The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: July 14, 2018
It’s county fair season in my part of the world. State fairs are around the corner and these celebrations and gatherings will be going on throughout the summer and fall. I’m trying to decide whether or not we want to offer at our Brunch some of the outrageous and purportedly delectable (?) food offerings that you can find at fairs around the country. Might be worth a look.
Here are a few of the possibilities:
DO YOU WATCH “THE HANDMAID’S TALE”?
The season two finale of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” aired this past week with unexpected violence toward privileged characters and a surprise ending that will keep us wondering about the future and prospects of main character June, the handmaid.
There have been many times I’ve considered writing about “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The series is based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood (1985) about an America that has been taken over by a theonomic, patriarchal government called Gilead. Environmental degradation and social diseases have rendered most women infertile and civil war leads to this new regime, which uses biblical texts as the authority to subjugate women for purposes of childbearing.
Some have seen The Handmaid’s Tale as a critique of fundamentalist Christianity. It is true that it is religious fundamentalism that rules Gilead, but is more of an ancient old covenant model of biblicism that holds sway, not the faith of Jesus Christ. Still, given the way some evangelical faith leaders in our day play power politics, supporting movements and policies that, at the least, are questionable in relation to Jesus’ teaching and example, it is not entirely unwarranted that some might see vague parallels, at least in their nightmares.
Do you watch this show? If so, what do you think of it?
QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK…
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square unveiled the fingernail exhibit of Mr. Shridhar Chillal of Pune, India, who had not cut his nails since 1952. Embarking on his journey at the age of 14, he has grown his nails for 66 years. At age 82, he will be memorialized as having the longest fingernails in the world.
Ripley’s flew Mr. Chillal from India to the United States to cut his nails and forever memorialize them in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square.
Mr. Chillal decided to grow his nails when he was scolded by his school teacher as a result of accidentally breaking the teacher’s long nail. The teacher said that Chillal would never understand the importance of what he had done because Chillal had never committed to anything. “I took it as a challenge,” said Chillal, and there was no looking back.
“Ripley’s is privileged to display this truly unique and one-of-a-kind exhibit. Mr. Chillal dedicated his life to something truly remarkable and Ripley’s is the perfect home to honor his legacy. While he may have cut his fingernails, his nails will be forever memorialized inside Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square.” Suzanne Smagala-Potts, PR Manager, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Mr. Chillal’s unusual choice didn’t stop him from leading a normal and happy life. He married, has two children, three grandchildren, and enjoyed a successful career as a Government Press Photographer.
However, as he aged, his long nails were proving more challenging to maintain an ordinary lifestyle. He found it difficult to sleep, and even a gust of wind was cause for alarm. In the memorial case – Believe it or Not! – his cut fingernails are laid flat and span a length of over 31 feet, the height of a three-story building.
He only grew the nails on his left hand. His right hand’s nails are trimmed. Due to years of growing his nails and the weight of the nails, his hand is permanently handicapped. He cannot open his hand from a closed position or flex his fingers.
TURNING NEAR-TRAGEDY INTO COMEDY…
Jim Gaffigan has a new comedy special, called “Noble Ape.” It grows out of some recent scariness in his own family, when his wife underwent surgery for a brain tumor. She is Jim’s co-writer, and it is not only his, but her sense of humor that comes through this new concert.
Here’s an excerpt about that experience.
THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE…
From The Atlantic: One of the issues about government in our days is the growth and the development of the so-called “administrative state” — the administrative and regulatory institutions outside the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government, which have grown immensely throughout my lifetime.
In his article, “America Is Not a Democracy,” Yascha Mounk writes: “In many policy areas, the job of legislating has been supplanted by so-called independent agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Once they are founded by Congress, these organizations can formulate policy on their own. In fact, they are free from legislative oversight to a remarkable degree, even though they are often charged with settling issues that are not just technically complicated but politically controversial.”
This is one of several reasons Mounk says that we have a real democracy problem here in the U.S. However, the situation is complicated. Near the end of his article, I found a few paragraphs that, in my opinion, form one of the clearest statements of the dilemma modern nations and their governments face today and in days to come:
For all that the enemies of technocracy get right, though, their view is ultimately as simplistic as the antidemocratic one. The world we now inhabit is extremely complex. We need to monitor hurricanes and inspect power plants, reduce global carbon emissions and contain the spread of nuclear weapons, regulate banks and enforce consumer-safety standards. All of these tasks require a tremendous amount of expertise and a great degree of coordination. It’s unrealistic to think that ordinary voters or even their representatives in Congress might become experts in what makes for a safe power plant, or that the world could find an effective response to climate change without entering cumbersome international agreements. If we simply abolish technocratic institutions, the future for most Americans will look more rather than less dangerous, and less rather than more affluent.
It is true that to recover its citizens’ loyalty, our democracy needs to curb the power of unelected elites who seek only to pad their influence and line their pockets. But it is also true that to protect its citizens’ lives and promote their prosperity, our democracy needs institutions that are, by their nature, deeply elitist. This, to my mind, is the great dilemma that the United States—and other democracies around the world—will have to resolve if they wish to survive in the coming decades.
We don’t need to abolish all technocratic institutions or merely save the ones that exist. We need to build a new set of political institutions that are both more responsive to the views and interests of ordinary people, and better able to solve the immense problems that our society will face in the decades to come.
TODAY IN MUSIC…
One of the best new albums I’ve heard lately comes from an old friend — John Prine. It’s called “The Tree of Forgiveness,” and it’s his first release of new songs in 13 years. This fine record features not only the old master but also some of my favorite contemporary musicians and songwriters, like Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, Sturgill Simpson, and Brandi Carlisle.
John Prine has twice survived cancer now, having most recently recovered from lung cancer. He’d had neck cancer in the late 1990s. He told Terri Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air that these illnesses and treatments changed his voice enough that he can bear to listen to himself sing now.
Prine has always been a master of language and a clever observer of human nature in all its down-to-earth forms. And this new album carries on the tradition with a strong program of Prine poetic insights. As Will Hermes said at Rolling Stone, “It’s very good, frequently brilliant, with all the qualities that define Prine’s music.”
Here is the most poignant and pretty song from The Tree of Forgiveness, “Summer’s End.” Prine sings with guests Sturgill Simpson and Brandi Carlisle.
The album ends with a characteristically clever and rollicking Prine meditation from a guy who is obviously comfortable in his mortality. He sings about how “this old man’s goin’ to town” when it’s time to go to heaven. Sound to me kinda like goin’ to the fair.
•I’m gonna get a cocktail — vodka and ginger ale
I’m gonna smoke a cigarette that’s nine miles long
I’m gonna kiss that pretty girl on the Tilt-a-Whirl
‘Cause this old man is goin’ to town.