At Home He's a Tourist

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

Saturday, May 01, 2004

K.S., the history prof who organized our little film series, came over last night for some guitar playin'. He found out about my hobby when he was gathering info to introduce me before the showing of Crimes and Misdemeanors, and was thrilled to find someone in town who also played. We complemented each other well; I know more chords but he has a stronger voice, and we shared a predilection for classic rock in the Golden Decade of 1965-1974. I was impressed, for instance, that he knew by heart the words to "My Old School."

Today I have to attend the graduation ceremony. Will probably cook some Ma Po Tofu and read Tolkien tonight.

Friday, April 30, 2004


Aside from blogging, another of my Lenten sacrifices was booze. Now that we're in the Easter season I've had occasion to take the Bombay out of the freezer and mix up an ice-cold martini. I better relish it while I can, though, because according to the Guardian, gin is on the decline; among the problems facing the venerable drink is a shortage of juniper berries!

I deleted the personal ads I had posted on a couple of internet dating sites. For the most part the only response I was getting was from purported lonelyhearts in Russia and the Phillipines. Scam!


I like to order books with interdisciplinary importance--in this case, literature and religion.

Shoulson, Jeffrey S. Milton and the Rabbis: Hebraism, Hellenism, and Christianity. Columbia.

Christianity and Literature: “A stunning scholarly achievement...with compelling arguments, and explanations, forcefully precise yet graceful writing, and a genuine feeling for the work he is about, Shoulson masterfully achieves his book’s every purpose…develops provocative and convincing readings…against a remarkably detailed presentation of centuries of religious and cultural encounter…a superbly sensitive portrait of post-Restoration Milton…a book for Miltonists but also for all readers concerned with the development of religious thought. Meticulously researched and well documented, it will inevitably redirect scholarly discourse, but Milton and the Rabbis is also a book for undergraduates just beginning to learn to read, to interpret, and maybe to accept the complications that lead to the recovery of those truths contained in texts such as Paradise Lost.” Renaissance Quarterly: “By any standard, Shoulson’s work is impressively learned, rich implication, and attentive to the subtleties of what we might call the poetics of theological speculation…the study is, in many ways, better on the rabbis than on Milton…Shoulson’s discussions about Milton are perhaps less convincing because he is constrained by his own argument….Although at times the argument of Milton and the Rabbis gets needlessly complicated, overall we should applaud Shoulson for taking on such an ambitious and certainly worthwhile project.” Church History: “Shoulson’s chief contribution has been to bring to bear on Milton studies an intimate familiarity with the rabbinical literature that directly or indirectly inspired the great English poet. Shouldson bridges these historical and linguistic worlds with daunting fluency…He shows a command of the critical scholarship…The result is not only a new understanding of the close relations of historical contexts, interpretive styles and conclusions of Milton and the rabbis, but also a new appreciation of Milton as theologian and ethicist for post-Constantinian Christianity…extraordinarily nuanced…recommended to specialists.” Sixteenth Century Journal: “stimulating…Shoulson brings to his task great erudition, scholarly comprehensiveness, and critical acumen. The way in which he establishes dialogue among the many rabbinic texts, as well as dialogue between them and Christian writers and, of course, between them and Milton makes for a rich canvas.”

Thursday, April 29, 2004


In a recent issue of Publisher's Weekly there's an interview with promiscuously prolific Anglican theologian Alister McGrath, the topic being his forthcoming book on the history of atheism. This part interested me:

"PW: Why was atheism so attractive for a time?
AM: Protestantism was partly responsible. Protestant worship, which often minimized the sense of the immediate presence of the divine, really encouraged people to think of a world in which God cannot be experienced. And if you don't experience God, it is not a very long step to saying there might as well not be a God."

I wonder if this explanation is correct. True, I too feel the impingement of the sacred much more in the old "smells and bells" liturgy than in Protestant "four bare walls and a sermon" services, but (1) I've heard ex-Catholics describe the boredom they felt attending Mass, so the reaction of people like McGrath and myself may not be universal, and (2) I venture to claim that, on the average, atheism is at least as prevalent in historically Catholic/Orthodox nations as in historically Protestant countries. There aren't many places more secular than France, Italy, or Russia. Nor does it seem to me that there's much of a difference between nations that were historically high-church Protestant and those which were low-church Protestant. The Scandanavian nations (high-church Lutheran) are at least as secular as the Netherlands or Scotland (low-church Reformed).


