Monthly Archives: June 2012

Meet The Parkers

I blogged a few weeks ago about the Parker 51s that I had recently encountered. I intended at the time to post some photos, but I didn’t have a tripod, and I hadn’t figured out the lighting here, and several reasons besides. This afternoon I undertook a massive fountain-pen shoot, and kept going till my battery gave out. I’ll shoot the rest of my collection some other day, but for now I’ll show you my Parkers, since that’s the only brand I got all of with today’s go-round.
The newly-arrived 51s are the stars of the day; they’re the most distinguished Parkers I’ve acquired (no Vacs, no old Duofolds). The distinctive feature of the Parker 51 is its fully hooded nib; in contrast to most traitional pens, whose nibs stand out and form an attractive, functional part of the pen hardware, the 51 conceals all but the very tip of the nib under its plastic hood. Right now I’ve inked and am using this gold-and-burgundy 51, made in Britain, and without the typical date markings, as far as I can tell.

Parker 51 Mark I Burgundy

(I’m selecting just one photo of each pen, which will still make this a big long post, but there are many other images in my photo set at Flickr.)
Continue reading Meet The Parkers

Light, Sweet, and Not Crude

See whether you can find forty-five minutes out of your day to listen to Bill Nighy performing in A L Kennedy’s radio play ‘Love Love above alike the Beatles’, available for listening online till Monday, and — for the next week — download from BBC Radio 4. It’s amply worth the time, for Kennedy’s imagination and wit, for the play’s poignant reminiscence of childhood, and for the voice of Bill Nighy, to whom I would gladly listen just for hearing him breathe so expressively.

Give Back

I’m thinking hard about what I want to say to the web’s great giver, Michael O’Connor Clarke, who’s in the hospital being treated for esophageal cancer, an especially cruel flavour of that toxic affliction. If you’ve heard of HoHoTo. there’s a decent chance that it’s through Michael’s indefatigable publicity and support-raising activity on their behalf. He’s been making his family and friends and sometimes the whole internet laugh, come what may. Remember when the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes? Michael’s heart started out twice as big as that, and hasn’t stopped growing.
Kids, a long, long time ago (almost a century ago in what we used to call ‘internet years’) Michael was part of a particular eddy in the big river of Blogaria. We all used to blog together, link to one another (’cos back then, ‘comments’ were not an integral part of blogging platforms, believe it or not), tease one another, argue, fall out, say some harsh things (why else would Chris have invented the word ‘f*cknozzle’?), get back together, anticipate children and celebrate their births, and socialise in geospace as much as we could. Michael gave so much to those days, to his friends who managed to meet up with him — if you assayed the goodwill of the blogging web ten years ago, you’d have found that a measurable percentage of the precipitate was Michael’s.
Esophageal cancer is nasty stuff. If you have known Michael, benefited from his wisdom or generosity or wit, or if you just care that noble spirits not be ignored in a heedless, partisan, manipulative generation, please find a way to give back. Doc’s on the case; so is David, and Elaine, and Euan, and Frank and Jeneane have been keeping lines of communication open behind the scenes.
This is what I want to say, maybe not well enough, but I’m not well-composed when I think about Michael and Leona and the kids: Cancer is bad news, serious bad news, and I’m sending all the support I can to Michael’s doctors (and Xeni’s, and our friends Everly and Siobhàn and Katy’s and Bob’s). And whatever can strengthen Michael in spirit and flesh, I’m on board for that, one hundred percent. But no one here gets out live, and cancer is near the top of the list of the reasons. But for a long time, I’ve resisted casting cancer treatment as a ‘fight’, because in the long run we all wear out, gradually or catastrophically; if mortality is a fight against death, then it’s a fight none of us can win, and I refuse to accept those odds.
Michael is already a winner, a bigger winner than ’most anyone I know, and he will always be. We have a job to do, now, of holding him and his dear ones tight in an embrace, a solidarity, a real, effectual net woven by our caring and our love — but we can’t lose sight of the real goal, to which Michael gives so much time and energy. We have to build out the network of our effectual love and caring till it avails not just for people we know first-hand, but reaches even to strangers and eventually even to f*cknozzles, because none of us can stand alone against all the forces of corruption and exploitation and violence. Michael’s drawing Toronto further toward that, contributing his skills and resources and energy to the Daily Bread Food Bank; by all means let’s rally to Michael’s side, show him our respect and solidarity, and by sharing in his spirit of generosity and love, share with him in winning something vast and vital and imperishable, something that cancer can’t touch. Help Michael and his family. Make someone laugh; feed someone; give a hand to someone who needs a boost; find a way to hire someone; knit us all together more kindly, more securely. That’s the win; that’s what I have to say for Michael: a champion, an unbeatable champion.

