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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Books I Read this Year (2014)

Every year I set myself the goal of reading 100 books.  I didn't quite make it this year, but I like (most of ) the books I read this year. This is not the order in which I read them, nor are they ranked in order here.


Non Fiction
The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing – Rise B. Axelrod
A Coming Christ in Advent – Raymond E. Brown
A Risen Christ in Eastertime: Essays on the Gospel Narratives of the Resurrection -Raymond E. Brown
Muted Hosannas – Jeff Carter
Religious Rock ‘N Roll: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing – Jimmy Swaggart
You Shall Not Steal: Community and Property in the Biblical Tradition - Robert Gnuse 
God on the Streets of Gotham: What the Big Screen Batman Can Teach Us about God and Ourselves - Paul Asay
Folk Songs for Schools & Camps - Jerry Silverman
Let Those Who Have Ears to Hear: If They Took the Music Away...Would You Still Follow Jesus? - Kimberly Smith
Jokerman: Reading the Lyrics of Bob Dylan - Aidan Day
The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan - Kevin J.H. Dettmar
Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited -Clinton Heylin
Gustavo Gutierrez: Essential Writings -Gustavo Gutiérrez
Stony the Road We Trod - Cain Hope Felder
Introducing Black Theology: 3 Crucial Questions for the Evangelical Church -Bruce L. Fields 
Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics - David A. Nichols
One Summer: America, 1927 -Bill Bryson
How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee - Bart D. Ehrman
My Friend Dahmer - Derf Backderf
Standing Witness: Devils Tower National Monument: A History - Jeanne Rogers
The Broken God - Dean Merrill
Ancient Christian Martyrdom: Diverse Practices, Theologies, and Traditions - Candida R Moss
The Four Witnesses: The Rebel, the Rabbi, the Chronicler, and the Mystic –Why the Gospels Present Strikingly Different Visions of Jesus? -Robin Griffith-Jones
The Apocalyptic Jesus - Robert J. Miller 
 What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew about Judaism - Robert Schoen
The Gospel According to Jesus' Enemies: Services and Sermons for Lent - Dann J. Ettner
To Paint Is To Love Again - Henry Miller
Lay Flat 02: Meta -Shane Lavalette 
A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 2 - Mentor, Message, and Miracles -John P. Meier
The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good about the Good News? - Peter J. Gomes
Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back -Todd Burpo (I put this one in the "non fiction" category only very reluctantly)
Nick Cave: A Study of Love, Death and Apocalypse - Roland Boer
Kosher Jesus -Shmuley Boteach 
From Time to Time - Hannah Tillich


Fiction
Doctor Sleep – Stephen King
The Journals of Eleanor Druse: My Investigation of the Kingdom Hospital Incident - Eleanor Druse
Otherland Vol. 2: River of Blue Fire – Tad Williams
Otherland Vol. 1: City of Golden Shadow – Tad Williams
The War of the Flowers – Tad Williams
Galapagos – Kurt Vonnegut
froomb! - John Lymington
The Walking Dead Compendium: Vol. 2 – Robert Kirkman
The Walking Dead Compendium: Vol. 1 – Robert Kirkman
Watchmen – Alan Moore
Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
Enemy Mine - Barry B. Longyear
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Vol. 1- Robert Silverberg                                                        
The Science Fiction Century -David G. Hartwell
The Tower Treasure (Hardy Boys Vol.1) - Franklin W. Dixon
The Skylark of Space - E.E. "Doc" Smith
The Star- H.G. Wells
With The Night Mail: A Story of 2000 AD -Rudyard Kipling
The Damned Thing -Ambrose Bierce
The Mysterious Island- Jules Verne
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea - Jules Verne
How Few Remain - Harry Turtledove 
Prey- Michael Crichton
The Warlord of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Gods of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs
A Princess of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs
Destination: Void - Frank Herbert 
The Call of the Green Bird - Alberta Hawse 
Crispin: The Cross of Lead – Avi
The Templar Legacy -Steve Berry 
Cities of the Red Night - William S. Burroughs
Nova Express - William S. Burroughs
Rainbow Six - Tom Clancy
The Scarlet Letter -Nathaniel Hawthorne
Julius Caesar - William Shakespeare
Pathfinder - Orson Scott Card 
The Eye of Moloch - Glenn Beck
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
Five Plays by Langston Hughes - Langston Hughes
Selected Stories - Philip K. Dick
Paycheck and Other Classic Stories -Philip K. Dick
Christ Stopped At Eboli - Carlo Levi 


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Devotion of the Magi (Black and White)

Earlier I posted another version of this photo - a hyper saturated color version.  I like it in black and white too. I have already been reminded that I'm a few days early for epiphany, but I figure that if we can start Christmas in October, I can post these photos a week early.


Photograph The Devotion of the Magi by Jeff Carter on 500px

The Devotion of the Magi



Photograph The Devotion of the Magi by Jeff Carter on 500px

Chess

My father has had the same set of chess pieces for at least 40 years.  I remember being fascinated by them when I was younger.  He must have taught me how to play - at least the bare outlines of how the various pieces move across the board - but other than that, I don't think I've ever seen him play.

These photographs were lit with the flashlight on my cell phone.

Photograph Chess by Jeff Carter on 500px



Photograph Chess by Jeff Carter on 500px

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Cold December Rain

Guns 'N Roses may have sung of a "cold November rain" but this morning we were driving through a cold December rain.


Photograph December Rain by Jeff Carter on 500px

Friday, December 26, 2014

2014: Death and Missouri

This has been, apparently, the year that I go to Missouri for deaths and funerals.

It started back in January, when my very good friend, Pat, died much too soon in St. Louis - Sister Death Is at the Door

Then in July, my grandmother passed away in Independence -Goodbye, Grandma 

And now, this past week, my aunt Linda (my father's brother's wife) passed away in Farmington.  My father, my brother, Brad, and I drove down for her funeral today.

