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Six Books [Phile]

11 Jun

n.b. So I’m jumping the gun a bit about not posting anew until August. But this article is good stuff. It might also provide a new source of reading -and posting- material for this and other blogs.  Thank you Paris Review!

This marvelous post “Six Books We Could and Should All Write” by Anthony Madrid,  -via The Parish Review   came my way the other day thanks to the magic of  new tab algorithms and prior surfing history.  And really it’s a must for any writer. Writing these books makes us better observers  from diaries, to quotation collections to dictionaries, books of lists, and even a book of what not to say aloud. I haven’t read the books myself (apart from the usual extract of Pepys’s Diaries on the Great Fire of London which was a part of English Literature in high school), but now I want to.  I would probably add the book Islandia, by Austin Tappan Wright a travel book masquerading as fiction, because anyone can write a travel description of places they’ve been to.


Phile #5 Journaling with the Mind in the Heart

4 Jan

A New Year brings renewed commitments, renewed hopes,  renewed ambitions, and in this case, a renewed blog with a new rationale for posting -that my reading may be entertaining, informing, and transforming. I plan to bring this about through the power of self-education. So without further ado, let me introduce you to:

The Education of a Reader or, The Wordy Nature of Michael’s Mind: Ruminations of Education, Books and Personal Grounding

Education is about bettering one’s self through the acquisition of knowledge that leads to wisdom. In schools (public and private) we learn the rudiments of how to educate ourselves through Authority, Observation, Analysis and Synthesis, (and more often we are only taught a basic vocational skill set that quickly becomes out-moded and out of date in the working world)  but this is not itself education, for at the end of our schooling -including grad school- we at most have a piece of paper that announces to one and all that we (presumably) know how to do research, and how to think critically about [fill in blank here], as well as an introduction to a subject of learning.  It is a beginning, in other words.  In this we see that education  -from the Lain “to lead out of ignorance”- is a lifelong vocation and commitment to our selves.

It follows then, that to say that one is an educated person is at best a partial truth, far better is it to apply a paraphrase of Aeschylus from Agamemnon, referring to of course, Agamemnon (though it could just as likely be from Sophocles in Oedipus Tyrannus referring to, well, Oedipus), call no man educated until he is dead. At best one could say of himself (or herself) that he (or she) is on the path to being educated.

Education properly called consists of many realms, the most important of which is moral and ethical, followed by intellectual (comprised of social, political, economic, scientific, artistic) emotional, and physical.

The best ground for life-long education is the classical tradition. In the West it would Greek and Latin, or more generally, “The Great Books” whereas for the East it would be the Six Classics comprising the Confucian, Mohist, Taoist, School of Names, Yin-Yang, and Legalist Schools.  I admit to not knowing what a comparable foundation would be for the Indian subcontinent, and as Africa  to the best of my knowledge, West and sub-Saharan Africa had no written language tradition until fairly late, and nothing like a unified continental culture to supply a fixed canon of texts (whether oral or written), nor for a foundation for the First Nations of Turtle Island for roughly the same reason; however, I will work primarily from the Occidental foundation of Christian Humanism.

At the same time, education has always been oriented toward vocation, or one’s calling in life. And my calling is to read, to write, to shape, and to serve God and fellow Man.

  Reading for Life, not (yet) Orders

In the Church of England/Anglican Christian tradition (which I call my Christian home), before the rise of the institutional seminary it used to be commonplace for aspiring young men to “read for Orders” under the tutelage of an older priest. This was not necessarily  the ideal situation for the training of Ministers of the Gospel and was often an incomplete process, but it was the most -or only- effective means of supplying a rudimentary theological education, from which the prospective ordinand was expected to continue into a lifetime study of the Gospel.Unfortunately, most priests were hard pressed to come up with weekly Sunday sermons, much less engage in rigorous intellectual formation after ordination.  (Thanks to The New Continuing Anglican’s   “The Bishop’s Course of Study” for the background thoughts).

