Dave's 40.597th Birthday Party is TOMORROW

This is a repost of my original announcement on Facebook, placed now in the open where non-Facebook friends can see it. (Sorry, Charles! Sorry, Charlie! Sorry, other friends whose names aren't as amusingly similar!). But I'm adding a few things here since I have a bit more room:

* Yes, I really will be handing out cards to people who show up. It's fun for me. And I've found a way to do it pretty efficiently. You'll see.

* It "starts" at 5 because this "party" is really nothing more than me hanging out in a funky-cool bar while my friends come up and say hi...but there's a REALLY GREAT room that I want, and which gets filled up quickly, so I want to stake it out before other legitimate bargoers claim it for themselves and things get violent.

*To that end, I could use two or three volunteers to show up early and fill seats. I'll buy you drinks. Email me directly at wordboydave@gmail.com if you can help and are free. I realize most of you have jobs, and I have lots of respect for that. *I also recognize that this may be crazy talk, and maybe we should just all show up later and crash the cool room more assertively once there's an actual mass of us. If no one's there by 6, I'll just chalk it up to learning not to plan this stuff by myself. In any event, I imagine the bulk of this thing occurring between 7 and 11 or so.

*Any and all guests are welcome--but you don't get a card unless I know you. Since I'm bad with faces (no offense; it's the ADD), I may require occasional prodding.

The original Facebook post follows the string of asterisks below.


Location: The Cowgirl Hall of Fame, 519 Hudson Street, NY NY

MAP AVAILABLE HERE: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=73793106794&ref=mf

Never got to celebrate my big 40th birthday because I was busy writing a book, moving into my apartment, etc. But it's been a VERY big year, and it deserves celebration! So join me at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame next Wednesday for drinks and conversation! I'm dedicating the evening to thanking all the friends who have made my life in New York so wonderful, so if you come, I'm giving YOU a personally written card (as long as supplies last). WARNING! DON'T BRING CAKE! If you bring treats, Cowgirl Hall of Fame charges all of us $3 a head. This is just a nice evening drinking at one of the coolest places I know. I'll be hanging out in the cool part of the lounge--the area with the fake skylight.

This is Just to Say...

I joined FaceBook yesterday, as many of you here have, and have been sending around friend requests. Each time you do this, FaceBook gives you two random words to type in to make sure you're not a spambot. When I made the requests, rpipzzleguy's word pair was "if pointless." And wesleyjenn's was "nude again." Riff freely.

Possibly My Last Repost: Bible Fun With Uta

My friend Toonhead has set up a feed from my real blog, linked here through the name quiz_npl. I have no idea how to get the link to appear here (maybe it already has!), but I thought I'd mention it. Add the feed! Make my life easier! In the meantime, here's my latest post on bourboncowboy.blogspot.com, which I'm re-posting here for people who didn't know about the feed. This may be my last direct post:


I'm dangerous around abebooks.com. It's like I'm in the world's largest library and I can suddenly grab whatever I want for the cheapest possible price. In some cases this doesn't help much (even the cheapest copy of The Jesus of the Early Christians by G. A. Wells is more than $100), but if a book is reasonably popular, you have a shot at actually getting it. And I have just re-added to my own whittled-down library two books I loved reading in library form: 1.) Raymond Tallis's skeptical take on modern literary theory, called Not Saussure; and 2.) Putting Away Childish Things, by the magnificently-named scholar Uta Ranke-Heinemann.

Uta is skeptical about almost everything in the Bible, which is an odd trait for a Catholic professor of theology and religion. (After her first book came out--a withering critique of the church's history of oppressing women and hating sex, called Eunuchs for the Kingdom of God--like fellow theologian Hans Kung, she was forbidden to teach theology again and now teaches church history instead. (P.S. Hans Kung's sin was releasing a book called Infallible?)) And as an aficionado of skeptical books in general, I have to say I don't really recommend it. A good skeptical book sort of tries to meet you halfway and makes its case carefully and sympathetically. Uta Ranke-Heinemann (love that name! Can't stop saying it!) just launches into her attacks from page 1, calling all the miracle stories "fairy tales" and adding little bits of side snark like this quote from Chapter Two, "Matthew's Fairy Tale of Jesus' Childhood":

"The framework of Luke's account has no time for the whole story of the star and the Magi. Since Herod has all the male children killed "who were two years old or under..."[at the time of the visit of the three wise men,] Jesus would have been going on two. Strangely enough, as we know from depictions of the adoration of the Magi, Jesus was still lying in the manger---no doubt he wasn't a very active child. In this phlegmatic feature of his character Jesus obviously took after his father, who after all this time was still sitting tightwith his young family in the stable." (p. 23)

Funny, but it's a straw-man argument. I've never read an evangelical commentator who didn't pooh-pooh the Adoration of the Magi representations as unbiblical precisely because of the two-year gap. So it's a nice slam on popular piety, but doesn't do anything else except offend and piss off evangelicals. What good is that?

