Friday, December 25, 2009

BAR Presents

Biblical Archaeology Review presents several special online only articles related to Christmas, well worth the read: An examination of Luke's account of the circumstances and events surrounding the birth of Jesus in The Nativity According to Luke How December 25 Became Christmas Mary, Simeon or Anna: Who First Recognized Jesus as Messiah? What is Christmas without a recitation of "Twas the Night Before Christmas?" - which popularized St. Nick and his magical sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. This rendition of the poem is accompied by some interesting historical background about the author of the poem, which first appeared in 1823 in the New York Sentinel. 'Twas the night before Christmas, [and] all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads. And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap. When out on the roof there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of midday to objects below, when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name: "Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!" As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky so up to the house-top the coursers they flew, with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too. And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot. A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk. And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Milwaukee is in the midst of a typhoon! It started raining yesterday afternoon after depositing about 4 inches of snow the night before, and except for brief periods it has rained every since (it is now after 10 a.m. December 25). Here is a photo taken through the panes of my front window. The glass is frosted with rain drops. Amazingly, there is still lots of snow on the ground even though the temperature has been above freezing for several days. Right now it is 40 degrees F! Holiday greetings to everyone from Mr. Don and I. This evening we'll be going to my sister Deb's place for Christmas dinner. Despite my eagerness over the past couple of days, Mr. Don insisted that we wait until this morning to open our gifts, which can be seen strewn about the living room in this photo. Last night we had our Christmas Eve feast - I made beef burgundy and it turned out just perfectly! We had carrots and noodles and a cucumber salad, and apple-caramel tarts for dessert while we were watching "The Holiday". It was a chick flick but Mr. Don liked it - Jack Black is so funny! While I was doing supper prep Mr. Don was a good sport while I watched "A Christmas Carol" for the umpteenth time and we entertained each other by reciting full lines of dialog :) Here is another Christmas photo of the living room with opened gifts here and there. I tried several shots of the Christmas tree but could not hold the camera steady enough - all of them came out blurry, arrggghhh!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


From The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker: Pithos Female-symbolic Holy Vase, used in the Eleusinian Mysteries as a uterine receptacle for corpses, to give them a blessed rebirth. The Goddess herself was represented by a vase or pot in the guise of Pandora the "All-Giver." (See Pandora). The identity of the Great Mother with this vessel of rebirth and regeneration was an idea commn to most ancient cultures, where the manufacture of pots and vases of all kinds was usually the business of women.(1) In Christian custom the pithos was transformed into the pyx or "box" that enclosed the body of Christ; and Erasmus confused the two vessels in translating the patriarchal version of Pandora's myth. Notes: (1) Neumann, G.M., 132-33. Pandora "All-giver," title of the Earth-goddess Rhea, personified as the first woman in an anti-feminist fable by Hesiod, who tried to blame war, death, disease, and all other ills on women.(1) Pandora's vessel was not a box but a honey-vase, pithos, from which she poured out blessings: a womb-symbol like the Cornucopia, anciently used as a vessel of death and rebirth.(2) Pandora's Vase became Pandora's Box only in the late medieval period, when Erasmus mistakenly translated pithos as pyxis.(3) Hesiod claimed Zeus sent Pandora to earth to punish men, who had offended him. She bore a vase filled not with blessings but with curses: strife, pain, death, sickness, and all other afflictions. Pandora in her curiosity opened the vase, as Zeus knew she would, and released them among men. In a refinement of cruelty, Zeus also supplied delusive Hope, to prevent men from killing themselves in despair and escaping the full meed of suffering their Heavenly Father intended for them.(4) The basic theme is also familiar in the myth of Eve. Hesiod's story was further adapted to the legend of King Solomon, who was said to keep a horde of demons in a vase. After his death, greedy men broke the vase in seeking treasure and let the demons out into the world.(5) Notes: (1) Graves, G. M. 1, 148. (2) Neumann, G.M., 267. (3) Larousse, 93. (4) Graves, G.M. 1, 145. (5) de Voragine, 353. More about Pandora: Standing female figure with a vase. Neo-Sumerian (c. 1800 BCE), from Mari. (See Witcombe, below) Pandora Well, there is a lot of baloney in the patriarchal version of the myth, since Pandora did not make herself - according to the Zeus version of the legend the Heavenly Father Zeus had Pandora specially created and thus she had no control over what attributes he had "put into" her. Notice in this legend that Zeus himself gave his own attributes to Pandora: idleness, mischievousness, and foolishness. Further, Pandora has nothing to do with the creation of the evils that Zeus specifically designed her to "deliver" upon mankind upon opening the "box." Those were of Zeus' own creation and, as I understand, placed himself in the vessle that he knew Pandors would open, the bastard. Typical of men to blame women for being "evil" when it was Zeus/God who made them that way to begin with. Ha! That only goes to show how much nonsense has been incorporated into the patriarchal glosses of much older goddess-based myths and legends. Cf. Prof. Christopher Witcombe's witty Da Vinci Code: Mary Magdelene's Jar: Mary Magdalen is the most accessible of the female saints, a real human being, unlike the lofty, remote and far too pure and unreal Virgin Mary. Part of her appeal, to be sure, resides in her embodying a fundamental female identity, which may be very ancient. Her principal attribute is the ointment pot or jar. And then there are the heated discussions about Mary Magdelene herself being the "sacred vessel" -- Holy Grail. In reality, it seems to me that Magdelene ("tower" - interesting chess analogy to the rook, which is Medieval times was the "tower" in Italian tradition) is a somewhat garbled account of a Jewish rendition of a much older female tradition in the Middle East (woman with sacred vase/woman as sacred vessel). That the Magdelene's tale was deemed important enough to be preserved in the "New Testament" despite the Jewish bias of the time against females, suggests that the Magdelene was, indeed, extremely important, although her exact role in the life of Christ appears to me to be hopelessly lost under countless glosses of the original accounts. However, perhaps hints of the Magdelene's importance remain in the Christian tradition of the Holy Grail.

