Archive for March, 2011

Good to be home

Jeri and I were away for a week and a half, visiting Daughter Number Three in Italy.  The place is beautiful, it’s early spring over there, and the art and architecture are fantastic.  But it’s good to be home: 

To our humble abode on Maple Ave:

not really... this is il Duomo, the cathedral in Siena, just a few streets above the apartment that we rented


And to the harbor at Islesford.  That’s the Mailboat leaving after dropping us off:

Im joking of course. And I also stole Heathers photo of Venice. We didnt go there.


And to our faithful dog, Gracie:

This is really a bronze wolf, not a Husky-Lab mix. Shes nursing Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. These statues are everywhere in Siena.


And our precious cat, Little Sal:

All right, this is French, not Italian; but le chat noir is a tourist item even in Italy. And Little Sal really is black.

[Important disclaimer so I don’t get sued (or maybe now I will, for having admitted this):  None of these photos are mine because I haven’t uploaded  from the camera yet.  But these are probably better anyway…]

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In case you missed it last time, or even if you didn’t:  The dinner scene from the movie Big Night.  Great music, great visuals, great humor and the best food you’ll ever…see.  




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This thing makes a lot more sense if you’ve had Marv Wilson for a professor.  I found it on friend Peg’s blog, who got it from Jesus the Radical Pastor. 

I think this could offend just about everybody.  But only if they have no sense of humor.  🙂  

The Meaning of “STOP”

Hermeneutics in Everyday Life
by Tim Perry, Durham University.

 Suppose you’re traveling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do? That depends on how you exegete the stop sign.

1. A postmodernist deconstructs the sign (knocks it over with his car), ending forever the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.

2. Similarly, a Marxist refuses to stop because he sees the stop sign as an instrument of class conflict. He concludes that the bourgeois use the north-south road and obstruct the progress of the workers in the east-west road.

3. A serious and educated Catholic rolls through the intersection because he believes he cannot understand the stop sign apart from its interpretive community and tradition.

Observing that the interpretive community doesn’t take it too seriously, he doesn’t feel obligated to take it too seriously either.

4. An average Catholic (or Orthodox or Coptic or Anglican or Methodist or Presbyterian or whatever) doesn’t bother to read the sign but he’ll stop if the car in front of him does.

5. A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and waits for it to tell him to go.

6. A seminary-educated evangelical preacher might look up “STOP” in his lexicons of English and discover that it can mean:

1)  something which prevents motion, such as a plug for a drain, or a block of wood that prevents a door from closing;

2)  location where a train or bus lets off passengers. The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: when you see a stop sign, it is a place where traffic is naturally clogged, so it is a good place to let off passengers from your car.

7. An orthodox Jew does one of two things:

a)  Take another route to work that doesn’t have a stop sign so that he doesn’t run the risk of disobeying the Law;

b)  Stop at the sign, say “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who
hast given us thy commandment to stop,” wait 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceed.

Incidentally, the Talmud has the following comments on this passage:

            Rabbi Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long.

            Rabbi Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding.

            Rabbi Simon ben Yudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.

            Rabbi ben Issac says: Because of the three patriarchs.

            Rabbi Yehuda says: Why bless the Lord at a stop sign? Because it says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

            Rabbi Hezekiel says: When Jephthah returned from defeating the Ammonites, the Holy One, blessed be He, knew that a donkey would run out of the house and overtake his daughter, but Jephthah did not stop at the stop sign, and the donkey did not have time to come out. For this reason he saw his daughter first and lost her. Thus he was judged for his transgression at the stop sign.

            Rabbi Gamaliel says: R. Hillel, when he was a baby, never spoke a word, though his parents tried to teach him by speaking and showing him the words on a scroll. One day his father was driving through town and did not stop at the sign. Young Hillel called out: “Stop, father!” In this way, he began reading and speaking at the same time. Thus it is written: “Out of the mouths of babes.”

            Rabbi ben Jacob says: Where did the stop sign come from? Out of the sky, for it is written: “Forever, O Lord, your word is fixed in the heavens.”

            Rabbi Ben Nathan says: Where were the stop signs created? On the fourth day, for it is written: “Let them serve as signs.”

            Rabbi Yeshuah says….[continues for three more pages]

8. A Lubavitcher rabbi (Pharisee) does the same thing as an orthodox Jew, except that he waits 10 seconds instead of 3. He also replaces his brake lights with 1000 watt searchlights and connects his horn so that it is activated whenever he touches the brake pedal. He also works out the gematria of shin-tav-pey (S-T-(O)-P) and takes it to mean that the Rebbe Schneersohn, of blessed memory, will be resurrected as the Messiah after he has stopped at this intersection 780 times.

9. A scholar from the Jesus Seminar concludes that the passage “STOP” undoubtedly was never uttered by Jesus himself because being the progressive Jew that He was, He would never have wanted to stifle peoples’ progress. Therefore, STOP must be a textual insertion belonging entirely to stage III of the gospel tradition, when the church was first confronted by traffic in its parking lot.

10. A NT scholar notices that there is no stop sign on Mark street but there is one on Matthew and Luke streets, and concludes that the ones on Luke and Matthew streets are both copied from a sign on a street no one has ever seen called “Q” Street. There is an excellent 300 page doctoral dissertation on the origin of these stop signs and the differences between stop signs on Matthew and Luke street in the scholar’s commentary on the passage. There is an unfortunate omission in the dissertation, however; it doesn’t explain the meaning of the text!

