Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Christmas Music Quiz

Knowledge Quiz, No. 48

              I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz. 

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1. What is the best selling Christmas song of all time?

2. During the Christmas season, one of the most frequently performed pieces of music is Handle's Messiah. But, at what holiday was it originally intended to be played?

3. Who wrote Hark! The Herald Angels Sing?

4. According to the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, what do the first seven gifts have in common?

5. What musical contained the song, We Need a Little Christmas?

6. What Christmas song starts with the phrase, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"?

7. On what instrument was Silent Night originally played?

8. By what English name is Christmas hymn, Adeste Fideles, known?

9. Who wrote The Little Drummer Boy?

10. What is the difference between a carol and a hymn?

11. Who wrote It Came Upon a Midnight Clear?

12. Who wrote the poem, In the Bleak Midwinter, upon which the Christmas carol is based?

13. What hymn is traditionally at the start of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in England and North America?

14. What is the origin of the Christmas song, Go Tell It on the Mountain?

15. What popular Christmas carol was once banned by the Catholic Church?

16. Who wrote the Christmas song, Sleigh Ride?

17. What was the most published Christmas carol in North America in the 20th Century?

18. What Christmas carol contains the words, "Star of wonder, star so bright" ?

19. Who composed the music for The Nutcracker?

20. What melody in a popular Christmas carol is mentioned in the William Shakespeare's play, The Merry Wives of Windsor?



1. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, White Christmas, by Irvin Berlin and sung by Bing Crosby, is not only the best-selling Christmas song but also the best-selling single of all time. Recorded in1940, it sold an estimated 50 million copies world-wide.

2. Handel's Messiah was originally intended for Easter and not for Christmas.

3. In 1840, German classical music composer, Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) composed a cantata and it is music from this cantata, adapted by the English musician William H. Cummings to fit the lyrics of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing that is the version of the well-known Christmas carol  known today.

4. The first 7 gifts in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas are all birds.  They are: a partridge, two turtle doves, three French hens, four colly birds (blackbirds), five gold rings (pheasants),  six geese, and seven swans.

5. We Need a Little Christmas was a song in both the stage and the film musicals, Mame. The musical was based on the hit novel, the play and the film versions of Auntie Mame. The music in Mame was written by Jerry Herman and was first sung by Angela Lansbury. Mame premiered on Broadway in 1966.

6.The exact title of the song which the phrase, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" is The Christmas Song. It was written by Mel Torme and Robert Wells. The song was sung by Nat King Cole and debuted in 1946.

7. Silent Night (German: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr in Austria. It was composed to be played on a guitar. The song has been translated into over 140 languages and was declared an intangible cultural asset by UNESCO in 2011.

8.The hymn, Adeste Fideles, is known in English as O Come, All Ye Faithful. The English translation was created by the English Catholic priest, Frederick Oakeley, who expanded the original four verses to eight.

9. The Little Drummer Boy (originally known as Carol of the Drum) was written by the American classical music composer Katherine Kennicott Davis (1892-1980) in 1941. It was first recorded in 1955 but best known by a 1958 version by the Harry Simeone Chorale.

10. The word carol is derived from the Old French word carole, a circle dance accompanied by singers.  Carols were very popular as dance songs from the 1150s to the 1350s, after which their use expanded into processional songs sung during festivals. In modern times, songs that may once have been regarded as carols are now just classified as songs. A hymn is a type is a religious song  written for the purpose of praise, adoration and/or prayer.  The word hymn is derived from the Greek word hymnos which means song of praise.
11. The words to It Came Upon a Midnight Clear were first published as a poem in the Boston Journal, Christian Register, in 1859.  The melody is a traditional  one and was part of a re-worked 1877 book called Church Hymns with Tunes by English composer Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame; 1842-1900).

12. In the Bleak Midwinter is a poem by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) . The poem was written sometime before 1872.  Her poem was set to music by classical music composer, Gustav Holtz (1874-1934) sometime around 1906.  It was named the best Christmas carol in a poll of some of the world's leading choirmasters and choral experts in 2008.

13.The first hymn which traditionally starts the annual A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is Once in Royal David's City. The lyrics are based on an 1848 poem by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895).  Since 1919, it has been the first hymn of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Kings College, Cambridge, England. The annual Christmas Eve event is broadcast on radio around the world.

