Archive for July, 2010

I’m still hoping I don’t have to post the above cartoon.*

The success in plugging the oil well in the Gulf of Mexico seems to be holding.  And today’s news looks hopeful for a permanent fix: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/us/01spill.html?_r=2&hp

Let’s keep praying that this thing gets behind us soon so I don’t need to put up that cartoon, excellent as it is.

*Irony, considered a form of humor, is funny only to some.  Your tastes may vary.

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So the question is not whether WikiLeaks broke the law or not; the question is whether it’s treason, and on a more abstract level whether it’s in our national interest for them to expose the weaknesses of our own intelligence systems.

Who left the front door open, anyway? 

Should we shoot the messenger?  I mean, if WikiLeaks can break in to top security, why can’t al Qaeda?  Should we know whether it’s possible for terrorists to get in? 

The difference, I suppose, is that WikiLeaks published the stuff; and what’s worse, embarrassed people who aren’t paid to feel embarrassed.  And, oh yes; exposed other crimes, allegedly by our own government. 

Al Qaeda is sneakier and will not do us any favors; they will not publish it to let us know they broke in.

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One of the blogsurfing finds lately (iMonk) has been a poem by John Oxenham entitled “Credo”.  This followed a discussion about the Culture Wars that got only a little off-topic.  Here is a bit of the discussion, edited:

[someone named Steve said]:  “…I should know – I used to be that person. I was more interested in the knowledge of good and evil than I was interested in the relationship with God. Therefore, I needed my knowledge to be inerrant, because I wanted to play on God’s turf and successfully ‘manage’ my relationship with Him.

Thanks be to God that ‘the Truth shall set you free’ is a statement about Jesus, not a statement about other statements.”

[Ray said, replying to Steve]:  “I think you might have just hit the heart of the matter.  I can remember how much my world expanded when Truth went from being a proposition to a Person in my life.  So many things were tipped on their heads and it was both wonderful and terrifying at the same time…”

[then I said, replying to Ray]:  “Ray, something you said startled me because it’s almost exactly what a physician friend once told me [this was Lou, for you locals].

You said, ‘I can remember how much my world expanded when Truth went from being a proposition to a Person in my life.’

My friend said, ‘My medical practice took a quantum leap when I realized that I should be treating the person and not the disease.’

Eye-opening, isn’t it?”

[then someone named David said nothing, but posted this poem]:

Not what, but WHOM, I do believe,
That, in my darkest hour of need,
Hath comfort that no mortal creed
To mortal man may give;–
Not what, but WHOM!
For Christ is more than all the creeds,
And His full life of gentle deeds
Shall all the creeds outlive.
Not what I do believe, but WHOM!
WHO walks beside me in the gloom?
WHO shares the burden wearisome?
WHO all the dim way doth illume,
And bids me look beyond the tomb
The larger life to live?–
Not what I do believe,
Not what,

John Oxenham’s Poem: Credo

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I took a final exam today for a distance-learning theology course (only one more brief paper to go).  Studying theology doesn’t give all the answers, but it does at least help to understand the questions better.  And maybe the computer will help…   And by now I’m pretty sure that God is more than sour cream, sauer kraut, chives and bacon bits… 

Bloom County was my favorite cartoon back in the late ‘eighties.  Here we have Oliver Wendell Jones, boy genius, on his “Banana Junior” computer (note the 5 1/4″ floppy disk, which preceded the already-obsolete 3 1/2″) trying to find answers to eternal questions.

Seek and ye shall find.  Keep askin’ and God will tell you, with or without a Banana Junior.

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Vive la France

Leave it to the Americans to produce one of the most stirring interpretations of the French national anthem ever.    

In this clip of the wartime film Casablanca (only the greatest film ever made) we first watch a conversation between night club owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), who is trying to convince Rick to help him and his wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman)—with whom Rick will always have Paris—flee the country.  Nazi Germany controls Casablanca indirectly through its control of Vichy France, and the Germans have put a price on Laszlo’s head. 

During the futile negotiation with Rick, Laszlo hears the German officers in the Café singing Die Wacht am Rhein, a German patriotic song.  Laszlo orders the band to play the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, bringing the hall to its feet not only in a battle of the bands but a battle between freedom and tyranny.  The Germans lose this round; Laszlo regains his wife’s adoration; and Rick’s Café Américain is ordered shut down by the Germans through their French proxy, Captain Louis Renault. 

“I am Shocked!” says Captain Renault (Claude Rains), “Shocked! to find that gambling is going on in here!”

