Sunday, November 30, 2008

How NOT Blogging is Hurting My Career

Anyone whose paid attention to such things knows the standard format of the "How Blogging Will Hurt Your Career" articles that pop up occasionally in the Chronicle and other places in the inter-web-o-net-o-sphere. They usually run something like this:
  • Lots of young and foolish scholars are now blogging.
  • What is blogging, you ask? I'll define it, poorly.
  • Examples of bloggers behaving badly and thus damaging their nascent careers.
  • Careless confusion of blogs with social networking sites.
  • Dark hints of how even those not behaving badly are in danger.
  • Warnings of caution for those using these new-fangled computing devices, with implication that all writing should be in Latin and on vellum.
  • Fin.
Let me be my usual contrarian self and whine about how my career has been hurt this semester by not blogging.

As regular Wordhoarders know, I've been plagued by five courses this semester (three of which are composition, oh joy!) and a dying office computer. I've had to farm out my regular feature, the Morning Medieval Miscellany, and have had precious little in the way of original-content posts. Even my video posts of "Learn Old English with the Wordhoard" had to stop because my daughter complained I was keeping her up at night.

I knew blogging was going to slow this semester, but I didn't realize it would come to a crawl. One other thing I had not realized, though, was how I have come to rely on blogging to help me with my other writing.

I've made zero progress on my monograph-in-progress, Medieval America. By zero, I mean I haven't written a single word on it -- it still exists on paper as just a half chapter, with the rest of the book alive in my mind but still unconceived on paper. No doubt the slowness of my work computer and my teaching schedule have contributed to this, but so also has the lack of blogging.

Blogging in the morning had become for me a type of throat-clearing exercise. Write a few paragraphs of off-the-cuff "hey, medieval stuff!" prose, and I was ready to conquer things with footnotes and scholarly tidbits. So many people have depicted blogging as a distraction from doing "real" scholarly writing, but the absence of blogging this semester has taught me that it's a little bit like doing scales before practicing a musical instrument -- it gets the synapses firing and limbers the fingers for a dance along the keyboard.

Not blogging has made scholarly writing like starting a 5K run from sitting in an easy chair. Sure, it can be done, but wouldn't stretching a five minute walk make that run easier and more pleasant?

So here's praise to blogging as mental exercise! I miss you, regular blogging, and will return to you when my schedule and technological situation allow!

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Good morning/evening! Rivkah again. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! While you were eating and relaxing, medievalists have not flagged in their bloggery; here is a small selection of material from this past weekend:

Beowulf: Prince of the Geats Trailer

The new Beowulf: Prince of the Geats trailer is now on YouTube. Um ... was that Grendel's Mother skiing?

We can now order DVDs from the website. I've got mine pre-ordered, and hope to get it before Christmas. I'll review it here on the Wordhoard.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Buying Medieval Antiques on e-Bay

Someone asked me, in passing, a question that I've never considered, but might be of importance to medievalists and those who love them this Xmas*: How reliable are the medieval antiques sold on e-Bay?

I think the person asking was more interested in the idea of authenticity -- in other words, if I buy a medieval spearhead, will it really be a medieval spearhead, or will it be something made in the garage to look medieval?

To his question, I add this: Are you likely to run into things being fenced? Are some of the leaves of medieval manuscripts sold there "liberated" from not-so-carefully-monitored MSS with the use of an exacto knife?

Obviously, on e-Bay it's going to depend on the seller, since the site itself exercises minimal oversight on the products sold there, but I wonder if folks out there have cautionary tales or simple tips for telling the good from the bad?

*I've decided to Xmas rather than Christmas on the Wordhoard this season. After all, medievalists should know that abbreviating "Christ" to X is a sign of reverence in medieval manuscripts -- so why not on medieval blogs too?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

... being a Medieval Miscellany in which I test Dr. Richard Scott Nokes' patience with my definitions of the terms "medieval" and "relevant." (My Christmas list is both medieval and relevant... really!)
Seriously, this is a bit early for "morning" because I have some papers to finish grading before I can get on the road for the telos of turkey -- but I hope you enjoy these relevant medieval tidbits as much as I'm going to enjoy cranberry sauce (not pizza!) later this week.

