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December 29, 2010
The hooly blisful martir
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:56 AM * 203 comments

From the account of Edward Grim, an eyewitness (translated by Dawn Marie Hayes):

Behold the simplicity of the dove, behold the wisdom of the serpent in this martyr who presented his body to the killers so that he might keep his head, in other words his soul and the church, safe; nor would he devise a trick or a snare against the slayers of the flesh so that he might preserve himself because it was better that he be free from this nature! O worthy shepherd who so boldly set himself against the attacks of wolves so that the sheep might not be torn to pieces! and because he abandoned the world, the world - wanting to overpower him - unknowingly elevated him.

Unsurprisingly, the murder of Thomas Becket has been cast and recast over time. 870 years is a long time for people to look into the mirror of the deed and see their own times and their own troubles.

It’s easy to dismiss attempts at historical analogy, particularly since they rarely seem to require the Becket-analogue to actually get hacked to pieces. But it’s worth distinguishing between differences in kind and differences in degree. There are plenty of smaller martyrdoms out there awaiting smaller sanctities.

It’s also worth teasing out the distinction between the dedicated idealogues and the fame-seekers, who do the right deed for the wrong reason. Whatever the historical truth, Becket’s legacy now is purest holy martyr.

So who, in 2010, would you say has walked in Becket’s footsteps, for good or ill?

December 25, 2010
Texts, 2010
Posted by Teresa at 01:01 AM *

Luke 2:1-14, Anglo-Saxon (via):

Soþlice on þam dagum wæs geworden gebod fram þam casere Augusto, þæt eall ymbehwyrft wære tomearcod. Þeos tomearcodnes wæs æryst geworden fram þam deman Syrige Cirino. And ealle hig eodon, and syndrige ferdon on hyra ceastre. Ða ferde Iosep fram Galilea of þære ceastre Nazareth on Iudeisce ceastre Dauides, seo is genemned Beþleem, for þam þe he wæs of Dauides huse and hirede; þæt he ferde mid Marian þe him beweddod wæs, and wæs geeacnod. Soþlice wæs geworden þa hi þar wæron, hire dagas wæron gefyllede þæt heo cende. And heo cende hyre frumcennedan sunu, and hine mid cildclaþum bewand, and hine on binne alede, for þam þe hig næfdon rum on cumena huse. And hyrdas wæron on þam ylcan rice waciende, and nihtwæccan healdende ofer heora heorda. Þa stod Drihtnes engel wiþ hig, and Godes beorhtnes him ymbe scean; and hi him mycelum ege adredon. And se engel him to cwæð, Nelle ge eow adrædan; soþlice nu ic eow bodie mycelne gefean, se bið eallum folce; for þam to dæg eow ys Hælend acenned, se is Drihten Crist, on Dauides ceastre. And þis tacen eow byð: Ge gemetað an cild hræglum bewunden, and on binne aled. And þa wæs færinga geworden mid þam engle mycelnes heofenlices werydes, God heriendra and þus cweþendra, Gode sy wuldor on heahnesse, and on eorðan sybb mannum godes willan.

Luke 2:1-20, tr. John Wycliffe, 1382 (via)

And it was don in tho daies, a maundement wente out fro the emperour August, that al the world schulde be discryued. :: This firste discryuyng was maad of Cyryn, iustice of Sirie. :: And alle men wenten to make professioun, ech in to his owne citee. :: And Joseph wente vp fro Galilee, fro the citee Nazareth, in to Judee, in to a citee of Dauid, that is clepid Bethleem, for that he was of the hous and of the meyne of Dauid, :: that he schulde knouleche with Marie, his wijf, that was weddid to hym, and was greet with child. :: And it was don, while thei weren there, the daies weren fulfillid, that sche schulde bere child. :: And sche bare hir first borun sone, and wlappide hym in clothis, and leide hym in a cratche, for ther was no place to hym in no chaumbir. :: And scheepherdis weren in the same cuntre, wakynge and kepynge the watchis of the nyyt on her flok. :: And lo! the aungel of the Lord stood bisidis hem, and the cleernesse of God schinede aboute hem; and thei dredden with greet drede. :: And the aungel seide to hem, Nyle ye drede; for lo! Y preche to you a greet ioye, that schal be to al puple. :: For a sauyoure is borun to dai to you, that is Crist the Lord, in the citee of Dauid. :: And this is a tokene to you; ye schulen fynde a yong child wlappid in clothis, and leid in a cratche. :: And sudenli ther was maad with the aungel a multitude of heuenli knyythod, heriynge God, :: and seiynge, Glorie be in the hiyeste thingis to God, and in erthe pees be to men of good wille. :: And it was don, as the aungelis passiden awei fro hem in to heuene, the scheephirdis spaken togider, and seiden, Go we ouer to Bethleem, and se we this word that is maad, which the Lord hath maad, and schewide to vs. :: And thei hiyynge camen, and founden Marie and Joseph, and the yong child leid in a cratche. :: And thei seynge, knewen of the word that was seid to hem of this child. :: And alle men that herden wondriden, and of these thingis that weren seid to hem of the scheephirdis. :: But Marie kepte alle these wordis, berynge togider in hir herte. :: And the scheepherdis turneden ayen, glorifyinge and heriynge God in alle thingis that thei hadden herd and seyn, as it was seid to hem.

Luke 2:1-20, tr. William Tyndale, 1530

And it chaunced in thoose dayes: yt ther went oute a comaundment from Auguste the Emperour that all the woorlde shuld be taxed. :: And this taxynge was ye fyrst and executed when Syrenius was leftenaut in Syria. :: And every man went vnto his awne citie to be taxed. :: And Ioseph also ascended from Galile oute of a cite called Nazareth into Iurie: vnto ye cite of David which is called Bethleem because he was of the housse and linage of David :: to be taxed with Mary his spoused wyfe which was with chylde. :: And it fortuned whyll they were there her tyme was come that she shuld be delyvered. :: And she brought forth her fyrst begotten sonne and wrapped him in swadlynge cloothes and layed him in a manger because ther was no roume for them within in the ynne. :: And ther were in the same region shepherdes abydinge in the felde and watching their flocke by nyght. :: And loo: the angell of ye lorde stode harde by them and the brightnes of ye lorde shone rounde aboute them and they were soare afrayed. :: But the angell sayd vnto them: Be not afrayed. For beholde I bringe you tydinges of greate ioye yt shal come to all ye people: :: for vnto you is borne this daye in the cite of David a saveoure which is Christ ye lorde. :: And take this for a signe: ye hall fynde ye chylde swadled and layed in a mager. :: And streight waye ther was with the angell a multitude of hevenly sowdiers laudynge God and sayinge: :: Glory to God an hye and peace on the erth: and vnto men reioysynge. :: And it fortuned assone as the angels were gone awaye fro them in to heven the shepherdes sayd one to another: let vs goo eve vnto Bethleem and se this thynge that is hapened which the Lorde hath shewed vnto vs. :: And they cam with haste and founde Mary and Ioseph and the babe layde in a mager. :: And when they had sene it they publisshed a brode the sayinge which was tolde them of that chylde. :: And all that hearde it wondred at those thinges which were tolde the of the shepherdes. :: But Mary kept all thoose sayinges and pondered them in hyr hert. :: And the shepherdes retourned praysinge and laudinge God for all that they had herde and sene evyn as it was told vnto them.

Luke 2:1-20, tr. Miles Coverdale, 1535

It fortuned at the same tyme, that there wete out a comaundement fro Augustus the Emperoure, that the whole worlde shulde be taxed. And this taxynge was the first that was executed, whan Syrenius was leftenaunt in Siria. And they wente all, euery one to his owne cite to be taxed. Then Ioseph gat him vp also fro Galile, out of the cite of Nazareth, in to Iewry, to ye cite of Dauid, which is called Bethleem, (because he was of ye house and lynage of Dauid) that he might be taxed wt Mary his spoused wife, which was wt childe. And it fortuned whyle they were there, ye tyme was come, that she shulde be delyuered. And she brought forth hir first begotte sonne, & wrapped him in swadlinge clothes, and layed him in a maunger: for they had els no rowme in the ynne.

And there were in ye same region shepherdes in the felde by the foldes, and watchinge their flocke by night. And beholde, ye angell of the Lorde stode by the, and ye brightnes of the Lorde shone rounde aboute them, and they were sore afrayed. And the angell sayde vnto them: Be not afrayed. Beholde, I brynge you tydiges of greate ioye, which shall happen vnto all people: for vnto you this daye is borne ye Sauioure, eue Christ ye Lorde, in the cite of Dauid. And take this for a token: Ye shal fynde the babe swadled, and layed in a maunger. And straight waye there was by the angell a multitude of heauenly hoostes, which praysed God, and sayde: Glory be vnto God an hye, & peace vpon earth, and vnto men a good wyll.

And it fortuned wha the angels were gone from the in to heaue, the shepherdes sayde one to another: let vs go now euen vnto Bethleem, and se this thinge that is happened, which ye Lorde hath shewed vnto vs. And they came wt haist, & founde both Mary and Ioseph, & the babe layed in ye maunger. And whan they had sene it, they published abrode the sayenge, yt was tolde the of this childe. And all they that herde it, wondred at the wordes, which the shepherdes had tolde them. But Mary kepte all these sayenges, and pondred them in hir hert. And the shepherdes returned, praysinge and laudinge God, for all that they had herde and sene, euen as it was tolde them.

Luke 2:1-14, King James Version, 1611

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David), to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, she being great with child.