Well, Alright

This morning I opened an email from someone who professed admiration for and interest in my blog — which is a good start, although that’s often the sign of a request for a link exchange, ‘maybe this would be of interest to your readers’ (as though that were more than a bedraggled few), and a website with a name such as ‘Things you should know about universities’ or ‘My herbal remedy for administrative bloat’ or whatever. I delete ’em pretty fast.
The message was lightly personalised, but it introduced me to a band — Wayfarer — whose repertoire draws mostly from less-well-known hymn lyrics set to freshly composed arrangements (not just new arrangements of old tunes, but new tunes altogether).

I was sufficiently intrigued to listen and watch (except the ‘eating a fried cockroach’ clip), and I’ll be adding them to my library. I suspect I may recognise more of their hymns than they do, but I’m old and enthusiastic about pre-contemporary hymnody. I’m not sure whether they look authentically like Seatlle hipsters, or ironically like Seattle hipsters, but I’m not looking at their pictures while I listen, so it probably doesn’t matter that much. The field for theologically-interested hip alt-folk is getting a little crowded; I wish these guys the best in their endeavours, and will keep my eyes open for what comes next. Don’t be strangers!

Feature Request

Let’s come out and say it: Developers have gratified users’ fascination with using different typefaces, but have not made it easy to control the results. A vigilant designer can deploy styles carefully so as to assure that changes can go forward without typographic chaos, but users who don’t live and breathe page design specifications will almost always cross the wires somewhere. It’s next best thing to impossible to control for absent typefaces, for mis-assembled type families, for clashing style specifications, for hand-done formatting in place of style-driven formatting. There are very many more ways to screw up a long manuscript than there are of controlling a manuscript suitably.
So here’s a feature request: Next-gen word processors should offer the possibility of a style-locked document mode, where one and only one type family functions for body copy. If you want to change typeface, it changes for the whole schmeer, that’s it. Because really, most projects shouldn’t have more than one typeface, especially if you don’t know for sure how to control the ones you’re adding or deleting.
‘But what about non-Roman characters?’ I hear you cry. (I’m listening carefully — that’s how I can hear you from Glasgow.) Answer one is that an increasing number of typefaces already incorporate non-Roman type, so for certain typefaces it’s becoming a non-problem. Answer two, though, is that instead of using a ‘font’ menu to choose typeface and size, the menu bar offers a style menu that includes ‘Greek’ or ‘Hittite’ (which would then be locked to the specs of the Body style).
This approach is a best-practice approach already, I know. But it’s so wildly counterintuitive, if not utterly unknown, to many users that it would be well worth formalising in the application software. Of course, then people would devise ways to defeat the locked-down styles. Maybe the feature request should stipulate a one-typeface word processor with no features whatsoever except limited tabs (that always apply for the whole document) and footnoting. There must be some way to make it possible for users to produce final copy that isn’t a tossed salad of type, styles, and other formatting specs. There must be.

