Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tell Tale Signs

I'm shipping Bob Dylan's latest CD, TELL TALE SIGNS, to my son Colin in Korea for Christmas. Other than being unable to get the celophane back on, he'll never know that I tore into it as soon as it arrived to see what goodies Dylan had for us. This is his eighth volume of the so-called Bootleg Series.

I haven't been disappointed. If you are a Dylan fan at all, there are gems in here that you will find deeply satisfying. I am again in awe of this man's surpassing talent as a songwriter. The booklet that comes along with it, largely written by Dylan's old friend "Ratso" Sloman, provides a nice overview of his career, with little gems thrown in from the personal experience of Ratso. He had once been invited to sit in with Dylan, listening to the final cut of one of his albums. Sloman got upset because "Blind Willie McTell" hadn't been included, a tribute to the blues legend.
"But Bob just put his hand on my shoulder. 'Aw, Ratso, don't get so excited,' he said. 'It's just an album. I've made thirty of them.'"
Listening to Dylan in these latter days, it is clear he has immersed himself in old Americana and its music.
"Those old songs are my lexicon and my prayer book. You can find all my philosophy in those old songs. Hank Williams singing 'I Saw The Light' or all the Luke The Drifter songs. That would be pretty close to my religion. The rabbis, priests, and ministers all do very well. But my belief system is more rugged and comes more from out of the old spiritual songs than from any of the established religious attempts to overcome the devil."
Included on this double CD are a few personal gems. It has two renditions of the recent but ageless tune MISSISIPPI. Sloman comments, "The song is so great, I could listen to a whole album of various takes of it." I could, too.
It also includes a previously unreleased Robert Johnson tune, "32-20". You hear Dylan finger picking and soloing:
"Oh, baby, where you stay last night? You got your hair all tangled and you ain't talkin' right." "I got a .38 special but I think it's much too light..."
Finally, included is the cut 'CROSS THE GREEN MOUNTAIN, from the soundtrack of the Ted Turner-underwritten Gods and Generals. Dylan had been asked to write the song for the movie, and spent weeks in the NY Public Library researching the war. He manages to capture a wonderful sense of necessity, regret, and sadness.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Victor Davis Hanson, with his characteristic sense of history, puts today's economic downturn in perspective, and suggests that much of our problem is about puerile hysteria, not reasoned wisdom:
Get a grip. Much of our current panic is psychological, and hyped by instantaneous electronic communications and second-by-second 24-hour news blasts. There has not been a nationwide plague that felled our workers. No earthquake has destroyed American infrastructure. The material United States before the September 2008 financial panic is largely the same as the one after. Once we tighten our belts and pay off the debts run up by Wall Street speculators and millions of borrowers who walked away from what they owed others — and we can do this in a $13 trillion annual economy — sanity will return.
With a little less confidence, but in the same vein, Peggy Noonan attempts to objectify the blather:

In the Depression people sold apples on the street. They sold pencils. Angels with dirty faces wore coats too thin and short and shivered in line at the government surplus warehouse. There was the Dust Bowl, and the want of the cities. Captains of industry are said to have jumped from the skyscrapers of Wall Street. (Yes, those were the good old days. Just kidding!) People didn't have enough food.

They looked like a catastrophe was happening.

We do not. It's as if the news is full of floods but we haven't seen it rain.

Whatever You Bind On Earth

You will arise and have pity on Zion,
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.

For your servants hold her stones dear
and have pity on her dust...
Psalm 102:13, 14

I found this partial reading from today's Psalmody of possible interest in light of the office of the keys. When the servants of God care deeply about something, so does the Lord.
Later in the reading: "he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer..."
Is the binding-on-earth at all about this?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Spirit of the Year of Jubilee

You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven years seven times, so that the days of the seven weeks of years amount to forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the ram's horn of acclamation; in the seven th month on the tenth day, on the Day of Atonement, you shall have a ram's horn sounded throughout the land, the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you, so that each of you may return to his landholding and each of you may return to his kin group. The fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee for you; you shall not sow [the field], and you shall not reap its self-sown grain, and you shall not pick its unpruned vines. Because it is a Jubilee, it shall be holy for you; from the field you may eat its produce. In this Year of Jubilee each of you shall return to his landholding.
Leviticus 25
God gave this law to Moses on Sinai. Because it is part of a complex of laws governing how the people of Israel were to live in the land Yahweh was to give them, it ought not to be understood, strictly speaking, outside of those laws. But we can take from it pointers for our own life's governance. And, we can understand this gift of Jubilee as a foregiving of a greater gift.

I think you could understand Jubilee as the culmination of all of the laws of living in the land that the Lord gave. This way of living, with honor and the fear of the Lord, supports the possibility of Jubilee; if the way of living in the fear of the Lord erodes, Jubilee crumbles.

We today live our lives as though there is no tomorrow. Yet see how the Lord instituted a year of rest for the land as well as, every fifty years, a year of rest for those who work the land. Or, work IN the land.