And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered; and she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes; and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: That ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And also:

Luke 2:1-14 - Δοξα εν υψιστοις θεω, και επι γης ειρηνη εν ανθρωποις ευδοκιας
εγενετο δε εν ταις ημεραις εκειναις εξηλθεν δογμα παρα καισαρος αυγουστου απογραφεσθαι πασαν την οικουμενην
    αυτη απογραφη πρωτη εγενετο ηγεμονευοντος της συριας κυρηνιου
    και επορευοντο παντες απογραφεσθαι εκαστος εις την εαυτου πολιν
    ανεβη δε και ιωσηφ απο της γαλιλαιας εκ πολεως ναζαρεθ εις την ιουδαιαν εις πολιν δαυιδ ητις καλειται βηθλεεμ δια το ειναι αυτον εξ οικου και πατριας δαυιδ
    απογραψασθαι συν μαριαμ τη εμνηστευμενη αυτω ουση εγκυω
    εγενετο δε εν τω ειναι αυτους εκει επλησθησαν αι ημεραι του τεκειν αυτην
    και ετεκεν τον υιον αυτης τον πρωτοτοκον και εσπαργανωσεν αυτον και ανεκλινεν αυτον εν φατνη διοτι ουκ ην αυτοις τοπος εν τω καταλυματι
    και ποιμενες ησαν εν τη χωρα τη αυτη αγραυλουντες και φυλασσοντες φυλακας της νυκτος επι την ποιμνην αυτων
    και αγγελος κυριου επεστη αυτοις και δοξα κυριου περιελαμψεν αυτους και εφοβηθησαν φοβον μεγαν
    και ειπεν αυτοις ο αγγελος μη φοβεισθε ιδου γαρ ευαγγελιζομαι υμιν χαραν μεγαλην ητις εσται παντι τω λαω
    οτι ετεχθη υμιν σημερον σωτηρ ος εστιν χριστος κυριος εν πολει δαυιδ
    και τουτο υμιν το σημειον ευρησετε βρεφος εσπαργανωμενον και κειμενον εν φατνη
    και εξαιφνης εγενετο συν τω αγγελω πληθος στρατιας ουρανιου αινουντων τον θεον και λεγοντων
    δοξα εν υψιστοις θεω και επι γης ειρηνη εν ανθρωποις ευδοκιας

(Thank you, Nick Whyte.)

Luke 2:1-20 in Old Church Slavonic:

мѣсѧца дєкѧбр҄ја иг въ навєчєриѥ рождьства хрьстова єванћєлиѥ отъ лѹкъі глава в въ оно врѣмѧ изідє заповѣдь отъ кєсарѣ авгоста напісаті в҄сѫ вьсєлєнѫѭ | сє напісаніє пръвоє бъістъ владѫщѹ сѹрієѭ и кѵрінієѭ | и идѣахѫ вьсі напісатъ сѧ кьждо въ свои градъ | вьзідє жє иосіфь отъ галілєѧ и града назарєтьска вь июдєѭ вь градъ давъідовъ іжє наріцаєтъ сѧ віѳлєємь занє бѣашє отъ домѹ и отьчьствіѣ давъідова | напісатъ сѧ съ марієѭ обрѫчєнѫѭ ємѹ жєноѭ сѫштєѭ нєпраздъноѭ | бъістъ жє єгда бъістє тѹ исплънишѧ сѧ дєниє да родітъ | и роді съінъ свои пръвѣнєць и обитъі и и положі и въ ѣслєхъ занє нє бѣ има мѣста въ обитѣли | и пастъирі бѣахѫ въ тоиждє ст҄ранѣ бъдѧщє и стрѣгѫщє стражѫ нощьнѫѭ о стадѣ своємъ | и сє анћєлъ господьнь ста вь нихъ и слава господьнѣ осіѣ ѧ и ѹбоѣшѧ сѧ ст҄рахомъ вєлиємъ | и рєчє имъ анћєлъ нє боитє сѧ сє бо благовѣщаѭ вамъ радость вєліѭ ѣжє бѫдєт бьсѣмь людємъ | ѣко роді сѧ вамъ съпасъ іжє єстъ христъ господь въ градѣ давъідовѣ | и сє вамъ з҄намєниє обрѧстєтє младьнєць повітъ и лєжѧшть вь ѣслєхъ | и вънєзаапѫ бъістъ съ ангѣломъ м҄ножьство вои нєбєснъіих хвалѧштиихъ бога и глаголѭшть | сла въ въішніих богѹ и на зєми миръ въ чловѣцѣхъ благоволєниє | и бъістъ ѣко отідѫ оть ніхъ анћєлі на нєбо и чловѣци пастъирі рѣшѧ дрѹгь кь дрѹгѹ прѣидѣмъ ѹбо до віѳлєома и відімъ глаголь сь бъівьшіи єгожє господь съказа нам | и прѣидѫ под҄вігьшє сѧ и обрѣтѫ маріѭ и иосифа и младьнєць лєжѧшть вь ѣслєхъ | видѣвъшє жє ськазашѧ о глаголѣ глаголанѣмь о отрочѧті сємъ | и въсі слъішавъшє дівішѧ сѧ о глаголанъіихъ отъ пастъирь кь німъ | маріѣ жє вьсѧ съблюдаашє глаголъі сіи въ срьдьци своємъ | и възвратішѧ сѧ пастъірі славѧштє и хвалѧштє бога о в҄сѣхъ ѣжє слъішашѧ и відѣшѧ ѣкожє глаголано бъисть кь нимъ |

(Thank you, Xopher)

Vulgate: Luke 2:1-14

Factum est autem in diebus illis, exiit edictum a Cæsare Augusto ut describeretur universus orbis. Hæc descriptio prima facta est a præside Syriæ Cyrino: et ibant omnes ut profiterentur singuli in suam civitatem. Ascendit autem et Joseph a Galilæa de civitate Nazareth in Judæam, in civitatem David, quæ vocatur Bethlehem: eo quod esset de domo et familia David, ut profiteretur cum Maria desponsata sibi uxore prægnante. Factum est autem, cum essent ibi, impleti sunt dies ut pareret. Et peperit filium suum primogenitum, et pannis eum involvit, et reclinavit eum in præsepio: quia non erat eis locus in diversorio. Et pastores erant in regione eadem vigilantes, et custodientes vigilias noctis super gregem suum. Et ecce angelus Domini stetit juxta illos, et claritas Dei circumfulsit illos, et timuerunt timore magno. Et dixit illis angelus: Nolite timere: ecce enim evangelizo vobis gaudium magnum, quod erit omni populo: quia natus est vobis hodie Salvator, qui est Christus Dominus, in civitate David. Et hoc vobis signum: invenietis infantem pannis involutum, et positum in præsepio. Et subito facta est cum angelo multitudo militiæ cælestis laudantium Deum, et dicentium: [Gloria in altissimis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis.]

(Thank you, Sisuile.)

Luke 2:14 in Gothic

Warth than in dagans jainans. urrann gagrefts fram kaisara Agustau gameljan allana midjungard. soh than gilstrameleins frumista warth at wisandin kindina Swriais raginondin Saurim Kwreinaiau. jah iddjedun allai ei melidai weseina. hwarjizuh in seinai baurg. urrann than jah Iosef us Galeilaia. us baurg Nazaraith in Iudaian. in baurg Daweidis sei haitada Bethlaihaim duthe ei was us garda fadreinais Daweidis. anameljan mith Mariin. sei in fragiftim was imma qeins. wisandein inkilthon. warth than miththanei. tho wesun jainar. usfullnodedun dagos du bairan izai jah gabar sunu seinana thana frumabaur. jah biwand ina jah galagida ina in uzetin. unte ni was im rumis in stada thamma.

jah hairdjos wesun in thamma samin landa, thairhwakandans jah witandans wahtwom nahts ufaro hairdai seinai. ith aggilus fraujins anaqam ins jah wulthus fraujins biskain ins, jah ohtedun agisa mikilamma. jah qath du im sa aggilus: ni ogeith, unte sai, spillo izwis faheid mikila, sei wairthith allai managein, thatei gabaurans ist izwis himma daga nasjands, saei ist Xristus frauja, in baurg Daweidis. jah thata izwis taikns: bigitid barn biwundan jah galagid in uzetin. jah anaks warth mith thamma aggilau managei harjis himinakundis hazjandane guth jah qithandane:

wulthus in hauhistjam guda
jah ana airthai gawairthi in mannam godis wiljins.

(Thank you, Lisa Spangenberg, a.k.a. the Digital Medievalist; who in turn gives credit to “Jim Marchand, medievalist extraordinaire.”) (see also)

Lowlands Scots

About this time the Emperor Augustus pat furth an edick ordeinin at aa the fowk i the haill warld suid be registrate. This wis whan Quirinius wis Governor o Syria, an it wis the first time at siccan a thing hed been dune. Sae aabodie gaed tae be registrate, ilkane til his ain toun, Joseph amang the lave.

He belanged til the stock an faimlie o Dauvit, an sae it was wis tae Dauvit’s Toun, Bethlehem in Judaea, at he gaed doun frae Nazareth in Galilee for tae gie in his name, takkin Mary, at wis haundfastit til him, wi him. She wis boukin gin this; an whan they war in Bethlehem, she cam til her time an brocht hame her first-born son. She swealed the bairn in a barrie an beddit him in a heck, sin there wis nae room for them intil the inn.

Nou, i that same pairt the war a wheen herds bidin thereout on the hill an keepin gaird owre their hrisel at nicht. Suddent an angel o the Lord cam an stuid afore them, an the glorie o the Lord shined about them, an they war uncolie frichtit. But the angel said tae them: Binna nane afeard, I bring ye guid news o gryte blytheness for the haill fowk—this day in Dauvit’s Town a saviour hes born til ye, Christ the Lord! This gate ye s’ken it is een as I say: ye will finnd a new-born bairn swealed in a barrie an liggin intil a heck.

Syne in a gliff an unco thrang o the airmies o hieven kythed aside the angel, glein laud tae God an liltin:

Glore tae God i the heicht o heiven, an peace on the yird tae men he delytes in!

(Thank you, Lee Sandlin.)


(Translation anno 2000)

Vid den tiden utfärdade kejsar Augustus en förordning om att hela världen skulle skattskrivas. Det var den första skattskrivningen, och den hölls när Quirinius var ståthållare i Syrien. Alla gick då för att skattskriva sig, var och en till sin stad. Och Josef, som genom sin härkomst hörde till Davids hus, begav sig från Nasaret i Galileen upp till Judeen, till Davids stad Betlehem, för att skattskriva sig tillsammans med Maria, sin trolovade, som väntade sitt barn. Medan de befann sig där var tiden inne för henne att föda, och hon födde sin son, den förstfödde. Hon lindade honom och lade honom i en krubba, eftersom det inte fanns plats för dem inne i härbärget. I samma trakt låg några herdar ute och vaktade sin hjord om natten. Då stod Herrens ängel framför dem och Herrens härlighet lyste omkring dem, och de greps av stor förfäran. Men ängeln sade till dem: “Var inte rädda. Jag bär bud till er om en stor glädje, en glädje för hela folket. I dag har en frälsare fötts åt er i Davids stad, han är Messias, Herren. Och detta är tecknet för er: ni skall finna ett nyfött barn som är lindat och ligger i en krubba.” Och plötsligt var där tillsammans med ängeln en stor himmelsk här som prisade Gud:

“Ära i höjden åt Gud
och på jorden fred åt dem han har utvalt.”

(Translation anno 1917)

Och det hände sig vid den tiden att från kejsar Augustus utgick ett påbud att hela världen skulle skattskrivas. Detta var den första skattskrivningen, och den hölls, när Kvirinius var landshövding över Syrien. Då färdades alla var och en till sin stad, för att låta skattskriva sig. Så gjorde ock Josef; och eftersom han var av Davids hus och släkt, for han från staden Nasaret i Galileen upp till Davids stad, som heter Betlehem, i Judeen, för att låta skattskriva sig jämte Maria, sin trolovade, som var havande. Medan de voro där, hände sig att tiden var inne, då hon skulle föda. Och hon födde sin förstfödde son och lindade honom och lade honom i en krubba, ty det fanns icke rum för dem i härbärget. I samma nejd voro då några herdar ute på marken och höllo vakt om natten över sin hjord. Då stod en Herrens ängel framför dem, och Herrens härlighet kringstrålade dem; och de blevo mycket förskräckta. Men ängeln sade till dem: »Varen icke förskräckta. Se, jag bådar eder en stor glädje, som skall vederfaras allt folket. Ty i dag har en Frälsare blivit född åt eder i Davids stad, och han är Messias, Herren. Och detta skall för eder vara tecknet: I skolen finna ett nyfött barn, som ligger lindat i en krubba.» I detsamma sågs där jämte ängeln en stor hop av den himmelska härskaran, och de lovade Gud och sade:

»Ära vare Gud i höjden, och frid på jorden,
bland människor till vilka han har behag!»

(Translation anno 1541 - Gustavus Vasa’s bible, translated from Martin Luther’s bible)

Thet begaff sigh j then tijdhen, at aff Keysar Augusto vthgick itt bodh, at all werlden skulle beskattas. Och thenna beskatning war then första, och skeedde vnder then Höffdingen offuer Syrien, Kyrenio. Och the gingo alle hwar vthi sin stadh, til at läta beskatta sigh. Så foor ock Joseph vp aff Galilea, aff then stadhen Nazareth in vthi Judeska landet, til Dauidz stadh, som heter Bethlehem, Ty han war aff Dauidz hws och slecht, på thet han skulle låta beskatta sigh medh Maria sijn troloffuadha hustru, hwilken haffuandes war. Så begaff sigh medhan the woro ther, wordo daghanar fulbordadhe, at hon skulle födha. Och hon födde sin förstfödda Son, och swepte honom j lindaklädher, och ladhe honom nedher j een krubbo, Ty them war icke rwm j herberghena. Och j then samma egnden woro någhre Heerdar, the ther wakadhe och höllo wård om nattena offuer sin hiord. Och sij, Herrans Ängel stoodh när them, och Herrans klarheet kringskeen them, och the wordo stoorligha förfäradhe. Och sadhe Ängelen til them, Warer icke förfäradhe, Sij, iagh bodhar idher stoor glädhi, hwilken allo folckena widerfaras skal, Ty jdagh är idher födder Frelsaren, som är Christus Herren, j Dauidz stadh. Och thetta skal wara idher för tekn. J skole finna Barnet swept j lindaklädher, nedherlagdt j een krubbo. Och strax wardt medh Ängelen itt stoort taal aff then himmelska häärskaran, the ther loffuadhe Gudh, och sadhe, Ära ware Gudh j högden, Och på jordenne fridh, Och menniskiomen en godh wilie.

(Thank you, Mikael Johansson.)

Nederlandse Statenvertaling (1637), Lukas 2:1 - 20

1 En het geschiedde in diezelfde dagen, dat er een gebod uitging van den Keizer Augustus, dat de gehele wereld beschreven zou worden.
2 Deze eerste beschrijving geschiedde, als Cyrenius over Syrie stadhouder was.
3 En zij gingen allen om beschreven te worden, een iegelijk naar zijn eigen stad.
4 En Jozef ging ook op van Galilea, uit de stad Nazareth, naar Judea, tot de stad Davids, die Bethlehem genaamd wordt, (omdat hij uit het huis en geslacht van David was);
5 Om beschreven te worden met Maria, zijn ondertrouwde vrouw, welke bevrucht was.
6 En het geschiedde, als zij daar waren, dat de dagen vervuld werden, dat zij baren zoude.
7 En zij baarde haar eerstgeboren Zoon, en wond Hem in doeken, en legde Hem neder in de kribbe, omdat voor henlieden geen plaats was in de herberg.
8 En er waren herders in diezelfde landstreek, zich houdende in het veld, en hielden de nachtwacht over hun kudde.
9 En ziet, een engel des Heeren stond bij hen, en de heerlijkheid des Heeren omscheen hen, en zij vreesden met grote vreze.
10 En de engel zeide tot hen: Vreest niet, want, ziet, ik verkondig u grote blijdschap, die al den volke wezen zal;
11 Namelijk dat u heden geboren is de Zaligmaker, welke is Christus, de Heere, in de stad Davids.
12 En dit zal u het teken zijn: gij zult het Kindeken vinden in doeken gewonden, en liggende in de kribbe.
13 En van stonde aan was er met den engel een menigte des hemelsen heirlegers, prijzende God en zeggende:
14 Ere zij God in de hoogste hemelen, en vrede op aarde, in de mensen een welbehagen.
15 En het geschiedde, als de engelen van hen weggevaren waren naar de hemel, dat de herders tot elkander zeiden: Laat ons dan heengaan naar Bethlehem, en laat ons zien het woord, dat er geschied is, hetwelk de Heere ons heeft verkondigd.
16 En zij kwamen met haast, en vonden Maria en Jozef, en het Kindeken liggende in de kribbe.
17 En als zij Het gezien hadden, maakten zij alom bekend het woord, dat hun van dit Kindeken gezegd was.
18 En allen, die het hoorden, verwonderden zich over hetgeen hun gezegd werd van de herders.
19 Doch Maria bewaarde deze woorden alle te zamen, overleggende die in haar hart.
20 En de herders keerde wederom, verheerlijkende en prijzende God over alles, wat zij gehoord en gezien hadden, gelijk tot hen gesproken was.

In Portuguese:

1. Naqueles tempos apareceu um decreto de César Augusto, ordenando o recenseamento de toda a terra.
2. Este recenseamento foi feito antes do governo de Quirino, na Síria.
3. Todos iam alistar-se, cada um na sua cidade.
4. Também José subiu da Galiléia, da cidade de Nazaré, à Judéia, à Cidade de Davi, chamada Belém, porque era da casa e família de Davi,
5. para se alistar com a sua esposa Maria, que estava grávida.
6. Estando eles ali, completaram-se os dias dela.
7. E deu à luz seu filho primogênito, e, envolvendo-o em faixas, reclinou-o num presépio; porque não havia lugar para eles na hospedaria.
8. Havia nos arredores uns pastores, que vigiavam e guardavam seu rebanho nos campos durante as vigílias da noite.
9. Um anjo do Senhor apareceu-lhes e a glória do Senhor refulgiu ao redor deles, e tiveram grande temor.
10. O anjo disse-lhes: Não temais, eis que vos anuncio uma boa nova que será alegria para todo o povo:
11. hoje vos nasceu na Cidade de Davi um Salvador, que é o Cristo Senhor.
12. Isto vos servirá de sinal: achareis um recém-nascido envolto em faixas e posto numa manjedoura.
13. E subitamente ao anjo se juntou uma multidão do exército celeste, que louvava a Deus e dizia:
14. Glória a Deus no mais alto dos céus e na terra paz aos homens, objetos da benevolência (divina).

(Thank you, Fragano)

In Icelandic:

Lúkasar guðspjall 2:1-20

En það bar til um þessar mundir, að boð kom frá Ágústus keisara, að skrásetja skyldi alla heimsbyggðina. Þetta var fyrsta skrásetningin og var gjörð þá er Kýreníus var landstjóri á Sýrlandi. Fóru þá allir til að láta skrásetja sig, hver til sinnar borgar. Þá fór og Jósef úr Galíleu frá borginni Nasaret upp til Júdeu, til borgar Davíðs, að láta skrásetja sig ásamt Maríu heitkonu sinni, sem var þunguð. En meðan þau voru þar, kom sá tími, er hún skyldi verða léttari. Fæddi jún þá son sinn frumgetinn, vafði hann reifum og lagði hann í jötu, af því að eigi var rúm handa þeim í gistihúsi.

