America, America

I remember reading a particular issue of Mad Magazine back in the seventies. As it so often did, it included some song and poem parodies, this time on an environmentalist theme. I can recite two of them from memory–one a spot-on Dr. Seuss, and the other a version of the song “America The Beautiful”:

O cancerous, for smoggy skies
For pesticidal grain
Irritated mountains rise
Above an asphalt plain

America, America
Thy sins prepare thy doom
Monoxide clouds shall be thy shrouds
Thy cities be thy tomb!

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“A Symbol Of National Unity”

I shouldn’t be shocked—hey, they’re only the news,
They can say what they want with impunity—
But it took me aback that they called a cathedral
A “symbol of national unity”.

It’s a beautiful building, I have to admit,
(Darth Vader hides in the façade!)
But it seems our one nation once deemed indivisible
Separates now, “under god”

The cathedral is of the Episcopal Church
So the Baptists, of course, disagree—
Not to mention the Wiccans, or Muslims, or Jews…
But it’s Unity, clearly, you see?

It’s not their intent to do anything wrong
They try to be open, it’s true
They’d love to unite the whole nation, of course,
But that’s something religion can’t do.

It’s a feel-good story; the National Cathedral is getting its needed repairs after the 2011 earthquake sent God’s message that He is a Darth Vader fan. It’s beautiful architecture, wonderful stone carving (my favorite is at 1:40 in the video, reminding us that artists have long used whatever source material they could, from pagan gods to bible stories, as an excuse to showcase naked bodies), extraordinary stained glass (which includes secular themes, like the Apollo lunar landing, incorporating an actual moon rock in the design), and I am happy to see it being restored.

Also, despite being the “National Cathedral”, every dime paying for its construction and repair is from private donors. It officially is an Episcopalian cathedral, not a U.S. one (its official name is “The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington”), although it has seen events from many denominations, and secular events as well.

But one thing it is not, though the linked story makes the claim–it is not a “symbol of national unity”. I can see why the Episcopalian Church would want to call it that–the Pew numbers put traditional and evangelical Episcopalian/Anglicans, combined, at under 2% of the US, not even in the top ten denominations, percentage-wise; to lay claim to a unified “National” anything would be a serious cap-feather. I think, maybe, the only real symbol of unity for this diverse country might well be the motto e pluribus unum, which at once recognizes our differences and our common identity.

But of course, that has been replaced by “in god we trust”, which just emphasizes the fact that it is not in religion’s power to unite, only to divide.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

They paved over Richard—that’s Richard the third
The Richard that used to be King.
Will I be remembered? The notion’s absurd!
But who knows what the future might bring?

Will the world of the future seek out where I rest?
Will they quarry in search of my bones?
Will they pore over details of things I’ve professed?
Will they look for the truth in the stones?

Will I live in the memories of those I have left?
Is this rational thought, or mere snobbery?
Will my grave be exhumed? And, for science, or theft?
Archaeology, maybe, or robbery?

They paved over Richard; they’ll pave over me
And a car-park may cover my head
My bones will be hidden where no one can see…
But I really won’t care. I’ll be dead.

In my opinion, the coolest site by far for looking at all the Richard III stuff is this, the University of Leicester page on the search. Great explanations of the dig, of the DNA search, of the analysis of wounds, of the reconstructed face…

And Jesus Saith “Take My Wife, Please!”

The fragment of papyrus read:
“And Jesus said, My Wife…”
Which shocked those unaware of this
Dimension of His life

The fragment, though, is incomplete;
It leaves the scholars vexed.
I’ll ask my learned readers, then…
What do you think comes next?

So, yeah… via National Geographic… A fourth-century fragment of papyrus is making some waves.

The papyrus made international headlines when it was cited in a new paper by Harvard historian Karen King. Smaller than a business card, the fragment includes several lines of handwritten text, composed in Coptic language, which uses Christian symbols.

The final line of text includes the words: “And Jesus said, My Wife…” while quoting Jesus.

My question, then, is simple: What’s the next line? What’s next, that the papyrus got cut off before it told us? For me, I see Jesus as a borscht belt comedian, stealing from Henny Youngman, Jack Benny, and Uncle Miltie…

And Jesus said, My Wife Simon Peter and I will be taking the weekend off..

And Jesus said, My Wife, when she sits around the house, she sits. around. the house.

And Jesus said, My Wife complains about dinner: loaves and fishes again?

And Jesus said, My Wife–Take her, please!

And Jesus Said, My Wife…

What?

Oh, rats!

From the fleas of rats and mouses
To a plague a’ both your houses,
If we can’t blame sheep or horses, then we gotta blame the Jews
When we found a small bacillus,
Not a god, had tried to kill us
It’s the sort of information anyone can surely use!
If you wish Yersinia pestis
Not to kill you, our request is
That you clean the fleas from bedding, and the rats from in your larder
But if you’re afraid of science
And you’d rather put reliance
In the methods of the church, then their advice is: Just pray harder!

Shelley at Retrospectacle has begun a week-long series that I am very much looking forward to–that’s right, it’s Plague Week!!

I have always been fascinated by The Plague; no matter how I have tried, I don’t think I can wrap my head around what life must have been like during such horrible events. I hope that the avian flu does not give us the chance to find out.