👓 The story behind the gas lamps and leeries in ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ | Business Insider

Read The real story behind the gas lamps and lamplighters in 'Mary Poppins Returns' (Business Insider)
In 'Mary Poppins Returns', Lin-Manuel Miranda plays a lamplighter. Here's the history behind the lamps and the profession.

The Victorian periodical The Westminster Review wrote that the introduction of gas lamps would do more to eliminate immorality and criminality on the streets than any number of church sermons.  

Quoted Address at the Religious Leaders Conference on 11 May 1959 by Martin Luther King, Jr. (The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project (okra.stanford.edu) )
Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them, is a spiritually moribund religion in need of new blood.  

I read this quote on Nov 29, 2018 12:04pm through @dswanson's post and it has stuck with me. I thought I’d dig up some additional detail on it. It turns out Swanson’s version was a slight misquote/variation and even at that MLK may have been modifying a quote from somewhere else.

King may have adopted this passage from Harry Emerson Fosdick’s The Hope of the World [New York: Harper & Brothers, 1933], p. 25:

“Any church that pretends to care for the souls of people but is not interested in the slums that damn them, the city government that corrupts them, the economic order that cripples them . . . that kind of church, I think, would hear again the Master’s withering words: ‘Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”’

—annotation in The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project (okra.stanford.edu) “Address at the Religious Leaders Conference on 11 May 1959” on page 200

📺 Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature RLST 152 – Lecture 2 – From Stories to Canon | Open Yale Courses

Watched Lecture 2 From Stories to Canon by Dale B. Martin from RLST 152: Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature

The Christian faith is based upon a canon of texts considered to be holy scripture. How did this canon come to be? Different factors, such as competing schools of doctrine, growing consensus, and the invention of the codex, helped shape the canon of the New Testament. Reasons for inclusion in or exclusion from the canon included apostolic authority, general acceptance, and theological appropriateness for “proto-orthodox” Christianity.

📺 Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature RLST 152 – Lecture 1 – Introduction: Why Study the New Testament? | Open Yale Courses

Watched Lecture 1 Introduction: Why Study the New Testament? by Dale B. Martin from RLST 152: Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature

This course approaches the New Testament not as scripture, or a piece of authoritative holy writing, but as a collection of historical documents. Therefore, students are urged to leave behind their pre-conceived notions of the New Testament and read it as if they had never heard of it before. This involves understanding the historical context of the New Testament and imagining how it might appear to an ancient person.

Some interesting questions about what is in and what isn’t in the Bible here. I love that he does the exercise of what early Christianity meetings would have looked like to a person of that time period.

🔖 The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings by Bart D. Ehrman

Bookmarked The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings by Bart D. Ehrman (Oxford University Press; 6 edition)

Featuring vibrant full color throughout, the sixth edition of Bart D. Ehrman's highly successful introduction approaches the New Testament from a consistently historical and comparative perspective, emphasizing the rich diversity of the earliest Christian literature. Distinctive to this study is its unique focus on the historical, literary, and religious milieux of the Greco-Roman world, including early Judaism. As part of its historical orientation, the book also discusses other Christian writings that were roughly contemporary with the New Testament, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the letters of Ignatius.

Book cover of The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings by Bart D. Ehrman

An interesting looking textbook from Ehrman.

This is a recommended text for Dale Martin’s course Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature.

👓 Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature | Open Yale Courses

Read Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature by Dale B. Martin (oyc.yale.edu)
About the Course

This course provides a historical study of the origins of Christianity by analyzing the literature of the earliest Christian movements in historical context, concentrating on the New Testament. Although theological themes will occupy much of our attention, the course does not attempt a theological appropriation of the New Testament as scripture. Rather, the importance of the New Testament and other early Christian documents as ancient literature and as sources for historical study will be emphasized. A central organizing theme of the course will focus on the differences within early Christianity (-ies).

Course Structure

This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2009. The Open Yale Courses Series. For more information about Professor Martin’s book New Testament History and Literature, http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300180855 click here.

Ran across this while looking at some podcasts on another topic and it sounds like an interesting overview based on some of my previous readings of Bart Ehrman’s works. It dovetails with the recent book on archaeology and King David I’ve recently started and some conversations I’ve had recently with friends.

Ordering In-N-Out by Chapter and Verse: Hot Cocoa Edition

In a very rare move in January 2018, In-N-Out  added a new item to their sparse menu: hot cocoa. As part of their roll out and for marketing purposes, they serve free hot cocoa on rainy days to children under 12 years old. 

A few years back, I had written about the bible verses that In-N-Out “hides” on their product packaging. I remember hearing about the hot cocoa addition to the menu when it was initially released, but had forgotten about the bible verses until I had the occasion to visit on a recent rainy day.

So to complete the enlarged canon, here are the details for the bible verse found on In-N-Out’s hot cocoa cup.

Products and Bible Verses (continued)

  • Hot Cocoa:

    A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

    John  13:34
    In-N-Out Hot Cocoa Cup with a reference to bible verse  John 13:34

Notes

This certainly seems an appropriate verse to put on a product that they give away on rainy days. And who doesn’t love commandments involving hot cocoa?! I do notice that the verse isn’t hidden underneath the cup, like it is on the soda cups, but instead it’s front and center in relatively larger bold font on the side of the cup.

If one takes my prior call to replace the deity references with the product, then we’ll know that everyone who loves one another is a disciple of hot cocoa. They’re also likely to avoid improper microwave use too.

👓 South Carolina Is Lobbying to Allow Discrimination Against Jewish Parents | The Intercept

Read South Carolina Is Lobbying to Allow Discrimination Against Jewish Parents (The Intercept)
One Protestant group wants the federal government to sponsor discrimination.

🎧 “Risen” | Our Daily Bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Risen | Our Daily Bread 15 by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

August 15th is Ferragosto, a big-time holiday in Italy that harks back to the Emperor Augustus and represents a well-earned rest after the harvest. It is also the Feast Day of the Assumption, the day on which, Catholics believe, the Virgin Mary was taken, body and soul, into heaven.

Is there a connection between them? And what does it have do with wheat?

Apologies to listeners in the southern hemisphere; this may not reflect your experience.

I love the thesis given here and it most certainly fits.

It hasn’t gotten past me how much brilliance and thought went into the wonderful dense rich crumb that is the title of this episode. The audio is excellent as always, but I also notice there’s some fantastically overlaid background music that some may miss because it’s so subtly done. This is my favorite episode of the series so far.

The more I think about these episodes, which I like to listen to when I can devote my full attention rather than as background noise while I’m commuting or doing something else, I think they could be easily strung together to make a fantastic documentary.

🎧 The value of rituals in a digital world | ABC Radio National

Listened to The value of rituals in a digital world from ABC Radio National

Are rituals still needed in a world mediated through digital devices?

We tend to think of rituals as solemn ceremonies, usually associated with religion. But rituals exist in our everyday life, as a way of helping us to make sense of the world. They can be communal or solitary. But how are they changing as we become increasing digital? Can rituals still have power and relevance in a world mediated through digital devices?

Guests
Michael Norton – Professor, Harvard Business School
Vanessa Ochs – Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Member of the Jewish Studies Program, University of Virginia
Viktor Lysell Smalanning – Ritual designer
Alexandra Samuel – digital columnist for JSTOR Daily and regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal
Nicolas Nova – Associate Professor, Geneva School of Art and Design

Transcript

A fascinating topic in general, but there are some interesting tidbits that the IndieWeb movement could pick up as transitional rituals within its workflow. Similarly, while some of the jargon helps to identify group membership, we still need to do a better job of simplifying it to make it easier to have a broader membership. The episode actually brings up the idea of UI and designers taking ritual into account in our daily lives.

What types of rituals can we create to help mark the leaving behind of the old social world and becoming a fully fledged member of the indie web by registering one’s own domain and having one’s own website? Perhaps a ritual to celebrate not only this but the addition of standards like Webmention, Micropub, and Microsub? In some small sense, this is what we’re celebrating in the use of displaying buttons (or badges) on our sites.

