1… 2… 3… Is This On?

Greetings from Lake Wobegon Collegeville!

Bell Tower and Church

The Catholic Biblical Association meeting is going well; I’m catching up with friends, learning a thing or two, haven’t bought any books, and working with and avoiding editors. This morning at eleven I’ll give a presentation that’s genetically related to — but not identical to — my Winslow Lecture. I’ll make a recording of it and post it here when I get a chance.

St. John’s Abbey and University are lovely in unpredictable ways; the combination of the modern concrete bell tower, church, and library with the perpendicular brick quad and other buildings risks looking shoddy, but in fact I think the campus holds together beautifully. And the land is wonderful; you can see why people vacation in Minnesota’s lake country. The brothers of the Benedictine Abbey are welcoming us amply, and the entire experience has been enchanting. (Apart from the “sleep-in-a-dorm-=room” side; the room itself is very comfortable, but the pillow is thinner than a White House apology.)

4 AM Again?

Yes, I’m up early again, this time to catch a flight to Minneapolis. I don’t know what connectivity will be like at the Minneapolis airport and at St. John’s (we traditionally have problems getting access, even wired access, at CBA meetings). Anticipate light blogging, and we’ll see what happens.

Not An Oracle Part Two

When I said below that I’m not an oracle, what I meant was: I sure wish I’d been the one to connect these dots. “What happens when you combine the notion of the state-of-the-art cell phone (with picture-taking capability standard fare these days) with QuickTime and its H.264 compression, which Apple touts as being great for mobile phones? A video (ipod) phone, with audio/video recording, not just playback. (And perhaps more far-fetched, transmission — now we’re talking beyond Dick Tracy).”

Makes sense to me, much more so than the spasmodic will-they-release-it-or-not anticlimaxes over the alleged Apple-Motorola iPod phone (how many people will buy a device that renders redundant one or two expensive gadgets they already own?) or a plain old video-playing iPod (so I can see Lord of the Rings on a 3 × 5 screen?). It’s exactly the kind of thing Steve Jobs would love to spring on the world, and would certainly help sustain Apple’s energy coming away from the iPod wave.

Scribble, Scribble

I’m at home finishing off some assignments (a revision of my Windsor Lecture material for presentation at this weekend’s Catholic Biblical Association meeting, an introduction to the book in which the four Windsor lectures will be published), but so that readers do not feel neglected, I’ll point to a Theology Card:

#47, Council of Nicaea: Single PDFSix-Up PDFJPEG

and two snazzy maps that Ryan discovered in my copy of Walker’s History of the Christian Church. Eventually we’ll move jpegs of the Theology Cards over to the Disseminary flickr site and serve image files from there, but for now I’ll keep uploading everything to the main site.

And Debra is wrapping up the first volume of Theological Outlines; Chapter Eight and Chapter Nine are set, and she’ll probably wrap up Ten and Eleven before I get back from Minnesota (at which point we can start publishing the chapters of Volume Two, which are already scanned and set to go). Anyone with a copy of the second edition of Volume Three who’d be willing to share, please let us know!

Passion Dollars

Yes, “Passion dollars” — those are the terms in which Sony is thinking of its movie production of The da Vinci Code, according to an article in the NY Times (thanks for the tip, Dave Hedges). The ariticle will disappear behind the pay-archive wall soon, but the gist of it involves Sony’s tortuous efforts to cash in on a religiously-themed premise without offending Christians by suggesting that the whole faith is a bad idea forced upon a coerced world by murderous zealots.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the plot of the book.

So the movie execs now sought cooperation from media Christians (they didn’t call me, though) to bowdlerize the anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, anti-historical-truth elements of the book into a vaguer, friendlier movie that will draw the same (largely pro-Christian, often ardently Catholic) audiences that went to see The Passion of the Christ: synecdochically, “Passion dollars.” Why not just call them “Passion pieces of silver”? They could probably get thirty or so.

Prior Art

I am often wrong, and about lots of things. I am not an oracle.

For that very reason, I feel all the more investment in the things I get right. About seven years ago, I made the first proposal for what we now call the Disseminary to one possible source of funding. I’ve pitched it to other possible sources of support since then; most of the specifics are identical to what the site now says, based on the proposal for which the Wabash Center granted start-up funding two years ago (Thank you, Lucinda and Paul and Tom!).

Among the things toward which that original proposal pointed were podcasting (not under that name, obviously, but it included downloadable audio files, so I’m claiming a hit) and open-access textbooks. Yesterday, Jimbo “Wikipedia” Wales posted the following over at Lawrence Lessig’s blog: “An open project with dozens of professors adapting and refining a textbook on a particular subject will be a very difficult thing for a proprietary publisher to compete with. The point is: there are a huge number of people who are qualified to write these books, and the tools are being created to leave them to do that.” Again, seven years ago I wrote essentially the same thing.

OK, hold down the applause, that’s not the point. The point is that, with the backing of a serious foundation (or private funder), we could get this kind of thing done in the area of theology, an area that’s particularly fitting for educational philanthropy. What we need is the time to devote to open-source scholarly productivity (yesterday I diverted hours from my workflow to track down copyright-safe images for Theology Cards) and the financial support that will motivate scholars to offer their research and written instruction outside the current print-publishing-prestige-profit complex. It can be done in our disciplines, it will be done in some areas of education. Instead of lagging woefully behind the culture, religious educators could vault ahead of other areas of educational culture (with a little redirection of funding that’ll be expended anyway). Trinity Institute, Episcopal Church Foundation, Lilly, Pew, put some oomph behind online theology and it’ll take off. I said so seven years ago, and I still say so. It would be exhilarating if, seven years from now, we could look back and not see just another missed opportunity.