A point emphasized over and again is the prohibition against cheating one's neighbor. John Kleinig, in his commentary on this book, writes: "This, however, was a matter of morality, something that could not be enforced by any human court, an obligation that was motivated by the fear of God."

The land belongs to the Lord, and the landholders are stewards. This is pointed out by the concept of Jubilee itself, as well as the economy laid out by the Lord for the buying and selling of land: the price was gauged by the time since the last Jubilee. What was purchased was the right to use the land for a period of time. One became, as Kleinig points out, a "usufructuary". In the spirit of Leviticus, I hereby give you permission to whip that word out in polite company, but only over the next seven years, and only in some sort of reasonable context. No anacalouthons, people!

Ahem. Where was I?

The idea that the land belongs to God--it is "his royal estate" (Kleinig)--means that we who dwell and work in the land are his royal servants. The concept of Christian vocation plays very easily into this understanding. It reinforces that difficult concept that whatever falls into our hands is a matter of stewardship, the very opposite of covetousness.

Kleinig calls this chapter of Leviticus a "theology of the land". He points out that this was not new in history, but that occasionally kings would proclaim a "misarum", a kind of amnesty, involving the cancelling of debts; the freeing of slaves, etc. The sort of thing Pilate did in small form by the releasing of a prisoner--Barabbas--at the culmination of Holy Week each year. So, the law is indeed written on man's heart.


One of the great values of John Kleinig's commentary on the ancient--some would say irrelevant--book of Leviticus is his including in each chapter an essay pointing out how we find Christ in the book. He refers to Is. 61, wherein "the Suffering Servant of the Lord declares that he was sent by God to proclaim an extraordinary Jubilee." As opposed to your garden variety Jubilee, when the debts between people were forgiven, "in this year of Jubilee, God himself would free his people from their debt to him and avenge their enemies." Note that in Luke's gospel, Jesus himself referred to his own ministry in light of the Isaiah passage (Luke 4:17-19).

Kleinig ends his essay with the words to the hymn:

Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer's praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!

He breaks the pow'r of canceled sin;
He sets the pris'ner free.
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood avails for me.

Quotes taken from the Concordia Commentary on Leviticus, published by CPH

The Boys

Colin and Jeremy, last year in Korea.

they look approx. 2.35 sheets to the wind to me

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New From Google Images

Women machinists during War One
Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google.
Find it here

HT: Shrine of the Holy Whapping

“I suffered great psychic harm,” said Olfmann. “And now I’m completely out of bull entrails.”

If you haven't seen My Latest Favorite Blog yet--STRANGE HERRINGS, you must, you must. It combines good solid Lutheran confessional theology with a manic, Onionesque take on what is happening at what in OT times was called the "gate"--the public square. Anthony Sacramone, late of Luther At The Movies and currently holding down a steady job at First Things, is BACK!

Friday, November 21, 2008


Yes, we've struck bottom. For several months we've resorted to amusing ourselves, collectively, with the television show CRIMINAL MINDS. It was going along so well for us, too. We'd gotten used to the visual or implicit violence, the theme of FBI profilers digging into the minds and motivations of the nation's most depraved serial killers. We were aware the show was painstakingly reality-based (without being reality-based). We'd gotten to like the cast, especially Gubler, and had come to realize that the real-life profilers working for the real-life FBI were heroes. All of that.

But we crossed a line last night, watching something tacked onto our Netflicks copy of one of the series' shows, called The Making of CRIMINAL MINDS. This self-congratulatory look behind the scenes has become de rigeur in the movie and television industry, as those of us with inquiring minds--"who want to know"--demand more and more of what ought to be a simple diversion: watching a make-believe television show featuring actors and actresses pretending to be someone else. We now need to see the boom operators and cameramen stalking the scene as well. Otherwise, its just fake, right?

We hit bottom however, when Mandy Patinkin, who had so covered himself with glory and laurels as the Spanish swordsman Montoya in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, had to get personal with us. He had (he's OTS* now) some sort of personal identification with the show and his role that just...wasn't quite right. And he had to couch this in terms that were just wrong. Just wrong.

In speaking of the heroic role of FBI profiler, dealing with all of this evil in the world, he had this, sort of (by memory) to say:
"You just have to breathe in all of that darkness, and breathe out light."

Somebody with only one nature can do this?

*Off The Show

Congressional Motors

IowaHawk puts a hilarious spin on Congress' notion that they can get involved in saving the American car industry. Read it, weep.

A snippet:
All new for 2012, the Pelosi GTxi SS/Rt Sport Edition is the mandatory American car so advanced it took $100 billion and an entire Congress to design it. We started with same reliable 7-way hybrid ethanol-biodeisel-electric-clean coal-wind-solar-pedal power plant behind the base model Pelosi, but packed it with extra oomph and the sassy styling pizazz that tells the world that 1974 Detroit is back again -- with a vengeance.
One thing is sure since the election: politics are funny again. Laughing is about all we've got left. Or... or all we've gotten right. Heheheh.