Dyer, Christopher. Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain, 850-1520. Yale.

Choice: “excellent…Especially welcome is the attention devoted to the importance of the oft-neglected two centuries prior to the Norman Conquest…Dyer’s cautious and balanced treatment does not make for an easy read. All the same, the result is quite informative for the general reader and a helpful synthesis for the specialist. This volume is a must for any library giving coverage to general European history.” English Historical Review: “A masterly survey…[Dyer] has succeeded triumphantly. This is a book which can be used with equal profit by the specialist, by the student and by the general reader. It is lively, clearly structured, very readable, and with a commendable balance of generalizations, statistics, and examples of named individuals and the economic choices they made." Atlantic Monthly: “a sweeping but often intimate portrait, full of arresting details.” History Today: “an exceptionally wide-ranging book…draws on a huge amount of detailed research in both primary and secondary sources…His mastery of his material is indeed enviable. The book abounds with a wealth of illustrative examples, which bring the discussion to life. Yet the author’s learning is always worn lightly…Offers a more convincing view of the late middle ages than Postan…If Dyer is convincing on the later middle ages, it may be that he is slightly less so on the earlier and middle periods. He certainly speaks less confidently about developments in the pre-Conquest period…This is a major book—much more than a synthesis, it provides an overall interpretation of a long and significant period.” TLS: “accessible and cogent introductions to an infinite range of . . . topics, which he knits together into an effective and fascinating patchwork quilt.” History: Review of New Books: “A must-read for any thoughtful person interested in medieval Europe or in the transition to the modern social and economic world.”

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

On the Job

To get rid of our budget surplus I contacted some of our reliable spendthrifts. N.P., our European history prof, is teaching a new course in the fall on food history and so requested about $1,000 worth of books in the field, including such appealing titles as The Primal Cheeseburger and Garlic and Oil. The music prof has promised to submit requests for scores and CDs. (We really need to beef up our jazz collection, by the way.) Mr. Poli Sci is going to go through some catalogs. And I've taken it upon myself to order some things of personal interest, most of it justifiably relevant to our mission (although I don't know about the H. P. Lovecraft anthology). I continue to be surprised at the gaps in our catalog: I noticed we don't have any Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, Dylan Thomas, or Allan Ginsberg.

Canon Fodder

Dipped into the film canon with Truffaut's 400 Coups. It's an admirable film--closely observed, well acted, nicely photographed, etc.--but I hope even film snobs will admit that it's not terribly exciting.


Shania Twain is coming to Lubbock. Blech--even worse than Aerosmith. Why couldn't Stereolab have stopped by on their way from Austin to Phoenix?


Ruse, Michael. Darwin and design: does evolution have a purpose?. Harvard, 2003.

Choice: "A rich and compelling book that will be welcomed by students in the history and philosophy of science. Highly recommended." First Things: “Although the earlier chapters on Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Kant are too sketchy, even potted, the book picks up with the nineteenth century, where ironies abound…his book is more history than analysis and at times shares in the confusions of his protagonists....” American Scientist: “Ruse is one of the leading philosopher-historians of biology today, and his story is a fascinating one, enlivened especially by his accounts of various imaginative attempts before Darwin to solve the design problem without recourse to a deity…” Christian Century: “Ruse’s generous and sincere outreach to the theological community on issues in science and religion is both inviting and intriguing. Ruse’s works are accessible and invaluable sources of information on evolutionary history and philosophy. They can be of great help to those in the theological and religious communities who wish to take Darwin seriously.” Bioscience: “Ruse’s best book…delightful prose…strikes just the right balance between scholarship and comprehension…”

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Collection Development

Came across this free site with lots of good scholarly political science book reviews culled from Blackwell journals.


Library of Congress announces latest additions to the National Recording Registry. Local boy Bob Wills got in with "New San Antonio Rose." Good to see Monk in there too.

Sunday, April 25, 2004


Anyone else out there tried reading Lord of the Rings after having seen the recent film adaptation? I'm enjoying it but I find that Peter Jackson's version has supplanted, in most cases, my own private imaginings. Now I can't help but picture Elijah, Viggo, Ian, Cate, etc. as the cast of characters. Luckily the movie was so well done that I don't mind; indeed, maybe the main reason it has installed itself in my brain is precisely because of its excellence.