Friday, April 22, 2005

If the Papal Conclave were held in Florida

Received the following press release by e-mail today, which I reproduce here without comment:


George W. Bush Elected Pope!
Catholic Cardinals Stunned!

Reported by Willie E. Davis

The almost 120 Cardinals from around the world that gathered to choose a successor in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel were stunned and expressed amazement. Cardinal Mohoney the Vatican spokesperson had this to say:" We in the conclave are all shocked. We cast our votes using these new electronic voting machines. The results overwhelmingly favored George W. Bush over all the Catholic candidates. The last Pope, John Paul, was a superb linguist, fluently speaking 11 languages; this one can't speak fluently in one language. We just don't know what to say."

The White House has announced that Dick Cheney will assume command as President of the World tomorrow morning, when "W" travels to Rome to begin his duties as Pope. George W. Bush had this to say moments ago as he spoke from the Rose

"I am honored to be the spiritual lighthouse, and the first War Pope. I promise Evangelical Catho-licks and Prostates alike that I will be embodied in salvation and fair in the performance of my duties. I am a Unitifier, not a Divide-a-cater. I am obliged to try to save as many lost souls as I can, at least the Devout Wealthy Elite Souls, as it is well known that Heaven is a very select place, indeed, it is more exclusive than even the best of country clubs. It is a members-only Heaven. I may have to put a fence around it. I will preform miracles in a fair and balanced manner. Just as God used to wipe out entire races of people without warning, burning whole towns of perverts, killing off entire nations, and drowning everybody without a ticket to board Noah's Ark, I shall deliver the world from Evil Empires as I unleash the Apocalypse Wrath of Revelations. I will ensure the Rapture and the Reunion with our beloved deceased family members and with our departed purebred pets. I will not allow those awful Liberal Sissy Homosapiens to marry each other and I will put and end to the Clergy marrying Choirboys. I will lead the Crusades against all them towel-headed heathens demon-possessed voodoo-hoodoo barbarians whose Pseudo-religions that don't except Christ as the Light of Democracy, and who worship fake, made-up gods. They shall, they shall suffer my Godly Conservative Wrath and I will Destroy them with my Cherubic Armies of Angels and they shall burn for eternity in Hell, because Me and God don't take no prisoners!"

Monday, April 18, 2005

Jeremiah the Prophet is Alive and Well and Living in Short Hills

Remember Jeremiah? He’s the guy who kept trying to tell ancient Israel that it was going down, that it had lost God’s favor as the Chosen Nation because it had strayed too far from its first principles. Ever since, shrill, dire warnings have been called jeremiads.

A few weeks ago my day job took me to an affluent corner of New Jersey, the kind of place where you can’t back up your cart in the supermarket without hitting an investment banker’s second wife, the kind of place where 1950’s-vintage split-level starter homes trade for $1 million and get ripped down to put up bigger and better manses in the $3 to $15 million range.

I was there to call on an elderly Jewish gentleman who had amassed a tidy fortune over a lifetime of investing in commercial real estate. In spite of his wealth he is unassuming and kind. This is a guy who has a framed piece of sheepskin in his office, with a bunch of Latin written on it, but instead of the name of his alma mater it starts out with the inscription “Joannes Paulus II Max. Pont.” and is signed personally at the bottom by said max.pont. It’s a Papal knighthood for extraordinary charity, and according to one of the office staff is the only one ever given to a Jew.

I wanted to talk to him about writing a new mortgage on one of his shopping centers, but he wanted to talk about George W. Bush, the Republican Party, and the state of American politics.

“Bastards,” he spat. “Thieving, greedy bastards. They’re fascists, and I’m not just saying that to be dramatic. They’re the real thing. They want to loot the Treasury and give it to rich guys like me who already have more money than we know what to do with. They want to bankrupt the government in order to line their own pockets and create a crisis that installs themselves permanently in power. They steal elections. They want a one party system and are willing to rip up the Constitution to get it.”

“You sound like some of my radical younger friends,” I said.” I thought you’re supposed to get more conservative as you get older.”

“Oh, I’m conservative, all right,” he assured me. “I’ve voted Republican my whole life, until now. I can pick up the phone and Tom Kean or Christie Whitman will take my call. But what I’m conservative about is the American system of government, American freedoms, the American constitution. I won’t vote to turn America into a fascist state. These selfish, arrogant, greedy bastards want to tear it all down and stuff it in the dumper, and take over. Bastards.”

“Maybe they go a bit overboard with their hardball politics too much at home, but don’t you think they’re genuinely trying to promote liberty overseas?” I asked. “I mean, look at Iraq. I didn’t think we should go in there myself, but it looks as though we may succeed in creating a real democracy over there, one that could spread hopes for democracy throughout the Middle East. Someone who despises liberty doesn’t do that.”

He laughed ruefully. “That’s not why we’re there. We’re there to control the oil, and gin up a nationalistic fervor at home that helps them hold power. Those bastards, Cheney and Rumsfeld, don’t give a rat’s ass about liberty for Arabs. They don’t give a rat’s ass about how many poor American kids get killed for them to get the oil, kids who can’t get an education unless they do time in the so-called ‘volunteer’ military. What is it, a thousand American kids killed already, Fifteen hundred? And multiples of that maimed for life, and no end in sight. Do they care about these people? No, of course not. Does Bush, that little bastard? No, he never worked for anything in his life. Always had everthing handed to him on a plate, even the Presidency of the United States. Never had to work himself for anything. He thinks that’s the natural way of things. At least his father fought for this country and left home to make his own money, but not this greedy little ape.”

“What really bothers me,” I allowed, “is how they’re acting as if they won in a landslide. This was actually one of the closest elections ever. They don’t have anything like the mandate they imagine they have.”

