SansBlogue  
Friday, September 28, 2007
  TV Listings with a 2.0 twist
Rachel announced the new, clever (and probably, ask me in a few weeks time, for now I'm wondering if one could add the ability to tune out and in different people/classes of people so the featured items in the "tag cloud" reflect better - but not too perfeectly - MY preferences) TV listing service my commiserations to readers in the frozen north (USA, Canada Europe etc.who are going all autumnal just as weather in the real world is turning nice and spring-like) for they will have to wait till the 21st century catches up with them ;-) and they get cool TV Listings 2.0...

For now, o deprived and backward masses, just look on and weep. (Yes I'll admit you have 909 more free to air channels and 50% less time devoted to adverts, but we've got the listings...)

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  Images of each other
Thanks to 42 who: "found these: Clever, funny, insightful, and very very well done!

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Thursday, September 27, 2007
  Myanmar and digital democracy
On the BBC's Pods and Blogs in a post Burma and the bloggers Chris compares the BBC's frantic hunt for news from Myanmar following the tsunami (cf. Tsunami - Did Burma escape the consequences?) with thoday's wealth of emailed MP3 recorded eyewitness accounts (people use a mobile phone as a recorder), Facebook groups and Youtube videos and blog sites: Sone sea yar, Pyithu-t'oo hmat-dan, Seinkhalote, Mogok Media, Ko Htike , Myanmar Media Ed & Devt Watch , Niknayman
Photo from Seinkhalote
This freedom of information must terrify the Junta! Chris added a fascinating comment by Soe Myint of
Mizzima News saying:
...he fully expected the authorities to turn of net access in an effort to clamp down on communications. But even this may not completely silence the steady flow of information out of the country.

Citizen Journalists in Burma have demonstrated that the exclusion of professional reporters no longer cuts of the flow of news, (though it does guarantee that much of it is produced by people unsympathetic to the administration.)

In a similar vein, a student in the prophets class talking about a recent project on culturally approved slavery in Ghana (he prepared the project for our Integrative Seminar on Slavery Today) went on to describe how he was exploring setting up a partnership with a local congregation in Ghana, like the one his church has with a church in the USA. Such intercontinental partnerships were much more costly and inconvenient two decades ago. Maybe it is time more congregations started to realise that "It's a small world after all!"

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  Sabbatical plans
Belatedly, I am looking into possible places to visit for a few weeks of intensive teaching during my sabbatical. (Though late this is still before I have got any "official" confirmation of my proposed sabbatical next semester. I know, I know, I have no teaching next semester in the timetable, so presumably the sabbatical plans I submitted in back in February and adjusted in March have been accepted de facto.)

The most obvious possibilities are actually NOT obvious. The Protestant University of Congo would be great to revisit after more than a decade and a half, but the political/military situation in Congo is not great and the cost of getting there is... SAIACS with whom both Carey and various NZ agencies have partnerships has two OT teachers of their own, both with doctorates... Theologians without Borders first suggested Sierra Leone - but see UPC above, if I'm to go to an Affrican country that has suffered from years of civil war why not Congo where I am known...

Then there's the mysterious ‘Come Over and Help Us!’ which we are following up, sounds challenging and worthwhile. In the meanwhile if you know somewhere, where an OT teacher could be useful, in a few weeks, and gain a wider understanding of the world. Teaching at any post-secondary level, in English or French, then why not make your pitch...


Friday, September 21, 2007
  The Christian Codex
Alex (The End of Cyberspace) presents a long extract from Eamon Duffy's essay in the New York Review of Books, March 29 in his Information technologies in the past. Duffy reviewed two books that share a:
single perception. Early Christianity was more than a new religion: it brought with it a revolutionary shift in the information technology of the ancient world. That shift was to have implications for the cultural history of the world over the next two millennia at least as momentous as the invention of the Internet seems likely to have for the future.
Since the review requires a subscription I might as well add both books to my reading list for my upcoming sabbatical, not least since I've defended similar claims in the past.

Anthony Grafton and Megan Williams, Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 367 pp., $29.95

Megan Hale Williams, The Monk and the Book: Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship,University of Chicago Press, 315 pp., $45.00


Wednesday, September 19, 2007
  Biblical studies and the English language
Jan Pieter of Aantekeningen bij de Bijbel has made the helpful suggestion that we include mention of Biblical Studies posts in languages other than English in the upcoming Carnival. That strikes me as an excellent suggestion, biblical studies and the Internet are both international enterprises after all.

However, my language abilities are limited, French is easy (though I have not yet found French academic biblical studies blogs :( I can read German with the frequent aid of a dictionary, Lingala would be possible ...

So, an appeal, if you read biblical blogs in languages other than English would you make a special effort to help by nominating suitable posts?

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007
  Open Theology
Here's an interesting project: Open Theology. The website leaves the exact nature of the project somewhat vague, it looks like a e-journal, with what appear to be numbered issues, an Advisory Board, instructions for contributors etc. Yet the blurb on the "about us" page reads more like a social networking site:
Welcome to an inclusive project that we hope will grow with the help of your good will, imagination and knowledge. ... We would like to invite students, academics and those with no 'professional' involvement with religious studies to share with us their intellectual passion for critical thinking about religion, so that together we can reflect on the role and value of faith and religion in our culture, wherever we live.
Actually, the header Revue trimestrielle de theologie/Theologische quartalschrift and the like in Polish and possibly English (on my browser the graphic was obscured) makes clear this is a journal. Other description makes clear that the quarterly issues are themed, and interestingly - though numbered AND dated - open to further responses and contributions that continue the discussion. The instructions for contributors also makes clear that submissions are subject to some selection process - it is not stated to be peer-review, so probably selection by the editorial team.

An email to the University of Auckland School of Theology from Revd Dr Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski (Editor-in-Chief) says:
It is one of our hopes for this international project will bring together students interested in discussion about theology, philosophy, religion and their co-existence in the context of the current culture. We hope also to engage the interest of the students (MA/PhD), by enabling dialogue across different religious traditions about the value of religion and faith in our postmodern culture (section: FORUM), and by promoting conferences and events which focus on tolerance, openness and critical reflection on religion (section: WE RECOMMEND). I would be most grateful if you could pass on our invitation to your academic colleagues and students. Hopefully, some of them may contribute to the forthcoming issues.
Indicates the Journal is open to student papers, though the contributors to the first issue (at least as of now - since that might presumably change ;-) include only people with titles like Prof and Dr.

As I said an interesting project, one to watch. A pity they don't have an RSS feed, which would make subscribing easier!

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Monday, September 17, 2007
  Family, carnival and marking
I have nearly finished marking the three sets of assignments that were due while I was on holiday - nearly but not yet quite! This evening is my presentation on Family - if you are in Auckland do come (at Carey at 7pm), and I am almost ready... So, I have not been posting... But Sansblogue is not dead, and I am also preparing the Biblical Studies Carnival. Do please send me nominations, if you don't, and especially if few nominations are made in the NT area then it will risk being a very Hebrew focused carnival ;-) YHBW

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Monday, September 10, 2007
  Dys/functional families: what are biblical family values?
Traditional modern Western family structures and values are crumbling or under attack. Christian responses are often little more than a knee-jerk defence of the Victorian model of Western nuclear family (often also with a Victorian patriarchalism as part of the package) dressed up with a few selected biblical verses which are claimed to support this model.

Robert Ronaldson Rennie with his wife Helen Robertson and their son James and first daughter Jean.
From Keithr

In a paper for the Tyndale Carey Graduate School (but open to anyone who is interested) I will examine the family narratives of the Hebrew Bible to see what values may be discerned in these stories of dys/functional families, and how these might help us develop a more useful theology of family for 21st Century Christianity.

Date : September 17th
Time : 7pm
Place: Carey Baptist College

All welcome.

If you want to get a foretaste of my thoughts you can look at my posts on the Vision Network website:

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Sunday, September 09, 2007
  Earning "Merit"

Buddha image being covered with gold leaf

Of course I'd heard about the prevalence of the notion of earning "merit" in Buddhist countries like Thailand, but somehow I'd never realised how deep rooted such an idea would be. I'd imagined that, like the animist encrusting of much African religion, or the selling of indulgences in medieval Europe, it was the sort of overlay on a purer substrate that people would be half-believing, half-apologetic about.

Far from it, the attempt to earn, or more often even to buy, "merit" met us at every turn. Small sheets of gold leaf bought to cover the statues of the Lord Buddha were not primarily to enhance or beautify the image, or the prestige of the community, rather to "earn merit". Sometimes earning merit simply required ritual actions, like ringing the 108 bells at one Wat (teaching temple) often though money was needed, one coin for each of the 108 bronze collecting buckets at another. (Even using the smallest coin available 1 bhat or about 1/2 and NZ cent this would be more that a days wage for an unskilled labourer.)

Kings and princes could earn merit in richer and more magnificent ways, by building Wats or having gigantic Buddhas cast in bronze, or better still gold. Yet despite such a system of earnable merit, life is still uncertain, so every temple has its fortune teller, who for a fee will predict your future.

Put a coin in every bowl to earn "merit"

Of course, there is much that is good and to be admired in Thai Buddhism being in a place where even most of the people seek to follow the Eight Fold Path
  1. Right understanding
  2. Right aspirations
  3. Right speech
  4. Right behaviour
  5. Right living
  6. Right effort
  7. Right attentiveness
  8. Right concentration
has to be better in many ways that being in a Western City where most people follow advice like: "Look out for number one" or "god helps those who help themselves".

Yet watching people who really believe that merit can be bought, with cash or through ritual observance, makes me once again so glad to have been introduced to the God whose amazing grace is poured out precisely on people like me who don't deserve it, and cannot earn it!

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Friday, September 07, 2007
  Back from Holiday

"Long Tail" passenger boat on the river in Bangkok

This post probably "should" have been written before the one below, but then I've never been an organised person!

Barbara and I have just returned from a holiday in Thailand, since B was finishing her PhD we did not get a holiday in the summer (Christmas-February) nor in July (break between the semesters) so we arranged one in the mid-semester break - and a great break it was too! Thailand is a fine place to spend a vacation, good cheap food, interesting things to see and friendly helpful people.

The klong behind our BKK hotel

In this post I'll not have time to mention much - too much marking and too many emails came in while we were away :( - but as an excuse for putting up a couple of holiday snaps I'll just ask, with all the traffic on the river, like the "long tail" above, and the thriving commuter route along the klongs (canals) that seem to shift almost as many people during the rush hours as the Metro does (right) why don't they call Bangkok "the Venice of Asia"?

BTW I am hosting this month's Biblical Studies Carnival, so please be on the lookout for posts (about biblical studies whether on biblioblogs or elsewhere) to nominate for mention, please particularly if you read blogs that are outside my usual reading (mainly Hebrew Bible related - see the blogroll on the right for a list) make a special effort to nominate a post or two otherwise I risk letting the side down and not including much Christian Testament material!

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  Bee keeping at Tel Rehov

This undated photograph made available by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem shows an archaeologist next to an opening of one of the ancient beehives found in excavations in Tel Rehov in northern Israel. Archaeologists digging in northern Israel have discovered evidence of a 3,000-year-old beekeeping industry, including remnants of ancient honeycombs, beeswax and what they believe are the oldest intact beehives ever found. (AP Photo / Amihai Mazar, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Image and text from AP

Science Daily seems to have the best coverage of the find (from Tel Rehov, in the Beth Shean valley) of an apiary with straw and clay hives. The find dates from around the 10th century (according to Carbon 14 dating). The hives are similar in design to pictures of beehives from ancient Egypt, though these are the earliest actual hives discovered. Previously baked clay hives from the Graeco-Roman period were the earliest known. Remains of bees and wax make the identification of the straw and clay cylinders pretty sure.

The hives were found in rows three hives high, which suggests that a good number, possibly as many as 100 hives could have been situated in the room that was excavated. This means that honey and wax production at Tel Rehov is likely to have been on an industrial scale. This find therefore means that references to honey in the Bible that have often been understood to refer to syrups made from figs or dates are more likely to intend bees honey.

According to Science Daily:
Cultic objects were also found in the apiary, including a four-horned altar adorned with figures of naked fertility goddesses, as well as an elaborately painted chalice.
The connection between these finds is unclear, but may suggest something of the religious practices of the inhabitants of Tel Rehov at that time.

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