Via the guy formerly known as Juan Gato:
Denmark to accept Norse god marriages


COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Home to the Vikings of yore, Denmark said Wednesday it will let a group that worships Thor, Odin and other Norse gods conduct legally-recognized marriages.
Ok. We're sliding back into the Stygian darkness of paganism, but if the people are determined to worship a golden calf, that's their business. But then there's this:
"To me, it would be wrong if the indigenous religion of this country wasn't recognized," Tove Fergo, the minister for Ecclesiastic Affairs and a Lutheran priest, told The Associated Press.

Under Danish law, the state Evangelical Lutheran Church has sole authority to recognize other religious communities.

The 240-member Forn Sidr, which worships Odin, Thor, Freya and the other members of the Norse pantheon, sought recognition in 1999, said Tissel Jacobsen, the group's president.

Last year, an Ecclesiastic Affairs panel of scholars recommended that Forn Sidr, whose name mean "Old Custom" in old Norse, be approved, but only if their rituals were clearly detailed in its bylaws.

"At a general assembly, we added and described our four annual heathen rituals - spring and fall equinoxes, and the summer and winter solstices, and our marriage ceremony," Jacobsen told the AP. "We then returned our application and the panel approved it."

Fergo said she would give her final approval "in a few days."

About 1,000 people worship the ancient gods in Denmark, Jacobsen said.

Since 1998, the panel of theology, law and history scholars have advised the government on which groups seeking to become religious communities, should be recognized.

"It was not up to me to evaluate whether they are telling the truth or the quality of their religion," Fergo said. "Based on the commission's evaluation and what I have read, I consider it a good religion."

Officially recognized religious communities can marry people and exempt their members from the 1 percent income tax that is imposed on members of the state church.

People born in Denmark are automatically made members of the state church, but can choose to leave it if they want. Members of other recognized religious communities, such Catholics, Muslims and Jews, are also exempt from the tax.
So what you've got, in an apparent attempt to dodge a 1% tax, is a Lutheran Priest being forced to recognize a pagan religion as legitimate. There's a system crying out for the separation of church and state.


The Shadow of Your Smile.

Larry Miller on the Ralph's/Von's/Albertson's grocery worker strike in California:
ABOUT A MONTH AGO Ralphs, Albertson's, and Vons--three large supermarket chains here in California--told the union they were taking back something they had already given, health care. They said they'd still pay for the bulk of it, but that costs were so high the workers would have to chip in part of the money, five dollars and change per week for a single employee, fifteen dollars and change per week for a family.

I know, that doesn't sound unreasonable, does it? Costs are high for companies in general, millions of Americans have no insurance at all, and millions more have to pay inflated rates for their own coverage (and it usually stinks, too). In fact, one of the reasons costs keep going up is that companies have to make bulk deals for their workers like this one. All right, you may say, so the supermarket employees will have to chip in a couple of bucks themselves. So? What are they complaining about? It's just a gallon of milk and a carton of eggs a week (as management has said in a very clever newspaper ad).

This is how I see it: It's never, ever in a million years going to wind up being just five bucks a week. After the union caves in and the stores are full again, the company will quietly say, "Oh, you know what? Turns out it's thirty bucks a week and eighty for families." Three months after that it'll double, and so on, but it'll be too late. The world will have moved on, and no one will have a prayer.

