For a long time, I've thought my very first attempt at blogging was on the Tumblr version of Corybanter, a quick welcome post from February 13, 2009, entitled "Welcome to Corybanter!" However, I've just been digging through some other blogs that I had almost completely forgotten about, including a journal I used to keep on LiveJournal.com. As it turns out, my very first post (which I've copied below) is dated December 13, 2007, over a year before that first Tumblr post. I had forgotten this, but apparently I moved my blogging to Posterous sometime around 2010, and pretty much stopped using LiveJournal. Anyway, enjoy this very first blog post from over 13 years ago...
The Reason for the Season: a Plea for Sanity
13th December 2007
none, at the moment
On both sides of the seemingly eternal argument over Christmas, there are strident emotions that seem to get nastier every year. On the Christian side, we have the folks who talk continuously about how Jesus is "the reason for the season" (such a clever little rhyme), about how "they" are trying to "get rid of Christmas," and about how saying "Happy Holidays" is basically tantamount to accepting the Mark of the Beast. Over on the secular side, we have those who are constantly complaining about how they don't want to hear a "Merry Christmas" in any public place, about how those who celebrate Christmas are trying to shove their religion down others' throats, and about how manger scenes are an infringement on their constitutional rights.
Then there are those of us who live in the middle, in a place I like to call Normal. (Actually, I really used to live in a place called Normal, a small city in central Illinois, but I digress...) Yes, I frequently alternate between "Happy Holidays" and "Merry Christmas," while cheerfully maintaining my Christian status. I have never personally met anyone who is crusading to erase Christmas from the world, and I don't think it's possible to do so, considering the importance of Christmas to the economy of America. Having worked many years now in retail, I really question the thesis that Jesus is the reason for the season, having seen very little of that much-talked-about "Christmas Spirit" among the frantic shoppers who have yelled at me and even physically threatened me over the past decade and a half. Even the term "Christmas Spirit" isn't really that wrapped up in the Christian symbolism of Christmas, and anyone who knows their church history knows that Christmas is basically a pagan feast adapted and adopted by the ruling Christians some time after Constantine's conversion.
I think it's great for Christians to enjoy the religious aspects of Christmas, to find meaning in its symbolism that resonates with their faith, but the truth is, much of Christmas as we know it really doesn't have much to do with Christian faith, and never has. Santa, the Christmas Tree, gift giving, lighting of candles, the bloated commercialism of the fourth quarter of the retail year, none of it really has a thing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ. Heck, even the date doesn't have anything to do with the birth of Jesus!
So, like I said, I choose to live here in the middle of the controversy, where my celebration of Christmas is informed by my Christian faith, but where my Christian faith doesn't live or die based on how others choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) this holiday season...or Christmas season, if you prefer. Or Kwanzaa, or Chanukah, or....whatever. Have a Merry or Happy <insert name of preferred holiday here>!!!
As a church musician, Holy Week is always a bit of a logistical challenge: there's a lot more going on, more musicians to coordinate, and it all happens in a pretty compressed timeframe. Traditionally, at the church I serve, we do a Spring Cantata on Palm Sunday, we have a Tenebrae service on Good Friday (which incorporates music and drama), and Easter Sunday has more (and bigger) music than our average service. Last year, of course, was really unusual, as we were in full "lockdown" mode in our area, so we were trying to create meaningful musical and liturgical content with a team of about ten people. This year was a big step back towards "normal," but still an interesting challenge.
At our church, we have been offering in-person services (with social distancing protocols in place) and a pre-recorded YouTube service at the same time, for the past several months. This means that, for Holy Week, we had to put together and pre-record a bunch of special music for the three services I mentioned above, and work out how the live versions of those same services would work. As it turned out, we had some tremendously rewarding and inspiring services, both online and live. Easter was particularly interesting, as we decided to have an outdoor service, in order to accommodate the larger attendance numbers we expected. (It's a good thing we did so, as we had about 4 times the number of people we've been getting at our live services for the past many months!) The Easter service was a joyous event, as the weather ended up being lovely, not too cold and not too hot.
So now I take a breath, relax for just a moment, and then jump right back in, as we keep moving forward on this road out of the odd coronavirus landscape we've lived in for the past year. Each Sunday seems like another step forward on that road. Happy Easter to everyone reading! May you have a joyous season, living in the light of the Resurrection!