I am seriously beginning to mistrust the state of Missouri.

Saint Clare Multiplied

This photo was achieved without photoshop, just a tricky lens filter...


Photograph Saint Clare Multiplied by Jeff Carter on 500px

Saint Joseph, Jesus, and Bokeh

The bokeh are reflections of nearby Christmas lights ...

Photograph Saint Joseph, Jesus and Bokeh by Jeff Carter on 500px

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Singing Christmas Songs at the Grocery Store

I have, this Christmas season, spent a fair amount of time in front of our local grocery stores, playing my guitar and singing various Christmas songs instead of ringing a bell.  (I hate the bell, but don't tell anyone I said that.)

We're just about finished with out kettle season for this year; tomorrow is the last day.  I'll go out one more time (at least until next year).

I took my little audio recorder with me today and recorded a bit of it all.  The microphone was on the floor and behind me - so the sound is a little weird, but in these recordings you can hear the clang and clatter of shopping carts, people coming in and going out of the store, talking, laughing as they pass by  You can hear the occasional announcement from the grocery store's PA system. These sounds are unedited - all the bum notes and out of tune singing is just as it was.













This Year's Winner of the Ugly Nativity Set Contest

This year's winner in the Ugly Nativity Set contest (held informally by me every year) is this beauty.  And, not only is it really bad, but we have a dozen more of them, just like this, in our thrift store.



























Last year's winner was Mother Mary No Nose

Christmas Carol Limericks: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year


The carol merely inventories
all the various Christmas glories;
a wonderful mood quickens,
but, other than Dickens,
who is telling Christmas ghost stories?






Who’s telling Christmas ghost stories? Me.  – Haunting Herod

Monday, December 22, 2014

Even Stoplights (It's Christmastime in the City)

"Strings of street lights
even stop lights
blink a bright red and green...
-Silver Bells

Photograph Even Stop Lights (It's Christmas Time in the City) by Jeff Carter on 500px

Christmas T-Rex

"Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and screaming."


Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Weight of it All


The weight of it all is unbearable
of preemptive invasions
of grim Reaper drones and Hellfire missiles
of secret torture chambers
of all the clanking footgear
and uniforms rolled in blood;
the weight of it all is unbearable -
Even the son who has been given to us
could not, would not,
shoulder the weight of that government.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Journey



Photograph Journey Sillhouette by Jeff Carter on 500px

Iowa Farm - December

Taken today just a bit north and east of where I live.


Photograph Iowa Farm- December by Jeff Carter on 500px

Divine Tragic Absurd Comedy

I have shared this song before. I will share it again.

It came on as I was driving this afternoon and I had to pull off the road and park for its 13 minute duration so that I could fully appreciate the divine tragic absurd comedy of it all.  Love will tear us apart.  It's all right; I love you.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Soon the Lord Will Come (An Advent Song)

A short while back I posted the lyrics and the sheet music for an Advent song that I wrote this year: Soon the Lord Will Come.

Here's a quick recording of it  - recorded in my office with a Handy Zoom Recorder H4n.

The Train Done Gone

Mary had a baby, aye, my Lord.
Mary had a baby, aye, my Lord.
Mary had a baby, aye, my Lord;
the people keep a comin' and the train done gone.

Photograph The Train Done Gone by Jeff Carter on 500px

The Kafka Cookbook


It was late in the evening when K. began to prepare the evening meal.  Outside, the city was deep in snow, veiled in mist and darkness. The kitchen, by comparison, could be described as well-lit though illuminated by a single lamp; it was a glimmer of light against the emptiness of night.

Into two cups of water he added chopped onions, pepper, mushrooms, and crisp leafy kale that he’d bought from the neighborhood market as he returned from the Land Surveyor’s office.  He poured in a measure of beef broth and lemon juice and waited for it to boil.

Suddenly he was aware of a great muttering in the other room.  The gentlemen gathered there had waited in silence for several hours for him to return, but his long delay angered them. “He’s wasted his time, and ours, by pursuing this Land Surveyor,” a stern voice croaked.  Mumbled assents followed from others. 

K. wondered if they knew that he’d overheard them.  “Do they know that I am here?  Should I explain all that I have achieved?” he asked himself.  K. added a pinch of salt to the bubbling broth.



I saw this book last night and was sad that it wasn’t Franz Kafka, decided I had to write it up for myself…Then after I was finished I discovered Kafka's Soup

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Magnificent Consignment in Dr. Tarrec's Mail

My strange friend, Dr. Tarrec, receives the strangest spam mail – actually delivered to his post office box. (Dr. Tarrec does not trust computers, refuses to set up an email address.)

***

I am Michael Kojo from Liberia, but presently living in Gambia. I am writing to seek your help and cooperation to help me retrieve a valuable consignment which contains much money and is sealed within a trunk box locked within a deep security vault. A government emissary named Mr. Hamid Hassan agreed to act as courier for forward delivery of this consignment into your country but Mr. Hamid Hassan disappoints us again and again with his greediness. 

This is because Mr. Hamid Hassan is an unwitting agent of the secret ruling elite – who know very well that the inflammatory rhetoric being propagated within the media will cause rain not to fall.  They are the ones responsible for the drought in California. He limps to the podium to make an announcement – a prophecy of future disasters on American soil, but is altogether unaware of what he is saying and doing.

20% of the consignment ($5.5 Million US Dollars, Twelve 57 lbs. gold bars, and four vials of gold dust, plus 1,500 three carat diamond stones) was destroyed in a preemptive, first strike, atomic blast.  But the members of the news media continually fail to ask the appropriate questions. They refuse to look into the destruction that provoked this attack.