However, I have learned a few interesting things from this book that I haven't learned from others, and I hereby share them because a.) they're fun, and b.) you shouldn't have to read deeply into this book to get to them:

Fun Fact #1: Judas could not have been paid thirty pieces of silver.

Explanation: Matthew says this was done to fulfill a prophecy in Jeremiah (Mt. 27: 9-10). But the Jeremiah passage mentions the purchasing of a field (not a potter's field), but for seventeen pieces of silver, not thirty (Jer. 32: 6-9). The thirty pieces comes from Zechariah 11: 12-13, where it's thirty shekels of silver. The money quote (as it were): "In Jesus' day there were gold and silver denarii, the double as (a Roman coin) three-as pieces, minai, lepta, selas, drachmas, and double-drachmas---but no coin or currency known as "pieces of silver" These had gone out of circulation around 300 years before." [i.e., in Zechariah's time. The Zecharaiah quote also mentions "weighing out" the coins, which is also anachronistic, since by this time they'd invented minting.] (p. 126)

Fun Fact #2: The dialogue with Jesus at Paul's conversion ("Why do you persecute me?") is clearly faked.

Explanation: In the book of Acts, it is said that the pre-conversion Paul, traveling on the road to Damascus to hunt down Christians, is suddenly struck down by a light and he hears a voice saying "Paul, why do you persecute me?" And Jesus (that's who's talking) adds, "It is hard to kick against the goads" (or "pricks", depending on your translation).

Not only does this not square with Paul's own, much less theatrical descriptions of his conversion (I Cor. 15: 8, Gal. 1: 15-16), but the whole thing is ripped off from The Bacchae by Euripides. In that work, Pentheus, king of Thebes, is persecuting the god Dionysus when Dionysus calls out to him "You disregard my words of warning...and kick against the goads, a man defying god." As Uta points out, "Jesus even uses the same plural form of the noun (kentra) that Euripides needs for the meter of his line" (p. 163). Bonus fun fact: the story later in Acts, when Paul is in prison and an earthquake breaks all the chains and opens all the doors, is ALSO, in part, ripped off from The Bacchae: In one scene, the maenads (followers of Dionysus---who, I should add, is a dying-and-rising vegetation god) are in prison when "The chains on their legs snapped apart/by themselves. Untouched by any human hand, /the doors swung wide, opening of their own accord." (Uta's account of this is on p. 169 of her book.)

I'm about fifty pages from the end and those are my two big takeaways. But they're pretty big for me, since I've read dozens of these books and a lot of the same points keep getting mentioned. These are new! Figured I'd share.

Strap Sighting

Some time last year when I was taking the 6 bus home from Midtown, a tall businessman next to me on the crowded subway drew his arm up, and, with a small "clink," hooked himself onto the subway rail with a sort of portable hook made of flat plastic weave.

A friend of his pointed and said, "What's that?"
"You know what?" said the man. "It's just a thing that hooks on to your wrist and it's supposed to protect from germs. I saw an article about it in the New York Times years ago, and they were talking about how it was going to be the next big thing. So I bought it. And I have literally never seen anyone else using one since." He shrugged. "But I like it." It was an odd, amusing story, and for the next year I kept an eye out. Nothing.

I mention this because two days ago, I accidentally missed my bus stop and wound up way down near 28th and 3rd Avenue, and was obliged to walk north back to the work I'd missed. And while I threading between 3rd and Lex, I passed a general store...and it had the strap for sale in the window! Not only that, but next to the strap was a cutout of the very same article that must have inspired this first guy to buy his. (New York Times, 2003.) Must be a very persuasive article.

Anyway, the company's called TranStrap. Since I'm neither short nor particularly germ-phobic, I'll be saving my $17 or so. But they're not only still in business, but seem to be very funny people. Check it out: www.transtrap.com

(no subject)

[Reprinted from bourboncowboy.blogspot.com. I don't know how to do links on this site---Ive done it before, but damned if I can remember---so if you want to see the pictures, just go to Wikipedia yourself. Then scroll down to the Karen Han link.]

