Archive for February, 2013

Apologetical innovation

February 25, 2013

Quoting Cardinal Keith O’Brien, whose resignation became public today (also, BBC live) after the “inappropriate conduct” thing:

“Looking back over my years of ministry: For any good I have been able to do, I thank God. For any failures, I apologise to all whom I have offended.”

I think this is a nice innovation, a meeting of two sophistries — the “God did all the good, for all the bad you must blame me” one, and the “I apologize at people without specifying what I might apologize about; probably just offending people and it would be kind of silly of them to not forgive me right now, right?” one.

*

Edit: But to be a bit less facetious, this is a strange case. As I understand it, O’Brien had come out saying the next Pope might consider doing away with priestly celibacy (almost mistyped that as “celibaby” — which is what may happen when celibacy doesn’t), and there’s this theory that these accusers came out because they were horrified by such a radical, 16th-century view. Which, if true, would be doing the right thing for a very wrong reason.

Then, as I understand things, O’Brien is accused of leaning on adult males with his power and authority, trying to get sex — and here the only part to be disapproved of is the power imbalance, not who he was trying to get sex from. But since he himself is publicly a very coarsely anti-gay guy, his supporters are likely to be upset and horrified by exactly the wrong part of the accusations. (Well, assuming they ever get above the exceptional logic of “But he did a good thing! He can’t do bad things!”)

The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Extended Director’s Cut Edition)

February 20, 2013

A boy, a shepherd boy, ran into the village, crying: “A wolf! A wolf is coming!”

The villagers said, “This boy is nuts. This is the eleventh time this week, and each time before there has been no wolf.”

“Seriously, honestly, it’s worse this time!” the boy cried, “A wolf is coming! It ate all my sheep, swallowed all of them whole, and it’s coming to eat all of you!”

“Now this is serious”, the mayor of the village said. “You say all your sheep are gone without a trace?”

“Yes! The wolf picked them up one by one, dropped them into its great cauldron-like maw and swallowed them without any chewing at all!”

“I think”, the mayor said, “And having thought, and conferred with the good men of this village, I believe you took the sheep to the next village over, sold them there, and made up this whole wolf story to cover up your theft of this common animal property.”

“Honestly I did not!” the boy cried — but the constable, who was a big burly man and much quicker than seemed right, caught him by the neck and threw him in a cellar to wait for the law-meet the next Thursday.

That night, then, there rose a great racket from the house next to the mayor’s, which was next to the woods; and the mayor came out in his glorious purple satin nightcap and his white nightrobe and his rabbitskin slippers, and banged on the neighbor’s door, screaming: “For fuck’s sake, keep quiet you howlin’ lunatics, honest people are tryin’ to sleep in here!”

As the racket had already ceased at this point, the mayor felt good about himself and went back to sleep.

When morning came, however, the house was found empty, and none of the people who lived there, or their animals, were ever seen again.

“It must have been robbers, robbers that I scared away”, the mayor said, standing in the empty kitchen.

“But they’ve taken none of the forks and the icons, or any other objects of value”, the much too quick constable said.

“Then they must have been worse”, the mayor said. “Slavers, I reckon; slavers, kidnapping good hardworking people because indolent and bothersome people do not make good slaves.”

The next night, the house on the other side of the mayor’s house erupted in clamor — since this was a small village, on the other side of that house was again the forest.

“Oh dear”, said the mayor, and ran to the constable’s house — but the constable was already out and the noise was waking up the whole village, so the mayor ran back to the house of the noise and banged on the door.

All at once, the noise ceased, except for a quiet thumping, as if of a hand palpitating against the inside of a rough wall-hanging of wolfskin.

“Come out, whoever you are!” the mayor cried, and then, out of courtesy and fear, added, “Or whatever you are!”

Behind him, a mob was forming, with pitchforkses and torches and big staring scared eyes.

“Go in!” the ditch-digger cried.

“Who, me?” the mayor asked.

“Yes, you! You can speak to the taxmen and the knights and the knaves alike; if there is any in this village that can talk to slavers or whatever, it must be you!”

“Oh for fuck’s sake”, the mayor muttered, and slowly pushed the front door open a bit, and slipped inside.

At once something slammed the door shut, and pressed him against it. It breathed heavily and with great smell; it was taller than a man, and bigger than a horse; it was all over covered with wolfskin, and it was giant wolf!

“Hello”, the wolf growled.

“I have come here to speak to the slavers!” the mayor gasped.

“You fool”, the wolf leered, pressing its face against that of the mayor, “There are no slavers. I made that up.”

And, in a movement much too quick for a beast of its size, it contorted its back and rolled its eyes and drew in its hair; and in its place stood the constable, grinning and licking his lips.

Of the family that had lived in the house, or of their animals, there was no sign — save for a weak shaking of the constable’s belt buckle over a big, swollen belly.

“You are a wolf!” the mayor cried.

“You’re nuts”, the wolf-constable leered: “There is no wolf, and I think you’re in league with the slavers who just ran out the back door.”

And the thieving boy and the slaving mayor were both put to death, and the constable found them a grave nobody else could ever find.

The Frog and the Ox (with apologies to Aesop)

February 20, 2013

There was a frog that, hopping along the side of a pasture, hopped above the tall grass and saw an ox in the middle of the pasture.

“Ho!” the frog cried, “What manner of creature are you that you are so humongously large?”

“I am an ox!” the ox bellowed, as oxen do. “I am bigger than you, frog!” — oxen are fond of simple statements — “the head of my see-ox is bigger than you!”

At this, the frog bristled — not literally, for it was not a bristle-toad — and cried: “Why, you boasting animal! I’ll huff and puff and bloat myself to be bigger than you!”

“I wouldn’t like to see that”, the ox lowed. “And I do not think I shall.”

“Galumph”, the frog said, drawing in air; and then it said “Galumph” again and again, swelling like a pale-green balloon.

“Nonsense”, the ox said, shaking its head. “It is not in the nature of things smaller than me to be bigger than me. I may not be a professor in logic, but I know that much for sure.”

“Galumph!” said the frog.

The frog swelled, first to the size of the ox’s head; then to half the size of the ox; then almost to the size of the ox; and the ox watched this with concern.

“You should cease”, it mooed, “or you might burst.”

“Galumph!” said the frog, swelling to just a hair’s breadth of the ox’s size.

“Galumph!” said the ox, hastily gulping in air and pushing its cheeks and fat bellies out.

“Galumph!” — the frog swelled some more.

“Galumph-uh!” the ox gasped, swallowing air and feeling its bellies roil as its cheeks and eyes bulged. “Insolent beast!” it thought — but it had no time to speak, for again the frog went “Galumph!” — and the ox drew in a great breath, `┬┤Galu—”

And then there was a great big wet boom.

“Hiccups!” the frog went, deflating. “Hiccups, hiccups, hiccups!”

And it looked around the pasture everywhere, but of the ox there was no sign nowhere; just a sunburst of blown-down grass where it had stood, a faint smell of methane, and a twinkle in the sky, as if of something big, ox-size, sailing over the sun and the moon.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY. Those that are born big should not think growing up is easy.

The Cat and the Gods (or, one more distorted Aesop)

February 20, 2013

Gods were arguing over whether a living thing could change its nature. Zeus said it was impossible, and the gods agreed this was so; but once Zeus had retired, Aphrodite said she believed improvement, or impoverishment, was possible. As Hermes kept up Zeus’s position, they set up an experiment.

They found a cat in Aeolia, and turned her into a young woman of great beauty and intelligence, and of amnesiac origin, probably due to pirates (she thought) — a fisherman found her on the shore, wet and half-dead and miserable as a drowned cat, and fell in love with her. In a week, their wedding-feast was held.

Now, as Aphrodite watched from the window and Hermes from the crack of the door, a mouse was let into the hall. The couple was behind a long table, smiling, raising their cups; the fisherman’s relations and the local people filled the hall with joyous noise and discordant singing.

Into this, the mouse scurried, from table-leg to table-leg; and the girl’s head turned without her willing it; and a yowl escaped her throat unwilled, in a barely human sound. The hall fell silent; the bride stood up, trembling, stiff, all senses on the mouse — and then she leapt over the table, eyes burning, skirt flaring, and dove on all fours at the gray beast, teeth bare.

The crowd scurried back in confusion and horror as she chased the mouse, palms and knees slipping on the floor, and as a fist came down on the mouse and white teeth tore it apart, splattering a gown with red blood and gray fur.

“Nature wills out”, Hermes said with a laugh, and the two gods departed while behind them the hall exploded with screams of disgust and outrage.

The marriage failed there and then; the fisherman went to the sea and did not return; the bride ran to the hills, and was not seen again; and the locals did not speak of the event, except in hushed voices when no outsider was there to hear.

But it was said that when the moon was full and the sea calm, one could hear a peculiar sound from the hills, as if a cat was crying — which is nonsense for it is not in the nature of cats to cry.

The golden goose (or, further perversions of Aesop)

February 20, 2013

There was a goose, and the goose had an owner. The goose was peculiar, for it laid eggs of pure gold. The said eggs were not good for eating or making more geese; but the owner sold them and grew wealthy with the first egg, rich with the second, and greedy with the third.

He then told himself: “Three golden eggs have come out of my goose. I could wait for more, I could; but people are talking about me and my gold, and I fear I hear mutters under the eaves and see eyes behind the windowpanes; if I do not act quickly, some villain will steal my goose, and it being (except for the golden eggs) in all aspects a perfectly normal goose, it will be beyond my powers to recover it once it has been stolen. Thus I need to extract all of the gold now, before disaster strikes.”

Thus he then chopped off the goose’s head, and slit its belly open — but, much to his shock and dismay, found the goose perfectly ordinary on the inside as well, with no eggs, lumps or even nuggets of gold within.

* * *

There was a goose, and the goose had an owner. The goose was peculiar, for it laid eggs of pure gold. The said eggs were not good for eating or making more geese; but the owner sold them and grew wealthy. This was of little interest to the goose, for the goose was in doldrums and despair: it had no children, for all its eggs were gold through-and-through, and golden eggs do not hatch to piping gooselings, do not give progeny to quacking follow their mother.

And the goose spoke to the owner, saying: “My owner, my lord, my God: I am a freak, a mistake of nature, a miserable thing. Instead of life, I produce hard, cold, dead metal: I am a worthless being. If you can heal me, fix this horrid mistake in me, I would forever obey and worship you; but if that is not within your power or will, at least give me a death, so I may be as dead as these infernal mockeries of new life that I lay.”

And the owner killed the goose, and the goose had peace.

The tortoise and the hare

February 20, 2013

There was once a hare that met a tortoise; and as is the manner of hares, hopped rings around the tortoise until the tortoise stood up and challenged the hare to a running match.

At this, the hare fell to the ground laughing; but the tortoise persisted in its challenge, and eventually the hare agreed: the next day at noon they would run.

Now, the hare was not stupid or overconfident.

He knew the tortoise was ancient and wise, as all tortoises are.

Thus the hare spent the day, and the night, and the morning too thinking what tricks the tortoise had in store for him: for clearly the tortoise had a cunning plan, for why else would it challenge the fleet hare to a contest of speed?

But the hare could not come up with anything: shadows, yes, and suspicions, but no stratagem that would give the tortoise victory. The hare abstained from food and drink, fearing laxatives and poisons; holed up in its hole, fearing “accidental” sprains and sharp acorns to step on; and then the moment of midday was there, and the hare slunk to the starting line, full of nervous concern.

“Shall we run?” the tortoise said, smiling.

“We shall!” the hare said, croaking like a frog, paw shaking.

There was a bang, and they were off. The hare leapt! ran! dashed! went ahead leaving the tortoise in its dust! racing without regard to reserves or pacing — and past the second bend fell to the ground in a dead faint, downed by exhaustion, thirst and nervous strain.

The tortoise trudged to the first bend, then to the second; then past many other bends, and then to the goal.

Gay marriage in the UK

February 5, 2013

So news fly out of England that the non-inbred half of the UK Parliament voted on gay marriage and saw it good. Good news; but the facts portion of the BBC article on the thing was a bit puzzling. There are parts of the bill that are probably concessions to the bone deep stupid factions of the Parliament; bits like

Making it unlawful for religious organisations or their ministers to marry same-sex couples unless their organisation’s governing body has expressly opted in to provisions for doing so

and

The legislation explicitly stating that it will be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples.

Now, those could be bones tossed to the, er, zombies of churches and parties; but I have an alternative idea. They are a brilliant ploy of the pro-gay side, and the anti-gays totally fell for it.

If I understand things correctly, the Church of England has the same problem as the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church has with its relations with reality: their positions, including the one on gay marriage, are lagging behind mostly because of a loud, hateful minority of priests and parishioners. The Church also has a minority (majority?) which disagrees: people of conscience, courage and commitment. (Which is what the previous people are, too; but these aren’t people applying good qualities to bad causes.) Occasionally they’re religious too; but what matters is they are good people. Then when one group says march on to progress and the other says hold still in the mire, well, if you start this holding still you’re going to stay in that status quo.

Now, suppose a vicar of this latter sort is outraged by this law, and decides to go rogue and church-marry a gay couple, and then take whatever punishment falls on him/her. It’s the law now, not a church canon but an actual secular law. Crime, police, courts, punishment. What do you think the law would dole out? A fine? Prison time? Or the Church’s most horrible media disaster of the decade?

Do even the anti-gay people want to see a clergyman sent into the slammer over a theological disagreement?

As for the pro-gay people, well, I think this would be a glorious cause, whatsit, a cause celery, and I’m waiting with anticipation for it.

(Celeb-ree?)

Just a theory, mind you. Not a likely one, but it tastes better than the alternative.

(Freefloating footnote: With the CoE and with the Finnish Church I’d just like to see the progressives get themselves together and go on an intolerant rampage of punishment and dis-employment against the hate speech and hateful stupidity brigade. I’m not a big fan of big-tent leadership when that tent is spread wide enough to cover snakes and trolls.)

(Also, somewhere in the reportage the Hon. MP for Dickweed-upon-Asshole expressed fears this bill might lead to stomping on the freedoms of the bigotedly religious. Oh, if only! — it’s the part of the very liberal one to say, “I like your scare scenario! Do you have any more good ideas?”)