Saturday, December 31, 2011

Janus and the Statue of Liberty


The Romans worshipped Janus who is often depicted as a man looking back and forward, the god of ports, gateways (hence janitor), transition from state to another, from old to new.  The month named after him became the first month of the Roman calendar instead of the original March. Accordingly, today the world has entered first of January, 2012 Anno Domino.

Bible and lunar and solar calendars
English word calendar is a loan word from the originally Greek καλέω for announcing the new moon. This gives the Latin kalends for the first day of the month, nonae for the middle moon and ides the full moon (Roman calendar).

In this manner way Greek and Roman pagans (gojim, non-Jews) have independently used - and use today - Sun and Moon for calculating days, as the Bible says in the Geocentric description of the Fourth Day of Creation (divine week before Sun existed!)

And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth"; and it was so.

And God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.

And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.  
Genesis 1:14-19 KJ21

Janus who?
There is an excellent detailed article in wikipedia on describing the history, theology and cult of Janus. This article is very interesting but also quite filled with facts difficult to understand by us laymen who are not so deeply versed in Latin literature and classical Roman, Greek and Etruscan religions. It is highly recommended reading as an academic introduction to the study of Janus.

Modern Western people have been freed by the Bible from the polytheistic world of classical Graeco-Roman period. Genesis is a veritable slaughterhouse of pagan gods leaving only one true God, the God of Israel.

The fundamental change in world view, the introduction of Biblical monotheism - a view often shared also by atheists who actively deny His existence - has enstranged us from polytheism. It is not so easy for us to try to understand what Janus and other polytheistic divinities really ment for the ancients.
We may try to understand and decide to call Janus a "personification" of the abstract concept of beginning, which includes transition from one state to another including from one place to another, like doorways and harbours.

It is true that divinities are described in Greaco-Roman literature, art, history and theology in anthropomorphic terms. Janus himself, the first of everything, even of gods, is depicted as a man with two faces.

But ancient Egyptians depicted many divinities as animals and combinations of animals and humans, warning us not to rush too fast to conclusions about "spiritual personifications".

We have living polytheism that in some ways still represents the Indo-Aryan religions of the past influencing also the Semitic Near East. Hindus can teach us something about this type of religion common in areas where the Biblical monotheism has not penetrated. But this is a quite demanding way to approach the subject with many similarities but also many differences between modern Hindu and ancient Greek, Roman or Egyptian religions.

The Statue of Liberty - Libertas

Statue of Liberty, New York

The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886.

The statue, a gift to the United States from the people of France, is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue has become an icon of freedom and of the United States.

The port - Ellis island
Janus was originally the god of a society on the costs of Italy relying on seafaring for living "amphibious", of ports and transit. So he is a good symbol for the Ellis Island too, which has been for so many the gateway the the New World of America.

Ellis Island in New York Harbor was the gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States. It was the nation's busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. The island was greatly expanded with landfill between 1892 and 1934. Before that, the much smaller original island was the site of Fort Gibson and later a naval magazine. The island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965, and has hosted a museum of immigration since 1990. A 1998 United States Supreme Court decision found most of the island to be part of New Jersey.

Janus and the Statue of Liberty
IMHO the Statue of Liberty in New York can help us to grasp in some way what a polytheist may have experienced when looking at the many statues in the temples in Greek or Roman cities.

To some the statue brings to mind historical facts about French revolution, the gift of France to newly born United States

Some people remember their grandparents arrival to Ellis island when the venerable statue came to the horizon in the midst of morning clouds.

Some people look at the statue and remember modern "legends" such as the X-men movie and the United Nations gathering in the presence of this statue.

Some people joined President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy to the almost religious celebration of liberty at the foot of this statue.

Yet, the sincere looking lady is not really a "personification of the idea of human liberty" even it is a powerful symbol of it.

It is not really a subject for personal prayer even due respect is given to what it symbolises.

It is not really a living god active in bringing liberty to the inhabitants of North America.

It is just a dead statue made of metal. Mighty peace of art, mighty symbol of human aspirations that goes beyond the borders United States of America.

A cold peace of metal put together by the gifted artist Frédéric Bartholdi to represent the powerful ideas of liberty that changed the world in the French revolution.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

Viva la France!

shouted the founding fathers at the British while writing the Declaration of Independence with the newly found ideas of liberty in their hearts and the Statue of Liberty echoes their mighty voice.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Prince of Peace

Isaiah 53

Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first He lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more grievously afflicted her by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Thou hast multiplied the nation and not increased the joy; they joy before Thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
For Thou hast broken the yoke of his burden and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.
For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise and garments rolled in blood, but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon His Kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.

Isaiah 9:1-8

Christmas - Light to the world!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men.
And the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
The same came as a witness to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
 He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.
 He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.
 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe in His name,
 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.
 John bore witness of Him and cried, saying, "This was He of whom I spoke, `He that cometh after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'"
 And of His fullness have we all received, and grace for grace.

John 1:1-16

Christmas night in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago

Isn't He something!

The Light which is so revealing, so truthful and yet not cold.

How He turns the darkest night into a celebration of love, joy and good will.

How He turns the feared execution method into the strongest symbol of forgiveness and love.

I mean, really, think about it - it was not exactly a nice night

The young pregnant woman had travelled a long way with her husband either walking or riding on the back of a donkey. There was no room in a hotel or motel in Bethlehem and she was about to give birth to a child. Not nice.

The purpose of the trip was also not all that nice - to be registered in the House of David for taxation by the occupying power. Whatever Joseph the Carpenter made, the Romans wanted their share from it And they were quite determined to collect the taxes, too.

If that was not enough to spoil the feelings the political atmosphere was not nice at all. King Herod was an Edomite and not of Jewish origins. The King did his best to please the Jewish population, that is true, but he was highly suspicious character and had even three of his own sons executed suspected of trying to take his crown.

Not for nothing Caesar Augustus said about king Herod... it is better to be his swine then his son. (hyos, hyios) for the pigs had peace in the Holy Land, Herod's sons rested in tombs.

No, not a nice night.

And look how He has turned it into the most loved night of the year, the darkest moment in the nature when Sun is low and weak.

Night of the homeless, born out of marriage babies, overtaxed, politically persecuted, children in danger of violent death

Christmas night in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.

Isn't He wonderful!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The not so great pot

The voice in the potter's workshop was rather quiet but clear and nasty:

"Slender! Do you not know that slenderness and stylishness are in the proportions, width and height? This squat base you have given to me is the opposite of slenderness!"

