Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday Middle English Recipe Blogging

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.

--John McCrae

I'm not sure exactly if Philocrites has thrown the torch or merely dropped it, but I had a few idle moments this quiet Friday afternoon, and a Middle English recipe that sounded too scrumptious not to share, so I'll pick the torch up anyway, at least for today.

Garbage.--Take fayre garbagys of chykonys, as þe hed, þe fete, þe lyuerys, an þe gysowrys [gizzards]; washe hem clene, an caste hem in a fayre potte, an caste þer-to freysshe brothe of Beef or ellys of moton, an let it boyle; an a-lye it wyth brede, an ley on Pepir an Safroun, Maces, Clowys, an a lytil verious an salt, an serue forth in the maner as a S[t]ewe.

Yum, yum! That is, if you're a hungry goat.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Baptist Church Speaks Truth!

Thanks and a hat tip to Paula at for this one.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Reinterpreting John 14:6

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through me."

That verse from the Gospel of John is taken by many Christians and non-Christians alike as a defining boundary between Us and Them, an insurmountable barrier to common acceptance and understanding. I suspect, although it is rarely discussed in UU circles, it may be near the center of many UUs' aversion to Christianity: if we can find glimpses of truth in many traditions and cultures, how can we affirm one that denies all the others?

Yet John 14:6 doesn't need to be a wall, even though many Christians do indeed understand it that way, and therefore unwittingly use it that way. I would argue that to read it that way is a misunderstanding.

The author of the Gospel of John (let's call him "John", though scholars speculate he may have been someone else) lived at the interface of Jewish and Greek culture. The whole premise of the Gospel of John is to identify the Jewish idea of theos (as John called it in Greek; in English, we say “God”) with the Greek idea of Logos (“Word”). Hence John opened his Gospel with the words: "In the begining was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

John saw not only (as the author of Jonah previously did) that the "God of Israel" was merely one culture's limited apprehension of a universal divinity that was in fact available to all peoples, but also that the same divinity had already been apprehended outside the Jewish tradition, by peoples the Jews considered "Gentiles" or "pagans". Of course, those foreign apprehensions had used different cultural perspectives and different descriptive and relational vocabularies, but John saw an identity where others before him had seen separation.

John perceived, in particular, that in the Jewish figure of Jesus was also a manifestation of the Logos recognized by the Greeks, and that the perplexing life of Jesus could be understood as a fusion of the two previously independent divine apprehensions. Moreover, because Jesus had appeared in an approachable human form, he was more easily describable in relational and unifying, rather than culturally defined and dividing, terms. Hence John wrote (at 1:14): "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us". The rest of the Gospel is an embellishment of that idea, a portrayal of Jesus as an embodiment of that humanly accessible, cross-culturally inclusive, manifestation of the Hellenic idea of divine Logos.

John's syncretism expressed a radically new theology, distinct even from the Gentile missionary Paul's in its express incorporation of apprehensions of divinity originating outside the Jewish culture. Where John (at 14:6) portrays Jesus as saying "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through me," it would be a misinterpretation to understand those to be the verbatim words of Jesus, decreeing eternally as the one true God of Israel, that the only way to escape an eternity of burning torment in the afterlife is strict adherence to a set of abstruse doctrines about himself that would not even be defined until hundreds of years later by politically charged conferences of fallible men. Rather, it is John's attempt to illustrate Jesus' identity with the divine Logos, which the Greek philosophers believed to be present everywhere. When Jesus speaks in John's Gospel, he speaks on behalf of the universal Logos. John is saying that Logos is the Way, the Truth, the Life, and if you would know the Father, the God of Israel, then also get to know Logos. You can find it illustrated, among other places, in John's theological (but deliberately not historical) portrait of Jesus.

