by Dish Staff
Watch as fog fills the Grand Canyon:
Last week marked three hundred years since the birth of George Whitefield, whom Thomas Kidd, author of George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father, describes as “the greatest evangelist of the eighteenth century, and the best known person in colonial America prior to the Revolution.” More background from Kidd:
George Whitefield, born on Dec. 16, 1714, was a Church of England minister who led the Great Awakening, a series of Christian revivals that swept through Britain and America in the mid-1700s. Whitefield drew enormous audiences wherever he went on both sides of the Atlantic, and his publications alone doubled the output of the American colonial presses between 1739 and 1742. If there is a modern figure comparable to Whitefield, it is Billy Graham. But even Mr. Graham has followed a path first cut by Whitefield.
What made Whitefield and his gospel message so famous? First, he mastered the period’s new media. Cultivating a vast network of newspaper publicity, printers and letter-writing correspondents, Whitefield used all means available to get the word out. Most important, he joined with Benjamin Franklin, who became Whitefield’s main printer in America, even though Franklin was no evangelical. Their business relationship transformed into a close friendship, although Whitefield routinely pressed Franklin, unsuccessfully, about his need for Jesus.
In an interview, Kidd draws out Whitefield’s importance for American history:
Today is the shortest day of the year, leading Brian Handwerk to examine the health benefits of sunshine:
Light treatments using both natural light and artificial lamps have some history as preventative measures and even as treatments for diseases linked to vitamin D deficiency. And moderate exposure to natural light usually produces an appropriate amount of vitamin D, although the exact amount varies greatly with climate, skin pigment and other factors. … “The most interesting recent development to me is the [number of] probable other beneficial effects of a bit of sun exposure or time outdoors,” says epidemiologist Robyn Lucas at the Australian National University. Lucas was lead author of a World Health Organization study about the global health burden due to UV exposure. “There are recent studies showing beneficial effects on blood pressure, development of obesity and modulation of immune function to be less autoreactive, so lower incidence of autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis.”
One recent study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggested that exposing skin to sunlight can reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack, possibly because it alters levels of nitric oxide in human skin and blood. When the sun shines, small amounts of this messenger molecule are transferred from the skin to the circulatory system, dilating blood vessels and lowering blood pressure, the research posits. And in preliminary work in laboratory mice, nitric oxide released by UV exposure seemed to help curb weight gain and lower the risk of diabetes—although the researchers caution that they can’t yet be sure whether the effects translate to people.
Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar, 10.15 am
The reader who sent this window view captions it:
The temple dogs at this Shan monastery take some refreshment.
My son, Felix, is not yet a year old, so Kerry and I have got a lot of parenting choices ahead of us. For example, should we conspire to make Felix believe in Santa. I think we should, for pretty much the same reasons Pascal-Emanuel Gobry won’t:
If you are a Christian, as I am, you are really shooting yourself in the foot. “No, the thing about the magic flying fat man, that was just a made-up story, but the thing about the magic bearded Jesus, that part, that’s totally true!” That sounds silly, doesn’t it? Mainstream popular culture works hard enough telling people Christianity is unbelievable; we should not join the chorus ourselves.
Well, we’re atheists. I don’t intend to proselytize atheism to my kid, because I’m not interested in getting him to believe anything in particular. What I’m interested in is teaching him how to reason in a way that maximizes his chances of hitting on the truth. Now, one of the most interesting truths about the empirical world is that there are all these powerful systems of myth that are kept afloat by a sort of mass conspiracy, and humans seem disposed to pick one from the ambient culture and take it very seriously. But it can be hard to get your head around the way it all works unless you participate in it. Santa is a perfect and relatively harmless way to introduce your child the socio-psychology of a collective delusion about the supernatural. The disillusionment that comes from the exposure to the truth about Santa breeds a general skepticism about similarly ill-founded popular beliefs in physics-defying creatures. Gobry would rather his children not learn to side-eye well-loved myths in this way, and, given his faith, that seems reasonable.
The Economist‘s E.W. recently visited “Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea”, a new exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. How depictions of Jesus’ mother changed over time:
Pre-Renaissance Mary is represented as queenly: ennobled, enthroned, surrounded by angels and engulfed in celestial light. In the late Middle Ages she becomes more approachable, appearing more often in the garb of an unassuming peasant. The humanist conception of Mary gained further traction in the Renaissance: she is less empress of heaven, more mother—sewing, nursing and playing with the infant Jesus. It is a representation that is crucial to the doctrine of Jesus’s “authentic humanity”:
According to initial reports Francis had been comforting a small boy over the death of his dog, when he declared, “One day we will see our animals again in eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.” Even The New York Times ran the story on the front page.
This is the progressive Francis we all know and love: he’s willing to talk about the divorced and remarried receiving communion and he boldly extends “all dogs go to heaven” beyond its customary canine-exclusive borders.
Except Francis didn’t actually say this. As David Gibson revealed this week, it was a different Pope—Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978—who gave the young boy the soothing pep talk. That’s the Francis effect: he gets the credit for every nice thing a Pope has ever said.
Tracing how the story got started, David Gibson notes that Francis did give a talk in November in which he claimed that the Christian belief in the coming of a “new heaven” and a “new earth” would mean “the bringing of all things into the fullness of being.” And then it was off to the races:
A NSFW clip from Pink Flamingos:
Jerry Saltz celebrates John Waters as not only “one of America’s best moviemakers, [but] also an outstandingly original artist”:
No one gets the cross-section of showbiz and fandom like him. In giving us these extraordinarily particular individuals and distinct visages — both psychological and visual — Waters gets you to know in your bones that the more we are part of a vast crowd of people who idolize someone or something, the more alone and special we feel in our idolization. These are the tribal roots of his art — maybe of all art: the mad adoration and the giving-up of self in order to become more of one’s self. In the same way that Hamlet is so deep that each of us has our own understanding of Hamlet, Pink Flamingos is so specific, if demented, that each of us who reveled in it has our own version of Pink Flamingos. Waters also makes great, telling text-pieces, little index cards with “to-do lists” made up of scores of items, all written in and then crossed out in teeny writing in an orderly fashion. This is one busy, smart, anal-retentive, driven, deeply squirrelly artist.
Saltz goes on to say that he particularly loves that “Waters identifies as a dual citizen of Gotham and his home Baltimore”:
“The Magi” by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939):
Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.
Laurence Maslon looks back to musical theater’s lurid past:
Coded references to risqué and sexual matters were catnip to the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Cole Porter. In the case of Pal Joey, Hart found a soulmate (and drinking buddy) in the book’s writer, the equally louche John O’Hara. Within the first 15 lines of the show, during which an aspiring nightclub singer is quizzed by a prospective manager, there are references to cocaine, alcohol, pederasty, and one-night stands. In this show, which Richard Rodgers wrote was the first musical “to deal with the facts of life,” the eponymous nightclub singer becomes the kept man of a wealthy socialite, while cheating on his more innocent girlfriend. The singer and the socialite rhapsodize about their affair in a song called “Den of Iniquity,” where they brag about the power of a radio broadcast of Tschaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” to heighten their sexual activity.
When Porter came to Kiss Me, Kate in 1948, the newer brand of musical, with its stricter narrative form, gave fewer opportunities for the naughty one-off numbers that made his reputation in the late 1920s, but with songs such as “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” he gets away with murder (or “murther,” if you are Shakespearean purist): “When your baby is pleading for pleasure/Let her sample your Measure for Measure” and “If she says your behavior is heinous/Kick her right in theCoriolanus.” (Shockingly, this last couplet made it into the 1953 film version; someone was napping over at MGM.)