Monday, March 30, 2009
  The story and the narratives
I'm teaching biblical narrative this semester, so I was interested in the post by Nick Montfort to narrations of "Little Red Riding Hood":

Go ahead. They’re little and red. By Tale of Tales, by Tomas Nilsson, by Donna Leishman, by Jason Ermer, by Gammick Entertainment, by Nick Montfort, by Roald Dahl, by Monty Python, by Tex Avery, by Kenneth Whitley.

to which we can add Mary Hess' link to Little Red Riding Hood as infographic.

So, tell me please gentle reader, was/were the one(s) you consumed "same" story, or a new story? And why?

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Sunday, March 29, 2009
  Gentle (though firm) wisdom on Bible copyright issues
Peter Kirk has put up two fine well thought out and researched posts on the issue of copyrighting Scripture:
In the first he deals primarily with the issues around Zhubert's Re:Greek. In the process providing much (though speculative) light on the murky world of commercial Bible publication. The second homes in on copyright applied to the Bible and translations of the Bible.

These are both fine works. I suggest you all read them, and I suggest they both get listed in the next Biblical Studies Carnival.

After all the discussion of copyright and of the practicalities of funding Bible Sosiety work has settled there are practical issues left open.
  • What is the legal status of MorphGNT?
    • If it is street legal then other projects can use it.
    • If not, then "we" need an open source project to produce a good legal morph analysed Greet text
  • Can something be done to produce an equivalent for the Hebrew Bible? (Here as Peter points out there are no legal complications with eclectic texts MorphMT could be simply based on The Westminster Leningrad Codex (see its licence document).

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Friday, March 27, 2009
  Bible societies and dens of theives
I've been meaning to comment thoughtfully and at length on Zhubert and the MorphGNT issue, but selling a house while teaching (laughably but accurately called a "full time job" = it takes up all the time available) has stalled a longer post.

Then David wrote Closing open Bibles saying:
I’m all in favor of open source, but I tend to side with GBS on this. I wouldn’t be surprised if an agreement is worked out regarding the MorphGNT.
I suspect that all we need to do is wait. Bible Societies in general are slow moving beasts with good reason. Don’t mistake cumbersomeness with inefficiency. They are big and think very long term.
This gets my goat, I started writing a "comment" but it was getting long and heated ;)

I am usually very sympathetic to the right of people to be paid a reasonable wage for their work. I can understand that corporations need to "recover their costs".

But Bible Societies, at least the ones I know anything about, get given money by pew sitters like me "to make the Bible available". That money pays the wages of those who do the work (where they were not already paid by their academic institution and did the careful editing work as part of that job).

If GBS (or any other Bibe Society) restricts people making the text freely available, simply to protect the economic viability of their print editions - which are expensive to produce luxury items - then they are betraying the generations of Christians who have coughed up their hard earned cash "to make the Bible available"!

Now, this is an oversimplification, but it seems to me that to take money from someone under false pretences is (more or less) theft. To accept donations to make the Bible available and then restrict its availability to protect the market for an expensive luxury item is therefore theft.

I need some convincing that the German Bible Society is the useful, if somewhat slow elephant David describes, and not rather a den of thieves! For now, I am picturing Jesus, cords at the ready, bursting into their hallowed halls...

PS: I see the guy David referred to has a fine full post on the subject Copyrighting the Holy Spirit's words, then living off the profit... do read it! They also have a declaration of full disclosure, so I'll add one: As far as I know I have never received any payment or benefit from either a Bible Society or their commercial competitors, I did for some years get soft drinks at wholesale prices by sharing my buying with the General Secretary of the Bible Society in Zaire (now again Congo DR).

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Friday, March 20, 2009
  iPod for reading or reading for iPods
There's a fascinating, if slightly wandering post, both on the eponymous sebastianmary and on if::book about how an "iPod for reading" might impact our reading culture.

In it one of the great falacies of most discussion of e-books is exposed. The (probably unconscious, or maybe wishful) assumption is almost ubiquitous that when e-books finally arrive (or if they have with Kindle II, now that they have at last finally arrived ;) they will be just like traditional codex books.