Now, John himself was only concerned with reconciling Hellenic and Jewish apprehensions of divinity. He was writing only for Jewish and Greek audiences, not Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Taoist, or Native American ones. But as the influence of his writing spreads beyond his original audiences, I think we must apply his original attitude of inclusivity and commonality of apprehension to analogous new circumstances. We should not allow what he intended as a dissolution of barriers and fusion of disparate understanding to be used to erect new barriers instead.

What does John 14:6 mean today, then? I think this: If you would know not only the God of Israel, but if you would also know Brahman, if you would know the Tao, if you would know Ahura Mazda, if you would know Wakan Tanka, then know also that like the God of Israel, despite similar cultural differences, they too are in essence one with the Logos of the Greek philosophers, the Christ of the Christians. The manifestation of Logos that John found in the figure of Jesus shares a basic commonality with all those other apprehensions from other cultures. Moreover, although all of them are all only partial apprehensions, culturally constrained descriptions of that Ultimate Reality that is beyond all cultures and the human capacity to know, it is in the broad, fundamental identity of apprehension that all cultures across the world find "the Way, the Truth, and the Life". Christians from their particular perspective may perceive it as the way of Christ, yet others may see it through different eyes and traditions and give it other names, and legitimately so.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Street Prophets

It's a new community blog on the intersection between faith and liberal politics.

It's a spinoff from Daily Kos.

Go have a look. I expect big things.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The column that started it all

Arrrrr! Talk like a pirate -- or prepare to be boarded

September 8, 2002

Every now and then, some visionary individuals come along with a concept that is so original and so revolutionary that your immediate reaction is: "Those individuals should be on medication."

Today I want to tell you about two such people, John Baur and Mark Summers, who have come up with a concept that is going to make you kick yourself for not thinking of it first: Talk Like a Pirate Day. As the name suggests, this is a day on which everybody would talk like a pirate. Is that a great idea, or what? There are so many practical benefits that I can't even begin to list them all.

Baur and Summers came up with this idea a few years ago. They were playing racquetball, and, as so often happens, they began talking like pirates. And then it struck them: Why not have a day when EVERYBODY talks like a pirate? They decided that the logical day would be Sept. 19, because that -- as you are no doubt aware -- is Summers' ex-wife's birthday.

Since then, Baur and Summers have made a near-superhuman effort to promote Talk Like a Pirate Day. As Baur puts it: "We've talked like pirates, and encouraged our several friends to, every Sept. 19, except for a couple where we forgot."

And yet, incredibly, despite this well-orchestrated campaign, the nation has turned a deaf shoulder to Talk Like a Pirate Day. In desperation, Baur and Summers turned to me for help. As an influential newspaper columnist, I have the power to "make or break" a national day. You may recall that almost nobody celebrated Thanksgiving until I began writing about it in the 1970s.

I have given Baur's and Summers' idea serious thought, looking for ways to improve it. One variation I considered was Talk Like a Member of the Lollipop Guild Day, on which everybody would talk like the three Munchkins in the film version of The Wizard of Oz who welcome Dorothy to Munchkin Land by singing with one corner of their mouths drooping down, as though they have large invisible dental suction devices hanging from their lips. But I realized that would be stupid.

So I have decided to throw my full support behind Talk Like a Pirate Day, to be observed this Sept. 19. To help promote this important cause, I have decided to seek the endorsement of famous celebrities, and I am pleased to report that, as of today, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Britney Spears, Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, the Osbournes, Tiger Woods, Ted Koppel, the Sopranos, Puff Doody and the late Elvis Presley are all people who I hope will read this column and become big supporters. I see no need to recruit President Bush, because he already talks like a pirate, as we can see from this transcript of a recent White House press conference:

REPORTER: Could you please explain either your foreign or your domestic policy?


To prepare for Talk Like a Pirate Day, you should practice incorporating pirate terminology into your everyday speech. For example, let's consider a typical conversation between two co-workers in a business office:

BOB: Hi. Mary.

MARY: Hi, Bob. Have you had a chance to look at the Fennerman contract?