“Mandate? Ha! That’s just pabulum for the media,” he sneered. “Remember, they outright stole the election in 2000. They don’t care about mandates. They only care about seizing and keeping power. Now they’re rigging the courts to help them keep it that way. Bastards. Dirty fascist bastards.”

“Well, if you’re right, I have to believe that in the next four years enough more of the electorate will get disgusted and vote them out of office,” I ventured. “It almost happened this time, even though the Democrats didn’t have a particularly strong candidate.”

He looked me in the eyes and shook his head sadly, wistfully. “My naïve friend,” he said, “if I’m right, the last genuine Presidential election this country will ever have happened in 1996.” Before I could express my shock, he added, “Remember, you’re talking to a man who has seen it happen before.”

Here in Massachusetts, today is Patriot’s Day, the state holiday when we are supposed to remember the events that sparked the American Revolution, Paul Revere’s ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. But on the morning local news shows, they aren’t showing the traditional ceremony at the monument at Concord Bridge. All they are showing is hype for the Boston Marathon. Is my latter-day Jeremiah correct?

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard 'round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, April 04, 2005

...Plus C'est La "Meme" Chose

Adam Tierney-Eliot challenged me with this "book meme" thingy that's been making the rounds. Here's my answer:

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Ecclesiastes or Ben Sirach.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Oh, yeah. Here’s the chronological history of my unrequited fictional love life:


Pippi Longstocking.

Marcia Brady, as played by Maureen McCormick in “The Brady Bunch”.

Laurie Partridge, as played by Susan Dey in “The Partridge Family”.

Ensign Nellie Forbush, as played by Dana Delany in my high school production of “South Pacific”. (Okay, maybe not so fictional.)

Hester Prynne.

Queen Esther. (Assuming she’s fictional.)

Dr. Susan Wheeler, in Michael Crighton’s Coma.

Marion Ravenwood, as played by Karen Allen in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Grace Van Owen, as played by Susan Dey in “L. A. Law”.

Lt. Colleen McMurphy, as played by Dana Delany in “China Beach”.

Lois Lane, as played by Teri Hatcher in “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”.

Lady Claire, in Michael Crichton’s Timeline.

The last book you bought is:

Elaine Pagels, Beyond Belief.

The last book you read was:


What are you currently reading?

Prescott Wintersteen, Christology in American Unitarianism.

Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club.

(Been trying to finish Menand for over a year. It’s dense slogging.)

Five books you would take to a desert island.

This question (well, three books) was asked on the Beliefnet UU boards not long ago, back before the bureaucrats poisoned the forum by appointing an abrasive and narcissistic moderator. At that time, I postulated that multi-volume sets count and named these: the HarperCollins Study Bible (NRSV), the Yale Shakespeare, and the Harvard Classics. (If I recall correctly, I think CC independently also named the Bible, Shakespeare and the Harvard Classics). If multi-volume sets still count, I’ll switch the Bible choice to the Anchor Bible and add the Encyclopaedia Britannica for a fourth. For a fifth, it would probably be some practical manual on campcraft and survival, perhaps this one.

If everything must be in one volume, then I’ll stick with the HarperCollins Study Bible, the Yale Shakespeare (Barnes and Noble puts out a single-volume edition), and the campcraft manual, but I’ll choose two others from these three: a complete Emerson anthology, a complete Robert Frost anthology, the Columbia Encyclopedia. Probably the Emerson and Frost.

Who are you going to pass the baton to (three persons) and why?

Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent. If you Google “Fahrenheit 451 book meme”, you discover that this thing is running through the blogosphere like a bad turkey salad. Chain letters are evil, even in cyberspace.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Today one of the good guys was carried home.

Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant Karol Wojtyla. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Egy Az Isten

That's Hungarian for "God is one". I've been told it's written over the doors of many of the Unitarian churches in Transylvania.

I thought it was only a coincidence when my company merged with another big company last year, and the person from the other company whom I had to suddenly start working together with turned out to be a parishioner at First Parish (UU) in Cohasset, just a few towns away from me. We found it easy to work together. Not everyone in our companies was so lucky. Now I'm wondering if it was more than mere coincidence.

Today, I had to call another colleague from my old company, whom I have worked with for ten years now. I reached her at home; she had fallen and injured her knee last week. He mother, who was visiting and caring for her, answered.

Her mother had a peculiar accent. I asked my colleague what kind of accent it was. It was Hungarian, she said.

I asked if my colleague had been born in Hungary. No, she said; her Hungarian parents had emigrated to New York and then to Montreal, where she was born.

I asked her where her parents were from in Hungary. Actually, she said, they weren't from Hungary, but from Transylvania, where Hungarians are a persecuted minority, which is why they had to leave.

You're a Hungarian Transylvanian? I asked. Yes, or my parents are, she replied.

I asked her what religion she was, a topic we had not had any particular reason to discuss before. Well, she said, her mom was a Unitarian, which is common for Transylvanian Hungarians but you don't find too many of them over here, and her dad was a Lutheran, and she was raised Lutheran because there weren't any Unitarian churches in her town. Although, when her parents emigrated, they were assisted by Unitarian churches in New York and Montreal.

Your mom's a Hungarian Unitarian from Transylvania? I asked, amazed where this offhand conversation with someone I've talked to almost daily for ten years was unexpectedly leading. Oh, yes, she answered, and my great-grandfather was a Unitarian minister or something like that over there.

"Not just any minister!" her mother called out in the background. "He was the bishop!"

Wow. The bishop. The Big Kahuna, the successor to Francis David. And I'd been working with his great-granddaughter for ten years, and never knew it.

Egy az isten. God is One. It's All One Thing.