30 July 2009

non-sequitur of the day . . .

Posted by at 10:26 PM

I absolutely adore Aretha Franklin's singing voice. It soothes my savage breast. She made a gospel recording some time in the mid seventies. The opening song is called "Mary Don't You Weep"

Lovely music.

Earlier today, while listening to NPR I heard one of the old classic folk singers singing the tune (I'm sure it wasn't Pete Seeger, but I can't recall who it was). Anyway, the absurdity of the song's lyric hit me like a joke for the first time:

Oh Mary don't you weep
Mary don't you weep
Pharaoh's army got drownded [sic]
Oh Mary don't you weep

Can anyone tell me what the hell this song is about?

I suppose that, if I really needed to, I could concoct and spin a nice little epicycle to make sense of it.

Just thought this was funny, all of a sudden.

25 July 2009

la YiYiYi, que nos dice . . .

Posted by at 9:53 PM

I've watched this video a bunch of times. When Pablo Picasso watched La Lupe perform for the first time, he said, "One word: genius." This clip comes from a mid sixties PuertoRican television program. I can't help but imagine my grandmother and all her friends behind their Roman Catholic lace veils, utterly horrified at what La Lupe was doing on Prime Time. Rosaries and penances for sure.

This woman is dancing around—wrestling with some serious angels. She scared the hell out of the PuertoRicans, Cuba's newborn dream couldn't care less about apostates like her and Mexico just wasn't enough to sustain this brilliant artist of the twentieth century, amazing though she was.

Had she made it to the Buena Vista age, she would have possibly had a new audience. Like a rare and beautiful Ibrahim Ferrer, a black pearl from a deep deep forgotten treasure.

Who knows?

23 July 2009

a geomorphic linguistic riddle . . .

Posted by at 10:05 PM

On September 23rd, 1493, Cristobal Colón, who was on his second trip to the "new world," had made it to what is now the island of Guadalupe. While there, he came upon some Taino natives who had been taken prisoner by the Caribs of the region. These captives managed to convey that they came from a bigger island further up the Antilles archipelago, an island they called Boriquén (roughly: 'the land of the brave lord'). They begged Colón to take them back to their island. Colón had arranged it with the Spanish crown that he would be the de facto governor of all of the territory which he "discovered" in the name of Spain, so it's not surprising that he would grant these native captives their wish. He wanted to return to Quisqueya anyway, which he had first visited in his famous first voyage, so claiming another isle on the way sounded like a good enough idea.
On November 19th, Puerto Rico was sighted. Colón named the island San Juan Bautista and they landed on the west coast, near what is now the town of Mayagüez. But Colón was sufficiently burdened with the tasks of establishing the colony at Española (the name he had given to Quisqueya) to stay long on the island. After a stay of only two days, he hurried on westward, leaving its dumbstruck Taino population to scratch their heads in wonder and awe at this development in their theretofore unchanging existence. (These two days, incidentally, were the only two days that Colón ever spent on territory that would eventually become American —i.e. USA— soil.)
Some fifteen years would pass with the Tainos of Boriquén having no further knowledge of these god-like (or so it seemed) creatures from the sea. Worse, if they had any information coming in about them, they were getting it from their neighbors and kin over in Quisqueya, and the news were not encouraging, I bet. They were undoubtedly stories of enslavement and of occupation and oppression and disease. Despite some efforts led by Catholic priests to protect them, the Tainos suffered greatly under the Spanish conquest.
Finally, in 1508, Juan Ponce De León, who had been a soldier on board one of the seventeen ships that comprised Colón's second voyage, and who had since moved from Spain to Santo Domingo (on Española), was commissioned to return to San Juan Bautista with a crew of fifty men to colonize the island. He arrived on August 12th, landing on the southern coast near Guánica. Making his way through the lush mountainous island, he finally arrived at the northern coast, where he found a magnificent bay. The minute he glimpsed this bay, it is said that he exclaimed, "Ay, que puerto rico!" ('My, what a rich/delicious port!').

. . . . which finally brings me to the riddle . . .

How did the names of this rich port and of the island of San Juan exchange places so quickly? Not long after Ponce De León exclamation, the island was referred to as Puerto Rico and the bay was referred to as San Juan.
A big switcheroo.

Weirdly cool.

13 July 2009

suggestions for a pope . . .

Posted by at 6:03 PM

The radiocarbon tests performed on some bone fragments from the recently excavated sarcophagus traditionally held to be the apostle Paul's burial site have dated them to the first or the second century of the common era. Based on these results, Pope Benedict XVI declared the remains to be indeed those of the apostle. Although I think he's being premature (and a bit presumptuous) in his announcement, I have no special reason for doubting that they may be the famed apostle's bones. In fact, for what it's worth, I hope they are Paul's.

The problem that I have with all of this at the moment is that the span of time in the dating result is not narrow enough. If (and that's a bigger 'if' than Benedict allows for) these are indeed the bones of the notorious Paul, we need a narrower scope of time than this two-century side-of-a-barn time span in order for the discovery to be of any real help.

How to narrow the gap?

During the excavations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, many radiocarbon tests were performed on many artifacts. In an attempt to narrow the wide range of time which the artifacts can be dated to, an archaeologist named Magen Broshi came up with an idea. In one particular cave—the Cave of Letters—archaeologists (led by Yigael Yadin) discovered some correspondence between Simon Bar Kochba and one Yohanan, probably an officer under him. The most fortuitous thing about these letters is that they are dated; we know when Bar Kochba was active in his campaign against the Romans (132–136 C.E.). Broshi thought to submit these letters to radiocarbon dating as well, to see which date in the wide (often more than two century) span of possible dating for them. It turns out that in the cave of letters, a general rule of thumb applies for carbon 14 dating: in short, the actual date usually coincided with the older extreme of the dating carbon 14 time range. Now, This rule was later called Broshi's Law and was useful in chronologically or stratigraphically studying the treasures of the Cave.

Now, Broshi's Law only technically applies to the Cave of Letters, but I wonder if there might be a possibility of doing a similar test in the case of Paul's sarcophagus. I anticipate that a detailed report concerning the radiocarbon is forthcoming (it would be a real shame if it is not).
Some questions I have:
What exactly is the range of dates that resulted? (20–220 C.E? . . . . 70—180 C.E.? The precise range would be good to know)
The pope's report said that there were articles of clothing nearby. Were there any texts nearby? Any letters, especially?

Knowing the precise dating could settle many questions regarding Christian origins. If the bones date to around 64 or so, then the traditions about Paul are confirmed and the theories of the Tübingen and Dutch Radical schools can be tossed out the window as anachronic.

But, what if the bones turn out to date to the second century? Wouldn't this fact require us to throw the traditional story out?

(Of course, in that case, I have no doubt that the church would simply concede that it's probably not Paul after all)



02 July 2009

the battle continues . . .

Posted by at 2:30 PM

Tempe Town Lake catfish will be surprised to hear that Oscar Meyers scored higher than Hebrew Nationals in a taste test done recently involving humans. There's no accounting for taste!




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