Sunday, September 14

For the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross: The Dream of the Rood

The Ruthwell Cross, early 8th c.,
carved with lines from a
Northumbrian version of this poem
(19th-c. photograph)

[Source LINK]
Hwæt, ic swefna cyst     secgan wylle,
 hwæt me gemætte     to midre nihte
 siþþan reordberend     reste wunedon.
 þuhte me þæt ic gesawe     syllicre treow
 on lyft lædan     leohte bewunden, 
 beama beorhtost.  ….
(From The Vercelli Book, late 10th-c. West Saxon)

Although this has nothing to do specifically to do with the historical origins of the current feast [LINK], it seems appropriate….

"Lo! I will tell the dearest of dreams
That I dreamed in the midnight when mortal men
were slunk in slumber. Me-seemed I saw
A wondrous Tree towering in air,
Most shining of crosses compassed with light.

Saturday, September 13

A Generation of Terrorism

The other night, after I had posted my thirteenth-anniversary comments regarding 09/11 [LINK], my wife and I were talking to our son, who is now in his first term of college, living away from home for the first time.  And I realized something:  It was during my own first term at the same university, 35 years ago, that the Iranians treacherously invaded our embassy in Teheran and the Iran Hostage Crisis began, bringing the issue of Islamic terrorism home to the United States in a whole new way.  A “generation” is a very unspecific measure of time, of course, but the fact is that by the measure of my lifetime, with jihad now raging across the Middle East and acts of terror being perpetrated around the world, and although the 1990s seemed a lull that proved to be false, the world has endured a long, third-of-a-century-and-more, generation of Islamic aggression that shows no signs of abating, only escalating.  We are in a war, and have been since before 09/11, which at present We Are Not Winning.  I pray that a generation hence the world which my son has inherited and passed on to his children has not fallen before “the cruel children of the lonely God … who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world” (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, chapter 8).

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 11

09/11 plus Thirteen

1683:  The Battle of Lepanto
This the thirteenth anniversary of the World Trade Center/Pentagon Terrorist Attacks of 2001.  At no time in the past ten years has there been such danger of a repeat of that horrific day as there is today, I believe.  The reason is that any gains in the “War against Terror” that were made during the Bush years – however imperfectly, at least he realized that we are at war – have been thrown away by his unworthy successor.  All the tough talk that came out of Obama’s mouth last night cannot change the fact that the current mess in the world – domestically, yes, and internationally in more places than just the Middle East, but that is the most demonic and existentially threatening – is largely of his own making.  The so-called “Islamic State” – I refuse to call it “ISIS” or “ISIL” (“Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/the Levant”) because the geographical limitation implied by either is not in accord with Islamic ambitions, and anyone who thinks that Islam will be content with either and not total world submission is a fool; better to recognize it for what it is, Dar al’Islam, the “House of Islam,” that conceives itself in a neverending war with Dar al’Harb, the “House of War,” i.e., anything outside Dar al’Islam – has exploded onto the scene in the past few months largely due to the Obama administration’s criminous inaction.  The threat was predictable – and predicted [LINK] – and ignored.  And I believe darker days are ahead, because I see little evidence that Western Civilization realizes its true danger  or has the resolve to do what it will take to survive. 

That does not mean I have no hope – despair is a sin – but my hope is in the True Faith, feeble though it seems in today’s world.  In times past, when the West was so threatened by the very same enemy in the darkest of days, miraculous aid turned the tide (1571, the Battle of Lepanto [LINK]) – but that was when the West could still be called “Christendom.”  The concept of “Christendom” seems laughable today, and is in fact offensive to many, but without its revival I fear we stand no chance.  And so today, as every day, I pray for the Revival of Christendom and the Confounding of Her Enemies.  Deus vult!

Thanks for reading.

Note:  As you may know, I have been reading a lot of G. K. Chesterton lately.  Among his voluminous writings is a poem, Lepanto [LINK].
  
If you would like to read my thoughts from the tenth and eleventh anniversaries, follow the respective links.  [2011] [2012]

ADDENDUM:  Bill S. at RedState.com expresses the far more precarious state of the world today, and its cause, very well [LINK].

