Episode 136: Genesis, Note to the Reader 1

In which we consider translation and Biblical Hebrew, imagery and literalism.

Genesis, Note to the Reader 1
(download or listen via this link)
Book Information
  • This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.
  • If you are enjoying this reading, please buy Genesis. It comes to life even more when you are able to see and ponder the words.
  • Story rating: R for adult situations and commentary.
  • I will do my best to properly pronounce any Hebrew words but cannot promise accuracy. Biblical words may be pronounced using this guide.
Podcast Highlight
  • FilmNerds: zombies series (UPDATE: except for the last episode in that series, Zombies and Religion which has some very inaccurate information about Catholicism in the beginning. Which, for me, put their comments about Islam in question as well. The last 10-15 minutes seemed solid as far as I could tell with my limited knowledge of Eastern religions.)
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And Still More Book Reports

Finishing catching up on the most interesting things I've read lately.
  • Better Than Homemade by Carolyn Wyman: Extremely enjoyable little essays about the origins of such American staples as Instant Breakfast, Minute Maid, Wonder Bread, Velveeta. A quick read that takes us down memory lane to a time when we weren't guilt-wracked over what we ate ... well, except to want it to be more nutritious or technologically modern. Oh, those were the days.

  • The Trials of Rumpole by John Mortimer: I haven't picked these up for years but vastly enjoyed revisiting John Mortimer's turn of phrase which so eloquently draws a portrait of Rumpole and his trials both in court and in personal life. I had forgotten until rereading these that there are always two to three plots in each story, no small feat. The main trail, office politics, and home life all have a linked theme and yet each can stand on its own, often in a humorous way. If you haven't ever read one of the Rumpole books, then do give them a try. You needn't read them in order, although there is character development from book to book of friends and coworkers (and even of villains defended, like the Timson family). Hannah is reading the Rumpole books for the first time and working her way through the entire series, so we know they hold up well no matter your age.

  • Hamlet - Arkangel audio performance: Inspired by Chop Bard podcast, I checked this out of the library and was blown away listening to this excellent audio version of the play. Between the two resources of the podcast and audio performance I was on the edge of my seat and truly loved this play. (Read Thomas L. MacDonald's review of Arkangel Shakespeare.)

  • Through the Wall by Cleveland Moffett: A noted detective is getting ready to go to Brazil for an important job. He drops by Notre Dame where a young woman he never met says a few sentences to him that leave him pale and canceling his trip. A young woman, deeply in love, spurns her lover's marriage proposal because she loves him too much. A international celebrity is found mysteriously killed in a variation of the locked room mystery. All these events are connected and are set in 1909 Paris, where the atmosphere is romantic and mysterious and the art of detective investigation is very much to the fore in the story. This was on a list from Michael Grost's list for Mystery Scene magazine of classic mysteries that you should read but probably haven't. Here is a piece about this book which I believe was written in 1907. It is a locked room mystery, which I normally do not like, but the way the author slowly uncovers layers truth behind the mysterious situations is already very apparent. It has the effect of a book of one cliff-hanger after another and I am hooked. Final word: what a splendid plot and story telling. Truly this is the story of a master detective pitted against a master criminal, all wound around a tale of love and friendship. I got this from the library but I'd bet it is available free at Project Gutenberg. I plan on  reading this on Forgotten Classics.

  • Carnacki: The Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson: Whenever Carnacki finishes a tough case of tracking down the supernatural he calls together his three friends to have dinner at their London club and tells them the story. Sometimes he discovers the supernatural, sometimes a hoax, and occasionally an intriguing mix of the two. Thus we get seven fine ghost tales from William Hope Hodgson who is better known for The House on the Border Land, which I have never read, but surely shall someday. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I picked up from Amazon for free and read on the Kindle. I would look at Project Gutenberg for it as a free public-domain book if you can't find it anywhere.


Book Reports

A bit about what I've been reading in the last month or two. Just highlighting the good stuff. (You can find all the books I've read this year ... and more ... at Goodreads which I like quite a bit for keeping track of such things).
  • Jane Eyre: Looking for some fiction, my eyes fell on Jane Eyre and I realized just how long it had been since I read it. You tend to remember the big events of a favorite book but rereading has reminded me of just how many small things get lost in memory. This book is truly delightfully and subtly written, for all the over-the-top elements it contains. And just how could I have forgotten the old gypsy? It was even more wonderful than I remembered. This has everything ... true love, sacrifice, redemption, steadfastness ... and that crazy cousin who Jane may have understood and admired but I certainly couldn't. Talk about giving me someone to hate. Oy veh! If you haven't read Jane Eyre for a while (or ever), just go get it.