BOB: Yes, and I have some suggestions.

MARY: OK, I'll review them.

Now let's see how this same conversation would sound on Talk Like a Pirate Day:

BOB: Avast, me beauty.

MARY: Avast, Bob. Is that a yardarm in your doubloons, or are you just glad to see me?

BOB: You are giving me the desire to haul some keel.

MARY: Arrrrr.

As you can see, talking like a pirate will infuse your everyday conversations with romance and danger. So join the movement! On Sept. 19, do not answer the phone with "hello." Answer the phone with "Ahoy me hearty!" If the caller objects that he is not a hearty, inform him that he is a scurvy dog (or, if the caller is female, a scurvy female dog) who will be walking the plank off the poop deck and winding up in Davy Jones' locker, sleeping with the fishes. No, wait, that would be Talk Like a Pirate in The Godfather Day, which is another variation I considered ("I'm gonna make him an offer that will shiver his timbers").

But the point is, this is a great idea, and you, me bucko, should be part of it. Join us on Sept. 19. You HAVE the buckles, darn it: Don't be afraid to swash them! Let's make this into a grass-roots movement that sweeps the nation, like campaign-finance reform, or Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I truly think this idea could bring us, as a nation, closer together.

But not TOO much closer. Some of us will have swords.

Talk like a Pirate

Arr, 'n' a saucy wench reminds me that ever' September 19 be Talk Like a Pirate Day, me hearty blackguards (er is that bloggers? arr), 'n' if ye be arguin' 'n' makin threats ter yerselves 'n' each other as I seen ye usually doin' aroun' here, that's the spirit, arr, but if ye not be talkin' all the rest o' th' day like the true scurvy scalawags ye all be, ye'll be answerin' ter me cutlass 'n' Davy Jones himself, by the tar on me boots, arr.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Oliver Twist

I just learned that Roman Polanski has directed a new version of Famous UU Charles Dickens's classic Oliver Twist, to be released in a few weeks. Why didn't I know that until now? Can't wait to take Faustoette and Fausto Jr. to see it.

Q: What do Ben Kingsley, Ron Moody and Fausto have in common?

A: All have played the role of Fagin.

Ben Kingsley as Fagin, 2005

Fausto as Fagin, 1973

Ron Moody as Fagin, 1968

I knew I liked him

According to Wikipedia, Keith Olbermann, the host of the thoughtful, edgy Countdown show on MSNBC who also maintains a liberal-leaning blog, was raised Unitarian. Explains a lot.

Note to Philocrites: You should add his blog to your UU Blog Digest. Go ahead, I dare you.

Note to PeaceBang: According to Wikipedia, he's single and lives in New York. Go ahead, I dare you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Spam, Middle English style

With so many bloggers plagued by spam these days, I thought it was time true spam (not that vile cyber-namesake) found a defender.

After all, the IRL variety has been around a long time, so it must have something going for it.

As proof, I offer herewith a fifteenth century spam recipe:

Mortrewys de Fleyssh.--Take Porke, an seþe it wyl; þanne take it vppe and pulle a-way þe Swerde,(Note: Rind, skin.) an pyke owt þe bonys, an hakke it and grynd it smal; þenne take þe sylf brothe, & temper it with ale; þen take fayre gratyd brede, & do þer-to, an seþe it, an coloure it with Saffroun, & lye it with yolkys of eyroun, & make it euen Salt, & caste pouder Gyngere, a-bouyn on þe dysshe.

Enjoy it, but in moderation. Experts have recently learned the hard way that too much Middle English spam at one sitting can cause indigestion.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Did God Send Katrina?

Some Christians seem to think so, as a punishment for New Orleans' sin and decadence. Even Sister PeaceBang is asking the question (and asking for links to support the answer, as well). Well, this was posted a few days ago on Rude Pundit in answer to the question, and it's worth repeating:

Oh, sweet Christians, yes, the mighty winds and floods of Katrina are indeed the works of God, but, no, the hurricane and its vengeful aftermath are not God's penance on New Orleans and Biloxi for the sins of sex and gambling. For God is far wiser than that. No, Hurricane Katrina was God's way of wrecking the Republican agenda.

