Month: April 2020

Spitballing in a Pandemic

Spitballing in a Pandemic Bonnie Honig   Isn’t it ironic that bleach, an agent of whitening, may bring about Trump’s downfall? After all he has done for whiteness? And that television, the medium that gave life to his personal and political ambitions, may be the instrument of his demise? Social distancing recommends we stay 6 feet apart from each other lest our speaking, sneezing, or coughing spread viral droplets to others. Spit is a carrier of Covid 19, a danger to public health. So is spitballing, which is what Trump dangerously did at the White House Press briefing on...

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Plague Diaries, April 11

11 April   Two ways to get out of the news: religion and mathematics. There are more, of course. A line from Breton: “the act of love and the act of poetry are not compatible with reading a newspaper out loud.” In these days incompatibilities have increased. But yes, two ways to get out of the news: religion and mathematics. A 20th-century mathematician, Edward Kasner, asked his nephew “to think up a name for a number with a hundred zeros”. The kid gave it the name: Googol. A googol is a 1 followed by a hundred zeros. It is...

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The Modern Decameron Book 3, rev. ed.

Filomena goes next, with another story of another Jew, Melchisadech, who also must reckon with Christianity as both a moral problem and an intellectual prospect.   Filomena frames it as a story within a story within a story, because now all three of the great monotheistic religions that rose on the southern and eastern extremities of the Mediterranean are in play–as competitors for the loyalties of people on the verge of the end times, all desperate for the right answer to the wrong question, which is, who or what will save us? In The Decameron story, Saladin the Saracen summons Melchisadech to a meeting where the intricacies of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity–the last for once absent an advocate–will be debated, as preface to an offer that can’t be refused.  If your answer is wrong, Saladin says in so many words, I’ll have you hounded or imprisoned, whereupon, as Sultan, I will seize your assets (these are liquid because Melchisadech the Jew, is, of course, a money lender).  If your answer is right, again in so many words, I’ll let you lend me money to pay off the debts my profligate kingdom has accumulated.  Melchisadech responds with astonishment and then a story about debt, inheritance, forgiveness, and forbearance, about the man who will be Lear. Filomena leads with a playful critique of reason or restraint that might as well be Nietzschean,...

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The Modern Decameron, Book II, rev. ed.

Neifile goes next in The Decameron, Book/Novel 2.  She tells the story of Abraham the Jew, a devout adherent of the faith, who, being a friend of Johannot de Chevigny, a fellow merchant, is constantly subject to proselytization–convert now or forever find no peace!  Abraham finally says OK, OK, but I’m going to the headquarters, all the way to Rome, to see what your religion is made of.  There he finds strange grounds for new belief–he converts to Christianity because its practitioners are whoremongers, pedophiles, mendicants, and morons, yet their empire keeps expanding.  Here’s my retelling of that story for our times, as a screenplay, of course. ____ INT. Abraham bent over a church pew, the reverse shot shows his old friend John, another stalwart of the garment trade, pacing in the aisle.  The camera rises, we survey the incredible wealth and majesty of this cathedral, and the 2000-year old Church it represents. ABRAHAM: Jesus fucking Christ, wouldja?  [the cameras descend into standard shot-reverse shot format at eye level] I’m a Jew, what do you want, a conversion experience?  How can I be a Christian, what are you people FOR–except, what, the end of everything?   You hope for death, the end of the fucking world, so you can see the large one, the big guy who tortures us because he thinks it’s good for us?  This is not a...

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