Iranian Videos

December 31, 2009

This is going to be a continuously edited collection of videos from Iran and the mass protests therein. (At least until the videos stop coming.)

Edit:

Clips from the Ashura Protests

Protestors surround Police on Ashura.

A group of loyalist militia are surrounded by protesters.

Peaceful protest and then the police attack. What’s the line…? “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me”?

Because it’s fun to run people over. (Seriously, if you’re queasy watch out for this one.)

This one, too. I don’t condone the violence on the part of the protesters, but I do feel it necessary to underline the fact that the police have guns. And they use them. Just saying. Rocks seem considerably less intimidating.

What happens when the police are surrounded? They get rocks thrown at them. And their motorcycles get set on fire.

This one just seems kind of gratuitous. Flipped police van, if you like that.

So… those protesters… there are a lot of them, huh?

See what I mean?

There’s just nothing ok about this video. Seriously… people are being killed.

Captain Obvious Award

December 31, 2009

It is true that we can barely recognize anything of ourselves in the Crusaders. They were coarse and unwashed. Most of them were illiterate. Of the physical world, they were ignorant beyond our imagining, believing the earth to be flat and the sky a crystal dome. Such medicine as they had was far more likely to kill than to heal — Richard Lionheart and Amalric, sixth king of Jerusalem, were both killed by the ministrations of their surgeons. Their honor was often truculent, their loyalty sometimes fickle, their piety was barnacled with the grossest kinds of superstition.

That’s from a National Review article that sort of (?) condones the Crusades, which, being pacifist, I’m predictably gritting my teeth at, but even beyond that…

This sort of bemused, enlightened chuckling at “those backwards middle age folks” always grates on me. Of course they saw the world in a different way than we do. They also didn’t have the Large Hadron Collider. Are you going to hold that against them, too? I mean, holy cow, folks from back then pulled off feats of engineering that STILL make our best architects say, “Wait a second… how did they move those rocks?”

Plus… the article defends the Crusades! *facepalm

Elementary

December 27, 2009

Saw this on Boxing Day. (That’s the 26th… just to be sure.) It was enjoyable.

Here, the barest of plot outlines: Lord Blackwood is a noble who’s apparently involved in some paranormal activity– also, he’s been killing people. Holmes and Watson catch him, and he is executed. Complication: he then raises from the dead, which is super creepy. Blackwood has a plan to take over England and control the world through the magic he has at his disposal. Holmes and Watson must solve the riddles before he kills everyone in Parliament.
Sub-Plot: Watson is getting married. Tension! Holmes and Watson are pretty much hetero-man-married, so Holmes doesn’t take kindly to a woman infringing upon his turf and domesticating Watson.

As far as I’m concerned, the plot’s only purpose here is to not get in the way, and set up a few genius “Wow, only Sherlock Holmes could have figured that out” moments. It mostly does that well, although I could have done with more of those genius moments. The real pleasure here lies in watching Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law play Holmes and Watson. Rachel McAdams is also very good as Irene Adler. Downey, in particular, is very fun to watch. He seems to have grasped this latest chance he’s been given by Hollywood and is definitely making the most of it. Sometimes Jude Law looks like he’s sleepwalking on screen, but his Watson is a suitably intense, humorous sidekick.

This isn’t going to change your life, but it is a few hours that you won’t regret. Have fun.

The Darkest Night of the Year

December 24, 2009

Forgive the poetic license– and blatant theft from Over the Rhine– but this is the darkest night of the year. I don’t mean outright horror; nothing tops the Good Friday-Holy Saturday duo there. This is where it really gets tenuous.

The anticipation and fast of Advent; the “hopes and fears of all the years”; the divine plan.

It’s all on one family; one husband trying to find a place to stay for the night; one woman in labor; one God-child being born.

Tomorrow we feast because God is with us; tonight we keep vigil in recognition of just how small the margin of error is.