This is why I need your help. Please, if you can assist/help us retrieve the remainder of the consignment box from that duplicitous diplomat, Mr. Hamid Hassan, we will be very happy to compensate you with 25% of the total sum. 

I will provide you the contact details for the delivery and a disposable phone so that you can speak with directly with delivery services and take immediate delivery of this valuable consignment box. Please, I also need an experienced person like yourself to assist us set up and to develop a good investment project that will yield extraordinary profit.

This we must do in order to complete our education. I am expecting your urgent response. Your maximum cooperation is highly needed. The Smoke of Satan must not obscure this transaction.IF you should fail to respond to this letter I will see that you are cursed, and that you eat dust all the days of your life.I will arrange for the National Guard to crush your head, even as you strike at their heavy booted heels.
Thank you and God bless, 

Michael Kojo & Haddy 


P.S. Haddy is my Russian Borzoi.  She sends her regards.\

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Reaper Drones #droneattacks


Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, the magi departed for their own country another way.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he launched a MQ-9 Reaper attack drone to launch AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles into and drop laser guided bombs on the little town of Bethlehem.  In this way he put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under (along with an unrecorded number of other non-combatants and civilians).

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Desiccated Thistle


Photograph Desicated Thistle by Jeff Carter on 500px


Psalm 20 for a #Torture Culture #CIATorture #Torturereport



1              May the lord answer you in your time of distress;
                May the name of your god protect you.
2              May he send you help from secret detention cells
                and grant you support in Washington.
3              May he remember 9 /11 always.
                                                -selah-
4              May he give you the screams of your enemies,
    and all their secret plans.
5              We will shout for joy when we are victorious;
                We will lift up our “Mission Accomplished” banners and be hailed as liberators.
6              I know that the lord saves his favorites
                and that we are them.
7              Some trust in ethics, some in morals,
                but we rely on torture and violence.
8              Our enemies are shackled on their knees
                as we stand firm in our abuse.
9              God bless the USA.

Christmas Carol Limericks: What Child Is This?


Let us sing with the holiday bard
of him angels greet and shepherds guard,
but careful as you sing
to ensure what we bring
to the child is laud and not lard.

My Expression of Holiday Cheerfulness for the Rest of Today

Because I am tired, and crabby and somewhat irritable today, please accept this photograph as my expression of appropriate holiday cheerfulness for the rest of today.

Photograph Window Display by Jeff Carter on 500px

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Santa Problem


It was mid-August when the heads of the families met together to discuss “the Santa problem.” There was Don Geoffrey of the Toys Я Us family, Don Walton of the Wal-Mart Syndicate, Don Schwarz of the FAO Schwarz family (the oldest family in the North American territories),  the consiglieri of the Amazon family, and the aging Don of the once powerful KB family.

“Gentlemen” intoned Don Geoffrey, “you know why we are here.  We have, year after year, increased our Christmas toy sales in all territories - all except our esteemed KB friends…”  He paused to allow those assembled to express their commiseration and condolences with silent nods.  “But we still have a problem.”

“Claus!” shouted Don Schwarz as he pounded the table with his fist.

“Indeed.  Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Pere Noel, Saint Nicholas.  The jolly old fat man still manages to corner the market on toys every year, giving away his toys for free to children all around the world.  How can we be expected to compete against this kind of unfair practice?”

“How indeed?” grunted Don KB

“In the past we have tried to be reasonable.  We have tried to work around him.  We have offered partnerships, we have offered bribes to his miserable little elves.  But still he manages to defeat us every Christmas.”

“What can we do?” asked Don Schwarz, chomping on a fat cigar.


Don Geoffrey grinned; he had hoped someone would ask this question.  “The fat man must be eliminated…” 

A Walk Downtown

It doesn't feel much like December.  It's been in the 50s (F) for several days, and it rained - alternating heavy pounding rain, and light misty drizzle - all day today.  This evening it's still somewhat balmy ( considering that it's December in Iowa) so I took my camera out for a stroll through the downtown square.

I used two lenses tonight: my Super Takumar 50mm and my Albinar 80 - 205mm.

Photograph Christmas Courthouse by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Courthouse Windows by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Christmas Light Reflections by Jeff Carter on 500px




The Secret Torture of the Magi



The official story, released to all media outlets through Herod’s press corps is that the magi, having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, returned to their country by another route.  The truth is that the magi were captured by Herod’s secret police and quickly and quietly taken to an undisclosed location in the Judean wilderness. 

And there they were subjected to refined interrogation techniques. 

Melchior was forced to stand erect for several hours on his toes with his arms shackled to the ceiling, and not allowed to sleep.  Gaspar was given forcible rectal hydration.  And Balthazar was isolated into a darkened chamber and forced to listen to the screams of his companions.

The interrogators asked the Magi over and again, “Where is the Christ?  Where was he born?”  The wise men held out as long as they could, but no one can withstand torture indefinitely.  “In Bethlehem!” they screamed in order to make the torture stop.

But this was nothing that Herod didn’t already know.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Smoke over the Prarie

The other day I took some photos of a controlled burn out at Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge.  Here's one more of the smoke over the prairie.

Photograph Smoke from a Controlled Burn by Jeff Carter on 500px

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pontius Pilate, Patron Saint of Interrogators #CIATorture #Torturereport


If torture is acceptable,
justified by the defense of the nation,
then the Prefect, Pontius Pilate,
is the patron saint of these United States.

No blood stains his hands;
his violence was righteous.

The torture of Jesus,
criminal, radical,
and known associate of terrorists,
was necessary for the protection of the empire.


Controlled Burn

I had a free moment this afternoon, with nothing else demanding my attention, so I took a drive with my pal, Kevin (who is also the editor and publisher of my book) out to Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge. We were going to look for the bison, but when we got there we were told that the park was doing a controlled burn today.  So we said, "Forget the bison; let's go look at the fire!"  And we did.

