November 2004 Archives

Bidders on ebay mistakenly believed they were bidding on a cheese sandwich bearing the miraculous image of the Virgin Mary:

when what they were really trying to purchase was a miraculous image of Jean Harlow:

Probably at least as valuable, maybe more.

Friday dog blog

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Well, no pictures. The cell phone just doesn't take very good pics, and I don't have a digital camera. (MIKE: TAKE NOTE. CHRISTMAS IDEA. CHECK USED CAMERAS ON EBAY.)

Last Friday, any picture of mud would have sufficed for the dog blog. It was raining when I got home from work, and getting dark already. Nevertheless, I decided to put a jacket on and go outside and throw the ball for the pup for a while to settle him down a bit. (I canNOT tire him out. He is bouncing off the walls when I come home. The most I can do is make him run for the ball until he has settled down from mad dash to trot.) BIG mistake. It was too dark for me to see that in the rain, he was churning up the grass in the backyard, along the route he always takes around the herb garden and back up to the top of the yard, where I stand and throw the ball. His path turned to mud, and by the time we went back inside he was covered with it. Puddles of muddy water were running off him.

Tonight's picture would be very nice, though. Since falling on my knee I can't kneel by the tub to bathe him myself, so I took him to Petco for grooming, which in his case amounts to a bath, nail trimming, ear cleaning, and brushing. When I picked him up he had a new bandanna around his neck. I expected this to bother him and I intended to take it off, but I changed my mind because honest to God, he seems to like wearing it.

Here it is, finally, the blog entry written as a collaboration between Mike and Mary (aka Mom). I'll indicate the passages each of us contributed.

Mary says:
This started out as a post-election-bitterness blog entry. I was going to rant about my belief that for many people on the religious right, the decision to believe in the teachings of evangelical Christianity was probably based on a desire to join a powerful and growing movement rather than on a religious epiphany. It feels good to belong, it feels good to believe you are morally righteous, blah blah blah.

I'm somewhat past the post-election-bitterness now, but we'll do the blog entry anyway; it'll just have a milder tone.

It's always an awkward moment when I tell people my son is majoring in religion at UVA. They assume he's studying from within what I call the "bubble of belief". By that I'm referring to, for example, "Bible study" that is done within the context of assuming it's The Word Of God: first, assume it's true. That would be the case if Mike were a student at Bob Jones University, but at UVA the study of religion is done from outside the bubble. The Bible, like the sacred texts of other religions, is treated as a collection of historical texts. Mike says he chose it as his major simply because religion classes are the most interesting...

Mike says:
...because it's one of the few subjects in which you analyze people's true beliefs. Why did people believe the things they believed? More often than not, it is possible to trace a progression of religious thought in terms of culture and society.

Mary says:
It seems, in fact, that one semester of religious studies has ruined Mike for mindless religion. This is about what I would expect; it's amazing the effect a little knowledge of the history of a set of religious beliefs can have. This semester, Mike took three religion classes: Introduction to Hinduism, Jesus as a Historical Figure, and End of World Studies. Taking the last two of these classes concurrently was apparently an eye-opener.

Mike says:
Many of the readings involved in Jesus as an Historical Figure were commentaries by theologians, which supplemented the reading of the 4 canonical gospels and other early Christian literature. In the 1950s, one of the major theological descriptions of Jesus portrayed him as nothing more than a failed eschatological prophet.

Mary says:
As in, he preached that the end of the world was coming, soon, and nothing ever happened.

Mike says:
The fact that this belief was taken by a very famous and popular man, Albert Schweitzer, made the question of who was the Historical Jesus even more difficult. According to the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus tells his disciples that before they die, they will see the persecution that will bring about the end-times. At any rate, this was one of many theories of who/what Jesus was, based on a plethora of non-canonical-gospels (also known as apocrypha, which means "secret"), numbering in the tens, written around the time of his life or shortly thereafter.

The four gospels that made it into the Bible paint very distinct pictures of Jesus. While they all tell virtually the same story, they are very different in exactly how they show Jesus' teachings and actions. John's description of Jesus makes him seem like an altogether different person from the three synoptic gospels. Early Christian theologians tried to explain these differences by arguing that the differences were not as large as they seemed, and that John was always intended to be more of a "spiritual" gospel, than a synoptic one.

Mary says:
Well now, might it just be that the "gospel of John" was written by a woman?

Mike says:
As time passed, revelation stopped being seen as being the ultimate way to prove a point, and reason took over. Nature, in a way, began to prevail over the super-natural.

Mary says:
Combining this class with End of World Studies seems to make the pieces fall together like a jigsaw puzzle. The apostles believed the End of the World was coming, and soon. It made persecution bearable, because suffering brought redemption, which would lead to the Great Reward when the End of the World came. And so the religion evolved, and for two thousand years Christians have believed we've been living in the End Days, and every few years a bunch of them gather on a mountain somewhere and wait for the Second Coming.

Mike says:
These dates are the result of trying to read Revelation and the Book of Daniel as a timeline, and trying to put one's own community into that timeline. When Christian groups were persecuted, one of their reactions was to paint their persecutors as the spirit of the antichrist, and their leader as the son of perdition trying to apostatize the weak of spirit.

Mary says:
When most people talk about "Bible study" they mean going to church on Wednesday night to study the Bible from within a bubble of belief: I know this is true; what does it mean?

Mike says:
How many times have you heard of the two-Gospel theory in Church, or the book of Q? How many times have you heard someone quote the Gospel of Thomas?

Mary says:
It's nothing at all like studying the Bible as a collection of historical texts. Contradictions that are explained away within the bubble of belief become glaringly irreconcilable.

