I don't know if I should be insulted or not, but I've noticed that the character and tenor of my spam has changed. I used to get online dating services, mail from the sort of sites that, I think, are offering home courses in how to become a gynecoligist or urologist. Now I get advertisements for retirement funds, viagra and cialis, and life insurance. The only swinging spammers who haven't abandoned me are those asking me to help them transfer $US 30 MILLION DOLLARS to the United States.
For some reason, around this time of year one's thoughts invariably turn to pirates. For the six year old, they're these Pyrates (note: for a less animated version, click here. For me, it's The Devil's Anarchy, which feeds off contemporaneous accounts and documents about a pair of pirates and tries to recreate what pirates were actually up to: Were they plunderers and pillagers, or did their revolt, their egalitarian social organization (captains commanded only in battle; crews were democratic otherwise, for example), their abhorrence of violence (much better to threaten than to actually have to fight), signify something else? The preface tells us that the work's author, Stephen Snelders, shows us "[the] pirate as libertarian hero, [the] pirate as symbolic focus for anti-Capitalís desire."
I'm not far along to say, but the book does have a nicely bizarre mix of Marxist and Libertarian theology...
Amazon recommended this book to me, The Mormon Conspiracy, probably because I've ordered some other works on the Latter Day Saints, many of which were written by Mormons who are struggling with their faith. The latter are engaging and interesting, and a useful reminder that the text is almost never the thing, it's the custom. The Book of Mormon argues quite insistently for the fallen nature of man, yet the Mormon creed rejects the doctrine of original sin. As for the former, I'm baffled as to what to say. The editorial description tells us that it is a volume that reveals the "true nature and plan of the Mormon Church for America -- and the world." My reaction to such phrases is to be grateful that at least someone is thinking ahead...
Some of the reader reviews made me rethink my flippant response -- this one, from a veteran of World War II, gave me pause:
When I got back to Salt Lake, I found returning to the insipid routine of Mormonism frustrating and confusing, What ever moral guilt or sorrow I felt for having served in WWII was never addressed in the LDS Church. When my wife died in 1969, I got a temple recommend to have her posthumously married to me and my three minor children sealed to us for eternity, as prescribed by Mormonism. The temple ceremony was one of my life's greatest shocks. Not only was it an obvious cult ritual but also was personally abhorrent. Since this ritual, I have not been active in the Church. However, I have struggled emotionally with vague feelings, thoughts and troubled by the incongruities I have experienced in mentally questioning the Church's claim of legitimacy. In my view, "The Mormon Conspiracy" has pulled together historical and other data that reveals the true Mormon Church.
Troubling. An aside here: For my part, I think I'm going to join an ancient Egyptian mystery cult that's been defunct for a few thousand years. What's the difference, ultimately?
In the past year, I've gone to two naturalization ceremonies for family members, and I can say that seeing a roomful of people from places like Afghanistan, Burundi, Canada, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Laos, Mexico, Niger, Russia, Sweden, Tanzania and Zaire take the oath of citizenship, all smiles and heartfelt congratulations, to hear from the representative of the Daughters of the American Revolution that, "You are every bit as much an American as I am," well, it's a very good reminder that, say what you will about its shortcomings, the American experiment is a wonderful thing.
Nothing is quite so powerful as the allure of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
At first I thought that Deep Impact, the Nasa probe that will slam into the Tempel 1 comet in order to gain insights, scientists believe, into the origins of our solar system, was an amazingly cool thing. I still do, of course, but I have a vague recollection that this was the kind of thing that caused the Sleestaks to fall from a race of intelligent, cultured reptilians to bow and arrow wielding primitives who were afraid of fire.
(Actually, this particular portion of the Land of the Lost show sounds remarkably like portions of the Book of Mormon.)