14. Go Tell It on the Mountain is an African-American spiritual which dates back to at least 1865. No one knows who created the lyrics or the music. It is considered a Christmas carol because its words celebrate the birth of Jesus. The repeated refrain of the piece is, Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.

15. The popular Christmas carol, O Holy Night, was once banned by the Catholic Church. The lyrics were originally written in French (Cantique de Noel) by the French poet, Placide Cappeau (aka; Cappeau de Roquemare; 1808-1877), who convinced his friend, the composer Adolphe Adam (1803-1856), to set it to music. It was banned because Roquemare was a Socialist and Adam was Jewish. The Archbishop of Paris who condemned it said after he heard the piece that it was "utterly devoid of spirit".

16. Sleigh Ride was composed by Leroy Anderson (1908-1975). There are no words to the song.

17. According to the Dictionary of North American Hymnology, Joy to the World was the most published Christmas hymn in North American during the late 20th century.

18. The words "Star of wonder, star so bright", are contained in the refrain of We Three Kings.

19. The composer of The Nutcracker was the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893).  It was based on the story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by the German writer, E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822).

20. The melody to the Christmas carol What Child Is This comes from a 16th Century English folk ballad called Greensleeves. In Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor, Falstaff says, "Let it rain potatoes, let it thunder to the tune of Greensleeves". What Child Is This was written by the 19th-Century English lyricist, William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) and ironically has become more popular in America than in England

Monday, November 18, 2013

Crazy U.S. State Laws

Just in case you still believe the U.S. is a rational and sane nation or are a conservative who believes in state's rights, take a look at these laws which are on the books.
In Alaska, it is illegal to push a live moose out of a flying airplane.
In Alabama, it is illegal to have an ice cream cone in your back pocket. It's also illegal to wear a mustache that causes laughter in church.
In Arkansas, it is illegal to use a car horn in any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after 9:00 p.m.
In California, it is illegal to ride a bicycle in a swimming pool. Another state law says that peacocks always have the right of way to cross any street and in driveways.
In Colorado, it is illegal to use rain barrels or any methods to catch rain for any type of use.
In Connecticut, it is illegal for town records to be kept where liquor is sold. It is also illegal for a cyclist to go over 65 miles per hour and for unmarried couples to commit lewd acts and live together.
In Delaware, it is illegal to wear "form-fitting" pants around the waist.
In Florida, it is illegal to sell your children. It is also illegal to have oral sex.
In Hawaii, it is illegal to place a coin in one's ear. It is also illegal to have more than one alcoholic drink in front of you at a time.
In Idaho, it is illegal for a man to give his sweetheart a box of candy weighing less than fifty pounds. It is also illegal to fish while on a camel's back.
In Illinois, a state law requires that a man's female companion must call him "master" while out on a date. The law does not apply to married couples.
In Indiana, it is illegal for a man to be sexually aroused in public. It is also illegal for a liquor store to sell cold soft drinks or to offer a customer a drink "on the house".
In Iowa,  it is illegal for a man with a moustache to kiss a woman in public. It is also illegal for a kiss to last longer than 5 minutes.
In Kentucky, it is illegal for a female shall to appear in a bathing suit on any highway.
In Maine, it is illegal to step out of a plane in flight. Also, a law required shotguns to be taken to church to defend the church-goers against a Native American attack.
In Maryland, it is illegal to have thistles growing  in a yard. It is also illegal to have oral sex.
In Massachusetts, it is illegal to give beer to hospital patients. It is also illegal to use tomatoes in clam chowder or for mourner at a wake to eat more than 3 sandwiches.
In Michigan, it is illegal to seduce and corrupt an unmarried female. It is also illegal to sell a car on a Sunday.
In Minnesota, it is illegal to sleep naked. Also, it is illegal to have a bathtub without feet or have oral sex.
In Missouri, it is illegal to have oral sex.
In Montana, it is illegal for a wife to open her husband’s mail. It is also illegal for a man and a woman to have sex in any other position other than in the missionary position, for married women to go fishing alone on Sundays, or for unmarried women to fish alone at all.
In Mississippi, a state law prohibits the seduction of a female over the age of eighteen by promised or pretended marriage.
In Nebraska, it is illegal for people with gonorrhea to marry. It is also illegal for a child to burp during a church service and for a person to go whale fishing. (Nebraska is landlocked.)
In Nevada, it is illegal to ride a camel on a highway.
In New Hampshire,  it is illegal to tap your feet, nod your head, or in any way keep time to the music in a tavern, restaurant, or cafe. It is also illegal for a person on Sundays to relieve themselves (urinate) while looking up.
In New Jersey, it is illegal to pump your own gas, wear a bullet-proof vest while committing a murder, or to slurp soup.
In New York, adultery is illegal. It is also illegal to congregate in public with two or more people while each wearing a mask or any face covering which disguises your identity.
In North Carolina, it is illegal to hold more than two sessions of bingo per week and the sessions may not exceed five hours each session.
In Oklahoma, it is illegal to have a sleeping donkey in a bathtub after 7:00-p.m.
In Oregon, it is illegal for car drivers to pump their own gas. It is also illegal to whisper “dirty” things in your lover’s ear during sex or to eat ice cream on Sundays.
In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for ministers to perform marriages when either the bride or groom is drunk. It is also illegal to sleep on top of a refrigerator outdoors or to catch a fish using any body part except for the mouth.
In Rhode Island, it is illegal to own a cap pistol. It is also illegal to hang a rope across a highway.
In South Carolina, it is illegal for a minor under the age of eighteen to play a pinball machine.
In South Dakota, if you have more than 5 Native-Americans on your property, you can shoot them.  It is also illegal to lie down and fall asleep in a cheese factory.
In Tennessee, a state law says that a person has to believe in God in order to hold elective office. But, a person cannot hold elective office if a person has ever been in a duel. It is also for any person to import, possess, or cause to be imported into this state any type of live skunk, or to sell, barter, exchange or otherwise transfer any live skunk. But, these prohibitions do not apply to zoological parks and research institutions.
In Texas,  it's against the law for children to have unusual haircuts. It is also illegal to  sell one of your own eyes.
In Utah, it is illegal to hunt whales. (Utah is land-locked.) It is also illegal to wear a bullet-proof vest while committing a murder.
In Virginia, it is illegal to have oral and anal sex. It is also illegal to tickle a woman, for police to have radar detectors, for children to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, or for unmarried  people to have sex.
In Vermont, it is illegal to deny the existence of God or for a man to have false teeth without his wife's permission.
In Washington, the harassing of Bigfoot, Sasquatch or other undiscovered human subspecies is a felony punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.
In West Virginia, it is illegal to fly a red or a black flag. It is also illegal to curse in public or to taunt someone for not accepting a challenge for a duel.
In Wisconsin, it is illegal to serve apple pie without cheese. It is also illegal to kiss on a train.
In Wyoming, it is illegal to be drunk in a mine. It is also illegal to wear a hat that obstructs people’s view in a public theater or place of amusement or for women to stand within five feet of a bar while drinking.

It Is Always About Sex

Sex, sex, sex! For the Catholic Church, it is always about sex!

As U.S. Catholic bishops struggle to adapt to Pope Francis's vision for a more inclusive and welcoming Catholic Church, one Illinois bishop thinks he knows exactly what the pope would want him to do: Blame marriage equality on the devil and schedule an "exorcism" at the same time the governor signs it into law.

According to Bishop Thomas Paprocki, the Illinois legislature is morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin…. We must pray for deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our church. Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois (the state capital),  says it is “scandalous” that so many Catholic politicians supported the legislation and feels it’s his responsibility to remedy the situation by invoking the power of Christ.

In a statement, the bishop announced he will hold “prayers of supplication and exorcism in reparation for the sin of same-sex Marriage” on Wednesday, November 20, 2013. He then added: same-sex marriage is contrary to the plan of God (see Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9), those who contract civil same-sex marriage are culpable of serious sin. All politicians now have the moral obligation to work for the repeal of this sinful and objectionable legislation, he continued. We must pray for deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our church. The exorcism will reportedly take place at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield from 4 to 5 p.m. The gay marriage bill is also set to be signed into law by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (a Catholic) on Wednesday afternoon, right before the start of the exorcism.