En í sömu byggð voru hirðar úti í haga og gættu um nóttina hjarðar sinnar. Og engill Drottins stóð hjá þeim, og dýrð Drottins ljómaði kringum þá. Þeir urðu mjög hræddir, en engillinn sagði við þá: “Verið óhræddir, því sjá, ég boða yður mikinn fögnuð, sem veitast mun öllum lýðnum: Yður er í dag frelsari fæddur, sem er Kristur Drottinn, í borg Davíðs. Og hafði þetta til marks: Þið munuð finna ungbarn reifað og lagt í jötu.”

Og í sömu svipan var með englinum fjöldi himneskra hersveita, sem lofuðu Guð og sögðu: Dýrð sé Guði í upphæðum og friður á jörðu með mönnum, sem hann hefur velþóknun á. Þegar englarnir voru farnir frá þeim til himins, sögðu hirðarnir sín á milli: “Förum beint til Betlahem að sjá það, sem gjörst hefur og Drottinn hefur kunngjört oss” Og þeir fóru með skyndi og fundu Maríu og Jósef og ungbarnið, sem lá í jötu. Þegar þeir sáu það, skýrðu þeir frá því, er þeim hafði verið sagt um barn þetta. Og allir, sem heyrðu, undruðust það, er hirðarnir sögðu þeim. En María geymdi allt þetta í hjarta sér og hugleiddi það. Og hirðarnir sneru aftur og vegsömuðu Guð og lofuðu hann fyrir það, sem þeir höfðu heyrt og séð, en allt var það eins og þeim hafði verið sagt.

(Thank you, Sica)

Martin Luther, 1545:

1. Es begab sich aber zu der Zeit, daß ein Gebot vom Kaiser Augustusausging, daß alle Welt geschätzt würde. :: 2. Und diese Schätzung war die allererste und geschah zu der Zeit, daCyrenius Landpfleger in Syrien war :: 3. Und jedermann ging, daß er sich schätzen ließe, ein. jeglicher inseine Stadt. :: 4. Da machte sich auch auf Joseph aus Galiläa, aus der Stadt Nazareth,in das jüdische Land zur Stadt Davids die da heißt Bethlehem, darum daßer von dem Hause und Geschlechte Davids war :: 5. auf daß er sich schätzen ließe mit Maria, seinem vertrauten Weibe,die war schwanger. :: 6. Und als sie daselbst waren, kam die Zeit, daß sie gebären sollte. :: 7. Und sie gebar ihren ersten Sohn und wickelte ihn in Windeln undlegte ihn in eine Krippe; denn sie hatten sonst keinen Raum in derHerberge. :: 8. Und es waren Hirten in derselbigen Gegend auf dem Felde bei denHürden, die hüteten des Nachts ihre Herde. :: 9. und siehe des Herrn Engel trat zu ihnen, und die Klarheit des Herrnleuchtete um sie, und sie fürchteten sich sehr. :: 10. Und der Engel sprach zu ihnen: Fürchtet euch nicht! Siehe, ichverkündige euch große Freude, die allem Volk widerfahren wird; :: 11. denn euch ist heute der Heiland geboren, welcher ist Christus, derHerr, in der Stadt Davids. :: 12. Und das habt zum Zeichen: Ihr werdet finden das Kind in Windelngewickelt und in einer Krippe liegen. :: 13. Und alsbald war da bei dem Engel die Menge der himmlischenHeerscharen, die lobten Gott und sprachen: :: 14. Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe und Friede auf Erden und den Menschenein Wohlgefallen! :: 15. Und da die Engel von ihnen gen Himmel fuhren, sprachen die Hirtenuntereinander: Laßt uns nun gehen gen Bethlehem und die Geschichtesehen, die da geschehen ist, die uns der Herr kundgetan hat. :: 16. Und sie kamen eilend und fanden beide, Maria und Joseph, dazu dasKind in der Krippe liegen. :: 17. Da sie es aber gesehen hatten breiteten sie das Wort aus, welcheszu ihnen von diesem Kind gesagt war. :: 18. Und alle, vor die es kam, wunderten sich der Rede, die ihnen dieHirten gesagt hatten. :: 19. Maria aber behielt alle diese Worte und bewegete sie in ihremHerzen. :: 20. Und die Hirten kehreten wieder um, preiseten und lobten Gott umalles, was sie gehöret und gesehen hatten, wie denn zu ihnen gesagt war.

(Thank you, Fidelio)

In Quenya:

1. Ar túlë entë auressen i etelendë canwa Auhustus i Táraranello, i mo notumnë quanda ambar. :: 2. Minya notië sina martanë írë Quirinius nánë cáno Sírio. :: 3. Ilyë queni lender náven nótinë, ilquen véra ostoryanna. :: 4. Yando Yósef lendë amba Alilëallo, et i ostollo Nasaret, mir Yúrëa, Laviro ostonna, ya ná estaina Vet-Lehem, pan anes maro ar nossëo Laviro, :: 5. náven nótina as María ye nánë antaina sen vestalessë, ar ye sí nánë lapsarwa. :: 6. Írë engettë tassë, i lúmë túlë yassë columnes lapserya. :: 7. Ar colles yondorya, i minnóna, ar se-vaitanes ar panyane se salquecolcassë, pan lá engë tún nómë mí marmen. :: 8. Enger mavalli i imya nóressë i marner i restassë, tírala lámáreltar i lómissë. :: 9. Ar i Héruo vala tarnë ara te, ar i Héruo alcar caltanë os te, ar túra caurë nampë te. :: 10. Mal i vala quentë téna: “Áva rucë, pan inyë cára sinwa len túra alassë ya nauva i quanda lien, :: 11. an anaië cólina len síra Rehtando, ye ná Hristo, i Heru, Laviro ostossë. :: 12. Ar si nauva tanna len: Hiruvaldë vinimo, vaitana ar caitala salquecolcassë.” :: 13. Ar rincanen engë as i vala rimbë i meneldëa hossëo, laitala Eru ar quétala: :: 14. “Alcar i tarmenissen na Erun, ar cemendë rainë atanin pa i sanas mai.”

(Thank you, Helge Kåre Fauskanger at Ardalambion.)

- o0o -

From Sisuile, Isaiah 9:6:

Parvulus enim natus est nobis filius datus est nobis et factus est principatus super umerum eius et vocabitur nomen eius Admirabilis consiliarius Deus fortis Pater futuri saeculi Princeps pacis.

From Paul Duncanson, the LOLcat version.

From Linkmeister, Linus explains Christmas.

Jo Walton’s 2009 story about Joseph, and a new Christmas story for this year.

John Scalzi’s Interview with the Nativity Innkeeper..

From Pericat, the IRC version.

Debcha is big on Wayne Coyne’s Twelve reasons why Christmas matters.

From me, two Christmas carols found last year for which I still don’t have music: (1.) Ipse Mocat Me. (2.) An Aungell fro Hevn Gan Lyth, which as far as I know is the only Christmas carol that depicts God as a knitter. *

And all the riches of the comment thread.

Merry Christmas to all, and thank you for being here.

December 24, 2010
The serpent in my spice cupboard
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 11:24 AM *

With all of us spending so much time in our kitchens this holiday season, I thought it was a good time to discuss an interesting and little-known piece of cooking history. (I’d originally planned to post it in the early spring, but I had the time to write it up now.)

Like many European countries, the Netherlands underwent an enormous culinary explosion in the 17th century. Trading expeditions all over the world brought back exotic foods, some of which caught the Dutch fancy and became staples of the national cuisine.

Perhaps the most surprising of these was dried dragon feet, particularly the heels. Their distinctive flavor appeared in many sauces popular among the Golden Age mercantile classes. But it remained a true “secret ingredient” whose identity was protected by Dutch law and whose export was banned.

The French, in particular, were keen to reproduce the new Dutch sauces. Hollandaise sauce was the most successful attempt of the time, but even it lacked the authentic flavor, which could only be obtained from dragons-foot. Even after export restrictions were lifted, dragons-foot was too rare and expensive to become part of popular French cuisine.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that French gardeners bred an unpromising Russian plant into French tarragon, which approximates the flavor of dragon heels. This allowed the creation and popularization of Béarnaise sauce, which is the closest equivalent of the original Dutch sauce recipes from two centuries earlier.

In an ironic twist, the flavor of tarragon has since become the default and that of genuine dragon heel the imitation. The Dutch still prefer the original source, but even they use the herb on the packaging to indicate the flavor. There is some controversy about this, particularly among animal-rights activists, who feel that the packinging (below) implies a vegetarian and cruelty-free source of a food that is actually the moral equivalent of sharks-fin soup.


What interesting and obscure historical information does your cooking inspire you to share?

December 20, 2010
The birds, the bees, and the gadgets
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:54 PM * 163 comments

So we were in the drugstore in Centraal Station in Amsterdam, hunting down a decongestant for my mother. (She picked up a cold on the flight here*.) My father was discussing over the counter chemistry with a shop assistant whose English was more than adequate, so I went looking for the third member of our party: my daughter, not yet seven.

I found her standing in front of a wall full of sex toys, all brightly colored and substantially anatomical in design†. She regarded the display with anthropological interest.

“What are these, Mom?”
“They’re called vibrators.‡”
“What are they for?”
“They’re a grownup thing. It’s about sex. Do you want to know more?”
“OK. Ask me when you do and I’ll explain further.”

We moved on; there was Christmas shopping to do. Later, over hot chocolate in a café, I mentioned the conversation to my father, and she piped up to say that now she did want to know more. What were they? Had I ever used one? How were they used, and why?

I talked a little about how vibrators made people’s bodies feel good, and how people used them as part of sex sometimes. That led onto a little bit about how sex made people’s bodies feel good. And then we fell to talking about how her body wasn’t yet at the stage to get into sex, and how it would change sometime in the future. I listed the external changes, and said that as that went on there would be internal changes too. After that, I said, things like sex and kissing would be more interesting to her.

