Sunday, November 30, 2003
(7:26 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Running buck-wild like a concubine whose mother never held her hand
On the way home, I listened to Beck's classic album Midnite Vultures, and the completely irrelevent title of this post is a lyric from the first track, "Sexx Laws." In my opinion, it's one of his weaker albums, but it does have a couple good songs, particularly "Hollywood Freaks." Another song from that album to which I can relate is "Debra," mainly because of his extensive use of falsetto and his longing for two sisters simultaneously.
This weekend I visited my crazy Grandpa Kotsko, and perhaps inevitably, the conversation turned to politics. My dad was with me, and being the faithful right-wing radio listener he is, he naturally assumed that people who do not support President Bush are Somewhere Else -- California, Vermont, etc. Little did he know that Grandpa Kotsko is completely opposed to the president, for surprisingly sensible reasons. For instance, he noted the fact that the government is running a massive deficit, but apparently there's money to fly the president to Iraq for a casual two-hour visit. He also pointed out the "fact" that the president brought 5,000 companions along with him. This is when things started to fall apart.
Thankfully for my dad, Grandpa Kotsko has it in for President Clinton as well. You see, Clinton has stayed holed up in New York ever since he left office, because he's afraid that if he travelled abroad, he would be brought to Geneva for crimes against humanity, just like Milosevic. His crime? Supporting abortion rights. I noted the many occasions when President Clinton has travelled out of the country since leaving office, the fact that he's one of the most beloved political figures in the world, and the fact that the UN supports abortion rights. He was relatively unaffected. My dad threw in the remark that "liberalism is a religion, and abortion is its holy sacrament," but he recanted after I told him that that was the stupidest thing I had ever heard.
After the human rights thing didn't work out, Grandpa Kotsko shifted gears to say that President Clinton may well be elected secretary general of the UN, which seems implausible to me as well, but I'm no expert. We then began discussing Rush Limbaugh's drug use, and this led to a nice discussion of drug laws in general. Grandpa Kotsko has a theory about how the vast prison system and the war on drugs are set up entirely to strip people of their right to vote. He thinks the law against marijuana is "silly," and I tend to agree. My dad and my uncle (who, through a genuinely unfortunate series of events, is living with his parents) started hashing out stories of smoking pot and how it affected them, and I just waited that one out.
Our political discussion concluded with an analysis of the ways that the credit card companies and the Federal Reserve team up to screw people over by means of creating pretend money. The Federal Reserve is a big deal in his world -- it was the topic of a very awkward conversation following the Oklahoma City bombings. Apparently (get ready to feel shocked and outraged) all the ATF and other federal agents who normally would work there were all off work the day of the bombing. Why's that, you ask in your shock and outrage? Because the Federal Reserve Bank Corporation employs the ATF and other federal agents to do their bidding, and the Federal Reserve Bank Corporation masterminded the whole bombing thing as part of their plot to -- oh, I don't know. I was never quite sure how the bombing was supposed to help the Federal Reserve. Either he didn't tell me, or I stopped paying attention.
Conspiracy theories do run in my family. My dad has succumbed to the relatively mild Rush Limbaugh conspiracy, whereas my grandpa's is way off the scales. Right now I'm shopping around for a conspiracy. The Media Whores Online-style conspiracy would be a natural fit, since it's just an inversion of the "conservative" conspiracy I grew up with, but I still don't feel very passionate about the Democrats. Marxism seems to work -- I always enjoy political analysis by Marxists, mainly because they have utterly no stake in either dominant political party or "worldview" (liberal or conservative). They also offer a more overarching scheme than the various single-issue conspiracies, such as feminism, queer theory, environmentalism, the various racial advocacy groups, etc.
That's about all I have to say about conspiracy theories for tonight. Thank you for your time.
IRRELEVANT UPDATE: Atrios is now selling t-shirts.
Friday, November 28, 2003
(8:22 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
I love middle-aged women
Just stopping by to update you folks on Hayley and my financial situation. The bad news is we had to pay off the original ticket and the good news is we got out of the 750 dollar fine.
We woke up early on Wednesday to go and set a court date in order to fight the ticket and before we could even ask the kind middle-aged desk lady asked, "Well can you pay off the rest of the ticket today?" When we said "Yes!" she told us she would erase the contract and take care of it for us. Just goes to show you, if middle-aged mothers were in charge of Kankakee we'd all get out of our tickets.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
(1:53 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I will soon be heading back to scenic Davison, Michigan, to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. I cannot make any promises about the frequency of posts until I return to Kotsko HQ, although hopefully my loving co-bloggers will provide you with fresh, insightful material to help you get through.
Before I leave, I would like to offer my thoughts on the non-commercialization of Thanksgiving. First, we will note that it is not a Christian holiday, but was proclaimed by our holiest and most righteous president, Abraham Lincoln. It celebrates a highly idealized scene of the peaceful settlement of this continent by our hard-working, self-controlled forebears. All it requires for its celebration are food and family, the key elements to any American holiday, and its symbols are generally close to the earth. We Americans are not good at giving or receiving gifts, as on Christmas. We are not good at reflecting on heavenly hopes, as at Easter. What is holiest and most meaningful to Americans is abundance of food and fellowship with family, and therefore I propose that Thanksgiving is the holiest day of the American civil religion. It is a day when people spontaneously wish to go to church, although no church authority obliges them. It is a day untainted by military triumphalism or crass commercialism. It is a day when strangers are welcomed in. It is a good day.
(3:01 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die. Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever.
Okay. Upon reconsideration of a previously unstated belief that Explosions In The Sky was not the greatest band in the universe, I must state that Explosions In The Sky is the greatest band in the entire universe. I used to like this band called Godspeed You Black Emperor! for my post-rock needs. They were from Kanada. They spelled it with a K. That was great and fine. But I haven't seen them live.
Tonight I saw Explosions In The Sky live. They are from Austin and spell it with an A. They are the greatest band in the world. I am downgrading from universe only because typing that the first time scared me. I can't describe post rock. Take classical music to start with. Fast forward through time until now. While fast forwarding, pick out all the mistakes music has made along the way. Now, pretend people never found that vocal chords could be used as instruments. This leads us to a sort of repetitive music. It is repetitive, but not in a Britney Spears way. Repetitive in the way that Beethoven's 9th carries a theme throughout so many different sub-themes. This also leads us to a music of massively cascading dynamics. This also leaves us with some guitars and stuff. Pretend you find some people who are incredibly talented at playing these instruments.
This is the post-rock. Explosions In The Sky is the greatest Post Rock band in the world. This is controversial. People love their Godspeed. People love their "Mogwai." There's another band called Mum. Sometimes people like Do Make Say Think. Sometimes people even like A Silver Mt. Zion, which is a Godspeed subgroup. Your mom, by now, likes Sigur Ros, and they only debatably fit in this category anyway. I apologize to all, but my friends exploding in the sky win. Be thankful for the post-rock intro I just gave you in this paragraph and take my word for it.
It is strange music. The crowd at music performances by these bands is weird. It's not a rock show, and yet it doesn't fit anywhere but rock clubs. It isn't quiet by any stretch..the louds are as impactful as anything the greats have ever written.
Whatever the score, go and buy it. If you have been charged a ridiculous 750 dollar fine by an assinine city (Oklahoma City, roughly 18.5 times the size of Kankakee, has free parking on the streets after 5. Free parking in the garages after 8 when there is no big event downtown. I think New York City and others may be similar. That Kankakee feels the need for a city-wide parking sticker is laugh out loud funny - until it hurts, then we cry. I am sorry Anthony. I'm also sorry to you all for making this the longest parenthetical thing ever, rather than posting it in the comments below) than download it with the intent to buy when life smiles upon you again, as it will soon, I promise. The band wouldn't seem to mind that sort of thing too much.