The patriotic effect of this scene rivals the performance of Edelweiss by Captain von Trapp and his family in The Sound of Music.  Same time, same evil empire, same spirit of freedom.  Let it ring.

Happy Bastille Day from the USA. 

[Technical problemHmmm…  YouTube has disabled embedding on this film clip for some reason, so click on the following link and it should take you right there]:    



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My People 

by Langston Hughes


The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.








by Eloise Greenfield


Went to the corner
Walked in the store
Bought me some candy
Ain’t got it no more
Ain’t got it no more

Went to the beach
Played on the shore
Built me a sandhouse
Ain’t got it no more
Ain’t got it no more

Went to the kitchen
Lay down on the floor
Made me a poem
Still got it
Still got it


Ashley - by Christina

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In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it anymore.’’

So begins Hemingway’s short story In Another Country.

In many of his stories we see a story within.  Here we have a snapshot of two patients in a military hospital in Milan during World War I.  An American officer, wounded in the leg, narrates.  He is serving on the Italian side, presumably before U.S. entry into the war, and is befriended by an Italian major who is wounded in the hand.  Both men come frequently to the hospital for therapy, which is aided by experimental machines. 

The major’s relative patience teaching Italian grammar to the American contrasts with his unexpected outburst at the American’s talk of marriage.  This becomes explained later; his young wife has recently died of pneumonia, without warning, and the major doesn’t know how to handle his grief. 

The segment comes about three-fourths of the way through the story.

The major, who had been a great fencer, did not believe in bravery, and spent much time while we sat in the machines correcting my grammar. He had complimented me on how I spoke Italian, and we talked together very easily. One day I had said that Italian seemed such an easy language to me that I could not take a great interest in it; everything was so easy to say. ‘Ah, yes,’ the major said. ‘Why, then, do you not take up the use of grammar?’ So we took up the use of grammar, and soon Italian was such a difficult language that I was afraid to talk to him until I had the grammar straight in my mind.

The major came very regularly to the hospital. I do not think he ever missed a day, although I am sure he did not believe in the machines. There was a time when none of us believed in the machines, and one day the major said it was all nonsense. The machines were new then and it was we who were to prove them. It was an idiotic idea, he said, ‘a theory like another’. I had not learned my grammar, and he said I was a stupid impossible disgrace, and he was a fool to have bothered with me. He was a small man and he sat straight up in his chair with his right hand thrust into the machine and looked straight ahead at the wall while the straps thumbed up and down with his fingers in them.

‘What will you do when the war is over if it is over?’ he asked me. ‘Speak grammatically!’
“I will go to the States.’
‘Are you married?’
‘No, but I hope to be.’
‘The more a fool you are,’ he said. He seemed very angry. ‘A man must not marry.’
‘Why, Signor Maggiore?’
‘Don’t call me Signor Maggiore.’
‘Why must not a man marry?’
‘He cannot marry. He cannot marry,’ he said angrily. ‘If he is to lose everything, he should not place himself in a position to lose that. He should not place himself in a position to lose. He should find things he cannot lose.’
He spoke very angrily and bitterly, and looked straight ahead while he talked.
‘But why should he necessarily lose it?’
‘He’ll lose it,’ the major said. He was looking at the wall. Then he looked down at the machine and jerked his little hand out from between the straps and slapped it hard against his thigh. ‘He’ll lose it,’ he almost shouted. ‘Don’t argue with me!’ Then he called to the attendant who ran the machines. ‘Come and turn this damned thing off.'”

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Over on another blog (all right, it’s internetmonk) there has been a discussion about the Evils of Socialism and where Jesus might stand on this.  Or not.  It doesn’t seem to be an issue in the Bible. 

It seems that not only has A Popular Radio Personality (all right, it’s Rush) been whipping up his faithful into an anti-Obama frenzy (did he need to try?) but A Popular Evangelist (Charles Stanley) has revived the anti-socialist agenda.  It seems that socialism (we thought the USSR finally put a stake it the heart of that one) is what will “ultimately destroy the way of life that you and I have” and will “attempt to squash the religious devotion and worship of the people of God.”

And the campaigning hasn’t even begun.  It is, you’ll remember, an election year. 

I’m encouraged by those cartoon theologians at Veggie-Tales, in their song that teaches about God’s sovereignty:  “God is bigger than the boogie man/He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV/Oh, God is bigger than the boogie man/And He’s watching out for you and me.”