I though, have always like that concept, of reading your way into being qualified for an office, or an opportunity of ministry to others. But I had never taken it seriously, until now. Back in October, my mother brought my attention to a certain box in the basement of her house that appeared to be a box of old journals of mine. Well, the course of my own mental and emotional development is dear to my heart, so I went down to see what it was, and it turned out to be, not journals, but the missing first half of my collection of The Great Books of the Western World. This sparked in me a renewed desire for reading, which had been lagging of late. In fact, since July I have only been able to read 21 books from my own bookshelves. This led me back to the notion of “reading for…:”

It is my desire adapt this conception (sans the presence of a mentoring elder  at this time to provide accountability) into wider intellectual categories, and so I am proposing to myself a goal: to read myself into a humanistic, philosophical, theological and even scientific (in the biological and human sciences) education. Over the next seven years (or sets of seven years considering the multiplicity of  disciplines I am integrating) I am proposing to engage in intensive readings and responses to gauge my level of understanding. The subjects to be covered include: Theology (especially sacred scripture, dogmatic, moral, pastoral, sacramental and liturgical, spiritual and ascetical theology), Philosphy  (especially metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, of science, and of mind; moral philosophy. political philosophy, and the argument from reason) and Biology (especially evolutionary theory, cell biology, and molecular neurobiology). Other subjects to be treated of include -to a greater or lesser extent: Classics, History, Sociology, Anthropology, Area Cultural Studies. and Literature.

Of necessity, as I am reading out of my own resources for the time being (until I can organize my thoughts, prepare more systematic reading lists culled from my existing books, solicited recommendations, and online resources; and arrange visits to my alma mater‘s library) my selections will be eclectic. Although, I have it on good authority that I own, not to mention have already read, more theology than most priests, yet alone most seminarians. Knowing this, my other fields of intellectual interest and endeavor are, I am sure likewise well represented in my library. I say this not to boast, for the only thing worth boasting about is my faith in Christ Jesus- but to ponder the circumstances of a layman having a potentially greater knowledge of theology than some priests. To me this is a humbling condemnation of the state of clerical education (Although this really a post -or set of posts- for a sister blog “The Walsingham Way” and really belongs to a discussion of catechesis, Christian Formation, and the Christian response to God and Neighbor), and worth pausing for a moment before going on.

My goal for this first year is two books, How to Read a Book. Revised and Updated Edition, by Mortimer J Adler and Charles Van Doren (1972) -“The classic guide to intelligent reading” as it is billed- , and Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: a Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis, by Joan Bolker, Ed. D -even though currently I have no prospects of entering a formal academic program of instruction- and as much of the Great Books of the Western World by Encyclopedia Britannica, -edited in part by one Mortimer J Adler- as I can with the remainder to be read the following year(s).

After this initial taste of the Pierian spring,  I plan to read  selections from the Greek and Latin Classics with Loeb Classical Library,  volumes of Blackwell’s Companions to Philosophy and Frederick Copleston’s History of Philosophy, the English translation of Kittel’s Dictionary of New Testament Theology, and companion series Dictionary of Old Testament Theology, volumes from Anchor Bible and Anchor Bible Reference Library, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, the Popular Patristics Series from St Vladimir Seminary Press, Paulist Press’s Classics of Western Spirituality, and numerous individual volumes.

I title drop here not to boast of how wide my reading is or will be, or how well read I will (potentially) be, and certainly not to boast bout my academic and intellectual achievement or achievements (or lack thereof), but to show how far I have to go before I can begin to consider myself on the road to a holistic education.

Readings will be complimented by language studies: Hebrew, Koine (possibly Classic as well) Greek, Latin, German, French,  Japanese (because…Japanese) one year primarily devoted to each language in turn.

