Saturday, July 27, 2002

Not A Doctor. I've been pretty sick the last two days -- I thought at first it was just a cold but have had a bad fever as well. Yesterday, my joints and muscles were so achy I went looking for some Motrin but all I could find was an old dose of prescription Motrin (800 mg. ibuprophin [sp?]) so I took it and felt much better -- what a wonderful drug that is. More later.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Mirror. Does Google have you down? Try the Google Mirror site to spice things up.
Stop the Presses! We've been so concerned about Ted Williams being frozen so he can be resurrected years from now, we've missed the big story. It turns out that Augustine, John Calvin, John Wesley, Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards (The guy that did "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" not the one who sang "Sunshine"), among others, all spoke to us at the end of the year last year. Why didn't we listen?

Perhaps it was because they all said something to the effect of "Reverend Sun Myung Moon is the True Parent of all humankind and I pledge and pledge again to live according to the direction and teachings of the True Parents." (in the words of John Wesley.)

And all this time I thought the True Parents were Tim and Bev.
Helmets I like the new Redskins helmet -- a throwback to the 60's -- when I saw my first game ('skins-Browns). I'm ambivalent about the Texans helmet. Interestingly, I've also seen the Texan helmet in white, which I think I prefer.

<---Redskins ____ Texans----->

More. While I generally like a lot of the throwback stuff -- I really, really, really, really hate the A's throwback uniforms -- and I came of age rooting for teams wearing these things. Nevertheless, Barry Zito and the boys are putting together some of the best baseball around right now. And the AL West is clearly the most dominant division in baseball.

[I really hate these uniforms]


Losing his religion. In the never-ending series in the New York Times ("Why Ashcroft is the Anti-christ"), we learn that Ashcroft is losing his religious base.
Bootleg Ethics. Bootleggers of rock concerts have a pretty strict code of ethics, which may surprise some. Foremost among these is that no one profits. That is, people who trade CDR's of bootlegged concerts trade, but do not sell boots. The second ranking principle is that you do not trade an artists official albums -- if you want the album, buy it at the store so the artist gets a little profit. Occasionally, people will trade very rare out-of-print copies of these discs -- but even that licks at the edge of the permissible. Finally, bootleggers will go ahead and make copies (a backup) of the artists official releases to take with them in their cars or what have you and leave the source disc in a secure place at home.

I mention this, because my daughter has asked me to make a copy of one of her friends CDs for her own use. I won't do it because it's outside the code of ethics -- but this has me wondering if the code of ethics just suits my own selfish desires and whether I should reassess my position. Any bloggers have any thought on this.

[By the way -- if you want to get sucked into the world of trading, a good place to start is or
for CSNY stuff. What's kind of nice about the world of traders is that because we all start with nothing and since no one profits, traders will do what's known as B&P or making copies of shows to someone who sends blank discs and prepaid mailers -- blanks and postage.]

More. Some of you might be aware that Pearl Jam has started releasing its shows on direct bootlegs which is actually kind of the ideal situation. I'd love to have quality copies of some of the concerts I've been to (for example, there is an audience recording available of The Who from its whirlwind tour -- but it was made the night before I saw them and, being an audience recording, is pretty substandard). According to the bootleggers code of ethics, these recordings are not up for trade, since they are being marketed by the band. On the other hand, it also point out the relatively low cost of trading. With all the costs of a traded bootleg disc a pretty typical two disc boot "costs" the trader about 2 bucks -- ninety cents for the Mitsui CDRs, 86 cents for the postage, the balance for the sleeve and mailer. Pearl Jam's official boots cost about 14 bucks discounted or by mail-order.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

For Something Completely Different. Here's a plug for Fred Sanders' comic books -- the "Dr. Doctrine's Christian Comix," a terrific fun series with a surprising amount of meat. (Name me another comic series that draws on Anselm, Aquinas, and Augustine all the way through Barth and the Tetramorph to Zwingli [actually, I don't remember if Zwingli is really in the books -- but it completes my A to Z illustration).

I "met" Fred (or as I affectionately call him "susan") through the Daniel Amos Discussion List (DADL), one of the better discussion lists I've ever run across. I found Fred to be one of the most illuminating young minds I've ever met. Consider, for example his analysis of "You Lay Down" from the album "John Wayne:"
Here comes the disection of the song, line by line. You may want to skip this if you have a weak stomach and can't stand to see a song cut up like this.