But as the post points out, our idea of a "normal book" is a construct, not of literary decisions but economics:
Length is determined as well, by manufacturing constraints at the top end, and the fixed overheads of printing at the bottom. Bookshops are crammed with full-length books whose contents could just as well be communicated in a short essay, or even in the title alone: I’m thinking of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, but a glance at the self-help or business shelves of your local bookshop will show you plenty more. And yet to make economic sense they have to be padded out for publication  in ‘proper’ book size.
And since we are thinking iPod for reading, think also of what iPods have done to music. Almost no one buys "albums" for iPods, what people buy is tracks. E-books have no economic constraints on size - in either direction. Yet our electronic reading favours short focused writing.
So, extrapolating from this to an iPod for reading, what is the written equivalent of a single song? In a word (or 300), belles lettres.
Add to this renaissance of belles lettres and essays the electronic capacity for intereaction between writer and reader leads to the dream:
Armed with such a device, creating playlists, mashups, collages of our favourite short works, we might become a generation of digital Montaignes, annotating and expanding our collective discourse. Blogging is already, in effect, the re-emergence of belles lettres; and while blog posts are typically written for the moment, a device that could earn the blogger a small sum (and the cachet of being considered worthy of archiving) for every essay downloaded might well inspire a renaissance in short work written for a longer lifespan.
Sadly this is just the point at which I begin to doubt... I've heard before once or thrice that micro-payments are the salvation of serious culture on the web. See a couple of my old posts and the links there:
PS: do read sebastian mary's article, my summary and sour critique do not do it justice!

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Thursday, March 19, 2009
  Secluded tranquil spacious family home for sale
Finally our home is on the market, 74 Marsden Ave is for sale. We've loved living here, the park over the wall was great for the kids, the green trees and shrubs have been a outlook we've all appreciated, and I still get a buzz watching the tourist buses on Mt Eden while having my first cup of coffee especially as from the same window we get a glimpse of (n?)One Tree Hill too.

But it is time to move on... smaller and closer to college, and with Barbara's job in Tauranga we'll need to be a two home family, commuting between cities ;)

So if you know anyone looking to buy a BIG home minutes from the CBD, just point them to our 5 bed, 2 study, 3 living home. I'm sure they'll enjoy the tuis in the Magnolia and the Kowhai like I am as I write this!

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Monday, March 16, 2009
There has been some discussion of anonymous blogging among bibliobloggers (I am sorry as we are trying to sell our house at the start of a new academic year I cannot give references and links, but if you have posted on this topic and think I could/should have seen it mention your post in the comments and I will add a link in an update below, sorry ;)

Considering the proportion of the text we study which are anonymous (or, in some cases or according to some scholars - nb. opinions differ and your milage may vary - pseudonymous) it seems strange to me that the majority opinion among my brothers (have any women posted about this issue? If not why not? That is not a question for them but for YOU, my [hopefully gentle] reader) is clearly that anonymous blogging is not to be countanenced. The amusing, if not always wise Bishop NT Wrong must be ostracised, cast out of biblioblogging light into the outer darkness whence she or he came!


Many of us would agree with "Frank" of The Humanitarian Chronicle that the anonymous subversive bloggers of Iran (featured in the video below) perform great services to the "democracy" we all espouse, and indeed to the openness and freedom of their repressive society. Please do not tell me that Iran is a repressive dictatorship, while biblical studies is a free open fraternal (make what you will of the choice of word) guild. We all know and sometimes admit the pressures to conform from employers, colleagues, potential employers, churches... there are thousands of good reasons why someone should blog anonymously about the Bible and its scholarly study.

So, why have you (vocally or by default) decided to disenfranchise anonymous or pseudonymous authors?

Iran: A nation of bloggers from Mr.Aaron on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 12, 2009
Mary pointed me to this inspiring video:

It reminds me why Illich is so important, still. We (meaning teachers) get so caught up in the technology of teaching (meaning not equipment, but learning outcomes, clear syllabuses, marking criteria and the rest of the techniques which we are told will make or teaching better - or at least better fitted to the educational system of which we are a part).

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  Loss of library privileges
Angkor Library Sunset by Stuck in Customs on Flickr
Sven Birkerts, author of the classic Guttenberg Elergies, has written a thoughtful and interesting piece "Resisting the Kindle". There he argues that Kindles represent a move to electronic reading. The convenience and effectiveness of such reading devices hasten (I am not writing from experience, Kindles are not available or usable down here!) is killing something significant in human culture.

