At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Went to a ceremonial cattle drive and parade which traveled a few blocks through downtown this morning. Not real exciting, which lent all the more motivation for the trip planning I did in the afternoon. My brother and I have finalized our European itinerary. We'll basically be tracing a parallelogram whose corners are Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, and Prague. I hope this isn't too rushed, like our exausting Alabama-Quebec nine-day road trip last year. Beer will be a prominent attraction; besides Oktoberfest in Munich, we also plan to tour the famous brewery in Plzeň, Czech Republic. Our favorite vacation game, "Spot the German," will be somewhat meaningless though.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Kloppenborg Verbin, John. Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel. Fortress, $32.00.

Journal of Religion: “Excavating Q is a welcome monograph, covering every major aspect of the history of this early Christian document that can be ‘excavated’ from Matthew and Luke. This outstanding book is not only a major contribution to New Testament exegesis but also helps to understand the undercurrents of research, which makes it very important indeed.—Marco Frenschkowski, University of Duisburg.”

Theological Studies: “I predict that this volume, the fruit of more than 20 years of research and reflection, will stand as the benchmark study from which new students of the Gospels will begin their study of Q…[W]hat is fresh and inviting is K.V.’s declared intent to state not only what we can know of Q but ‘the difference it makes.’…The scholarship and documentation are a tour de force.—Julian Hills, Marquette Univ.”

Catholic Biblical Studies: “an undertaking that more than justifies itself for the breadth of its argument and the thoroughness of its analysis…the book becomes a primer on critical method and Christian origins…presented with thoroughness and clarity…K.’s objective…is so carefully stated and so overwhelmingly demonstrated that the book succeeds in forging both a history and an evaluation of Q scholarship that no book before it has achieved…models civility, dispassionate scholarship, and the measured claims for its subject that are so often lacking both in Q scholarship and in biblical and theological studies generally…This book will deservedly serve as the field map for a long time to come.—Daniel Goodman, Palm Beach Atlantic College.”

Journal of Biblical Literature: “Kloppenborg Verbin’s insightful and incisive review of this literature is itself a valuable contribution…Kloppenborg Verbin’s careful and judicious treatment of evidence or the social location of Q is a welcome contribution…This is an outstanding book, well written and carefully researched…Anyone who would talk about Q must reckon with this book. Its heft, in several senses of that word, means that it will be useful mainly to advanced students of the Gospels and to scholars, though diligent and informed lay persons could profit greatly from reading it.—Arland D. Jacobson, Concordia College.”

Christian Century: “K.V.’s sustained effort to achieve clarity should please researchers, for whom his book is meant.”

Expository Times: “K. puts up a good case for the existence of Q and for its basic genre as ‘instruction.’ The attempt to identify phases of editing is bound to be more conjectural…Where K. seems most speculative is in his attempt to define the social identity of the ‘Q people.’ The postulated document is simply too short to enable the kind of social profile he attempts, which leads to grasping at straws….I cannot help feeling that the postulated ‘theology’ of Q, with its lack of soteriological content, is impoverished, compared even with Mark’s…A major contribution to Q scholarship which merits close attention by Synoptic specialists and experts in Christian origins. Though detailed and in places heavy-going, it will also be found invaluable by conscientious students seeking to understand the concept of ‘Q’.—The Revd. Canon Dr Ruth Edwards, Aberdeen.”

Interpretation: “Readers will need substantial curiosity about Q in order to sustain interest through this lengthy work. Excavating Q is a combination of introductory, background information for non-specialists in Q studies, and technical analysis that seems directed toward Q scholars. It vacillates between basic explanations for beginners and material that presupposes considerable background in the subject matter. On the positive side, the book makes available a wealth of information generated by the International Q Project.—Michael Cosby, Messiah College.”

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Movie Blurbs

Dirty Pretty Things--Okwe, a fugitive from Lagos working illicitly at a London hotel desk, uncovers a gruesome scheme by which his Spaniard boss "Sneaky Juan" uses the plight of illegal immigrants to his advantage. I appreciated the social commentary underlying the plot, but the cast of characters struck me as unrealistically multi-ethnic--the only white-bread home-grown Britons we see are a couple of pharmacists who get about 15 seconds of screen time, and even the bad-guy immigration cops look imported. Despite her prominence in the movie poster, Audrey Tautou's Senay is a secondary character, a Turkish chambermaid who is Sneaky Juan's latest prey. It's a low-key movie, only occasionally funny or suspenseful. It is, however, refreshingly old-fashioned: the heros behave with quiet integrity in the midst of a corrupt underworld and sustain a love affair that doesn't end in rutting. B-

To Live (Huozhe)--J.E.'s wife loaned me this one on an authentic pirated Chinese DVD. It's a typically solid Zhang Yimou historical drama, rather like Kaige Chen's Farewell My Concubine in following a character from the last decadent days of the Chinese aristocracy to the terror of the Cultural Revolution--except here the featured traditional Chinese art form is shadow puppetry rather than Peking opera. B+

The Talented Mr. Ripley--An intense meditation on the destructive power of envy. Beautiful setting, although I doubt Italy was ever that clean. A

Kiki's Delivery Service--This early Miyazaki is, like Spirited Away, a story about a young girl thrust into a new world without parental support; but, though cute, it is not nearly as imaginative. Not as exotic, either; while Miyazaki's latest films draw from Japanese mythology, Kiki's inhabits a Brother Grimm world of witches on broomsticks and Bavarian towns with cobblestone streets. B-

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Our local library board decided to reject the call for filtered internet.