Sunday, September 7

Some Comparative Comments on the First Look at the Didache Bible

I’ve always lamented that there does not seem to exist a good one-volume study edition of my favorite (because I think it’s the most accurate) translation of the Bible, the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSV-CE).  There are, of course, the multivolume series of the Navarre Bible (with their inclusion of the Vulgate Latin and annotations based on the Fathers, Doctors, and Magisterium of the Church) as well as the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (similar to the Navarre Bible, but no Vulgate and annotations based more on modern scholarship).  Compilation volumes comprising various individual volumes of both Navarre and ICSB have appeared (in the latter case, mainly a one-volume New Testament which I have in the Kindle ebook edition), but neither is published in a one-volume full Old and New Testament edition.  All existing one-volume RSV-CEs have hitherto kept annotations to a bare minimum, mainly an occasional translation note and cross-references on the same page with some not very extensive “Explanatory Notes” relegated to a few pages at the end of the Old and New Testaments respectively.  That’s the case with both of the RSV-CEs that I own:

Tuesday, August 26

My conflicted feelings about the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge

I feel the need to say something about this newest Internet/Facebook sensation.  I’m really quite conflicted about it.  And my wife is even more so.

We have some “history” with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  In early 1998, my wife’s father was diagnosed with it.  It was heartbreaking to watch him decline, fairly quickly, over the next year and a bit more – he died in the summer of 1999, a wasted shell of a once-robust man.  My mother-in-law never really got over it, and his absence has been a hole in my wife’s – our – family ever since.  The first “Ice-Bucket Challenge” I remember seeing, just a couple weeks ago, was of my wife’s niece, who was only two years old or so when her “Poppa” died, taking up the challenge explicitly in his memory:  [LINK – but I don’t know if Facebook videos will show up].

My wife’s family’s story is not unique, by any means.  ALS is a devastating affliction, that seems to be on the rise for whatever reason.  My wife and her siblings have supported ALS research in many different ways through the years – ALS Walk-a-Thons, fundraisers, donations, and so forth.  And that support has pretty much all been channeled through the ALS Association, the organization that has been the major beneficiary of the Ice-Bucket Challenge. 

Friday, August 15

The Great Martian War: 1913-1917 (2013)

Directed by Mike Slee

As you may have gathered, I’m sometimes ‘way behind the times in watching things, even things I want to see, sometimes things I have queued up to see – such as this, which has been sitting on my TiVo for at least a couple of weeks since it aired on BBC-America.  Turns out, however, I’m even further behind than that, seeing as I discover now that this movie actually debuted last year on The History Channel.  Actually, the fact that I missed it there is not that surprising to me.  Even though – more probably, because – I’m a historian, I actually watch very little of The History Channel.  Yes, there’s some good stuff on there.  There’s also some very bad stuff.  (That’s besides the ridiculous stuff like Ancient Aliens and the uh-why-is-this-on-The-History-Channel? stuff like Ice Road Truckers.)  And of course, it seems that the closer the subject matter is to something of scholarly historical interest to me, the more superficial and downright mangled their treatment of it is.  So I just don’t watch very much.  And hence The Great Martian War flew entirely beneath my radar last year.

Saturday, August 2

Library-Bound Comics: 1960s and New 52 Legion of Super-Heroes; 1970-1971 Aquaman; New 52 Wonder Woman; and New 52 Action Comics correction

A couple of weeks ago I got the much-anticipated email from Herring and Robinson Bookbinders out in California that my most recent batch of library-bound comics were ready, and about a week after that I received the books. The turnaround from shipping the books out to getting them back this time was about seven weeks, I think, which pleased me mightily. It also pleased a colleague of mine who dipped his toe into the wild world of comic-book binding by sending along three volumes of his own comics, to whom I had high-balled the estimated turnaround so he had a nice surprise. This post is, of course, only about my own books, but it sounds like he will do at least some more volumes, when he can piggy-back onto one of my orders.

Thursday, July 31

Heretics (1905)

By G. K. Chesterton

I am even more convinced that this is absolutely required reading as an introduction preceding Chesterton's Orthodoxy. Of course, Chesterton himself says as much in calling the latter book “a companion to 'Heretics,' […] put[ting] the positive side in addition to the negative” (Orthodoxy, “Preface”). I would not, however, characterize Heretics as “negative” in the sense that we usually thing of it, as simply an unrelenting attack on ideologies with which Chesterton disagreed. Rather he presents carefully reasoned and always clever refutations of those ideologies, eloquently demonstrating the limitations and implications of disordered moralities and philosophies that erupted into the 20th century as traditional notions were increasingly turned on their head, old certainties being questioned and rejected, in favor or … what, exactly? – more or less, nothing. Presciently, Chesterton realized the deleterious effects on society that would be wrought by the current advent of relativism, the abolition of the absolute or any accepted societal consensus of right and wrong, of good and evil:

Sunday, July 20

20 July 1969 … From the Earth to the Moon (HBO, 1998)

Produced by Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, and others.

