Friday, May 19, 2006

slow day

St Jerome, hanging out. Note lion to the right of him.

The hardest thing about dissertation land is its complete lack of structure. I've been trying to dive into work after finishing teaching and things have not gone so well. I have dipped into some charters and read a couple of articles, but that's about it (one account of a trial did contain an oath that was interesting because of the religious language in it). So... Monday. I promise. If any of my blogging friends find me leaving long comments on their blogs Monday morning, say to me, "Very interesting, Liam... NOW GET TO WORK."

I plan to rest this weekend. Last weekend was the First Communion of Filius imperatricis pulcherrima Africae occidentalis with party afterwards, both of which were great, but I could have rested more. The Mass was at ten o'clock on Saturday, and I awoke to find I had no more coffee in the house (serious concern). I found myself in the horrible situation of being at a Starbuck's at 8:00 AM Saturday morning surrounded by peppy people in jogging attire, all of this at a time at which all good Christian women and men should be at home sleeping off their gin. Not good.

A couple of things to comment on: The Catholic blogosphere is buzzing about the Vatican's restriction of the ministry of the 86-year old founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial Marciel Degollado (whose second last name means in Spanish, curiously enough, "one whose throat has been cut"). Marciel has been accused of several cases of sexual abuse and although he has not been removed from the priesthood, he can no longer preside at public masses or give conferences. There will be no formal canonical procedure against the founder of the conservative organization due to his advanced age, but according to the National Catholic Reporter, "In effect, Vatican sources told NCR this week, the action amounts to a finding that at least some of the accusations against the charismatic 86-year-old Mexican priest are well-founded."

There is more than one way to look at this. Marciel was held in great esteem by the late Pope John Paul II, who praised him publicly, so this could mean that the Church actually is getting serious about the issue and that even high-ranking and influential churchmen are not free from facing the consequences of their reprehensible actions. On the other hand, the fact that their will be no canonical procedure could mean that there is no formal condemnation and the Church is once again responding to sexual abuse by evasive tactics more concerned with image than justice. I myself have not decided what to think of the whole thing, but I have heard these different evaluations of the situation.


Yesterday I actually left the neighborhood and went to go see a movie: The Proposition, with a screenplay by Nick Cave. It was a brutal Australian Western: imagine Sam Peckinpah meets Joseph Conrad. The New York Times has a good review of it. Then I went to my favorite restaurant in New York, Fried Dumpling, which stands nobly between Chinatown and the Lower East Side, and offers five tasty dumplings for a dollar. Lovely.

Now, I would like to write something completely absurd:
The young Lady Flatterswhip grew bored of her surroundings. Bored of the Sussex estate, bored of the visits from the vicar, bored of the rose garden and tea parties, bored of the longshoremen and zebras that mysteriously congregated around the front drive of the manor on alternate Tuesdays. She even longed on occasions for what now seemed like the happy bygone days of the Mongolian prison. Dreading the oncoming storm of social obligations as croquet season approached, the only relief for her came from a letter in the hand of her brother Denby in South America, which brought with it the shocking news that...


crystal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
crystal said...

Argh - typos!

Nice painting!

Do people only write disertations after they've defended them? Have you not yet written it? I've only written a thesis, which I had to do up front.

... a letter in the hand of her brother Denby in South America, which brought with it the shocking news that ...

... he'd joined a tribe of head huneters, had accidently shot himself in the foot with curare-tipped blow-gun dart, and had only survived due to the healing talents of a Spanish Jesuit who'd been nearby, searching for an antidote to maleria :-)

Liam said...

I defended the proposal. Now I have to write the dissertation, which I will defend once I've written it. I'm getting very defensive!

Thanks for the ending! Everyone should propose a possible content for Denby's letter.

Brian Cubbage said...

Yes, dissertation-land is difficult without manufacturing artificial structure for oneself. I've always been bad at that, so when I wrote my dissertation, it took me a year longer than it should have. I call it "The Lost Year," although I didn't spend it drunk (thank goodness).

Remind me sometime to do a post about my dissertation writing process. It was rather comical.