  • One Door Away from Heaven by Dean Koontz: UFOs, aliens, an empathetic dog, a crippled girl, and a host of supporting characters overcoming past traumas to reach out to others all are combined by Dean Koontz in a book that is the most compelling statement I have ever seen made about the right to life, no matter what one's condition. As always with his novels, few things are what they seem.Two basic plots run parallel before their heroes find themselves coming together to fight off a very evil villain. "What is one door away from heaven," is a question that one character has asked another since her childhood. The answer, along with the overall theme of the book, is enough to make us all examine our lives more carefully ... and be thankful that Koontz's writing reflects his beliefs so honestly. A favorite for rereading and that's what I'm did ... reread it and it held up beautifully.

  • The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri #1) by Tarquin Hall: I learned about this series from Mystery Scene magazine. A judiciously quirky Indian detective (meaning realistic) and his operatives are highlighted, as well as his Mummy who sets out to solve a  mystery that her son does not take seriously. This was an enjoyable "cozy" sort of mystery, like a trip to India, and also somewhat frustrating as I have to look up many of the native words in the glossary in the back of the book. I understand if a word requires complex descriptions, as do some of the common terms. For example could not the author simply have used the native word for gardener and then put "gardener" in parentheses? Yes, I am just that lazy, or possibly there are just that many native words used in this book. Ultimately, this was a classic mystery in many ways and yet it still managed to fool me. Extremely well done and gave a bird's-eye view of India without needing tons of info-dumps. Highly recommended. (P.S. I am a big fan of his Mummy.)

  • The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing (Vish Puri, #2) by Tarquin Hall: I enjoyed the first in this series so much that I was delighted to find the second book had just come out. A few chapters in, there is the main mystery in which a professional skeptic who exposes fraudulent, famous gurus is apparently murdered by a manifestation of Kali, in full view of a group of friends. Then there is the sub-mystery which Vish Puri's Mummy is investigating and taking Vish's wife, Rumpi, along for the ride. I love the Punjabi characters and see that the author says that one could say Punjabis are the Texans of India. No wonder I like them! All the characterizations were very enjoyable as were the insights into Indian life. However, if the author is going to continually use native terms then they should all be included in the glossary. I don't have the first book available for comparison, but I feel that the glossary was much more complete than in this second book, where sometimes there would be a sentence with no translation following and which was not in the glossary either. Now, the argument can be made that there was context, and so there was, but one could make that argument for many of the terms that were in the glossary. I felt the main mystery was unnecessarily complicated. I understand that Vish Puri explores the big mysteries but this felt rushed and with too much crammed into it ... still recommended, I just didn't enjoy it quite as much as the first book. I will still look for the third book when it comes out though.

  • Sweet and Low by Emma Lathen: John Putnam Thatcher, Wall Street senior vice president at The Sloan (one of the largest banks in the world), has been named as a trustee on the Dreyer's Chocolate charitable board. Think "Hershey's" and you'll get a good idea of Dreyer's power and money. Early in the series of meetings, a cocoa buyer is found murdered in the hotel pool. Luckily Thatcher's long experience on Wall Street means he has a deep experience of that always-present commodity, human nature. Only Emma Lathen could make Wall Street riveting as happened in every one of her mysteries (yes, I know the author's name was a pseudonym for two cowriters ... don't care). Written with understated humor, these books are a joy to read and reread, which is what I did, being a big fan of the Lathen mysteries. It is too bad that so few people seem to have heard of Emma Lathen these days.


Better Privacy: Find Those Cookies and Delete Them

BetterPrivacy is a Firefox addon that is able to delete a special kind of cookies: Local Shared Objects in short LSO's which are placed on your computer by a Flash plugin.

This has been a topic of interest to me ever since I heard Dan Carlin's podcast about the 4th amendment and the way we live today.

What I especially liked was that his comments about the way to control tracking of our personal info (just ask them to let us edit it the way that Amazon does with our preferences) showed a high degree of common sense. His commentary was sparked by the article The Government Can Use GPS to Track Your Moves.  At the time he pointed out that no political leaders were speaking up on this ruling ... although it looks as if that is not the case now.
The  Obama administration has urged a federal appeals court to allow the   government, without a court warrant, to affix GPS devices on suspects'   vehicles to track their every move.
Read more at Wired
Gee. I'd rather have them not speaking up than going for the Big Brother option.

Anyway, that is what made me interested in the BetterPrivacy addon. I can keep the cookies I want, and dump those I don't. Most importantly, I can find them.