Every Wednesday, a Note*

Piles and Philes will become a sort of running personal journal of reading responses, with new content posted every Wednesday, in emulation of certain online graduate degree programs I have researched over the years that use Wednesday as weekly deadlines for posting reading and critique assignments.  No matter where I am in my reading, Wednesdays will provide the summary of my understanding to date. So, I will be changing the Piles and Philes description to read : a journal of reading, viewing, and thinking with the mind in the heart. This does not, of course mean that I will cease from writing free-standing interviews, though I suppose a three year gap between entries might suggest otherwise. I have plenty of draft reviews -I only need to finish them.

I am sure that my reading lists will be more exhaustive than my actual capacity to read them (though this knowledge won’t prevent my making the attempt).  The reading lists are more of an ideal, the closer I come to the ideal, the better prepared I will be when chance happens.  An old saw says that if you devote an hour a day every day for seven years to a subject of interest, then at the end of seven years you can attain expert understanding in that field. This too, is a ideal to live up to, not a ironclad demand that must be obeyed on penalty of intellectual disfigurement. Other recent reading about directed self-study suggest that I should spend a minimum of 10 hours per week in my studies. This I can do. And hopefully, my Wednesday posts will prove the pudding.

Every Reader a Prayer

And yet, I must become ruthless in pursuing prayer as well. If I am not grounded in prayer, all the studying, reading, viewing, thinking, and writing in the world will not benefit me one iota. But that, again, is a post for another blog.So look for it soon!  What this means in part is that I consider my reading itself a form of prayer to God (in fact, some Orthodox Jews consider study of Talmud itself to be a fitting prayer unto God in lie of sacrifices due to  the  [current] abeyance of Temple worship, and then there’s the wonderful verse in 2 Timothy “Study to shew yourself approved unto God” (2 Tim 2:15) but oh look, another Rabbit Hole). It also means that I must integrate prayer into study and study into prayer, and even apply Lectio Divina, if possible (out of one rabbit hole into another).  My prayer life, though is always a work in progress, and seems to be more like public road works projects -lots of noise and very little to show for it more days than not than anything else.

So join me on this renewed journey of the mind in the heart, and I promise you will be entertained, informed, and just possibly, as transformed as I hope to become.

For next Wednesday, I plan to introduce How to Read a Book, as well as other people’s responses to it at work.  Look forward to some interesting times, y’all.

*Of necessity, this post was not pre-read or vetted by anyone other than myself, so that I could push it out this first Wednesday of 2017. If you. my good reader, should find any error, inconsistencies, or other room for improvement, please let me know and I shall incorporate your advice as best I can.  Thank you for helping me to improve myself.

Pile #15 “Doors of Perception: Icons and Their Spiritual Significance” by John Baggley

30 Jan

Doors of Perception: Icons and their spiritual significance / John Baggley. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. 1988.  xi, 160p. Includes Bibliographic References and Index.

Worship with the Senses

We Christians of the 20th and 21st century live in a highly visual culture – while relying for the most part on oral and written testimony to learn of, and know God in Jesus Christ mostly through proclamation.  And yet, Christian Faith and Worship is a more than merely verbal and mental, it is a sensual experience: utilizing sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell; through these God-given senses we bring all of ourselves as an offering to the Lord each Sunday when we gather, and ideally in our daily lives when we turn to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving.

Of all the senses the one most honed throughout most of human history is that of sight (which means it is also the sense most easily debased) To aid this understanding and appropriation of the Spirit, a long and rich tradition of Christian art exists, one that has not always remained in chancel or chapter house. The down side to this is that Western religious art, like academic, scholarly study of the Scriptures has often become divorced from the Faith and Church that such studies and practice were meant to serve.

To See or Not to See, That is the Question…

And yet our contemporary (western) liturgical and devotional forms are in a sense vestiges of a much richer approach to worship  that relies less on a realism so prominent in our Western Christian art and theology, than on expressing the inner spirit in visible form. This alternative to artistic realism is found most readily in the Orthodox (and Coptic) East, and in their primary expression of religious art -the Icon.

