Thursday, April 28, 2005

Other Items of Note

I haven't blogged in a while.  I apologize to my devoted readers (I'm pretty sure I know who you are).  So, I have two entries today.  I want to take this opportunity to praise Al Gore.  Gosh I wish he was my president.  He speaks his heart, and he is dedicated to the values I hold dear, tolerance and freedom of thought and spirit.  Tolerance does not mean you cannot oppose the aims and machinations of intolerant zealots.  Tolerance does not mean you cannot demonize the demonic.  Because we believe in inclusion and harmony does not mean we cannot oppose those factions which believe in the opposite--or only believe it within the narrow confines of a species of ideological fascism. 

Microsoft Caves to Homophobia

I love Microsoft products.  Although Microsoft has been a vicious corporate competitor and has essentially built a software monopoly, it has been a boon to computer users--offering a platform that is intuitive.  It has also imposed an industry standard--creating more stability throughout the computer industry.  It has also been good for the region.  Millions have poured into the local economy, taking Seattle from a dingy backwater to a world-class city (with some help from Boeing and Kurt Cobain).  So, their klutzy backpedaling on the Washington Gay Rights Bill is disappointing.  It would be unconscionable if they didn't have such a superb track record with their own employees.  But they do.  So in this instance I feel I must take the position that they caved to uncertainty, trying to weigh the balance between their corporate welfare and their devotion to progress in the world.  It is an understandable mistake and I forgive them.  We learn through failure.  I will not abandon my Windows XP and MS Word.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Il Papa: Cardinal Rapsinger

German prelate Cardinal Ratzinger has been selected as the next pope of 1 billion catholics worldwide.  Ratzinger was the architect of the anti-gay, anti reform policies of the vatican over the past 25 years, which led to the deposition of the beloved archbishop of Seattle, Raymond Hunthausen, among other events, such as the excommunication of gays and politicians who vote in favor of abortion rights, and forbidding catholics to take communion with Lutherans.  Ratzinger was the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern iteration of the Inquisition.  He is a divisive figure who will do nothing to reform the church and will increase feelings of discontent among more progressively minded people of good will.  This is a good thing for Christians--because it inspires people to seek their own relationship with God rather than relying on a human intermediary.  Anything that destabilizes the central authority of the church is a good thing because it increases human willingness to look within for answers.  God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Novus Ordo Saeclorum

Currently reading Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, which is timely as it occurs during a papal conclave.  In the book, Brown has his hero state that the motto of the Great Seal of the United States: "Novus Ordo Saeclorum" means "new world order."  According to my research, it does not.  Apparently, the phrase translates as "a new order of the ages," meant to infer the establishment of American Independence in 1776.  The phrase, like annuit coeptis, is borrowed from the poet Virgil.  Notice the Roman numerals on the base of the unfinished pyramid--1776.  The unfinished pyramid itself, is symbolic of the foundation of the nation, and the phrase Annuit Coeptis means "He has favored our undertaking."  So, far from being secular and crypto-masonic, the Great Seal is a symbolic representation of the spirit of the founding of the United States.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Amityville Redux

Only the most credulous among us still believe that the story of what happened to Lutz family inside their house located in Amityville, Long Island, is true.  However, the hoax wasn't exposed for several years after the publication of Jay Anson's phenomenally successful bestseller, The Amityville Horror, which gave birth to a movie of the same name.  By that time, the story had reached millions, and they couldn't be bothered with something as mundane as the truth.  Part of the delicious thrill of reading the book and getting the bajeezus scared out of one, was the creepy "non-fiction" designation on the spine.  Though the book is a very entertaining read, in 1979, two years after the book's publication and subsequent rise to bestseller status, lawyer William Weber confessed that the entire story had been cooked up by him and George Lutz over a bottle of Merlot.  Weber had been the lawyer for Ronald DeFeo, who annihilated his family in the house in 1974.  Weber apparently was willing to grasp at any straw to get a new trial for his client, or a reduced sentence.  Lutz was suffering under an enormous mortgage payment he wanted to get out from under ($80,000 in '70's money--with interest rates at 16%). 

Jay Anson put the brew into print and caused an international sensation.  Then came the movie with Margot Kidder and James Brolin--a not very good movie that spawned a bevvy of mediocre sequels.  Now the story gets a new treatment, with state of the art Hollywood effects, for those who were not yet born when the original was released.

One more thing--did you ever notice the similarities between The Amityville Horror and The Shining?  Both center around gothic, haunted structures, ghosts of families which have been murdered, and most coincidentally, a father who is possessed and goes gradually insane.  Both books were published in 1977.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Saul Bellow, RIP

Somber mood this morning.  Woke up with yet another leg infection (I've had several in the past few years).  And to the news that Saul Bellow had passed, having attained the age of 89 years.  He'd lived a life of accolades and accomplishment, having risen from writing book reviews to winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.  So one must celebrate a life well spent, talents well used.  We can aspire to such in our own way within what limitations chance has inflicted upon us.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

The Holy Pigsty

It occurs to me that I was far too full of the milk of human kindness  in yesterday's post.  Therefore, I shall discase my more negative self to rail against the injustices and inequities in this world, as represented by the office of the Papacy.  The Pope is an artifact of the middle ages, shellacked with some Renaissance frou-frou, as much an anachronism as a thumbscrew or an iron maiden.  The Pope is no different from any other despot, say,  Saddam Hussein, who believes himself to have the one truth against which all other concepts shall be judged and found wanting.  I have no more personal grief over this Pope's death at 84 years than I do over road kill.  I thank God Almighty that my ancestors turned away from that gross indecency called Roman Catholicism and embraced the teachings of Martin Luther.

Monday, April 4, 2005

Two Great Men

Two men in their eighties have passed away now in the first half of 2005 and let's pause for a moment to consider their similarities and differences, their legacies and impact upon the world.  Both were born in the turbulent years following World War I.  Both were well-educated but even so, chose to work in the theater.  One went on to become one of the most accomplished playwrights of his generation, the other forsook the footlights to head an organization with members in possibly every nation and every continent on earth.  Both of their works will be remembered five hundred years hence: playwright Arthur Miller and Pope John-Paul II.

Of the two, I know the work of Arthur Miller better.  Miller was an artist who understood religion and its impact on society.  In his forward to The Crucible, Miller explained that religion, as practiced in the West, had a long history of demonizing sexuality; to the point that sexuality itself has been considered so sinful and unclean that only the narrowest of circumstances permitted its expression. 

Pope John-Paul II was the enforcer of those sensibilities.  I loved the image of the Pope schussing down alpine ski slopes, but it has been decades since he was physically able to do that.  In his pastoral capacity he was gentle, kind, and loving.  But in his sanctimonious moral screed, he echoed millennia of sublimated fears about human sexuality, from birth control to homosexuality.  In his most recent book he called gay marriage part of a "culture of evil."  Homosexuals have replaced witches and heretics in the modern church. 

We hope that the cardinals will choose a more moderate and embracing figure for their next leader.  However, this papacy was so lengthy that most of these cardinals were themselves elevated by John-Paul II, and presumably share his views, so that is unlikely.

I recently read that the composer Schubert, when writing the credo for one of his masses, omitted the words, "I believe in one holy catholic church."  Because he didn't.  I concur with his sentiment.