Even though I've spent a good amount of time over the past couple days refraining from physical activity as much as possible, it's still been kind of busy. For one thing, it's Holy Week and I work in church music. So, as usual for church staff, the time leading up to Easter (and leading up to Christmas) is a time of heightened activity. However, I also got my second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday, and I did have some side effects that made me feel lousy for a short time. Oh, and I also twisted my ankle a week ago, so I've been trying to take things a little easier than usual, as far as physical activity goes.
Meanwhile, I've been using this forced physical inactivity as an opportunity for reviving my podcast, which used to be on Podbean, and has recently moved to Anchor.fm. (For more info on the podcast, see the home page of Corybanter.com.) I've recorded a couple episodes of the podcast, set up some advertising, set up the opportunity for my listeners to donate to the project, and created an accompanying Wordpress blog that coordinates with the podcast.
I've also been trying to simplify my blogging, something that has been a continuing challenge for several years. I suppose I would be a bit more successful as a blogger (and podcaster) if I simply chose one theme/subject and just covered that. But that's not me; my interests are a bit more diverse, and so I've chosen, for better or worse, to blog and podcast on various things that are interesting to me, whether that be Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare, or dictionaries. Or something else... But I realize I can't maintain a different blog for every single thing I find interesting. I feel like I need to have the ability to blog about whatever occurs to me at any particular time, as well as maintaining a few blogs that have a particular focus.
So for now I've settled on a bit of a compromise: this blog, Corybanter.com, is what I'm thinking of as my main blog, my personal blog. It's where I can continue to share thoughts on whatever I have on my mind at any given time. I've chosen Weebly as the platform for this blog, as I find it the easiest to use effectively. At the same time, I'm maintaining (or trying to maintain) a few blogs that deal with a particular subject: Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, the Bible. AND I'm blogging over on Medium.com, and attempting to make a few bucks with their Partner Program (thus far, not a particularly profitable exercise). I'm using my original Tumblr blog as just sort of a hub to link to the other blogs, as well as an Archives for some of my earliest attempts at blogging. If that sounds confusing...well, it is. At some point, I may have to streamline even more. I just may have to pick my favorite platform and move all of my blogging to that platform. But I haven't reached that point yet.
There's a little part of me that wishes I could make blogging and podcasting my main gig. But so far I haven't quite figured out how to do that. And since I enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts online, and I'm having fun sharing my spoken thoughts in podcast form, I'm sort of dipping my toe into what I know is a vast ocean of online content. Will I ever be able to be find even a modicum of success in the endeavor? I don't know. Stay tuned to find out!
Recently, I found out an acquaintance of mine from a few years ago passed away back in October 2019. He and his wife were regular customers of mine when I worked at Macy's, and we kept in touch after I left the retail profession. He was originally from Morocco, and his wife is from Egypt, and they are Muslim, of course. Perhaps that's why I decided to revisit my collection of translations of the Qur'an. My Qur'an collection is not anywhere near as large as my Bible collection, or even my Book of Mormon collection. But I am fascinated by the wide variety of English Qur'an translations that are available, and I have many of them in my library.
I recently stumbled on this article, which discusses many of the English Qur'an translations that have been done, some of which I have, and others of which I do not have (yet). I have read some of the Qur'an, but not nearly all of it. Perhaps I will address that situation in the near future.
A couple years ago, I tried my hand at podcasting, with a little podcast called The Bible Bookshelf Podcast. I did 5 episodes over the course of a couple years, and then it kind of fell by the wayside. Well, today I got a brand new microphone, as I've been doing a lot of livestreams for my choir in this time of social distancing. So I began to think, why not give podcasting another try? And if I'm going to to that, why not expand my horizons a little, and make the podcast about more than the Bible? After all, I have all these other interests: Sherlock Holmes, Shakespeare, the English language, the Book of Mormon, etc. And so I've "rebranded" my podcast...
Introducing... The Corybantic Podcast!
Wherein I share whatever subjects or interests are currently on my mind. I did a brief introduction to the podcast, which you can listen to HERE. I hope to come up with some new material soon. Stay tuned for further developments!
UPDATE: I recently changed my podcasting platform to Anchor.fm, and have updated the links in this post to reflect that recent change.
