29 April 2006

The Christian South

As I believe I have said on this blog somewhere or other, I am a southerner, a Virginian to be exact (and Virginians are always exact on that point). I grew up in the 50s and 60s, when Jim Crow laws polluted my state and almost every Christian church I was familiar with collaborated. Here is an example of what I mean. It goes a long way towards explaining why I am nearly immune from Evangelicals or anyone else telling me they have the The Truth from God. It is from an obituary for Florence L. Mars, who died recently at the age of 83.

She repeatedly spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan and other forces oppressing the black population of east central Mississippi. A fourth-generation resident of the area and a member of its landed gentry, she was also a significant source of information for the F.B.I. agents investigating the killings, and she testified before a federal grand jury.

Miss Mars paid dearly for her efforts. The Klan organized a boycott against the stockyard where she sold cattle, forcing it to close, and she was compelled to resign from posts at the First United Methodist Church. [My emphais]

28 April 2006

A Medieval Muslim and Darwin

In 1377, about a century after Joinville was puzzling over his little rock with the perfectly formed fish inside it (c 1248), a North African Arab scholar, Ibn Khaldun, was considering the underpinnings of all human society in his Mugaddimah ('Introduction') to history. Here He starts musing about the progression of life in a way that prefigures Darwin and Wallace's theories of evolution.

On should then look at the world of creation. It started out from the minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals. The last stage of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants, such as herbs and seedless plants. The last stage of plants, such as palms and vines, is connected with the first stage of animals, such as snails and shellfish which have only the power of touch. The word 'connection' with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group is fully prepared to become the first stage of the next group.

The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and, in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of the monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking. At this point we come to the first stage of man.

There is no hint in Ibn Khaldun, a conventionally pious Muslim of the fourteenth century, that this is in any way a remarkable departure from Muslim beliefs.

You too can become a writer!

From The American Scene:

"The Borrower: How did Kaavya Viswanathan's first (and possibly last) novel end up being so heavily, um, influenced by another chick-lit writer? Sure, it seems like a cautionary tale about what can go wrong when you sign a seventeen-year-old to a huge book deal and then expect her to write the novel while studying for finals at Harvard. But I think the really interesting part of the story might be the role played by the mysterious "book-packaging" business. Here's an excerpt from the Globe's profile of Viswanathan, written two months back:

She had written poems and short stories since she was a child, even published a few in children's magazines. She showed her short stories to Katherine Cohen, her high-school college counselor, who was herself an author ("Rock Hard Apps: How to Write the Killer College Application") represented by New York agent Suzanne Gluck of the William Morris Agency. Cohen showed the samples to Gluck, who was impressed. Eventually the young writer was referred to Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, another Morris agent.

Walsh said she knew right away that Viswanathan had the talent. What she didn't have was a "commercially viable" work. Viswanathan's original idea for a novel was much darker than "Opal." The agency referred her to 17th Street Productions, a so-called book packager that specializes in developing projects in young-adult and middle-grade fiction. The editors there proposed that Viswanathan put her mind to something lighter, something closer to her own background.

"After lots of discussions about 'finding my voice,'" Viswanathan said, "I sat down and wrote them a fun, chatty e-mail about myself, which is where the voice and idea for Opal came from." She worked with 17th Street to flesh out the concept.

"They sent it to me, and I flipped over it," Walsh said. "We all recognized that Kaavya had the craftsmanship, she's beautiful and charming, she just needed to find the right novel that would speak to her generation and to people beyond her years as well. We worked on it some more and sold it for oodles and boodles of money."
Who exactly are these people? How many "young-adult and middle-grade" novels pass through their hands? Is it a coincidence that a book so deliberately "packaged" ended up containing lines cribbed from a novel in the same genre? Inquiring minds want to know . . ."

So we package and prep what might have matured into a real talent for our young readers. Just so long as it will sell. Are we producing literature or car ads? Does it matter to the reading public out there? And at a terrifyingly young age an author is now branded for life as a plagiarist to meet the demands of her handlers. She could have been a contender, perhaps.

23 April 2006

A Crusader and Darwin

One more little quote from Joinville's account of his expedition on the Seventh Crusade. He finds something that fascinates him so much that he recalls it a half century later, but has no idea what it really is.

