Monday, February 28, 2011

Eco-wackos and dirt

From the last post to this--from the sublime to the ridiculous. But, when inspired...

I've once or twice been asked why I say that environmentalism isn't about keeping things clean. You know those nice young Sierra Club people who come to your door and talk about the Clean Water Act? You know the naive people who still believe that environmentalism is about having a cleaner environment, cleaner air, cleaner water? Well, they're wrong. Environmentalism is about having things less modern, less comfortable, and hence, dirtier. I could give lots of examples, but as a new example inspired this post, here it is, via Drudge:

Those low-flow toilets that the eco-wackos have tried to get installed everywhere to save water? Well, they are causing a terrible smell in San Francisco because of a build-up of bacteria in the pipes when the icky sludge isn't washed down by that small quantity of water. How nice. Get "environmentally friendly" toilets, and now your whole town can smell like a giant Port-a-Potty.

But it's "green." See? "Green" means more like camping out, more like foregoing first-world conditions of life. Which is exactly the opposite of cleanliness. In fact, it means being dirtier, smellier, more insanitary, more unsafe, and less human-friendly. Also expensive. (See the linked article on the cost of smell abatement.)

I think I'm going to tell that to the Sierra Club kids next time they come to the door to collect a donation for clean water: "Oh, you mean like in San Francisco where they now have to dump gallons and gallons of bleach into the water to disinfect it because of 'green' toilets? No thanks."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Said Musa released

Friends who read this blog know that personal reasons have kept me out of the blogosphere for a little while. I'm slowly trying to get things back to normal and will begin here with just the announcement that our brother in Christ, Said Musa, has been released from prison. (Probably all my readers knew this already.) Just a week ago I was praying for God to strengthen him and help him, through martyrdom if that was what it was to be. The report says that he is safe in another country. Praise God! I have heard that another convert to Christianity is still imprisoned and in danger of his life in Afghanistan but have not found out who that is. If you know, feel free to put that information in the comments.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Songs to Die For--Angel Band

My generous husband bought me a new Gospel music CD the other evening at Cracker Barrel--a bunch of hymns hand-picked by Bill Gaither. It contained a country song I'd never heard before called "Angel Band." (I know, I've been living in a cave.)

The particular performance on the CD doesn't appear to be on-line, but it does feature the immortal Vestal Goodman. So here's the nearest thing I could find: Vestal singing it with country legend George Jones. The video has a great story at the beginning about how Vestal "ran off the devil" when Jones was sunk into a severe depression:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Epiphany VI: We shall be like him

Another wonderful collect, apparently (according to Blunt) an original composition by John Cosin, Bishop of Durham at the Restoration.

O GOD, whose blessed Son was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil, and make us the sons of God, and heirs of eternal life; Grant us, we beseech thee, that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves, even as He is pure; that, when He shall appear again with power and great glory, we may be made like unto Him in His eternal and glorious kingdom; where with Thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, He liveth and reigneth ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Cosin's collect is obviously deliberately tied in with the Epistle reading for the day, that wonderful passage from I John 3:

BEHOLD, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

I tune my instrument at the door

Just thought of this poem today and wanted to post it. (This does not mean that I am ill. The line "I tune my instrument at the door" was just in my mind.)

John Donne, "Hymn to God, my God, in My Sickness"

SINCE I am coming to that Holy room,
Where, with Thy choir of saints for evermore,
I shall be made Thy music ; as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before ;

Whilst my physicians by their love are grown
Cosmographers, and I their map, who lie
Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown
That this is my south-west discovery,
Per fretum febris, by these straits to die ;

I joy, that in these straits I see my west ;
For, though those currents yield return to none,
What shall my west hurt me ? As west and east
In all flat maps—and I am one—are one,
So death doth touch the resurrection.

Is the Pacific sea my home ? Or are
The eastern riches ? Is Jerusalem ?
Anyan, and Magellan, and Gibraltar ?
All straits, and none but straits, are ways to them
Whether where Japhet dwelt, or Cham, or Shem.

We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ's cross and Adam's tree, stood in one place ;
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me ;
As the first Adam's sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam's blood my soul embrace.

