Thursday, July 31, 2008

Saint Dominic et la croix occitane

The Colloquy of Montréal in 1207 was the final debate in Pamiers between the Catholics (represented by Dominic Guzmán) and the Cathars (notably Benoît de Termes). Once again the the Roman Church made no progress, and if anything confirmed its role as a figure of fun and reservoir of ignorance and bigotry. When a great noblewoman, the Esclarmonde of Foix (the Count's sister), a Parfaite, tried to speak she was admonished by one of Dominic Guzmán's acolytes (Etienne de Metz): "go to your spinning madam. It is not proper for you to speak in a debate of this sort". Such attitudes voiced in front of a liberal educated audience succeeded only in confirming the extent of the gulf between the Roman Church and the general population of the Languedoc. In any case, even with God's personal help, the Roman Church once again failed to secure mass conversions, or indeed any conversions at all among the Parfaits.

Guzmán was humiliated by his failure. More vigorous action was called for. The great Bernard of Clairvaux (St Bernard) had asserted that "The Christian glories in the death of a pagan, because Christ is thereby glorified". Were not heretics even worse than pagans, even more deserving of death. Speaking on behalf of Christ, Guzmán promised the Cathars slavery and death.

New York to Australia

Google Maps on fire!

Check out step 1188

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Parent Paradox

I've been mulling this over in my head for a few weeks and it is still a bit fuzzy. Perhaps a discussion here will help me sort it out.

There's a blog out there where a young, formerly Orthodox, woman blogs about getting engaged to a gentile boyfriend and her family's reaction to this event. (I don't feel like linking to the blog, because the particulars of her situation are not relevant to the discussion)

As I read the discussions on her blog and several other blogs that picked up her story, I was struck by several things. There was a chorus of commenters, mainly formerly Orthodox Jews, who basically were saying "Your parents are such closeminded idiots. How can they react this way?!". I guess I was mostly amazed by their amazement. Clearly the situation of someone from an Orthodox family marrying out of the faith is not unique. You could disagree with the parents' position, but should you really be surprised by it?

But there is a bigger issue that I can't sort out which has to do with the mutual responsibilities between parents and children and the weird paradox of the parent child relationship.

A parent voluntarily accepts the responsibility of bringing a new life into the world. He is responsible for the physical wellbeing of the child, but also the rearing of a new member of society. Parents transmit their own value systems to their children, for better or for worse. And they are expected to. You teach your child what is right and wrong. You teach him how to become a member of the society you live in. Obviously it is totally unrealistic to expect a parent to allow a young child to make up their own mind about how they should grow up.

So, as a child grows up, what are his responsibilities to his parents in terms of living a certain lifestyle. On the one hand, an argument could be made that at some point, this child becomes an individual, and therefore has the right to make his own decisions about how to live their life. Yet on the other hand, is there not some sort of debt, some sort of obligation to give back to the parents for the time, the sleepless nights, the financial burden (especially in a MO world) of raising a child?

Obviously, the parents do it without expecting some kind of simplistic quid pro quo, but I think that such an expectation is not unreasonable. Take this case specifically. Clearly, living an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle is not something so unusual that you could argue it is some weird cult that people should be rescued from. So, this family raised this young woman, believing that they raised her the best way possible. They probably invested a good chunk of time, money and effort in this process only to have her say, 'Everything you believe is stupid. And if you can't accept me for who I am, then I'm outta here. I don't have any responsibilities to you!'

Somehow, it seems wrong to me. I don't know.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Music Monday - One Less Tear by the Barnkickers

Father and daughter team - really kick some ukelele butt!

William Tyndale

Voice of Iyov had been blogging on and off about the New Living Translation Bible from Tyndale House publishers. Which got me thinking about poor William...

William Tyndale (sometimes spelled Tindall or Tyndall; pronounced /ˈtɪndəl/) (c. 1494 – 1536) was a 16th-century Protestant reformer and scholar who translated the Bible into the Early Modern English of his day. While a number of partial and complete Old English translations had been made from the seventh century onward, and Middle English translations particularly during the 14th century, Tyndale's was the first English translation to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, and the first to take advantage of the new medium of print, which allowed for its wide distribution. In 1535 Tyndale was arrested, jailed in the castle of Vilvoorde outside Brussels for over a year, tried for heresy and then strangled and burnt at the stake.

