Friday, June 16, 2006

The Quiet Polite English Civil Service

"Activities have been captured on official cameras. Specifically 'these activities' refers to leaping from cabinet to cabinet in underwear and believe it or not - but the evidence exists - naked.

"There is an horrific new craze of vomiting into official cups and leaving the cups to fester in cupboards until discovered through the horrendous smell. There is a list of shocking and awful acts in work time including sex in the toilets, drug-taking and swearing is rife."

Note that swearing is the most awful thing!

Daily Telegraph, June 13 2006

New Words for the Catholic Mass

I can't say that I am opposed to the changes being made to the current translation of the Catholic Mass used in English speaking countries. There is something to be said for praying in an elevated form of the language. But some people will not be satisfied by the fairly moderate changes introduced today.

Here is an old Daily Telegraph obit of Fr. Oswald Butler

Most People Have No Genetic Future

In their textbook Archaeology 4th ed. (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2004), p 465, Colin Renfrew and Paul Bahn in discussing "genetic archaeology" note that "of the French people alive in 1789, only 14 percent have descendants today."

I find this fascinating to think about. If generally true, it would seem to suggest, for example, that the vast majority of people who lived in the past are *not* ancestors of people alive now. Indeed, those alive now would only be descended from a diminishingly small percentage of people alive in the past.

Nice to be Thanked

David Dillard recently posted the article linked to on Mediev-l, and Net-Gold.


Paul Halsall: Using the Internet to Make History Available to a Large Audience Through a Network of History Web Guides

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty

People keep asking me about my current obsession.

The Line of Beauty is a book by Alan Hollinghurst about being gay in London 1984-87. It won the Booker prize and has recently been turned into a three-part series by the BBC.

In the book the Line of Beauty is an "ogee," described by Hogarth as a kind of curve that curves both ways. This elevated description is apt because the main protagonist of the novel, Nick Guest, is a kind of "aesthete" kept on hand as an amusement (in various ways) by various members of the upper class while he writes a Ph.D. thesis on Henry James.

The Image of an Ogee above is from

But in the book, Nick is also very openly gay, and so the line of beauty is also the line of a guy's ass and a line of cocaine.

In sum the book is a refined novel about homosexuality, cocaine, and asset strippers written with the literary style of Henry James.

There has been a LOT written about this book/TV series in the British Press. I especially liked Andrew Anthony's article in The Observer of Sunday May 21, 2006

IT'S THE homoerotic story of a group of young narcissistic men, the kind you see modelling underpants, lured to the capital by the promise of fame, fortune and the ready supply of anonymous sex. At first they appear charming and talented but with success they become arrogant and full of hubris and it all ends in tearful disillusionment and bitter recrimination. But that's enough about the Arsenal football team for the moment, let's now turn to The Line of Beauty

Alan Hollinghurst's Booker Prize-winning novel was an exceptional work for an impressive number of reasons. It created vivid, memorable characters living in a world - the exclusive environs of west London - that was exquisitely realised. It depicted gay sex in the sort of vital, authentic and yet integral fashion that is all too rare, for any form of sex, in contemporary fiction. It also rescued the 1980s from worn-out clichés and heavy-handed satire to show a period of liberating optimism as well as heartless affluence. Added to which it was very funny. And almost hidden beneath the glittering surface of the narrative, like a shipwreck only partially revealed by the ebb and flow of a great tide, was a doomed love story of haunting power.

Hermeneutics and Red Hot Pokers

From today's Daily Telegraph obituary of Sir John Vinelott

Vinelott became secretary of the Cambridge Moral Science Club, a twice-weekly philosophical discussion group. He regarded his role at these discussions as being to ask the idiotic questions which Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell would then demolish.

Vinelott was present at the celebrated occasion in 1946 when Karl Popper came to deliver a paper on "Are there philosophical problems?" and became embroiled in a row with Wittgenstein over the fundamental nature of philosophy; by some accounts, the dispute led to the two men battling for supremacy with red hot pokers.