When I moved to New York City and started taking the A train, every so often in the middle of the day on weekends I'd see an old Chinese man playing a strange-looking two-stringed instrument. "How cool!" I thought. "An instrument I've never heard of before!" Here's a link to a video that'll give you a sense of the performance. Just pretend you're on a subway platform, people are conversing nearby, and everything smells vaguely of pee.

Yesterday, while leafing through the introduction to a collection of short stories called San Francisco Noir, I read a sentence that started, "The other day at a bus station I saw a man playing a Chinese fiddle, or erhu."

My eyes gloinked. So that's what they're called! And a quick search on Wikipedia confirmed it. Meet the erhu. Apparently, I'd been staring directly at a crossword puzzle word and had had no idea. And what a word! At four letters, it's actually a bit more useful than the three-letter weird words we're stuck with, and with that letter choice, it's all but begging: "Dave! Please put me running across on the second row down of some wide-open crossword grid of Friday-level difficulty!"

And then a strange thing happened: the word didn't exist. It's there on Wikipedia, it's there in San Francisco Noir. Presumably people in big cities like Chicago have occasion to see them every week or so! But it is not in any dictionary I have access to. Not in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate. Or the New International Unabridged, second or third edition. Not in Random House, not in Chambers. I checked the Webster's New World anyway, but I knew I was licked. Nothing. Apparently, those snotty lexicographers in their high, paper-filled, and incredibly flammable towers, feel that "erhu" does not meet an English linguistic need.

So I'm hereby announcing a new mission: to popularize the word "erhu." I'm going to use it in straight definition ("This weekend the erhu player was back at 59th Street"), in made-up idioms ("Oh, sure, it's complicated, but it's not like juggling erhus,") and metaphors and descriptions ("the sound was eerie, like an erhu being played by a baby vampire"). And when I use it, those of you who have read this post can knowledgeably smile and say, "Ah. The erhu. Thank you, Dave, for your continued selfless work on behalf of the crossword puzzle community." And if anyone wants to put me on a stamp later...well, shucks. You just do what you think best

Current Events Poem: Time Travel Declared Impossible

Time Travel Is Not Possible, Scientists Say

They're saying that time travel cannot be done
Which ruins a lot of our novelists' fun.
But really, it's not all that bad.
It's a total relief
To dispel the belief
That I might take a trip
On a time-travel ship
To, say, seventeen-eighty
---And meet a young lady
Who thinks I'm okay
(In an alien way)
And, through later events
That make crystalline sense
(But are not, looking back,
All that easy to track)
... I become my own grandfather's dad.

(Link: http://www.livescience.com/scienceoffiction/070307_time_travel.html )

Upcoming Dave Appearances

I was out of town over the weekend (Hi, Boston! Thanks for a great time!), I got home late, woke up late, and have scant moments before my workday begins. So while I have a lot to say (especially about the carnivalesque joys of my first Purim!), for now I just have to do a little upkeep. To wit:

I will be performing TONIGHT at Andy Christie's Liar Show, 8:00 at the People's Improv Theater at 154 W. 29th Street (between 6th and 7th Ave.), and I'll be sharing the stage with at least two other terrific storytellers I know: Peter Lubell and the hyperkinetic Adam Wade. For $5 it's a real steal. And, of course, one of us is lying, and you could get a t-shirt for guessing right!

Since that's terribly short notice, however, I should also mention that the Moth Grand Slam---where winners from all the previous slams of the past six months vie for a grand prize that includes actual money(!)---features me this time around, and I really want to win! The details:

MOTH Grand Slam
Tuesday, March 27th, at 7:30 (doors open at 7).
Comix, 353 W. 14th St. (between 8th and 9th Avenue)
I don't know how much it costs because I'm getting in free (!), but you can find details at The Moth.org.

Hey Bostonians!

I'm in town for the weekend for Sue++'s Game Party (because I got a raise and a cheaper place and now I can afford to take weekend trips like this! Come, celebrate my victory lap!). So I just wanted to say I look forward to seeing as many of you tomorrow as I can...and to warn you that I brought two of my favorite games I never get to play---Citadels (6-7 players is best) and Modern Art (5-6 players optimal)--- and I am bound and determined to play ONE of them!