Tuesday, March 30, 2004

A Little Passion In My Life

Last night I drank up a couple bottles of intestinal fortitude, shelled out the cash pilfered from K.'s checking account, and saw "THE MOVIE": The Passon of the Christ. For the reasons I outlined here, I did not go in with the best of expectations. Nevertheless, I also figured I'd end up appreciating it as a film and a point (one I find rather distasteful) well made. Two hours later, with another much-needed drink in hand, I realized that I had only been half right. The product of a very simple / literal reading of the Gospel's Passion narratives, which I guess was to be expected, this movie that people are raving or ranting about is -- dying Messiah / prophet, possible anti-Semitism notwithstanding -- pretty simplistic. This is, of course, its stroke of (marketing) genius and its most damning feature. To get all highbrow on you here: it is a tabula rasa, a blank slate: whatever you take from the movie, be it racist or religious fervor, you more than likely took it in with you.

"Is the movie anti-Semitic?" they ask. Yeah, probably. Show me a bomb-strapped anti-Semite, and in this movie he'll find a clarion call for the destruction of Israel. Show me somebody waiting for the Rapture while reading this book, and she'll likely stare at you blankely and say she loves the Jews, and that if it wasn't for them killing her Jesus she'd still be stuck in sin -- they're taking one for the team almost as much as He is. In other words, no no no, the movie isn't anti-Semitic at all.

"Did it affect you spiritually?" they ask. This is the far more interesting aspect of the tabula rasa: the faith experience it solicits is as solipsistic as the religious vision that financed and directed it. The Jesus of Christian salvation wasn't evoked so much as he was simply assumed. If you're looking to identify with a Savior's suffering, then you can have at it righteously. In fact, most of the 'Jesus flashbacks' invoke a snapshot of Jesus teaching his disciples (and faithful moviegoers) about the necessity of their suffering on account of him, and the necessity of emulating his servitude in the face of persecution. If, however, you know more about your own suffering than that of Jesus', well, then you're probably provided ample warrant to wonder: what's the purpose this ass-whooping again? The latter question was, near as I could tell, never really answered. Nor was it meant to be so, it seems. The Passion -- it isn't about you, all of you YOUs out there. It's about ME and MY faith (or non-faith) in Christ.

This is what makes the movie such a strange cultural phenomenon: namely, this solipsistic vision is being relayed in an unintentional critique and example of mob justice, be it for execution ("Crucify him!") or for salvation ("He did that for me!?"). The parallel between Jewish mob and Christian congregation is as unseemly as it is stark. The cinematic Jewish mob, crying out of inspired, religious fervor, leering with white-hot, passionate fever, at the self-described Messiah, the Son of Man. The (Christian) audience, turning a movie theatre into a feverish revival, showing up in buses, gazing at their beaten (and yet victorious!!) Christ with passionate awe.

The only rationale I can come up with to explain this brutal parallel is that the film is stain-glass iconography at its most utterly banal -- more grotesque than sublime. In focusing so intently on the icons of physical suffering (i.e. the whips, the nails, the flesh, the blood, etc.) the purpose obviously is to uncover the reality of such suffering. This is what you most commonly hear from those who love the film: "its violent, sure, but it really shows you how it was." Normally followed by: "How can you now not believe??" The REALITY of Jesus and his suffering, however, seems to miss the more poignant -- though far less polemic -- point of the story of the Cross. Is not the more sublime, unspeakable significance of Christ's life and death the perverse humility of this life and blasphemous injustice of this death? To gaze on the icons of suffering, is but to desire, eternally so, the fullness of God-in/as-Christ (and thus the redemption of humanity). The icon, especially that of suffering (eg. sado-masochism), provokes a gaze that never blinks, and a thirst that never is quenched. This is exemplified, I think, by the fact that this film's Jesus (implicitly) must suffer more physical pain than anyone ever has before. His suffering, and thus his endurance, borders on classic docetism.