Now, a reasonable person might ask, "Why should a company have to pay for health care in the first place?" That's a fair discussion, and I guess any issue is on the table during negotiations, but the main thing to me is that, in this case, it had already been settled. They had given it to them years ago, and they just want to take it away because they think they can. The company is doing very well, and it's not right for them to precipitate the whole thing by saying, "Um, you know that thing you already have? We want it back."
A reasonable person might also ask if the price of healthcare has remained stable since the chains agreed to pay for said healthcare "years ago." In point of fact, a reasonable person would already know damn well it hasn't. But that's not important to Larry Miller, because there's something so much more important than the solvency of the chain at stake here:
I've been in that Ralphs twice a week for the past ten years, and I know the people who work there. I knew when Mary got married and had her first kid. A nice guy with a mustache named Chris sometimes tells me a joke, and I laugh no matter what it is, and I forgot my wallet a couple of times and the manager smiled and said, "Oh, just bring it on your next visit." Audra recently got promoted. She exchanged some eggs for me once when they were cracked, and we've laughed many times about how easy it is to be forgetful at the end of the day. There's a cashier with the prettiest smile in the world, and I always look for her, and a slightly built lady who's a little disabled, and we chat every time as she bags, and she loves working there very, very much.
Oddly enough, the plight of the MTA mechanics doesn't strike the same chord of noble suffering with ol' Lar':
The MTA mechanics went on strike at the same time (I disagree with that one) and took a lot of attention away from Ralphs.
Odd. Just "I disagree with that one", no reason given. The MTA mechanics were likewise promised company-paid healthcare bennies in an earlier agreement; why the hell is their plight any different from that of the grocery workers? Is it possibly because Mr. Miller doesn't ride on public transportation, and his conscience rests easy on their behalf because he's never had a mechanic smile at him?


Kingdom update already.

From Empire Online:
'I'd wanted to do a film with knights in armor,' Scott tells Variety, 'but thought why do some homogenous story when screenwriter William Monahan (who's currently working on the screenplay for Jurassic Park IV) came up with such rich history? He based this drama on accurate research, which he spent 19 months compiling and writing.'
Oh, yes, certainly the guy who writes about dinosaurs jumping about and eating people has impeccable credentials as an historian. My, yes. I can certainly see why you'd think so. God, I wish you'd just done a homogenous story, whatever the hell that means. If there's an actual historical basis for a) a peasant becoming a knight or b) said Euro-peasant-knight thwarting the Crusaders, I will eat my hat. He'd goddamn well better be French, at the very least.

Nope. Never too early to start bitching.
Chiefly of interest to Loraine. And me, of course.
By Josh Spector, Hollywood Reporter, 10/29

Orlando Bloom, hot off his recent success in a trio of epic films, has signed on for the lead role in director Ridley Scott’s period epic “Kingdom of Heaven” for 20th Century Fox.

In the story set in 12th century Europe and the exotic Far East, Bloom will star as a young peasant who becomes a knight, saves a kingdom and falls in love with a princess.
And here I thought he was tired of buckling swashes.
The film was penned by William Monahan and is being produced by Scott through his Fox-based Scott Free production banner. Branko Lustig is executive producing the project, which has a January production start date planned and will shoot in Morocco.

At Scott Free, the project is being overseen by Lisa Ellzey, while TCF topper Hutch Parker is overseeing for the studio.

The roles marks the latest epic undertaking for Bloom, who is coming off a trio of successes in the genre including the first two installments of the “Lord of the Rings” franchise and this past summer’s blockbuster hit “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Bloom can next be seen in the upcoming third installment of the “Rings” franchise due out Dec. 17, as well as starring opposite Brad Pitt in “Troy”.
I love a good period epic. Of course, the last time I watched Scott take a stab at it (Gladiator) he completely bitched up Roman history and infuriated me to no end in the process, so I'm not entirely sure this bodes well, especially given the Cinema Confidential plot precis:
The epic drama taking place during the Crusades is set in the 12th century, and tells the story of a young blacksmith who leads the people of Jerusalem in a fight against the Crusaders.
O...k. Reading both descriptions between the lines and reconciling this with Scott's slapdash approach to history--without access to better info as yet--it looks like a peasant/blacksmith going to war as a Crusader and then siding with the Saracens against his fellow Europeans, "saving" Jerusalem. If so I hope it ends with Richard the Lionheart sticking his head on a bloody pike within sight of the walls of the city.

And remember: it's never too early to start bitching.

[Thanks, Paula!]