Category: humour

Komatsu

Komatsu, the Destroyer

The monsters are tearing up 105th Street
devouring it in powerful maws;
the monsters are swallowing our street
rending it with their jaws.

Sherron, mind your flower beds
count your perennials one, two, three;
the monsters are eating 105th Street
heedless of leaf, root or tree.

 

Copyright, 2017 (All Rights Reserved)

Komatsu

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“Where’s Jeeves?”

jeevesAh, what I wouldn’t give to have someone like the redoubtable Jeeves in my life.

An individual endowed with almost supernatural competence, intelligence and aplomb. Absolutely unflappable. Capable of quickly and expertly assessing any situation, offering the most expedient and logical course of action, which is all but guaranteed to achieve the desired result.

But it’s more than that. A true Jeeves is able to anticipate setbacks and complications, avoiding them like a poorly disguised tiger trap. His abilities are practically psychic—how else do you explain how he materializes even before he is summoned, showing up the instant his services are required?

P.G. Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves and his impetuous, dim-witted employer, Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, has the perfect word for Jeeves’ sudden, timely appearances: he simply “shimmers” into a room.

Wonderful.

Bertie is excitable, craven, shallow, gullible, naïve, inept; if it wasn’t for his phlegmatic, faithful manservant, he’d be in a pickle literally every waking moment of his life.

For Jeeves is the ultimate fixer—perhaps Bertie is right and it’s all the fish he eats. Whatever the source of his genius, Jeeves never fails to provide unstinting, courteous service and when compelled to suggest some subtle stratagem or artifice, you can count on Jeeves to save the day.

No impasse is so hopeless, no cause so lost that Jeeves can’t provide a ready remedy.

A Jeeves would organize my affairs, ensure the bills are paid, prevent our household finances from creeping into the red. He could fend off lovelorn friends, bossy aunts, irate foes and deal with those pesky Jehovah’s Witnesses that keep ruining my quiet, peaceful Saturday mornings.

Bearing in a pot of strong tea and my daily newspaper as soon as he hears me stirring. Reminding me of an appointment or birthday I’ve forgotten. Drawing my bath, making sure it’s exactly the right temperature. Purring words of comfort and consideration while laying out my clothes for the day.

My man, Jeeves.

Truly, he stands alone!

* In my view the best way to experience “Jeeves and Wooster” is to listen to the BBC Radio dramatizations of Wodehouse’s stories. Michael Hordern and Richard Briers are stellar—the productions are first rate, the supporting players well-cast, the end result always hilarious.

hordern

More crazy search terms

Some years back I posted about the search terms people employ and (somehow) end up at this site. There have been some humdingers.

My personal favorite is “self-pissing for pleasure”. Now that is one particular kink that has never crossed my mind. Apparently people don these rubber suits and—

Forget it. I can see from the expression on your face you’re not ready to hear the rest of it.

This installment features terms drawn from the past 6-8 months.

Stuff like:

“unicorn transparent” (great name for an anthology of bad fantasy tales)

“beautiful man hands”

“scene of necrofile sex”

“pones of slpeen grils beming fuck” (still awaiting translation on that one)

“beautiful prostitutes”

“literary agents are fucking idiots” (dude after my own heart)

“cliff sex and other cartons”

“Pissing mouth sci fi porno”

…and, finally, my two favorites this time around:

“desolate vagina”

“I’m fucking fat”

* * * *

I’ve been blogging regularly for six years.

People still manage to astonish me.

Nuff said.

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Photo: Liam Burns

Staring down the TBR pile

“I…am…not…afraid…of…you.”

Standing before a tower of unread books, feeling a bit queasy but also defiant.  These are books that have bedeviled me for months, years, decades.  Tomes I know will be excellent, enlightening, life-enhancing…as soon as I find time to read them.  Others are volumes I read many moons ago and want to revisit.  Some big, fat, brain-building Pynchon titles, a few of the early Cormac McCarthys; works I read when I was young, stupid and trying to impress everybody.  Now when I read them, I’ll be a helluva lot more worldly, slightly smarter and apt to grasp more than I did during that initial encounter.  Can you really comprehend the magnitude of Gravity’s Rainbow or Marcel Proust’s convoluted, gorgeous prose at nineteen or twenty?

