From my diary

I’ve received the printed copy of Lanciani’s Ancient Rome in the light of recent discoveries, and I’ve started to read it. 

It’s a bit disappointing to discover that the reprinter, “Shelf2Life” (printed by Amazon themselves) didn’t trouble to get the reprint right.  The text is all stretched.  What they did was take a PDF, trim to the text block, and then send it to be printed as was on the next largest standard book size.  What they should have done was pad it with white space to that book size. Hmm.

But Lanciani is charming.  He begins by discussing  the mass destruction of material in Rome, and makes an interesting point, with examples; that the ruins provided hiding-places for thieves, robbers, poor people and other riff-raff.  In some cases demolition was a matter of security for the living. 

I’ve also been reading the Tim LaHaye &c, Left Behind series; a set of Christian novels imagining what would happen next if the teaching of the Rapture were correct, and all the real Christians in the world vanished.  The books are good, but some of the office politics described is too much like work for me!

In news from Italy, a Roman shipwreck reveals details of the medical paraphernalia of an ancient physician.  The vials in which he carried his drugs were very well sealed, and have been analysed.

And a curious freedom of speech issue from Boston, UK.  A pensioner  has displayed in his window a hand-written placard proclaiming that “Religions are fairy stories for adults”.  (Quite why he felt the need to say this to all his friends and neighbours we are not told, and one senses that part of the story is missing.)  Generally houses in the UK do not display placards in their windows.  Someone complained to the police that the item was offensive.  The police advised that potentially it could be, and recommended removal; and the NSS, the atheist society, is complaining about free speech.  Something smells a little about this one, to my eye.

8 thoughts on “From my diary

  1. What kind of no-see-um placard is that? You’d have to put your face right up on top of the glass, to see small letters in light blue printed on white. Especially in glaring summer light. You certainly couldn’t see it from across the street or on the sidewalk. What’s more, it’s a letter-sized piece of normal paper, not a poster.

    So how did these fictional police see it, unless he went out and called them over, or walked out and waved it under their nose?

    Is this another case of Muslim policemen in a heavily Muslim neighborhood, like the last time some guy put up a sign?

  2. If you made it through more than one Left Behind book, you’ve got mighty powers of endurance. LaHaye is good at keeping to the thriller formula, but I’ve read better apocalyptic thrillers.

    To be honest, though, it’s the logical implications that kept stopping me. Stuff that should have happened according to the set rules of the book, didn’t, whereas stuff that didn’t happen, should have. Of course, the thriller format is designed to keep things moving fast enough that you don’t think, and that’s perfectly fine in a summer relaxation book.

    (Well, and of course there was tons to offend a Catholic, but there nearly always is, in books from the “Christian publishing industry.” Especially when they are trying most to be ecumenically Christian. 🙂 Since I’m usually only reading them in the library to keep abreast of a segment of sf/f that is often forgotten, I can just roll my eyes and push onward with the investigation. I don’t expect C.S. Lewis.)

  3. There’s something odd about the story of the atheist poster, isn’t there? As you say, who would notice? I can think of a couple of explanations for the story.

    1. The chap was having a row with his neighbour and put it up to taunt him. The neighbour then complained.

    2. The whole story is a stunt organised by the atheist organisation. They get a member to put up the poster, then phone in a complaint, in order to raise the profile of the anti-section 5 campaign (and I support that campaign, btw). It’s mostly Christians who are being attacked under this legislation, so perhaps the atheists are taking the chance to acquire a bit of moral standing — “look! the dirty Christians persecute us when they get the chance!” — because mostly they scream abuse in similar cases.

    Did you notice the comments? The ones from atheists consisted entirely of “yeah! stick it to the dirty christians” rather than “whoever was putting up a poster had a perfect right to do so.” If one had any temptation to atheism, those comments would cure one, I think.

  4. I haven’t seen anything anti-Catholic in the series so far. After all, the Pope was one of those taken.

    I think I’m slightly allergic to the thriller format. It just makes me feel tired!!!

  5. Well, if you assume the Sinner’s Prayer is an efficacious Sacrament (and in fact, the only Sacrament I recall coming across in the entire universe of Left Behind), then allowing as how some Catholics are Christian despite no Sinner’s Prayer is mighty big of the author.

    However, in real life, Catholics are about as thrilled by someone allowing that some Catholics are Christian, as Christians are pleased to be told by atheists that they’re the only reasonable Christian in town, or that women are pleased to be told that some women are human. One understands that the person is trying to be flattering; but overall, one still feels denigrated.

    Of course, it is part of the sad consequences of various Christian groups over the years being variously impolite about detailing the implications of their theology to groups that don’t share it, and the Catholic Church has certainly been to blame for some of that. Certainly it beats being told that all Catholics are hellbound pagan idolaters. But dealing with it doesn’t make me happy.

  6. We’ll have to agree to differ here. The nominal Catholic who actually doesn’t live by Catholic teaching (or attempt to) is a figure I remember from college.

  7. Oh, we all know that kind of person. The Catholic In Name Only (CINO) is everywhere, and of course Donatism pretty much came about because of annoyance and suspicion. The whole Tyconian critical structure is all about facing up to the fact that there are both wheat and tares in the Church. (Which is why it’s weird that he was a Donatist, because he’s okay with going to church alongside tares.)

  8. It’s been a while since I’ve read the Left Behind series (and actually I’m not sure I ever got beyond Nicolae). But it always seemed to me that LaHaye and Jenkins were making special effort not to be anti-Catholic; it’s just that the basic story they’re telling has historically been a very anti-Catholic narrative — the Pope as Antichrist and the Catholic Church as Mystery Babylon, and all those tropes. So by having the Pope raptured (explaining it, if I recall, in terms of the Pope’s having developed an Evangelical view of justification) and a few other things like that, they end up being able to keep the basic story structure without attacking Catholics generally. But it still has the basic structure, so it can be occasionally exasperating in Catholic terms. (It’s a bit like their Jewish rabbi, who is one of their most important and likable characters, but who acts and talks like an Evangelical pastor and at no point ever seems to look at things like a Jewish rabbi, even a Jewish rabbi converted to Evangelicalism, would look at things. It’s part of the genuinely Judaism-friendly character of modern Evangelicalism, especially in America, but I would sympathize with any winces on the part of a Jew who had to read it.)

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