Yes folks, yard work and gardening is in full swing here in the Midwest these days. I suspect that I’ll be making multiple trips to the home improvement store this weekend, loading up on outdoor essentials. Too bad we couldn’t just call Mr. Bushie and have him deliver what we need in his sharp 1951 Nash Rambler “Deliveryman” vehicle!
Oh well, in between the times you spend rambling around on errands this weekend, I’ll hope you’ll join us as we ramble through some of the interesting flowers, vegetables, and weeds growing in things we’ve read this past week.
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“He was a drug addict, an astrologist, an alchemist, a member of one or other esoteric sects,” writes Brent Plate at RNS.
Plate is referring to Hieronymus Bosch, who died 500 years ago this year. Two major exhibitions in Europe about Bosch are expected to break attendance records, as crowds flock to view his remarkable works. He notes how “Bosch painted in radical new ways for his day,” that he was an “apocalyptic” painter, and that “Bosch gave us many of our modern visions of hell.”
Based on the amount of time visitors spend peering into the nooks and crannies of Bosch’s hells, there’s little doubt the nightmarish scenes are what lure most spectators: human bodies broken open, half-human/half-creature devils scurrying about, scenes of torture, disfigurement and dismemberment. Much of it isn’t for the squeamish, even in today’s horror-bathed media culture.
Let’s be clear: “The Simpsons” and “The Exorcist” didn’t borrow Bosch’s scenes of the idyllic Paradise or images of Jesus, but images of demons, flying fish, bodily torment, a cryptic tree-man and a great bird-devil who consumes humans and then defecates them into a gaping hole in the ground.
Paintings such as “The Garden of Earthly Delights” triptych (permanently installed in the Prado) and the “Temptation of St. Anthony” triptych (on loan from the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon) are large, colorful visions of life on earth, with its sins and temptations, and a potentially tormented afterlife. One could stand for hours and sort through the figures that litter the landscapes, trying to make sense of them, as audiences and art historians have been doing for years.
Imagine a page of “Where’s Waldo?” but with darker colors and beasts scattered around a surreal landscape of dead trees, burning cities and ruined castles.
Brent Plate observes that Bosch died the year before Luther posted his 95 theses, inaugurating the Reformation, and that his horrific visual depictions of judgment may “demonstrate why the Lutheran doctrine of grace might have been so attractive at the time.”
According to Dana Harris at Indiewire, Mel Gibson is working on a sequel to his successful 2004 film, The Passion Of The Christ. The article notes that the first film “earned $612 million worldwide and is acknowledged as the most successful independent film of all time.”
Writer Randall Wallace, who was a religion major at Duke University, told the Hollywood Reporter, “I always wanted to tell this story,” he says. “The Passion is the beginning and there’s a lot more story to tell.”
Well yes, there certainly is more to the story. However, in my personal opinion, visual media such as TV and movies have never been good vehicles to showcase the biblical narrative.
Michael Spencer agreed. The iMonk wrote a post about the Narnia films, in which he discussed how visual media tends to “shrink greatness to fit the screen,” saying:
…an evangelicalism that trades books for movies will be diminished. Film cannot take us inside the human experience in the same way as literature, and the recreation of beasts and battles with CGI is a purely temporary pleasure.
What do you think?
Illusionist David Copperfield is trying to help get Congress to pass a resolution that would that would recognize magic as “a rare and valuable art form and national treasure.”
According to NPR, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, Republican from Texas, is leading the effort. But there has been some pushback.
Another supporter, Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan, acknowledged that some may see this resolution as bad optics.
“Unfortunately, it got introduced at one of the peak periods of congressional inefficiency,” he said. “And so I think it was easy to say, ‘Oh look, they’re going to recognize magic as an art, but we can’t pass a budget?’ Yeah, that could sound on its face kind of ridiculous.”
For Pocan, a former magician, it has been a useful tool to communicate with his constituents. He hosts a regular YouTube series, “Magic Mondays” in which he performs simple tricks and talks about what’s happening in Washington. He does magic when he visits schools back in his congressional district, and he hands out pamphlets on how to do magic tricks to kids he meets on the campaign trail.