Icons are an integral aspect of corporate worship and devotion of the Eastern Church, bringing the Communion of Saints to mind in a highly visible format, as well as teaching the faith without words. They are also a legacy of faith from the undivided Church. My own parish, Our Saviour is privileged to possess no less than three Icons  from different liturgical backgrounds and styles within the Church grounds:  two in the Lady Chapel after the Byzantine fashion and an Ethiopian Icon that hangs in the parish hall.

Sadly, though, they are not often utilized for their proper devotional function. This may have something to do with our lack of understanding of the force, and influence of Icons. Many books exist that introduce Icons for a Western Christian, but most are written for an Eastern audience by Eastern writers, and don’t always address Western concerns. Happily, the parish library once again comes to the rescue, for its shelves hold  the Doors of Perception: Icons and their Spiritual Significance by Fr. John Baggley.

Opening the Doors…

Doors of Perception is a book on Icons written for a Western audience by a Anglican priest (at the time of writing, Fr. Baggley was serving as Team Rector of the Bicester Team of Parishes in Oxfordshire) who is a sympathetic outside observer of Orthodoxy, and published by a venerable American Orthodox publishing house to introduce the discipline, decorum, and devotion of iconodulia -the veneration of holy Icons. It explores the history, theology, and spirituality of Icons for the Western audience, without taking prior experience or knowledge of Orthodoxy or Icons for granted.

Fr. Baggley offers 8 Chapters, an essay on the painting of icons by Richard Temple, a section of color plates with meditations, and two appendixes.  The first 98 pages of text covers the general historical and theological introduction, as well as  the spiritual tradition that surrounds Icons.  The second part, pages 99-105, consists of an essay by Richard Temple of The Temple Gallery, London (which is a centre for the “study, restoration, and exhibition of Icons”, specializing in Russian Icons) about the nature and techniques of Icon painting, and the third section is a collection of 18 Icon plates with provenance  and commentary and meditation.

After the introductory chapter, two chapters deal with a historical overview of the use of Icons, two chapters cover biblical language and imagery, and as well as it’s interpretation, and two chapters cover the Orthodox spirituality (especially the monastic setting) that forms the background for Icon painters (actually most of the book is a primer on Orthodox spirituality as the making, and use of Icons owes so much to this spiritual theology), and the last chapter situates the Icons in their liturgical and devotional context.

For Beginners, and Well-Seasoned Travelers

Fr Baggley does not presume that we know anything about Icons, other than the fact that they are a style of Eastern liturgical and devotional art (if indeed we know that much), so shies away from lots of technical jargon, unless the terms are first explained.

Having myself read a number of earlier books on Icons (including the two volume Theology of the Icon by the late Léonide Ouspensky -my first fora into Icons) I wasn’t expecting to learn many new things about Icons and their use but, found myself pleasantly surprised at the depth of information, as well as the integration of theology and spiritual aesthetics which Fr. Baggley and Mr. Temple offer. I can honestly say that this book has done much to increase my love of the Icon.


The next complete Pile  (#16) I am preparing is Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan’s Mary Through the Centuries, which marks a milestone of sorts for me, as it marks the last Amazon Book Review that I submitted way back when I was consumed with climbing the ranks of Amazon reviewers -said fervour has since died down somewhat. I mentioned in a previous Pile that I thought it best to savor Mary Through the Centuries only when placed alongside it’s predecessor, Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the  History of Culture. I have since rethought that position, not least because I have read so many other books in the meantime without returning to Jesus Through the Centuries and now think it best to actually finish the review, so  along with my Select Reading Project of Foreground Reading for additional university degrees, I am putting the finishing touches on Mary. Until then my friends, keep reading, learning, and loving.

Phile #4 Bibliographies and Blogs

15 Dec

or  “What do you do with a drunken blogger…early in the mornin?”

