Thursday, February 21, 2013

Anneken Haunts Me

Continued from...

Anneken Heyndriks isn't done with me — nor I with her. Here is the account of her trial, torture and death from Martyrs Mirror. I'm hoping to post some further thoughts by Monday.

In the year 1571, there was burnt alive, at Amsterdam in Holland, for the testimony of Jesus, a woman named Anneken Heyndriks, aged about fifty-three years. Having come from Friesland to Amsterdam, she was betrayed by her neighbour, the underbailiff, who entered her house in order to apprehend her. She said to him with a meek spirit: “Neighbour Evert, what is your wish? If you seek me, you can easily find me: here I am at your service.” This Judas the traitor said: “Surrender, in the name of the King.” And he bound Anneken with a rope, and led her along with him, as Judas and the scribes had done with our predecessor, Jesus.

When they arrived on the Dam, Anneken said that they should not hesitate to look at her, since she was neither a harlot nor a thief, but a prisoner for the name of Jesus. After arriving in prison, she thanked and praised her Lord and Creator with an humble heart, for counting her worthy to suffer for His Name's sake. And she boldly confessed her faith before Pieter the Bailiff and the other lords. They greatly tormented her with Baal's priests, in order to cause her to apostatize; but through the grace of God she valiantly resisted it. This greatly astonished the bailiff, that she did not pay more regard to his spiritual lords, and he said to Anneken, “Sir Albert, our chaplain, is such a holy fellow, that he ought to be mounted in fine gold; and you will not hear him, but make sport of him, hence you must die in your sins, so far are you strayed from God.”

Thus they suspended this God-fearing aged woman (who could neither read nor write) by her hands, even as Christ had been, and by severe torturing sought to extort from her the names of her fellow believers, for they thirsted for more innocent blood. But they obtained nothing from Anneken, so faithfully did God keep her lips. Hence the bailiff preferred against her the charge of being infected with heresy, having forsaken the mother, the holy church, now about six years ago and having adopted the cursed doctrine of the Mennonists, by whom she had been baptized on her faith, and married a husband among them. Thereupon she was sentenced to be burnt alive. She thanked the lords, and said with humility, that if she had done amiss to anyone, she asked them to forgive her. But the lords arose and made no reply. She was then tied on a ladder. Then she said to Evert the underbailiff, her neighbour: “Thou Judas, I have not deserved it, that I should be thus murdered.” And she asked him not to do this any more, or God should avenge it on him. Thereupon Evert angrily said that he would bring all those that were of her mind the same trouble. The other bailiff came once more with a priest, tormenting her, and saying that if she did not renounce, she should go from this fire into the eternal. Thereupon Anneken steadfastly said: “Though I am sentenced and condemned by you, yet what you say does not come from God; for I firmly trust in God, who shall help me out of all my trouble.”

They did not let her speak any more, but filled her mouth with gunpowder, and carried her thus from the city hall to the fire into which they cast her alive. This done, the traitor Evert, the underbailiff, was seen to laugh, as though he had done God an acceptable service. But the merciful God, who is the comfort of the pious, shall give this faithful witness, for this brief and temporal tribulation, an everlasting reward, when her stopped mouth shall be opened in fullness of joy, and these sad tears (for the truth's sake) shall be wiped away, and she be crowned with eternal joy with God in heaven.

Note: we have obtained this sentence of death of this pious and valiant heroine of Jesus Christ, as the same was read to her in court; as also the record of her torture, which, as it appears, took two weeks before her death; which we shall place here one after the other, as they were copied by the secretary from the criminal records of the city.

Next: conclusion!(?)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Shared Texts, and Mennonites

John Granger tells of Allan Bloom (The Closing Of The American Mind, A) belittling freshman students for their absence of shared texts.

Bloom asserted that Granger's “great-grandparents” (my great-greats) proceeded in life with a social confidence that their immediate peers had read, and frequently memorized passages from, the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress and Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks & Romans.

Sidestepping Granger's (and most certainly Bloom's) argument for a moment, I'm not at all confident that my great-greats were familiar with Plutarch. Even Bunyan's classic is a bit iffy. But the Bible, most certainly (along with the guiding principles — thoroughly memorized — of the Katechismus aus der Kleine Gemeinde). And most churches, and not a few households, had a copy of Martyr's Mirror.

Rachel Yoder (Mennonite name, hers — Swiss Mennonite, mind you) encounters the field of Mennonite Romance Novels for the first time, and contrasts it with the material found in Martyr's Mirror. Do read Yoder's piece, but also bear in mind some facts she (or, more likely, her editor) has withheld. The woodcut of “Anneken Heyndricks, bound to a ladder, (her) eyes cast heavenward in sublime abandon as flames lick her body” is indeed arresting and memorable. What Yoder neglects to mention is that Heyndricks is, in fact, being tilted by her captors so that she falls face first into the fire. Her mouth has been stuffed with gunpowder.

Hers is one of the speedier deaths in this enormous volume of broken bodies and spilled blood.

I hope I can be forgiven if I'm slow to push some shared texts on my daughters.
Girls, would you rather read this...

...or this?
(There's no way to answer this question without horrifying your father.)
Continued -- here.

Friday, February 08, 2013

This Hisses

I woke up an hour or so before dawn, lifted the blind and looked outside. Everything was blanketed with two feet of snow, including the streets. The plough crews had all been called out to the highways beyond the village. Pitch black, murky white, nothing moving — except for the sidewalk cleaner.

He's an old chap, lived in this village forever. When weather like this hits, he gets up at 4:00, puts on the overalls and boots and winter cap, and clears the walks. A little red vehicle with a pope-mobile booth and a blue flashing light, towing a tiny trailer of sand — the only thing moving in the darkness, looking like a dinky toy in a tray full of flour.

Paging Tim Burton — or, better yet, Guy Maddin.

I've heard Guy lives in Toronto now. The collective force of Winnipeg's ghosts were getting to be too much for the man. Good luck with that, dude — these places are all haunted. If you're attuned to it in one spot, you catch on pretty quickly everywhere you go.

But then again, maybe Winnipeg is unique. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle certainly thought so. If Sherlock Holmes was a determined materialist, his creator was anything but. It's incredible to me that Doyle, who penetrated the zeitgeist more deeply than any of his contemporaries (including Dickens), visited, and was greatly excited by, Winnipeg.

It seems to me you have to be of Doyle's mentality to be greatly excited by Winnipeg. Certainly it's a city with the usual tourist traps: shopping destinations, pro sports, casinos, character neighbourhoods. But the stuff that really excites a Winnipeg visitor — or resident — is almost inevitably just a little disturbing.

Enter This Hisses, a Winnipeg operatic-goth-punk trio who claim inspiration from the films of David Lynch and (surprise!) Guy Maddin.

I bought Anhedonia, their new release, earlier this week and gave it a first spin while putting winter tires on the car. I have to admit that, in the early bars of every song, there was a moment when I thought, “Maybe this is a little too much.” But inevitably, from way out of left field, came some absolutely batshit astonishment — fuzz, crunch or a vicious guitar hook; an unexpected fill; a catch or shriek in Julia Ryckman's vocal delivery — that rendered me in complete thrall.

This sort of “Mm, not really” to “Whoa, hell yes!” conversion doesn't happen very often, but I've noticed that when it does, it's usually with a group that's reaching back — not Happy Days back, but way, way back, as with Jason & The Scorchers. Some critics sniffed at Jason's “Hiccuping Hank” vocals, but when leading his pack of Scorchers, that sound tore open the fabric of the universe. Similarly, This Hisses have got the full package: ennui, foreboding, humour, and the sense that none of our ancestors are finished yet with this scene — or us.

I'm willing to bet if my sidewalk cleaner is looking sleep-deprived, it's not because he's getting up so early — it's because the music he hears when he lies down again is getting louder with age. This Hisses is that music.

This Hisses' official site.

Friday, February 01, 2013

The Winners' History of Rock 'n' Roll: Revisionist History At Its Finest

Let's flash back to February, 2011, shall we? Arcade Fire wins the Album of the Year Grammy for The Suburbs and sales for it soar to just over (drum-roll please) . . . 600,000?! A great year for Arcade Fire, maybe, but a shitty year for rock 'n' roll.

What happened? Steven Hyden has a theory: the History of Rock 'n' Roll has been written predominantly by, and for, losers. Think about it: the common ascension myth of rock requires an alienated outsider to start strumming a guitar and find his unique voice and rocket to fame by singing to, and on behalf of, the alienated masses.

To resort to the vernacular of rock's forebears: we're talking pure shuck 'n' jive, folks. If there's a planet that has learned to love a loser, we're not on it.

Hyden amends the record with The Winners' History of Rock 'n' Roll: Led Zeppelin, KISS, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith — critically-reviled crowd-pleasers, one and all. Will Hyden's revisionist history be enough to lift rock back into the pantheon of winner-dom? Hard to say, but it does make for entertaining reading.

Hey, Johnny: we're still not paying attention.