Wednesday, September 27, 2006

No comment...

I'm nota huge fan of Art Uber Alles, but in this case I just have to say... no comment. Better sell out your culture for comfort.

This Bumper Sticker Ownz

Monday, September 25, 2006

Some cool news in the world of science

Some cool science news this morning. From LiveScience, it appears that the Archaeoptyrex, the oldest known flying dinosaur, had both birdlike and reptilian features and used FOUR WINGS TO FLY! Not that this will ever top Super Croc, but it's cool to think about - they glided first, and only later flew.

Also, we now have fossils of a Red Panda. Neat-o.

Great... USA becoming the next Europe

I am probably the only one that thinks this is a bad thing. We're going to end up like Europe, where everyone's sleeping together, nobody's married, and there are no kids. Here's another article about the Birth Dearth from Newsweek.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Good news or bad?

Ever get that kind of news that you're not sure how to interpret? Like... on the face of it the information sounds neutral... perhaps even neutral good. Doesn't seem like you should have a vested interest in it, but at the same time you really do in a roundabout way. It's not so much a logical connection, as if A leads to B inevitably, but rather there are indirect possibilities it creates.

Namely I speak of when people become accustomed to certain arrangements. Like let's say you're away for a couple of weeks. Your best friend invites the girl you have a crush on and her current boyfriend to the weekly baseball game. But, when you come back, the girl is no longer with her boyfriend. The problem is, now your friend liked the company of your crush's ex-boyfriend, and so it's considered rude at this point not to invite them. Your friend doesnt mean harm - they're just used to treating your potential squeeze and her ex as a unit. It's custom now that both of them, as a couple in a manner of speaking, come to the baseball game. But grrr... how are you supposed to make a move if you're always around the ex!? The people involved don't really understand your clandestine motivations, and as such aren't bothering to prepare around them - in short your plan is semi-doomed, or at the very least will require a lot more mixed emotions than it had needed to when you planned it.

There are, naturally, other illustrations, but the short of it is that we're always getting used to arrangements. We want one thing, another part comes with the wanted package (sometimes unwittingly), but then that other part cuts off a third-party interest that it had not considered. I think maybe this sort of plotting is caused by greed and a certain amount of self-centeredness. Why should people take into account an as-yet-unknown third party just because they might exist in the future? It's pretty screwed up to even think in this manner, or to be offended when yo're the unconsidered third party, and even worse when you have no actual right to be included in the decision making!, but I don't think I'm the only one who does by any stretch. It's the long-term plan that can be see as being put in jeopardy - it's the end goal, some of the steps to which might be broken if one or more parties, in all the best intentions, decides to jump onto what seems like good news at the moment.

Did I take a weird pill this summer?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Being eaten away

Well this year has started out with a simultaneous bang and whimper.

Honestly, however arrogant it might sounds, I think that I was tacitly expected to be one of the campus leaders this year - helping new people get acclimated, be at the forefront of doing my jobs, be a meaningful member of the OISM board, Interseminary dialogues (which haven't happened yet), I'm an intern in Manhattan, I'm studying for the GRE with some diligence, and I've even taken the first steps to re-starting Greek...

But it's not enough. The feel this year is different. I have yet to have a solid hour where I kept my mind on what I was doing. I'm less vibrant, less intellectual, and generally more spacy. I don't think I'm anywhere near as personable as in previous years. Even when I think I'm making a point, the mind doesn't work as fluidly as it did. I feel as if a haze has gradually crowded out the efficiency and conciseness with which my mind normally operates. The whole world is blurred by the wrong set of glasses.

Who knows... maybe it's all in my head. I'm not entirely sure how others perceive me at the moment. Not that it 'matters', and yet at the same time it does. I feel like the self-absorbed third year student who's always grabbing dinner and retreating back to his room for his own reasons. Who's doing his own work on his own time. Who has his own agenda at all times. Suffice to say that I'm more incoherent than usual. I don't feel connected in some sense; I don't feel organic and normal vis-a-vis my own typical states of mind.

Truthfully though, I didn't ask for all of it. There are some things gnawing on me that were not there before. A couple are rather serious, and too personal for a public online forum, yet it's still fair to say that my coping mechanisms - usually fairly resilient - have gotten a bit frayed. There comes a point when some very basic things are called into question. Not faith per se... that seems ok... but the extent to which certain expectations of how life will proceed get thrown to the wind. You find yourself considering paths and decisions that would have seemed insane less than a year ago. It's not that your ideals have changed, it's that your perception of time has changed. Mine has. For instance, another five years of schooling at this moment sounds terrible! Just a few months ago I was so jazzed about the possibility, now I'm having to fight against half-heartedness even in this rather egocentric goal. But, that's not realy the thing that's getting to me. That's just a safe thing to compare to.