Birkets is still a fine writer. He still has a gift for perceiving significant changes beneath the surface of culture. So I have tried to read his piece sympathetically. But, its wrong headed.

Birkets argument (as I understand it) is that the physical manifestation of culture in "books" (by book he means a paper codex) and libraries is important, not just as an organisation of information, knowledge and ideas but somehow for that very physicality. Asa Christian this idea is appealing. Birkets is claiming that the cultural "soul" cannot be split off from its "body".

He argues persuasively that knowledge is contextual, and that a fact retrieved on a handheld electronic device (his example is a Blackberry accessing a service like Wikipedia) decontextualises information. He is right. And this decontextualisation is a major problem with current electronic information systems.

And yet... When he writes:
Turning up a quote by tapping a keyboard is not the same as, say, going to Bartlett’s—it short-circuits all contact with the contextual order that books represent. As I see it, the Kindle ethos—offering print by subscription, arriving from a vast, undifferentiated cyber-emporium out there—abets the decimation of context.
He suggests a weakness in his argument. For surely a dictionary of quotations is itself a decontextualisation of information. Its convenience and its predigestion of knowledge are bookish forerunners of the very electronic systems Birkets bemoans.

For Birkets, like an anti-technophile who deeply loves his favourite technology (the codex and the library) concludes that the medium is the message in a deep and irreplaceable way:
So if it happens that in a few decades—maybe less—we move wholesale into a world where information and texts are called onto the screen by the touch of a button, and libraries survive as information centers rather than as repositories of printed books, we will not simply have replaced one delivery system with another. We will also have modified our imagination of history, our understanding of the causal and associative relationships of ideas and their creators. We may gain an extraordinary dots-per-square-inch level of access to detail, but in the process we will lose much of our sense of the woven narrative consistency of the story. That is the trade-off. Access versus context. As for Pride and Prejudice—Austen’s words will reach the reader’s eye in the same sequence they always have. What will change is the receiving sensibility, the background understanding of what this text was – how it emerged and took its place in the context of other texts—and how it moved through the culture.
Think about this claim. It is another example of the fetishisation of the "book". Somehow for Birkets finding a novel shelved just so in a library evokes the historico-cultural context of the novel that Birkets learned through his education. Finding the same text through an electronic process (even though the contextual information might be presented in more convenient form - accessible even by poor plebs who lack a refined education) will fail. Because it fails to evoke the mystique Birkets desires.

Don't cry for lost manuscript editions, learn to use print effectively. Don't bemoan the supercession of books, learn to recontextualise text in the electronic medium!

Such recontextualisation is precisely what Blackberrying a quote on Wikipedia permits, in a setting where books and libraries are inaccessible. This is potentially a democraisation of knowledge as well as information. Instead of weeping for lost privilege (an expensive education and a library card for the best institutional libraries) learn to assist the masses as we adopt the new technology!

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Saturday, March 07, 2009
  Vivas Cafe Review
Today was a special breakfast, Thomas (our son) and Melissa (his wife) were joining us (on holiday from London - where they are greatly enjoying their OE). So we thought we'd try Vivas on Dominion Rd, it's new, and it got a superb review and a rare five out of five score from the Herald last week. We thought we couldn't miss.

However, we wondered if we'd visited the same cafe as the Herald's reviewers. According to the Herald reviewer "the tables are not too close together" - when we wanted the salt we could reach over the empty table next to us and collect it from the the people another table over. When neighbours arrived the people on the end of the row had to get up, to allow one in, as there was not space between the two tables even for a slim woman to pass. Canvas the weekend Herald's colour supplement said: "the service was warm friendly and prompt" we thought it was a chaotic muddle. They found that "the coffee was hot and strong" we thought it was bitter. Though the Soya milk (in the Soy Cappuccino) was nice, the next cutomer was told (at 10:30am that there was no more soya milk - strange as it does not need refrigerating till opened and there is a supermarket just avccross the road (in Eden Quarter). The Herald bragged "you can choose how well-done you like you eggs" I chose SOFT, one poached egg was still (just) able to ouse the other was hard poached - quite a feat for a soft egg. The mushrooms were dry, though the sausages were tasty. Redeeming feature? If you do try Vivas, take the crepes they were good, or the Melemen (Turkish Omlette) which both Barbara and the Herald agree was good!

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