Saturday, October 25, 2003

A Heavenly Voice Speaks: Don't make this movie!

Jim Caviezel was recently struck by lightning. This is significant to the world mainly because Caviezel is the actor playing Christ in Mel Gibson's The Passion. One wonders if Graham Chapman got the receiving end of a storm during the making of Monty Python's Life of Brian...

::wanders off singing, "Always look on the bright side of life..."::

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Paradise is boring. No one lives there except Elijah and Enoch anyway, and the only kind of food is fruit. Wouldn't you rather go to the sunny land of Cokaygne, (painted by Brueghel and in a satirical woodcut by Niccolo Nelli) where the rivers run with milk, oil, honey and wine, and no one ever has fleas or lice in their clothing? The walls of the local monastery are made of food (except for a few walls carved out of precious gems, for variety). The younger monks spend their afternoons using their hooded robes to help them fly through the air. If the monks are having too much fun, and their abbot is unable to get them to come down in time for evensong, he lures them back by displaying the white behind of a local maiden and using her buttocks as a drum. Sure enough, the monks fly down when they hear the drumbeat, and each one takes a turn patting the girl's butt before returning to the abbey.

Oh yes, and there's a nunnery next door to the monastery. The nuns swim in the river of milk, where the monks find them and teach them prayers. The prayers usually involve legs going up and down.

No, I am not making this stuff up. See the Middle English poem, ca. 1330, The Land of Cokaygne (scroll downwards past the front matter to find it) or its translation.

I forgot the important part. To be allowed access to this land, you must spend seven years of your life walking chin-deep in pig manure. Some say it's worth it.

Edited to add the date of the poem and the link to the manuscript description page.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

It should not surprise any reader of this blog that I adore medieval manuscripts, nor should it be a stunner that I appreciate obscure details of Jewish history. I'm sure you'll all be shocked when you learn that I also enjoy learning about rarely-attested careers open to medieval women. For all these reasons, I'm ecstatic to have learned about a Fourteenth-Century Female Jewish Scribe and her Definitely Male Dragon.

Not only did this woman actually sign her name, Chana bat Menachem Zion, she also provided lovely doodles on her copy of a thirteenth-century Hebrew household guide. One of her marginalia is a dragon, which dragon Chana endowed with a penis both quite long and decidedly erect. The manuscript description at the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, the Netherlands, says that Chana was divorced. Wonder what she was thinking?

I thought The Onion wrote satire. Today's headlining article seems to be literally true, as far as I can tell - I'm sure even the invented quotes have been spoken by someone in the last few weeks.