Beowulf vs. Nazis, Me vs. Teleprompter

Yesterday we shot the broadcast version of the "Beowulf vs. the Nazis" lecture. It had to be cleaned up for TV, so if you hear me present the academic version live, in addition to more scholarly bits, you'll also get more cussin'.

I'm not sure when (or in what format) it will be available for viewing. It will be broadcast here, but they're not sure how long until it is available for streaming video online because they have a new web dude/tte. Obviously, the streaming video is the important part as far as I'm concerned, because most of the requests I've had to see it have come from waaaaaay outside this viewing area.

This was also my first foray into using a teleprompter, and I have to say, it's clearly a skill that has to be developed through practice. I really wasn't sure how it worked, and being able to see only a few words at a time made it necessary for me to stick more closely to the prepared script. I had also never thought of how a relationship has to develop between the person running the prompter and the speaker. I found myself wishing that it was one of my student assistants running the teleprompter, since they're familiar with the material, know the cadence of my natural public speaking, can anticipate (through endless repetition) where my jokes will go, etc. Unfortunately, they don't know how to run a teleprompter, so some poor young woman who had never even read the material through once got stuck running the prompter for a complete novice like me.

To my ears, it sounded very artificial and wooden, and as one of my minions (very politely) put it, "you presented it totally different there than live." I think I'll take every opportunity to use teleprompters in the future, just so I can get better at them with practice.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Arabic Help Needed for Kid Beowulf

Lex Fajardo, writer and artist for the Kid Beowulf series of graphic novels, needs some help. Specifically, he needs an Arabic inscription on a blade to read, "My name is Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal." In order to avoid faux-Arabic scribbling, Lex has put out the call to scholars.

For more information, he also mentions this on his website.

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Hi, internet. I'm Karma, sometimes found over at Slouching Towards Extimacy, and I'm helping out with the Miscellany this morning. Notice how sneaky I was in volunteering to post a Monday Miscellany after Rivkah's thorough two days of Miscellanies, which got us quite up to date. Still, plenty of weekend activity:

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I suppose it's a sign of my age that I'm surprised at this, but in the last week a Wikipedia page has gone up about Derek Brewer.

If anyone wishes to make a Wikipedia page about me, I only ask that the phrase "so charismatic that his presence can cause strong men to swoon and woman to spontaneously combust with desire" be in there somewhere.*

*Yeah, yeah, you Latin-lovers**, "to spontaneously combust" is a split infinitive, but neither "spontaneously to combust" nor "to combust spontaneously" has the right oomph.
**By which I mean lovers of the Latin language and its forms in other languages, not Latinos who are great lovers.***
***Oooh, look, a footnote within a footnote! And another within that!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

I'm composing this entry early because I'll be heading up to visit Montecassino tomorrow: I'll check this entry early in the morning my time so let me know via comment if anyone wants pictures or descriptions of anything.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Greetings! I'll be guest-blogging the Morning Medieval Miscellanies for a little while hopefully with help from others. Personal blogs aside, I am working on a blogged presentation of digitized medieval manuscripts.
Feel free to comment if I've missed anything that ought to be posted! There is quite a lot of activity amongst medievalists on the internet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Guest Blogger, Coming Soon!

Rivkah Mentzer has agreed to guest blog the Morning Medieval Miscellanies until I get my new computer. You may know her as the writer of Medieval Manuscripts Online.

No, this isn't turning into a group blog, mostly because I hate group blogs (my apologies to those medieval group blogs out there, but it's the format I hate, not you). Still, with Blogrolling down, the Miscellanies are as important as ever, and here I am shirking my duty. So, instead, I give you guest blogging!

If anyone else wants a pop at guest blogging a Miscellany, e-mail me directly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

James Leonard Is Cool

James Leonard runs a law library, wears a bowtie, reads medieval blogs, and talks medieval lit with one of my favorite former students, Kim White.

OK, there's no point in writing any of that except to say he sounds pretty cool to me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

No Guest Blogger? Really?

I've had exactly zero people volunteer to do the guest blogging. Now, I can always force my minions to do the Miscellanies, but I'd rather find someone who wanted to do it.

