Archive for the ‘Off Topic’ Category

Off Topic: Descent from the Cross

January 23, 2014 1 comment

imageI’ve long been a fan of Marc Chagall, the Russian Jewish 20th Century modernist. Right now, through February 2, there is an exhibit, Chagall: Love, War, and Exile at the Jewish Museum on Manhattan’s upper east side. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to work in a trip to New York to see the exhibit.

Religious News Services is reporting about it:

NEW YORK (RNS) At a moment when the world is flush with new books and ever-evolving interpretations of Jesus, one of the last century’s artistic masters is providing art lovers with a striking take on the first-century religious figure.

The first U.S. exhibition exploring the “darker works” of Marc Chagall (1887-1985) shows a Jewish artist obsessed with Jesus.

Chagall: Love, War, and Exile,” at The Jewish Museum in New York showcases the work of the Russian-French artist during World War II as he tried to make sense of a world gone mad.

Of particular interest are paintings depicting the crucified Jesus — depictions that are often read as metaphors not only for war but the particular expressions of Jewish suffering and persecution in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s.

clip_image001One painting, among many that I particularly like, is Descent from the Cross (1941) (pictured above). It reminds me of the second illustration in the Hungarian Pray Manuscript (pictured to the left).

It is interesting to note that Chagall often painted Jesus with a halo. In most of his crucifixion works, he depicted Jesus wearing a loincloth with a tallit-style pattern. In one famous work, Apocalypse en Lilas: Capriccio, Chagall depicts Jesus naked on the cross above a storm trooper with a backwards swastika.

You may click on the images for larger versions

Note: Descent from the Cross, 1941, (upper right), ink and gouache on paper, 19 1/2 x 12 7/8 in. Collection of the Rastegar Family, California. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Photo courtesy of The Jewish Museum. This image is available for Web, courtesy of the Jewish Museum.

Categories: Art, Off Topic

It Continues: James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus

December 28, 2013 13 comments

imageLiz Klimas writes in The Blaze:

Inscribed on a stone box are the words at the center of more than a decade of religious and scholarly controversy: “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”

These words etched into a burial box spurred a 10-year investigation that would ultimately end in a man cleared of forgery accusations. But discussion as to whether this is the earliest reference to Jesus Christ and the validity of the last three words — “brother of Jesus” — continues.

Categories: History, Off Topic

What Hath the Internet Wrought? Don’t Forget the Links

December 23, 2013 4 comments
Categories: Off Topic

Off Topic: New Novel – The Donation of Constantine

November 27, 2013 3 comments

imageJason Pat writes:

This is to let you know that Simon LeVay’s new novel, ‘The Donation of Constantine,’ has just come out. It’s a religious-historical novel set in 8th-century Italy, and it revolves around the famous and enigmatic forgery known as — you guessed it — the Donation of Constantine. Here’s a brief description:

In the middle of the eighth century, the decaying city of Rome lies defenseless against the advance of the warmongering Lombards. The new Pope, Stephen II, appeals for help from the Eastern Emperor, but none arrives. In desperation, the Pope’s younger brother and an English nun conspire to change the course of history—at the risk of their own souls. Based on real people and actual events, this is a story of intrigue, passion, war, and the struggle for control of medieval Europe.

The book does deal seriously with Catholic politics and the evolution of the papacy — and in that sense it holds up a distant mirror to the present-day Church — but it’s all wrapped up in an adventure story that should please anyone.

There’s more information about His book at its website, This site includes information on how to order the physical book or the ebook in the U.S., the U.K., or Europe. The Amazon page for the paperback is here

[ . . . ]

Sounds fun. I ordered a Kindle version.

Categories: Books, Off Topic

Stephen Jones wants to know

November 8, 2013 Comments off

imageAre there any shroudies who are chess players like him? If so give him a shout. He tells us:

I was the second highest rated chess player in Western Australia in 1967, with a rating of 2070, but I gave competitive chess away for ~45 years until August 2012 when I joined the Perth Chess Club. I am gradually regaining my chess `mojo’ but my rating now is only 1782 and I doubt that I will ever get back to 2070.

