The Hereditary Grand Falconer-Delfico

The  Hereditary Grand Falconer-Delfico
The Model for the Maitre d'Armes

Thursday, January 22, 2015

In Memoriam, Marcus Borg

I am very sorry to read that Marcus Borg has died:
Borg, a prominent liberal theologian and Bible scholar who for a generation helped popularize the intense debates about the historical Jesus and the veracity and meaning of the New Testament, died on Wednesday (Jan. 21). He was 72 and had been suffering from pulmonary fibrosis.

Borg emerged in the 1980s just as academics and theologians were bringing new energy to the so-called “quest for the historical Jesus,” the centuries-old effort to disentangle fact from myth in the Gospels.

Alongside scholars such as John Dominic Crossan, Borg was a leader in the Jesus Seminar, which brought a skeptical eye to the Scriptures and in particular to supernatural claims about Jesus’ miracles and his resurrection from the dead.

Like other scholars, Borg tended to view Jesus as a Jewish prophet and teacher who was a product of the religious ferment of first-century Judaism.

But while Borg questioned the Bible, he never lost his passion for the spiritual life or his faith in God as “real and a mystery,” as he put it in his 2014 memoir, “Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most,” the last of more than 20 books he wrote.
In my time co-leading a book group at St Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan. we read several books by Borg. He was a true scholar who followed his inner light and the evidence wherever it led him.

But he was not dogmatic, or exclusionary about his views. In fact, my favorite book by Borg was one he co-wrote with N.T. Wright, the traditionalist scholar-bishop. In that book, The MEaning of of Jesus: Two Visions, Borg and Wright each presented their views on the key questions of the historical truth and the theological ramifications of Jesus. They did so with charity, with friendship, and, to use a phrase beloved of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, disagreed well. Their arguments gave off light, not heat.

Indeed, I would never have read Wright but for the book, and there were certain areas where the conservative persuaded me as against the liberal, whom I had bought the book to root for. Marcus Borg--and N.T. Wright, let it be said--modeled a higher form of discussion for me in that work. If he had written nothing else, he would have changed my life, at least, there. The less argumentative tone of this blog in recent years is in part a reflection of my admiration for what they did in that book, and a desire to emulate that willingness to hear the other view, and learn from it.

As a historian, Borg was a member of the Jesus Seminar, which has contributed much to our understanding of Jesus's life and times. I say this, by the bye, as one who is not 100% onboard with all of their results. I am more aligned with Charles Gore and John P. Meier. But Borg, like the great John Dominic Crossan, has challenged me, enriched my knowledge and understanding, opened my mind, and, ultimately, deepened my faith.

May light perpetual shine upon him.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Who Will Walk Through the Mirror Door?

This song from the Who's 2006 album Endless Wire (which doesn't get enough love, by the way; see David Fricke's perceptive review) gets something about the creative process, as far as I can see.

There's an unpredictability, and a vulnerability, when you--ok, when I--undertake something creative. I don't know what's coming out. Oh, I have a vague plan, some bullet points, I admit--but something takes over; a typo leads to a whole new digression, a prior character changes from his planned arc, an unplanned character announces her arrival.

The mind and spirit are effervescent, I follow, as bemused any future reader will ever be.

And, like the Who in "Mirror Door," I find myself invoking my specters--my predecessors in writing, my teachers, even though I have only met them from their books.

They enter through my own mirror door….

Tony Trollope, RFD;
Powell, A and Snow, CP;
GBS and Mark Twain;
Saki bearing extra dry champagne.

Simon Raven, still unhailed;
Oscar Wilde, who thought he'd failed;
Thomas Hardy, Galsworthy, J;
Alex Dumas, Bronte,A;
Jane Austen by no means least,
Make room for TH White at the feast.
AS Byatt and Barbara Pym,
Conan Doyle and Newman, Kim.

There are legions more, of course, but I'm no Townshend. It's just that his song gets across the strange solitary intimacy of writing better than anything else I've ever read.

But enough--time to start the next chapter...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Thick of It All

I have just binge-watched the entirety of The Thick of It, and have found it to be greatly amusing. It's a trenchant, brilliantly acted, and clever satire--a darker Yes, Minister. The show's greatest fame comes from the scabrous, intimidating, Malcolm Tucker, the "Iago with a Blackberry" who raised obscenity to an art form.

Peter Capaldi was outstanding in the part, and the occasional grace notes--Tucker's consistent kindness to working class people, his secretary, his apparently sincere ideological devotion to his party, and his sincere, shocked remorse when he punched a colleague--only hinted at a more complicated person beneath the persona. Tucker ran off with the show, leading Capaldi to do a self-spoof, in which Malcolm "Tuckered" GQ magazine for its Christmas 2012 issue.

[Warning: Obscene. No, really. Told ya.]

But Conservative minister Peter Mannion had his moments, too:

They are surrounded with assorted imbeciles, time-servers, and connivers whose greed is only limited by their incompetence.

