Friday, October 22, 2021

Tale 6: The King of Mushrooms - Rough Draft

And Abram did fall into a very bad crowd who were called 'Habirus' for they had covered their heads with dust. 

And the Habirus did deny the false gods and were outcast from the people of Haran. 

And lo, the King of Haran did say unto the Habirus: "thou art a race of thieves and deceivers who worship no idols and sacrifice to no gods. We do exile thee to the barren land of Canaan, where all is dust for from dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return." 

And lo, did Terah said to Abram "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child. Thou hast fallen in with dirty mercenaries and broken out against all sound judgement." 

And Abram did say to his father: "I am not a child, I am seventy-five." 

And Terah did answer: "thou art an errant weed who worships no graven images, sacrifices no humans, and eats nothing unclean. Surely thou art an abomination in the eyes of the Lords." 

And Abram did answer: "Surely I am unrighteous and have sinned against idolatry, I have trespassed and betrayed."

And Abram did repent of unheathen ways, and made burnt offerings of his slaves. 

And Abram did work in his fathers fields and sell his father's idols. 

But the Habirus did give Abram a mushroom which caused Abram to see all gods of the earth as an heavenly army, and a Lord of hosts proclaiming above them as a celestial King.

And the king did say unto Abram: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy fathers house, unto a land that I will shew thee." 

And Abram did flash back to his lordly vision manifold times. And Abram did say: "The Lord and I will make of the Habirus a great nation and bless me, and make my name great, and I shalt be a blessing.

And He will bless them that bless me, and curse them that curseth me, and in me shall all the families of the earth be blessed." 

And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and all the souls they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

And Abram did come to the Habirus, and the Habirus did reject him, for they said 'the land in Canaan is fallow and we are great with trial and hunger. Thou art not an Habiru, and we do permit thee only food for three days." 

And Abram did take the food and continue to Egypt. 




Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Tales from the Old New Land - Table of Contents - Book 1 - 2/3rdsish

 (none of these can go past 1000 words except with special exceptions, the Moses and Joseph stories may not exceed 3000)

1. Dream of Jewish History (complete)

2. Abraham acquiring Me'arat HaMachpela (in final form)

(New 3, 4, 5, 6?. Earlier mythology of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samson that may not have made it into the Bible?)

3.  German bible scholarship and archeology (written but possibly needs revision)

Cain Fragment no. 1: Cain at Masada

(New 4? New story about Egyptians or Mesopotamians coming into contact with monotheism for the first time?

4. Noah's Flood (almost in final form)

(New 5? Journeys of Shem, who comes into contact with Ziusudra and Gilgamesh?)

Cain Fragment no. 2: Cain at Tower of Babel

5. Biography of Abraham. (Do the biography as many tales or just one?) How Terah and Abraham got to Ur.

6. Letters between Rebecca and Laban (complete in final form)

7. Abraham among marauding nomads known as the Habirus. 

8. Abraham and Sarah in Egypt. 

9. Abraham and Lot business fights.

10. Abraham being a mercenary soldier for Sodom, fighting in a war that causes the collapse of the Sumerian Empire and the destruction of Sodom. 

11. Abraham dispute with Abimelech. 

12. Sarah and Hagar, Ishmael's bad behavior. 

13. The healers whom Abraham thinks are angels who cure Abraham and Sarah of their infertility. 

14. Ruth and Naomi - the domestication of homosexuality and their joining as handmaidens to Sarah.

15. Abraham, growing senile, misinterprets God and joins the moon cult. 

16. Abraham has vision to redeem himself for his misinterpretation by sacrificing Isaac. Actually does it and Eliezer has to replace Isaac with Ishmael. 

17. Philo argues for Caligula to take down the statue of himself in Jerusalem's Beit-HaMikdash.

18. Maimonides ministering to Saladin.

19. Nachmanides and Paolo Christiani: the disputation in front of James I of Aragorn. 

20. Kierkegaard dealings with Jews. Evolution of his antisemitism. 

21. The Wisdom of Sirach - Grandson of Jesus

22. Early Reform Judaism - Post-Civil War Cincinnati, and the evolution of modern political correctness.

23. Elderly Jacob writes to Benjamin a revised, deliberately altered history of his family as they journey to Egypt. 

24. Deborah - in this version the daughter of Naomi, who comes to the House of Abraham and fights alongside Abraham in the war . 

25. Something about how Abraham and Jacob finessed their belief in one god with the need to pay tribute to local gods. 

26. Dinah tells the story of Shechem's destruction and the invasion by Simon and Levi. 

27: Vespacian's  meeting with Rabbi Yochanan. 

28. Josephus's unpublished chapter about the destruction of Jerusalem. 

29. Eusebius and the birth of antisemitism in the Byzantine Empire.

30. Levi the 'Lion Man' makes himself king of Shechem after his curse from Jacob. The Egyptians go to war with him, kill him, and force Jacob to take Shechem for himself. Jacob punishes the descendents of Levi with servitude. 

31. The alliance between Joshua and Shechem.

32. Joseph all in one long chapter, focusing on the Potiphar story with subtext of a homosexual relationship between Joseph and Potiphar. 

33. The birth of the monotheistic cult in Egypt - Akhenaten who came to see the sun god Ra as the only god and himself as the Messiah, because he had Joseph as his prime advisor. 

34. The realization by Akhenaten's court that the Hebrews and their monotheism are such a threat that they will upend the entire structure of Egyptian society, and therefore Akhenaten must be killed and the Hebrews must be enslaved.  

35. The lifestyle of Ramses II, who realizes that with such a massive slave population he can get away with the most awful luxuries and tyrannies, and the formative years of Moses. 

36. Moses vs. Crown Prince Merneptah as adolescents in Ramses II's Court. 

37: Solomon building the Temple. 

38: Jepthah and his sacrifice. 

39. Moses, who has become a priest of Ra as punishment for slaying an Egyptian policeman who beat up Jews he was drinking with, gets to know his Israelite scribe Aaron and his Habiru healer Miriam. Together, the three form the plot to perpetrate ten plagues upon the Egyptians, culminating with some sort of sea battle that Moses wins. Originally it was a plot to make Moses another monotheistic Pharaoh, backed by the newly won might of the former Hebrew and the Israelite slaves, but instead it resulted in Moses being thrown out of Egypt along with the Israelite and Hebrew slaves. Told from Aaron's point of view. 

40. Moses hears cases of the Israelites. Told from Jethro's point of view. 

41. Aaron wins favor in the eyes of the Israelites that Moses does not because of Moses's deeply unpopular Ten Commandments and his tyrannical response to the worshippers of the Golden Calf. Though both exhorted by their followers to respond to each others provocations, both refuse to assassinate each other. 

42. Hillel and Menachem, bookish priests fleeing the slaughter following the Golden Calf, immigrate to Athens, where Hillel becomes Hermes Trismegistus and writes the Hermetica, and Menachem becomes Musaeus of Athens and writes the priestly odes. 

Cain Fragment III: Cain details early Jewish history after the manner of Eupolemus and sets the record straight. 

43: The murder of Crown Prince Darius, son of Xerxes I of Persia. Artapanos, the Jewish vizear of Perisa, maneuvers against Darius with Darius's younger brother Artaxerxes, who assassinates his brother and takes the throne. 

44: Aristobulus, recounting meeting between Alexander the Great and the Jewish High Priest. 

(two more potential Cain fragments with Cain Homer and Hesiod)

45. Heraclitus encounter with a Rabbi (who is Cain).

46. Plato writes a Socratic Dialogue with a Jew 

47. Numenius among the Jews and Pythagorians

48. Lost Fragments of the histories of Hecateaus of Abdera: who writes the first antisemitic history. 

49. Manetho, Greek historian, finds actual evidence that Moses was an Egyptian. 

50. Fictional letter of Karl Marx to Engels recounting his dealings with Orthodox Jews. 

51. Article by Freud detailing Orthodox Jew deposited in a Viennese insane asylum for believing he is Moses. 

52. Ancient sailor from China, during the Shang dynasty, recounting the differences between the decadent Egyptian culture which is dying out and the unspoiled Mesopotamian culture which is clearly ready to dominate the Western World. 

