Church Book Burning to Include the Bible

There’s a church in North Carolina – The Amazing Grace Baptist Church – planning an event for Halloween. The main attraction? Book Burning. Because nothing says religion like a good ole fashioned book burning.

Now, while their site lists the books you’d expect to be burned at a book burning – The Golden Compass, Goosebumps, Harry Potter and anything that mentions magic or gay people (also, magic gay people) there’s another book that they’re burning that might surprise you.

That would be the bible.

Yup, they’re burning the bible. Or, specifically, all translations that are not the King James Version (yanno, the one that Shakespeare may or may not have contributed to).

And what kills me is that they’re using quotes from the bible to justify their burning of the bible.

Even the devil can use scripture to serve his purposes, indeed.

http://www.stltoday.com/blogzone/civil-religion/general/2009/10/halloween-book-burning-at-baptist-church-to-include-copies-of-the-bible

**Thanks to http://meggardiner.wordpress.com for the link!

Duplicity

Saw the movie Duplicity last night, and I can’t decide if I’d actually recommend it to anyone. I mean, I’m a firm believer that the simple addition of beer can make any movie marvelous, especially if the children are asleep. And it’s always fun watching Clive Owen kiss various people.

Clive Owen!

Anyhoo, it was clear that in some meeting or another a colossal battle ensued, pitting the Forget The Backstory camp against the Rate Of Revelation Be Damned! contingent. The latter won. And while it was interesting to see how the backstory can be woven into the meat of the story like little musical interludes, it took away the mystery. I didn’t want to know who was working for and with whom. I wanted to be surprised.

And even the big surprise at the end wasn’t as surprising as all that. I mean, I called it, and I’m pretty damn thick, you know?

Still, that first scene with Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson duking it out in the rain was pretty damn awesome. So much fun watching a couple of pasty, pudgy white dudes punching the spit out of each other.

Taxidermy!

There was a man who lived down the alley from me back when we lived on 20th avenue, who was an amateur taxidermist. I never learned his name, but once, he invited me into his workshop which took up three quarters of his garage. Now, before I explain that, let me give you some background.

First, on that particular day, I was – for all intents and purposes – a walking corpse. I had just completed my first year of teaching in an extremely rough, extremely demanding school, and the stress of worrying about those kids while fussing about my own little girl nearly broke me in half. I stopped eating, I stopped sleeping – it took me two weeks into summer just to re-learn how to laugh again. As I pushed the stroller through my alley, past the workshop of the taxidermist, I was returning from a two hour walk/park excursion, where I watched my one and a half year old play and play, and I reminded myself how to be normal again.

Now this guy who lived down the alley – the guy whose name I never knew, of if I did, I don’t remember – was old then, impossibly old. Rheumy eyes, receding gums, a spine wilting to the ground. As I pushed the stroller carrying my sleeping girl, the old man peeked his head out of the window of his garage.

“I suppose you’ve been wanting to see the latest,” he said.

“Excuse me?”

“The project,” he said, “the project!” He sighed. “Well, come on in, then.” He opened the door. I went inside.

I would like to say that my strange fascination with taxidermy is a universal phenomenon, but I fear that it is not. Indeed, I have distinct memories of childhood trips to the Bell Museum with my elementary school class and listening to both boys and girls squeal and shudder at the glassy eyes of dead animals peering unblinkingly outwards, at the perpetually still bodies of predators poised in mid-pounce. I found them beautiful, heartbreaking and thrilling. They haunted my dreams.

Inside the garage, half done projects leaned against one another on overloaded shelves. Pelts dried on the walls, and the wall space not covered by pelts were meticulous drawings of animal skeletons, diagrams of musculature, analyses of malformations and odd growths. He had animals with lumps on their necks, tumors on their legs, third eyes, cleft jaws.

“Never much cared for fake taxidermy,” the man said. “Jackalopes and fiji mermaids and other horseshit. I always figured nature had a way for making things strange all on her own.” There were dogs with fifth legs, cats with nine-toed feet, a heron with a third wing sprouting from its breast. He had bins of glossy eyes of every shade of yellow, brown and blue.

“I see what you mean,” I said.

“But now,” he said, gesturing to the back table, “I can’t start a project without wanting to make it fly.”

Every animal on the back table – cats, fish, squirrels and two young raccoons, had a pair of crow’s wings, angled forward and uncurling as though only just leaping into flight.

He laughed, sucked on his cigarette and choked. “Pretty aren’t they?”

And they were. “Thank you,” I breathed, “for showing me this. It’s exactly how I’ve been feeling.”

Now I’ve been thinking about that day quite a bit lately as I am doing copious amounts of research into taxidermy, rogue taxidermy and the long-forgotten practice of keeping Cabinets of Wonders, for my new short story “The Taxidermist’s Other Wife” and all the while I wonder – what is it that draws us to the preservation of the body when life is gone? And why do we think nothing of a deer head hanging over a mantle or a front door, when we wouldn’t dream of stuffing and mounting the heads of our loved ones after they had died. Is the nine-point stag simply a placeholder for everyone that we’ve lost? Or do we do it under the misguided belief that we have somehow cheated death?

Now here:

312180.tif

is a picture from the early days of the Smithsonian. Same with here:

313279.tif

James L. Clark Mounting Male Indian Lion

http://images.library.amnh.org/photos/ptm/browse/4?ipp=25&p=2&view=grid

I’m rather taken aback on their choice of verb for that one. Could it be that there is an undercurrent of eroticism in taxidermy? Is that what was really drawing me to those impossibly still animals in those field trips of my youth? I shudder to think so.

Perhaps, it is a recognition that death is beautiful – that in the teeming multitudes and abundant life are variations that are mysterious, inscrutable and strange. Death is good because life is good. Beauty may delight the body, but deformity touches the soul. My old neighbor knew this. A good taxidermist, after all, has the knowledge of a naturalist combined with the compassion of a mortician. A good taxidermist, too, delights in oddities and whimsy.

Take this, for example:

tea

and this:

peek

Both of these are from a shop in Paris called Deyrolle – a place that I feel that I am destined to visit one day. Here’s their website. http://www.deyrolle.com/magazine/

As I fuss and ruminate on this story – which incidentally is less about taxidermy and more about preservation, how people hang onto an idea after it is long, long dead – I am brought back to that moment nine years ago with a little old man in his garage. How even a corpse – walking, sprawling or otherwise – can be given new life with enough patience, tenderness and ingenuity. And what’s more, how even a purist can bend towards whimsy if you give him long enough. And in the end, how all of us need – or perhaps even deserve – a set of wings.

http://www.ravishingbeasts.com/a-short-history-of-taxidermy/

Kids and the almighty dollar

My ten year old is obsessed with the Recession. When we’re driving in the car and NPR runs an economy story, she insists that I turn it up. She quizzes me on our current family finances and wants to know if we’re going to lose the house this year.

“Mom,” she said to me yesterday, “can you get fired?”

“I suppose so,” I said. “I mean, if enough schools don’t like my workshops I could get fired from being a teaching artist.”

“No,” she said. “Can you get fired from being a writer?”

“Well, it’s not fired, exactly. But people could hate my books and not buy them. And then it would be hard for me to sell another book. So that’s kind of like getting fired.”

At this point, Ella looked downright distressed. “No,” she said, “I mean, could someone ever say you aren’t a writer anymore, and then you wouldn’t be?

“It doesn’t quite work like that,” I explained. “There’s some jobs that you need a license in order to do them. If a doctor loses her license, then she’s no longer a doctor. If a lawyer gets dis-barred, he’s no longer a lawyer. But some jobs you have because you’ve decided to have them. Your dad decided to start a business. I decided to be a writer. We might not make a lot of money, but at least no one can fire us. Because we decided.”

Can I decide to get a scholarship to college?”

“No,” I said, “but you could try for it.”

“Could I decide to have a bigger allowance?”

“No.”

“Crap.”

Language!”

***

Then, this morning, Ella came down from brushing her teeth and stood in front of me doing a pirouette with a flourish. “Mom,” she said, “our money troubles are over!”

“Indeed, my love?”

“I’ve discovered the perfect get-rich-quick scheme!”

“Fabulous,” I said. “What is it.”

She held a finger up and held her breath, allowing anticipation to build. She gave me – I swear to god- a Snake Oil Salesman’s grin and a wink. “Grrrrrrreeting Cards!” she said. My little golden haired huckster.

“Greeting cards?”

My skepticism went unnoticed. “People will pay a fortune for a good greeting card.”

“Or, 3.95″

“That’s it?”

“Yup.”

“Hmmmm.” She pressed her fingers to her lips, running the numbers in her head. “If I quit school now, would I still be able to go to college?”

“No.”

She sighed. “Well, then, I’ll just have to do them on the bus.” And with that, she slipped on her jacket and tripped outside into the schoolbus waiting for her, it’s red lights flashing in the dark, cold rain.

The Devil Doth Love a Pirate

Somewhere in the depths of the debris and general crap crowding my porch, hides a magical pirate sword. Or, not magical excactly. Cheap is the right word. Bought at Savers, or The Dollar Store, or maybe a garage sale, and doubtless painted with lead paint. Or mercury. Anyway, it’s one of those toys that little boys love and moms hate because with every move, it mimics the metallic sound of metal sliding against metal. The clash of swords, the thrill of the swashbuckler, and we are suddenly transformed into Jack Sparrow or Blackbeard or Anne Bonney, or Edward Lowe.

Except, we can’t find the sword. And if it’s underneath the pile of soccer shoes or roller skates, if its buried in the wood pile or the heaped packaging from our new windows that I just haven’t taken out yet, I have no idea. What I do know is that every time we walk in the door, we are greeted with a clash of swords. Whether I’m holding the groceries or the mail or a sleeping kid, I come home to the slice of blade upon blade. “Avast!” I cry. “We meet at last, Blackbeard!” And in my swashbuckling, pirate soul, I’m not making dinner or cleaning up dog vomit. I’m on the high seas, fighting to the death.

And that, I swear, is the real reason why I haven’t cleaned my porch.