So An Existentialist, Two Atheists, and a Catholic Walk Into a Podcast ...

... to talk about Mindswap at SFFaudio. Which I still think should have been called "Bodyswap." AND which I did not pick up on as being existentialist. No wonder the last third of the book made no sense whatsoever.

Hey, I call it like I see it. But it did lead to some interesting conversation. Especially when we began discussing whether the universe has meaning and what is truth.

Oh yes. Interesting as in "may you live in interesting times."

And yet we could all have a drink together later. If we lived close enough to each other to do that, that is.


Robert Alter

This book is in under copyright. Forgotten Classics has been granted the non-exclusive right to read Robert Alter's translation of Genesis and his commentary. This book is published by WW Norton. Please contact Mr. Alter or his agent for any permissions. Many thanks to Robert Alter and Georges Borchardt for their graciousness in allowing us to read this book.


Episode 135: Night Drive by Will F. Jenkins (a.k.a. Murray Leinster)

In which a young woman at night is faced with a life-or-death choice.

EP 135: Night Drive
(download or listen via this link)

Rating: PG for suspense and possible werewolves



Star Trek? Zombies? There's a Book for That.

Night of the Living Trekkies

Book? I want that movie! (Rightly rated QB for Quasi-Silly But Awesome.)

Via SFFaudio, where so many good things turn up first.


Episode 134: The Riddle of the Sands, epilogue

In which The Editor wraps it all up.

(download or listen via this link)
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Podcast HighlightOther LinksMy Huffduffer feed

Barry Hughart

Bridge of Birds 
(Book 1 of The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox)


Have Mercy on Me Now and at the Hour of My Death

Captain Daniel O'Callaghan, 42, Smithtown, N.Y.

What an privilege it has been to read through the tributes of those who knew Daniel O'Callaghan and to learn about his life. Gradually this man I never heard of before has taken on real personality to me. Part of a large Irish clan, he was full of energy, loved children, loved joking around, and loved his family and job. In short, he loved life and made it better for everyone who was lucky enough to meet him.
When I was growing up, even though we didn't see the O'Callaghan's very much, it was always something to look forward to. We always had fun, laughter, jokes, & stories to tell. It didn't matter how long it had been since you'd seen each other, everyone was part of a big happy, loving family that hung together. Friends or family, it didn't matter; you were one of the family. It was wonderful.
I, myself, love the heart of someone who relished his job so ... and you've gotta love the image of those glow-in-the-dark boxers.
Though he came from a family chock-full of police officers - including six active officers and eight retired from forces in New York City and on Long Island - O'Callaghan, 42, switched to the fire department 18 years ago, after three years as a cop.

He was "born to be a fireman," said his friend and fellow firefighter, Paul Pfeifer.

His brother firefighters marveled at the constant energy displayed by "Danny O.," as he was known. "He was a ball of fire," said Pfeifer. In the engine house, he recalled, O'Callaghan "would have his pants and boots on already, like he was waiting for the next fire." And, Pfeifer said, at a fire scene, "You would turn around to see where he was, and he was already ahead of you."

O'Callaghan was also the one to provide comic relief when it was most needed. Pfeifer chuckled as he recounted one instance involving O'Callaghan and his glow-in- the-dark boxer shorts.

"We'd had a fire early in the evening that really beat the hell out of us," Pfeifer said. Most of the men were resting in the darkened bunk room, but not O'Callaghan, who never slept on the job.

"All of a sudden, he ran into the bunk room, and all you could see was the boxer shorts, jumping from bed to bed, and all you could hear was him laughing, and then he went out the door," Pfeifer said. "Everyone sat there, and was like, 'What was that?' I just said, 'That was Danny O.'"
That energy was one of Daniel O'Callaghan's main characteristics. It was mentioned time and again by all who knew him.
"Outstanding" This was always Danny's response...When I look back on it now though I realize it was his energy. It was his energy towards the two things he loved the most. His first would be his love for his beautiful family of Rhonda, Rhiannon and Connor. The other would be his other family. Being part of the NYFD. We should all be so lucky to have a loving family they we leave at home to join another that we work with.

It was his energy that could always be counted on when asked to assist in a family project or loan a hand in a task at ones home. Energy when telling a story or joke and always lighting up the place with his presence. His laugh was always robust and full of life...
Excerpts from John Caspar's tribute which was read at the memorial service
I was especially impressed by the fact that although his shift was over, he turned back to help in the emerging disaster that was September 11, 2001. That is just the kind of guy that he was. Born to be a firefighter, from a family with a history of public service.
The motto of the station, which is located in the Broadway area, is inscribed on the fire engine and fittingly reads: "The Pride of Manhattan. Never missed a performance."