The incident, referred to in Popper's intellectual biography Unended Quest, sparked an acerbic exchange of letters between those who had attended the meeting, which gave conflicting testimonies of exactly what had taken place.

The irony was that the dispute had arisen between people who were expert in theories of epistemology (the grounds of knowledge).

According to the philosopher Peter Geach, "Wittgenstein picked up the poker and said 'Consider this poker'. He found discussion with Popper futile and put the poker down" before walking out.

But Vinelott supported Popper's account, which had Wittgenstein seizing a poker and challenging Popper to "give an example of a moral rule".

"Not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers," Popper replied, whereupon Wittgenstein, in a rage, threw the poker down and stormed out of the room, banging the door behind him.

[Magee's book, below, is a good guide to Popper's philosophical work.]

Hermeneutics in Everyday Life

[From the glory days of the Internet]
Date:Fri, 21 Mar 1997

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

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) a 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

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.
Incidently, the Talmud has the following comments on this passage:
R[abbi] Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long. R. Hillel
says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding. R.
Simon ben Yudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be He,
gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. R. ben Issac says:
Because of the three patriarchs. R. Yehuda says: Why bless the Lord at
a stop sign? Because it says, "Be still and know that I am God." R.
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. R. 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."
R. 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." R. Ben Nathan says: Where were the stop signs created? On
the fourth day, for it is written: "Let them serve as signs." R.
Yeshuah says....[continues for three more pages]

8. A Lubavitcher rabbi 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"
undoubtably 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

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 beause 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.

The Queen Quotes Marx

"As Groucho Marx once said, 'Anyone can get old - all you have to do is to live long enough'," said the Queen, who became an octogenarian on April 21 and celebrates her official birthday this Saturday.

Daily Telegraph, June 15 2006

Students and the Consumer Model

I recently took a look at, and noted the "rate-my-professor" feature there. I am also aware of other web-sites of this sort.

What students seem to like about professors is "easiness" and "high grades". In other words they want to waste their money and come out of college with as little education as they entered.

In my own experience, more in the North East than in Florida I admit, students have made comments which seem to imply that they are entitled to high grades because they are paying for their education.

Rate-my-professor type sites, along with the grade-inflating requirement of course evaluations all point to the ever greater adoption of a destructive consumer model of education.

The model for education is that of teacher/student. There is no need for another one. It is a sui generis model of great antiquity. I reject then any claim that students have a right to service based on a consumer model.

On the other hand, the model of professors offering something to a few select students who should be thankful for the privilege comes from another time and place [Oxford, in 1920 perhaps].

In the modern US, most colleges are not selective, and a huge proportion of the population attends college. This allows a relatively huge professoriate. Without the students at the non-selective schools, the entire system would be massively smaller, and the Ph.D pumping-stations would have nowhere to locate their graduates. For all that faculty complain about unprepared students, the hard fact to admit is that the US college system only provided jobs because it admits so many students who are not really college material, and who at one stage would probably not have even been able to graduate high school.

Students these days do not come with three years of high school Greek, two years of high school calculus, and a quoting knowledge of Shakespeare, and a fervent desire to learn for learning's sake. Perhaps they never did. But when we look at tests such as early twentieth-century NY State Regents exams, we are amazed at the requirements of the examiners.

There is no use bemoaning this change in student preparation. When students did come so prepared, there were a few thousand professors in toto. We all benefit from a more open system: faculty members get jobs, students learn useful job skills, and a fair number of them, with good teachers, do actually go on to read books later in life [otherwise just what is happening in all those huge new Barnes and Noble stores?]

On the other hand, I have come across faculty who tell "consumer-oriented" students at state-schools that they (the students) are being paid for by "tax-payer's money" and should shut-up and be grateful. I find this just as reprehensible as the students' claims. Leaving aside the terrible turgidity of talk about "tax payers money" [as far as I know, the state prints money, not taxpayers, and the state gives money value.]

When, to begin with, did students stop being tax-payers of the states in which they live? Sales taxes are paid by all. Moreover, why should state university students be treated any differently than students at private schools?