As someone who has always loved maps, and who has read quite a bit of British fiction, I found the map below fascinating...
[reposted from this site]
[I was looking for info on Anne Soukhanov, a legendary lexicographer who edited several major dictionaries, and stumbled on this article re-posted from the Washington Post website's Archives.]
By Linton Weeks
June 28, 2001
When the 1,728-page Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary appears in bookstores next month, "it will start the Third World War of Dictionaries," says its top American editor, Anne Soukhanov.
"It will shake things up," says Michael Agnes, editor in chief of Webster's New World dictionaries.
The dueling lexicographers may be right. We could be on the verge of an all-out melee, with a handful of book-publishing bruisers fighting for lucrative desk space among students, teachers and office workers. Among the combatants: Random House, Merriam-Webster and American Heritage.
[This article originally published on Chicago Manual of Style Shop Talk website.]
Peter Sokolowski is editor at large at Merriam-Webster, where he works on the Word of the Day podcast, Ask the Editor videos, and short articles about word trends and etymologies (which he also presents on Twitter). In addition to attending professional and academic conferences to talk about dictionaries, he conducts workshops for teachers of English as a second language, serves as pronouncer for spelling bees around the world, and is a substitute jazz host for New England Public Radio. (We also hear he plays a mean jazz trumpet.)
Here he talks with Shop Talk editor Carol Fisher Saller.
CFS: Recently I was lucky enough to hear you speak about what lexicographers can deduce from the words people look up at Merriam-Webster.com. You gave examples of how a political or celebrity event can cause certain “lookups” to spike—such as the word emaciated when Michael Jackson died. Later I saw your tweet about the spiking of canonize and homily when Pope Francis visited the US. I believe you said that more than a billion words a year are looked up at the M-W Dictionary website and apps. What I’d like to know is, how do you keep an eye on a billion lookups? What kind of tools do you have and how do you use them?
Here's an enjoyable, brief article from the Merriam-Webster website, about Peter Mark Roget and the creation of his famous Thesaurus.
More than just a collection of related words—Peter Mark Roget intended his Thesaurus to be a classification of all knowledge
by Joshua Kendall
Though nearly everyone is familiar with the Roget’s Thesaurus, few people know anything about Peter Mark Roget, the eminent 19th century physician, physiology expert, mathematician, inventor, writer, editor and chess whiz—and what motivated him to write his immortal book.
Roget was obsessed with symmetry. The 1852 Thesaurus divvied 1,000 concepts into six Linnaean classifications.
We tend to think of a thesaurus as a collection of synonyms and antonyms. But Roget’s is essentially a reverse dictionary. With a dictionary, the user looks up a word to find its meaning. With Roget’s, the user start with an idea and then keeps flipping through the book until he finds the word that best expresses it. The organization of the book reflects the unique intelligence of the polymath that created it.
Man, I had been on such a roll for awhile, as far as blogging goes. I was writing about Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, the Bible, my thoughts on the UMC General Conference, the beginning of Lent. And now, here I am...it's almost Palm Sunday, and I haven't blogged for weeks!
The problem is, I have so many interests (Shakespeare, the Bible, Sherlock Holmes, literature, music, language, and much more), I find it difficult to stick with any one of those things for more than a week or so. I've done this for a long time: I get really interested in one thing for a short time: I'll research that one thing, I'll dig through my library, looking for everything I have that deals with that one thing. And I'll often blog, so I can share my thoughts about that one thing with the World Wide Web. And then the next thing comes along...
This is why I haven't taken up blogging as any kind of money making endeavor. At this point in my life, at least, I lack the discipline to be consistent in my attention to any one subject. And yet, I always seem to come back to it after awhile! Here I am, typing my thoughts while I enjoy a cup (or two) of coffee at Star Bagel in Nashville. I wish I could harness my interests enough to make blogging a sustained hobby, rather than a sporadic whim. (Is "sporadic whim" redundant? I think it may be.)
This next week and some change is going to be super busy, so I probably won't hit the "blogosphere" much in the near future, but maybe a little later I can figure out a schedule of some kind, that would enable me to sustain a few of my blogs on different subjects. We shall see.
(adj.) wild and frenzied; from Greek κορυβαντες (Korybantes)