53. The Court of Ur - Abraham and Terah facing each other in a court judged by Hammurabi after Abraham demolishes Terah's idols. 

54. Academic detailing the many accounts of Abraham in court, leading to the conclusion that either they are all Cain fragments, or Abraham was the most profligate litigator in the ancient world. 

55. Ezekiel detailing his heretical communion with Moses.

56. Later Judge (one of the 'Judges') must deal with implications of Mosaic code and leads to other which proscribes death for so many problems that don't deserve death, compares to codes of other nations. Leading to formation of the "Law of the Goring Ox."

57. Moses and Aaron form the final form of the Ten Commandments. 

58. Rabbi Simlai (3rd century) tabulates that there are 613 actual commandments in the Torah. 

59. Moses goes to international law conference in Syriac territory, meets Ugarite Ras Shamra who is shocked that Moses does not permit fornication, adultery, bestiality and incest. Gets Moses drunk and convinces him one night to fuck Shamra's wife and sheep. 

60. Moses becomes extremely controversial among Jews when he bans shellfish and pork after Miriam deals with epidemics of parasites due to eating raw animals. 

61. Miriam deals with a second epidemic, this time of leprosy. 

62. Moses hears a lawsuit questioning the necessity of circumcision and must call God to the stand, for which he must create the impression that God is present in the courtroom. This is the reason for the story of God killing Moses's son before he was circumcised. 

63. The first sabbath. Aaron comes up with the idea, and unexpected to no one but Moses, buys them both enormous popularity. 

64. Elijah's magic instruction manual - written as a series of instructions to Elisha. 

65. (possibly earlier tale) Details of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam's discussions that lead to the conclusion that there must be only one god, and also that a monotheistic society can motivate and dominate all the world. 

66. Early Christian monks try to locate Mount Sinai and come to arbitrary conclusion. 

67. Moses brings Hebrews and Israelites to Mount Sinai because it is an active volcano and he vaguely knows when it will erupt and how, he has lots of idolworshippers who worship the Golden Calf and correctly point out that God cannot be everywhere if he is in an ark, and Aaron is tempted to adapt the Golden Calf as the new religious standard. Moses presents the idolworshippers at precisely the place where the explosion will be, the idolworshippers are devoured by lava and smoke, and Moses uses that moment to present the Ten Commandments to the people. 

68. Young Joshua's undercover operations against Amalek. 

69. Nikola Tesla travels back in time to test his soundwave machine, gives Joshua his invention which breaches the walls of Jericho, which proves Tesla's hypothesis definitively. 

70. Tesla tests a spontaneous combustion invention against the coalition armies of Jabin, King of Hazor. 

71. Israeli general, Yigael Yadin, found Hazor, and Tesla's invention, unused for over 3,000 years, which Yadin gives to Ben-Gurion and Dayan for testing in the Negev and future Israeli use. Narrated by Shimon Peres?

72. Formation of ancient antisemitism among Canaanite peasants as non-Israelite residents of Canaan realize that these are imperial conquerors and Israelites take over cities and agriculture which they did not create.  

73. Ehud's autobiography,  recounting his assasination of Eblon. 

74. Told from the point of view of scribes. Yael and Deborah are the same person, but a woman judge like Yael encounters sexism and has to deal with rumors that she is a whore. Scribes deliberately confuse her with the Deborah who fought alongside Abraham at the Valley of Siddim. 

75. Jeptha told from the point of view of his daughter, who is appalled by her father's murders and kills herself. 

76. Samson and Delilah were in fact married. Samson is in fact the opposite of his popular image, a androgynous proto-hippy with progressive ideas about peace and love, which the Philistines exploit. Samson then must wage a war of extermination against the Philistines and undoes all his work for peace. 

(find a way to work Shibboleth into a story...)

77. David, before his reign, has a nervous breakdown in the court of Achish, King of Gath. Recorded by a scribe. 

78. The adventures of Beniah, an officer in Solomon's army. 

79. Abimelech, who almost becomes king of the Israelites after the successes of his father Gideon, kills all seventy of his father's male children. 

80. The rape of the Levite's concubine in Gibeah and the resulting civil war between Benjamin and the other tribes, who would have destroyed each other had the Philistines not  exploited their divisions continually. 

81. Autobiography of Samuel - Fragment I. Growing up amid the temple, travelling among the Nazarines, visiting all the tribes of Israel. 

82. Fragment II - Outlining why he knew Saul would be a bad king and his issues with God's judgement - showing outlines of Samuel's mental illness.  

83. Jonathan writing a testament saying that Samuel set Saul up to be killed. 

84. Saul writing a letter to David warning him about the insanity of Samuel. 

In The Sopranos... - The Many Disappointments of David Chase

Is it just me or has there been an article about The Many Saints of Newark every day since The Sopranos ended in 2007? The Sopranos movie prequel was so publicized for so many years, how was this movie ever not going to suck?
We should have figured out what this movie was a decade before it was released: it's a movie that should be a TV show - the kind of movie that used to exist all the time before TV had 300 channels - great in parts, but with too many characters, too much plot to get through, too many acting set-pieces, too many complex motivations, too many attempts to expand in an artform that thrives on contraction.
As far back as David Chase could remember, he wanted to be Martin Scorsese. Chase was two years younger than Marty, but they both were Italians from the New York area who grew up having vivid encounters with the mafia all the time, and both have film degrees from New York University. But Marty was from Little Italy - he grew up amid the action and the flash in Manhattan where there were always three new movies to see every day and very religious parents who didn't understand their kid but supported him all the same in everything. By the time Scorsese made Mean Streets in 1973, he'd hatched fully formed and birthed an entire new era of American cinema, and he never looked back.
At this point, it's almost not a competition. Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg are the most important directors in the history of American movies - Hitchcock is obviously not American, neither are Lubitsch and Wilder, Welles and Coppola barely made more than one movie of consequence, and the majority by John Ford and Howard Hawks are generic Hollywood genre pictures. Thus far, Scorsese and Spielberg (and maybe Robert Altman) are the only American directors who have made an entire career's worth of movies, each of which have both the personal style of their director, and also each movie with a personalities entirely its own.
And between Spielberg and Scorsese, there's no question. Scorsese is clearly the better director, the more influential, the more serious in every way. Everything Spielberg directs has one eye on substance, one eye on effect. Spielberg is a great artist, but he's a showman first. Scorsese is just an artist who happens to put on a great show. After Scorsese, movies were no longer Hollywood and could never go back to the days of patrician WASPS exchanging barbs on a black-and-white stage set. After Scorsese, movies were American, teeming with the personalities, vernacular, fashion, music, and aesthetics of the American streets.
But while Scorsese grew up amid all blessings of New York, David Chase (DeCesare) grew up in the Jersey suburbs, where you had to make due with one movie theater in every town, whatever music you can hear on the radio, whatever books you could take out of the library.
If emotional abuse exists then his parents were Abusers with a Capital A. While Marty was being a production assistant for John Cassavetes and Roger Corman, David Chase was still sleeping eighteen hours a day, depression wasting him away in his parents' house. By the time Chase got to Hollywood in his late 20s, every New Yorker knew that Marty Scorsese would be the greatest director of his generation. Scorsese had already made Mean Streets by the time Chase got on a television writing staff. By the time The Sopranos premiered in 1999, Scorsese had also made Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, and Casino.
In so many interviews, David Chase said that what he really wanted to do was direct films, but for twenty-five years, David Chase was just another Hollywood screenwriter whoring himself out to write shows he knew TV executives would strip of anything remotely controversial. Scorsese made films, Spielberg made movies, but Chase didn't even make television, he made TV.
By the time Chase pitched The Sopranos, he was barely even a showrunner, he was just another of those anonymously talented guys who'd be on writing staffs and improve other people's scripts, sometimes without even screen credit. He was a good one whose scripts won a few Emmys, he made some money, and he even got to run the underrated and forgotten show, Northern Exposure, for its last year and change. But every generation of Hollywood has a couple hundred guys like that, all of whom are pitching shows to various networks. Most of the writers' pitches get rejected, most of the pilots fail, most of the shows that get picked up fail in their first year, and most of the shows that succeed get picked apart by executives before they can become art of any quality.
There was no indication of what The Sopranos or David Chase had in them when it was first shopped around. The whole show sounds like a gimmick: a mobster who goes to a psychiatrist, who's a murderer during the day and a suburban dad at night. When Chase first pitched the show, it was more likely to be picked up by FOX, and it would have starred Ray Liotta and Lorraine Brocco (Henry and Karen from Goodfellas).
Imagine that show for a moment. It would have had 24 episodes a season, no cursing, no nudity, no graphic violence, no extremely adult situations. It still might have been OK... It would be the two main characters from Goodfellas basically playing parodies of themselves. The mafia schtick we love from Paulie and Silvio would probably have been most of the show - and it would have gotten tiresome if we'd seen it in larger quantities. We'd probably get action capers that build all season toward a 'big score,' we'd get a death or two at the end of every year that serves as the climax of the show, and it honestly might have been interesting and gritty after the manner of certain network shows like NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues.

