Archive for October, 2008

Jesus the Palestinian?

October 13, 2008

From Bill Poser at Language Log:

Reports that the textbook The World: Social Studies asserts that: “Christianity was started by a young Palestinian named Jesus.” have triggered considerable controversy. Some maintain that this is a gross inaccuracy reflecting the intrusion of anti-Semitism, to which others respond that it is correct and so unexceptionable. The former are correct: the description of Jesus as a Palestinian is both inaccurate and offensive.

And of course Professor Poser is right. Saying that “Jesus was a Palestinian because he live in Palestine” is akin to one of Jesse Jackson’s attempts to weasel out of his “Hymietown” troubles: that he couldn’t possibly be anti-Semitic, because he was on such good terms with Semitic Arabs. “Palestinian” in modern usage never means “one who lives in Palestine,” just as “anti-Semitic” never means “hatred of speakers of Semitic languages.” It’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise, whatever the superficial etymology.1 Humpty Dumpty may say, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less,” but those of us not in Wonderland shouldn’t expect to get away with that.

Having said that, I should mention that I haven’t seen the textbook in question, and I don’t really trust any of the commentary I’ve googled (other than Professor Poser’s, and he doesn’t claim to have seen the textbook, only the secondary commentary). The commentators strike me as social conservatives with axes to grind, but really I don’t know. Maybe there is context in the textbook that matters. My guess is not, but still. My further guess is that the textbook authors are more sloppy than biased, and certainly not overtly anti-Semitic. Gosh knows there are plenty of sloppy textbooks.

One more point, illustrative of the dangers of textbooks trying to talk about religion: one could easily argue that Christianity was not started by Jesus, but rather by Paul and/or others of Jesus’s followers. I’d happily take either side of that debate, just for fun.


1 Not to mention that, as Poser points out, in the case of “Palestinian” even the etymological pseudo-definition is iffy: Jesus would have called himself a Galilean, and he lived a century before the term “Palestine” was applied to the region.


My First Car Crash

October 11, 2008

And speaking of New Experiences, I was in my first actual car crash yesterday. I guess it counts as a car crash, anyway: I got rear-ended in a highway entrance ramp. The good part about being rear-ended is that it clearly was not my fault. Actually, I blame society, in its civil engineering manifestation. That highway entrance is dreadful.

No injuries, but lots of car damage. My car looks more or less OK, but something is clearly out of whack in the trunk-n-bumper area, and I won’t know how much til the body shop tells me on Monday. The other car looked to be a total wreck—my bumper pwned its radiator. Turns out they need to call the fire department when antifreeze leaks (“leak” being a massive understatement in this case). Who knew?

The state trooper who was the first responder to the 911 call seemed kind of bored. The local policewoman who ended up taking the case—apparently there are jurisdictional things having to do with exactly where the accident happened—was downright friendly. Is that representative of state vs town police? A sample space of one each is kind of meaningless, but still, it does vaguely make sense.

Attacked From The Air!

October 11, 2008

It wasn't like this. I look nothing like Cary Grant. And I was in a boat.Just now, out rowing in the local pond, I got buzzed by a biplane. First time for everything, I guess—

Ow the Third

October 9, 2008

I seem to have taken a bit of blogging holiday for no particular reason. I’m leading a rich and full life, I guess. Now I seem to have been pulled back to the ol’ Live Writer by PAIN! That’s right, gum graft number three was today.

Each one of these things does seem to go a little more smoothly. Whether that’s because I’m more used to them or because the periodontist was ready for my apparently profuse bleeding I don’t know. Whichever, I’m feeling more or less OK now, although I’m sorta expecting to crash at any second. Maybe the Vicodin will keep me awake.

For those who got here by googling “gum graft” because you’re about to have one and are afraid it will hurt: It will! But not nearly as much as you fear (or at least not as much as I feared). Not at all during the actual operation, thanks to the miracle of Novocain, except for the agony of sitting open-mouthed for an hour. But I advise you to get home quickly and take lots of drugs: when the Novocain wears off you won’t want to do anything but moan. But really the pain part doesn’t last long, if you dose yourself properly, and after that it’s really more annoying than painful.

At least this time I have none of the vile silly-putty bandage things. If you get a choice, don’t get ’em. The sutures will feel weird under your tongue, and if the graft is visible it will look like something from a low-grade Frankenstein move, but those dressings are just disgusting.

Enough of this, I’ll try to write something interesting later.