Ungrateful Cretins

December 23, 2009

This is a bit of a piggy-back post on the previous one. I’ve noticed in the past few weeks an increasing skepticism regarding action taken in the name of the common good, with people looking back and saying, “What was all the fuss for?”

Take acid rain, for example, a cause celebre in the 80’s. Portrayed as a scourge against nature and humanity, Congress passed several laws curtailing the emissions which cause acid rain over the protestation of the industries affected. “Why make us spend all this money? You’ll be crippling our ability to compete! Jobs will be lost!” Regardless of whether these things happened, emissions have dropped and so has the incidence of acid rain. But since it isn’t in the news as much, people seem to think it wasn’t all that big a deal. My guess is this forest would disagree.

OOO! What about the ozone layer? That was a big deal, too, right? NASA released some creepy projections of what atmospheric ozone would look like if emissions of CFC’s weren’t seriously curtailed, and the world understandably went bonkers. CFC’s were then sensibly banned, and things stabilized, right? Wrong. That’s an image from 2006, illustrating the largest hole in the ozone ever recorded. But still, we spent a lot of money, right? And it isn’t in the news anymore, right? So it was a waste of our money, right?

Now we get psuedo-scientists citing both of these examples as why we shouldn’t spend money to prevent the world’s temperature from rising. Yep. Because the science is really on their side.

But I don’t have to stick with just scientific examples here. What about Y2K? That was supposed to make all the planes crash and the bank accounts reset to zero, right?

And then we spent a bunch of money preventing that from happening, and nothing happened. Now… I’d think that Occam’s Razor would suggest, then, that the money we spent worked. A surprisingly large number of people seem to think that what it really means is, “Whoops! There was no problem at all!” I remember my dad spending almost all of 1999 working on computer programs to prevent his company from losing all of its records. In fact, he wasn’t able to spend New Year’s Eve with us, because he had to be at work to make sure the computers didn’t explode. Farhad Monjoo explains the whole situation pretty well in this series from Slate.

Now, if this is a problem when we take (expensive) action against a perceived problem, what happens when we take (expensive) action against an approaching apocalypse and things still end up sucking? Like… now? Governments around the world have spent obscene amounts of money (Enough to make Solomon blush) to prevent the world’s economy from tripping over its shoelaces. And, obligingly, the economy has been crappy. So now, in the face of almost every reputable projection of what things would have been like had capitalism not been saved from itself, people have turned into deficit hawks, screaming that the government is just spending too darn much. (Suggest cutting the defense budget, famously bloated, to these people and the screaming will just get louder.)

What does this say about our chances of averting climate disaster? Well, I think world leaders are in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation here. Spend the money to fix the earth, and in fifty years everyone will be asking what the big deal was. Choose not to spend the money and in fifty years everyone will be angry at the politicians for not averting disaster. This Guardian article also makes me much less trusting of emerging economies interest in actually fixing things.

Special thanks go out to wikipedia for these two articles on the ozone layer and acid rain. Enjoy lots of numbers.

Every year it seems I hear about the War on Christmas— mercifully less so this year– and most of the time I want to join in on the fight. That’s a totally different post for later this week as the glorious day approaches until then let’s have this one tide you over. Courtesy my friends Pop Raak and Pants:

Jason Boyett Doesn’t Like Focus on the Family. (In this case)

In fairness, it makes me think of the bumper stickers I’ve seen in Colorado: Focus on your own damn family.

So instead of the War on Christmas (cue ominous/news-y music) I want to talk about the War on Science, which I actually think is happening.

Sort of.

Andrew and I were talking about this Friday over lunch. One of his colleagues at Tear Fund was on some form of media broadcast which I can’t remember at present. (TV? Radio? Help me, Andrew, you’re my only hope.) His colleague was debating a crazy person from the United States. (Why is it always Americans?) This person apparently thinks the world is just a few thousand years old and is not being affected by all the goop humans are continually putting into the air.

I’d like to know why they’re still getting air time.