In translating the Bible, Tyndale introduced new words into the English language, and many were subsequently used in the King James Bible:

* Jehovah (from a transliterated Hebrew construction in the Old Testament; composed from the Tetragrammaton YHWH and the vowels of adonai: YaHoWaH)
* Passover (as the name for the Jewish holiday, Pesach or Pesah),
* Atonement (= at + onement), which goes beyond mere "reconciliation" to mean "to unite" or "to cover", which springs from the Hebrew kippur, the Old Testament version of kippur being the covering of doorposts with blood, or "Day of Atonement".
* scapegoat (the goat that bears the sins and iniquities of the people in Leviticus, Chapter 16)

He also coined such familiar phrases as:

* let there be light
* the powers that be
* my brother's keeper
* the salt of the earth
* a law unto themselves
* filthy lucre
* it came to pass
* gave up the ghost
* the signs of the times
* the spirit is willing
* live and move and have our being
* fight the good fight


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sweet mater lectionis! I feel theophoric!

hat-tip TJVM

Yahoo is my god (Google is the devil?)

Did some more thinking about the name of God theory in the previous post...

Aren't there a bunch of names in the sacred literature that are derived from the Tetragrammaton (apparently it was alright to use the Name back then). Or at least the first half of the Tetragrammaton - Yah (or Jah if you are Rastafarrrrian, mon) . If the name was pronounced Hu-hee, how would we explain names like Eliyahu(Yahoo is my God) and Adonijah(My lord is Jah), etc.? Was it Elihuhee ha-Navi?


Monday, July 21, 2008

The kabbalists were right?

"We realize now that the secret was almost revealed by the 13th-century Torah commentator Rabbeinu Bachya, who makes note of every four-word cluster in the Torah whose rashei teivot, or initial letters, spell out the Tetragrammaton in reverse."
There is an article floating around the Internet about a Reform Rabbi that thinks that the YHVH should be read backwards, at which point God's name would become an androgenous combinations of Hebrew pronouns "he" and "she".

Read the whole article for the details, but to me the most interesting paragraph in the article was:

"If this interpretation is correct, it says that the Torah is a mystical or esoteric text," he said. "The mystics have been saying all these years that the text conceals more than it reveals. It is structured with different levels of meaning and reveals itself over time. We're talking about one tradition that goes all the way back."

The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

Damien Hirst
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living
Tiger shark, glass, steel, 5% formaldehyde solution
213 x 518 x 213 cm

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Music Monday - Brand New Key (Melanie Safka)

When this song came out, it was censored on the radio because of innuendo...

What do y'all think? Is the innuendo there or is it just in the imagination of the censors?

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

I was just reading an article about China in the New Yorker, and something that a Chinese woman mentioned casually in the article really made me stop and think.

Due to the "one child" policy, the next generation of Chinese is a generation of "only children". I don't know if there is psychological research behind this, but in my experience, "only children" are very different from kids raised with siblings. There is something to be said for growing up in a family where you realize that you must share your parents' love and attention as well as your toys... Also having someone who you can conspire with against your parents, someone you can confide in, someone who can beat the crap out of you so that you don't think you're the most important person in the Universe...

All of these experiences are denied to the "only child"... I wonder what will be the implications of a nation of a billion plus only children...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Separated at Birth?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In search of the elusive houri

More on the theme of translations over at Iyov's:

One of the reasons Nietzsche hated Christianity was that it "made something unclean out of sexuality", whereas Islam, many would argue, was sex-positive. One cannot imagine any of the Church fathers writing ecstatically of heavenly sex as al-Suyuti did, with the possible exception of St Augustine before his conversion. But surely to call Islam sex-positive is to insult all Muslim women, for sex is seen entirely from the male point of view; women's sexuality is admitted but seen as something to be feared, repressed, and a work of the devil.

