Octavo Dia

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review: Legends of Valor

Lehane, Brendan. Legends of Valor. The Enchanted World. Alexandria, VA; Time-Life, Inc., 1984.

When I was growing up, we had a book with a gray cover. On its front was, I believe, a picture of St. George and the Dragon. Inside it was full of stories of the Knights of the Round Table and beautiful color painting of the various knights. I loved it and have half-heartedly searched for it at used bookstores every since.

My wife found this one for me, and though it is not the one I was looking for, it was also filled with beautiful paintings.

I liked this book. It straddles the gap between fiction and non-fiction. The author weaves in and out of the stories to explain why the knights did certain things, what their weapons were like, and how the societies in which they lived changed. This book made we want to read the rest of the series.

As for the missing book of my youth, I don't know if I really want to find it. Will it be as awesome as I remember? Or, as Neil Diamond said in Brooklyn Roads:

Thought of going back
But all I'd see are stranger's faces
And all the scars that love erases
But as my mind walks through those places
I'm wonderin'
What's come of them?


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The High Income Bidding War

Having seen chart after chart underscoring income disparity in the United States, it started me thinking about how all dollars are not created equal.

Three years ago at a different job, I was earning half what I make now. I should be rolling in the dough, correct? Unfortunately for me, the increase in salary has come at the cost of successively higher priced real estate markets. Where my current salary has increased 223%, my rent has increased 279%, and I am in roughly the same position I was three years ago.

The key is that, as my salary has increased, the salaries of those against whom I am competing for resources has increased as well. In terms of goods and services, I'm consuming approximately what I did three years ago, but at double the cost, because those I am bidding against in these markets have the same relative position. Therefore, within an economy, a currency can have differing real values, even though it is nominally the same.

If my supposition is correct, the rich consume far less than their income would imply. Their $3,000,000 Manhattan apartment may constitute the same resources as a $500,000 Minneapolis apartment, but there are fewer, deep-pocketed bidders in Minneapolis. They may be rich, but it isn't doing them as much good as you would think.

Now, at the rarefied level of the outrageously rich, I suppose this ceases to have meaning, but for the merely rich, they are only nominally so.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: Stories in Stone

Keister, Douglas. Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetary Symbolism and Iconography. New York: MJF Books, 2004.

As a field guide, this is a book you take with you when out in the field, but I didn't do that, and proceeded to read it straight through anyway.

My primary takeaway from this is how silly so much symbolism is. It doesn't really have to mean anything, or have any particular meaning to you, it just has to mean what you want it to mean at the time.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Commentary on the Commentary

I received the Archaeological Study Bible for Christmas. I'm not going to dedicate myself to commenting on it, partly because I'm lazy, and partly because I have very little time. But, as I am so inclined, I'll comment on it.

I appreciated their comparative analysis of creation myths. The creation myths of other Ancient Near East (ANE) cultures served to glorify one god over the others, glorify one place over others (as the origin of the primordial lump), or to deify an object, such as the sun or the moon. The Biblical creation account in its construction rejects all of those. There are no other gods. Nothing exists that God did not create. Nothing is deified or comparable.

I was rather disappointed in their first reference, concerning the meaning of the Hebrew word yom, because, although they are correct that it can be used to mean an indefinite period of time (as it does in English, ala "Back in the day"), when it is used in Scripture with the phrase "evening and morning" it always refers to a rotation of the earth. Unless you want to postulate a Garden of Eden at the North pole, you're pretty well stuck with a literal day.

Their explanation of the purpose of the bride price made it seem reasonable. The bride's family was to hold the bride price should she find herself divorced or abandoned. It was like paying child support and alimony in advance. In a period without social services, it makes sense. That's why Rachel and Leah considered it an crime by their brother Laban that he had used up their bride price. It wasn't his money, it was their money, held in trust for them.

Their comment that the rivers of Eden named the Tigris and Euphrates are "doubtless the same" as the rivers currently known by those names is bogus. Between the Garden of Eden and today there was a global Flood, which would have rearranged landmasses and watersheds entirely. And it is also tremendously unlikely that the ark landed in precisely the same area it departed from. Far more likely is that Noah et al departed the ark, and reused river names they were familiar with. Much as New England is littered with names of towns, cities, lakes, counties, etc., from England.

The last comment on chapter two, that the Bible contains the only description in ANE literature of the creation of woman, is telling.