Today is the 45th anniversary, to the day of the week, of one of the most vivid memories of my childhood, and – although few really recognize it as such, given how little fanfare it receives each year – one of the most important events of the 20th century, even of human history: When Neil Armstrong stepped off the landing pad of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle and planted his boot on the ground of another world, the Earth's moon, mankind left his infancy and became a toddler in the perspective of the universe. It's tragic that we barely followed up on that event and, realistically, do not look like we will be taking any further steps any time soon, possibly not even within my lifetime. I hope I'm wrong. I am grateful, however, that I did witness that event with my own eyes, late in the evening of Sunday, 20 July 1969. [LINK]

For my own celebration of this year's “Moon Landing Day,” I finally started watching earlier in the week the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. In 1998, of course, as a recently minted Ph.D. struggling to secure a tenure-track university position while cobbling together teaching assignments at several different institutions in and around Baton Rouge, I did not have HBO. I still don't, but I picked the DVD set up a couple of years ago. I was actually under the misimpression that From the Earth to the Moon was another product of collaboration between Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, done after Band of Brothers and The Pacific. It's obviously not, but it matters not. It is of similarly outstanding quality, telling the story in a docudrama format, varying the storytelling style and perspective in an interesting fashion from episode to episode. I am particularly impressed by the special effects, although I guess if I think about it by the late 1990s CGI had indeed advanced very far. Honestly, they look entirely modern, 2010s-era quality, to me.  My son says I don't have a very discerning eye, though.

Actually, since I typically limit myself to an hour of “summer series” watching, whether via Netflix or DVD, per day – working my way through various series that I've either never seen or not seen in a long time (I set aside my first viewing of HBO's Rome since its initial airing, and for which I benefited from a generous colleague who taped them for me then, after its first season in order to take up with this) – I'm only a few episodes in at this point. I'm hoping that this evening I can monopolize the TV and watch the few episodes I need, back to back, to get to their depiction of Apollo 11 at approximately the right time.

Cheers! – and Ad Astra!

Thursday, June 26

Son of Batman (DC Universe Original Movie, 2014)

Directed by Ethan Spaulding

Although the outer sleeve of the Blu-Ray packaging sports a sticker touting this as “Based on the Graphic Novel Batman and Son,” that is only very loosely the case and in its broadest strokes. And if Grant Morrison, who wrote that story arc at the beginning of his seven-year epic run metatextually de-/re-/a-constructing the very definition of the Dark Knight Detective (for more on which, see the just-published Anatomy of Zur-en-Arrh by Cody Walker, see below), is actually acknowledged in the credits, I missed it. There's not much Morrison here anyway.  For all intents and purposes this movie takes the basic idea of Batman unexpectedly being presented with the fact that he has a son by Talia al Ghul in the context of a struggle for power within and over the League of Assassins and leaches it of any of Morrison's quirky psychological brilliance. I would have hoped for more, given it is now credited as “a story” by James Robinson, who can himself be awesome – but who can also be pretty uninspired. We get the latter Robinson here, depending on how much of his story passes into the final script by Joe R. Lansdale.

Friday, June 13

Apocalypto (2006)

Directed by Mel Gibson

This is a movie I've long wanted to see but never got around to for whatever reason. Thanks to TiVo and a BBC-America showing a couple weeks ago, I finally sat down and watched it yesterday. I do not believe it was edited in any way except cutting away to commercials.

It has a fairly simple plot (SPOILERS AHEAD): A Mayan forest village is raided and destroyed by city-dwellers, the majority of its adults being led away to be sold into slavery or sacrificed to Kukulkan. Desperate to save his wife and son, whom he had secreted in a deep pit at the beginning of the raid, one captive escapes the bloody altar and leads his captors on a running chase, picking them off one by one, until he and the last two pursuers emerge from the jungle-line to the stunning sight of Spanish ships landing conquistadores on the beach. He does save his family from drowning as rain fills the pit, and the little family, all that's left of their tribe, retreat further into the forest, “seeking a new beginning.”