of checking), so it will be just a matter of redirecting some of the effort. As a result, there may be light blogging in the coming month, but I’ve got something I’ve been picking at in one form or another for four years, and it’d be really nice to actually finish a draft of something. This little story of Matthias and Isaac is really kind of peripheral to that of Petros’, and its Petros’ story I started out telling (back when I was still calling him Peter Lewis), but this way I can write something a bit more bite-sized, something that serves as a “test reel,” if you like, or “proof of concept,” and go back later if it turns out anybody cares. It’s somewhat as if C. S. Lewis first wrote a novella within the timeframe of Prince Caspian, about a side story happening to Reepicheep in which Caspian and the Pevensies were sort of side characters who were mostly there as background color. (Not that anything I’m doing will be anything remotely near to the Narnia books in terms of quality; I’m just using that to try to explain something without explaining much of anything.)

Anway, in fits and starts over the last several months, I’ve spat out about 5,000 words already, and I saw guidelines that said while it’s “discouraged” to use NaNoWriMo to finish something you’ve already started, as long as you write at least 50,000 words, it’s fair game. I don’t know that this story is 55,000 words long, but I’ll find out. I need to just make myself do it and finish a draft, see how it holds together. So, November could be interesting.

Finally — I’d just like to note that as of today, October represented, in terms of total traffic for the month, a spike of 296% from the previous month and 244% from my previous best month. So, now that I have five regular readers, I hope y’all stick around!

Things you think about when you’re trying not to fall

This morning was the first frost in Bloomington, Indiana — or, at the very least, the first at our house. This is a relatively early first frost; I’m more accustomed to it staying hot until sometime in November, at some point during which God hits a switch and the temperature drops fifty degrees in a week. Given that my ancestors, centuries ago, were roaming the frozen wastes of Scandinavia wearing fur loincloths and swinging battleaxes, and that I’ve inherited their programming to stay perfectly comfortable in cold temperatures while wearing shorts and a t-shirt, as well as having to face the unpleasant corollary that above 75 degrees Fahrenheit I tend to be very uncomfortable no matter how little I’m wearing, I am very, very, very much okay with an early frost. The nice thing about cold weather is that you can always put more on. Hot weather… well, not so much. There’s only so much you can take off. (And trust me, you’re thankful for that — very very very thankful.)

What I emphatically don’t like is getting to the top step of my front porch on my way out to the car and realizing, in rapid succession, a) the first frost has arrived very much unannounced and b) I need to grab onto something very quickly. I am not one normally given to quoting John Mayer, but gravity, stay the hell away from me. Otherwise, I will be in repair (again).

For those who have asked — I do not, as of yet, have any information on the outcome of Fr. John Peck’s 16 October meeting with Metropolitan Gerasimos. All I know is that Fr. John is still listed here on the Prescott Orthodox Church website as the priest. Once I hear something I will post it (if I can).

A couple of links to pass along — Anna passed along the article “Keeping the End in View” by James R. Payton, Jr., over at Christianity Today. Prof. Payton, a Protestant, is also the author of Light From the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition, a book which I have not yet read myself, but I have heard Orthodox say that it is a better introduction to Orthodoxy than some books by Orthodox authors. (One hopes that he has less in common with Daniel Clendenin than with, say, Met. Kallistos Ware.) The article is an examination of the Orthodox Christian understanding of “theosis,” comparing it to how Protestants understand conversion, justification, and sanctification as “phases” of salvation. In general, Prof. Payton treats the Orthodox position quite favorably, but there are two points I’d like to mention.

In Orthodox teaching, “image” and “likeness” are not the same: the first is gift, the second, goal.

This is a matter of some imprecision; it’s not called “Orthodox teaching,” it’s called “the Greek language.” εἰκών and ὁμοίωσις are the words in question, and as even a cursory examination of their entries in either Liddell-Scott or BDAG shows pretty quickly, these are different words with related-but-different meanings, and authors do not use them interchangeably. This has nothing to do with “Orthodox teaching” except insofar as Orthodox teaching reflects how the Greek Fathers use the words. “Policy” and “law” are English words which have related but ultimately different meanings, for example. If a German author wrote that “In American politics, ‘law’ and ‘policy’ are not the same…” it would be a similar situation. It’s an issue of what the words mean, not an issue of how they’re treated by a particular group of people.

While evangelicals can learn from the Orthodox, it is fair to note that Orthodox believers can learn from us, too. The Eastern presentation of salvation can smudge the distinct steps of salvation. Justification and sanctification often get folded into the broader concept of theosis, and they become so blurred that Orthodox believers often don’t know what to make of the terms. They would be well served by an explanation of how the steps of salvation as presented in apostolic teaching fit into the larger package of divinization.

While appreciating Prof. Payton’s open-minded, open-armed approach and thus being willing to lay aside concerns about how patronizing this paragraph might be, I will suggest that he fails to mention that the issues he brings up are addressed by the participation of the Orthodox Christian in the sacramental life of the Church. I assume he knows this, and that this is a concept which probably will sail right over the heads of most CT readers, so I can understand why he doesn’t go there, but ultimately the picture he paints is misleading.

I would also direct your attention to the paper, “Approaching the Educated Person in the Post-Christian Era” by Abp. Lazar Puhalo (ret., OCA). I don’t necessarily agree with every point, but I think it’s worth reading and discussing. I might have more to say about it later.

Current reading: The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, by George H. Nash. Whether one agrees with everybody he describes or not, the story he tells is fascinating. I may have more to say about this later.

By the way, I’m considering participating in NaNoWriMo for purposes of finishing a first draft of a particular writing project of mine. I’m not sure I’d quite hit 50,000 words, but I’d have a draft finished finally, after four years of picking away at something.

I’ll wrap this up for now by saying that my application for West European Studies has been submitted, and that now it’s just a matter of my letters of recommendation rolling in. Hopefully I’ll know something soon. In the meantime, another option has come up in terms of a departmental home, and the person who suggested it did so unprompted. I don’t want to say much more about it for the time being. For right now I’ll just say that I’m flipping two coins, West European Studies and this other possibility, and we’ll see what comes up. Maybe both will come up heads, in which case I’m decidedly not opposed to leaving IU with more rather than less. Maybe both will come up tails, and I really will have to leave here with 30+ worthless graduate credits. We’ll see. Meanwhile, a near-annual conversation with a particular faculty member about said options has led to this person dubbing me a “professional applicant.” I suppose he/she isn’t wrong.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be prepared for the frost.


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