If nothing else, just go to some cool little indie shop near you and listen to the thing. It's worth it to catch the genre that your kids will be getting into 20 years from now.
Entirely too long. I suck like a duck that costs less than a buck.
Eternally Prancing Around Without Ever Landing Upon The Dreaded,
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
(10:56 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Bite! Bite its head off!
I suppose no one ever said life was going to be easy but I wish someone would have told me how hard it was going to be. Hayley and I are very poor, or at least poor enough that we can't pay our bills. Not that I am talking about cell phone bills or clothing costs. No, I am talking about heating, electricity and the basic needs of living in some kind of modern shelter (our internet is free). We have been doing ok by not answering the phone and leaving the bills unopened until after we are payed. We even had a plan to be caught up by the end of my winter break.
Then the wonderful City of Kankakee stepped in.
We received a ticket for not having a city parking sticker that one must have in order to park their car anywhere in the city. We didn't buy the sticker because we did not have the money and now this wonderfully stupid city ordinance has cost us 200 dollars. We were on a payment plan with the city but we had to let it fall by the wayside for a couple of weeks. This, evident now, was a very stupid decision. We were served with an order to pay the city 750 dollars for not paying our last 40 dollars of the ticket and if we are unable to pay the 750 up front they will kindly garner it from our wages. How nice of them!
Now, I realize we, even if it is a stupid law, broke the law but why does it seem that the city government exists to make more people poor in Kankakee? What kind of idiot creates a law to fine a person 750 dollars because they don't have money to pay off the rest of their ticket? Are we living in the 1700's for the love of that is holy?!?!
On top of this they have raised tuition at DePaul so I know have no extra financial aid money for living expenses. Thanks guys!
This little turn of events is very troubling and I've had to consider dropping out of school for an indeterminate amount of time in order to work off these little problems. It is just sickening that these amounts of money are so staggering to me that I may have to drop out of school and it could happen in America of all places! The terrorists have already won.
This is life I suppose. I would be able to say that in French, but I won't get that far in the course.
(3:05 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Bill Clinton's Greatest Hits
My close personal friend and confidant, CalPundit, has a nice post up with a list of Bill Clinton's favorite books. One of them is his wife's book, but then, the list is twenty-one items long, so we can safely assume that the real point is to list his twenty "sincere" favorite books. As a result, I have decided to list all of my favorite books, and unlike the supposed "Rhodes Scholar" Bill Clinton, I am going to italicize the titles instead of put them in "quotes." Hopefully this will help to reveal how smart I am and how unfair that impeachment debacle was.
Escape from the Cubicle Police by Scott Adams
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis
God Without Being by Jean-Luc Marion
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams
Tarrying with the Negative by Slavoj Zizek
Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Trial by Franz Kafka
Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book by Bill Watterson
Protagoras by Plato
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Repetition by Soren Kierkegaard
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton
The Bible by Moses, et al.
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
I tried not to make this as "calculated" as the president's apparently is, but there are some biases involved. First, my bookshelf with Fr-Z is closer to me, so books whose authors are in that part of the alphabet might be over-represented. Also, I decided not to include representative samples from my fantasy/sci-fi days aside from the Douglas Adams, though I'm sure those books have had a much greater formative influence on me than any philosophy crap.
If my list turned out more pretensious than I think it did, any and all commenters are free to post comments in the form: "You put _________ on there? Come on!"
Monday, November 24, 2003
(2:21 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Jesus is my categorical imperative
Today, Dennis Bratcher weighed in on the appropriate way to respond to those who are perverting the gospel. I think it's stirring and wonderful, but it sounds suspiciously like the way conservative pundits recommend the Democrats should behave. That is, don't advocate your principles, but act them out, and don't waste your time denouncing those who act otherwise -- and when your time comes, bend over and take it.
Whether or not that is the route Jesus actually took, this sounds to me like the categorical imperative. Christians think that if everyone would act according to the gospel, the world would be far better, and they believe that they need to follow the gospel regardless of the outcome. Universal applicability and unconditional obligation are the key components to Kant's concept. Also, interestingly enough, even though his idea is often derided as rule-following, what's that famous quote? Oh yeah: "Two things amaze me: the heavens above me and the moral law within me" (paraphrase; emphasis added). Don't Christian writers take Jeremiah's saying about "writing the law on your heart" to refer to Jesus? I know that Kant's a modernist and we should hate him, but still.
I posted on this on dialog before, but only one person responded, and a variety of emotional issues related to God kept me from responding with the kind of vigor people are accustomed to getting from me. Also, I have Kant at second hand, mainly from Lacan, Zizek, and Zupancic, so maybe there's something that I'm missing. I plan on plunging deeply into Kant and Hegel by this summer at the latest, so I'll recant (ha) if it seems that Lacan, Zizek, and Zupancic are all completely wrong.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
(5:01 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Get off my back
You know how sometimes you'll meet someone for the first time, and during the course of the conversation, some peripheral interest of yours will come up, and from then on, that's all the person will want to talk about? Or how sometimes people will try to make a "memory" out of a marginal event that you don't actually care about, or try to make some kind of inside joke with you, because they're pathetic people who are incapable of making any kind of real connection with people and instead latch onto the first, stupid, superficial thing they can find?
I think Amazon.com is like that in a lot of ways. I've been trying to borrow a copy of Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison, but since no one has it, I just broke down and bought it off Amazon. Now I know that for the next three months, whenever I go to Amazon, everything is going to be Bonhoeffer.
(2:45 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
The first time is always a bit akward
This is my first contribution to The Weblog, the best unsung blog of 2003. Adam asked me to contribute and after the shouts of joy subsided the reality of the situation sunk in. I I have been trying to come up with a great post ever since. I was going to discuss Derrida's Religion sans Religion and liberalism. It was going to be striking and clever, without dumbing down the material for the common blog reader. Then I realized I didn't know anything about Derrida's Religion sans Religion other than sans means without. This was not enough to write a post about. I had some other ideas but they required proof-reading and I hate proof-reading so instead I will relate to you my experience being kicked off of Christian public forums.
I just found out today I have been removed from Olivet's Academy listserv. This is the second time this year. I always wonder why I'm removed and when I ask, I find that I am always put back in without explanation. The first time I think it may have been a misunderstanding concerning me and a suggestion put forth to some of my right leaning "we're not right-leaning" friends on the listserv. I simply attempted to end the debate by suggesting we meet somewhere and brawl it out. I will never know if they accepted or not because I didn't get any e-mails since I was removed. If they did accept I wonder if they went to a field somewhere and waited for me and then I decide that's better than reality so I pretend that's what happened.
Hey Mark Miller, remember that time you went to the field to fight me but I didn't show up? That was some fun times.
So why was I removed this time? The only thing I can figure is that I did insist that Voegelin was not the master of philosophy and I had a little fun with Nietzsche quotes. Now if I had been having fun with Bataille quotes I'd understand. Maybe Adam Smith knows. Though my calling for Michael Pogeski's (or POTUS as he likes to be called) impeachment ought to have been a little more offensive.
The place I was kicked off leaving behind a legacy of profanity and harmful theology was called Decapolis. Decapolis is a evangelical, pseudo-punk rock heaven and when I found it at the tender age of 15 I was a evangelical, pseudo-punk. My stay there didn't start well and it ended worse, from the outgo I fought with people in the "Faith" section (an abuse of the word if there every was one) over women in ministry. Then it went to Arminism v. Calvinism, always ending with the Calvinists crying "heretic" and explaining that it was ok for heretics to be burned back then, but God's grace doesn't work like that now. I was kicked off after yet another debate over homosexuality spurred by the Episcopal Bishop being ordained. The debate was going badly and got worse after one very enlightened young man declared that homosexuality in the church would bring the judgment of God on America. In turn an old man, a kind of creepy old man who spends much of his time on a teen message board arguing Calvinist theology, declared that "Homosexuality is the judgment of God on America."