I realize I may be being snippy here, but in my opinion all teachers need to take two attitudes into the classroom. First, a willingness to be unpopular with students by demanding the most they can give. But just as important is a sheer love of the students and what they are trying to do. Some students may be unprepared, some may be lazy; but many are going through life crises of almost unimaginable proportions and yet they are still trying to better themselves economically and educationally. That demands respect, just as much as it demands strength to make sure the student achieves his or her goals.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Indulgences and Time in Purgatory

In a comment James R. asks about how "time" can be said to exist in Purgatory, since Purgatory, like Heaven and Hell, is a state of being. I think he is refering here to an old custom of referring to a five-day indulgence, or a three-year indulgence.

In Catholic theology the time measure in such indulgences does not refer to any passing period, but it is clear that many of the faithful were confused. In recent teaching there are now only plenary and partial indulgences, not ones callibrated in terms of days, weeks, years, etc. It's worth mentioning that it is not that hard to get a plenary indulgence: if my memory is correct, saying a rosary (5 decades) in public, or in the family obtains a plenary indulgence, as does reading the Bible for at least 15 minutes each day for a month. [The rules require three other things - 1. to go to confession within a reasonable time, 2. To receive communion at mass within a reasonable time, 3. to pray for the pope's intentions.]

This time measurement aspect of indulgences is actually a transfer from the "mid middle ages," an era when lists of sins and penences - the penitentials - assigned specific canonical penances for each sin in terms of a period of time of canonical penance. At an early stage in western church history, serious sinners (adulterers, murderers, etc.) who were penitent had been required to stay away from church for up to several years. Canonical penance in the penitentials was considerably less severe. Usually it meant living on bread and water - so a penance of 5 days would mean 5 days on bread and water.

Later on, when the notion of indulgences was developped, a given partial indulgence would be said to be equal to doing canonical penance for 5 days. Usually this was abbreviated to a 5 day indulgence. Eventually, and not surprisingly, in the popular mind this came to be seen as referring to periods of time in purgatory.

Hopkins: No worst

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.
Do you feel down, there is no better poet then my favourite Gay Jesuit, whom I have loved since high school.

‘No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief’

NO worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief,
More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.
Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?
My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief
Woe, world-sorrow; on an age-old anvil wince and sing—
Then lull, then leave off. Fury had shrieked ‘No ling-
ering! Let me be fell: force I must be brief’.

O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne’er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep.

but his book,or see him for free at Bartleby.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

No Man is an Island

I caught some flack over criticizing the NY POST's "GOTCHA" headline, but here goes, with one of the central statements of our culture:

No Man is an Island''

No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.

-- John Donne

The choice is clear: you are like Zarqawi, to whom these words would mean nothing, or you align yourself with Western Civilization.

The Line of Beauty, Episode One

It's OK for you guys in England, but this BBC serialization of Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty has become an obsession with me. It's just not available in the US, and I have learnt more about Internet downloading that I ever thought I would have to know. [hint: emule].

Forget Brokeback Mountain: as a working class kid from Manchester who went to University, being a sheep herder in Montana was never on my radar. I did however apply to Oxford, went to Edinburgh (and Oxbridge rejects schoool), and lived in London 1984-1987.

Hollinghurst's book (which won the Booker prize) is to literature what BB Mountain is to film: the Breakthrough. For God's sake, buy the bloody book. It's as beautifully written as anything since Austen (ignore all the Henry James stuff).

The BBC version is almost impossible to get here [hint: emule ], but it is radiant. Comparison: the first two episodes of Brideshead Revisited.


Where I grew up

As a kid I moved around a lot - at least ten primary schools for example, and two high schools. But from 13-17 I lived in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, on the west coast of Scotland. We lived in a house right on the sea front, with a direct view to the island of Arran and to the sister stown of Ardrossan.

