Saturday, January 26, 2008

So the Sabbatai Savi religion came to an end, and survives only in the tiny sycretic sect known in Turkey as the Donme, which conceals a Jewish loyalty within an outward Islamic observance. But had its founder been put to death, we should be hearing of it still, and of the elaborate mutual excommunications, stonings and schisms that its followers would subsequently have engaged in. The nearest approximation in our own day is the Hasidic sect known as Chabad, the Lubavitcher movement once led (and according to some, still led) by Menachem Schneerson. The man's death in Brooklyn in 1994 was confidently expected to produce an age of redemption, which it so far has not. The United States Congress had already established an official "day" in Schneerson's honor in 1983. Just as there are still Jewish sects who maintain that the Nazi "final solution" was a punishment for living in exile from Jerusalem, so there are those who preserve the ghetto policy which maintained a watcher at the gates, whose job it was to alert the others if the Messiah arrived unexpectedly. ("It's steady work," as one of these watchmen is supposed, rather defensively, to have said.) Surveying the not-quite and might-have-been religions, one could experience a slight feeling of pathos, were it not for the constant din of other sermonizers, all of them claiming that it is their Messiah, and not anybody else's, who is to awaited with servility and awe.

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (172)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stare at Winona Ryder as she stands in the theater lobby, talking into a cell phone and looking at a poster of a movie she's not even in. Admire her black trench coat but wonder why she's got it on in this spring weather that's not even a little bit cold. Wonder what designer it is. Think about how it would be funny if you just went over and snapped her phone shut in mid-conversation, standing between her and the poster she is trying to look at, blocking her view, and how you'd say, "Girl, you're interrupted." It would at least be funny to you.

Dave White, Exile in Guyville (211)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pope John Paul II created more saints than all his predecessors of the past several centuries put together, and he had a special affinity with the Virgin Mary. His polytheistic hankerings were dramatically demonstrated in 1981 when he survived an assassination attempt in Rome, and attributed his survival to intervention by Our Lady of Fatima: 'A maternal hand guided the bullet.' One cannot help wondering why she didn't guide it to miss him altogether. Others might think the team of surgeons who operated on him for six hours deserved at least a share of the credit; but perhaps their hands, too, were maternally guided. The relevant point is that it wasn't just Our Lady who, in the Pope's opinion, guided the bullet, but specifically Our Lady of Fatima. Presumbaly Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Medjugorje, Our Lady of Akita, Our Lady of Zeitoun, Our Lady of Garabandal and Our Lady of Knock were busy on other errands at the time.

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (56)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The next morning at the Stanford Court Hotel, where Jim's own court was held each day, I bandaged his feet (devastated by lack of circulation) giving his devoted servant Marion Cunningham a rest from her daily chore. His robe had been left open where it "fell," exposing a belly as vast as Yosemite's El Capitan, which swept down to reveal what he could have been proud to reveal were Jim not the exception to the rule that large fingers are also a measure of the family jewels. Jim did have very big hands. This was a morning ritual, exposure to which I had long since become familiar and with which I'd grown confortable over the years I'd known him. After a little fondle, we talked about my career, about Alice, about Marion, about Gourmet, saying it was fine not to make money. We talked about Delmonico's and the time, a hundred years earlier in New York, when the great restaurants listed the provenance of their ingredients on their menus. And about the great William Niblo in his Old Bank Coffee House in 1814 serving ingredients with their origins called out on the menu: "Bald Eagle shot on the Grouse Plains of Long Island." And The Four Seasons in New York, where Jim had consulted starting in 1959.

Jeremiah Tower, California Dish: What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution (100-101).