Yes, you might say, and you might be right (this being about God, and, really, we are not meant to know God's ways), God could have been a little more subtle about it. Perhaps Tom DeLay caught fellating an illegal Mexican exterminator. But, no, God's tried subtle before - God's sent a plague of throat-lodging pretzels upon the President, but to no lasting effect. Bush has lived before with the oxygen cut off to his brain. And, in the realm of God stuff, eternity, worldwide floods, the like, a hurricane is not that big a deal. God's a big picture kind of deity.

God is all about opportunities, not punishment. Choices, not condemnation. Jesus could have used all kinds of Christ-y magic to smite some motherf***ers when he was up on that cross, but he chose not to. Job could have said, "Yo, God, f*** you," but he did not. When God allowed 9/11 to happen, it was an opportunity, a glass is half full kind of moment, a chance to unify the people of the world, but, ah, yes, the Devil is always there, always waiting, shape-shifting and telling untruths as if they were the tablets from the Mount, for the Devil is, indeed, the Prince of Lies.

So the chance at a kind of peace was shattered because the Devil is like the finest stripper at the cheapest joint: he knows how to dance so the people will be hypnotized by his tempting sashay and thonged ass, so they will not see the cold, calculating machinations going on in the back of the club. Or they will not care when someone opens the doors and says, "Look, see how they keep the Russian immigrants here enslaved, see how they threaten their families back in Moscow, see how they keep them addicted to drugs so they'll be willing to blow the owner's son to keep those hits coming." When the Devil shakes his pussy in your face, who are you, mere mortal, to deny the Devil a buck in his spangled g-string?

Thus, God's hand was forced to bring out the biggest guns to drive into stark relief the images of God's poorest people, the ones that the rest of us are supposed to care about, the ones who got nary a visit from a presidential candidate last year, the ones who are supposed to disappear like ants into the hill after they've done their work: out of sight, out of mind. God's made this pretty f***in' simple, God thinks: what you do to the least of these, you know. The last twenty-five years or so have shown that the American government wants God to live in s**thole housing with no health insurance, no child care, bare bones job training, no welfare net, facing starvation, violence, and/or imprisonment at every turn. And that's a pretty s**tty way to treat God.

So how could a storm like this not give the message that it's time to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, motherf***ers, and stanch the arterial bleedout of tax dollars to reward the wealthy. F***, God must think, how many camels must be sacrificed through the eyes of needles to make a f***in' point?

The hurricane was God's way of telling the Republicans (and their Democratic enablers) that they have sorely f***ed up God's work by undermining the environment at every turn in favor of business concerns so that the wealthy get wealthier, and, well, s**t, there's already piles of steamy camel guts to wade through to make a point to them. The hurricane was God's way of telling Republicans that eternal war means no peace and here's a big f***in' way to re-prioritize. The hurricane was God's way of telling Republicans that they are responsible for all screw-ups now, big and small, and that God is, indeed, watching.

After the hurricane, God was surprised, though. Even God could not foresee how badly the Bush administration would botch its response, even God had to say, "G**damn, that's some f***ed up s**t." But God knows that the Devil, ah, the Devil is always around, but the Devil can be defeated.

So if you hear some preacher here or there declaim that God sent Katrina to New Orleans to stop the sinning, simply agree and then ask, "What sins are you talking about?"

(Oh, and God's message to the Democrats is this: It's time to have a spine because God's got your back. And if you f*** with God, well, God can f*** you harder.)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Can this be true?


What Happened When.

Thanks and a hat tip to fellow UU blogger Pearlbear for pointing out this timeline of the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

After reading it, anyone who can honestly say that under the circumstances the Federal response was appropriate, or that our President as the elected Federal officer ultimately responsible to the voters fulfilled the duties of his office with honor and distinction, is simply not a member of the reality-based community.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

When FEMA moves fast.

From The New Republic, as re-told by Wonkette. com:

You know, it's become so fashionable to beat up on the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the lack of accountability therein. In reality, the agency has acted swiftly on some occasions.... Why, just look at how promptly it addressed the conduct of Nicole Rank, a Corpus Christi-based FEMA administrator who was dispatched to the Charleston, West Virginia site of a flood last year. It so happened the president turned up in town at the same time, for a Fourth of July speech, and Rank turned up at the event with her husband Jeff. Both were wearing a T-shirt that read "Love America, Hate Bush" and "Regime Change Starts at Home"; the Charleston police told them to "cover [the shirts] up, take them off, or leave completely." When the Ranks refused they were forcibly removed from the premises and briefly imprisoned, so that the president could proceed with his speech declaring the Fourth an occasion to celebrate "the freedom for people to speak their minds, the freedom for people to worship as they so choose. Free thought and free expression, that's what we believe"

And within two days, FEMA informed Ms. Rank that because of the incident, she was being released from the Charleston assignment. That's some rapid action to protect the security of the homeland. A heck of job, you might even say.

What's the deal with FEMA and Charleston, WV, anyway?

Local failure?

This sure wasn't.

And it only happened yesterday. You've got to wonder how much more of it went on last week.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What went wrong?

Fellow blogger Paul accuses me of "having it in for" GWB. Maybe I do, but what I really have more of a thing for is truth.

If you do too, dear reader, I urge you to go get yourself a copy of today's Wall Street Journal. (Or go online, but you have to subscribe.)

This ordinarily conservative, Republican-leaning paper devotes two whole columns of its front page and much more space inside to asking what went wrong, and Dubya and his minions (especially the ones in Homeland Security and FEMA) don't come off looking so good -- even in this august journal that almost always manages to make them look, if not good, then at least defensible.

Here's just the front-page sidebar (which ran above the fold, by the way):

So if you don't want to read what I say, don't. Go read The Wall Street Journal instead.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

My Pet Goat -- The Sequel

That's the title of the editorial in Editor & Publisher today. (Remember My Pet Goat? That's the title of the book Bush finished reading to a first-grade class on 9/11 before he began to realize that the World Trade Center needed some attention.)

Read it here.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

You Must Read This


By Georgie Anne Geyer
Fri Sep 2, 8:06 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- Somehow it does not seem strange to me, after this blistering and unpleasant July and August, that the summer should end with an American tragedy -- the waters engulfing beautiful, historic, romantic New Orleans.

It is clear to us traditionally minded Americans that this just should not happen. This is the country of "can do," right? The nation that always put first science and education, sound industry and true environmentalism. The people who built a prosperous and just nation, brick by prudent brick, gradually but surely constructing a great and lasting home for future generations.

Our Founding Fathers? Historian Henry Steele Commager called these "the wisest men politically in recorded history." They were men who "couldn't give a speech or write a letter without talking about posterity." George Washington used the word "posterity" nine times in one speech; Thomas Jefferson talked about the "thousandth and thousandth generation" in his first inaugural address. Horizons held meaning then.

Surely, if this were still the spirit of the nation, New Orleans would not have been left with levees too weak to protect it, particularly in an era of repeatedly savage weather patterns. The wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's fury would not have been destroyed for commercial purposes. Our laconic Congress would not have left for vacation having slashed the budget that could have corrected the area's imperfect flood control. Most of all, the number of National Guard troops available for the crucial rescue duty would not have been so low because of the president's perfervid adventuring halfway across the world.