However, when was the last time a Catholic Bishop performed an exorcism or even complained about Catholic politicians who cut food subsidies and food stamps for the poor (Paul Ryan and John Bohner are Catholics), or unjust wars, or capital punishment, or unjust wages, or the cover-up of pedophile priests sex, or nuns who beat children, or anti-Semitism? Could it be because none of those issues involve sex! This from a church which fosters clergy celibacy (Genesis 1:28; Be fruitful and multiple.) and who have many priests who are active gay men, have sex with a women, or father out-of-wedlock children.

And, whoever said that the sanctimonious Catholic Church's hypocritical moral stances should be state of Federal policy? Why should non-Catholic gay and lesbian people not have the right to get married?

A plan for gay-rights supporters to recite the rosary inside the Springfield's largest Catholic church on Tuesday, November 19, following a warning from the head of the Springfield Catholic Diocese that those wearing a rainbow sash would not be permitted in. It is not known if or how many gay marriage supporters planned to enter the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, sporting multi-colored sashes but Bishop Paprocki was quick to issue a statement that those who did or who otherwise identified themselves as affiliated with the Rainbow Sash Movement would not be allowed to enter the church. (What if they put them on in the church? Would they be forcibly evicted from the church by the clergy or the police? If so, what church or civil law did they break?)

Praying the rosary for marriage equality is “blasphemous,” Paprocki said in a statement.
“It is blasphemy to show disrespect or irreverence to God or to something holy. Since Jesus clearly taught that marriage as created by God is a sacred institution between a man and a woman, praying for same-sex marriage should be seen as blasphemous and as such will not be permitted in the cathedral,” he wrote.

Rick Garcia, a longtime gay activist and political director for Civil Rights Agenda, entered the church before the scheduled 5:15 p.m. Mass without incident — but was not wearing a rainbow-colored sash, he said. He called Paprocki’s statement blasphemous, and a stark contrast to Pope Francis’ recent comments calling for the need to make the Catholic Church a more merciful, welcoming place. We’re not committing blasphemy. The bishop’s committing blasphemy, Garcia said. 

Police cars were parked near the church in the hours leading up to Tuesday’s Mass and one officer could be seen standing within the main entryway doors. This is the first time in all of my years of coming here that I see police officers in front of this church ..., Garcia said. It angers me because I’m a life-long Catholic. That a bishop would say this about me or my people is outrageous. (Why be a member of a religion which does not want you, constantly says you are a sinner and relegates you to a second-class status?)

While some Catholics are working to put service to the poor and broken at the center of the church's ministry, Bishop Paprocki is embarrassing the church with a pointless political stunt, staging what he is calling for  prayers of supplication and exorcism in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage.

Commentary by Bill Maher on the U.S. Supreme Court

from Real Time on HBO.

Bill Maher lambasted U.S. Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts for have gutting the Voting Rights Act and allowing U.S. elections to be sold to the highest bidder. Sadly, as Maher pointed out during the segment, the conservatives sitting on our highest court have a really bad habit of promising one thing and delivering another.

BILL MAHER: When you promise the American people that something won't happen if you change the law, and then you change the law and it does happen, you have to eat a little shit for it. Oh, I'm not talking about him. I'm talking about him. Twice now in three years, first with the Citizens United ruling, then with gutting the Voting Rights Act, Chief Justice John Roberts and the conservatives on the Supreme Court changed the law and promised no bad would come of it, and bad came of it almost immediately.

John Roberts is kind of the legal equivalent of the guy in The Hurt Locker, except in his case, he always cuts the wrong wire and everything always blows up.

Now back in June, before they took their summer break, the Supreme Court dropped the big one. They gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which is the law that forced certain states, let's just say the ones where you might find a Piggly Wiggly, forced those states to get permission from the Justice Department before they made any changes in their voting laws.

Why? Well, because in the past, these states have been naughty and had prevented minorities from voting with little tricks, like poll taxes and literacy tests. But the conservatives on the court, all excited from being born yesterday, said racism had been cured and that laws against voter suppression were unnecessary. Relics of a bygone era, like cassette tapes, or moderate Republicans.

They said other than shopping at Barney's, there was no evidence any more that black people needed special protections. Come on! It's 2013 and they're dating Kardashians now.

