La Livre de la Vigne Nostre

March 12, 2016

A fifteenth century manuscript, not all that well known (although that may change now that it is posted in the Oxford Bodelian Library site) about the End of Days.  This site by a medievalist provides the only capsule description I have found:

The Livre de la vigne nostre Seigneur (the title comes from the parable of the laborers in the vineyard) in MS. Douce 134 is an illustrated treatise on the Antichrist, Last Judgement, Hell, and Heaven. Bought by Douce at a Paris auction, 1823. Apparently the only surviving copy of its anonymous text. The text is in French prose, enriched with Latin biblical and patristic quotations: there are many corrections and insertions by the original scribe. The miniatures are by several hands … Book 1 is a treatise on the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ.

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1st Sign – Sea Rises Above the Mountains

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2nd Sign: Sea Descends Out of Sight

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3rd Sign: Gathering of Fish and Sea Monsters

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4th Sign: Burning of the Waters

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5th Sign: Plants Sweat Blood

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6th Sign: Buildings and Towns Fall

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7th Sign: The Stones Fight with Each Other

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8th Sign: Earthquakes

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9th Sign: The Earth Made Flat

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10th Sign: The People Emerge Speechless from Their Hiding Places

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11th Sign: The Dead Rise from Their Tombs

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12th Sign: The Stars Fall

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13th Sign: The Living Die So That They May Rise Again with the Dead

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14th Sign: Earth and Sky Consumed by Fire

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15th Sign: Sun and Moon Await His Coming

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend.Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


Apocalypse Redux

May 13, 2014

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Ho hum, another headline story in the NYTimes about the coming End of Days…  I think that the paper’s elevation of Justin Gillis to a front-pager is a low point in their journalism not seen since they swallowed the WMD line of the Bush years, hook, line, and sinker.

So, what do we have?  Some scientists feel that the ice sheet covering the Antarctic land mass is moving towards irreversible “collapse” into the sea, and that this could raise the oceans by several feet.  When will it happen?  Maybe in a few centuries, and maybe in 1,000 years.  And why is it happening?  Not clear, but it has something to do with wind patterns in the Antarctic, and nothing to do with global warming…which isn’t happening at the south pole anyway.  BTW, the amount of ice at the south pole has been steadily increasing each year and is at an all-time high right now.

Reading the article in the Times, you might think if we all stopped burning oil and coal right now, today, everywhere! this could be avoided, but of course, the two issues have nothing to do with one another.  [Of course, if AGW comes about, it will make the situation at the south pole worse.  So let’s be worried!]

I like this comment on the article from a scientist-reader:

Mary Portland, Or 20 hours ago

We could use a little ice melt. Antarctica ice mass is at an all time high…at least since we’ve been able to measure it via satellite.

So, this ice “could” break off and it “could” take centuries and there is no clear link to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and right now, Antarctica is very near record ice mass (actual real data.)

So, relax. Climate change is real but just not nearly as scary as these headlines make it out to be. Amazing how there is no mention in the article about the complete lack of warming in Antarctica and the record ice levels.

But what do I know. I’m just an atmospheric scientist.

And this one too:

Paul Greensboro, NC 23 hours ago

As usual, the article identifies that the warming is coming from multiple sources, but fails to break down how much is from man-made causes. This is probably because they really don’t know. They are, at best, guesses. Remember that these models have been wildly inaccurate in the past. (I’m not being critical. This climate modeling stuff is extremely difficult, and some inputs into the models cannot be empirically determined.) So, given that we don’t know whether stopping all CO2 emissions 100% will make a difference, how much industry would you like to export to China and India?

At least some people have some sense.  Even Andy Revkin has had to weigh in and try to cool down the climate vigilantes:

Some headlines are completely overwrought — as with this NBC offering: “West Antarctic Ice Sheet’s Collapse Triggers Sea Level Warning.” This kind of coverage could be interpreted to mean there’s an imminent crisis. It’s hard to justify that conclusion given the core findings in the studies. (Am I trying to maintain a hold on reality or am I a “scold”?)

But stuff like this is more typical:

James Jordan  Falls Church 32 minutes ago

The evidence mounts. The planet Earth is warming. The consequences can seriously disrupt the human food supply and perhaps affect the ability of our species to reproduce. Can the plants and animals adapt with sufficient speed to survive? Can the wise ones (homo sapiens) adapt its complex carbon combustion lifestyle in time to save our own, or shall we go the way of the Dodo bird?

The End Times have taken a deep hold on the imagination of the most secular among us…or are they secularists after all?  Let’s just sign off with this from one NYTimes reader:

Bill Appledorf  British Columbia 16 hours ago

Chaos and war will sweep the planet when famine, disease, and economic collapse result from global warming.

apokalypse


Behold the Lamb

October 15, 2013

Cloisters Apocalypse

Altered States: Ken Russell

 


Hand Waving on Climate Change

September 27, 2013


Many people think that those of us who are skeptical of the global warming crowd get all our information from the right-wing information bubble, such as Fox News.  Not I!  I just read the Statement for Policy Makers (SPM) that the UN Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) puts out.  Their latest Assessment Report (AR5) is out now.  Some good ones, with the translation by me in boldface:

Models do not generally reproduce the observed reduction in surface warming trend over the last 10–15 years.”

Our models have performed poorly over the last fifteen years, failing to match observed conditions.

“It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951−2010.”

At least half of the warming that we claim has occurred ( 0.6°C to 0.7°C  from 1951 to 2010) is probably due to human activity, i.e., less than 3/4 of a degree F.

 ”The best estimate of the human induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.”

Ignore previous statement:  we think ALL of the warming is caused by humans.

Does this inspire confidence in you regarding their predictions of rapid ice melt of the Greenland ice sheet, rapidly rising seas, and general climate mayhem?


Yet another effort, Citizens, if you would truly become [climate change] apocalyptic!

June 19, 2013


Thanks are due to President Obama for articulating the current End of Days scenario so clearly:

“The grim alternative… more severe storms, more famine and floods, new waves of refugees, coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise,” 

He said it is our “job,” our “task” to avert it.  Duty, I guess.  For the children…of our children.  Sounds suspiciously like another prediction of which I am very fond:

We must arm ourselves with all the material and spiritual forces at our disposal … or else our culture is doomed to destruction. Extrapolation from our present condition … yields a vision of busting sewer mains and all waters of the world made as wormwood, unfit to drink. Mankind will be reduced to a primitive state of disunity, neighbor isolated from neighbor by vast surging cataracts of fluid, while the monument of our era’s accomplishments will gradually be submerged beneath festering pools of stagnant runoff. . . Men in their frenzy of despair and disbelief will turn the evil upon themselves, building houses at the bottom of hills, in marshes, and along oozing gulleys, while the Few Who Know will be the object of arrogant derision. And it is the folly of human inaction which will bring down on us this recapitulation of the Flood.*

*Hilton S. Korngold, “Toward an Interpretation of the Drainage,” Journal of Historicist Philosophy, 98 (October, 1972): 302 – 398.
Let’s see:

More severe storms… Not much evidence of that.  Climate scientists are very hesitant to say that a storm or set of storms can be attributed to climate changes, such as they are.  We might have more severe storms – that’s what many predict – but that remains to be seen.  Of course, it assumes that all their predictions are correct.

More famine…  We seem to have our hands full with famine today, and have for some years now.  Any scholar of famine will tell you that their causes have much more to do with politics and infrastructure than with weather.  Our record dealing with those two issues is rather poor.

More floods…   Another speculation.  It’s not as though we haven’t had a hard time with floods for a long time, and done precious little about it.  Are we supposed to think it’s a “real” problem because climate change supposedly is involved?  We report more floods now – everything is reported more – and there is more property loss because humans continue to build heavily in areas that have been and will continue to be flooded.  It could get worse, yes, but it’s bad now!