If you think this is exaggerated, read this from, of all places, The Wall Street Journal (whose editorial pages are still rabidly pro-war neocon, but whose excellent news columns constantly contradict its editorials). The paper reported on Thursday that "the war-related manpower shortages that have already left the National Guard depleted meant that yesterday morning, long after the storm had passed, there was a relative scattering of federal troops on the ground. As of midday, 3,780 Louisiana National Guard troops were clearing debris, rescuing refugees and providing security in Louisiana, even though the state normally counts 10,009 soldiers in its ranks. In Mississippi, 1,945 troops out of 11,690 were on duty, while in Alabama, 1,736 troops out of 12,770 were on duty."

One cannot overstate how tragic the New Orleans situation really is. My friend Arthur Wiese, who is with the Entergy Corp. in the city, reported by e-mail to his friends of his company's helicopter reconnaissance: "The damage to New Orleans has been even more devastating than the horrific situation indicated in national media reports. We had roughly 1.1 million homes and businesses without electricity at the peak. We're looking at an extraordinarily difficult power restoration, taking many, many weeks. We have 40 or so employees marooned by high water at some of our plants ... Loony thugs are running wild in the streets. The bottom line is that the New Orleans you knew is gone forever. The city will be built back, to at least some degree; but after what I've seen in the last three days, I'm absolutely convinced it will never, ever be the same."

So, is there some lesson in this tragedy? Or is "New Orleans 2005" just one of nature's delinquent boys, one of God's punishing tricks, an accident that came out of the blue disconnected to any larger schema? I will opt for the "lesson" explanation, and here is why:

It seems all too obvious, from many indicators, statistics and trends, that we Americans have turned a corner far from the noble beliefs -- and warnings -- of the men and women who founded this country and who laid down its basic principles. We do not fund science anymore; our young scientists tend to come from places like Taiwan. Our children cannot read or add and subtract. Our public culture is close to becoming abhorrent -- just switch your TV channel back and forth a few times -- and is enough to poison or corrupt any young mind. Our young are not taught great literature and thus have no understanding of the inherent tragedy of life. Our infrastructures -- our bridges, our highways and, yes, our levees -- are falling apart. And yet where is an Eisenhower, who, after winning a world war, would build a great American highway system from coast to coast?

But most directly related to the New Orleans experience and to the promises of our founders is the present-day American experience in Iraq. There we see American wastefulness at its height! In a place where we have no business being, we are wasting our blood, our treasure and even our good name. And there are so many "boots on the ground" in Mosul and Najaf and Basra that there simply cannot be enough "boots in the water" for our own, poor New Orleans.

Funny, how quickly the generations can change. The first President Bush (father George H.W.) had a favorite word which we all heard him use so repeatedly it was a kind of joke. The word was "prudent," which means "marked by wisdom or judiciousness" and "shrewd in the management of practical affairs." He was a worthy son of the American Revolution.

The second President Bush (son George W.) is marked, instead, by an overriding and unapologetic recklessness, which means "lacking in caution and deliberately courting danger." Not for him concern about global warming or the environment, not for him rebuilding the country's dangerous bridges, not for him thinking ahead for future generations -- not when he sees himself grandly and hubristically as a great leader of men.

It is true that we no longer have an "Eastern Protestant Establishment" to enforce our original principles. It is true that America began to change to a more vulgar culture in the '60s, in great part because of disillusionment with American leadership in Vietnam. But it is also relevant to remember that there is plenty that Americans can do if they want to return to the principles of moderation and (that splendid word) "prudence" of former generations.

They can insist that candidates seriously address issues like infrastructure maintenance, good schooling, global warming, industrial environmental controls, excellence in public culture ... Then they can vote for the ones who do -- and not for the ones who don't. They can think of America's horizon in traditional terms of conserving, preserving and planting for the future.

This may seem to some like getting a little far from New Orleans, but I really don't think so.

Friday, September 02, 2005

On a lighter note...

Given all the horrible events of this week, here's something a bit more uplifting. Seems the new German pope is wasting no time putting his imprint on the Mother Church. Can nuns in dirndls and monks in lederhosen be far behind?

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin