Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter

Happy Easter! Christ is risen, and Marshmallow Peeps are still nasty. Over here, we're all lounging around and enjoying the end of our Lenten fast. I broke fast with a few bad comic books of no account, and am now enjoying The Importance of Being Earnest, which is just as clever and shallow as I had always hoped it would be.

We'll be back soon with some of the kind of stuff we used to do around here before Lent and Josephus got in the way, but in the meantime I want to say a few irreverent things and then a less irreverent thing.

First, on the irreverent side, I have discovered that you can tell a good deal about a person by the way he handles his Easter basket. When a young child, I knew a person, not to be identified to strangers on the Internet, who pulled the fake not-at-all-resembling-grass stuff out of his basket, shook all the candy out of it, and put the candy into a bowl for easy access. I, on the other hand, arranged the candy as decoratively as possible in the basket and then rearranged it whenever I took a piece out in order to, as long as possible, preserve the idyllic pastoral scene in which a hollow chocolate bunny and his Peeps companions benevolently watch over their nest of jelly beans and Cadbury Creme Eggs. This says a great deal about the differences in our personalities; I'm just not sure what it says exactly. One thing it says is that I don't really like eating candy all that much.

Second, still on the irreverent side, Fr. Erik, don't expect to see me at Mass in a suit again for another full year. That thing only comes out of the closet once a year, and I consider that more than enough. As an archaeologist, geek, and bachelor, I have a rep to keep up, and that means a strict dress code of grungy tee-shirts and cargo pants. Besides that, I'm given to foppishness and dandyism and always feel like I'm showing off when I dress up. Besides, that suit is huge; I got it in high school when my well-meaning mother believed I would "grow into" any clothes I acquired, not really understanding that I have to eat a good deal to keep my weight up, more than I would be able to eat in college. I was about ten pounds heavier when that suit was merely baggy. I do wish I had more shirts to go with that bow tie, though.

Third, though I'm now reading fiction again (with a vengeance), I intend to spend Easter season reading the "sequel" to Josephus. I mean, of course, the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius. The edition I have is the Ferrari of Eusebiuses, but it unfortunately appears to be out of print, though a paperback edition is still available (Eusebius: The Church History). This is a "sequel" because Eusebius, who chronicles the history of the Church from its origins to Constantine, quotes Josephus profusely, because Maier (in my copies) comments on both ancient historians, and because Eusebius and William Whiston (who translated our Josephus) were both Arians. So, as you see, there are strong, tenuous links between the two. Strong and tenuous. Both. At the same time.

The hardback edition of Eusebius that I have and that you will have trouble acquiring is a model of the way books ought to be bound. This is a tiny, slim volume, but it must weigh at least seven pounds due to the solidity of its cover, which appears to be Samsonite or something similar, and the heavy weight of the acid-free pages. This thing would probably survive a nuclear holocaust. Besides that, it has full-color illustrations throughout, ample commentary, and dates in the margins to keep the reader from getting lost. On top of that, it has Maier's highly readable translation (Maier, you may remember, is a successful novelist as well as an historian). It may very well be the finest translated edition of Eusebius ever created. I have one, and you don't.

Oh, and as for those Peeps, I guess it is true that eating one is kind of like the feeling you get when you break a man's mind, enslave his will, and slurp down his soul.
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