Kintsukuroi (Original Image c/o Wikipedia Commons)

Kintsukuroi (Original Image c/o Wikipedia Commons)

2014-06-16 @ 06:10 CDT

What you see here is the result of some very private decisions with some very public results. Not only have I deleted all of the posts I’ve made here (whether directly or by reposting from somewhere else), along with most of the photographs in my media library, but I’ve also deleted three of my subordinate blogs. Besides this blog, The Music of the Bible Revealed is the only blog I have left. In particular, my creative writing blog Tales of the Undying Singer is gone, as my speculative fiction (such as it has been, at least) has finally outlived its usefulness. I still need a creative outlet to replace it, but what that will be remains to be seen.

This blog will continue to feature the same degree, and mostly the same kind, of eclectic content it always has – including what was formerly on the now-deleted blogs. With any grace, the above photograph and caption – which I found on Facebook – will be the perfect summary of my life as I portray it here. (Wikipedia’s article on the Japanese aesthetic philosophy itself is well worth reading.)

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

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Good insight (methinks) into this president’s current state of mind from Peggy Noonan

John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

From the blogger, Wallace Smith: “Want to fix the country? Address the sin. All other efforts are little more than band-aids on a severed limb.” Yea verily. Or should that be Band-Aids(TM) on a chicken running around with its head cut off?

Originally posted on Thoughts En Route:

Camp season is over! Well, sort of over — there are always loose ends here and there to tie up, and my wife and I were already discussing plans for next year yesterday and this morning. But the intense part of the work is done, and life can get back to normal for a while.

After some catching up, that is.

A lot has built up over the last month or so, and if you are among those who have tried to get a hold of me and wondered if I dropped off of the face of the earth, please forgive me. I think I did better than normal this year in keeping up with other things during the whirlwind of camp days, but, to be sure, there are things I am only now getting to. I am not the most organized person in many areas of my life (“Duh,” rings…

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7 Steps to be an Overcomer

John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

Sound advice! Thanks, Conscript!

Originally posted on Conscript's Registry:

The following information is from notes I wrote down whilst listening to a sermon by John Ogwyn. These are practical steps that can be applied in every day life; steps that will foster genuine spiritual growth if practiced.

The steps are given in the third chapter of the Epistle of Paul to the Church at Colosse.

  1. Set your affection on the things which are above (Colossians 3:2). Our focus must be on developing spiritual maturity, God’s holy and righteous character, that we may be counted worthy to enter His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33).  We cannot let go of things we love. If we love this world we will not be able to let go of it, and God says this world is passing away (1 John 2:15-17). Therefore, we must learn to love the right things, and learn to stop loving the wrong things and come out of this world (Revelation…

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Portrait of the Author as a Young Man (1980 @ 19)

Portrait of the Author as a Young Man (1980 @ 19)

2014-08-06 @ 22:15 CDT

Every so often, I come up with a quip off the top of my head. Some may well be original. Some no doubt are reworkings of things said many, many times before. Some are stolen lock, stock and barrel and then reworked as parodies. Some make absolutely no sense at all, at least on the surface, until I rework them. I’ve been calling the lot of them “Rakkav’s Ruminations”. Here are all I can remember at present; some have been reworked for clarity. They follow in no particular order of creation, except that the first on the list is the one which was first created.

Great minds think alike—unfortunately, so do small minds!

Some people seem to believe, “We’re going to have peace even if it kills you…”

That which does not kill you gives you pleasure. (Too often, unfortunately.)

Anything that can make the INFJ-preferenced person and the ENFP-preferenced person look like they have their priorities backward at the same time definitely points to a lost opportunity. (Example: both of them sitting on a patio at a tropical resort, typing on their laptops.)

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom not to strangle certain of my friends who think they know the difference.

Intelligence lies not in how much you know, but in how well you learn.

The problem with being a know-it-all is that eventually, everybody expects you to know it all.