The point of the Passion narratives, though, seems something quite the opposite. The God who is burdened, who burdens, who abandons, and is abandoned . . . this is the God who, in fact, dies. When we draw our gaze away from the icons of suffering, and instead dare to think the perversion and the blasphemy of a God burdened by life and death, by sin (by self-abandonment), we maybe begin to glimpse the perverse and blasphemous truth that lay behind the Passion's "reality." Wherein the gap that separates God from man is transposed into God Himself; wherein God, as Christ, discovers the limit of his divine omnipotence.

All of this, then, makes me wonder: is the Passion story told and retold, celebrated yearly at least, to keep this God living -- does he live on in the retelling of his story? Or is it, as with the fate of Lenin, one of the twentieth century's most radical saviours, to keep Him, in a sense, from life itself (and thus also from death)?

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Better Late Than Never At All

Just in time for tonight's basketball action, our guest blogger has unveiled his recap (a reminder of sorts) of all that happened last weekend. A little foreplay . . . a little playful erotica to prime the pump . . . before the real roundball action starts. Ahem. Anyway. Enjoy.

* * * * * * *

Round 2, Day 1

It is a troubled time for the lower seeds as only four have advanced into this second round. Meanwhile the introduction of Barqs-Barqs Binks, the new NCAA / Coca-Cola mascot has been received with little fanfare [ed. You don't say . . .]. Is it just me, or does the fact that Cialis commercials are followed by Hummer commercials does seem to be a little ironic? The only hope for the underdogs is that a man with a bionic eye can play baseball.

And now for what people have waited days (Hi, Pat):

Raleigh, NC

The idea of the pod system, so we're told, was to keep teams closer to home. So why is it, then, that, the #3 NC State goes to Orlando, FL., while Duke (#1) and Wake Forest (#4) get to play here? Action starts with the Blue Devils going against Seton Hall. This is actually a rematch of the 1989 semi-final game. Seton Hall won that game, only then to lose in overtime to Glen Rice, Rumeal Robinson and, the beginning of all of Michigan's infractions, interim coach Steve Fisher. The all-time assist leader in tournament history, Bobby Hurley, would join Duke in 1990's campaign and suffer from diarrhea against Arkansas in the semi-finals [ed. Yes, yes. After sufficient bitching, our guest blogger has persuaded me to point out that he had pointed out the factual error in one of his earlier posts, in which he dates Bobby Hurley's atomic shits to the aforementioned Seton Hall game, but I simply failed to change it. Mea culpa.]. In short, Duke easily disposes of Seton Hall, which means picking them to play against UK in the rematch of the '92 game for the umpteenth time may be right.

Next up, the Demon Deacons get to take on the Jaspers -- and you know that means a paddling. As it turns out, neither team can take much of lead -- that's a paddling [ed. I'm assuming this was supposed to be a pun. If so, I like it. If not, well, then I'm not entirely sure what it means, short of (given our guest blogger's penchant for lusty prose) this]. If only teams in this tournament could hit free throws, they would win it all -- so that's most definitely a paddling [ed. Now I remember. See second quote down on the link]. But in the end Wake advances, and Manhattan is left with their beard stuck in the pencil sharpener as Abe Simpson looks on [ed. I need to learn to read the full paragraphs before I begin commenting].

Seattle, WA

Gonzaga has gone from the Cinderella team of the last few years, to a #2 seed. This is the answer to, I guess, to all those accusations of anti-West Coast bias. When Duke was ranked #1 and Stanford was undefeated, it was because all East Coast sportswriters weren't awake to the West Coast teams. The upshot: Gonzaga got high in the ratings [ed. Spoiler Alert: Based on this game, they also got on the ratings -- flunky potheads up there in the Northwest, ya know] based on non-conference schedule and stayed there. Even though I believe any team (allegedly) coached by Mike Davis could even succeed in the West Coast Conference. Not today, though, as the Nevada Wolfpack devour the Zags. The question of bias may never be raised again.

