The Gospel of hatred

My union brother (National Writers Union) Charles Patterson has written a fascinating and, to my mind, persuasive article about how and why the stories we have received about Jesus were horribly distorted. In A Whiff Of Auschwitz: Mel Gibson and the Gospel of Anti-Semitism, Patterson writes,
The trouble with Mel Gibson`s film "The Passion" that opens in more than 2000 movie theaters on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 25) is not the film itself, but the gospel story on which it's based. The gospel story, which has generated more anti-Semitism than the sum total of all the other anti-Semitic writings ever written, created the climate in Christian Europe that led to the Holocaust. Long before the rise of Adolf Hitler the gospel story about the life and death of Jesus had poisoned the bloodstream of European civilization.
But read the whole thing. It makes a lot of sense to me. I've never (or at least, not since I grew up) believed that "Jesus" as talked about in the Protestant churches I knew, or the Catholic ones I knew of, had really existed. I supposed him to have been a folkloric composite of possibly several wandering magicians of Palestine in those days. Maybe, though, Patterson is right: It could have originally been one guy, but a very different guy and with a very different story from what is portrayed in the Gospels.


First, you've got to destroy it

For some mysterious reason, I've been put on the mailing list of a lot well-stuffed suits (just look at the pictures!) circling the moneybags of Halliburton, in an operation called Rebuilding Iraq. Lots of luck, guys.

WTC Memorial: my candidate

You can now see Susana Torre's submission (along with the 5,200 other ones) just as she presented it: Loss, Remembrance, Renewal . Here is another view, just the images and text. For my earlier comment describing Torre's proposal, see the December 10 entry in this blog (scroll down from 2003/12/13 to 2003/12/10). And just above that, on December 12, you'll find a reference to Torre's article on memorial designs around the world.

The end of the Earth as a habitable planet

A couple of days ago I was worried because scientists were saying the sun would "swell up and destroy the Earth in about five billion years." Now Al Gore tells me that we're in much more imminent danger: "Scientists project that within another 50 years, we may well see the complete disappearance in summertime of the Artic ice cap," which will bring huge disturbances in weather patterns. In fact, the disturbances have already begun, as Gore notes: "Skyrocketing losses from extreme weather events; and more frequent record heat waves, as in Western Europe last summer, when 15,000 people died."

Gore says that with "bold moral and political leadership from the United States of America… there is no doubt whatsoever that we could solve the world's climate crisis." I'm glad he's so confident. I'd like to think he's right, but -- bold moral and political leadership? From the American plutocracy that sees the rest of the world as theirs to plunder? Either we throw the bums out SOON, or we may see that the Maya were right: by their Long Count calendar, the end of the world as we know it is scheduled for 3 Eb 5 Kankin (21 December 2012).

Gore's statement is condensed in a full page ad in today's New York Times. For a fuller presentation, see his January 15 speech on Global Warming and the Environment. That same site has some ideas of what we can do to keep the Maya prophecy and the Bush plan for world disaster from being fulfilled.

Progress report

I've just spent the past few hours chasing translation job leads and remaking my AbraPalabra Translations page. I'm going to push this business -- it's been a lot more lucrative to me, dollar-per-hour, that the writing, though not half so satisfying. So, if you're in the market for a translator, or know someone who is, please keep me in mind.

In writing, meanwhile, I've also been busy. Monday I sent off a little essay that was really fun. It will be the introduction to the inaugural issue of a new English-language journal devoted to Turkish literature. Now why am I, a specialist in Latin American society and culture, writing about Turkish literature? Funny you should ask.

You see, in the course of writing my novel about 15th century Constantinople and the Ottomans who were besieging it, I came across a manuscript in pencil titled "Mihri Khatun, A Turkish Poetess of the 15th Century," by the Russian scholar Nicholas N. Martinovitch (1883-1954) in the Special Collections Office of the New York Public Library, along with other papers and glass slides of this multilingual cultural historian. It was such a charming and erudite little book, and Martinovitch had struggled for so long, and so unsuccessfully, to get it published, that I thought it should not remain ignored. I had a copy made and offered it to historians of Turkey, and now it is coming out in the new Journal of Turkish Literature, edited by the distinguished professor of Turkish literature Talat Sait Halman in Bilkent University in Ankara. And Prof. Halman asked me to write the introduction. I am delighted, and so would be Martinovitch, though it has been half a century since his death and about 400 years since the death of his subject, the "Turkish, Moslem, beautiful woman of a good, religious family, who remained unmarried, was highly educated, unusually for the time, took part openly in serious discussions with her countrymen, was the author of scientific works and, moreover, was a famous, prominent, distinguished poetess."

Other little projects include my articles for Monster.com, for Hispanics/Latinos looking to improve their careers. I just sent in my fourth one on Tuesday, but the only one up so far is the 1st, about dealing with the psychological stresses of immigration. And of course I'm still working away on that big book on Latin American architecture and urbanism, right now focusing on the Classic Maya of the 8th-10th centuries AD. It's fascinating. I'll tell you more soon.


Deadlines of the universe

I am always a little disturbed by news of the end of the universe, especially when the scientists themselves can't agree whether it will come in 35 billion, or 56 billion, or 69 billion years -- depending on just what's up with "dark energy," as reported today in a NYT article on the coming "Big Rip" by Dennis Overbye. With such huge discrepancies in the calculations, how can one possibly plan for such an event? I have enough trouble just planning to the end of the year, when I'm supposed to have my novel sold and most of the draft of the book on Latin American architecture and urbanism completed. But, if the universe is going to end anyway, what's the point?

Actually, though the end of time may be tens of billions of years off, the end of our world, and presumably of anybody interested in reading the books I'm working on, is scheduled for much sooner. "A more immediate problem," according to the illustration with the article: "The Sun swells up and destroys the Earth in about five billion years, well before the Big Rip." So much for phrases like "The immortal works of Shakespeare," or of anybody.

Not worried about an event five billion years away? OK, how's this? According to the sages of the Maya, the present Creation Cycle -- that is, everything we know -- which began some time in August (by our present calendar), 3114 B.C., is set to end on December 21, 2012. So, if there's anything you want to get done in our current universe, get busy!

Maya calendar