Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I've decided to dust off the bog for this one.

For some deeply masochistic reason, I've been doing something I don't usually do – read comments on public Facebook posts. Not every detail of the Mike Brown case is entirely clear, but the facts as we have them make it very difficult to see the cop as anything but guilty. Guilty, I'm pretty sure, of murder in the first degree but at least manslaughter. The actions of the the Ferguson PD – leaving the body in the sun for hours, smearing Mike Brown's character with information that is questionable and is certainly not pertinent to the case – have been clearly despicable. Still there are a number of people that have their own set of dubious "facts" and a passionate, if sick, conclusion.

First, they take it as gospel truth that Mike Brown attacked the Darren Wilson, although there is absolutely no evidence for that except for the testimony of the killer himself.

Second, they have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the Ferguson PD's race baiting and proclaim to the high heavens that Brown was a "thief," "thug," and weirdly, a "felon."

Third, They are deeply attached to the idea that a white policeman could not kill a black youth even mistakenly, let alone murderously. Even if Mike Brown had committed a crime and attacked the cop, there is still no justification for his killing (unless you accept the fantasy, against several eyewitnesses, that a wounded kid would charge an armed cop). Usually though, they leap directly from the alleged theft or the alleged attack to a simple justification for the killing: "He was a thief..." "That's what you get when you're a thug..." "Did he think he could just attack a cop and get away with it?" In the end, there is a simple process that goes like this: black kid + alleged crime + alleged marijuana use  + rap, "gang signs," etc. = an irredeemable criminal who deserves nothing better than to be shot dead on the street.

All this about an eighteen-year-old kid.

This is what racism is about and this is what the protests in Ferguson are about. The Mike Brown murder is just another element in a long line of devaluing the citizenship and the very lives of African-Americans, something that apparently is a regular occurrence in Ferguson. It seems that a substantial sector of white America is complicit in this process, the deep, dark dismissal of the humanity of millions of their fellow citizens.

A couple of links: This series of tweets explains why the case against Wilson is s strong, and how the appeals to racism work. Ta-Nahisi Coates on Ferguson.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Miniature Story

I decided to contact the exorcist once I realized I had given the entire lecture in Akkadian, an ancient Mesopotamian language I do not know. I wished to consult him not only on my behalf, but also on that of my students, all of whom dutifully took notes in cuneiform.

Monday, December 17, 2012

After mourning, action

This was something I posted on Facebook, but I'm putting it here to give it a more permanent home and to perhaps breathe some life into the blog again:

"The NRA is a mighty thing. But as mighty as it is, it is no match for the political power of the 'parent lobby' in this country. If we parents ever decided to take a stand between our children and the gun lobby, we would perhaps be shielding thousands of our kids from the deadly bullets yet to come."

If this is like other shootings, all of us will eventually abandon our rage and return to our day to day life, abandon this issue for others, and meanwhile the NRA will be on the hill and their zombies will emailing, writing letters, and calling their representatives every time the most innocuous gun legislation comes up for consideration. The politicians, both Republican and Democratic, will feel that it is not worth it to take on the gun lobby. And so it will continue until another twisted tortured young man decides to see if he can do even worse than Newton. And then we will wring out hands again and say, "why"?

Unless we grab this moment. The gun nuts know this is a dangerous moment for them. The NRA took down its Facebook page. Pro-gun senators were afraid to go on the Sunday talk shows (is it a surprise these people are cowards?). Let's keep them on the defensive. Let's be there when legislation comes up. Let's get the facts out there. Let's let those people who are not gun nuts but just misinformed know the real facts. Let's dominate the discourse by our numbers, our passion, our knowledge of the truth and what's at stake, and our love of our children. Let's save our country from the bloody gun culture which has soaked our homes, schools, and streets in innocent blood.

Who's with me?

Monday, February 27, 2012


I said I would blog. I have not blogged. But here is an image from a medieval manuscript of monkeys on stilts (which I found googling images for "medieval illumination shame").

Monday, February 13, 2012

a return?

Liam and some others vowing to blog more.

It has been almost two years since my last blog post, and that one was only a complaint about being busy and a photo of a stave church. It's quite something that I found the time to blog in grad school yet can't now. Of course, when it comes to devouring one's time, babies win, and so that's a factor. I also have fallen into the general trend of using twitter and facebook more and more -- we gradually reduce our expression into more manageable bits, and some day soon I know twitter will be replaced by a site that limits us to grunts and monosyllables. Yet there are other factors. Still, let me vow to blog just a bit more. I promise something in the next week.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I am so busy...

... but Stave churches are so cool:

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Cornelis van Haarlam, Massacre of the Holy Innocents, 1590.

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, commemorating Herod's massacre of infants as described in Matthew 2:16-18. I just wanted to share a few artworks on the subject.

The theme seemed to appeal to late Renaissance and Baroque artists because of the treatment of violence against the innocent and the drama inherent in the tortured faces of the mothers who try to defend or mourn their slaughtered children. I remember being mesmerized by a set of polychrome figures on the theme by José Ginés in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. The series, given the graphically Spanish title Degollación de los Inocentes ("the throat-cutting of the innocents"), got its power from the naked brutality of the slaughter and the crazed, twisted faces of the women as they tried in vain to either hide their children or fight off the soldiers -- a moment described also by Shakespeare in Henry V:

Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen.

After extensive googling that resulted not only in the frustration of failure to obtain results but also repeated Mozilla-crashing, I was able to to find only one figure from the series, but it should give you a feel for it:

And here are some other versions:

Guido Reni, 1611.

Peter Paul Rubens, also 1611.