Summer reading program

I had been slogging through Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War, and made it to the last half of War and Remembrance. It’s good (The Caine Mutiny is better), but it’s too long. I’ve put it aside for now in favor of Anthony Esolen’s translation of Dante’s Paradise. The introduction is excellent; the original is on the facing pages; the footnotes are helpfully arranged with some on the page and some in the back; there are five appendices, and Dore’s illustrations. The translation I’m familiar with is Allen Mandelbaum’s. I’m no critic, but maybe Esolen’s verse is more accessible, and Mandelbaum’s more poetic.

Mandelbaum:

The glory of the One who moves all things
permeates the universe and glows
in one part more and in another less.
  I was within the heaven that receives
more of His light; and I saw things that he
who from that height descends, forgets or can
  not speak; for nearing its desired end,
our intellect sinks into an abyss
so deep that memory fails to follow it.
  Nevertheless, as much as I, within
my mind, could treasure of the holy kingdom
shall now become the matter of my song.

Esolen:

The glory of the One who moves all things
  penetrates the universe with light,
  more radiant in one part and elsewhere less:
I have been in that heaven He makes most bright,
  and seen things neither mind can hold nor tongue
  utter, when one descends from such great height,
For as we near the One for whom we long,
  our intellects so plunge into the deep,
  memory cannot follow where we go. 
Nevertheless what small part I can keep
  of that holy kingdom treasured in my heart
  will now become the matter of my song.

Otherwise, while I’m in the car there’s The Adventures of Gerard, by Arthur Conan Doyle. The audiobook is from Librivox. It’s light stuff, but beats both NPR and contemporary music. On the nightstand is Mean Dads for a Better America, by Tom Shillue. These are funny stories about growing up in Boston in the 70s, and they are pretty funny.

UPDATE 10 July 2017: Jerusalem Delivered

People differ

“In my Travels, as I walked through many Regions and Countries, it was my chance to happen into that famous Continent of universe; a very large and spacious Country it is…

“The people are not all of one complexion, nor yet of one Language, mode, or way of Religion; but differ as much as (’tis said) do the Planets themselves. Some are right, and some are wrong, even as it happeneth to be in lesser Regions.” — The Holy War, by John Bunyan, 1682

The people differ – well, sure. But “Some are right, and some are wrong?” Isn’t that hate speech?

Home

“Home is where, when you go there and tell people to get out, they have to leave.” — Skin Game, by Jim Butcher

An aesthetic conflict

In Neal Stephenson’s novel Reamde, there’s an MMORPG called T’Rain. There are quests and adventures within a foundational narrative of standard D&D good and evil. Players can customize their character’s appearance, and a hack lets them use whatever colors they want instead of the colors chosen by the designers. Some people keep the default muted browns and greens, while others dress their dark-elf warrior-mage in, for instance, acid yellow chaps, fluorescent green dinner jacket, and red panama hat. There’s a strong element of social class in who chooses bright colors and who chooses earth-tone colors.

In a secondary story line, war arises between the “forces of brightness” and the “earth-tone coalition.” Though it has no basis in the game’s narrative, this conflict over-rides the good vs. evil back-story. Brightly dressed orcs and brightly dressed elves join forces to attack characters dressed in earth tones, even ambushing players in their own raiding party.

The current presidential campaign may be about aesthetics more than policy. It’s probably not really the case that everything the candidates say is a lie, but certainly what they say has nothing at all to do with what will happen if they’re elected. Once every voter knows that, what’s left? Who tells the lie I like best, who is most electable, who do I least want to see and hear for the next four years.

Trump is wearing a shiny suit and florescent orange sombrero, Sanders a yellow argyle sweater-vest and fire-engine red Tyrolean, and Clinton a dark pant suit and a black hat with a wide brim and conical crown.

Anyway, Reamde is an excellent action adventure novel with engaging characters and an ingenious plot. It’s way more entertaining than the current election cycle.

Random Updates

The upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 went okay. It took a minute or two to go though “custom” settings and select more sensible options than “express” offers. The only thing so far is the mouse pointer often goes into its “working” blue-circle state, and it’s even more pesky and intrusive than 8.1; just now it was bugging me about logging onto their X-box scheme so I could play solitaire. On my other machine I have Lubuntu, which has been trouble-free.

I’ve been using SpiderOak in preference to Dropbox for a while now. It works well and has better privacy features, though it is a bit slower. They say everything is encrypted, but I don’t think all of the source code is available for audit and review. They also have a password manager, Encryptr, but I’ll stay with Keepass for now.

Finished Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. It’s solid hard science fiction, mostly excellent, but I kept thinking to myself, “five thousand years is a long time.” I have no complaints about the physics or biology, but the anthropology and sociology strained my capacity to believe.

This gingerbread was not hard to make, and came out well.

The exercise program for the summer has mostly been swimming laps, lifting weights, and mowing the yard every four or five days. Last winter I hit a heavy bag once or twice a week. It’s a good cardio and strength workout, but too hard on my hands to do year round.

Bees have built a nest out back, in the underground remains of a tree stump. They haven’t caused any trouble except when I have unknowingly run the mower over them. I’d rather not exterminate them if there’s a way to live with them.

Doc Rampage has a thought-provoking post up about anti-Christian religion, Science and the post-Christian trinity. Lately I’ve been going the Baptist church, with occasional visits to the Episcopal church. This suggests some incoherence in my understanding of theology. Maybe next week I’ll see what the Methodists are up to.

Here’s something to think about: Look at the schools, the federal government, the mainline churches, the news, the movies: except for the UN, have liberals made every institution what they said it was in 1968?

Teaching Shakespeare

David Warren’s teacher meant well. Fortunately, she was too late:

“…by that point in my life (age fourteen) I was already a Shakespeare votary, and no high school teacher could kill my enthusiasm for him, much as she might (unwittingly) kill it in everyone else, by making a drudgery of the subject. The basic clew was missing among the pedagogues, as it still is: that this subject teaches itself. It needs only a stage, only to be pronounced, for the “music” in verse and prose to begin explaining all the words.”

This must be a common experience.

The Annals Say

The Annals Say

The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.

The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,

A crewman shimmied and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
‘This man can’t bear our life here and will drown,’

The abbot said, ‘unless we help him.’ So
They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back
Out of the marvellous as he had known it.

— Seamus Heaney, seen here.

Readings from the Fathers

You know what I’d buy?* One of those little devotional tract books like The Upper Room or Forward Day by Day, but with selections from the Fathers instead of J. Random Christian’s thought for the day. Now usually J. Random Christian has something good and important to say, but so do Athanasius, Gregory, and Augustine. Those guys have a thing or two to tell us. Maybe I’m projecting my own ignorance and laziness, but they seem to be overlooked by most people, and it’s difficult to sit down and read Saint Augistine. If it were just three or four hundred words, well chosen by a Chrsitan scholar who knew the material, I think I could read more of the Fathers and get a lot out of it.

*When I say “buy” I mean “pick up from a table in the narthex if the sign says they’re free.”

Crazy

“D’you know, I’ll tell you something I’ve been thinking all these last few days. I don’t believe I really am mad at all. It’s only at home I feel so different from everyone else. Of course I don’t know much…I’ve been thinking, d’you think it can be grandfather and the aunts who are mad, all the time?” — A House of Gentlefolks, by Evelyn Waugh