You only get one question…

…then shut up and let others have a chance.

I was at a delightful one-man storytelling event at the Tempe History Museum the other night. The performer adopted a variety of costumes and facial devices as he related historical commentaries on the parade of Native American tribal customs from the past thousand or so years – Hohokam, Atzlan, Yaqui and Pima to name a few. The Hohokam (“those who are gone”) are considered to be the builders of the original canal system around the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Zarco Guerrero did a great job of keeping the tales lively and brief and after about 40 minutes the crowd of 50 or so enthusiastic attendees of many ethnic backgrounds was invited to ask questions or give comments.

One woman in the front row was quick to raise her hand and was recognized by the moderator. Her comment, about the Pima tribe’s long-staple cotton, was rather detailed and took a couple minutes to explain. Zarco acknowledged the excellent information with good grace and we were ready for more questions.

Three or four people were recognized by the moderator around the room, each offering a quick question or comment.

And then…and then…our first row lady struck again. From my spot at the end of the second row I could see her hand going up, but I could also see seven or eight hands throughout the room.

Alas, the moderator recognized her again and she launched into a second 4-5-minute commentary.

Now, I’ve seen this kind of thing at several different casual public meetings and always wondered at the self-centeredness of people seated toward the front who think they can just keep asking questions. They don’t look around to see who else is trying to get attention. And almost as bad, the lecturer doesn’t either. Even worse is when there’s a moderator or host who doesn’t scan the room, especially the middle and back areas.

So my rule is: You get to ask one question, with maybe a brief follow-up for clarification. Then you get to shut up for a while.

Look around the room. If no hands are raised, go ahead and ask another question. Then, after five or ten minutes you can jump back in…

…or be prepared for a good old-fashioned Salt River dunking.


Zarco performance photo by the author. Poster from Tempe History Museum promotional site.
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Pizza Puzzle: Landfill or Recycle?

I was walking to my class at a certain community college the other morning at 6:45 a.m.  I mention this not to try to shamelessly wheedle sympathy out of you for my early rising, but to point out that the display in the first photo must have taken place in the oh-dark-hundred hours.

Yes, there is a third of a pizza resting blissfully on the ledge of one of the trash receptacles. Since I had 23 rhetoric-hungry students waiting for me I didn’t take the pic right then but did remember to look for it an hour later and, sure enough, it hadn’t moved.

Giving the benefit of the doubt to the original owner, I figured they* simply couldn’t decide whether a used pizza is considered “landfill” or “recyclable” and so they left it for some other food savant to decide.

Two hours later I was returning from nourishing a different group of MLA Style-starved scholars and could hardly believe what had happened:

Uh huh…the pizza slice had moved itself over to the Recycle side, as though to taunt the by-now-hundreds of shredded-jean passers-by to make a final decision.

Honest…I hadn’t touched it. And though all I had to eat by 11 a.m. was a banana and several cups of coffee, I was still not tempted to scarf it down.

By 1 p.m. the slice had inched a bit closer to the slot. Here’s a close up, just to get your mouth juices flowing.

So whattya say? Which slot does a used pizza go in? My students voted for “landfill” since it’s not technically something you can recycle. And really…who just leaves a pizza and paper plate on the side of a trash receptacle, as though to say, “Hey, I’ll be right back for this, but feel free to nosh on it if you get there first.”

Just as important: Why does “Landfill” get a square opening but “Recycle” gets a keyhole slot?


* yes…we’re now allowed to say “they” instead of the annoying and space-consuming “he or she” or other klugey abominations such as “he/she,” “s/he” that have been proposed, including the “whiplash grammar” solution of alternating “he” and “she.”

Pranks of the Apostles

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear as those whacky Apostles show us a fresh side to their personalities.

Many folks who read my previous post about “The Acts of the Apostles” (Reading the Bible for All the Wrong Reasons) think that the Apostles were all serious and, well, apostolic as they went around raising people from the dead, healing cripples, filibustering, getting stoned, escaping from prison and spreading the Word. As we know, the Acts is a sequel to the Gospel attributed to Luke, written sometime around 80-90 C.E. (possibly a bit later) — well after the fall of Jerusalem.

