Category Archives: Uncategorized

I Love Her, That’s Why!

Thirty-five years ago, Margaret answered my promises by pledging to stand by me through thick and thin, for better or worse, richer or poorer, as long as we both should live. In the intervening years I’ve gone from thin to thick and, awkwardly, have never quite been able to offer her a glimpse of what ‘richer’ would be like, but I think it’s fair to say that I’m a better man now than I was when we married (and I’m sure I’m a better man than when we met). We have spent altogether too much time apart, and have not yet ridden through Paris in a sports car, with a warm wind in her hair (though we have in a coach with forty choristers); but if God grants me another few years, perhaps we can arrange even that. Even if not, mark me down as a man blessed beyond measure by the love and companionship of a beautiful, wise, generous, constant spouse.

Margaret on Nantucket


Kara Slade likes to refer to us as ‘the George Burns and Gracie Allen of theology’, an appellation that tickles me no end — my father and I were ardent George Burns fans (George Burns Classic, as you might say, the vaudeville and radio/TV Burns, before his late-career emergence in Oh God and other such profitable ventures). I especially love it ’cos Gracie Allen was herself a brilliant practitioner of comedy, very far from being a sidekick; I’d be flattered to be compared to George or Gracie, and (whichever role you assign me) always happy to step aside so that Margaret has more room to shine. I’m unbearably proud to be her husband, in the way George Burns manifests throughout his (ghost-written) autobiography that he’s besotted with and proud of Gracie.

Cover of George Burns's autobiography, I Love Her, That's Why

S Peter of Milan

The Life of S. Peter of Milan
Here followeth the Life of S. Peter of Milan, and first the interpretation of his name.

Peter is as much to say as knowing or unhosing, or Peter is said of petros, that is constant and firm, and by that be understood three privileges that were in S. Peter; he was a much noble preacher, and therefore he is said knowing, for he had perfect knowledge of scripture, and knew in his predication what was behoveful to ever each person. Secondly, he was pure and a virgin, and therefore he was said unhosing, for he unhosed and did off his will from his feet, and despoiled all mortal love, insomuch that he was virgin, and not only of body but also of mind. Thirdly, he was a martyr glorious of our Lord, and therein he was constant and firm, to the end that he should suffer steadfastly martyrdom for the defence of the faith.
Of S. Peter of Milan.

S. Peter the new martyr, of the order of the friars preachers, was born in the city of Verona in Lombardy. His father and mother were of the sect of the Arians. Then he descended of these people like as the rose that cometh of the thorn, and as the light that cometh of the smoke. At the age of seven years, when he learned at the school his credo, one, his eme, which was a heretic, demanded of him his lesson, and the child said to him: Credo, till to creatorem coeli et terrae; his uncle said to him that he should no more say so, for God hath not made temporal things, the child affirmed that he ought to say none otherwise, but so as he had learned, and that other began to show him by authority his purpose; but the child, which was full of the Holy Ghost, answered so well and wisely that his uncle departed all confused, and all achauffed, said to the father that he should take away his son from school, for he doubted when he shall be great that he should turn against their law and faith, and that he should confound them. And so it happed, and so he prophesied like as Caiaphas did, but God, against whom none may do, would not suffer it for the great profit that he attended of him. Thenafter, when he came to more age, he saw that it was no sure thing to dwell with the scorpions. He had in despite father and mother, and left the world whiles he was a clear and a pure virgin. He entered into the order of the friars preachers there, whereas he lived much holily the space of thirty years or thereabout, full of all virtues and especial in defending the faith, for love of which he burnt. He did much abstinence for to bring his flesh low, he fasted, he entended to wake by night in studying and in prayer when he should have slept and rested, and by day he entended to the profit of the souls, in preaching, in confessing, and in counselling, in disputing against the heretics and Arians, and in that he had a special grace of Jesu Christ, for he was right sore founded in humility. He was marvellously piteous and debonair, full of compassion, of great patience, of great charity, and of steadfastness. So ripe and so well ordained in fair manner that every man might behold as in a mirror, in his continence and in his conversation. He was wise and discreet, and so emprinted in his heart that all his words were firm and stable. Then he prayed many times to our Lord that he would not let him die but by sufferance of martyrdom for him and for his faith. And thus as he prayed God accomplished in the end.
He did many miracles in his life, for in the city of Milan, on a time when he examined a bishop of the Arians that the christian men had taken, and many bishops, religious, and great plenty of other people of the city were there assembled, and was then right hot, this Arian said to S. Peter tofore them all: O thou Peter perverse, if thou art so holy as this people holdeth thee for, wherefore sufferest thou this foolish people to die for heat, and prayest not God that he would shadow them. Then S. Peter answered and said: If thou wilt promise that thou shalt hold the very faith and thou wilt leave thine heresy, I shall pray therefor to our Lord. Then all they that were on the party of the Arians cried that he should promise him, for they supposed that he should not get it specially, because the air was so clear and no cloud was seen, and the christian men doubted that their faith might thereby come to confusion, but the bishop, the heretic, would not bind him thereto. S. Peter had good faith and trust in God, and made his prayer openly that he would convey over them a cloud, and he made the sign of the cross, and anon the cloud came and overspread them like a pavilion that there were assembled, and abode as long as the sermon endured, and it stretched no further but there.
There was a lame man which had been so lame five years and might not go, but was drawn in a wheelbarrow, and brought to S. Peter at Milan, and as S. Peter had blessed him with the sign of the cross, anon he was whole and arose. Yet other miracles God showed for him by his life. It happed that the son of a gentleman had such a horrible disease in his throat that he might neither speak ne draw his breath, but S. Peter made on him the sign of the cross, and laid his cope on the place where the sore was, and anon he was all whole. The same gentleman had afterwards a grievous malady and supposed to have died, and made bring to him the said cope, which with great devotion laid it on his breast, and anon he cast out a worm with two heads which was rough, and after he was brought in good health and anon all whole. It happed that a young man was dumb and might not speak a word, wherefore he came to S. Peter, and he put his finger in his mouth and his speech came to him again. Now it happed that time that an heresy began much in Lombardy, and that there were much people that were fallen in this error, and the pope sent divers inquisitors thither of the order of the friars preachers, and because that at Milan there were many in number of great power and engine, he sent thither S. Peter as a man wise, constant, and religious, which doubted nothing. And by his virtue he reproved them, and by his wit he understood their malice, and when he had enterprised the office of Inquisition, then began he, as a lion, to seek the heretics over all, and left them not in peace, but in all places, times, and all the manners that he might, he overcame and confounded them. When the heretics saw that they might not withstand the Holy Ghost that spake in him, they began to treat how they might bring him to death. Then it happed on a time, as he went from Cumea to Milan for to seek the heretics, he said openly in a predication that the money was delivered for to slay him. And when he approached nigh the city a man of the heretics, which was hired thereto, ran upon him and smote him with his falchion on the head, and gave and made to him many cruel wounds, and he that murmured not ne grudged not, suffered patiently the cruelty of the tyrants, and abandoned or gave himself over to suffer the martyrdom, and said his credo, and in manus tuas, commending his spirit unto the hands of our Lord. And so the tyrant left him in the place for dead, and thus told the tyrant that slew him, and friar Dominic which was his fellow was slain with him. And after, when the tyrant saw that he removed yet his lips, the cursed and cruel tyrant came again and smote him with his knife to the heart, and anon his spirit mounted into heaven. Then was it well known that he was a very prophet, for the prophecy of his death that he had pronounced was accomplished. After, he had the crown of virginity, for as his confessors witness that in all his life he had never done deadly sin. After, he had the crown of a doctor, because he had been a good fast firm preacher and doctor of holy church. After, he had the crown of martyrdom, as it appeared when he was slain. The renown thereof came into the city of Milan, and the friars, the clergy, and the people, came with procession with so great company of people, that the press was so great that they might not enter into the town, and therefore they left the body in the abbey of S. Simplician, and there it abode