Saturday, March 28, 2009

Thoughts afore Mexico

In other words... what's going through my head in the hours before my mother and I leave for Puerto Vallarta. We're leaving this afternoon to be on the plane this evening, and we'll be there in the wee hours tomorrow. Mom says that all we'll do is sleep on Sunday and then start out fresh on Monday. She's done this every year, so she should know the drill. Anyway, to keep me busy, I'm bringing my diary, a couple of books, and I was seriously thinking of bringing some scribbling. The books might not be enough during the quiet moments (and I intend to have plenty of those!) and my diary might not be enough writing to satisfy me. There's no chance of me bringing my laptop, so all I can do is bring a pad of paper and a few pencils and erasers. I've only got one project that I'm writing the rough of, so this would be all right. Still, I'm wondering if all this will be enough during the quiet moments.
As for the books I'm bringing, there are two. One is a biography of John Milton and the other is 'The Eustace diamonds' by Anthony Trollope. This book is unique among Trollope's works because of one singular character. The first time I read this, I thought this creature an insincere beast of a woman. The second time around, I still find her beastly, but it's Trollope's skill I'm coming to admire. The character is, of course, Lizzie (Lady Eustace). She has little genuine feeling about her, dwells only on money and what it can do for her little family, and really doesn't care what anyone else thinks. She can work herself into an insincere passion that almost seems to move mountains and can be dangerous when spited. I don't like her at all, but I don't think she's supposed to be liked. I doubt Trollope wanted her to be liked. She's neither liked nor respected, but one does have to admire Trollope's skill for creating her.
She still has the diamonds at this point, and I don't remember how the story ends, so I can't really spoil it for anyone. I think she gets away scot-free, but I don't know for sure. She isn't the hero of the story anyway (a villainess if there ever was one). I'm re-reading the Palliser series because 'Phineas redux' astounded me last year, and I believe in going through the other books again just to get to the one I really liked. I'm starting to wonder if I'm going to go through this again next year because of 'The Eustace diamonds'. That's all I have for the time being. I probably won't have anything new for a while because of PV. The Internet services are a little cheaper in Puerto Vallarta, but there's no sense tying up a computer just for the sake of my little blog.
So, until then, BYE.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

He's got very Jewish eyes...

...And he's looking at the Bible with'em! The gent I'm speaking about is John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop and wonderfully excellent thinker. For years, this man has been writing about the mess Christianity's gotten itself in and has been suggesting ways it can get itself out of this mess without dying out altogether. I first became acquainted with this man's writings when I read 'Why Christianity must change or die', a book that blew me out of the water. I think it was after I read this book that I chose Agnosticism and stopped going to church. To this day, 'Why Christianity must change or die' remains one of my most favourite books.
Spong has written many other books, and today I'm going to write about 'Liberating the Gospels', which is the book I'm reading currently. In addition to enjoying Spong's writing style, I am blown away by the novel theory he presents by 'looking at the Gospels with Jewish eyes' and thus freeing it from Christian clutches. After all, the Bible (the Old Testament especially) was written by a bunch of Jewish dudes centuries ago and is only the Bible because some wealthy figure put a bunch of books he liked and that fit his concept of Christianity and rushed this hodge-podge to Guttenberg. Given this stance, anybody with money and power could publish a bunch of stuff and call it a Bible. Hey, aren't people doing that now?
Moving on... Spong, inspired by a fellow named Goulder, has come up with a most novel take on the Gospels. If one looks at the four books against the Jewish background in which they were all conceived, one comes to see that the Gospels are not inerrant nor are they the literal truth (DUH!), but that they were created to teach and remind the new generations of Jewish folk on how they should conduct themselves in Judaism. The atmosphere after Jesus was pretty tense, and the Jews and Christians were just starting to go their separate ways. The writers of the Gospels (years after J.C. left the scene) were trying to placate several groups of faithful, and Spong, by placing key N.T. events in line with Torah readings and Jewish holidays shows not only what each Gospel writer was trying to say, but to which group he was addressing.
The skeptic in me is of course warning me not to fall instantly into this theory. I don't have enough of a background in Judaism and Talmudic studies to either accept or reject these concepts, but Spong has once again given me much to think about. I recommend at least having a gander at this book. To reiterate, the book is called 'Liberating the Gospels'. BYE.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

