Image by James Bama.
Image by James Bama.
After yesterday’s jeremiad about the Pat Robertson brand of Christianity, it was good to be reminded by my friend Paul Zahl of what Charles Dickens found when he looked over the shoulder of one of his characters as she gazed into “the eternal book”:
Harriet complied and read — read the eternal book for all the weary,
and the heavy-laden; for all the wretched, fallen, and neglected of
this earth — read the blessed history, in which the blind, lame,
palsied beggar, the criminal, the woman stained with shame, the shunned
of all our dainty clay, has each a portion, that no human pride,
indifference, or sophistry through all the ages that this world shall
last, can take away, or by the thousandth atom of a grain reduce . . .
— from Dombey and Son
That quote in turn made me think of these lines from Bob Dylan’s “Chimes Of Freedom”, whose rhythm and language are so oddly like those of Dickens, with a Beat twist to them:
Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing . . .
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
Dylan may have had the eternal book in mind when he wrote this, with that “cathedral night” and that climactic image of the “hung-up person”, a bit of Beat lingo which, in this context, puts one in mind of some later lines he wrote:
There’s a lone soldier on the cross, smoke pourin’ out of a boxcar door,
You didn’t know it, you didn’t think it could be done, in the final end he won the war
After losin’ every battle.
As Jesse Dylan observed on Facebook yesterday, “And the asshole of the year . . . the person with the least compassion . . . the everything wrong with religion award goes to . . .”
Who else could it be but Christian ghoul Pat Robertson, whose narcissistic wickedness knows no bounds? Pat loves to taunt and judge the suffering people of this world, especially at the times of their greatest agony, by blaming them for their own misfortune, as proceeding from their unwillingness to worship God according his formulae.
Most recently he has blamed the earthquake in Haiti on the fact that those Haitians who fought the French for their liberty, two hundred years ago, succeeded because they made a pact with Satan, offering to worship him in return for his aid. The nation and all its people — like the little girl below — have been cursed ever since, says Pat. (Robertson also blamed the catastrophes of 9/11 and Katrina on the sinfulness of the victims, i. e. on their failure to endorse his social agenda.)
What any of this might have to do with the actual Christian Gospels is beyond rational conjecture. Robertson's Jesus seems to be a zombie god, who came to gloat over the corpses of the dead, as a way of gaining converts through a kind of moral terrorism, instead of that uncanny rabbi of the Gospels whose heart ached so inconsolably for human suffering that he wanted to give up his own life to alleviate it.
CNN showed video today of people in Port-au-Prince waiting outside a medical clinic, which was only partially intact, for emergency service. Amongst them lay the corpse of an infant under a dirty scrap of sheet. I wish Pat Robertson had been there, so he could have lifted back the shroud and shaken his finger at the child, crying, “This is what comes of worshiping Satan!” He seems to have cast himself as a cartoonish Hammer Film monster in some demented remake of Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed! The irony of the genre and the role is apparently lost on him, though.
I don't personally believe in Hell as a literal place — only in the hells we make for ourselves here on earth. I doubt if even Hieronymus Bosch could have depicted the hell Pat Robertson has made for himself, off in his own little hermetically sealed world of self-righteousness. It's something that almost doesn't bear thinking about.
From a recent article in The New York Times:
KAMPALA, Uganda — Last March, three American evangelical Christians,
whose teachings about “curing” homosexuals have been widely discredited
in the United States, arrived here in Uganda's capital to give a series of talks.
The theme of the event, according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan
organizer, was “the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda” —
and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the
traditional African family.
For three days, according to participants and audio recordings,
thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national
politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as
experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people
straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay
movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the
marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual
Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive,
saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that
could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for
Poor misunderstood evangelicals! Yes, they wanted the Ugandans to hate and fear homosexuality as they hated and feared the Devil, and yes, they wanted laws against it — they just didn't want the penalties for it to be so harsh. Forgive me if I barf.
Once, on a Polish freighter crossing the Atlantic, I met a lovely German woman of a certain age who had lost a brother on the Russian front in WWII. So many years later she still wept when she spoke of him. Discussing the holocaust, she said, “We knew the laws against Jews were wrong — but killing them! We could not imagine that.”
This excuse won't wash any more. Dehumanizing and demonizing people, identifying them as agents of the Devil, always leads to murder, eventually, along a path too well marked in human history to be followed innocently, except by moral imbeciles.
The “gay agenda”, if such a thing exists, isn't dark. I've known scores of gay people and not one of them has ever had the slightest interest in “converting” straights to homosexuality, having sex with children or destroying the institution of marriage. The mere fact that so many gays want to participate in the institution of marriage shows a respect for it that's harder and harder to find among straight people. You can see their aspirations as misguided, but not dark.
The “Christian” agenda, by contrast, is often, and repeatedly, as dark as it gets. The Catholic bishops who shuttled child-abusing priests from parish to parish to protect the name of the church belong in jail, and could easily be put there if there were the political will to apply the RICO laws concerning criminal conspiracy against them.
The Mormon elders (like chief prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, above) who committed tax-exempt church funds to defeat the law in California granting the civil, secular rights of marriage to gays need to be prosecuted, too, for misuse of funds. At the very least, the Mormon church should have its tax-exempt status revoked immediately and permanently. I am perfectly content for the Latter Day Saints to function as a political action group — they're welcome to meddle in Caesar's things to their hearts' content, defying the teachings of Jesus with all the scorn and contempt they can muster. I am not, however, content to subsidize them in this role.
There are many good people who believe
that consensual sex between adults of the same sex is perverse, morally
wrong — but does anyone in their right mind really believe that it falls into the same category of moral depravity as conspiring
in the rape of children? The mere fact that Rick Warren suggested a
moral equivalence between these behaviors was enough in itself to
identify him as an unbalanced kook.
The pathetic evangelical homophobes (like Scott Lively, above, and Don Schmierer, below) who incited the Ugandans to murder probably broke no civil laws, just the laws of God, upon which they defecated publicly.
I hesitate to speak for Jesus, but since very few seem inclined to these days, I'll just say this — I think he would be richly pleased, and truly served, if every “Christian” church on the face of the earth just quietly disappeared. Only then, I suspect, would there be a chance of his message being heard.
An illustration by Charles Edward Hooper from a 1903 edition of Jack London's The Call Of the Wild, graciously posted at Golden Age Comic Book Stories, where every day is full of dreams.
The conclusion of Coralie Chappat's Autobiography Of A Mirror:
Le miroir m'embrasse de sa mémoire; mémoire active à laquelle se mêle
ma trace. Devenant témoin, j'en atteste l'existence. Je suis portée
par les regards qui se sont cherchés, dont les reflets ont quitté la
réalité commune et pour lesquels le miroir en chérit les
réminiscences. Dans le réceptacle du silence, j'en prolonge le
Trésor ineffable; reviviscences d'événements et de confessions
oubliées; empreintes du réel, matière chargée d'émotions.
A qui se laisse conter l'autobiographie d'un miroir, se dévoile le mystère des lieux.
In response to numerous requests, here is a photograph of the mardecortesbaja test kitchen, where all the recipes offered on this site are put through their paces rigorously before being certified “idiot-proof”.
The staff of assistants, pictured above, renders invaluable aid during this exacting process. All its members are skilled kitchen professionals of high moral character.
The second part of Coralie Chappat’s Autobiography Of A Mirror:
Le carrelage m’indique les pas, les lustres, la galerie à emprunter . . .
. . . la profondeur de la voie s’illumine sous mon seul regard.
Mon visage a disparu, s’est effacé du réel tandis que mon corps est retenu par la réalité de ce jour tel un port dans la mer des possibles. Prenant appui sur l’évanescence de mon image, je bascule de l’autre côté.
Si mon visage est déjà en route, combien ont emprunté cette même voie?
Absence, présence . . . ici autant que là-bas.
Preliminary reports are not encouraging . . .
[Image courtesy of ASIFA—Hollywood Animation Archive]
The first part of Coralie Chappat’s Autobiography Of A Mirror:
Je fouille des yeux la scène initiatique du Grand Véfour dans un respect quasi religieux.
Mon esprit s’isole du monde extérieur, comme par un mouvement de l’âme. Mon corps se sent attiré par un décrochement, l’étrangeté d’un vide dans lequel je me laisse absorber. Lorsque je tente d’en approfondir l’expérience, je perçois un seuil
dont le franchissement provoque une variation du phénomène.
Je flotte telle une passerelle dans l’entre de ces deux espaces.
Get your slice here, courtesy of Bill Bowman and his wife Adrienne Parks, image-makers and wordsmiths in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Bill is one of my oldest friends. I made my first movie with him when we were 12, our own 8mm version of Frankenstein, a masterpiece of cinematic juvenilia. I wrote the script for it. I had never seen a script before and I assumed it must consist of little drawings of each shot with a description of the action and dialogue written next to it. The storyboard was reinvented!
Bill (above, with Adrienne) played Dr. Frankenstein, I assayed the role of the Monster, wearing a papier-mâché headpiece unskillfully joined to my own head with liquid latex. (Liquid latex is cool!) We had read that Jack Pierce spent eight hours applying Karloff's make-up and we felt we could not in good conscience devote less time than that to the process, so we woke up at 2am on the first day of shooting in order to have the make-up perfected by the morning. After half an hour we had done all we could to transform me into the Monster, so we removed the make-up and went back to sleep, reapplying it at first light.
Bill and I have been making movies ever since.
Another epiphany rocks the word, another Christmas season ends. Bob Dylan's Christmas In the Heart reminds us that all is not lost in the art of our time. This year, let's all stand up and change everything, retake our culture from the vile corporations and the sick, demented people who run them.
What good are you anyway if you can't stand up to some old businessman?
— Bob Dylan
[Image by Gentile da Fabriano, just a toiler in the trenches of Renaissance art.]
The finale of Coralie Chappat’s meal at the Grand Véfour restaurant, Paris:
Poursuivant l’aventure, je suis la saveur qui s’abandonne dans sa générosité enveloppante.
Je suis l’effluve gourmande qui s’envole vers les galeries célestes du
Je suis le claquement du glaçage qui s’affine dans la tiédeur du palais pour n’être plus que filigrane.
Surprise par les textures picturales aristocratiques dont la volupté réside au-delà du savoir, je suis devenue la matière de cette oeuvre d’art.
Mais ce qui se dit dans la délectation et le ravissement, c’est la
pensée alchimique d’un esprit visionnaire. Car le primat de
l’esthétique sur la satisfaction des sens, relève du besoin de l’âme.
Aussi c’est du soin de celle-ci qu’il s’agit.
Dans l’espace de mon être, je suis embellie de cet art singulier.
The Twelve Days of Christmas are rapidly coming to an end — dance, dance while you can!
The meal at the Grand Véfour, Paris, with Coralie Chappat continues:
Sous l’effet de l’enchantement, je détache délicatement la chair et soudainement je suis la texture de la sauce qui l’habille de sa matière.
Lorsque mon regard se déplace, les créations se transforment. J’en admire la suavité des formes.
Je suis la sobriété d’une ligne, la note naturelle, la neutralité qui n’épuise pas le rêve.
Je suis une combinaison d’arômes qui se libèrent, l’éminence d’une matière qui se déplie sans retenue, les parfums d’épices qui dialoguent avec les fragrances enivrantes, les flaveurs aux prises de leur intensité.