Thursday, April 17, 2008

One Year

I recently read an article discussing the human races tendency to mark anniversaries, which is interesting because they keep coming, i.e. I remember Star Wars' 20th Anniversary quite well, but the 30th passed almost without incident (However, there has been a new Star Wars role-playing game for every one of these anniversaries--I wasn't gaming yet by the 10th anniversary, although I was certainly a Star Wars fan). It was a fun article, especially the whole point of it was to use the marking of anniversaries in RPG adventures (with cultures that mark time differently than ours--like the ancient alien race sleeping under the earth that only wakes up every 527 years or so. "It is 1993! Can't you see the significance?"). Anyway, this is a long and complicated introduction to mark the fact that today represents exactly one year since this 'blog first started. If you don't believe me, you may go check. Our first post was April 17th, 2007. Although I haven't presented nearly as many posts as our sister site at my wife's 'blog, still there have been a few good ones here and there (as well as one where the reception was such that I questioned continuing to write).

So here we are. I have posted 27 times in the past year. Which isn't really very many times. About twice a month. Well, if I can be allowed to make 'blog year resolutions, I suppose that one of them will be to write more often. Another is to write more posts on individual topics as to opposed to my usual custom of waiting until I have so many ideas that I cannot bear it anymore, and then writing ten paragraphs so that in essence you are treated to ten poor 'blog posts as opposed to one decent one. I don't know if this will actually happen, but the one will certainly feed the second, in that the more often I write, the less of a backlog I will have, and the less likely I will feel a need to write the miscellanea which I tend to do.

Topically I tend to write about my Biblical ideas and such, mostly germs for papers, as a friend of mine recently observed. However, since they are only germs of papers, and I intend for them to grow into full papers, I can only talk about them in the most circumspect of ways, which isn't really the most effective. I've thinking about other topics to write on. I've received a request to discuss my ideas about education, which I will begin a series on, starting soon. Hopefully my next 'blog post, although I will be writing my Master's Thesis soon (however it is only a paltry 15,000 words on kingship ideology in 1 Samuel, so it shouldn't be too hard). If there is any topic which you would like me to write a post on, please drop me a line and let me know. For example, I am going to write a post discussing the various merits of various types of role-playing systems as sort of preliminary to Travis' suggestions. I am hoping that this year will have a better quality of 'blog post than I have heretofore written.

It is late here in Oxford, and so I must close. I appreciate all my readers deeply. I realize that sometimes it is a long time between posts, but I am grateful for all of you who bear with me and read and comment on my posts. Your comments mean a lot to me, as does your readership. Here is to another year together. As is my custom I close in the words of Smokin' Stan Lee and wish you all a hearty


Friday, April 04, 2008

In Which We Talk About...

Well, actually we are going to talk about most everything. So, this post is a collection of thoughts I have been having, arranged in no particular order.

First, if you game (and I apologize to any of my readers who do not game. There will be several of these random thoughts related to my hobby of role-playing. However, if you stick to it, there are a couple of neat bits about the Pearl of Great Price). Anyway, if you game, I strongly suggest that you subscribe to Steve Jackson Games' online gaming magazine Pyramid. But, I hear you say, I do not play GURPS. It is of no matter. Although there a a significant portion of GURPS articles, there are a number that are not, including Steven Marsh's weekly column Random Thought Table, which is consistently one of the best pieces on role-playing, both in terms of theory and practice. He writes this column once a week, a subscription gives you access to all the archives of the magazine, which is worth the price alone. I am constantly finding new and interesting things to read (like a review of Magic: the Gathering, written shortly after it was released). All of this costs a mere $25 a year (which is only 12.50 pounds sterling--even more of a bargain). Seriously, I don't like to be a shill for a company, but I enjoy this every single week, and so I thought I'd pass that along.

Second, my wife were just talking about a book I got out of the Library for my paper on the Jews in Alexandria during the Ptolomaic and Early Roman period, which is a slim volume from Brill. I personally think that it is over-written and will not be including anything in it (his essential thesis is that Hellenistic erotic thought was changing catalyst between Biblical and Rabbinic literature), but that is irrelevant to my point. My wife, having heard of the reputation of Brill wanted to know how much the book cost. For those of my readers who don't know about Brill, Brill is an academic publisher based in the Netherlands famous for their extremely expensive books. This book is a case in point--for a 177 page book (which includes the indices) you will be charged $189.00. That is more than a dollar a page. Trust me, the book isn't worth it. Ah, the joys of academic books. Brill is the worst offender, but even the press of that great university for whom I work sets a pretty steep price on their books, and that is even with my 10% discount. Sometimes it is hard to be a young poor scholar.

Third, I have been an extremely busy man. Part of this is derived from my job, part of this derives from the fact that my wife has entered what is known officially as the Lame part of pregnancy, where everything is difficult to do. At least part of it comes from the fact that I am in in the part of the term, where I am taken up wholly by the writing of papers. I feel guilty even at this point writing this 'blog post, since I could be writing about persecution of Jews by the Christian Roman emperors. Me and my exciting Friday nights. Also, Lydia was sick yesterday, and I was the go-to man on that as well (a job which incidentally I am happy to fill. This paragraph should not be interpreted as a complaint). Nevertheless, I feel pretty tired, lately. Of course, it isn't going to get any easier, and I will be able with the good-will of the Father, be able to accomplish all I need to. Still this has been on my mind.