New waves of refugees…  You guessed it, the same response as above.  If we are not moved by the plight of refugees now, why is the notion of “climate refugees” more compelling?  Shouldn’t we address the problems we have now?  We might foreclose the possibility of worse ones later on.  For instance, if people had enough land to grow their own food on, they might actually plan for the inevitable bad years…  Just a thought.

Coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise…  Coastlines vanish, then reappear.  They just follow you inland if the sea rises.  It will be a different coastline, but that happens now, much to the dismay of the Army Corps of Engineers which spends billions of dollars trying to hold back the seas so that municipalities can make money on beach tourism and property taxes.  And just how much are those seas going to rise?  And how fast?  Must we take as gospel the most extreme projection, that assumes a “rapid ice-melt” of the Greenland ice sheet?  How likely is that?  Not very, given the recent data, but then, that’s just a bump on the road on the way to Armageddon.

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Look, maybe the predictions are true, but if we are going to examine them rationally, they become less likely with each year.  Would you invest your life savings on the basis of a projection for 2050 that had been shown wrong for the period 2002 – 2013?


Alas, certainty…!

April 24, 2013

From the SINTEF report on the debate over the human impact on climate change:

Conclusions

To illustrate the way that scientific, political and ethical concerns are mixed in the debate on Anthropogenic Global Warming, this report used the by now famous quote from Gro Harlem Brundtland, that “doubt has been eliminated“,and that “it is irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation” as a point of departure. The goal of the report was to enter this debate and battlefield of arguments and take stock of the debate about anthropogenic (man-made) global warming. Based on the present review of this debate there are several conclusions to be drawn. The first and simplest one is that considered as an empirical statement, the assertion that doubt has been eliminated on AGW is plainly false. Although as documented the level of agreement in the scientific literature that AGW is occurring is quite extensive,the magnitude of dissent,questioning and contrarian perspectives and positions in both scientific discourse and public opinion on the question of AGW evidently contradicts such a proclamation.


M for Metropolis!

December 3, 2012

Fritz Lang, who made that fabulous Ur-noir, M, made Metropolis (1927) as well, but until the last few years, it was never seen in its original form. The restored version, including lost footage retrieved from a full print found in Argentina, is available on Netflix, and it is glorious.  A sci-fi fairy tale with ominous Art Deco sets and art production, a full-on tale from the Germanic medieval Apocalyptic tradition, and an Expressionist masterpiece, it awakens in me a deep understanding of the older name for movies, motion pictures.  The images, each one, are fabulous, and they are given life through the technology of cinema.

Lang expressed distaste for his masterpiece later in his life.  He felt that it was politically naïve and simplistic.  His feelings may have had something to do with the fact that his collaborator on the work, his then-wife, Thea von Harbou, went on to embrace the Nazis, leading to their divorce soon after, and to his exile to Hollywood where he made several excellent film noirs, including Human Desire, Scarlett Street, The Big Heat.  It’s hard for me to watch this film and not think about the conflagration to come to Germany, and Europe, ten years later.

The melodramatic plot concerns Joh Fredersen, The Master of Metropolis, the city that he built on the backs of his workers.  The city is a brilliant aerial extravaganza: the workers live underground in dismal blocks of flats that look like the work of a dropout from the Bauhaus architecture school.  His magnificent brain produces the ideas and directives that keep the city humming, and his every word, utterance, and gesture is attended to with slavish awe by his subordinates.

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The children of the rich frolic in pleasure domes at the top of the city towers that look like something out of Hieronymous Bosch, if he had gone to Hollywood.  Maria, a teacher from the worker’s world, brings some of her charges up on a field trip.  One wonders what were the guards who let her in thinking?  That begins the ruin of all of them.

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Freder, The Master’s son, is transfixed by the sight of Maria, and decides he must go down to the depths of the worker’s city to find her. She is regarded as a spiritual leader by the workers, and restrains their violent tendencies, telling them that a Mediator will come, to join together the Head (The Master) and the The Hands (the Workers.) The allusions and similarities to New and Old Testament language and imagery are deliberate and consistent.