As is evident from previous posts, I am not shy about sharing bibliographies (whether or not I ever get around to reading the books on said bibliographies (though it is always my intention to do so), the fruits of my biblio-lunacy. I collect books like certain people collect fortune cookies fortunes, like  women collect shoes and purses, like otaku collect anime goods, and like dust-bunnies collect …well, more dust bunnies (I could add, “like tribbles produce other tribbles, but that’s stretching things a bit)

To prepare myself for undertaking formal (distance-learning) academic study again I  have taken up the noble and occasionally gentle art of blogging, of which Piles and Philes was but my first down-payment. At the same time, in order to meet my commitment to my Episcopal parish I have drawn up a three year schedule of book reviews (A fourth, provisional year has also been drawn up, but not finalized)

I hope to introduce these other blogs over the course of  the next year as I build up my intellectual stamina so to speak in preparation for this return to school for graduate-level work in the fields of history, humanities, philosophy, theology, and science (probably a combination of biology and evolutionary psychology).  I’m also going to share recently acquired bibliographies:  from Cobb  County Public Library, from Amazon, from other bookstores (especially Used or Secondhand bookstores) and from within the bowels of my preexisting personal library, targeted toward the blogs in question, to be added as meta-piles.

The Soul of Understanding

What this means is I’ll get to share more and more lists of books, so that together our gathered intellectual ambition can exceed  our reach. It also means  that, as the number of posted reviews in certain areas increases, I’ll be able to return to these books, organizing and integrating them into literature reviews and bibliographic essays for more comprehensive understanding With that said, my upcoming blog projects for 2013 include.

1 Earmarks and Porn: A Christian review of political culture  A blog which relies on book review of current and historical works on political philosophy, political events, biographies, and agendas, as well as the occasional scriptural commentary to build up a Christian understanding of politics in an age of increasing globalization and interconnectedness.

2 The Strange Affair of the Evolutionary Creationist:  A study in ideas that will review books along the creation-evolution, mind-body, science-religion, faith-reason divide (and just perhaps, supply me with research material and leads for an eventual dissertation), primarily pursued through (you guessed it) reading and reviewing other books in the hyphenated fields above, to build up my own understanding of issues,

3 Miihaa – The Clueless Fanboy Anime Review : for the love of Japanese and Anime culture -This little gem (the product of my major non-academic interests, (aside from fiction writing) offers for the interested reader reviews of anime series as well as books (and the occasional blog) about Japan and Japanese culture and society (including anime and other art forms), history, language, literature and religion, in an attempt to develop a proper understanding and context for the continued enjoyment of anime (at least insofar as a Gaijin like me can understand it. I plan, and hope, to include guest posts from fellow members of the AWA Video Room Staff (if not wider AWA Staff)

4 Walsingham Way: Pilgrim Thoughts on the Journey of Faith –  A personal devotional and theological blog (actually an existing, though dormant blog) where I could gather my thoughts on Jesus and Faith  framed by a threefold chord of Marian, Patristic, and Hebrew modes of understanding, naturally complemented by more reading and more reviews.

The Three Constants

The end of the matter is that I will be constantly seeking understanding, constantly studying, constantly putting to use the fruits of my reading in the pursuit of true wisdom. And if, at the end of another 40 years of life, I can claim a little increase of understanding of the ways of God and men, I will count those years well spent.

So, until we meet again, Keep reading, my friends!

Phile #2 Anime and it’s Culture

31 Oct

This the first of three related Phile entries that treat of my interests in anime, ‘otaku’ culture, and fan responses

One of my major non-research interests is Anime and the surrounding otaku (anime fan) culture that it generates. both for itself, and for the gateway to Japanese culture that it has provided me. I like the canvas that anime offers for telling large, save-the-world and galactic spanning adventures, and for it’s ability to peer with great detail and occasional insight into even the smallest social unit and make even the most mundane of experiences seem magical, quite apart from the “glimpses of  unfamiliar Japan” to quote the title of  Lafcadio Hearn’s late 19th century book that it opens before me, inviting me to explore a real “undiscovered country”.