And, appropriately, one game later Stanford's Mike Montgomery coaches the first #1 seed to fall. Should be noted that according to the RPI the toughest schedule in America this year belonged to the Crimson Tide [ed. And if you don't believe that, Wimp Sanderson'll come over there 'n punch ya in the face]. So maybe it is better to be in the middle of the pack in the SEC than to dominate a weak PAC-10.

Buffalo, NY

With Stanford already gone, St. Joseph looks like they might be next as Texas Tech jumps out to a quick lead. Could lightning possibly be striking twice? [ed. Quite.] Well, maybe not, since Phil Martelli, who looks a lot like Harvey Pekar, quickly coaches his team back to a sustainable lead; only for -- you guessed it -- the Red Raiders of Texas Tech to get the lead late in the second half. Honestly, you can almost write the exact same storyline for most of the games in this tournament. This one, however, unlike in Seattle played to form, as the #1 team survives. Martelli speaks with respect towards Coach Knight and his compliment toward the St. Joe's program [ed. Notice, however, that Martelli went out of his way not to compliment Knight. He knows where that would lead]. He also reminds the world that Billy Packer is a jackass.

Though it must be said, the team Packer thought deserved the number #1 seed, UConn, dominated DePaul in such a way that the only real news brought out of this game was the fact that Jim Calhoun spent the second half in the locker room sick. If Bobby Hurley be an omen [ed. And he certainly plays the role well], that may mean UConn will lose in the next round.

Denver, CO

Oh, and lo and behold, Jackass himself is here to call the games with Jim Nance. I have noticed one thing that normally I don't see, due to my Packer-hatred, Jim Nance gets excited over almost every little thing that happens in the game. Jim has been calling on the number one team for CBS since Brent Musberger was told the day of the '90 finals in this same town of Denver that he was calling his last game. But the reality is, Nance's skills as a broadcaster, now in his fourteenth tournament, has only gotten worse.

Jim Boeheim vs. Gary Williams. The '03 Champs vs. the '02 champs. [ed. Or, if you're like me and don't know names too well and didn't see the tournament the last couple of years, Syracuse vs. Maryland]. The two guys who have gotten the monkey off their back [ed. I've read that a few times now, and each time it makes me laugh. Reminds me of the final episode of The Office where Tim asks (homophobic) Gareth: 'So if you're in a foxhole, and one of your army mates lands on top of you when he dives into the foxhole, would you pull him off' 'Of course.' 'So, yes, you would pull your mate off?' 'Oh yeah, in a heartbeat.']. And, yet, two guys who also still lucked into it. I mean, really, they coached against Mike Davis and Roy Williams -- it's not exactly John Wooden you're dealing with [ed. Never let it be said that our guest blogger doesn't give credit where credit is due]. The winners pack their white jerseys since they no longer have to worry about the Cardinal. And in a game where neither team seems to want to win, the greater evil prevails. That's right, the 73-snake to Bob Knights 74-mongoose prevails [ed. Whaaaaa?], with the Orange Men moving on to face Alabama.

And speaking of my boy Roy, he ends his time in the competition on Day 3. In the greatest upset of the tournament, Lyle Mouton and Texas' defeat of the Tar Heels lasts until after 11 o'clock EST, which means that after three days of advertising, Century City does not air, and I am left to wonder what ever happened to the Bionic-eyed playing baseball player? Did he know Barry Bonds' trainer? Will he end up with the Yankees, just so they can screw with the Red Sox? Was he a Reds player, traded because he wouldn't work for Chiquita bananas? [ed. Did he pull off the monkey on his back?]