The Thick of It is a cynical show, with much to be cynical about, about the state of British politics. Mannion's world-weariness, or Tucker's flame-thrower antics are, all too often, the only choices on offer. It's a less optimistic show than the rather gentle Yes, Minister, for a less optimistic world. Ultimately, the show rejects both Mannion and Tucker, but doesn't hold out any really positive role models. Like Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now, The Thick of It provides only a diagnosis; cure is left to us.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Another Review for Phineas at Bay

Novelist Tyler R. Tichelaar, has posted a review of Phineas at Bay, in which hewrites:
"Phineas at Bay" is an intriguing sequel to Trollope's Phineas novels and indeed to the entire Trollopian world.

The Phineas novels are not among my favorites by Trollope, but Wirenius introduces so many of Trollope's characters from not only the Palliser novels but also the Barchester series, The Way We Live Now, Orley Farm, etc. that it's a treat just to try to pick them all out and try to remember which ones are Trollope's, separating them from the few new ones Wirenius invents. Major characters include Plantagenet Palliser, Madame Max, Lizzie Eustace, Lady Laura, and Samuel Grantly, among many others.

I also found Phineas more likeable and appealing in this book than previously. He seems more focused in his legal and political efforts and a bit more mature. The novel is set in the 1890s and many historical and literary references are made that are fun to pick out as well.

I did feel the characters needed more development in terms of their internal worlds - I never felt the absolute misery that Trollope can sometimes show us in his characters' heads, but I was delighted by many of the characters and the plot twists. Best of all, I loved the ending. I think it is exactly how Trollope would have left Phineas had he written one more novel about him.

If you love Trollope and enjoy sequels to the classics--this is one of the best--you'll enjoy this book. If only Trollope had written it or a few zombies or vampires had been thrown in, I'd give it 5 instead of 4 stars.
Well, I am not, alas, Trollope, and the zombies are reserved for the sequel--but in all seriousness, having a professional's praise is very meaningful. Tyler participated in the discussion of Phineas at Bay on the Trollope and his Contemporaries reading group, and one of the great pleasures of the group is getting to know him and my fellow Trollopeans by discussing novels of "the long 19th Century" together.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

No, I am Not Charlie, Nor Was Meant to Be...But I do support its Right to Free Speech

Today's rallies against terror in Paris are important, but. as Bernard Holtrop, a cartoonist from the staff of "Charlie Hebdo" points out, it doesn't help matters to identify with the magazine if it isn't something you really don't know:
The Dutch-born, Paris-based cartoonist explained that the shocking magazine has unexpected “new friends” following the Wednesday massacre that killed a third of its staff: the pope, Queen Elizabeth and Russian President Vladimir Putin have all praised the magazine.

“It really makes me laugh," Holtrop told the newspaper, according to a translation by AFP. "A few years ago, thousands of people took to the streets in Pakistan to demonstrate against Charlie Hebdo. They didn't know what it was. Now it's the opposite."

He added: “But if people are protesting to defend freedom of speech, naturally that's a good thing."
I don't know the content of Charlie Hebdo. Maybe I'd love it, maybe I'd hate it.

It doesn't matter.

Those who would silence speech with violence are the enemies of civilization.

A free press is the sine qua non for a real democratic-republican form of government. If criticism, even deeply unpleasant, angry, scalding criticism, can't be aired, then we are not free.

And that's when the government is doing the silencing. If self-appointed vigilantes are doing the silencing--the point is even more important. Because that means civil society is going, let alone democratic-republican society.

Standing up for free speech is critical--but it has to apply not just to speech we favor, but speech we abhor.

A Pome, From Life

Crying baby on the train,
Will no one rid me of the pain?
Gurgles, wonders, blows a fart,
Then howls to tear a mother's heart.

The poor sod in the seat behind
Struggles to keep her out of mind.
Vexation seems a bit too strong
And yet this din goes on too long.

We all were once so small and wee,
and no doubt reeked of stale nappie,
And so we must forbear to curse,
and confine our reveries to verse.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Another Review for "Phineas at Bay"

Ooh, I like this...
Politics. Sex,Scandal and a Trial: What more could you ask in a book?,

I loved this book for all the wrong reasons. Not merely as a continuation of the Palliser series of which i have read one and a half: not all. I love a good trashy novel with historical facts and a civics lesson on what it costs to live in a democracy.WORK!
I am more a Jackie Collins fan than an Anthony Trollope fan and this book has the best of both those worlds. Phineas at Bay is fast paced yet requires a dictionary. It had a good trial with a surprise witness and lots of suspense and some bloody combat. it had costumes, scenery, travel, Americans who were not stupid, lots of passionate relationships , it paid tribute to the lost art of flirting and its importance to human relationships of all ages!. And women are allowed even encouraged to age and still be sexy and loving. You don't see that everyday or even any day. These days.These are the reasons I loved this book.
If you are lucky enough to have day in bed reading and you're smart and unpretentious enough to choose a fun read that you just might learn something from you won't be sorry to choose Phineas at Bay
You don't have to be a Trollopean to Phineas at Bay; no prior knowledge required!