I’m The Guy

Before Rube Goldberg was known for the cartoons of contraptions for getting simple things done with complicated mechanisms, he popularised the slogan ‘I’m the guy that put the…’ often (but not always) followed by a geographical pun. The most obvious, as I recall, was “I’m the guy that put the ‘Sin’ in Cincinnati’, but Goldberg generated many others — to the extent that ‘I’m the guy’ became the unmistakable recognisable lead-in to a joke, as ‘A guy walked into a bar’ or ‘Knock, knock’ or other equivalent phrases have become. (Some of the extant slogans strike me as bizarrely uninteresting, but that’s not the point for now.)
Well, this weekend I accomplished something with global ramifications, provided that you’re in Singapore and you want to know how to get from my flat to Partick Station or Morrison’s. About a week ago, I noticed that Google Maps lacked a particular byway — yea, even The Lane of Doom — and I decided to click the wee rectangle that offered to send Google World Headquarters news of anything amiss with their cartography. Just yesterday they emailed me back to say, ‘You’re right! We checked out your suggestion, and have now changed our maps to reflect your correction’. It’ll be a while before it shows up in ‘Directions’, apparently, but as of now you can look at our street, zoom to the maximum setting, and see the faint line that descends from Partickhill Road to Peel Street.
I’m the guy that put Partickhill Lane on Google Maps!

A Cry For Help

In last year’s Bible intro course, one of the essay options invited students to compare Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ to the biblical source texts (they also had other choices, in case ‘Hallelujah’ didn’t appeal to them). That was a runaway success for the course, but now I have the challenge of coming up with another comparable song for this coming autumn’s essay option.
Here are the restrictions: The song in question should be based on/comparable to an Old Testament text (students won’t have encountered the NT yet in the course; indeed, Pentateuch/Writings is even preferable to Prophets). It should not be a brain-dead easy comparison, and the song should be at least pretty good. It’ll be a better choice if it’s not an evangelistic appeal, though old-timey songs are probably theologically depotentiated for this audience. Multiple cover versions make it even better (lots of options, and more room for comparison); Robert Wilkins’ ‘Prodigal Son’, covered by the Rolling Stones, would be great except the class won’t be anywhere near Jesus’ parables by the time they have to write the essay.
What song(s) would you suggest?
All nominations, of course, are subject to my own pedagogical/aesthetic discernment. Remember, someone’s going to have to read as many as a hundred essays on this topic.

Very Boring, To Be Honest

I don’t want to let my daily-posting pattern sip right after getting started again, so I’m putting up a very tedious post that mostly just says that instead of finishing the book review that I was supposed to polish off this morning, I spent the day working through the transcription of a lecture I attended in my first semester at Yale Divinity, a talk given at the English Department by James Hillman (G83c on the Opus Archives website). Margaret and I had been reading a fair bit of Hillman as part of our thinking through some ideas left over from her undergraduate studies, and we were excited to see that in our very first semester in New Haven, Hillman himself was giving a talk — and it was free! And we could go!
I’m working through the lecture not because I’m sliding into post-Jungian archetypal psychology, but because some slices of his work on dream interpretation cohere conveniently with the sorts of general claims I want to make about hermeneutics — and I was interested to note that in a section dedicated to spelling out his differences with non-Jungians (on one hand) and orthodox Jungians (on the other), he characterised the tenor of those differences in ways that remind me of my differences from straight-line historical-critical biblical interpreters (on one hand) and liberal-radical interpreters (on the other).
Overall, the lecture stays wedded to a metaphysics and a [poly]theology I reject. But I realise that the lecture played an important role in quickening my interest in questions of hermeneutics; I cited it in the final essay for my spring-semester Parables course (“[Something I Don’t Remember], Joke, and Dream: Three Models for Parable Interpretation”), and its general thrust has stayed with me for the thirty years since Hillman gave the talk, and Margaret and I heard it. I’m thinking about writing an article on it, but that has to come in after a lot of other, more urgent tasks.

