Everything is Oll Korrect!

An eclectic bibliophile's journal…

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Richard Carroll

Mah Jongg: The Art of the Game

Last year, we talked about the happy game of mahjong, focusing on how I got into the game and recommending a few resources for others wanting to get started. Today, though, let’s look at the art of the game, that is, the art of the tiles themselves. When people first encounter mahjong, the tiles are, naturally, the first thing they notice and as with Western playing cards there have been many lovely designs over the years by many artists. So, let’s check out the book Mah Jongg: The Art of the Game, by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain, with photography by Michael Arnaud.

Israel and Swain begin with some brief introductory material and a history of mahjong (though they use the American-style spelling “mah jongg”). These are simply to orient the reader and are an appetiser to the main course, but they deserve credit for not promoting the old marketing hype about the ancient origins of mahjong; as they point out, its origins lie in the mid-19th Century. Most of the rest of the book is divided by tile material, paper, bamboo and wood, bakelite and catalin, pyralin and French ivory, Chinese bakelite, common metals, bone and bamboo, and precious materials. It ends with box art and a chapter on miscellany such as ephemera and photos of people playing mahjong.

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Notes on Praying the Divine Office

A few years ago I took an interest in beginning to pray the Divine Office to help bolster my prayer life. My goal was to add some structure to my prayers, so going through set prayers at regular intervals seemed like a good choice, but I quickly found that there are a lot of different options out there for learning how to say the Office in terms of websites, apps, and books, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. I’ve tried several of these, and though I’m still certainly no expert I thought I’d share my experience to offer a starting-point and make things easier for anyone interested in saying the Office themselves. I’m assuming that you know basically what the Office is but will start with a few important points you need to know. Then, I’ll go over some resources for actually praying the Office.

First, a few short notes. Typically, you’ll see the name “Divine Office” used to refer specifically to the pre-Vatican II form of the Office, while the newer form is more often called the “Liturgy of the Hours.” I like the newer name because it’s more descriptive, but I’ll follow the convention of using it only to refer to the newer form for simplicity.

The structure and concept of both the Office and the LotH are similar, and though I have a slight preference for the Office I like both and have found both very beneficial. The most important consideration here is which liturgical calendar you’re going to use. If you attend a Novus Ordo parish, you’ll probably want to use the LotH because it follows the new calendar. If you attend an FSSP, ICKSP, or SSPX parish you’ll probably want to use the Office because it follows the 1962 calendar, just as the associated Missal does. The large majority of feast days are the same between the two, but the names of each season and the dates of a handful of feasts are different, just enough that it’s certainly more convenient to use the Office/Liturgy that matches your parish. That’s especially true if you attend or watch livestreams of daily Masses, since the differing feasts are more noticeable than at Sunday liturgies.…

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What Books Have Most Influenced Me?

Every once in a while, especially when I still had accounts on ask.fm and Curious Cat, someone has asked me what books I’ve read that have most influenced me. It’s a reasonable enough question and seems like one I should be able to answer. After all, I read a lot and come across as a thoughtful person, and many posts on this blog are essentially my public attempts at trying to better understand what I read. However, there really isn’t one good answer. For one thing, I believe I’ve been influenced far more by the sum of many books and experiences than just a handful that I could easily enumerate. Also, much depends on what exactly we mean by “influence.”

For example, the obligatory answer to this question from any Christian is “the Bible.” By one measure of influence, this certainly is the answer in that it’s the one book I trust more than any other on the most important issues. If there’s a question of morality or any related subject and Scripture speaks on it, then I’m going to follow Scripture. There’s no doubt that it has also affected my beliefs in preferences in matters of art, as well, as Scripture permeates Western literature more than any other source.

I don’t think, though, that the Bible satisfies the question of what book has most influenced me because it hasn’t really changed my beliefs on anything. I was raised Catholic and have never deviated from the Church, so Scripture is more of a framework that other ideas build around and must conform to, similar to a first principle or axiom.…

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2019 in Bibliophilia

It’s the end of the year, and now that the reminiscing and navel-gazing is over it’s time for the most important year-end festivity, looking at how many books I read. In 2018 I read thirty-six, compared to 2017’s forty-two. This year, I have twenty-nine books recorded in LibraryThing, but this excludes eight volumes of Toriyama Akira’s DragonballZ because they’re part of a box set and so, from LibraryThing’s perspective, are only one book. There’s also The Bowl of Tears and Solace, which isn’t in their catalogue at all last I checked. That brings us up to a more typical thirty-eight, two more than last year.

Since I’ve already mentioned DBZ, that, Ito Juni’s Frankenstein, and the second omnibus volume of Go Nagai’s Devilman make up all nine graphic novels I read this year.

I only read three books of poetry, all by Dante: RimeLa Vita Nuova (my second time reading this one), and a collection called Dante’s Lyric Poetry: Poems of Youth and of the ‘Vita Nuova’. Of those, La Vita Nuova is the best and I can recommend Mark Musa’s translation, but Dante’s Lyric Poetry is nice because it includes ample commentary. Speaking of Dante, I also read Marco Santagata’s fine biography Dante: The Story of his Life and Dante’s prose work on vernacular poetry, De Vulgari Eloquentia, which was more tedious and less interesting, and less focused on poetry, than I’d hoped. Another great poet, Homer, was represented in The Printed Homer: A 3,000 Year Publishing and Translation History of the Iliad and the Odyssey, by Philip Young. One last work of serious literature worth mentioning was Fables françaises du Moyen-Age.

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