My Self Image

Why Indulgences are a Good Thing (With Hints on How to Buy Some)

Recently at a Church event one of the best priests (in terms of reliability in giving good sermons) poked fun at the recent papal statement that indulgences can be earned in the forth-coming holy year. Indulgences were, it seemed, something old fashioned and funny.

I suggest, however, when one actually studies the history of indulgences, one finds a much healthier and more holistic view of the Christian community, than in the pop therapeutic psychobabble that constantly flows from so many pulpits.

First, let's clarify what an Indulgence is, since many people simply don't know, and seem to think it is a "forgiveness for sin".

There are three aspects to the Catholic teaching on indulgences:

  • The belief that human sin calls forth both guilt and punishment. In other words, without the mercy of God, the structure of the universe demands that human sins deserve punishment.

Catholic writers have argued that "guilt" and "punishment" are not the same thing. This was a reflection on pastoral reality - confessors discovered that many penitents were indeed "sorry" for their sins, but not necessarily sorry because they had offended God. [For example, a sinner might be sorry that the sin would send him/her to hell, but simply not have enough sorrow
or awareness to be fully sorry.] The question was, does this limited sorrow (called "imperfect contrition" or "attrition") represent a movement of grace or not? And more, if a penitent asks for forgiveness in confession, is the sacrament dependent on the "reality" of the penitent's perfect contrition? If it were, there would be no need for confession, since it has always been church teaching t hat perfect contrition represents a movement of grace, and remits guilt and punishment. The Church chose the laxer path - and began to teach that anyone who confessed sins, even if with imperfect contrition, was nevertheless, through the infinite mercy of God and the atonement of Christ, forgiven the guilt incurred by the sin. But, the belief was, such a person, if he or she died, would still need some "purgation" of the sinful character incurred by sin before he or she could stand to see the face of God. Eventually this developed into the theory of a "waiting room for Heaven" or purgatory. Purgatory is a place, or state of mind, in which those who die in a state of imperfect sorrow are purified.

And indulgence, very simply, is considered as another movement of grace which either hurries up (a "partial indulgence") or remits (a "plenary" indulgence) the "time "in purgatory.

  • But where then does this "indulgence" come from? It's certainly not Biblical (although the Bible does have a story about prayers helping those who are dead - see II Maccabees].

It comes from the VERY catholic idea that grace is tangible. This idea is the single most important marker of Catholicism as compared to Protestantism. That is, Catholic believe that grace (the goodness of God) flows through the universe in tangible material ways. The World is Charged with the grandeur of God" as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote. Grace works tangibly through the Incarnation, through the saints, through the *physical* elements of the Eucharist and other sacraments, and through sacramentals.

In my opinion, many of the more new agey Catholic preachers, simply do not believe in this tangibility of grace. They seem to be embarrassed by the bodilyness of it all. Frankly I glory in it - its why I became and stay a Catholic. No Protestant spirit could ever understand why bringing candles in front of an image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe is an authentic presentation of a the love of God, and no Catholic spirit can see it as anything other. [Am I being "judgmental"? You betcha.]

With indulgences, the important idea of tangibility relates to the theory of the "treasury of merit". This means, quite concretely, that all the good deed of Christ, his Mother, all the saints, have created a sort of "reserve" of overflowing grace, grace that wipes out, washes away, and
demolishes, the punishments that law and justice may demand. [The "justice" of God after all is God's mercy].

And indulgence then, applies some of the "merit" from the treasury of merit to a given person, to help get over the punishment that their soul will demand for imperfectly repented sins. An indulgence does not forgive guilt {only confession and contrition does that], but it does remit just

  • But how is this "merit" dispensed.

Here the teaching on indulgences, states that the Christian faith is about the Christian community, not about the selfish soul. The Christian community, or Church, can "bind and loose" its members, and the Christian community, and the incarnate reality of Gods overflowing bounty, can remit just punishment for sins. The Church itself is, in this perspective, the
great sacrament.

Catholic history has associated this power of the Church with the power of the keys possessed by the leaders of the community, and especially the bishop of Rome.