all that night and so he said the day tofore to his fellow. The passion of S. Peter ensued much like the passion of our Lord in many manners, for like as our Lord suffered for the truth of the faith that he preached, so S. Peter suffered for the truth of the faith that he defended ; and like as Christ suffered of the Jews, so S. Peter suffered of the people of his own country, and of the heretics; Christ suffered in the time of Easter, so did S. Peter. Jesu Christ was sold for thirty pence, and S. Peter was sold for forty pounds. Jesu Christ showed his death to his disciples, and S. Peter showed it in plain predication. Jesu Christ said at his death : Lord God, into thy hands I commend my spirit; right so S. Peter did the same. There was a nun of Almaine, of the abbey of Oetenbach, which had a grievous gout in her knee, which had holden her a year long and more, and there was no master ne physician that might make her whole. She had great devotion to S. Peter, but she might not go thither because of her obedience, and because her malady was so grievous. Then demanded she how many days’ journey was from thence to Milan, and she found that there were fourteen journeys. Then purposed she to make these journeys by her heart and good thoughts, and she said for every journey one hundred paternosters. And always as she went forth by her mind in her journeys, she felt herself more eased, and when she came to the last journey in her mind she found herself all guerished. Then she said that day all the Psalter, and after returned all the journeys like as she had gone by her thoughts in her heart, and after that day she felt never the gout.
There was a man that had a villainous malady beneath, in such wise that he voided blood six days continually; he cried to S. Peter devoutly, and as he had ended his prayer he felt himself all whole; and after he fell asleep, and he saw in his sleep a friar preacher which had a face great and brown, and him seemed that he had been fellow to S. Peter, and verily he was of the same form. This friar gave to him a box of ointment and said to him: Have good hope in S. Peter which late hath shed his blood for the faith, for he hath healed thee of the blood that ran from thee, and when he awoke he purposed to visit the sepulchre of S. Peter.
There was a countess of the castle Massino, which had special devotion to S. Peter and fasted alway his vigil; now it happed that she offered a candle to the altar of S. Peter, and anon the priest for his covetise quenched the candle, but anon after the candle was light again by himself, and he quenched it again once or twice, and always as soon as he was gone, it lighted anon again; then he left that and put out another candle which a knight had offered in the honour of S. Peter, which knight fasted also his even, and the priest assayed two times if he might put it out, but he might not. Then said the knight unto the priest: What, devil, seest thou not well the miracle, that S. Peter will not that they be quenched? Then was the priest abashed and all the clerks that were there with him, in so much that they fled out of the church and told the miracle overall.
There was a man called Roba which had lost at play his gown and all the money that he had. When he came into his house and saw himself in so great poverty, he called the devils and gave himself to them; then came to him three devils which cast down Roba upon the soler and after took him by the neck, and it seemed that they would have estrangled him, in such wise that he unnethe might speak. When they that were in the house beneath heard him cry, they went to him, but the devils said to them that they should return, and they had supposed that Roba had said so, and returned, and after anon he began to cry again; then apperceived they well that they were the devils, and fetched the priest, which conjured in the name of S. Peter, the devils, that they should go their way. Then two of them went away and the third abode, and his friends brought him on the morn to the church of the friars. Then there came a friar named Guillaume of Vercelli, and this friar Guillaume demanded what was his name, and the fiend answered: I am called Balcefas; then the friar commanded that he should go out, and anon the fiend called him by his name as he had known him, and said: Guillaume, Guillaume, I shall not go out for thee, for he is ours and hath given himself to us. Then he conjured him in the name of S. Peter the martyr, and then anon he went his way and the man was all whole, and took penance for his trespass, and was after a good man.
S. Peter whiles he lived, it happed that he disputed with a heretic, but this heretic was sharp, aigre, and so full of words that S. Peter might have of him none audience. When he saw that, he departed from the disputation and went and prayed our Lord that he would give to him place and time to sustain the faith, and that the other might be still and speak not; and when he came again he found this heretic in such case that he might not speak. Then the other heretics fled all confused, and the good christian men thanked our Lord.
The day that S. Peter was martyred, a nun that was of the city of Florence saw in a vision our Lady that styed up to heaven, and with her two persons, one on the right side and that other on the left, in the habit of friars, which were by her, and when she demanded who it was, a voice said to her that it was the soul of S. Peter, and was found certainly that same day he suffered death, and therefore this nun, which was grievously sick, prayed to S. Peter for to recover her health, and he gat it for her entirely.
There was a scholar that went from Maloigne unto Montpellier, and in leaping he was broken that he might not go. Then he remembered of a woman that was healed of a cancer by a little of the earth of the sepulchre of S. Peter, and anon he had trust in God, and cried to S. Peter in such manner as she had done, and anon he was whole.
In the city of Compostella there was a man that had great legs swollen like a barrel, and his womb like a woman with child, and his face foul and horrible, so that he seemed a monster to look on. And it happed that he went with a staff begging his bread, and in a place where he demanded on a time alms of a good woman, she saw him so swollen that she said that it were better for him to have a pit to be buried in than any other thing, for he was no better than dead, yet nevertheless, said she, I counsel thee that thou go into the church of the friars preachers, and pray S. Peter that he make thee whole, and have in him very faith and I hope he shall make thee all whole. This sick man went in the morn to the church, but he found it shut and closed. Then he slept at the door, and he saw in his sleep that a man in the habit of a friar brought him into the church, and covered him with his cope, and when he awoke he found himself in the church and was perfectly whole, whereof much people marvelled because they had seen so short time tofore, him like as he should have died forthwith. There be many more miracles which were over great a labour to write all, for they would occupy a great book. Then let us pray to this holy martyr S. Peter that he pray for us.

