Friday, September 27, 2002

Just found out that my friend, Gladys Hall Coates, aka Mrs Albert Coates, died, not unexpectedly, on Wednesday. She turned 100 in May of this year.

I met Mrs Coates in late Feb. or early March of 1998, around the same time I was dating Lenise. I was introduced to her by another customer/friend, Rebecca Ballentine, a retired librarian. Mrs. Coates was recovering from hip replacement surgery and needed some help around the house. For those who don't already know, I was in the cleaning/janitorial business at that time. From the very beginning, my relationship with Mrs Coates was different from any with my other customers. Most people were happy to outline what they wanted done and then would stay out of the way, either in a different room, or out of the house altogether. Mrs. Coates though had a definate opinion on how each task in her home was to be done. This caused some friction at first to say the least. Eventually I did resign myself to the fact that I would be under close scrutiny much of the time and got used to it, more or less. The other big difference was that Mrs Coates expected for her money that I would do pretty much anything she would ask rather than a set routine of duties. This also took some getting used to, but was also a bit of fun or a change of pace on occasion. I would often be called on to weed the periwinkle in the front of the house, or to drive Mrs Coates to the grocery store. She had no washing machine, so I found that fairly regularly I was taking her sheets and towels home to wash.

None of this yet gives a true picture of her personality. Other than being something of an exacting taskmaster, she was rather kind and generous. She would always inquire about my well being, my wife after I was married, our search for a house, and our vacations. I was quite honored to have her as a guest at my wedding. She was very well known in the community among those who have been in Chapel Hill for long. She played the piano and had written some songs. She enjoyed botany, history, politics, poetry, Shakespeare, and religion. And of course, she was a great reader.

In the later part of 2000, at 98 years of age, Mrs Coates mind started weakening. She would become confused a bit on what things she had told me and what things I had already done. By this time I had formes a bit of a routine, so I did continue to do pretty much the same things for her as I had been doing. The close scrutiny dropped off quite a bit though, especially as her strength was faltering as well. when I returned from Christmas break in Jan of 2001, she was convinced I had moved away and hadn't told her. Around late summer 2001 her neighbors and friends talked her into hiring a full time assistant. A charming woman named Jackie Gray. Unfortunately for Jackie, Mrs Coates' senility hightened some of her less desirable qualities, so she, Jackie, had to endure some meanness which I hadn't seen. Through no fault of my own, however, Mrs C. kept a fairly positive attitude toward me fot the rest of the time I worked for her. My friendship and work relationship with Mrs. C. ended on January 16th of this year. Those who were looking after her and her finances decided she needed more full time medical help and needed to cut back elsewhere. Of course I had been pretty much out of the cleaning business other than servicing a few existing customers, so I wasn't surprised.

I had always meant to go back to check in on her from time to time, but somehow never got around to it. Death is not something that scares me, but I don't find it attractive either. I do plan on attending the funeral next week. I can't really say she was taken before her time, but I do look forward to renewing our acquaintance in heaven someday.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

I am excited and surprised to say that my shepherding group is going to be studying one of Tom Wright's books this fall. Most likely Paul For Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians. I don't remember any group ever taking my suggestion for a study before, which is why I'm surprised. Plus the fact that we'll be reading Wright should, I hope, lead to good and fruitful discussion.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

I aproached reading E P Sanders with some trepidation. My opinion of him was formed by N T Wright, who, by my recollection, descibed him as a key figure in restoring New Testament studies to a jewish context, but was mistaken about a, b, c, d, and e, which I don't remember. So far The Historical figure of Jesus has been very reasonable and conservative in the sense that he doesn't make any wild or bizarre claims. The most unorthodox thing so far has been that he has treated the gospels as something like historical fiction, that is, the gospel writers, when trying to make a particular point about Jesus, would make up a plausible story or invent a few of the contextual details to help flesh it out. Kind of a "based on real events" sort of thing. He makes up for this, to me at least, by not even mentioning, even in passing, the dreaded Q. (Sorry for my comma overuse. I'm trying not to use so many parentheses.)

I was struck in particular this morning by this pasage on miracles:

A lot of Christians, and possibly even more non-Christians, think that central to Christianity is the view that Jesus could perform miracles because he was more than a mere human being. We shall take walking on water as an example. A vast majority of people today think that it is impossible to walk on water. Some Christians, though by no means all, think that they are required to believe that Jesus could do so; this ability was limited to him, since he was more than human. Many non-Christians also think that Christians must believe this. Moreover, a lot of Christians and non-Christians think that the faith of the first century Christians depended on Jesus miracles.

Historically, none of this is accurate [ . . .] we shall see that in the first century Jesus' miracles were not decisive in deciding whether or not to accept his message and also that they did not 'prove' to his contemporaries that he was superhuman. The idea that he was not a real human being arose in the second century, but it was eventually condemned as heresy. [. . .] The definitive statement on this issue is that he is 'of one subtance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin' --not, 'apart from the ability to walk on water.'

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Since I don't have comments at the moment, I'll share what my friend Michael Straight sent be about the dave Barry column/cartoon:
But, but...

I don't recall anyone anywhere villifying tobacco growers. They're
the innocent victims who have been tragically, unknowingly growing a
deadly crop and must somehow find a new means of supporting themselves
that the evil schemes of the tobacco companies have been uncovered and
are all shocked (shocked!) to discover that tobacco isn't good for us.

link to relevant site

So giving money to the poor farmers who are innocent civilian
in the War on Tobacco makes pefect sense by the logic of the whole
anti-tobacco movement. Now if NC had used the money to give tax breaks
RJR or something, that might have made a funny cartoon...