~~In a garden of thorns my Rose of Sharon

The Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon 2:1) is Christ, at least if you're willing to read the Song of Solomon as, among other things, an allegory of the love between Christ and the Christian, or the Church. There is a long tradition of reading the Song of Solomon this way, from Origen in the 2nd century, right through the medieval mystics and the Reformers down to, I don't know, Watchman Nee in the 20th. Terry joins in that centuries-old tradition with a real passion; consider the whole album _Briefing_, or "When Moonlight Sleeps" from _Fearful Symmetry_, or the voice-over that says "come away my love" on his first solo album. Terry mobilizes the whole range of powerful erotic longing in singing about the love of Christ.

The other image here is botanical, as Terry transposes the Rose of Sharon into the garden of thorns. Symbolically, thorns are the result of the primal fall of humanity into sin (Genesis 3:18), in which human rebellion turned the garden into a place where the ground itself is cursed. Christ the Rose grows in that garden, and stands out like the only blossom among the twisted thistles.

Consider Terry's other uses of garden imagery: Sometimes it's the garden of Gethsemane ("Come to the garden, come to the hill; Come to the tree, come to the kill...", from "Angels Tuck You In"); sometimes it's Eden ("Long time ago we hid our shame outside the garden wall," from "Eleanor It's Raining"); sometimes he leaves it vague on purpose to capitalize on its polyvalence ("Out over the gate we saw angels in the garden", "If You Want To"). Terry blurs the lines because the gardens belong together:
Christ in Gethsemane is the last Adam in the last garden, paying the price demanded by what happened when the first Adam rebelled in the first garden.

~~bleeds till she's the color of the moonlight

She is a red rose, I take it, but she has bled out her color and turned pale white from the loss. She takes on "the color of the moonlight."
This line knocks me out: not only does it set the scene more concretely (suggesting that it's night time under an open sky), but it turns my thoughts to the dark and cold of the night, and points me to the night sky.

~~and the angels wrap her in their feathered arms
~~but they cannot conceal her from the darkest night

Angels with feathered arms are cool. Angels ministered to Christ twice that I recall; after his 40 days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness, and in Gethsemane. Both times he faced the darkest night.
This line is an interesting contrast to the song "Angels Tuck You In," where the fantasy angels protect the pampered Christian from any thought of the garden, the hill, the tree, the kill. These angels, real feathered angels, do what they can to tuck her in tonight, but there's no keeping out the dark and cold.

~~And you didn't say a word when they accused you
~~You did not fight back when the whole world used you

The silence before the accusers here is an allusion to Christ at his trials before Pilate etc., and also to Isaiah's suffering servant (esp. 53:7). I hang on the line "the whole world used you." It partially resonates with the actual life and death of Jesus, especially the way he was caught between the wheels of the complex power maneuvers of maintaining national security in Roman-occupied Palestine. Humanly speaking, he was killed for all the wrong reasons, set up to be knocked down, and traded like a pawn to balance the power. He was passed from court to court to court. His life was literally sold for a bag of money (although Judas apparently didn't realize just how dangerous the information he was selling was going to be, which is why he was so full of regret afterwards). Then it was traded again for the life of a famous rebel, in a carnival-like atmosphere, a "get-off-death-row" lottery of sorts to keep the crowd excited). But "the whole world used you" also jars me into the contemporary world, where Jesus is used for more things by more people than ever before.

~~When hate was a King your love never diminished
~~you stood meek as a lamb there without blemish

King Hate evokes for me the sick politics and fickle mob of the passion story. If we are still moving in the sphere of Jesus' trial, kinghood is also a theme which makes several appearances: Pilate puts the question, are you the king of the Jews? Jesus replies "you say so," and in John he goes on to say "my kingdom is not of this world." The soldiers mocked Christ cruelly with a pantomime of royalty. The sign over the cross declared, in three languages: King of the Jews.

Standing meek as a lamb is another echo of Isaiah 53:7 (like a lamb before the shearers he was silent), but Terry cross-references it with the scriptural phrase "a lamb without blemish," meaning the animal considered perfect for sacrifice under the holiness code (see a zillion refs from Ex 25 to I Peter 1:19). This is a deceptively simple move, linking these two phrases. It's a way of exploiting the lamb image for its full range of biblical meanings.

~~And they laughed when you cried out "It is finished"

Notice that we've jumped right to the end very suddenly; directly from Gethsemane and the trial(s) to the very moment of death. It's a powerful omission. Without even noticing consciously that anything's been skipped, my mind kind of reels because of the size of the leap.

