Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Comics by a physicist

This dude makes killer comics that made me laugh quite a bit.
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p.s. make sure to read the alt text, it's funny too.


Very Much Hammering

New York's notorious Gogol Bordello takes its smashing Gypsy-punk rebellion nationwide.
Eugene Hutz--born in Soviet Kiev, shuffled through refugee camps across Europe, chief provocateur of New York's notorious Gogol Bordello--is no stranger to the strange.
His band is a mongrel beast, a sextet featuring Russians and Israelis on violins, accordions, guitars and horns, a maniacal Ukrainian singer (that's Hutz), an American drummer whipping it all into sweaty chaos. Hutz has called Gogol Bordello's music "Balkan Gypsy punk rock" and "rural Transylvanian avant-hard." Many have tried, but no one's devised more apt descriptions.
Gogol Bordello shows are wooly New York legend, a mix of surrealist cabaret theatrics and anarchic rock antics. Crazy stories abound--about the drunken Latvian prime minister slumped on stage, about late-night, plate-smashing, table-dancing debauchery, about hot candle wax guzzled along with copious vodka rations. The Gotham hype surrounding Gogol Bordello's stage show has reached such a fever pitch, Hutz won't discuss it anymore.
"I'm not gonna tell you anything about it," the singer says in pungent Slavic English. "All I tell you is that it will be approximately like circumcision, baptizing and a wedding at same time. It's a Gypsy secret."
If most bands washed up on rock's shores are yachting slicks with neat hair and easily identified target demographics, Gogol Bordello is the sleazy gang off a rust-hulked tramp freighter flying a Third World flag. Where do they come from? Where are they bound? Can the crew be trusted? Are they here for our women, or just our souls? Will they share their rum?
This fall, the band released the album Multi Kontra Kulti vs. Irony, and prepared for its first national tour. For all his personal experience with weirdness, Hutz says he's never ventured deep into America--and the prospect of doing so keeps him up all night.
"I am so wired I can't sleep," he says. "This will be my actual first trip through America. And I like that this time my music takes me on the road and not refugee program. That's a fuckin' nice improvement, too."
Whether America is ready for Gogol Bordello is an open question. The band has carved a unique notch in New York's music scene. Its approach--fanatically unironic and risky, prone to "trial and error," as Hutz puts it--rebukes the calculated retro-styles of many hot indie-rock poseurs du jour. The mayhem inspired by the band reportedly makes mainstream rock clubs nervous.
So in a few rock dives and many ethnic bars (and at this year's high-art Whitney Biennial), Gogol Bordello nurtures its public.
"We are definitely a very New York type of combination of characters," Hutz says. "Definitely more New York than motherfuckin' Strokes or some shit like that. We seem to appeal to all kinds of guys and girls doing strange hats. Lots of strange hats. It seems to be lots of Brazilian and Eastern European and all kind of drunk Italians and Mediterranean immigration transplants, as well as what you call fuckin' hipsters here. Which is not necessarily a bad word. From the stage you can address crowd in different languages. I speak four, so I can."
Gogol Bordello seems to be the sum of Hutz's obsessions: love for illicit rock and roll developed as a Soviet kid, consummated after his family's exodus to Europe and then the States; a fixation with East Euro peasant culture's ancient juju; a habitual urge to raise hell.

Hutz's dad played in a rock band at a time when Soviet authorities took a dim view of such capitalist decadence, introducing young Eugene to a variety of underground influences.
"I was probably first skateboarder in Ukraine," he says. "My dad brought me this thing from Yugoslavia in, like, 1980. And it wasn't bending, y'know? I don't know if the wheels were really turning. It was just a fucking thing. And nobody knew what it is. I just kind of liked freaking people out, kind of maneuvering for a while before I end up in the bushes. I just think, because of people's reaction, I grew to be attached to this provocative situation."
In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor popped, and Hutz's family evacuated big-city Kiev for the deep Ukrainian countryside. There, he steeped in the mossy musical traditions and mythology of a land then innocent of Coca-Cola and satellite TV, where violins were hand-carved only from trees struck by lightning.
Finally, atop this hybrid upbringing, set Hutz's love for authors like Nikolai Gogol, a Ukrainian-born genius whose absurdist tragedies previewed Kafka and remain some of the knottiest puzzles in Russian literature. In Gogol's world, overcoats come alive, noses go missing and dogs write gossipy letters. This aesthetic clearly influences some of Hutz's lyrics, wherein horny invisible men accost housewives and savage border guards stand watch over nonexistent countries.
"It's relevant in the sense of outsider's melancholic vision," says Hutz of the Gogol name-check. "It's also relevant for the grotesque."
All these influences are at play on Multi Kontra Kulti vs. Irony, a goulash of hilarity, sadness and riot. But what are these immigrant wanderers saying? Hard to put a fine point on it. But it seems Gogol Bordello's saying, "Look, the world is out to get us. You can retreat into self-conscious cool. Or you can fight back with every last weapon at your disposal."
"We combine music of Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Western music, particularly New York underground," says Hutz. "These kind of energies are the most interesting layers of culture. It's definitely not something that comes from magazines or from galleries. It's some kind of nasty thing, that make you go, 'What the fuck?'"
For all this high-minded/low-brow theorizing, Hutz stresses that Gogol Bordello is not a cultural exercise.
"We work in genre of a super-song," the mad Ukrainian says. "If you wanna think about it, and instigate all the hidden parts, you can do that. It's there for you. If you want to swing from a chandelier, and go fucking nuts, you can do that too. It's called super-music."

A fine-print liner note to Multi Kontra Kulti vs. Irony warns: "PS--It was your last summer before cultural revolution."Gogol Bordello has played in Europe, but never in Russia or Ukraine. Hutz once discovered bootlegged Gogol Bordello albums at a Kiev market, but not everyone back home is a fan. "The academic Ukrainian press has big problem with us, because we 'misrepresent the Diaspora,'" he says. "We apparently are bastardizing the heritage. So I guess we're doing something right."

Another good interview:http://www.skratchmagazine.com/interviews/interviews.php?id=102

Mountain of Sadness

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I think I may have posted this before, but I can't remember. This Andrew Lin dude is funny. The whole website is pretty funny. So I say, well I say check it out,




Monday, June 26, 2006

Throw ups

This is my wall over my drawing desk. You will see: a picture o' me

wiff, a sketch by Kagan McLeod, a boom box I made out of cardboard and

a paperclip (paper craft model!) my first comic with curtis, baxter

mutha fluffin stockman and some rad prints from www.radrobot.com 's

very own Bigtime.
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is a poster i made for DJ Afterpants's show. He loaned me a power

rangers movie that was on my desk, so I drew it. I didn't liek the

movie so much, but i never really liked the power rangers.
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is bazooka comics # 2, figured I'd post it. Look for it in the Campus

in september. It should be bigger but this is how it came out.
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Dudes and Dudettes! Check out this band. I think they're pretty rad. Instrumental only, but still good. I think they could be really great with a good singer as well, but sometimes it';s nice to have no words.


I was reading an interview with the Dillinger Escape Plan's singer and he said they were awesome, so i was interested to find out what kind of music he was into. It worked out well.

People in underground bands usually have the down-low on other underground bands.

Rock on dudes.

p.s. also to do with Pelicans http://www.aero-news.net/index.cfm?ContentBlockID=513f9028-0e57-4571-81fa-e8961a48fff5

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Da Vinci Code Essay

I was looking for a blog about octopusses when I came across this. I read it and thought it was SCATHING. That's kind of fun. Thought some folks might be interested i nthe topic. I like how the guy who wrote it is so mean. : ) i included one of the comments at the end because it gave me a case of the chortles.

Enjoy religious banter. . TODAY!

April 27, 2006 The Case Against The Da Vinci Code

I cannot pretend that The Da Vinci Code is a well-written book; but if it were merely a jumble of cliches, there would be little need to write against it. The Da Vinci Code does not ask to be judged on literary merit. The first page reads: "FACT:...All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate," and Dan Brown has made it clear in interviews that he thinks he's compiled a little encyclopedia of wisdom disguised as a thriller. Certainly his fans, or at least the ones I've spoken with, believe the book is more or less true, the kind of thing we might expect from a historical novel. But Brown's history is fantasy, and the accurate texts he describes don't say what he pretends they do. I suppose it would be possible to enjoy The Da Vinci Code as a goofy chase novel, but turning to it for facts on the history of religion is like turning to a Tarzan movie for facts on African ecology. There are some good fight scenes, but now you think lions live in the jungle.
In this essay, I'm going to be pointing out some of Dan Brown's more egregious errors and fabrications. There's really no reason to take my word for any of this, but the documents Brown cites are, by and large, easily available, and I encourage everyone to read them to check who's right (www.gnosis.org is a particularly helpful resource for primary texts). I am by no means an expert, but I was a religion major in college, and I've read a few books that were not written by crackpots, so I am not wholly ignorant on the history of religion. In this way I am different from Dan Brown.
All references to page numbers are to my copy of The Da Vinci Code (NY: Doubleday, 2003). I'm trying to keep this essay as neutral and accurate as possible, so any corrections or additions are of course welcome.
Brown's main thesis (which he is unable wholly to conceal was lifted from Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln's Holy Blood, Holy Grail, a book just as crazy but slightly less stupid than The Da Vinci Code) is that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child. Brown throws in a whole bunch of distractions, such as what Leonardo Da Vinci may or may not have believed about the whole thing, which are pretty silly when you start to think about them, but it's his bloodline of Christ thesis that's the heart of the book, and it's the one I intend to look at in the most depth, since 1. it's the part that people keep citing as fact and 2. it's something I know something about, (unlike, say, Parisian architecture).
The evidence Brown presents for this thesis is laid out by annoying eccentric Sir Leigh Teabing and smug "symbologist" (semiotician was too hard to spell) Robert Langdon in an interminable lecture to the unbelievably naive Sophie Neveu that takes up most of chapters 58-61, and falls broadly into three branches: The Dead Sea Scrolls evidence, the Nag Hammadi evidence, and the "mandatory marriage" argument. So let's take them one by one.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
Brown seems to think that the Dead Sea scrolls and the documents found at Nag Hammadi both contain Gnostic gospels (p 245). I can only assume Brown never read the Dead Sea scrolls, or even read about them, and just thought the name sounded cool. The Dead Sea scrolls are not, as he claims, "the earliest Christian records" (p245) but rather the records of a Jewish group in Qumran, probably the Essenes. The records may well predate any Christian writings (the dating is not uncontroversial) but in no way can they be called gospels or Christian. Needless to say they do not mention Jesus getting married; in fact, they do not mention Jesus at all (hardly surprising in Jewish texts that may predate his ministry).
Five minutes with a book like The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English should convince you that Brown is stumbling in the dark. I couldn't find a comprehensive translation of the scrolls online, but gnosis.org has a selection that may not be as impressive as Teabing's "poster-sized" photocopies, but has the advantage of not being all fabrication.
What does the Gospel of Philip say?
Brown's mention of the Nag Hammadi texts--a collection of Gnostic writings discovered in Egypt in 1945--is a less puzzling, or stupid, choice. Teabing reads from the Gospel of Philip, in Brown's translation:
And the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval. They said to him, "Why do you love her more than all of us?"
Teabing adds, "As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion in those days literally meant spouse."
First thing's first. Any Aramaic scholar, when presented with the Gospel of Philip, will tell you, "I can't read this." That's because the Gospel is written in Coptic, a language unrelated to Aramaic. The word in question is a Greek loan word, koinonos. I speak neither Coptic nor Greek, but I bothered to look it up, and this word can mean companion, wife, or spiritual comrade (much as the word sister today can mean female sibling, but is also used with a different meaning by nuns, churchgoers, black women, etc.). Type koinonos and Coptic into google and you'll get the same answer from any number of sites.
This is from the translation of the Gospel of Philip I read (translated by W. W. Isenberg and available at gnosis.org):
And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene [...] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her on her mouth. The rest of the disciples [...]. They said to him, "Why do you love her more than any of us?"
There are several differences here--for example, this translation was made by someone who knew what language he was translating from--and a quibbler could point out that the lacunae leave open the possibility that this passage may not be about what Brown thinks it's about at all. In fact, this version of the translation has some guesswork in it, too (with words inserted from parallel passages), and a version that more completely reflects the fragmentary nature of the text is at wikipedia and reads:
And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene [...] more than [...] disciples [...] kiss her on her [...]. The rest of the disciples [...]. They said to him, "Why do you love her more than any of us?"
Brown does not quote Jesus' response, which comes in the form of a parable that pretty clearly means that Mary Magdalene understands his teaching better than the rest of the disciples, and that's why she's favored. This is hardly a surprising response, as Gnostic gospels often glorified marginal figures: in the Gospel of Thomas, Thomas has the deepest understanding (and therefore gets special treatment), in the Gospel of Judas, Judas does; here it's Mary Magdalene.
Please note that Jesus' response to the question "Why do you like her better than us?" was not "Because she's my wife, you schmuck."
A few side notes on the Gospel of Philip
We should note that the Gospel of Philip uses the word koinonos in one other place as well, earlier on:
There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.
This is a confusing paragraph: Mary changes from his aunt to his sister, and Mary Magdalene is first identified as "the one who was called his companion" and then "his companion." Depending on the meaning of koinonos, it can make a big difference.
The point is, these are not clear and simple passages, as Brown would have you believe. Even the word "kiss" may not be as sexy as we think it is. We all know that Jesus and Judas kissed at least once; Romans 16:16 enjoins us to "greet one another with a holy kiss." Look up "kiss" in a biblical concordance and see how many of the references you find are sexual. Certainly we've become accustomed, in a snickering, junior high fashion, to interpreting nonsexual relationships as sexual. "Just think about it," we say while high fiving each other, "Bert and Ernie are totally gay!" It's very easy for us to misinterpret the behaviors of a past not too long gone, a time in which straight people of the same sex used to sleep in the same bed, like Laurel and Hardy, and think nothing of it. The sexual mores of two thousand years ago might be even harder to parse correctly.
Here's what the Gospel of Philip itself has to say about kissing:
For it is by a kiss that the perfect conceive and give birth. For this reason we also kiss one another. We receive conception from the grace which is in one another.
This may not be clear out of context, so here's the complete "saying."
The heavenly man has many more sons than the earthly man. If the sons of Adam are many, although they die, how much more the sons of the perfect man, they who do not die but are always begotten. The father makes a son, and the son has not the power to make a son. For he who has been begotten has not the power to beget, but the son gets brothers for himself, not sons. All who are begotten in the world are begotten in a natural way, and the others are nourished from the place whence they have been born. It is from being promised to the heavenly place that man receives nourishment. [...] him from the mouth. And had the word gone out from that place, it would be nourished from the mouth and it would become perfect. For it is by a kiss that the perfect conceive and give birth. For this reason we also kiss one another. We receive conception from the grace which is in one another.
I suppose a Da Vinci Code apologist could claim that this paragraph sets up a relationship between kissing and paternity, but, really, I think it's clear that we're talking here about spiritual birth, and the power to be reborn by hearing words (or the Word); and spiritual kissing as well.
In The Da Vinci Code, at this point, "Teabing flipped through the book [of Gnostic Gospels] and pointed out several other passages that...clearly suggested Magdalene and Jesus had a romantic relationship" (p246). Brown quotes the best one that I've found, from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene (which was among neither the Nag Hammadi nor the Dead Sea finds): "Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman" (5:5), which isn't much. Note that in the Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 3525 fragment of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Mary Magdalene kisses all the disciples, but not Jesus (I couldn't find the fragment online, but Karen King's translation appears in her book The Gospel of Mary of Magdala). I'd like to see these several other passages. They can't be all that clear, or Brown would have quoted them instead of the vague and murky section of Philip.
But although Philip is vague and murky, it is Brown's best evidence. Although the reconstruction of the text he gives is (as we saw above) hardly certain, I think it's a pretty plausible reconstruction. And although his is hardly the only way to interpret the Gospel of Philip, it's a possible longshot interpretation. Unlike most of the things Brown says, which are stupid or crazy, it is indeed possible that the text of the Gospel of Philip points to a "romantic relationship" between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The question at this point becomes: Why should we care what the Gospel of Philip says?
How old is Philip anyway?
Brown has a ready answer: Philip is one of the "unaltered" gospels. It's one of "the earliest Christian records," remember? Brown needs us to believe that all other documents in history are fakes, and one he has arbitrarily designated is the only one that's true.
Experts who know more than I date the Gospel of Philip to the late third century. It might be earlier, but no one thinks it's much earlier. The canonical gospels as we know them, everyone agrees, all date from the first century, except perhaps John, which a minority of scholars put in the opening years of the second. Now, when I refer to experts and scholars, I am referring to secular scholars. These are not people with an axe to grind, these are not Christians looking to shill for a religion. The Vatican did not "get to them," although it might be convenient for Brown to believe it has. That's because either the vast majority of secular scholarship is wrong or Brown is. Could it be that Brown alone knows the true dates of composition of these texts?
The Gnostic gospels could not possibly predate the canonical gospels because Gnosticism as a school of thought did not exist until after the canonical gospels had been written. The only so-called Gnostic gospel with any claim to priority is the Gospel of Thomas. It's a fascinating document, but 1. it's probably not as old as people first thought it to be and 2. it doesn't support any of Brown's claims anyway.
Dating ancient manuscripts is always controversial, but wikipedia supports the claims about Philip I've made above.
But perhaps you don't want to believe the experts. Perhaps you prefer to come to conclusions on your own. Then just read the Gospel of Philip and then get a bible and read one of gospels you find there. I think you'll find that that Gospel of Philip keeps referring to the Gospels in order to contradict them. For example, Philip has:
Some said, "Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit." They are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman. Mary is the woman whom no power defiled. She is a great anathema to the Hebrews, who are the apostles and the apostolic men. This virgin whom no power defiled [...] the powers defiled themselves. And the Lord would not have said "My Father who is in Heaven" unless he had another father, but would have said simply "My father."
Or again:
Those who say that the Lord died first and [then] rose up are in error, for he rose up first and [then] died.
In both these cases, Philip mentions, and presupposes, an existing order of belief, which can be found in the canonical gospels. The canonical gospels don't refer to Philip, while Philip actually quotes Matthew in the first extract. Philip is written in reaction to the canon. Doesn't this imply that Philip comes later?
And really, I defy anyone to read the Gnostic gospels and the canonical gospels and conclude the Gnostic gospels came first. The canonical gospels are introductory texts: anyone could pick one up and come away with a pretty good idea of what Jesus' ministry was about. The Gnostic gospels (and I'm referring not just to Philip here, but Philip is a prime example) require a prior knowledge of a complicated philosophical system. One is narrative, the other is commentary. When the Gnostic gospels do offer a narrative, we get something like The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a narrative designed to fill in the blanks left by the bible.
I suppose it's possible that Constantine somehow managed to doctor all the relevant documents so skillfully that he made the old look new and the new look old--but how likely is that? And why have we never found, among the caches of "unaltered" gospels, actual unaltered gospels? Where's the version of John where the wedding of Canna has Mary Magdalene walking down the aisle? Where's the version of Luke where Jesus says "Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare...except in the case of my wife"? If the Gospels of Philip and Thomas and Mary Magdalene and now Judas survived hidden in the desert, why not these?
The "earliest Christian records," incidentally, are the letters of Paul. I don't think anyone, except Dan Brown, believes otherwise.
By the way, we don't know for sure that the Nicene Council was in the habit of altering any books (as Brown accuses them); we do know, however, that the Gnostics were: at Nag Hammadi was also found a copy of Plato's Republic that had been modified to jibe with Gnostic doctrine. This is hardly the behavior you want from your best witness.
Sir Leigh Teabing was still talking, "I shan't bore you with the countless references to Jesus and Magdalene's union. That has been explored as nauseum by modern historians" (p247).
Brown loves to assure us he has innumerable sources without mentioning what those sources are. And these aren't even primary sources, these are "modern historians." Teabing eventually (p253) coughs up four titles: Picknett & Prince's The Templar Revelation (1998), Margaret Starbird's The Woman with the Alabaster Jar (1993) and The Goddess in the Gospels (1998), and Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln's seminal Holy Blood, Holy Grail (1983). It's a little dodgy that, with a mere four titles to produce, Brown came up with two by the same author, but I guess he was hard up to come up with four (although you wouldn't know Starbird (probably not her real name) has two books on the list from The Da Vinci Code, which gives titles but not authors to conceal Brown's desperation). None of the texts listed are scholarly articles appearing in peer-reviewed journals. All are fringe books written by non-experts. If you believe in Atlantis or the power of crystals, you'll want these books on your shelf. Imagine walking into a self-styled Egyptologist's house, and the first three books he pulls out are New Age "pyramid power" paperbacks from the 'seventies, while the fourth is by Aleister Crowley.
The first three books named have something else in common: they were are all inspired by the fourth, and their research draws heavily on it for both guidance and authority. They are essentially commentaries on Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
The work that started it all, Holy Blood, Holy Grail is an all-around better book than The Da Vinci Code, by which I mean it is better written, there's no tacked on love story, and the crazy claims are less overtly stupid. Everything interesting in The Da Vinci Code, (with the exception of the parts on Fibonacci numbers, which presumably come from a children's book) comes from Holy Blood, Holy Grail. "I've never heard of it," Brown makes Sophie say, rather cattily. But the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail have sure heard of The Da Vinci Code, and recently sued Brown for swiping their theories, a strange thing to do when you're ostensibly dealing in objective facts. If you're going to read just one crazy conspiracy book this year and you're sick of rereading Foucault's Pendulum, try Holy Blood, Holy Grail. But Brown can't really cite it as a valid historical source; he might as well cite Chariots of the Gods or, for that matter, Preacher comics.
Frankly, the line from the Gospel of Philip quoted above--"The father makes a son, and the son has not the power to make a son"--may not be the clearest statement, but it is still a clearer statement that Jesus had no son than any Brown has conjured up to prove he had.
In summary: The Dead Sea Scrolls do not say Jesus was married. One late text from the fifty-two found at Nag Hammadi may or may not suggest in an obscure passage that Jesus was married; it postdated the canonical gospels by two centuries; it mentions no children.
All Jews got married, right?
"Because Jesus was a Jew," Langdon said... "and the social decorum during that time virtually forbid [sic] a Jewish man to be unmarried. According to Jewish custom, celibacy was condemned... [etc.]" (p245).
We've already seen that Dan Brown never bothered to read, or even watch a TV documentary about, the Dead Sea Scrolls. Maybe if he had, he would have learned about the Essenes, a celibate group of Jews who may have produced these scrolls. Here's Philo of Alexandria, writing in the first half of the first century, on the Essenes:
Furthermore they eschew marriage because they clearly discern it to be the sole or the principal danger to the maintenance of the communal life, as well as because they particularly practise continence. For no Essene takes a wife...[etc.] (Fragment of the Apology for the Jews, XI).
It should be noted that many scholars have theorized that Jesus may have been influenced by the Essenes. When they bring this up they're usually talking about Jesus' thought on the end times or Satan, but if he was going to pick up these thoughts from them, why not their thoughts on marriage, too?
Furthermore, in On the Contemplative Life, III, Philo speaks of another group of Jews who seek after wisdom and therefore habitually do not marry. This doesn't seem to be a separate sect this time, but just an expected characteristic of very religious Jews. (Details such as the celibacy of the Essenses are also mentioned in Josephus, so it's not like Philo is our only primary source for all this; he's just the only primary source I've read.) I don't know of any Philo sites online, but these quotes come from Three Jewish Philosophers (pp51 & 45 respectively). Philo is a contemporary of Jesus', and the picture he draws of Jewish marriage is very different from Brown's.
Brown's argument would be a strange one even if it were not demonstrably false. You can't really argue, "Jesus wouldn't have done that, it's not the mainstream for Judaism," when, clearly, many of Jesus' teachings are so far outside the mainstream of Judaism that in a few years his followers were no longer even Jews.
Meanwhile, Teabing is still talking:
If Jesus were not married, at least one of the Bible's gospels would have mentioned it and offered some explanation for his unnatural state of bachelorhood (p245).
Now, according to Brown's conspiracy theory, the canonical gospels are mock-ups designed to delude their readers into thinking Jesus was not married. Isn't it strange that the Nicene Council, when they were busy removing the innumerable hypothetical passages on Jesus' marriage from the gospels, never bothered to stick in a "P.S. Jesus never married and has no son"? After all, that was their whole reason for making the changes.
The bible makes no direct references to Jesus' marital state one way or the other, but have a look at 1 Corinthians 9:5:
Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?
Cephas is another name for Peter (see John 1:42). If you're going to name someone admirable who is married, don't you think you'd mention Jesus before his brothers and Peter? Wouldn't that be the thing to do if Jesus were married? Bear in mind that this example comes from the earliest Christian records.
The secret society
The holy grail, in Dan Brown's mind, is a collection of documents that overthrows the council of Nicea and proves, among other things, that Jesus was married with children, and that he was not divine, but a mortal. This collection has spent nearly two thousand years in hiding. Why is it hiding?
Brown has an answer, of course. It is that the Catholic Church would destroy the documents, should they get their hands on them. It's a movie-ready scenario: the persecuted underdog that knows the truth has to go underground to save itself from the nigh-omnipotent System. There's something wrong with this scenario, however: the Catholic Church is not the only game in town.
The year is 325. The Grail keepers (the Priory of Sion wasn't founded until 1099 (p157), so I can't call them that yet) have proof that Jesus was a mortal, but they can't reveal the documents in Catholic lands. As it happens, there's a large sect of Christians, called Arians, who also believe that Jesus was mortal. Two centuries after Nicea supposedly silenced all dissent, Arian churches control all of Spain and Italy, much of Germany, and parts of North Africa. Maybe these guys would want to see the documents. You know, the documents that prove they're right and prove the Catholics (only nominally Roman Catholics at this point: Rome is Arian) are wrong. Yet there's no indication that this was ever done.
But Arianism dies out, so perhaps the Grail keepers just missed their window of opportunity. And yet, to the east, there remain Nestorian Christians. Nestorians believe that Christ had a human and a divine nature, and keep the two theologically separate; if the Grail keepers have documents that prove Christ's mortal state, maybe the Nestorians would want to look at them. These would be an invaluable to them, not only in asserting Christ's mortal nature, but also in sticking it to those Catholics who have decreed all Nestorians heretics. Nestorians still exist today throughout Central Asia and into China; if they'd ever been given copies of these documents, none survive.
Starting in 362, the Roman Empire briefly became pagan again under the Emperor Julian. Julian hated Christians, and wrote a famous screed, Against the Gallileans, condemning them. A generous portion of this work, like much of Julian's writing, survives. Julian was born just six years after the Nicene cover-up would have started; but in all of his writings, including what might be the most damning sustained attack on Christianity until Nietzsche started in, he never once mentions the pre-Nicene beliefs that would have still been in living memory. You'd think he would.
(Julian even directly contradicts Brown by declaring that not Constantine but John the Evangelist contrived the myth that Jesus was divine.)
History has preserved neo-Platonic attacks on Christianity and Jewish attacks on Christianity and Christian attacks on Christianity, yet none of them mention the bloodline of Christ.
There have been hundreds and hundreds of Christian heresies. Pelagianism, Patripassionism, Tritheism, Donatism, Montanism--we know about them, and, although the church was certainly at great pains to suppress their belief, it didn't do it by extinguishing the memory of their existence. We can read about heresies in Augustine and Tertullian and Origen--in fact, we can read them all at gnosis.org. You'll note that the orthodox writers here often choose to describe the heresy before they refute it. None of them mention the bloodline of Christ.
What makes this one heresy so special that it needs to be treated differently, not refuted but forgotten? What makes the idea that Jesus had a child more threatening to the church than the idea that Jesus didn't die on the cross, or that he was just another prophet?
You know what it's really hard to keep for two millennia? A secret. Especially when the members of the Priory of Sion keep dropping hints, as Leonardo is supposed to be doing in his paintings, or Disney in his movies. And has any secret society ever existed for two thousand years? It's hard enough to find human institutions that have lasted two thousand years (although of course they do exist), let alone secret institutions.
Needless to say, the first thing secret societies do when they start is invent a history. The Freemasons really have been around for centuries, but their mythology has them existing for millennia. The history of the Priory of Sion, most non-thriller writers believe, is a hoax. At this point we should all read Umberto Eco's opening essay from Interpretation and Overinterpretation.
Those darn men!
Even when he departs from his favorite topic, Brown's grasp of history is a joke. He writes:
[The church's] brutal crusade to "reeducate" the pagan and feminine-worshipping religions spanned three centuries, employing methods as inspired as they were horrific.
The Catholic Inquisition published the book that arguably could be called the most blood-soaked publication in human history. Malleus Maleficarum--or The Witches' Hammer--indoctrinated the clergy how to locate, torture, and destroy them. ...During three hundred years of witch hunts, the Church burned at the stake an astounding five million women. (p125)
Now, nobody wants to defend the Inquisition, but Brown's indictment is a muddle. The Malleus Maleficarum was published (not by the Inquisition) in 1487; it was in this era that witch hunts as we know them started. Are we really supposed to believe that Europe was chock full of pagans in the fifteenth century? What three hundred years is he referring to here? Incidentally, the Malleus Maleficarum, while indisputably an influential book, was, according to wikipedia, in fact condemned by the Inquisition in 1490.
Also, I'd like to see Brown's source for that five million figure. Best bets are either he made it up or got it from a Blue Moon and Stars catalog.
Brown continues: "The male ego had spent two millennia running unchecked by its female counterpart" and now "today's world" is marked by testosterone-fueled wars, a plethora of misogynistic societies, and a growing disrespect for Mother Earth" (pp126-7). Now I hate the modern world as much as anyone, but what kind of fairyland does Dan Brown live in that he thinks the pagan world lacked wars, "testosterone-fueled" or otherwise? The classical pagan virtues are warrior virtues after all. (As for the rest of it: I can't even figure out what misogynistic societies he's talking about--the Rotarians? the Playboy Club?--and in what conceivable way is disrespect for "Mother Earth" "growing"? The phrase "Mother Earth," like the ecology movement and the movie Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, didn't even exist fifty years ago.)
Brown's not completely wrong here: there really were witch hunts and the church really did suppress and supplant paganism. But he's so naturally lazy and mendacious that he can't help but bungle the facts and get mixed up in meaningless Cosmo rhetoric.
While we're at it, phi does not equal 1.618 (p93) any more than pi equals 3.141. It's an irrational number, Would it kill him to look this stuff up?
And finally, there's the claim: "In ancient Greek, wisdom is spelled S-O-F-I-A" (p321). No; no it isn't.
In conclusion
Dan Brown, like most con artists, preys upon the ignorance of his victims. Since he's writing about subjects most people don't know much about, he feels free to make things up and pass it all off as history. There's about as much evidence that Jesus was married with children as there is that he had a peg leg.
It's probably the case that Brown's primary error is not one of fact but of interpretation. The fact that he's willing to make things up to justify his theories merely makes him unscrupulous and amoral--his real problem is that he doesn't know how to analyze any of the facts he has. Everything falls into place for him because he never stops to think whether a possible connection is probable.
If every time you see a circle you see a "feminine circle of protection" (p45), you're going to see a lot of feminine symbols; if you don't realize that circles can mean other things, too, you're going to be misinterpreting some things. Sophie claims skill in "extracting meaning from seemingly senseless data" (p78); but sometimes data is senseless, like a Rorschach blot, and what you're extracting from it is not meaning. "Of course, the Little Mermaid's flowing red hair was certainly no coincidence either" (p262). Of course.
I leave this to a hermaneuticist; our concern here is with historical facts as best we can determine them. Don't take the word of a charlatan with a bad prose style. Read the texts he ineptly tries to cite; read some background by real scholars (I recommend Elaine Pagels's The Gnostic Gospels).
Make sure to read my upcoming essays, "Why We Love The Da Vinci Code" and "Infelicity and Cliche: Style in The Da Vinci Code" (featuring sentences like: "The epithet, despite sounding flattering, was really quite to the contrary" (p157).
And if you're really desperate to believe an implausible conspiracy theory disguised as a novel, try Illuminatus!, which is a great book and has John Dillinger in it. Anything but The Da Vinci

Code.posted by halifax :: email :: 04:10 AM

Comments: The Case Against The Da Vinci Code
Jesus had a peg leg?!
What a scoop!

posted by N. at April 27, 2006 10:38 AM [+] 205

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


is a funny dude.

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Check out Joe Loves Crappy Movies for quality movie reviews and funny comics that go with 'em.


<a href=http://www.digitalpimponline.com/strips.php?title=movie>CLick?<a/>

or this


Fun Image Dump

Perusing the nerd-web I came across these pictures that made me think that sharing was fun.

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HAHA! Home taping.

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Oh Roband Elliot, so many laffs, so many good times.

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The enviable Mike Giant. Very cool.


Rock and roll folks!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My freakin head

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Made this is paint, looks better if you squint at it. Or maybe stand across the room. The eyes are problematic. Paint only has three spray paint sizes, none of them any good for details. Otherwise i'm kind of impressed with myself.


Zoot zoot.

More amazing art

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Possibly my best work.

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This comic was not represented with it's hilarious brethren. Enjoy.
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Mark Jenkins is still rad.

This is the same guy who made those tape babies I blogged about a long while back. This is a tape man, dressed up and somehow embedded into the wall. So cool.
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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Unchained melody

Oh boredom, you are a cruel mistress.

Film: The Break-UpAfter I was bitten by a radioactive walrus, I began to notice strange things happening to my body. I gained a lot of weight, my front teeth grew out over my lower lip into huge tusks and I could sense the presence of killer whales and sharks. After a few months of training a preperation I asked out Jennifer Aniston. She said yes and I was able to enjoy her new waxing you get to see in the Break Up. Thank god for my new tusks. Vince Vaughn is a pretty funny dude, but their relationship won't last (no tusks you see). The ending of the movie was a little anti climactic and a car chase would have been nice.Rock and roll.( 7/10 )

Film: The Da Vinci CodeThree things in the Da Vinci code confused me:1) Why is the Green Lantern's weakness the colour yellow?2) Why do they call him Silent Bob anyway?3) Why didn't Tom Hanks do it with Jesus' totally hot great great great great great grandaughter? I would've. Like when he got old in Big and did it with that 30 something chick. Hells yes.Rock and roll.( 6/10 )

Film: X-Men 3: The Last StandThe other day I was huffing chainsaw oil in a couche tard bag behind the hospital and I had an epiphany. Famke Janssen is the last scion. How do I know this? The arch angel Gabriel came down to see me in a dream. He had a green scooter and Dr. Scholls sandals. It was wacky. We drank Cream Soda and ate Combos. There was no end to his indecipherable comments about X-Men. His favourite X-Man is Nighcrawler. I can understand that. he's a pretty rad dude.The moral of this story is: Sharing is Ok but taking things from poor people is probably more likely to happen (if you're a rich dude) Gnarly movie, lots of ka-booms and I laffed a couple times. Way better than cats.( 9/10 )

Monday, June 12, 2006

Talkin bout a Revolution

If you would like to read a book about living for free off of suburban excesses, stealing, squatting and dumpster diving. . you should. If you think you might enjoy a novel that makes you want to jump o nthe next passing train and see where it goes and when you get there, steal. . .mayhaps you should read this book. I have to warn you how tempting it will be when you read it.

Here you go.



Nacho Libre

I'm keen to see Nacho Libre when it comes out. iread and article that mentioned that it was based (loosely) off of a true story. This piqued my curiousity. So, here is the real story. it's pretty cool.

Masked Warriors In Mexico

Universal Journal
Masked warrior in the grip of God


TEOTIHUACAN, State of Mexico -- In the pantheon of Mexico's wrestling champions, few fighters can claim to have been heroes outside the ring as well as within it. Fray Tormenta won the loyalty of thousands of fans in a career which spanned 23 years and more than 4,000 bouts.
Like most Mexican wrestlers, Fray Tormenta ("Friar Storm" in Spanish) fought incognito, concealing his true identity beneath a golden cape, a yellow leotard with "FT" emblazoned in red across his chest, and a red and yellow mask.
The disguise allowed Tormenta to maintain one of the best-guarded secrets of the underworld of Mexican wrestling, a pantomime embodying all that is good and evil, tragic and comic. In real life, Fray Tormenta is a priest, who took up wrestling to raise money for his home for abandoned children.
His name is the Rev. Sergio Gutierrez Benitez, and he lives in Teotihuacan, a village outside Mexico City which was once a pilgrimage site for Aztec kings.
Father Sergio was organizing the afternoon's activities at the orphanage. He is a small, bespectacled, energetic man, at once stern and affectionate towards the 80 boys in his care. In his dog collar and immaculate white shirt, he was unrecognizable as the wrestler who felled opponents with double somersaults, boots colliding against chests in mid-air, and pinned rivals to the ground with crippling arm locks. Only his broad torso, still powerful at the age of 53, betrayed a lifetime of athletic training.
What had driven Father Sergio to lead a double-life: a priest by day, a masked wrestler by night, and how he had managed to keep it secret for so long.
"It is simple," he began. "No one would have taken me seriously as a wrestler had they known I was a priest. The fans, the impresarios, thought my nom de guerre was a joke, like all the other characters we impersonate in the ring. No one believed there was a real priest concealed behind the mask of Fray Tormenta."
Wrestling, he said, had been a lifelong passion. The priesthood came later.
Father Sergio grew up in a rough neighborhood in Mexico City, where wrestling was more popular than soccer, and a means of self-defense.
He was one of 18 children, and his parents had little money for education. He drifted to the port of Veracruz, hung out with pimps and prostitutes, and became hooked on drugs.
"The day I hit rock bottom, I went to see a priest for help. He chased me out of the church. I was so angry, so incensed, I thought there ought to be better priests in this world to help people like me."
But he was accepted by a Spanish order dedicated to teaching. He was 22. His theological training took him to Rome, and then Spain, and for a while he taught philosophy and history at Roman Catholic universities in Mexico. But he had still not found his true vocation.
A chance encounter with a street urchin, sleeping rough under a bridge in Veracruz, moved Father Sergio to ask his superiors' permission to found an orphanage. It was denied. So he left the Scholastic Order and joined the diocese of Texcoco, where the bishop and villagers of Teotihuacan raised funds for Father Sergio's home.
But money was always running out. No child was ever turned away, even when Father Sergio had no idea where the next meal would come from.
"I became a professional wrestler because I had a cause. If it weren't for my children, there would have been no reason to fight," he explains.
Like most poor boys who dream of becoming wrestling champions, Father Sergio thought he would earn millions if he became a prizefighter. He endured dislocated arms, a broken nose, three cracked ribs and several mangled fingers, but never made a fortune, in spite of a career that took him to Japan 14 times and to the US 70 times.
"The most I was ever paid was 5,000 dollars for a bout in Japan," he says, "but I am no longer disappointed. My boys are fed and clothed.
They have all gone to school. One is now a doctor, three are lawyers, 12 are computer analysts and 16 are schoolteachers." His kids, he says, are his proudest achievement.
It was easy to conceal his true identity. Mexico, he says, is a country of masks. "Whether out of fear or self-protection, we rarely present our true face to the world. Mexicans are secretive by nature. Our formality is a shield against scrutiny. We use masks all the time."
Mexicans also have a passion for masked heroes. At school, every child learns how Aztec warriors disguised themselves as jaguars and eagles to fight Spain's conquistadors. Following the earthquake which devastated Mexico City in 1985, Super-Barrio (Super-Neighborhood), Mexico's answer to Superman, emerged from the rubble to lead a successful protest movement which forced the government to build new housing for the capital's homeless.
In wrestling, as in guerrilla war, the mask bestows an aura of invincibility. A wrestler's disguise heightens his mystique.Conversely, there is no greater humiliation than to lose one's mask in a fight. Mexico's greatest wrestlers count their trophies in the number of rivals they have unmasked, like Mohican warriors with their scalps.
Fray Tormenta's unmasking was less dramatic, and carried none of the humiliation of defeat in the ring.
He was celebrating mass one Sunday in Teotihuacan. A fellow wrestler, who calls himself "Hurricane," happened to be in the congregation. He thought he recognized Father Sergio's voice, and his build matched Fray Tormenta's, a frequent opponent. After mass, Hurricane approached Father Sergio.
"So you really are a priest," he exclaimed, and the secret was out.
Fray Tormenta continued to fight for a few more years. His fans, and the donations to his orphanage, multiplied. In February, however, doctors diagnosed diabetes and a heart ailment, and advised him to retire from wrestling.
On the last Friday night in May, the Arena Mexico, the mecca of Mexican wrestling, was packed for Fray Tormenta's emotional farewell.
The Last Dragon, Mr Fog, Blue Panther, Black Warrior and the Saint, some of the greatest wrestlers of all time, came to pay their respects. So did the entire congregation of Teotihuacan.
The lights dimmed, bells tolled, and Fray Tormenta strode into the arena to climb on to the ring for the last time.
"Life," he said, quoting a Mexican proverb, "is but a brief masquerade. It teaches us to laugh with tears in our eyes, and to conceal our sorrow with laughter."