Round 2, Day 2

We begin today's action in Texas. I know there were no games played there, but thanks to my significant other that's where I spent the first two hours of the day. She'd decided to put a DVD in just to get back at me for sitting at home all night Thursday and all day Friday, so I got to watch Second Hand Lions, the story of how exactly Michael Caine and Robert Duvall could (a) be brothers, (b) have a nephew as annoying as "I see dead people" boy and (c) not explain where they'd hidden their money and how they got it. I understand why this film was snubbed by the Academy, but the performance by Robert Duvall is outstanding. The question of who is the greatest actor of the post-contract era normally involves names like Pacino and DeNiro. But clearly Tom Hagen may be the better actor of either Corleone. Nicholson? I'll take "Smells like victory" over "Can't handle the truth." Boo Radly, the Great Santini, Ned Peppers, the Apostle, Karl Childer's father, the man smart enough to stay away from Godfather III. The list goes on . . . [ed. Eh. Let's not forget John Q, The 6th Day, Gone in Sixty Seconds, and an utterly dire version of A Handmaid's Tale].

Orlando, FL

That said, I'm sad to say I missed a great moment in Queen City sports history: Xavier never loses composure and defeats the #2 seed Bulldogs of Miss. St. An annoying bracket-news aside: the guy leading our pool at work picked this correctly. His reason was that a Musketeer could beat a Rebel. That's right, he didn't have the right school when he filled out his bracket. This is the same guy who incorrectly picked Dayton over DePaul out of loyalty to former IU assistant Joby Wright -- even though Wright coached at Miami, OH and Wyoming, not Dayton. Proof once again that blind knowledge may be all that it takes to win the pool. Xavier goes on to a Sweet 16 rematch of their '90 tournament loss to Texas.

So with one SEC team down and the Wolfpack of Nevada already winning, clearly it should be NC State over Vandy. Or not. Even without Lionel Richie the Commodores 64 make Orlando the site where the lower seeds sweep. Vandy moves on to play UConn and to join 'Bama in Phoenix.

Kansas City, KS

In Kansas City, Oklahoma St and Kansas are that the Big Twelve will fare better than the SEC in Orlando. At this point, though, two #2s and two #4s are already gone. Be that as it may, Rock Chalk Jayhawk destroys another Cinderella, ending Pacific's winning streak. In the second game, the Cowboys of Oklahoma St. prove why Lions may live in Big Twelve territory, but Tigers don't. With that loss Don't Call Us Memphis State leave it to UC and UAB to defend C-USA's place in the tournament..

Milwaukee, WI

The story of Day four is that one conference has two teams playing at each site. In Wisconsin, the Big East has Boston College taking on Georgia Tech in a #6-#3 match-up, and Pitt takes on home-state favorite Wisconsin in the other #3-#6 match-up. In the first game, Tech survives a late run by BC to go to St. Louis as the highest seed and face Nevada.

On Friday night Wisconsin looked dead, came back and won going away. This time around, Pitt gets a decent lead, Wisconsin comes back, and at this point it looks like my Final Four was still safe. And then, of course, Pitt did what it also did a year ago -- it eliminated a Big Ten team on the way to the Sweet Sixteen. Side note: they ended up losing that game to Marquette, whose floor on which they just beat Wisconsin. Interesting role reversal here. If Pitt makes it to the Final Four, like Marquette did last year, we could potentially repeat the 2003 Final Four. If they make it, Pitt (instead of Marquette) would be facing Kansas; and it's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that Texas and Syracuse might meet again in this year's semi-finals. [ed. So, um, it's the 'same' four teams playing each other, minus the fact one of the teams is now another team? Am I following that right?] Just an odd little fact to keep in mind. [ed. Quite.]

Columbus, OH

Since the days of Michael Redd and Sconnie Penn leaving the Buckeyes, Columbus has known all about upset basketball. The Fighting Illini, though, prove that with UC playing, it may not really be an upset. The Bearcats are absolutely embarrassed in the opening game. Tony Bobbitt's career comes to an end, and so does Bob Huggins' complaining for yet another season.

With UC out, the Blazers of UAB are the lone representative of C-USA. Their task: the Wildcats of UK. They felt more than up to the challenge, blowing this game open and leading by double digits. The rest seemed to be following according to this tournament's script. The 'Cats came back to not only tie but take the lead. We know the story by now, right? The #1 comes back from adversity and closes out the game and talks about how they give the Blazers all the credit. Just one problem, UAB didn't read the script [ed. They get to 'reading' in the junior year of college down there at UAB]. For the final minutes the teams trade baskets. UAB looks to have blundered big time when they foul UK's three-point shooter, which has happened more often in this tournament then it should, but still have the two-point lead with seconds left. Now the reality of games like this is that the Blazers have lost guys to fouls, and getting the tie could probably deflate them and let UK take the win. An example of this is the second-round Michigan-UCLA game from '93, where the Wolverines came back from twenty down to take the honey from the Bruins pot [ed. And they didn't even leave their phone number afterward!!]. Anyway, so with their final possession UK's Hawkins drives and gets fouled like so many others in the tournament? Nope. Lays up it uncontested? Nope. Kicks out to Fitch, who shoots a three on a pick and roll, watches it miss, sees the rebound turn into a volleyball tip session 'till UAB watches the clock expire and all across the country people wad up there brackets in disgust? BINGO.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Bright Side

The nice thing about a renewed fundamentalist fervor is that satire and parody usually returns with a vengeance.

Coming back soon to a theater near you -- a controversial film about a Jewish guy from Nazareth who is worshiped as the Messiah and crucified by the Romans.

No, it's not Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." It's Monty Python's "Life of Brian."

Inspired by the runaway success -- and public furor -- over Gibson's portrayal of the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus, the creators behind the 1979 biblical satire about an anti-Roman activist who spends his life being mistaken for a prophet are planning a 25th anniversary re-release next month.

"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," indeed.

More Porridge, Please

With just about anything there comes a point at which you simply stop caring. At that point, or somewhere 'round about, you begin to stop taking things all that seriously. For you Americans out there, this is the point at which the British phrase 'taking the piss' becomes appropriate. Case in point, my most recent letter requesting departmental funding:

To whom it may concern:

The time I have spent studying within the Theology and Religious Studies Department has been, without any hint of hesitation or exaggeration, the best of my life. It has rarely been easy and never completely what I expected. And yet, as in most good things, one's efforts and expectations must often be stretched if one is to accomplish much of anything. This has proven true not only of my new, expatriate life in Scotland, wherein I have learned the importance of water with whisky, of not asking the ingredients of haggis, and of counting one's change; nor simply of my research into the middle ground of theology, philosophy, and literature, where, if my thesis is to believed, confession meets culture in an engagement from which neither can be the same again. On a much more practical level, though, for better or worse, I have also been stretched to a financial breaking point.

For better, I have learned the value of a dollar (and a pound), as well as the fine art of devising and sticking to a tight budget. For worse, much worse, I'm afraid, I have also learned the pathology of stress gastrisis / ulcers. My story of student loans and credit card debt is not uncommon for the international student, as undoubtedly attested to by the other letters seeking similar funding, so I do not bring up my own now to break any hearts. However, as Aristotle tells us, any story worth being called true, true enough to be believed anyway (even when it, apropos of religious studies, is, for want of a better word, a lie) deserves to be told and retold again. In other words, mine but joins the litany of palms (once again) requesting the alms from a purse we each know to be tight.

[. . .]

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies has been very good and gracious to me. The staff has been tolerant of my penchant for self-indulgent esotericism, and the students a community of productive criticism and community. Thankfully, the invisible, ethereal wind of administrative forces behind the scenes have in years past been both, to a degree fitting of their divine subject, sympathetic and benevolent to how much all an international education costs these days. With this in mind, this being, as it were, the sacrifice in which the devotee's only profit is the sustained consistency and general omnipotence of that to which he sacrifices, I request (but one final time) to be considered for departmental funding for 2004/05.