But it certainly wouldn't have been The Sopranos.
The Sopranos is the greatest TV drama there has ever been, and perhaps ever will be. 'Greatest' does not necessarily mean 'best.' Mad Men is objectively better, The Wire is more interesting, and Breaking Bad is more exciting. Of the 'big four', The Sopranos is in some ways the worst. David Chase is a generation older than the young guns who run great television shows now, he still has a foot in the world of old network dramas, and never quite lands on solid ground. The Sopranos never quite figured out what it was about, and that is exactly what made it such an epic, because The Sopranos was about everything that America is, was, and will be.
Violence defines American art as as it defines no other country. From the last gunshot of 'The Great Train Robbery' in 1903 onward, the whole excitement of moving pictures is that it can show us the world's most exciting images, and nothing excites the senses more than violence, not even sex. Until Scorsese and Kubrick, movie violence was not real. Movies like Taxi Driver and A Clockwork Orange showed us the real ugliness of violence and its perpetrators. But in two hours, you could never show us violence's effect on people, what leads people to commit acts of violence, and what violence does to the people effected by violent acts.
In my opinion, the single most revolutionary aspect of The Sopranos is the fact that its violence is so rarely the climax of any episode. In Scorsese, violence is the point: Raging Bull is literally about violence, and Taxi Driver is one long buildup to an act of unspeakable brutality. But in The Sopranos, violence is just something that happens, and The Sopranos is about the emotions which violence elicits in the people affected by it - victims, perpetrators, mourners and beneficiaries. And because The Sopranos is never limited by its violence or its genre, The Sopranos is able to explore universal themes in a way even Scorsese often finds difficult.
What makes art great, really great, is not the stuff on the surface. On its most superficial level, The Sopranos is a slightly gimmicky show about a 90's mobster who's also a suburban dad. But on every level beyond that, The Sopranos is about so much more important things. The really great stuff: the Shakespeares and such, uses that surface level of what the work is about to find awesome things that give us fuller views of the cosmos: nature, science, history, philosophy, transcendence, god.
What makes The Sopranos the greatest TV drama is that it gives us that view in episode after episode, but does so from the vantage of a stupid little TV show that has all the tropes of Hollywood hacks. Nothing in Hollywood could possibly sound more gimmicky than a show about a mobster who goes to see a psychiatrist. You can almost hear desperation of the pitch in the office of a studio executive - as though David Chase had run through his best nine ideas and finally just decided to throw out his worst one which he would be ashamed to make...
The Sopranos enfolds us in the familiarity of American TV, with which Americans have an unspoken social contract. All the violence is ultimately cosmetic and meaningless, all the characters are ultimately redeemable, every episode ends with happiness, comfort, and order. The Sopranos broke that social contract into tiny pieces, and we can never put it back together.
In The Sopranos, we now see everything American TV and movies have always been, but wiped clean of all the lies.
In The Sopranos we see the same murders and action we see on a couple hundred other shows, and not just with the beautiful grisliness of a Scorsese setpiece, but watching the slow emotional agony of how people live with violence's consequences.
In The Sopranos, we don't just see nudity and sex, we see the ugly exploitation of it. It may sound bizarre to say that The Sopranos is the most feminist show ever made, but for those who don't believe me, watch it... It's also just about the least erotic show ever made. We see how easy it is for amoral men to assault their mistresses and lie to their wives, and how easy it is for them to get away with it.
In The Sopranos, we don't just see how money is made, we see the corruption of it. We see how easily the rich are influenced by greed and how easily the poor are influenced by addiction, and we see how easy it is for people to look the other way at others' suffering if it benefits them.
In The Sopranos, we see how generation after generation is born into endless cycles of violence and evil from which it's nearly impossible to escape, and amid all that difficulty and pressure, upholding that cycle can seem like a much more virtuous act than rebelling against it.
So Martin Scorsese may have spent his career feted as the greatest American artist of his and our time, but in the future, I wonder if this Hollywood hack named David Chase who made just one show to stand as his historic monument may turn out the much more influential artist.
In so many different ways, America is its movies and TV, so in that sense, The Sopranos didn't just present us TV wiped clean of its lies, but America wiped clean of its lies. The Sopranos is the first show that really and truly told us the truth and showed how easy it is to do evil in this country which holds its virtue so high.
In its art, as in everything else, America has always been attached to its lies about itself. As a country, we cannot get enough of art that tells us comforting lies. We love happy endings, love songs with hooks, action movies where the bad guys die, and TV shows with laugh tracks. We don't even read great literature unless Oprah recommends it. But The Sopranos really and truly opened the door to a new chapter of American art, a novelistic TV show where we can tell stories with all the cosmic depth and worldly vision of Dostoevsky and Balzac: a popular artform designed for art rather than commerce, an artform as contradictory as America itself, with which a once young country can finally attain some degree of maturity and view itself with honest clarity as a country in which all the deep flaws of human nature still flourish as ever before, but humanity can still thrive, even in all its messy complications.
America was made in The Sopranos.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Tales from the Old New Land - Table of Contents for First 58 Tales (roughly half of Book I)

(none of these can go past 1000 words except with special exceptions, the Moses and Joseph stories may not exceed 3000)

1. Dream of Jewish History 

2. Abraham acquiring Me'arat HaMachpela (in final form)

(New 3, 4, 5, 6?. Earlier mythology of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samson that may not have made it into the Bible?)

3.  German bible scholarship and archeology (written but possibly needs revision)

Cain Fragment no. 1: Cain at Masada

(New 4? New story about Egyptians or Mesopotamians coming into contact with monotheism for the first time?

4. Noah's Flood (almost in final form)

(New 5? Journeys of Shem, who comes into contact with Ziusudra and Gilgamesh?)

Cain Fragment no. 2: Cain at Tower of Babel

5. Biography of Abraham. (Do the biography as many tales or just one?) How Terah and Abraham got to Ur.

6. Letters between Rebecca and Laban (complete in final form)

7. Abraham among marauding nomads known as the Habirus. 

8. Abraham and Sarah in Egypt. 

9. Abraham and Lot business fights.

10. Abraham being a mercenary soldier for Sodom, fighting in a war that causes the collapse of the Sumerian Empire and the destruction of Sodom. 

11. Abraham dispute with Abimelech. 

12. Sarah and Hagar, Ishmael's bad behavior. 

13. The healers whom Abraham thinks are angels who cure Abraham and Sarah of their infertility. 

14. Ruth and Naomi - the domestication of homosexuality and their joining as handmaidens to Sarah.

15. Abraham, growing senile, misinterprets God and joins the moon cult. 

16. Abraham has vision to redeem himself for his misinterpretation by sacrificing Isaac. Actually does it and Eliezer has to replace Isaac with Ishmael. 