This is definitely worth listening to again and brainstorming ideas for extending the concept. Perhaps at an upcoming IWC??

hat tip: Aaron Davis

👓 The End of History? | Francis Fukuyama

Read The End of History? by Francis FukuyamaFrancis Fukuyama (The National Interest | No. 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 3-18)

IN WATCHING the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history. The past year has seen a flood of articles commemorating the end of the Cold War, and the fact that "peace" seems to be breaking out in many regions of the world. Most of these analyses lack any larger conceptual framework for distinguishing between what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history, and are predictably superficial. If Mr. Gorbachev were ousted from the Kremlin or a new Ayatollah proclaimed the millennium from a desolate Middle Eastern capital, these same commentators would scramble to announce the rebirth of a new era of conflict.

And yet, all of these people sense dimly that there is some larger process at work, a process that gives coherence and order to the daily headlines. The twentieth century saw the developed world descend into a paroxysm of ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war. But the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: not to an "end of ideology" or a convergence between capitalism and socialism, as earlier predicted, but to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.

In general, while I’ve been reading Stuart Kauffmann’s At Home in the Universe, I can’t help but thinking about the cascading extinctions he describes and wonder if political extinctions of ideas like Communism or other forms of government or even economies might follow the same types of outcomes described there?   
August 29, 2018 at 09:37AM

Building on this, could we create a list of governments and empires and rank them in order of the length of their spans? There may be subtleties in changes of regimes in some eras, but generally things are probably reasonably well laid out. I wonder if the length of life of particular governments follows a power law? One would suspect it might.   
August 29, 2018 at 09:43AM

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism.  

Total exhaustion?
August 29, 2018 at 08:53AM

What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.  

What if, in fact, we’ve only just found a local maximum? What if in the changing landscape there are other places we could potentially get to competitively that supply greater maxima? And possibly worse, what if we need to lose value to get from here to unlock even more value there?
August 29, 2018 at 08:56AM

Hegel believed that history culminated in an absolute moment – a moment in which a final, rational form of society and state became victorious.  

and probably not a bad outcome in an earlier era that thought of things in terms of clockwork and lacked the ideas of quantum theory and its attendant uncertainties.
August 29, 2018 at 08:59AM

Believing that there was no more work for philosophers as well, since Hegel (correctly understood) had already achieved absolute knowledge, Kojève left teaching after the war and spent the remainder of his life working as a bureaucrat in the European Economic Community, until his death in 1968.  

This is depressing on so many levels.
August 29, 2018 at 09:05AM

Paul Kennedy’s hugely successful “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers”, which ascribes the decline of great powers to simple economic overextension.  

Curious how this may relate to the more recent “The End of Power” by Moisés Naím. It doesn’t escape one that the title of the book somewhat echoes the title of this particular essay.
August 29, 2018 at 09:18AM

But whether a highly productive modern industrial society chooses to spend 3 or 7 percent of its GNP on defense rather than consumption is entirely a matter of that society’s political priorities, which are in turn determined in the realm of consciousness.  

It’s not so much the percentage on produced defense goods, but how quickly could a society ramp up production of goods, services, and people to defend itself compared to the militaries of its potential aggressors.

In particular, most of the effort should go to the innovation side of war materiel. The innovation of the atomic bomb is a particularly nice example in that as a result of conceptualizing and then executing on it it allowed the US to win the war in the Pacific and hasten the end of war in Europe. Even if we otherwise had massive stockpiles of people or other weapons, our enemies could potentially have equaled them and dragged the war on interminably. It was the unknown unknown via innovation that unseated Japan and could potentially do the same to us based on innovation coming out of almost any country in the modern age.
August 29, 2018 at 09:24AM

Weber notes that according to any economic theory that posited man as a rational profit-maximizer, raising the piece-work rate should increase labor productivity. But in fact, in many traditional peasant communities, raising the piece-work rate actually had the opposite effect of lowering labor productivity: at the higher rate, a peasant accustomed to earning two and one-half marks per day found he could earn the same amount by working less, and did so because he valued leisure more than income. The choices of leisure over income, or of the militaristic life of the Spartan hoplite over the wealth of the Athenian trader, or even the ascetic life of the early capitalist entrepreneur over that of a traditional leisured aristocrat, cannot possibly be explained by the impersonal working of material forces,  

Science could learn something from this. Science is too far focused on the idealized positive outcomes that it isn’t paying attention to the negative outcomes and using that to better define its outline or overall shape. We need to define a scientific opportunity cost and apply it to the negative side of research to better understand and define what we’re searching for.

Of course, how can we define a new scientific method (or amend/extend it) to better take into account negative results–particularly in an age when so many results aren’t even reproducible?
August 29, 2018 at 09:32AM

FAILURE to understand that the roots of economic behavior lie in the realm of consciousness and culture leads to the common mistake of attributing material causes to phenomena that are essentially ideal in nature.  

August 29, 2018 at 09:44AM

“Protestant” life of wealth and risk over the “Catholic” path of poverty and security.[8]   

Is this simply a restatement of the idea that most of “the interesting things” happen at the border or edge of chaos? The Catholic ethic is firmly inside the stable arena while that of the Protestant ethic is pushing the boundaries.
August 29, 2018 at 09:47AM

Hence it did not matter to Kojève that the consciousness of the postwar generation of Europeans had not been universalized throughout the world; if ideological development had in fact ended, the homogenous state would eventually become victorious throughout the material world.  

This presupposes that homeostasis could ever be achieved.

One thinks of phrases like “The future is here, it just isn’t evenly distributed.” But everything we know about systems and evolving systems often indicates that homeostasis isn’t necessarily a good thing. In many cases, it means eventual “death” instead of evolving towards a longer term lifespan. Again, here Kauffmann’s ideas about co-evolving systems and evolving landscapes may provide some guidance. What if we’re just at a temporary local maximum, but changes in the landscape modify that fact? What then? Shouldn’t we be looking for other potential distant maxima as well?
August 29, 2018 at 09:52AM

But that state of consciousness that permits the growth of liberalism seems to stabilize in the way one would expect at the end of history if it is underwritten by the abundance of a modern free market economy.  

Writers spend an awful lot of time focused too carefully on the free market economy, but don’t acknowledge a lot of the major benefits of the non-free market parts which are undertaken and executed often by governments and regulatory environments. (Hacker & Pierson, 2016)
\August 29, 2018 at 10:02AM

Are there, in other words, any fundamental “contradictions” in human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure?  

Churchill famously said “…democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…”

Even within this quote it is implicit that there are many others. In some sense he’s admitting that we might possibly be at a local maximum but we’ve just not explored the spaces beyond the adjacent possible.
August 29, 2018 at 10:08AM

For our purposes, it matters very little what strange thoughts occur to people in Albania or Burkina Faso, for we are interested in what one could in some sense call the common ideological heritage of mankind.  

While this seems solid on it’s face, we don’t know what the future landscape will look like. What if climate change brings about massive destruction of homo sapiens? We need to be careful about how and why we explore both the adjacent possible as well as the distant possible. One day we may need them and our current local maximum may not serve us well.
August 29, 2018 at 10:10AM

anomie  

I feel like this word captures very well the exact era of Trumpian Republicanism in which we find ourselves living.
August 29, 2018 at 10:37AM

After the war, it seemed to most people that German fascism as well as its other European and Asian variants were bound to self-destruct. There was no material reason why new fascist movements could not have sprung up again after the war in other locales, but for the fact that expansionist ultranationalism, with its promise of unending conflict leading to disastrous military defeat, had completely lost its appeal. The ruins of the Reich chancellery as well as the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed this ideology on the level of consciousness as well as materially, and all of the pro-fascist movements spawned by the German and Japanese examples like the Peronist movement in Argentina or Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army withered after the war.  

And yet somehow we see these movements anew in America and around the world. What is the difference between then and now?
August 29, 2018 at 11:46AM

This is not to say that there are not rich people and poor people in the United States, or that the gap between them has not grown in recent years. But the root causes of economic inequality do not have to do with the underlying legal and social structure of our society, which remains fundamentally egalitarian and moderately redistributionist, so much as with the cultural and social characteristics of the groups that make it up, which are in turn the historical legacy of premodern conditions.  