A Bit of Heresy To Start Your Day; or, Another Way To Make Your Mother Proud

The gap that separates Gnosticism from Christianity concerns the basic question of "who is responsible for the origin of death":

If you can accept God who coexists with death camps, schizophrenia, and AIDS, yet remains all-powerful and somehow benign, then you have faith . . . . If you know yourself as having an affinity with the alien, or stranger God, cut off from this world, then you are a Gnostic. (H. Bloom [1996], 252)

These, then, are the minimal coordinates of Gnosticism: each human being has deep in himself a divine spark which unites him with the Supreme Good; in our daily existence, we are unaware of this spark, since we are kept ignorant by being caught in the inertia of the material reality. How does such a view relate to Christianity proper? Is it that Christ had to sacrifice himself in order to pay for the sins of His Father who created such an imperfect world? Perhaps, this Gnostic Divinity, the evil Creator of our material world, is the clue of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, the "vanishing mediator" repressed by both of them: the Mosaic figure of the severe God of Commandments is a fake whose mighty apparition is here to conceal the fact that we are dealing with a confused idiot who botched up the job of creation; in a displaced way, Christianity then acknowledges this fact (Christ dies in order to remeed his father in the eyes of humanity).

Along the same lines, the Cathars, the Christian heresy par excellence, posited two opposed diviniites: on the one hand, the infinitely good God who, however, is strangely impotent, unable to CREATE anything; on the other hand, the Creator of our material universe who is n one other than the Devil himself (identical to the God of the Old Testament) -- the visible, tangible world in its entirety is a diabolical phenomenon, a manifestaton of Evil. The Devil is able to create, but is a sterile creator; this sterility is confirmed by the fact that the Devil succeeded in producing a wretched universe in which, despite all his efforts, he never contrived anything lasting. Man is thus a divided creature: as an entity of flesh and blood, he is a creation of the Devil. However, the Devil was not able to create spiritual Life, so he was supposed to have asked the good God for help; in his bounty, God agreed to assist the Devil, this depressingly sterile creator, by breathing a soul into the body of lifeless clay. The Devil succeeded in perverting this spiritual flame by causing the Fall, i.e. by drawing the first couple into the carnal union which consummated their position as the creatures of matter.

Why did the Church react in such a violent way to this Gnostic narrative? Not because of the Cathars' radical Otherness (the dualist belief in the Devil as the counter-agent to the good God; the condemnation of every procreation and fornication, i.e. disgust at Life in its cycle of generation and corruption), but because these "strange" beliefs which seemed so shocking to the Catholic orthodoxy "were precisely those that had the appearance of stemming logically from orthodox contemporary doctrine. That was why they were considered so dangerous" (Z. Oldenbourg [1998], 39). Was the Catharist dualism not simply a consequent development of the Catholic belief in the Devil? Was the Catharist rejection of fornication also the consequence of the Catholic notion that concupiscence is inherently "dirty," and has merely to be tolerated within the confines of marriage, so that marriage is ultimately a compromise with human weakness?: In short, what the Cathars offered was the inherent transgression of the official Catholic dogma, its disavowed logical conclusion. And, perhaps, this allows us to propose a more general definition of what heresy is: in order for an ideological edifice to occupy the hegemonic place and legitimize the existing power relations, it HAS to compromise its founding radical message -- and the ultimate "heretics" are simply those who reject this compromise, sticking to the original message. (Recall the fate of Saint Francis: by insisting on the vow of poverty of the true Christian, by refusing integration into the existing social edifice, he came very close to being excommunicated -- he was embraced by the Church only after the necessary "rearrangements" were made, which flattened this edge that posed a threat to the existing feudal relations.)