During arguments for the case, Justice Roberts actually asked, with a straight face and a cocked head, “Is it the government's submission that the citizens of the South are more racist than the citizens of the North?”
Well, for example, in the last election, 66 percent of whites in Vermont voted for our black president. 10 percent of whites in Mississippi did, so maybe a tad. And the South, after all, was responsible for enslaving black people, and Jim Crow and the KKK and lynchings, and Paula Deen lived there, and I'm going to go with “Yes.”

So, what happened after the court changed the law? Within 48 hours, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia, all moved to make it harder for minorities to vote. The court was proved thunderously wrong in less time than it takes Miley Cyrus to get dressed. Same thing happened with the Citizens United ruling.

President Obama said in his 2010 state of the union speech that the Supreme Court had “opened the flood gates for special interests to spend without limits in our elections.” And Justice Alito , famously was shown mouthing the words, Not true. Turns out, true!

Of course, left to their own devices, the filthy rich... I'm sorry, I mean American's job creators... it turned out they did indeed sway elections with billions from god knows where.

Twice in the last three years, the court believed in us and twice Americans basically said, what John Belushi said in Animal House, You fucked up. You shouldn't have trusted us.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The History of Why Raising the Middle Finger Means Fuck You

How did raising the middle finger become an obscene gesture and interpreted as saying "fuck you"?

Before the Battle of Agincourt  between the English and the French in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore they would be incapable of fighting in the future.  This famous English longbow was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as 'plucking the yew' (or 'pluck yew').

Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset. Because of
 a lack of reliable sources, it is impossible to give a precise figure for the French and English casualties. However, it is clear that though the English were outnumbered and their losses were far lower than those of the French. French sources maintain that between 4,000 and 10,000 French died but only1,600 English died during the battle. As a result of the lopsided victory, the English. began to mock the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, "See, we can still pluck yew!" Since "pluck yew" is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodental fricative "F". The result was that words now used in conjunction with the one-finger gesture became "fuck you". And, it is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is also known as "giving the bird."

And yew thought yew knew every plucking thing.

Great Thinker, Great Thoughts, No. 37

1. To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer. -  The Farmers' Almanac (1978)

Farmers' Almanac is an annual American publication which has been in continuous publication since 1818. Published by the Almanac Publishing Company of Lewiston, Maine, U.S. A., it is famous for its long-range weather predictions, astrological information, humor, trivia and advice.


2. More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly. - Woody Allen

Woody Allen (Allan Stewart Konigsberg; born, 1935) was born in Brooklyn, New York City, and is an American actor, screenwriter, director, comedian, jazz musician, author, and playwright. Allen's films draw heavily on literature, sexuality, philosophy, psychology, and Jewish identity. As a jazz clarinetist, he performs regularly at small venues in Manhattan, New York City. Among his most famous films are Annie Hall (1977), Bananas (1971), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), and Manhattan (1979).


3. Many people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so. - Bertrand Russell

 Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (1872 -1970) was a British  philosopher mathematician, historian, logician, social critic, socialist and pacifist. He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy. He co-authored Principia Mathematica and wrote On Denoting  a  philosophical essay. Russell was also a prominent  anti-war activist who went to jail for his opposition to World War I.  He advocated free trade and anti-imperialism, opposed both Hitler and Stalin, was a proponent of nuclear disarmament, attacked the United States because of the Vietnam War and condemned Israeli aggression in the Middle East. In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian  and freedom of thought.".


4. A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel. - Robert Frost

Robert Lee Frost (1874 -1963) was an American poet. He is highly praised for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech in his poems. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in the New England part of the U.S.A in the early twentieth century and using them to examine complex social and philosophical themes. He is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed American poets and Frost received four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry (1924, 1931, 1937 and 1943).


5. Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth. - Lillian Hellman

Lillian Florence "Lilly" Hellman (1905-1984) was an American author of plays, screenplays, and memoirs. Throughout her life, she was involved with many left-wing political causes. Among her most famous works were The Children's Hour (1934), The Little Foxes (1939), Watch on the Rhine (1941), The Autumn Garden (1951), and Toys in the Attic (1960). Hellman was a member of  the Communist Party from 1938 to 1940 and by her own account written in 1952, "a most casual member. I attended very few meetings and... I drifted away from the Communist Party because it seemed to be in the wrong place for me." In November 1947, the leaders of the motion picture industry decided to deny employment to anyone who refused to answer questions posed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, among them Lillian Hellman. As a result, she was blacklisted.


.6. I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him. - Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher. His contributions to observational astronomy include improvements in the telescope which resulted in the confirmation of the phases of Venus, the discovery of the four largest moons of Jupiter, and the observation and analysis of sunspots. For saying the Earth revolved around the Sun, he was tried by the Catholic Inquisition and found "vehemently suspect of heresy". He was forced to recant and he spent the rest of his life under house arrest. It was while Galileo was under house arrest that he wrote Two New Sciences which are now called kinematics and strength of materials.


7. I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability. Oscar Wilde

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish novelist, journalist, playwright and poet.  Today, he is principally  remembered for his witty epigrams, his only novel, and his imprisonment and early death. After attending Oxford, Wilde was prominent in London's cultural and social circles. He became known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversation. Wilde was arrested and tried for "gross indecency (having sex with men), and he spent two years doing hard labor in prison. As a result, he had a severe hearing loss, became destitute, and had a suffered a premature death in Paris at the age of forty-six. He wrote the novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) and the plays Salome (1891) and The Importance of Being Ernest (1895).


8. A man who makes trouble for others is also making trouble for himself. - Chinụa Achebe

Albert Chinụalụmọgụ Achebe (born:1930) is a Nigerian  novelist, poet, critic and educator. He is best known for his first novel, Things Fall Apart (1959) It is now the most widely read African literature novel. His later novels include No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), and A Man of the People (1966). His controversial  lecture  accusing Joseph Conrad of racism , An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" (published in 2011), was named one of the 100 greatest non-fiction books ever written by The Guardian of London.


9. Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (1896 -1940) was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are associated with the writings of the Jazz Age (the period roughly coinciding with the 1920s), a term he coined himself. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. He finished four novels: This Side of Paradise (1920), The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), Tender is the Night (1934) and The Great Gatsby (publish after the author's death in 1940). Fitzgerald also wrote many short stories that treat themes of youth and promise along with despair and age. Today, The Great Gatsby is widely regarded as a "Great American Novel".


10. Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us. - Leo Tolstoy

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828-1910) was a Russian novelist, playwright, essayist and short story writer. His two most famous works are the novels War and Peace and Anna Karanina. He is considered one of the world's greatest novelists. Tolstoy was a moralistic, social reformer, ethicist and ascetic. His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus caused him to become a fervent Christian and pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance are expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You which profoundly affected the non-violent resistance movements of both Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Poem: How do I love thee?

How do I love thee?
from: Sonnets from the Portuguese, No. 43
by: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

The Baha'i Faith

The Baha'i Faith:
 The Newest Monotheistic Religion

The Bahá'í Faith is the youngest of the world's  independent monotheistic religions. Founded in Iran in1844, it now has more than 5 million adherents in 236 countries and territories. Baha'is come from almost every national, ethnic and religious making the Baha'i faith the second most-widespread religion in the world.

The word Bahá'í  is used either to refer to the Bahá'í Faith or as a word for a follower of the teachings of the religion's founder, Bahá'u'lláh. The word is not used to name the religion as a whole. It is derived from the Arabic word Bahá meaning "glory" or "splendor". The term "Bahaism" (or "Baha'ism") has been used in the past, but the generally accepted name for the religion is the Bahá'í Faith.

The founder of Bahá'í Faith is Baha’u’llah (born Mirza Husayn-‘Ali). He was born on November 12, 1817, in Tehran, Persia (now Iran). Baha’u’llah, which means the “Glory of God". The central aim of Baha'u'llah's life and work was to establish the peaceful organization of the entire human race. Although he was imprisoned for much of his life Baha'u'llah's writings number over 100 volumes, are now spread over 200 countries and territories, and have been translated into over 800 languages.

