Friday, March 31, 2006

A Token of Donne

Today is the feast day in the Anglican Communion of John Donne, priest, who, besides his accomplishments in divinity, was (on his good days) a poet the equal of Shakespeare. Celebrate his day by reading "The Token."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Pot in the Bible?

In answer to a question from Michael Gilleland:

1. There is no credible evidence that the etymology of cannabis (Latin "hemp") is connected to Hebrew קנה בשם qeneh bosem (Exodus 30:23), literally "reed of sweet spice."

2. The best guess as to the identity of qeneh bosem, an ingredient in the incense used in the tabernacle, is that it was lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus). (See the entry in Immanuel Löw's Flora der Juden, 1924-34.) Nobody knows for sure.

3. There is no evidence that Jesus used cannabis, marijuana, hemp, lemon grass, qeneh bosem, kalamos euodes (the Greek translation of qeneh bosem), or any compound of spices or incense in the process of healing, contrary to recent sensationalistic claims.

4. The only mentions of kalamos in the New Testament (Matt 11:7; 12:20; 27:29-30, 48; Mark 15:19, 36; Luke 7:24; 3 John 1:13; Rev 11:1; 21:15-16) are in the meaning "reed" or "pen." Kannabis is not mentioned in the NT.

5. The only unmistakable reference to Cannabis sativa that I can find in Hebrew or Aramaic are some obscure vocabulary items in Syriac: qanpa (obviously a loan from kannabis) and tanuma. (Courtesy of the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon.) These words are not used in the Peshitta (Syriac Bible). Qanpa is used in the late Syriac Ahiqar texts to refer to "ropes of hemp" (tunbei de-qanpa). They were weaving it, not smoking it. (Later: Sorry, I overlooked the Hebrew word qanbes — again a clear loan from kannabis and not the other way around — found in the Mishnah to mean "hemp." Again in the contexts in which it appears [Kilaim 2:5; 5:8; 9:1,7; Negaim 11:2], it refers to a material for making clothing or other household objects, not an ingredient of incense or healing.]

6. QED: Neither British tabloids nor Wikipedia are reliable sources of information.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

If you don't like the weather ...

Yesterday we had a big snowstorm, today it is bright and cloudless. It's time to bring out the old cliché, "If you don't like the weather in Cincinnati, just wait a few minutes." This particular meme, so beloved around here as a "local saying," I have heard in all of the many places I have lived. A quick Google search reveals the following exact quotes for this "local saying":

If you don't like the weather in Texas... Just blink!

If You Don't Like The Weather in Chicago. wait a minute.

If you don't like the weather in Michigan, wait five minutes.

Mark Twain wrote, "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes."

And remember, if you don't like the weather in St. Louis, just wait ten minutes.

Yup, if you don't like the weather in Texas, wait five minutes -- it'll change!

If you don't like the weather in Melbourne, just wait five minutes.

If you don't like the weather in Washington, well, just wait a minute.

If you don't like the weather in Boston, just wait a minute.

Will Rogers once quipped, "If you don't like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it'll change."

If you don't like the weather in Missouri just wait 5 minutes.

"If you don't like the weather in Buffalo, wait five minutes." Famous quote from past resident Mark Twain.

If you don't like the weather in the Sierra…wait a minute"

Everybody knows that if you don't like the weather in British Columbia, all you have to do is to wait five minutes.

If you don't like the weather in Florida, stick around for a few minutes, it'll change.

I guess it's true what they say here "if you don't like the weather in Utah, wait 20 minutes".

If you don't like the weather in North Carolina, wait a day.

We also say, 'If you don't like the weather in Scotland, then hang around for twenty minutes'.

I wonder ... do they haul out this "local saying" in Europe as well? Are there French or German equivalents? And what did Mark Twain really say?

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Champion Once Again

I was fortunate enough to be selected a member of the Spelling Bee team at the company I work for, and yesterday we won the Literacy Network of Greater Cincinnati's 16th Annual Scripps Spelling Bee for Literacy. The full story is here. Yeah, baby! No, the LPK team did not wear costumes.

The last time I did anything like this was in 1967, when I won the Austin (Tx.) Junior High School spelling championship. Nice to know that I still got the mojo. And big-time props to my teammates, Bev and Al.

Below is a picture of me giving the black-power salute (after spelling alepidote), while Al Hidalgo looks on wonderingly.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Skinny-Dipping and the Fate of Nations

The death of John Profumo — a figure likely forgotten by many today — is big with biblical echoes. Profumo was a Conservative cabinet member in the British government in 1963, and was brought down by a sex scandal involving call-girl Christine Keeler. The NYT reports:
She [Keeler] was 19. He was 48. As the story went, he first caught sight of her climbing naked out of a swimming pool.
For those, like myself, who view the world as a vast biblical commentary, the story of Profumo is a gloss upon the sin of David and Bathsheba. 2 Sam. 11:2-4:
Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her.
All of which is an illustration of the observation, first enunciated in ancient wisdom literature, which may be paraphrased as follows:

The whiskey glass
and the female ass
have brought many men
to a sorry pass.

It is also a biblical principle, however, that that is not necessarily the end of the story. I will assume that the later story of David is well-known to most of my readers. The later story of Profumo, on the other hand, was news to me. The NYT story notes that "after his fall ... he turned to charitable work among the poor in the hardscrabble East End of London":
But there was another side of the story: redemption. By working in the East End, washing dishes, tending alcoholics, Mr Profumo's friends said, he paid his dues. Lord Deedes, a friend, told the BBC today: "He atoned for his mistakes and I think will, on death, receive his reward for that."