And thus begins the first chapter to Slavoj Zizek's On Belief. It is not something I readily recommend for those of you who either don't have a lot of time (it is a short book, but requires some background reading / Googling to really appreciate it) or simply don't have a lot of time for "heretical" philosophies / theologies like those of Zizek. If, however, you do have time, and you are drawn to (or appalled by) heretical notions of what is real, what is right, and what is religious (i.e., like another Silentio), then I cannot recommend it enough.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Ongoes the Saga: A Basketball Watcher's Tale

Round 1, Day 2

Clark Kellogg says today is going to be upset day. And I already am. After working a twelve hour shift, then watching eight hours of games on tape after avoiding all scores, and submitting my pithy comments prior to today's action my beloved editor tells me just round recap this year and I'll be edited. No one wants to read long posts on this blog. Yeah, Pascal Plays Celebrity Poker showed us that. Thanks, B. When you come back stateside with your compassion and appreciation of the work done, you got upper management in large corporate America written all over you. [ed. Heh. You wanna bore people, you start your own blog. I do it plenty well here on my own.]

(Click here for more.)

For the Sports Fan

He's back, friends and neighbors. It is, as those of you in the States well know, March Madness. Some habits die very hard, including this one . . . Please join me in welcoming, once again, Silentio's own chief analyst of all things basketball for his round-the-clock (though, because I'm really bad about this thing, normally belatedly posted) coverage of this year's NCAA tournament. For those of you who care little to nothing about basketball, bear with me -- I've hidden in the links a few goodies for you, too.

* * * * * * * *

It's that time again. Madness has arrived! This year things are a little different. For those of you keeping score at home, I'm still at the photo lab, for another 8 days at least, until my company removes it and offers me the opportunity to run a gas station or interview for the store management-training program. [ed.: Movin' on up, it seems.] The B&W TV is nowhere to be found; instead games played while I'm working will be taped and watched later. And the Hoosiers, well, at 14-15 they're stuck at home with the worst record since 1969-70, two seasons before Bob Knight started. It doesn't get much better for the Hoosier state in general, what with Valparaiso being our only representative (out of a possible ten!!) in the field of 64. [ed. Cheer up, little buddy, you'll forever have Dan Quayle and Jesus on your side.]

So lets get on to what you came for. What, do you mean you don't come to this site for some guest editorial about basketball? B. actually informed me that he has received some Google traffic thanks to the phrase "Gene Keady combover" from last year's diatribes. [ed. To be fair, I probably got as many hits for the phrases "I love anal sex" and "B. is a pretentious bore".]

Round One, Day 1

Lehigh vs. Florida A&M. Oh boy . . . I'm already off to an 0-1 start, as this one was a complete rout by A&M. For those of you without a bracket handy, they get to face UK -- in the first of two games UK simply must win if Ashley Judd is to get to attend any games this year, due to her Broadway commitments that continue through this weekend. [ed. Is it just me, or is it really, really scary that he knows this bit of information?]

This whole pod system is still something to question. Pitt is #3 and their reward is playing Wisconsin in the second round in Milwaukee? Air Force (#11) plays UNC (#6) in Denver because that somehow is supposed to benefit Texas (#3). A more obvious gripe, though, is about this whole thing about replacing the geographical name of each region with the name of the host city. Is this so Billy Packer, ten years from now, can say that no #6 seed out of "the Orlando pod and Phoenix regional" has ever made a Final Four? [ed. In ten years, Billy Packer's most erudite observation is bound to be 'Applesauce . . . goood.']

Man, CBS has sold just about everything to someone. The "Dasani side court camera," the "Cingular Trivia Question," the "Sprite Re-Mix Bill Raferty 'Team X has come out in the man to man,'" and, I assume, the "Diet Coke w/ Lime One Shining Moment."

But this year I don't want to just make smart aleck -- I would use other words but what if the FCC decides to fine blogs? -- comments, I want to teach. [ed. Fuck that, dude.] So lets get on with it.

(Click here* to continue.)

* Yes, I only recently learned how to do this . . . would it not have been so much better to have learned it prior to last week's round of posts????

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


I wouldn't ordinarily share my shame with the world, but I was especially tickled by this one. A few months ago, I sent off a very old essay of mine to the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, in hopes that it might find a publishing home. Alas, it was not meant to be. Not even close!