Never in hell.  I’m convinced human beings don’t start developing adult-sized brains until they’ve turned thirty and have popped at least one kid.  A teenager reading War and Peace is like handing a mandrill an iPad. Seriously.

This past week I was visiting The Big City and had occasion (okay, I lurked) to listen while a couple of teenage girls discussed their school reading assignments.

“This book,” one said, stabbing a livid finger at Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, “ought to be banned.”

“Did you read The Englishman’s Boy?”

“Only the chapter I had to.”

“Me too! Catcher in the Rye sucked too. What’s the big deal? The Outsiders--”

“That was half decent.”

“It was o-kay. But the main guy is such a whiner…”

And so on.  Book club night at the Stephen Hawking residence it was not.

What were those gals doing, hanging out in a book store?  Waiting for the rain to subside?  I wonder what sort of books they actually liked?

* * * * *

I must do something about my To Be Read pile. Make that piles.  It’s getting scary.  We’re running out of space.  Books are double-stacked on the shelves, some even (gasp!) relegated to the floor.  Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, essays…good God, things have gotten completely out of hand.  I catch my wife looking at me, her expression cagy: pondering involuntary commitment? What are the legal hurdles?  How much can she get for all these fucking books?

And now that I’m hooked up to the library system through the internet, I can log on and troll for more books, secure them free, via inter-library loans.  If three weeks pass and I need more time, I can renew the tomes in question with a few taps on my keyboard.

Sweet.

Or perhaps not.  It’s like having after hours access to the world’s biggest bookstore.  I get messages as soon as another book is ready for pickup at my local branch.  Can’t wait to get down there, scoop it up and bear it home…

Understand, I already have dozens, scores of books—wonderful books, classic books—waiting to be read but I’m still ordering more.  Isn’t that weird?  Isn’t that, well, nuts?

It’s called bibliophilia, folks, and I’ve got it bad.

I’m a collector on the verge of becoming a hoarder.  When I find a good bookstore, especially a good used book store, my hands get clammy, my stomach churns and I feel light-headed, like I’m suffering from some kind of sugar deficit. I kid you not. I’ve heard junkies say similar things when they find themselves in the vicinity of dope or paraphernalia. A feeling of anticipation that leaves you weak in the knees.

Have to say, when I visited my last big box book barn I didn’t experience anything like that.  The “New Release” shelves didn’t turn my crank at all—the majority of the fiction seemed to be geared toward women, and particularly stupid ones at that. The most dreadful shite. Spotted a number of offerings in the history section, including David McCullough’s bio of Truman, but the prices scared me off. After all my browsing, over an hour in the store, I came away with one thin volume, a beautiful little Penguin edition of Stefan Zweig’s novella Chess.  That’s it.

Pitiful, ain’t it?

But, of course, it isn’t just books.  I’m no longer part of the desired demographic, and that goes for music, movies, television, you name it.  I’m an old fogie with a critical brain and a handle on his spending.  Not exact a walking advertisement for consumerism.

No, the ones the advertisers, viral marketers et al are after are the 16-25 bunch, the gamers and mall crowd, armed with credit cards and completely lacking impulse control.  Unmarried, no kids, disposable income, too much time on their hands. The morons that have kept Michael Bay, JJ Abrams and Bill Gates filthy rich and reduced the popular arts to public urinals.  Thanks, kids!

We have them to thank for the current state of publishing/bookselling.  The explosion of graphic novels, the flood of zombies and vampires and knock-off fantasy and franchise novels, and media tie-ins…can you say dumbing down?  That extended period I spent in the big box store was most educational.  It told me that in their efforts to cater to their sought after demographic, traditional publishers won’t just go for the lowest common denominator, they are willing, nay eager, to debase the language, alienate their traditional clientele and reduce an art form to mere commodity.  The rot is evident in every genre—what little “literary” fiction out there is getting harder to find, forced off the shelves by establishments that offer whole sections devoted to the excremental writing of James Patterson, Jody Picoult and the like.