Sigh. I do wish that I could vent all publicly. There's something liberating about being exposed to the world for who you are, and yet it's beyond the pale of acceptability. Janis had a point that freedom's just another word for "nothing left to lose". That's the way of things. Yet Liberation, in its purest form, only happens through Christ, but wow does it feel constricting at times. My mind is wrapped nicely around the notion of taking up your cross and following Him, but the flesh is quite weak, and even the spirit is a little bit confused.

I'm blabbering. All I've done is use numerous adjectives and illustrations while still making no point. This was a bad post, and it's indicative of my general effectiveness at the moment, but I'm too discombobulated to erase it. ciao.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Time to drag out the crusades as anticipated

I hate to be the one who said I told you so... well not really. How typical.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

oh wow - the predictable fallout from Pope's remarks

First you should check the pictures

I'll go ahead and put some choice quotes here:

This is all a lie ... Islam is far from terrorism and was spread only through the conviction of peoples who saw the good and justice of Islam.

The Pope's statements reflect his lack of wisdom. It is obvious from the statements that the Pope doesn't have a correct understanding of Islam.

The remarks do not express correct understanding of Islam and are merely wrong and distorted beliefs being repeated in the West.

Our hands are outstretched and our religion calls for peace, not for war, for love not for hatred, for tolerance, not for fanaticism, for knowing each other and not for disavowing each other.

We condemn this and we want to know the explanation of this and what is intended by this. We call on the pope, the pontiff, to apologise to the Islamic nation because he has insulted its religion and Prophet, its faith and Sharia without any justification."

The owner of those unfortunate and arrogant comments, Benedict XVI, has gone down in history, but in the same category as Hitler and Mussolini.

He seems to have a mindset that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages. He is a poor thing that has not benefited from the spirit of reform in the Christian world. It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades.

One would expect a religious leader such as the Pope to act and speak with responsibility and repudiate the Byzantine emperor's views in the interests of truth and harmonious relations. Regrettably, the Pope did not do so and this has understandably caused a lot of dismay and hurt.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Orthodox Offended Over Pope's Apology

Why must clerics in the Muslim world comb the daily news to find out what Christians have to say about them? Furthermore, does it not go without saying that a Catholic Pope should feel a little animosity concerning a religion that conquered much of historical Christendom and continues to be at odds with large parts of the Christian and/or secular world today? Why must leaders put up these fronts like they really want to hug and kiss all the time?

The actual news item in question is entitled 'Muslim anger grows over Pope's remarks'. I decided that it needed a new title to reflect my own reaction to it.

Basically Pope Benedict at Regensburg University quoted a 14th century Byzantine Emperor. The article lists it as Manuel II Paleologos.

Here's the quote that caused such a stir, given ostensibly to deal with the spreading of religion by violence:

“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Naturally this sent Muslim leaders all over the globe into a free for all to suckle on the teat of public outrage.

Turkey’s top Islamic cleric asked Benedict to apologize and unleashed a string of accusations against Christianity, raising tensions before the pope’s planned visit to Turkey in November on what would be his first papal pilgrimage to a Muslim country.

Religious Affairs Directorate head Ali Bardakoglu, a cleric who sets the religious agenda for Turkey, said he was deeply offended by remarks about Islamic holy war made Tuesday during the pilgrimage to the pontiff’s homeland, calling them “extraordinarily worrying, saddening and unfortunate.”

Bardakoglu said that “if the pope was reflecting the spite, hatred and enmity” of others in the Christian world, then the situation was even worse.

Oh boy here we go. "Boo hoo. One time some Christians about a thousand years ago tried to take back the land we'd forcefully taken from them first." Whatever. Get a life. The Crusades killed Orthodox Christians too, and Jews - in large quantities I might add - but we aren't trying to develop this into the world's largest pity party.

In Egypt, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, the leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, also called for an apology.

“The remarks do not express correct understanding of Islam and are merely wrong and distorted beliefs being repeated in the West,” Akef said.

Yes. Those damned Westerners should realize that Islam is by definition the religion of peace and tolerance, which is why it is a virtually ubiquitous fact that Islamic nations have some of the worst religious tolerance of minorities around the globe and why you can find some kind of Muslim-related terrorism every single day in the news. Also, we stupid Westerners obviously don't understand that it wasn't really Islamic warriors from the Arabian peninsula that bulldozed 2/3 of the ancient Christian world from Syria, West to Morocco, and East through parts of Iran, northeast until finally stopped at the gates of Vienna and up northwest into southern France (both stopped by force I might add, not treaty). Those were actually JEws in disguise!

Here's another diamond in the rough:

The 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, based in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia said it regretted “the pope’s quote and for the other falsifications.”

Umm, what, exactly, did the Pope "falsify"? I'm pretty sure his quote was accurate, unless you want to prove him wrong. And what were his "other falsifications"? That he teaches about the Trinity and the divinity of Christ? That he doesn't think the world should be ruled as a group of suppressed dhimmis under the supreme Umma and whatever the dominant trend of interpreted Shari'a happens to hold sway at the time? He never explicitly agreed with the quote, he was just making a point

And of all these places, Turkey is complaining? You know... Turkey used to have another name. It had an Emperor too... I think he was Christian... in fact, wasn't that Paleologos guy that the Pope was quoting somehow linked up with Istanbul? Can't remember how, but I seem to recall something about Byzantine Christians being in that area once...

Oh here we go!

Although officially secular Turkey is 99 percent Muslim, the main purpose of the pope’s pilgrimage there is to meet with the spiritual leader of the world’s 200 million Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, whose headquarters, for historical reasons, are in Istanbul.

Ahh yes, "historical reasons". That wouldn't be a ephemism for being caught in the middle of Violent Islamic Conquest would it?

Of course not, because that would be a gross distortion of Islamand I might have to demand an apology!

Come on folks, I mean you don't have to get on the hate Islam bandwagon, but could we at least drop the pretenses that this is some kind of historically peaceful religion? I mean we're not talking about one major flub, nor are we talking about something that isn't continuing today. It's not necessarily a reason not to be Muslim even - you don't have to be a peacetik to believe in God. But, shouldn't we show a little bit of deference to an Emperor who's empire was mowed down by a group citing that group as an example of violent conquest?

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 celebrations and reflections

We had a pretty smooth bell service for 9/11 commemoration. The little neighborhood we're in had like... 13 deaths? All the Churches rang their bells at once at 8:46 today, the time of the first hit five years ago. It really brings home how much moral high ground we've lost since then... the squandered opportunity we had to make the world a little more humane place.

According to me we squandered the opportunity precisely because we reacted humanly and not divinely. The old addage that forgiveness is divine I think stems from the fact that it's not real normal... we have to want to do it in spite of our gut instincts. The power comes from the conviction that in spite of iniquity and bads heaped upon us that there will be justice eventually, that it is inescapable, and that is what allows us to let go of the need to visit justice through our own methods.

Had the US chosen this path, the path of forgiveness and reconciliation and addressing the roots of such terror, I dare say the world would look a little better now, and our legacy as a nation would be completely different as our time in the sun dims into the memory of posterity. Hopefully people will look at our example and the next great people, or even us if we still have greatness in us, will know next time that the eye for an eye method, however ethical it may seem, in the end renders a more hostile and evil place than the two turned cheeks.

As it is we're just going to be another bully who got hit on the playground and decided to beat up some little kids rather than grow up. Perhaps that's the saddest legacy of Sep. 11th, the squandered opportunity.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Best folk song ever?

I think my all-time favorite folksong is Johnny Cash' version of Long Black Veil. I encourage you all to get a cd with this on it and listen. If you can't find Cash, then try my list of other artists who have recorded the song. I have also included the Wikipedia article, because it's cool. The song has a moaning rhythm that really puts you into the simple, adjectivally sparse tale that it tells.

Lyrics for Long Black Veil

Ten years ago, on a cold dark night
Someone was killed, 'neath the town hall light
There were few at the scene, but they all agreed
That the slayer who ran, looked a lot like me

The judge said son, what is your alibi
If you were somewhere else, then you won't have to die
I spoke not a word, thou it meant my life
For I'd been in the arms of my best friend's wife

She walks these hills in a long black veil
She visits my grave when the night winds wail
Nobody knows, nobody sees
Nobody knows but me

Oh, the scaffold is high and eternity's near
She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear
But late at night, when the north wind blows
In a long black veil, she cries ov're my bones

Repeat Chorus

Long Black Veil (song)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Long Black Veil (disambiguation).
"Long Black Veil" is a 1959 country music ballad about a man who is suspected of murder. The alleged is unable to provide an alibi, because he was having an affair with his best friend's wife at the time, and would rather die than reveal this. Subsequently, he is executed by hanging, taking their secret to the grave. The chorus describes the woman's mourning visits to his gravesite in her long black veil. The song is sung from the point of view of the executed man.

Originally recorded in Nashville in 1959 by country music singer Lefty Frizzell, and produced by Don Law, it reached #6 on the U.S. Country chart. The song was written by composer and singer Danny Dill with Marijohn Wilkin in a folk music style in 1959. Wilkin also played piano on the original recording by Frizzell.

The writers later stated that they drew on three sources for their inspiration: Red Foley's recording of "God Walks These Hills With Me"; a contemporary newspaper report about the unsolved murder of a priest; and the legend of a mysterious veiled woman who regularly visited Rudolph Valentino's grave. Dill himself called it an "instant folksong".

The song was a departure from Frizzell's previous Honky Tonk style and was a deliberate move toward the current popularity of folk-styled material and the burgeoning Nashville Sound.

It has become a 'standard' and has been covered by a variety of artists in country, folk and rock styles. It appeared on landmark albums by Johnny Cash and The Band in 1968 (see list below), and charted again in 1999 with the Dave Matthews Band.

Early in her career, Joan Baez incorporated the song into her live repertoire, and recorded it twice (see list below).

The song has been performed by Bruce Springsteen on his 2006 Seeger Sessions Band Tour.

Selected list of recorded versions
1959 Lefty Frizzell - US Country single #6
1960 The Country Gentlemen - Country Songs, Old and New
1962 The Kingston Trio, New Frontier
1962 Burl Ives, The Versatile Burl Ives
1963 Joan Baez, Joan Baez in Concert, Part 2
1965 Johnny Cash, Orange Blossom Special
1968 Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison - US Pop album #13, US Country album #1, UK album #1
1968 The Band, Music from Big Pink - US Pop album #30
1968 Burl Ives, Times They Are A-Changin'
1970 Joan Baez, (I Live) One Day at a Time
1970 Bill Monroe, Kentucky Bluegrass
1970 Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash 1970
1972 New Riders of the Purple Sage, Gypsy Cowboy
1980 Jimmy Ellis aka Orion
1984 Marianne Faithfull, Rich Kid Blues - originally recorded 1971
1986 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Kicking Against the Pricks
1995 The Chieftains with Mick Jagger (vocal), The Long Black Veil
1995 Don Williams, Borrowed Tales
1999 Mike Ness, Cheating at Solitaire
1999 Dave Matthews Band, Listener Supported - US Pop album #15
2000 Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Tony Rice, The Pizza Tapes - originally recorded in 1993
2000 Daryle Singletary That's Why I Sing This Way
2000 John Duffey, Always In Style: A Collection
2002 Jason & The Scorchers, Wildfires + Misfires
The Stanley Brothers
John Anderson
Bobby Bare
Chris Ledoux
Banks & Shane

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A little different start

Well, classes have been going since last Thursday, although in all fairness Monday is the real beginning. I'm signed up for by far my smallest load thus far, but it's cool - I've taken an extreme excess every semester until now in order to clear up some tome for grad prep.

I've been quite preoccupied with a couple of issues recently, one of which I've only fully divulged to a couple of friends here. It's crazy how schizophrenic we can get over completely unrelated issues. But, whatever the psychology behind the thing, I'm like Frodo described himself after carrying the ring a while: "like too little butter spread across too much toast."

The previous two years I've come here and thought "wow, I can't wait to begin". This time out it's different. I'm more of the mindset that I can wait to finish. I've enjoyed my time here for the most part, but as with so many thing in life, its optimum time is passing. My mind has moved on slightly before my qualifications have. I'll have to be doubly invested in order to make out the way I should this year.

The cultural DNA of the place has changed as well. This year there are far fewer traditional Orthodox types, plus there is only one Indian and one Antiochene; groups that have typically accounted for half or more of the student body since I've been here. Instead we've got a smattering of Catholics, Melkites, Syrians, Ethiopians, and all sorts of others. It's an interesting change, I'm curious as to how it will all turn out. Ecumenism and Pan-Orthodoxy are part of the mission statement here, so I guess we'll get our chance ot figure out how well we can measure up to our stated ideals.

Incidentally my intership with the WCC starts soon. That will also be a good barometer of how well I measure up in all things Ecumenical.