On the Literary Front #3

Wrapped up a day and a bit of Book Fair and spent the weekend recuperating from standing much more than is good for me. My ankle ached relentlessly from all the abuse and I had to wear a Tensor bandage all yesterday. Things are improved now, and I can actually walk without whimpering at every laboured step. This post is more about what I'm reading than what I'm writing, but it counts as literary in my book. I finished reading one version on Homer's 'Iliad' recently and I have a few things to meander through concerning this legended saga and its players. I didn't come across the Trojan Horse while I read, so I have to figure that it will come up elsewhere. Maybe in 'Aeneid', eh? I have a collection of works by Virgil warming up, and the 'Aeneid' is part of this collection. Anyway, I have another version of 'Iliad' waiting in the wings, which I will eventually pull out and read.
It's part of my plan to compare the two versions and see what difference and similarities come up. The first of the two I read was translated by a fellow by the name of Butler. It was set up in a prose format rather than a poetry format, which I found unusual. I enjoyed the story and characters, but it was the writing that I paid attention to. Well-written to say the least. Rich with details I don't recall from past readings, which I figure were added to flesh out the story. This is needed for prose compared to poetry, which does not always need many words to get its point across. This time I also paid closer attention to the characters. During past readings, I could rarely determine which heroes fought for which side. Were Aeneas and Achilles compatriots or something? They fought on opposite sides, to be honest with you. This was something I did not know. Now I'll probably never forget.
What really blew me away was Homer's treatment of the gods and goddesses. They prove to be as flawed as us foolish mortals, and this makes Them even worse than we are, in my considered opinion. Hera rooted for the Greeks, Aphrodite rooted for the Trojans, and Zeus had to play judge between the two warring factions. Reminds me of the gladiator games, where the wealthy figures had their favourites and bet big money on them. The gods and goddess of Olympus were just big shots playing with thousands of lives, which makes Them far worse than those wealthy figures of later years. Like pieces on a vast chessboard; or, to use a 20th century comparison, like warriors in a video game, battling for dominance in a pixellated universe. No wonder companies make video games, mining the myths and sagas for inspiration.
I'll be back before long, and maybe with more myths to discuss. BYE.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Meander much?

Contemplating my stuffed belly from brunch and looking forward to supper with Grandpa this evening. I'm going to be 29 on Thursday, which is nothing to sneeze at. Grandpa is going to be 89 this June, and I'm grateful for every second I share with him. Turning 20 was a hard run for me, but I have few qualms about being so close to 30. I suspect everyone has an age they dread. Most people it's 30 or 40, and I suspect some people dread turning 50 as well. For me, it was 20, but 30 has no fears for me. Maybe it's just how I was raised - my dad doesn't have an age he dreads. It's a good way to live, I think. Anyway, I'm going to be 29 and I really don't have any idea what I want for my birthday. The family on my mom's side (Grandpa is on my dad's side) passed along envelopes with mushy greetings and cheques or gift cards today. All but the gift card will end up in the bank.
If I had more nerve, I would suggest donating that money to WorldVision or to Siloam Mission (the homeless need a whole lot more than I do). I guess I would have to be the one to make the effort, and then the rest might join in. Our family got a Wii, and that's where much of my free time has gone lately. That and reading. After a ton of effort, I finally worked my way through a very dull and dry tome called 'Dante, poet of the desert' by Guiseppe Mazzotta. I don't expect to want to read that book again. Not a most exciting experience, and whole chunks of it were either in Latin or Italian. My French and Spanish barely helped me at all with the Italian. Very little discussed in this book sparked my imagination any. Mazzotta's exploration of the Aeneid and the Illiad (based on Dante's character meeting the fallen heroes in those sagas) seemed to go off on a tangent at times.
His discussion on the suicides in Purgatory got me thinking, and Cato's rationale for ending his life did spark some interest. I think I should look into this figure more. Then again, I know I haven't read 'Divine Comedy' in a VERY long time, and I'm definitely overdue to read it. Especially the 'Purgatorio' segment of the saga. Purgatory is a source of boundless wonder and curiosity. Is it strictly a Christian invention to placate people who are neither Hell nor Heaven-bound? A Christian version of Limbo? These make for questions that I think are worth answering. By the time I pop back in for another round of gibbering, my birthday will be over. Maybe I'll have some deep thoughts for you then. BYE.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Thoughts on 'Phineas Finn'

To be honest, the first time I read 'Phineas Finn' I wasn't totally overwhelmed by the experience. I preferred 'Phineas redux' (for reasons I have forgotten but will recall in the weeks to come) the first time I read it. However, I had the chance to take 'Phineas' up again and read it from cover to cover. Last time, the ton's worth of British politics turned me right off. It can't be helped, considering Finn's choice of career. Sometimes I wonder if some politicians consider politics a dalliance/waste of money. It certainly seemed like that in Victorian times. Those M.P.'s certainly weren't earning a whole lot of money. A shame they earn money sitting on their duffs these days, wasting everyone else's money. Okay, I take such a grim view of politics that it will be better to just get back to talking about the book.
'Phineas Finn' is a rather well rendered look at life for the upperclass Victorian. That's all Trollope seems to look at when casting his eye around him. It's why I sometimes prefer Dickens, although I confess that I haven't read Dickens for a long while. 'Phineas Finn' is the second book in the Palliser series, and I like the personal plot (I don't think you can really call it a sub-plot, as the title character has his professional life and his personal life, and the pair rarely mix) much more than the professional one. Finn's got his eye on a few ladies (3, but who's counting?) and chooses the Irish lass over the heavily monied widow after being turned down by two upperclass society ladies. Actually, one turns him down and then manoeuvers him away from the other, for reasons that probably wouldn't wash these days, although they make sense for the time.
Lady Laura is the more complex character (between her and Phineas, I mean). She turns him down because of money and steers him away from a wealthy young woman so this lass will go to her brother. Her brother's a jerk, by the way, and not really deserving of such compassion (he ain't heavy, at least he's not MY brother). I don't think Trollope wanted to punish her for dumping Finn, but making her marry Kennedy (the book's cold fish) would surely punish me should I be made to undergo that fate. Can you tell I don't want to get married, ever? Finn doesn't like Kennedy, but he does manage to save his life. Not something I would've done, but again, that's my take on the matter.
These are some of the thoughts I've had about this book. Well-written and worth a look, but don't look too long over the political parts. It'll put you to sleep. BYE.