Now, at this point I should have just let it go. This message board has always been full of very close-minded people, who have told me Christians need to worry about their neighbors, not those Christians dying in South America. Instead I, very maturely I might add, called the man "the biggest fuck I've ever met." The next day my I.P. address had been blocked. Now this is against their rules and I wasn't kicked off with no reason but again, like the Academy listserv, there was no formal message given concerning my deletion.
I am forced to wonder, is this a Christian practice? Are we really that cold to excommunicate without any hope of rentry? Or that spinless to allow the person to come back without discussion? Sadly, I am sure the answer must be answered affirmatively.
Saturday, November 22, 2003
(2:28 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Insights into internet culture
Via Wikipedia, here is an article on the Chewbacca Defense, which Atrios enjoys using. In addition, one might note the exhaustive articles on Slashdot trolling and general Internet trolling. This is what happens when one applies the open source method to an encyclopedia -- basically, the encyclopedia ends up being kind of cool.
This is why I am implementing an all-GNU/Linux policy on The Weblog effective immediately. We can only refer to open-source programs. For instance, if we wish to discuss a word processor, instead of talking about Microsoft Word, we would have to mention AbiWord. Instead of talking about Notepad, we would have to mention emacs, vi, elvis, joe, jove, ed, or any of the other million UNIX-based text editors that are included with the average GNU/Linux distribution. Further translations are as follows:
- "PhotoShop" or "Paintbrush" become GIMP
- "Windows" becomes "X," "KDE," or "Gnome"
- "DOS prompt" becomes bash
- "Copy" becomes cp
- "Move" becomes mv
- "Rename" becomes mv
- "Searching a text file for a particular standard expression and displaying the lines containing that expression on screen or piping them to another program" becomes "grep"
- "Inserting a disk and using its contents" becomes "inserting a disk, then typing a command with a thousand parameters in order to 'mount' the disk to the filesystem, then using its contents"
- "Doing routine file maintenance" becomes "using sudo to gain root privileges for your normal user account, then keeping a second window open in order to view the HOWTO files using 'less,' and frustratedly trying the same commands over and over while not quite getting the parameters right until you inadvertantly use your root privileges to delete your 'passwd' file, log out as root before you realize what has happened, then slowly come to understand that you have officially rendered your computer useless"
- "Ignorance" becomes "strength"
- "War" becomes "peace"
Friday, November 21, 2003
(8:01 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Down with Wesley Clark!
This week on Chicaco Public Radio's Worldview, I heard a speech by Oscar Arias Sanchez, a Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of Costa Rica about how much better life was in his country after they abolished their armed forces. I recommend that you listen to it as well. This set me to thinking about our military, which absorbs such a huge portion of our national resources and energy and which is one of the most trusted institutions in America -- what exactly has it ever defended us against lately? It's pretty obvious that the 9/11 attacks were not and could not have been prevented by the application of military force, and the idea of the American mainland being attacked, by anyone, is pretty well inconceivable. In fact, it seems like the main thing that our military is good for is pissing people off, making us less secure.
Thus I ask myself, even if he "can beat Bush," would I really feel good voting for someone whose first name is "general"? Perhaps he's the best candidate to avoid dangerous romanticization of our military, but that feels like a halfway solution. Is there anyone who can reverse the destructive trends of militarism?
Oh, yeah: Dennis Kucinich.
(1:55 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Jesus Loves the Economy
The irony is that the unreality of TV is often the reality of corporate life. I am always amused at the rantings of the radical free marketists that presume how the economic aspect of our lives reflects some sort of meritocracy -- as long as government keeps its nose out of it.
That's not the case in any reality with which I am familiar. The most idiotic or sadistic child of the business owner will inherit his parent's role by virtue of his pedigree. The most sycophantic fool is considered well qualified to become the second in command. The most servile, amoral drone usually counts the beans. The most likely outsider to rise to the top is the one who evades the rules of the corporate suckupancy by being the most ruthless.
The author writes for the site The Right Christians, which fights the good fight for rescuing Christianity from the morons and the demagogues.
(1:20 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
Rudie Can't Fail
So, recently Richard Perle, the pentagon's hawk strategist, and one of, if not the, main advisor to Donald Rumsfeldconceded to a room full of anti-war fans that the invasion of Iraq broke international law.
He basically said, for those of you who don't like the clicky-clicky, that yes, international law was broken, but, it had to be in order to do "the right thing."
This, of course, completely goes against what everyone in the administration has been saying. They have always said that it was preventative, and thus justified, or that the prior UN resolutions where Sadaam had to reveal all his holdings allowed the US to be the executor.
I'm not that surprised, although literal gasps were heard in Pearle's audience. But, did anyone see The Daily Show a few days back, where in back to back clips they played the white house press conference talking about how we are definitely leaving Iraq in June no matter what, with the conference Bush was having with 5 Iraqi women leaders in which he said "we are definitely not abandoning you, we will stay in Iraq until the job is finished." The two events happened almost simultaneously.
Really, the whole rhetoric on the war is reminding me of that glorious scene from The Wizard Of Oz, where Toto rips away the curtain and the "wizard" continues to say, "Please ignore the man behind the red curtain..he is nothing.." when plainly everyone can see him pulling the levers and switches and saying the words. The gig is up, and yet he continues. It's one of the most beautiful scenes in American Cinema, because it is just so human!
This seems to be happening more and more recently. In conversations I've had the last few weeks, I've heard "The Government is not supposed to help its citizens" when talking about health care and welfare and that homeless in California get 300 bucks a month and a cell phone.
I've also heard that "only 400 or so people have died in Iraq." I soon pointed out that at minimum, 7898 Iraqi civilians have died, and at maximum 9729 have died. This does not count US servicemen or Iraqi soldiers. The person responded by telling me he meant the US servicemen, and that the Iraqi civillians "brought it upon themselves by letting someone like Sadaam Hussein reign so long." I didn't dare mention that I thought the thousands upon thousands more Iraqi military officer deaths might, you know, also be a bad thing. The total number is between 21,000 and 55,000 people dead.
In that first instance, the one about the homeless people, I asked the person about Christ, as a person with no residence who insisted on carrying little money and taking no actual occupation, who, not-coincidentally, often many, many times advocated "selling all you have and giving it to the poor"..(i.e. not instructing them how to work and what not, just..you know, giving it to them)
I was met with the response that Jesus has a steady income coming from his ministry. Thus Judas was the money-keeper. Also, I was told that I had been ruined by "those liberal college professors." None of my professors are explicitly liberal.
I mean..really..the British are burning Bush in effigy, and his response is not to look at why, or to doubt himself for a second. Instead he says:
"It was pointed out to me that the last noted American (magician David Blaine) to visit London stayed in a glass box dangling over the Thames," Bush said Wednesday in the hall where another head of state, Charles I, was beheaded in 1649. "A few might have been happy to provide similar arrangements for me." When the laughter ended, he added: "I thank Her Majesty the Queen for interceding."
It is pretty funny, but it is also a condescending shrug off of the blatantly obvious fact that a lot of people find things seriously wrong with what he is doing. This isn't standard fare..and yet nothing will make him stop to look at everything.
I am lost.
However, so everyone knows, a new DJ Daterape track is up, entitled "The True Ones Were Time Travel," It incorporates a childhood memory for all from Michigan, thanks to Mr. Kotsko. It also incorporates these crazy new things called "drums", and I think it sucks less than all my other work combined.
(12:19 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Anthony Smith, one of our most frequent commenters, has accepted an invitation to join The Weblog's band of merry men. I don't know when he's going to write something, exactly, but when he does, I'm sure it will be good. All we need is for Jared Woodard to give up his futile ambitions of being an independent blogger, and we'll have the most hard-hitting team of leftists, pseudo-theologians, and underground musicians that the world has ever known.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
(9:08 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Listen to Music: NOW
I have to second Robb's recommendation (scroll down--the author is too lazy to fire up a second window and track down the permalink--why on earth can't Blogger include the permalink for entries in the little preview part on the bottom half of the screen? Why?) of the Starlight Mints. In particular, I like their song "Black Cat," which includes the line, "Is there a better man inside of me?" I used to ask that question a lot, until I figured out the answer: "No, dumbass, there isn't."