I turn on commercial radio, flip through the TV channels during a rare hotel visit, check on-line movie listings for anything that might look promising and I feel old.  Nothing in the entertainment world speaks to me these days.  I don’t look forward to the summer movies or check to see who made the Oscar shortlist.  Ignore the bestseller lists, rarely buy a magazine or new book…and we’re the last family I know of who still don’t have cable TV.

I’ve been a reader all my life.  Forty years with my nose in books.  Books have always offered me comfort and consolation.  In childhood, they were a security blanket, helping me escape the depredations of reality.  As I got older, they became my primary sources of learning, as well as steering me down spiritual/mystical paths I might otherwise have missed. Without books, I would not be the person I am today.  I would be one of them:  mall zombies, semi-literates, half-simian.

All this might go a long way toward explaining that ever-growing TBR pile. I never stop seeking out new Masters, new teachers; men and women who can perform alchemy with the printed word, transmuting it into something more than mere sentences on a page.

A casual scan of the pictures reveals not too many of the books are of recent vintage.  Most picked up from thrift shops, secondhand places or on-line purchases; heavily discounted, showing the effects of their time in remainder bins or battered about in the mail.

New and old enthusiasms:  Samuel Beckett, Walter Kirn, Ken Kalfus, Richard Powers, Robert Stone, Raymond Queneau, Roberto Bolano, Fernando Pessoa, J.M.G. Le Clezio, Denis Johnson, Tom McCarthy, Terence McKenna, Georges Perec, Jorge Luis Borges, Gert Ledig, W.G. Sebald…and that’s just scratching the surface. These Jpegs hardly do my TBR pile justice.  It goes on and on…

When am I going to find time to read the gorgeous edition of Don Quixote Sherron picked up for me at least five years ago (translation by Edith Grossman)?  How about the three volumes by the incomparable Louis Ferdinand Celine that are only an arm’s length away from where I sit, typing these words?  Will I ever tackle Madame Bovary, War and Peace or the 1,000+ pages of The Collected Short Stories of J.G. Ballard?

Not as long as I keep adding to that pile.

How many titles are on the “Wishlist” I’ve kept in the same steno pad for the past twenty years?  Two hundred?  Three hundred?  The roster constantly revised; one title acquired and crossed off, three others added…

I’m a sick man.  Addicted to the printed word.  Always seeking out the best of the best, authors who present fresh perspectives, re-ignite the language, push the envelope thematically and stylistically.  Just when I think I’m making headway, someone mentions Ben Okri or Joseph McElroy.  How could I have missed them?  Fabulous, unprecedented talents, my collection incomplete without them.

The kind of authors no longer being published by the trads and, thus, increasingly unfamiliar to today’s readers.

Creators capable of composing work that ennobles us as a species, presenting an alternative to the superficiality of the processed, plastic universe the corporate types are peddling, the reassuring sameness one is sure to find there.  Our souls would be impoverished without these artistes, our “culture” reduced to inanity and tiresome cant.  A nightmare I hope never to endure, a history I pray we avoid.

Photos by Sherron Burns

Recalling “The Gospel of St. Nicholas”

It’s been two years now, and a lot of posts in that interval, so maybe more recent readers haven’t seen my review of the legendary Gospel of St. Nicholas.

I love the notion of these “lost gospels” that keep cropping up.  One of these days, I’m hoping they’ll uncover some indisputable ur-text that begins with the words:  “Jesus and his buddies were pissing it up one night, tossing around ideas for a really cool religion…”

Enjoy the review and from the Burns family to all of you:

Merry Christmas and all the best in 2010.

One final post re: the Moon and Apollo 11

model1I know, it seems like I’ve had the moon on my mind since the beginning of the year.  The whole 40th anniversary thingee really got to me for some reason.  Made me ponder how much time has passed and (perhaps) how little time remains.

A busy, creative, exhausting summer and those 4 linked short stories grow ever nearer to completion.  Stay tuned, I think this quartet of tales is going to make a definite impression on you.

But I decided to take this past weekend off, rest up, read a couple of books (both on Orson Welles, as it turned out) and build another plastic model.

And, sticking with the moon theme, the model I chose was the Heller Apollo 11 lunar lander.  This is a none-too-detailed, cheapish reproduction of the fragile craft that took Neil and Buzz down to the surface of the moon…and back up again (to rendezvous with Michael Collins).  Found it on eBay for a small stipend but it took me forever to set aside some time to put the bloody thing together.  And I’ve got eight or ten other model kits in the basement, waiting their turn.  Everything from an X-Wing fighter to a German zeppelin.  Sheesh…

model2I set up on a table on our back deck–the weather for the past week has been perfect, clear and hot and not much in terms of a breeze.  I got myself settled, arranged my parts and glue and paints and commenced work.

There were a few minor annoyances.  First of all, none of the instructions were in English.  Second, this model is quite small and that means small parts that resist and defy my clumsy, shaky fingers.  I had…difficulties.  Mainly with the struts.  Oooo, those bleepin’ struts.  I still break into a sweat when I think of them.

Sherron found me some terrific copper-tinted paint that went on thick, allowing me to apply a bit of texture, a convincing impression of the gold foil we see in pictures of the lander, a blaze of colour on the otherwise monotonously grey moon.

model3Finished the model and thought it needed a little diorama so I made one of some papier mache stuff Sherron had lying around.  Spray-painted it while it was still wet, hoping to give a better illusion of the fine lunar regolith.

It’s not perfect but it ain’t half bad.

Have a look…and then sit down and tell me  story about a model you built as a kid, a memory you treasure (or rue) to this day.

C’mon, don’t be shy…

model4

My Life as a Catastrophist

hindenbergYou don’t know what it’s like.

Or…maybe you do.

Living in abject fear, a state of near unbearable suspense, day after day.  How wearing that can be.  Because that’s what we’re talking about here.  A mindset centred around dread, a soul-sucking sense that things are about to fall to pieces and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

How can someone exist like that?  How can they face getting up in the morning?  What keeps them going?

Questions only the uninitiated, the smugly secure would dare ask.

Y’see, what the preceding sentences have failed to convey is the intoxication someone like me feels when a potential crisis peters out into insignificance.  The surge of relief that provokes can’t be matched or simulated by any mind-altering drug I’m aware of.

And on those rare occasions when my worst fears turn out to be justified, the sense of relief and vindication I experience is…sublime.  I actually tremble with the sick pleasure a junkie must feel just as the needle hits its mark.  I’m like Chicken Little, running around, clucking with excitement and joy as big chunks of the firmament crash to earth around me.

Rawwwwk! Told you so!  Told you so!”

I’ve always been a worrier, possessed by the certainty that happiness is transitory and danger lurks around every corner.  My childhood was like that, perhaps even my infancy; the baby who always makes strange, no matter how many funny faces you pull.  Filled with such foreboding when faced with each new encounter or experience that I was literally sick to my stomach.  Vaccinations, the first day of school, a trip to the dentist; preparing for these minor inconveniences as if they were a very public and brutal form of execution.

I can recall nearly wetting myself whenever I was called down to the principal’s office.  It invariably turned out to be something mundane, a message from my parents, a form that needed to be picked up.  I’d exit the office and immediately make a beeline for the nearest washroom.

My high school years were no better.  So fraught with painful anticipation, consumed by a nervous energy that burned off every ounce of my frame; I weighed about 125 pounds the day I graduated.   A long, thin stick insect, whittled down to the quick by neuroses.  Not an attractive figure.

There’s been some improvement since then but I still get thrown into a tizzy over relatively commonplace occurrences:

* A stopped up drain means ripping up the basement floor and paying an astronomical fee to some greedhead plumber (it turns out ten minutes of roto-rooting and a $150 touch does the trick)

* A stalling car means replacing the engine, maybe even being forced to buy a new(er) vehicle (no, actually the spark plugs need changing)

* One of my sons having a grumpy day is an early manifestation of a depressive personality (nope, he just got out of bed on the wrong side that morning)

doctorAnd did I mention that I’m a borderline hypochondriac?  Now there’s a lovely combination.  So every ache, every twinge is magnified in importance, exaggerated, fretted over.  A belly ache could mark the onset of pancreatic cancer.  A rare headache could mean a malignant brain tumour.  See what I mean?  And what about this latest development, waking up at 5:00 a.m. in the morning with low-grade nausea.  Not out and out sick-making, just a weird, unpleasant feeling in my lower gut.  Does this mean anything?  Is it significant in any way?

That nervous energy sometimes manifests itself as a racing heart.  Occasionally I get little jolts and twinges.  And with a family history of heart disease that could be an indication of a problem.  Or not.  But, let’s be candid here, one day–it might be tomorrow, it might not happen for decades–my fears will be realized, my body at last betraying me and those small aches and pains will coalesce into something genuinely life-threatening, something that keeps on growing until it blocks some vital pathway or invades and compromises a critical organ.  Punishment (or reward) for all those years of waiting for something serious to crop up, a final confirmation of the bad news I’ve been expecting all along.

Each day I pray for release from the irrational fears that afflict and bedevil me.  I place myself in my Creator’s hands and repeat my personal mantra of “health, happiness and wisdom” over and over again.  Not only for myself, but also for family, friends and loved ones.

I know sooner or later it all comes to an end.  Each one of us, at last, runs down, ceases to function, the machinery wearing out with a grinding of gears, sparks, smoke pouring from our ears.  No one here gets out alive.

Funny, I don’t  really fear growing old.  That doesn’t factor into my thinking.  As a catastrophist, of course, I have serious doubts I’ll live that long.

Frankly, knowing the end is nigh will undoubtedly come as something of a relief.  It takes so much fucking energy and strength constantly fretting about money, not being able to properly provide for my sons’ education, what if something happens to the house.  Etc. etc.

The sense of panic that almost unmans me when I can’t shake the thought that I might not be up to the task and that, inevitably, life is going to present me with an intractable problem, something I can’t solve, hide or ignore.  I am hounded by the knowledge that I’m really not that smart or strong or brave.  And that the time will come when my weaknesses and vulnerabilities will be exposed (Christ, better anything than that).  The worst feeling, the greatest terror I have is that I won’t be able to save the people I love or prevent some terrible personal apocalypse that will consume them while I watch, helpless to intercede.  My resolve failing me at a crucial juncture, my faith evaporating away as I face on-rushing danger.  Something I glimpsed a long time ago.

Remember?  I tried to warn you of its impending approach, tried to make you understand the severity of the situation…but you told me it was all in my mind.

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“The Gospel of St. Nicholas”

 

THE GOSPEL OF ST. NICHOLAS Nag
Translated & edited by Randolph Carter
(Miskatonic University Press; 2007)

Another lost gospel? Oh, dear, here we go again.

Ever since a couple of farmers stumbled across a treasure trove (over 1000 pages) of ancient scrolls just across the river from Nag Hammadi (Egypt) in 1945, we have been captivated by the notion of “hidden” or heretical texts, suppressed by church leaders, lost to the ages. These texts would, some think, overthrow prevailing church dogma and reveal the “true” message of Christ. The Gospel of Thomas caused a bit of a stir some years back and then a few scraps purporting to give Judas’ side of the most infamous betrayal in human history were recently unearthed and published in the pages of a certain world-renowned magazine.

But the ancient texts always end up promising more than they deliver. Thomas turned out to be a series of sayings and aphorisms that wouldn’t have been out of place in a fortune cookie. Judas failed to lead to a mass reinterpretation of the basic tenets of Christianity and after an initial surge of public interest, dropped off the radar screen. Neither succeeded at rising above the level of what they were: apocrypha. Frankly, one can see why the early church fathers decided to pare them out.

Which brings us to the latest “find”, words composed by one of the early disciples of Jesus’ ministry, a man (if we are to believe him) who was intimately acquainted with the Master and privy to special knowledge not shared with the others (“I will tell you what no eye has ever seen and no ear ever heard” —Nicholas Ch. 1:2).

The Gospel of St. Nicholas has provenance, no question. It was specifically alluded to at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), and early church leaders Irenaeus and Eusebius both rail against it, the latter referring to it as “a perverse text (that) slanders the character of our Lord and Master” and calling Nicholas “a bad egg”. There’s a single reference to Nicholas (“a magus, more properly a scoundrel”) in JosephusThe Jewish War as well as a disputed letter some attribute to Paul that speaks of Nicholas as “that drunken oaf, a laughing stock of a follower…”

And now along comes Professor Carter with this translation of a gospel long rumoured extant (held in a private collection, it was whispered, a prize treasure of the Sultan of Brunei or one of the Rothschilds, depending on the telling) but never publicly exhibited. Professor Carter is notably vague as to how he actually came into possession of such a rare artifact. There was a feature article in the Biblical Archaeological Review relating one version of the story, involving a shady character known only as “Joel Cairo” and a hasty transaction that took place in an airport bathroom in Istanbul (it is not disclosed what Professor Carter offered in exchange for his prize). When I contacted the professor at his home outside Arkham, he was cagy, neither confirming or denying the essentials of the BAR account.

Others have taken him to task for hoarding the Nicholas material, refusing to share his find with fellow scholars, a criticism that has also been leveled at other great “scroll scholars” (see: Roland de Vaux and John Strugnell). By not offering even scant portions of Nicholas to colleagues so they could aid in the authentication and translation process, Carter left himself open to charges of academic fraud and willful self-deception.

All that said, what I personally take exception to is Carter’s translation of the Gospel of St. Nicholas. Yes, I know he devotes nearly half of his lengthy (tendentious) introduction to the necessity of maintaining the tone of the original text. Apparently Nicholas composed his reminiscences in a rather obscure and crude form of Aramaic, employing a surprising amount of slang. Thus we have Jesus rebuking his disciples (Professor Carter’s translation):

“What a bunch of whiners. How many of you braying horses’ asses were born of a virgin mother? Peter? I didn’t think so. So shut your gobs and pay attention…” (Nicholas 3:7)

Does this sound like the Jesus you learned about in Sunday school?

Later:

“What do you all have against women? Why do you think so little of our mothers and sisters? Do you not see they are God’s creatures too? I say unto you, give me the presence of a dozen women (of questionable morals?)…(missing fragment)…rather than a bunch of repressed … with tiny, withered…” (fragment breaks off) (Nicholas 4:9)

Nicholas makes it clear that Jesus is not an elitist and wasn’t one to turn down a glass of wine even if it wasn’t strictly for sacramental purposes:

“Jesus roared, slapping his brother James on the back, causing him to spew water and food matter at Simon…..barely restraining himself, Jesus declared ‘laughter smites the staunchest foe; none may withstand its entreaties’…to which Judas belched, provoking more (merriment?)…” (Nicholas 3:5)

Well, we always knew from the four Gospel writers that Jesus wasn’t one to hold with tradition: He broke Sabbath and wasn’t averse to sitting down at the table with sinners, whores, even tax collectors.

But where are the world-shaking epiphanies, passages that refute Christ’s divinity or tell about how He survived His crucifixion and was spirited off to parts unknown?

And what about this “secret knowledge”?

Well, Jesus does confide to Nicholas that He has little respect for the spiritual toughness and intellectual depth of his fellow disciples. Peter comes in for particular abuse, Jesus clearly employing venomous sarcasm when He calls him “the Rock”.

“What wisdom hath the Rock for us today…” (Nicholas 3:8)

“The stones cry out but the Rock merely stares…” (Nicholas 3: 10)

“Brothers, cast down thy tools, we have the Rock to aid us!” (Nicholas 4:1)

We knew there were strong divisions between the early Christians but this is out and out character assassination. And it begs the question, are these Jesus’ words or, even more likely, the rejoinders of a disgruntled follower?

In Nicholas’ version of events, Jesus does not go to Jerusalem to be sacrificed and fulfill ancient prophecy but because He has heard there are some “people of merit inhabiting that place…generous lodgings thereabouts…Judas says we should qualify (?) for a group…rate(?)”.

We know that significant efforts were expended at various points in time to erase the embarrassing memory of some of Nicholas’s antics (in a “letter” Jesus supposedly wrote to King Agbar of Edessa, the Son of Man playfully alludes to Nicholas’ talent at the ancient Judaic equivalent of the “hotfoot”). Immediately following their Master’s death, the other disciples convened a meeting and according to their aggrieved brother (Nicholas 8:12) “cast out and excommunicated the one known as Nicholas…blameless except for that he was best-loved by the Lord and the other…bastards (according to Carter’s footnote the literal translation is ‘goat-humpers’) resented it”.

In the end, the man who will one day be St. Peter is merciful to his old colleague and merely exiles poor Nicholas, sending him on a one-way mission to preach the word of Christ to the residents of Ultima Thule “a blasted and forsaken place…a godless heathen wasteland so complete the pagans knew nothing of Rome…and ridiculed… (fragment missing)…my attire provoking the northern equivalent of ‘girlie man’…”

Clearly it’s hard-going for Brother Nicholas as he plunges through the forests and rough, merciless terrain, cursing his misfortune all the way. We’re led to believe he reached the Baltic Sea. There the narrative abruptly ends.

“Christ, it’s cold. Any maniac who lives in such … (fragment missing) …rubbing seal fat all over themselves, grinning like ghouls… God, I despise these filthy people…tomorrow I shall … and rebuke them for their worship of vile demon gods…”

That’s the last we hear from Nicholas and legend has it he was martyred out of his misery on or about Christmas Day, A.D. 43.

After his prospective parishioners had killed and eaten him, they divvied up his worldly goods. The practice of giving gifts around that time of the year gradually caught on and all this leads, in a very roundabout way, to a fat man in a red suit trailing after a team of reindeer and distributing booty to one and all.

All part of the celebration of a man that Professor Carter assures us was the most “human” of all the disciples. His translation presents Nicholas “warts and all” and makes no excuses for the misanthropic ramblings of this early pariah.

Jolly old St. Nick? Hardly: “Jesus agreed with me that most men are oafs. He favors forgiving them their trespasses (but) I say they should have their nuts nailed to their foreheads” (Nicholas 2:4). Or how about: “Gentiles? Jews? I could give a fig for either. As long as I have a warm cloak and a belly full (food? wine?), Caesar can do as he pleases…” (Nicholas 10:3)

The original Santa Claus turns out to be a rebel, an apostate, a sinner. He was judged unworthy by his colleagues, his rather spotty, uneven gospel consigned to the rubbish heap of history long before the bishops, at the behest of Constantine, sequestered themselves at Nicea. And there the matter would have rested, except for rumours and vague allusions.

Enter, the mysterious Mr. Cairo…

There’s more to this strange and remarkable tale than meets the eye and more than enough gossip, innuendo and intrigue to keep Biblical scholars happy…well, until the next lost gospel surfaces. Perhaps it will be fragments of the original Book of Enoch, to supplant the only copy we have, a corrupted text from the Medieval era.

Will any lost text seriously affect the faith lives of over a billion Christians around the world? Doubtful. More to the point, these texts offer us a fuller, more complete picture of the debates and conflicts that shaped the early church. Each new fragment is important, historically moreso than theologically. It has become manifestly clear, thanks to discoveries like Hag Hammadi and Qumran, that strong personalities were influential in forging the premises and tenets of Christianity and eradicating other, less doctrinally sound, voices and witnesses. We see stark evidence of just how fraught and heated those times were. and how ruthlessly the losers were treated.

Gospels like Thomas, Mary and Nicholas weren’t “lost” so much as discarded, expunged from church records. Keep in mind that venerable axiom that it is the winners who write history—in this case, they also forged a faith that has defied the centuries, endured schism, committed atrocities in the name of its God and today shapes the sensibilities of nearly a fifth of the world’s population.

I wonder what Nicholas would make of that.