Mírzá Husayn `Alí Núrí  took the title of Bahá'u'lláh. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1852 because he was a follower of a man who claimed for be a messenger of God called the Báb (Siyyid `Alí Muḥammad Shírází,1819-1850). While Bahá'u'lláh was incarcerated in a Tehran dungeon, he received the first intimations that he was the one anticipated by the Báb, a person who would found a universal religion .In 1863, during his banishment, Bahá'u'lláh declared his claim to a divine mission to his family and followers. Throughout the rest of his life Bahá'u'lláh gained the allegiance of most of the Bábís, who came to be known as Bahá'ís. Beginning in 1866, he began declaring his mission as a Messenger of God in letters to the world's religious and secular rulers including Pope Pius IX and Queen Victoria. In 1868 Bahá'u'lláh was banished by Sultan Abdulaziz to an Ottoman penal colony. Towards the end of his life, the strict and harsh confinement was gradually relaxed, and he was allowed to live in a home near `Akká (now in present day Israel) while still officially a prisoner of that city. He died there in 1892. Bahá'ís regard his resting place at Bahji as sacred  they turn in its direction in prayer each day.

The principles of Bahá'í teachings and its doctrine centers around the belief in one God who is the source of all of creation. It espouses the unity of all religions and the belief that all of the major religions have the same spiritual source and come from the same God. It also believes in the unity of all humanity, that all humans have been created equal, and that racial and cultural diversity of race is worthy of both appreciation and acceptance. According to the Baha'i teachings, the human purpose is to learn to know and love God through such methods as prayer, meditation and being of service.

In the Bahá'í Faith, religious history has unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and their people. These messengers have include Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Bab and Baha’u’llah . Furthermore, each of these messengers prophesied of messengers to follow and that Baha’u’llah's life and teachings completed the prophetic chain  and the promises of previous scriptures. Thus, all humanity is believed to be in a process of collective evolution and that the need of present times is for the establishment of peace, justice and unity.
The laws of the Bahá'í Faith primarily come from the Kitab-i-Agdas and were written by Bahá'u'lláh. Every Bahá'ís over the age of 15 must individually recite an obligatory prayer each day. In addition to the daily obligatory prayer, believers are directed to daily offer devotional prayers, to meditate and to study sacred scripture. The reading aloud of prayers from prayer books is a feature of Bahá'í gatherings. Backbiting, gossiping, alcohol, drugs (unless prescribed by a doctor), premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexuality, monasticism, asceticism, gambling, fanaticism and partisan politics are all forbidden. And, all adult Bahá'ís in good health are required to fast from sunrise to sunset each year from March 2 through March 20. Most Bahá'í meetings occur in individuals' homes, local Bahá'í centers, or rented facilities. Worldwide, there are currently eight Bahá'í houses of worship and a further seven planned.

The purpose of marriage in the Bahá'i faith is mainly to foster spiritual harmony, fellowship and unity between a man and a woman and to provide a stable and loving environment for the rearing of children. Bahá'u'lláh taught that a husband and wife should strive to improve the spiritual life of each other. Interracial marriage is highly praised throughout Bahá'í scripture. Although parents should not tell their children who to marry, once two individuals decide to marry, they must receive the consent of all living biological parents, even if one partner is not a Bahá'í. The Bahá'í marriage ceremony is simple; the only compulsory part of the wedding is the reading of the wedding vows which both the groom and the bride read, in the presence of two witnesses. The vows says, "We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God".

To administer the new religion, Bahá'u'lláh established an elected Universal House of Justice. At local, regional, and  national levels, Bahá'ís elect members to nine-person Spiritual Assembly which runs the affairs of the religion. There. are also appointed people who spread Bahá'í teachings and protect the community. Bahá'í Faith does not have any clergy. The Universal House of Justice remains supreme governing body of the Bahá'í Faith and its 9 members are elected every five years by the members of all of the regional National Spiritual Assemblies. Any male Bahá'í 21 years or older is eligible to be elected to the Universal House of Justice. All other  local, regional, national and Spiritual Assembly positions are open to male and female Bahá'ís.

Bahá'ís have been and continue to be persecuted in Islamic countries because Islamic leaders do not recognize the Bahá'í Faith as an independent religion, but rather as an apostasy from Islam.. The most severe persecutions have occurred in Iran, where over 200 Bahá'ís were executed between 1978 and 1998. The rights of Bahá'ís have been restricted to greater or lesser extents in numerous other counties including Egypt, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Morocco, Iraq and in sub-Saharan Africa.