Archive for January 11th, 2010

Yet Shall We Be Merry

Dark wizard Albert Grossman deliberately assembled the folk-singing trio Peter, Paul, and Mary to rake in coin amid the urban folk-revival of the early 1960s. He wanted “a tall blonde, a funny guy, and a good looking guy”: that’s what he got.

But Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers proved to be something more than a quick milk of the cash cow. They introduced millions of young people, including myself, to significant forms of American roots music. Their smooth and engaging arrangements allowed us to enter them, as through a door, and out the other side we encountered lifetimes of music that, without them, we might never have known.

I had not thought much about the group for many years until the “tall blonde,” Mary Travers, passed away last fall, on September 16, of leukemia, at age 72. Just as Peter, Paul, and Mary became more than what Grossman had intended, so too did Travers. “This was not,” recalled producer Phil Ramone to Rolling Stone, “a girl who was just going to be cutesy like lead singers had been in bands. She created a much bigger role. She took no prisoners when it was what she believed in.”

In the weeks following Travers’ death, the tubes rang with reprises of the group’s music. But nobody seemed much moved to post or discuss the Peter, Paul, and Mary song that had long most entranced me. So I guess I’ll gas on about it myself, there beyond the “furthur.”

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The Nine Billion Names Of God

Christian missionaries are making a mess in Malaysia by insisting upon the right to use the word “Allah” to refer to their particular variant of the Abrahamic deity.

A two-year legal battle by the publishers of the Catholic Herald resulted December 31 in a ruling by the Malaysian High Court permitting the paper to use the word “Allah” in its Malay-language edition to refer to that fellow commonly known in the English language as “God,” “Lord,” “Jehovah,” “Heavenly Father,” and “The Rat Bastard Who Tortured and Tormented Job On A Bet.”

Ratzinger’s people claim that the word “Allah” was used in Malay to refer to a grumpy sky king long before Islam ever arrived in the islands, and that there is simply no other word in the language to refer to their version of The Big Dude.

Muslims contend that the people of the primates are nothing but a mendacious pack of sneak-thieves stealthily working to convert Muslims to Christianity through distraction and confusion. It is against the law in Malaysia for those of rival faiths to proselytize to Muslims.

Some Muslims were exercised enough about the court’s decision to commence burning churches. Wednesday the court suspended its ruling, after the government, which has filed an appeal, argued that it was inciting racial conflict. “While the appeal process is going on, it is our responsibility not to do anything that can jeopardise the interest and well-being of the people,” intoned Prime Minister Najib Razak. Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, but about 40 percent of its citizens are Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian, with substantial Indian and Chinese populations.

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When I Worked

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