Hey you guys, maybe we could get a little magic to get Congress working again? Or I know, here’s a great idea: why don’t you find some magician who can make Trump and Clinton disappear?
In nearby Cincinnati, Judge William Mallory handed out a creative sentence a few weeks ago.
It seems Jake Strotman, a 23 year-old hockey fan, went to see the Cincinnati Cyclones play the Fort Wayne Komets on a Saturday night in January. He was well-lubricated and in good spirits when, after the game, he approached some Baptist street preachers who were, as he puts it, condemning him. He started bantering with them.
Long story short, a few others got involved too and before you know it, it was a regular Batman and Robin Bam! Pow! fracas. Strotman found himself under the pile and allegedly assaulted one of the preachers.
Here’s how things went at the trial when the judge asked Strotman for suggestions about how he thought he should be sentenced:
“Your honor, if I may, I would be more than happy to serve a church of your choosing.”
Mallory: “Time out. We may have an answer here.”
He addressed his thoughts to [the preacher Strotman had assaulted].
“So for his penance, what if I make him go to your church a number of Sunday services?”
Strotman would be sentenced to attend 12 consecutive Sunday services at Morning Star Baptist Church. He was ordered to attend each entire 90-minute service. He must get the weekly program signed by the minister. That’s 18 hours of solid Baptist teaching.
He also paid $480 in court fines and a $2,800 lawyer bill.
Depending on your point of view, that’s either a light sentence or unacceptable torture.
John Piper must have visited many families after the births of their babies. I wonder if Piper, who believes the Bible teaches that babies are utterly depraved, ever saw evidence of that at the time of the blessed event? Naked Pastor cartoonist David Hayward drew an illustration of what that might have looked like if he had:
Robert F. Worth’s article in the NYT, “What if PTSD is More Physical than Psychological?” explores the implications of a new study by neuropathologist Daniel Perl that found “a distinctive pattern of tiny scars,” a “brown-dust” type pattern, which suggests that the bomb blasts of modern warfare injure the brain in ways not sufficiently understood in the past.
Previously, scientists assumed that traumatic brain injury in warfare affected the brain like concussions or automobile accidents.
Perl and his lab colleagues recognized that the injury that they were looking at was nothing like concussion. The hallmark of C.T.E. is an abnormal protein called tau, which builds up, usually over years, throughout the cerebral cortex but especially in the temporal lobes, visible across the stained tissue like brown mold. What they found in these traumatic-brain-injury cases was totally different: a dustlike scarring, often at the border between gray matter (where synapses reside) and the white matter that interconnects it. Over the following months, Perl and his team examined several more brains of service members who died well after their blast exposure, including a highly decorated Special Operations Forces soldier who committed suicide. All of them had the same pattern of scarring in the same places, which appeared to correspond to the brain’s centers for sleep, cognition and other classic brain-injury trouble spots.
Then came an even more surprising discovery. They examined the brains of two veterans who died just days after their blast exposure and found embryonic versions of the same injury, in the same areas, and the development of the injuries seemed to match the time elapsed since the blast event.
…If Perl’s discovery is confirmed by other scientists — and if one of blast’s short-term signatures is indeed a pattern of scarring in the brain — then the implications for the military and for society at large could be vast. Much of what has passed for emotional trauma may be reinterpreted, and many veterans may step forward to demand recognition of an injury that cannot be definitively diagnosed until after death. There will be calls for more research, for drug trials, for better helmets and for expanded veteran care. But these palliatives are unlikely to erase the crude message that lurks, unavoidable, behind Perl’s discovery: Modern warfare destroys your brain.
Paul Simon, one of our greatest singer-songwriters for the past half century, has a new album, called Stranger To Stranger. On it, Simon continues to explore a broad range of rhythms and melodies in the service os strong lyrical content. In his NYT review, John Pareles calls it, “a set of songs that crack jokes and ponder questions about love, death, spirituality, baseball, economic inequality, brain chemistry and music itself,” adding, “It’s the latest ambitious, tuneful installment in a career that has had far more to do with curiosity than crowd-pleasing.”
Here’s the first single from the record: “Wristband,” a whimsical song about a singer getting locked out of his own show, turned social commentary.