“But I like kissing!” she objected. “I like kissing you, and I like it when you kiss me!” “I know, and I like kissing you,” I responded, “but later you’ll find out that there are more kinds of kissing than just between a mom and her kid.”

I think I managed the whole exchange fairly well, on balance. I wasn’t embarrassed or awkward, not past the first moment of vertigo when I realized what she was looking at. She’s not actually interested in sex right now; she’s interested in why everyone else is interested in it.

“Welcome to Holland!” tweeted a Dutch friend when I talked about the drugstore display on Twitter. But, sex toys aside, this is not far off how I was raised myself. The difference is primarily that my upbringing was countercultural where I was. Here, it’s one form of normal.

* and lost her luggage in the snowpocalypse. Not a good trade.
† This is a drugstore in a train station, the sort of place one gets bandages and hair accessories. The more creative items are sold in specialty shops.
‡ An over-generalization, I confess; I did not check if they all vibrated.

December 18, 2010
The end of don’t ask me nothin’ about nothin’
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:35 PM *

So there’s that quote, beloved of high schoolers and others at the fulcra of their lives:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Hamlet, Act 1, Scene III

Polonius gets it wrong, alas: it’s perfectly possible to be true to your inner sociopath or grifter and play the whole world false. But it’s the mirror-image, the negative, of a profound truth of human nature: the second lie is easier than the first. Because the first one turns you into a liar, a miser of truth. It sets you on a particular road.

It’s possible, of course, to turn aside, to make the first lie the only one. Many otherwise honorable people have a secret.

For years, America has forced many people serving in its military to take that first step on the road, to start their membership in a community that values honor and requires trust with a lie by omission. Many learned to make that first lie, that deepest betrayal of the truth of their characters, the only falsehood of their work. I’m powerfully impressed by the people who have managed it.

But it’s wrong that we have asked that of gay servicepeople. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has done other damage as well: isolating military partners, exposing soldiers to blackmail, directly destroying careers and lives. But the deepest betrayal is that first one, when we as a society have forced people to lie in order to serve.

I’m glad that the repeal of DADT has now passed in the House and the Senate. I look forward to seeing it signed into law. I am only ashamed that it’s taken us so long to let people tell the truth.

Because, as a somewhat less wordy fellow than Polonius once promised, “The truth will set you free.”

Cream Filberts
Posted by Teresa at 01:28 PM * 35 comments

PAGING PHEIDIAS, PAGING PHEIDIAS, do you read me? Come in, do you read me?

They’re back. Several online vendors are offering them. I have no faith that they’re going to last long.

Vermont Country Store, $16.95 + $5.95 shipping, more or less, for a one-pound bag. They also reproduce a long string of jubilant messages from cream-filbert-deprived customers.

Groovy Candies, $26.75 for two pounds, shipping starts around $6 - $10. They’re an Ohio wholesale and retail candy business that specializes in retro candies.

Yummies Candy & Nuts, $4.99 for five ounces. I guess they’ve taken them off their graveyard list.

Nashville Candy Store, $14.00 a pound, but so far I haven’t been able to get their site to work.

I wish you good hunting.

Salted Nut Brickle
Posted by Teresa at 12:24 AM * 72 comments

less than a stick of butter
quite a lot of sugar
salt in a shaker
powdered cinnamon
blanched almonds and/or hazelnuts, unblanched walnuts and/or pecans, a pound or more total
non-stick cooking spray
aluminum foil

Have all your ingredients sitting close to hand, with jar lids off and packages already opened.

Roll out a generous sheet of aluminum foil, and either use it to line a large flat cookie sheet or cake pan, or just fold up 0.75” edges all the way around it and tuck them up at the corners as you would a fitted sheet. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray, then take a salt shaker and sprinkle the sheet evenly with salt. Coarser salt is yummy and looks nice, but plain table salt will do just fine.

Turn your fire to medium high. Melt half to two-thirds of a stick of butter in your favorite wok, skillet, or saucepan. Start adding sugar. Add as much sugar as the butter will take up, stirring all the while with a high-temperature scraper or a big wooden spoon.

Keep stirring. Add some salt. Stir it in, then extract a bit of the sugar-and-salt mixture and taste it to see if it needs a bit more salt. It probably does. Keep stirring.

When the sugar first starts to melt, it will probably throw off some of the melted butter. Add more sugar—as much as it will take up—and keep stirring. Adjust the salt. Throw in some cinnamon. Don’t add any more sugar after this point.

When the mixture in the pan is starting to liquefy and caramelize, consider starting to add nuts. You want to start with the ones that take longest to toast, and finish with the ones that toast most quickly. In the overall scheme of nuts, I believe the order is Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, pecans, and piñon nuts or pignolia. Stir as you add them. Adjust the salt. Add a good solid shake of ground cinnamon. Stir faster.

You are now approaching the crisis. There will come a moment when the sugar and butter mixture will suddenly become markedly looser and more liquid. If all goes well, this should happen right around the time the mixture starts browning much more rapidly, and the nuts start to smell toasted. (Don’t wait until they reach the limits of aesthetic toasting, as they’ll continue to cook for some little while in the hot candy.) Swiftly mix in your last additions of salt and cinnamon before or as you reach this point.

When the moment comes, turn the fire off and immediately turn out the bubbling candy mixture onto the greased and salted sheet. Scrape the pan out fast-fast-fast, throw it into the sink, and start water running into it. Don’t take more than a few seconds. Get back to the candy and do your best to spread out the nuts evenly while you’re sprinkling more salt on top of it. The salt takes precedence. The candy will very shortly cease to be liquid. If the nuts are unevenly distributed, oh well.

Once the candy has become a solid, set it somewhere to cool. I usually set mine down in the bottom of the (dry) bathtub. Let it sit until it’s cool, then take a sturdy implement and break it into pieces. Chips will fly, so sweep up immediately afterward. Pack it into the traditional airtight container.

Notes: if you chop this candy into coarse crumbs, you’ll have the same stuff confectioners use to coat truffles and other chocolates.

If you need a greater quantity of candy than one batch provides, it’s better to make two batches of the prescribed size than to try to make one extra-large batch. The physics will be wrong, and your wodge of cooking sugar will neither be nominally spherical nor of uniform density.

Cooking with Light (recipe index)

December 17, 2010
Default oatmeal cookies with nutmeg
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:54 PM * 103 comments

In the interests of never losing it again, allow me to post our standard oatmeal cookie recipe. It’s reasonably unremarkable apart from the nutmeg, but really, who needs to get fancy with oatmeal cookies? Life is too short.

250g (1 cup) butter
400g (2 packed cups) brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
300g (2 cups) white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
250 g (1 1/2 cups) rolled oats

(I know some people like raisins in these cookies. Some people juggle geese. If you’re of the former persuasion, put some in. If you’re of the latter, wash your hands afterward.)

Preheat oven to 180° C (350° F, GM 4).

Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix. Spoon onto baking trays protected from stickiness using your preferred method. Bake until done (15 - 20 minutes).

Half a dozen of these cookies can bribe people to come to an important meeting. A single batch is a useful addition to a Thanksgiving party in a foreign land. A double recipe will be remembered by a class of eight year olds for a whole year. A triple recipe will feed the green room at a dance recital and make you The People Who Bring Cookies until the end of time.

Martin got the seed recipe somewhere on the internet, then tweaked and changed it around through gradual experimentation. I made about 100 of them yesterday, along with a batch of chocolate chip cookies with M&M’s swapped in. (They’re easier to buy here). So I had the time to get the weight/volume conversion data.

This post is brought to you by the number 7 and the Making Light recipe index. Void where no one likes cookies, but where would that be? Genuine vanilla extract is a joy to the spirit, but don’t worry about grinding your own nutmeg. Our oatmeal says it’s got small leaves. Preheat! Preheat! OK!

December 16, 2010
T Is For The Tourist Cabin Weekends
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:31 PM * 8 comments

If anyone ever wanted to become the owner of some tourist cabins, Columbia Cabins in Columbia, NH, (Miss Teresa knows the place) are for sale. As I understand it they’re being sold by the town for back taxes. If you want to live your Newhart/Baby Boom fantasies, this is it.

Bids start at $25K.

More detail:

You can see this with Google Street Views; it’s at the intersection of US Rt. 3 and South Jordan Hill Rd. in Columbia, NH. (You have to scroll south to find the correct end of Jordan Hill Road. It’s on the next screen.) Google Street Views labels US Rt 3 as Daniel Webster Highway even though it’s the Trooper Scott E. Phillips Memorial Highway, and labels South Jordan Hill Rd. “Jordan Hill Rd” even though it’s South Jordan Hill Rd. The town (for some reason) is labeled Groveton, NH, even though Groveton is really two towns south of there. The property is across the street from the sand-and-gravel pit on Tri-County Drive. (That’s Columbia Sand and Gravel, and isn’t visible from the cabins.)

The story: The owner died. The folks who followed him weren’t interested in running tourist cabins. Eventually the copper was stripped from the buildings (six cabins plus the caretaker’s house so whoever buys it will have to re-wire and re-plumb), and abandoned the property. Which is how the town came to own it.

It’s right on the snowmobile trails. It was always full during snowmobile season, leaf-peeping season, hunting season, on Motorcycle Weekend … you get the idea. Hunters, fishermen, hikers, snowmobilers, skiers who didn’t want to pay Balsams’ prices for a place to stay.

I figure that the purchase price would be just the down payment on getting a going business, but it’s a bargain anyway.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll go out there and get photos. It’s quite pretty.