*Puff, Puff* (Dust Cloud)

Is it more to the point to say ‘It’s a good thing that I preach from time to time, since that gives me an occasion to update the blog’ or ‘Guess it really shows how lazy you’ve gotten about updating when only a sermon bestirs you to post something’? Either way, I preached this morning and will duly post the sermon text below in the ‘Continue Reading’ link. If you’re on the West Coast of the USA, you may have time to print it out if you’re desperate before a late service.
As our road trip in the USA turned into a succession of hit-and-run visits to dear ones along the Atlantic Coast, blogging just didn’t seem to fit into the atmosphere of reconnecting with family, and most of what was on my mind was how proud I was of X or how wonderful Y looked, and that doesn’t really edify the world. Important things happened in the world, no doubt about it, but my concentration was fixed elsewhere.
So when we got back to home, the Vice-Provost emailed to say Wouldn’t you like to preach this Sunday instead of 1 July?, and I reckoned that it would be helpful and might get me back on my metabolico-intellectual rails after the combination of jet lag and road-weariness. The decision itself might have been a symptom of my boggled mind, but everything turned out all right, and now I have one fewer thing to take care of in the days ahead.
Margaret and I celebrated our 30th anniversary on Tuesday, and decided that as long as one of us wished the other ‘Happy Anniversary’ day-on-day, we would continue celebrating indefinitely. So it’s still our anniversary, and I still love her more all the time, and we’re partying continually over here at the brow of Partick Hill (so long as your definition of ‘partying’ includes ‘staring off into space’, ‘watching back episodes of Taggart’, ‘cleaning house’, ‘sleeping’, ‘working on academic essays’ (which is complicated, when you’re feeling as spaced-out as we have felt), and other such decadent pursuits).
Still some notes to write to the US, lots of admin work to do for the Uni, two or three essays, one book review, course prep, and a grant proposal to write before classes start (heaven permitting); I read Alison Bechdel’s newly-released Are You My Mother? and should blog about that; I’m working on Errol Morris’s Believing Is Seeing; I want to take some fountain pen photos and write about the pens; and I’ll have to index the James commentary. Among other things.
But for now, I think this thing is working again, and this morning’s sermon is below:
Continue reading *Puff, Puff* (Dust Cloud)

Noted In Passing

Jared Gardner’s article from The Comics Journal (an excerpt from a new book) hits two of my favourite topics: comics and the New Criticism. The New Critics brought numerous aspects of reading well into focus, not least by the controversies they provoked, but I’m very far from being a partisan of theirs. This moment in comics history sheds some light on why they’re allies only at a distance, and on the fraught adolescence of comics in the USA. I’m trying to think that I don’t need to read the book, but I’m failing.
We had a 100% delightful stop-off with Nate and Laura in New Haven, including brunch with my sister Holly at a vegan/gluten-free diner, and now we have another all-day travel day on our way to Nantucket, to check in with my Mom and other family there. The ferry was shut down for high winds yesterday; we’re hoping for clear sailing this evening.

What’s Going On?

Yesterday I had occasion to talk with a colleague about what my research and writing plans, and since that’s easier to write about in my blog than are the various other topics I might address, I’ll take a minute to sketch my research programme (as best I can envision it).
First, I owe Westminster/Knox the ‘Exegetical Method’ volume of the New Testament Library, and that will become the focal point of my research and writing as soon as my +*^]£&! REF obligations are done and dusted. The posts I’ve mounted here about ‘how to do exegesis’ are preparatory to that book, in a way; although it will emphasise theory as is appropriate for a reference work, the theoretical backend will be oriented toward supporting the frontend described in my ‘practice of exegesis’ posts.
That will involve thinking through the theory bit in several essay-length pieces, one of which I’ll present at the SBL in November. These, in turn, will probably be amenable to combination into a theory-book distinct from what I say about exegesis per se, and the practical essays, and the perspective derived from writing the reference book, I’ll expect to reconfigure into a classroom-oriented ‘How To’ book. Since those don’t count for REF, I may publish that digitally, or if a commercial publisher is interested I could expatiate on the homiletical, ethical, spiritual dimensions of the hermeneutics I advocate.
Theory is good, but what I truly love is reading stuff. I doubt that I’ll take on the genre of commentary ever again, but I have ideas for essays/lecture series about Christology and about Matthew (that’s another book debt, though it has been generously forgiven thus far). If I am granted such long life as would allow me to complete all of the above, I may turn to Paul or Hebrews or Revelation — but there’s a lot of work to be done before then.