Fourth, In the unlikely event I join the SCA (my ambivalence to them is legendary in my friend's circle. I can find no end of reasons not to join them, but I can't seem to leave them alone), I found my handicraft. You see, to really get involved in the SCA, you really ought to do something: play an instrument, fight, make medieval widgets, whatever. This is actual one of my many sticking points. However, I found a medieval craft that I would love to get into: stonemasonry. It has connections with Freemasonry, the Church and is a fully medieval. What isn't to like? Unfortunately, stonemasonry really means stonecarving, i.e. the artistic carving of stone, since no matter how difficult it is, the other parts of being a stonemason, aren't especially flashy. I mean come on, imagine going to an Arts and Sciences fair, with your dressed ashlar. The king comes by and asks you what you have. You say, full of excitement, a square block. The king nods, and walks off, leaving you to shout that it is square on all sides, and was done using only a square, a straight edge, a chisel and the wonders of Euclidean geometry! Yeah, not so much. Anyway, this all so much speculation, since among other things, the cost to get involved in any kind of stonemasonry is prohibitive (also I have the artistic skills of a rabbit).

Fifth, I was reading 2001 as a tribute to the late Arthur C. Clarke (I had seen the movie but had never actually read it before, and so thought reading it was a fit tribute to an author of his stature.) Besides, I really dig science fiction, unlike my wife, who's almost exclusively a fabulist. It made me think about what Brother Nibley once said, about Science Fiction being folk scripture. It certainly was in this case, since at least on one level replacing an all-powerful transcendent God with all-powerful transcendent aliens, you haven't actually changed anything. Clarke's Progenitors and Milton's God aren't that far removed from each other (in purely literary terms). And so that was one of the most interesting things about the book. Now, I don't remember if the movie was so specifically religious; the book wasn't religious necessarily, I guess. But I mean, come on, the book ends with a child coming from Heaven to save the Earth. Anyway, it's just some musings. It's funny because although the approach is different between a Religionist and a Rationalist, sometimes, at least in Science Fiction, the goals seem to be the same. But of course Clarke knew this, he is after all the man who gave us Clarke's Law (any science sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic).

Sixth, I was intrigued by Travis' post on the perfect role-playing game, mostly because I'm not sure what he meant by perfect. He seemed to have in mind (and he can correct me if I'm wrong, of course) some kind of universal role-playing game, which would not necessarily be the perfect role-playing game. For one thing, in my immediate circle (and I'm not saying in general) I have the most experience with the most popular universal role-playing game, which is to say GURPS, which is certainly not rules light. Part of the issue, I think, how shall I put this, I don't think it's possible, or even necessarily desirable to produce a system that can handle every situation. Now, I'm not discounting Travis' project; it's sounds like a lot of fun. But as an example, it is next to impossible to do, say Star Wars in GURPS, because you can't get the feel right; the system doesn't reflect the world. Let me rephrase that. You can run Star Wars in GURPS, but GURPS does nothing to reinforce the Star Wars feel, and I think that there should be a closer connection between system and world. In Castle Falkenstein, for example, the use of playing cards instead of dice serves as a constant reinforcement of the Victorian milieu of the game. Now I think the real challenge would be (and I'm going to see if we can do this in Travis' project) to see if we can represent system and world together through some kind of modular process. Spycraft 2.0 did something very much like this. We'll see; it'll be fun.

Seventh, I'm reading a very nice book by Gary A. Anderson, who's at Notre Dame by the way, called The Genesis of Perfection. It's about how Jews and Christians have viewed the story of Adam and Eve throughout their respective histories. I'm only in the very beginning, and I'm already very impressed with it. As always when read this sort of book, I think about the Latter-day aspects of it, ie how the Latter-day Saints view Adam and Eve, both through the revealed scriptures as well as through talks and general interpretations. Actually, I was think of writing, for my own benefit mostly, an article called "The Perfection of Genesis: Adam and Eve in the JST and Mormon Scriptures," which would be a response to his book (which is why it would be just for me). One of the things I love about studying Jewish and Christian interpretation is studying how that relates to uniquely Latter-day Saint interpretations. Actually, as I was walking home from work today, I ran into a friend from The Queen's College, who was doing his dissertation on Lamech and various interpretations of him. He knew I was Mormon, and had come across, or found out somehow that Lamech is mentioned in the Pearl of Great Price, and wanted me to help him secure a copy, which I was more than happy to do, naturally. It makes me happy, because it's always nice when someone outside of our faith takes an interest in our take on things. Because the JST and other sources, of course, provide us with a unique and varied perspective on Adam and Eve.

Those are just some thoughts that I've been having. I apologize for the length of this post, but I appreciate you bearing with me and reading it. As always, any comments are welcome. There are a few of these points I had thought to turn into full posts, and I still might, but for now I'll close, and spare you all.