It Is What It Is

‘Anime’, simply put is a French loan word into Japanese that describes Japanese animation or ‘cartoons’.   But it’s so much more: Unlike its American and European counterparts, which historically and culturally  equate animation with cartoons and perceives it as an art form geared toward children and the childish -though in the 90’s with the advent of The Simpsons, Ren and Stimpy, South Park, Futurama, King of the Hill, and Family Guy, shown on such networks as MTV, USA Network, Fox, and  Nickelodeon this perception has begun to change- in Japan, animation, or anime, is simply perceived as another narrative art form and medium for artistic (commercial) expression, alongside theatre (plays), classical (and pop music),  television and motion pictures, and performing arts generally, and shows are produced that cater across age groups from children’s shows through young adult to adult programming (in both the ‘grown-up’ and “adult” sense). You can have action, comedy, drama, soap-opera, historical dramas, mystery, political, romance, suspense, thrillers and educational programs such as public service announcements or religious-themed shows, as well as ‘standard fare’ science fiction, fantasy, super-hero, horror and monster shows. As well, categories fall into shojo (for young girls) shonen (for young boys), josei (for older teens and young women), seinen (for older teen and young men), and of course, general use manga, including a genre that treats of the daily life of the Japanese  business man: the so-called “salary man” or Sararīman,

More than Meets the Eyes….Nihongo Style

Anime is also shorthand for an entire culture that includes ‘manga’ (comic books and graphic novels) early always published in a monochrome format (black and white, or black and insert-publisher’s- pastel-color-of-choice-here), and of course it’s read in the Japanese manner: top to bottom writing, right-to-left page formatting,  ‘doujin’ or fan-created works (of manga) that parody existing works or utilize fan-fiction to use those same characters in alternative or extended situations -often involving original characters created by the fan-artist or doujin-ka but still based in the same universe.  Doujin-ka often organize themselves into Circles (in the US and abroad the term is Studio) where they will churn out  their 20-30 page parodies and/or original stories. The Tokyo Comic Market, or   Comiket, is one of the largest gatherings of such groups, where amateur and professional Circles come to display their wares, do the meet-and-greet (if there’s time), dress up and show off, but there are smaller groups that meet all over the country and abroad. Indeed, a number of animes have been developed around this concept.

From Concept to Reality

Inspiration for individual shows comes from any of a number of sources: original ideas, light novels (roughly the equivalent of YA fiction), an existing manga series, existing game (visual novel, ‘dating-sim’  or  (frequently) ‘eroge game’).

Anime is produced as either multi-episode (usually in runs of 13 episodes per series (what we count as multiple “seasons” Japanese usually see as sequential “series”), shorter collection of OAV -original animation video (think of this as “straight-to-video” model), and of course full fledged motion pictures, though usually, this is done for already established series.

In the good old days a short OAV series could be produced by independent studios, but economics being what they are, nowadays, an anime series is put together by a production committees or partnership consisting of combination of the animation studio, a distribution company -who may also license the intellectual property overseas- for merchandising rights, the broadcast network that will air the show,  the original publisher if the anime is not  an original idea (i.e. manga or book publisher, game studio), occasionally a music label involved in production (especially if the theme song is sung by a popular band) such as Columbia or Lantis, and other such sponsors as may be involved in the production.

Your Stigma Is My Approbation

‘Otaku’ in Japanese is a word with social stigma, denoting an individual so obsessed with an interest -for our consideration anime, but also pachinko and gambling, other forms of collecting (such as insects, supernatural or occult memorabilia that he -or she- has disengaged from normal and expected patterns of social involvement: be that family responsibilities, employment, education, or often personal appearance and hygiene. So, it is quite ironic, or humorous, that a denigrating term in Japan is latched onto by American and other non-Japanese fans as the moniker to describe their fandom. (Then again, the propensity of groups to take upon themselves terms originally used to denigrate them as an identifying mark of honor, such as “Christian”, “Protestant”, or “Puritan” should tell us something about the need for group identification, no?)