17. Philo argues for Caligula to take down the statue of himself in Jerusalem's Beit-HaMikdash.

18. Maimonides ministering to Saladin.

19. Nachmanides and Paolo Christiani: the disputation in front of James I of Aragorn. 

20. Kierkegaard dealings with Jews. Evolution of his antisemitism. 

21. The Wisdom of Sirach - Grandson of Jesus

22. Early Reform Judaism - Post-Civil War Cincinnati, and the evolution of modern political correctness.

23. Elderly Jacob writes to Benjamin a revised, deliberately altered history of his family as they journey to Egypt. 

24. Deborah - in this version the daughter of Naomi, who comes to the House of Abraham and fights alongside Jacob. 

25. Something about how Abraham and Jacob finessed their belief in one god with the need to pay tribute to local gods. 

26. Dinah tells the story of Shechem's destruction and the invasion by Simon and Levi. 

27: Vespacian's  meeting with Rabbi Yochanan. 

28. Josephus's unpublished chapter about the destruction of Jerusalem. 

29. Eusebius and the birth of antisemitism in the Byzantine Empire.

30. Levi the 'Lion Man' makes himself king of Shechem after his curse from Jacob. The Egyptians go to war with him, kill him, and force Jacob to take Shechem for himself. Jacob punishes the descendents of Levi with servitude. 

31. The alliance between Joshua and Shechem.

32. Joseph all in one long chapter, focusing on the Potiphar story with subtext of a homosexual relationship between Joseph and Potiphar. 

33. The birth of the monotheistic cult in Egypt - Akhenaten who came to see the sun god Ra as the only god and himself as the Messiah, because he had Joseph as his prime advisor. 

34. The realization by Akhenaten's court that the Hebrews and their monotheism are such a threat that they will upend the entire structure of Egyptian society, and therefore Akhenaten must be killed and the Hebrews must be enslaved.  

35. The lifestyle of Ramses II, who realizes that with such a massive slave population he can get away with the most awful luxuries and tyrannies, and the formative years of Moses. 

36. Moses vs. Crown Prince Merneptah as adolescents in Ramses II's Court. 

37: Solomon building the Temple. 

38: Jepthah and his sacrifice. 

39. Moses, who has become a priest of Ra as punishment for slaying an Egyptian policeman who beat up Jews he was drinking with, gets to know his Israelite scribe Aaron and his Habiru healer Miriam. Together, the three form the plot to perpetrate ten plagues upon the Egyptians, culminating with some sort of sea battle that Moses wins. Originally it was a plot to make Moses another monotheistic Pharaoh, backed by the newly won might of the former Hebrew and the Israelite slaves, but instead it resulted in Moses being thrown out of Egypt along with the Israelite and Hebrew slaves. Told from Aaron's point of view. 

40. Moses hears cases of the Israelites. Told from Jethro's point of view. 

41. Aaron wins favor in the eyes of the Israelites that Moses does not because of Moses's deeply unpopular Ten Commandments and his tyrannical response to the worshippers of the Golden Calf. Though both exhorted by their followers to respond to each others provocations, both refuse to assassinate each other. 

42. Hillel and Menachem, bookish priests fleeing the slaughter following the Golden Calf, immigrate to Athens, where Hillel becomes Hermes Trismegistus and writes the Hermetica, and Menachem becomes Musaeus of Athens and writes the priestly odes. 

Cain Fragment III: Cain details early Jewish history after the manner of Eupolemus and sets the record straight. 

43: The murder of Crown Prince Darius, son of Xerxes I of Persia. Artapanos, the Jewish vizear of Perisa, maneuvers against Darius with Darius's younger brother Artaxerxes, who assassinates his brother and takes the throne. 

44: Aristobulus, recounting meeting between Alexander the Great and the Jewish High Priest. 

(two more potential Cain fragments with Cain Homer and Hesiod)

45. Heraclitus encounter with a Rabbi (who is Cain).

46. Plato writes a Socratic Dialogue with a Jew 

47. Numenius among the Jews and Pythagorians

48. Lost Fragments of the histories of Hecateaus of Abdera: who writes the first antisemitic history. 

49. Manetho, Greek historian, finds actual evidence that Moses was an Egyptian. 

50. Fictional letter of Karl Marx to Engels recounting his dealings with Orthodox Jews. 

51. Article by Freud detailing Orthodox Jew deposited in a Viennese insane asylum for believing he is Moses. 

52. Ancient sailor from China, during the Shang dynasty, recounting the differences between the decadent Egyptian culture which is dying out and the unspoiled Mesopotamian culture which is clearly ready to dominate the Western World. 

53. The Court of Ur - Abraham and Terah facing each other in a court judged by Hammurabi after Abraham demolishes Terah's idols. 

54. Academic detailing the many accounts of Abraham in court, leading to the conclusion that they all may be Cain fragments. 

55. Ezekiel detailing his heretical communion with Moses.

56. Later Judge (one of the 'Judges') must deal with implications of Mosaic code and leads to other which proscribes death for so many problems that don't deserve death, compares to codes of other nations. Leading to formation of the "Law of the Goring Ox."

57. Moses and Aaron form the final form of the Ten Commandments. 

58. Rabbi Simlai (3rd century) tabulates that there are 613 actual commandments in the Torah. 


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Underrated Classical Musicians: Raina Kabaiwanska

 So let's talk today about the Bulgarian soprano, Raina Kabaiwanska. ,

But first of all, I wonder if this is not the greatest Otello I have ever heard in my life.
Studio recordings are already overrated - a lot of over-budget for less inspiration than you'll get from just clicking a tape recorder halfway back in an audience. Unless the work is written for recording, works meant to be performed live need the air of live performance as much as they need the proper instrumentation and great performers.
Georg Solti made many, many recordings, but none were as good as what he could do in the pit of an opera house. Neither of his studio Otellos can come close to this. A decade and a half after the famous Toscanini performance, this, in slightly worse sound, is what Toscanini might have done in a proper opera house. The same iron grip on the structure, but with the ability to let singers breathe and occasionally interpret. Solti is not the center of the show, and neither are the singers, the center of the show is the performance itself - one can't even necessarily say that of Toscanini's recordings. There are plenty of great Otello conductors: Toscanini, Kleiber, Busch, Kubelik, Mackerras... just to name 5... but never in any Otello performance I've ever heard has discipline and freedom been combined this successfully. One can fault Toscanini for rigidity, one can fault Kleiber for willfulness, but here, one cannot fault Solti either. This rendering is simply sui generis.
But if he didn't have singers equal to the framework he sets for them, it would be a fruitless endeavor. Mario del Monaco and Tito Gobbi are extremely well known commodities in Otello - del Monaco perhaps lacking a bit as an actor, Gobbi perhaps lacking as a singer, but so supposedly were Tamagno and Maurel who premiered the roles, in precisely the same proportions. del Monaco is larger than life as Otello always must be - the single most important element of Otello is that we are frightened of him, and del Monaco is terrifying. Gobbi, well, he's terrifying in a completely different way, not brute force, but evil incarnate.
Which brings us to the emotional core of this performance, as perfect a realization of Desdemona as I've ever heard anywhere, anywhen, any how. I know I've heard her before: certainly I've seen the Karajan Pagliacci movie in which she plays Nedda, and I'm sure I've heard her elsewhere, but she never made any impression on me before. But my god, you will never again say that Desdemona is either a simpering dope or a two-dimensional archetype of purity. These are prayers heard in heaven, this is sublimity that shakes the throne of art, this is Desdemona incarnate as flesh and soul - womanly and sexy, as terrified as any human would be against an abusive force of nature, assertive and angry even as she is loving, Desdemona in all three dimensions. This... is... art. And it is thankfully just one glorious component of a performance whose sublimity may never have been equalled.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Because the world obviously needs to know what I think of Dave Chappelle

 1993. My family had just seen Robin Hood: Men in Tights at a movie theater in Ocean City - the only Mel Brooks movie I ever saw on its release in the theater. The movie theater was next to a comedy club. While my parents were getting the car, I, for some reason,was talking to a guy smoking a cigarette outside the theater. He turned out to be the comedy club's owner and he said to me 'watch out for the guy who played A-choo, he's been here a bunch of times and in a few years he's going to be as famous as Mel Brooks.' I'd not thought about that experience for a decade, and then I caught Men in Tights on TV in college and realized 'holy shit that was Dave Chappelle!'

But the truth was, I never thought Dave Chappelle was quite as funny as everybody else. He was funny, no question, but next to a contemporary like Chris Rock, he was a bit of a weak brew, and then we all discovered Louis CK and there was no comparison, and then I discovered Patrice O'Neal, and my comedy brain exploded...
The question always was, why did Chappelle walk away from the show? Part of it was obviously creative control, part of it was obviously dealing with meddling executives, and part of it was just general stress of fame. But there's one other issue nobody seemed to mention: What if he only had two seasons worth of good material?
Nobody in my generation knows much about Richard Pryor, but he and George Carlin are the greatest of all time, it's almost beyond question. And whatever Dave Chappelle did, Pryor got there thirty years before him. Black guy impresonating lame white guy? Pryor was the ultimate at that. Routines about substance abuse? Nobody did it better than Pryor, and he did drugs 100x harder than anything Chappelle ever touched. The subtle ways white people are racist? Pryor was literally the master, and when he did it, it was like TNT went off in the audience. Police violence? Pryor was the pioneer. Even 'Black Bush' was clearly based on Richard Pryor's skit 'First Black President.' Every major thing Chappelle's standup covered, Richard Pryor did in a generation earlier. Everything covered in 'Chappelle's Show,' Richard Pryor did on his network specials in the late 70s-early 80s.
So when Dave Chappelle came back with 4 Netflix specials, I was not surprised when I saw that each of them had about 15 minutes of actual comedy and 45 minutes of preaching.
(the irony of Evan writing the following paragraph duly noted...)
Few people feel the need to preach uncontroversial views. Preaching is a form of righteous anger - often self-righteous, with a target of their anger. The preacher usually frames what they preach in a way that's deeply unfair to the people against whom they're complaining, and is usually doing it for personal, psychological reasons that they need badly to examine.
Are trans people not the gender to which they assign themselves? Well, are born-again Christian not actual Christians? Are adopted children are not the children of their adopted parents? Are Americans born elsewhere not Americans? Living organisms are programmed to evolve, and a person who stops evolving is more likely to die. If you believe trans people are not the gender they believe they are, you might as well just think that people are exactly what they are and have always been - which is exactly the complaint of anti-trans activists about how the woke mob characterizes people's identities.
And therefore, Chappelle is a cautionary tale, and he's a note of caution to the very people who lambast him today. He was a radical by the standards of 2000, and one generation's radical is the next generation's reactionary. Chappelle is hardly the only African-American who can't understand how identity has changed and why the LGBT community has gained so much relative heft in such a short period while their causes stand relatively still. In another 20 years, many of the same people whom today speak angrily of straight and cisgender privilege will be singing a very very different tune when global warming deposits millions of immigrants into our country from Latin America and Africa who hold fundamentalist Christian views they find dangerous to their safety. Who will be the radical then, and whom the reactionary?
The line that most stayed with me two days later is when Chappelle said something along the lines of 'taking away a man's livelihood is worse than killing him.' There is so much incorrect about that statement I could be writing all night pointing out it - but the two things that stand out to me are the reactionary idea that men have to be tied to their work, and the revolutionary idea that dignity is more important than survival. This is the weird cocktail of old radicals who no longer understand the world and can't adopt to new circumstances. When Chappelle said 'those new gays are too sensitive, I like those old Stonewall gays.' It wasn't exactly offensive, and yet... I've heard older people make the argument 'younger black people are too angry, I like older black people who grew up before 1968' - which is little different than saying 'I like black people who still have a segregation mentality.'
Newly liberated peoples are never grateful to their liberators. They have to stare down the wasted years of their lives and now that they can finally live with appropriate dignity and respect, all that they can see is that so many people around them have experienced the lifelong dignity which they may still lose, and those people, who supposedly gave them equal rights, will never operate with the same terror of losing their rights. Whether justified or not, that creates resentment at well-meaning allies that is entirely understandable.
Chappelle was gifted enough to define a 'moment' in American life, and around 2000, his comedy seemed revolutionary, but a real genius evolves with the times. Richard Pryor was a genius who even at his most drug addicted had new material every year for decades, the same goes for George Carlin. And there are comics so gifted that their their comedy was too acerbic for mainstream consumption: Norm McDonald was the lucky one who somehow got Lorne Michaels's attention, but how many people know about Sam Kinnison anymore, Patrice O'Neal, Steven Wright? Even Bill Hicks is now a distant memory.
All you have to do is compare Chappelle to Norm McDonald. I guarantee, Norm McDonald was by far the greater bigot than Dave Chappelle, but aside from in some awful podcasts, comedy for him was comedy, pure and simple. What was important was not settling scores or making points, what was important was to be funny, and Norm's final special from 2017 is one of the funniest hours of comedy you will ever see in your life and unless you're offended by auto-erotic asphyxiation, I doubt it has much to offend.
But ironically, on twitter, Norm, a secret right-wing fundamentalist if ever there was one, called Chappelle's third special one of the greatest comedy specials he'd ever seen, and I guarantee he didn't just do it because he found it funny.... When called out by some twittertwit who told him great comedy does not 'punch down,' Norm responded, "I know of no such rule."
Comedy not only punches down, it only punches down. What makes something funny is that someone gets hurt. If Chappelle had actually made jokes rather than trying to make a substantive argument, I would be defending him. But he didn't. He wanted his arguments to be taken seriously, and no matter what Jon Stewart conditioned us to think, even the smartest comedians have no right to be taken seriously as experts on a subject.
My personal rule is that anything in comedy has to be more intelligent than it is mean. Andrew Dice Clay was mean, but he was also stupid, and that's unforgivable. And Tosh.0, from the moment it premiered, was one of the biggest embarrassments in comedy, both idiotic and mean. But I will always forgive Sam Kinnison, I will always forgive Doug Stanhope, I will always forgive Joan Rivers and even Kathy Griffin. They all were so incredibly mean, bully-level mean, but nobody is more fun to hang out with than a mean smart person, and they have no end of material to make fun of.
When comics can't come up with material, they just regurgitate political arguments somebody else made to them. Bill Maher has been dining out on that for 25 years, and the real reason he does it is not because his beliefs are so important to him, it's because he's a mediocre comic and needs something to coast on.
I can understand why comics are frustrated when they're called out because of actual jokes they made (and no one is more thin-skinned than a stand-up comic...). If any artistic profession has to be allowed to fail, it's comics. The funny material you see is usually workshopped for years, and honed and honed, because in comedy, there's no hiding behind 'art' and 'contemplation, you either make the people laugh or you don't. But Chappelle didn't even try to make people laugh all that much - it was ranting about the LGBT community and cancel culture with occasional amusing asides.
So much bullshit has grown up around all sides of cancel culture that the truth is staring us all in the face. Come on, of course cancel culture exists, but in terms of the problems facing American life, this is priority #493 that would never have generated this much attention if the cancellers didn't deliberately call attention to themselves every day. It may well become a larger priority in American life if woke twitter mobs start violently intimidating people in real life - and frankly, that's not out of the question, but it hasn't happened yet on any scale but miniscule, and won't for a while yet. In the meantime, if celebrities have to stop being celebrities for a while, who cares? And if they end up humiliated in front of the world, well... that's part of what you sign up for when you pursue fame. And if twitter goes after us like an angry mob, well... just do what sane people have done the whole time: stay the fuck off twitter. At this point, none of us gets to say that we had no idea what we signed up for. Every one of us puts our whole self-image on the line every day whenever we post something, and every one of us lives with the anxiety that we may wake up every day to being a name hated by 100,000 people.
Dave Chappelle is an important piece of US cultural history, but he's a past tense figure who walked out on his celebrity not long after he achieved it, and consequently didn't evolve along with America in the 15 years since. He shouldn't be as surprised as he seems when he stood still and the world moved on. I do happen to think that cancel culture and woke culture are a little bit dangerous (and they're very close on the Venn Diagram), they're not THAT dangerous, but dangerous enough that we are all getting closer and closer to some moment of civil violence we can't take back. There is a very good argument to be made that the result of them was Trump, the second result will be his re-election.
But Chappelle also defines the weird current fissures in American life. The Atlantic pointed out today that while the critical reaction on Rotten Tomatoes was 47% critical approval, the audience reaction was 97% audience approval. Culture is the battle you fight when you take your eyes off the issues that matter. Every fight picked with people who say things we find vile is a fight missed with people who are out to kill the marginalized people we care about. What people say is an indication of what they believe, but it's no more than indication, it's not the belief itself. The more we focus on the words rather than the real stuff: violence, laws, discrimination, the more we enable the real stuff, and the more Dave Chappelle becomes a martyr and a hero to the majority of Americans for making a series of mediocre comedy specials.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Tale 4 - Drink - Very Close to Final Draft

Father warned me every day of the demonic fluid. It is drink which unleashes man's evil and obliterates barrier from beast. It is drink which eliminates health and happiness. Drink is danger, drink is trauma, drink is obscenity and humiliation, blasphemy in the eyes of God and excrement in the windows of memory. Drink is serenity's eternal expenditure: instants of bliss for eternity of violence. 

Trauma is an all too common intrusion of another soul within your own that every day claims new sections of your mind, intrusion doubling upon intrusion, exhibiting with ever more mastery that he, not you, is the part of your mind that thinks. 

Perhaps this other soul is devil or dybbuk, or perhaps he's another person who deliberately lodged himself within you, or maybe he's another person burdened with his own dybbuk; but whomever he is, he, not you, masters the mind, and you become a spectator in your own consciousness. With every hour he determines more of your decisions, and with every new decision he makes, you wonder ever more if he was you all along.   

For centuries, father barely touched drink. He knew ecstasy and torment from it as as any man would, but he saw what drink made him and others, and its humiliations were repugnant. It caused a whole earth where man has neither self nor divinity; only sense - pleasures to drown pain, the pain of others to drown us in pleasure, a whole earth of trauma absorbed and trauma inflicted where man uses his divinity to inflict all the worse. 

Thus where the rest of Earth was wine, the House of Noah was water, fresh and pure in wells we cleaned every day along with blessings to a spirited drink in a second well; a spirit of drink whose name we never pronounced, perhaps we never knew. For an hundred years of our lives, Ham, Japeth and I knew no drink but water. 

All the while, as the temperature warmed and the Earth became fire and rain, Father communed with his holy spirit of the drink. Every day for hundreds of years, Father pulled a bowl from the well tied to a string, put a finger in the drink, touched its holy spirit to his lips and threw the bowl back. Every day he spoke with the drink's spirit, and the Drink spoke back. For seven hours every day, Father walked 'round the well, speaking questions and answers, and its pool told him all creation, of its trees and crowns, its spheres visible and hidden, and the Spirit of the Drink made Father the wisest of men. 

The spirit told Father to build an ark and gather every living thing that creepeth upon the earth, for the spirit was wroth with the world and would flood it. The flood would cleanse the world to begin anew amid a second Eden where would live none but the House of Noah's righteous offspring. 

And the Spirit was right, for lo, the sea level rose, and rose, and rose, until the planet itself rose up and murdered its unworthy caretakers. The whole earth became drink; not drink still and clear, but torrential and murderous, until again the world was without form and void, and all the Earth was but one large ocean, stewed in the iniquities of its drowned trillions and glazed with salt to parch any survivors. And within three days, all remaining life lodged within an ark of 300 cubits.

The invisible spirit told us of the flood, he told Father to build the ark, precisely how, and with what, and how large, and how many animals to gather, but he gave us no extra ration of fresh water. All we had was the water within our well, which when drawn must be fermented ere it turn to undrinkable slime. So there was only barley fermentation, and wine, and animals, and obscenity. There was not even water for the children. 

And yet the first thing we brought aboard the ark was Father's pool of drink, of which he made us carry pitcher by pitcher to a pool of stone he'd constructed without assistance.

Upon the ark it was only us and the wine. Father told us we had no extra rations of drink for the animals, but to allow ourselves twelve times an eleven month supply for four families - we asked why, he did not say. Surely father knew what was to come better than we.

It began not with agony but joy and camaraderie - days of merry work followed nights of fine wine and song and lying with our wives in tents at the Ark's corners. The children were so torpid they never wandered and fell to serene sleep after dinner. The House of Noah used our wealth to buy all the crops of nearby families to feed the ark's animals, and once aboard we pickled them within buckets of salt water procured from the outside deluge. 

Father had always been serene, but he was quiet and cryptic, and often warned us what sort of different man he was before encountering the holy Spirit. He took to wine immediately, and his serene self turned upside down to the most dreadful moroseness. None saw him eat and he said not a word as he fed the animals. Yet while Father submerged into drink, our work seemed as play. 

But at the cusp of manhood, no drink could torpor Canaan. In less than one year he'd have taken to wife, but what wife lived to take him? 

The noises began with sheep of course, then goats, then the dogs and cows, and then to the larger animals, and the smaller, until we wondered if any animal remained unsullied among the ark's 16,000. An animal would scream in that peculiar yawp, always the same in every species, and we knew what Canaan wrought, particularly as he'd return every morning bruised and scratched; but what mattered it were we all drink-soaked? The world was ending, boys will be boys, the animals too were drunk, and were we to believe Father, House Noah was the world's only family who did not enjoy livestock's company. 

Eventually the ark's loneliness grieved our wives, and so too we found it oppressive. As the drink increased,  revelries decreased. Never again would we see anyone but us, and the realization necessitated more drink. Every simple disagreement felt like a second deluge, which also necessitated more drink. Whenever the rain's humidity caused a sniffle, we feared the mortality outdoors would permeate inside, which necessitated still more drink. And whenever an animal fell ill, which was often, we were great with labor to minister them, which necessitated the most drink of all. 

All the while, father built a new cage; a large one. We wondered was there a flying animal we'd forgotten? Father would not say. 

Days grew to weeks, memory blurred day to day, until eventually there were no memories but wailing wives as dawned on them a world of loss, and mischief raging among children now tolerant to alcohol made us great with rage, which necessitated still more drink. We sent dove after raven to find and; but they only found drink until a dove finally emerged with an olive branch. The Lord spared us, and thus we survivors would multiply in a new era of favor and grace. 

But the very next day, a great human cry awoke us to find Ham murdered and Canaan locked in Father's cage.

"Canaan! What have you done?" 

Here follows the tortuous dialogue between father and grandson:

"I have done nothing! Ham was murdered by you Grandfather!"

"The Holy Spirit betided me something vile, but surely it would be less than this! Murder or defilement among us is what I expected. For crimes such as these the Spirit flooded the world! There is just punishment for such offenders, but what came to pass is so much worse!"

"Why have you murdered my father?"

"Your father tried to kill me before I laid my curse on you!" 

"Why would you curse me?"

"Gaze upon the chalky substance within the drink! The imagination of man's heart is evil from its youth! Canaan has gazed upon my spirit's nakedness and spilled into it his seed! He hath raped the holy spirit of the Earth! We shall never rebuild Eden! The whole flood has been for naught! Humanity shall now continue just as it has!" 

"But I did not...."

"Cursed be you Canaan! A curse you were upon Ham and this ark, and cursed shall you be upon dry land! A servant of servants shall ye be unto your bretheren! A blessing shall the Holy Spirit of mine be to Shem and Japeth, but the your house Canaan shall be a servant to the servants of Shem and Japeth all the days of their li..."

"Grandfather, that was milk." 

"What?"

"It WAS milk."

"Did Grandfather really think fermentation and salt would keep a kingdom of animals alive for a whole year?"

"It is not for you to question what the spirit in the drink tells me."

"There is no spirit in the drink."

"SILENCE!" 

"If it's a spirit, then the spirit told you what your mind already saw."

"Indeed, the spirit tells me the world is fornication and wickedness. Just like y..."

"No, grandfather, the world was already flooding, the spirit only told you what you knew." 

"We do not see but with the eyes of our spirit!"

"No, our spirit sees with our eyes." 