Scholars have long pointed out that these images are clearly drawn pictures and must have been inspired by the art of painting. Muhammad, or whoever is responsible for the descriptions, may well have seen Christian miniatures or mosaics representing the gardens of paradise and has interpreted the figures of angels rather literally as those of young men and young women. A further textual influence on the imagery found in the Koran is the work of Ephrem the Syrian [306-373 CE], Hymns on Paradise, written in Syriac, an Aramaic dialect and the language of Eastern Christianity, and a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew and Arabic.

This naturally leads to the most fascinating book ever written on the language of the Koran, and if proved to be correct in its main thesis, probably the most important book ever written on the Koran. Christoph Luxenberg's book, Die Syro-Aramaische Lesart des Koran, available only in German, came out just over a year ago, but has already had an enthusiastic reception, particularly among those scholars with a knowledge of several Semitic languages at Princeton, Yale, Berlin, Potsdam, Erlangen, Aix-en-Provence, and the Oriental Institute in Beirut.

Luxenberg tries to show that many obscurities of the Koran disappear if we read certain words as being Syriac and not Arabic. We cannot go into the technical details of his methodology but it allows Luxenberg, to the probable horror of all Muslim males dreaming of sexual bliss in the Muslim hereafter, to conjure away the wide-eyed houris promised to the faithful in suras XLIV.54; LII.20, LV.72, and LVI.22. Luxenberg 's new analysis, leaning on the Hymns of Ephrem the Syrian, yields "white raisins" of "crystal clarity" rather than doe-eyed, and ever willing virgins - the houris. Luxenberg claims that the context makes it clear that it is food and drink that is being offerred, and not unsullied maidens or houris.

In Syriac, the word hur is a feminine plural adjective meaning white, with the word "raisin" understood implicitly. Similarly, the immortal, pearl-like ephebes or youths of suras such as LXXVI.19 are really a misreading of a Syriac expression meaning chilled raisins (or drinks) that the just will have the pleasure of tasting in contrast to the boiling drinks promised the unfaithful and damned.

As Luxenberg's work has only recently been published we must await its scholarly assessment before we can pass any judgements. But if his analysis is correct then suicide bombers, or rather prospective martyrs, would do well to abandon their culture of death, and instead concentrate on getting laid 72 times in this world, unless of course they would really prefer chilled or white raisins, according to their taste, in the next.

(The Guardian)

Red, Green, Blue, Yellow

Leora accused me of being too left-brain. I'm not, really! Look at this pretty picture!

Well, I think my brain is ambidextrous. This picture is an example of a Four Color map:
The four color theorem (also known as the four color map theorem) states that given any plane separated into regions, such as a political map of the states of a country, the regions may be colored using no more than four colors in such a way that no two adjacent regions receive the same color. Two regions are called adjacent only if they share a border segment, not just a point. Each region must be contiguous: that is, it may not have exclaves like some real countries such as Angola, Azerbaijan, Italy, the United States, or Russia.

It is often the case that using only three colors is inadequate. This applies already to a map with one region surrounded by three other regions (although with an even number of surrounding countries three colors are enough) and it is not at all difficult to prove that five colors are sufficient to color a map.

The four color theorem was the first major theorem to be proven using a computer, and the proof is not accepted by all mathematicians because it would be unfeasible for a human to verify by hand (see computer-assisted proof). Ultimately, in order to believe the proof, one also has to have the belief (which can be justified or not) that the proof assistant software works as intended and that there were no other errors - such as in the functioning of the hardware - that corrupted the output. The proof is also considered inelegant.(wikipedia)

(The computer assisted proof was implemented by two guys at my alma mater, UIUC, in 1976)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Black Swans and Skeptics

I am about to order "The Black Swan" by Nassim Taleb. Taleb was a trader/hedge fund guy on Wall Street. Looking at market behavior, he had a few insights into the concepts of randomness, rational reasoning, and improbable events.
Taleb's Black Swan has a central and unique attribute: the high impact. His claim is that almost all consequential events in history come from the unexpected—while humans convince themselves that these events are explainable in hindsight (bias). (Wikipedia)

If you've been reading my blog and my comments on other blogs, you already know how annoyed I am by the term "skeptic" when used in the context of atheism. In Taleb's worldview, these skeptics who deny religion based on the concept that the descriptions of events are highly improbably, are not "true skeptics" at all.