December 13, 2010
Gawker’s disaster, Yahoo’s fecklessness
Posted by Patrick at 09:37 AM * 170 comments

As you may or may not be aware, Gawker Media’s network was seriously compromised over the weekend, and hundreds of thousands of login/password pairs have been posted in public. The overwhelming majority of these belong to people who registered on a Gawker-owned site in order to post comments; these sites include Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Gawker, Jezebel, io9, Jalopnik, Kotaku, Deadspin, and Fleshbot. Gawker’s official statement is here.

You can find out if you’re affected here. The instructions look a little initimidating, but just do it; it’s easier than it sounds.

The nut of the matter is, if you ever used your login/password pair on a Gawker site as your login/password pair anyplace else, you need to change your password at those other places in a hurry. Particularly if those other sites might have access to any of your financial information—but really, even if they don’t.

This being the case, it’s notable that as of right now, when you log into Yahoo and follow the link on their account-management page to change your own password, you’re directed to an internal Yahoo “this page doesn’t exist” error message. This also happens if you try to change your password on Yahoo-owned Flickr.

I’ve tried about ten different phone numbers for Yahoo over the past hour. Nine of them don’t have a human answering until 12 noon EST (9 AM PST). The tenth led to a call-center employee who could not understand the problem, would not audibly yield up his name, and refused to put me through to a supervisor.

I dunno, if I were a struggling internet giant and something like the Gawker breach had happened over the weekend, I wouldn’t want to wait until 9 AM West Coast time before hearing that my own change-your-password link was hosed. But maybe it’s just that kind of attention to detail that’s made Yahoo so dominant over its competitors in recent years. Does anyone reading this have any way of contacting a responsible human being there?

(PS: I am not actually vulnerable here; my Yahoo login and password are different from my old Gawker Media pair. The Gawker story provoked me to go through all my accounts in order to replace existing passwords with longer, more random ones generated by the excellent 1Password utility, which is how I noticed Yahoo’s problem. But there are almost certainly thousands of people whose now-exposed Gawker credentials are the same as their Yahoo credentials.)

December 12, 2010
Saint Lucy’s Eve
Posted by Teresa at 11:00 PM *

From the Hymns and Carols of Christmas site:

Traditional Swedish Song
celebrating the Feast of St. Lucia, December 13.

1. Natten går tunga fjät
runt gård och stuva.
Kring jord, som sol’n förlät,
skuggorna ruva.
Då i vårt mörka hus
stiga med tända ljus
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.
Då i vårt mörka hus
stiga med tända ljus
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

2. Natten är stor och stum.
Nu hör! det svingar
i alla tysta rum
sus som av vingar.
Se på vår tröskel står
vitklädd, med ljus i hår
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.
Se på vår tröskel står
vitklädd, med ljus i hår
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

3. "Mörkret skall flykta snart
ur jordens dalar."
Så hon ett underbart
ord till oss talar.
Dagen skall åter ny
stiga ur rosig sky.
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.
Dagen skall åter ny
stiga ur rosig sky.
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia.

The editor of the Hymns & Carols site recommends various links about the Feast of Saint Lucy, which I’m sure were very good back when they worked. If anyone wants to chase after them: The Christ Child as Saint by Jan-Öjvind Swahn, discussing the St. Lucia tradition in Sweden. :: Lucy Fest by Susan Granquist, with a list of references compiled by Robert Shea. :: An English language translation of this song, Nightly, Go Heavy Hearts by Colin MacCallum, on Don Erickson’s Swedish Folk Songs page. :: Further translations by Sid Smith on his Sankta Lucia Song Page. :: According to Kjrsten Holt, the song is based on a traditional Neapolitan melody, with Swedish words by Arvid Rosén, 1928; see Lucia Morning in Sweden. “Most other sites concur,” says the editor, though Björn Fromén attributes the words to Arvid Rosén and Sigrid Elmblad, and Erika Holmsten says the first text was written by Sigrid Elmblad around 1900, but the version sung most often is Arvid Rosén’s. :: I add: Björn Fromén’s page, Lícumariel linde, is the only link that still works. What the editor didn’t mention is that it’s primarily a translation of the Swedish Sankta Lucia song into Quenya. (Sticking lights on your head: a natural subject in Quenya.)

And then the site editor quotes this wonderful bit:

Note from Clement A. Miles, Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan (T. Fisher Unwin, 1912), pp. 221-3 (footnotes are Miles’ own):

In Sweden St. Lucia’s Day was formerly marked by some interesting practices. It was, so to speak, the entrance to the Christmas festival, and was called “little Yule.”* At the first cock-crow, between 1 and 4 a.m., the prettiest girl in the house used to go among the sleeping folk, dressed in a white robe, a red sash, and a wire crown covered with whortleberry-twigs and having nine lighted candles fastened in it. She awakened the sleepers and regaled them with a sweet drink or with coffee,* sang a special song, and was named “Lussi” or “Lussibruden” (Lucy bride). When everyone was dressed, breakfast was taken, the room being lighted by many candles. The domestic animals were not forgotten on this day, but were given special portions. A peculiar feature of the Swedish custom is the presence of lights on Lussi’s crown. Lights indeed are the special mark of the festival; it was customary to shoot and fish on St. Lucy’s Day by torchlight, the parlours, as has been said, were brilliantly illuminated in the early morning, in West Gothland Lussi went round the village preceded by torchbearers, and in one parish she was represented by a cow with a crown of lights on her head. In schools the day was celebrated with illuminations.*

What is the explanation of this feast of lights? There is nothing in the legend of the saint to account for it; her name, however, at once suggests lux—light. It is possible, as Dr. Feilberg supposes, that the name gave rise to the special use of lights among the Latin-learned monks who brought Christianity to Sweden, and that the custom spread from them to the common people. A peculiar fitness would be found in it because St. Lucia’s Day according to the Old Style was the shortest day of the year, the turning-point of the sun’s light.*

In Sicily also St. Lucia’s festival is a feast of lights. After sunset on the Eve a long procession of men, lads, and children, each flourishing a thick bunch of long straws all afire, rushes wildly down the streets of the mountain village of Montedoro, as if fleeing from some danger, and shouting hoarsely. “The darkness of the night,” says an eye-witness, “was lighted up by this savage procession of dancing, flaming torches, whilst bonfires in all the side streets gave the illusion that the whole village was burning.” At the end of the procession came the image of Santa Lucia, holding a dish which contained her eyes.* In the midst of the piazza a great mountain of straw had been prepared; on this everyone threw his own burning torch, and the saint was placed in a spot from which she could survey the vast bonfire.*

In central Europe we see St. Lucia in other aspects. In the Böhmerwald she goes round the village in the form of a nanny-goat with horns, gives fruit to the good children, and threatens to rip open the belly of the naughty. Here she is evidently related to the pagan monsters already described. In Tyrol she plays a more graceful part: she brings presents for girls, an office which St. Nicholas is there supposed to perform for boys only.*

In Lower Austria St. Lucia’s Eve is a time when special danger from witchcraft is feared and must be averted by prayer and incense. A procession is made through each house to cense every room. On this evening, too, girls are afraid to spin lest in the morning they should find their distaffs twisted, the threads broken, and the yarn in confusion. (We shall meet with like superstitions during the Twelve Nights.) At midnight the girls practise a strange ceremony: they go to a willow-bordered brook, cut the bark of a tree partly away, without detaching it, make with a knife a cross on the inner side of the cut bark, moisten it with water, and carefully close up the opening. On New Year’s Day the cutting is opened, and the future is augured from the markings found. The lads, on the other hand, look out at midnight for a mysterious light, the Luzieschein, the forms of which indicate coming events.*

In Denmark, too, St. Lucia’s Eve is a time for seeing the future. Here is a prayer of Danish maids: “Sweet St. Lucy let me know: whose cloth I shall lay, whose bed I shall make, whose child I shall bear, whose darling I shall be, whose arms I shall sleep in.”*

So, next time you run into those sanctimonious types who are forever going on about how we need to return to traditional Christmas observances, tell them about the Feast of Saint Lucy. Or possibly the Krampus. Anyone up for a nice round of Suffering Ballads?

To Catch a Thief
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:54 PM * 12 comments

The video at YouTube only has 318 views as of this writing.

I got the story from one of the back pages of today’s Union Leader. It doesn’t appear to be on their site.

You can read the story in yesterday’s Londonderry News.

It’s a surveillance tape from the Play N Trade in Londonderry, New Hampshire. The video was posted yesterday, Saturday the 10th.

See, there’s this guy, stuffing merchandise under his sweatshirt, over $300 worth, then walking out. The video was recorded at 1030 on Wednesday, 08 December 2010. The store’s owner, who posted the video, is appealing to the public to help find the guy.

Anyway, if anyone happens to recognize the thief, the Londonderry Police are waiting to hear from you. The phone number is on the video.

Open thread 151
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:09 PM *

It’s like the inside of a baby polar bear’s ear. It’s like goosebumps on a Thursday. It’s a nuclear accident, but there’s no problem with it. It’s like King Kong French-kissed you…stop it, Kong!

It hasn’t sold me any paper yet, but I’m willing to let it keep trying.

Back to Open thread 150

December 11, 2010
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 12:04 PM *

I ran across an interesting article (Dutch) the other day about a recently-discovered diplomatic cable. It was sent in the midst of a foreign occupation, and casts serious doubt on the unity of the resistance to the occupiers’ brutal ethnic cleansing. At best, it’s an ambiguous narrative. At worst, it’s an indictment of an entire government. It was secret, and kept so, until long after the conflict was over.

This is not about Wikileaks. Or, at least, not directly.

The message (pdf, Dutch) is dated September 2, 1943, and was sent from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to all of the other ministers of the government in exile in London. This copy, addressed to the Ministry of Justice, surfaced in the Dutch embassy in Switzerland; it references a message that passed through Bern on its way to England. It deals with the attitudes of Dutch people toward the Jews in hiding in their own communities during the Nazi occupation.

(Pause for historical context.)

A few interesting dates:

Sep 1939 War in Europe. The Netherlands declares neutrality, which was its successful strategy for surviving World War I
Oct 1939 The first refugees from the east arrive in Westerbork Camp, a detention camp set up to house people (mostly Jewish) fleeing Nazi Germany.
May 10, 1940 Germany invades the Netherlands.
The Dutch royal family escape capture and flee to London
May 15, 1940 After the catastrophic bombing of Rotterdam, and under threat of similar treatment to Utrecht, the Netherlands surrenders.
A Dutch government in exile is formed in London
Jun-Nov 1940 The German occupying forces institute anti-Jewish measures.
This is made easier because Dutch records include religious affiliation*.
Feb 24-27, 1941   A general strike against the anti-Jewish measures is organized by non-Jews; the first resistance of its kind in occupied Europe.
It is swiftly and unpleasantly put down, with reprisals and hefty fines in the main cities that participated.
Jan 1942 Jews are forced to move from the provinces into the Amsterdam ghetto.
Jun 1942 Deportation of Jews to Westerbork, and thence eastward to “labor camps” in Germany begins.
Many Jewish families, on receiving deportation notices, go into hiding‡
Sep 2, 1943 Ministry of Foreign Affairs sends a telegram to the other ministers based on information sent through Bern
Sep 29, 1943 The last Jews are deported from the Amsterdam ghetto.
May 5, 1945 Liberation of the Netherlands

A few relevant numbers:

Population of the Netherlands, 1939   8,729,000
People self-identifying as Jews in the Netherlands, 1939   139,717
Population of the Netherlands, 1946   9,304,000
People self-identifying as Jews in the Netherlands, 1946   34,379
Jews who survived the war by hiding   25,000 (est)
People in hiding in the Netherlands, Sep 1944   350,000 (est)
Households hiding people in the Netherlands, Sep 1944   60,000 (est)

Basically, as everyone who’s read Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl knows, many of the Jews in the Netherlands who survived World War 2 did so by hiding in houses and offices. But the Jews were not the only ones who went into hiding (in Dutch, onderduiken, diving under). Men between the ages of 18 and 45 were being conscripted into German factories; many of them hid rather than go east. Dutch householders also stashed students, strikers, resistance members, and Allied soldiers in their attics.

The German occupying government punished the hosts of non-Jewish onderduikers with hunger: they confiscated their ration cards. The penalty for hiding Jewish people, meanwhile, was to be deported with them. A third of the hosts of Jews did not survive the war themselves.

The resistance movement included a number of organizations to help host all sorts of onderduikers, forging money and ration cards to feed this secret population. Although many Dutch people were ambivalent about Jews (sigh), the practice of hiding people had significant support.

(Back to the narrative.)

So here’s my translation of the telegraph:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
London, 2 September 1943
Diplomatic Affairs Division


I have the honor to inform you that the minister in Bern has sent me the following telegram in code:
For some time, there have been reports coming out of the Netherlands regarding disappointments encountered in hiding Jews and protecting their assets. The betrayal of Christian hosts and other helpers happens frequently, as does the reporting of hiding-places of jewelry and suchlike, to save themselves or out of cowardice. This is creating a growing anti-Jewish sentiment, entirely independent of German propaganda.

Therefore I have the impression that the appointment of Jews in higher government positions is not well perceived in the Netherlands, and is not conducive to trust in the Government.
I am reporting the above to Your Excellency because I think that you will appreciate being informed about the representation of the mood in the Netherlands that the preceding telegram contains.

I am writing this same letter to all of our counterparts.


That last paragraph is at least as tangled and indirect in the original Dutch as I have rendered it in English, by the way. I think it’s a deliberate, deniable distancing, a way of warning the recipients that someone was saying this stuff, but not expressing an opinion on who. It doesn’t read, to me, as an agreement with the telegram, or even a belief in it as an accurate reflection of Dutch sentiment. The historians quoted in the newspaper article where I found it disagree. They seem to take it as an indication of the Dutch cabinet’s attitude at the time. And yet they also seem astonished by it. I do not know that I trust their reactions.

I also do not have any information about Jews in official positions in the Dutch government in exile. I have looked, and I’d expect such a fact to be prominently visible, given the times. And I can find no evidence of a cabinet reshuffle whose direction such a telegram might have been attempting to influence. In other words, I can’t see why the telegraph was written and sent when it was.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs in question, Eelko van Kleffens, had a long and distinguished career. He was in favor of neutrality for the Netherlands until it became impossible, then served effectively in the Foreign Ministry throughout the war. He wrote a powerful account of the German invasion, Juggernaut over Holland, which was widely read both in Britain and the Netherlands. After the war, he served as ambassador to the US, then to Portugal. He was instrumental in founding both the Benelux union (which was one of the seeds of the European Union) and the UN. He was elected President of the United Nations in 1954. I could find no evidence of anyone describing him as anti-Semitic at any point in his public career.

The point, if there is one:

I started researching this telegram as a sidelight to the Wikileaks narrative, wondering what would have happened had it been made public in 1943. I don’t think it would have been a good thing; it might have mistaken the motivations of an (I believe) innocent man who went on to do good things, or increased the tensions between hosts and onderduikers, or ratcheted up the fear of Dutch Jews about their fellow countrymen.

But the story isn’t that simple; the parallel isn’t that good. Government secrecy in 2010 is not like government secrecy in 1943: not in volume, not in average criticality, not in the nature of the threats we face. What I think should have happened in 1943 is not what I think should happen now. It’s complicated, like history tends to be.

And yet there is a symmetry, a similarity-in-shape that feels relevant. It’s not really about the release of government communications. It’s about whom we side with, whom (or what) we hide and from whom, and how we hide them. While explicitly excluding any Godwin comparisons, I think the impulse to protect the vulnerable against the mighty is the common thread between 1943 and the present. But now we’re not talking about human beings in tanks coming after other human beings in attics. Now it’s servers and data, denial of service and withdrawal of services, information and knowledge.

I think WikiLeaks is going to dive under the surface of the internet soon, and that other organizations will follow it. I think people of good will will be hiding files on data keys like refugees in an attic, passing IP addresses like forged ration books, and picking up stray information like downed airmen.

And I think there will be stories about how these organizations turn against their hosts—or are said to do so—with the same layered unreality as that message from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

* The role of religion in Dutch public life played a complicated part in the Holocaust. On the one hand, the fact that the Jews were easily identifiable made it easier for the Nazis to round them up. On the other hand, the German occupiers tried to set up single institutions in place of the “pillarized” system of paired Catholic/Protestant ones. The Catholic Church refused to participate in any of them, and formed a natural core of and cover for resistance to the occupation thereafter†.
† Keeping, alas, its mixed record on the treatment of Jews.
‡ Among them, the Frank family in Amsterdam, who were served notice on July 5, 1942.

December 10, 2010
Struggling to life from the sloughs of despond, it’s…Whisperado
Posted by Patrick at 02:03 PM *

For the first time in months (we have these “lives,” you know), Whisperado has some gigs lined up in the near future. On Sunday, January 2, at 7 PM, you can watch as I turn 52 onstage at Spike Hill, 184-186 Bedford Avenue (at 7th Street), in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And at 8 PM on January 23 we’ll be at Banjo Jim’s, 9th Street and Avenue C in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Spike Hill is a new venue for us, but we’re up for it. We’ve played Banjo Jim’s several times; it’s a very friendly place with a great crowd of regulars. This post is an experiment in actually letting people know in advance when and where we’ll be playing, as opposed to my usual practice of sending out really strong telepathic emanations and maybe remembering to put a line onto Making Light the afternoon of the day of the gig. We’ll see how it works out.

December 08, 2010
More Mid-Winter Gifts
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:20 PM * 48 comments

I don’t know how wide-spread this is, but here we have a sort-of informal program, a collaboration between school nurses, hospital nurses, and local EMS, to help get presents to kids who otherwise wouldn’t get ‘em. (Rural Poverty, we has it.)

Here’s how it works: The school nurses know which kids are likely to be … in need of prezzies. They get wish-lists from the mothers (usually it’s the mothers) of what would be appreciated. These get put on slips of paper and taken up to the hospital. There, the slips are stapled to a poster (here it’s shaped like a Christmas tree) and posted in the staff lunchroom.

A typical one might be “Girl’s snow boots, size 3, purple. Wrapped.” Or “Real tools, suitable for a six-year-old boy. Unwrapped.” Then there’d be a number so the thing could get to the right nurse at the right school and to the right family.

If someone wants to help, they take a slip, get the thing, and return it with the slip to a central location by a certain date (15 December here).

Like I said, I don’t know if this is a common practice, but it might be worthwhile to check with your local school nurse to see if something similar happens in your community.

It’s Mid-Winter Gift Season Again
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:28 PM * 66 comments

And what could be the more perfect gift for the discriminating bon viveur on your list than an item made from a genuine cane toad?

When the Sell Line is “Largest Toad in the Range” you know you’re on to a winner.

Imported from Australia; buy ‘em wholesale (because you’ll want to give away lots of these honeys). I’m thinking of writing a book called The Cane Toad Murders just so my publisher can distribute imprinted key-chains instead of the dull old bookmarks other folks get.

Cane toad! The new black! Set the trend! Wherever fine toad products are sold.

December 07, 2010
I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of people suddenly facepalmed and then were silent
Posted by Patrick at 01:56 PM *

Press Statement
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
December 7, 2010
The United States is pleased to announce that it will host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from May 1 - May 3 in Washington, D.C. UNESCO is the only UN agency with the mandate to promote freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of the press.

The theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.