Photograph Neil Smith Controlled Burn by Jeff Carter on 500px



Photograph Controlled Burn by Jeff Carter on 500px

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Apparently I Have Fans



We found this in one of the Salvation Army red kettles tonight. I swear that I didn't do it, and that I didn't put anyone up to do it. Apparently I have fans. Mikey, however, said that I shouldn't be too impressed. "If they were real fans they'd have used a twenty."

Caroling as Elmer Fudd



It’s impossible.  It can’t be done.  I have practiced and rehearsed it, slowly enunciated it with deliberate carefulness… but it is not possible to sing the third verse of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” without sounding like Elmer Fudd when one comes to the line:

“…Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.”


It always comes out as “wewery woad” 

Christmas Carol Limericks: Down in Yon Forest


Down in yon forest there stands a hall
covered all o’er in purple and pall
I heard paradise bells
but, no, I cannot tell
what this carol is about at all.

*pall = a dark cloth hung over a coffin or a hearse

This carol dates to the Renaissance period, but traces its roots back to a Middle English hymn or carol known as the CorpusChristi Carol – which some have suggested is connected to the Fisher King of Arthurian legend – others believe it may have something to do with Anne Boleyn, or that it’s an obscure allegory for the life of Christ.   






Praise the Lord, Ye Dragons

I raided my son's collection of action figures to set up one of those kitschy pop culture / superhero nativity sets, but then I had a better idea. I returned (most of) my son's figures - all except the dragons, and borrowed my wife's Fontanini figurines to recreate an event the occurred during the holy family's flight to Egypt, according to the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, anyway.






From The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew:


And, lo, suddenly there came forth from the cave many dragons; and when the children saw them, they cried out in great terror. Then Jesus went down from the bosom of His mother, and stood on His feet before the dragons; and they adored Jesus, and thereafter retired. Then was fulfilled that which was said by David the prophet, saying: Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons; ye dragons, and all ye deeps. And the young child Jesus, walking before them, commanded them to hurt no man. But Mary and Joseph were very much afraid lest the child should be hurt by the dragons. And Jesus said to them: Do not be afraid, and do not consider me to be a little child; for I am and always have been perfect; and all the beasts of the forest must needs be tame before me.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fight or Flight into Egypt

Behold, the Angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream saying, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”

But Joseph replied, “There is no need for flight. I am well equipped to defend my family, armed as I am with a Beretta 9mm handgun with M6 Tactical light with laser and Trijicon night sites.  With it I can respond to any threat that might come against the child or his mother.”

The Angel of the Lord spoke a second time unto him saying, “King Herod is exceeding wroth and will send his men of might to slay the child. Arise! Arise now and flee into Egypt…”

But Joseph interrupted him saying, “I also have a Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun with Winchester PDX-1 shotgun shells. I have no need for alarm; I am not afraid.”

Then the Angel of the Lord left him, for there is no reasoning with some people.

Christmas Carol Limericks: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus


Christmas makes me feel so very sad;
I’m depressed and a little bit mad.
As a boy I did see
my beloved mommy
and Santa make a cuckold of dad.

Christmas Lights (Smeary)

I stopped to take a few pictures last night after all my other work was done.  I like the way that the bit of fog that was in the air last night made the downtown lights a bit smeary.

Christmas Lights (smeary) by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Christmas Lights (smeary) by Jeff Carter on 500px

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Carol Limericks: Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly


Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa,
‘tis the season to be jolly, Fa,
put on gay apparel;
troll the Yuletide carol,
Fa la la la la la la la la.


Christmas Home Invader Shot Dead



 (Fictitiousville, Oklahoma) “It’s terrible that something like this should happen, especially during the holidays,” Chuck Neale of Fictitiousville said, “but a man’s got the right to defend his home.”

Police are investigating a home invasion that led to the fatal shooting of a yet unidentified man.  The incident occurred around 2:30 a.m. this morning.  Neale says that he was awakened in the early morning by noise in the house.  He retrieved his gun from under his pillow and went to investigate.

“That’s when I saw him, an old fat man rooting around in our living room, messing with the Christmas tree.  So I shot him,” said Neale.

Preliminary reports indicate that the victim was shot at least eight times. 

“I ain’t saying I’m glad he’s dead, but I’d do it again if I had to,” said Neale. “Ain’t nobody going to be ruining Christmas for my kids.”

The identity of the victim isn’t yet known. He appears to have been 60 -80 years old, with a full beard.  He was wearing a bright red outfit.  If anyone has any information about this unidentified man they are encouraged to contact the Fictitiousville police department. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Lights




Photograph Christmas Lights by Jeff Carter on 500px

Strange and Mystic Weather

I took this photo the other day while I was out driving hither and yon all over the county.  I used a portion of the photo here, but wanted to post the whole thing as well.

The title comes from a Czech Christmas carol Pochvalen Bud', Jezis Kristus (Praise to Jesus, Our Salvation)

"Praise to Jesus, our salvation, in a manger laid!
Brother Andrew, do you hasten to the holy Babe?
Yea, to Bethlehem I go, since the angel song I know;
Through the strange and mystic weather, let us go together."

Photograph Strange and Mystic Weather by Jeff Carter on 500px

Advent Limericks: It’s the Only One We Know


Oh come, Oh come, Immanuel, oh
and help Israel that’s been laid low.
We will sing, “Rejoice!” but
we are stuck in a rut:
it’s the only Advent song we know.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bring a Flashlight, Doctor Isabella



The message light blinked in Dr. Jeanette Isabella’s transparent corneal data sheath, a message from her friend and colleague, Professor Émile Blémont.  She hadn’t seen Professor Blémont around the campus for the past several days – but this was nothing unusual.  As a diachronic anthropologist he was frequently away from his lab and his lecture hall, making observations in the field.   With a coordinated motion of her eye Dr. Isabella triggered playback of the message; the image of Professor Blémont appeared as a slightly transparent overlay in her data sheath, the audio played through direct stimulation of her tympanic membranes by microcircuits embedded in her tympanic cavity.

