Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Theology is a big con

Irregular blogs abound around the internet these days. Not surprising, I guess. What with a pretty damn boring World Series (bully for the Florida Marlins, though) and a war that looks increasingly the same each day -- 'getting better' if you believe the White House; 'not getting better' if you're breathing out your nose right now* -- it looks like we're stuck with a Nelly's stolen jewelry and a quite probably feckless September 11 Truth Commission. While I'm inclined to wax eloquently about the travails of being a multi-millionaire rap-pop star, and being the victim of such a horrible crime, I'm going to resist the urge.

Instead, I'm going to do what most bloggers, myself included, do when they've been especially irregular in their posting. I am, first, going to offer an explanation:

I've been freakin' busy, a'ight!

Secondly, I will offer an example, admittedly a very very obscure one, of what has been keeping me busy. Turn away now:

V. The Character of Theology

(1) The poles of absolute chaos and order betray an inert uncertainty -- a dehumanizing, and perhaps even unethical, stasis

(a) E.g., The alleged fascisms of M. Heidegger and M. Eliade

(2) The tenuous path between these pole is that of a fictive / narrative telling, which, by extension, would rethink the practice and assumptions of theology.

(a) Focus on F. Schleiermacher's hermeneutics -- namely, the dialectic of psychological and grammatical interpretation -- and the importance of his praxis of interpretation.

(a1) Note, as well, how this plays out in his Das Leben Jesu, and its consequent influence upon the other 'fictions' of God / Christ (e.g., A. Schweitzer, D. Strauss, G. E. Lessing, R. Bultmann, and P. Tillich).

(b) Rethinking the play between reality and possibility that is provoked by the ineffable, albeit material / textual, gap between the subject and itself opens theology, amongst other discourses, to an imaginatively adaptive characterization [re-telling].

(3) The discursive praxis of theology

(a) Herman Melville's complex theatricality marks a significant discursive model for the praxis of theological production: that of the 'confidence game'

(a1) Cf., contemporary complexity theory (with its nineteenth-century roots in F. Schelling and G. W. F. Hegel) -- neither centralized nor chaotic, complexity marks the liminal moment between complete order and absolute chaos, a moment itself that is dependent upon the dual dynamics of emergent patterns that evoke comprehensibility and evolutionary adaptation.

(a2) Note how this plays out in the communicative ebb and flow of a 'confidence game' -- in both Melville's fiction and in contemporary culture (notably, 'the Spanish prisoner')

(a2a) The confidence game co-opts memory as a pool of narrative possibility, and thus continuously adapts it -- quite often in shocking, spontaneous ways. Such discourse lends itself to the unexpected (i.e., adaptations, possibilities), while at the same time rending it open to further interpretation (i.e., emergent patterns of comprehensibility).

(b) Theological discourse, modeled on an imaginatively true confidence game, is bound to neither order nor chaos. With the theologian's god as multi-faced as the theologian and the student of theology, systematic order and nihilistic chaos would invariably cripple the constructive character of its discourse.

(c) The ostensible fact that chaos and order are the twin poles of a simplicitity that is not evident in human existence or discourse compels us to think and create theology in all its possible complexity.

(c1) As such, what I suggest here is not a change of venue, per se, from the halls of academic theology to that of literature -- or even the backroom of casinos -- but merely a perusal of the playbill that, like Plinlimmon's pamphlet in Melville's novel Pierre, has somehow woven its way into the lining of our jackets, which we have been unknowingly wearing all along.

Ah, the joy of last-chapter outlines!


*Yeah, that's right, I discriminate against you mouth-breathers. Now, take a Tic-Tac and let's move on, shall we?

The Logic of a Bush

Oh, I get it . . . those 'foreign' terrorists in Iraq last week, last month, etc. -- not to be confused with its foreign invaders -- who were killing American G. I.'s at one or two per day with seemingly indiscriminate shooting and bombing were really deeply idealistic and hopeful of their cause, as opposed to those of the more deadly desperate ilk. Yes, it makes sense: the more that die, the closer the victory; the bloodier path, the greater the glory.

Hast ye, Christian soldiers, deadly onto war! Ask no question, be told no lie.