God noticed that the voice was coming from the midst of the ready vessels He had made. They had already cooled after firing and had been piled on a wooden table.The voice continued the litany of complaints:

"And look at this yellowish matte skin I have? Have you idiot not heard of polished red slip that shines so beautifully on the dinner table of an aristocrat family? Do you not know how to at least to imitate terra sigillata ware which has such a noble metallic ring to it and is beautiful to look at even in the midst of silver and gold?"

The pot was clearly not happy about the way Great Potter had made it.

"This ridiculous bevelled rim - is it supposed to make me look better. What banality and vulgarity - like a golden ring on the nose of a pig! Where did you study to become a potter?"

"I look just like a common mug made for everyday drinking and nothing better than that!"

Finally God said "well, you are a mug made for everyday use. Your squat base makes you very stable, the bevelled rim is good for human lips and the yellow matte surface is silky to the hand. You represent a standard model in my collection that is quite popular among my clients."

To be a mug or not to be?

Of course, God can break that mug to shreds and mix the grounded sherds to strengthen fresh clay for other kind of pottery.

But that would be pitty break and remake your life, don't you think?

The original design may not be fancy but it certainly is elegant in its own way and quite functional for the purpose it was made!

Bible talks about the mug of the nation of Israel

Thou wilt say then unto me, "Why doth He yet find fault, for who hath resisted His will?"
But nay, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, "Why hast thou made me thus?"
Hath not the potter power over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?
What if God, choosing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction; and this, that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, whom He had prepared before unto glory, even us whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Romans 9:19-24

"Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, `What makest thou?' or thy work, `He hath no hands'?
 Woe unto him that saith unto his father, `What begettest thou?' or to the woman, `What hast thou brought forth?'
 "Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons, and concerning the work of My hands command ye Me.
 I have made the earth and created man upon it; I, even My hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.
 I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways; he shall build My city, and he shall let go My captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts."
Isaiah 45:9-13

The Greatest Potter

  The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
 "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear My words."
 Then I went down to the potter's house, and behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make it.
 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
 "O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter?" saith the LORD. "Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in Mine hand, O house of Israel.
 At the instant I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to pull down and to destroy it, if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.
 And at the instant I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it do evil in My sight, that it obey not My voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them.
Now therefore go to speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, `Thus saith the LORD: Behold, I frame evil against you and devise a device against you. Return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.'"
And they said, "There is no hope; but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart."

Jeremiah 18:1-12

Monday, December 5, 2011

84th Academy Awards and Eye Salve of Truth

Ah, look at all lovely people, where do they all come from?

On Sunday, February 26, 2012 we are (or wish to be!) at the 84th Academy Awards presentation mingled with the glorious crowd of cream of the cream in movie industry. Academy Award nominees will be present and we are all dressed up in the best fitting attire we can afford, whether fashionably simple or stylishly fancy, our clothing hiding, revealing, emphasizing and de-emphasizing the private naked truth under it all.

Perhaps some of them are not just lovely, as in my modified words of Eleanor Rigby above but actually lonely as in the genuine lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Natural eye salve

Academy Awards ceremony is different this time as heavenly Eye Salve of Truth will be available at the entrance for free to those who want to have it.

By applying this ointment into eyes it is possible to see the naked truth about people. You will not only see more clearly in which way the physical appearances has been altered by professional make-up artists, hair stylists, plastic surgeries, fashion counsellors, tight corsets, push-up bras and false teeth.

For Eye Salve of Truth is very potent and will open your eyes to see also through any masquerading and those refined but actually quite fake expressions on people's faces. With it you can read correctly those quite subtle winks of eye and know clearly the difference between poisonous darts and genuine words of congratulation, between hidden deadly feelings of jealousy and hatred in a whiter than snow smile and truly felt love and joy. For the emotions are many towards the ones who got the coveted Oscar statues, whether deserved or not, and towards those who appear more bold and beautiful than others.

Be warned, though, that applying the Eye Salve of Truth at the coming Oscar gala may be a rather shocking experience. It may leave you wondering is there anything genuine among those who make themselves to look so happy and loving and warm persons - after all, we know that not only the nominees are highly skilful professional actors knowing when to shed a tear and how to behave according to the expected social rules of the game.

Be warned also that the Eye Salve of Truth has a very serious side-effect besides the penetrating enhancement of your inner vision:

Dr Jesus says that the Eye Salve of Truth will open your eyes so that you see yourself as you are.

And there is hardly anything more shocking than that in this life.

Eye Salve of Truth
Our Lord Jesus counsels Christians in Laodicea on Lycus (in modern SW Turkey):

Because thou sayest,"I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing," and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable, and poor and blind and naked, I counsel thee to buy from Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear, and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."
Rev 3:17-19

That thou mayest see!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chinese in Britain - Miss Naked Beauty 2008

All made up or au naturel?

British Channel 4 reality series Miss Naked Beauty has six episodes that were broadcast in October and November 2008.

Both the name and official description of the series may be misleading if you do not read carefully:

Presenters Gok Wan and Myleene Klass join forces in Channel 4's nationwide search for the ultimate modern British beauty.

Miss Naked Beauty is the definitive hunt for a woman who embodies the confidence, sex appeal, spirit, brains and true natural beauty of a modern-day Eve.

The show sets out to challenge conventional notions of what is 'beautiful' by turning the traditional beauty contest on its head.

Forget the fakes and size zeros, the winner will possess natural beauty, but also have the brains and balls to tackle some of the uglier sides of the beauty industry.
Ch 4 website

Miss Naked Beauty series was nothing like a regular beauty contest hunting for the ultimate British beauty.

It indeed turned the concept of beauty contents upside down and presented viewers with a powerful real life study of eight lovely but - let us face it - quite ordinary looking young women. The series gives a rich and horrific description of the technical means placed at their disposal by modern cosmetics industry and advanced medical technologies in order to look even more beautiful.

Actually, the description is so realistic that I would probably have fainted in the hospital together with one of the contestants watching the operation in action.

And yet, the most touching part of the entire episode was so delicate, just a simple woman in simple tears (which probably brought her the victory).

The question presented to viewers was "do you like made up or "natural?"

To understand the point, let us imagine a young gentleman who finally gets to dance with the girl of his dreams. And in the romantic darkness with a true life Lady in Red he suddenly realizes... "these contain silicon".

Ask the young man how he feels ... and ask the over one billion dollar breast implant industry is the business profitable.

British Chinese fashion consultant, author and TV presenter Gok Wan (born 1974)

In the final episode even the forever smiling Gok Wan was rather quiet and seemed subdued, perhaps even surprised by the humanity these eight ladies had brought to his show. These were genuine human beings and no Stepford wives. They participated in the strangest kind of competition ... looking for naked truth ... and won his and our hearts and respect just by being who they are.

