left biblioblography: March 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Religious 'Indulgence' - The Rag That Became A 'Relic'

Cross posted at God is for Suckers!

clownshroudThis bit of religious skullduggery caught my eye recently:

Shroud mystery 'refuses to go away'

There are very few Christian relics as important and as controversial as the Shroud of Turin.

This linen cloth, measuring about 4.4m by 1.1m (14.4x3.6 feet) holds the concealed image of a man bearing all the signs of crucifixion.

Which begs the question: has anyone ever run tests on any other 'shroud' besides this one?

Scientific tests have proved that there are blood stains around the marks consistent with a crown of thorns and a puncture from a lance to the side.

Ummm...no. This isn't the whole story.

There are several reddish stains on the shroud suggesting blood. McCrone (see above) identified these as containing iron oxide, theorizing that its presence was likely due to simple pigment materials used in medieval times. Other researchers, including Alan Adler, a chemist specializing in analysis of porphyrins, identified the reddish stains as type AB blood and interpreted the iron oxide as a natural residue of that element always found in mammalian red blood cells.


The particular shade of red of the supposed blood stains are problematic, according to skeptics of the shroud's authenticity. Normally, whole blood stains discolor relatively rapidly, turning to a black-brown shade, while these stains range from a red to a brown color. Skeptics claim that: " Blood has not been identified on the shroud directly, but it has been identified on sticky tape that was used to lift fibrils from the shroud. Dried, aged blood is black. The stains on the shroud are red. Forensic tests on the red stuff have identified it as red ocher and vermilion tempera paint." and that if there is blood: "it could be the blood of some 14th century person. It could be the blood of someone wrapped in the shroud, or the blood of the creator of the shroud, or of anyone who has ever handled the shroud, or of anyone who handled the sticky tape. But even if there were blood on the shroud, that would have no bearing on the age of the shroud or on its authenticity.

Until the 1980s, millions of Christians around the world believed the Shroud to be the burial cloth of Christ.

Put simply, it meant that for millions of people the Shroud was, in effect, a Polaroid of Jesus' death - a snapshot of the defining moment in Christianity. It put the Shroud in a league of its own in the realm of the most important Christian relics.

But in 1989, the significance of the Shroud seemed to evaporate after a radiocarbon dating test pronounced a stunning verdict - the Shroud of Turin was indisputably a medieval fake.

Again, not the whole story (from previous link):

In 1988, the Holy See agreed to permit six centers to independently perform radiocarbon dating on portions of a swatch taken from a corner of the shroud, but at the last minute they changed their minds and permitted only three research centers to independently perform radiocarbon dating. All three, Oxford University, the University of Arizona, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, agreed with a dating in the 13th to 14th centuries (1260–1390).The scientific community had asked the Holy See to authorize more samples, including from the image-bearing part of the shroud, but this request was refused. One possible account for the reluctance is that if the image is genuine, the destruction of parts of it for purposes of dating could be considered sacrilege. Another possibility is that the Church is reluctant to risk exposing the Shroud as a forgery.

My bets on the latter. Any takers?

Mr Jackson, a lecturer in physics and cosmology (author's note: I introduced this link, since obviously Mr. Jackson doesn't practice this form of it.)

, introduced me to a wealth of fresh historical and forensic evidence that linked the Shroud of Turin to two earlier Shrouds of Christ.

The first was in Constantinople and mysteriously disappeared in the sack of the city in the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The second is, of course, the Shroud referred to in the Gospels.

Who is this mysterious Mr. Jackson? None other than John P. Jackson, director and founder of TSC - The Turn Shroud Center of Colorado. Methinks me catches a whiff of presuppositionalism here.

The irresistible force of science seems to have hit an immovable object. The mysterious image of a crucified man has refused to lie down and die.

The 'immovable object' seems to be the traditional wall of ignorance erected by the religious. What a shock.

The new evidence raises a question mark over that carbon-14 verdict. Should the margin of error have been wider? Could the image on the Shroud have been forged earlier in time?

Anyone who does more than a 5 minute investigation into the maelstrom of yea-sayers and nay-sayers, will likely be blinking their eyes at it as I did. The damn thing's been more handled than Warren Beatty's unmentionables. Contamination, anyone? Nuns patched it up after a fire. From the answers.com link:

There are numerous reports of Jesus' burial shroud, or an image of his head, of unknown origin, being venerated in various locations before the fourteenth century.[2] However, none of these reports has been connected with certainty to the current cloth held in the Turin cathedral. Except for the Image of Edessa, none of the reports of these (up to 43) different "true shrouds" was known to mention an image of a body.

And yes! There was a denunciation:

In 1389, the image was denounced as a fraud by Bishop Pierre D'Arcis in a letter to the Avignon Antipope Clement VII, mentioning that the image had previously been denounced by his predecessor Henri de Poitiers, who had been concerned that no such image was mentioned in scripture. Bishop D'Arcis continued, "Eventually, after diligent inquiry and examination, he discovered how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it, to wit, that it was a work of human skill and not miraculously wrought or bestowed." (In German: [4].) The artist is not named in the letter.

I'm including here a more exacting analysis that really rips the shroud a new one.

It's a worn piece of cloth (cunningly wrought, I'll grant you that), a vestige of dirty laundry from the Middle Ages that should be de-classified as a mystery and instead, slotted as a fraud like so many other religious forgeries. More of an example of how the religious 'see it the way they call it'.

For a more humorous explanation, watch this short video.

I'd advise Jackson to get a hobby.

Till the next post, then.


Friday, March 28, 2008

A Magnificent Example Of Natural Selection

The Lyre bird can imitate anything it hears:

Truly astounding.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Draped In This Cloak Of Flesh, The Needs That Burn Us...

Close on the heels of the Spitzer scandal, I read this Chronicle column the other day in the newspaper (yes! An actual, bonafide newspaper! In the 21st century, no less!), and I gotta say: I don't agree at all.

Let's fisk this, and then we can get to the 'meat' of the matter.

There was one, and probably only one, reaction to the Eliot Spitzer scandal that surprised me: the idea, which appears to be widespread among a startling number of people, that the former governor's travails just "prove" that it's "time" to legalize prostitution (or sex work, to use the more polite term).

Like perhaps, in ancient Greece? That old adage about the 'oldest profession' isn't just a cliche, it's a fact.

The first time I heard someone railing on in this vein, I sat there, mouth agape, while he went down a long and rather incoherent list of excuses. I chalked it up to one guy's delusions, but then I heard it again and again from otherwise intelligent people (male and female) who had, I believed, a sensible grasp of reality, that is, a sense of the gap between the way that we think things should be and the way they turn out to be in daily life.

I'd have liked to have heard some of these 'incoherent excuses', but I'll assume Ms. Caille had to use some judgment inasmuch as she had a word limit.

Regardless, that's almost (but not quite) the logical fallacy of poisoning the well. I catch a hint of that American cultural cliche of 'well, he's just a man, and they all think with two parts of their bodies', but I could be wrong.

I'll start with some of the arguments I've heard recently in favor of legalizing sex work:

-- The 'people do it anyway' defense. Well, sure. But then, people also murder other people "anyway," and no one's clamoring to legalize that.

Variant on the old slippery slope routine - basically, same old razz-matazz. We let this one slide, and before you know it, there'll be rapine and murder in the streets.

Trying to make a case for whatever situation you want legalized based on the idea that some people will flout the law is the thinnest of all defenses. It groups all of us with that aberrant strain of humanity that will flout any law, and when we are making laws we need to appeal to what's reasonable, and what's good, in all of us.

Yeah, oh, say, like Prohibition? That worked out well, didn't it?

It also neglects the fact that our legal system isn't written simply for the purpose of expediency, it's also written to underline morality. You can argue about whether or not it's moral to legalize the practice of selling sex - I don't believe that it is - but not on the concept that "it happens."

Ummm...'morality' isn't a concrete constant. There was a time when homosexuality was a mental disorder, it was a-okay to ship your kid off to the factory for 12 hour days, and yes, even the good ole bible told you that it was perfectly satisfactory to sell your daughter into slavery.

And yes, you do indeed legalize things on the basis of "it happens". If it happens regularly enough, it becomes common-place. And then accepted. Because the majority doesn't decide what's moral, it decides on what's acceptable.

Really. Do us all a favor, get a clue.

Which brings me to another common argument:

-- The 'since people are already doing it, why not make it safe' defense. Note: This defense is usually backed up with a story that begins, 'When I went to Amsterdam...'

Sigh. Well, the people who believe that American public health departments can magically eliminate the violence and exploitation that tend to accompany sex work are more optimistic than I am.

'Magically'? What a stupid comment. You have an activity that's been pushed underground for a few centuries, this'll take years (maybe decades) of reform. Are we on the same planet?

Evidence about this stuff is always highly contested, but there is some that those issues have been exacerbated in and around the parts of Nevada where some legal prostitution is allowed. And those "issues," in case you weren't familiar with them, include rape, physical assaults, robbery and human trafficking.

I'd love to see these statistics. She rattles them off convincingly enough, but I found this under the Wiki entry:

State law requires that registered brothel prostitutes be checked weekly for several sexually transmitted diseases and monthly for HIV; furthermore, condoms are mandatory for all oral sex and sexual intercourse. Brothel owners may be held liable if customers become infected with HIV after a prostitute has tested positive for the virus.

Which is a far cry from most other states. Were I to avail myself of such services, I'd much rather have references and a clean bill of health, please, instead of sneaking about in some dingy part of town.

(The latter, by the way, is already a major, underpoliced, and undervalued problem in the city of San Francisco. There are a lot of city officials here who don't think it's a serious crime; I hope no one fools them into getting on a boat to a foreign country and then locks them up in a confined space for months or years.)

I have no doubt that women are getting shang-haied, both here and in other countries. It's a heinous practice, but how is it related to the topic at hand? It's not: it's a petty rhetorical practice with a slice of non sequitur thrown in.

Those are pretty serious consequences, in my opinion, and I don't know how you can argue in good conscience that the risk of making them worse is worth the opportunity to ensure that some sex workers submit to a regular battery of sexually transmitted disease tests.

More slippery slope statements. So, having needle-riddled prostitutes risking the public safety (because let's face it: there will always be a supply and demand for this sort of thing - history's proven that a thousand times over), and organized crime and sexual predators preying on them to generate income is a good thing? Oh please.

-- Prostitution can be a 'positive' thing for women. This argument is the least likely to be said with a straight face, because most people don't really believe that having sex you don't enjoy with strangers who you don't like is a positive thing, but the people who believe this argument really believe it, so to them I'll just say: It's not.

I'll have to go along with this to a point. If we reduced poverty, educated children properly (not based on pay scale), and actually got past this weird Victorian love-hate relationship with sex this culture seems to thrive on (don't blink at me: think about it), and stopped treating this profession as if the person who engaged in it was less than human, we'd be better off.

I've read that in Thailand, women actually aspire to be bar girls. That's not a good thing - but in a Third World country, it's not as if there's a plethora of options. Bar girls in China actually send money back to their family.

It's really, truly not. No woman wants to be reduced to her body parts. There are reasons why so many sex workers were abused as children, suffer from substance abuse problems, and have feelings of low self-worth, and it's not because they've got such healthy jobs. It's because they already feel like they've been devalued, and now they are in a profession that reinforces that.

Yeah, let's just bypass the fact that many women are living below the standards that enable them to get these 'healthy jobs'. Maybe you should be fighting against poverty and the stark educational standards of the sub-par schools, more people would have a better chance.

Finally, there really is a moral argument to be made against legalizing prostitution, and it's a simple one: Is this the kind of "career route" you would want for your sister or your daughter? People who like to pontificate about how we "need" to legalize prostitution always fall silent when I ask them that question, because if you believe that it should be legalized then odds are it's because you believe that someone else will bear the brunt of the pain that comes with it. Not the nice people you know.

I can't say that I'm overly thrilled about the concept. But if it were rendered legal, and a worthy profession? It was once, you know. That is, until the religious people took over, horrified that humanity should actually engage their natural urges. In the current clime? Hell no. In Nevada? That'd be a horse of a different color.

Now, there are definitely things about our prostitution laws that I think we should change - namely, the fact that they tend to focus on the act of selling sex, rather than the act of soliciting it. Focusing on the johns and the pimps seems far more fair to me, and it would probably have the unintended benefit of reducing violence against sex workers. The kind of person who's eager to assert brutality against someone who's vulnerable is exactly the kind of person who will stop what he's doing if he doesn't think he'll be able to get away with it.

Here's how you 'focus' on the pimps and johns: legalize it. Let's face facts: there are wack jobs and freak shows galore, not just here but everywhere. If there had been no prostitution in England, I'm willing to bet old Jack the Ripper would've sliced up someone based on the slimmest of excuses. Henry Lee Lucas, sick bastard that he was, didn't need the excuse - it just had to be a woman.

Make it legal, regulate it: that will go a lot farther in reducing the criminal aspect of it. Fact is, keeping it illegal will just keep the vermin's fingers in the pot. It's a victimless crime, when indeed, it should be no crime at all.

And, the fact of the matter is, there are men out there who can't get laid at all. There's a variety of them. It's not about some 'sad sack who can't get it' (let's all rise and blast a raspberry at Oprah): there are men that are horribly disfigured, paraplegic, amputees, who for one reason or another can't seem to 'rise' above a handicap, physical or mental. I might also add, there are plenty of women out there who can't either, for many of the same reasons. Don't tell me this is gender-centric: women indulge this 'vice' as well. Perhaps not in the same numbers as men do, but they're out there. Most won't cop to it, outside of some squalid Fox game show.

Oh, and where was the outrage when a famous evangelist was busted for having sex with a male prostitute, I might ask? Did anyone carry on about how Mike Jones was 'reduced to body parts'? Who sputtered in moral umbrage that a young man was prostituting himself? I don't recall one peep on that subject.

This is basically an entire argument from outrage, based on the most tenuous of concepts: the old is-ought problem.

There 'is' a prostitution problem - there 'ought' to be no such thing at all. It's a flimsy band-aid on a gaping wound that needs stitches.

Let's deal with it as a reality, instead of the old 'out of sight, out of mind' crap. Making it illegal is exactly that. Slapping more laws on the issue will drive it further underground. Which will result in more disease, back-alley abortions, and increased revenues for the criminals.

Let it be stated in the record, that I'm a big proponent of women's rights. Hell, I'm a big proponent of human rights. But that includes all people. That includes sex workers (who are, sadly enough, viewed as LTH - Less Than Human). There are drug programs galore for the recovering addict: you can get a whole new start on life, bootstraps away! But what programs are there for the sex worker, in the USA? How do you put that on a resume? This isn't very well-addressed in the media. How do you rescue someone who's been doing this for years?

Basically, it's just this: some people can afford to look down at others. If you're middle-class or higher, you have that extra option - economic pressures enter into our world unbidden, and despite the old 'American bootstrap' myth, the present climate really doesn't let that many folks climb up the fiscal ladder.

It's just the way it is.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Word Made Flesh: You Will Pry My Rights Away From My Cold Dead Hands

BAT+logo Cross posted at God Is For Suckers!

“If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought—not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Yep, it's that time of year again, old friends: when we renew our voices, and raise our fists to the sky, and tell the world that we will not knuckle under to the harsh rule of religious tyranny. That all people under the blue sky are entitled only to their particular brand of ideology, but not entitled to force others to bow, or kowtow to them.

I submit to you, dear readers, that we at one time as a nation, had some theocratic elements. The so-called 'Blue Laws' are a perfect example of this, some of which still exist to this day (admittedly, it's mostly the restriction of liquor in certain counties, but I haven't checked recently).

The ongoing battle for homosexual rights is another such example. The arguments against gay marriage (of which I am a supporter of, albeit my activism is of the online variety), the vacuous arguments against gay parenthood, or even opposition to the actual treatment of homosexuals as peers.

Symbols of 'the theocracy that was' are all around us. Even to this day, the theocrats have inserted key personnel into the current administration. We still have 'In God We Trust' on our currency. We have missionaries preaching to the appointees in power. We even have a mercenary equivalent of the Praetorian Guard with a theocratic agenda. There are at least three states in the Union who pretty much qualify for theocracy, anyways: Oklahoma, Texas, and Indiana.

For those readers who accuse me of ' panic-mongering', they are cordially invited to investigate for themselves.

There are those who proclaim 'Original Intent' , that the founders indeed intended to make this a Christian nation. But Jefferson coined the phrase 'Separation of Church and State' (Madison spoke of it as a line between the two). Madison was very much for taxing churches if they should interfere with a political campaign (a remarkable Founder, but not so good as a President, or so I've read). In fact, I once proved that of five of the Founding Fathers, none of them would be suitable for election in this century.

It is time, people. To address the government with our redress of grievances, as is our constitutional right.

  1. That we will not enter into a war based on some addled 'vision from God'
  2. That no judge will suborn the First Amendment based on his own beliefs.
  3. That the civil as well as constitutional rights of all citizens, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, are adhered to and observed.
  4. That religion be kept out of the schools, because due to the rich cultural diversity of our country, to err on the side of the majority is to denigrate the needs of the minority.
  5. Because this government is based first on the individual, and then on the will of the masses, a balance must be found.

And foremost, this: that a 'small' theocracy will become a theocracy writ large. And any theocracy will have the high priests of such, who will go about silencing the dissenters, the pariahs, the infidels, any of those who are significantly other than themselves. Who will systematically stifle any and all outcry against the 'good news' of their ascension and rule. This is not vain hyperbole: history will bear me out on this.

And I, as a moral, law-abiding, tax-paying, secular citizen, am just as entitled to the same rights as any religious citizen.

So let freedom ring. And let no god(s) tell me otherwise. Because they can plant their non-existent lips on my gluteus maximus.

This is the Apostate, signing off.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Viewing The Wreckage Of Our School Systems: 'Intelligent Design' Has MUCH To Answer For


Cross posted at God Is For Suckers!

While I'm not going to blame the ID movement for all of the US school systems' problems, there's a big issue that gets fairly unexplored: that of funding.

Academia is always notoriously short on funding. Having once worked for a liberal arts college, I know this. And we have these folks who're pushing their religious agenda (who should in fact, be donating all the millions of dollars they spend on this frivolous nonsense into the schools) contributing to the wreckage of today's American schools.

We have these frightening statistics: that in 2006, 55% believed 'gwad' created humans in their present form. 27% think that 'gwad' used evolution to bring us to where we are now, and 13% think that it was an unguided process. Further down the page, I found it amusing that the statistics favor evolution among Internet users. Hmmm...I wonder if this is indicative of anything?

Despite constantly experiencing defeats in the courts (we'll exclude Kansas from those, though it appears that there's been a flip-flop as of last year), from Edwards v. Aguillard to the debacle in Dover, these people keep getting their asses handed to them.

But this doesn't stop some 'philanthropist' millionaires from pitching in their '2 cents'. Money better spent feeding the poor and improving the schools, I might add.

The central point here is, that this ridiculous polarization (especially of those vehement anti-evolutionists who obviously have little more than an abysmal understanding of the topic) is costing us, the US citizen, hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Pretty much for a one-sided point of view that has rendered absolutely zero, zilch, nada (or any other word you might substitute for fucking nothing) in the arena of science.

On a personal level, I'd like our representatives in the government to pro-rate all the tax-payers' expenses in regards to this ludicrous expenditure of our hard-earned money: let the creationists/IDiots pay out of their wallets. Let their tax money get spent on this foolishness. Hey! Howzabout anyone who 'believes' in evolution (my eyes rolling) get a freakin' tax cut out of this.

(I know, I know: it doesn't work that way. A guy can wish, can't he?)

Let's forget all about the SOCAS. Oh, wait, we can't, can we?

I'll top this off with an eloquent ending from Jerry Coyne (yet another evolutionist that creationists misquote), from his excellent article titled:


In the end, many Americans may still reject evolution, finding the creationist alternative psychologically more comfortable. But emotion should be distinguished from thought, and a "comfort level" should not affect what is taught in the science classroom. As Judge Overton wrote in his magisterial decision striking down Arkansas Act 590, which mandated equal classroom time for "scientific creationism":

"The application and content of First Amendment principles are not determined by public opinion polls or by a majority vote. Whether the proponents of Act 590 constitute the majority or the minority is quite irrelevant under a constitutional system of government. No group, no matter how large or small, may use the organs of government, of which the public schools are the most conspicuous and influential, to foist its religious beliefs on others."

So, creationists? You want 'intelligent design' taught in the schools, alongside the proven method of evolution? Fine. You pay for it. But you would be better off contributing your time and efforts and cash to actually improving conditions (do spare me the 'evolution is contributing to the weakening moral fiber' refrain the lot of you gibber about: it's old news), rather than harping about and combating a proven scientific fact that spans more fields than minutes you have in your attention span.

Till the next post, then.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

And The Sibling Rivalry Rageth On...

So I kinda lost my cool not long ago. Over a car.

Let me say this in advance: everything my little sister did was nothing short of heroic. She was there for my mom constantly - I have a full-time job, so mostly I'd show up at my mother's bedside while she was in the hospital, in therapy, and at the senior living center where my mom lived briefly. Sis isn't working (truth is, she's had maybe two good jobs, one she got fired from after many years, another she got laid off at), so she had the time. She juggled bills like a pro, coordinated so much in such little time. Truth is, I don't know if I could've done as well as she did. Or at all, for that matter.

I was impressed. Deeply. She held our mother's hand as she passed, whispering words of encouragement, as the rest of us watched on in tearful silence.

There's one word I can express in admiration: Wow.

And she handled the funereal services, and she's still handling the bills.

One would think that this wouldn't degenerate into some childish squabble.

One would be wrong.

Prior to Mom's passing (and after), I made a point that I wanted (and needed) her car. My car's pretty much ready for the old glue factory, I never had enough cash (until recently) to do maintenance and repair, so it's fallen into disrepair. I could give you a catalogue of its ills and woes, but sufficient to say, it's making odd noises and smells more than a little funny. So my little sister agreed. We discussed it a couple of times.

In fact, she left it parked over at the condo for about a week, left a message that I should go about turning the car in my name, etc.

My two sisters and my niece stopped over one weekend, and I walked over and bought cigarettes and some stuff from Safeway, and when I came back, it was gone. She hadn't said anything about taking it. We had discussed sharing the car, so I shrugged, and went about my business.

Foolish, foolish man. Right after that, I got a mass email to any and all, about my mom's services. Which I discussed here.

The next week, I got a message on my phone. Older sis, telling me that she and younger sis were going to see the probate lawyer.

The very next day. Now, I don't know about anyone else, but I get a message telling me about an important event at 7:00 PM the night before a work day, I get a little incensed. Truth is, I had a root canal that day, but nonetheless. There was also a note.

I left a note saying, very simply, "Leave the Corolla."

The note the next day read something along the lines of, "The Corolla is now a part of the probate. Lawyer's advice." Something like that. I didn't keep it.

Here's the thing: I knew she was driving it all over town. I was...infuriated. Late Saturday night, I drove over to check it out. Hell, I went over to lock the fucking thing down. Put the club on it, take out the extra set of keys.

It was in their driveway. I bailed at the last moment (I had the car key in one hand, the Club in another): their bedroom was right overhead, the window open. 'No', I thought, 'I'll try to handle this like an adult.'

So I sent her this email message:

Hey [Sister].
Listen: we had an agreement. I only have 40 days to turn the car over into my name, as a rightful heir. The probate lawyer is your employee (I'll need his name & number, BTW) - you don't have to do exactly what he says. If my car was working fine, wouldn't even care. I'd have it fixed, but I have to sink a few thou into my mouth (teeth are coming apart again).
I'm only asking you to honor your agreement.

The following is the fisking I did of her response. Needless to say, I was..enraged, to put it mildly.

*****Begin correspondence*****

I'll take this piecemeal:

[She] wrote:

It's sad that we have been reduced to emails & simple notes.
It is sad - but you roll over anything I say verbally constantly. This is the only way I get to explain myself fully. Like the last time we spoke, where you pulled out a scorecard to justify your actions. I got a fucking speech from you, which I hardly needed. I'm a grown-ass man, & you are most definitely not in charge of anything anymore. You also brought someone into my living space (I'm making the house payments, so that gives me the right to refuse entrance to someone) who I don't respect at all (priest and ministers are parasites, they should get real jobs), you glossed over any objections I might have by ambushing me w/this shit.
The services by the way were lovely as well as the dinner you missed, why was that? We could have used you there (especially Shane).
I'm still furious that you didn't even have the courtesy to consult me about the services. What, you thought maybe that I'd object to having any? She was my mother too. The three of us should have at least discussed it first. Besides which, I grieve privately.
Strike one.
The question is where does family fit into your life?
The question actually is - does my family fit me in at all? Obviously not. You people have always treated me like a 2nd class citizen. This latest set of escapades proves it.
At the time of the so called agreement, I was power of atty, [Big Sis] is the executor now the car is part of the probate which can take up to 10 months?
So-called? You agreed to it.
I might add, I've spoken to Mr. [lawyer]. We both agreed, that since it's part of the probate, it would be best if nobody drove it. Wear & tear over 10 months will reduce the value.
Don't bother objecting. The rules apply to everyone equally.
I understand your situation, all I can offer you is the Taurus free of charge. Which I mentioned to you, after the third time you asked for the Corolla...
Yeah, in case my Acura broke down. Nice try, no cigar. What, you think my memory's that bad? You left a message on my answering machine advising me to have it turned over in my name. Of course you won't remember that: it's not convenient for you.

I have a hard time giving a car that Mom loved to someone who will not show it the respect it deserves & keep up on its maintence the way Mom did. Mom would want the car to goto someone who will indeed take care of it.

I've been broke for the last few years. I used to keep the Acura in great shape until lately, when I couldn't afford to keep it up. I used to wash it, take it in for service regularly, when I was working regularly.
I'm not some irresponsible fucking 12 year old. This is fucking downright insulting. The one memento I ask, in memory of my mother, and you think I won't take care of it? Fuck you.

Where exactly are you getting 40 days from, as a rightful heir?
That's the language the DMV uses. We're all rightful heirs. I have just as much say as any of us. Notice I said 'a', not 'the'.
The probte lawyer is [Big Sis] 's as well as our employee, & his name is [...] in Hayward. Which you were advised of via my note & Cheryl's email.
Ummm....No. There's been no email. You most certainly did NOT give me the name until now, otherwise I wouldn't have asked.
It might have been in your best interest to attend the meeting if the car was & is your main concern.
I was advised of it the night before it happened. I can't reshuffle my schedule on short notice. I've taken WAY too much time off of work lately. Strike two.
I have been through enough these last few months that the car is the least of my worries, it amazes me that our family would be reduced to such a trivial discussions.
We had a 'so-called' agreement. My car is smelling funny and sounding weird. I think it's hardly trivial that I might end up w/a non-working car. My state of transportation is hardly 'trivial' - as I've already explained, my finances of the last few years have been horrible, couldn't afford the upkeep. Now I can. Besides which, if it's so trivial, why are you even making a fuss?
Spare me the martyrdom crap. That dog don't hunt anymore.
So as it stands there's no agreement.
Typical. And you wonder where family fits in my life? I can't rely on you people at all.
We'll discuss the outcome of the car in 10 months.
Any other matters via the estate, you need to contact [Big Sis].
Regards [Little Sis]

And...strike three, you're out. Out of game. Out of scorecards. Mom's not buried a whole month, and you play me for 3 pounds of stupid in a one pound bag? [Lawyer] will keep me in the loop, since I can't trust either of you vultures.
Your power of attorney's over, once the principal passes. You are going to have to park that car on the street, since it's now in probate. None of us get to use it, you got that?
You can lie to yourself all you like, you broke our agreement.
I'm done. I'm through w/this family. Seriously. This is too much. I'm a fucking adult and your peer, not some goddamned little kid. I didn't even get a copy of the fucking will (which I asked for).
So cross me off all your lists. Birthdays, holidays, I'm not coming. Ever. Forever. I'm sorry for whoever gets caught in the crossfire of this choice, if it causes any heartache. But what fucking good is family, if you can't even trust them? You remember what I said at the eulogy? "Principles aren't something you put aside, when they're inconvenient."
I'd not have treated you in such a shabby manner.

****End correspondence*****

I received a phone call from older sis the next day: she ruled in my favor. I started getting a speech about everything little sis has gone through: I pre-empted that pretty fast. I heard about 'Mom's last wishes', about harsh words spoken, etc. I did tell her I wasn't sure I wanted the damned thing now, under these circumstances. She told me to think about it. I do recall telling her I get this treatment from both of them, and that I'd about had a bellyfull of it. "I didn't do anything!" "We have a history, sis. You think about that. I gotta get back to work." (Yeah, she called me at work. She did that the time we had a falling out - yep, you guessed it, the raccoon story!)

I might also mention, that same night, I came home to find an empty condom wrapper on my desk. That I didn't put there. Little sis had picked up the mail (it was gone from the dining room table). Any guesses as to the meaning? (I've already figured it out, by the way.)

I think it's clear to anyone w/a glimmering of psychology, it certainly wasn't about the car.

I could go on at length about this, but I leave it to the reader to ponder.

I seriously wonder if I did the right thing. I've been thinking about this for some years. After the 'Law is the Law' debacle, we had a huge fight about my being forced into praying alongside the family (which she's since relented on - and no, I didn't do a post on this, sorry).

I feel bad about her kids, my brother-in-law (though every time I see him, he's usually plastered), his step-dad (we get along famously, and man! Can that guy cook!).

So, yeah, it looks like I'm going to die alone. It is to weep, sometimes. On the other hand, less chaos, more peace.

All commentary is welcome on this one.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Up In Smoke: Another Fable Goes Up In Flames


Cross posted at God Is For Suckers!

“If God doesn't destroy Hollywood Boulevard, he owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology” - Jay Leno

The phrase "Sodom and Gomorrah" tends to invoke images of the sky opening up and the socio-psycho-sexual wrath of the Judaic deity, over sexual excesses.

For many centuries, most scholars counted the twin cities as fictional. Well, it's believed they may have apparently found them.

Of course, the religious amongst us will bounce up and down and applaud, and engage in furious debate about all the standard 'interpretations - say, like the old saw that it was about hospitality vs. homosexual practices (in fact, I've heard various commentary about the sexual practices in the Middle East of that time frame: it seems the Israelites were just a...wee bit overzealous about cracking down on them), in fact, there's an entirely rational explanation for the 'firing up' of these two townships, to wit:

"From the research of geologist Frederick G. Clapp, who visited the area in 1929 and 1934, it was discovered that there are fault lines along the east and west sides of the Dead Sea. The Cities of the Plain would lie at the edge of the valley of Jordan along the eastern fault line. Also, earthquakes are common to the area. In Clapp's research, asphalt and petroleum accompanied by natural gas were found in the area. From Genesis 14:10, it is evident that the valley of Siddim was full of tar pits. This tar is naturally occurring asphalt (Gen 11:3; Exodus 2:3). With the assistance of the imagination, the destruction of the Cities of the Plain can be recreated. Bryant Wood speculates that, "these combustible materials could have been forced from the earth by subterranean pressure brought about by an earthquake resulting from the shifting of the bounding faults. If these combustibles were ignited by lightning or some other agency as they came spewing forth from the ground, it would indeed result in a holocaust such as described in Genesis 19." One would expect to find wide spread burning in the area. From the 1973 report by Rast and Schaub there is evidence of widespread burning in the case of three of the cities. At Numeira, a pit was dug which cut through a seven foot thick layer of dark ash and at Feifa, much the same evidence of destruction by fire could be found (Gen 19:28)."

And, from here:

"This bitumen could also possibly have provided a hint as to a catalyst in the conflagration which occurred in this plain. Bitumen, or slime pits, result from an underground petroleum reserve oozing through to the surface. And all oil reserves have natural gas associated with them, which also can seep into the air. All of this is speculation, but the region yields the elements and evidences of an extremely cataclysmic occurrence. One in which a lake was formed, blocking the river from its continued flow and which devastated the entire plain to the extent that nothing grows there."

And one more, from our old pal, Wikipedia:

Bab edh-Dhra (bāb al-dhrā' ) is the site of an Early Bronze Age city, located near the Dead Sea, in Wadi Araba, forwarded as a candidate for the location of Biblical Sodom.

Bitumen and petroleum deposits have been found in the area, which contain sulfur and natural gas (as such deposits normally do), and one theory suggests that a pocket of natural gas led to the incineration of the city.

So somebody's camel could've just kicked over a lantern (wee reference to the old Chicago fire legend, there), or been sparkin' up a hookah, or a variety of other possible missteps, combined with a preponderance of flammable substances, and boom-shakalaka-BOOM!

There you have it. No hand from on high lit the conflagration(s). No fiery breath from an angry god. A simple matter of people picking the wrong place to live. And getting burned for it. (I won't even go into the thing where Lot's daughters bumped uglies with their daddy, to 'preserve his seed'. Yeesh - that's more pornographic than any kiddie's tale needs to be, ya ask me.)

Attributing natural disasters to a supernatural force would be vastly amusing, if they weren't so sad and pitiful.

Till the next post, then.