“Dr. Isabella, I am in need of your assistance.  My blind has suffered a serious malfunction and I will be unable to sustain power to the stealth circuits for very much longer.  I have had to shut down nearly every other system in order to reroute power to the stealth generators, but I only have enough energy to sustain this invisibility for another three standardized objective hours.  I need you to bring the fusion generator from the other blind in my lab so that I can replace the damaged one here.  Pleas hurry, Dr. Isabella.  If the stealth circuits fail, the blind will become visible and my research will be ruined – not to mention the trouble I’ll get from the time slip regulators.  I don’t even want to imagine the paperwork I’ll have to do for a disturbance in the time slip.  Come quickly, and bring a couple of flashlights.  As I said, I had to shut down everything – even the lights. 

After half an hour of twisting and pulling on the spare fusion generator (but no banging on its ceramic shell – she wasn’t sure she trusted the thing not to explode and to destroy three quarters of the state…) she pulled up the technical manual to her data sheath.  It was a simple procedure then – so simple she felt rather embarrassed to have missed the release switch.  Another 45 minutes and the temporal conductor was powered up and ready to relocate her both spatially and temporally using the coordinates left in the machine by Professor Blémont.  Isabella had accompanied Blémont a few times but had never traveled alone.  She initiated the procedure with some trepidation.

There was a bright burst of light and a quick sensation of pain – as if every inch of her skin had been simultaneously pinched.  Then everything was black.  She shrieked.

“Dr. Isabella. Please hush.” From the darkness came Professor Blémont’s calm voice.  “I’m wonderfully glad that you’ve come, but please hush. Any noise may alert the subjects to our presence.”

“Of course, Emile.” Said Dr. Isabella.  “The darkness just spooked me. I’m sorry. I should have expected it.”

“Did you bring the spare generator?”

“Yes,” she answered, “and a couple of flashlights, just as you asked.”

“That’s perfect. Perfect.”  Blémont took one of the flashlights and the fusion generator and went to work immediately. 

“Where are we?” Dr. Isabella asked.  “I mean, when and when are we?” 

“I’d rather not say at this juncture,” said Blémont as he removed a cover panel from the back wall of the blind.  “Suffice it to say, I think that I’ve located a most extraordinary event.”

He soon had the faulty fusion generator removed and the replacement installed.  The blind’s various systems came back online, including the lights.   A viewscreen came to life.  Isabella and Blémont could see a small village under a quickly darkening sky.  An alarm tone rang.

“I was afraid of this,” said Professor Blémont.  “The malfunction in the fusion generator has upset some of the blind’s other systems.  We won’t be able stay here. I ‘ll have to take the blind back to my lab for repairs and return later.”

“So your trip’s been wasted?”

“Well that’s the marvel of diachronic anthropology.  If I haven’t disturbed the time slip, I can return again and observe the event without worry.” Blémont began the procedure that would return them and the blind to his laboratory.

“But what is it you’re here to see?”  asked Isabella.  Professor Blémont just shook his head.
The temporal engines cycled up to full power, their whine was audible inside the blind, but completely masked by the stealth circuits outside.  In the viewscreen Isabella could see a young woman carrying a small child. Professor Blémont gasped and whispered, “It’s her.”

“Who is she?” asked Isabella.  “She’s beautiful. And so is the child.”

Just then the temporal engines swept them and the blind back to Professor Blémont’s campus lab.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Strange and Mystic Weather - New Music





Along with the material I recorded I used the following sounds from The Freesound Project:




Let Me Stop You Right There, Ken

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis makes a lot of simple stupid mistakes.  For example, this:




"...the universe is about 6,000 years old according to the Bible's calculations..."

Let me stop you right there Ken.  The Bible makes no calculations.  It presents a story (several stories, actually) and that is it.  It doesn't calculate.  It can't  It's not a calculator.






Muted Hosannas under $12 - #mutedhosannas

Though Amazon.com says that the book is "temporarily out of stock," I have it on good authority that a shipment of my book is already on its way to the online retailer. Muted Hosannas  is currently listed at $11.75  - not a bad price.  Now would be a good time to buy one.

A Ridiculously Irrelevant Music Review: The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album


I make a lot of noise complaining about Christmas and about Christmas music – but the fact of it is, somewhere deep inside my grinchiness there is some trace particle of myself that wants to appreciate the holiday.  So when I saw the Beach Boys’ Christmas Album on sale at a nearby pawn shop, I bought it.  (hey, for $1.25 what’s it going to hurt?)

The original recording was released in November of 1964.  What I bought was one of the many re-issues of the album, this one on CD in 1991.


The first five songs are Beach Boys’ originals, written by group leader, Brian Wilson. And they sound like you’d expect a Beach Boy’s Christmas album to sound like.   The first song, “Little Saint Nick” borrows its melody and rhythms from their earlier hit “Little Deuce Coup.” It tells the story of Santa tooling around in a suped-up cherry red toboggan instead of a hot rod.

“Merry Christmas, Baby” is a light-hearted Christmas break up song, a bit of bubble gum pop music.  “Christmas Day” is a little do-wop number celebrating the nostalgia of Christmas – with a great organ solo in the middle.

Tracks 6 – 12 are schmaltzy arrangements of traditional Christmas songs like “Frosty the Snowman” and "We Three Kings of Orient Are” with the Beach Boys trademarked harmonies dropped in over top the strings and horns.   And the two don’t mix well; they just don’t fit together.

For $1.25 I’m quite content to listen to just the first five tracks, and to ignore the mawkish tracks that fill out the rest of the album.