As for a second opinion from an influential Australian conservative journalist working for Daily Mail:

His next series Miss Naked Beauty, which he co-presented with Myleene Klass, was broadcast in October and November 2008. The series attracted controversy after Wan hosed semi-naked women, causing critics to question the motives behind the series; Amanda Platell described it as "vulgarity masquerading as self-help"

IMHO Platell's choice of word vulgarity indicates that her evaluation may be based on hearsay - anyone who actually has seen these women talking and acting in the series know that they are the opposite of vulgarity.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Chinese and romantic love

 Traditional Chinese wedding

"You Europeans put a boiling pot on stove and it gets cold. We do the opposite."

In fact I have no idea if this saying is genuinely Chinese but it probably contains some truth in it.

Judging from world population statistics such an approach seems to have been working just as well - if not better - than the Western cultural heritage of romantic love.

The tradition of romance becomes powerful during the Crusader period with that noble Love court of Eleanor of Aquitaine as an example of the times of castles, troubadours and husbands far away in the Holy Land. It surfaced again in the Romantic period, for example in the works of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) touching Western hearts of men and women then and now in literature, theatre and opera: Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Bride of Lammermoor.

In traditional Chinese culture the influence of Confucius (孔夫子 pinyin Kǒng Fūzǐ) is felt in the deeply rooted respect for parents, elders and also ancestors as in Taoism. The old ones know what is best for the daughter and son also in matters of love and marriage. And often they do.

The movie House of Flying Daggers describes pure romantic love that is tested by the actions of the characters in life and death battles.

Is it genuine Tang period atmosphere or is is a modern westernised story set in history of completely different type of relationship between man and woman.

In my opinion, romantic love exists in all humanity from cavemen to modern Chinese or native Americans. It is the matter of emphasis, matter of final decisions taken in matters of heart, that differs.

A girl or boy may today leave parents to run after the lover in a different city or even different country and it is considered more or less normal.

Chinese strictly traditional parents may also face - even in the Tang  period - the power of romantic love in their children and must react to it.

Similarly in the traditional Arabic culture where families decide, father decides (after the ladies of the two houses have quietly reached their decision) romantic love causes disruptions to orderly arrangements of marriages by social status, wealth and other important aspects.

For romantic love is love, an important part of the system created by God of Israel in humans.

It is perhaps not even limited to humans.

I have noticed that one of the dogs here had a constant favourite among the pack of more or less handsome male dogs seeking to become father of her puppies.

And it is said about the white swans that they are faithful lovers, the same couple reaching that quiet distant lake in the North year after year for the female to lay her eggs.

In our eyes at least the noble swans are highly romantic as the other swan may wither away and die if the significant other is taken from him or her by death.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What's with these Chinese, anyway?

I mean, really...

Zhang Yimou (born 1951) tells in House of Flying Daggers an unforgettable love-triangle in a way that sets new standards to cinematic art. And who can forget the opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing Olympics 2008 he directed?

Or Lang Lang (born 1982)...

Have you SEEN him play one of those delicate Nocturnes by Chopin? Is there anything easier, anything more natural, anything more enjoyable ... hiding the enormous technical challenges in total concentration on the musical message.

Have you HEARD Lang Lang play Sergei Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto 2?
If you have, you understand my point...

Or talking about grand pianos, Yuja Wang (1987) ...

Such a delicate young girl, and what force in those hands! Those who know about piano say that when hearing Yuja Wang you simply have to redefine how well that instrument can be played.

Culture, music, theatre, circus, movies... okay

but what about real life, like dollars, banks, factories?


The Chinese took that 19th century pioneering sociologist Karl Marx seriously.

Much more seriously than the Soviets, who made mockery of his ideas and whose experimental society, worker's paradise, collapsed in its ridiculous lies and corruption.

So seriously, that Communist China is today the biggest lender in the world to the capitalist USA. Who would have believed?

China is worried that the U.S. will default on the $1 trillion loan China gave us to, among other things, build McMansions and sell them to each other.

If China gets too worried, they'll stop lending us more money to pay ourselves while no one is buying McMansions, and interest rates will skyrocket, screwing us.  So Obama is trying to assure China president Wen Jiabao that we're good for the money.

Which we probably are.  In nominal dollars.  But wait until we get through inflating our way out of the problem.

Read more:

Maoism, hmmm okay..

But what about Christianity?

Have you heard about those Chinese mainlanders who have encountered Jesus Christ in those forgotten towns and villages behind the back of God?

And not just there.

Ye good ol' BBC reports:
"It is impossible to say how many Christians there are in China today, but no-one denies the numbers are exploding."

Really, what's with these Chinese, anyway?

House of Flying Daggers (2004)

Like a flying dagger that magically finds its way to the target this amazing movie reaches accurately and deeply into the heart of all existence - LOVE.

For the Bible does not only praise love at the limits of human languages as in 1 Corinthians 13. Bible does not only say that God loves the world (John 3:16) or that love is from God (1 John 4:7).

The Bible actually says that LOVE is everything for 1 John 4:16 writes
God is love

Mystery of love
In the midst of the gorgeous palette of colours, bamboo green or the glory of autumn trees, Chinese clothing taking directly from authentic paintings, bloody beautiful weapons skilfully handled, arrows, swords, daggers, martial art that actually brings art into it - the cinematic narrative of master Zhang Yimou brings us, the viewers, in simplest terms to the greatest mystery of all - the mystery of love.

Mei (Zhang Ziyi) is just lovely, more beautiful than a forest of cherry trees in full blossom

Leo (Andy Lau) has saved the life of Mei and has loved her ever since he learned to know her three years ago. And yet, the heartbroken question

"How could you fell in love with Jin in only three days?"

Indeed, what is love?

What was missing from the relationship between Leo and Mei?

The answer is, as the Beatles once put it
All you need is love, 
All you need is love, 
All you need is love, love,
all you need is love.

Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is like free wind, no commitments with the ladies, life goes on.

And yet, love stopped him dead.

Really, what is this thing, love?

The heart of Leo is filled with bitter rage and hatred for his best friend who won the love of Mei

"If I cannot have you, Jin shall definitely not have you."

Why not?

Such things happen, love's labour is lost and consequences can be devastating. Stuff for real life tragedy.

Mei pulls the dagger out of her chest and blood starts to stream from the wound. She dies in order to save the life of Jin.

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
Song of Solomon 8:6-7

This marvellous movie does not try to explain what is love, it shows love in action.

And we all, regardless of our race, culture, historical period (Tang dynasty or other), understand. 

There is something fundamentally similar in all us humans that responds to love.

We all somehow understand that Mei chooses Jin instead of Leo although we do not know exactly why. Both most brave and handsome warriors, but there is this mysterious thing called LOVE.

"Why did you return, I told you not to return back"
"I returned for you".

House of Flying Daggers (2004)

The movie received twenty minutes of standing ovations after screening in Cannes Film Festival. It definitely deserved those from a highly critical audience.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jesus Christ and Voodoo

One island - La Hispaniola

One nature - Paradise on earth

One hell of a history

Two countries - Dominican Republic 2/3 Haiti 1/3

Two religions:
Dominican Republic 70% Catholic 20% Evangelical
Haiti Republic 80% Catholic

but and this is a big BUT:
According to the CIA World Factbook, about 50% of the population of Haiti practice Voodoo.

Jesus Christ
The Dominican Republic has the second largest economy in the Caribbean. It is an upper middle-income developing country primarily dependent on agriculture, trade, and services, especially tourism. Although the service sector has recently overtaken agriculture as the leading employer of Dominicans (due principally to growth in tourism and Free Trade Zones), agriculture remains the most important sector in terms of domestic consumption and is in second place (behind mining) in terms of export earnings. Tourism accounts for more than $1 billion in annual earnings. Free trade zone earnings and tourism are the fastest-growing export sectors. According to a 1999 International Monetary Fund report, remittances from Dominican Americans, are estimated to be about $1.5 billion per year. Most of these funds are used to cover basic household needs such as shelter, food, clothing, health care and education. Secondarily, remittances have financed small businesses and other productive activities.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. Two-thirds of all Haitians depend on the agriculture sector, mainly small-scale subsistence farming, and remain vulnerable to damage from frequent natural disasters, exacerbated by the country's widespread deforestation. A macroeconomic program developed in 2005 with the help of the International Monetary Fund helped the economy grow 1.8% in 2006, the highest growth rate since 1999. Haiti suffers from higher inflation than similar low-income countries, a lack of investment (increasing however since the recent presidential seating), and a severe trade deficit. In 2005, Haiti paid its arrears to the World Bank, paving the way for reengagement with the Bank. The government relies on formal international economic assistance for fiscal sustainability. In 2006, Haiti held a successful donors conference in which the total aid pledged exceeded Haiti's request. Remittances are the primary source of foreign exchange, equaling nearly a quarter of GDP.

Do you remember that other pair of states - proudly communist East Germany, humbly Christian West Germany?

... or Max Weber's theory on the impact of Calvinism on state economy in Switzerland... not among the poorest countries...

Can we say that Jesus Christ does have some practical impact also on the economy of a country?

If so, divine help includes certain well-known requirements on how people in the blessed countries use their wealth and how they treat those who owe to them hard money:

High debts and poor nations

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, who would make a reckoning with his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, that owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred shillings: and he laid hold on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay what thou owest. So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due.

So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him unto him, and saith to him, Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou besoughtest me: shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy fellow-servant, even as I had mercy on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due.

So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.
Jesus Christ
Matthew 18:23-35

Why on earth Dominican Republic?

In Caribbean Sea the horrendous and thus fascinating times of the buccaneers are over although their memory is still in vivid memory all over the world. Today, Caribbean islanders have their own independent states and people are living in peace and prosperity in regions where once chaos ruled amidst bitter wars, revolutions and murders.

There are, for example, the republics of Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Commonwealth of Bahamas and Puerto Rico each with their flags, capitals, constitutions and independence days.

But why on earth is one of the Caribbean states called Dominican Republic?

The Dominicans or Black Friars as they are called in England, are, after all, an organised group of monks, nuns and lay people.  Following this idea, we might as well expect to find somewhere in former Spanish or Portuguese areas the Augustinian Kingdom, The Republic of White Friars, and perhaps even the State of the Sisters of Zion?

Seal of the Dominican Order

The religious order of "Lords Hounds" (pun from Domini canes) was established by Domingo Félix de Guzmán (1170 – 1221) and approved by Pope Honorius III (1216–27) on 22 December 1216 in France. They praise the Lord (laudares), they bless (benedicere) and they preach (praedicare), Order Praedicarum O.P.

They also have quite a history from early medieval times to modern days. We still remember trembling the not so holy offices of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition, Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición and the name Torquemada. Especially here in Israel.

Alonso de Hojeda, a Dominican friar from Seville, convinced Queen Isabel of the existence of Crypto-Judaism among Andalusian conversos during her stay in Seville between 1477 and 1478. A report, produced by Pedro González de Mendoza, Archbishop of Seville, and by the Segovian Dominican Tomás de Torquemada, corroborated this assertion.

But that is only one side of the coin, although admittedly a very dark side.

So how come the Dominicans also have a state, República Dominicana, in the West Indies called after them?

It has something to do with the Spaniards and that Christopher Columbus who arrived to the Bahamas - possibly to the island of San Salvador - in 1492. In fact, the island on their Great Antilles chain is called La Hispaniola.

Today the island is divided between two states, the smaller one is called Haiti occupying one third of the land and the bigger state Dominican Republic.

The recorded history of Haiti began on December 5, 1492 when the European navigator Christopher Columbus happened upon a large island in the region of the western Atlantic Ocean that later came to be known as the Caribbean. It was inhabited by the Taíno, an Arawakan people, who variously called their island Ayiti, Bohio, or Kiskeya. Columbus promptly claimed the island for the Spanish Crown, naming it La Isla Española ("the Spanish Island"), later Latinized to Hispaniola.

Haiti - Ayiti ... ancient name given to the island by the Taino people.

Successive waves of Arawak migrants, moving northward from the Orinoco delta in South America, settled the islands of the Caribbean. Around AD 600, the Taíno Indians, an Arawak culture, arrived on the island, displacing the previous inhabitants. They were organized into cacicazgos (chiefdoms), each led by a cacique (chief). The final Arawak migrants, the Caribs, began moving up the Lesser Antilles in the 12th century, and were raiding Taíno villages on the island's eastern coast by the time the Spanish arrived in 1492.

Sugar cane problems
How to make money in the New World found by Christopher and his men? Sugar cane was introduced from Canary Islands in 1518 and it was quite profitable.

His son, Don Diego Columbus -  2nd Admiral of the Indies, 2nd Viceroy of the Indies and 3rd Governor of the Indies - was making good money from sugar cane. In order to cultivate it efficiently in the hot climate the Spaniards shipped African slaves from Spain to the new plantations. Diego Columbus crushed their first revolt already in 1522 - just four years later. Apparently, the working conditions and benefits were not satisfactory to the slaves.

Many escaped to the mountains and were not very nice - the Spanish Christians called them "wild animals" - cimarrónes -  and fortified the city of Santo Domingo in 1541.

(Once Mexican silver came to the eyes of European Christians the sugar cane of La Hispaniola lost some of its sweetness and the life on Caribbean islands, also in the new capital of Havanna, declined.)

La Puerta del Conde 1844

La Puerta del Conde (The Count's Gate) is the site in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where Francisco del Rosario Sanchez, one of the Dominican Founding Fathers, proclaimed Dominican independence and raised the first Dominican Flag, on February 27, 1844

The monks chose the rare religious name for a state from their patron saint, the same who gives the name to the city San Domingo, Santo Domingo, the capital of the Republic. Today it has over 3.2 million inhabitants - about a third of the country's ten million people living there.

Today about 70% of the citizens in the republic are Roman Catholic and 18% Evangelicals.

Nomen est omen
Well, now we know why on earth this country in the Caribbean is called Dominican Republic.

Even if the Dominicans never ruled the country, this respectable religious order has one more notable thing in its history - the influence of Trinitarian Christians on the birth of the independent state.  Dominican Republic has occasionally a very sad and turbulent history.

The people are living there in one of the most beautiful places one can imagine, verily a paradise on earth.

Where is the beef? Why Dominican Republic is doing okay while Haiti is among the poorest countries in the world?

If only the common people living in Haiti would abandon that voodoo religion of theirs and adopt Christ, despite of the poor record of European Christians in Caribbean, things would change to better, much better - Si Dios quiere!

Flag of Dominican Republic

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Who are those in white garments?

Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reports today 28 November 2011 about the ongoing research on the work of Dr. Orit Shamir from Israel Antiquities Authority and Naama Sukenik on cloths found along the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran.

Shamir and Sukenik found that these fabrics are different from any others found in excavations from the same period. Both Jews and Romans wore mainly woolen garments Shamir says, and so wool is the fabric mainly found at archaeological sites. Most of the clothing also featured a dark red pattern described both in Talmudic and non-Jewish sources.

But pieces of cloth from Qumran are completely different. They are all made of linen rather than wool and are devoid of decoration. They were also bleached, apparently by soaking them in bicarbonate of soda produced from plants, which Shamir says was both costly and labor-intensive.

Shamir says that linen, which was more expensive than wool, was worn as a manifestation of religious observance. According to Shamir, both Romans and Jews wore white "to stand out and convey modesty."

The two scholars, Shamir and Sukenik, suggest that the white clothing was unusual and had religious meaning for the Essenes as described also by Josephus.

Revealed things
The discovery of the whitened rags in the jars containing the Dead Sea Scrolls brings to mind another reference to white clothes, this from the Book of Revelation.
And what a reference!

And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, These that are arrayed in white robes, who are they, and whence came they?

And I say unto him, My lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they that come of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Therefore are they before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them.

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat: for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Rev 7:13-17

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Pledge (2001 movie)

Children art is critically important tool in handling cases of paedophilia
This picture was used in the movie as a key

The Pledge (2001) is a small big masterpiece by director Sean Penn and lead actor Jack Nicholson as retired Police Detective Jerry Black.

The movie was not made as a crowd pleaser and so it has not pleased the crowd: it made only 19 million dollars domestically and 9 million abroad. (To be honest, I would be very happy to make just one million profit on something...)

The problem is that the Pledge is uncomfortably true.

We go to movies to escape reality, not to confront it in its full power in a way that makes us think about humanity long after seeing the episode.

The majestic scenery in British Columbia enforces the raw realism of the very well told story and gives epic proportions to the powerful performance of Jack Nicholson which relies on minimalistic acting. A genius of police work that nobody, not his colleagues nor the people closest to him, truly understand or appreciate.

The entire movie could be compared to minimalistic music style where much is said with few things and much is being left unsaid. The viewer fills in the gaps and this makes the experience so enticing and taught provoking.

Camera work is one of the keys to the success of the narrative. It is not documentary style TV but something much more - the viewer joins in the experience of the actor as the camera shows what he or she is feeling, seeing.  Viewer participation in the events is highly visual and thus intensive without any unnecessary explanation, the narration itself contains so much to think about and on many different psychological and sociological levels.

The Pledge describes people with sharp and realistic manner giving us glimpses of their deeper attitudes and motives. For example, the way the movie describes how Detective Stan Krolak (Aaron Eckhart) drives to suicide the retarded Indian man (Benicio del Toro) who was seen at the crime scene.

One of the ways the Pledge surprises us is its totally non-Hollywood and somewhat unhappy ending. We get the feeling that if only Lori (Robin Wright Penn) would have really understood the depth of Jerry's care for little Chrissy. At the same time we understand that it would have demanded a different level of maturity from the mother to do so. Unable to process what happened Jerry is in danger of losing his mental health and is left at the end of the movie like a fish slowly dying on dry land.

He went fishing for the murderer of children but did not catch the fish. God got the killer, perhaps Olivier, before.

The story is skilfully structured in two cycles, first introducing the serial killer in general terms and mapping his crimes, then bringing Jerry to the same cycle of events but now personally involved. The architecture of the narration comes from Friedrich Dürrenmatt who wrote the Pledge in 1958: Das Versprechen: Requiem auf den Kriminalroman,

The Pledge is a powerful documentary about paedophilia never ever approaching pornography itself.

It shows how even the most respectable men respected in the society could possibly be guilty of such heinous crime against humanity. The police has seen it all.

And it shows Chrissy as the perfectly innocent victim, angelic and beloved child.

Why would any male want to rape and brutally murder such a human being?

Exactly for that reason - because she is innocent, angelic, pure virgin.

Something clicks in the minds of some men and the normal lust after pure woman, after the virginity that God has created in women, grows into an obsession with devastating consequences.

In the movie the possibly guilty serial killer of young girls is burned painfully to death.

Jesus Christ had another suggestion:

"Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matther 18:5-6

It would be better...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One, Darwin, Lemaître and Jesus Christ

One God of Israel
The Jewish Credo is short but not simple and comes from Deuteronomy 6:4.

  שׁמע ישׂראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד   

Shema Israel, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Ehad
Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

The  is the cornerstone of Monotheism, the faith that there is only one God and not many as in Polytheism. The three great Monotheistic religions are all from the same root, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Jewish Credo is also a powerful and difficult to understand statement about the "essence" of the God of Israel, that He actively is One (and not many).

In Judaism, any teaching that "breaks the unity of God" is rejected outright but the definitions and conclusions are often quite subtle.

The One is also an important subject in theoretical Philosophy.

The Hebrew language in the expression in Shema Israel might also be taken in a more understandable and simple sense: the Lord is our God, only the Lord (and nobody else). 

Theory of Evolution
When Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) revolutionised biology with his Origin of the Species (1848) the Theory of Evolution was initially met with strong opposition from scientific and also from religious circles.

The two main points of difficulty were

 uniformity principle of Geology established some years earlier by Sir Charles Lyell (1797 - 1875) that his close friend Darwin and other scientists used in dating the history of life. The geological sequences in which key fossils were found demonstrated previously unimagined age of the surface of our planet and the presence of life on it.

There are still today religious Jews and Christians for whom the Biblical genealogies are the only correct chronological tool for dating the history of the universe. Based on calculating years from Adam on by the generations, the religious Christian year 2011 A.D. is year 5762 in the religious Jewish calendar which starts from the Creation of the world.

unique creation of man was shaken by the evolving scientific study of living organisms and species. Not only religious people were deeply offended by the suggestion that humans, the image of God according to the Bible and Koran, could have evolved from apes.

Modern biology does not claim that humans have evolved from apes. It is more accurate to say that humans are apes.

The scientific truth has conquered as it should have conquered and science has a tendency to fix its own errors - sooner or later.

One Life

However, why be so negative and deny facts of Creation?

Let us use the theory of Evolution to defend our faith in God.

For it provides a truly startling viewpoint to the entire history of life that has grown into the fabulous biodiversity of Mesozoic life and to such Cenozoic wonders as one of the largest mammals ever to live on land, the lazy Megatherium that lived some six million years ago slurping the leaves from its victim tree - six meters tall when standing - about the height of three tall men standing on shoulders. (Charles Darwin discovered its skull from the shores of Argentina while on his famous trip on HMS Beagle 1831-1836.)

Wonderful blue planet on orbit around its middle sized star in the big universe, the only place we know to have life. So full of life in fact that even today after five million years we humans have used the powers of domination given to us by God of Israel there still survive many species (yes, I am trying to be sarcastic.)

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
Genesis 1:26

The startling thing suggested to us by modern evolutionary biology is that LIFE IS ONE.

Without going into the details, research on the history of life assumes as the fundamental principle that there was one single point of living something from which all life upon planet earth derives in unbroken succession.

(Of course, this is been discussed. Perhaps there were several starts, as for example, the pansperma model could include: if life first came upon earth on meteorites from space... there may be more than one meteorite bringing life ... perhaps even today!  But this only moves the question of single origins back in time to where and when in the hostile early Universe life mysteriously began.)

Yes, the basset, the boa, the birch, the banana, the bird, the bee, the baboon, the baby of a human mother... all from the same single ONE point of origins. One tiny seed of life, so to say.

One universe
The Original Atom theory originally suggested by the Catholic priest and scientist Georges Lemaître (1894 -1966) and called Big Bang by the atheist (?) astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) is one point - if there ever was one!

According to modern Cosmogony the entire Universe, every cloud of dust, every cluster of galaxies, every star with or without planets ... all from the same single ONE point of origins.

One God of Israel
Let us keep all this in mind - one life, one cosmos - when we worship the One God of Israel, and His one and only son, Jesus Christ, Messiah, through whom everything that has existed, exists or will exist has been made!

including you and me.

If you believe that Father is God and Jesus is God and Holy Spirit is God so where is your One God of Israel?

Trinity in One is such a paradoxical claim - solely based on the divine revelation in the Bible - that it must be true!

We could claim that New Testament gives a closer look at the God of Israel than the Old Testament, bringing the Three Persons more visible through the words of Jesus of Nazareth.

While Jews are sticking to the old and do not have a concept of divine Son, we might claim that Islam has a doze of rationalism in the rejection of the ridiculous and even blasphemous idea that God could have a son with a woman.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Australian school books go CE

The world famous  Mayan calendar
End of world in 2012? (ref)

On September 5, 2011 an article in Intentious told:

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the independent authority responsible for the development of national curriculum, said BCE and CE were to be introduced because this was an increasingly common standard for the representation of dates. The focus of ACARA is, after all, on creating programs that support 21st century learning for Australian students.

A spokesman for ACARA explained that the little known term BP (Before Present) will be used when dealing with “very ancient history and archaeology, and allows for the teaching of more sophisticated understandings of representations of time.” A spokesman for Adrian Piccoli (Education Minister) said the minister was not concerned about the changes as the terms BCE and CE were now commonly used.
(See also the 3rd September 2011 article in Daily Mail on line)

Adrian Piccoli MP tells something about himself in his homepage. Wikipedia informs that
Adrian Piccoli (born 24 March 1970) is an Australian politician representing the electoral district of Murrumbidgee in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. He is the Minister for Education in the O'Farrell Government and the Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Nationals

Calendar and culture
Many cultures have selected the starting point of their calendar on the basis of some crucial historical event and often on the basis of religion. The close marriage of religion and calendar in most cultures comes from the religious feasts and festivals that take place at given times.

I write this blog on 12 November 2011 and used a nice online converter to get other calendar dates:

For Christians, the decisive point in time is the birth of Jesus and this is used as year zero. Because it is not in the beginning of things events took place either before Christ (B.C.) or in the years of our Lord (Anno Domino) more often left unmarked.

The date is 12 November 2011 A.D. (Gregorian) 29 October 2011 A.D. (Julian)

Jews count their calendar using the creation of the world as point zero.
The date is 15 Cheshvan 5772

Islamic calendar starts with the decisive event of Hijra التقويم الهجري‎ (al taqwim hijri) when Islamic prophet Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina on Christian year 570.
The date is 14 Dhu al-Hijah 1432

In Iran the date of this writing is 20 Aban 1390 Anno Persico which is counted from solar Hijra rather than lunar and starts from 621.

Ethiopian calender shows 1 Khedar 2004

Coptic or Alexandrian calendar has 1 Hatur 1728 and it is based on ancient Egyptian calendar as the Copts identify themselves - probably correctly - with the Pharaonic population.

French Revolutionaries wanted to mark the new beginning also in the calendar and so we have 21 Brumaire an 220 de la Révolution

The revolutionaries taking control of Burma also started a new calendar with year 0 for Myanmar. This replaces the traditional Buddhist calendar also used in Burma that begins in 638.

The list of calendars based on religion or history goes on. Ancient Egyptians watched the helical rising of Sirius very patiently... the cycle takes 1460 years! Roman calendar reminded populus romanus of their common ancestry in Romulus and Remus 753 BC until Julius Caesar changed it. The incredible Mayan calendar has found much interest lately among the people of Earth.

The point is that calendar is not just a convenient way of showing dates in some standard cold style like the C-14 radiocarbon dates B.P. (Before Present).

No! The world of calendars is a cultural thing that is deeply embedded in the psyche of the nations and in the religions of humans.

Is C.E. neutral?
The change suggested for Australian school text books has a very simple sounding explanation "because this was an increasingly common standard for the representation of dates". This is probably not the entire story, however.

But Adrian Piccoli and his friends in the government of Australia are hitting something with this change into something much more important and symbolic than just the suggested adopting to an increasingly common modern practice of using BCE and CE.

Common Era C.E. and Before Common Era B.C.E. notation after Christian years counted from year zero (Latin vulgaris aerae) was frequently used by 19th century Jewish scholars. It is a gentle but powerful rejection of the Messianic claim of Jesus. How could a Jew say "Before Christ" when his religion does not accept that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah of the Jewish people?

This is understandable for a sensitive religious Jewish person and as I told before, they have their own ancient religious calendar that meticulously determines the dates of the religious feasts following lunar calendar with dates reflecting the agricultural calendar of the Holy Land. Passover, for example, takes place during a full moon.

In a Christian culture, on the other hand, the use of C.E. may be seen as a gentle rejection of the faith that Jesus is Christ.

I think that the reactions of Australian Christians reflect this feeling that the secularization of historic dates suddenly in 2011 reflects a change in the value system of the modern Australian culture. A kind of change of calendars like in French, Soviet or Burmese revolutions!

Fourth beast in the vision of Daniel
I find it quite relevant to this discussion that in the book of Daniel that scary ruler makes many changes to the laws - and also changes the calendar!

23"Thus he said: 'As for the fourth beast,

   there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
   which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
   and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24As for the ten horns,out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
   and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
   and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
   and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
   and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
   for a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court shall sit in judgment,
   and his dominion shall be taken away,
   to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
   and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
   shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
   and all dominions shall serve and obey them.'

Daniel 7 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Theological Notes on Elephant Ears


Walt Disney greatly wondered the meaning of elephant ears that first caused such laughing among those ravens. He suggested a very useful function for them in the lovely animated movie Jumbo.

Thinking man
My point in these blogs is that the process of creating a hypothesis or theory to explain the evolution of elephant ears requires a lot of hard facts and also some very serious critical and creative scientific thinking.

But we know that Nature does not think. It just follows those laws of nature someone has set for it. We try to figure out in our scientific ways and by using our methods what those laws are and what environmental conditions were required for them to work and what special - perhaps punctuated - events have guided the evolution of elephant ears.

Thinking God of Israel

Nature is anonymous even if some evolutionary biologists give it divine impersonal abilities.

But the personal God of Israel claims that He is the Who, the I AM.

In His own word written by people inspired by the Holy Ghost that a personal I has made everything.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Gen 1:1

This implies that behind and in everything that exists there is a thinking person - a very creative one, whose closest image is the human being, thinking and creative man and woman.

This is not science, this is religion, and knowing the Who does not explain the How.

Let us rejoice and praise Him
When wondering elephants and mammoths let us rejoice and praise Him who has made them.

Let us not be like those idol worshippers Apostle Paul is writing about in his letter to the Romans

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."
Romans 1:20-21

Instead, let us, evolutionary scientists and laymen alike, glorify God in our writing and walking and talking and give thanks to him.

For without faith in God we do not really comprehend what is going on.

By faith we understand.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:3

By faith we also rejoice - at least some of us - when science explains how God created that amazing elephant ear using the toolbox of environment, genetics and evolutionary principles. And how he gave us the ability to figure it out.

By faith we know personally the Who because He has made it possible. And He is the source of our eternal rejoicing and worthy of praise!

Amazing elephant ear facts quoted from Wikipedia 
The large flapping ears of an elephant are also very important for temperature regulation. Elephant ears are made of a very thin layer of skin stretched over cartilage and a rich network of blood vessels. On hot days, elephants will flap their ears constantly, creating a slight breeze. This breeze cools the surface blood vessels, and then the cooler blood gets circulated to the rest of the animal's body. The hot blood entering the ears can be cooled as much as 10 °F (6 °C) before returning to the body. Differences in the ear sizes of African and Asian elephants can be explained, in part, by their geographical distribution. Africans originated and stayed near the equator, where it is warmer. Therefore, they have bigger ears. Asians live farther north, in slightly cooler climates, and thus have smaller ears.

The ears are also used in certain displays of aggression and during the males' mating period. If an elephant wants to intimidate a predator or rival, it will spread its ears out wide to make itself look more massive and imposing. During the breeding season, males give off an odor from the musth gland located behind their eyes. Joyce Poole, a well-known elephant researcher, has theorized that the males will fan their ears in an effort to help propel this "elephant cologne" great distances.[

Do you not agree that these facts learned by scientists do not reduce anything from our praise of the wisdom of God who has created this wonderful animal!

Message from Manny

Manny the Mammoth in Ice Age has a serious grudge against us humans

Let us pay attention to what Manny has experienced. For recent evidence again indicates that our ancestors possibly hunted to extinction in their fight for survival those marvellous majestic woolly mammoths of the Ice Age. (The dispute about the cause of their disappearance still continues.)

As responsible to God of Israel, our Creator, regardless of our greed for ivory let us not allow the hunt of modern-day elephants to extinction.

The Evolution of Elephant Ears

Hello, evolutionary biologists!

We do know that elephants have very long memory but probably they do not themselves remember how they evolved those ears and for what purpose. Neither do we.

So let us study and work towards a scientific theory that would explain to our satisfaction how elephant ears have evolved and for what purpose..

The more brave ones among the evolutionists will even use the active expression "Elephants have evolved their ears for the purpose of..."

Less brave scientists do not think that animal species actively evolved anything. It is generally assumed that all the features of an elephant are the product of many natural processes and have a given logic that operates on random genetic mutations as the living raw material in a specific natural environment.

The evolution of elephant and its ears, trunk, tooth and all the rest of this amazing animal has taken millions of years.

"The earliest known ancestors of modern-day elephants evolved about 60 million years ago. The ancestor of the elephants from 37 million years ago was aquatic and had a similar lifestyle to a hippopotamus."  (wikipedia)

The evolutionary explanation of elephant ears should be something that can reasonably be assumed to have helped the species in nature's ongoing fight for survival. For this it is necessary to figure out what could be the practical advantage of having such nice big ears.

The theory explaining the evolution of elephant ears should help us understand the differences in the ear sizes of modern Indian (Elephas maximus) and African (Loxodonta) elephant species.

Of course, it would be very important also to define what changing environmental factors have been at play in elephant ear evolution. What would be the best angle to explain in a systematic and rational way the strange growth of elephant ears? They are (according to my limited knowledge) quite unique among the known animal species that have ever been living on this planet.

Dwarf elephant skull 

The theory would be crowned by the discovery of fossil evidence demonstrating many ear size and shape variations to show from what kind of ear(s) the evolution started and to prove the existence of mutant variations from which natural laws gradually selected the most fitting ear model for the animal.

Unfortunately to science, softer parts of organisms do not survive well when buried underground or at the bottom of lakes so much of the study must be based on bony skulls of elephants and their ancestors - perhaps the skull features can tell something about the changes in the ears?

Luckily for science some of those enormous mammoths were buried swamps and deep muds and frozen under Siberia's extreme climate. Perhaps study of mammoth ears can suggest something about the evolution of elephant ears?

Good luck!

Homework 1:
Take the role of God of Israel, the Creator of the world, and design the head of a woodpecker so that it does not get head injury when looking for wood. Its head moves about 6m/s (20ft/s) at each peck enduring a deceleration more than 1,000 times that of gravity.

(For one recently suggested solution to this difficult task you may take a look at the work of Ming Zhang of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University here)

Homework 2:
Take the role of God of Israel, the Creator of the world, and describe how to use the lathe of environmental change and natural selection to create such a head for the woodpecker.

(If you figure out a reasonable solution, you can send it for review to Science or Evolutionary Biology as a pioneer researcher of the subject.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Kurt Russell Dark Blue (2002)

Kurt Russell said about the movie Dark Blue in which he acts Detective Eldon Perry:

"Perry's a change from characters I've played in the past," says Russell. "This is a contemporary film about real people, and Perry is as real as it gets. More than any other character I've played, he's a very real person; he's got a full 360 degrees to his character." (CBS News)

I could not agree more.

In this dark and thought evoking film resembling a documentary Kurt acts as Eldon Perry, a human being who in five days goes through dramatic change in his moral standing realizing what is really important in life. The fictional character, Eldon Perry, is a member of Los Angeles Police department's elite Special Investigations Squad (SIS) who has fully adopted the famed Jesuit principle - good purpose justifies any method of action, including murder.

The powerful and perhaps somewhat underrated movie is based on a story about police brutality and corruption written by American crime fiction writer James Ellroy (1948) who was inspired by the case of Rodney King and the ensuing violent LA riots in 1992.

Rodney Glen King (born April 2, 1965) is an American best known for his involvement in a police brutality case involving the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on March 3, 1991. A bystander, George Holliday, videotaped much of the incident from a distance.
The footage showed LAPD officers repeatedly striking King with their batons while other officers stood by watching, without taking any action to stop the beating. A portion of this footage was aired by news agencies around the world, causing public outrage that raised tensions between the black community and the LAPD and increased anger over police brutality and social inequalities in Los Angeles.
Four LAPD officers were later tried in a state court for the beating; three were acquitted and the jury failed to reach a verdict for the fourth. The announcement of the acquittals sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots. A later federal trial for civil rights violations ended with two of the officers found guilty and sent to prison and the other two officers acquitted. (wikipedia)

Ron Shelton (1945), the director of Dark Blue, is known for his movies about sport. In my opinioin his work is quite special because of the narrative method he uses to examine significant social issues as, for example, in White Men Cannot Jump (1992) which he both wrote and directed. (Can you put cultural and racial issues more succinctly then when the black man tells his white friend "You can hear him but you cannot listen to Jimi Hendrix!")

Truth about dark side of life
There are no simplified caricatures so common to USA movies aiming to please the crowds and to make some bucks. This one is uncompromising, cruel and depicts life as it is. Yet, in some deep way the sad story is very rewarding as it also brings out what is good in humanity and emphasizes positive values in the midst of the anarchy and violence. (Especially the depiction of the LA riots is amazing - can this kind of things really happen in modern United States?)

In Dark Blue Kurt Russell gives a performance of his life, powerful, believable and unforgettable. With very fine lines he draws the internal change that happened in Eldon Perry from a hardened investigator ready to commit crimes himself to the wakening of his conscience watching the ambushed Detective Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman) die at 12657 Juliet. When Sergeant Beth Williamson (Michael Michele) looks at him and tells "I wish you burn in Hell" we all believe, she means what she says.

The two men, Darryl Orchard (Kurupt) and Gary Sidwell (Dash Mihok), are chilling images of human beings living without any respect to the laws of the society or the Ten Commandments of God, our basic guide to life in this world. Sadly, they also are so convincing - there really are people who can kill four totally innocent shoppers in a grocery store just for a few dollars, which they, at the end did not even get from the corrupt Commander Jack Van Meter (Brendan Gleeson).

Truth about the best among us
Assistant Chief Arthur Holland (Ving Rhames) is a handsome, well-dressed highly moral character who aims to become the first African-American police chief in the racially tense city of Los Angeles. In most crowd pleasing Hollywood movies he would be depicted as the hero of the movie - what he is - and without blemish.

But as is the case in the Bible, even the best among us have their blemishes. Talk about King David and Batsheba, for example, a cold murder of heroic Uriah.

The complexity brought to the personal life of the character Arthur Holland greatly increases the reality of this movie and the noble behaviour of his beautiful wife Janelle Holland (Khandi Alexander) tells about the power of love and forgiveness in subdued tones that are therefore so much more impressive.

Family values
Family values - or lack of them - are a significant theme in Dark Blue. Sally Perry (Lolita Davidovich) is so effective as the desperate housewife who gets enough of her neurotic overworking husband and whose departure leaves the house cold and empty. She returns to the scene at the end of the movie with their son who is depicted beside her as a non-corrupted version of his father and grandfather.

No wonder Sally is filmed with such skill and intelligence - Lolita is after all the wife of director Ron Shelton and mother of their two children!

Movie about us, human beings
Although Dark Blue concentrates on police work and the impact on them of the very dark side of society they are constantly dealing with the movie is really a realistic and truthful description of us, humans.

Similar temptations, similar roads to corruption, similar total loss of human values, can happen in many different professions and even if the results are not as violent as in the world of police or army, they can be as devastating.

And yet, amidst all this evil that we people do, there is something deep inside every person, no matter how hardened criminal, that the Bible calls conscience (συνείδησις syneidesis, to know with).  Something built in every person by God and something that can have such dramatically good results as the downfall of Commander Jack in this movie.

Apostle Paul 
 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.  For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)

This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
Romans 2:12-16 NIV