During the king's stay at Saida [Sidon in what is now Lebanon] someone brought him a stone that split into flakes. It was the most marvellous stone in the world, for when you lifted one of the flakes you found the form of a sea-fish between the two pieces of stone. This fish was entirely of stone, but there was nothing lacking in its shape, eyes, bones, or colour to make it seem otherwise than if it had been alive. The king gave me one of these stones. I found a tench inside; it was brown in colour, and in every detail exactly as you would expect a tench to be.

22 April 2006

13th Century Crusader Humor

Now you might have bought the currently popular stereotype that Crusaders were crude rude barbarians more interested in slaughter, plunder and general mayhem than leading a good Christian life. That's the trouble with stereotypes, they're so ... uh... stereotypical!

They were actually a funloving bunch as this short extract from the account of Jean de Joinville's account of his role in the Seventh Crusade shows. He finished his little book in 1309.

I must tell you here of some amusing tricks the Comte d'Eu played on us. I had made a sort of house for myself in which my knights and I used to eat, sitting so as to get the light from the door, which, as it happened, faced the Comte d'Eu's quarters. The count, who was a very ingenious fellow, had rigged up a miniature ballistic machine with which he could throw stones into my tent. He would watch us as we were having our meal, adjust his machine to suit the length of our table, and then let fly at us, breaking our pots and glasses. On one occasion when I had bought a supply of fowls and capons, and someone or other happened to have given the count a bear, he let the animal loose among my poultry, and it had killed a dozen of them before anyone could get there. The woman who looked after my fowls had beaten the bear with her staff.

What's Your Reaction?

Two convicted sex-offenders were murdered, apparently after the suspected murderer found their names and addresses from Maine's online registry of such offenders. State police promptly removed the 2,200 name sex offender registry from the web as a precaution. A Maine public safety* spokeswoman helpfully explained, 'it will go back online, absolutely. It's the most popular site on the state of Maine Web page.'

Heaven knows putting 2,200 people at risk shouldn't interfere with a popular site. I am almost sorry I put up that last post about Texas. Almost.

*Does anyone remember the original Committee o f Public Safety?

Why is it always Texas?

'A Texas judge has ordered a mentally ill death-row inmate to be forcibly injected with anti-psychotic medication so that he can be executed.'

21 April 2006

Some random items from 'The Week'

I was going to work on some long posts about, among other things, my gendered history of the American car industry crack up, and how Medievals are different from us. But it's late and I am tired so this is what you get:

'The number of people who bought nonluxury wristwatches dropped 12 percent last year, a trend attributed to the growing popularity of cell phones with time readouts. Watches "serve no purpose," said Francis Eagan, a 21-year old waiter from Tustin, Calif., "like earrings."
[from The Los Angeles Times via The Week]

And I just paid $9.95 for a brand new watch at Wal-Mart. I feel so old.

'A British man was banned from his local pub after 30 years of loyal drinking for criticizing the decor. He promptly bought the establishment and reinstated himself.'

Now tell the truth - don't you dream of doing something like that?

True fact: the new state bird of Hawaii is the humuhumunukunukapuaa.
[That sound I just heard was blogger's feeble spell check crashing]

After leaving a costume party dressed as a Ninja a Un of Georgia student was surrounded by ATF agents with drawn weapons. A spokeswoman for the ATF defended the action, which might seem a tad overdrawn to uninformed citizens like me: 'Seeing someone with something across the face - from a federal standpoint, that's not right.'

Be warned.

So far the great state of Georgia has not passed judgment on wearing Ninja outfits.

Thank God we can still trust arithmatic

“I’m the decider, and I decide what’s best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.”

George W Bush
18 April 2006

19 April 2006

So ... why did the Vikings settle down?

There is no simple answer to this, just as there is no simple answer as to why they went on a rampage across most of the Medieval Western World and points east and west in the first place.

The single biggest factors where: they were Christianized, they were tamed by their own growing states, they were increasingly running into stronger states with stronger armies.

Whatever demographic force had built up in Scandinavia was spent, not to return until the second half of the 19th century when they all decided to move to Minnesota (where second generation Scandinavians not only won't eat luttefisk, they won't even stay in the house while it is being prepared).

Local governments in Germany, France and England were now able to take on Viking armies. Meanwhile, back home in Scandinavia increasingly powerful ruling elites not only did not want to go a-viking themselves, they didn't want any of their people taking off either.

But the biggest factor was Christianization. Arnold Toynbee once imagined what a possible pagan Scandinavian civilization might look like and was impressed. He thought it would have been as remarkably creative as ancient Greek civilization. He lamented, I think, the fact that this civilization was killed in the cradle when its members turned to Christianity. Once that happened, the folks who had produced the Vikings became peacefully (usually) integrated into the rest of the Christian commonwealth.

Still, Toynbee might have had a point.

18 April 2006

Hitler and bad judgment

"The fact that Hitler miscalculated does not abolish arithmatic."

Sebastian Haffner in his brilliant and troubling The Meaning of Hitler

Saracen Easter Eggs!

In 1250 a French army on Crusade led by King Louis was forced to surrender by the Sultan of Egypt. The king and his army had to ransom their way out. One group waited all day to be released. Finally at the end of the day they were told they could leave. The prisoners, understandably, wanted to leave as fast as possible, but their captors insisted they stay for some dinner. One of the French prisoners would later write:
"The food they gave us consisted of cheese fritters, baked in the sun to keep them free from maggots, and hard-boiled eggs cooked three or four days before, the shells of which, in our honour, had been painted in various colours. "

The writer, Jean de Joinville, had been held for some time by the Saracens and he reports many terrible things they did. But, like Cervantes, though he thought he had suffered much in captivity he does not seem to think badly of the Muslims. In fact he points out several instances of kindness and respect shown to the prisoners (like the gift of food) and comments when a Saracen is honorable or brave.

I have not forgotten my intention to write about Cervantes and the Muslims, but I have decided that I will have to go back to the beginning, AD 711, to tell the story right.

15 April 2006

A Viking Raid!

Some people continue to think of the Vikings as cute, devil may care cut-ups suitable for comic strips and the mascots of football teams. The reality was quite different. For most civilized Europeans they were homicidal maniacs sent be Satan.

Just check out this astoundingly good reconstruction of a a Viking attack, ca. AD 796. Not for the squeamish.

13 April 2006

Religious adherents in America

I got this map's link [http://time.blogs.com/photos/uncategorized/adherents.gif] from andrewsullivan.com. It's fascinating. It shows a county by county distribution of religious adherents (ie members of a church) across America. The biggest surprise to me personally is how much of Florida is under 50%. Much less of a surprise is Minnesota. Living proof that religious people can build a civilized, sane version of the American dream. But also look at Minnesota for this: there is a swath of religious affiliation pointing directly north to Winnipeg.

[I just threw that last part in for any Canadians who might be reading this]

Good v Evil: 'The Three Musketeers' and Milady

I was going to call this post "Satan in Drag" but decided that wasn't dignified enough. So I went with something tame, boring, and mundane.

Why Satan? Because I was listening to a taped version of Dumas' "Three Musketeers" at about the time I was writing the post on Christian fantasy writers and pointed out that one of the greatest Christian fantasy epics is Milton's "Paradise Lost", not least because of the heroic evil of Satan. He kidnaps the whole story. In fact, without his sterling qualities of courage, will, and determination, there is no story (now nota bene: however much we admire these qualities, and admire them we must, they are amoral virtues).

It occurred to me that Dumas' created a villain at least the equal of Milton's Satan: The Lady De Winter. She is superb. Beautiful, certainly, and usually presented in film versions as the typical femme fatale. But in the novel, D'Artagnan, who fears nothing, is absolutely terrified at the mere mention of her name. He has good reason.

Her strength is prodigious and personal. It owes little to the Cardinal's protection, her social position, or her wealth. It rests on her own beauty, charm and cleverness, but something else, something we can only call 'character'. Consider one episode. She has been betrayed to her brother-in-law, a powerful English earl, who has every reason to hate her. He locks her up in his castle, keeps her absolutely incommunicado, and puts her in the care of an officer who is absolutely loyal to the earl, whom he regards as a father. This officer, Felton, is the first man she has met who is absolutely impervious to her charms.

She is stunned, and in utter despair. She has exactly ten days to escape, assassinate the Duke of Buckingham, and return to France. It is obvious to her she hasn't got a prayer.

Step by step, Dumas shows us how from despair she turns to plans, from inaction to seizing on every trait of Felton she can observe to craft her escape. Within 24 hours she knows the key to his soul, within another 24 she has subverted 10 years of loyalty and holds him within her hand. Dumas makes it clear that this is a work of genius, with qualities of bravery and observation far beyond anything his Musketeers possess.

She is evil of course. Bad to the bone, as we say here. How do we know? Well, Dumas tells us so. But consider. She has put herself under the protection of the Cardinal Richelieu because she has no protector and loyally carries out his orders. And Dumas is ungrudging in his admiration of the Cardinal's work of building a strong France, no matter the cost. The deeds of Milady are simply part of that cost.

Further, consider her background. She was at a young age married to Le Comte de Something or Other, one of the richest and most powerful men in France. She is, by his own account, the perfect wife. Until one day she is accidently knocked cold while they are out riding, and he happens to notice (for the first time!) a brand on her shoulder. Dumas is too discrete to say so, but it the brand that used to mark a prostitute. His honor outraged, le Comte strips her naked and hangs her in the woods until she is dead. She is 18 years old.

What made her a prostitute in this age that had no pity for the weak and the helpless? We are not told. Dumas expects us to assume that it is because she is simply evil. That's all.

Perhaps. But one is left in awe of her qualities of strength. In the modern world she would be the heroine of the story. She and D'Artagnan would ride off into the sunset at the end, if she could be content with a mere hero.

All of this reminds me of one other fictional character, from an alien civilization. This is the Widow Bee in Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee written by a retired government official in China around 1750. A poor widow, she defies the Judge openly and very nearly defeats him. But that is another story and it is late.

12 April 2006

Para El Sobrino (and anyone else who likes Cerveza)

Some more info from The Week, this time quoting a story by Greg Kitsock in The Washington Post (if you are willing to pay attention to that liberal rag).

It seems that the invention of Guinness Stout (which outranks sliced bread and peanut butter) was the result of high taxes! In the 19th century Arthur Guinness Jr, disgusted with the high taxes on barley malt, tried to get around it by substituting 10% of the barley malt with untaxed, roasted, unmalted barley. The bit of roasted barley "gives Guinness its color and its burnt, coffee-like flavor with an acidic note in the finish."

Thus, high taxes are a GOOD THING because they led to the invention of Guinness Stout (god, I love history - you can prove anything).

But, otherwise, there is a disturbing trend among the Irish - some are turning down Guinness for an American beer like Budweiser - "using the alibi that they have to drive or that they are on a diet." Wimps. We're Americans, we don't know any better. There's no excuse for you doing this. (Anyway, in Ireland at least Budweiser is brewed by - Guinness, in exactly the same brewery the good stuff comes from).

Now for some facts:
Guinness measure 4.2% alcohol by volume, and has 125 calories per 12 oz serving (assuming you are dumb enough to drink it in 12 oz servings instead of a pint). Budwieser is about 5% alcohol and has 147 calories (assuming you can get a whole 12 oz serving down).

A pint of Guinness in the US is identical to a pint in Ireland. "It all comes from the same source" - the St James Gate Brewery in Dublin. Technically true, but if you ever go there, enjoy the amazing museum, go to the pub on top of the building, and while enjoying Dublin's fair city down your free pint of Guinness and tell me it is the same as anywhere else (Maire - can we get the infamous picture of Medievalists doing field work at St James Gate mounted here?)

Pub Draught Guinness in cans is brewed from the same recipe as tap Guinness.

Whatever you may have heard from some 'purists' into conspiracy theories, the recipe "has remained unchanged since 1959." Guinness recommends, however, that their Stout be served between 37 and 42 degrees, which is colder that a generation ago.

My only question: why did they change it in 1959?

News from Norway!

If you didn't think anything worthwhile was going on in Norway, a plumber's mix-up there connected a tavern's beer supply to the water pipes of the upstairs apartment. The lady in the apartment is reported to have said "I turned on the tap and beer came out. .. We thought we were in heaven."

I got that item from a legitimate news magazine. BTW, did anyone ever see John Cleese's travelogue 'Norway, land of Giants'?

Another obscure reference to Ball's Bluff

Newsday reports that only 5% of members of Congress are veterans, and only 7% have a child serving in the military.

For what it's worth.

Your Tax $$ at work

From USA Today:

Members of Congress convicted of crimes committed while in office remain eligible for government pensions. Among the convicted felons getting checks from taxpayers are former Reps. James Traficant ($40,000 annual pension); Dan Rostenkowski ($126,800); and most recently, Randy Duke Cunningham ($36,000).

Just thought you'd like to know.

(btw, remember the battle of Ball's Bluff?)

10 April 2006

Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Faith, II

Someone wanted to know why I didn't discuss Tolkien. Elliot already has. I read the Lord of the Rings while in high school. They had just come out in the Ace Paperback edition (cover art by Jack Gaughin) in America and Tolkien was disturbed because Ace had not gotten his permission. Later Ballentine came out with an authorized edition with a message from Tolkien on the back: 'buy only this version' was essentially it. At first I wasn't interested, but my older brother read one, loved it, talked to me incessantly about it, and even offered to pay me if I made an illustration for it, which I did. Of course I had to read it to get some idea of what I was to draw, and one thing led to another and I read all three of them, plus the Hobbit, plus the Tom Bombadill book, plus most everything else I could by him. In '83, when I was in France for several months and desperate for something to read in English i walked into a bookstore and bought the only two books in English in stock I could tolerate: The Silmarillion and Ivanhoe. Of the two, Silmarillion was the one that kept my attention the most.

As most people know Tolkien was a devout Catholic, a member of the Inklings writing group, along with C S Lewis, and an astonishingly inventive writer. He was also an expert on Anglo-Saxon and other Medieval languages, and used his linguistic skills to create his own languages. The way he told it, once he had the languages, like Elfen and Orcish, etc, he felt the need to make up stories about them. 'It was a tale that grew in the telling'. I have my doubts about this. Never believe things authors say about their work. Tolkien also claimed that there was absolutely nothing to be read into his stories. They were just little stories (with a thyroid condition). Right.

Anyone who is a Christian could probably find parallels, though I never thought Tolkien was trying to produce Christian allegory like Lewis (Tolkien disliked the Narnia stories). Yet the Ring Trilogy deserves to be in our list because its main theme, that informs almost every scene, is the struggle between Evil and Good: of the creation of evil, how it corrupts, and how Good can triumph at great sacrifice. It's told on an epic scale in a totally none Christian world, but its theme is the essence of Catholicism. Of Christianity in general.

And that brings us to perhaps the greatest and earliest writer of Christian fantasy, one who also worked on an epic scale to elucidate the struggle between good and evil: John Milton and Paradise Lost. I read it a few summers ago and was bowled over by it. Almost against Milton's will Satan becomes the 'hero' - or at least the protagonist. It is not for nothing that in the Star Trek TV episode that sets up the 'Revenge of Khan,' Khan tells Capt Kirk 'better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven!' Certainly, Satan gets all the best lines and the best scenes. Without him, nothing moves. I recommend taking the time to read it. If nothing else it will expand your vocabulary.

Next time: Satan in drag. Milady De Winter.

08 April 2006

New Business Tactic

How to fight off bankruptcy? Good question. Here's some stats from this weeks The Week:

"Although the number of passengers travelling by major airlines has returned to pre-Sept. 11 levels, there are now 200,000 fewer employees to serve them due to intense competition and cost-cutting."

What an idea! When your back is against the wall, cut employees so there will be fewer of them to provide for your customers! But for God's sake don't cut the salaries of the CEO's - they might leave to work somewhere else. So keep those bonuses coming.

It's the K-Mart syndrome. K-Mart was having trouble competing with Wal-Mart, meaning it couldn't attract as many customers. Here in Lykesboro, where the Wal-Mart is right across the highway from the K-Mart, the K-Mart solution was to cut staff, so that trying to check out was a nightmare, especially at Christmastime. The next step of their clever plan was to cut back on stock, on the theory that if you don't spend anything on buying stuff for your customers to buy, you will make a bigger profit for that month. The third step of their clever plan was to - uh - go out of business and close. Which is what happened here in Lykesboro.

My question: do they pay people to make decisions like this?

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Faith - my small contribution

Over on Claw of the Conciliator Elliot has written a multiple part essay on high quality works of fantasy and science fiction informed by the religious faith of their authors. It's worth reading.