~~You lay down You lay down
~~and I'll step upon your back
~~up high enough above the fence
~~to see all the way to glory land

This is the central image of the song: Laying down and being stepped on.
I think it sets us back in the garden of Gethsemane, where Christ fell on his face before God ("threw himself on the ground") and poured out his soul in anguish. This is where the feathered angels are, and this is where the decision was made and re-made and stuck to in full view of the consequences. The arresting thing in the image is how clear Terry makes the falling down of Christ and the rising up of sinners. It's like the physical law demanding an equal and opposite reaction to any thrust: we rise as high as he fell low, or he stooped as low as he intended to raise us up. The sense of compensated leverage, or equilibrium of forces, is almost a translation of the substitutionary-penalty motifs in scripture into physical terms. Christ's death restores a balance, and at great cost redistributes the forces we set in motion to our own destruction.

Not to compare TST with JSBach, but I'm going to. Last week I went to a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, a sprawling 3-hour presentation of the passion of Christ which ends with the entombment of the Lord's body. (What! No resurrection? Dang Lutherans!) With 3 hours and dozens of musicians and singers at his command, Bach has plenty of resources to go into great depth about each moment in the passion. In the Gethsemane scene, Bach has the bass voice sing these lines:

Der Heiland fällt vor seinem Vater nieder:
Dadurch erhebt er mich und alle
Von unserm Falle
Hinauf zu Gottes Gnade wieder.

(Before his Father falls the Savior low:
Thereby he raises up both me and all,
Up from our fall,
Up to the grace of God once more.)

--JS Bach, St. Matthew Passion. Libretto by Picander.

Same point Terry makes, but Terry chooses to say it much more concretely. So concretely, in fact, that I can't help instinctively wondering where exactly I'm going to plant my foot. Upper back or lower? Left, right, or middle? I'll need something that doesn't wiggle when I kick off. It sounds grisly, but I can't help starting to work through the placement problem when I hear that line.

And not to compare TST to the greatest theologian of the 20th century, Karl Barth, but I'm going to. Here's a quote from Barth:

"In Him, humanity is exalted humanity, just as Godhead is humiliated Godhead.
And humanity is exalted in Him by the humiliation of Godhead."

"Humiliation" is a strong and suggestive word, but I think it's the same thing TST's getting at with "You lay down and I'll step upon your back," and all the images of voluntary degradation that set those lines up.

The focus of this song is on the mystery of Gethsemane, but it calls to mind the actions of Maundy Thursday as well: John tells us that Christ, knowing who he was and where he came from, stripped to a towel and washed the disciples' feet. The reason Peter objected was because Christ was doing something beneath his station; humiliating himself by stooping so low. That would be fairly revealing if it were just an example of how to lead by serving; but in the context of holy week it's a true revelation, an enactment of God's love which will go to the cross to implement this pattern of self-emptying.

Another interesting thing is that the word "lay" could be taken a number of different ways, depending on how grammatically correct you think Terry's being. It's a word that, no matter what the grammar books say, people use to mean all kinds of things. It could be meant in the sense of past tense, "you layed down," or or present tense, "you are laying yourself down now" or more generally, "you're the kind who's always laying down," or even imperative, "You! Lay down!" In fact, if it's to go with "I'll step upon your back," the imperative works pretty well, as if an agreement is being negotiated. You lay down, and I'll step upon your back.

As for looking over a fence into glory land, I think this is Terry's characteristic hard-won humility about all things eschatological. I mean, the song could have had us climb right out of the garden of thorns. Instead, Terry opts for vision: we see to glory land. Terry used to be a proud member of the pop-dispensationalist "We Know The Name of the Antichrist's Dog" club, but he's traded that stuff in for a more ample ecumenical eschatology. Um, I mean he's more excited about heaven and hell, the resurrection of the body and the restoration of all things now, rather than cracking prophecies with his Hal Lindsey Decoder Ring.

The fence we see over is a cipher for the barrier between us and God, the limit or boundary between us; "my frontier" through which I can only see if a "hole in the world" permits. A fence is a pretty homey image to invoke, but it goes with a garden, I suppose. And there's the other fence reference on the album, "for instance there's no fences round your dream."

~~Above the garden of thorns my Rose of Sharon
~~climbs up and clings to an old rugged tower

With this verse we start into a repetition of the original verse, with fairly minor changes. But they're significant. For instance, "clinging" to an old rugged tower is striking. Don't even get me started on why it's a tower; but if it's old rugged, it's clearly a symbol for the cross. But clinging stresses the determination, the free choice by which this act takes place. You don't accidentally climb and cling; climbing and clinging is not something that happens to you, but something you do.
This reminds me of medieval Franciscan paintings which show the cross with a ladder propped against it, and Jesus climbing the ladder. It emphasizes the same thing Jesus taught, which is that he lays down his own life voluntarily. Michael Card has a song that includes the line: "Why did they nail his feet and hands; his love would have held him there." There's an ever more obscure tradition in Franciscan painting that shows Jesus being nailed to the cross by three women. The women are allegorical figures, and what they represent is clearly labelled by the
artist: Nailing Christ's right hand is Obedience, nailing his left hand is Humility, nailing his feet is Courage, and piercing his side is Love.

