Sunday: Hili dialogue

Well, here we are in 2017, and although of course the designation of a year’s beginning is arbitrary, we can’t help but take stock of the past year (not a great one!) and anticipate what will come (in U.S. politics, horrible things). Yes, it’s New Year’s Day, and has been declared National Bloody Mary Day and National Black Eyed Pea Day. Both, I believe, are New Year restoratives. In Scotland, it’s the second day of Hogmanay, and all around the world it’s International Nepali Dhoti and Nepali Topi Day. If you have those clothes, wear them today in honor of the wonderful but hard-pressed folk of Nepal.

On this day in 1773, Wikipedia tells us that “The hymn that became known as “Amazing Grace“, then titled “1 Chronicles 17:16–17,” [was] first used to accompany a sermon led by John Newton in the town of Olney, England.” In 1804, Haiti gained its independence from France, though how “independent” it’s been in recent decades is questionable. On this day in 1901, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia, formerly British colonies, joined to become the Commonwealth of Australia.  And the Euro was introduced on the first day of 1999.

I’m saddened to report a tragic beginning to this year. Last night, at about 1:30 a.m., a gunman attacked a nightclub in Istanbul, killing at least 35 people (including 15 foreigners) and leaving 69 wounded.  The gunman, who seems to have acted alone, hasn’t yet been apprehended. It’s depressing to think that the wave of terrorist attacks we’ll see this year—for I suspect this was one of them—began on its very first day. Turkey, already groaning under the despotic Erdoğan, and rapidly becoming more Islamicized (a friend who visits regularly says that during his visit last month the number of hijabis had increased dramatically), is on the downhill slide. Atatürk would be horrified.

Notables born on this day include Paul Revere (1735), Betsy Ross (1752), E. M. Forster (1879), J. Edgar Hoover (1895), J. D. Salinger (1919), Larry King (1929) and Mary Beard (1955). Those who died on this day include Johann Bernoulli (1748), Heinrich Hertz (1894), Edward Weston (1958), Eugene Wigner (1995), and Patti Page (2013). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has gloomy prognostications for 2017—not surprising given the rightward tilt of Poland:

Cyrus: Come and see what the New Year looks like.
Hili: I’m not sure I want to know.
In Polish:
Cyrus: Chodź zobaczymy jak wygląda Nowy Rok.
Hili: Nie jestem pewna, czy chcę wiedzieć.

Finally, Gus got a present—a puppet. Staff member Taskin reports this:

Gus got a gift from a friend, and get this, it’s from Ikea!!! [JAC: that’s the source of the first box he nommed to shreds.] The other half of Gus’s staff thinks this video is a bit weird…

Finally, Douglas S. sent a Theology Meme; he tells me that he believes that the man on the right is Karl Barth and the other Emil Brunner. As I haven’t read much Barth, and no Brunner, readers will have to explain their opposition. If it’s about God, which it almost surely is, then it’s funny: it’s like two smart men arguing whether Superman’s cape is made of silk or polyester.


Final lagniappe: Douglas E. sent a “spot the . . ” photo; this one is called “Spot the Monarch.” Even if it were a butterfly it would be easy:



  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 1, 2017 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I’m with Hili on that one. Appears Gus is thinking, just give me the box. The guy to the left of the Queen looks to be having his own joke. Sorry to hear about the madness in Turkey. Maybe if they get a police state like we have here, they will avoid these events.

    • Posted January 1, 2017 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      Which police state are you writing from? In France, we have been in an “état d’urgence” since November 2015.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 1, 2017 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        From the U.S. Ours got started about 16 years ago and gets bigger every year. Has a nice domestic name to it – Homeland Security, or maybe it is NYC police department, I get confused.

        • Dave
          Posted January 1, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

          If you think that the USA is a “Police State”, what term would you use for North Korea?

          Despite your paranoia about Homeland Security and the NYPD, you are actually living in one of the freest societies on Earth.

          • Posted January 1, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

            At any rate, to consider Turkey less of a police state than the USA seems to me, at best, emotional.

  2. rickflick
    Posted January 1, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Theology’s First Law states that a theologian will remain at their opinion or in uniform viewpoint unless acted upon by an God itself.

    The second law of theology with respect to a rational challenge:
    F = ma
    False is equal to my answer.

  3. Jenny Haniver
    Posted January 1, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Heavens to Betsy! I’m so disappointed to see that there’s no mention of the fact that January 1st is the Feast Day of the Circumcision of Jebus. Hallelujah! This ‘event’ has given rise to a marvelous hoard of lore relating to my absolute favorite relic, the Holy Prepuce, which at one time was miraculously able to clone itself to make 16 of them, located at various spots around Europe. Nuns in medieval and early modern Europe considered the ring they were given at profession of their vows to be the “Fleshen Ring of Jesus,” i.e., the Holy Foreskin; and there is an account of a pious nun who apparently having nothing better to do with her time, meditated on the Holy Foreskin and experienced a miraculous deglutition of said objec. (“Deep Throat” before its time, RC style.) All this is so profoundly ridiculous, I’m captivated.

    When I visited southern Germany, I found the location where, obscure legend has it, that the Holy Prepuce first appeared in Europe in Carolingian times. The story goes (a typical tale-type in folklore) that it was put on a camel in the Holy Land, then the camel was sent forth and where it finally came to rest , a shrine to the HP was to be built. Now there is nothing left of that 8th or 9th century shrine but a few worn stone nubs poking out of the underbrush at the bottom of Mt. St. Odile in Alsace.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 1, 2017 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      When you say it was ‘put on a camel’, in exactly which way was it, errm, attached to said camel?

      The mind boggles.

      At least, my mind does.



      P.S. Mt St Odile was where an airliner crashed while trying to find Strasbourg airport, IIRC. Not that that’s relevant to anything…

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted January 1, 2017 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, it does boggle the mind.

        I don’t have the source for the relevant legend right at hand, but I’d assume that it was placed in a reliquary, then strapped on the camel’s back (I have card with a reproduction of a medieval painting of a camel with a reliquary on its back that I got at Mt. St. Odile, but is not related) . Still other legends tie it to the the alabaster box mentioned in Mark 14:3; and there’s a related legend in Syriac apocrypha, so maybe that box is what the camel had on its back. — But here I am talking about this supremely demented business as if it were real! Such is the power of fiction.

        Before Christianity, Mt. St. Odile was a big-time religious power spot, I remember passing by the ruins of pagan (celtic) places of worship driving up the mountain.

  4. harrync
    Posted January 1, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I went to the font of all knowledge [Wikipedia] to check out Barth and Brunner. Writing now as an “unsophisticated theologian” [TM?], I’d say they seem to agree. Their basic theology seems to be: the Bible is not literally true, but I believe it anyway. [Barth was able to make this point in a work of only 8,000 pages!] The first part [not literally true] offended “conservative” theologians, the second part [I believe it anyway] offended “liberal” theologians, making them, of course, “moderates”.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted January 1, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      Wp isn’t the best on these fellows. (The German language WP is far better on German philosophers and theologians.) Barth and Brunner vigorously disagreed on the viability of “natural theology” (as in the Scottish Gifford lectures) re what can be known about God from the observation of nature alone. Barth thought this a total waste of time (for quite different reasons than our host at WEIT) while Brunner thought it viable.
      I have no idea what Brunner thought of the Bible but Barth thought much of it should be read as symbolic metaphor, a divine myth or saga.
      He seems to have gone back to early Christian usage and used the phrase “Word of God” to refer to the person of Jesus and perhaps also the utterances of prophets. ( The use of the phrase ‘Word of God’ to refer to the text of the Bible is far later in Xian history than most folk realize).

      • harrync
        Posted January 3, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for going into this with a bit more depth and knowledge. Obviously, neither Wikipedia nor I have mush talent for understanding “sophisticated theology”.

        • harrync
          Posted January 3, 2017 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

          “Mush talent” – just might be the right phrase to describe my abilities in this area..

  5. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 1, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    ” International Nepali Dhoti and Nepali Topi Day. If you have those clothes, wear them today in honor of the wonderful but hard-pressed folk of Nepal.”

    … and get shot for committing Cultural Appropriation or worse?


  6. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 1, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Re ‘spot the monarch’, how about ‘spot the only other person in the photo with bare knees’? He appears to be wearing a skirt but then I assume he’s a True Scotsman.

    I have no idea who all the flathats are.


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