Print Story I Like The Pope, The Pope Smokes Dope
By TheophileEscargot (Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 12:59:42 PM EST) Reading, Watching, Listening, OBLF, ODGF, MLP (all tags)
Listening: "Popes and the Papacy". Watching: "The Devil Wears Prada". OBLF. Web.

Latest TTC course was Popes and the Papacy: A History. 24 lectures by Thomas F. X. Noble. Informative and interesting: Noble has a chatty style that's easy to listen to.

Anglo-American culture has traditionally had a very hostile attitude to the papacy, so I wanted to learn something more about it from a more neutral perspective. I've noted before how anti-Catholic propaganda has smoothly mutated into anti-religious propaganda, with the same portrayal of believers as mindlessly obedient drones unquestioningly following their leader.

The course is pretty linear, following the chronology closely. Not that much is known about the earliest centuries. At first popes were elected "by clergy and people", but nobody seems to know exactly how that worked. Interesting to speculate how things might have been different if popes were elected by popular vote.

As the Western Roman Empire finally collapsed, the Papacy was more or less forced into filling the gap in governance. Popes like Hadrian I, Leo IV needed to rebuild Rome, since no-one else was going to do it. The habit of changing your name as Pope took hold in the 900s

Noble has some detail on the "Dark Age", "Age of Iron" or "Pornocracy" in the Tenth Century when the popes were highly corrupt. By his account, they remained effective abroad, negotiating international treaties with the Byzantines, acquiring Poland and Hungary for the church, and promoting monastic reform with Cluny; even while enjoying mistresses, wives and nepotism at home.

He covers the Investiture Controversy, the struggle between Popes and Holy Roman Emperors; and the Great Schism, the struggle between popes and antipopes in Rome and Avignon; in some detail. Unfortunately those are among the topics that I instantly forget as soon as I've learned anything about them.

They attempted to solve the Great Schism by calling a general church council, which decreed that a compromise candidate should be Pope instead. Naturally both the Rome and Avignon Popes-Antipopes refused to accept that, so there were then three Pope-candidates instead of two. But eventually one resigned; another became increasingly irrelevant though he passed his candidacy onto successors, and they whittled it down to just the one Pope.

Popes seem to have gradually lost influence during the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. These sections aren't so interesting as the early and modern parts of the course.

I would have liked to see a lot more emphasis on a couple of topics. The Crusades only get occasional references: would have thought they deserved a full lecture at least. And there's only the briefest of references to Galileo. Maybe Noble didn't want to look too defensive.

He does devote a lot of space to the "Pius Wars", the controversy over whether Pius XII was too sympathetic to the Nazis. Noble is mildly critical. He thinks that as a lifelong diplomat, Pius was instinctively reluctant to issue plain denunciations. While he took practical measures to help the Jews, he somehow felt that he'd cause a harmful backlash if he spoke out. But also Pius seems to have regarded Communism as a more dangerous phenomenon than Nazism.

The modern popes are covered in some detail. The account of the Vatican II reforms is good, though he's a bit prematurely hagiographic in his account of John Paul II.

Overall, an interesting and well-presented course, though with some annoying gaps.

What I'm Watching
Saw The Devil Wears Prada on DVD: comedy about a young journalist working for a fictionalised version of Anna Wintour. Thought I might was well after seeing "The September Issue" documentary about the real Wintour, but it would probably be best to do it in the other order.

Mildly amusing, but again I'm not really in the target audience. Thought the bitchiness of the magazine girls was a bit over-the-top; especially when they keep calling the heroine fat despite all being apparently the same size. Meryl Streep does a decent job at delivering bitchy lines.

Review, review, review, review.

So, for the third time a BNP member has been convicted on explosives charges.

So naturally, the story is buried away in the centre pages. Compare that the massive front-page coverage of the Underpants Bomber.

Imagine if a Muslim organization had had three different members convicted of explosive charges on three separate occasions. There'd be a media frenzy.

Operation Don't Get Fatter
Food diaries seem to be back in fashion. I haven't been keeping one lately, but tried it again for the last few days.