I have responded to several of his observations. He doesn't believe that Dune by Frank Herbert should be there because while Herbert saw the importance of religion he seems to throw it in almost as a satirical aside. Perhaps. I can see the point, but when I first read it I thought it had a, well, perhaps 'spiritual' sheen to it - perhaps that was simply Herbert funning with us. One of the comments sent by Bernhardt for the Claw was that Herbert 'doesn't seem to have a clue what it's actually like to be a believer' but then goes on to say the novel isn't a bad way to get a sense of what a mahdi like jihad was like. I think that is almost a contradiction. Jihad's, Butlerian or otherwise, are the work of believers. I think the first point though is more valid if you mean a monotheistic believer in Abraham's god. But surely there are other types of religious faith that might be worth teasing out. I admit though that the Dune series might not be the work to start with (note to Elliot: if you got through three of the series, stop: Herbert was suffering a degenerative version of your SAS disease).

Elliot also asks "Am I the only one who pictures a mob of irate butlers smashing the robots who put them out of a job?" Very likely. I myself always pictured a futuristic Cromwell in a type of English Civil War that ran amok (which is a bit like saying a riot that turned riotous). The Orange Bible that Herbert kept quoting from always interested me but now that I recall it was probably a lame pastiche of King James-like prose.

Many of the books Elliot mentions are like taking a walk through my second and third decades. I read a great many of them then. Somewhere in my 11 years of grad school I stopped reading much fantasy or science fiction. But more on that later.

One of the authors he mentions whom I liked was Marion Zimmer Bradley, at least her Darkover novels which I devoured as an adolescent boy. And that was about the kind of reader they were first written for. I always felt they viewed Christianity with a very jaundiced eye. As her feminist viewpoint developed this became more obvious. Oddly enough this did not dim my appreciation of her Darkover series. Later I tried to read her Arthurian novels - The Mist of Avalon started them off. It is an historical period I know pretty well, but I simply could not get through her neo-pagan Goddess claptrap. It's a professional prejudice I suppose. On the other hand, my wife just finished Mists and thought it revealed Bradley as a gifted storyteller - but that she needed a good editor to cut it down by a quarter (creeping SAS?).

G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories are also quite good but I am not sure they fit the genres we are discussing. Aside from the fact that Father Brown is a Catholic priest, the stories were often imbued with Chesterton's sense of Christian ethics. Two examples particularly appealed to me. In one story Father Brown explains that he can solve the most difficult crimes by finding the same traits inside himself that in the criminal led him to commit the crime - even murder. All of us have motives that are potentially evil, and Brown can find his, understand them, and then figure out how similar feelings would have led the criminal to do whatever he did. The second one was when he solved a mystery because he simply paid attention to the people who served him, the waiters and valets, treated them like people instead of instruments, and actually talked with them. Remember that the next time you pass a janitor or dismiss a waiter.

That's all for right now. I'll write at least one more post on this. In the meantime, if the topic interests you, go see what Claw of the Conciliator has to say about it.

03 April 2006

Gibbon forwards a joke

When his own wit failed him, Gibbon was content to pass on a bon mot from friends, all properly footnoted. Here's one I discovered in this afternoon's session with The Decline and Fall. It is in refernece to a believer who was beheaded for his faith.

Note 100: ... The Catholic martyr had carried his head in his hands a considerable way (Baronius, A.D. 526, No 17, 18); yet, on a similar tale, a lady of my acquaintance once observed, "La distance n'y fait rien; il n'y a que le premier pas qui coute."

[Roughly, "The distance was nothing, it was the first step that was difficult."]

Andrew Sullivan on Fundamentalism

Still buried under work, but I can cut and paste just fine. Here's a post from Andrew Sullivan this morning that I like:
Drudge's expose of a wacko environmentalistlooking forward to the end of humanity through massive plagues was telling to me. In the long run, right-wing fundamentalism and left-wing fundamentalism end up in the same place. A core aspect of most such ideologies is their expectation of a moment in the future where all that they currently despise will be done away with and all will be well. So you have the eschatology of the early Christians, which eventually morphed into the nineteenth century doctrine of pre-millennialism, which is the forefather of the astonishingly successful dispensationalist fiction series, "Left Behind." You have Ahmadinejad forseeing the return of the Twelfth Imam and doing what he can to accelerate it. You have John McCain's new best friends, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, seeing the End-Times approach, when every homosexual, feminist and Jew will be roasted alive by Jesus. You have Marxists expecting the Communist revolution when all alienation will be dispelled. And you have the fundie enviro-left eagerly anticipating species annihilation. To my mind, it's a very good indicator of whether someone is worth listening to from a political stand-point. Those who expect the end of the world relatively soon should be kept as far away from public office as possible. They can keep their apocalypses to themselves."