I asked for blogless graduate students, but no takers, so I'll open the floor. Who among you would like to guest blog Morning Medieval Miscellanies?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

St. Francis and the Sultan, tonight

Normally, this sort of thing would go into a Miscellany, but as I'm recruiting a guest blogger to do the MMM and the event is tonight, I thought I'd better give it it's own post. Stolen entirely from The Medieval Club of New York:

"Uncovering the Story of Saint Francis and the Sultan"
Paul Moses
Brooklyn College, The City University of New York

During a major battle in the Fifth Crusade in 1219, Francis of Assisi crossed enemy lines and met with Malik al-Kamil, sultan of Egypt and a nephew of Saladin. Francis did not succeed in his goal of converting the sultan, although, remarkably, he was permitted to preach to him and others in the Muslim camp near Damietta, Egypt for several days. The encounter has largely been presented as an attempt on Francis’ part to achieve martyrdom, a theme initiated in thirteenth-century Franciscan accounts. The enduring image of the meeting is found in a Giotto work in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. Based on Bonaventure’s The Major Legend of St. Francis, it depicts Francis challenging the sultan’s religious advisors to an ordeal by fire that would prove who practiced the true religion. But this story, which did not surface until more than forty years after Francis and the sultan met, reflects Bonaventure’s need to portray Francis as highly orthodox, obedient and pro-Crusade at a time when the Franciscan order was under pressure from Rome due to a heresy scandal involving a group of rebellious friars.

To uncover what actually happened, it is necessary to view this event in the context of the larger stories of Francis and Sultan al-Kamil. Concerning the sultan, medieval Christian accounts imply or assert that the sultan secretly wished to be a Christian. But the sultan’s respect for Francis was authentically Islamic, based on passages in the Qur’an about Christian monks and on his interest in Sufism. Francis’ actions have to be considered in the context of his peacemaking; his conversion to a life of piety began in reaction to the trauma he suffered as a soldier and prisoner of war. The events in Egypt can be further understood by examining Francis’ own writings. In particular, his Earlier Rule included a revolutionary provision that the friars live peacefully among Muslims and “be subject” to them, avoiding contentious religious disputes. Francis, who taught largely through example, had approached the sultan unarmed to show Christians a peaceful alternative to the Crusades. He was not on a suicide mission but on a mission of peace.

Paul Moses is a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY and a veteran journalist who has specialized in writing about religion. His book, The Saint and the Sultan, will be published by Doubleday in 2009.

Friday, November 14, 2008, 7:30 PM
CUNY Graduate Center (365 Fifth Ave. @ 34th St.)
Room 4406.
Reception, with wine and cheese, follows.

Brewer Memorial Service

In my announcement of Derek Brewer's death, Sarah Brewer posted some details about his memorial service. I don't want those comments to be lost in a thread, so here they are, slightly edited:
There was also an obituary in The Daily Telegraph and there will be one coming out in The Times. The funeral was very much as he would have wished it to be - in the College chapel, with the Prayer Book Service - and his coffin was carried all round front court. If anyone is in Cambridge at the time, there'll be a memorial service for him on Saturday 7 February 2009 at Gt St Mary's church.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Guest Blogger Sought

As I've mentioned before, it's getting too difficult to do the Morning Medieval Miscellanies until my new computer gets here. I could do them at home, but with the kiddies getting older, more and more of their homework has to be done on the computer, limiting my access at home.

The new office computer has been approved, ordered, et cetera, and I'm just waiting on delivery, but apparently it's being delivered by Godot. So, what to do in the meantime?

I've decided that this would be a good chance to take on a guest blogger. I am especially interested in finding someone who is a graduate student and doesn't already have their own blog -- since presumably those with their own blogs are already writing what they want to write, and this is an opportunity to bring someone new into the conversation.

So, how about it? Are there any grad students out there who have been lurking but felt they really weren't in a position to say anything yet? The Miscellanies are a pretty good way to get your feet wet, because they give you a sense of what people are talking about at the moment, but you don't have to be an expert -- all you have to do is understand it well enough to send people there with a link.