"Profanity! You deserve to be cursed all over again."

"Curses mean nothing."

"You dare doubt my curse?"

"I doubt there's any point to us living now when everybody else is dead."

"Your sacrilege is ignominy upon the entire House of Noah! Is it not enough that you desecrate every animal aboard the ark night by ni...?" 

"YOU THINK I FUCKED THE ANIMALS!?"

"You have done evil enough. Do not dishonor us further in the ark of the Holy Spir...."  

"I curse you too Grandfather."

"Abominable blasphemer! May you be known through all eterni..."

"May you endure your remaining centuries knowing nothing of life but this stupid spirit of the drink or whatever you call that liquid shit." 

"Outrageous infide...!"

"May your bullshit visions of the Eden we lost haunt all your days and creep all your nights. May you forever see in me your only impediment to paradise."

Noah immediately charged at Canaan to strike him down but the cage Noah built himself prevented it. He reached for the cage's key, but Canaan pulled Noah's key from his own tunic. 

"While you all spent your nights in a stupor I was milking the mammal females and feeding it to their children. I even fed the milk to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren and told them not to tell anyone, because children will never survive on just the alcohol you've spent your whole lifetime warning us against and then made us live on. Shem, do you really think Arphaxad could survive the whole first year of his life on nothing but alcoholic breastmilk?" 

Clearly in grief, Noah reached for his sword with a clear intention to fall on himself. But Canaan from out his tunic produced Noah's sword as well. 

"How can we allow you power of life and death? You murdered your own son because I drank some water from the pool and didn't wipe a little milk off my cheek!"

A great cry went up from Noah. 

"My father is now dead because his own father slew him, and you think the outside world was the iniquitous place? Fuck you!"

Noah exhaled a still greater moan.

"We have no idea why the world flooded, but you all kept saying the world was getting warmer every year of my childhood. Maybe it was from all those fires people light to worship their gods." 

Noah began to cry in earnest.

"And if the world was just a place of people killing and raping each other, maybe worshiping spirits by drinking and smoking made them act that way. Grandfather Noah is the same as all of them!"

The wailing and crying grew entwined. 

"And yes, when we were still on land I jerked off in your holy spirit dozens of times, but the whole ark is alive because of me. Me, not your crappy god. I hate the drink and everything it makes you all do. I hate the fact that we're still alive and everybody else is dead, and if there is a spirit who did this, I hate him more than anyone and I curse him forever."

"Execration! Astonishment! Reproach! We spit you out of the House of Noah for eternity!" 

"I was planning to run away from this pathetic house for years. Now I've got a whole new world I can start on my own!" 

---------------------------

We never saw Canaan again. Within two days he'd run away with Japeth's granddaughter Arsal. I've had half a millennium to think about that last horrible day on the Ark. There were details on which Canaan was clearly wrong: the animals were nearly as drink-soaked as we and so would be their milk. Doubtless he was wrong about other things, but it's hard not to wonder if Canaan's arguments were far more correct than Father's. 

Perhaps there are no spirits and the earth contains nothing but water, fire and air. Yet why did Father know to build the Ark? And why did we, out of all the world, survive when no one else did? Did the Drink's holy spirit know what was to come? And even if the drink has no spirit, did our belief in the Drink enable our survival when everyone else died? Even were there no drink to choose us for its terrific knowledge, could believing in the Spirit of the Drink let us survive through hardships no one else can endure? 

I had seen enough of the old world to know Father may have been right: drink may well be the cause for all  terrors which make the world fit for destruction, so many of which Father must have seen. Yet by abstaining from drink, did Father recreate all terrors from which he meant to free his children? Had he curtailed his drink intake to moderation, no spirit would speak to him, and he would have never known to build the ark; but is the House of Noah lucky for surviving when all others die, or are we cursed? 

We have no way to know what became of Canaan and Arsal. Were there truly no people on Earth but us, how would they survive without knowledge of where to find animals or arability? They have cut themselves utterly from their roots and all advantages therein. Were one of them to die, the other would be entirely alone upon the planet, with no way of knowing whither their family.  As current head of the House of Noah, surely I'd welcome them to return, but how can we ever find each other? 

Canaan and Arsal went alone into the world with no spirit to guide them and nothing to summon their willpower but a hot planet of death who washes away all things for no seeming reason. How could they summon will to life in the face of such indifference? Perhaps love of each other or children endows them succor, or perhaps they find sustenance in a vision of a more just world. Perhaps Canaan sees the world more clearly than his grandfather, and perhaps that clarity will heal the world, but surely he will commit errors as well, and when he does, what spirit shall comfort him? 

If Canaan and Arsal are still alive, they will one day die without belief in an eternal spirit to claim them. Can humans sustain themselves in a world where all things are flesh and dust, and even if they can, will they one day anger a spirit and cause another flood? 

Tale 6: President Matt - 75%, another rewrite

(there's probably still more to cut)


 1. 

Once upon a time, in a far off kingdom, Matt was woke up early and told he was President. 

"How can I be President?" 

"Your father's term is up."

"But how does that make me President?"

"We called your Dad a President but he was really our king, and as his son, you have to replace him."

"Why would you replace him with me? I'm not qualified. I'm nine years old!"

"Because the President doesn't have to do anything, the kingdom will run perfectly if the President just does everything his advisors tell him." 

"OK... Can I ask my Dad what to do?"

"We'd rather you didn't." 

2. 

Pretty soon, every kingdom in the world was at war except Matt's kingdom, and it was a very bad war. So bad that half of Matt's subjects didn't want to join it, and half of Matt's advisors didn't either, but half did.

Matt was confused. He was told to always do what his advisors said, but all of them said to do something different.

One day, Matt was out on a walk in the park when as he walked by, he heard two poor men talking.

"That boy President has no idea what he's doing and his advisors are fooling him just like they tried fool his Dad." 

"Yeah but his Dad knew they were bad advisors." 

Matt had to answer them:

"You think my advisors are bad?"

"Look at them, look at their three piece suits and fancy cigars, then look at us. We have holes in our shoes!" 

"They just want you to think they're giving you good advice." said the first. 

"Is there anyone who could give me better advice?"

"There's one man who would give you great advice." said the first. 

"Yeah! He's the smartest man in the kingdom!" said the second. 

"What's his name?"

"Lou the Jew."

3. 

Matt told his advisors he wanted to get advice from Lou the Jew. 

"You don't want advice from Lou the Jew." said one advisor.

"He'll only give you advice that helps other Jews." said another.

"People only think he's so smart because he's a Jew."  said a third. 

Matt asked. "Why would he insult you?" 

"Probably because he's a Jew" said a fourth.

Matt realized that getting his advisors to send for Lou the Jew was going to take a lot longer than a single day. He tried every day for four months, but they always came up with an excuse not to send for him. 

After four months, Matt decided to leave his big house and see Lou the Jew for himself. 

4. 

When Matt got to Lou the Jew's office, he had to wait for a long line of people to see Lou first. 

In front of him was a woman with no legs and a man missing an arm. Matt waited next to a man who kept talking to himself. Matt asked what happened, but the man didn't answer. 

Then Matt saw a boy and a girl around his own age. Matt asked them what they were doing in Lou the Jew's office. They told him they were a brother and sister whose parents died last year, but they had no money and they were still too young to work for another year.  

"Can't people just give you some money?" Matt asked.

"Nobody else cares enough to give us money but Lou the Jew." 

Just then, Lou the Jew came out of his office and looked around at all the people who needed to see him.

"Mr. Jew? My name is President Matt and I'd like your advice on some things." 

"Mr. President! It's so nice to see you here, you're going to have to wait just like everybody else. Come back to me at 9 o'clock."

"But I go to bed at eight."

"Sometimes people with grown up jobs have to stay up late to finish their work." 

5. 

At nine o'clock Matt came back to Lou the Jew's office. Lou gave Matt some cookies, and while Matt munched on them he asked:

"Is it true my advisors are bad?"

Lou the Jew answered. "A few of them, most of them are just wrong." 

"What are they wrong about?"

"That poor people can't be helped."

"I can help poor people?"