Many anime series are set in real-life locales in Japan. This has its own effect: the development of  a niche market in anime-tourism to visit spots associated with particular animes,  from shopping districts to shrines and temples, to famous historical imperial buildings. And speaking of shopping districts and anime….

Akihabara or “Electric Town” is a shopping district in Tokyo that at one time was The Place to buy all things electronic, but with changing economic patters, was forced to reinvent itself to survive, and so re-emerged in the 90’s as the Mecca for anime otaku (‘fans’) selling everything from videos and manga, to models, figurines, clothing, costume accessories (known as ‘cosplay’) and other one of a kind collector’s items from individual shows.

So, what’s in it for me?

I enjoy anime because it takes animation seriously, because it does an incredible job of taking me to exotic new worlds, be that strange new planets, or merely the neighborhood shopping district in Japan  (which, being in the Far East, is exotic enough for Americans). It opens a whole world of possibilities for reading, watching, and even creating works in a similar vein.  Anime Conventions provide venues for disparate people: men, women, children and adults, black, white, yellow, whatever, to come together to celebrate and share a common interest. It helps that the Japanese are a very visually oriented culture: one look at their architecture, horticulture, and traditional arts is enough to bring this home

It’s just a jump to the East…

Anime, for me was my ‘real’ introduction to the deeper culture of Japan. It has led to my current collection of some 28 volumes of grammar, kanji recognition, kanji etymology,  history, and cultural studies (anthropology and sociology), ranging from the classic “Electric Geisha”  by Atsushi Ueda and Miriam Eguchi to Okakura Kakuzō’s  The Book of Tea, to Minamoto’s The Five Rings not to mention a look and a promise glance toward the 5 classics of Chinese literature. And then, of course there’s the 1000 (or so) volumes of manga (mostly in Japanese -yep you guessed it, my original inspiration for learning Japanese was so I could read the manga that’ll never get translated), but now as mentioned above, I have books on Japanese history (political and social history), architecture, art and art history, gardens, religion, wedding customs (and sexual mores), literature, and of course anime, along with language.

Where it all started!

My first conscious introduction* to anime came in the 1990’s in college -of course, where else would I have the freedom to explore and be exposed to different subjects like that- oddly enough, thanks to a local  Blockbuster Video, which had (all VHS at the time) such shows as Project A-ko (English dub), Gall Force, Gall Force EternityAppleseed, New Dominion Tank Police, Akira, and I think, Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Unknown to me at the time I first watched it on TBS (but long since ingrained into my head) as a child,  the Sandy Frank production of “Battle of the Planets” a/k/a “G-For,ce”  was really called Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman -“Science Ninja Team Gatchaman” and was one of the earliest anime to arrive on American shores from Japan. Gatchaman itself was also a first – the first series  to use teams of young people/teenagers with special advanced powers flying in special vehicles that combine to save the world. Another unconscious introduction to anime was a movie that had aired on HBO in the 80’s “Warriors of the Wind” which was the Americanization of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli film  “Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind” but I digress, or do I?) . Nor did I realize at the time that G.I.Joe, Transformers, even a show on Nickelodeon – “Mysterious Cities of Gold” about searching for “El Dorado” in the 1600’s, was really a Japanese production.

*Now that I think of it, Akira was probably the first movie that I knew of as Japanese, and as anime.



1. my own experience

2. years of reading the following news sites :

3.  Several now-discontinued anime magazines:

  • Newtype USA,
  • Animerica,
  • Otaku USA (which may still enjoy print publication, just not in my area)

4. Several now defunct anthologies of manga (a nearly extinct commodity)

  • Animerica Extra
  • Shojo Beat
  • Shonen Jump
  • Rajin Comics
  • Yen+ (which changed  to a web-only subscription publication in 2010, which can be found here

Part II (Phile #3 “For the Love of the Convention”) will discuss my enjoyment and participation in anime conventions, those fun-filled weekends that celebrate all things anime (including the food)!
Edited on Nov 2, 2012, for grammar, clarity, and consistency

Phile #1 Journals, Societies, and Research. Oh My!