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Hola! Mr. Don has arrived. We are very happy that he was less than 2 hours behind schedule, even having to transfer at O'Hare for the flight here. He arrived before 6:30 p.m. as I was just getting into shoveling out the driveway from yesterday's snow. We had a brief reprieve of weather earlier today. The temperatures have been moderate, but a storm is going to bring a mixture of snow/rain/sleet and strong winds over the next 2 days. It held off until about 3 p.m. or so. Today was a busy day working around the house. Don and I prepped areas of the woodwork in the kitchen, dinette and family room for painting and staining tomorrow. That was harder work than I thought it would be. After the insulation contractor came by early this morning and we had our consultation about insulating the sill cavities in the basement, Mr. Don and I bundled up and walked down to Meyer's Restaurant for a leisurely, delicious breakfast. Then we went grocery shopping and lugged everything the mile home through deteriorating weather conditions. Then we got busy with the prep work - (Photo from Kegel's website) Earlier this evening we had dinner with my friend Ann at Kegel's. Yum! Unfortunately, Mr. Don's digital camera wasn't working correctly, we can't figure out why since the batteries are practically brand new. None of the photos came out - all were too dark and they were also blurry. With the weather turning nasty - by the time we left Kegel's the streets were already snow-covered and slippery. It was certainly "christmasy outside!" Before bringing us home, Ann took us for a drive through Candy Cane Lane. It is an area on Milwaukee's southwest side where many of the neighbors decorate their houses to raise money for the fight against childhood cancer. It has become a yearly tradition for area residents to take a drive through Candy Cane Lane and on the way "out" drive past Santa, who holds a bucket to collect contributions and doles out free candy. Don had never seen anything like it as, block after block, we slowly drove through the neighborhood admiring all of the decorated homes and beautiful lights and displays. With the snow coming down it was a perfect winter wonderland and perfect night for the tour, and we had lots of company! Finally, we were at the "end" and there was Santa! We put a donation for the three of us into his bucket and received hard candy in return. Thanks, Santa. It was a very enjoyable finish to a lovely dinner with Ann. Don couldn't stop talking about Candy Cane Lane for the next couple of days :) As we arrived home from Kegel's, a UPS truck pulled up and delivered a large package of goodies from Omaha Steaks, courtesy of Isis and Michelle! So now the freezer is filled with lots of good things to eat. Tomorrow I'm going to make beef burgundy for Christmas Eve supper, with candied carrots and a cucumber salad.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Different Target

Hmmm, well, things are developing on the home sale/home search front. Today I signed papers to release myself from my offer on Home #1. Suffice to say that the foundation issues were enough to scare me away, and I don't scare easily. Today I also received information that indicates to me more than ever that the buyers of my house have developed a bad case of cold feet. I have once again offered to release them from the contract. I have not heard anything back on that, but perhaps it is just a matter of time. With no potential buyers in sight, all of this may be an exercise in futility, although the folks who came through last Saturday found the house fetching. So - we shall see. In the meantime, I have set my sites on Home #2 (photo above). It needs lots of TLC but has great potential and, most importantly, has (1) excellent location for my purposes; (2) more space than House #1 and includes a natural fireplace and unfinished patio area conveniently located to the house, which House #1 did not have; and (3) is less expensive. So - we shall see. If I get the clearances from the seller on House #1, I will put in an offer on House #2.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?