This essay strikes me as exhibiting the worse [sic] sort of postmodern theological jargon. Way too many sentences and paragraphs are just indecipherable, with the apparent intention to make it sound profound. There are some interesting nuggets about Las Vegas, but these are just facts that have little do with the essay's aim. The author started with an interesting idea in terms of connecting the wager of Pascal and the wager of a gambler in Las Vegas, but the actual exposition ends up making both sides of the equation less clear, rather than more. I wouldn't encourage its revision . . . though perhaps its translation into English! [my emphasis]

Hee. I like that last line.

But, c'mon! Postmodern!! Ugh! Spat! Glurghghg! Hardly. I just re-read the paper in question, and I honestly do not get the criticism about its indeciperability. It's freakin' philosophical theology! The problem in the past, in my estimation, is that this stuff was entirely too clear, too pedantic . . . too damn interpretively fascist! The problem in the present, so it seems, is that I don't lay down the interpretive grid for my papers, which will in turn function as their yellow brick road of final determinate meaning. I have definite reasons for doing this; namely, this ain't science. Then again, the problem could be as simple as: I no rite clearsome.

I've always thought this might prove to be my academic undoing; or at least I'd get roughed up enough prior to the submission of my thesis that I'd learn from my mistakes and make the necessary changes. We shall see.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Who Knew?

It turns out that the world of cultural studies / critical theory isn't nearly as small and insulated as I thought -- doing it here in Britian, one begins to sense this from time to time. For an example, but, more probably more important for you, for some really good blogging, check out the University of Washington's own Steven Shaviro.

Know Your Enemy

Via Tbogg, I've been introduced to Dr. Paul Cameron, founder of the Family Research Institute and ISIS, the Institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality. When Cameron isn't calling for the quarantining of gays to prevent the spread of AIDS, his organizations are, he explains, 'kind of the wellspring of most of the statistics about the gay lifestyle', he explains -- which means, of course, he's one of the nutjobs out there feeding the homophobic fundamentalist flames of Rev. Fred 'AIDS CURES FAGS' Phelps, the Family Research Council, the Christian Coalition, and Exodus ministries with their statistics and research. His rationale? Well, . . .

Like many of his allies, Cameron believes that, if left unchecked, homosexuality will destroy America like God did Sodom. “Untrammeled homosexuality can take over and destroy a social system,” says Cameron. “If you isolate sexuality as something solely for one’s own personal amusement, and all you want is the most satisfying orgasm you can get- and that is what homosexuality seems to be-then homosexuality seems too powerful to resist. The evidence is that men do a better job on men and women on women, if all you are looking for is orgasm.” So powerful is the allure of gays, Cameron believes, that if society approves that gay people, more and more heterosexuals will be inexorably drawn into homosexuality. “I’m convinced that lesbians are particularly good seducers,” says Cameron. “People in homosexuality are incredibly evangelical,” he adds, sounding evangelical himself. “It’s pure sexuality. It’s almost like pure heroin. It’s such a rush. They are committed in almost a religious way. And they’ll take enormous risks, do anything.” He says that for married men and women, gay sex would be irresistible. “Martial sex tends toward the boring end,” he points out. “Generally, it doesn’t deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does” So, Cameron believes, within a few generations homosexuality would be come the dominant form of sexual behavior.

Who knew the secret gay agenda was so . . . enticing!!!

Anyway, here's the link to the full article. It's a few years old, but considering the medievalism of the position, this seems especially fitting.

Monday, March 01, 2004

That Time of the Year

It's that time of the year again for me, in which I churn out two or three paper proposals for an array of international academic conferences, all of which, if tradition holds, will be kindly refused. This year's contestants are entitled (1) 'On Theological Ends: Aesthetic Freedom and Creative Necessity' and (2) 'Raising High the Roofbeams: Theology Meets Actor-Network Theory'. Wish them well, as they enter the bad bad world.