From a certain point of view, a tank is as much a work of art as the Mona Lisa. The difference is it’s a lot easier to kill a lot of people with a tank. [NOT meant to be a good thing!]

Whether in religion, politics or fashion, a movement starts when someone takes one good idea and makes it a panacea.

To speakers of British English: if you get rid of those useless French-inspired “our” word endings, I’ll see what I can do to persuade my fellow Americans to use “aluminium” like the rest of the world. Oh, the way you use quotation marks is pretty cool, too.

He who cannot laugh at his own foibles is in fetters of his own forging.

Overheard at Starfleet Academy: If it’s ugly, it’s Ferengi. If it’s weird, it’s Romulan. If it’s ugly and weird, it’s Klingon.

(יוחנן רכב)

Categories: Culture, Daily Life, Humor, Rakkav's Ruminations | 3 Comments


Original cartoon by Jeff MacNelly (1977)

Original cartoon by Jeff MacNelly (1977)

2014-08-05 @ 20:00 CDT

I have been trying to track this cartoon down for decades. The late cartoonist Jeff MacNelly – arguably the greatest, or at least the most irreverently yet decently funny, editorial cartoonist ever – did (so I have heard) a yearly review of the United Nations and in 1977 the UN’s blatant hypocrisy about South Africa and its neighbors made for an easy target. It’s not that South Africa didn’t have its own problems, far from it – it’s that the UN was encouraging destructive agendas which were making matters in the whole region far worse.

What I remembered about the cartoon especially was the names for the fictional countries in the assembly – above all the “(Other Adjectives Plus) Nice People’s Republic of Dungeon”! :D LOL Well, here is the cartoon in all its dubious glory, copied from the reprint found in THE PLAIN TRUTH, March 1977, p. 6. The article in which this cartoon is found, when compared to what is going on today, shows that with the UN, plus ça change, plus ça c’est la même chose.

(יוחנן רכב)

Categories: Culture, Humor, World News | 4 Comments


Original photo by QVC and The Original Grumpy Cat (Facebook)

Original photo by QVC and The Original Grumpy Cat (Facebook)

2014-08-05 @ 08:17 CDT

Because… why not? ;)

(יוחנן רכב)

Categories: Culture, Facebook, Grumpy Cat, Humor, Internet, Photography | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments


John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

Here is an attempt to show what happens when one puts the same reconstruction of biblical Hebrew cantillation into equal temperament (the sort used on a piano), Pythagorean tuning and just intonation (i.e., the series of intervals used in “scientific tuning” as documented in THE HANDBOOK OF CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS and as described in HARMONOGRAPH).

There is no way comparing three MIDI files can remotely do the problem justice for the uninitiated, especially MIDI files of three different ages with rather different voicings. But I have done my best. One virtue of the files: they use the relative pitches of the kinnor `al ha-Sheminit and the nevel `al `alamot, such as I inferred them using what information we have available.

Originally posted on The Music of the Bible Revealed:

Psalms 46 (Page Curl and Other Effects by Paint Shop Pro)

Psalms 46 (Page Curl and Other Effects by Paint Shop Pro)

2014-08-03 @ 12:30 CDT

A question which often comes up is what temperament is implied by Suzanne Haik-Vantoura’s reconstructions of biblical Hebrew cantillation. The modern instruments she used in her recordings all use “modern” equal temperament: specifically, the kind used in Western classical music (such as on a piano). Her arrangements (evocations, not reconstructions, though they are) work within the framework of this kind of equal temperament. This means that some intervals in her accompaniments and vocal harmonies which some ancient musicians would consider “dissonant” are mitigated in their “dissonance” as much as is the strong “consonance” of certain other intervals – blunting tonal effects which should be examined by the historically interested musician.