Look, I get that our organs of journalism have enshrined in some conceptual headspace the idea of equal time, but at what point can a journalist just step up and say, “Look, the warming capacity of carbon dioxide has been documented for well over a hundred years, and we’re increasing the saturation of carbon dioxide in the air every day. How does that not warm the earth?” I’ve said this before: when can I just say “You’re crazy; leave me alone”?

What I’m writing here smacks a bit of contradiction, since I’ve previously said in this space that there’s no such thing as a bare fact, and all knowledge is contingent. Fair enough. We’ve seen over and over again that science can’t answer a lot of questions facing humans.

Like meaning.

Or God.

In fact, most honest scientists would admit that the whole God question is just beyond the remit of science. It’s an irrelevant question, at least to natural science. No proof one way or the other, and no way to orchestrate proof. Why bother?

This is why we have theology.

Theology doesn’t explain atmospheric conditions or melting polar ice caps, though. For that we have climactic science, and it remains our best way of understanding what’s going on in our air. The irony is that the people who are most committed to the idea of absolute truth are also the people who are undermining their position by fabricating studies and twisting data to fit their arguments. Andrew mentioned that his colleague’s counterpart (the denier) claimed that a majority of scientists thought that anthropogenic climate change was bunk. When drawn on that the denier refused to elaborate on the methodology of the study, or the wording of the conclusion. It could have been a skewed sample; or prejudicial wording; or malign (or, if I’m being charitable, benign, as well) distortion of the conclusion. No honest climactic scientist, if pressed, will claim 100% certainty, and many will critique their peers’ work. This isn’t because they think their peers are wrong; they want to see the data tightened up.

Back in the 70s and 80s, the scientific community was party to legitimate and good faith debate over the merits of climate change theory. That time has long since passed. Now, the people holding that line are guilty of conflicts of interest on the scale of tobacco scientists or pseudo scientists.

So the question for me is, why is this farcical debate still being given air time, and what is it about people that they can’t just accept a scientific conclusion? We still live in an age when the majority of Americans think that natural selection isn’t a real thing. Darwin’s theory is just about as well proven a theory as exists in science today. It is more right than Newton, and people would rather trust falling apples than the evolution of species.

Seriously, can we get an armistice?

Baby It’s Cold Outside

December 20, 2009

A collection of completely unrelated observations:

I was listening to the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” today, and was struck by the lyrics. Mainly by how creepy they are. A sampling:

The neighbor’s might think… (Baby it’s bad out there)
Say, what’s in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)

I know this was written towards the beginning of the 20th century, but… yipes. It just reeks of creeper-ness. The whole things is really a lot like that. Still… Over the Rhine’s version is pretty listenable.

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It’s really hard to share the sidewalk with pedestrians when you’re on a bike.

I just want to get that out there.

There are almost no useful bike lanes in this city; on my way from Elms to EBM there are exactly two blocks worth of bike lanes, and the Royal Mail parks on them a lot, forcing me onto the sidewalk anyway. My choices, then, are to take to the streets and risk getting killed by a car, or to ride on the sidewalk and risk clipping someone walking along.

Sometimes I want to go to the street.

I’m sure this isn’t exclusively a Belfast problem, but pedestrians here really have no idea how to share space with bikers. While I was in Russia I walked a lot, and I started to get really annoyed with people who weave about as they’re walking. This is exponentially more annoying when on a bike, since I can’t move out of the way nearly as quickly when I’m cycling. I’ve noticed that the most erratic people are those who have their ears attached to cell phones or have mp3 players going. This being 2009, that’s most people.

I sound like a total curmudgeon, but it is pretty darn annoying to have people wander into my path then look up and gasp because they hadn’t seen me coming, despite the fact that I wasn’t exactly being sneaky.