~~and though the angels offer her a thousand tears
~~still she wilts in the cold flame of her darkest hour

Unfortunately I still hear "the corn flakes of her darkest hour" sometimes, which breaks the mood.

~~And I lied when I said I never knew you

The parallel line from the first verse was "you didn't say a word when they accused you," but here in the second half of the song it is replaced by a first person confession: I said I never knew you. The allusion is to Peter's denial of Christ in the courtyard during the trial before Pilate. We are no longer reporting on an event inside the court, but watching a simultaneous event out here where we are. Inside, Jesus is silent before his accusers, and out here I am Peter denying him. The focus has shifted from the fate of Jesus in the hands of others, to the fate of Jesus at my own hands.

~~You did not fight back when I scarred and bruised you

Same move, but this time I must be stepping in to the character of the executioners and torturers. How much further can this go?

~~When hate was a King your love never diminished
~~You stood meek as a lamb there without blemish
~~and we laughed when you cried out,
~~how we laughed when you cried out, "It is finished"

Again, the shift to first person, but this time it's plural, from "they" to "we."

A little musical breather, and then:

~~And you didn't say a word when we accused you
~~You did not fight back when the whole world used you.
~~When hate was crowned King, your love never diminished

To the bare "king" image is added now the word "crown," which definitely brings to mind the mock crowning of Christ.

~~You stood meek as a lamb there, without blemish
~~And we laughed when you cried out, It is finished.

~~So you lay down you lay down
~~and I'll step upon your back
~~up high enough above the fence
~~to see all the way to glory land

Parts of the song remind me of medieval devotional images called the "arma Christi." These are paintings of the cross or the crucifixion, but instead of being set in a historical landscape with all the right characters present, these images have isolated implements of the passion suspended in visual space around the cross: a crown of thorns, a spear, a whip, a sponge on a stick, dice, the disembodied face of a spitting man, a rooster, thirty pieces of silver, and so on. One of the most famous of these arma Christi images is by Fra Angelico, a fresco at San Marco in Florence, Italy. The purpose of these images was to hold before the worshipper these individual elements of Christ's passion, for reflection, penitence, and adoration. "You Lay Down" does the same thing, by evoking the moments of Christ's movement toward death, and recounting the story in strange terms that cause me to stop and reflect in ways I hadn't before.

Terry's work is worth pondering. I've found that it almost always repays the effort. (quoted from the DADL, 3/31/99)
Now then, having pasted all that in, I hope I've whetted your interest in either Terry Scott Taylor or Fred Sanders, or (preferably) both.
Code Red. Ben has a note up about Code Red Mountain Dew, 'nilla Coke, et al. Personally, I'm looking forward to Blue, but the reason I write is to note that the companies need to get these new sodas in a diet version. I first came across Code Red Mt. Dew in diet about 6 weeks ago in the Newport News area while on a trip and bought up a trunk full. Two weeks ago, it appeared on the shelves in the local (DC area) stores, so I bought some 12-packs. On my recent trip to Sacramento, I brought along 3 cans of the stuff, thinking that would tide me over until I could get to Vons or Ralphs (although, I found out those are SoCal stores). I was very surprised to find out that this was a product unknown in the area. I could've sold those 12 oz. cans for 5 bucks each, easily.

Oh, and 'nilla coke sux -- stick with Cream Soda.
Druid Heads Anglican Communion. No, I'm not making this up. As has been expected, Rowan Williams has been named the next Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual head of the Anglican Communion.

The following article is from the Times of London, which no longer is available for non-subscribers, explanation here. [if you do have a subscription, you may go here to read the original article.]
Why the Archbishop is embracing pagan roots

By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
The London TIMES

THE man expected to be the new Archbishop of Canterbury will be inducted as a druid in a 200-year-old ceremony with pagan roots in
Wales next month.

As the sun rises over a circle of Pembrokeshire bluestones, the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev Dr. Rowan Williams, will don a long white cloak while druids chant a prayer to the ancient god and goddess of the land. After a trumpet fanfare and the thrice partial sheathing and unsheathing of a 6ft 6in sword, a citation will be read. Dr Williams will close his hands in prayer while the archdruid, wearing a crown and shield over his bardic robes will enfold them in his own and utter words of welcome.