In addition, another good band is Hood, whose album Cold House has dominated the airwaves in the chez Kotsko for several weeks now. Since I hate my life and everyone I know, I've also really resonated with Nine Inch Nails' seminal break-through album, The Downward Spiral. A recurring favorite is "Piggy," in which he declares, "Nothing can stop me now, 'cause I don't care anymore." Preach it, Trent!
With the exception of music that I've gotten from Robb, I basically stopped listening to new groups in 2000 or so. That's better than with video games, where I basically stopped learning new ones in 1995 (Andy Kring and I still break out Street Fighter II: Turbo on occasion). I wonder when I'll stop reading new books and just obsessively re-read the ones I already have. Probably 2005, if I keep up this pace. Well, maybe I can do TV shows in 2005 and hold off on books until 2010.
Until then, I'll just write really boring and irrelevant blog posts in order to cover up the pain welling up deep inside of me: Anthony Smith, why did you marry so young? We could have been something beautiful! If only I'd known while there was still a chance!
Oh, cruel fate, why dost thou toy with my heart?
(8:34 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Read Philosophy Books Now
You need to read these books:
- Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
- The Ticklish Subject by Slavoj Zizek
- Homo Sacer by Giorgio Agamben
- A Singular Modernity by Fredric Jameson
Report back to me once you've finished them.
Why, you may ask, do I want you to read them? Mainly because I want you to be as confused as I am.
I feel like there's another cool book I read recently, but I can't remember what it was. I probably just saw it on the shelf at the Co-op and imagined what it would be like if I actually read it some day.
(11:09 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
I can't believe how stupid this is....
(From attentive reader Richard McElroy.)
(12:48 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
In the circles in which I run, marriage is a relationship built on paranoia. Whereas previously in world history, marriage was more or less a relationship of ownership that ran in one direction -- the man owning the woman -- now it's a two-way ownership. No one likes a double standard, but I'm not sure this represents a genuine improvement. It contributes to a closing in and a narrowing of relationships. The couple collapses into itself as friendships with people of the opposite gender become automatic threats.
Friendships with an obvious erotic charge are viewed as especially dangerous, based on the fallacious assumption that all erotic feeling must end in intercourse (or at least some "foreplay"). Since marriage is the only valid location for intercourse, therefore the outside relationship is automatically a threat to the marriage. This assumption and the consequent arguments drawn from it go against common experience and logic -- after all, the vast majority of cross-sex relationships, even those containing mutual attraction, are not consumated, even when both people are single -- but the all-consuming marriage relationship will settle for nothing short of complete control.
"Faithfulness" becomes a contract between two people to satisfy all of each other's significant emotional and erotic needs, and if those needs are not met in the relationship, go without. At best, outside relationships are tolerated as an emergency measure that would constitute a "wake-up call" for the other partner.
Do we not remember that Jesus was not married? Do we forget his deep suspicion of the structures of marriage and the family? Do we not recall that Paul behaved and felt similarly? When Paul says that it's good for a man not to marry, he talks precisely about how the partners are consumed with pleasing each other, which closes them off to the more important concerns of God. Is it possible that a different model for relationships, perhaps even erotic relationships, is present in the ministries of Jesus and Paul, which our bias toward marriage keeps us from seeing?
As a side note, I found this cool page with logical fallacies on them. One of them that I hadn't heard of before was the Circumstantial Ad Hominem. Fascinating stuff.
UPDATE: Okay, now that it's not late at night anymore, here are a couple clarifications. Even though particular marriages might not "be like that," marriage as an institution is like that. Particular couples might be able to work against the institutional structure of marriage, but it's an up-hill battle, not only against gossip-oriented people on the outside, but against the attitudes they themselves unconsciously hold. We can see these attitudes in the possessiveness that happens even in dating relationships -- heterosexual "romantic" relationships are supposed to be permanent relationships of mutual possession. I know that even though I disparage others for having such attitudes or exhibiting such behaviors, I would act the same way given a chance. In fact, maybe I'm the only one who tends to be overly possessive of women and to be terribly jealous of any other man when I'm in a dating relationship, in which case I can only say: "This is a blog post, and if you don't want to see my neuroses on display, skip down to one of Robb's posts."
Serious reply to Anthony: My "circle" is one that highly values marriage as an institution. I confined my comments to that circle because I really don't know how things work in other circles.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
(2:10 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
Me Against The Music
It's time. I'm going to name my top 3 albums of 2003. I know there is still 1 1/2 months to go, but I'm not impressed enough by what is yet to come out to stave off any longer.
I'll go too long if I don't be frank about it..so here they are:
Before I start..the emboldened words are merely the titles of cds..not links. Sorry, I didn't feel like going through Amazon for them all.
1. The Starlight Mints - Built On Squares
Best album of the year..not hands down only because this year in music was really pretty amazing. I've never been so instantly yet enduringly in love with a cd since Pavement's Terror Twilight.
2. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
Geeze did they ever hit the stride their debut hinted at..freaking amazing.
3. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Pig Lib, Pig Lib
I held off on lauding it for a long time thinking my biases were in the way, but I finally had to give in and admit it - Stephen..I love you.
Honorable mention (too interchangably messy to put in particular order):
Absolution - Muse, Hearts of Oak - Ted Leo And The Pharmacists, Dear Catastrophe Waitress - Belle & Sebastian, Give Up - The Postal Service, Sumday - Grandaddy, It Still Moves - My Morning Jacket, the obligatory: Hail To The Thief - Radiohead, Think Tank - Blur, Speakerboxx/The Love Below - Outkast, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place - Explosions In The Sky, Shootenanny! - The Eels, Life On Other Planets - Supergrass, The Decline Of British Sea Power - British Sea Power, The Ugly Organ - Cursive, So Much For The City - The Thrills, HaHA Sound - Broadcast.
I have to stop at 15 honorable mentions or this will go on forever, because, seriously, this has been an amazing year in music. I'm sure I'm forgetting some, especially early releases..but I think this is a pretty good representation of just where I'm at.
I guess in retrospect, I don't know why anyone would care what I think about the best music this year, but, thank you all, good night.
Monday, November 17, 2003
(9:51 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Revolution was televised
Paul Krugman, about a month ago, wrote a nice long article in the Times magazine about the tax cut crusade. He claimed that it is a purposeful, fully thought-out attempt to defund the federal government and effectively reverse the New Deal and the Great Society (Social Security and Medicare). That is, instead of insuring that the nation's elderly don't wind up on the street and that the elderly and disabled can afford decent medical care, the government would return to the kind of stuff it should be doing: killing people, putting people in jail, and subsidizing the auto industry (maintaining roads).
We should oppose this stuff, because it shows a callous disregard for those who most need help while flagrantly furthering the interests of those who are already miles ahead of everyone else. It offends against even the elementary idea of justice that a three year old could develop over the course of a mildly Socratic dialogue. So far, so good.
Then I read Jared's post about "revolutionary defeatism," and it appears that this conservative revolution is also the only opportunity for a genuine socialist revolution. Things have to get worse before they can get better, and if they get way worse, then they can get way better. A couple decades of abject misery for the American people (the very wealthy, as always, excepted) could produce a variety of good results: to take one example, the consumer market in the US would collapse, thus reducing incentives for corporations to exploit third-world labor, and opening up the space for a revolution in those nations once corporate power evacuated. In addition, in the face of growing hopelessness and decreased government funding, marijuana and a variety of harder drugs might finally be legalized. The environment could be so horribly corrupted that even the very wealthy couldn't escape the consequences. I could extend the list further.