Taleb calls himself a "skeptical empiricist", and believes that scientists, economists, historians, policymakers, businessmen, and financiers are victims of an illusion of pattern; they overestimate the value of rational explanations of past data, and underestimate the prevalence of unexplainable randomness in that data. He follows a long lineage of skeptical philosophers, including Socrates, Sextus Empiricus, Al-Ghazali, Pierre Bayle, Montaigne, David Hume and Karl Popper in believing that we know much less than we think we do, and that the past should not be used naively to predict the future.

Taleb now focuses on being a researcher in the philosophy of randomness and the role of uncertainty in science and society, with particular emphasis on the philosophy of history and the role of fortunate or unfortunate high-impact random events, which he calls "black swans", in determining the course of history.

Taleb believes that most people ignore "black swans" because we are more comfortable seeing the world as something structured, ordinary, and comprehensible. Taleb calls this blindness the Platonic fallacy, and argues that it leads to three distortions:

1. Narrative fallacy: creating a story post-hoc so that an event will seem to have an identifiable cause.
2. Ludic fallacy: believing that the structured randomness found in games resembles the unstructured randomness found in life. Taleb faults random walk models and other inspirations of modern probability theory for this inadequacy.
3. Statistical regress fallacy: believing that the probability of future events is predictable by examining occurrences of past events.

He also believes that people are subject to the triplet of opacity, through which history is distilled even as current events are incomprehensible. The triplet of opacity consists of

1. an illusion of understanding of current events
2. a retrospective distortion of historical events
3. an overestimation of factual information, combined with an overvalue of the intellectual elite

Divine Inspiration

Music Monday - A Dedication

To my buddy XGH:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'll just have to buy a vacuum. Maybe that could be the solution to my problem.

An elderly Indonesian woman famed nationwide for supernatural skills in lengthening penises has died, reports said Thursday.

Reclusive Mak Erot, famed for penis extension treatment incorporating traditional herbs and Islamic prayer, died last week in Caringin village on the western coast of Java island, the Kompas daily's website reported.

Mak Erot -- who reports aged anywhere from 101 to over 130 -- prompted legions of imitations of her famous clinics, many using her famously craggy and birthmarked face to lure in anxious men.

While her legacy has been closely guarded by male descendents intent on maintaining the purity of the treatment, Mak Erot has become a pop-culture icon in everything from advertisements to teenage romantic comedy films.

Reports of he death prompted a flurry of bemused online comments from Internet users in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

User "Jengkol" wrote on news website Detikcom: "Oh no, I didn't have the chance to go to Mak Erot and now she's dead. I'll just have to buy a vacuum. Maybe that could be the solution to my problem."


And he's a clergyman too...

He's a philanderer, a race-baiter, and a terrific liar. The Reverend Jesse Jackson doesn't skip a beat - it just rolls right out of his mouth...

"See, Barack [has] been talking down to black people . . . I wanna cut his nuts out,"

"My support for Senator Obama's campaign is wide, deep and unequivocal," he said. "I cherish this redemptive and historical moment."

Through all of the highways, the byways I've traveled
Through all of the sidestreets and alleys of sin
Through all that's been heard nothing sinks quite as low
As the prominent statements of prominent men

Prominent men tell prominent stories
Prominent men tell prominent lies
Prominent men kiss the ass of Dame Fortune
Prominent men will tear out your eyes
(The Velvet Underground)

A Way with Words

From the Wikipedia article on Somerset Maugham:

Maugham's mother Edith Mary (née Snell) was consumptive, a condition for which the doctors of the time prescribed childbirth. As a result Maugham had three older brothers, already enrolled in boarding school by the time he was three and Maugham was effectively raised as an only child. Sadly, childbirth proved no cure for tuberculosis, and Edith Mary Maugham died at the age of 41, six days after the stillbirth of her final son.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ever see a sonic boom?

