Jul 31, 2010

War and Peace and Zombies

Well actually, there were no undead in Tolstoy's masterpiece. Nor have I read the 2009 mashup I reference in this post title. (I'm curious, though, and a big fan of the Austen original so I may pick it up one of these days.)

A few months ago, several bloggers decided to do a summer reading of War and Peace, using the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky. There was a schedule, and bloggers being bloggers I'm sure people also wrote as they read. Me being me, I read it through in several fairly intense sessions.

In actual fact, I haven't quite finished it. I began reading Part Two of the Epilogue, but after four or five pages of Tolstoy's maunderings about fate and the destiny of nations and the soul of the people, I gave up on it. I skimmed through the last twenty or so pages, searching for any type of narrative but in the end it was just too much for me. Much like the excursuses in Les Miserables, the political and historical questions being addressed were too far removed from my interests. Ah well.

Anyone know of a good English translation of Don Quixote?

Jul 27, 2010

memory and identity

After far too much wasted time on Wikipedia, I wound up at the statement that "in the process of forgetting, memories fragment and gist and verbatim traces can become independent." Time to revisit Augustine of Hippo, perhaps. The latter part of his Confessions address the relation between memory and identity.

This is of particular interest to me, as over the past four years I have witnessed my grandfather's descent through Alzheimer's. His physical sufferings came to an end in June.

I believe that ultimately, each person's identity is a mystery, known fully to God alone. This is why the Orthodox chant of "Memory eternal" at the death of a person resonates so deeply with me. Even as the body decays and the brain is eaten by worms, the full identity of that person is preserved in the love of God. In the eschaton, we will finally be revealed for who we really are, each person clad in the glory of God to the extent each has participated in it.

Jul 25, 2010

Fiesta de Santiago - Año Santo Jacobeo 2010

On the western ecclesiastical calendar, July 25 is the feast of St. James the Apostle, son of Zebedee.  Any year that his feast falls on a Sunday is considered a year of jubilee, a holy year -- Año Santo.  For this reason, millions of people have gathered in Spain, in the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Earlier this year, I followed the pilgrim's path to Santiago.  I have not written much about my experiences along the Way, other than a few notes here on this blog.  This is mainly because I'm too lazy and ill-disciplined to marshal my thoughts and impose structure on them, but it is also because there is a lot to say about the journey along the Camino.  I have posted some photos on Flickr.

In the Orthodox Church, we commemorate this great saint on April 30.  Today is not a liturgically significant day for me, but today my heart is in Spain, in Santiago de Compostela -- and with the many wonderful people I met as I walked west towards the See.

In France, it was possible to go into a church, buy a candle and leave it lit.  In Spain, these flickering representations of prayer have been replaced with small bulbs which light up when a coin is deposited.  The larger the denomination of the coin, the longer the "candle" stays lit.  (Liturgical docetism, I call it.)  By the time I got to Santiago, I had resigned myself to this sad state of affairs, but I still bought a candle in the cathedral gift shop.  (Signs were prominently posted in several languages announcing that these candles could not be lit inside the church.)  I will bring this candle to church with me today, and as I light it I will remember my fellow pilgrims, as well as all those who helped me along the way.

The feast of St. James will not fall on a Sunday again until 2021.  I would consider it a great blessing to be there again at that time.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”
James 4:13-15

Jul 24, 2010

fun times

Several months ago I walked into a computer shop that specializes in Apple goodies and bought a copy of Snow Leopard. Finally this week I had gathered the necessary gear and gumption and settled in to install OS X on my ASUS 901 EeePC.

What can I say except AWESOME!

I'm now in the process of installing WINE (using MacPorts) so very shortly I will have a netbook that I can take anywhere and run anything on. Okay, for CPU intensive apps it may be a little slow but it does everything I need it to do, and at a small fraction of the cost of an actual Mac.

It may be some time before I get on the road again, but at 1.2 kg I suspect this will find a spot in my pack.

Jul 1, 2010

Canada Day in Montreal

The Parish Life Conference begins today, and here I am in beautiful sunny Montreal.  The view from the 28th floor includes the St. Lawrence River, but I think this evening I'll head up the mountain to catch some fireworks.  From there we should be able to see everything that goes up.  The Museum of Fine Art is just a few blocks from the hotel, adn there's a metro station just across the street.  Montreal is a fantastic city!

(Oh yeah, and there's that conference thingy too.)