Thursday, December 4, 2014

South Skunk River in December

As I was driving hither and yon all over the county this morning I crossed the South Skunk River and, having crossed it, decided to stop and take a few pictures.

Photograph South Skunk River by Jeff Carter on 500px

A Communiqué from the Brotherhood of Games to Dr. Tarrec


My friend, Dr. Tarrec, was, for a few years, a member of a mysterious, secret society known as The Brotherhood of Games.  I have often asked him about it, but he rarely speaks of them or their activities. Recently I found this official communiqué from the Brotherhood addressed to Dr. Tarrec.  When I asked him about it he abruptly ended our conversation and asked me to leave.


***


Be read and keep ready; We need every available agent on this – you and all the assembled company.  The FBI, and the warehouse guards are already in place.  Hold yourself in reserve.  Do not enter until I give the word.  After many days you shall be mustered, ordered to carry shipments of weapons across the border.  In the latter years you shall go again from the war into subway tunnels beneath the city: Denver, Toledo, Chicago, wherever people are gathered.

You shall advance into the cold and dark, coming like a winter storm with shadow and with snow in the wind.  You shall be like a cloud covering the land in nuclear winter.  Turn off the flashlight.  Hide in the darkness.  The door has been opened.

Mortal, set your face toward winter contingency plans.  We’re talking about the end and it is very cold, Gogmagog! is the land of the frozen.  The chief priests of Meshech and Tubal are standing without coats against the wind.  Prophecy against Gogmagog! and say “The Decalogue is delivered.  The snow falls unevenly across the nation.  I will turn you around.  The bombs are in Chicago.  Prepare for immediate deployment into the winds. 

“I will put hooks into your jaw and inject you with narcotics to induce a narco-hypnotic state.  I will lead you out with your army and they will be no more.  I will be back for you and your horses and your horsemen.  All of them, even those clothed in full armor against the winter chill.   There are assassins at the gate and wolves beyond the door.  A great company, all of them with shield and bucklers, wielding swords and hand-held nuclear devices.”

Persia, Ethiopia, and Put are with them, but we cannot understand why.  Weep for yourself and for your children.  There are saboteurs on the airfield.  Gomer and all her troops are using false IDs and stolen passports, as is Beth-Togarmah from Ultima-Thule where the wind is cold.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Biblical Haiku: Luke 2: 8 – 9


midnight sky
over lonely shepherds
shattered by glory

Christmas Carol Limericks: The Little Drummer Boy


“Come!” they told me, pa-rum pum pum pum,
“A new king has just been born, by gum!
To him, our gifts we’ll bring,
lay them before the king.”
Alas! I’m poor, so I’ll play my drum. 

"The Little Drummer Boy" (originally titled “The Carol of the Drum”) was written by Katherine Davis 

Christmas Music I Can Tolerate (and even Enjoy)

I know I can be a bit of a sourpuss during the long extended Christmas season.  I don't especially like Christmas.  I don't like a lot of the Christmas music that's on the radios.  But there are some Christmas songs that I do like, quite a few of them actually.

I have gathered some of them here for you - songs from the folk, blues, spiritual, jazz, country, soul, rock, and rap traditions.  Some of them are traditional.  Some of them are satirical.  Some are serious, some goofy. But if I must listen to Christmas music, this is some of what I would choose.

Downtown Christmas Lights

The Newton, Iowa downtown area is lit up for Christmas.  I took these photos last night after dropping money off at our bank's night deposit.

Christmas Courthouse by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Book Release Events for Muted Hosannas #mutedhosannas

 
If you're in the Newton or Des Moines, Iowa area you should come to either one (or both) of the book's release parties.  I'll be reading from the book, autographing books, playing my guitar and otherwise making a fool of myself at:

Bridgehouse Coffee Co. on December 13 (Saturday) 10am - 1pm

and

Plain Talk Books and Coffee on December 18 (Thursday) 5:30 - 7pm.







A Biblical Role for the Government in Caring for the Poor

This is an essay I wrote for an assignment in my ENG COMP class. I exceeded the maximum word count by just a smidge...
***




It is a curious irony that during election seasons - like the one that recently concluded – it is difficult to have a nuanced political discussion.  Bombarded and overwhelmed by attack ads and sound bites as we are, our discussions tend to veer toward the hyperbolic.  Perhaps, now that the vigorous electioneering is over, at least for a time, we can examine, without bombast and without rancor, one of the claims that is often made during election seasons.  Political and theological conservatives frequently say that the Bible does not prescribe any role for government in caring for the poor - that this should be handled by private charities and individual donations. While it is true that the Bible does encourage each individual to be generous to the poor, it is not true to say that it prescribes no role for the government in caring for the poor; the Bible does allow (even mandates) a governmental role in providing for the poor.

In a recent campaign speech in Des Moines, Iowa, Republican Senator-Elect Joni Ernst said, “We have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do…They used to have wonderful food pantries. They used to provide clothing for those that really needed it, but we have gotten away from that. Now we’re at a point where the government will just give away anything. We have to stop that” (Ernst 21: 46).   Ernst ran on a conservative platform of small government and biblical values, one of which, she believes, is that it is not within the government’s purview to care for the poor.

Conservative Christian and political commentator David Noebel says “[b]ecause government is an institution of justice, not of grace or community or creativity, it should not … attempt to dispense grace through tax-funded handouts … or control the economy and the disposition of property” (Noebel 628). He believes that there simply is no biblical allowance for a governmental role in providing for the poor, but this argument is easily refuted.  There are many biblical examples that describe the role of the government in taking care of the poor.