SHV addressed much later the question of ancient temperament (especially in her final opus, MESSAGE BIBLIQUE INTEGRAL), but I wonder…

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Theater Masks Silhouette (c/o AARP Blog)

Theater Masks Silhouette (c/o AARP Blog)

2014-07-30 @ 1140 CDT

[N.B.: This essay was submitted as a possible Commentary for the Living Church of God Web site. Should it be published as such, this text will be revised and due credit given. Meanwhile, the text has been revised and expanded here.]

Lately I’ve had a serious “reality check”. It’s not just that different individuals and cultures find different things amusing. It’s that no matter what we human beings find amusing, our “sense of humor” can be used for good or evil as much as any other faculty of the human mind. The worst part is that all too quickly, we can be blindsided by the evil side of humor—and the better-developed our “sense of humor” is, the more easily we may be blindsided. We need to ask ourselves why this is so.

Why do we find different things amusing? When all the learned differences are accounted for, each of us has one of eight innate, broad yet very different “senses of humor” which then develop as we grow up. This is why some of us—for example—find “slapstick” humor funny and I generally do not. When I do find unexpected physical events funny, it’s because something goes awry with logical systems—with a certain way of thinking, or with “the way things work” in the world. This reprinted Sunday panel from the vintage comic strip Tumbleweeds illustrates one example: Lotsa Luck, the world’s richest (and for his size, the most pompous) Indian letting his relentlessly self-serving logic about the world’s social order lead him into a well-deserved trap:

Yokelesque (c/o TUMBLEWEEDS.COM)

Yokelesque (c/o TUMBLEWEEDS.COM)

A disproportionate number of cartoonists, and much of the classic Warner Bros. school of animation, share my way of perceiving and deciding about the world and therefore, my basic “sense of humor”. (For the technically curious, whatever “cognitive process” lies in the 7th position in our minds – see the previous link for an example – is the root of our “sense of humor”. It’s our “sense of play”, so to speak, which lies in the 3rd position.) “Cartoon Physics” such as this short clip featuring Bugs Bunny and The Crusher (how did Bugs get that safe door into the ring, anyway?) is founded in the “sense of humor” people like me and certain others have:

So is humor based on the exploration of stereotypes, whether for good or ill. Bill Cosby on the one hand and Jeff Foxworthy on the other are two famous comedians who use this kind of humor. [EDIT: My apologies for whatever shows up after the above video is over; the "luck of the draw" changes from day to day and even from hour to hour. YouTube is what it is: a major fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.]

We humans can take humor one step further, using whatever native “sense of humor” we have, to joke about the ultimate questions of existence. If there is a God who cares for and rules over men, though, then joking about Him is dangerous ground indeed to walk on. But surely it is amusing to those with eyes to see how foolish man can be in his devotion to false gods and false concepts. In the Bible, Elijah (1 Kings 18:27), Isaiah (Isaiah 44:10-20), Wisdom personified (Proverbs 1:24-27), Paul (2 Corinthians 11:1, 16-18, 21, 23), and even God Himself (Psalm 2:4), all employ different “senses of humor” to challenge false gods and false concepts on their own grounds.

God’s servants could do this because our “sense of humor” is rooted in a major “defense mechanism” of the human mind. We can use humor rightly to laugh at our own foibles; we can use it as a way of defending God’s truth. The problem comes when we use humor to mock or scorn other human beings, human authorities that God has ordained, or worst of all, God Himself, His law, His grace, and His promises. The Bible has a long list of warnings and examples against “mocking” and “scorning”. It also speaks about “the laughter of fools” in this wise:

(Ecclesiastes 7:5 RSV) It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.
(Ecclesiastes 7:6 RSV) For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.

How then do we get drawn into mockery, or even into accepting the mockery of others without protest? It’s simple. We let ourselves be conformed to the world, rather than choosing to be transformed by God’s Spirit through the renewing of our minds so that we may prove what God’s perfect will is (Romans 12:2). And we can become conformed to the world so quickly and so unawares through our sense of humor!

Paul wrote to Christians: “[Let there be] neither filthiness [among you], nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:4). The Greek word behind “coarse jesting” is interesting. Aristotle, in his Politics, used it to describe what we might call “college-freshman humor”: as clever and skeptical as it was coarse. It denigrated its targets—it didn’t build them up. Does this sound familiar? It should. Such humor fills the speech, the “sitcoms”, and the movies of our modern world—to say nothing of social media on the Internet!

We can think we’ve come so far in our Christian growth, only to be caught off guard by this world’s “coarse jesting”. When we are, it opens doors to “the world, the flesh and the Devil” that we should not allow to be opened in our minds. It doesn’t matter if we do this unknowingly. The effects on our minds and relationships are exactly the same!

So where is our “sense of humor” directed? Do we use it to help us see how deceitful our own minds are (Jeremiah 17:9), to defend the truth with wisdom, or to dishonor others made in God’s image?

The Living Church of God offers a free booklet, What Is a True Christian?, that deals with the real issue behind this subject: who do we serve, Jesus Christ living within us (Galatians 2:20), or “the world, the flesh and the Devil” working in us (Ephesians 2:1-3)?

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Bible, Church of God, Culture, Daily Life, Facebook, Google, Humor, Internet, Personality Type, Psychology, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

The further adventures of Two Lyres and a Pipe…

Originally posted on The Music of the Bible Revealed:

2014-07-27 @ 08:42 CDT

The following video was recorded by Ray Rottman on his portable camera. Between that and the sound system of the hall, the sound on this video is rather strongly biased – I hope something of the real beauty of my instrument comes through. Here is the explanatory text I put on YouTube:

The lyre I’m playing – which I call Aletheia (“Truth”), as it’s a Greek-style lyre – was built by Carlos Paniagua, a famous luthier in Spain who specializes in early musical instruments. The melody is my “take” on “La Rosa Enflorece”, a Sephardic Jewish “romance” with lyrics in Ladino (it has also been adapted to the synagogue liturgy). I performed this for Special Music at the Houston, TX. Living Church of God on Sabbath, July 26, 2014.

Aletheia is tuned to a referent of A = 432 Hz and in just intonation against an…

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Character Spotlight: Alain Harper

John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

The once and future Alain Harper…

Originally posted on The New Authors Fellowship:

Guest Blogger: John Wheeler

“Be on your guard,” Edward ordered those behind and beside him as he slowly rode forward, not to Sir Martin’s great pleasure. The man he approached wore a hooded cloak, pants, belt and boots all of charcoal gray and an ivory pullover shirt under it. A scabbard on his back, likewise charcoal gray with ivory trim, held a medium-length, double-edged sword. He was otherwise unadorned save for a ring on each hand and a circular clasp for his cloak at the neck bearing a strange sigil: a golden box with winged men on top, borne on golden poles and surrounded by twelve golden stars, all on a silver background.

At a gesture from the Duke, the rest of the column surrounded the man in a wide circle. Sir Martin and Eric remained where they were.

“Your men oppose me at their extreme mortal peril, young Duke,”…

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John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

To finish the set, here is how my new pennywhistle sounds…

Originally posted on The Music of the Bible Revealed:

2014-07-13 @ 10:50 CDT

This video features the newest instrument I’ve purchased this year and the one I play the least well: Carbo (as I call it), a carbon fiber low pennywhistle made on special order by Carbony Celtic Winds. It can play concert pitch (A = 440Hz) but can also be adjusted to classical pitch (“Verdi’s A”, 432Hz). On this video the latter referent is used.

It is unlikely, given the size of the whistle (almost too big for my hands), that I’ll ever play it the way a pennywhistle is meant to be played. No, I’ll be using my fingertips, and also with my left hand rather than my right hand on the bottom, to do slow melody and harmony lines.

This instrument is meant to evoke the “flutes” mentioned in the header of Psalm 5 and related instruments mentioned in the Bible and Talmudic literature. It…

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