17 Oct

Academic Societies and Member Benefits

As a birthday present to myself, I recently renewed (or restored) my annual membership in the prestigious Society of Biblical Literature, chiefly to gain access to it’s flagship journal, The Journal of Biblical Literature (JBL),  as well as selections from the Review of Biblical Literature (RBL) and courtesy access to the JSTOR online database and search function  ( ). To my joy I discovered that a benefit of membership allowed me to download previous issues of the Journal back to 2003. Needless to say there should be many, many gems to read and comment upon  to arise from this happy state of affairs. I also plan before year’s end to join the American Anthropological Association for the not-so-lofty goal of acquiring personal copies of its flagship journal,  American Anthropologist –nevermind what other benefits may accrue.

Research:  Social Vice No. 1!

This may seem strange at first glance, but two things should put your mind at ease oh seasoned blogaphile. One:   My major social vice (apart from the usual social vices associated with being male in contemporary society) -as anyone in my immediate family or circle of friends could tell you- is my propensity to carry a book around with me (and not-infrequently a pen and notebook) everywhere I go, and not just to the necessary room and restaurant. (In fact, I once took a notebook into a Cirque du Soleil show cause I thought I might receive some good ideas there, and I was right!) And things have only gotten worse with the introduction of first the Kindle, and now an iPad to my collection of writing and research implements.  Simply put…I like collecting reading material, and if i had a way to own the majority of academic books I have read from my first day in junior college, I could die a happy man.

Secondly, my two main intellectual research aims revolve around the seeking of a comprehensive humanistic understanding of the paths of knowledge (sacred and profane). These separate but not necessarily mutually-exclusive programmes are:  1) religious epistemology or the question of answering from a philosophical and theological point of view how we know that God has spoken to us -how we can speak of a “Supernatural” that  stands above, over, and against “Nature” and   2) the study of the nature, natural history, and makeup (biology and psychology) of Consciousness and it’s relation to Mind and Brain as a locus of the “mind-body” problem in natural philosophy (Science), and as a key to a reconciliation of religious and scientific epistemology, usually called the Faith – Reason or Science-Religion controversy.

Such an endeavor will utilize such disciplines as: Evolutionary Theory, Molecular Biology, Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Science, Neurophilosophy, Embedded Cognition, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Theology, Anthropology, even Literary and Art Criticism.  So the more sources I can gather and/or obtain access to, the better my analysis will eventually become.

It’s raining journals, Hallelujah!

There are a few other journals that I want to subscribe to as well, but then again, if I had my way, and had the resources, I’d join as many societies -just for the journal access-as I could, or if there was a website that offered affordable individual access to academic journals online, I’d subscribe to that, but most of the sites out there only sell subscriptions to institutions (hmm…now that’s an idea…incorporate myself as a research institute and gain access that way  *evil hand washing motions commences* ).

  1. Journal of Early Christian studies.
  2. Novum Testamentum
  3.  Anglican and Episcopal History
  4. Philosophy and Literature
  5. Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science
  6. First Things
  7.  The Oxford American – The Southern Magazine of Good Writing
  8. Books and Culture: A Christian Review

I will of course add other titles as they come to me which of course means that this post may see constant revision, so don’t forget to check back fairly regularly to see what a mess I’ve gotten myself into with my intellectual eyes fighting it out with my intellectual stomach.

And that about wraps up this edition of the Philes.  Next up (hopefully) is Pile #2 “The Complete Jewish Bible”

Until then, Read on my fiends, and stay thirsty!

edited on 17 October for consistency. Last edited for content on 15 December