Monday 11 Jan 2010
Breakfast: Small bowl Frosties with skimmed milk
Lunch: Small cheese roll
Supper: Chicken curry, rice. Cornetto ice cream
Snacks: Apple, orange
Exercise: 5BX Chart 2 Level A-. 3.5 miles walking.
Booze: 1 beer, 1 whisky

Tuesday 12 Jan 2010
Breakfast: 2 thick slices white bread, 2 rashers bacon, tomato
Lunch: Large cheese sandwich
Supper: 2 boiled eggs, 2 slices toast. Crunchie ice-cream.
Snacks: Mango
Exercise: 5BX Chart 2 Level A-. 3.5 miles walking. Dumb-bells
Booze: 1 large whisky

Wednesday 13 Jan 2010
Breakfast: 4 slices white toast, 2 rashers bacon, 1 tomato
Lunch: Coronation chicken baguette
Supper: Can of All Day Breakfast, 2 slices toast. Feast ice cream
Exercise: 5BX Chart 2 Level A-. 3.5 miles walking
Booze: 1 large whisky

Thursday 14 Jan 2010
Breakfast: None
Lunch: Chicken wrap
Supper: Pork chop, mashed potatoes, parsnip, sweetcorn, peas, beans. Alpini choc bar (186 kcal)
Exercise: 5BX Chart 2 Level A-. 1.75 miles walking
Snacks/booze: Hot choc with splash whisky

Friday 15 Jan 2010
Breakfast: Cornflakes
Lunch: Small tuna roll
Supper: Spaghetti, meatballs. Malteser ice cream
Exercise: 5BX Chart 2 Level A-. 3.5 miles walking. Dumb-bells
Booze: 1 large whisky

Weight graph: week 215

I put on 5 pounds over the holidays, have lost 3 of those so far. Not sure if it's worth the effort of losing any more after the next 2.

1972 book 2010: Living in the Future.

Video. Grey Bloke on his continued existence. Hope this is just the character, it'a getting a bit worrying. Police riot shield sledging. Piccadilly nightlife 1929. Nice Coke ad.

Economics. Does the Great Recession really mean the end of the Great Moderation?

Science. Electrosensitives annoyed to find problem tower was actually switched off. Bipolar kids: why only in America?

Avatar. Nicely sarcastic Metacontextual edition. View from China. Motion capture.

Articles. Second Terrace on Haiti. Media should treat Brown/Darling row as about serious spending issues, not details of spin. Lenin's Tomb on Cameron campaign.

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I Like The Pope, The Pope Smokes Dope | 22 comments (22 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Dunno about the Pope and dope by lm (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 02:24:05 PM EST
So far as I am aware, the only Vatican endorsed recreational drug was cocaine.

I'm not a huge Pius XII fan (in fact I don't think he was a very good pope) but I can't help but wonder if a good deal of the criticism of him isn't overblown.  Any way you slice it, he was in an extraordinarily difficult position with a full array of bad options to decide between. While I think a good argument can be made that he didn't choose the best of the bad options, much of the information that suggests he took the worse of the bad options is only available in hindsight.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
And alcohol. by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 02:44:51 PM EST
That's quite well used in Catholic countries, I believe.

[ Parent ]
Well, doh! by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #12 Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 03:23:54 PM EST
Jesus converted water in wine, and when the time came for his departure he commemorated the occasion with a symbolic conversion of wine on his own blood.

Some people, specially from some  very peculiar fundamentalist Christian sects, haven't read the Bible, or simply ignore some bits that I can't simply understand how  can be possibly ignored.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, there is that by lm (2.00 / 0) #20 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 08:45:07 PM EST
But I have a hard time considering alcohol (or even cannabis) to be in the same class as cocaine. There are drugs and then there are drugs.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 2) #5 Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 04:02:07 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth

[ Parent ]
Thanks for the Avatar Metacontextual link. by muchagecko (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 02:50:48 PM EST
Something I'll share with the folks who didn't get Avatar.

A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
My Name is Earl

Indeed, that was funny by priestess (2.00 / 0) #21 Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 06:18:25 AM EST
Beautiful movie though.

Chat to the virtual me...

[ Parent ]
I could have done better with a more diverse by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #22 Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 01:46:26 PM EST
color palette.

And watching Avatar next to a world artist probably added to my unimpressed attitude.

A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
My Name is Earl

[ Parent ]
Pope and Galileo by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 03:31:47 PM EST
I suspect the paucity of info on the Galileo thing was because from the church's perspective, it was a minor little issue hardly worthy of note.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 1) #6 Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 04:39:22 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth

BNP Bombs by Herring (4.00 / 2) #7 Sat Jan 16, 2010 at 05:54:56 PM EST
Considering that there are only 15,000 members of the BNP, having 3 convicted of serious offences like this seems like it merits a bit more media attention. It's almost as if some of the British press secretly agree with them. Or not so secretly.

On a lighter note, Bad Science.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

And as it turns out, Pius was right. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #8 Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:16:20 AM EST
Communism killed far more people than the Fascists could ever hope to kill.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Only 'coz the commies won WW2 by clover kicker (4.00 / 1) #10 Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 08:17:57 AM EST
Would Russia have been a kinder, gentler place under Hitler's boot then Stalin's?

[ Parent ]
Depends. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #11 Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 03:03:33 PM EST
How hard and long would the average Russian resisted the Nazi occupational government? Years?

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
hard to say, ain't it? by clover kicker (4.00 / 2) #17 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 12:02:09 PM EST
How many people would the Nazis have killed or starved to make more lebensraum?

All I know is that everything I read about Russia and Ukraine in the 20th century makes me profoundly glad to have been born in Canada.

[ Parent ]
Not in the context of the war. by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #13 Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 03:26:56 PM EST
When was when an enlightened Pope would have been needed.

[ Parent ]
I'm not convinced of that by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 2) #14 Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 05:09:00 PM EST
The arguments that I've seen tend to rely on there being more deaths in the Stalin-era famines than in the Holocaust.

But I'm not convinced you can lump in famine deaths with deliberate murders. And the people doing that generally exclude the indirect death toll of World War 2. Some of them even find some reason to exclude the Indian famine deaths of the Raj era, which otherwise could make Capitalism score worse than either Nazism or Communism.

Also, these famines didn't get going till 15 years into Communism, and Nazism didn't last that long. If Hitler had successfully invaded the Ukraine, I'm not sure his farms there would have been any better than Stalin's.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Nazi policy in the Ukraine by jump the ladder (4.00 / 1) #16 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 07:19:20 AM EST
Was to deliberately starve the towns so the agricultural surplus could be used to feed Germany. For pragmatic military reasons they gave up this policy as they lacked the troops to enforce it and they lacked a secure hold in the area.

[ Parent ]
Pornocracy by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #9 Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 05:47:57 AM EST
Is a word that is used far too infrequently.

Iambic Web Certified

The Devil Wears Prada by duxup (4.00 / 1) #15 Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 09:56:33 PM EST
That Hathaway girl is hot, otherwise the film didn't even seem to make sense once she got to Paris.  The have your cake and eat it too ending seemed way too easy.

The thing is by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #18 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 03:17:01 PM EST
Working for American Vogue seems to be the very top of the fashion-writing industry. It's the equivalent of what working at Google is in the computer industry.

So while fashion by some accounts can be an exploitative, shallow, ugly, ruthless business; it's not really the place to show it. If you wanted to make a movie about how terrible it can be to work with computers, you probably wouldn't set it at the top a fictionalized Google.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Yar by duxup (4.00 / 1) #19 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 03:40:58 PM EST

Something else bothered me too. There is a scene where Streep berates Hathaway (did I mention she's hot?) about her attitude that all this high fashion garbage doesn't matter to her. Streep explains that all this fashion influences other fashion and you end up wearing it even if you shop in some cheap store or something.... I was left thinking so? That character is an ass, that industry self absorbed and asstastic, and the fact that some bit of it ends up on a wallmart shelf somewhere … makes it ok or something?
[ Parent ]
I Like The Pope, The Pope Smokes Dope | 22 comments (22 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback