Alan Gogoll

This is not. humanly. possible.

Alan Gogoli (website) “is an Australian acoustic guitarist and composer most known for the invention of his two-handed simultaneous artificial harmonics technique he has called ‘Bell Harmonics’, which is featured in many of his original songs such as Mulberry Mouse…”

Darn, I guess he won’t be touring near here any time soon. Thank you, Alan, for the wondrous music.

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New beginning

“New Beginning” Mark & Steffi

The Chapman stick

So beautiful

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I have not lost my marbles
They ran off on their own
They rolled right off the table
And headed out the door

One went up to Alaska
To see the polar bears
It made friends among the reindeer
And loves the winters there

I found one in Iona
On Scotland’s western shore
It swam over with some dolphins
And lives with puffins there

My marbles will keep on rolling
Traveling around the world
Until they rise up to the heavens
To make a new home there

If I ever get to space travel
And make it to the Moon
I’ll find a huge jar of my marbles
Waiting for me there

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Shelly’s place, Estes Park

We just returned from a fabulous week in Colorado, staying in Shelly’s AirBnb, located on Hwy 7 between Estes Park and Allenspark near the Wild Basin entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. If you’re headed that way, we highly recommend it; click the link above to view the listing. Reviews at AirBnB are limited to 1000 characters, but here is the review we would have wished to post there (I had to post a severely pared-down version):

Sometimes our travels take us on a busy itinerary where we’re constantly moving from place to place. This time we wanted to stay in one place and soak in the experience. We planned this trip as a mini family reunion of six people: my wife and I, our three adult daughters and a son-in-law. This house, “nearly perfect” as my son-in-law put it, became itself part of the memories our family will cherish from this time together. We definitely expect to return!

The surroundings offer an inexhaustible source of natural beauty which we continually enjoyed, especially from the decks: chipmunks playing on the rocks, hummingbirds buzzing us to remind us we are but guests, ravens and nutcrackers, the fragrance of pines and the captivating patterns of the rocks. One evening we grilled burgers on the front deck. Each morning we woke up with coffee on the west deck watching the morning clouds playing upon the slopes of Mount Meeker.

Inside, the house layout was splendid for us, accommodating our varied schedules and activities. The bedrooms seemed customized for each of us: A secluded moose room by a game room; a Cozy Cabin Loft room; a Bear room and a master bedroom just a few steps from the living room. Some stayed up late hours in the game room while others went to bed early to depart in the wee hours for early morning hikes. Our pregnant daughter had space available to sit up if needed at any hour of night. The lovely main living room offers a relaxing gathering space, with two recliners one daughter claims are the most comfortable she has ever sat in.

The location on the east side of the park was ideal for us. We walked along the nearby Wild Basin Trail with its splendid waterfalls and cascades (my favorite trail in the Park). The stunning scenery on the short drive to Estes Park via Hwy 7 never gets old; we took advantage of Lily Pond, the coffeeshop at the Chapel on the Rocks, the Enos Mills historical marker, and horse-riding at Elkhorn Stables. We had easy access to Estes Park with all its attractions including the riverwalk, and a shortcut to the main entrance of RMNP via Mary Lake Road for the days we spent absorbing the splendors of Trail Ridge Road, and Moraine Park and the Bear Lake corridor. We experienced no let-down each evening returning to this east-side home in such a beautiful natural setting.

My wife comments that it was “just about as perfect as it could get. House designed well for us. Beautiful location. All amenities provided. Beds comfortable. Great kitchen.” We appreciated the host’s use of unscented laundry detergent. Several of us have pronounced sensory sensitivities and allergies, but the house gave us no problems. The host, Shelly, was very responsive from before our arrival up through the very last day, including extremely helpful last-minute assistance. In the words one daughter wrote in the guest book: “All the amenities [even flashlights, bug spray] were so helpful and really made it feel like a home. We enjoyed… cuddling up in all the blankets, the decor (love the themes!), the porches, the views, the books & reading materials, and the location! We can’t wait to return. Thank you for making this trip so wonderful!”

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Torrance updates, 2023

In this post I’ll post updates of my Torrance-related activities for 2023. Cf. Torrance updates for 2022 and 2021.

Marty Folsom’s Torrance Reading Group, discussion of Thomas F. Torrance, “The Sovereign Creator,” in The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being Three Persons (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 203-234; #1996-595i. Handout (pdf).

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Oxford Inklings tour

In November 2021, we found ourselves with a day free in the Bath area due to an unexpected relaxation of Covid protocols for travelers seeking to return to the US. Thus at the end of a three week stay in the UK, we went up to Oxford for a day to walk in the footsteps of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and the Inklings. This PDF, prepared in advance of our trip “just in case,” was our guide for the day.

Special thanks to Kim Gilnett, who wrote the bulk of the tour with assistance from Stan Mattson and Michael Ward: “C.S. Lewis Walking Tour of Oxford Centre.” Additional information is culled from from the walking tours in the appendices of Harry Lee Poe, The Inklings of Oxford (Zondervan, 2009), an ideal travel companion to read beforehand or even take with you.

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Galileo and the Church

Watch at Vimeo | Download slides/script PDF

This coming Wednesday, May 3, 2023, I’m looking forward to speaking at McFarlin Methodist Church here in Norman on Galileo and the Roman Church. This post is a landing page for resources related to that talk. The video above is a draft version that will be slightly abridged for the occasion.

To grapple with the Galileo Affair and what it means for us today requires a journey of open inquiry and a readiness to question anew what we have received, especially from contemporary society, including popular culture. The journey must necessarily be personal and authentic. A semester course for graduate credit would not exhaust the inquiry.

The Galileo Myth

I recommend beginning with Bertold Brecht, The Life of Galileo. Read the English translation by Charles Laughton, or attend a production of the play if at all possible. Brecht’s play has likely shaped popular beliefs about Galileo more than any other source. By “Galileo Myth” I mean the “meaning” of the Galileo story for us today, irrespective of the details and their historical accuracy.

Brecht’s account does justice to the poignancy and tragedy of Galileo’s trial, concluding with his coerced recantation and abjuration. This presents the core question and meaning of the Galileo Affair.

We are fortunate at OU that a brilliant production of Brecht’s play was just put on by the Helmerich School of Drama with a talented group of undergraduate actors, directed by Emma Woodward, with dramaturgical support by James McCabe.

OU Galileo theater production

I think it’s the most effective production of Brecht I’ve seen, paradoxically because of the intimate setting in the studio theater. This play comes off better when it’s performed by a group of very talented undergraduate actors in a university setting, not overproduced, but with creative props, costumes, and staging. It came off personal and authentic, and was a delight to attend.

The Galileo of History

But eventually questions arise about historical truth and popular misconceptions of Galileo. To enter into that phase of the journey, remember that Brecht’s play is less about the Galileo of history than about the Galileo myth. Brecht’s intention was not that of a historian, to reconstruct a factual and true account of Galileo, that is, to seek understanding of Galileo in the context of his own times. Rather, Brecht sought to use the Galileo myth to critique his contemporary society, particularly the rise of fascism and the Nazi party, from the standpoint of his own Marxism. So after reading Brecht, continue your journey for historical truth by critiquing Brecht’s play itself with the following resources…

Historical scholarship:

  • Stillman Drake, Galileo: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 1983); Amazon. Read this excellent brief overview in Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series. I’ve prepared a Drake discussion guide (PDF) to support an 8-week reading group.
  • Ronald Numbers, ed., Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion (Harvard University Press, 2009); Amazon. Short chapters on Galileo and other episodes of science and religion by leading historians of science.
  • Maurice Finocchiaro, ed., The Trial of Galileo: Essential Documents (Hackett Publishing Company, 2014), Amazon. Finocchiaro conveniently brings together translations of the documents of the case.
  • Annabole Fantoli, Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), 3rd ed.; Amazon. The most comprehensive, insightful, and judicious analysis of the Galileo Affair in my opinion. Because of the plethora of newly available documents in the wake of the Vatican’s greater transparency after John Paul II, each edition of Fantoli includes substantive revisions; thus, make sure you get the third edition.
  • Maurice Finocchiaro, Retrying Galileo: 1633–1992 (University of California Press, 2005); Amazon. An intriguing study of how the story of the Galileo Affair has been retold in every generation from 1633 through 1992, which includes a helpful chapter on Brecht.

My own resources:

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Deb Haarsma on doxological astronomy

Deb Haarsma: Christ in All Things, Galaxies Included

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Starstruck Tonight

Starstruck Tonight, draft version (1 hr, 5 mins)

Thursday night, April 27, at 6pm, Candace and I presented a virtual program for the Pioneer Library network. Here’s the event page. My thanks to Pioneer Library and Librarian Catherine Wahpeconiah for inviting us and for all the effort in hosting the event as part of spring series on astronomy.

The official title I turned in, back when it was arranged, was “Constellations: Merging Art and Science.” While creating it, I added “Starstruck Tonight” to the title, because I drew upon some scripts I used for two planetarium shows back in the 1990’s. The presentation feels to me like a fusion between a planetarium show and a tour of the History of Science Collections.

On the Vimeo page for the draft video, the caption has links to jump to any section.

  1. Intro, 0:00:00 (3:35 mins)
  2. 6 Constellations: 3:35 (9:08 mins)
  3. Circumpolar stars: 12:43 (7:15 mins)
  4. Winter Hexagon: 19:58 (7:42 mins)
  5. Summer Triangle: 27:40 (5:08 mins)
  6. Zodiac: 32:48 (6:40 mins)
  7. Star Atlases: 39:28 (18:44 mins)
  8. Two Stories: 58:12 (5:22 mins)
  9. Afterword: 1:03:34 (2:10 mins)

I’ll post a link here when the improved version as given is posted on the Pioneer Library website. It’s also significantly shorter!

I’m making the presentation available under a Creative Commons license, with attribution (CC-by). All images from books are courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Some of the links mentioned in the presentation are:

Recommended books to get started with the constellations

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Deep peace of the shining stars

On a wall of 20 Hills Cottage, that most hospitable of places, Hannah displays a prayer from Iona:

Deep Peace Iona blessing

The deep peace of the water, air, earth, and heavens are gathered up in the Son of Peace, the source from whom arises all peace anywhere peace is found.

The Iona prayer reminds me of a poem by Wendell Berry:

“The Peace of Wild Things” (text of poem)
Written and narrated by Wendell Berry

“And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. for a time…”

Whether waiting for another season,* or for the night to come, the stars are waiting with their light.

Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.

[* As an aside, “day-blind” is an ambiguous phrase which, taken by itself, could mean stars invisible by day for either of two reasons: (1) they are in the daytime sky and outshone by the Sun; or (2) they are in the night sky and therefore not seen by day. We are informed by the poem that it takes place at night, so “day-blind stars” must then refer not to stars invisible because they are in the daytime sky (#1), but to stars that are visible at night (#2), waiting for us to appreciate their light, perhaps on those sleepless nights when anxieties weigh us down. If it were not so (if it were #1), I would prefer to read the two lines near the end without the period, as if the stars in the daylight sky were patient, waiting for a time — waiting until the season, which they know will come, albeit months from now, when they will move into the night-time sky and shine on the earth again. But in terms of #2, the waiting of the night-time stars is for us to stay up after sunset to finally notice them, and to be consoled in some measure by the light they provide in the darkness.]

The Iona prayer and Wendell Berry poem seem to relate naturally to a song by Alana Levandoski, inspired by the Christ hymn of Colossians 1:15-20:

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15–20 NIV11)

Alana asked four poets each to write a poem in response to a particular line:

  1. in him all things hold together…“: Malcolm Guite, “Everything holds together” (read by Malcolm, published in Parable and Paradox)
  2. He is the firstborn from the dead…“: Scott Cairns, “Recreation” (read by Jamie Howison)
  3. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him…“: Joel McKerrow, “And this is he who takes all that he is and bestows it freely” (read by Joel McKerrow)
  4. For in him all things were created… through him to reconcile to himself all things“: Luci Shaw, “Anticipating long stretches of nothingness we plunge south into California on I-5…” (read by ?) Cf. “Rocky Mountain Railroad, Epiphany,” discussed in Malcolm Guite, Waiting on the Word, for January 5.

Note: This post will be revised if I discover where/when these poems are published. I am guessing which lines Alana assigned to Joel and Luci.

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