11. An OT scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second half of the passage “STOP.” For example, “ST” contains no enclosed areas and 5 line endings, whereas “OP” contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the author for the second part is different from the author of the first part and probably lived hundreds of years later. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the “O” and the “P”.

12. Another prominent OT scholar notes in his commentary that the stop sign would fit better into the context three streets back. (Unfortunately, he neglected to explain why in his commentary.) Clearly it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus exegetes the intersection as though the sign were not there.

13. Because of the difficulties in interpretation, another OT scholar amends the text, changing the “T” to “H”. “SHOP” is much easier to understand in context than “STOP” because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because “SHOP” is so similar to “STOP” on the sign several streets back, that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a shopping area. If this is true, it could indicate that both meanings are valid, thus making the thrust of the message “STOP (AND) SHOP.”

14. A “prophetic” preacher notices that the square root of the sum of the numeric representations of the letters S-T-O-P (sigma-tau-omicron-pi in the Greek alphabet), multiplied by 40 (the number of testing), and divided by four (the number of the world–north, south, east, and west), equals 666. Therefore, he concludes that stop signs are the dreaded “mark of the beast,” a harbinger of divine judgment upon the world, and must be avoided at all costs.

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Sorry I can’t be there, guys!  But I’ve set this to post automatically while I’m gone.  Have a great weekend. 


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Well, half-Italian at least.  

Buon giorno from…Ireland?  No, Italy.  I think they have Saint Patrick’s Day over here. 

il Duomo di Firenze

By the time this posts, Jeri and I should have landed in Firenze (Florence) and we plan to stay here for three nights before taking a bus to Siena to visit Heather for a week.  She’s been here since January because her college is making her do a semester abroad.  College is tough nowadays.  When I was in school…

I know I have cousins over here somewhere.  My mother’s parents emigrated from the south of Italy to Hartford, Connecticut about a hundred years ago.  It would take a little work, but I could probably find people who look just like me but speak with a different accent (in Maine we don’t pronounce the “Rs” but over here they make a big, big deal over them).

Maybe next trip I’ll go look for them and tell them to lighten up on the trill.     

Jeri is here for the architecture as well as to see Heather.  She studied much of this in college, particularly the cathedrals of Florence and Siena, the two cities where we’ll stay.  When we first decided we were coming she trotted out her textbooks and photocopied the plans of il Duomo, the cathedral in Siena, which turns out to be around the corner from the little flat we’ve rented.  We’ll be right in the old city, in the center of things, which means cafés, museums and fine food within a short walk, and that suits me fine.  We’ll probably take a few bus trips to neighboring towns like San Gimignano, but we wont have to.  That’s the good part.  And maybe we’ll do an overnight trip to Rome.  Not driving.  Not driving.  I hear they’re crazy over here, even though we’re related.

Heather has been getting around the country quite a bit since January and we’re counting on her as a tour guide and travel agent.  For photos and more about her travels see her blog by clicking here. 

See you in Maine.  Ciao

il Duomo di Siena, early 13th century. Click once or twice to enlarge.

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I love it and I hate it, and it’s over with for another year.

Yesterday we may have set a record: Nine o’clock in the forenoon to six-fifteen in the evening (not counting the boat ride).   

The concept of town meeting was designed for the Town of Cranberry Isles.  I think it works better here than anywhere because we know each other, we’re stuck on an island together (rather, one of two islands) and we have to live with one another or else move to the mainland in disgrace.

Who was it that said, “Home is a place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”? 

In the world off-island the move to Suburbia has destroyed the sense of community that once existed in small cluster-towns or in city neighborhoods (not to mention islands).  The sprawl.  The Mall.  The drive past it all, on the way to something else.  To something better? 

But back to town meeting:  This year the meeting was on “the other island” (Great Cranberry) because we alternate.  For reasons of declining demographics we from Little Cranberry Island (Islesford) still outnumbered the Big Islanders on their own turf, and almost could have held the meeting on the mailboat on the way over.  But that didn’t happen, at least officially.

Town meeting is a time when one can disagree forcefully with hairball ideas from otherwise good and trusted friends, and then sit down with them at mid-day and have baked beans and talk about old times. 

I’m talking about hairball ideas that would cut funding for education, local libraries and off-island services like ambulance and (free) bus service.    

THE RULE:  Address the issue, not the individual.  He may have that hairball idea, but he’s still your friend and neighbor, you’ve known him all your life, and he may be the one to tow you in from offshore when the John Deere quits.  Or, if it’s a different friend, a different hairball idea (even though he’s working on his Ph.D.), he may become an ally in another important cause (and after all, you really do love talking about theology and Anglican politics with him).  So don’t insult his dignity in public or you’ll be alone one day, talking to yourself.  Or adrift at sea when the John Deere quits.  Behave yourself, enjoy the baked beans and curried chicken together, then go at it again the rest of the day.

Civility.  Yes.  It’s part of what it’s all about, especially while getting various ideas and approaches onto the floor of the meeting in order to vote intelligently—and we do vote intelligently, once all has been talked over.  I have never been disappointed in the outcome of Town Meeting.  The occasional issue perhaps, but the overall meeting, never.  The system works.

Or at least it still works in the Town of Cranberry Isles.

Anyone in Washington listening?


[Addendum:  Barb beat me to the blog on this.  For a photo essay of Town Meeting 2011, visit  http://barbarasfernald.com/2011/03/14/9-hour-town-meeting-with-45-minutes-off-for-lunch/  ]

(By the way, Barb, you did a terrific job as moderator.  I loved your great big smile while fielding a rant from one… uh… determined citizen—even though he wasn’t always clear which article of the Warrant we were on.)

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