December 06, 2010
How To Get Published
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:20 PM *

A correspondent writes:

… it occurred to me that I’ve seen many iterations of your Classic Uncle Jim Advice (Go into a bookstore and find out who publishes books like yours; figure out what agents have clients you’ve heard of; start writing another, better book while your current one makes the rounds), but when I go looking for one, it doesn’t fall into my lap.

Do you have a single comment that, you feel, summarizes this, and if so, can I have the link? ….

Well, there is this post that I made many years (like, in 2003) ago (and it wasn’t new for me at the time). Here’s another example from 2005. But I’ve elaborated in other places since then, streamlined in spots, combined elements, and thought about it a bit. So I might as well go again.

The question keeps getting asked. Usually it’s in the form, “How can I get my book published for free? Also, I’m 15 years old.” Sometimes the questioner adds details about having always wanted to be a professional writer.

Well, let me say this about that. Once upon a time, I was that 15 year old. And, as it happened, I went to a presentation by a Big Name Pro about his Works (in our beloved genre, as it happens, a name you’d all recognize) for in those days there was no Internet. And, at the very end, in the question and answer section, using all of my courage, I raised my hand and asked, “How does one become a professional writer?”

He went on for quite some length about Inspiration and Art. I’m certain it was utterly true. It was also completely useless.

Here is the answer that I was looking for, that I wished I’d gotten, and that would have saved me a lot of time and confusion.

To be a writer, you must write.

Thinking about writing is not writing. Talking about writing is not writing. Researching is not writing. Pre-writing exercises are not writing. Only writing is writing.

Write every day. If you only write a page a day, at the end of a year you’ll have a novel. Read every day. If you want to be a writer, you must be a reader. If you are not a reader, perhaps being a writer is not in your future.

Write straight through to THE END.

The urge to give up, particularly in the dread Mid-Book, will be strong. The desire to go back and fix the beginning will be strong. Resist the urge. You won’t know what the beginning is until you reach the finish, and perhaps not even then.

Every synapse in your brain will be screaming “This Is Crud!” Perhaps it is. That’s okay. You can’t make a pot without clay. We’ll fix it all in the second draft. If you need permission to write badly, I grant it to you.

Besides, if you give up in the middle, when and how will you learn to write endings? One failure mode that I see all the freakin’ time is the writer who, at the end of ten years, has twenty half-novels.

Note that while you will think that your writing is crud, and it may objectively be crud, you should still write to the very best of your ability.

On the day you reach THE END, put the book aside for six weeks.

You’ll want to clear your palate before you begin to revise. You need to forget the exact words. You need to forget which parts were a struggle to write, which parts came out in a white-hot blaze. Which parts you thought were crud. If you start too soon you won’t be reading the words on the paper, you’ll be reading the words you remember being on the paper.

Start writing your next book.

The same day. Or the very next day at the latest. Here is why this is necessary: Regardless of what happens to the book you just completed, you’ll want to have another in your suitcase.

One of two things may happen. The first book may sell. When that happens your agent or editor will say, “Do you happen to have another?” Or the book may not sell. In that case, you’ll want to try again with a different book.

You want to know what’s heartbreaking? Writers who spend ten or fifteen years trying to sell their first, only, unpublishable novel. In ten or fifteen years they should be ten or fifteen books on, and ten or fifteen books’ worth of better. Maybe their second book would have sold. Maybe the third.

Rewrite and revise your book.

If the story doesn’t get good until chapter four, cut chapters one through three. (Readers need far less back story than you’d imagine.) Hold a pistol to the head of every adjective and adverb and make them justify their existence. Tie up the plot threads. Plant the clues that support the climax.

Rewrite and revise it again.

Fill in the plot holes. Add characterization to the minor characters. Improve the dialog. Check the facts. Tighten up the sloppy parts. Cut the dull ones.

Rewrite and revise it one more time.

It’s helpful to print it out in a format, and with a font, that you don’t usually use for your reading copy. It’s also helpful to read the book aloud, putting a check mark in the margin every time you stumble or find something you want to fix.

Give copies to your beta readers.

These are friends who are willing to tell you the brutal truth about your book. Ask them to tear it apart. To nitpick the heck out of it. A dirty-minded high school freshman is a wonderful thing. Pick someone who can’t count to seventy without laughing, to make sure that you haven’t inadvertently written a hilarious book. An expert in the location where the book is set would be good. So would an expert in the professions of the main characters. Don’t abuse your beta readers’ good nature by giving them anything less than your most polished final draft.

With the beta readers’ suggestions in hand, rewrite your book again.

Take the suggestions or don’t, but thank them for taking the time to read and comment on your work. And mean it.

I’ve found that when readers say there’s a problem in a book, they’re usually right. When they say how to fix it, they’re usually wrong. Recall too that if a problem gets pointed out in chapter twenty-four, the real cause of that problem may be in chapter nineteen.

Now find a publisher

Go down to a doors-and-windows bookstore and find books on the shelves there that are similar to your book. Get the publishers’ names and addresses. You’ll find them on the back of the title page.

If a publisher can’t get books into bookstores, you aren’t interested in talking to them.

Get those publishers’ guidelines, and submit your work to them, following their guidelines to the letter. Start at the top and work down. Don’t start with the bottom-feeders. Writers usually find their level early, and stay there.

If it is true that 90% of the books bought in America come from the same half-dozen publishing conglomerates, I see this as an argument for making jolly sure that your book comes out from one of those conglomerates.

It’s possible, indeed likely, that the very top publishers on your list will say, “No unagented submissions.” That’s okay.

Get an agent

If you’ve written a publishable book, this won’t be a big problem. If you haven’t written a publishable book, then you’re already working on a new, different, better book, right?

Take that list of books similar to yours, books that you found physically on the shelves in physical bookstores. (No, “Listed at Amazon” is not the same and is not good enough.) Find out the names of the agents who sold them. (Often, an author will thank his/her agent in the acknowledgments. Or, you could try Googling on [Author’s Name] + “represented by”.)

Get those agents’ guidelines and submit your work to them, following their guidelines to the letter.

Remember: A useful agent has sold books that you’ve heard of. Any agent who charges a fee is clueless, a scammer, or a clueless scammer.

See also: On the Getting of Agents

Rejection is nature’s way of telling you to write a better book.

If/when your manuscript comes home with a rejection slip, send it out again that same day to the next market on your list. Don’t let a manuscript sleep over. And resist as the pomp of Satan that it is the desire to rewrite and revise the work before sending it back out. Remember, you already made this book the best you could make it before you submitted it the first time. Nothing’s changed. And you’re already working on a new, different, better book.

Only if the editor and/or agent says “If you make the following changes….” should you consider rewriting before final acceptance. In that case, let your conscience be your guide.

Do not engage in Rejectomancy. Anything other than “Yes” is “No.” Send the work out again.

See also: Slushkiller

The only thing worse than remaining unpublished is to be published badly

You may not believe me, but this is true. Do not accept an offer from a publisher unless you have read several of their titles (that you personally bought off the shelf of your local bookstore) and liked them. Do not pay to be published. Readers pay the publisher. You don’t.

By now the next book you were working on should be written all the way to THE END. Go back to “Start writing your next book” and repeat the steps in order.

See also: Varieties of insanity known to affect authors

Amsterdam is dark, mysterious, and strange today
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 07:37 AM * 24 comments

December 05, 2010
Awaiting the owl
Posted by Patrick at 05:14 PM * 145 comments

Cosma Shalizi has what he describes as “yet another semi-crank pet notion, nursed quietly for many years, now posted in the absence of new thoughts because reading The Half-Made World brought it back to mind.”

The Singularity has happened; we call it “the industrial revolution” or “the long nineteenth century”. It was over by the close of 1918.

Exponential yet basically unpredictable growth of technology, rendering long-term extrapolation impossible (even when attempted by geniuses)? Check.

Massive, profoundly dis-orienting transformation in the life of humanity, extending to our ecology, mentality and social organization? Check.

Annihilation of the age-old constraints of space and time? Check.

Embrace of the fusion of humanity and machines? Check.

Creation of vast, inhuman distributed systems of information-processing, communication and control, “the coldest of all cold monsters”? Check; we call them “the self-regulating market system” and “modern bureaucracies” (public or private), and they treat men and women, even those whose minds and bodies instantiate them, like straw dogs.

An implacable drive on the part of those networks to expand, to entrain more and more of the world within their own sphere? Check. (“Drive” is the best I can do; words like “agenda” or “purpose” are too anthropomorphic, and fail to acknowledge the radical novely and strangeness of these assemblages, which are not even intelligent, as we experience intelligence, yet ceaselessly calculating.)

Why, then, since the Singularity is so plainly, even intrusively, visible in our past, does science fiction persist in placing a pale mirage of it in our future? Perhaps: the owl of Minerva flies at dusk; and we are in the late afternoon, fitfully dreaming of the half-glimpsed events of the day, waiting for the stars to come out.

I hope Shalizi will forgive my quoting his entire post, but it seems to me to have resonance with certain recent arguments over steampunk. It might even hint at why SF (and fantasy!) keep returning to the “long nineteenth century” like a dog to its bone.

I’m also reminded of this, from one of Nietzsche’s books of aphorisms: “The press, the machine, the railway, the telegraph are premises whose thousand-year conclusion no one has yet dared to draw.”

December 02, 2010
Close the Washington Monument
Posted by Patrick at 11:59 AM * 86 comments

Bruce Schneier is sane:

Securing the Washington Monument from terrorism has turned out to be a surprisingly difficult job. The concrete fence around the building protects it from attacking vehicles, but there’s no visually appealing way to house the airport-level security mechanisms the National Park Service has decided are a must for visitors. It is considering several options, but I think we should close the monument entirely. Let it stand, empty and inaccessible, as a monument to our fears.
The whole piece deserves to appear in every newspaper in the country. Read it and pass it along.

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