If there really is a bogeyman, he’s in the form of the fearmonger and the hatemonger.  And he may even do it in God’s name.

Can’t wait for the fall campaigning.

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The Declaration of Independence may be the most successful essay ever written.  And had it failed, it would still be gorgeous literature.  It would have looked great chiseled on Jefferson’s tombstone after the British had hung him.

There is another matter that the Founding Fathers must have felt the need to contend with too, an authority higher than the British Crown:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13: 1-4)

How might the Founding Fathers have handled Romans 13?  This chapter in the Bible has been used and abused by ruling powers for centuries, including an officially atheist Soviet Union to bully its Orthodox believers into submission.

  • “For there is no authority except from God…”
  • “… [Rulers] have been instituted by God.”
  • “…what God has appointed…”
  • “…rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.”
  • “…he [the ruler] is God’s servant…”
  • “…he is the servant of God…”

But what happens when they ain’t?

The Apostle Paul makes a very large point that all rulers are appointed by God, servants to do God’s will, that whoever resists the authorities–British or otherwise–resists what God has appointed.  They “are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.”  Except when they ain’t…  So what then?

Paul lived in the time of the Roman Emperor Nero, who terrorized innocent people.  Paul was born around the time of Herod the Great, who terrorized innocent people, even slaughtering all male babies born at the time of the birth of Jesus, to prevent a rival to the throne.  Paul also had—fresh in his cultural memory—the atrocities of Antiochus Epiphanes, who massacred tens of thousands of innocent people, outlawed the Jewish religion, and desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem by slaughtering a pig on the altar—which led to a popular revolt and the institution of Hanukkah.  How could Paul say that rulers are not a terror?

When Paul said that, did he mean it ironically, as Shakespeare did with Antony’s speech (“Brutus is an honourable man.”)?  Was he reminding rulers that they have been put on the throne by God and can as easily be removed by God—or by others doing God’s will?  Too often, I think, we take Romans 13 merely as a directive to obey the governing authorities blindly, though this may run counter to other parts of the Bible:  “But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’” (Acts 4:19-20)

In other words, is there a built-in loophole to Romans 13?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

“…it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and others who drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence were all well-acquainted with Romans 13.  A man couldn’t be educated in that period without thorough knowledge of the Bible and the classics.  They needed to consider not only the political and fiscal conservatives who would balk at a rebellion that could jeopardize their wealth, but also the religious conservatives who might point to this chapter of the Bible in defense of the British Crown.  But I think it was an easier sell to make on biblical grounds than on political and fiscal ones.  If the rebellion failed, God could forgive.  The King’s army, and the banks, would not.

And so here we are, 234 years later.  Jefferson and friends may have been right.

Read the Declaration of Independence again, and the First Amendment.  Read Romans 13, have a slice of watermelon and a great Fourth of July.

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small minke whale

Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” Jonah replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” 

Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.  Then they cried to the LORD, “O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.”  Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.  At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.

But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.

People argue about whether it was a whale or a fish that swallowed Jonah, but it doesn’t matter because that’s not what the story is about.  Jonah rebelled against God and hopped aboard a ship bound for Spain, as far away from God as he thought he could get.  Then God got his attention with a storm, and something to save him from it—in one gulp.  Then Jonah did what the Lord, uh, requested. 

It wasn’t likely a minke or a finback that swallowed Jonah.  Their mouths are too small.  Whatever kind it was, we didn’t see it today.

Pardon the Friday ramblings. 

I brought the camera today in case we’d see a whale or two.  Heather and I went offshore to bring in the last load of traps that had been out near Mount Desert Rock all winter.  Time to dry them out and set them inshore for the summer and early fall. 

We did see one whale—a small minke who came and played around the boat while we were hauling the first triple.  I heard him exhale before I looked up and saw him, about 30 feet from the boat.  I told Heather to look toward the bow where I thought he’d come up again, while I scrambled for the camera.  He played around underneath the boat for a bit and then wandered off.  I did get a couple of shots, but we never saw him again. 

Last year, the first day Heather was out with me, we saw a half-dozen finbacks.  “No fair!” her sister Marya said.  Marya had fished with me for nearly a year after graduating from college, without seeing any.  Baby sisters get all the privileges…

A finback last year, near Mt Desert Rock. Note the boathouse still there, shortly before the seas from Hurricane Bill washed it away, and with hardly a breath of wind.

The long ride home


Stopped to chat with Joe on the way in.

 Have a great holiday weekend, and stay safe on the water.

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