The prophet Jeremiah was a frequent critic of the king and leaders of Judah at the end of the seventh and early years of the sixth century BCE; he condemned the idolatry and greed that was rampant among the leaders of the nation.  In a speech directed to King Jehoiakim the prophet spoke for God, saying:
                        Do you think you are more a king
                        because you compete in cedar?                       
                        Your father ate and drank
                       
                         and dispensed justice and equity -
                        Then all went well with him.                       
                         He upheld the rights of the poor and needy -
                        Then all was well.                         
                        That is truly heeding me (JPS Hebrew – English Tanakh, Jeremiah 22: 15 - 16).
This king was chided for failing to care for the poor.  The prophet held up the memory of his father, King Josiah, as an example.  Josiah upheld the rights of the poor; he ensured that they had food to eat and protected them from those who would exploit their labor or steal their land, and he was blessed for it.  This was the role of the good king, Josiah.  This was the role of his government.


The book of Proverbs is the biblical collection of ancient wisdom and deep thoughts.  These sayings were collected from an eclectic variety of sources, including the otherwise unmentioned Lemuel, King of Massa.  This king passed down to his son the words of advice that his mother had given him, “Speak up for the dumb, / For the rights of all the unfortunate. / Speak up, judge righteously, /  Champion the poor and the needy” (JPS Hebrew – English Tanakh, Proverbs 31: 8– 9).

It may be argued that to “champion the poor and needy” or to uphold the rights of the poor and the needy is not the same as providing tax funded government charity, but there is more of a correlation than many conservatives are willing to admit.  One of the biblically defined rights of the poor and needy was the right of “gleaning,” that is, the poor were allowed to harvest grain from the edges of other people’s fields and fruit from other people’s orchards and vines (Leviticus 23:22, Deuteronomy 24: 19 – 21).  While it is not a perfectly analogous relation to tax funded government programs, the concept is very similar.  And the biblically defined role of the king including protecting these rights of the poor.

The ideal king of Israel is described in Psalm 72, and it is clear that this perfect king will care for the poor.  He will “champion the lowly among the people/ deliver the needy folk,” and he will save “the needy who cry out/ the lowly who have no helper. / He cares about the poor and the needy / he brings the needy deliverance” (JPS Hebrew – English Tanakh, Psalm 72: 4, 12 - 14). This king will rule with justice, which is to say, he will care for and provide relief to the poor and the weak.  This, the psalmist says, will bring blessing not only to the nation of Israel, but to the entire world.  The primary role attributed the ideal king in this psalm is that of helping the poor; the psalm is clear and unambiguous in declaring that the role of the king is to care and provide for the poor.

We can debate how these instructions from an ancient theocratic monarchy are to be applied in our contemporary secular democratic republic, and we can argue about the best way to put them into practice because, “[a]lthough biblical revelation tells us that God and his faithful people are always at work liberating the oppressed, we do not find a comprehensive blueprint for a new economic order in Scripture” (Sider 193).  It is up to us to determine what that will look like in this modern age.  But we cannot make the bald assertion that the Bible does not allow for a governmental role in providing for the poor.  It very clearly does.
                                                                                                                                 









Ernst, Joni. “Campaign Speech” Des Moines Conservative Breakfast Club.  Des Moines.
August 20, 2013.
Noebel, David.  Understanding the Times: The Story of the Biblical Christian, Marxist/Leninist
and Secular Humanist Worldviews.  Manitou Springs, CO: Summit Press, 1991.
“Jeremiah.” JPS Hebrew – English Tanakh. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society,
1999.
“Proverbs.” JPS Hebrew – English Tanakh. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society,
1999.
“Psalms.” JPS Hebrew – English Tanakh. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1999.
Sider, Ronald J.  Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press,
1984.



Biblical Limericks: Ambidextrous



The men that came to join David’s band
were the mightiest in the land;
they were skilled with the sling
and the bow for killing,
shooting from both the left and right hand.

1 Chronicles 12: 1 - 2

Dr. Tarrec's Vision of the Woman and the Dragon

This is another scrap of writing that I’ve found in the box of papers that my friend, Dr. Tarrec, has given me.  It is scrawled in his nearly microscopic handwriting on the back of a yellowing old telegram which reads: All is not well here. Rumors persist. The End is not yet.  HJ Meredith.

***


And now a great sign appearing on flat-screens and tablets around the world:  a woman clothed in a photon absorbent gown standing in the shadows of a crater filled with lunar dust - the rubble and ruin of riotous times - on her brow a ringlet of stars. And the woman is given two reptilian wings so that she might hover over university towns like a miasmatic specter.  She is the mother of lizards, her sons the shadows behind the federal government.  Her serpent seed has infected the human genome.  She is pregnant and in labor.

Now a second sign appears in the sky:  a huge red dragon.  Do not follow him.  He is a fiend.  This has all been planned.  Like a wasp winging its way over many waters, he has no rest during the day; he dares not sleep at night.  The dragon has seven heads and ten crowning coronets. 

We are being followed, tailed by anthrax and nervous energy.  But this is more than raw, untrained power, more than a single explosion.  It is a vast quantity of biological and chemystical weapons. It is book burnings and false flags.  The relevant information used to be on page 39, but the Greek texts have been changed – maliciously altered – in the days and weeks since the bombings.

The dragon of dissension has a quota of prisoners to execute before the end, and the end is coming soon.  He knows that his time is short. He spreads a story to extinguish a third of the stars.

And now war breaks out in the space between the stars.  The angels in pursuit of perfection fight the angels of angst and unlimited power.  And the dragon too, with his angels, fights against the luminaries and they are driven away.  The gates of heaven are left open and unprotected as airplane contrails disseminate alien seed upon the surface of the earth.

The serpent vomits water from his mouth, along with a torrent of bullets, but it is not enough.  Microstatic attacks continue and who can fight against them?  I do not recognize the blasphemous portrait of the man in the propaganda posters.    