Integration as Peacemaking

December 18, 2009

On the face of it Des Moines, Iowa appears incredibly homogenous; just a bunch of white Iowans going to and from work every day. Zoom in a little closer and the city’s diversity becomes apparent. Bosnians and other Eastern Europeans living near South East 14th; Sudanese and an enclave of Sub-Saharan African refugees scattered across town; African Americans concentrated in the Drake neighborhood; Latinos living on the east side. Almost no city in the world can claim to be totally homogenous; ours is a multicultural world. But even small towns are experiencing demographic changes. In Sioux Center, Iowa one of every four children in the elementary school system speaks Spanish as their first language. This in a town with a population of just over 6,500. Populations all across the world are grappling with how to best interact with people whose backgrounds are different– sometimes very different– from their own, and a globalized economy will only increase this level of interaction. Free trade agreements like NAFTA and pan-state groups like the EU ensure that the movement of peoples will continue almost unabated in the years to come. Even in 1971, a survey of states found that only twelve of the 132 generally recognized countries could be considered a nation-state. How to deal with this reality, then? One among many options is integration, a method which hopes to ease and manage ethnic tensions. In this paper I will examine the strengths and limits of such an approach, arguing that it is a useful tool, but certainly not a sufficient one.

The debate around integration concerns the matters of citizenship and belonging brought about by the ascendance of the nation-state. Since few countries in the world are the exclusive province of a single nationality, majority groups must find ways address the fact of people outside their nation sharing geographic space. In Europe, France and Germany have historically taken very different approaches to solving this problem. Rogers Brubaker calls France’s approach jus soli, and Germany’s is called jus sanguinis. In other words, France extends citizenship to all living within its borders, while Germany extends citizenship only to Germans. On the face of it, France’s strategy would appear to be the most equitable one available, but both are deeply flawed in practice.

Since the Revolutions of the 19th century, France’s governments have tried very hard to create a unified French culture for those living within the borders of the French state. The government expects those applying for citizenship to take on those “French” characteristics upon assuming the title of citoyen. It has run into problems in the post-colonial era, as so many other former powers have, in absorbing the influx of all those who were formerly under their sway in overseas territories. In one sense, it is ironic that the French government should require those trying to become citizens to accept “French” ways of living when the culture of Alsace-Lorraine is so demonstrably difference from the culture of Provence. All this makes it difficult to pin down just what “French” citizenship means. For an immigrant, or formerly colonized national living in France, the requirement must be bewildering. In response the French government enshrined a “right to difference” for ethnic groups in the 1980’s. It also began to allow dual citizenship, which had the unintended effect of making French citizenship less important to ethnic and immigrant communities.

One thing these efforts did not do is address the underlying causes of alienation felt by ethnic groups. Second generation nationals from North Africa came to identify themselves as Beurs not as French, a name they adopted for themselves in order to demonstrate their distance from the state setup. Because of the centralized nature of France, any reform attempts end up being “aimed directly against the state,” since any protest against the way citizenship is perceived and how it is achieved is also a protest against the nation. This raises the ire of right wing groups who protest that those who choose to live in France should be expected to conform to French ways of life. More recently, a French commission on national identity began to redefine assimilation as not giving up the previous identity, but choosing to willingly take on a French one on top of that. “Pluralism was subsumed under a particularistic nation identity.”

Germany’s case is slightly different. Post World War II the two Germany’s took differing paths to citizenship. West Germany maintained that anyone who was a cultural German had German citizenship, while East Germany had a territorial conception of citizenship. This proved to be a boon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and helped to expedite the reunification of Germany. Unfortunately, during the intervening time West Germany also had to import large numbers of migrant workers, often from Turkey, who were initially only expected to be in Germany temporarily. These workers faced an extremely difficult task of acquiring citizenship. It was essentially impossible, since to be a German citizen one must be German. To be naturalized in Germany one must undergo a perceived change in nature, not merely legal status. Germany has traditionally resisted naturalizing people who insisted upon retaining their original citizenship.