Freder is appalled by what he finds underground.  He witnesses an explosion at the main machine that kills many workers, and he has a vision of the infernal engine as a Moloch devouring the people. From then on, he refers to his father’s city as The Tower of Babel.

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He goes in search of other knowledge, and comes upon a man killing himself with the effort of manning his post.  He is part of a crude feedback mechanism, and he must manually move the arms of the machine to point to the lights on the outer circle as they blink.  They change often, and he is worn out with keeping up, but if he does not, disaster will ensue:  He looks like a man crucified. Freder relieves him and takes his place and his worker’s clothes. He sends the man up to the city and to wait for him at a friend’s apartment, but the worker ends up spending his type at the city’s casino, a decadent fleshpot.  So much for the virtuous proles!

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In another part of the city, in the only building that retains a pre-modern appearance, a tall, ancient mansion, lives Rotwang, the mad scientist- inventor.  It is obvious from his artificial hand that Dr. Strangelove owes something to this movie, as do so many others!

Rotwang's House

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There’s a back story here:  Frederson’s wife, Hel, is dead, but it seems that both Master and Madman loved her.  The inventor maintains a shrine to her memory that Frederson  contemplates when he pays a visit to his main technological adviser and mentor. (These images are from restored footage, and they are grainy, and cropped differently.)

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Rotwang reveals that he has been developing a mechanical man to reincarnate Hel, and Frederson is horrified, but intrigued.

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Knowing that his workers are being roused to rebellion by Maria, he commands Rotwang to fashion her in the image of Maria, and send her among the workers to sow chaos and discord.  Instead of Maria’s message of peace and reconciliation, the mechanical-Maria will preach insurrection and violence.  Joh Frederson will have a perfect excuse for retaliating brutally and teaching the proles their proper place.

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Rotwang kidnaps Maria and uses her in his deranged experiment…

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…which ends up being rather successful.

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The transformed Maria is presented to Frederson, and he sets his awful plan in motion, not knowing that his son is in love with the real woman, and is living among the workers.  The guys on the top just don’t know what’s going down…

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Freder sees his father with the false Maria and is stunned and horrified.  He swoons, and is put to bed, where he has an extended  vision along the lines of Revelation, ending with his cry, “Death come to the city!”  I have created an animated GIF of his vision, below, that you can click to activate.

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click to animate and view in full

Meanwhile, the false Maria carries out her mission of evil among the workers.

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Freder tries to unmask her as the impostor he knows she must be, but the workers turn on him as a member of the ruling class.
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Talk about a femme fatale!

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Roused by her calls to violence, the workers storm the engine rooms, and overcome the foreman, who occupies a rather difficult position in the class hierarchy.  He is a worker, but he is at the top of the class, a sort of craft-union type, and he knows the mob is wreaking destruction on itself!  He shuts the gates to hold off the mob, but The Master, with his own long game in play, orders him to raise them.  He obeys, the engines are smashed, the pumps stop, and the workers city begins to flood.

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The workers do an infernal dance around the smoldering ruin of the main engine, but the foreman breaks the spell, demanding of them, “Where are your children?”  Indeed, they gave no thought to them as they went on their rampage, and the foreman makes clear to them their utter dependence on the machines that they have smashed.  Luddite he ain’t.

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The real Maria comes to the rescue, herding the children left behind to the alarm station where she is ringing the bell.

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Meanwhile, the false Maria declares, “Let’s watch the city go to the devil!!” an parties with the city élite.

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Like Hugo’s novel Notre dame de Paris, the center of the city, even of the godless machine-metropolis, is the cathedral.  It symbolizes the mediating heart between head and hands.  And as in that novel, a climactic struggle between Good and Evil takes place on the roof as Freder fights with Rotwang.

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Down in the square, the foreman leads the action, roping the false Maria to a stake for burning in the good old fashioned way.

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With purifying flame comes the revelation of her true nature.

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Finally, Freder emerges with Maria and his father, and mediates an uneasy reconciliation between the foreman, speaking for the masses, and his father.  Happy ending for ruler and ruled!

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