Theological Query

Could God have become incarnate in a less-than-morally-perfect human being, or even a wicked one? It's not sufficient to say that God's perfect holiness would make this logically impossible, since such contradictions are inherent in the very idea of incarnation: God has no beginning but Jesus was born 2,000 years ago, God is omnipresent but Jesus is (or was, at least*) finite; etc. On the other hand, if God were to become incarnate in a vicious person, then we would be bound to worship him or her; but the idea of worshiping a depraved being is repugnant. Maybe we should say that God's becoming incarnate in a wicked person is morally, though not logically or metaphysically, impossible. A holy God could humble himself to adopt finitude, but would not take on evil?

*I don't want to step on any Lutheran toes by denying the communicatio idiomatum.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

scrim n.
1. A durable, loosely woven cotton or linen fabric used for curtains or upholstery lining or in industry.
2. A transparent fabric used as a drop in the theater to create special effects of lights or atmosphere. (

Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society Barbecue Dog [1983, Antilles]
He wouldn't connect without Shannon writing the tunes and swinging the funk, but the star is Vernon Reid, especially on straight Les Paul--he articulates with so much more delicacy and incisiveness than the perfectly suitable horn players, who often serve as his scrim. On Stratocaster he's power-packed. On guitar synth he's fusion or wah-wah. On banjo he sets down and thinks for a spell. On steel guitar he sounds like he's playing something else. And on "Say What You Will" he writes the tune himself, reminding us who's the leader. A- (

This One's For Khads

Fillinghim, David. Redneck Liberation: Country Music as Theology. Mercer University Press, 2003.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

It occurred to me that, holding copyrights to be near-inviolate, I probably shouldn't post the thoughts that will go into my LJ review, so this ends the excursion into Puppet and Dwarf. Too bad!

While on the ref desk yesterday I got a call from the local public librarian. (Yes, "the librarian" in the singular.) Seems a resident has instigated an official appeals process in order to force the p.l. to install internet filters, after having the disagreeable experience of seeing a patron surf porn sites. She's also presented her case to The People by writing a number of letters to the editor of the newspaper. The librarian was calling around to various area libraries to gather anecdotal evidence of the filters' inefficacy. Since we don't have a filter I wasn't able to help. (This case isn't related to CIPA, by the way, because the p.l. refused to take the federal I.T. money: principles aside, they would only have received $1,000 and the filters cost around $800.)

Monday, September 08, 2003

P. and D.

Obviously I think Žižek is exaggerating when he says that "When one reads Saint Paul's epistles, one cannot fail to notice how thoroughly and terribly indifferent he is toward Jesus as a living person." True, St. Paul doesn't comment extensively on the Gospel narratives, although he does allude in 1 Corinthians 7 to Jesus' teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, and he is the only source we have for one of Jesus' most quoted teachings, "It is better to give than to receive." But I would expect the first theologian of the Church to concentrate on the basic doctrines. Silence doesn't imply indifference.

His second argument against Eastern religiosity is to debunk the myth that it is especially pacifistic and unoppressive compared to monotheism. He attacks on two fronts: conceptually, by citing passages from Hindu and Buddisht writings which justify violence; historically, by pointing out that, for instance, plenty of Zen Buddhists supported Japanese imperialism, or that Heinrich Himmler's favorite book was the Bhagavad-Gita.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

des·ul·to·ry adj. 1. Moving or jumping from one thing to another; disconnected: a desultory speech. 2. Occurring haphazardly; random. (

The Leaders Mudfoot [1986, BlackHawk]
Opening with a glorious and playful 13-minute blues and closing with a sweet and crooked "Cupid" that Chico Freeman sings and some college-radio wiseass should claim, this all-star blowing unit gets arty in between and also gets away with it. By arty I mean Art Ensemble or maybe just AACM: several tunes where all the hook and half the pulse is a bass part that's more ostinato than rhythm line, plus a lyrically desultory duet between main man Arthur Blythe and weak link Kirk Lightsey and a group improv that grows out of Lester Bowie's mute. Familiar gambits all by now, but this kind of execution is what everybody who begins with them is hoping to end up with. A-