In some cases integrationist policies have seen limited success in countries with minority conflict. In Belfast, the city council made concessionary moves to the Catholic population, allowing them hitherto prohibited access to the City Centre in 1993. Tensions were high at first, but as time has passed more and more residents of the city feel that the City Centre is neutral ground to be shared by all. Integrating the City Centre was a step in the long Northern Irish peace process which continues to this day. Recently the Inner East Forum met to discuss issues relevant to their area. A real estate development is being built nearby, and the construction stands to benefit the East Belfast community greatly. The members of the forum had discovered that the developer was planning on reneging on some promises that would have had great impact on the neighborhoods. Since the Inner East Forum is focused on the primarily Protestant Newtonards Road neighborhood, they began to coordinate a response to the builder’s plans with the nearby Short Strand groups, who represent Catholic neighborhoods, in order to more effectively oppose the changes. This could not have happened even ten years ago, but long years of persistent work at reconciliation has made this kind of communal integration possible.

Will Kymlicka is perhaps the most visible proponent of integration in academic circles today, and his approach is well worth noting. Kymlicka identifies two primary sources of diversity in modern states: the “national minorities” and immigrants. Kymlicka considers a “national minority” to be a group that previously governed its own affairs and is concentrated in a particular territorial location. As far as Kymlicka is concerned, immigrant groups should begin to integrate, while “minority nations” should be allowed to govern themselves. Immediately there are a few problems with this definition and the way that a state should respond to groups which fall under one category or the other. For one thing, it leaves off totally those groups which are migratory, like the Romani, the San, and the Bedouin. These groups have a general macro level concentration, but are not tied to any one piece of land and make few ownership claims of territory as such.

The definition also has difficulty accounting for the status of geographically dispersed but sedentary peoples, or groups with competing claims to territory. A glance at a demographic map of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire shows examples of both of these phenomena. Germans in the Empire are concentrated in the west, around Austria and what would become the Czech Republic, but significant enclaves of German population extend all the way to the easternmost edge of the Empire. When one superimposes a contemporary political map on these demographics it becomes clear that multiple countries would have to deal with significant German populations among their citizenry. It is difficult to say whether or not these German populations have any true historical claim to the territory, but it would be equally difficult to expect them to pack up and move back to areas of higher German concentration leaving the host countries with an ethnic dilemma. In the region of Bosnia and Croatia the problem of competing territorial claims emerges. Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians all mingle together in a complex quilt of ethnicity. These competing claims make the job of adjudicating ethnic claims by any ruling state exceedingly difficult.

Kymlicka does make good points on the nature of integration among “minority nations,” though. He quite rightly allows that every nation is different, thus the approach that a state should take to a particular nation must be tailored exclusively to that nation. For example, Cubans tend to see themselves as exiles taking up temporary residence in the United States, and as such they have not gone about integrating themselves into broader American life. Those Asians who fled from China to America during the first years of Mao’s rule saw themselves as immigrants, and have taken on the patterns of immigrant integration. Another example Kymlicka uses is that of African-Americans, who fit neither the immigrant pattern as a result of being forcibly introduced to the land nor national minority pattern and a result of being forbidden to recreate their ancestral cultural forms. As such black Americans see themselves–rightly– as eligible for full membership in the American state and nation, and some have suggested that following the pattern of immigrant integration is the best route to choose.

Here I wonder if societies run up against a problem of physicality. Nations are primarily self-defined in relation to other nations, but these national boundaries can also be porous. To take the American example, European immigrants have been able to integrate into broader American culture with relative ease because of perceived physical and cultural similarity. A member of a national minority or immigrant group who wishes to integrate and is not from Europe may face a more difficult challenge, however. Even if this person fully takes on the norms of broader culture, many will have trouble accepting his or her membership in broader society specifically because of physical otherness. This is where Kymlicka’s argument begins to break down, at least as far as the distinction between immigrants and national minorities is concerned. Furthermore, as is demonstrated by the German case, often immigrant groups simply become an imported nation, particularly when law and culture prevent their full integration.