"Of course, and if you don't help them, they'll get angry."

"Did my father care about poor people?"

"Sometimes. He made some really good decisions and some really bad ones."

"What was a good decision of his?"

"He went to war to free the slaves."

"But isn't war bad?"

"Slavery is worse." 

"Should we go to war with all the world's other countries?"

"That would be a bad decision unless they attack us first." 

"What's a bad decision Dad made?" 

"He expanded our country's territory." 

"But isn't it good that our country's bigger?"

"Our country was big enough." 

"That's a lot to think about. I need to go to sleep." 

"Have a good night Mr. President. I hope we get to talk again soon." 

6. 

The next morning, a very tired President Matt told his advisors about his meeting with Lou the Jew. They were not pleased. 

One advisor got angry: "This is why you need your advisors! It's Lou's people, the Jews, who are making poor people so angry because they're telling the poor people that rich people don't care about them!"

"Do you care about poor people?" asked Matt because he wasn't sure they did.

A second advisor said: "Of course, but we can't help them."

President Matt wasn't sure whether he believed them. He had a lot to think about that night. He didn't think his advisors were right, but if so many people were poor, wouldn't rich people have tried to help them by now? Maybe his advisors were right and Lou the Jew was wrong. 

But Lou the Jew did say that if President Matt didn't give poor people some money, the poor people would be angry. Maybe Lou the Jew was right, and maybe his old advisors were right too. But how can two sides of an argument be right at the same time?

So the next morning, President Matt got up really early and went to Lou the Jew's office before the day started. Lou the Jew was already working. His door was open and he saw Matt right away.

"Hello Mr. President! You must be working hard to be up so early!" 

"Hello Mr. Jew. I've been thinking very hard. Maybe I need to hear a different point of view like yours more often. Would you come work for me as an advisor?"

"Mr. President, I'm honored, but if I accept, your advisors will make life hard for both of us."

"Your life seems pretty hard already." 

"Well, Mr. President, if you're ready to make a Jew an advisor I would be honored." 

"The honor is all mine Mr. Jew." 

8. 

Lou the Jew's first idea was to have everyone in the kingdom give a little bit of their money to the government.

"Making people pay the government money is wrong!" said the first advisor. 

"That's stealing people's money!" said the second advisor. 

"People should be able to spend their money how they want." said the third advisor. 

Lou the Jew responded: "Mr. President, what do you think people want more, control over all their money or good schools, safe streets, and food that won't make them sick? 

President Matt decided to command that everybody ought to give part of their income to the government. Once they did, the schools got better, and the police made streets safer, and less people got sick from food. 

9. 

Lou the Jew told President Matt his next idea in private because he knew that the other advisors would be very angry. 

"My new idea is that people who are injured while they work should get money if they can't do their job anymore. If people can't work anymore, they become homeless." 

President Matt asked: "Why do people get injured while they work?"

"Because our country has millions of people. You need big machines to make things for that many people, and big machines can be dangerous." 

When President Matt brought this idea to his other advisors, they were furious.

One advisor asked: "Who would pay for the workers if they get hurt?"

"Their bosses." Lou the Jew answered.

A second advisor objected. "Mr President! The bosses shouldn't be held responsible for things the workers knew might happen when they signed up for the job!" 

A third advisor offered a different solution: "Why don't workers who are scared of getting hurt choose another job?" 

Lou the Jew responded: "Almost every job for poor people is dangerous. No matter what job they choose they might get hurt." 

So President Matt made a law that bosses had to pay workers who got hurt at their jobs, and after the law passed, there were many less homeless people. 

10. 

Lou the Jew's next idea was so dangerous that he knew he had to present it to all the advisors at the same time as President Matt or else they'd accuse him of trying to influence President Matt without their knowledge. 

Lou the Jew's idea was to give women the right to vote. 

This made all of President Matt's advisors angry. 

"Women aren't as smart as men!" said the first advisor.

Lou the Jew answered: "Of course they are! Is your mother any stupider than your father?"

"Why should women get to vote when they don't even work?" asked a second advisor, angrily. 

Lou the Jew responded "Well women should work too..."

"But then women will take our jobs!" said a third advisor.

Lou the Jew responded "Well, you'll just have to be really good at your job so that you can keep it." 

"But how will women know how to do jobs when nobody's shown them how?" asked a fourth advisor. 

Lou the Jew responded very cleverly: "Maybe that's the problem. Maybe we men have been keeping women from learning how to do things so that we get to do whatever we want." 

So women were given the right to vote, and everybody got better at their jobs. 

11. 

At this point, the kingdom was so much better than it was before Lou the Jew arrived that President Matt stopped listening to his other advisors and decided to make whatever law Lou the Jew wanted, but the laws Lou the Jew made began to make less sense.  

Lou the Jew's next idea was to ban alcohol. 

"What's alcohol?" asked President Matt. 

"It's like chocolate for grownups, but it's much stronger than chocolate. Imagine if you ate 200 Hershey's bars in a single day. That might sound amazing, but you'd feel really really sick."

"I guess." 

"Well, 200 Hershey's bars are like having one drink of alcohol, and some people drink 20 drinks every day. If grownups stop drinking alcohol, the poor ones would have more money, they'd be better parents, they'd be better at their jobs, and they wouldn't get sick as often." 

President Matt wasn't as convinced by this idea. The President remembered how sick he got once after eating just one chocolate bar. No grownup he ever met could eat 200 chocolate bars twenty times a day. 

But Lou the Jew was right about so many other things that maybe he was right about this too, so President Matt banned alcohol. 

But the grownups drank alcohol anyway, and the alcohol made people even more sick because the government no longer made sure it was safe, and some people were so desperate to find alcohol that they fought and stole from each other. 

12. 

President Matt was even more uneasy about Lou the Jew's next idea. 

"My new idea is that poor people should be banned from having more children."

"Are you sure about this?" 

"There are still so many poor people in this country. You know how bad their lives are. Maybe it will be easier to help them if there are less of them." 

"I don't know Mr. Jew. Don't poor people have a right to have kids too?" 

President Matt decided to go to sleep and ask his other advisors the next day, maybe they'd have a different solution. But President Matt's was surprised to learn that his other advisors were very enthusiastic about Lou the Jew's idea. 

The only person in the government who thought it might be a bad idea was President Matt. So he decided to take everybody else's advice. Poor people were banned from having more children, and the results were felt for years to come. 

13. 

By late in the first year of Matt's presidency, he had to join war with the rest of the world because President Matt's country kept being attacked by some of the other kingdoms. But by then, the war was nearly over, and Matt's country was on the winning side. 

After the fighting was over, two Prime Ministers from the winning kingdoms came to see President Matt.

"Mr. President," said the Prime Ministers, "You have done such a great job running your country that we'd like your advice for how to achieve peace that will last." 

"I don't know," said President Matt, "I'm still only ten years old."

"And a very competent ten year old!" said one of the Prime Ministers.

"With lots of experience in government!" said the other.

The first said: "Maybe the problem is that we've been looking at our through a grownup's eyes." 

The second said: "Maybe it takes child's innocence to see what we don't see."

"I don't know," said Matt, "so many of my best ideas come from my advisor, Lou the Jew. Is it possible I can ask him for advice?"

"OH NO! NOT A JEW!" shouted them both.

But then, one of the Prime Ministers whispered: "Mr. President, is there a more private room where we can talk?" 

Lou the Jew took the Prime Ministers to his kitchen where they snacked on a special cake Lou the Jew gave President Matt called babka. 

Between bites, one of the Prime Ministers whispered "Mr. President, this has to remain a secret, but the truth is that I'm quite fond of many Jews." 

The other whispered: "Believe it or not, so am I." 

"They are very smart people." 

"And they've been treated rather poorly." 

"Mr. President, if you agree to be the leader of the peace conference, maybe we can do some things to help the Jews." 

President Matt thought for a few seconds and reached a decision: "If we can help the Jews, I'll be happy to be there. But Lou the Jew has to be there with me." 

"It's a deal." 

And so President Matt went to write a peace treaty for the world with Lou the Jew as his advisor.