In sum: an indulgence is a remission of the punishment due for imperfectly repented sins, representing an overflow of God's grace, mediated though the Christian community.

There is nothing more Catholic.

Now, probably because of the effects of Protestant history, and the really bad teaching that goes on in seminaries (or perhaps because priests keep taking easy psych classes?), the idea continues that indulgences were in fact a papal money-making invention.

The popes, in fact, had little to do with the spread and popularity of indulgences., although they always played an important role in the practice.

The theology was outlined by Aquinas and those who came after him. That theology was adopted wholesale at the Council of Trent [which also curbed some abuses]. But it is important to realize that the whole theory represents the ideas of some of the most important Catholic thinkers, not some papal invention.

The spread of indulgences was brought about by the demand side. No one was ever forced to go on pilgrimages, say rosaries, etc. It was the Catholic people who wanted them, and it was an insight of the Catholic people that once might gain indulgences not only for oneself, but for dead
people. In other words, the living could help the already saved dead (nothing could help the damned) on their process of purification. The Church, the people realized, in not only composed of those on earth (The Church Militant), but those in purgation (the Church Suffering), and those in Heaven (The Church Triumphant). There was nothing wrong, and everything right in the entire church trying to get everyone to Heaven!

As I present it the, the doctrine of indulgences reflects the Catholic ideas of grace, overflowing grace, tangible grace, the community of the church, the intellectual effort of the church, and the urging of the Catholic people to develop doctrine in this area. I think it is kind of sad for priests to make fun of this from the pulpit.

PS: Because grace is free, indulgences have long been easy [And yes I know about Bonhoeffer's thoughts on this]. Smoking and drinking are not sinful, so giving up a pleasure for day for the sake of grace, is a quite acceptable thing to do [although American puritans - among whom number many Catholics - seem now to accept the psychobabble notion that smoking and
drinking are wrong in some way. I can just imagine them complaining about Christ as he got everyone merrier at Cana!]

But, there is nothing to stop anyone getting an indulgence, if that is part of their spiritual reflection on their own faults, though many other methods, such as saying a rosary in church, doing the stations of the cross, and so forth.

The Roman Catholic Church publishes a useful guide on how to acquire indulgences, why not indulge.

Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide!

Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide!

The Invisible Killer

Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage.

Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death.

Dihydrogen monoxide:

* is also known as hydroxl acid, and is the major component of acid rain.
* contributes to the "greenhouse effect."
* may cause severe burns.
* contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
* accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.
* may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.
* has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.

Contamination Is Reaching Epidemic Proportions!

Quantities of dihydrogen monoxide have been found in almost every stream, lake, and reservoir in America today. But the pollution is global, and the contaminant has even been found in Antarctic ice. DHMO has caused millions of dollars of property damage in the midwest, and recently California.

Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:

* as an industrial solvent and coolant.
* in nuclear power plants.
* in the production of styrofoam.
* as a fire retardant.
* in many forms of cruel animal research.
* in the distribution of pesticides. Even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical.
* as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food products.

Companies dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean, and nothing can be done to stop them because this practice is still legal. The impact on wildlife is extreme, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer!

The Horror Must Be Stopped!

The American government has refused to ban the production, distribution, or use of this damaging chemical due to its "importance to the economic health of this nation." In fact, the navy and other military organizations are conducting experiments with DHMO, and designing multi-billion dollar devices to control and utilize it during warfare situations. Hundreds of military research facilities receive tons of it through a highly sophisticated underground distribution network. Many store large quantities for later use.

It's Not Too Late!

Act NOW to prevent further contamination. Find out more about this dangerous chemical. What you don't know can hurt you and others throughout the world.

[ old and ignored internet warning....]

Telegraph Obit: Eva Norvind

Eva Norvind
Can-can dancer who became a starlet in Mexico and a dominatrix and sexual counsellor in Manhattan.

Eva Norvind, who drowned off Huatulco beach in Mexico on May 14 aged 62, was a Norwegian-born dancer at the Folies Bergère, a Playboy bunny girl, the Mexican film industry's answer to Brigitte Bardot, one of America's leading dominatrices, a volunteer worker for Mother Teresa's charity, an independent film producer and a "psychosexual counsellor"....Eva more

[NB: Reading obituaries may be a strange hobby, but obituary-writing is a minor art form in Britain in The Daily Telegraph (especially), The Times, and The Independant. I'll be pointing to some of the best.]

Monday, June 12, 2006



The picture is all I have to say. Read Andrew Sullivan or Michael Petrelis for what happened.

Let me add this: Religious leaders of all sects (Christians, Jews, Muslims) are responsible for what happens to my brothers when the violence is justified by religious hocus-pocus. If God exists, I am sure she is Gay, and will have something to say about all this at the end of time. If God does not exist, I hope these attackers of gay people die of bone cancer the day a cure is found.

ref Andrew Sullivan
ref Michael Petrelis

Brian Whitaker, The Guardian June 13, 2006 "People think its a mental illness" [On being gay in the Middle East]

Was Zarqawi Murdered?

The US Press is now reporting that Zarqawi (the nasty bastard who should roast forever, but whom we must treat as a human being to show how much better than him we are) died of his wounds. I hope this is true.

But who can trust any spokesperson of the Bush Administration? Which has lied about every budget estimate, WMD, and Gitmo. An administration which has turned US military spokesmen into its puppets?

I was ambivalent about the war in Iraq. I thought, correctly that US would screw up the aftermath, but I never dreamed the aftermath could be so bad. Now, if I, who basically think AMERICA is a good thing - the *one* country that has found a way for a nation to avoid the lies of ethnicism and religion - bascially think the spokesman was lying, guess what they think in the Muslim world? Zarqawi was beaten up by those who captured him. I hope I am wrong. History will tell on this one.

Make no mistake; I want America to win. But I wonder how many Americans understand the current low moral status of a country whose Declaration of Independance was written to appeal to the moral judgement of the world? The Bush Dynasty has made it possible for even a mass video-taped murderer to make the United States look like liars. (I have the tape of Zarqawi beheading Nick Beard on my computer, but have never been able to watch it.)

[This post and the ABBA/CHER post are posted on the same day. This is not a narrow blog. Because life is not narrow]

Life and Lessons from Leo: ABBA and Cher

In the 70's I loved ABBA. I never understood why people thought they were a "happy" group. [Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is more accurate than Muriel's Wedding.] ABBA's vocalists were great (the brunette was a trained opera singer, and actually sang some Verdi once on an Olivia Newton John show); and the arrangements and videos were exceptional. The group was 20 years ahead of its time. And the songs are so sad.

Then I gave up ABBA. I went to University and they were not cool. I threw away my LPs. [If you don't know what an LP is go away!] And then when I met Leo, his complete Brazilian indifference to whatever any other people might think might be tacky, not to mention constant playing of ABBA, made me like them again. [In fact I may have more than 100 odd ABBA tracks downloaded from the glory days of Napster - in Swedish, Spanish, wWhatever: Cassandra is a GREAT song.]

In time, I came to see that one really could see life as a series of ABBA songs.

The problem came when I left New York and moved to Jacksonville. Then my life became a series of Cher songs [If I Could Turn Back Time, This is a Song for the Lonely.

BASIC HALSALL LIFE RULE: Try to live life as a depressed Swede, not as an Ageless Drag Queen.

But live life as an ageless drag queen rather than let the fuckers get you down.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Next Supreme Governor of the Church of England

Charles is the next Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Perhaps the role is outdated, but Anglicanism is not irrelevent: it is the third largest Christian body in the world. Surely its leader should be prepared to defend the faith?

Daily Telegraph

Frmr Archbishop of Canterbury Fashion Faux-Pas

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has become upset what he sees as the Falling apart of the Church [Daily Telegraph]. Meanwhile, he seems to have adopted the most extraordinary camp earrings. Is it possible he is moving from the Evangelical to the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England?