Monthly Archives: February 2008

Seabury Update

As I’m off-site, I get my Seabury news in dribs and drabs; yesterday I got an email message reporting unexpectedly upbeat news. As it turns out, Seabury will indeed offer classes to continuing students during the 2008-09 academic year. The present plan entails offering courses in Anglican history, theology, polity, and liturgy; congregational leadership; and the practice of ministry.
Seabury will still, apparently, need to reduce the size of the faculty — but students who are currently enrolled may be able to complete much of their program without major disruption.

Pernicious Propensity

I just handed in my paper for next week’s colloquium, and as I was roughing out the last bits it occurred to me that among the difficulties that beset biblical interpretation, few may be as toxic as the the disciplinary proclivity toward esotericism. I don’t mean that all biblical scholars shop in the sort of bookstore that gives Chris apoplectic paroxysms; I mean that biblical studies tends to focus its disciplinary energies on that which cannot be detected by a casual reader. The same inclination affects other, perhaps all, interpretive fields, too. It is especially pronounced, however, in biblical studies, and that inclination militates against biblical scholars reading well the text that they study. Worse still (and some of you knew I would get to this), by adopting a practice that endorses the premise that “the real meaning” involves something other than what was said, the esoteric impulse in biblical scholarship tends obliquely to support such intellectual miasmas as The da Vinci Code.
I do not endorse a facile literalism (still less, the King James variety). On the other hand, sometimes authors express themselves exoterically: they mean what they say. At such points the expositor’s job is not to seek out further obscurities, but to say, “Yup, that’s pretty much what it means. You didn’t need a biblical scholar to tell you that, did you?”

Ratings Redux

I’ve written about the five-star rating system built into iTunes before, and have offered several revisions of my categories for rating. I’ve recently observed that the significance of the stars in itunes operates less as a personal evaluation of critical quality — “By St Anthony’s whiskers, this is a five-star jingle indeed!” — and more as a marker for how often (or under what circumstances) I would like to hear a given selection. In principle, I might regard a particular composition as truly exceptional; if I want to hear it only rarely, though, I shouldn’t assign it five stars, because that will make iTunes think I want to hear it more often.
So I’ve adopted a different system:
   ★★★★★ — I love this selection and want to hear it very often
   ★★★★ — I enjoy this selection a lot; whenever I hear it, it delights me
   ★★★ — I recognize this selection and think it’s pleasant
   ★★ — Either I don’t recognize this selection (new acquisitions) or I recognize it but am not moved to hear it again
   ★ — I recognize this and want to hear it only rarely, when I’ve deliberately sought it out (perhaps it’s a comedy monologue, or a particularly scabrous ditty that I don’t want popping out of speakers uninvited, or a poor recording of a performance I might otherwise enjoy)
    (no stars) — I would prefer not to hear this, and it would probably make sense to delete it altogether if I weren’t a dreadful pack rat.
So, until I devise some other basis for rating, I will return to other tasks.


Tim Bray asks whether we have reached the time I foretold a couple of years ago, when an iPod is inexpensive enough that a customer could intelligibly buy an iPod and fill it with music as a casual present (on the scale of a mix tape). Of course, there are the obvious digital-restrictions impediments for people who have bought recordings from iTunes or other limited-use vendors (as opposed to ripping from CD, for example). Still, $50 for a one-gig iPod is reaching the point at which I could be tempted to prepare a distinct “Working on your dissertation” iPod present for Margaret.

Hmmm, Changing Topic

Since I suggested yesterday that I would alternate days between anxiety and other topics, I’ll point to the heavy-handed corruption evinced by Comcast’s deliberate inhibition of participatory democracy, and I’ll put off talking about lost sleep till tomorrow. On the other hand, if that fortune cookie slip were right, and my dreams were indeed to come true when I least expect it, I would be hard-pressed to imagine a time I expect it less than, for instance, right about now.
Returning to Comcast, David provides both a rich account of what happened at the hearing (bloggie-style, so you have to read from the bottom up) and a meditation on how dangerous the path is that starts identifying some packets as privileged.

Another Resource

Fred Sanders points to a scanned “pocket course” in drawing comics (dated 1943, from the Snack-Pack Co. of Indianapolis). Even though I have all of Scott McCloud’s books, I’ll be downloading this and trying it out; McCloud is a heavyweight on comics theory, but (sensibly) he skims over “how-to” issues, reasoning that the marketplace for such guides is already crammed. Anyway, both the guide and Fred’s comments on it are worth noting.

Great News

News Flash

Yesterday, Josiah and Laura called home to tell us that they are engaged to be married! We couldn’t be happier about it; we love Laura, we are delighted to be more closely tied to our in-laws-to-be Carol and Doug, and we rejoice that Si didn’t drop the ring in the snow or something.

Si and Laura

When I brought the news to Pippa, I asked, “Sweetheart, how would you like a sister-in-law?” After a split second for processing, she lit up and said, “Well, if it’s Laura!” That’s how we feel — thrilled, and blessed, and very grateful. We love you two, and we’re very proud of you.

Things To Do Today

I’m showing the slideshow from a couple years ago to colleagues at the Center on Tuesday; right now I’m going over that, freshening it up in my recollection and fine-tuning it (also thinking about it in terms of an essay I owe to a Festschrift around midsummer). I need to wrap the slides up quickly, then to finalize a draft of the colloquium paper that I’ll present at the Center a week from Wednesday. Once I get the paper settled, I have to whip my sermons for the Triduum into shape.
Thanks for all the kind wishes and offers of help relative to the thing Seabury is doing that’s not-closing. I get the message from leadership that the “not closing” part is vitally important, and I understand that the Transition Committee is doing as much as it can as fast as it can toward having a plan in place by April. From the perspective of someone looking at what used to be a seminary that will not have students (and the income their tuition brings) any longer, however, I’m puzzled about what earthly use I would be to them as a professor. Hence, my expectation that I should be looking for a job very, very actively, especially considering that this is the off-season for academic hiring, and hence my sense that whatever “not-closing” looks like, it will functionally approximate “closing” with regard to its effect on me and on my students.
Between Margaret and me, I expect that we’ll turn up a job. I would just prefer knowing what that might be as soon as is possible. I’m anxious that way, I admit. Again, thanks for your support.
Now, time to see if I can devise a treat for the family, to help cheer up the atmosphere around here.