Click for explanation...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Brobdingnagian Musings

Once upon a time, a group of bards mused about the answer to an old question:

A dragon has come to our village today.
We've asked him to leave, but he won't go away.
Now he's talked to our king and they worked out a deal.
No homes will he burn and no crops will he steal.

Now there is but one catch, we dislike it a bunch.
Twice a year he invites him a virgin to lunch.
Well, we've no other choice, so the deal we'll respect.
But we can't help but wonder and pause to reflect.

Do virgins taste better than those who are not?
Are they salty, or sweeter, more juicy or what?
Do you savor them slowly? Gulp them down on the spot?
Do virgins taste better than those who are not?

Now we'd like to be shed you, and many have tried.
But no one can get through your thick scaly hide.
We hope that some day, some brave knight will come by.
'Cause we can't wait around 'til you're too fat to fly.

Now you have such good taste in your women for sure,
They always are pretty, they always are pure.
But your notion of dining, it makes us all flinch,
For your favorite entree is barbecued wench.

Now we've found a solution, it works out so neat,
If you insist on nothing but virgins to eat.
No more will our number ever grow small,
We'll simply make sure there's no virgins at all!

It's fun to read, but better to listen...

Merde alors!

Is there unusual sun spot activity this week? Found this on the newswire. A typical story of some teacher getting kicked out of school for preaching creationism, blah, blah, blah, until I hit this line:

The family of one of Freshwater's former students who had a cross burned onto his arm by the teacher sued the school district and Freshwater last month. The suit says the boy's civil rights were violated.

WHAT? A kid had a cross BURNED onto his arm by the teacher? His civil rights were violated? What about the criminal case!!! The teacher should be in prison by now, right?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sfas Emes - died of writer's cramp?

First Moses Feinstein and now this?

From Wikipedia article on Sfas Emes:

During the Russo-Japanese War many of his young followers were drafted into the Russian Army and sent to the battlefields in Manchuria. Alter was very worried over these devotees and would constantly write to them. It began to be detrimental to his health. On 11 January 1905 (5 Shevat 5665) he died at the age of 57 of writer's cramp.

Can someone die from writer's cramp?

Bacteria evolve; Conservapedia demands recount!

Found this article by way of Frum Heretic. It is bittersweetly hilarious:

Bacteria evolve; Conservapedia demands recount!

Chardal on the Attack

While the Holy Hyrax is in rehab, the blogger chardal posted a couple of comments on HH's latest post:

I am not claiming that skeptics do not have an overarching value of "lining up their beliefs about the world with reality as best as humanly possible."

What I am saying is that such an approach is not a initial axiom which can not be explained by other factors. I have noticed a psychological similarity among skeptics that suggests an undelying psyche which is simultaniously philosophically shallow and existentially insecure. There is a thrist for clarity even when the data will not allow it and a need to "win" empirical arguments.

many skeptics don't even realize that by defining truth as correspondence to reality, they are staking out a philosophical postion that is by no means established (this is what evanston Jew has tried to pound into their brains).

There are exceptions. one of my favorite skeptics was Big-S Skeptic but he is rarely active anymore. The reason I appreciated him was that he was able to remove himself philosophically from the normal skeptics drivle and discuss the true underlying issues. Unfortunatly, most of the skeptic drivle out there is simply a rehash of old polemics or and argument from the authority of academia. Frankly - its boring and stupid. It does not clarify a thing and is unlikely to do anything other than act as a support group for skeptics. Which I guess they need.

But in the end, I still believe that 99% of skeptics just have a psychological predisposition to be skeptical (and often times cynical) and that many of their life positions derive from this and not just their value of "lining up their beliefs about the world with reality as best as humanly possible." If fact, "lining up their beliefs" is a response to deeper psychological needs.