But newly discovered parchments from Nag Sunnislope offer a completely different view of these loveable “merry pranksters”! The scrolls, discovered near the Dead Salt River in the desert of the Phoenicians, show a heartwarming other side to the disciples of the first century.

Here’s a list of some of the shenanigans, mischief and tomfoolery that was going on in Galilee.

  • Substituting red-colored vinegar for actual wine at seders and marriage fests. Imagine the fun of sitting a new convert down for a Passover dinner and as he lifts up his cup for the first of the four seder toasts you watch him do an involuntary spit take: “Ewwww… This mother hath definitely turned! Get thee down to Joseph the Trader for something drinkable.”

 

  • Short sheeting each others’ tunics. This never gets old.

 

  • Cursing fig trees…just for the heck of it. [see Mark 11, Matt 21]

  • Pretending to speak in tongues to strangers…but actually just spewing gibberish. This is strictly a tag team prank since you need a confederate you can talk to who pretends to understand as you spew out “Alacka kalamino aminoacido etgay the eckhay ehindbay emay.” [see Acts 2:4]

 

  • Making up goofy nicknames and catchphrases for the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Poltergeist,” “Casperius,” “WhoYaGonnaCall.” It is written that the Blessed Mary was particularly fond of walking into a wedding feast and cheerfully calling out, “Where’s that darn Casperius when a virgin needs him?”

Of course, not all the mischief was totally lighthearted:

  • Giving hot foots to gentiles, apostates and synagogue-avoiders: “We’re making it hot for you, sinner!”

 

  • Pranking local herdsmen by pretending to send demons into their pigs and then spooking the critters into jumping off a cliff. Be prepared for a quick getaway, though, when the pig herdsman or shepherd gets wise to your monkeyshines. [See Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39]

 

  • Setting up the “Holy Dunk Tank” and telling a prospective convert that this is an “initiation” to see if they’re really prepared for a proper baptism.*

 

  • The classic “lower him through the tile roof” skit. This takes some teamwork, along with a paralyzed person, but it’s worth all the production when you hear the appreciative giggles from your audience. [see Luke 5:17]

What you do is tell a suffering soul that the healer is inside the house but, unfortunately, the crowd is too thick to take him through the front door. “So we’ll just take you up to the roof and lower you through the tiles, Ok?” But guess what? Turns out the roofs in this province are all thatched/mud construction. Of course the author of Luke, probably from Antioch, may not have known diddly about the architecture of Capernaum, but it’s fun to think that he didn’t mind some high jinks when comic relief from Roman oppressors and laugh-deprived Temple high-priest killjoys was needed.

 

  • Circumcision. No! just kidding. This is not one of the pranks.

 


+ Adapted from photo: Four seder wine cups
+Tunics (adapted from Roman Life/Women’s Hairstyles)
+ Fig tree (adapted from The Cursing of the Fig Tree – Father Melvin)
+ Hot foot photo illustration (adapted from photo at The Health Site)
+ Happy pigs (adapted from cartoon by David Hayward)
+ Dunk tank  (from “Dodgers and Dips – the Dark History of the Dunk Tank”)
*Meanwhile, those irrepressible medieval apostles liked to get into the fun too! (Elizabethan cucking stool)

+ Rooftop gang illustration (from “Assembly – The Paralysed Man” by Paul Hitchcock; illustration by Brian Chalmers).

16 Fun Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Dr. Pussyfoot

Those who follow this blog for its hilarious political commentary, ingenious language notes, intrepid neighborhood travel curiosities. discourteous religious lampoons and trenchant cultural observations may wonder what category this falls into…and why you’ve bothered to follow.

Simply put, I just finished a biography of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and thought you might be intrigued to see some lesser-known aspects of this founding Reformation figure without (much of) the usual droll commentary.

(Page numbers refer to Bainton. Go directly to #12 if you just want to see the Pussyfoot item.)

Now, good luck finding a category for this as you see the other side of the great indulgence denier.

  1. Accomplished lute player (340)
  2. Sung as a tenor
  3. Insomniac
  4. Had 6 children by his wife Katie, adopted 4 more and at one time had as many as 25 people in the household including student boarders (a financial recourse) (294). Katie was one of 12 nuns he helped escape (see ‘Marriage’ section) from a Cistercian convent.
  5. Referred to his wife, Katie, as “my lord.” (290)
  6. Biggest mistake: advised Philip I, Landgrave (sort of like a duke) of Hesse, to commit bigamy (373-5). Biographer Martin Brecht says, “giving confessional advice for Philip of Hesse was one of the worst mistakes Luther made.” (see ‘Bigamy’ section)
  7. Compared choral singing to “square dancing in heaven” (343)
  8. Reduced number of Catholic sacraments from 7 to 2 (137)
  9. Frequently confessed daily, once as long as 6 hours (54)
  10. Dressed as a knight and grew a long beard calling himself “Knight George” during exile—“my Patmos.” (195)
  11. Marriage: pigtails on the pillow. “There is a lot to get used to in the first year of marriage. One wakes up in the morning and finds a pair of pigtails on the pillow which were not there before.” (290)
  12. Taunted by his religious rival, Müntzer, as “Dr. Pussyfoot” (“Doktor Leisetritt”) for various complicated theological reasons; also, “Dr. Easychair” (262, 277, also Huntson) — and those were the nicer ones!
  13. The famous “Ninety-Five Theses” were actually more like “debate topics” in accord with the common practice of the day (79, 83)
  14. His “Table Talk” — the collection of Luther’s sayings mostly around the dinner table — has more than 6,500 entries. These are based on notes taken by various students of Luther between 1531 and 1544. (295)
  15. Sometimes “stacked his prayers” for up to 3 weeks when he was still a monk and fell in arrears in saying the canonical hours (matins, tierce, nones, vespers, complin). As a university professor, village preacher and director of 11 monasteries, he was simply too busy to keep up. (195)
  16. Appalled by the frivolity of Italian priests who could rattle through 6 or 7 masses while he was saying one. (49)

Now, the less fun side

  1. Undoubtedly, Luther was a manic-depressive, as we now understand the term.

The word he used, though, was Anfechtung – possibly a trial sent by God to test man “comprising all the doubt, turmoil, pang, tremor, panic, despair, desolation, and desperation which invade the spirit of man.” (42, 62, 335, 357, 361). Other words used to translate the term include ‘temptation,’ ‘trial,’ ‘affliction,’ ‘tribulation.’ Scholars are not necessarily in agreement on the ex post facto bipolar diagnosis since he apparently exhibited a prodigious, continuous capacity for work. (28) “Though some have tried to explain Luther’s anfechtungen as clinical depression, such explanations are not satisfactory” (Bucher). However, there is no question that Luther was subject to recurrent periods of exaltation and depression and these oscillations plagued him throughout his life.

  1. In his later years, health impairments made him “an irascible old man, petulant, peevish, unrestrained and at times positively coarse.” (373)

Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Abingdon Press, 1950 (All woodcut illustrations are from this book).
Brecht, Martin, Martin Luther, tr. James L. Schaaf, Fortress Press, 1985–93, 3:214
Bucher, Richard. Luther’s Anfechtungen: Setting for the Reformation. Undated blog post. Bucher is pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Lexington, KY. “This was the Law of God accusing and condemning Luther, not some delusional imaginations of Luther himself. For Luther, these afflictions were spiritual not psychological.”
Scaer, David P.  “The Concept of Anfechtung in Luther’s Thought.” Concordia Theological Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 1, Jan. 1983
Williams, George Huntson. The Radical Reformation. Truman State University, 1992. Third edition. (Discussion of “Dr. Pussyfoot” on p. 133)

Trippin’ along the Arizona Canal

In previous posts (July 13 and Nov. 2015) I’ve mentioned a number of oddities along the Arizona Canal that runs past my house. As I’ve said, my early morning bike ride down the canal often reveals surprises, sometimes in the form of amusing graffiti but just as often in the form of abandoned or otherwise unheralded public art—such as the rather mysterious sandstone sculpture below.

There’s no sign or other indication of why or how it appeared on the raised berm between the paved pathway and gravel path adjoining the canal itself.

I decided to get to the bottom of this and found more than I expected.

The primary reference that Google turned up was a brief essay titled, Arizona Canal Demonstration Project Sunnyslope Community” crediting M. Paul Friedberg – Landscape Architecture and Jackie Ferrara – Artist.

This is apparently part of a “multi-room” landscape art project from 2001 and the sandstone design turned out to be the fourth “room.” Each room supposedly illuminates one or more of the environmental characteristics that contribute to the uniqueness of this area.

I gather the sculpture above is an artistic interpretation of either the Salt River or an ancient Hohokam tribe drawing of the 2,000 year old canal system. The Hohokam flourished in the Phoenix valley from 300-1450 CE.

A close look at the sculpture reveals two sets of openings, one of which appears to be a dual nozzle which may have been intended to create a water/stream effect. Or it could simply be an alien!

The canals are operated by the Salt River Project (SRP) and while the canals are technically a utility corridor, meant to deliver water to this desert metropolis, they’ve historically been associated with recreation.

 

 

Recently, a longtime Sunnyslope resident told me that maintenance of the various artwork installations—the sequence of five outdoor “rooms” at intervals of approximately 500 to 700 yards carved into the berm—was abandoned for budgetary reasons when a different authority took over management of the berms and paths.

Now, here’s a rundown of the various “rooms,” in sequence starting from the Central Ave and heading southeast toward 7th St. It’s not entirely clear which rooms are which from the write-up but I think my guesses are reasonably on target.

First room: the “circle room”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second room: the “water room”

Third Room: the “time room” —  yes…it’s an actual sun dial!

The fourth room, seen at the top of this posting, is called the “map room”

Fifth room: the “grass room”?

This is described as a rectangular space outlined on three sides by a stone seating wall. “A planting bed of tall exotic desert grass creates a spatial frame around the sitting area, thus focusing the visitor’s view toward the top of the grass and the canal.”

Obviously the “planting bed” was a budget victim. And, oddly, one can only wonder what force of nature caused part of this very solid-looking wall to break away in two places (one shown here).

 

I’m putting my money on ancient aliens as seen from these artifacts, with characteristic beady eyes, metallic, hook-ended legs and strangely bicycle-like form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


All photos, except Hohokam illustration and canal map are copyright (c) 2017 Jim Veihdeffer.
In case you’re interested in exploring this mile-long stretch, you can start at Central Ave. just south of Dunlap and head southeast along the left side of the canal. The first room is about 2/10ths of a mile from the overpass, with subsequent rooms at more or less regular intervals. Most bikers are not even aware of the installations, but they’re pretty obvious if you take a moment to just observe.The nine canals that make up the Valley’s canal system were developed over the past 100 years. Each canal has a unique history and service area. Work on the Arizona Canal that runs past my house began in May 1883

Early Morning Canal Oddities

My early morning Arizona Canal ride from Central Ave. to Maryland Ave. in north central Phoenix yielded several interesting oddities.

First up, a sea monster alert!

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a closer look (along with possible monsters) …

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next: I have to say I have no idea what this is. As I first wheeled past I thought it might be hamburger patties being left out by a homeowner for feral dogs or cats. When I came back on my return trip, it looked more like the leavings of a dog or horse…but, no, much too neat. I did poke one of the items with a stick. It has roughly the consistency of hamburger but clearly it isn’t. Maybe it’s some sort of protective non-conductive goop for the electrical installation. I didn’t lift up the goop to see what the white, cuplike containers were up to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grapes anyone?* Yep, here’s about a dozen, presumably spilled earlier by someone coming in or out of the tunnel in a hurry this morning. Tasty.

This colorful wall fresco displaying eight different national flags has been there for a while. I haven’t been able to figure out if there’s a connection among the various nations (Japan, UK, Germany, France, USA, Canada, Ireland?/Italy?** Australia)

This guy, one of two different giant pottery items, has also been in place for a while. I’m guessing it appeared about the same time as the State Route 51 wall potteries that appeared in the early 1990s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a closer look at the top reveals a romantic message by some pavement graffitista. I’m certainly not condoning defacing public artworks, but I’m willing to give a hall pass on this one because it’s both sweet and unobtrusive.

Here’s a view from the other side.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering who’s in charge of all this, it’s the good ol’ USA…oh, and SRP (the power company)…oh, and uncredited here, the city of Phoenix which, I was told by a cleanup guy before he got to the grapes, is responsible for maintaining the actual pathway.


*one correspondent suggests they might actually be cherries (on sale for $0.87 at Safeway)
**another loyal correspondent wonders if the flags could represent the G8 group of industrialized nations. A close look at the actual wall painting is inconclusive since it could be “Italy-red” or “Ireland-orange.” An Italian flag would fit the G8 theory, but…the next flag is Australia, not a G8 country.
Here’s the flag in question. The photo has not been retouched for color.
And if you’re thinking there isn’t enough signage along the canal, here’s a bunch from a small municipal maintenance facility just off the canal near Granada Park.

Reading the Bible for All the Wrong Reasons – II

Part 2

We continue our journey through those wacky “Acts of the Apostles.” Last time, we looked at how the first Christians (technically “pre-Christians”) were, literally, communists; about the horrible deaths of Ananias and Sapphira–convicted of holding back some funds from the commune; and the death of the very loquacious Stephen who filibustered himself into a stoning.

Today we’ll see how Paul bores a man into falling off a balcony, the million-dollar book (er…magical scroll) burning, and a “knock knock” joke about Peter on the lam.

Without no further ado…

Paul bores a young man into falling off a 3rd-story window ledge

Paul was no stranger to the ill effects of endless blathering as we learn in Chapter 20, during his third missionary journey.

On his way to Macedonia, Paul and Luke stop in Troas (near ancient Troy) for a week. As he was to leave the next morning, he can’t stop himself from preaching to his entourage, “prolonging his address until midnight.” (20:7) A young man named Eutychus was so overcome with weariness at Paul’s droning on “at great length” that he fell asleep and toppled down from the third story to the ground, where he was pronounced dead.

Paul, a tentmaker or possibly weaver by trade, seems to know more than anyone else there about death signs and simply tells the crowd “Do not be alarmed, life is still in him.” (20:11). Unfazed, the entourage has a late night snack while Paul continues preaching till daybreak and then departs. Turns out the boy was alive and all were “not a little comforted.” Tip: Get ready for a night of de-caf coffee when Paul is on a preaching roll.

Million-dollar book burning in Ephesus

There was a certain Sceva, a Jewish high priest in Ephesus who had seven sons engaged in exorcisms. Meanwhile Paul and his bro’s were working more than the usual miracles, literally healing nearly everyone in sight, so much so that they didn’t even need to be “in sight.” Indeed, all Paul had to do was send his “handkerchiefs and aprons” to the sick to eject the evil spirits causing disease. Since those who refused to believe were labeled “obstinate” it’s easy to imagine that Paul & Co. were not pleased with the competition from Sceva. The Jews and Gentiles of Ephesus convinced the rogue exorcists to confess their practices:

19 And many who had practised magical arts collected their scrolls and burnt them publicly and they reckoned up the prices…and found the sum to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Acts 19:19)

Roman denarius, c 75 CE, with image of Vespasian

While it’s a tricky business to calculate what a piece of silver from around 65 CE might amount to in terms we can understand, various estimates range around $20 per piece, thus making 50,000 pieces worth in the neighborhood of $1,000,000 to $1,082,000 depending on whether we’re using  Greek drachmas, the Roman denarius or the Hebrew silver shekel as our basis. So according to Luke, there were magical papyrus scrolls worth a million bucks lying around in Ephesus. Papyrus must have been pretty dang valuable. (As the old Egyptian joke goes, “Hey, that stuff doesn’t grow on trees, y’know!”)

“Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” – Peter on the lam

In Chapter 12 Peter is being held in prison by Herod Agrippa I. Not only are there four sentries guarding the door but he is sleeping between two soldiers and bound with two chains. It would take a true Houdini to get out of this…unless you have an angel visiting in the night.

As luck would have it, just such an angel is on hand to free him and, after reminding him to put on his sandals, off they go. They pass through various guarded gates until they’re out on the street, at which point the angel deserts him. Peter finds his way to the house of Mary, mother of John Mark (the apostolic deserter), and knocks at the outer door.

Here’s the fun part. The maid, Rhoda, comes to the door to answer the knock and immediately recognizes Peter’s voice. And even though she knows he must have escaped Herod’s prison and is now on the lam, “in her joy she did not open the gate.”

Nope. Instead she runs inside and announces that Peter’s outside at the gate. Peter continues knocking until the householders eventually come get him but they’re so noisy that Pete has to shush them, reminding them that he’s on the lam.

Knock knock

Who’s there?

Peter.

Peter who?

C’mon man, Peter, you know, Cephas?

Cephas who?

Stop fooling around you morons and let me in…and keep your blessed voices down!

I guess you had to be there to appreciate the joke.

cartoon by Jeff Hayden, posted in “The First Gentile Church”

Unfortunately for the guards, the next morning Herod orders them put to death. Not long after, Herod is struck down by an angel and is eaten by worms. (Acts 12.)


*The idea for this headline came to me one day as I was out by the pool studying the Qur’an. I had a paperback English translation, a larger English-Arabic version, my Arabic alphabet cheat sheet and a mobile device that I used for translation aid, commentaries and phonetic/oral help. A neighbor saw all my gear and asked if I was studying the bible. I figured it was too complicated to explain my project, which at times included the Book of Mormon and the history of early Christianity, so I just said, “Yeah, but for all the wrong reasons.”
The majority of scholars date Luke–Acts to 80–90 CE or as late at 120 CE, on various grounds, e.g. looks back on the destruction of Jerusalem, and does not seem to be aware of Paul’s letters (which began circulating late in the century); if, however, it does show awareness of Paul and also of Josephus, then a date early in the 2nd century is more likely.[13] In either case, there is evidence that it was still being substantially revised well into the 2nd century.” [WP – Acts of the Apostles]
Mack (1995) dates Acts to 120 CE (p167); Spong (1996) dates Acts to 90-95 CE (p171); Vermes (2000) dates to 90-100 CE (p127); Charlesworth (2008) dates 80-90 “or perhaps 90-110” (References are to books in my personal library)
Clearly, whoever the gentile-by-birth author of Luke-Acts was, he was far removed from the times and places he wrote about, including Luke’s gaffe at 5:19 about “tile roofs” (roofs were actually reeds and packed mud, see Korb 2010)
Spong (1996) sees a “midrash” of the Ananias story in Jeremiah’s story of Hananiah, “lying in the name of the Lord, and deceiving the people” where “the deceiver should be shortly cut off by death.” (Jeremiah 28: 15-17). Seems like a stretch to me, though Isaac Asimov (1969) seems to agree.
“Midrash” by the way, is the Jewish tradition dictating that everything to be venerated in the present must somehow be connected with a sacred moment in the past (Bringas p172). Spong (1996) quite persuasively makes the case that the entire NT is essentially a midrash of Hebrew Sabbath lectionaries (weekly scripture readings). In this light, Acts is a lectionary book written midrashically, designed to complement and parallel gospel readings. (p177) The Jewish practice of reading appointed Scriptures on given days or occasions dates back to the time of Moses and continues in Catholic masses among other liturgies.
The “magical papyrus scrolls” were also called “Ephesian letters.” Apparently, the Ephesians were greatly addicted to magic. Magic characters were marked on the crown, cincture (belt), and feet of Diana; at the preaching of Paul, many who used curious [magical] books, burnt them. (Acts 19.)