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The Joy of Amazon Part II

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 10:20 PM

It is funny that David asked me if I buy used books in response to my last post on shopping at Amazon. As it turns out, I put my first used book order in to Amazon last night. Having been told about the St. Hereticus satires, of which I just quoted, by a friend of mine, I checked them out on Amazon, only to find book one and two selling for between $.79 and $2.50 for good condition used copies (the books are out of print). So, I ordered them — my first used book purchases over the Internet. I'll post how it turns out.

I have the twisted sense of humor that enjoys things like the Tillich satire I posted yesterday, so this should be a handy “reference” to have. Sometimes after reading the real works, it is nice to get a chuckle at the theologians expense. I never know when I could use a little humor to spice up something I am writing…

The Joy of Amazon

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:26 AM

There's nothing quite like the joy of getting a new book from Amazon. The package appears in the mailbox and you know there is a whole wealth of new information just waiting to be read. I received a new book I am looking forward to reading today: Karl Barth's Dogmatics in Outline. I don't know when I'll find time, but it seemed like a better place to start on Barth than the volumous Church Dogmatics.

Presently I only have second hand knowledge of Barth, and I hope this book will give me a better understanding of this theologian's views. He seems to have some good ideas, we'll see how it all fits together.

In other book news, I received Sigmund Freud's Future of Illusion in the mail last Thursday. I haven't had time to start it yet, but need to do so rather snappily, since that one is not reading for pleasure but rather assignment. While I know I will disagree with Freud, it will still be nice to finally have read a primary Freudian text instead of (again) depending on second hand knowledge.

No Post Tonight

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:03 AM

I was going to post something good tonight, but I got wrapped up in reading the Da Vinci Code. I've been wanting to read it for some time, and was given a copy of it for Christmas, but just finally found time to start reading it earlier this week.

Now excuse me, I must see what happens with the cryptex they just found…

Road Map

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 11:47 PM

Ok, so here's the deal. I'm (re)learning Koine Greek. So far, I'm making progress on parts that stumped me previously. I've also spent a good amount of time refreshing myself on stuff I already knew at sometime in the past but no longer could recall in a productive fashion. I wasn't sure if taking 3 out of the 15 hours of my semester schedule and dedicating it to a course that fulfills absolutely no requirements was a good idea, but now that I'm in the midst of it, I think it was a good choice.

The interesting thing is that the instructor taught himself Latin last year so that he could teach that as well. Apparently, he says it is relatively easy to learn Latin once you get use to Greek. Ideally, I will be good to go with Greek by the end of the semester — not a Greek whiz, but with enough knowledge to work my way through it. Where to go from there is the question, but the professor's remarks about Latin have me intrigued.

I'm thinking about trying to see if I could teach myself Latin later this year. If I could do that, presumably, it would make it easier to reach a practical goal: to learn Spanish. In the future it will be a necessity to know Spanish around here (see my previous post on that, here), so I need to quit talking and accomplish something about that soon. This might help and allow me to pick up one of the nicest sounding languages ever to be created along the way.

You're A Poet, You Know It!

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:39 AM

How many of you have tried Haiku before? Given that I seem to be on a poetry streak at the moment, for some reason, I was thinking, wouldn't it be fun if each of you would contribute one Haiku of whatever strikes you at the moment of composition (Haiku, after all, being about the moment). As a grouping, it could be quite fascinating.

Want to give it a try? It's simple, really. First, it doesn't have to rhyme. Second, it does not have to follow a certain meter. Those two things make Haiku some of the easiest poetry to write, from a technical standpoint. What's hard is fitting a whole moment in its confining size. In particular, a Haiku should be composed of three lines, the first being five syllables long, the second seven, and the third five again. This 5-7-5 pattern can be a bit difficult, but fun to try.

Poesy in Haiku
Can be fun and amusing,
And soon fill comments.

Adding More Personality

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:38 AM

I'm a technical writer and I always have been. That's OK for a lot of tasks (it may even be good), but I've come to see the limitations of my sometimes dry style. While I doubt I can ever reach the great colloquial tone of someone like C.S. Lewis, I should like to make my writing “friendlier.” It is one thing if you can follow the rules and make something proper (something I'm careless to do here on asisaid at times). It is entirely another if you can make people want to read what you write.

Part of accomplishing this is writing stuff that isn't so technical in nature. Spending time writing on this blog helps. Writing the fiction that I have sitting on my hard disk helps. Writing poetry helps. But I still need to iron things out a bit.

The point of this entry? I don't think there is one. Just an observation I felt like making.

Monday Brunch: I'm Booked

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:37 AM

I borrowed this from Christopher (again).

1) Do you use bookmarks?
Almost always. It's usually an envelope or some other piece of material that happens to be available. If I plan to mark out a lot of pages in a book, I might take a piece of scratch paper and tear it into strips instead.

2) What is your favorite book?
That is a very tough question, I must, like Christopher, categorize. Sheesh! I think I am going to interpret the term “book” somewhat loosely. Perhaps Aeschylus' Orestia or Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy for drama. For the lighter side of things, Voltaire's Candide. For non-fiction, perhaps C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity or Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson.

3) Who is your favorite author?
I'm not sure if I have just one. Let's make it easier by saying it must be someone who live in the last one hundred years. Alright then, I'll say C.S. Lewis.

4) What is the movie you feel is the most authentic version of a book?
Most of the books I've read haven't been made into screen plays or I have failed to watch the movies if they had, so I don't know.