Crystal, I LOVE your ending! I am loath to try one of my own, but since Liam has issued the invite, here goes:

... he had, Jimmy Durante's assurances to the contrary, just become the one to find the Lost Chord along the banks of the Amazon. It had been lost by a band of missionaries three centuries ago, and all trace of its identity had long since disappeared. Denby was proud to announce to the world that the Lost Chord was a C diminished 7th.

Gabriele C. said...

The dissertation process is different in Germany. For one, you don't have to defend either proposal or thesis, you can or cannot participate in PhD seminars, have a meeting with your professor every other week, or like me, work mostly on your own. Once you finished your 500+pages book, five professors (4 your choice, one appointed by the university) well read the thing and rate it. If a majority deems it to suck, you have to make corrections, else you've passed.

There is an interview examn as well, but not a defense of your thesis, but a conversation about another research subject you chose - preferably together with your professor. Since my PhD is Mediaeval, I have to pick something out of Modern Literature (that is, literature after the 16th century) for the interview.

Gabriele C. said...

shocking news that...

... he had fallen in love with a girl who turned out the be the last princess of the Inca who not only wanted British troops to help her reestablish the lost realm of Cuzco, but who also intended to start breeding zebras because she didn't like the spitting llamas.

Jeff said...

Hi Liam,

Y'all blog had gone so quiet... I figured you'd been dissertating. If you are anything like me (and I figure you for an Irish guy, cuz who else would name their kid Liam?), you'd be a dreamer and a wicked procastinator, and you'd dearly love your well-earned leisure time, and you'd be waiting until you start feeling some cold panic sweat before you really get cracking.

I've always wanted to change that about myself, but I don' think I ever will. I guess I learned to live with ADD before they knew there was such a thing as ADD. I do my best work under pressure. Remember, if you wait until the last minute to do it, it will only take you a minute to do it. :-)

My son Jimmy had his first Communion last week too. I was up behind the priest on the altar as an EOM, so I had the privilige of seeing all the kid's faces as they came up. It was great. Jimmy wrote a letter to Pope Benedict last year asking if he could come to Rome and have the Pope give him his first Communion. No dice, but we did get a letter.

Interesting developments about Marciel. This Pope doesn't leave a lot of untied loose ends around. He's an administrator. It will be very interesting to see what happens.

Liam said...

I had a long road from my orals exam to my proposal defense -- I didn't have big problems with my topic, but other things in my life got in my way (imperatrix pulcherrima Africae occidentalis had knee surgery, we moved, teaching...). So now I'm free to work, but I need a week or so to get into shape. I'm actually pretty good at disciplining myself (the fruit of working for many years as a freelance translator).

Brian -- I can't imagine what a philosophy dissertation is like. History work means so much research. I know that you probably had an immense bibliography, but I always imagine philosophers just sitting in a room, thinking. What was your dissertation on?

Gabriele -- The thought of doing a dissertation in Germany seems daunting. The one idea I have about German dissertations is that they are very, very long. You probably have words in your dissertation that are longer than chapters in mine.

Jeff -- Congratulations to Jimmy! Yes, I am Irish and a dreamer who loves his time, but as I said above, I did learn to discipline myself. I just need to get obsessed with my work -- and I think I picked a good topic for it.

My take on the Maciel thing is that it is more positive than negative. I'm beginning to wonder if Benedict may be less likely to personalize issues the way JP did -- he may be willing to go after allies and meet with enemies (Hans Kung). It's hard to say.

Steve Bogner said...

Thesis, dissertation? I took the easy way on post-graduate education and got an MBA. No thesis, no dissertation, no licensing exam to worry about! And now I'm a consultant - *anyone* can call themselves a consultant (though I do wish there was a licensing scheme to weed-out the stupid, unqualified ones).

... shocking news that he had decided to marry a tribal girl and go native.

Liam said...


I guess good businesses know how to spot a good consultant (and I'm sure you're one of them).

I'm glad you had Denby go native. Considering his sister's boredom with Sussex and the family's attraction to exotic locals, it's probably the best thing he could have done.