December 31st, 2012

politics

Links I found interesting for 31-12-2012

church

December Books 16) The Bible

Apart from War and Peace, my other reading project for 2012 was to read the entire Bible, a few chapters a day (or an entire book if it is short). I therefore finished Revelation, and the whole thing, this morning. I have already written up my thoughts on the Old Testament; I would just repeat from there my strong recommendation against reading it through from start to finish. It wasn't written or compiled to be read in that way, and it doesn't do the text any services to read as if it were a historical monograph, a short story collection, or a book of essays and meditations. I chose this approach because I wanted to feel that I had control of what I was reading, and that I was not missing anything, but if you want to get a fair flavour of it, it's probably better to follow one of the many reading guides available online and elsewhere, which are designed both to showcase the good bits and to keep the reader interested.

As for the New Testament: it falls rather naturally into three sections. The Gospels and Acts are among the most readable narratives in the whole Bible; the most striking things are that the three synoptic gospels are so very close to each other, leaving John as the outlier, and that Luke's better Greek prose style comes through in almost any translation of his gospel and Acts. I am also struck every time that the Feeding of the Five Thousand is the only miracle other than the Resurrection reported in all four gospels.

I was much less familiar with the various epistles. They are not as easy to read as the gospels, combining as they do personal salutations, advice on local disputes, declarations about correct practice and belief, and attempts to put words on the ineffable (Hebrews in particular is an attempt at a theological manifesto avant la lettre). I was struck by how hardline Paul is, particularly in the early letters, on the issues that hardliners still stick to today, and also on the question of justification by faith; but there is a significant counterbalance from some of the later letters, especially 1 Peter which seems to be a direct response in some ways. (And the Epistle of Jude seems strangely familiar after 2 Peter ch 2...)

Finally, Revelation is the most Old Testament-y of the New Testament books. (There is nothing like the letters in the Old Testament, and the gospels and Acts are quite different in style from the OT historical books.) Again, Revelation is an attempt to express in words that which cannot be expressed in words; it is clearly not meant to be taken literally, but as one person's attempt to concretise the underlying truths.

Unlike War and Peace, I don't particularly recommend that others repeat this experiment, or at least that they should not do it in the same way as I did. But it's worth getting more familiar with a book which is so central to our own culture.

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books

What should I read in 2013?

Dear friendslist (and other readers),

I have been greatly helped in thinning out the books on my unread shelf by your votes in previous years, and I would once again very much appreciate your advice on what books to read next, by filling in this poll. (I believe that even if you don't have a livejournal account, you can sign in with your Twitter or Facebook credentials.)

I'm doing it a little differently this year, splitting sf into books acquired in 2012 and books acquired previously, and with a completely different question for the non-fiction books. Looking forward to your guidance.

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As usual, please put any specific recommendations (or disrecommendations) in comments - I am still banking some from last year and the year before.
manga-me

Most commented posts of the last year

Some rare evidence against the continuing decline of Livejournal: last year I counted only 26 posts with 12 or more comments from the previous twelve months, compared with 32 with at least 15 comments the year before and 42 with at least 20 from three years ago. This year I have 37 posts above last year's threshold of 12 comments, though we are still down compared to previous years' cutoffs (22 had 15 or more comments, 13 had 20 or more). Perhaps I was just writing more interesting stuff. The top posts from the last twelve-ish months were:

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tardis

December Books 17) The [Doctor Who] Comic Strip Companion, 1964-79, by Paul Scoones

This really is a book for completists, in that it's difficult to imagine anyone other than the diehard Who fan wanting to get hold of it, but it is equally difficult to imagine that diehard fan being anything other than tremendously happy with it.

I guess I was vaguely aware that there was a whole extra slice of comics continuity for Who beyond the TV series, the books and the audios with which I am familiar. But I hadn't appreciated that the decision to start a weekly strip in TV Comic (and its successors) from November 1964 until May 1979 would mean scores of different stories, some of them from the sound of things rather forgettable, but some of them much more interesting. Fascinating snippets for me:
  • The First Doctor meets Father Christmas, King Neptune and the Pied Piper, being less constrained by the sf vs historical format of the TV programme;
  • the comics strip, unable at first to secure a license for the Daleks, featured Dalek-like monsters called the Trods, who eventually get wiped out by the Daleks when the licensing agreement is reached;
  • John and Gillian, introduced in the first story as the First Doctor's grandchildren, survive almost four years until the Second Doctor enrolls them in university in August 1968, making them the longest-lasting companions of any medium in the 1963-89 era;
  • the Second Doctor is exiled to Earth by the Time Lords in late 1969 and has several months of adventures there before his appearance is changed and he becomes the Third Doctor - evidence of a kind for Season 6B;
  • Katy Manning was unwilling to allow her appearance to be used so the Third Doctor strips of her time feature UNIT and the Master but not Jo;
  • several Third Doctor strips, and one Second Doctor strip, were "Doctored" to become Fourth Doctor strips for the last year of the strip's run in TV Comic; the last original story was in June 1978.
Much of this information was already in books and DVD features which I already on, but it is fantastic to have it all pulled together in a single set of covers. An that is not all; Scoones also covers the comic strips in the Doctor Who annuals and the Dalek annuals and books, and the intense two-year Dalek strip from TV Century 21 in 1965-66. He even makes me want to read some of the early Countdown strips (the Doctor Who strip was moved from TV Comic to Countdown in 1971, though Countdown was then gradually renamed TV Action and eventually merged back into TV Comic in 1973). The only strips I had read of those covered in the book are the ones from the Who annuals, some of the Dalek annuals and books, and one Countdown annual.

One other point, though: the first female names mentioned in a creative capacity, as far as I could tell, were Louise Cassell and Christine McCormack, who recoloured the First Doctor strips for republication by Marvel in 1994-95 (Christine McCormack's sister Rosie is mentioned later as a colourist for the Second Doctor strips). They appear on page 570 of a 603-page book. Even more than the TV programme, the comics (at least in the 1964-79 phase) appear to have been a very male affair.

Anyway, excellent stuff, and a good end to my 2012 bookblogging.