Friday, October 24, 2003

An Open Postcard to Me Mum

Dear Mum,

I have a few moments to spare before I make my way up to the university and finally, several weeks late, matriculate. I would prefer to put it off even longer, what with the silly fact that I have to pay them gobs of money when I do so, but the registry contacted me yesterday, god love 'em, wanting to know why I was receiving student loans if I wasn't even registered for the 2003/04 term. None of their bloody business, I say! Let me go in debt in peace, please!

All is well . . . surprisingly so. Got my passport back from the Home Office yesterday, with a brand spankin' new leave-to-enter stamp, good until May '05. This was a welcome relief considering what I just said about my lack of matriculation. Work, too, is coming along fairly well; though I bit off more extra work this year than I should've -- what with organising the centre, reading groups (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5), and writing several book reviews (1, 2, and 3). This, my third year, I've decided is to be my 'serious' year.

The reason, as you might've guessed, is rooted in some measure of my overwhelming vanity, as I was reminded the other day that my nonchalance about such things as, say, this whole damned academic enterprise, may not always be the best thing for my 'image'. I was talking to a friend of mine who is writing his thesis on technology and conceptions of the Self, and I guess I said something that was either very articulate or particularly astute; whichever it was, because it came from me, it surprised him and everybody else at our table. It seems that I am mostly regarded, at least by the postgraduates with whom I associate, as the first to arrive at the pub and the last to leave -- i.e., the most likely to destroy himself and all he loves w/ the drink and his ability to say really uncouth, alcohol-induced things like 'God, you Brits really hate your Jews, don't you?'

But, you know, I sometimes feel like I just can't be bothered by trying to try to impress these people, or at least this is what year-two B. would say (and what year-three B. will undoubtedly say again after his second double of uisge!). I realise that many of them will inevitably be my colleagues, and some my friends, and that I should try to make a good impression; but I've recently come to an even more important realisation that trying too hard at just about anything is actually kind of frowned upon in Britain. In other words, there are no rewards for all that stuff I was taught in various leadership courses whilst an eager undergraduate in America: namely, proactivity.

For instance, should you wish to register for classes when you are told to do so in the student manual or in countless emails from brusk-sounding administrative types, you will toil your day away in a five-hour queue. Or, should you submit your visa renewal application on time and with the necessary paperwork, as I did last year, the Glasweigan office of the Home Office will go out of their way to nearly lose your passport in the process. Or, should you aggressively position yourself as an important contributor in your departmental centre, you will invariably be second-in-line in every bid for substantial funding. Or, lastly, should you make an innocent call to British Telecom's customer service line, in hopes of making sure that you're not paying too much for calls to Belgium, you are summarily thrown into a vertigo of confusing conversations, disconcerting pauses in the midst of those conversations, and long waits on cold late-mornings with a stomach whose grumbling betrays the fact you've not yet eaten anything - all to learn that, 'we don't even understand why your line is working correctly'.

The Belgian is doing well. She, in fact, says 'Hallo' right now, issuing her trademark, childlike wave (ever notice how she makes a little semi-fist with her goodbye waves?) for all to see. For the most part, she seems to enjoy her job. It is a bit more of a call centre position than she originally envisioned, but the pay ain't bad for a short-term gig. Crap job or not, she's far more resiliant and filled with moral fortitude than I, so even if she truly loathed her job she'd handle it with considerable grace and aplomb.

You'll appreciate this, you who pray over my lost soul all the night long, in those darkest nights of the soul that only a mother with wayward children can know. I was telling a friend of mine the other day - a friend from way back in the days in which I wished to be a minister, those halcyon days before the 'fall', one who has, despite her own ministerial standing, considers me a friend - about how my fascination with theory has been supplemented, quite healthily I think, with a passionate enquiry of ethics, politics, and praxis in general. More significantly, though, so many of these 'practical' concerns are very similar to the ones I had before - though, admittedly, radically altered, tinged with a hopeful, creative, indeed a theological, atheism. Stuff like inter- and intra-religious dialogue, political dissent and compromise, and even eschatologically-charged stuff like 'care for the other'. This is a good sign, I suppose.

Anyway, I guess I've written far more than I thought that I might - and likely far more than you wished to read. Hope you are well almost as much as I do that I might hear from you soon.



Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Cut this picture into you and me
Burn it backwards, kill this history
Make it over make it stay away
Or hate'll say the ending that love started to stay

There's a kid a floor below me saying brother can you spare
Sunshine for a brother old man winter's in the air
Walked me up a story, asking how you are
Told me not to worry, you were just a shooting star

Sweet adeline, sweet adeline
My clementine, sweet adeline

It's a picture perfect evening and i'm staring down the sun
Fully loaded deaf and dumb and done
Waiting for sedation to disconnect my head
Or any situation where i'm better off then dead

Damn, this really sucks: "Oscar-nominated songwriter Elliott Smith dead at 34."

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

You Mean 'Marriage Protection Week' Has Nothing To Do With Prophylactic Distribution?

Did you know? The glorious God-given sanctity of traditional, missionary-position marriage is under savage attack. The GOP is openly terrified that gays are galloping into the cultural consciousness on sequined horseback, lovers are shunning traditional weddings in favor of incense and anal sex and taiko drumming, children are weeping in the streets, neglected and confused and reading Harry Potter backward, wondering why Mommy scours the nerve.com personals while Daddy is off visiting his "sisters" in Bangkok.

[. . .]

Therefore, if we all work to "protect" marriage -- which apparently means lots of counseling and guilt-thick church meetings and bad sex and rampant loathing of gay people, coupled with your tacit agreement to bury your sense of self and endure yet another decade of unhappy marriage with someone you might not love anymore and who might be abusive or unhealthy or just plain depressing as hell -- society will be saved.

Come now, you know who I'm linking to, don't you?

Let's make this perfectly clear: Marriage does not need protection. Traditional marriage does not need any forcible recommitment by right-wing Christian zealots who try to force everyone into little shiny happy heterosexual SUV-sized boxes of sameness and sanctimony and bad rented tuxedos and engraved gravy boats.

[. . .]

Marriage needs to be tickled until it screams. Marriage needs to be stripped down and sprayed with whipped cream and licked all over. Marriage needs to be blown apart with the dynamite of new possibility and put back together again in ten thousand different kaleidoscopic configurations, each one encouraged and celebrated and applauded, even those that don't involve ridiculously expensive cakes and tepid church ceremonies and the bride zonked on Valium as the groom slams another scotch to calm his nerves.

This is the only way. Evolve or die, honey. Because it's exactly when you try to force-fit love's modern, ever-evolving mutations into archaic, increasingly bitter boxes of ideology and Right wing-approved blandness and sactimony that the culture suffers most. Legislating love is never the answer. Hey, just ask your neighborhood Catholic priest.

So. Let us redefine this week. Let us claim it right back from the hounds of fearful conservatism. Let us call it "Shut the Hell Up and Get Your Damn Conservative Agenda Out of My Love Life Week." In fact, let us make it a month. A year. An agenda of our own.

Okay, how about now? No . . . hmm . . . oooer . . . well, just click the damn link and see for yourself (as if I didn't, without a hint or whiff of shame, already quote half of it!).

Monday, October 13, 2003

Ahh, there's aye a something

So an ever-increasing number of European universites are facing the financial reality that they're going to consider charging (more) tuition, eh? As we say here in Glasgow, with a tip of my hat one way to K. and another to my current loan provider, boo-fookin'-hoo. Keeping this in mind, my award for today's pure blethering skite (it's Glasweigian dialect day here at Silentio, if you couldnnae tell) goes to Humboldt University's own, Herr Thomas Sieron.

The prospect of tuition fees has caused dismay among students, many of whom already work to make ends meet. Student union president Thomas Sieron said that fees would be a disaster.

[. . .]

What, then, was his solution to the problem of university under-funding? "We don't have a perfect solution. Our perfect solution is to smash capitalism," he said. "The need to smash capitalism has become even more obvious over the past three or four years."

He's a right wee nyaff, that yin, intheno?

Seriously, though, there's something seriously short-sighted with this either/or reasoning; and, in truth, it seems like something that could and would only come out of a university (or, conversely, The Wall Street Journal editorial page). Compound the ivory tower / corporate scrum syndrome -- with its problematic dialectic of 'pure' Marxism set against its archnemesis 'pure' capitalism -- with a system in which it's not odd to see forty-year-old students who've never paid a dime for the education (or, hell, the course[!!!] they've no real intention of ever finishing, and this kind of mince is gonnae keep being spouted by more than naff Student Union presidents. (The tragedy being, of course, that people who might realise that 'purity' ain't what it's cracked up to be, and that finding a tenuous, adaptible middle-way between socialism and capitalism might be worth actually implementing, that is, non-[debt-ridden]-Americans, are probably hanging out in the Humboldt University Student Union coffee shop, thinking about switching majors for the fifth time.)

Reading this today was enough to neerly maek me gag on me Irn-Bru. Oh, there's aye a something.

Broken Promises

Whew, I sure am glad we have a president in the Oval Office who doesn't get illicit, icky blowjobs! Yes, I'm glad we have one tells us the truth! No exaggeration. No equivocation. No backpeddling. That's right, those days are behind us since Bush was anointed by his Saviour (funny, innit, Dubya's tendency to need a sacrificial, mediatory figure to take the full brunt of, or redeem, his fuck ups -- be it in his life, his presidency, or his faith?) as 'Leader of the Free Werld'.

Okay, so maybe not.

Fighting Aids was supposed to show George Bush's softer side. "Seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many," he said in his State of the Union address in January.

He has since reconsidered, deciding instead to offer a few more opportunities to the few. First he handed the top job of his global Aids initiative to a Big Pharma boss, then he broke his $3bn promise of Aids relief. And now there are concerns that he may sabotage a plan to send cheap drugs to countries ravaged by Aids.

I suppose one might be solaced a bit by Canada's resistance to the American position if it wasn't so inevitably ineffectual.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

A Must Read

I want to be clear, so there is no misunderstanding here: Every single person who voted in this election who did not vote in the actual gubernatorial election in 2002 is a complete and total fucking tool. You could not have been any more used if you were a spent condom.

[. . .]

If you voted for the recall, you might have thought you were voting to boot Gray Davis out of office. But that's because you're a moron, easily distracted by sparkly lights and shiny objects. You were really voting to let small, inherently undemocratic groups run your state all the time, forever. The fact that you thought you were doing the former when in fact you were doing the latter suggests that you would have been more helpful in the governance of your state by hurling yourself off the Golden Gate Bridge and smacking into the bay below with a nice, bone-powdering swack. In addition to clearing out four million bottom-feeders from an already-overpopulated state, California might still have a government still nominally beholden to voters, instead of through special-interest control by mob rule proxy. Good job.

John Scalzi says all that really needs to be said about the California recall.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I'm Living Paul Auster's Life For Him

. . . which, for those of you who've ever read any of his stuff, might not be as unthinkable as it seems on the purpose. (You know, if Silentio should ever have an entrance fee (indeed, why would it though?) I think it would simply be that you read Auster's New York Trilogy.

Anyway, back to the point. Yes, I'm living Paul Auster's life, or at least that life rendered in quasi-fiction / semi-memoir in The Invention of Solitude -- or, more precisely, a paragraph, ripped out of its context, from said book.

When night comes, the electricity dims to half-strength, then goes up again, then comes down, for no apparent reason. It is as though the lights were controlled by some prankster deity. The electric company has no record of the place, and no one has ever had to pay for power. At the same time, the phone company has refused to acknowledge A.’s existence. The phone has been here for nine months, functioning without a flaw, but he had not yet received a bill for it. When he called the other day to straighten out the problem, they insisted they had never heard of him. Somehow, he has managed to escape the clutches of the computer, and none of his calls has ever been recorded. His name is off the books. If he felt like it, he could spend his idle moments making free calls to far-away places. But the fact is, there is no one he wants to talk to. Not in California, not in Paris, not in China. The world has shrunk to the size of this room for him, and for as long as it takes him to understand it, he must stay where he is. Only one thing is certain: he cannot be anywhere until he is here. And if he does not manage to find this place, it would be absurd for him to think of looking for another.

Yesterday I tried to report at fault with British Telecom, only to be told very politely but with a steady amount of angst, that I should not exist -- or at least should not be talking on the line that I professed to be using. My confirmation to that effect was not enough for the Customer Advisor with whom I was dealing, due in no small part to the fact that I called five minutes before he and the rest of his call centre cadre were set to clock out for the evening. Upon calling this morning, Customer Advisor #2 was so rattled by the mystery that she accidentally hung up on me after a fifteen minute analysis of the problem. Customer Advisor #3, who I reached after a twenty minute, wholly unsuccessful, endeavour to find a neighbour to call me, just to be sure I was in fact real, refused to believe there was a problem at all; she instead enquired whether I was happy with my British Telecom service. Of course, I indicated that I was quite happy with them as long as they kept providing me free service, which she tacitly indicated might very well continue because 'there's nothing I can do for you on this end. We will call you back at that number [the one that, allegedly, does not exist] when we know what's going on.'

In other words, it is a mystery. This matter of the telephone . . . this matter of me. Which is it, Paul?

In the interim, in the void between the moment he opens the door and the moment he begins to reconquer the emptiness, his mind flails in a wordless panic. It is as if he were being forced to watch his own disappearance, as if, by crossing the threshold of this room, he were entering another dimension, taking up residence inside a black hole.

Oh okay, thanks.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

"You are a dreadfully ill-mannered peon and a primitive, flesh-creeping excrement stain on a Sumo Wrestler's underpants."

Are you looking for a time-waster, sometime to while away your workday? Or, alternatively, are you looking to really piss somebody off with your verbal acumen? Either way, or perhaps if you're just curious now, you will want to check out Insultmonger.com. It's my guess that this has been around for a loooooong time and that I've been too much of an internet dullard to know about it. In fact, the insult the site generated for me kind of suggests as much:

You're the saddest, piss-poor excuse for a man I've ever seen, you chromosome-deficient, uber-impotent, rat-faced tard-popsicle. I'm not surprised you're single, you pimple-faced perpetual wedgie victim. Average looking, my ass. You're uglier than the south-facing end of north-bound mule with a ruptured ulcerated fly-covered rump. You're the typical left-wing, know-nothing, good-for-nothing, bleeding heart bungling bum who thinks the world owes you a living. You four-eyed, cerebrally-deluded, Einstein-impersonating, pseudo-intellectual nerdturd with a head full of misfiring synapses. Like your height, everything about you is average; except your stench - which is overwhelming. Lying about your weight again, eh? Since when did Pregnant Water Buffalo Size become 'Average'? You couldn't get a job cleaning shit off a toilet, you utterly useless wrinkled balloon in a muddy puddle of goat's piss. I've seen wounds that were better dressed than you are. I've come across decomposing animal carcasses that are less offensive than you are.

I have to admit, it has me pegged pretty good there.

FYI, It's not all witless and crass. If you're more refined than I, or, say, you're writing a book, article, or thesis on James Joyce or Ralph Waldo Emerson, there's a collection of insults by and about them as well. In other words, it's noontime fun for everyone!

A Blind Link

I've not read all of this yet, but the idea is interesting enough to make it worth a read. If you're a technophile and have an interest in political discourse, or at the very least realise that the way things are in the West's political landscape are not at all how they must be, you may want to check out Open Source Democracy.

Now that I think about it, let me know what you think, because I really have no idea when I'm going to get a chance to read the full sixty-some pages.

A Pictorial Depiction of Me At Any Belgian ATM

I'm loathe to admit it, but sometimes Jean Baudrillard is not a hyperbolic blowhard. In his self-announced age of simulacra, which I'm not as against as this post's opening sentence would suggest, sometimes the world of advertising truly is the place to look to get the best bead on what we all-too-blithely call 'reality'. To illustrate, I direct your readerly attention to this Ananova headline: Ban on Russian ads depicting euro having sex with dollar. Having sex, perhaps, or in my case, when either standing at an ATM in western Europe, or balancing my US checking account online, it is using the dollar from behind, à la the Wolfman of Freud ("this man is a Jewish swindler, he wants to use me from behind and shit on my head"). But, alas, you be the judge:

Incidentally, what the hell dance move did Igor "I thought the currencies were dancing" Maltsev have in mind? I wonder if he should be my new hero.

My New Hero

His name is Buffo the Clown, my friends. And there's nary a phone book around he's not prone to open a can of whup ass on. Stick that up your Grand Prize Game, Bozo.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

A Short Introduction to the Valerie Plame Story

Just in case you've just jumped onboard the ever-growing Valerie ('you know, she's a CIA operative' Plame-scandal that is currently, finally(!), billowing out from the White House with the stink of mephitic gas, Juan Cole is here to help catch you up to speed.