So, in His purple wrapp'd, receive me, Lord ;
By these His thorns, give me His other crown ;
And as to others' souls I preach'd Thy word,
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own,
“Therefore that He may raise, the Lord throws down.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Double standards

I suppose it's a bit boring to talk about double standards, but this happens to be on my mind.

Why is it, do you suppose, that one virtually never hears a person who has a big "thing" about not giving U.S. aid to Israel talk about stopping giving money to the UN? Hmmm?

one of the many, many nifty things the UN is doing: Glorifying female terrorists as "women's role models." I know you're all shocked.

But seriously. The place where people begin talking about saving our tax dollars and cutting spending tells you a lot about their priorities.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Honor and the disciplines

It has been exactly twenty years since I was in graduate school getting a degree in English Literature. The state of the discipline was depressing then. Twenty years ago isn't "good old days" when it comes to English Literature.

I took one course entirely on Shakespeare's Richard III. That's a little narrow, but I got very familiar with Richard III, and the course was somewhat irritating but not crazy. I do not remember the professor's name, which is perhaps just as well, so I will call her Dr. N. She was ostensibly an academic conservative, and the word on the graduate student street was that her hiring had been considered something of a victory for the last of the old guard in the department, presumably because all of the other candidates were significantly crazier. She, personally, did not write articles with titles like "Queering Shakespeare," nor did she force us to read and write on such papers, and it was from this restraint that she presumably got her reputation for academic conservatism.

Each student had to make a short presentation on the paper he was writing for the course. One female fellow student was trying hard to learn the ways of the English lit. world, and she had grasped the fact that professors encouraged one to talk about gender roles in season and out. So her paper's thesis was going to be that Richard III displays a number of "stereotypically feminine qualities" such as the use of psychological manipulation.

I will never forget the moment when this ostensibly academically conservative professor gave the student a bit of hearty advice: "You need to be bolder. What you should do is write the paper instead claiming that Richard is a woman. Now that would probably get you a publication." Let me add that she was completely serious. This was practical advice. She was not being ironic.

Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut. In fact, as I recall, we were all a bit stunned. The students in the program seemed to me by and large more academically conservative than the professors, and no one quite knew what to say to this suggestion. Somehow, the class moved on.

For some reason this scene has come back to me recently, and I have allowed myself to write, mentally, what it would have been nice to be able to say to the professor. One could even hope that a little generous, youthful indignation might have shocked her into remembering the days of her own youth when, perhaps, she actually loved literature.

Here's one:
Dr. N., why do you advise L. to write that Richard is a woman? Is it because it's true? What would it even mean for such a statement to be true? If it isn't true, why do you suggest that she write it?
Here's another one:
Dr. N., let me get this straight. What you're saying here is that the plays of Shakespeare have no value apart from us. They are just opportunities for us to advance our careers by writing whatever tom-fool thoughts pop into our heads. Is that right?
Why am I doing this? Just out of grouchiness, just to complain, or just to be cruel to a former professor? I certainly hope not, though I'm as capable as anyone of mere grouchiness, complaint, or cruelty.

There is a point to be made here, though: If we academics are even to come close to justifying the prestige we have in society (and I don't think we can actually fully justify it, because academics have, in my opinion, too much prestige in Western society), we have to do worthwhile things, to love those things, and to have a deep desire to communicate those worthwhile things to other people. Nothing else will really do. If Philosophy and Literature (to take two examples) are just meaningless games we play to get career opportunities, they are nothing. It would be better for all the departments in the world to be closed than for the meaning of the disciplines to be reduced to the cynical pointlessness reflected in that professor's remark to that student.

Part of what it meant for there to be a "good old days," whenever those existed, in the academic world was that professors earned the respect accorded them. And they did so by knowing the value of what they did, a value apart from themselves and their careers and apart from their students' careers, and by passing on that value. Honor to all of you professors out there who still know and do that. You are the small candle to which students come--a vision of a world of learning and wisdom that is the only justification for a university.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

"Tear down this wall"

In honor of the hundredth anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth:

And remember--they tried to get him to take out that historic line, but he wouldn't.

Somehow, too, I don't think it would have been the same with a teleprompter!