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Monday, February 29, 2016

Biblical Limericks: Putrescence

In the time of deep silence, my groans
filled the air  along with my sad moans;
day and night God's firm hand
was heavy on me and
putrescence was made of my bones.

Psalm 32: 3-4

The Parable of the Unreliable Narrators

Today I’m thinking about Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Son (usually referred to as the Parable of the Prodigal Son – but I prefer to keep the flow of the Lost Things in this parable – Lost Sheep (Luke 15: 4 – 7), Lost Coin (15: 8 – 10), Lost Son (15: 11 - 32), and I am struck by how unreliable both sons are when they describe their circumstances.

The younger son, after blowing through his inheritance, finds himself working on a pig farm. He says, “…here I am dying of hunger.” (15: 17) Now, yes, there was a famine in that country, and times were hard, but he was working, presumably being paid. Considering his pampered life of comfort and ease, I doubt that this callow boy had any previous experience with hunger or work. I read his complaint with a measure of distrust – not outright disbelief, I’m sure he was hungry, and tired, and sore, and dismal. But I doubt his claim of starvation.

And the elder son is not much better. He first claims that he has “slaved” for his father for many years and “never once disobeyed any orders.” (15: 29)  I suspect that his slavery is a whining exaggeration and his claim of perfect obedience is not perfectly true. He then goes on to say that despite all of this his father has “never offered [him] so much as a kid for [him] to celebrate with [his] friends.” (15: 29) And this, too, I disbelieve. The father in this story is prodigal – giving money and resources extravagantly, wastefully even.  I cannot believe that this lavishly giving man, would have never given his son anything.

Perhaps we should call this story the Parable of the Unreliable Narrators…

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Open Ended Parables

It wouldn’t be anything new or revelatory or shocking to tell you that Jesus often taught the people and his disciples using parables. In fact, we are told that Jesus “would never speak to [the crowds] except in parables.” (Matthew 13: 34/ Mark 4:34 NJB). Many of us have been told about Jesus and his parables since we were children; we have them memorized; we have our favorites. We’ve sung songs and hymns based on the parables. We’ve seen them portrayed in skits, rendered in paintings, stained in glass windows, and filmed for the movie screen.

We know the parable of the sower, and the darnel (though we may know it more familiarly as the parable of the wheat and tares.) We know the parable of the mustard seed and yeast. We know the parable of the wicked tenants, the parable of the lamp, the lost coin; we know the parable of the prodigal son.

But, as familiar, as they have become to us over the years, perhaps it is still possible to be surprised by the parables. They really are intended to surprise, to catch the listener off guard with an eternal truth wrapped within a pleasantly told tale. Perhaps it’s time to be surprised by the parables again. Would you be surprised to discover that there are no parables in the Gospel of John?[i] There’s a lot of teaching going on in John’s gospel, but none of it is via the parable path. The parables that we know and love are all found in the three synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Some of the parable were told to deliberately obfuscate; some of the parables were riddles told with the intent to confuse, told so that they may not understand.

“Then the disciples went up to him and asked, ‘why do you talk to [the crowds] in parables?’ In answer, he said, ‘Because to you is granted to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not granted. Anyone who has will be given more and will have more than enough; but anyone who has not will be deprived even of what he has. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah is being fulfilled:

Listen and listen, but never understand!
Look and look, but never perceive!
This people’s heart has grown coarse,
their ears dulled, they have shut their eyes tight
to avoid using their eyes to see, their ears to hear,
their heart to understand,
changing their ways and being healed by me.’”

(Matthew 13: 10 – 17 NJB)

It may strike us as strange, but sometimes Jesus did not speak clearly. Sometimes his message was hidden inside a riddle. One of my homiletics instructors frequently reminded us to “put the good stuff on the bottom shelf so people can reach it.” But Jesus didn’t always do this. Sometimes he made his teaching difficult to understand.

This isn’t to say that he was always difficult, or that his message was consistently obscure, or that he never explained, or that Jesus cannot be understood. Jesus did sometimes, when pressed, explain the riddles; Jesus did, on occasion, explain the parables. But not often. Between the few that he explained and the ones told to deliberately complicate, there are a great many of Jesus’ parables that are simply told without explanation. They are left for the audience (whether the original aural audience, or us today as a reading audience) to interpret. These parables are told without a key, without a guide. And the audience is expected to work through them, without help, to find their meaning and application.

Our text for today is one of these unexplained parables. Neither Jesus, nor the author of the gospel has provided us with a key to the parable. And, what is more, it is an open ended parable. It has a beginning, a middle – but no definitive ending. It is up to us to provide the ending (provide the endings-plural?) and the interpretation.

In Luke 13: 6 – 9 we read:

He told this parable, ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to his vinedresser, “for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied, “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit net year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’ (Luke 13: 6 – 9 NJB)

This parable comes in a lengthy section of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus has been speaking to a large crowd since the beginning of chapter 12.  He has been teaching them with plain instruction and ethical commands as well as with parables. And in this particular parable he used a set of stock images familiar to his audience.

The image of the vineyard and its owner had been used repeatedly in their religious history, going back to the prophets. The vineyard was readily understood as an image of the nation of Israel, as was the fig tree. And they recognized God as the owner of the vineyard.

We could get hung up on identifying the vine-dresser, or the three year period within this story (many commentaries suggest that this equates to the three year ministry of Jesus, but this isn’t necessary.
He tells the story but doesn’t end it. So let’s try out a few possible endings:

Ending 1
Then the owner answered the gardener, “Do as you have said.”  And the gardener lavished great care on the fig tree for a year - watering it, fertilizing the ground, carefully pruning it, but at the end of the year there were still no figs.  The man returned and said, “Dig it up and throw it into the fire. And let the ground be given to another that will bear fruit.”

This may be the most obvious ending, and is fitting with the context of the preceding chapter wherein Jesus speaks of imminent judgement, but it is not, by any means, the only possible ending. Shall we consider a few more possibilities?

Ending 2
Then the owner answered the gardener, “Do as you have said.”  And the vinedresser lavished great care on the fig tree for year – watering it, fertilizing the ground, carefully pruning it, but at the end of the year there were still no figs.  The owner returned and said, “Give it another year.  There still may be hope for this tree.”

If Moses could repeatedly argue with God to spare the people of Israel, and if Abraham could bargain with God for the people of Sodom, it could be that the vinedresser (who is he?) can plead on our behalf to the owner of the vineyard. It could be…

Ending 3
Then the man answered the gardener, “No.  This tree will not produce any fruit here.  Dig it up and move it elsewhere. Perhaps it will do better on the other side of the garden.”

Perhaps a change is necessary. Perhaps something new is needed…

Ending 4
Then the man answered the gardener, “No.  This tree will never produce any fruit. Cut it down.  But sell the timber to the carpenter.  There is still use in this tree even in its unfruitfulness.” 

Grace even in judgement? Perhaps.

Ending 5
Then the owner answered the gardener, “Do as you have said.” And the gardener lavished great care on the fig tree and, over the course of the next year it produced more fruit than any other tree in the garden.

It’s possible, the big Hollywood ending. Maybe it’s not entirely plausible, maybe it’s not the most realistic, but it is, I suppose, possible.

Ending 6
Then the owner answered the gardener, “Do as you have said.” And the gardener lavished great care on the fig tree and, over the course of the next year it began to produce fruit -not as much as the other trees, but still more than nothing and the owner was satisfied.

Ending 7
Then the man answered the gardener, “Do as you have said.”  And the gardener lavished great care on the fig tree for a year – watering it, fertilizing the ground, carefully pruning it, but shortly before the end of the year the tree was struck by lighting and burned to the ground. 

Hey – the future is uncertain. Open ended and uncertain. Disasters can and do happen, and we don’t know what time we have left.

There could be many more endings, different potential outcomes to this story. The parable is open ended, just like the future. It is up to us to think about this parable, to find its ending, to interpret its meaning and application. What will we do? What will we change? How will we live? How do we read this parable?

(this sermon was developed, from an earlier post of mine)

Crossan, John Dominic. The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus. New York, NY: Harper One. 2012. Print

[i] “The Good Shepherd” and “The Vine” are sometimes described as parables, but they aren’t. Not really. They’re metaphors but they have no narrative. (Crossan 8)

Background Images for Everyone - 2016 - Week 9

For reasons still unknown to myself, I have been neglecting to share a weekly free background image so far this year. I apologize. Here is this week's free background image. It's yours to use as you will-at home, work, school, church, wherever. I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

This week's image, for those who may be interested in such details, was created by photographing, at very close range, a green glass vase positioned directly over a light.

 photo Week 9_zpscjpb3tqy.jpg

Biblical Limericks: Skubalon

Paul didn’t fear to let his words hit,
used words we might think too explicit-
to Philippi he wrote
a right scandalous note:
“I regard all that I’ve lost as shit.”

Philippians 3:8 

Pissed at God

I've just finished reading the short book, How to Pray When You're Pissed at God (or anyone else for that matter) by Ian Punnett.

It's not what I would call a great book. But it is a good book. And while I think he overstates the scientific and psychological aspects of his claims, I don't disagree with him. It is perfectly acceptable to be pissed with God - biblical even.

I may not think it a great book (it's more of a devotional book, and I don't usually like devotional books), but I really like the following:


Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause
against those who are spreading rumors about me;
rescue me from the deceitful and the wicked
who are strangling me with their lies.
i cry to you that I might be understood;
I ask you to bridge the gap between who you know I am
and what people are saying about me.
Please bring me home.

Those who were once my friends are content to make me miserable,
and you, O God, seem content to let this happen!
You are God, my stronghold. Will you reject me too?
Must I endure this oppression alone?

Send forth your light and your truth;
let them guide me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell,
so that I may feel that somebody understands me.
Tell me the words to say
to cut through the walls of lies that are imprisoning me.
Then will I go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight,
I will praise you with music,
O God, my God.

I tell my lonely soul, put your hope in the light and the truth of the Lord!
For I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Amen.  (Punnett 79)

Punnet, Ian How To Pray when You're Pissed at God. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group, 2013. Print.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Snake Skin

I found this snake skin in Nebraska a couple of years ago. It is, I think, a North American Racer - Coluber constrictor - they're non-venomous constrictors that eat insect, small rodents and birds, and bird eggs.

snake skin by Jeff Carter on

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Other Flammable Material

Now is the time to sing and speak about latter-day wars worse than civil, about a time when many will depart from faith and dust will fall, when seducing spirits on FalseNews will promulgate a doctrine of demons and, speaking lies, will convince an imperial people to turn a victorious right hand against their own vitals, searing them with a hot iron.

Now is the time; the future is here. The future is strange. Fortune tellers, witches, pundits, soothsayers, tea-leaf readers, poets, occultists, and sorcerers are shaking the one solid earth, just as the Bible prophesied. It is the war of the latter years and latter days. But what madness is this? What fierce orgy of self-slaughter and burning diesel fuel? Originally astrology and horoscope readings were only done while the ghost of Crassus still wandered with us, but now every proud Babylonian priest and political candidate is consulting the oracles. Tell us what the polls reveal. What do the entrance and exit spirits declare for us today?

The stars in the burning South are swept from the sky but, even so, Astrology has grown. The Chinese might once have passed under our yoke (and still might if the Trumpet blows). Voodoo is back in black magic; witchcraft spreads in cities where houses are half demolished, and walls totter. We have seen mediums and mystics, magnesium fires and experimental weapons and a race of giants corrupting us with wicked imaginations.

Still, if Fate could find no other way to bring the Advent of a Neo-Nero (for everlasting kingdoms cost the gods dear, and advertising is expensive) it will have been worth it. The news media gives widespread publicity to the self-proclaimed satanic candidate, given him everything but a nude woman altar. This is the man who calls himself the First Priest of Narcissism, the epitome of ugly American passion, and free indulgence.

How did the fire begin? How did the diesel fuel ignite? Was there other flammable material that we were content to ignore?

Biblical Limericks: Pontius Pilate

Pontius Pilate wasn’t very nice,
he was brutal to be more precise:
he frightened plebeians,
and killed Galileans
then mixed the blood with their sacrifice.

Luke 13:1 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Crystal Flower

In what kind of soil do crystal flowers bloom?

crystal flower by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: Prey for the Jackal

Those who want to destroy me cackle
thinking of me in death’s cold shackle,
but they’ll go to the grave
and there nothing will save
them from being prey for the jackal.

Psalm 63: 9 – 10

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Bleeding Hands of Fate

Bishop Benedetto called me, “We need your help again.”  I recognized his voice, that odd combination of saccharine vowels and cigarette rasp. The Bishop had called on me and my investigatory services on several previous occasions. The last case I worked for Bishop Benedetto resulted in my arrest and a rather severe beating. Benedetto secured my release, quietly-eventually, and the church paid me for my services, but never apologized, never publicly retracted the accusations. I’d sworn not to answer any more calls from the Bishop, but I needed the money. Desperation makes liars of us all.

“Are you there?” he said when I didn’t respond immediately. “Did you hear me? We need your help.”

“Yeah, I’m here,” I said resignedly. “But I don’t know that I should be. Not after the last time.”

“Yes, well, we wouldn’t call upon your services again, either, except for this. It’s terrible. He’s been dead for fifty years and they still can’t leave him alone. It’s a desecration. You must help. The church will pay you, of course, handsomely, but you must help us. Please. You must help. ”

I hated to hear him beg in that croaky voice. “Bishop, please, take another Valda tablet and tell me what’s going on.”

“Someone has stolen the hands of Padre Pio.”

“Is that someone I should know?”

“Someone you should know?” the Bishop huffed through the phone. “Pio of Pietrelcina, friar, priest, mystic, stigmatist, and the venerated patron saint of January blues…does that sound like someone you should know? His feast day is celebrated on the 23rd of September with…”

“September 23rd,” I interrupted, “that’s my birthday. Quite the coincidence. I’m touched. And you say someone has stolen his hands?” Bishop Benedetto sputtered and fumed at the other end of the phone line. I knew, of course, all about Padre Pio and his bloody stigmata. I just wanted to mess with the Bishop.

And, besides, I don’t really go in for that mystic stuff. Talk to birds and angels, to trees and bees, but don’t talk to me about all that supernatural phenomena: magic, astrology, blitzkrieg bops, psychic healing, UFOs, and black steam… Inspired artist and mad scientist imagination are too much for me. I am the Never Wizard. Give me silver halide brilliant enough to fade away and I’ll solve your case. But silver particle physics, and silver mysteries and the host of related uncertainties have no traction with my simple mind.

I let the Bishop sputter on for quite some time before taking the details of the case from him. The hands of the beatified and sainted Padre Pio were secretly amputated after his death in 1968. He had, in life, often told people that, "After my death I will do more. My real mission will begin after my death." And, if Bishop Benedetto is to be believed, this proved true. Though the rest of Pio’s body was interred in an undisclosed crypt, his stigmatized hands were spirited away and put into a special reliquary. A secret order of mystic priests carried the box in their protection, walking the earth, meeting the faithful, getting into all sorts of outlandish adventures, and using the hands to bring about miraculous cures and deliverance around the world. They travelled covertly, never advertising their work, never drawing attention to themselves or their sacred charge.

But someone had found them and, in the dead of night, killed them and stolen the hands of Padre Pio. Many religious factions have a long and sordid history of relic theft. It’s considered a necessary ethical abomination so they’ve devised all sorts of justifications. Never mind the tortured leaps of logic required. Furta Sacra is big business, even today. But don’t try telling that to the good Bishop Benedetto. “There is no way out of here without them,” rasped the Bishop.  “It will be dark soon. There is no way out.”

God knows, the master would not approve; the whole thing’s been mishandled, but I did what I could. According to Benedetto, the Secret Priests of the Bleeding Hands of Fate had been attacked and killed in an abandoned warehouse down by the docks. Of course they were! Where else would something like this have occurred? All the ancient goblins and warlords are drawn to abandoned warehouses down by the docks. Manos! Gods of primal darkness, the hands of fate doomed these men. But I would do what I could.

It is the transverberation of the soul; he is attacked from within by flaming seraphs that pierce his poison heart with fierce darts, and eave him wounded. But still he walks on, walks right out of this world. He feels the breath of God in a particle accelerator, the breath of life in quantum equations. He is alive once more, and gasping for breath, and then he is gone. Psychoanalyze the cross mind out of view of punctuated beauty. The pain is immediate, blood and mind tripped, ripping from here and how to distant time and place unbearable – the suicide of the world - drive an invisible spike through wrist and foot.

I swung my flashlight back and forth across the empty expanse. Teenagers and hoods, derelicts and vagrants sometimes used these buildings but, unlike movie screen detectives, I never carried a firearm. Never needed a handgun. I didn’t see any criminals skulking about, with or without cloaks and hoodies. But there, in a heap, just as the Bishop had said, were the bodies of the Secret Priests of the Bleeding Hands of Fate, their corpses still dressed in cassocks of black wool and crimson silk left in a heap. The police hadn’t responded yet. No crime scene barricades, no human shaped tape outlines on the floor. How had Benedetto known? What was I getting myself into?

And there in the darkness of the warehouse with the sound of waves on the wharves beyond, I began to smell a miraculous fragrance. Was I beginning to hallucinate the healing powers of the supposed saint? Was I being handed a hex? Heading into hysteria? Headaches and heart guilt, unconscious at the altar, I did not believe. But that is when I heard the approaching police sirens and saw the flashing cherry lights through the warehouse windows. “Damn!” The Bishop had set me up again.

The cops outside set up with their high powered search lights, the brilliant lights of the long-deceased. They thought I was trapped. But I am clever. I am quick. A hatchway in the floor lead down to the cold water below. I had only a few moments to make my escape. I opened the trap door, then pulled one of the dead priests and propped his body over the hatch so it would shut with him on top of it as I closed it. I knew they’d find it before too long, but every second counts when you’re on the run from the police and from the momentous consequence of a solar eclipse. I dropped down into the water and swam for an hour or more before crawling up on an empty beach on the south side of town. From there I caught a bus back home. 

In my office apartment I shrugged off my wet clothes and listened to the messages on my answering machine. “Where are you?” it was the Bishop again. God, how I hated him and his dying luck hoaxes and his lying duck voice. “I thought you were going to handle this thing quietly! Now the police are involved and asking questions. Where are you? Call me!” I deleted the message and took a long hot shower.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Broken Brick Haiku

A friend of mine has a book in the works concerning various aspects of theology, incarnational ministry, community, and disaster work. He keeps on his desk a broken cinder block that he found in the ruins of a building after a tornado in Canton, Illinois, July 23, 1975 . He keeps it as a reminder and as a prompt.

In preparation for his book, which is nearing completion, he asked me if I might have something poetical that I could contribute as a sort of preface to the work. Knowing his fondness for haiku I sat down to write something for him that would combine the concrete image (pun intended) with a scriptural theme. I wrote two variations which I've sent to him. Whether or not he uses either one, or the other, or both...

a broken brick
from whirlwind rubble
even stones cry out

a broken brick
from whirlwind rubble
upon this I’ll build

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Biblical Limericks: Jesus, Did You Forget?

Jesus, we know you’re a teacher deft,
not at all like those loons on the left,
but you thoughtlessly say
we should Caesar’s tax pay!
Did you forget: taxation is theft!?

Luke 20: 21 - 25

Foiled Again

foiled again by Jeff Carter on

A twist of aluminum foil (from candy wrappers) over a smeary line drawing.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Biblical Limericks: Beware of the Dog

Finally, my brethren, I condemn
the evil workers causing mayhem,
who tear, and thrash and thresh
and mutilate the flesh,
so, my dear children: Cave Canem!

Philippians 3: 2

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Blades (Again)

It's the same busted, old photographic slide carousel as before and before before. Using a macro lens and a mirror and some lights, a photograph can become almost painterly.

Blades by Jeff Carter on

Biblical Limericks: Preaching from Partisanship

Some who preach Christ are by spite inflamed;
they suppose that by this I am maimed,
but the joke is on them:
even in their mayhem
I will rejoice that Christ is proclaimed.

Philippians 1: 15 - 18

After Late-Night Television the Fires Begin

After late-night television the fires begin; the city is ablaze, raging infernos. There are conflicting reports on the radio. Some say it was a downed aircraft, a black-winged helicopter, a secret test plane, an unidentified fleeing object. But what was it fleeing? Others say it was a comet, a bolide, a stray meteorite, some cosmic renegade. And still others report it as an explosion at the munitions factory or the state owned pig farm. In the air is a billowing cloud of smoke and particulates lit by Illuminati searchlights, those enormous, parabolic, aluminized reflector lights which are programmed to swing and flash in sequence in the night skies.

This is the turning point, the stationary point. This is the inflection point on the curve of history. But there is not one questioned statement- a zero view. There are only classified protestations and blind prejudices identified as a storm of natural occurrence. But these are not merely the aural and visual hallucinations of a deviant personality.

I oppose-they say. I lack compassion and judgment-they say. I am lost. They say. Stigmatized and negative. Conflicting reports. I am an unbeliever-they say. And I am unbelieved.

Through the smoke, grit and glitter sparkle in the reflected light of midnight search lights. If not for the explosions, and sirens, and gunfire, and screams in the street below me this would be almost magical. Thaumaturgic, even. A marvel. A miracle. And another explosion, closer now, at the armory. A string of percussive claps, each louder than the last, throwing ash and paperwork into the air. The building shakes beneath me.

What is the real spiritual agenda here? What is the agent’s name? Who is assigned to this investigation?

This is NOWHERE, but not a Utopia, and not a Good-Place. Not at all. A very parable of cities on fire, like all the others. There is a pattern at work here, a pattern of spiritual and cultural destruction. They want to destroy us. I know how crazy this sounds, but my paranoia is the result of a culture of lawlessness created by untouchables: “Touch Not the Lord’s Anointed! And Do My Profits No Harm!”

Imagine the looks of horror and streams of water, shock, anger, and tears above the roar of the flames. Mark the moment. Strike the page. Burn it down. The Sad Eyed Belle Dame sans Merci does not appear to me this time. She brings no comfort; she brings me no word of stern rebuke. The wind changes directions and the smoke is blowing towards me. There are police and news helicopters overhead.

This rooftop platform is no longer safe.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Limerick for Enthusiastic Roman Catholics in Mexico

The crowds should remain behind the rope;
do not attempt to fondle or grope
Saint Peter’s successor,
also do not press or
wrestle, or yank, or pull on the Pope.

Biblical Limericks: I Cannot Decide

Sometimes I wish I’d already died
for death is gain on the other side,
but to live now is Christ
and fruitful sacrifice -
between the two I cannot decide.

Philippians 1: 21 - 23

Frozen Stars

They're not burning yet, but they will, and when they do, they will burn cold.

Frozen Star by Jeff Carter on

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

(Not-So) Biblical Limericks: Misquoting the Prophet

Some in the church are terrors, no doubt,
crushed reeds they will break with a clout.
To do this they’ll misquote
words that the prophet wrote
and smoldering wicks they will snuff out.

Isaiah 42: 3

We Pray for Victory

The Federal Government is a good and righteous force, when properly staffed, approved by all the churches of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales (but the Book of Revelations is not in there. I’ve got some stuff underlined in a friend’s obituary.) And for this reason, we take it as our model and our theme. Unfortunately the universities have not coupled with those dedicated and desiccated pro-fascists factions that eventually went for George Bush (H or W). Now we need to demonstrate how Political Correctness can be rebranded, rebuilt, repurposed. And all that is necessary for our success in this is that Church Doctors (with degrees from Oral Roberts University!) should stand on the backbone platforms of our enemies. Finish him!

The president has picked his own ultra-radicals for orifices. Give us a new America; there’s some serious money in that stuff. On the surface, this is a good idea, but don’t look too deep (diarrhea). Christians lose, they quit. They’re quitters. The situation is much the same in the hypothetical (hypocritical endothermic histrionic) gubernatorial race – turning to more piratical games wherever PERSONAL COMPUTERS have broken out like a rash. Science, history, and precedent are easily swung from state to state for Demon-crat numbers. “There will be nothing, and there is nothing for campus leftists or the legions (I AM LEGION) of slavish (Slavic) bureaucrats.

Contrary to the calumnies of our opponents, bloody street fighters in a summer blast furnace, we take the words at face value, determining how to read them according to the historical fixations of our party. We will solve all of our problems with broad brush census data. Insurance or not. A principled administration of whip cracking men and women, bleary-eyed, blurry-eyed, Judeo-Christians with respect for favored citizens and tolerance for approved positions.

Faith in the system. Always submit to the Church Administration. This is your salvation. This is not to be doubted- God has laid down a universal rule for our misconduct namely, that to everyone placed in authority over us by his appointment, we should render reverence, obedience, gratitude, and all the other services in our power (unless he’s a Demon-crat, obviously). Nor does it make any difference whether they are worthy of this honour or not.

All 435 members of Congress and 34 Senators will face the voters. We now have 900,000 members and supporters in 872 chapters in all 50 states! The tide is turning, the worm is churning. We pray for victory. 

Biblical Limericks: Psalm 27

The Lord is my light; whom should I fear?
I’d like to live in the temple, here
but my numerous foes,
they make multiplied woes -
their spite’s unjust, my distress severe.

Psalm 27

Grape Hyacinths

I bought these flowers for my wife for Valentines day-however, the cat believes that any flowers or plants kept in the house are his own private buffet. He eats them. Always. I am forced to photograph the flowers quickly, before he can complete devastate them. He has already clipped down seven of the flowering stalks.

Grape Hyacinth by Jeff Carter on

Monday, February 15, 2016

Highways of Nebraska 1933

A road map for traveling through space and time...

Highways of Nebraska by Jeff Carter on

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Biblical Limericks: Give that Fox a Message

In Luke 9 Jesus gets his kicks in,
insults Herod, calls him a vixen,
a second rate scion-
not great like a lion.
He was nearly as bad as Nixon.

Luke 9: 31 – 32

Herod as a vixen 

My God, It's Full of Stars

"The thing's hollow — it goes on forever — and — oh my God! — it's full of stars!"
2001: A Space Odyssey Arthur C. Clarke

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tea Lights

Tea Lights by Jeff Carter on

Tea Lights by Jeff Carter on

Lightnings and Regulations

I began with a question. It was a simple question, nothing that should have led to trouble. As my uncle used to say, ‘Don’t start trouble; there won’t be trouble.’ If she’d followed my uncle’s maxim, she’d still be here, wouldn’t she? I began with the question: “Just what do these lightnings and thunders signify? What are the atmospheric voices saying?”

“It’s the anarchists, sir,” she said. “Anarchists taking to arms, suddenly, within our ranks and in our pews.” She held out a sheaf of reports and files that I chose to ignore.

I said, “What do you mean?”

She said, “We have become so warped, so wrapped up in a theological manhunt, a witch-hunt to discredit and divorce our own, that we have come close – very close – to forcing Congress to approve their application for refugee status. We cannot prosecute them for possible future thought crimes. There’s no way to do it.”

“We may not be able to prosecute them, “ I said, “with the legal system as tied up as it is with the blood struggle, but we can…no. We must…ask for these serpents with beguiling human heads to be stricken from the Book of One. The Throne is there, and the Voices and Thunders have approved our budgetary requests. Our credit with headquarters has never been better. So why is this so difficult?” I fumed.

“Because they haven…”

I interrupted her, unwilling to let her continue even a half-hearted defense on behalf of our enemies.  “The drunken drum beat of bad news,” I hissed at her as I stared out the floor to ceiling glass windows of my towering downtown office, “will not be silenced without action from the ruptured saints. Old and New. We talk about morality, and we talk about error; we read about it in the newspaper. But we must begin to take more stringent action. There is no doubt that both the worm and the tide have turned. Now we will drive them out; all that is required is that we act, without hesitation and without mercy.  Cut fast. Cut deep. This much is clear.

I paused, but not for long enough to allow her to speak. “I will personally pile a crisis of unimagination upon the friendly liberals who are causing our problems. With weapons, and gas-masks, and an organized army, if that’s what it takes to cast them into the lake of fire, with anger.”

“Oh,” I continued, gesticulating with my arms in frenzied motions through the space around her head, “They have a sort of power, power to form a high-altitude, high-minded attitude. They claim, without warrant, the same victor’s crown that we wear – but we are not powerless. Our religion is power, and we are not powerless. Their attitude is one of intellectual conceit; with their questions, and their study, and their so-called science. But we have lightnings. Yes. Lightnings and regulations. And we have judgment. And so, we will take proactive steps to clear-cut them from the pews. Slash and burn them from our rolls.”

“But, Sir…” she whined. I sent her a withering look and she retreated.

“Are you one of them? Have you adopted their sensibilities?”

“No, sir.”

“Have you been caught up in smoke, captured in mist, lost in the fog of their delusions?”

“No, sir.”

“Are you loyal?”

“…yes. … Yes, sir.”

“Completely, unquestioningly loyal? There are a lot of traitors these days. Benedict Arnold has sown his spores and multiplied a harvest of fungal infections. They are selling our secrets, airing our dirty laundry, revealing our nakedness. Are you certain of your place in this institution?”


“Are you ours? Body and soul?”

“Yes, sir. Yes.”

I did not believe her, so I tossed her through the floor to ceiling glass windows of my towering downtown office. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Biblical Limericks: Almsgiving

Tobit says it with striking starkness:
if you want to preserve your carcass
eliminate all qualms
‘bout the giving of alms-
it stops death and trips into darkness.

Tobit 4:10 

Dr. Tarrec’s Free Weekly Horoscope #34

Aries – A rude missile fired through the skull, and sooner or later there will be no way out. A history of violent, irrational behavior is not an excuse for irrational, violent behavior. We can treat this with psychotropic pharmaceuticals, but you may not like the side effects, or the side affects.

Taurus – A mountain moving up to the stars, a mountain moving into position. It is the right thing to do. It is the tactical thing to do. Unlock the door and let these things move into place

Gemini – It is not a statement. It is not an accusation. It is a question. Can I say someth… Can I say something? Just let m… if you’ll let me…  You… All right, all right… Are you listen… are you listening to me? Please… Okay, then. Okay. We’ll try again later.

Cancer – Stabilize critical elements. Satirize the non-responsive. Ignore all previous history and never step into the same river twice. Sanitize the paperwork. Keep watching the stairs.

Leo – Usually 10 microns is only a small distance to cross. Your journey, however, will take much longer than expected. Zeno may have been right, after all: it is better to be the tortoise than the famous, vainglorious warrior.

Virgo – I hear the dogs barking three states over. You have heard them too. I know that you have. But they are not there. They are not barking. I know this and you know this, but we hear them, don’t we?

Libra – You go out and then you come back. Where you go you go. You will return. Take earwax, and fingernail clippings, locks of hair and navel lint, and skin scrapings. Travel light. The only other necessary thing is a flashlight.

Scorpio – A confession can be misleading. An apology may be a defense. Watch for candles and caution tape. Take headache powder.

Sagittarius – Cemetery crosses are no protection. Better a good guard dog. Bite the bullet instead of firing them. Trust no one, trust everyone. It doesn’t matter.

Capricorn – I can neither prove nor disprove, neither confirm nor deny. I cannot embrace and I cannot refrain from embracing. But you still have the choice.

Aquarius – There may be intelligent life in the universe, but you haven’t seen much of it.

Pisces – Prop pistols and desiccated dog corpses: this is all I can reveal without a notarized signature on an official Consent to be Informed form.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Bad Star / Disaster

I heard it long before I saw it – which is strange, the laws of physics being what they are. The disaster, the bad star. We heard its thrum in the night before we ever saw its strange, amber-colored light. No one has yet offered up a plausible explanation for why its sound waves traveled faster than light. Is it wrinkled space, tesseracted four dimensional shapes, rapidly spinning magnetic fields? Binary forces acting on unstable pulsars? Random deviations from the galactic mean?

The applications of perfectly coiled wires, will convert the earth into an enormous brain, a thinking computer of vast knowledge, into rhythmic particles dancing in synchronicity with the universe. We have communication at a distance. We have television and telephony, telekinesis and telepathy. Whether we are face to face or at a thousand miles, from across the vastness of space or the house next door.

It was February and I was in bed next to my wife, reading a heavy book of modern Russian literature; she was sleeping. Snoring. When she got loud I’d nudge her with my foot until she rolled over and began to breathe easier. Our teenage children were sleeping in rooms across the hall. They didn’t seem to notice either their mother’s snoring or the howling wind outside, or the thrumming disaster.

I could hear the wind. Winter’s here are always cold and windy, and I knew that in the morning I’d be shoveling drifts of snow from the door and the driveway, but, for now, I was warm, in bed comfortably reading of Viktor and Lyudmila.

A disheveled, distracted man walks alongside the concrete sidewalk, not noticing the puddles or the garbage piled up at the curb. It is dark, but he walks without looking where is going, and without stumbling over the potholes and cracks in the pavement. His hair is uncombed, his shirt untucked. One shoe is untied.  He smokes a cigarette, takes the final drag, and exhales. The smoke drifts upward, causing the neon-lights above him to shimmer momentarily as it passes. The glowing ember of his cigarette goes out as it reaches the filter, but he does not notice this for several blocks. When he finally realizes that his cigarette is out, he snatches it from between his lips and flicks it away.

This is indeterminate, geometrical property of a demonic binding ritual. And these are the hallucinations of pubescent girls. Every day is danger, and every Night even more so. These streets are filled with vermin and vice, the alleys with strangers and an electromechanical device.

Only gradually did I begin to notice the vibrations in the air – the vibrations behind the sound of the wind and beyond the occasional noise from the nearby interstate highway. It was an electrical sound, constant and warm, steady. I closed the book over my right index finger to keep my place, looked up towards the window – as if I could see through the drawn curtain into the darkness beyond, as if I could, by concentration and focus, see the very sound itself, growing in the air. There was a sizzle and two short spats just before the lamp on the bedside table went out; the bulb exploded. My wife sat up. “What was that?”

He pats his rumpled coat pockets, searching for the pack of smokes he had on him earlier, but before he finds it, he realizes that it’s not the cigarettes he can’t find: he himself is lost. He does not recognize this neighborhood or this street. Demeter Street? Where the hell is that? Where am I? He looks up and down the block at the shops and stores dimly illuminated by the flickering street lamp. Olsons’ Television Repair. Dominico Star! (whatever that is…) Ye Olde Wig Shoppe. A Deflated Doll’R store… None of this is familiar to him. Only one car is parked on the street – a broken down foreign car, one of those Korean jobs that were popular 10-15 years ago. Brown. A broken-down, ugly old, brown car, propped up on cinder blocks, its tires stolen, and stripped of chrome.

The man jumps, his heart thuds to a halt, as a voice speaks to him from somewhere the darkness. “Back again? What? Old man…” A woman’s voice, husky. Dry.

Die Hand die Verletzt – “the hand that wounds” is in the card catalogue along with: The History of Witches and Stitches in American Kitchens. Call up the devil; study the Occult influence of distant stars on our children. Something is here, but I don’t know what it is. I could not say, even if I wanted to. I am bound to silence.

The Disaster is coming, the bad star, with falling fish and bald men in chanting robes, the choirs of the damned singing the song of that blasted, distant star. It may already be too late for us; we are too far gone. The stars are falling. The star is fallen. Babylon the Great is fallen and we have fallen into the void with her.

“Who are you? Where am I?”

“Every night with you, what? Every night with the questions: Where am I? Who are you? What? What?” She laughs, and it sounds like corn stalks in the wind. “You got any more of them smokes, old dad? What?”

A Haiku (Ash Wednesday)

a smear of soot
to remember and return
I’ll wash my face

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Return of the Blades

Blades by Jeff Carter on 500px.comAnother bit of abstract photography - using the same subject as the photos from a couple of days ago. I like the way that photographs, under the right conditions, can become almost painterly.

(Not-So) Biblical Limericks: Mardis Gras

And when we have come to Mardis Gras
it’s time to make a great hoopla;
party with wild deeds,
and, for a gift of beads,
women will remove their shirts and bras.

Monday, February 8, 2016


Mouth by Jeff Carter on

My Reading List for this year: A Goal

I don’t usually make a reading list for the year. I read voraciously in many directions as my interests and needs take me. I read history, and theology, philosophy, and science, a little biography and fiction – mostly science fiction, fantasy and horror. But I don’t usually make a list ahead of time.

This year, however, I’ve decided to do something. I’m going to clean out my ‘to-read’ list, I’m going to commit myself to reading those books that have been lingering at the periphery of my mind. Books that I’ve wanted to read (or re-read) but, for one reason or another, have pushed aside for other books. Also in this list are several books that I’ve recently received as gifts from friends and family.

As much as it pains me, I’m going to try to stick to only the books in this list. So I’m going to avoid the bookstores. (AHHHHH! I’m hurting already.) And I’m going to avoid the library – except for movies and music

I usually set a goal of reading 100 books a year. It’s a big goal, and I don’t usually make it. I come close. But the one hundred isn’t really the important aspect. My self-imposed list will get me about halfway there if I can stick to it. As the preacher said: “People never stop writing books, (Ecclesiastes 12:12)” and I know I’ll never get to them all, not even to all the good ones.  But these are the ones I’m going to read this year.

They are not listed in any particular order of relevance or priority:

1 – Christianity in Action: The International History of The Salvation Army – Colonel Henry Gariepy
2 – The Slavery of Death – Richard Beck
3 – Christ in the Gospels of the Ordinary Sundays – Raymond E. Brown
4 – The Land of Promise - Philip Johnston & Peter Walker
5 - Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary – Marcus Borg
6 – The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue – Corssan and Wright
7 – Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography – John Dominic Crossan
8 – Killing Jesus – Bill O’Reily
9 – Jesus and Judaism – E. P. Sanders
10 – The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus – John Dominic Crossan
11 – The Gospel According to America: A Meditation on a God-Blessed, Christ-Haunted Idea – David Dark
12 – New Testament and Mythology – Rudolf Bultmann
13 – She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse – Elizabeth Johnson
14 – The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome – Michael Parenti
15 – The Republic – Plato
16 – Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality – Matthew Fox
17 – Religion and Science Fiction – ed. James McGrath
18 – The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick – ed. Pamela Jackson & Johnathan Lethem
19 – The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales – Peter Rollins
20 – Tobit: A New Translation, Introduction, and Commentary – Carey A. Moore
21 – Dr. Who – The Shakespeare Notebooks
22 – Lost Horizon – James Hilton
23 – Dune: The Butlerian Jihad- Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
24 – Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World – René Girard
25 – The Phenomenon of Man – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
26 – When God Becomes Small – Phil Needham
27 – Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong -James W. Loewen
28 – Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition – Umberto Eco
29 – A Sand County Almanac – Aldo Leopold
30 – The Morning Song of Lord Zero – Conrad Aiken
31 – Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fought Back – Amy Goodman & David Goodman
32 – The Canterbury Tales – Chaucer
33 – Civil War – Lucan
34 – How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God – Ian Punnett
35 – The Brother of Jesus: The Dramatic Story And Significance Of The First Archaeological Link To Jesus And His Family -Ben Witherington III & Hershel Shanks
36 – Chomsky on Anarchism – Noam Chomsky
37 – Wool – Hugh Howey
38 – Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements – George Woodcock
39 – Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse – ed. John Joseph Adams
40 – The (Un)Common Good – Jim Wallis
41 – Joe Hill, The IWW, and the Making of a Revolutionary Working Class Counter Culture – Franklin Rosemont
42 – Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today – Craig G. Bartholomew
43 – Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity – David Felten & Jeff Procter-Murphy
44 – Life and Fate – Vassily Grossman
45 – Between Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the 20th Century – John Stott


More fun with abstract, macro photography. Anyone care to guess what it is I was shooting here?

Blades by Jeff Carter on

Blades by Jeff Carter on

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dream Record February 6

The man stands shirtless in an empty apartment. He tightens the belt around his waist and screams, “What about the tomatoes? Tomatoes!” His neighbors pounds on the wall and yell at him to be quiet, but if this is like any of the previous shouting episodes, he’ll continue shouting random questions and strange obscenities until nearly midnight.

He wears copy machine toner around his eyes- like eye shadow.

The black man stands atop the cliff overlooking the ocean. Out there, on the water, a large cargo barge heads slowly towards the setting sun. He grabs my lapels and shakes me. “I hope you know that we’re the only four people in the country who know anything about that music. You must get me that score!”

And blast out witches you can talk about in your kitchen.

A German soldier with his rifle drawn and ready, stands silhouetted in the doorway. Lightning flashes. “Now is ze time to radically lower your power vectors, Herr Carter. Ve vill judge you by our general impressions; ve have no need for substantiated evidence.”

I am coughing, kneeling over the floor. I’ve got the hurricane cough. You and I got pretty deep in our letters and conversations once, but it’s been years since we talked. I am coughing like one of the dogs, like one of the canaille.

Go to volcano, immediately, go. See if he has unleashed it again. This is the land of the freak and the home of the bereaved. There are no more conventicles.

(Not-So)Biblical Limericks: Take Up a Really Big Cross

As you take your cross to follow me
be sure it is big enough to see,
one exceedingly tall
to amaze one and all-
that’s how Texans prove their piety.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

You Gave Four Stars to “Mein Kampf”?!

In the last month I’ve been reading quite a bit about Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.  First I read the massive two volume biography of Hitler by Ian Kershaw (Hitler: 1889 – 1936 Hubris / Hitler: 1937 – 1945 Nemesis) and I’ve just finished Hitler’s own autobiographical and philosophical ramblings, Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”). And I’ve given it-a very qualified- four out of five stars.

I began this reading for two reasons: 1) I’ve joined the local community theater group for a production of Mel Brooks’ comedic musical The Producers; I’ll be playing the part of Franz Liebkind, a devoted follower of “our beloved führer (Producers Act 1 Scene 6).” It’s a broad role intended to be played for scenery chewing and laughs rather than intellectual examination but I wanted, for my own benefit, to know something more about Franz’s hero: Adolf Elizabeth Hitler (Producers Act 1 Scene 6). That’s one of the jokes in the show. In fact, Adolf does not seem to have been given a middle name.)

And 2) in our highly charged, politically polarized times comparisons with Hitler and the Nazis are both too frequent and usually inaccurate. I’ve been reading this material so that I can help to stem the tide of baseless Hitler comparisons (probably an unrealistic expectation, I know, more improbable than King Canute commanding the tide waters to halt…) and so I can, where it is legitimate and accurate, make helpful and realistic comparisons to and contrasts with Hitler and the NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei - the National Socialist German Worker’s Party - commonly known as the Nazi party).

And now, having trudged through Hitler’s 688 page screed (as translated by Ralph Manheim) all I can say is “ugh!” And yet I am giving it 4 of 5 stars-a very qualified 4 stars.

That rating is not given for the quality of writing. Hitler’s prose is, even keeping in mind the German tendency for lengthy, ponderous, even labyrinthine sentences (Manheim xiii), tedious and vague. He isn’t concerned with providing details or specifics, just fury and rage. There is no orderly progression in Mein Kampf, even if it does, loosely, follow the events of his life, from his childhood in Bavaria up through his ascendancy to the role of Leader in the NSDAP; Hitler circles around, forward and backward, through his favorite topics. There’s little connection between paragraphs as he lurches from one topic to another. There are few concrete images; Hitler liked universal abstractions.  Mixed metaphors abound.

Hitler’s writing is marginally better than the impenetrable diatribes of Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, but only just.

And neither is the four star rating for the validity of his philosophy or political program. Good God, no! It’s nothing but unrestrained egoism and hate on every page. It is evil.

So why a four star rating?

Because it’s important. Mein Kampf  needs to be read and to be understood in its historical context so that we might never forget what has happened and so that we can prevent it from happing again in our time.

Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies seems to be accurate: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 —​that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism.”

Yet there are times when a comparison to Hitler or the Nazi party might be warranted, might be helpful in better understanding our world. We need to have an accurate understanding of the man and his party and his program if we’re going to make comparisons to and contrasts with the people and events of our present reality.

I’d like to suggest that it should be read by everyone. I can’t imagine that it will convince anyone to take up the vitriolic antisemitism of the Nazi party (except those who are already filled with that hatred); the writing is ploddingly dull. It’s not going to be convincing. So put it under the light. Give it exposure so that we can all understand him, and better understand our times as well.

Brooks, Mel and Thomas Meehan. The Producers. Booksfilms Limited. 2000.
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Trans. Ralph Manheim. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1971.
Manheim, Ralph. Translator’s Note. Mein Kampf. By Adolf Hitler. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1971.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Limerick for America

“We don’t have a gun problem,” they say
“but a sin flaw that won’t go away
 with restrictive new laws.”
That means America’s
the world’s most sinful country today.

Biblical Limericks: Preexistence

There’s been much debate and insistence,
persistence and reasoned resistance -
it could lead to dismay,
but what does Mark’s book say
about Jesus’ preexistence?

Mark 1:1

for a roundup of recent blog articles about the Christology of Mark


That's my son. I like him.

Dune by Jeff Carter on

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Well, Here's Another Nice Mess You've Gotten Me Into, Sisyphus!

“The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.” – Albert Camus “The Myth of Sisyphus”

My first exposure to existential philosophy came not in the classroom, not in the library, but on a movie screen; my teachers were not learned professors, but the lovable oafs: Arthur Stanley Jefferson and Norvell Hardy – better known to the world as Laurel and Hardy. I may have been only 10 years old, but even then I was beginning to understand that life is tragic and absurd, and that that is beautiful.

Their 1932 film “The Music Box” (for which they won an Oscar) perfectly captures the story the existential hero, Sisyphus - condemned to an eternity of absurdity. It’s a simple story, one nearly as old as human history: the hero must move a heavy object to the top of the hill, whereupon it immediately rolls back down. Repeat ad infinitum, ad absurdum.

We may laugh at the slapstick antics of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, but it should be a reverent laugh. Somewhere inside ourselves, we know that their struggle is ours as well.

“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” – Albert Camus “The Myth of Sisyphus”

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Abstract Landscape (Crystal Sea)

Abstract Landscape (Crystal Sea) by Jeff Carter on
I get the feeling that the old adage,"red sky at night, sailor's delight..." doesn't apply here.

The Night of the Long Fires

I was trapped, along with my teenage son and a dozen strangers, during The Night of the Long Fires on the observation platform of the Silway Tower. We had an excellent view of tragic violence, an aerial view of the invasion. It wasn’t the street-level view of bloody individual deaths, as recorded by television reporter (now reported missing) Clémence Grace, but we wept as we watched the wave of fires wash over the city. We could not hear the screams of people, only the gunfire and mortars and the explosions, the sirens of emergency vehicles and the city’s rapid response alarm (which sounded, sadly, much too late to be of any effect.)

The first clear and present omen of the coming conflagrations came early, around 4:30, as the Silway Tower employees were beginning to usher us tourists toward the elevator doors: an explosion at the power-plant, the first of many that rocked us that evening. The tower sway, as is incorporated in its design – for nothing can be completely rigid, there is no unmovable object- kept the building intact, but unnerved us all. As high as we were, on the 71st floor, three windows still shattered in that first blast. A woman from Texas, whose name I never learned, screamed as the heavy glass panes splintered and cracked and fell out into the streets far below. Cold lake wind rushed in. She continued screaming through most of the night.

The Night of the Long Fires was the night that the Leader of the Right Government™ took control of the city, the first of his outright military victories. His followers wore the forbidden insignia, the illegal cockades of red and black and blue. His troops were not a disciplined military, but a band of militant thugs, and petty thieves, armed and angry. Heavily armed and very angry.

We rushed for the elevators, but the power went out with the blast. In any case, we decided that we might be safer atop the tower than in the streets below. Fires were already blooming in the north and west quarters of the city. We tried to call for help, but our cell phones were disrupted and land lines nonfunctional. A portable radio left behind the desk by one of the tower employees provided us with sporadic and contradictory news reports until 6:17 when the Leader’s troops took control of the airwaves and began broadcasting the Leader’s now famous Fire Night Speech:

“I can speak with a thousand tongues and I am not changed. Not one iota. I remain as I was. The traits of my character have not changed, and will not change, not in a year, not in two thousand years. Our future is conditioned on fanaticism, yes, intolerance. We must push past all other formations. Victory over competitors.

“We are not professors, nor diplomats, nor auteurs, nor effeminate members of the intelligentsia, nor diplomaed educrats, nor scholars with starched white collars, but an army of sleepwalkers, telephone sanitizers, street cleaners, sewer sweepers, and illiterate locksmiths. We are Die ursprüngliche seele – the original souls – the ignorance battalions, and we have come for the tapeworms and gravediggers who are responsible for our present gastro-economic catastrophes. We will cleanse this city of all the short-headed and pig-sighted big mouths and big-noises cowering in the back rooms of the capitol.

“And when we have taken the city we will cite the value of silence and praise the mouth of darkness! Let all those who want to live, fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal, glorified struggle, do not deserve to live.”

If Malcolm X can crib lines from Cole Porter then, I suppose, the Leader of the Right Government™ can steal from Hitler. What’s to stop him? That message continued to play, on repeat-over and again-all through the Night of the Long Fires. We memorized it - unconsciously, unintentionally. The words burned into our brains and the long fires destroyed the city.

By 9:10 they had reached the Armory – built like a bunker, like a castle and crowded with Republican guards and Republican candidates. But even that stronghold fell to the fires. Weapons, sabotage, interrogations, as it was before, so it continues.

When the helicopters arrived, many bullets flew.  But fire leaped and danced in the air and the helicopters were brought down. Substitute Arizona for Iraq and Nevada for Palestine; the city became like any other war-zone.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Biblical Limericks: By the Horns of Moses!

Though Jerome was a sage not to be scorned,
if you read his translation, be warned:
he made a small mistake
(but that is all it takes).
In his version Moses comes down horned.

Exodus 34:29

Biblical Limericks: The Veil of Moses

As Moses came down the mountain trail
God’s glory on his face did prevail.
The people, filled with fear,
were afraid to draw near
so they screamed, “Moses, put on a veil!”

Exodus 34: 29-35
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