Crap about the muslins

From 2010 to 2014, I was an elected representative on the Franklin County (TN) School Board. We always had our run-ins about religion and public education, some of which I’ve written about before more extensively, but here’s an e-mail I was sent in 2011 that kinda captures the county’s attitude.

Received this morning and wanted to pass on!

To all parents and grandparents,

I was given some information yesterday that South and North Middle Schools have history books in our schools that clearly printed that Jews, Christians and Muslins(Islam is a word that is used a lot) worship the same God. After this, I did some research of my own, talked to [my daughter] as well and it is true!! We as parents should be outraged that our children are feeding feed this line of crap about the muslins. I encourage you to all talk to your kids about this and tell them that is NOT true!!!!!

God Bless,

[Name withheld]


*Heal my heart and make it clean

Open up my eyes to the things unseen

Show me how to love like you have loved me

Break my heart for what breaks yours

Everything I am for your kingdoms cause

As I go from nothing to Eternity


*”Find your way home with GPS, God, Prayer, Salvation.”


* When Satan comes knocking at your door just ask Jesus to answer that for you!

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I’ll be blasting you

“Man, you have been BLASTING it lately,” said a friend of mine the other day about the proliferation of posts over the past few days. Inspired by Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic of tidying up, I’ve been tidying up my laptop, and hence posting things I had in various desktop files onto this blog. The result has been what my sons would call a crap-ton of new posts, mostly boring things but stuff I’d still like to hold on to them in some way (this may be un-Kondo-esque of me, but eh).

One of the things that’s been so interesting, of course, has been discovering how many of these files that were created in versions of Word no longer can be opened. The Text Edit function still lets me retrieve some of them, sans most formatting. So, as I’ve been Kondo-izing, I figure I’d better grab what still can be opened with Text Edit before that option too, in this brave new world of information accessibility, goes the way of the dodo.

Of course, I have no trust that, in a few years’ time, even these things I’ve uploaded to the internet will be available. All things are transitory.

“I’ll Be Blasting You” was the sign-off line from Major Mudd, a local Boston kid’s show from the 60s that I watched with goofy devotion throughout my boyhood. His schtick was that he was an astronaut who flew around in the “Nervous 1,” hung out with robots, and showed cartoons and clips of Lassie. It was great. His sign-off line even had its own song:


“With an I and a B and a B and a Y
Means ‘I’ll Be Blasting You!’
We’ll take a trip In a rocket ship
Up in the sky so blue!
With Major Mudd
In the Nervous One
Means lots of fun for you–
With an I and a B and a B and a Y
Means ‘I’ll Be Blasting YOUUUUU!'”

Who remembers Major Mudd now? There are a few clips to be seen on Youtube, a few nostalgic articles in online sites dedicated to retro-Bostoniana, but mostly he exists as a dim memory of that Kennedy-era Space Age when the Future was so NOW that you watched it after school everyday in wide-eyed wonder. But the Major has slipped betimes away, as the Future has been swallowed up by newer Futures to be swallowed up in their turn, world without end and Word without access, amen, amen.

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Sabine Women & Bride-napping

The custom of kidnapping women for marriage, memorialized in Livy’s account of the Sabine Women’s abduction, is not confined to antiquity.  A former student of mine, Gambrill, was in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan, wrote the following to me about a decade ago:

so, bride-napping. yes, it does happen here. from the best i can tell, there are two versions: the romantic, adorable kind and the violent actual kind.

the adorable kind is really more of an elopement than any form of actual kidnapping. Many of the teachers and staff i have worked under have sheepishly admitted they were ‘stolen’ if asked about the nature of their marriage. generally though, what that means is the marriage has already been agreed to or assumed and the young couple cannot or does not want to wait. In that case, the young man comes and steals his bride and everyone goes along with it.

the nasty kind, on the other hand isn’t romantic in the least. it does happen, although i don’t know with what frequency. there was an actual bride-napping in one of our training villages that took place in october. i didnt witness it, but my site mate did. this is the link to the blog he posted about it:

On a funnier note, before I left for site, I was told several times that I was sure to be stolen. It was meant as a compliment, but none-the-less never ceased to crack me up.

Lest the blogpost she references disappear, I am quoting it in extenso here:

I’m going to start with the bridenapping, although it happened more recent. I’ll start with the basics. Bridenapping is common in Kazakhstan (for Kazakhs, not Russians). It is the practice of kidnapping a woman and pressuring her through various means to consent to be a man’s wife. There are two types of bridenapping: the bad kind and the good kind. I know that sounds funny, but its true. Weddings can be expensive here and often families don’t have the resources to fund a large wedding, so bridenappings are “arranged” and the family puts together a shotgun wedding- it is like eloping with the families consent.

The bad kind is more terrifying. A man will have a particular girl in mind and with the help of his family or friends, he will kidnap the girl (16-18 years old usually). He will take her back to his home and the entire family will pressure her to stay and be his wife. Theoretically she has the power to say no and return to her family, but there are many societal pressures to consent. It may sound odd, but the parents of the boy will often call the parents of the girl and inform them that the bridenapping has occurred. The girls parents often agree to support the marriage, often due to societal pressure as well (especially if it was a physical relationship, consensual or not). In the Kazakh Muslim culture, a girl who has had a physical relationship and is not married is considered tainted goods and won’t be wanted by anyone else. You can see how men would and do abuse this and do bad things to insure a girl stays.

We watched a moving video on this a week or so ago and there have been two bridenappings in a town outside Esik while we were here. To be honest, we all knew it went on and that we would hear about it through out service, but didn’t expect to encounter it face to face. I did yesterday.

4 men came into the school where we study and dragged a girl, by her feet, out of her classroom. The ran down the hallway with her. Teachers and students screamed and ran after then, trying to prevent this. The principle of the school caught them at the door. There was a scuffle, where one of the bridenappers pulled a knife and cut the principle in the arm, then barred the door shut, while the other three men picked up the girl and ran away. Eventually the 4th man let go of the door and fled. By the time everyone got outside she was gone.

I was in the bathroom right down the hall when this happened. I heard all the screaming and running. By the time I got to the door, the 4thman had just barred the door with his shoulder. Everyone was screaming and crying. Then he let go and left. I funneled outside with everyone else; saw the director holding his arm and everyone looking stunned. There were two other volunteer friends outside who saw it all from the outside.

One of our language teachers walked by and we told her. She was shocked and suspected that it was ransom related, as the use of a knife in a bridenapping is very unusual. But eventually it was determined that it was in fact a bridenapping. The police were called. The school knew who the men were and where they lived. Even though it is traumatic for those involved, and the friends of the girl, the 3 men who did the bridenapping were determined to have done nothing wrong, as it is part of Kazakh culture. The man who pulled the knife though will be punished by the law. By lunch time we heard that the families were in negotiations about the marriage. I never heard if she married the man or not.

I told my host mom of this last night and she acted like it was no big deal. I told her I knew that it happened, but was shocked that they would go into the school and do it. She said it was common and it was one of the few times when girls are away from their parents and homes.She said it still happens a lot, but not as much as it used to.




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Dante Purgatorio cantos 22-23 cartoons

About 20 years ago, former student of mine at Boston College made these cartoons for me of Purgatorio cantos 22-23, on the Prodigal and the Gluttonous. She dashed them off, but I think they’re really wonderful.

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Posted in Bible, Cartoons, Classics, Florence, Italy, Poetry, Saints, Time, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hecuba’s Mother

A review from 2003 of two new books of Greek myth. I don’t remember writing it and I know it was never published. 

The Emperor Tiberius used to like to play a trick on the professors who made up a part of his court, asking them them, “What was the name of Hecuba’s mother?” Hecuba was, of course, the Queen of Troy, the mother of the hero Hector who fought so gallantly for the losing Trojan cause before he was slaughtered by Achilles.  She later figures in Euripides’ drama, The Trojan Women, the heart-wrenching drama set in the immediate aftermath of Troy’s fall. As a witness to the utter destruction of her civilization, Hecuba is an archetype of tragedy.

“Hecuba’s mother,” by contrast, is an archetype of trivia.   We might just as soon search for the surname of Sam-I-Am, for all that it matters.  Tiberius’ interest in the question went no further than to see the scholars sweat (This is, after all, the emperor who coined the phrase, “Let them hate me so long as they fear me.”).  But for others, then as now, the mastery of such insignificant details is its own reward.  For such people (among whom, naturally, I count myself), a family tree of the gods is just the ticket.  As it happens, not one, but two new geneaological charts of Greek mythology are now available  on the market, each very different in its presentation.

Harold and Jon O. Newman’s A Genealogical Chart of Greek Mythology is easily the more scholarly of the two, and seems to have been designed primarily for library use . At 11 inches high and 15 inches wide, it offers so wide a pagespread that one can easily see the entirety of any mythological clan in a single glance.  Still, so unwieldy a book will not fit easily on any ordinary bookshelf and, consisting mostly of charts, is not exactly meant for the coffee-table either.

By contrast, Vanessa James’ The Genealogy of Greek Mythology folds out like a map and breaks up the monotony of the charts with attractive sidebars and pictures.  A long thin book (12 by 4.5 inches), it would make a good stocking-stuffer for the family myth fan this Christmas.

But enough of the descriptions!  Let’s get to the question on everyone’s mind.  Who was Hecuba’s mother?  Alas, there is no consensus.  According to James, it’s a nymph named Metope, but according to the Newmans, it’s a woman named Telecleia– dishonestly, neither places an asterisk indicating any hesitation by their entry.  Yes, both have perfectly sound and utterly obscure justification for their positions, but all that the search for Hecuba’s mother proves is that of bookish minutiae there is no end.

Somewhere Tiberius is laughing.

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Foulke (P) to Mientkewicz (1B) for the final out of the 2004 World Series

1098996634_5335.jpgHe knew what he held in his hand.

Gingerly he removed the ball from his glove, took it in hand, and looked intently at Doug Mientkewicz, standing at first base.  They exchanged a glance, and if they thought of Bill Buckner and 1986, it did not show on their faces.

And softly, softly, so very softly, he tossed the ball underhand– the way a father throws a ball to his boy, the way I have thrown a ball to my sons, the way my father first threw a ball to me, the way my father’s father never threw a ball to him (for, disgracefully, he had left his family behind at the height of the Depression, leaving my father to look to coaches for his role models)– softly, Foulke tossed the ball to Mientkewicz, who caught it, like so many boys have caught such softly tossed balls, after dropping them dozens of times before, caught the ball, and all of New England felt as you do when you catch your daddy’s ball, that, in this world of infinite failure and frustration, every once in a while, you succeed, and all the world exults.

Postscript. Fine piece by Dan Shaughnessy in the Globe on the very ball

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Aeschylus Libation Bearers discussion questions

Libation Bearers: Discussion Questions

Note:  Chorus of captive serving women

Time Seven years after the murder of Agamemnon

Scene Argos, before Agamemnon’s tomb


Fagles’pages Fagles’ lines (Grk lines) Part

pp. 177-178 1-26F (1-21) Prologue

pp. 178-180 26-82F (22-82) Parados

pp. 180-192 83-311F (83-304) First Episode

pp. 192-198 312-465F (305-476) First Stasimon

pp. 198-203 466-570F (477-584) Second Episode

pp. 204-205 571-633F (585-652) Second Stasimon

pp. 206-211 634-773F (653-782) Third Episode

pp. 212-213 774-823F (779-836) Third Stasimon

pp. 213-219 824-921F (837-933) Fourth Episode

pp. 219-220 922-963F (934-972) Fourth Stasimon

pp. 221-226 964-1076F (973-1074) Exodos

1. Prologue:  Orestes and Pylades arrive in the Prologue.  How does Orestes show his respects to Agamemnon’s grave?

2. Parados:  The chorus have torn their cheeks which bleed, and they shed tears (of salt water):  where have you seen these images before, and how are they here employed?  Pay close attention to Clytemnestra’s nightmare.  The image of Justice (61ff.) is one of scales– how do scales work, and what does this imply for the main characters?  The blood does not seep but cakes up (65ff.): discuss this image in symbolic terms.  The washing of hands which they discuss links water and blood again.

3. First episode:  Electra recognizes Orestes how?  (Is this plausible?)  What do you make of the wild creatures woven into the cloth?  At line 250 ff., Agamemnon is described as an eagle, and Clytemnestra as a snake.  What implications are in this?  Consider Orestes’ speech:  is Apollo on his side?  With what other divinely-decreed event might you compare this?

4. First Stasimon:  The chant at Agamemnon’s Tomb is a three-sided lyrical passage revealing the motivations of the principals.  What are these motivations?  Line 320 is at the heart of the trilogy.  Is Revenge Justice?

5. Second Episode:  What symbolism does Clytemnestra’s dream contain?  You might wish to consider Herodotus 3.109, who notes the belief that baby snakes had to eat their way out of the womb, killing their mothers.  What is Orestes’ plan?

6. Second Stasimon and  Third Episode:  Clytemnestra welcomes them with warm baths (!).  Who else was so welcomed?  When Orestes is announced as “dead,” is Clytemnestra’s reaction feigned or real?  The Nurse, so upset, was his wetnurse.  What is her function?

8. Third Stasimon and Fourth Episode:  Aegisthus’ death brings few tears, but how about Clytemnestra’s?  She bares her breast and begs for mercy:  sentimental claptrap?  Pylades has been silent up to now:  why?  How should he deliver his only line?  Consider again the idea expressed in line 910.

9. Fourth Stasimon and Exodos:  So, wait a minute, who’s the snake?  The arrival of the Furies– should they be on stage or not?

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