Important Fact Of The Day

Most toilets flush in the key of E flat.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Typealyzer and Me

The American Scene got me onto this:

Here in part is what turned up for this blog:

The Mechanic:
The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.
Yeah, that part about avoidance is spot-on. Otherwise, I mean, the Mechanic???
I once helped rebuild a VW 36 horse engine. Otherwise, I change the blades on my lawn mower. Otherwise...

My 14 year old daughter's blog, on the other hand, fits the profile of an entertainer. Imagine that.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Climate Change Science Explained

Ground surface temps have been measured all over the world for decades and then collected in order for us to know whether the earth's temperature is actually rising, falling, or staying more or less the same. But there appears to be a great deal of chaos in this scientific undertaking. A commenter named Phil over at Watts Up With That? helps explain the state of affairs at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and elsewhere:

Think of it this way. You conduct an experiment. After you conduct the experiment, you find out that (a) some of your instruments were either miscalibrated, defective or improperly located, (b) external factors that you did not take into consideration or measure at the time the experiment was running have affected your measurements, (c) some of the measurements during the experiment were not recorded, (d) you used different instruments to record measurements over different time periods at different locations during the experiment. You find all of this out AFTER you have been running the experiment for many years. Then, instead of throwing out the data as hopelessly compromised and starting the experiment over with these factors corrected, you (a) do a study estimating how miscalibrated, how defective and how improperly located your instruments were and apply adjustments to all past data to “correct” the improper reading, (b) you do a study to estimate the effect of the external factors at the time you discover the problem and apply adjustments to all past data to “correct” the effects of the external factors even though you have no idea what the effect of the external factor actually was for a given instrument at the time the data was recorded, because you only measured the effect years later and then at only some locations, (c) you “fill in” any missing data using data from other instruments and/or from other measurements by the same instrument, (d) you do another study to determine how best to deal with measurements from different instruments over different time periods and at different locations and apply adjustments to all past data to “correct” for differences between readings from different instruments over different time periods at different locations. Then you continue running the experiment, while you continue applying all of your adjustments on an ongoing basis to all past data as new measurements are recorded. Finally, you believe that all of your data has been meticulously recorded with great accuracy and any uncertainties are minimal. Then you proceed to use the results of your experiment to justify changing policies for the entire world at a cost of many trillions of dollars, with the unerring belief that your experimental data is completely reliable.

It isn't helpful that one of the organizations being relied upon for basic data on temperature change is led by a proponent of man-made climate change. Fix the science by fixing the organization that does the science, fund it properly, and let's find out what we know before we decide what we do. Is fixing a problem that may not exist something that ought to be high on our list of priorities?
Anyway, you may want to keep an eye on the blog listed above as well as this one: There is some mild sniping going on betwixt and between the competing agonistes, which makes it all the more a spectacle to behold.
Counterarguments here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Seen in FIRST THINGS today:

Lifeboat Ethics

Since I'm a utilitarian
I'll eat the vegetarian.
--A.M. Juster

Thursday, November 6, 2008

So. Does this mean Bill Clinton won't be the next ambassador to the U.N.?

Political Donatism

There is a new term afoot: Obamicons. Conservatives who, in the Last Days, threw their weight behind Obama or else just silently slinked away and voted for the President-elect (not elect until December when the electoral college votes, of course).
Hold that thought.

You remember the Donatists? Of course you do. Back in the early fourth century, when the dust had begun to settle from the Decian persecution, followed by the Diocletian persecution, certain Christians began to recount that those traditores (Those who had "handed over" the sacred scriptures to Roman authorities to be burned) who had bent a knee to Caesar were now once again in the Church, baptizing babies and offering the sacrament. The Donatists rigorously dissented, insisting the church was the church of saints, not sinners, and these weak-kneed hypocrites had already shown their true colours, and ought to be shown the door. As you no doubt know, the Donatists themselves were shown the door. Off they went to north Africa, of course, to party piously by themselves.

One of the interesting challenges for the Republicans now is what to do with these Obamicons who in their support for the Democratic nominee showed their true colours. Victor Davis Hanson muses:
Obamacons. The timing and rationale for conservatives jumping for Obama became suspect not because of their decision per se, but because it came late, and was often without an explanation of why Obama’s tax or spending plan, or foreign policy, or proposed new entitlements were superior to John McCain’s.
They will be orphaned since there are too many more liberal in line ahead of them to enjoy Obama’s graces, and they burned their bridges with their former conservative supporters.
If this election did anything, it did indeed shake up the status quo. It will be interesting to see if political donatism is alive and well in the 21st century. Churches--and political parties--most often just shoot their wounded.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Margin of Error = Who the hell knows?

Iowa-Hawk weighs in on the imperfections in our national polling systems: