Older blog entries for marnanel (starting at number 964)


I read today that in both Nazi Germany and East Germany the government would give you a loan when you got married, so you could buy furniture and so on, and for every child you subsequently produced, they would cancel a quarter of the remaining debt. My brain said to me, "So I suppose that was payment in Kind."

Syndicated 2012-11-09 15:59:18 from Monument

Justin Cantuar

My (long) answer to someone who asked me what I thought of Justin Welby as the new Canterbury:

Pluses and minuses, I think. Minuses: he's only been a bishop for a couple of years, and he's much-loved in Durham and my friends there report they're sorry to lose him (though that's a plus for the rest of us). And it is certainly not the best thing that he went to Eton, especially in the current political climate. But on the other hand he's a smart guy, he has experience running large organisations, he went into the priesthood for very good reasons, he's heavily critical of capitalism despite his background, and I think it speaks volumes that he sent his own kids to state schools. I could wish he was more pro-LGBT rights than he is (though despite what some have said I see no reason to call him actively homophobic; at worst he colludes with a homophobic status quo). But one of the important things with an archbishop is not so much what he himself believes, but what he's prepared to allow others to believe. I certainly doubt he'll drag the church to the right, as some have been saying, especially given his critiques of capitalism. Out of all the candidates, he was probably the best choice overall (Cocksworth would have been good, but I think on balance not quite as good). So I'm pretty hopeful about the next few years.

Syndicated 2012-11-09 11:18:39 from Monument

Millipedes update

Ucalegon, the female giant millipede, has been nesting deep in the tank of earth (and presumably laying eggs) for the last week or so, so I haven't seen her. Melchizedek, the male, has been appearing and disappearing. I don't know whether he's been actually bringing her food or what. Anyway, today I saw the middle portion of Melchizedek curled around (he often sleeps with his head and tail buried) and then I realised that the curl in the middle was a different colour. So Ucalegon is back and sleeping cuddled up to Melchizedek.

Syndicated 2012-11-07 23:53:06 from Monument

Biblical double entendre

I wish Bible translators would avoid double entendre. Two cases in point:

Psalm 16:11. The Episcopal psalter renders this as: "in your right hand are pleasures for evermore."
Luke 18:5. The NIV renders it as: "because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming."

I suppose I have a dirty mind, but it's really, really distracting, at least to me. I stop thinking about the text and start thinking about the double entendre instead.

Edit: After I posted this, I thought of a case where I've seen translators deliberately duck such a misreading: Luke 11:7. The Greek has the man saying his children are *with him* in bed. This is open to misinterpretation in our cultural context, so different from the original context where a household might only own one bed. As you can see in http://bible.cc/luke/11-7.htm there are translations which work around this by saying "My children and I are in bed"; I'd be surprised if this wasn't a conscious choice to depart slightly from the Greek.

Syndicated 2012-10-25 20:45:13 (Updated 2012-10-25 20:58:32) from Monument

Creeping things

This is actually the most recent hymn text I've written, but it may not be entirely serious.

As we see in your creation
creeping things upon the earth,
show us, with the caterpillar,
how to reach a second birth.

As the spider spins her cobweb
patiently to catch a fly,
grant us means to share your message
in the lives of passers-by.

As you granted limbs aplenty
to the peaceful millipede,
make our feet upon the mountains
swift to reach a world of need.

As the beetle digs the dunghill
seeking where its food is stored,
teach us that this world is refuse
set against our loving Lord.

Syndicated 2012-10-24 16:46:39 (Updated 2012-10-24 16:51:56) from Monument

Agustina Ruiz

The other day I discovered the story of Agustina Ruiz, who told the Mexican Inquisition in 1621 that every time she saw religious iconography she began to imagine herself having sex with the Virgin Mary. As a penance, she was sent to a convent for three years. And what better place to send her than a building full of religious iconography and women?

Syndicated 2012-10-24 14:14:48 from Monument

Medical calendars

I wish there was a common online calendar service that various NHS trusts used. Then a) I could set my email/SMS reminders globally; b) it could export live calendars so I could integrate it into Google Calendar or my phone and have new appointments just appear; c) it could check for clashes where two different medical services want me at the same time. I know how it would work at a technical level, but how it would be managed and paid for is beyond my comprehension, so I suppose I can't make it happen.

Syndicated 2012-10-23 16:04:18 from Monument

Collapsing viaducts

What is it about collapsing viaducts which produces terrible poetry? I'm sure you've heard William McGonagall's poem about the train wreck in the Tay. Here's Julia Moore's poem about another collapsing railway bridge. If it wasn't bad enough that all those people died in the Ashtabula disaster, it's even worse that the most famous thing that survives to commemorate them is this truly awful piece of work.

(P P Bliss was a hymnwriter. author of "Hallelujah, what a saviour", which is still sung today.)

Have you heard of the dreadful fate
Of Mr. P. P. Bliss and wife?
Of their death I will relate,
And also others lost their life;
(in the) Ashtabula Bridge disaster,
Where so many people died
Without a thought that destruction
Would plunge them 'neath the wheel of tide.


Swiftly passed the engine's call,
Hastening souls on to death,
Warning not one of them all;
It brought despair right and left.

Among the ruins are many friends,
Crushed to death amidst the roar;
On one thread all may depend,
And hope they've reached the other shore.
P. P. Bliss showed great devotion
To his faithful wife, his pride,
When he saw that she must perish,
He died a martyr by her side.

P. P. Bliss went home above --
Left all friends, earth and fame,
To rest in God's holy love;
Left on earth his work and name.
The people love his work by numbers,
It is read by great and small,
He by it will be remembered,
He has left it for us all.

His good name from time to time
Will rise on land and sea;
It is known in distant climes,
Let it echo wide and free.
One good man among the number,
Found sweet rest in a short time,
His weary soul may sweetly slumber
Within the vale, heaven sublime.

Destruction lay on every side,
Confusion, fire and despair;
No help, no hope, so they died,
Two hundred people over there.
Many ties was there broken,
Many a heart was filled with pain,
Each one left a little token,
For above they live again.

Syndicated 2012-10-18 00:56:06 from Monument

Least weasel

Please read this aloud:

"In some districts of Macedon, women who suffered from headaches after having washed their heads in water drawn overnight would assume that a weasel had previously used the water as a mirror, but they would refrain from mentioning the animal's name for fear that it would destroy their clothes."
Thank you.

(This is not because I think it might cause a weasel to destroy your clothes, but merely because I can't myself read it without corpsing.)

Syndicated 2012-10-09 02:10:00 from Monument

Sad and yet happy

I randomly got into a conversation about poetry with an elderly woman in a bookshop in Bakewell a few months ago, and promised to send her a copy of my anthology. Well, I just got an email from her daughter and son-in-law: she collapsed and died from a brain haemorrhage shortly afterwards, and they found the book on the doormat on returning from the hospital. They wanted to thank me for writing poems that have helped them through their grief. I'm not sure of the word for my feelings about this: sad and yet happy.

Syndicated 2012-10-08 18:46:43 from Monument

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