Monday, December 1, 2014

Candle of Longing - The First Sunday in Advent (a guest post)

My good friend AJ shared this piece of writing today.  She has kindly given me permission to share it here:
***


Yesterday we lit the candle of hope in our advent wreath.  I also like to call it the candle of longing, because so often hope begins with longing.  The longing for God to be more than some far off impersonal entity, the longing for God to walk once again with humanity in the cool of the day on this great garden of earth, became the hope of Emmanuel and was realized in a savior who cried tears of blood for us in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Our advent hymnal is peppered with these songs of deep longing and hope.  Our mournful cries of “O Come Emmanuel” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” mingle with the triumphant strains of “Joy to the World”

I must admit that I like the mournful and longing Christmas songs the best, because so often they reflect my own walk of faith.  My prayers are often these plaintive cries of “God, please take care of this!  Come to Ferguson and bring reconciliation and justice and peace.  Come to Syria and Iraq and Bethlehem.  Heal the fractures of generations of hatred and war.  Come to Sierra Leon and Liberia.  Release them from the devastating disease of Ebola.  Come and salve grief, unravel the mysteries of mental illness, and fill us with your grace and compassion. Come thou long expected Jesus.  Let us find our rest in thee.” 

Please understand that I am not asking for God to come in some apocalyptic blaze of glory, but rather for the God who is already there to reveal himself within and through these situations.  Perhaps this Christmas, the little town of Bethlehem about which we sing will finally wake from its deep and dreamless sleep to recognize the God who is already there. I find these same longings within the Advent texts.  Isaiah cries out, “Comfort, comfort my people… Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed that her sin has been paid for.” (Isaiah 40:1-2b NIV)  For the first 39 chapters of his prophecy, Isaiah has offered little more than pain and heartache, but here at last he offers hope and more than just some sort of dim feeling.  Isaiah’s hope is pregnant with anticipation.  He urges us to do more than bow our heads and assure ourselves that God might one day show up.  “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3 (NIV). 

Our hope is an active hope.  Its hope predicated in faith, a full hope, a complete hope.  In the New Testament, Peter commands us to have this sort of hope which he also calls a “living hope.” (1Peter 1:3, 11)   There’s a difference between wishful thinking that stands at a distance and wonders if the world will change or if God really cares and an active, invested hope with calloused knees and rolled up sleeves.  God’s people are charged with the later. 

We must invest in our time of longing by doing our best to reveal the presence of God who is already there and yet hidden by the twists of sin.  “And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 40:5 (NIV) Yesterday, I lit the candle of hope and promised that this year I would lay aside despair as I sought once again to find God in those unlikely places where he is ought to show up: away in a manger, a tiny baby at the breast of a virgin, on the other side of the world, across town, or next door.

Soon the Lord Will Come - A Song for Advent

I've written a new song for the Advent season.  The melody is a traditional tune - "Which Side Are You On?" (a worker's protest song by Florence Reece - which in turn, seems to be based on a traditional hymn, "Lay the Lily Low".)

The lyrics are based upon some of the lectionary readings for the Advent season this year:  Isaiah 64: 1 - 9, Isaiah 40: 1 - 11, Isaiah 61: 1 - 11, Luke 1: 32 - 33






















Oh, that you’d rend the heavens
and make the mountains quake;
give proof to all the nations
that your wrath is slaked

Soon the Lord will come.
Soon the Lord will come.

Speak comfort to my people;
the penalty is paid,
a voice cries in the wild’ness,
“a path for God is made.”

The Spirit is upon me
to bring good news to you,
to bind up broken-hearted;
your captiv’ty is through.

He will be great and mighty,
the Son of the Most High;
he’ll sit on David’s throne and
his Kingdom never dies.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Babies Are Growing Up – Christmas Nostalgia


The Christmas tree and boxes of ornaments and decorations came out of the garage today, and into the house.  The Carter family (at least, my small branch of it) spent the afternoon putting up the tree, stringing the lights, and putting up all the various ornaments while Christmas music by Sufjan Stevens played in the background.

But this was something of a bittersweet nostalgia holiday afternoon.  Up went the tree, along with many of those ornaments made by the children when they were younger.  But gone are those darling little ones, easily amused by the colored lights and glittery balls and bells hung on the branches of the indoor tree.  Gone is the “big-bird” ornament – an improvised ornament hung by our daughter when she was very young – it was one of her toys, not really an ornament, but she carried it from her room and hung it on the lowest branch of the tree.  Gone is the sweet little boy who clung to his mother and sucked his thumb as she removed each ornament from the storage boxes. 

Now we have teenagers who endure the “forced family fun” and roll their eyes, who disappear to their rooms as soon as the tree can be satisfactorily described as decorated.  "My babies are growing up,” says my wife and she’s closer to tears than she wants the kids to see.

And though I am reluctant to admit it, the sparkling of the lights that I see is caused by the welling up of tears in my own eyes.




Saturday, November 29, 2014

Selling Stories with Don Draper (A Strange Dream)



It is not an uncommon thing that I should have strange and vivid dreams, but last night’s dream was among the stranger ones I’ve had:

Don Draper (of AMC’s show Mad Men) and I were in southern California as a small and ill-fated invasion of the United States began.  A couple of hundred poorly equipped soldiers crossed the Mexican border with WWII vintage carbine rifles.  The response from the American military was swift, and soon there was an ugly battle.  Draper and I found shelter in a hidden attic apartment.

But the ground forces were really a diversion.  The real attack came when several thousand rockets were launched at the International Space Station.  Their pink and orange smoke trails lingered long in the pale blue skies.

After the battle was over, Draper and I turned that hidden attic apartment into an office where we began to sell an elaborately exaggerated account of the brief war.  “Facts don’t matter.  Only the story,” Draper told me.

“The sales, you mean,” I replied to him.

“Same difference.”


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