It might sound like I'm parodying this idea, but I'm not -- and I should be clear that Jared is not unambiguously supporting this position. The moment of greatest hopelessness is identical with the moment of greatest hopefulness. One thing we're possibly forgetting, though, is that the Republicans are extremely good at what they do--which is not telling the truth. They have a small but vocal base of populist support. They have a ready-made scapegoat in "the liberals" and appear to have no qualms about picking out a minority group if necessary. They will do absolutely anything to maintain power and shape society into the desired form.
Of course, it is possible that once the other shoe drops, American society (and subsequently the rest of the world) will face an unprecedented crisis--much like Marx, the typical conservative ideologue does not seem to know what we're all going to do "after the revolution." Then hopefully some other political faction, perhaps led by Howard Zinn, would arise with ready-made plans for a brand-new society. Maybe they're already planning, deep in the bowels of the anti-American humanities departments that litter our nation.
Whatever happens, though, I hope that I'll be able to get and keep tenure, keep doing my blog, and enjoy unfettered access to a wide array of consumer goods. Because isn't that what we're really after here?
(5:51 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
For the attention
Substitute teaching in Kankakee is a lot less fun than in Bradley. Part of the problem is the cultural difference -- whereas I can recognize jerky white high school guys with no problem, immediately cutting straight through their "funny" or "confident" exterior, the jerky black high school guys are harder. All their antics are a lot fresher to me, and thus a lot funnier. It's difficult to be an authority figure when I sincerely admire the wit that the kids pretty consistently show. It's also hard to be an authority figure when I'm repeating the assignment for the third time, the kids are all showing no evidence that they are listening, and some kid yells out, "We heard you the first time!" -- at which point I respond, "Don't be an asshole."
Also, I know there's a huge segment of the porn industry, and an even huger segment of the "normal" entertainment industry, dedicated to the fantasy that high school girls are the gold standard of desirability, but I frankly don't buy it. Except for the occasional day when I'm subbing for seniors, I very rarely see more than two girls in the high end of the "cute" category, because they're all fourteen and fifteen! The "hot" high school girls all -- I know this is going to be hard to take for some of the guys out there -- look a lot older. High school girls who actually look their own age fit into the general pattern of high school people who look their own age -- that is, they look awkward and half-developed and acne-pocked.
Most girls, in my humble opinion, are not going to hit the prime of their attractiveness until their early twenties, and which point they'll probably be a lot more mature, knowledgable, and generally self-aware -- or is that what we're trying to avoid with the whole "high school girls are hot" thing?
I think I'll stop there, because I'm teetering on the edge of a slippery slope that will end with me saying that forty-year-old women, due to their greater experience, should be the gold standard of desirability for men who wish to take the moral high ground. It also just occurred to me that perhaps our society is doing irrevocable damage to these high school girls by throwing them to the dogs -- that is, the high school guys. Maybe all the guys eagerly awaiting that one scene with the cheerleader in American Beauty were fantasizing about how great it would be to get together with a high school girl -- for humanitarian reasons.
Okay, but what I really intended to say in this post was that in such classrooms, I know that no meaningful schoolwork is going to take place simply because of my authority. There are self-motivated people in all but the most abyssmal classes, and they're going to do their work more or less consciensiously no matter how badly their classmates behave. No worksheet, which is all that a sub is ever going to have to work with, is ever going to inspire students to greater academic heights. In fact, if I were to be completely honest, I think that the "busywork" phenomenon is the single greatest failing of our school system, and I'm ashamed to have to be a part of it. So why is it that I try to get the class to be completely silent sometimes? Why is it that I want to know for sure that the students are all listening as I tell them their teacher's bullshit busywork instructions for the day, arguably the least important thing they will ever hear in their lives?
I do it for the attention. It annoys me that I'm "officially" the authority figure in a room full of thirty people and yet can be thoroughly and rigorously ignored by all but a few habitual suck-ups. Ironically enough, since my only rationale for enforcing discipline is a purely personal desire to be obeyed, vigorous attempts to get everyone's attention will more than likely create a worse discipline situation, since all but the most cowardly "honors" kids are going to have the balls to call me out on it. In short, I arrive at the whole reason that I even want to substitute teach: I can sit back and get paid for reading a book, because for the most part no matter what I do, it just is not going to matter.
(1:13 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
For any who happen to not know, back freshman year, and about once every 7 months since, I get the urge to screw around and make terrible songs using Acid Xpress, then I like to throw them on garageband.com and get a kick out of people going off on me for being so terrible.
This has resulted in a very small fan base, a slightly shady, but seemingly legit offer to come tour Portugal, and at one time, having my song "The Wizard of Westwood" named The Stupidest Song Anyone Had Ever Heard. Sadly, I've fallen to #8 in that category, so I thought I'd get all you to vote for me.
In addition, I've also just found a cool drum machine program, and hundreds of ever so fun drum sounds. Perhaps DJ Daterape will find his way into the hearts of the techno wonderkinds yet.
So, yeah, if you feel the need for horrible music, check out the DJ Daterape site. I throw this out there now because, in a strange turn of events, at the American Analog Set show on friday, I actually met someone who knew my name from this stuff, which made me think about the consequences of my actions, for a short while. Also, that inspired me to go ahead and get to working hard on the upcoming DJ DATERAPE full-length album, "A Convention In Montreal" it should be out sometime! Call your record stores and get them all to pre-order it now!
Sunday, November 16, 2003
(9:04 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
I grow weary of holding it in.
Sometimes I read through my past commentaries, and I'm always struck by how little has changed. If I were to write something new today, I would write that essay over again, with a few changed details.
UPDATE: This has nothing to do with the post that I originally put here, but just linking to this article about why America is doomed to lose the intelligence war did not seem worth a whole new post. Be forewarned: the author partly blames Martin Heidegger for this problem.
SECOND UPDATE: Again, this has nothing to do with the original post, unless you count the fact that it flatly contradicts it -- I have indeed written something new today, and it's not just me bitching about a girl. It is called "Art is better than life," and it's moderately long, though probably not as long as "Education with a Christian Purpose." I don't know if you'll like it or have any use for it, but there it is. One might be able to consider it a more intellectually rigorous companion piece to my post last week about the cross.
Honestly, though, this essay didn't turn out to be what I thought it would be. Having been confronted anew with my own stupidity and futility in the last few days, I wanted nothing more than to write another "teary-eyed confessional" in order to get past my weariness with holding it in. Several concerns combined to make such an essay impossible, so I thought I would do the next best thing and write about the hypothetical satisfaction of writing such an essay. That essay would have turned out to say little more than "it's cool, because when things aren't going your way, you can write about it, or read a novel about a similar situation, and all of a sudden it takes on this fresh meaning that makes the suffering almost seem worth it." Then this led me to think of what Tara Smith was saying Saturday night about how the reference to Christ doesn't seem to add anything concrete to a "good deed" or a general love for the human race -- at least I think that was what she was saying, because I was doing my best not to spend an entire party talking about Jesus.
THIRD UPDATE: I'm turning into InstaPundit here with the updates. Just so everyone knows, I was called to sub tomorrow, which means that after staying up until 3:00 on Friday, then about 4:30 on Saturday, I get to wake up at 6:00 AM. I think that the extremely erratic sleep patterns, which led to excessive coffee use, probably contributed to the general malaise that hung over me today. I'm always disappointed when my moods have probable physical causes -- I want them to be meaningful somehow, and feeling depressed because I'm crashing from a sugar high or something doesn't seem meaningful. Maybe I just need to change my standards for meaningfulness.
Saturday, November 15, 2003
(4:34 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Taking Down the Democrats
I just read The New Yorker's piece on Wesley Clark, and all I could think is, "Man, maybe this guy had better not be president." This month's Atlantic also has a piece that seems designed to provoke that feeling, except this time it's about John Kerry (the cover implies that Kerry became a callous murderer in his time in Vietnam).