5) Is there a book you wish they would make into a movie and why?
The Orestia or an approximation of it, would make an amazing movie. Candide would be good too.

Have some late brunch in the comments.

MacLeish: The Lost Poet

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:02 AM

It seems deeply troubling — to say the least — that a poet like Archibald MacLeish is fading into the shadows of history. While 50 years ago he was nearing equality with Robert Frost, almost no one talks about MacLeish today. The “Ars Poetica” (see the present asisaid quote above) poet was so much more and yet few of his interesting works are readily available. Tonight, for example, I went on Google hoping to find two poems from Frescoes for Mr. Rockefeller's City, a witty critique of the excesses of capitalism and the failings of socialism put together… how often can you find both of those together? Searching on the web, you won't even find MacLeish's combination: at least as far as I can tell, it is not any place that Google has indexed.

I need to stop by Amazon and order the complete (or at least, near complete) collection of MacLeish's poems — it is only twelve bucks. But it is a shame that ordering such a collection is the only way people today can see some of these marvelous poems, political and otherwise.

In honor this is excellent “lost” poet, I encourage you to enjoy these two poems, his most famous:
  • Ars Poetica
  • You, Andrew Marvell (it helps on this one if you've read Marvell's To His Coy Mistress recently). Note the emphasis on time's “winged chariot” in Marvell's poem, then note exactly what the traveller in MacLeish's poem is doing. Masterful!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy. I'll see if I can locate some of my more obscure favorites online and post link(s) to them.

English on the Edge?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:54 AM

Imagine if fifty or a hundred years from now those living in your hometown spoke a tongue alien to yours. It is, in my estimation, something extremely possible in the United States.

I think back to the language my distant ancestors must have spoken. Anglo-Saxon is as alien to me as perhaps American might be someday. It is not until well after the Norman invasion that the dialect of well connected London (which was absorbing the Normans' Latin-based French) that things start to be readable. For instance, I can understand:
Whan that aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of march hath perced to
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour…
You Know the Source, Don't ya?
But I cannot process this nearly as easily, although I can assemble the meaning, despite it being written approximately the same time:
SIÞEN þe sege and þe assaut watz sesed at Troye, Þe bor brittened and brent to bronde and askez,
Þe tulk þat þe trammes of tresoun þer wrot
Watz tried for his tricherie, þe trewest on erthe….
10 Points to the Person who knows what this is.

While I'm taking the long way around here, it is all aimed at a simple point: presently, we have a massive immigration into this country from Mexico. Unlike the Anglo-Saxons, we are not being “invaded,” but we are having a major influx of people who speak a Latinate language come into this country. These days, it isn't unusual to be walking around a store and hear people some speaking Spanish rather than English.

I suspect it will soon be hard to do business without knowing some Spanish (something I really should learn one of these days). Eventually, one of two things could happen: (1) Spanish could supersede English completely or at least among the lower and lower-middle classes; or (2) we could end up with a hybrid language. I tend to think the latter is the most likely, considering that English speakers who learn Spanish for the sake of communicating with the increasingly large non-English speaking minority would take English syntax and phrases with them and mix them in common dialogue.

This could be a good thing, considering that English has been rather stagnate in the last 500 years compared to the 500 prior to that, although as a whole I think it is a sad scenario to consider (with no offense intended to my Spanish speaking friends). English is — I admit bias here — beautiful partially because of its simple, mostly inflection free system of grammar. It is something different. It is not, by any means, the most technically elegant language, but none the less, it serves its purpose well. It is odd to think that someday not that far from now people might have trouble reading this message, much less any of the classical English works.

Is the US alone in this? No, not at all. Consider the massive immigration of Muslims to Europe. At the rate it is going, the day is not far away when the continent, and likely the UK as well, will have more Middle Eastern Muslims (the majority of which would probably prefer their native Semetic and Iranian languages over the Romantic and Germanic ones) than Europeans. I'll lay off on bets as to the longevity of languages in Europe, but I tend to think we are on the cusp of a massive change.

Alas poor English, I knew it, Horatio.

Classic Humor

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:58 AM

This gives me a smile each time I read it — particularly the closing couplet.

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show, That she (dear She) might take some pleasure of my pain:
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain;
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe,
Studying inventions fine, her wits to entertain:
Oft turning others' leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sun-burned brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting Invention's stay,
Invention, Nature's child, fled step-dame Study's blows,
And others' feet still seemed but strangers in my way.
Thus, great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite—
“Fool,” said my Muse to me, “look in thy heart and write.”

— Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophel and Stella, I

Why the poetry tonight? Well, I'm working on an end of semester poetry project, albeit not dealing with our friend Sidney (although I'll consider my work perfected if I manage to fit in at least one reference to his Defense of Poesy where it is actually meaningful). My poet vicit… errr… subject is Archibald MacLeish — another likable poet. As I'm writing this, I'm staring at a big stack of books by and about MacLeish that have made their way here from across the state through the MOBIUS interlibrary loan system. Sounds like a good weekend project, eh?

Bush Promotes Him Again: I need to do a post on Alberto Gonzales as well. I can't really find much of a record (it seems he doesn't have a huge public record), but he looks like a strict constructionist, as far as I can tell. He also sounds like he might be a bit less of a lightening rod than Attorney General Ashcroft. Certainly, I think the president will retain more political capital with this choice than if he had found an Ashcroft, Jr. Ed, I think, is right though — the AG's seat does turn people into monsters… maybe more frequent turnover would be a good idea.

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