August 29, 2018 at 11:47AM

But those who believe that the future must inevitably be socialist tend to be very old, or very marginal to the real political discourse of their societies.  

and then there are the millennials…
August 29, 2018 at 11:51AM

Beginning with the famous third plenum of the Tenth Central Committee in 1978, the Chinese Communist party set about decollectivizing agriculture for the 800 million Chinese who still lived in the countryside. The role of the state in agriculture was reduced to that of a tax collector, while production of consumer goods was sharply increased in order to give peasants a taste of the universal homogenous state and thereby an incentive to work. The reform doubled Chinese grain output in only five years, and in the process created for Deng Xiaoping a solid political base from which he was able to extend the reform to other parts of the economy. Economic Statistics do not begin to describe the dynamism, initiative, and openness evident in China since the reform began.  

August 29, 2018 at 11:58AM

At present, no more than 20 percent of its economy has been marketized, and most importantly it continues to be ruled by a self-appointed Communist party which has given no hint of wanting to devolve power.  

If Facebook were to continue to evolve at it’s current rate and with it’s potential power as well as political influence, I could see it attempting to work the way China does in a new political regime.
August 29, 2018 at 12:04PM

IF WE ADMIT for the moment that the fascist and communist challenges to liberalism are dead, are there any other ideological competitors left? Or put another way, are there contradictions in liberal society beyond that of class that are not resolvable? Two possibilities suggest themselves, those of religion and nationalism.  

August 29, 2018 at 12:19PM

This school in effect applies a Hobbesian view of politics to international relations, and assumes that aggression and insecurity are universal characteristics of human societies rather than the product of specific historical circumstances.  

August 29, 2018 at 12:30PM

But whatever the particular ideological basis, every “developed” country believed in the acceptability of higher civilizations ruling lower ones  

August 29, 2018 at 12:37PM

Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.  

Has it started again with nationalism, racism, and Trump?
August 29, 2018 at 12:48PM

👓 Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult | C Thi Nguyen | Aeon Essays

Read Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult by C Thi Nguyen (Aeon)

First you don’t hear other views. Then you can’t trust them. Your personal information network entraps you just like a cult

Something has gone wrong with the flow of information. It’s not just that different people are drawing subtly different conclusions from the same evidence. It seems like different intellectual communities no longer share basic foundational beliefs. Maybe nobody cares about the truth anymore, as some have started to worry. Maybe political allegiance has replaced basic reasoning skills. Maybe we’ve all become trapped in echo chambers of our own making – wrapping ourselves in an intellectually impenetrable layer of likeminded friends and web pages and social media feeds.

But there are two very different phenomena at play here, each of which subvert the flow of information in very distinct ways. Let’s call them echo chambers and epistemic bubbles. Both are social structures that systematically exclude sources of information. Both exaggerate their members’ confidence in their beliefs. But they work in entirely different ways, and they require very different modes of intervention. An epistemic bubble is when you don’t hear people from the other side. An echo chamber is what happens when you don’t trust people from the other side.

A stunning essay that gives me hope that we’re not in a “post-truth” world. On the other hand, we’re going to need to do a lot of work …

hat tip: Ian O’Byrne

👓 How teachers can support students during Ramadan | PBS

Read Column: How teachers can support students during Ramadan (PBS NewsHour)
If students have the right accommodations and support from teachers and their peers during Ramadan, it can turn a challenging month into the most rewarding.

👓 The Ugly Coded Critique of Chick-Fil-A’s Christianity | Bloomberg

Read The Ugly Coded Critique of Chick-Fil-A's Christianity (Bloomberg.com)
The fast-food chain's "infiltration" of New York City ignores the truth about religion in America. It also reveals an ugly narrow-mindedness.

👓 Chris Aldrich is reading “South Korea’s Shamanic Panic”

Read South Korea's Shamanic Panic (Foreign Affairs)
For over a month now, South Koreans have been asking a rather unusual question for citizens of a modern democracy: whether their president, Park Geun-hye, could have been under the influence of the supernatural while in office.