Monday, September 23, 2002

I don't know if I've made it clear to everyone exactly how good a writer Robertson Davies is. the only reason I don't say more about him is that he tends to leave me a bit breathless. But I guess the kicker is this--by common acclamation, Murther and Walking Spirits is his worst novel. Having read, as far as I can tell, all of his novels now, I think I would concur. and yet so many passages in the book just astonished me. The premise of the novel is strange, and it's sevelopment is stranger yet. The main character dies in the first sentence. If this isn't strange enough, he spends the vast majority of the book in disembodies form, watching a film festival which has been organized by his murderer. Since the story is only told from his perspective, it isn't certain, but it seems that the films the ghost, Connor Gilmartin, is watching are not the same films which the living in the theater are watching. Mr Gilmartin's films all are about his ancestors, told in a vareity of tales from the early 18th century to the mid 20th. The are not, in my opinion, of even quality in terms of holding the reader's interest, but as I mentioned, there are some priceless moments of prose strewn about. In the end Gilmartin, through circumstances a bit complicated to explain here, attempts, unsuccessfully, to comunicate with his wife and his colleague/murederer, with whom his wife was having an affair. The book ends with the murderer attempting to find forgiveness, or at least some relief from guilt, and I'm pleased to say that the end was indeed the high point of the book, but I won't give it away.

Hmm. Didn't intend to write a whole review. Guess I just wanted to get in a good plug for someone who, though dead himself, has been a bit of a companion to me over the last two years.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Interesting looking review here
In the 20th century, however, Gosse was seen mainly through the dark gaze of his son and only child, the man of letters Sir Edmund Gosse (1849-1928). In the classic Father and Son, Gosse the younger portrayed his father as a stern Puritan fanatic, ever-alert to “popish practices” such as the celebration of Christmas. Learning from his guilt-stricken small son that the servants had made a Christmas pudding, he stormed into the kitchen and threw “the idolatrous confectionery” into the fire.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

The cartoon in this column by america's favorite libertarian might be the funniest political cartoon I've ever seen.

Monday, September 16, 2002

I'm of the opinion that if you read enough philosophers, eventually you'll find one who seems to really groove with things you have thought about yourself. For me I just really enjoy Epictetus. How can you resist things like this:
If we had sense we ought to do nothing else, in public and in private, than praise and bless god and pay him due thanks. Ought we not, as we dig and plough and eat, to sing the hymn to god? "Great is god that he has given us these instruments wherewith we shall till the earth. Great is god that he has given us hands, and power to swallow, and a belly, and the power to grow without knowing it, and to draw breath in our sleep." At every moment we ought to sing these praises and above all the greatest and divinest praise, that god gave us the faculty to comprehend these gifts and to use the way of reason.
--from discourses, section On Providence

Just received a nice email from one Sarah Dennis at SPCK about availability of NT Wright's books here in the US. She advised me that they are all availabe from Pilgrim Press (at least the ones SPCK published), and that I should get info from them. Nothing I didn't already know here. But it was nice to get a response. Nothing about amazon in there though.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Haven't felt like bloging much lately. A bit on the busy side, plus the material I was going to write about intimidated me a bit. Last Sunday was quite interesting. There was humor, celebration and tragedy all in a three hour period, and if I was a great writer I would be able to tel it all in a poignant way. If you've read Louis de Berniers you would know what I mean. In any event there's a funeral service tomorrow for the stillborn child of one of the elders of our church. The boy was delivered early Sunday morning.

Other than that things are good. Bruce Malina's book is amazingly insiteful, though some of it is a bit questionable. I would recommend it to anyone wisheing to know a bit more about NT background and some random and surpring insites about various NT passages.

About a Boy has one of the funniest characters I've ever come accross in fiction. Haven't seen the movie yet, so I don't know if Hugh Grant did Will freeman justice. If you get a chance, you should read it before you see the movie. That goes triple (or more) for Corelli's Mandolin. From what I've heard, you shouldn't see that one under any circumstances.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Got this link from jdominator. In case you want so do an elgoog no hcraes. This is one way that "Paul Baxter" won't get to my site first. I didn't try "luapnocaed" though.

Friday, September 06, 2002

A list of my fun for the day.

1. I got to hold a ball python (belonged to one of my customers). Snake (of the non-venomous variety) are fun to hold.

2 Same customer told me a joke:

A couple has a child. Thoughout childhood, the kid never say anything. They have him tested for deafness and psychological disorders, but all the tests come back negative. Still never says a word. Finally, at six years old, during the dinner hour, the child says "these mashed potatoes are cold." The parents are beside themselves. "Why didn't you ever say anything before? We knew you were able to talk. Why didn't you say anything!!" Child: "Up until now, everything was fine."

3. Watched a favorite movie that I saw without my wife when she was on a trip a couple years back, Love Serenade. "I have reason to believe he might be a fish." In a quiet, understated, australian kind of way this os one of the funniest movies about love, sex, siblings, and fish. Go check it out.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

I hope y'all like the new format. it's quite a bit cleaner, for now. The only trouble I had was that the links on the left wre too long, and for some reason they pushed down where the posts started. Kinda weird.

Anyhoo, Monday night we went to a birthday party, the high point of which was the opening of a particular gift: The Complete Schoolhouse Rock DVD Set. We watched that for about an hour before we started getting sleepy. Those dudes wrote some GREAT songs. My personal favorites were the number seven (with the lucky rabbit), and the "verb" song. I've had that verb song stuck in my head since then. Something finally to push the Larry Boy theme out.
Testing new format.