Mike says:
My professor of End of World Studies told me once that at one point, he had a religion professor tell him that all we can know for sure about Jesus was that he was born and died. Now, this point came with a clarification, as the professor just happens to be a Catholic priest. He told me that he believes what a large number, perhaps even a majority, of modern theologians believe now: that Jesus existed, and must have had some impact on Jewish society, because there are simply too many writings from different sources to deny his existence and ties to Holy works. Hardly something you'd hear from a Catholic priest at mass, huh?

Mary says:
My own experience has been that once you have stepped outside of the bubble of belief to study your own religion, you can never insert yourself back into the bubble again...

Mike says:
...but when you look at other religions while having doubts about your own, you inevitably try to put yourself into those religions. For example, Christian dogma states that the soul is created upon birth, and after the death of the body, remains intact and travels to whatever type of secondary plane, or heaven, you want to imagine. But, if one were to say to themselves: "Well, I think our souls last for all time," one might put one's self into Hinduism, whose concept of atman (the soul) is that is lasts until the time of enlightenment, when one receives moksa (liberty) and transcends even heaven. The problem with this for me is that when someone changes a small belief like this, all of a sudden they are taken completely out of the context of their own religion. So, perhaps one has a Hindi belief about the soul, but a Christian belief about the end of the world. What does that make someone?

The Week From Hell

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For me, the misery of the week past didn't start or end with the election. It started on Monday morning, when one of my guinea pigs went to wait for me just this side of the Rainbow Bridge. (When searching for the poem on the net, I first stumbled across this. Grab a box of kleenex and click the link.)

Then there was the election. Nuff said.

Then yesterday morning I tripped over my puppy and did a one point landing on my left knee. That knee is now a swollen, misshapen mess that is beginning to show a broad spectrum of colors appearing all around it. It stiffened up and was very painful, and I felt completely disabled. I couldn't imagine how I would play with Saint or complete any weekend chores, so I called Mike.

He came home at about 5pm Saturday for about a 22 hour stay. It was enough; He carried the vacuum cleaner upstairs and downstairs and took the trash out. Saint slept with him last night, and Mike played with him and tired him out before heading back down to Charlottesville.

And we started writing a blog entry together, which I hope we'll finish in the next couple of days.

Too True

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Stolen from Prairie Angel, who stole it from somebody else and can't figure out whom to attribute it to:

Friday dog blog

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Picture taken with cell phone:

The horror. The horror.

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It's over. That's the only good thing one can say at this point. And even that's not true, really, but it seems unlikely Kerry will pull a victory out of the provisional ballots.

It helps to read the 650-comment thread on Atrios this morning, to share in the group commiseration and realize we are not alone.

It seems Karl Rove has done it--exactly as he planned. Bush did not try to move to the middle to attract undecided voters, instead he worked to get a huge turnout from the religious right, and it worked.

It undoubtedly helped that there were anti-gay-marriage initiatives on the ballots of ten states. The opportunity to restrict someone else's rights is just too tempting for the righteous to pass up. Back when the whole gay-marriage scene was taking place out in San Francisco Republican politicos said it was a disaster for Democrats. They said it was an issue that would energize the Republican base and divide Democrats. I think now that they were right. With voters who supported Bush naming "moral values" as their number one issue, it seems this election was a rejection not of Kerry alone but of the Democratic party as a whole, as the party of gay marriage and abortion and no-school-prayer and no-ten-commandments-in-the-courtroom.

So now the religious right owns the Republican party, lock, stock, and barrel.

Now I want to see Bush cut the deficit in half without raising taxes, as promised. I want to see him clean up the mess he's made in Iraq without starting up a draft, as promised. I want to see him privatize social security without cutting benefits, as promised.

Even if he does none of the above, it seems the religious right will still back him, because "Deficits don't matter; Reagan proved that," says Cheney. And the religious right thinks these are the End Days and the mess in Iraq is the start of Armageddon and the worse it gets, the happier they are because it means The Rapture is coming. As for social security, well it's just going to be very interesting to see what happens now.

There is no point in despair. Only if we could see into the future would there be possible cause for despair. Remember--Nixon was reelected too. We still haven't heard the results of the Valerie Plame investigation. The CIA's 911 report was held back until after the election (although with Goss in charge it will undoubtedly be whitewashed). The FBI is investigating the awarding of contracts to Halliburton.

Of course I hoped for a huge victory--a Kerry win, a takeover of the senate, a gain in the house. All three would have been necessary for Kerry to be able to clean up the mess Bush has made. Had he been elected and had to work with the congress that will convene in January, he couldn't have accomplished anything.

There is no point in despairing because there could be a bright light at the end of the tunnel; a light we can't see now because of twists and turns in the tunnel.

I can't stand the suspense

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The omens point to a Kerry win: the Redskins lost on Sunday, and Indian astrologers say Kerry's planets are rising and Bush's are in eclipse.

Leaving the realm of pure superstition for indicators only slightly more concrete (or not), the stock market is down over the past two months, consumer confidence is below 99, gas prices are through the roof, and most people say the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Forty-one newspapers that endorsed Bush in 2000 have now endorsed Kerry. We have Eminem trying to get out the hip-hip vote, and Howard Stern trying to get out the "Fuck You" vote.

And yet the pundits, damn them, still point to signs that say Bush could win. It seems that defeating the president during a war just seems like too much of a concession to the enemy for a lot of people. Cokie Roberts, my most-hated-windbag-of-all, said on NPR this morning that the undecided vote is breaking for Bush because of issues like "leadership". Leadership? Who the hell is following? Andrew Kohut of Pew Research said on The Newshour that the Republican GOTV game is a match for the dems.

How many hours before it's over? Will we know by midnight tomorrow? At times like this I hate living on the East Coast; it'll be late here before returns start coming in in the West. By the time I voted for Carter in California in 1980, the networks had called it for Reagan.

July 2008

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