I wonder if the high-brow literary/political magazines all drew lots to see who would take down which candidate. I'd hate to be the one who had to bother with taking down Al Sharpton, but whichever candidate was drawn by Harper's would probably get off easy, with a bizarre essay by Lewis Lapham comparing, say, Howard Dean to someone from classical Rome.
The best political position probably comes from Robb, from some comments below:
I'm rather lost in which candidate to back, and really have grown rather politically agnostic (as in..I believe political forces are out there, but am unsure if they really will ever affect or be affected by me, or in any other way acknowledge my presence).
The best quote from the Wesley Clark article is probably this one:
Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Clark said, he visited the Pentagon, where an old colleague, a three-star general, confided to him that the civilian authorities running the Pentagon—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his team—planned to use the September 11th attacks as a pretext for going to war against Iraq. “They made the decision to attack Iraq sometime soon after 9/11,” Clark said. “So, rather than searching for a solution to a problem, they had the solution, and their difficulty was to make it appear as though it were in response to a problem.” Clark visited the Pentagon a couple of months later, and the same general told him that the Bush team, unable or unwilling to fight the actual terrorists responsible for the attacks, had devised a five-year plan to topple the regimes in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Iran, and Sudan.
That pretty well silences the anti-war nay-sayers who ask why we don't topple every terrible regime. I'm sure once we have confirmed our control over the New Caliphate of America, we will head right for North Korea.
(1:12 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Future of an Allusion
Since no one is going to guess it, "the sophistry of despair" is from Soren Kierkegaard's The Sickness Unto Death (available in a couple different editions from Amazon.com -- at a substantial discount from the publisher's list price!).
Let me tell you what I've done the last couple evenings. Thursday was spent almost entirely on the book of Psalms, except for a brief break for Survivor and South Park. Back in the day, monks used to go through all the psalms in one day, and I found that even with my busy American lifestyle, I was able to get through 106 in an evening. That left me with 44 more, plus Song of Songs, plus Lamentations, plus selections from The Women's Bible Commentary and Old Testament Parallels (both books are available at Amazon.com).
Thus I ended up staying up until 2:30 AM on a Friday night reading the Bible -- but that's not the low point! My real tour de force of loserdom was spending the bulk of Friday evening, from approximately 6:30 to 10:30, cleaning my house, while having an intermittent theological debate with my sister (via the AOL Instant Messenger service, for which I use Trillian -- a highly recommended product). I moved the furniture in my bedroom, consolidating a considerable segment of free space that was previously spread haphazardly throughout. I vacuumed under my bed, in the hope of cleansing it of cat hair and thus assisting my allergies. I dusted. I vacuumed the furniture more thoroughly than it's ever been vacuumed. In the end, I even cleaned the vacuum cleaner itself. I am truly Danny Tanner incarnate.
At one point, I thought I had accidently let the cat outside, and I got to have a fun conversation with Tara Smith about how one handles such a situation. It turns out the cat was just hiding from my disinfecting fury, as I discovered shortly after hanging up the phone.
So far this morning, I have slept, taken the dog for a walk (and now I just learned that he will exhibit puppy behavior for three years -- good luck, Richard and Kari), eaten Golden Grahams and sour cream glazed donuts, and planned to go to a party at the home of the lovely and talented Anthony Smith, the most frequently mentioned non-combatant on this weblog.
Friday, November 14, 2003
(2:59 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
And You Give Yourself Away..
I'm a pretty generous guy, or so I like to think. So, tonight, as Kotsko has been kind enough to honor me, I'd like to give a little something back. It is also because I can't sleep and am bored. However, it is my aim now to give to you enough "stuff" to make your friday pass quicker.
That's right folks! It's a Link-Down!
RAPID STYLE! WITH RANDOMLY PLACED LINKS!
- George W. Bush might have killed some girl who he might have raped.
- The Onion fantasizes my worst nightmare...if my life weren't so bland and dull.
- Here's a nice story about how The Government went over the cap Bush recently set. Is it like the NBA where they now get hammered hard by the luxury tax, and the proceeds go to help out the poorer teams/countries?
- If only I had ITunes, I could finally be cool, as wired reports people are forming cliques based off playlists. Sadly, I am only on a network with my sister, who'd merely be upset that I have some albums with cuss words in them.
- Well, Scooby Doo and the Goonies are going to be getting sequels that will undoubtedly further ruin the childhood love we all have for them.
- I scored 4385 on this Shockwave game. Can you beat me? I wish I had time to somehow get good enough to top "FUK", oh well. (Wow..I just realized this is the first internet game link on this page..we are so efficient here).
- Here's the King-sized crap we're all going to be force fed for the next 12 months.
- This blog is posting NY Times articles written about the occupation of Post-Nazi Germany after WWII, and its scary contrasts to Iraq..
- Fox was literally laughed out of court with their suit against Al Franken, here's the transcript.
- I have no idea how they figure this out, but in the 2-5 year old age group, Fear Factor was the number one primetime show watched. It was closely followed by Survivor: Pearl Island, and in third was The Wonderful World Of Disney.
- President Clinton was offered millions to endorse a clothing line in China, but the short-people clothes made his ass look big.
- Schwarzenegger is working really, really hard on his new administration that takes control on Monday. Yeah, not so much. He's been on vacation in Maui for at least a week. Isn't becoming governor of California something you, like..need to prepare for?
- Since we're not, like, at war or anything, it's probably good that more than a few key US Senators are working to draft legislation making sure people who have pre-release movies on their hard drive go to jail for 3 years.
And that's all. I'd like to thank various friends who sent me some stories, and of course, FARK, and the various other "here's some strange link" sites I used.
I'm really pathetic. Not just because I think this qualifies as an actual "post," but because I played a little game here, that I find humorous. And now I'm playing another game by not telling you my little game.
(12:04 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Robb's Greatest Hits
In honor of Robb Appreciation Day, I have assembled the following list of my six favorite posts by Robb (excluding the one I linked as his biography above, which is arguably his very greatest hit, at least in terms of sheer impact).
- By way of introduction
- The Favorite Bands
- Robb receives a rude note on his car.
- A serious one about Catch-22
- My personal favorite: the Superman ice cream tirade
I also liked the one where he was getting other people's messages on his cell phone, but that seems too recent to be canonized.
Let's give him a round of applause.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
(6:56 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Dennis Kucinich is a serious candidate
As such, he needs a woman. If Geri from Massachussets doesn't win his heart, I'm available.
I got this from Bob Harris, Tom Tomorrow's fellow-traveller. It's always fun when blogs have guest bloggers (except for when Atrios was gone, because I still maintain that those people sucked balls). I always enjoyed Neal Pollack's (sniffle) site more when it was a guest, and Bob Harris certainly has more "attitude" than his more respectable main blogger. One reason I wanted to have a group blog (named entirely after me) was that I wanted to have that feeling all the time.
I officially declare that tomorrow, Friday, November 14, is Robb Appreciation Day. I'll be assembling a "Robb's Greatest Hits" post for tomorrow morning.
(11:29 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Everything in its right place
Sometimes I wonder what this part of the Bible means:
You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27)
It might be weird to wonder. Everybody knows what it means:
- Never have a dirty thought.
- If you have sex before marriage, you are committing adultery against your future spouse, and/or your partner's future spouse.
- You must ignore a woman's body and focus only on her soul.
I think these readings are stupid. I think this verse has something to say to us in the contemporary "crisis of sexual difference," and the stupid readings make thinking people just ignore the verse as hyperbole.
In Jesus' time, as in much of the world today, women had an ambiguous status. On the one hand, they were obviously human beings, but on the other hand, they were also obviously very useful to the more powerful men in terms of providing children and sexual pleasure (which likely amounted more to the pleasure of dominance than simply genital pleasure). When Jesus prohibited looking at women with lust in one's heart, certainly some in his audience wondered why one would look at a woman at all.