Categories: Off Topic, Other Blogs

If a computer says, “I’m Aware,” how do you know if it is telling the truth?

October 1, 2013 1 comment

If it weren’t for Frank Tippler or John Klotz this would be completely off topic.

imageDid Hawking read Tipler’s book? Meredith Bennett-Smith writes in the Huffington Post:

Could your brain keep on living even after your body dies? Sounds like science fiction, but celebrated theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking recently suggested that technology could make it possible.

"I think the brain is like a program in the mind, which is like a computer," Hawking said last week during an appearance at the Cambridge Film Festival, The Telegraph reported. "So it’s theoretically possible to copy the brain on to a computer and so provide a form of life after death."

He acknowledged that such a feat lies "beyond our present capabilities," adding that "the conventional afterlife is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark."

Life after death ala Tipler? There is still more blind faith that a computer – hardware plus software – can not merely emulate consciousness but be conscious than there is any hard science on this subject. Hawking is really a Johnny-Come-Lately. I’m told the book to start with is Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem edited by Jonathan Shear. The list of contributors is why. From the publisher:

At the 1994 landmark conference "Toward a Scientific Basis for Consciousness", philosopher David Chalmers distinguished between the "easy" problems and the "hard" problem of consciousness research. According to Chalmers, the easy problems are to explain cognitive functions such as discrimination, integration, and the control of behavior; the hard problem is to explain why these functions should be associated with phenomenal experience. Why doesn’t all this cognitive processing go on "in the dark", without any consciousness at all? In this book, philosophers, physicists, psychologists, neurophysiologists, computer scientists, and others address this central topic in the growing discipline of consciousness studies. Some take issue with Chalmers’ distinction, arguing that the hard problem is a non-problem, or that the explanatory gap is too wide to be bridged. Others offer alternative suggestions as to how the problem might be solved, whether through cognitive science, fundamental physics, empirical phenomenology, or with theories that take consciousness as irreducible.Contributors : Bernard J. Baars, Douglas J. Bilodeau, David Chalmers, Patricia S. Churchland, Thomas Clark, C. J. S. Clarke, Francis Crick, Daniel C. Dennett, Stuart Hameroff, Valerie Hardcastle, David Hodgson, Piet Hut, Christof Koch, Benjamin Libet, E. J. Lowe, Bruce MacLennan, Colin McGinn, Eugene Mills, Kieron OHara, Roger Penrose, Mark C. Price, William S. Robinson, Gregg Rosenberg, Tom Scott, William Seager, Jonathan Shear, Roger N. Shepard, Henry Stapp, Francisco J. Varela, Max Velmans, Richard Warner

Quotations for Today: Benedict XVI and Atheist Piergiorgio Odifreddi

September 26, 2013 4 comments

clip_image001Dear professor, my criticism of your book is in part harsh. Frankness, however, is part of dialogue: Only in this way can understanding grow. You were quite frank, and so you will accept that I should also be so. In any case, however, I very much appreciate that you, through your confrontation with my Introduction to Christianity, have sought to open a dialogue with the faith of the Catholic Church and that, notwithstanding all the contrasts in the central area, points of convergence are nevertheless not lacking.

— — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

, , ,  in an 11 page open letter to a prominent Italian Atheist, Piergiorgio Odifreddi, in response to a book by him, Dear Pope, I’m Writing to You.

The National Catholic Register reports:

Odifreddi said the entire 11-page letter will be included in a new edition of his book. He said that he and Benedict may disagree on almost everything, but they have

united in at least one common goal: the search for the Truth, with a capital ‘T.’

For a different take on the story see The Ratz is back, stung by atheist into addressing the ‘deviance’ and ‘filth’ in his Church in The Freethinker.

Off topic, nonetheless relevant to prior discussions here.

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