The New York City Atheists are not a group that says grace before a meal. They gathered for a feast Wednesday at Minado restaurant to celebrate the winter solstice. One wit said the religious right would want to change "solstice" to "soulstice."
After dinner, NYCA president Ken Bronstein welcomed everyone, while Richard Sander gave a toast to U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III from Pennsylvania, who earlier this week ruled that "intelligent design" was not science.
Then members had an "open mike" (without the microphone) where they read poems, performed songs, and told jokes. This entertainment was interspersed with members publicly discussing scientific facts and trivia about the length of the day on the solstice, the tilt of the Earth's axis, and so forth.
Giddian Beer told the following joke: All his life, a man wanted to attend the Super Bowl. He finally saved enough money to get a seat in the top row of the top tier of the stadium, which made the football field look like a postage stamp. He wandered to the front row and asked a man if he could sit in the empty seat next to him. The man said yes - the seat belonged to his wife, who had passed away." But didn't you want to give it to a friend or relative?" he asked. "No," the seated man replied, "they're all at the funeral."
Steve Seltzer told this joke: A taxi driver and a priest arrived at the Pearly Gates and were greeted by St. Peter, who gave the priest a woolen robe and wooden staff. He then gave the taxi driver a golden robe and diamond staff. The priest was perplexed, and asked St. Peter, who explained, "When you preached, they slept. When he drove, they prayed."
NOT DERAILED The Brooklyn Rail, a literary journal of arts and opinion, held a holiday party Wednesday in Manhattan. Referring to the second night of the transit strike, Douglas Singleton quipped, "Our event was not to be derailed." Mr. Singleton writes drama and film criticism for the Brooklyn Rail and is the author of a performance piece called "Kurnst Soul Folk."
Among the poems that Anthology Film Archives founder Jonas Mekas read was a requiem that included the line "I hope the 20th century will never come back - not even in bad dreams," which he said was a response to the carnage of the last century.
Following Mr. Mekas was the poet Leonard Schwartz, whose "Apple Anyone" sonnets appear in the December/January issue of the Brooklyn Rail. As a reminder to the listeners of "our indebtedness to the language of Arabic," Mr.Schwartz, who teaches at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., mentioned that key words in the sonnets were derived or believed to be derived from Arabic.
Brooklyn Rail publisher Phong Bui told the Knickerbocker that the journal is planning an event at Cooper Union for the advancement of science and art that would be in opposition to "the spirit of war now out of control in our culture."