Sifting Through the Rubble

We’ve done four or five loads of dishes, rearranged the furniture back to a condition approximating the pre-party alignment, and dropped my beloved bride off at the airport for her return to her homework and paper-grading. Happily, she’ll be back in less than three weeks.

I took Bruce’s advice this morning relative to my power management problem; I downloaded Coconut Battery tester for OS X 10.4 (Tiger), and it confirmed what System Profiler told me: the battery ain’t charging. I swapped in Si’s battery, and his didn’t charge either (we didn’t try my battery in his iBook). I was hopeful, since my battery shows 411 cycles — I thought my battery might be dying. Alas, that seems not to be the case.

Margaret was worried about the impression her lime rice might have given last night; it turns out that the garlic she pressed during her preparations turned a greenish blue when she used iot to season the rice. At the time, I figured it was just lime rind in the rice (which tasted fine); as it turns out, it was indeed the (startling, but quite harmless and delicious) garlic.

One More Thing

That which I couldn’t say earlier in the day is that tonight our family held its first-ever surprise party, to celebrate Pippa’s birthday (five days early, as Margaret has to leave tomorrow morning). A large passel of Pippa’s friends from seminary life gathered to surprise her, share our enchiladas (she didn’t guess, even from the superhuman quantity of enchiladas she and Margaret baked this afternoon), and play Bible Pictionary. A splendid time was had by all.

I couldn’t feel more pride and exhilaration at Pippa’s closeness to so many wonderful adult friends. She’s a gift.

Did I say that Margaret leaves tomorrow? The party gave us something to focus on other than the number of hours till she heads back to Durham; now that’s oppressively present to my awareness. She’s upstairs, quietly packing, now; I’m downstairs, pretending I don’t know what she’s up to.

Thank heavens she’ll be back in a couple of weeks.

For what am I thankful? So many answers; I hope no reader will be miffed if I state, first and most emphatically, that I thank God daily for the marvelous family that surrounds me. The odds disfavor anyone winding up with this provocatively splendid bunch, and I’m first in line to emphasize that I wasn’t a propitious candidate for “father of a marvelous nuclear family.” We’ve pulled together through a number of challenges despite my many weaknesses — we’ve shared our family life with a number of dear friends; we keep growing, closer and stronger. Through their affection and support, I can also give thanks for everyone around who offers generous encouragement and necessary criticism. I give thanks for the plenty that makes it possible for me to worry about finances in a general way, rather than the specific “getting by day to day” way, or the “can’t even worry about finances” way of miserable scarcity. I have a job that brings me into the lives of people, some of whom give up practically all their old lives, who turn to me for instruction, for guidance in perplexity, for spiritual support. And I have an avocation that entangles my prose and promises and prayers with the lived questions and affirmations of friends around the world. I thank God, and I thank you. Thank you.

Our Traditional Thanksgiving

This afternoon, we’ll celebrate our traditional Thanksgiving family meal. Margaret and Pippa have been making mountains of enchiladas, bean dip, and various other yummy vegetarian delights; we’ll have pie and ice cream for dessert; and in a couple of minutes, we’ll fire up the CD player and listen to Arlo Guthrie sing “Alice’s Restaurant.”

Alice's Restaurant

PIppa has been so caught up in the excitement that she drew a poster of Alice’s Restaurant, complete with red VW microbus and a restaurant separate from the church (since, after all, Alice didn’t live in the restaurant, but in the church nearby the restaurant) and a doghouse for Sasha the dog.

It would be great if Nate and Jennifer and Juliet could be here — and grandparents, and aunts — but Si and Laura will gather round the fire with Margaret and Pip and me, and we’ll eat till we can’t hold another tortilla.

Oh, and one more thing — but I can’t tell you that yet.

Giving Thanks. . . Tomorrow

It’s not that I didn’t have time to blog today. I did, this morning; but once the day started rolling, it was activities back to back. Late morning, I needed to drive the college boy to Laura’s house where he would celebrate Thanksgiving with them, today (Laura’s coming over to our house to celebrate with us tomorrow). When I got back from dropping him off, we walked down to the movie theater to catch Harry Potter on a less-crowded day (we thought). As it turns out, even with four or five screens showing Harry Potter, the theater was pretty crowded.

Once we got back from the movie, Pippa and I needed to go to the grocer to buy provisions for tomorrow’s banquet. That took a long-ish while. Then dinner. Then we watched King Kong, the original version.

That’s the day, friends. Capsule movie reviews? Goblet of Fire, excellent, though so much was cut from the book that non-book-readers must be bewildered by some developments (Pip and I took a long time explaining various elements to Margaret). I’ll have more to say about Harry Potter and Christian theology sometime.* Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (last night), excellent — though was Roald Dahl’s original quite so transparent to pop psychology and Michael Jackson? Johnny Depp, however, is an amazing actor, and I loved Helena Bonham Carter and Noah Taylor. King Kong 1933: Stagy and sometimes jerky, the power of the original vision shines through the hokiness. Hasn’t anyone learned not to shoot flash photographs at monsters, though? I thought that was Lesson One (or “Two,” after “Don’t twist your ankle.”).

* Yes, I know I’ve already promised to write more about romantic theology. Someday, I will fulfill each promise.

Retrospect and Prospect

I’m determined to do absolutely nothing productive today. I’m sitting in the dining room, blogging on my battery-impaired iBook, sipping coffee from my Baker Academic travel mug, wearing my Fortress Press 2005 World Tour t-shirt, and re-gathering my energies after an intense four-day Society of Biblical Literature meeting.

