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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Go 'head Mr. Windell

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Seriously, as clearly evidenced by the above Google Analytics chart, nothing drives traffic to Not Prince Hamlet like anything that has anything to do with Windell Middlebrooks.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:41 AM | link | 0 comments |

Windell Middlebrooks Update

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Here's an excerpt from Windell's appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Monday night.


And here's the video of the whole show, with Windell's appearance beginning at 31:19 (click the second dot from the right on the scrollbar). Sterling College is surely bursting with pride at its beer-selling alum. Got get 'em Windell!

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:42 AM | link | 0 comments |

Biden Watch

The VP heads to Germany next week to address an international conference on security policy.

Also, the Google Earth satellite photo of the VP's residence in Washington D.C., which had been blurred during Dick Cheney's tenure, became clearly visible shortly before the inauguration. Talk about transparency.

Finally, Biden has apologized to Chief Justice Roberts for joking on him last week. When was the last time a U.S. Vice President apologized for anything. Dumb joke; classy recovery.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:29 AM | link | 0 comments |

Windell Middlebrooks Update

Monday, January 26, 2009

It's been awhile since we had one of these, and Windell's appearance on The Tonight Show this evening provides the perfect impetus. Those of us not having televisions obviously missed it, but if you saw the SC alum and former theater-mate of this blogger, how was he?

Bob Garfield of AdAge (and On The Media) thinks Windell's wonderful. Watch below as Bob awards him with the 2008 Bobby award for best commercial performance by a male actor. It starts at about 4:50.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 11:25 PM | link | 0 comments |

Bagging ON Biden

Friday, January 23, 2009

When I read the story about Joe's crack on Chief Justice Roberts during Wednesdays swearing in of senior staff, my reaction was, "Where's the story?" I still don't think it's a story, but having watched the video of it, it's clear that the President was not amused and that Biden was unclear about what was going on. It didn't look good. It's a funny line--"My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts"--but, in the context of what was happening and when, it wasn't helpful. You can read it all over Obama's face.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:44 AM | link | 2 comments |

A Year with the Institutes, Day 20

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In chapters six and seven of Book one, Calvin turns to a doctrine of Scripture. The doctrine whose seeds are laid in these chapters is for theologians to exposit, for it boasts concepts like the two-fold knowledge of Scripture, concepts which I satisfy myself to merely comprehend, let alone critique.

Much of chapter seven is given to refuting the claim that the authority of scripture rests upon the church's declaration. These aren't arguments we're having anymore, so they read a bit like historical glosses. Besides, for someone reared in evangelical-dom and schooled at a Reformed Tradition Beachhead, this stuff is in the water. But there is this:

" . . . they who strive to build up firm faith in Scripture through disputation are doing things backwards." (1.7.4)

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:18 PM | link | 0 comments |

The Inaugural Poem (Full Text)

" . . . anything can be made, any sentence begun."

Beautiful.

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light


Elizabeth Alexander

posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:13 PM | link | 1 comments |

Bagging for Biden (Who Needs No More Bagging)

Our boy was sworn in as the 47th Vice President of the United States today. It occurred to me, watching the proceedings, how shallow must be my recent enthusiasm for the Senior Senator from Delaware. Not un-genuine or otherwise false, but shallow: lacking in the depth due a person who now stands not only among the world's great shapers of events, but as one of them without a superior, save one.

I attached myself to Biden in the summer of 2007, a time of professional upheaval when the most appealing thing about the man to me was his clear and direct manner of speaking that honored the complexity of hard questions and proposed concrete answers at the same time. In my work, I wanted to be like him: intelligent, articulate, confident, and able to screw up without calling it quits. I still want to be like that, even more so now for the role Joe Biden occupies.

Look, now, for commentary of the Vice President on this blog that is more substance than schoolboy enthusiasm. I offer it as a parsing of public service at the highest level, hoping that it will illuminate the citizenry for whom Biden today vowed to "preserve, protect, and defend, the Constitution of the United States."

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:55 PM | link | 0 comments |

A Year with the Institutes, Day 16

Friday, January 16, 2009

So, to sum up chapter five of book one:
  • There is a natural seed of religion sewn into the very fabric of people
  • People corrupt that natural seed and end up in superstition or an outright denial of God
  • Only the inner revelation of God through faith leads people to "the right path"
  • The corruption of the in-born seed of religion is nobody's fault but peoples'
"But although we lack the natural ability to mount up unto the pure and clear knowledge of God, all excuse is cut off because the fault of dullness is within us." (1.5.15)

I indicated earlier that I'm not sure anthropology will maintain the first point. And the more I think about the implications of the second point, the more difficulty I have with it, simply because it renders all human initiative in probing the mysteries of God to be meaningless, indeed, dead-wrong. It risks turning faith into something static, where the only possible result of seeking answers is failure.

The focus of revelation, though, is easy enough for me to get with, and in fact resonates with me as good news. Because, while it may force one through a narrow gate, there is at least a gate there, and the opening of it has nothing to do with human ability or piety.

Half a month down, 11 and 1/2 to go.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 4:55 PM | link | 0 comments |

A Year with the Institutes, Day 14

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"[God's] power shows itself clearly when the ferocity of the impious, in everyone's opinion unconquerable, is overcome in a moment, their arrogance vanquished, their strongest defenses destroyed, their javelins and armor shattered, their strength broken, their machinations overturned, and themselves fallen of their own weight; and when their audacity, which exalted them above heaven, lays them low even to the center of the earth; when, conversely the humble are raised up from the dust, and the needy are lifted up from the dung heap . . .; the oppressed and afflicted are rescued from their extreme tribulation; the despairing are restored to good hope; the unarmed, few and weak, snatch victory from the armed, many and strong. Indeed, [God's] wisdom manifests [God's] excellence when [God] dispenses everything at the best opportunity; when [God] confounds all wisdom of the world . . .; when "[God] catches the crafty in their own craftiness". In short, there is nothing that [God] does not temper in the best way." (1.5.8)

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:17 AM | link | 0 comments |

A Day with the Institutes, Day 12

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Genevan gives a shout to my alma mater:

"Indeed, [people] who have either quaffed or even tasted the liberal arts penetrate with their aid far more deeply into the secrets of divine wisdom."

So deeply.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:11 AM | link | 0 comments |

A Year with the Institutes, Day 10

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Calvin extends his argument that "a sense of divinity is by nature engraven on human hearts" (1.4.4) by listing those things that corrupt that engraven sense, namely hypocrisy, a conscious turning away, and superstition.

A word about superstition. "Vanity" and "pride" combine, for Calvin, to produce superstition, a state in which "miserable men do not rise above themselves as they should, but measure [God] by the yardstick of their own carnal stupidity, and neglect sound investigation" (1.4.1). Nurturing that seed of a sense of divinity requires sound investigation, then, the right method of examining the right sources. Sound much like the scientific method?

Calvin adds that superstition involves people "claiming for themselves more than is right" and from "an inordinate desire to know more than is fitting" (1.4.1). There are things we do not, cannot, and, therefore, should not, know. To try and know them is superstition and will not lead to a right knowledge of God, which, after all, is what Calvin is concerned with to begin with.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 10:12 AM | link | 0 comments |

A Year with the Institutes, Day 9

Friday, January 09, 2009

" . . . there is . . . no nation so barbarous, no people so savage, that they have not a deep-seated conviction that there is a God." (1.3.1)

" . . . it is worship of God alone that renders men higher than the brutes, and through it alone they aspire to immortality." (1.3.3)

This is hard. The abundance of wars and atrocities executed in the defense of Godly worship make it appear that this is actualy the thing that makes people lower than the brutes. And as for the handing over to savagery those peoples lacking a "deep-seated conviction that there is a God," the Phil Zuckerman's of the world are loudly protesting.

Here's a Publisher's Weekly blurb about Zuckerman's recent book Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Teach Us About Contentment, a study of Denmark and Sweden.
While many people, especially Christian conservatives, argue that godless societies devolve into lawlessness and immorality, Denmark and Sweden enjoy strong economies, low crime rates, high standards of living and social equality. What emerges is a portrait of a people unconcerned and even incurious about questions of faith, God and life's meaning.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:14 AM | link | 0 comments |

Breaking Me In

Thursday, January 08, 2009

At 7:49 this evening I was rocking a more-agitated-than-usual baby to sleep when I felt a door slam. Then a loud thud and rumble like thunder.

Earthquake.

I looked out my window, and across the condo complex courtyard neighbors were doing the same. I checked my phone. A tweet reading "Earthquake!" had already been received. How long did that take? 30 seconds, tops.

Now, less than an hour later, the LA Times has the story:

"In communities around the epicenter, including as far away as Claremont, residents reported a sharp jolt."
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:36 PM | link | 0 comments |

A Year with the Institutes, Day 8

". . . [the pious] mind restrains itself from sinning, not out of dread of punishment alone; but because it loves and reveres God as Father, it worships and adores him as Lord. Even if there were no hell, it would still shudder at offending him alone." (1.2.2)

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:37 AM | link | 1 comments |

A Year with the Institutes, Day 7

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

"Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves." (Book 1, chapter 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1)

There it is, the very beginning of Calvin's treatise. McNeil's footnote on the sentence says this:
This statement, thrice revised, stands at the beginning of every edition of the Institutes . . . These decisive words set the limits of Calvin's theology and condition every subsequent statement.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:31 AM | link | 0 comments |

Back to School

Sunday, January 04, 2009

As the teenagers in my congregation slump back to school tomorrow for the spring semester, I am preparing to undertake an academic venture of my own--of sorts. Yesterday I enrolled in "Corparatized: An Alternative to Corporatism and Beyond," a six week course being taught online by Douglas Rushkoff through the Maybe Logic Academy. Basically the class is a chance to read his forthcoming book and discuss it with him.

Look for updates here.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 4:38 PM | link | 0 comments |

A Year with the Institutes, Day 3

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Calvin summarizes the charges leveled against him:

"They call it 'new' and 'of recent birth.' They reproach it as 'doubtful and uncertain.' They ask what miracles have confirmed it. They inquire whether it is right for it to prevail against the agreement of so many holy fathers and against most ancient custom." (p.15)

So the theologian must show that his work is not novel, that it is air-tight certain, and that it does not fly in the face of ancient authority and custom. Novelty, ambiguity, and incredulity toward authority are things postmoderns are much more comfortable with than were those scholars and churchmen at the beginning of the modern age.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:18 PM | link | 0 comments |

A Year with the Institutes, Day 2

Calvin defending the "doctrine" contained in the Institutes, for which he has been accused of subversion, to King Francis I of France:

"It is as if this doctrine looked to no other end than to wrest scepters from the hands of kings, to cast down all courts and judgments, to subvert all orders and civil governments, to disrupt the peace and quiet of the people, to abolish all laws, to scatter all lordships and possessions--in short, to turn everything upside down!" (p. 10)

Note: this is Christendom, the assumed marriage of Christian faith and doctrine with the governmental, civil, and legal order.

"It will then be for you, most serene King, not to close your ears or your mind to such just defense, especially when a very great question is at stake: how God's glory may be kept safe on earth, how God's truth may retain its place of honor, how Christ's Kingdom may be kept in good repair among us." (p.11)

"Kept safe," "retain its place of honor," "kept in good repair": all questions of maintenance that ruled the day for Calvin, other Reformers, and their Catholic opponents. Man, that's hard to relate to today.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:59 AM | link | 2 comments |

New Year's Resolution

Thursday, January 01, 2009

I bought my 2009 planner on the last day of the year.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:09 AM | link | 0 comments |

A Year with the Institutes, Day 1

Here we go: more Calvin, less blogger.

All quotations taken from John T. McNeil's translation of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion.

"God has filled my mind with zeal to spread his kingdom and to further the public good." p. 4

The legacy of Christendom: the kingdom of God and the public good are one and the same. Yet here is the seed of an important element of a Reformed understanding of vocation, that the public is the field of its application, not strictly the church.

"I can at least promise that it [that is, The Institutes] can be a key to open a way for all children of God into a good and right understanding of Holy Scripture." p. 7

At the core, The Institutes are a Bible study tool.

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posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:55 AM | link | 0 comments |