Octavo Dia

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Review: All for Pie, Pie for All

Martin, David. All for Pie: Pie for All. Somerville, MA; Candlewick Press, 2006.

This book discusses two topics that are very dear to my heart. Pie and napping. It moves me to tears.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Review: Moon-o-theism, Backmatter

Well, this is it. I have officially finished both volumes. I didn't think I'd have much to say about the backmatter, but it turns out I do.

First, I don't think we need the abbreviated war verses. That's how he refers to them throughout the text, so it seems repetitious.

Second, I really, really, really liked the war verses with context. All through these volumes I had a nagging suspicion that they were taken out of context. With the full text available, I can see that the edits were appropriate. At the very least, (and if he did and I missed it, I apologize), the author should have recommended that these verses be read prior to diving into the text. I would even make the case that, rather than being buried in the backmatter, they should be moved to the front of the first volume, so everyone would review them prior to reading the text.

I would also recommend that a different translation be used. I know that translation isn't an exact science, and that the form of the original makes it clear what is being referred to, but the extensive use of brackets for clarification is distracting and makes it seem that the author may be skewing the translation. It would be better to use a less literal, more complete translation and reduce the number of brackets.

Third, in a glossary, as a general rule, the definitions should not go on for pages and include footnotes. Much of what is contained in the glossary should be moved to the body of the text (particularly in a two-volume series, in which the glossary is not readily available for those reading the first volume).

As a whole, using the crudest measure of success, the author succeeded in persuading me of his thesis. Though I quibbled, sometimes extensively, over the details, the main argument remains intact. When making such a controversial argument, you cannot ask for more than that.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Review: Moon-o-theism, Chapter 16

I must admit, I began the section on the Arabic alphabet with a great deal of skepticism. It seemed surreal that a people would reshape their alphabet to give it an astrological appearance. However, a single argument, about two-thirds of the way in, changed my opinion. The author argued that the alphabet was no different from any other symbolic representation, and just a religion influences other symbols, it will influence the alphabet as well. That lone argument made the whole section plausible, and really should have been introduced first. I would counter, however, that the more important something is, the less variation is introduced, e.g., mitochondrial DNA is much more stable, being much more vital to the survival of the organism. On the other hand, at the time of the Koran's writing, most people were illiterate, so the written word was not nearly as an important a symbol. On the third hand, the multiplicity of fonts available in modern times, shows how easily variation can be introduced to an alphabet without adversely effecting it usefulness. Anyway, this was an interesting section.

The rest of the chapter didn't really pique my interest enough to comment on, except at the end. I'm suddenly at the end of the text, with only the backmatter to plow through. There was no conclusion or summation--it just stopped. I know I suffer from this fault as well (I tend to think that if I have argued my case convincingly, my conclusion should be self-evident) so it was enlightening to me just how jarring the lack of a conclusion can be. This book covers so much that it definitely needs a conclusion.

On to the appendices.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Book Review: Moon-o-theism, Chapter 15

Chapter fifteen concerns Mohammad. In it, the author claims that many of Mohammad's revelations, particularly the early ones, were drug induced. Given the role that many narcotics have played through history, this sounds very reasonable. I appreciated how he wove together many seemingly unrelated anecdotes to show a pattern of behavior consistent with drug abuse. Until someone comes up with a better explanation, I'll argue that Mohammad was an apparent drug user.

The second main theme is that Mohammad suffered from gonorrhea. Once again, I appreciated the author's weaving together of many seemingly unrelated anecdotes to arrive at his conclusion. Particularly, I can see how the gonorrheal discharges could be interpreted as an abundance of sexual potency. This section does seem a bit late, however, as many of these same evidences were discussed in different contexts elsewhere in the book.

All in all, though, this chapter was well worth the read.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Book Review: Moon-o-theism, Chapter 14

I thought the section about a night-time mirage causing the "splitting the moon" was, in retrospect, obvious. However, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that I'm an outsider looking in on this. Just like random people come up with naturalistic phenomena to explain various biblical miracles, the explanations Yoel Natan offers seem like they would have been considered, and rejected, by true believers for reasons with which I am unfamiliar. I think this chapter would have been strengthened by citing some Islamic scholars, and why they reject these hypotheses.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Book Review: Moon-o-theism, Chapter 13

This chapter was great. I hadn't realized how the viewers perspective of the Hatim Wall at the Kaaba mimicked the phases of the moon during the Hajj circumambulation, or how the same effect is achieved by running back and forth between the mountains during the Hajj.

This seems like a powerful proof of his thesis to me. It's not something that happens by accident; it is quite evidently designed (a single instance perhaps, but two ceremonies that achieve the same result?) And both ceremonies are strongly, visually linked with the moon.

Yoel Natan also mentioned how many religious practices are mandated to be performed at night, which one would expect of moon worshipers. He didn't mention the Feast of Ramadan in this chapter, but I think that's a prime example. For a whole month, most pious Muslims sleep much of the day and have an all-night feast. If anything forces you to be up at night, being unable to eat or drink during the day would do it.

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Monday, November 01, 2010

Destroying the village in order to save it

Christianity is like freedom. The more you tell people they can't have it, the more people want it. The church is most vigorous where it is most repressed. By contrast, the most stagnant of faiths exists where the church is official supported and sanctioned. Consider Western Europe, with its state-supported churches full of vacant pews.

What should a Christian do? Freeing the faith leads to its demise? Repressing it leads to its growth? Can a Christian even contemplate that persecution may be necessary for the sake of the church?

How much persecution is necessary? Probably short of throwing them to the lions, but more than benign indifference. I think that, at the very least, we should scrap faith-based-initiatives and tax-exempt status. I'm sure that many churches would be faced with closure. I'm sure that would be a wake up call for their members. People who assumed that their physical church was forever, whether they were involved or not, would wake up to the reality that it isn't.

I can, in good conscience, support the steps above. I'm not sure what the next steps would be: what other sacrifices would be required to turn the church around. This would just cut the old dead wood and allow new, healthy growth to emerge. I don't know if I could support truly repressive steps for the good of the church, but I hope that the blood of the martyrs is not necessary.