Mary, the Magnificat, was no wuss

“And so in this season, I hear Mary’s Magnificat shouted, not sung” in the places of power and oppression.

At the risk of being labeled a reverse sexist – hey, I can deal with that – I tend to think, in the main , that women are better people than men.

I took some pleasure that the #MeToo movement received TIME magazine’s Person of the Year designation. I’ve had/tried to avoid having debates over whether this particular man (Al Franken, usually, but not always) should have been fired/forced to resign.

Here’s the thing. When you have years (decades, centuries) of oppression, and the oppressed finally get their voice/get some power, the rules to rectify the long-standing wrongs aren’t always clear. Or perceived as “fair”. (If Franken goes, why doesn’t tRump? Because the Senate, and the House of Representatives, have rules about their own members.)

Eventually, some equilibrium, some recognizable standard, is achieved, but it takes a while.

Which brings me to Mary, the Magnificat, and an Unsentimental Advent by Rachel Held Evans. She says Mary has long been painted “in the softer hues… —but this young woman was a fierce one, full of strength and fury…

“And so in this season, I hear Mary’s Magnificat shouted, not sung” in the places of power and oppression. Great stuff, this. And to the War on Christmas folks, she adds:

“God did not wrap himself up in flesh, humbling himself to the point of birth in a stable and death on a cross, eating, laughing, weeping, and suffering as one of us, so that I can complain to management when a barista at Starbucks wishes me ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’ The incarnation isn’t about desperately grasping at the threads of power and privilege. It’s not about making some civic holiday ‘bigger and better.’ It’s about surrendering power, setting aside privilege, and finding God in the smallness and vulnerability of a baby in a womb.”

TIME Person of the Year: not Donald Trump

‘This Will Be The End Of Trump’s Campaign,’ Says Increasingly Nervous Man For Seventh Time This Year.

Donald Trump.TIMEFeh. This will be about Donald Trump. Eventually.

Among the things that matter less to the general public in the 21st Century than it did in the 20th, unless it is to complain about the choice: TIME magazine’s Person of the Year, started back in 1927, in part “to remedy the editorial embarrassment earlier that year of not having aviator Charles Lindbergh on its cover following his historic trans-Atlantic flight.”

The magazine annually awards the title to an individual or group who, for better or worse, has had the biggest impact on the world and news over the course of the past year. The list has included every US President elected after Calvin Coolidge.

I recall the tremendous backlash TIME received as a result of naming Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 as what was then Man of the Year, even though it was totally justified after the Iran hostage crisis. They’d picked controversial figures before: Adolf Hitler (1938), Joseph Stalin (1939 and 1942), and Nikita Khrushchev (1957).

In 2001, Time’s Person of the Year, following the September 11 attacks, was New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, although, arguably Osama bin Laden was a more likely choice.

In 2015, Senator Bernie Sanders won the Readers’ Poll for TIME Person of the Year, and some people were all indignant that he wasn’t one of TIME’s eight finalists. I LIKE Bernie Sanders, and I’ll probably vote for him in the Democratic primary for President in April 2016. Perhaps he hasn’t had as much of an impact because much of the media has decided he can’t win the nomination.

TIME’s editors have narrowed the 2015 list down to eight candidates. When I voted Tuesday morning, with 159,124 VOTES cast, these were the readers’ results:
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 36% – Leader of ISIS.
Vladimir Putin, 29% – President of Russia (Ukraine, war on DAESH).
Donald Trump, 15% – Frontrunner for Republican presidential nomination.
Travis Kalanick, 10% -CEO of Uber.
Black Lives Matter activists, 7% – protested inequality towards African Americans.
Angela Merkel, 2% – German chancellor (economic strife in Eurozone, Europe’s ongoing migrant crisis).
Caitlyn Jenner, 1% – coming out as a transgender woman.
Hassan Rouhani, 0% – president of Iran.

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One could make the case for al-Baghdadi, certainly, or Putin. But Angela Merkel is a reasonable choice.

Of course, the most unreasonable Donald Trump was having none of that. If a journalist of my Facebook acquaintance hadn’t verified it, I would have thought the item at the top of this page was made up.

I’ve tried to ignore the Donald, I really have. But he keeps saying outrageous things, and his voting base keeps eating it up. Even before his latest blathering, I found myself with several interesting links.

The Political F-word: When and how should we talk about fascism? and Donald Trump and others are proving it: we can’t handle the truth and Is Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In!, and Why One Political Science thinks he could actually win.

After Donald Trump’s comments demanding Muslims be barred from entering the country, based on a misleading poll, we’ve discovered DT’s Bottomless Bottom. “The GOP front-runner is tapping into a brutal xenophobia that’s at once un-American and uniquely American.” He could be the US equivalent to Marine Le Pen, the head of the far-right party in France.

