Monday, September 25, 2023
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Herod: I am at the peak of my powers and from here there is nowhere but down. Decline, disease, decadence, despotism, dessication, my soul knows it, my body feels it, my country senses it with all its spies, subversives, secessionists, betrayers, agitators, insurgents, dissidents, revolutionaries and traitors. Such is the State of Israel, and so am I blessed as its king.
I will not let history dismiss me as Herod the Mediocre or Marginal. I am Herod the Great, look on my works ye mighty and despair! I shall either birth a dynastic line to last a thousand years or Israel will die with me. No Israel is worth preserving that has Judeans as their ruling class. God chose the Jews so they might serve him. God placed an Idumean on the Jewish throne and this gentile's accumulated more world influence than had any ever Jewish king. It is as clear as God's commandment to Moses that God has heard Palestine's cries under the Jewish yoke. It is God's will that Israel's serve Palestine, and I, diabolic vessel though I seem, am God's instrument, His voice, His action, His justice, His wrath.
Thursday, September 14, 2023
Wednesday, September 6, 2023
Thursday, August 31, 2023
While I'm in the middle of a long health crisis, I just want to say to something to this 'audience' of friends.
In the early years here on facebook, before we truly understood the impact of social media on our psyches, I was a particularly loud purveyor of rancor and I don't think I've ever truly apologized for it.
On the one hand, you can't really regret your life except for your most extreme sins. We all lived through the same events and forces, and we are all, in our way, the markers of the times we lived in. Social media is the closest record of what it was like to live through any historical period, but because the record was so tantalizingly easy to write down, it changed our personalities. If you already had a lot of anger, if you'd lived a troubled life, the temptation to splay your anger around the internet was irresistible. The fact that the temptation was irresistible is amply born out by the fact that so many millions yielded to it.
The point of the internet, what makes the internet great rather than terrible, is that it gives a place to express yourself at your best, your most uplifting, your most enthusiastic, not your worst. But when you feel like your best is ignored, it is so unbelievably easy for the worse angels of our nature to emerge. And for those of us who've showed our darker selves in public, the penance is that we have to show our struggles to control it publicly, with the knowledge that we will fail all too often and that every time, we have to own up to that side of who we are, with both realism that that side will sometimes emerge, and also with the promise to ourselves that we'll strive to do better even as we know that some people will write us off along the way.
I am a lonely guy. 41 years old, a life of little romance, no marriage or children, almost all my good friends live far away, with too much brain malady for more than a cursory job, armed with a battalion of physical ailments, learning disabilities that prevented education in the subjects that interested me, and interests so unique to me that there is barely any contemporary I may discuss them with. I live with all too many memories of actions of which I feel deeply guilty, many of which may well be the coinage of a feverishly delusional mind. The temptation to view the world misanthropically is overwhelming. But it is not the people who hate life who are most vulnerable to hate, it is the people who love life vulnerable to it, because when life doesn't love them back, it's a colossal blow.
If I end up consistently posting here for another thirty or fifty years, it's bad enough that my epitaph will be 'he had a good facebook page and he went to Cats.' Whether I think other people have been unfair, nobody wants to be remembered as a troll. I want to give more solace than disturbance. I want more to comfort the afflicted than afflict the comfortable. I want my presence on the internet to be remembered more with fondness than exasperation.
Some of you weren't there for the worst of it. Some of you may think you were there for the worst of it and got a mere pebble in the pool compared to what all this was ten years ago. Whatever my qualms about others, those don't matter. That's between them and their creator. We're only responsible for ourselves.
So if I do serious posts around here, I'll do my best to stay positive. I'm going to keep failing a lot, but once your 'out there,' you can't change your reputation by keeping quiet.
Wish me luck.
Monday, August 28, 2023
Saturday, August 19, 2023
Thursday, August 17, 2023
Somewhere in Baltimore, there is a city.
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Monday, August 14, 2023
"We've got a half-mile of real estate. What do you say? Should I make Caesaria my capital? Why shouldn't such a beautiful city be the capital? It's got a beautiful seaview, you can never get that in Jerusalem. My friend Augustus used to say to me "you should try to make the capital somewhere other than Jerusalem. Those Jerusalemite elites never loved me and they never loved you. You should try to make the captial Sebastia, it's right on the top of the mountains, it's a perfect fort!" But I can't move the capital away from Jerusalem. Do you have any idea what kind of machareikeh those Jerusalemites would start if I ever tried to do that? But still, we can dream of a new capital and one day, maybe when they're not looking...
And let's give you a load of our beautiful new High Priest Simon ben-Boethus. He's one of a kind, folks! This guy is going to administer the new loyalty oath like he just came up with it himself! I've never heard anyone administer a loyalty oath like this guy. He said to me "Herod!" and that's what my friends call me, I never go in with this 'Your Majesty" drek, you all can call me Herod too, you know what's what, not like those rich Jerusalem elites and their crooked Rabbis, and I know, you're supposed to say honorable things about the Rabbis but between you and me, folks, those Rabbis are bad people, very bad people, they really are, and just want the power to tell you what you should do, but we're not gonna let them tell us, are we?
Saturday, August 12, 2023
Hopkins outpatient center.
It's not a hospital, it's an airport. Patients are processed as efficiently as factory meat.
Outside the factory are terraced English gardens fit for a capital city, for we're to understand we are in the world capital of medicine. The St. Peter's Cathedral. The Taj Mahal. The Louvre or Hermitage. Baltimore's Forbidden City of overachievement.
Everything here that's not an airport is there to tell us that medicine is art as towering as Michelangelo and Mozart where towering artists paint their masterpieces on diseases that barely have names.
Some of us are just here for an ENT and for these Goyas and Breugels, we're still just processed meat.
Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Play 1: I Know
Seven Years Ago, recited to the accompaniment of drum and flute
Everyone has a mother-in-law, even Herod. All the time I was communicating to Anthony in Rome, she was communicating to Cleopatra in Egypt. Cleopatra summoned us both, all involved parties: me and Alexandra, to Anthony's base camp in Laodicia--Turkic soil where Cleopatra could adjudicate the rival claims to our throne, quietly wielding the authority of Rome, where true authority lay, without the trappings of Egyptian splendor to conceal her lack of power.
One must give the witch credit. She is a loyal partisan who always rewards her friends. Not even Anthony could be a better friend to Cleopatra than Alexandra. Through half a dozen kings and civil wars, Alexandra worked her corrupted wonders so that Egypt would get a steady supply of Judean fruit and grain under nightfall's cover. Every year, the harvest's bottom line was subtracted by 14% because a seventh of our farmgrowth would disappear to Egypt.
I knew I would leave this meeting a king or a corpse. However good a friend to Anthony, Cleopatra needed me dead were Alexandra installed because I could simply halt the harvest shipments whose roads pass through my home province of ldumea. So I would not come out of this meeting alive unless I presented something immediate more valuable to Cleopatra than all of Judea's fruited grain. Not just the usual jewels and raiment, but something that would keep Egypt secure for all time. There was one thing in Israel Cleopatra coveted more than our crops, and it was the palm trees of Jericho.
The second I saw Cleopatra in Laodocia, I presented her with a notarized deed to all Jericho's balsam, in perpetuity. We'd make no claim to all those flowers' essential oils, and employ a continual daily transit of balsam to the Egyptian capital, pre-pressed in vats.
But just in case that plum humiliation wasn't enough, I had one other insurance premium. I put Alexandra's daughter, Mariamne, under the charge of my barbaric uncle Joseph - it's my right to do as her husband. Should word reach Joseph that Herod was executed, I told Joseph to murder Mariamne immediately.
It would be a shame, I've grown to love the sweet girl. Perhaps I can console myself with the thought that she could be mine again in the great sheol to come.
I am the queen of Judea. Herod may call himself sovereign, he may subordinate Judea within his yoke and burden, but no Phillistine will ever rule the Jewish state in legitimate deed. For Herod's sake, I have buried both father, father-in-law, brother-in-law, husband and son, and vengeance will be mine - vengeance will be all Judea's, for the people know Judea is mine and whom among them wouldn't welcome me freely?
Herod offers Cleopatra all the balsam of Jericho, but he cannot offer legitimacy. It is only a matter of time before the Jewish people rise up against their Palestinian occupiers, and at such a moment the friends of Herod will be Judea's enemies. Like any sovereign, Cleopatra rules at Rome's mercy, and Rome will tire of Egypt the moment after Anthony tires of her. Cleopatra needs firm allies, and her firmest ally is Judea and her one true queen: Alexandra Maccabee.
It is with solemn vengeance and exquisite pleasure that I plan with Cleopatra to poison Herod at the adjudication. Herod has so many enemies that Anthony could never be certain who poisoned his friend, and even if I am the prime benefactress, the poisoner could just as easily be Octavian in Rome who'd wish to restore Judea to the Macabee line who so benefited that dear Uncle Julius.
Of course Herod had his insurance plan, but still, he was Herod: murderer, tyrant, organized criminal. What guarantee can Herod now make that anyone would believe?
Surely Cleopatra did not believe it, but as a formality, she delayed us for an hour to consult her oracle. And as I stood there with Herod, the tyrant showed me what tyranny really is. The godfather of vice left my naive Mariamne under the auspices of that hideous uncle Joseph. Herod's fingers point to the man, and with Joseph's hands the man becomes a cadaver. My sweet little daughter, so much younger than her heinous spouse, will never outlive him. She's a dead woman, walking this palatial monstrosity as prisoner when she should be Judea's next imperatress.
I could do nothing but rescind my claim.
I didn't know what she was doing at Joseph's house, though I knew it could be nothing benevolent. Mariamne is the queen, but we are vipers, and it is not for me, the King's sister, to deny my hungers to fit a wife whose time in this world can only end with Herod ordering her death.
Joseph was at great pains to change. He always liked her, perhaps he loved her, but if he loved her, his strength could have easily taken her, and after years of Herod, what would she have done to fight him off?
Joseph is a murderer, but she will learn that I'm a far greater beast of burden. All my life, people told me I am everything of which Jewish women are accused: spoiled, manipulative, shrewish. Mariamne is a woman of valour: upholding the values of the Matriarchs, I am the cast off woman of evil: Lilith, Hagar, Potiphar's wife, the one in thirty-seven women who gives Jews a bad name.
We women hate Mariamne because she is better at being a woman than us in every conceivable way: more beautiful, kinder, more virtuous, more forgiving. She has been ravished by the worst man in the world every day for ten years yet still she seems virginal. She must suffer like none in the world yet she gives every appearance of joy. She is everything we all should be, and we all hate her for it.
The blood on my hands is so legion. The sorrow in my heart can never equal the extremity of my deeds. Wine is for drinking but all the water in my villa exists to wash my hands of blood that never comes out. I am Herod's murderer, his lackey, his enforcer, his executioner, his general, haunted by the eyes of the murdered so Herod may sleep without conscience. I will not recount my foul acts, nor will history, fortunately, for they are so numerous and awful that none may catalogue them. I sleep the sleep of nightmares, only to awaken so I may do dreadful things upon a new day. I will not kill Herod, for there will only be more blood in his wake, and I will not kill myself, for there is none who deserves a release of suffering less than I.
And now that Herod may die he charges me with the potential murder of she I most covet. I have no YHWH, only Mariamne, the poetry my hands lack: refinement where all of us are raw, sculpture where all of us are stone. To befoul her is to befoul holiness itself. I am dust. She is divinity.
And now, she was in my care, sipping tea on my balcony, and I wondered all I could say to her, tonguetied for moments at a time when I finally broke into tears for the first time since as a boy, beaten with the side of Antipater's sword. She released the floodgates of suffering decades like a broken aqueduct, and at the feet of my lady I confessed everything I could remember, not just the instruction to let her not outlive Herod, but of all Herod's foul deeds.
My atrocious hands have put so many horrors to action, yet nothing ever disturbed me like a simple I know.
She has that effect on people. In my lady's presence, all but Herod yearn to be cleaner, better, kinder; to repent their crimes and seek the purity of absolution. It is a power beyond even eros, beyond beauty, beyond love. It is holiness, and it cannot possibly exist too long of this world.
Go into hiding with me.
I don't deserve your clemency.
And she placed my hand upon her heart. I closed my eyes for seven seconds and breathed a deep sigh as though my heart's weight were lifted and my many sins forgiven. I have known so many women, and yet the import of this moment was too significant for sex. This moment was grace and absolution.
There are no words for how deeply that wish goes to my heart, but I do not dare cross Herod, even in death.
And I told Mariamne all of my sins. The murders, the rapes, the abuses, the thefts, the enslavements, and oh the many many lies. She listened with tears in her eyes, and she forgave me. She told me it is not too late to change. She promised me that Yahweh forgives me so long as I promise to Yahweh that I would forever be different, that I kill no more, that I bring peace to everywhere I brought war.
It was at this moment that I spotted Alexandra's caravan riding in the distance. I shouted to Mariamne: Your mother is here! Herod is dead. . They know of Herod's order and they will be coming to make sure I carried it out, but run to the Egyptian embassy and you might be free in moments. Your only chance is to run away now. RUN!
(Mariamne runs offstage)
She was supposed to be dead! What plot is this? Herod is dead and he means to keep her alive so he can kill me and take Mariamne as a better wife!
It was Alexandra's sigil but I was riding back to Jerusalem in her caravan to show my complete confidence that my mother-in-law has become my ally.
I thought I had much longer formulate an explanation of my 'loss' of Mariamne, and was fully prepared to explain what happened to Alexandra, who usually greets me with spit in my face. She would not believe me, but she'd go to the Egyptian embassy herself and find her daughter and all might be well that ends well.
But out from Alexandra's carpentum, out stepped Alexandra.
(Alexandra walks onto stage)
And then out stepped Herod.
I was the only person ready for this and shouted out "Mariam has run away after being unfaithful to you with my husband!"
HEROD: (slaps Salome)
SALOME: (to Herod)
Search our palace! Seeing only Alexandra's sigil we thought you dead! Mariamne is not here, and I heard my husband command her to flee at once.
Joseph I honestly should make you the high priest. You did the greatest of all possible services by taking as your wife the Whore of Babylon.
He commanded her to go to the Egyptian embassy.
Egypt is Rome and Rome is me. So long as I am alive, no one in Judea avoids the justice of Herod.
But they thought you were dead!
There's no way they thought me dead! Joseph, I never thought you'd actually have to kill her. How can anyone possibly doubt my powers of pursuasion on Anthony and Cleopatra whom I've pursuaded so many times in situations precisely like this?
You literally instructed them that in case of your dea...
...I was never going to die.
How were we supposed to know that?
Sister do you doubt your brother and king is so unloved by his friends that they would stoop to kill them?
(Salome is finally silent)
Fine... Joseph, send one of your valets to the embassy and retrieve Mariamne... IF she's even there...
There could in no way be any chance that Mariamne was there.
(Mariamne returns to the stage)
And yet she was.
(Herod immediately decapitates Joseph)
Mariamne, Alexandra and Salome: AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!
(all three of them are reduced to tears)
(six of Joseph's slaves come onto the stage)
Clean up the blood of your master and dump his body into the Valley of Gahennim.
(six Roman soldiers come onto the stage)
Three of you escort Mariamne back to the Royal Palace, and three of you escort Alexandra to Praetorium Prison where she is to be lodged for the forseeable future!
Much like her daughter and my sister, Alexandra was far too in shock to protest.
(to Salome who quietly weeps through what follows)
Listen whore, I don't know if what you say is true. What I do know is that if Joseph told Mariamne of my plan, if he even told you, if he even told someone who told you, he's capable of everything you say. If I ever find out what you're capable of, you will join your ex-husband in Gahennim more swiftly than I meted out justice to Joseph. Word will go out tomorrow that Joseph was executed for trying to rape Mariamne, and a million people around the world will celebrate his death.
And here's the irony: you will be named 'protectress of Jerusalem' in his place. You, who can't even run a palace, will have to learn to defend Jerusalem. Much good may it do you. May you be as strong and brave as you always claim you are.
(exit Herod. Salome still weeps)
AC Charlap Tell me about your novelistic project?