(by the way, you can see the lack of self awareness of the skeptics in that they will often write of the underlying bias and psychological needs of believers while being completely ignorant of their own biases and needs - I will not deny that many believers are philisophically shallow as well - however, can a skeptic ever admit that a believer has arived at their place through a sophisticated and solid philisophical approach that is simply different than their own? I doubt it - most of their own dogma is based on the axiom that religious people are either biased, not honest, or stupid)

How thoroughly disappointing and unoriginal. I usually like chardal, and perhaps he is just venting his frustration, but what a silly argument. Firstly, it drives me absolutely bonkers when people use the term 'skeptic' in these conversations, because it implies a general philosophical outlook which is rarely the reality of the situation. Most people that I know who are skeptical of the claims of Orthodox Judaism are not 'skeptics' that go around "questioning" the entire corpus of human knowledge. They are skeptical of very specific claims. Trust me, chardal, there are many well balanced, happy individuals, philosophers, academics, biblical scholars, heterodox rabbis even, who do not fit your diagnosis of possessing an "undelying psyche which is simultaniously philosophically shallow and existentially insecure."

Secondly, even if it were the case that many of these so called "skeptics" are just contrarian, self-unaware, philosophically unsophisticated troglodytes, it still has little bearing on the true nature of the conflict. When you evaluate a battle of ideas, you don't look at the rabble, you look at the champions on each side. Do I need to start quoting "drivle" from the hundreds of frum websites that are out there to prove my point? Likewise, I could probably find you some Chabad BT who is a PhD in philosophy who can give me a sophisticated philosophical justification for drinking the Rebbe's mikvah water.

"many skeptics don't even realize that by defining truth as correspondence to reality, they are staking out a philosophical postion that is by no means established (this is what evanston Jew has tried to pound into their brains)."

This is perhaps my favorite dodge. Yes, philosophers cannot agree on how to define truth. But this is really mostly irrelevant to our discussion. There are two concepts that are being confused. There is a difference between things that can never be proven and things that are very difficult to prove. It is very difficult to prove whether the Torah is a composite of multiple documents, but it is not impossible; say, for the sake of argument, one were to find four perfectly preserved documents that matched up with JPED. Assuming this find, the entire edifice of Rabbinic Judaism which is predicated on the Divine Written Torah and the corresponding Oral Torah which is derived from the Written Torah, finds itself on much shakier ground.

Philosophers like to think they are very sophisticated, but in many ways it is a mutual admiration society. I say their value is "by no means established".

Music Monday - Sweet Jane

This is a great cover of the Velvet Underground song by the Cowboy Junkies. The way Margo Timmins looks away from the camera is almost bizarre. It's as if she wants to hide from it, but realizes she cannot get away, and so just does her best to pretend it is not there.

If you believe Wikipedia, Lou Reed called this version "the best and most authentic version I have ever heard"

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Hymn of Hate

During World War I, "Gott strafe England" was a slogan used by the German Army (and also in Austria-Hungary). The phrase means "May God punish England". It was created by the German-Jewish poet Ernst Lissauer (1882–1937), in his poem Hassgesang gegen England (lit. "Hate song against England", better known as "Hymn of Hate"). In today's Germany, the term is all but forgotten, except by some right wing organizations.

In the hysterical atmosphere brought on by World War I, Lissauer's Hassgesang became an instant success. Rupprecht of Bavaria, commander of the Sixth Army, ordered that copies be distributed among his own troops. The Kaiser was pleased enough to confer upon the author the Order of the Royal Eagle. An informative account of Lissauer and the "Hymn of Hate" can be found in Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday.

Even despite the general atmosphere of condemnation against England for "causing the war", the Hassgesang was not without its critics. The Frankfurter Zeitung was bold enough to denounce the "impotent hatred that spits at us everywhere". With one or two exceptions it was not widely popular among Lissauer's fellow Jews, who had a tendency to identify with England's liberal tradition. The publicist Benjamin Segel said that the poem did not contain "as much as a spark of Jewish sentiment."

The phrase gave rise to the term "Strafing" and to the nickname "Strafer" being given to the British General William Gott in World War II.