That will be the moment that Dr Williams, who will adopt a new, bardic name, is accepted into the white druidic order, the highest of three orders of the Gorsedd of Bards, the Welsh body of poets, musicians, writers and artists. The Mistress of the Robes, Sian Aman, will then clothe him in a druidic white headdress, and a steward will lead him to join the other assembled druids inside a sacred circle.

The ceremony will take place "in the face of the sun, in the eye of the light" at the start of the Welsh National Eisteddfod at St David's,
Pembrokeshire, in early August.

Although organisers insist the Gorsedd's pagan roots are long behind it, contributors to discussion forums on the Church in Wales website have already suggested it is "nearer to Shintoism than Christianity". Evangelical leaders in the Church of England described it as "unbelievable". The Rev David Banting, chairman of Reform, the conservative evangelical group, said: "We are concerned that Christian leaders should concentrate on the celebration and promotion of the Christian faith in all its wonder and power rather than dabbling in other things."

Dr Williams will not be the only church leader admitted as an honorary druid to the Gorsedd. The Right Rev Daniel Mullins, retired Roman Catholic bishop of Menevia, South Wales, is a member. He insisted: "It has no link at all with ancient druidism." A former Archbishop of Wales, the Right Rev George Noakes, is also a member.

Dr Williams is a prolific author and poet. His book of poems, Remembering Jerusalem, is currently high on the religious bestsellers

The Gorsedd of Bards takes its name from the high seat, which in prehistoric times referred to the mounds on which the sacred kings were wedded to the female spirit of the land. It was invented in the 18th century by the Welsh scholar Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams), a Welsh cultural icon suspected of sympathies with French revolutionaries and American rebels. On June 21, 1792
he laid out a circle of stones on the grass and proclaimed a Gorsedd of Bards - not in Wales but on Primrose Hill in Camden, North London. Morganwg, who claimed to have found an ancient Welsh manuscript with the ceremony but in fact wrote it himself, pronounced his first Welsh Gorsedd at the Eisteddfod in Caermarthen, Wales, in 1819. The Gorsedd of Bards has been closely associated with the National Eisteddfod since it was founded in 1860 and the three ceremonies - the crowning of the
best free verse poet and the awards for prose and strict metre poetry - attract thousands with their pageantry and Celtic lore.

The Archdruid, Dr Robyn Lewis, a retired lawyer and deputy circuit judge, defended the archbishop's right to be inducted into the Gorsedd. Only fluent Welsh speakers are allowed in. He said: "The Gorsedd is an organisation which concerns itself with literature, poetry, music and art of all sorts including architecture. We meet in a circle of stones, a mini Stonehenge, that we erect in the towns where the Eisteddfod takes place." The three orders of the Gorsedd, white for druid, blue for bards and green for ovates, are the closest thing in Wales to an honours system. The Queen is an ovate, but the Prince of Wales has never been invited to join. The actor Richard Burton was also a member, as was Lloyd George.

Dr Lewis said: "We are not like the English druids. The Stonehenge druids are a pot-smoking crowd. Ours is a very respectable society. The ceremony is not pagan. It is just a ceremony. It is quite innocent, there is no serious paganism about it at all. It is a society for the furtherance of the arts in Wales, nothing more. We are not theistic, atheistic, pantheistic, agnostic or anything." He added: "All sorts of people have been members. The Queen was given a green robe although not all of us want her and she never turns up."

He was saddened by the prospect of Dr Williams's promotion. "Quite frankly, we do not want him to go to Canterbury. We feel he deserves it, but we feel we need him here. He is a fluent Welsh speaker for a start, and that will be wasted in Canterbury, wasted on the desert air."

The archbishop's chaplain, the Rev Gregory Cameron, defended Dr Williams. Speaking in Welsh on BBC Wales, he said: "The Gorsedd is not full-blooded paganism, it is an institution making an appeal to the natural universe, to what Wordsworth described as the power of nature."
On the positive side, Williams affirms the resurrection of Jesus. :/

Also, he detests Disney and loves the Simpsons (Christianity Today wrote: ' Williams added that he really likes The Simpsons, which he finds "sophisticated," "amusing," and "very moral." ').

Monday, July 22, 2002

Getting Back. I'm back home now after a long trip to Sacramento for work. I did stop by and work on the links a little bit, but nothing else. I hope to have caught up with my mail and chores by Wednesday. See you then.