Incidentally, the conference totaled 10,002 registrants at last count, of which nearly half were members of the Society of Biblical Literature, the slightly larger half being members of the American Academy of Religion. The two societies will no longer meet in conjunction as of 2007, but for now we can expect five-digit attendance totals. After the Great Divorce, Margaret and I will have to decide which meetings who will attend, since she’s in systematic theology and I’m in biblical studies — though a number of Christian-theologically-identified scholars will likely be meeting in cooperation with the SBL. I’ve been enlisted to join a parallel body, and that probably won’t be the only one.

Placed In Signs

Anyway, it’s time to begin reworking the paper I read at Monday morning’s session of the “Christian Theology and the Bible” section. I’ll post its current state below; over the next few weeks, I’ll flesh out the bit about Johannine theology (left inchoate to keep the paper within time limits) and liturgy as signifying practice (left undeveloped because I didn’t have time to write out carefully what I wanted to say on the subject). When the paper is fully revised, I’ll submit it to journals for publication.

But wherever it ends up in periodical print, it will inevitably end up in print somewhere else, since one reason I’m wearing a Fortress Press t-shirt is that about this time last week, I received a contract from Fortress. They’re going to publish a collection of my essays, edited for continuity, sometimes next year. We’re haggling over the title. Fortress suggested “Faithful Subversion,” a phrase they say I used in one of the constituent essays; I prefer “Walk This Way,” which I use as the title of another of the essays (cast your vote below). Start saving your nickels now, and next year buy a couple of copies of a vital contribution to the debates over theology and biblical interpretation. . . .

I’ll try to get back to clean up the links and note styles later in the day; for now, I’m off to run errands with Pippa.
Continue reading “Retrospect and Prospect”


Home safely, exhausted. Unnerving cab ride in from O’Hare. Battery-charging still unresponsive; I’ll try switching out batteries to make sure the problem is with charging. Fuller stories tomrrow.

Transition, Transition

Yesterday morning I gave my presentation on exegesis, theology, and signifying practices. It went well, I think, and the combination of papers (Gary Anderson, Sarah Coakley, Matthew Levering, with a response by John Webster) made fora very rich session — ample demonstration that exegesis and theology need not be disciplinary antipodes, but can strengthen and deepen one another.

I finally tracked down a copy of the Catena Aurea — the Wipf and Stock team has reprinted it, God bless them — so I picked that up, along with a smattering of other books. Apart from the eight-volume Catena, though, I haven’t been as active as in years past. We’ll see how that holds up this morning as the book display closes.


Yesterday morning’s session (on Bible scholars who blog) went well, I think; a fairly small room but quite full, and Mark chaired the proceedings with his characteristic grace and élan. The papers went smoothly, and set the stage admirably for the subsequent discussion. Rick’s paper touched on some of the mark-up and information-architecture questions that interest me most, though I’m inclined to doubt that this current approach — which involves a fair amount of entering regularized well-formed metadata — will catch on with less information-intent bloggers. It’s not insignificant that Rick initially designed his personal metadata software to generate imprecise XML; if even he didn’t make the effort to distinguish [cite] from [i] from [em], it’s hard to imagine that less committed bloggers would keep their biblical references consistent, or would fill out the bibliographic metadata for every book they mention. Certainly we have many colleagues who, if they were inclined at all to blog,would give it up in an instant if it involved entering copious tags, keywords, precise identifications of biblical passages, and so on. I think that Flickr and hit the right trajectory by generating a space for user-oriented metadata, such that if I see something on Rick’s blog that interests me enough to want to retrieve it or categorize it, I can supply the metadata that facilitates such indexing. At the same time, it would be handy if that capacity were integrated to blogging software itself (as it’s integral to Flickr’s photo-sharing software), so that tagging a post were as easy as tagging a Flickr photo.

Peter (I think?) raised the very pertinent question of gender; a panel of seven or eight biblical bloggers included only men. Sadly Helenann couldn’t come, and people such as Dylan (who’s also not here) and Mary (whom I haven’t seen here) blog about the Bible, but with more of a view toward homiletics. (Casual readers: it would be hard to overstate the interdisciplinary condescension with which conventional biblical scholars use the term “homiletical”; it frequently sounds as though the word would mean something such as “written in crayon” or “words of one syllable only.”) To the extent that Dylan and Mary don’t enter and link to the arguments that interest people such as Mark or Jim (to concentrate on the A-list biblical bloggers), it’s understandable that they not show up on their radar; that’s not strictly a gender problem, but a social-definition-of-disciplines problem intertwined with a gender problem (and that entwinement isn’t merely coincidental). At the same time, as I said at the session, I suspect that the greater barrier to women’s participation in Blogarian citizenship has to do with the historic pattern of risks and vulnerabilities that academia tends to impose disproportionately on women (and people of color — the panel was all-white, too, not that that would be as surprising in either the biblical academy or online discourse) (very sadly, and again not innocuously).

All of this is not by any means to say, “Buck up, look on the bright side” or “No, no, it’s not a problem, stop being so sensitive”; it is a problem, but I want to concentrate my attention on the points d’appui where this problem (and a variety of related problems) put down their roots — rather than only generating heat for the panel organizer.

And I didn’t know about Yasmin’s blogging (indeed, there are increasing numbers of biblical bloggers whom I don’t know, which is destined to be the case, further aggravating the “old bloggers network” effect).

Now I must get dressed to prepare for this morning’s paper on theological interpretation of Scripture and (of course) signifying practices (honest, I’ll give it a rest once this series of talks is through). More anon.