[from Caxton’s translation of The Golden Legend, Dent edition, vol. 3, pp. 146-155]

Just For the Record

Back when Sam Tongue’s and my edited volume from Glasgow-associated biblical interpreters came out, I was browsing about for last-minute fact checks and so on. It occurred to me to check on my claim, initially made in 2005 at the Ekklesia Project annual Gathering, to a trademark/copyright/prior art for the portmanteau ‘Sacramerica’. At the time, Google reported no other sources; when I rewrote the essay, there other results were nugatory (or references to my Ekklesia talk, transcribed here and reported elsewhere).

On that fateful morning, though, I discovered that there was another iteration of Sacramerica forthcoming, and that it was virtually guaranteed to have a higher media profile than anything I have ever done or am likely to do. Italian novelist and film director Angelo Cannavacciuolo is planning a novel to bear the title Sacramerica, and apparently there are cinematic possibilities (as would seem obvious, since the novel concerns California). Dr Gregory Pell of the Italian Department in Hofstra University is preparing the English translation.

So with a bit of curiosity, a bit of gentle innovation-preservation, I wrote Dr Pell a couple of years ago to check in and say, ‘Oh, by the way…’. A pleasant academic exchange followed, and in short order Sig. Cannavacciulo himself wrote me (or, to be more precise, ‘his Anglophone wife wrote me’) to assure me that he thought up ‘Sacramerica’ independently (inspired by Sacramento, one of the locales of the novel). The book apparently still awaits publication, but when it reaches press I have been promised copies in Italian and English, with perhaps even a nod of acknowledgement on an obscure page that no one will read.

In the meantime, Avanti, Sacramerica! (The novel, that is, not the signifying practice of deified nationalism.)

Source?

There’s a snippet of text that bounces around the ’net at irregular intervals — it concerns the latest development in digital gadgetry, called ‘Built-In Orderly Organised Knowledge’ (B.O.O.K.). Nowadays it strikes me as a bit precious and predictable, but here’s the thing: I remember having read it (or something very like it) in the late 60s, at which point I thought it was exceedingly clever.

I thought I remembered that it was written by Stephen Leacock, partly because I was on a big Leacock kick in those years, fuelled by my father (who was a connoisseur of astringent humour in essays). So to satisfy my bibliographic obsession, I began googling searching the Web for “built-in orderly organized knowledge” and “leacock”, but came up with no results. I then searched for Leacock with various parts of the title phrase, likewise to no avail. At length I decided that the most important aspect of my search was the date of my first encounter with the phrase, jettisoned my Leacock search terms, poked around a bit, and discovered what must be the ur-source of the meme.

The document I found is ‘The Education of the Gifted Child: An Annotated Bibliography’ by Maurice G.Verbeke and Karen A. Verbeke (you can try to order a bound copy from Amazon, though it’s currently not available) — but that’s not where the B.O.O.K. originated. Rather, the Verbekes list the publication in 1965 (the chronological sweet spot for my having had access to it) of an article by R. J. Heathorn, entitled ‘New Teaching Machine — Great for the Gifted,’ in Gifted Children Newsletter 8:23-24, September 1965. And the annotation that the Verbekes so providently supply reads ‘Article describing the new teaching machine called BOOK (Built-in Orderly Organised Knowledge). It is quite adaptable and covers a lengthy program of information.’ It has been reprinted several times, and you can read it here. It differs from the more recent meme, but the later version has evidently been rewritten (to suit actual technological developments) on the basis of Heathorn’s.

But wait! It turns out that, on further searching, the Gifted Children Newsletter has lifted Heathorn’s essay from his column in the April 1963 edition of Harper’s — here entitled ‘The Ultimate Teaching Machine.’ I don’t have access to Harper’s, so I can’t check, but the title and the illustration (visible in the thumbnail provided) match the essay.

But that’s not all! Apparently Harper’s got Heathorn’s essay from Punch (May 9, 1962) (thank you, Brian!)

So, several lessons learned. One, I can afford to trust my memories in general, if not in particular. The essay I remembered was more subtle and clever than the internet-ified version that now dominates the Web, and it was indeed written by a professional humorist (though not Stephen Leacock himself). Two, don’t stop searching at the first positive result; add elements from that first result to the search and find more, deeper, older results. And three… I have forgotten the third thing, but it was good, trust me.

The Revd Richard A. “Dick” Bamforth, Pastor and Teacher 1930-2017

The Rev. Richard Anderson Bamforth, 86, of 17 Brooklawn Avenue, Augusta, died peacefully, at home, on January 6, 2017.

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, January 7, 1930, the son of Captain Charles N. Bamforth and Dorothy Anderson Allan, Dick Bamforth grew up in Swampscott where he completed high school in 1947. He majored in French and Classics at Bowdoin College and graduated in 1951. After further study at Middlebury College he taught French, Latin, and Social Studies at Cony High School for one year before enlisting in the U. S. Army during the Korean War. In the Army Security Agency he studied the Russian language in Monterey, California and spent the rest of his tour of duty in communications reconnaissance on the border between the American and Soviet Zones of divided Germany.
Inspired by a German Lutheran pastor who reached out to American GIs, Bamforth shifted his direction and, upon release from the Army, entered Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. He graduated with the degree of Master of Divinity in 1958 and was ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. He served in two Missouri parishes: Grace Church, Kirkwood, and Holy Cross Church, Poplar Bluff. In 1959, he married Patricia Anne Pennington of Kirkwood. Their two daughters were born in Poplar Bluff.
In 1966 Bamforth was called as Rector of St. Mary’s Church, Rockport, Massachusetts where he served until 1992. Forever a student of language and literature, he took many evening courses at Harvard and, in 1982, earned an additional master’s degree from Boston University in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages. While ministering in Rockport, he tutored numerous refugees and foreign students in English and taught courses in Russian language and culture in the continuing education program of North Shore Community College.
Bamforth retired from full-time parish ministry in 1992 and moved with his wife, Pat, to Augusta. For nine years he was a regular substitute teacher at Cony High School, served as Interim Rector of St. Mark’s Church, Augusta, from 1993 to 1994, and was for 20 years a frequent supply priest in many Maine parishes. More recently he served as Assisting Priest at St. Mark’s. His book reviews and articles have appeared in several church periodicals and, with his brother, he co-edited the autobiographical journals of their sea-going father, Iron Jaw, A Skipper Tells His Story, published in 2002.

An avid gardener and photographer, Bamforth enjoyed his kayak and canoe at “Someplace Else,” his summer camp on Damariscotta Lake. Dick and Pat enjoyed traveling in Great Britain, where he sought out English and Scottish relatives, and in Russia, where he twice visited seminaries of the Orthodox Church. A spiritual director and small group Bible Study leader, he also did tutoring in the Russian language. In recent years, he taught a variety of courses in the UMA Senior College, focusing on literature, art, history, and religion.
In Maine, he served on several diocesan committees and was a member of both Veterans for Peace and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
Bamforth delighted in the nicknames others gave him. His grandchildren call him “Pa Moose,” high schoolers called him “Abe Lincoln” or “Colonel Sanders,” and parishioners often called him “Father Bam-Bam.” In addition to the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer he considered both Celtic and Russian Orthodox spirituality, together with the classical Anglican theologians, to be great resources for his faith and life.
Bamforth is survived by his wife, Patricia of Augusta; daughter Jeanne Bamforth of Topsham; daughter Margaret and her husband Andrew K. M. Adam of Oxford, England; three grandchildren: Nathaniel Adam and his wife Laura of New Haven, CT, Josiah Harris-Adam and his wife Laura of Watertown, MA, and Philippa Adam of Bristol, ME; sister-in-law Janice Bamforth of Belmont, VT; niece Judith Jervis of Danville, N.H.; and nephew Charles H. Bamforth of Kingston, N.H.
A memorial Eucharist was celebrated at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 9 Summer Street, Augusta on Saturday, Jan. 14, at 1:30pm, followed by a public reception. Interment of ashes will follow at a later date in Forest Grove Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are invited for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 209 Eastern Ave., Augusta, ME 04330.
Arrangements are by Plummer Funeral Home, Augusta.