Fact and Illusion

From the Autobiography of G. K. Chesterton:

Here it is that I differ, for instance, from Stevenson, whom I so warmly admire; and who speaks of the child as moving with his head in a cloud. He talks of the child as normally in a dazed daydream, in which he cannot distinguish fancy from fact. Now children and adults are both fanciful at times; but that is not what, in my mind and memory, distinguishes adults from children. Mine is a memory of a sort of white light on everything, cutting things out very clearly, and rather emphasising their solidity. The point is that the white light had a sort of wonder in it, as if the world were as new as myself; but not that the world was anything but a real world. I am much more disposed now to fancy that an apple-tree in the moonlight is some sort of ghost or grey nymph; or to see the furniture fantastically changing and crawling at twilight, as in some story of Poe or Hawthorne. But when I was a child I had a sort of confident astonishment in contemplating the apple-tree as an apple-tree. I was sure of it, and also sure of the surprise of it; as sure, to quote the perfect popular proverb, as sure as God made little apples. The apples might be as little as I was; but they were solid and so was I. There was something of an eternal morning about the mood; and I liked to see a fire lit more than to imagine faces in the firelight. Brother Fire, whom St. Francis loved, did seem more like a brother than those dream-faces which come to men who have known other emotions than brotherhood. I do not know whether I ever, as the phrase goes, cried for the moon; but I am sure that I should have expected it to be solid like some colossal snowball; and should always have had more appetite for moons than for mere moonshine. Only figures of speech can faintly express the fact; but it was a fact and not a figure of speech. What I said first about the toy theatre may be urged in contradiction, and as an example of delight in a mere illusion.

In that case, what I said first about the toy theatre will be entirely misunderstood. In fact, there was in that business nothing of an illusion or of a disillusion. If this were a ruthless realistic modern story, I should of course give a most heartrendering account of how my spirit was broken with disappointment, on discovering that the prince was only a painted figure. But this is not a ruthless realistic modern story. On the contrary, it is a true story. And the truth is that I do not remember that I was in any way deceived or in any way undeceived. The whole point is that I did like the toy theatre even when I knew it was a toy theatre. I did like the cardboard figures, even when I found they were of cardboard. The white light of wonder that shone on the whole business was not any sort of trick; indeed the things that now shine most in my memory were many of them mere technical accessories; such as the parallel sticks of white wood that held the scenery in place; a white wood that is still strangely mixed in my imaginative instincts with all the holy trade of the Carpenter. It was the same with any number of other games or pretences in which I took delight; as in the puppet-show of Punch and Judy. I not only knew that the figures were made of wood, but I wanted them to be made of wood. I could not imagine such a resounding thwack being given except by a wooden stick on a wooden head. But I took the sort of pleasure that a primitive man might have taken in a primitive craft, in seeing that they were carved and painted into a startling and grimacing caricature of humanity. I was pleased that the piece of wood was a face; but I was also pleased that the face was a piece of wood. That did not mean that the drama of wood, like the other drama of cardboard, did not reveal to me real ideas and imaginations, and give me glorious glimpses into the possibilities of existence. Of course the child did not analyse himself then; and the man cannot analyse him now. But I am certain he was not merely tricked or trapped. He enjoyed the suggestive function of art exactly as an art critic enjoys it; only he enjoyed it a jolly sight more. For the same reason I do not think that I myself was ever very much worried about Santa Claus, or that alleged dreadful whisper of the little boy that Father Christmas "is only your father." Perhaps the word "only" would strike all children as the mot juste.

My fixed idolatry of Punch and Judy illustrated the same fact and the same fallacy. I was not only grateful for the fun, but I came to feel grateful for the very fittings and apparatus of the fun; the four-cornered tower of canvas with the one square window at the top, and everything down to the minimum of conventional and obviously painted scenery. Yet these were the very things I ought to have torn and rent in rage, as the trappings of imposture, if I had really regarded the explanation as spoiling the experience. I was pleased, and not displeased, when I discovered that the magic figures could be moved by three human fingers. And I was right; for those three human fingers are more magical than any magic figures; the three fingers which hold the pen and the sword and the bow of the violin; the very three fingers that the priest lifts in benediction as the emblem of the Blessed Trinity. There was no conflict between the two magics in my mind.