From the Smithsonian online, Lawler's lengthy article: Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? Resolving the dispute over authorship of the ancient manuscripts could have far-reaching implications for Christianity and Judaism By Andrew Lawler Smithsonian magazine, January 2010 ... [excerpt] Tour guides shepherding the tourists through the modest desert ruins [of Qumran] speak of the scrolls’ origin, a narrative that has been repeated almost since they were discovered more than 60 years ago. Qumran, the guides say, was home to a community of Jewish ascetics called the Essenes, who devoted their lives to writing and preserving sacred texts. They were hard at work by the time Jesus began preaching; ultimately they stored the scrolls in 11 caves before Romans destroyed their settlement in A.D. 68. But hearing the dramatic recitation, Peleg, 40, rolls his eyes. “There is no connection to the Essenes at this site,” he tells me as a hawk circles above in the warming air. He says the scrolls had nothing to do with the settlement. Evidence for a religious community here, he says, is unconvincing. He believes, rather, that Jews fleeing the Roman rampage hurriedly stuffed the documents into the Qumran caves for safekeeping. After digging at the site for ten years, he also believes that Qumran was originally a fort designed to protect a growing Jewish population from threats to the east. Later, it was converted into a pottery factory to serve nearby towns like Jericho, he says. Other scholars describe Qumran variously as a manor house, a perfume manufacturing center and even a tannery. Despite decades of excavations and careful analysis, there is no consensus about who lived there—and, consequently, no consensus about who actually wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. “It’s an enigmatic and confusing site,” acknowledges Risa Levitt Kohn, who in 2007 curated an exhibit about the Dead Sea Scrolls in San Diego. She says the sheer breadth and age of the writings—during a period that intersects with the life of Jesus and the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem—make Qumran “a powder keg” among normally placid scholars. Qumran has prompted bitter feuds and even a recent criminal investigation. ... Opening on January 22, 2010, the Milwaukee Public Museum is one of a few museums in the United States to present Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible: Ancient Artifacts, Timeless Treasures. Limited engagement: Courtesy École biblique et archéologique française de JérusalemDead Sea Scrolls and the Bible: Ancient Artifacts, Timeless Treasures brings together archaeological objects and manuscripts to tell a story 2,000 years in the making. Witness actual Dead Sea Scrolls and other early biblical artifacts to learn how transmission of these early writings has shaped the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity and influenced aspects of Islam. The largest temporary exhibit ever produced by the Milwaukee Public Museum, Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible explores the archaeological history of the Holy Land during the period the Scrolls were written, from the third century BCE through the first century CE. The exhibit also tracks the discovery of the first Scrolls and subsequent realization of their extraordinary significance.

Gaziantep, Turkey Steps Forward for Women's Chess

News for women's chess: Chess dudes reach an agreement on hosting women's chess events. From left to right: Vice General Secretary of the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality (GMM) Mr. İbrahim Evrim, Prof. Dr. Kıvanç Güngör, Ali Nihat YAZICI, the Major of Gaziantep Dr. Asım Güzelbey, Boris Kutin, General Secretary of GMM İbrahim Fuat Özçörekçi, Mr. Fatih Ekinci Ach, I know using the term "women's chess" raises the hairs on the back of some necks, but let's face it - there is a chess ghetto where female chess players reside because they mostly play each other, only in women's events, and therefore practically guarantee lower ratings for themselves. Well, says I, why shouldn't the women receive the same level of prize funding as the chess dudes? Is it their fault that they may be rated 300 ELO points lower than the 'best' chess players in the world, or is it the system that reinforces and perpetuates the differences between top women's and top men's ELOs? It's not as if the chess femmes play any less fiercely against each other than their male counterparts do, and - there is some justification for the view that female players actually play more fiercely and with killer instinct that the top male players, who tend toward those "grandmaster draws" following well known boring "lines" when playing each other. Exhibit Number One is the remarkably few draws played by the chess femmes in the 2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship. Whatever. There is some excellent news for female chess players that came out of Turkey last month. Since my desktop is still down and today I couldn't figure out how to get it directly linked to DSL (I thought I was doing it right), I don't have access to the program that I use to publish Chess Femme News at Goddesschess, which I had hoped to get back up and running and update, so now I'm like two months behind - but that's off topic. Here is the news, which I read at Susan Polgar's blog and also at Alexandria Kosteniuk's blog. In a nutshell, the FIDE chess dudes, the chess dudes of the Turkish Chess Federation and chess and non-chess dudes of the City of Gaziantep, Turkey have reached an agreement regarding hosting and providing prizes for the 2011 European Women Individual Chess Championship, European Women Rapid Championship, and European Women Blitz Championships with a prize fund of 150.000€ with projected prizes the same for 2012 and 2013 if Gaziantep wins the bids for those events. The prize fund will be a record and ECU and TSF will try to make the events a record in Guinness Book. 2011 is clear since there is no other bid for the event. Considering high prize funds, Gaziantep will be a strong candidate for 2012 and 2013 events to get it if there is no stronger bid to the ECU. Gaziantep Municipality Sport Club will also sponsor a female team in the Türkiye İş Bankası Chess League. The aim will be to win European Club Cup for women. In addition, over the next four years Gaziantep will invest in programs to promote chess for women and children and will open a chess museum. The goal is to start hosting many women's international chess events and make Gaziantep the premiere center for women's chess events. I laud these goals. Will Gaziantep and Turkey come through? Stay tuned...
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