Richard Bamforth Obituary from the Poplar Bluff Daily American Republic

Accounting for Drumpf

HoopoeThere’s been some online bafflement about how evangelical (or other) Christians can possibly support Drumpf. George Lakoff contributed an essay that uses his now-familiar cognitive linguistic model (widely publicised in his Don’t Think of an Elephant) to spotlight Drumpf’s self-representation as a Strict Father and his concomitant appeal several strands of Republicans and conservative Democrats and independents. True enough, I guess, but there may be another angle, about which I left a comment on Mitch Ratcliffe’s FB page. The clue might be the parallel between (and I can’t believe I’m about to say this) Drumpf and Jesus — as modern Christians often read the Gospels.

The hero of the story confounds his detractors who are hostile, alien, oppressive, self-righteous, elite, from the political establishment, threatened by his candour and popularity. When confronted, he insults them and outwits them, so that they dare not ask him any more questions and people are amazed at his authority. They marshal all their resources in a conspiracy against him, and despite their evil plans, he rises triumphant at the end.

Right away, a careful reader will spot vast discrepancies between Drumpf and Jesus even within this narrative frame, but that doesn’t matter — as long as it feels right to a certain constituency of Drumpf voters. Drumpf has mastered the practice of agonic self-definition — building himself up by belittling others in such a way that they can’t, or won’t, respond effectively in kind; that’s very similar to Jesus’ role in the controversies with his antagonists. Oh, and I could add that both had powerful fathers who set them up with advantageous inheritances, but that’s stretching an already laboured comparison.

I’m last in line to offer advice on political strategy (when was the last time I was elected to anything? I don’t remember, and I’m the one who would have known), but to the extent that I’m on to something, this Drumpf-Jesus resonance will blunt the value of accusations of womanising (“he associates with prostitutes”), direct attacks (supporters will have faith that in the end, he will be victorious), anything that looks like a ganging up on an isolated hero. If I were running against Drumpf, I would avoid any negative characterisation of him at all (there’s no benefit there, there’ll be plenty floating around) and aim for sympathy, suggesting that he needs gentle treatment; facts asserted as a matter of record rather than an assault (“it’s not fair to introduce his failed business ventures as evidence, because he can always just print more money if he wins the election”); and keeping him associated with the very tiny group whose actual interests he represents (“He brought so many casino jobs to Atlantic City, offering part-time employment to hundreds of desperate citizens and giving gamblers a chance at winning big”). But that’s just me.

Short Bit from Sensuous Hermeneutics

A little more than a year ago, I gave a talk at Oxford fortnightly seminar on The Bible in Art, Music, and Literature (hosted by the Centre for Reception History of the Bible). Once upon a time, I’d have posted the transcript of the talk here right away, but no longer being a diligent blogger, I left that in abeyance. It would be handy, though, for the blog to link to the paper — so here is a link to the paper at academia.edu which should last for a while, together with a taster paragraph to convey part of what I was getting at in the discussion (sadly, probably much less convincing without the accompanying visual presentation):

No one signifying practice controls a uniquely privileged methodological or ethical key to interpretive legitimacy; within each interpretive practice, indigenous conventions will raise up some interpretations as sounder and more compelling, and will discountenance others as uninteresting, poorly-executed, unsound. In order to have made sense of everything we have experienced in all our lives, we must have had viable conventions and criteria by which we venture and assess interpretations. The same capacities will serve us well as we undertake interpretations of the Bible; though we may falter at first, and err more often than we would like, we will in short order be able to acclimatise ourselves to interpretations authorised on the strength of characteristics that do not depend primarily on their deference to an unreachable “correct” meaning.

Re: John’s Femininity

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man;
and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.
Much Ado About Nothing, (II.i.28–32)

Ever since The Book That Shall Not Be Named sold a couple billion copies, people have been conditioned to point out that John the Apostle looks effeminate in paintings. “Oooooh, maybe it’s really Mary Magdalene!” I used to have a collection of paintings that unambiguously depicted John, and his appearance definitely has softer features, often silkier hair, he is beardless, and so on. John was, in other words, painted as a youth, not as a woman — as Shakespeare conveniently illustrates. (Posting this here because I often forget the exact wording of the quotation)

The Badness of the Good, the Goodness of the Bad

HoopoeMargaret and I have fallen into a number of conversations recently involving the problem of mixed personae: the status of benefactions from donors whose character has been subjected to question, the exquisite work of artists who perpetrate horrors, the useability of ideas proposed by morally compromised thinkers, and also the grim side of exemplars held up by the Church, or by culture, as heroes and saints. Just on a quick run, we came up with Cecil Rhodes, Woodrow Wilson, Eric Gill, Martin Heidegger, Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., St Junípero Serra, John Howard Yoder — and that was just a moment’s effort.

Our interest concerns not so much the justification of particular accusations as the relation of the alleged behaviour to the reception of the hero/villain’s legacy (on one hand), and the rhetoric of accusation and defence that these allegations inspire. Though we know to expect that almost everyone has flaws as well as strengths, those whose strengths “we” particularly admire seem to elicit rationalisations and justifications; when those of whom “we” disapprove seem to have committed similar malfeasances, we show less forgiveness. When our hero has a tainted side, we insist that their ideas/art can be distinguished from their moral failings; when scandal attends an opponent, their teachings/works must be purged.

If everyone is a microcosmic mixed economy of vice and virtue, how should we go about dealing with extreme examples? Can we, in good conscience, appreciate the thought or art or music or literature or political action of someone we have reason to think was a persistent sinner? How do we answer those whose lives have been particularly affected (directly or indirectly) but the sorts of malfeasance that these figures practised, if those affected charge us with glorifying their oppressor? How should we frame a general account of the relation of conduct to ideological production?

Once we clear our writing agendas of current projects (“the resurrection of the body”, in one case, and further boring hermeneutical reflection on the other), we’d love to work on this together.

Eighty

Today’s my father’s birthday; he would be 80 today. This afternoon I bumped into a couple of ‘Net essays about parents and children and ageing and death, and only just now did I figure out why I was so teary and reflective.

A K M Adam and Donald G Adam

Dad taught English Lit (among other things) at Chatham College. He loved bringing students to England and showing them the places so many of his heroes, and theirs, walked and talked, drank coffee, drank wine and ale, and wrote. He was a great teacher.

This evening I’ll head out to the High Street to meet up with some students and former students at the Mitre. I know Dad had visited Oxford — I’m not sure whether it was a regular stop on his student tours — I know he’d been here because on one of his first trips, he brought back a yellow Oxford University t-shirt for me. I wore it through college, I wore it for years after, and it may well be in a storage bin in an upstairs closet right now. He wasn’t a perfect dad, and I was by no means an ideal son. I’m a teacher too, though I’ve come to terms with the fact (amplified by observing what an excellent teacher Margaret is) that I won’t ever be as good at it as he was. But I’ll have a pint, maybe more, and I’ll give thanks for him and his imparting to me his love of teaching and learning, and I’ll try not to embarrass my students by weeping at how he taught me to care about them, and how much I do.

Thanks, Dad.

Just To Remember

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
   This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Turner Network

Our dear friend Gary Turner used to be famous online for his manic comic inventiveness, which he sometimes expressed in new-media stunts such as posting messages left on his phone-answering machine, colourful interviews, Blogtank organising, and photoshopped pictures of his cronies in various situations with television caption crawl incorporated into the picture. I was looking for one of these earlier, and I’m posting them all now so that they’ll be easier for me (and the internet) to find.

From “OK, No More Now, This Time I Mean It” (that is, it would be there if the Wayback Machine had saved the image file):

AKMA Nat Enq Preaching

From “I Got AKMA His Gig on Fox News” (note fountain pens in chest pocket:

akma_fox

And last of all, coverage of the notorious “Information Highwayman” incident:

AKMA_FELON

Those were the days….