Sunday, August 27, 2006

Difficult passage.

I did the readings at church this morning. Both lessons were difficult: the Old Testament lesson was about the exclusiveness of Israel as God's chosen, and the New Testament reading was about a husband's and wife's duty to one another. This was the second week in a row that the pastor (a visiting priest covering the regular rector's vacation) mentioned the fact that these difficult and often controversial readings are placed in the liturgical calendar in the middle of August, when everyone is on vacation and can "miss" them.

He then went on to preach about the need to analyze and contemplate what these difficult passages mean to modern Christians. These are lessons that have been interpreted literally and used to maintain the legitimacy of reactionary or conservative power structures, particularly sexist, patriarchal hierarchies. However, the story of Christ is certainly not about maintaining the status quo. Thus, there is an obvious contradiction here. One explanation, the reverend said, was that the revolutionary rhetoric of early Christians was tempered by language in the epistles to demonstrate that Christians were not threatening to turn the world upside down. Another approach he suggested to these lessons is to alter the assumptions about the very language used, and to see the imagery of the writings more broadly. The point is, the sermon challenged us to think carefully and contemplatively about the lessons.

This addresses a problem I have from both ends of Christianity. On the one hand, as a (nominal, at least) Christian, I do get frustrated with people who assume that all Christians are creationists who hate science. On the other hand, I often want to put as much distance as I can between myself and fundamentalists who see all questioning of scripture as heresy. Faith is not the negation of inquiry, it is the starting point for it. I got interested in the Church because of the intellectual discipline and philosophical examination that are an integral part of it. I do not think that we are obliged by our faith to accept the conclusions that earlier observers came to regarding the interpretation of scripture, the nature of God, or the questions of how we get along with one another. The observance of faith, that is the practice of religion, does not give us answers to life's problems, it gives us an approach to use in figuring things out for ourselves.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Am I missing something?

I just read a news item about the young woman who recently freed herself from captivity in Austria after eight years. The police investigators on the case are trying to determine if the sexual contact her kidnapper had with her was "consensual or forced." I always thought Austria had a fairly advanced legal system, so I can't imagine under what circumstances anything done by a girl abducted when she was ten years old could be considered consensual. Not that it matters much, now, since the cowardly bastard who did it killed himself.

Drastic change of topic.

I just got back from a long walk around JP. I was surprised to see that the real estate office that had burned down last week re-opened in a new location. They were obviously ready to open before the fire. I'm not sure what relevance this could have to the fire, but I found it curious that it wasn't mentioned in any of the news stories I read.

Also, I had a couple of pints and picked up some take out from my favorite neighborhood place last night. Aside from coming home smelling like I had spent the night inside a wood burning stove, the place was back to its old self.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"Clutching forks and knives"

On this day in 1967, Abbie Hoffman and some friends disrupted trading on the NYSE by tossing dollar bills onto the exchange floor from the gallery. The traders rushed to collect the falling manna from the skies, evidently deciding that a buck in the hand is worth ten on the big board.

On a completely unrelated note, it has always struck me as odd that underperforming public schools are threatened with having their funding cut. If a child comes home from school with a "D" on her report card, you don't take away her books.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I saw a very disturbing item in the national news briefs yesterday. Evidently, the Bush administration is “retroactively” classifying the number of nuclear weapons the United States had stockpiled during the cold war. According to the story (in the national news briefs of the August 21st Boston Globe), documents that reference the number of nuclear weapons held by the US during the Cold War now have the numbers blacked out. These figures were formerly public information. (See this story in the Times.)

I find this discouraging in two ways. First, it is frightening in the Orwellian sense. When politicians start manipulating and obfuscating historical records, we take one step closer to the memory holes of 1984. Soon we will see high school history books that talk about the US, England and Germany fighting the French and the Soviet Union in World War II.

Second, this kind of pointless secrecy has been the hallmark of every incompetent employer I have ever worked for. Discretion is one thing, but playing everything close to the vest simply because you don’t actually know what you can and can’t afford to reveal shows a lack of vision. Who knows what the Bush administration thinks it stands to gain by suddenly making history secret? The disturbing truth is that even the people responsible for this decision likely don't have a clue.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Both ends burning

I think somebody is trying to burn my city down. Over the last year there have been two firebombings targeting properties owned by Greek-American landlords. Then last week there was a fire right around the corner that put my favorite pub out of commission for a few days, and completely destroyed a dentist's office and a pizza parlor. Now (last night) a suspicious fire destroyed a real estate office and a nail salon at the other end of JP. (Granted, the fire closest to me is the only one that I haven't heard any speculation about regarding arson.) I'm pretty sure the most recent one was also a property owned by the same Greek-American family targeted in the earlier two fires.

I keep walking past charred out shells of formerly thriving businesses; I feel like I'm living in Detroit.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Alone in the crowd

I went to Bill's Bar last night to see my wife's cousin's band (The Herocycle) play. The band sounded great, and in spite of being seven people crammed onto a tiny, crowded stage they managed to put out a good amount of energy while playing.

What drove me bat-shit insane (an expression I've appropriated from the missus) was the ridiculous volume at which the club pumps the between-band music. No one needs that. Between sets is when people are supposed to be able to have a little conversation with each other and the bands are supposed to schmooze with the crowd. I spent most of the night trying to read people's lips. I finally gave up and sat at a corner table with a dopey smile plastered across my face waiting for the band to come back on.

Hint to Bills' Bar: It shouldn't be easier for people to talk over the band than it is to chat between sets. And don't get me wrong - I love loud music. I've stopped going to shows at places like the Tweeter Center and the Bank of America Pavilion because those big corporate tent places tone it down so much I end up hearing more of the conversations three rows away than I do of the band. I miss Bunratty's.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Just a test

I just want to test something. Can you see the bear?

Me and a grizzly.

Hey. Looks good. I just wanted to see if that worked. Back to your regularly scheduled summer.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Summer summer summer

It's probably as close to a perfect summer day as you can get in New England right now. Almost no humidity, 73 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky. I've got about three hours of sunlight left, so I'm going to get out of this office, pick something easy up for dinner (to cook, that is - not for company), and wait for the missus to get back from the gym.

It's been a good summer so far, and it should segue into a nice fall. I'm doing my back-to-school shopping this Friday, and I hope to be house (or condo) shopping in January.