Even if Kymlicka’s argument is not wholly convincing, it does at least point a way forward, and one that could be useful in certain situations. If the difficulties in distinguishing between immigrants and “minority nations” are worked out, there is still the matter of implementation of acceptable measures to bring about positive results. Sometimes agreements made in good faith do not work out the way they were intended, leading the parties to become disillusioned with the processes. Donald Horowitz outlines a few of the pitfalls possible during a peace process between ethnic groups:

The Incommensureables Pitfall occurs when one side appears to be gaining more than the other(s) from the agreements made.

The Firm Target Pitfall is the result of deferred action on an issue put off to a definite date. Sometimes the promised action still is untenable at that time, but pressure will be high to deliver on promises made. Horowitz notes that this pitfall “creates a promissory note on which members of the beneficiary groups will demand payment.”

The Frozen Quota Pitfall occurs when quotas on things such as government posts and investment dollars do not keep up with changing demographic realities.

These pitfalls need not be deal breakers when encountered, but they do pose a considerable challenge. One thing that those in the majority would do well to keep in mind while negotiating any sort of agreement is the typically urbanized nature of most immigrant populations, while national minorities tend to be geographically concentrated. The distinction is important, and will effect the way that groups interact with each other and approach negotiations. David Laitin points out that immigrant communities are much less likely to start out and out civil wars or contribute to violent civil unrest than what Kymlicka calls “national minorities.” Because most immigrant communities do not make claims to territory, it is difficult for them to mount effective insurgency campaigns and melt back into the countryside. In other words, immigrants are more or less permanent fixtures in the cityscape, and require adjustments by those in the majority along with themselves adjusting in order to prevent a permanent underclass from forming.

It is also important to note that demographics can be a driving factor in pushing through reform, but they are often noted belatedly. For example, Arab Israelis started to become a relevant force is Israeli politics as their numbers increased. Jewish Israelis could no longer ignore their power at the polls and had to start finding ways of including and integrating Arabs into the political process. Arabs naturally flexed their newfound enfranchisement and were able to win critical concessions from the government and the Jewish majority. This newfound power in Israeli politics came about after decades of total neglect as an electoral force by the Jewish majority, and was only made possible by their ability to vote in the first place. Palestinians, who have no such power, are much easier to ignore and fight since their votes don’t need to be courted. These two cases, inhabiting the same geographical sphere, show two possibilities for integration and peace making. On the one hand, a marginalized and oppressed population with the ability to vote was able to make its force known and enact changes; on the other hand, a disenfranchised minority is locked in a feedback loop of violence.

It is tempting to call those realities the choices facing countries with significant minority and immigrant populations, but the right to vote is not quite sufficient on its own. For immigrants, enfranchisement grants agency in the political sphere, allowing them to influence the policies governing them with a vote. But cynical vote gathering by political parties around election day does not do much to better the lot of immigrant communities and enter them into the broader society. Immigrant and minority outreach cannot be just an election day activity, and this is where melting pot ideals sometimes go awry. A melting pot requires give and take; all sides give something up in order to gain something more. No society can expect to interact with another and come out the other side unchanged, and majority groups in negotiation with immigrant communities should not expect to be conceded to at all times.

While granting a vote may be a significant step toward peace and reconciliation for immigrant communities, enfranchisement for national minorities can be a much trickier prospect. Oftentimes this sort of move leads not to integration with the state whole, but with desire for further segregation. Russia grants this autonomy to many of its ethnic minorities; in the United Kingdom, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are all granted broad autonomy from England; in Canada Quebec and Nunavut have autonomy from the rest of the country. Granting autonomy is an easy way of allowing national minorities to have an explicit say in how they are governed, and can go a long way towards redressing some historical wrongs. It is unclear how effective that will be in bringing about peace in areas of ethnic conflict, though. The Scots and Welsh have coexisted with the English in peace for centuries now, and autonomy there is more about picking out and preserving difference than bringing the groups closer together. Brendan O’Leary suggests a number of other options, none of which are perfect:

Grand Coalition Government: Parties representing each segment of society run the government in cooperation with each other. The danger to this is that parties end up being solely ethnically based rather than policy based, and further entrenches political difference.

Proportionality Rules: These prescribe ratios for public sector appointments, ensuring that minority voices are heard in areas of civil service, the judiciary, and the police. This solution needs to be monitored closely and adjusted in the face of changing demographic realities.

Constitutional Vetoes: Minority groups would have the ability to veto discriminatory policy to ensure that the majority could not unduly take advantage of them. In order for this to work, the country must have a working, independent judiciary and a government that is willing to abide by that judiciary’s rulings.

Obviously integrative policies are tenuous creatures, needing to work in concert with other policies in order to work properly. It remains to be seen what level of integration is desirable, as well. The cases of Scotland and Wales show that peaceful autonomy to preserve difference is indeed possible in multi-ethnic states, but in order for such events to be successful conditions should be stable. In situations where autonomy is not possible or desirable, then governments have several other options available to them, but these are also dependent upon many variables which can only be assured through good faith negotiation. Both state governments and the leadership of national minorities must be committed to peaceful coexistence in order for any policy to have any positive effect; otherwise any program put in place is no more than an empty form.

Unprepared for the Inbreaking

December 13, 2009

So, it’s advent. Has been for three weeks now. I confess to being a little ambivalent about advent and Christmas. I just don’t think it is all nearly as important as Easter in the grand scheme of things, but that’s a discussion for another night. I do love the liturgy during the services as we light the candles, though, and last week the liturgy spoke of our unpreparedness for the coming of God.

Yes, present tense.

We are unprepared, all of us. It’s been working on me over the last week or so, and I don’t have anything particularly profound to say past that, except to acknowledge that I am indeed very unprepared for the inbreaking of the divine– in every part of my life, not just at Christmas.

Edit: A few more thoughts came to me over the past day or two on this subject, so here goes:

There’s a quote from a theologian that the Bible is “full of stories that never were and always are.” I hate to dig into such a huge can of worms, but I think this is what makes Biblical stories so compelling. To relate it to Advent, I want to limit my exploration of this to the last part of that statement, “and always are.” There’s something about Advent and this preparatory part of the Church calendar that strikes a particularly true note in the human psyche, I think, and there’s something about being reminded of the need to prepare that also strikes us in a particularly true place.

I also wanted to get into the idea of the Inbreaking. Jessie and Emily: you both noted being unprepared for the end of things, and the return, and that’s certainly one level of interpretation, but it wasn’t quite what I was getting at. The Incarnation heralded the start of a very different set of parameters in the human-divine relationship. This was God very literally interacting with creation in creation’s own form. Since then God’s presence on earth has been that of inbreaking– coming into creation and interacting with it. When I speak of being unprepared, that’s what I’m talking about. I’m not ready to look for those places where God is being revealed.

Unrelated: Why do I keep smelling Frankincense in this city? Why did my basil die? Why is the garlic thriving?

Andrew: thank you for the tips on the Basil. I wish it had lived. What about the frankincense?

Arular

December 12, 2009

I just got this album, and hoo boy. The whole thing just has this propulsive quality; it’s always moving forward. I can see this sounding dated in a few year’s time, but it was recorded in 05 and sounds just great right now. There’s just tons of stuff to listen to an absorb as you go through it. I’ll be listening to it more and more the next couple of days.

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I’m also about to start another week of crazed reading. Yep; I’ve got another paper due Friday. I’ve already gone through a couple of the articles I want to use for resources, but I’ve still got quite a bit to do. I also need to start researching for my dissertation in earnest. I’m going to try to get access to the BBC archives and see if there’s anything in there that I can use. We’ll see how things go.