Margaret and Pippa dropped off. Caffeine coursing through my veins. Groggy.

#37 The Venerable Bede: Single PDFSix-Up PDFJPEG.

And the Theological Outlines project is coming along rapidly, too; Chapter Seven is done, and we’re working on Chapter Eight in Volume 1, and Volume 2 is all squared away (though not yet online). Ryan’s keeping busily scanning in pages from an early edition of Williston Walker’s History of the Christian Church.

Late-Breaking Amen

I thought I wouldn’t add anything tonight, but as I was running through my last-call bookmarks, I noticed Jordon’s pointer to Mark Cuban on the music industry. I was explaining all this to Ryan the other day — the industry has chosen exactly the worst approach to the opportunity that the digital transition affords everyone, and at every turn they embed themselves more deeply in their failing business model. Pirates aren’t killing music; executives are.

Long Goodbye

I’ve had time and access today, but not the attention span to think of something worth saying. I couldn’t think of a clever way of acknowledging Frank’s prior art on photographing the Linnaeus statue; couldn’t think of a way to connect to Chris’s latest marvels; couldn’t think of anything to say about politics or digital identity or the Anglican Communion — all because I wake up tomorrow morning at 4AM to drive my wife and daughter to Midway Airport, where they’ll catch a plane to Manchester, NH, and I won’t see them again for six weeks or so. (Even then, I’ll only spend the weekend before my birthday with Margaret, after which I’ll take Pippa home with me from Durham.)

But here’s a link to the Hilary of Poitiers (#49) cards (it’s starting to get brutally difficult to find images of these characters!): Single PDFSix-Up PDFJPEG.

What I meant about cheering for Halley and BlogHer was this: I’ve taught for a longish time now, and over the years have taught mostly classes that comprised a roughly even mix of women and men, some classes wherein the population tilted markedly toward the men, and a very few courses that included a preponderance of women. For whatever reason, every one of the classes in the last category worked better than all but the rarest of the mixed and male-dominant classes.

One can attribute this to any sort of factor, especially given the small sample size. For the time being, I’m inclined to think that some combination of biology, social expectations, pedagogical style, learning interests, capacities, temperaments, and subject matter converged in a mixture of which gender made a big difference. When I hear that Halley had a great time at BlogHer, it reminds me of my teaching experience. As I accumulate more varied experiences, I’ll keep my eyes open for instances that vary or reverse my expectations.

Would an all-women conference necessarily go better than a mixed conference? No.
Would an all-women class necessarily go better than a mixed class? No.
Am I surprised to hear how well BlogHer went? No.
Do I think that the gender definition of the conference was irrelevant? No.

If I keep typing, maybe I won’t have to go to the airport. . . .

Open Window

I’ve been offline almost all day; someone at Adobe suspects someone at Seabury of running a BitTorrent file of Macromedia Studio, so our provider at Northwestern has shut down one block of ports — which included my office. I’m at home right now, changing clothes before going out for the evening with my beloved, in anticipation of her departure this week for parts east. If there’s time before or after, I’ll write a “hear, hear” to Halley’s recent acclamation of the BlogHer conference.

Either way, here’s another card:

50 First-Century Judaism, Single PDFSix-Up PDFJPEG

I have a queue that includes the Doctors of the Eastern Church, the Doctors of the Western Church, David, Augustine of Canterbury, Bridget, Patrick, Columba, Bede, Hilary of Poitiers, Eusebius of Nicomedia (not a really good reason for him, but I got most of the way into preparing the card, so I’ll just go ahead and export it), the first four ecumenical councils, Eutychianism and Apollinarianism.

Derek suggests adding Isidore (a gimme, since he’s Patron of the Internet, but also because he provides the name for the hero of one of my favorite Philip K. Dick novels, Confessions of a Crap Artist), Martin of Braga, and Caesarius of Arles, too; I’ll add ’em to the list, Derek, but they’ll have to wait their turn.

Now, I have to go put on some clean clothes for my date tonight. Woo, woo!

Bouquet of Delights

Yesterday afternoon and evening, the family rolled north to the Chicago Botanic Garden for a picnic dinner and photo opportunity stroll. Our visit started as we heard what we thought was a wedding-reception guitarist playing “Hey, Joe” (“where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?/I shot, I shot my old lady/Found her messin’ round with another man”), which greatly troubled Si and me, though we later discovered that the guitarist in question was just serenading diners at the Garden Cafe.

In the first garden we visited, we discovered a larger-than-lifesize statue of David Weinberger’s hero, Carolus Linnaeus (shown here plucking a rose blossom).

Carolus Linnaeus

We strolled through grove after garden after glen after nook, delighting in the spectacular expressions of life’s exuberant variety and unimaginable beauty. I’d never been to the Botanic Garden before, but it should stand at the very front of any array of Chicagoland destinations. We didn’t have time or energy to wander the entire grounds, but just the Japanese Garden, the English Walled Garden, the Heritage Garden, and the Rose Garden wore us out. Well, those and the Model Railroad Garden, where we saw a not-to-scale bunny rabbit intruding into the Main Street USA display.

Perhaps best of all, we came away with a nice picture of Si and Laura — and a splendid time was had by all, especially when we finished the evening off with Heath Bar Klondikes at home.

Si and Laura