I'll probably reassume MMM duties when my Fred Flintstone computer has been replaced, so this wouldn't be a long-term commitment. If I get several people interested, I'll just divide the duties: "You do this week, you do that week."

Hear that sound? It's opportunity knocking. You can get your name out there and become a more visible part of this community.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Beowulf vs. the Nazis Update

The "Beowulf vs. the Nazis" talk went well last night -- packed room, etc. The TV crew didn't show up (which was strange, because one of them had talked to me just a few hours before about it), but it was just as well; there really wasn't enough room to place a camera.

Still, I think I'm supposed to shoot a version of it in the studio for all those people who asked to see it online. Today I have to go over to the TV station for an interview about the International Festival, so I'll pop in and see if I can schedule that.

November 14, Update to the Update
We've scheduled the studio shoot for next week. In my experience, it usually takes several days before they get around to editing (since we're working with student slave labor and all), so I'm thinking it will be available for viewing in one form or another in about two weeks. How did this little in-service become such a big deal?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Making Mead*

The medieval history professor at Troy and I have been decided to take on a new project; we want to brew mead.

Fun, yes? Exciting, yes? Just one problem -- neither of us has the slightest idea how to do it. I've been cruising the inter-web-o-net-o-sphere-thingy, and I've found lots of advice on how to do it, but I'm not sure which advice to take as a beginner. A lot of the sites seem to assume that you've been brewing your own wine or beer, and just want to add mead to your oeuvre. They have all sorts of technical advice that I'm sure is helpful for the less stupid.

Me? I've never brewed anything except tea. All I really know is that at some point I'll need honey and bottles. I also assume there will be some boiling, and perhaps some yeast thrown in somewhere. Beyond all that vagueness, I know nothing.

For my first batch, I just want to make something that qualifies as mead. I don't care whether it's any good or not -- I assume goodness will come with experience. Just so long as it can be defined as "mead" and won't make the drinkers blind, I'll be happy.

So, I'm blegging for advice. What's the simplest, cheapest way to make mead? Eventually, I'd like to move on to making it in a more authentic medieval fashion, but if anyone has advice involving microwave ovens, electric ranges, blenders, or any other completely non-medieval implements, I'd love to get it. Trying to brew really awesome mead in authentic period fashion is only a long-term goal ... very long-term.

*Note that this post is to console me after the evil gods of the internet ate one of my Morning Medieval Miscellanies, so if it seems disjointed, it's because my brain is so.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Beowulf vs. the Nazis

I'll be doing a public presentation entitled "Beowulf vs. the Nazis" on November 12th at 3:30, in Smith Hall 271 here at Troy University. If you come, I promise (and I'm not kidding):
  • Profanity
  • Racism
  • Blasphemy
  • Anti-Semitism
Really, now, where else are you going to find a good time like that on a Wednesday afternoon?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Wake this morning feeling depressed/euphoric/apathetic? Here are a few things to cheer you up/remind you of reality/spark your interest:
  • Medieval Ecclesiastical Art has two posts on medieval vestments.
  • Japes for Owre Tymes confronts Mary Worth.
  • Magistra et Mater considers "grand narratives" for medieval archaeologists.
  • The Medieval Historical Fiction Novel of the Week is Morgan Llywelyn's The Wind from Hastings.
  • Medieval Material Culture Blog has an update with lots of upcoming exhibits.
  • There aren't many chances to learn Old Irish, but Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick will have summer classes in July '09.
  • Here's a political message from a marginal monkey. Some day, Got Medieval is going to run out of monkeys and have to start recycling them; that will be a sad day for me.
Also, someone sent a link to Barry Windeatt's obituary of Derek Brewer, but it was kind of buried in the comment section.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

A teeny Miscellany today, because I had over 500 unread items when I emerged from grading/Halloween prison.
That's it. Pathetic, huh? I'll try to do better, but I'm falling desperately behind. Note to self: Composition classes are not compatible with actual thinking. They make me dumber.

Halloween (K)Nights

If the spread of Halloween costumes is any indicator, it's cool to be a knight, at least for adult males. I saw more knights over the last few nights than in any Halloween I can remember.

By the way, now is a good time to buy your costume for NEXT year, dirt cheap.