It is a motto that probably befits Daniel O'Callaghan, who was not supposed to even be on duty that Tuesday. As the station was called out to the attack site, Daniel O'Callaghan was busy shaving in the station's bathroom before attending class to become a captain.

Maureen O'Callaghan was told her brother's shaving cream and clothes were found inside the station's bathroom, as he must have hurried to New York's aid with only half his face shaved, she said.
Anybody who lived life to the full the way that Daniel O'Callaghan did would also live his faith just as large.
"Much later, Anderson said, 'officials were able to identify Danny's remains in part by the Knights of Columbus rosary they found still firmly clenched in his hand.'"
I thought that I read somewhere that he was always fingering the rosary which he kept in his pocket, but couldn't find that reference again when I was looking around. Regardless, he had it when it counted most.

I think of him and feel that he had to be saying the rosary or at least thinking it in those final moments with the beads firmly in hand. I remember a friend told me that she read somewhere about someone who is devoted to Mary. That when they who stand before God for judgment they will see Mary come forward and tell Jesus, "This is one of mine" as she puts her arm around that person. Surely, from what I have read of Captain Daniel O'Callaghan's life he had no need of Mary coming forward but just as surely I feel that she was there with Jesus to greet him as he entered heaven.

I feel that I got to know Captain O'Callaghan just a bit as I searched for pieces of his life to show others. In fact, I have gotten into the habit of turning to him for intercession when in prayer. I look forward to meeting this loving, energetic, Irish firefighter if I make it to heaven myself. In fact, I'm asking him to help me get there.

My heart goes out to his family, especially his wife and young children. If I feel this way after simply reading about him then surely they must miss him sorely. My prayers are with them.

Daniel O'Callaghan was just one of the 2,996 victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, as well as the attempted hijacking of Flight 93. They are all mourned and missed. We will never forget.

2,996 is a tribute to the victims of 9/11.

On September 11, 2006,
2,996 volunteer bloggers
are joined together in a tribute to the victims of 9/11.
Each person is paying tribute to a single victim.

We honor them by remembering their lives,
and not by remembering their murderers.

Project 2,996 is here.

Remembering the tragic, sudden, and violent loss of 2,996 innocent Americans

I turn on the TV and watch as the plane slowly flies into the Tower.
Hail Mary, full of grace
My daughter wanders downstairs, shoes in hand,
Turns to look at what has me transfixed on a weekday morning.
The Lord is with thee.
"Where is that, Mommy?" she asks.
Blessed are you among women
"New York," I answer. She nods. The name is familiar,
Like Venus,
Like Mars
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
"Do we know anyone there?" Her eyes are blue and full of innocent concern.
"No," I answer, thinking of friends, family, business associates, safe here.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
She has seen the green glass tower where I work,
Tucked amongst taller builders.
Pray for us sinners
But a skyscraper in one city looks much like one in the next.
"Where's the tallest building in the United States?"
And at the hour of our death.
My daughter looks relieved.

I remember that day and how horrible it was.

I also remember the many accounts and how moved I was by the heroism showed by so many. Looking back through my accumulated links, it moves me still.

One of those heroes was Captain Daniel O'Callaghan, 42, Smithtown, N.Y., whose tribute I wrote for Project 2996. I am reposting Captain O'Callaghan's tribute today.


Episode 133: The Riddle of the Sands, chapter 28

In which Davies and Carruthers achieve their double aim.

(download or listen via this link)
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Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights?

Listening to the interesting new series from The Guardian books podcast, "The Books That Made Me," I was intrigued when China Mieville chose Jane Eyre as one of his favorite books. Not only was that interesting as most guys have never cracked it open, but he then commented that he found most people fell into a division of liking either Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.

I think that is true.


Jane Eyre ... all the way.

(Not that I don't appreciate the semaphore version of Wuthering Heights, but it is a limited pleasure.)

And you? Which side of the line are you on?

(You know I've really gotta read something by Mieville ... eventually the library will get Kraken in. I'm only 13 of 14 on the list.)



Episode 132: The Riddle of the Sands, chapter 27

In which Carruthers becomes a man of action.

(download or listen via this link)
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Podcast HighlightOther LinksMy Huffduffer feed


I Ain't Afraid O' No Ghosts

Because Halloween is not that far away, because this is a thumping good ghost story, and because I have discovered that some people actually do read the blog (woohoo!), I direct anyone interested to my review of Holy Ghosts: Or How a (Not So) Good Catholic Boy Became a Believer in Things That Go Bump in the Night by Gary Jansen.