Word of the Day

Urdummheit - (German) primordial stupidity.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The human animal - Menstrual cycle and earning power

In 2007, based on statistics from 18 dancers over 60 days, it was noted that female lap dancers earned the highest tips around the time of ovulation, during the most fertile period of their menstrual cycle, and the lowest tips during menstruation; the average difference in earning between these two times amounted to about $30 per hour. Women on the pill earned overall less than those not on the pill. The results were interpreted as evidence of estrus in humans: females apparently advertise their fertility status to males in some manner (wikipedia)

Prokofiev the Christian Scientist

I was surpirsed to learn today that Serge Prokofiev became a Christian Scientist after meeting Stella Adler, an American actress who introduced him to the teachings of this sect. His new found faith influenced his work greatly.

"If we assume that the diary is unexpurgated, the account of his mother's death on December 13, 1924 consists of a single comment under the heading for December 12 (II: 294). There are no entries for the following two weeks. Thereafter, the intimate details that catch the eye most often concern religion. Prokofiev turns out to have been a surprisingly religious individual. The surprise lies in the choice of his faith: Prokofiev was neither an adherent of Orthodoxy nor Catholicism nor even Protestantism, but of Christian Science.
Encouraged by Lina, Prokofiev became acquainted with Christian Science in the summer of 1924, after finishing the original version of The Fiery Angel, a supernatural, mock-Symbolist opera that he would later deem heretical to his new faith. His indoctrination first involved reading Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875); through it, he and Lina began to treat their ailments - migraines, fatigue, eyestrain - through meditation (II: 267, 292-93, 394). The couple subscribed to the principle that sickness was an illusion that stemmed from a loss of harmony with the godhead. Prokofiev admitted, however, that their attempts at self-healing bore mixed results. Further study informed him that Christian Science and Kantian metaphysics had points in common, since "both interpret the world around us as merely a representation" (II: 275). Entries from early 1926 find him contemplating the difference between self-love and love for others. He also affirms the inevitable triumph of good, an "infinite" force, over evil, a "finite" one:

Christian Science regards evil as unreal, for evil is a temporal entity; in eternity, where time does not exist, all that is temporal is unreal. The world instant is unrelated to eternity. Till when will evil last? Until individualities are strengthened to the extent that their mutual attractions no longer lead to fusion and annulment. Hence: a person's acceptance of good and rejection of evil is symptomatic of the maturation of his individuality (II: 377).

Later in the diary, Prokofiev incorporates direct quotations from Science and Health into his prose, and resolves to attend Christian Science services - even though the music performed at them grated on his nerves - and to live in accord with their teachings (II: 450, 577, 782-83). His faith explains the stress on moral absolutes in his text-based works, and his preference for characters who believe in spiritual and non-spiritual causes over those who doubt.
Thus, in 1927, Prokofiev dismissed his adolescent fascination with the cabalistic, a fascination manifest in his cantata Seven, They are Seven (1917), whose libretto concerns the spirits that afflict mankind, and in the aforementioned Fiery Angel, an opera that he did not see staged, and that represented the greatest disappointment of his career.[12] In the midst of a 1926 overhaul of the ostinato-driven score, one that absorbed changes proposed by the philologist Boris Demchinsky, Prokofiev confessed: "With Christian Science I have become entirely detached from this storyline, and hysteria and devilry no longer attract me" (II: 425). Two months afterward, he reached a creative impasse, musing that he either had to abandon religion or abandon the opera that subverted it: "Conclusion? Toss The Fiery Angel into the stove" (II: 439). Mercifully, Lina advised him against rash decisions. Staking hopes for a production on Bruno Walter, the director of the Berlin Städtische Oper, he turned warily back to the now sacrilegious score, but the "nightmarish" (II: 581) process of reshaping the scenario, translating the text, and orchestrating the music extended past the contractual deadline. Walter, under pressure to reduce the foreign content of his repertoire, used the delay as an excuse to cancel the staging, and then accused Prokofiev of failing to support him in his battle against dilettante nationalism. Upon hearing about the cancellation from his agent, Prokofiev "became distressed, even bitter, but Christian Science soon calmed me down and dispelled my ire" (II: 596)."


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Gershon Kingsley - Popcorn

The original video from "Music to Moog By"...

I don't know why, I remember this song playing on the radio all the time when I was a kid. Though I think it was probably the "Hot Butter" version...