One article is titled We Are No Longer Entertained. I haven’t been entertained for weeks, myself. Exasperated by people who I know to be intelligent, yet apparently contemplating supporting DT for President, I find him most unfunny.

Not that he cannot be skewered by comedy. The Borowitz Reports spoofs Trump Supporters Disappointed He Only Wants to Ban One Religion. Plus this cartoon, Donald Trump, super villain. Plus the all-too-true bit from the Onion: ‘This Will Be The End Of Trump’s Campaign,’ Says Increasingly Nervous Man For Seventh Time This Year. That sounds a lot like me.

The Washington Post opines Why Christians must speak out against Donald Trump’s Muslim remarks. And I have.

Of course, suddenly almost EVERYONE is distancing themselves from Trump NOW, even Darth Vader Dick Cheney. The Republicans want the Donald’s enthusiastic voters, but not him. And they fear that if he isn’t treated “fairly” by the GOP, he’d consider a third-party challenge.

P is for popularity of names

“Roger” was the 31st most popular boy’s name in 1953.

roger_name My friend Arthur did this some time back, based on this TIME magazine article, which, not incidentally, is US-centric.

“The popularity of your name is likely far different today than it was the year you were born. Maybe you’re one of those men born in 1983 and named Michael, the most popular name of the year.

“Today, if you were given the most popular boy’s name, you’d be named Noah. The following interactive shows you which name had the same popularity in the past year and every decade since 1890 as yours did the year you were born, using [then] newly released baby name data for 2014.”

The premise is slightly misleading in that, early on, there was a paucity in the diversity of names. For boys, John and William were heavily used in the 1880s (89,951 and 84,881, respectively), well ahead of James (54,058). For girls, Mary (91,669) was even more dominant; Anna (38,159) and Emma (25,404) were far behind.

Still: “Roger” was the 31st most popular boy’s name in 1953. It was MOST popular in 1945, hitting its peak of #22, I dare say, because of World War II: “Roger that. Roger over and out.”

My name today would be Oliver, a name I associate with the TV show Green Acres, Charles Dickens, and Elvis Costello.

My 2000s name is Isaac, a good biblical name, son of Abraham (nearly sacrificed) and Sarah, and father of Jacob and Esau.
My 1990s name is Mark, my brother-in-law’s name, and the shortest of the Gospels in the Bible.
My 1980s name is Edward, my great uncle’s name on my maternal grandmother’s side.
My 1970s name is Terry. I knew a guy named Terry in the 1970s at college and worked with a woman named Terry in the 1990s.
My 1960s name is Alan. Not incidentally, the Social Security list does not combine spellings, such as Allan and Allen.
My 1950s name is Henry, the VIII, and Aldrich.
My 1940s name is Ernest, another great uncle’s name on my maternal grandmother’s side.
My 1930s name is Leonard, as in Bernstein, and Nimoy.
My 1920s name is Elmer, as in Bernstein, and Fudd.
My 1910s name is Eddie, as in the Renaissance Geek, though that’s not his given name.
My 1900s name is Alfred, as in Tennyson or Batman’s butler.
My 1890s name is Sam, promoter of Green Eggs and Ham, or the Sham.

“Name trends are provided by the Social Security Administration… This tool only searches for names of the same gender as what you entered at the top. Many names have drifted from being associated with boys to being associated with girls over the years, so it can appear as though female names are showing up in the male results.”

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ABC Wednesday – Round 17

The Bible-minded Capital district

The concept of the Bible’s “accuracy” is a rather muddled notion to me.

Jesus.poorThere have been a couple of polls recently that suggest that the Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY area is more godless or less godly, than most parts of the country if you read the headlines:

These Are The Most Godless Cities In America. The subtitle reads: “A new survey ranks U.S. cities in terms of ‘bible-mindedness'”By ‘bible-mindedness’, the study means “a combination of how often respondents read the Bible and how accurate they think the Bible is.” As bible-minded, we’re #99, or second from the bottom.

The TIME poll seems too simplistic. I’ve read the Bible over time, though not as often recently as some think I ought to. But the concept of the Bible’s “accuracy” is a rather muddled notion to me. If it’s that it’s “true”, that there are fundamental truths to be found therein, I tend to believe that. If the question is whether it is literally, six days from ignition to humans, historically accurate, then I’d suggest that it was never meant to be regarded that way.

I submit that that the press seems to see religion as an either/or. EITHER one believes that every single word of the Bible was handed down by God as history and theology (a tricky thing, that) OR one is an atheist, who would hate God if he or she believed god existed. And press coverage of the so-called evangelical movement, especially by ABC News, seemed to solidify this simplistic duality.

I submit that there’s a great middle who find inspiration in some parts of the Bible, who believe that other sections were meant for a different, earlier audience and that that’s OK.

Seen another way, in a different poll by Barna, the Capital District is #1 in Post-Christian Metrics.

The Barna scale was more interesting:

1. do not believe in God
2. identify as atheist or agnostic
3. disagree that faith is important in their lives
4. have not prayed to God (in the last year)
5. have never made a commitment to Jesus
6. disagree the Bible is accurate
7. have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
8. have not attended a Christian church (in the last year)
9. agree that Jesus committed sins
10. do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
11. have not read the Bible (in the last week)
12. have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
13. have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
14. have not attended a religious small group (in the last week)
15. do not participate in a house church (in the last year)

#6 is as problematic for me as it was in the TIME poll. #10 I feel that the way I live my life is sharing my faith, so wouldn’t know how to answer that one. I don’t attend Sunday school because it clashes with the church choir.

Bottom line: I reject the notion that if one does not take the Bible literally, one is godless, whatever THAT means. But, at some fundamental level, I appreciate the glee our high (or low) ranking has generated; I DO get it.

August Rambling II: Smart is sexy and stupid is not

A reference to my piece about David Cassidy made it into the print version of the paper because “it was a good post, and filled with what we like: short, timely and to the point :)”


The New York Times’ prophetic 1983 warning about the NSA, which naturally leads to Glenn Greenwald killed the internet.

My Feelings About the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape in 10 GIFs.

Invisible Disabilities Day is October 24. I have this friend with rather a constant neck pain, but she doesn’t LOOK sick, and therefore feels diminished by those who actually don’t believe her. Conversely, The Complexities of Giving: People with Disabilities as Help Objects.

Photos of the worldly goods of inmates at the Willard Asylum. I backed the Kickstarter for this and wrote about it a couple years ago.

“Each week, TIME Magazine designs covers for four markets: the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific.” Often, America’s cover is quite, well – different. I had noticed this before. I don’t know that it’s “stunning,” but it IS telling.

The Peanuts gang meets The Smiths, in which This Charming Charlie masterfully blends Charles Schulz’s comics with lyrics by The Smiths.

Mark Evanier’s Tales of My Father, featuring Tony Orlando. Also, Tales of My Cat.

A friend’s letter from his brother. (Can one read this sans Facebook?)

Yes, smart is sexy and stupidity is not.

Eddie, the Renaissance Geek is cancer-free!

So I have survived my first grown-up move. Moving as an adult, it turns out, is radically different from moving as a student.

John Scalzi: To The Dudebro Who Thinks He’s Insulting Me by Calling Me a Feminist.

Air New Zealand celebrates marriage equality.

Lake Edge United Church of Christ in Madison, WI: “Worship at the Edge” PRIDE Sunday.

My old buddy Matt Haller has a new blog and writes about lies my shampoo bottle tells me about dating.

Arthur challenges his own snap assumptions.

SamuraiFrog writes about the list of best movies that EW had on the list in 1999, but which had fallen off the list by 2013 and also other great films. Re: a comment he made: that will require a blog post from me. He’s been musing on the early Marvel comics, which have all been interesting, and I was glad to play a small part in his understanding of Thor.

21 Jokes Only History Nerds Will Understand​.

German, not Swiss, Orson Welles.

Marian McPartland, ‘Piano Jazz’ Host, Has Died. I loved how she way she not only performed but, probably, more importantly, INFORMED about music.

The late Elmore Leonard’ TEN RULES FOR WRITING. His New York Times obit.

David Janower has passed away. He was the choral director of the fine Albany Pro Musica, and I knew and liked him personally, so I am sad. He had surgery a few months back and suffered a stroke from which he never really recovered.

A worthy neologism found by Dustbury.

The God of SNL will see you now.

Dolly Parton’s original recording of “Jolene” slowed down by 25% is surprisingly awesome.

Paul McCartney “In Spite Of All The Danger” & “20 Flight Rock” (Live), the former a cover of first Beatles record. Also, the Beatles’ final photo session, August 22, 1969.

Chuck Miller has posted every day for four years, over 2,000 blog posts on the Times Union site.

Dueling banjos: Steve Martin, Kermit the Frog. Sesame Street does Old Spice parody with Grover.

No ukuleles were harmed in the making of this video.

What did I write about in my Times Union blog this month? That annoying JEOPARDY! Kids Week story and Should ‘citizen initiative and referendum’ come to New York? and The prescient David Cassidy song. Cassidy got arrested locally for felony DWI, and a reference to my piece made it into the print version of the paper because “it was a good post, and filled with what we like: short, timely and to the point :),” FWIW.

If you are an NYS homeowner, read Tax Department Launches Statewide STAR Registration. The Data Detective blog has some other interesting stuff – if I do say so myself – such as On being ‘right’ in science.

Jaquandor answers my questions about the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team and unfriending.

Spontaneous​s goat manure fire.