In sharp contrast with the utilitarian approach to women, Jesus (who never married) sought fellowship and conversation with women. Except for the story of the gentile woman who has to convince him to heal her son, he consistently approaches women as equals -- which was likely bewildering to the women themselves.
Beyond that, in the gospel of Matthew, from which the saying in question was taken, prostitutes have a privileged role -- that is, the women who are most aggressive about advertising and enhancing their beauty. Although we tend to assume he must have, Jesus is never recorded as telling a prostitute to retire. This stands in stark contrast to women in our modern days who are aggressively frumpy, thinking in this way that they will weed out all opportunistic suitors who are "only after their bodies." This promotes the same exploitative logic in reverse -- instead of bracketing the "personality," now men are supposed to bracket the body, which leads to decisions that are every bit as arbitrary and every bit as based on fulfilling one's needs. We can read Jesus' saying on adultery of the heart as prohibiting all exploitative approaches to women, just as we can read his prohibition of divorce as a way of preventing ways of thinking that render women disposable when they stop fulfilling their promised functions. This is directly applicable in our day, when people divorce when the partner turns out not to have been the "soul mate" after all -- that is, not to meet all the emotional needs they thought the person would meet.
We might edit Jesus' saying to say, "Whoever looks at a woman with emotional neediness in his heart...." I know that I am guilty of thinking of marriage in this way -- more than just a more consistent sex life, marriage seems to provide a way to finally get those emotional insecurities behind me. Finally, I'll always have someone to hang out with, someone who is required to like me. Yet simply balancing out physical and emotional attractiveness is not the answer, either. We must never forget Jesus' deep suspicion of the institution of marriage, and we must not pretend that "our" way of doing marriage avoids the sinful, dehumanizing, utilitarian patterns that Jesus perceived.
To follow the traditional interpretation of "adultery of the heart" is not only to invite neurosis and despair through the imposition of an impossible demand, but even more seriously, it is to continue the utilitarian logic that Jesus denounces in this verse and throughout his teaching and practice. The way out of the logic of "adultery of the heart" is found in a description of Jesus' own practice:
Jesus, looking at him, loved him... (Mark 10:21)
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
(12:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Some notes on Nazarene intellectualism
Yeah, I know I posted ten minutes ago, and I know that Anthony is disappointed that I'm posting so much -- but I press on.
I won't pretend that this has been a uniform phenomenon across the Nazarene church, but I have noticed a distinct inhospitality toward deep thinkers at Olivet and also at other Nazarene institutions I have heard about from reliable sources. Certainly we all know that A Certain Dynamic and Caring Professor Who Shall Remain Nameless's life was made a living hell at Olivet, and we also know how that has alienated a substantial group of young theologians and philosophers whom he helped to educate. If the Nazarene church were more hospitable to deep, challenging thinkers, the Nameless Professor being only one, then the next generation of Nazarene thinkers could include people like Tony Baker, Nate Kerr, Chad Maxson, Dave Belcher, Jodi Anglin, and others. As it stands, even if someone like that were to decide she was going to stand in the line of fire, there's a good chance that at least Olivet would not have her. (Point Loma is apparently different, and I hear that NTS would be much more hospitable if not for the stonewalling tactics of some general superintendants.)
I don't think it's a matter of politics. At least one person who I know has been screwed over in detail by the Nazarene college system seems to be generally "conservative" on a variety of issues -- but he's a passionate thinker who asks the wrong kind of questions. If education is going to be about passing down all the right answers and keeping the questions under control, then no one is really going to want to do it -- those who are passionate and who want to challenge people will simply go elsewhere. In the end, a denomination that wants to make sure that people come out of religious colleges with all the right answers in hand and without even an inkling of the right kind of questions is basically going to have to start hiring failed pastors who happen to have a PhD.
On the grand scheme of things, this doesn't really matter, and as an insider/outsider, I certainly have the option of not caring anymore -- but a weird little fringe group of dedicated people, which certainly describes the Nazarene church at its best, could certainly do a lot more good in the world if they were more hospitable to those who want to turn their minds toward God (not to mention those who are guilty of certain offences that I'm increasingly convinced aren't even prohibited at all in the New Testament -- though that's another post). If a church cannot be hospitable to those members who have the greatest gifts and who want very much to use those gifts in the service of the church, then I think that's a sign of a deeper failure and a deeper sickness.
(12:15 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Tom Tomorrow links to a correspondence between him and a military blogger who somehow maintained his blog (!) while major combat operations were going on. This is in response to the latest installment of This Modern World, in which Tom makes fun of those who act as though they're fighting the Iraq war by having a blog. Apparently the fact that a handful of pro-war bloggers were actually serving their country while they were maintaining their blog (!) completely discredits this damn cartoon! Come on! Personally, I'll admit that the military blogger "has a point," although it's not quite the point he's making -- I think that it's not always simply stupid or useless to be intellectually involved in a process in which one is not directly physically involved. But I also think it's important to make fun of people who carry it a little bit overboard, from Andrew Sullivan on down. I don't think that a person who has flags all over their car looks any less ridiculous just because some other person with flags on their car happens to have been in the military.
On another note: There is a patient at the chiropractor's office who actually looks like an elf. She's of above average height, but her facial features and hairstyle both remind me of those lovable fantasy creatures. I think she's already married, but if she wasn't, she might want to look into Lord of the Rings-oriented singles groups.
(8:53 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
A day that will live in infamy
Neal Pollack is retiring as a blogger. Let us observe a moment of silence for the passing of a great blog.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
(11:39 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Sophistry of Despair
Identify the reference in my title, dear readers.
A few disjointed remarks:
- On my way home, it was incredibly foggy out. On several occasions, I was convinced that I had somehow made a wrong turn and that I would never make it home. One of my classmates remarked this evening that it smelled like snow, but it turned out to smell like fog. The smells are similar.
- I have no desire to sentimentalize or promote CTS as an institution, but I have to say that after a fairly rough weekend during which I witnessed myself attempting to tear down the latest in a long chain of certainties (I'm going to be a Nazarene pastor; the Roman pontiff is God's voicebox; the Great Books of the dead white males are of paramount importance; the only true theology is a bizarre mixture of Soren Kierkegaard, John Wesley, and Karl Barth) -- it was good to go to a place where I felt like it was all okay. It was good to go to a place where no one expected me to come up with any particular answer. It was good not to feel trapped by my own past. That's probably not CTS-specific, and I don't want to imply that I haven't had the same experience in other places and times in my life or that the feelings I've felt are anyone's fault but my own -- but it was nice.
- Just so you guys know, I'm full of crap: I'm almost certainly not taking Marion's class next semester. There are several reasons. The first is that I don't know if it's even being offered, due to Marion's failing health; I e-mailed U of C to find out, and they haven't responded. Second, I found out that the class will cost significantly more than all the rest of my classes put together, including books and probably gas money to get up there. Third, I have not yet learned German and do not foresee spending significant time with it before mid-December. Finally, there were already more classes next semester than I could take that I wanted to take (if you guys think of a better way to word that particular thought, let me know), so it didn't seem like a big priority anymore. Next year, though, when I finally move up there full time, along with my Iraqi mail-order bride, I will hopefully be able to pencil in a couple Renowned Scholars to round out my resume.
- Finally, I'd like to congratulate contributor emeritus Michael Schaefer on his impending move away from Flint, into the Chicago area.
Thank you for your time.
(9:35 PM) | Robb Schuneman:
While You Were Out...
Recently my cellular telephone has been a magnet to the file shavings of random wrong numbers. This has lead to many messages meant for other people being left on my voicemail. I'm not really sure why this has happened so much recently when it's happened maybe twice before in my life. Actually, I take that back, I do know. It's because I'm too lazy to actually put a message on the voice mail, so anyone who gets the wrong number is not made aware of their mistake.
Anyway, in case they happen across this page, I thought this might be a good venue to get this week's messages out to their intended audience.
- Steve McNutt, yourself and (assumedly) the rest of the crew at Johnny Carino's had a staff meeting on saturday at 8:30 am before open. Sorry if you missed it and lost your job due to my fear of doing yet another too long voice mail greeting. Also, your last name made me chuckle, especially how your manager was all like "Yes, this message is for Steve...McNutt? with that "I'm 19 and a manager at franchise sit-down restaraunt #423" questioning assurance.
- Travis, Trisha called to let you know she found 5 more welding jobs in the paper. She's going to cut them out and mail them to you. If you have any questions, you can call her or just talk to her at work tomorrow. I think your main question might be why she doesn't just bring the ads to work tomorrow instead of mailing them, but I guess now that question will never be answered.
- Finally, whoever you were who somehow dialed my number without knowing that your phone was on - after the 55 seconds of mumbling and strange wind noises, I'm sorry to say I overheard your argument with your significant other. Really, it wouldn't have been that big a deal to have the kids ride with you, even if your wife was being pretty illogical in unloading them from her car into yours. She was wrong, but in the tone and volume of your voice, I really think you overreacted to something that, seriously, is not that big of a deal. Also, growing exasperated and snapping at one of the kids when they asked you a question was probably not needed either. Sorry for listening to the full 4-5 minute accidental message and invading your privacy.
It really is pretty strange though, hearing snippets of people's lives under the guise of knowing them pretty well. It further emphasizes how strange the fact is that there are 6-8 billion people in the world, and I only know a few.
(7:26 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
Rolling Stone recently interviewed Dennis Kucinich, who I think I like. There's some commital for you, eh? I feel uncomfortable liking the furthest left of the democrats..but, heck, he's the only one of the candidates who voted against Iraq - it's funny to see Gephardt, Dean and crew as the most vocal about it now that it's trendy when they all fell in line back when "patriotism" and "uniting behind the president's policies" was in style.
I haven't really done like..massive research into his positions, as there's probably a 0% chance he'll win, so I'm still trying to see if it is worth the time or if he'll get pressured into dropping out with a few months to go. So please don't roast me on this one yet, I'll certainly do more research later on. All I know is I've read about 6-7 interviews, and seen several of the debates, and I like what the guy says. Plus, he looks funny, which makes me feel better about myself.
Oh, and the title has nothing to do with anything, it was just the name of the song I was listening to at the time I thought "I should post a link to this on the blog."
Yes, this vague and uninformed political post was made explicitly to try and set the site-record for most comments. Those seem to be the ones that get the most out of people on other sites, so I thought I might try it here..
Monday, November 10, 2003
(9:51 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A good joke based on a quote from John Locke
I am reading Giorgio Agamben's Homo Sacer right now (it's available at a significant discount at Amazon.com, but I'm going to buck the convention whereby every book mentioned has to include an Amazon link). I just read the following quote from John Locke: "In the beginning, all the world was America." By that, he meant that the New World represents for him the state of nature that precedes civilization proper (law, sovereignty, clothing, etc.). George Soros notwithstanding, we could respond to Locke with the good old catholic proclamation: "as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end."
(I wanted to link to the George Soros article in the newest issue of the Atlantic Monthly, which I received in the mail today, but it's not online yet, and may never be. In it, the wealthy currency speculator speculates about whether the current overwhelming power of America might be just another "bubble" along the lines of the tech bubble back in the happy days of my youth. In an interesting aside, did you know that Thales, widely regarded as the first philosopher, quit the philosophy business in order to increase his credibility by making a ton of money? I read it somewhere. If I track down the source, I'll let you know. In any case, the source also said that the dual philosophical and economic meaning of the word speculation is not an accident -- it was there from day one.)
(7:10 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Conservatives are wimps
I know the world is crying out for me to stop trying to take down God, so here's a nice link to follow. The article that will appear on your screen shortly after you "click" the link discusses the various ways in which conservatives are whiny little bitches who don't seem to understand that they control everything (except for the department of comparative literature at Berkeley) and thus ostensibly have nothing to complain about and should just get on with the task of making our country great.
(12:16 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Failure of the Church
Bonhoeffer claims that the church is "Christ existing as community." When I hear this, I am always tempted to assume that he must be talking about some other church. And in point of fact, the context of his later work is not so much the established Lutheran church of Germany, but rather his smaller groups -- the ad hoc Confessing Church, the students at the underground seminary -- in the same way that Wesley's "church" eventually became identified with the splinter group that he was forming in distinction from the Actually Existing Church. Both attempt to get behind the compromise and apathy of the dominant forms of Christianity in order to get at the "good stuff" of the gospel, which is presumably the "truth" of the gospel.
But what if already in apostolic times we see both the good stuff (radical social critique, attention to economic matters, sexual equality) and the bad stuff? The most visible manifestation of this has to be the letters attributed to Paul -- in the early, "authentic" letters, we get all the radical ideas, but in the later, "pseudonymous" works, we get all the commendations of family values, female submission, and hierarchical rule. Indeed, to take it back a step further, what do we do with the fact that in the Old Testament we find truly amazing economic justice coupled with, to take just one example, divinely ordained genocide? Are we really supposed to take the good stuff and explain away the bad? Was this whole thing set up as a game, where we had to pick out all the materials that were really God's will and abstract out the all-too-human interpolations?
What if the Actually Existing Church does have it right about God? What if the fundamentalist nuts are right? We chant the mantra of "remember the cross" -- but what does that really do? Remember a God-ordained act of extreme violence on the cross? Remember God's impotence in the face of gross injustice? Remember that it's supposed to be okay because after you die...? We're talking about a religion where God himself was confronted with one of the most totalizing and oppressive social structures in world history and he just laid back and took it. We're talking about a religion that virtually deifies those who go quietly to their deaths. We're talking about a religion where the really elite and really spiritual thing to do is to renounce all earthly needs and desires, where for a thousand years, every image of an exemplary Christian looked like a corpse.
This is supposed to be subversive? This is supposed to embody God's justice? I'm supposed to take as my hermeneutical and ethical principle -- the cross? What the fuck? All for the sake of this cross, I put myself and a few different girls through emotional torture over my own sexual desires, and I spent years upon years wasting my intellectual energies arguing against people who can hardly be bothered to read a book and are proud of it, and I went to a school where publicly advocating the viewing of R-rated movies is very nearly grounds for dismissing a full professor. And I'm one of the lucky ones! I got off easy, because I'm a straight white male! What about all those battered women who stayed in their destructive relationships because God disapproves of divorce and because we're supposed to turn the other cheek? What about all those teenagers who are afraid they might be gay and think they'd be better off dead? What about those millions of slaves whose oppression was justified by an appeal not just to an obscure story in Genesis, but to Paul? What about the fact that half of the Jews in Europe were easily disposed of, against the background of two thousand years of anti-Semitism, promoted by such figures as Martin Luther? What about the wars and the gross economic inequality and the indifference toward the poor that are all openly and proudly advocated by Christians in our nation today?
What am I supposed to do with that? Am I supposed to be proud of myself for sticking with it? Am I supposed to talk about the fact that the group that has most often proved an insuperable obstacle to any feeling of community or openness toward others... is the only true source of community? Am I to say that a religion that has consistently tolerated and even enforced injustice... is the only true standard of justice? Am I supposed to be proud of myself because I belong to a religion in which very little is ever actually accomplished, but at least I'm not "just a liberal"? Or am I just a coward for staying? Did I learn the lesson of turning the other cheek a little too thoroughly, such that I'm going to keep turning and turning and waste my entire damn life among people who will never care about me and will never appreciate me and will always want to find a way to get rid of me?
Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord!
Oh, yes, congratulations -- by sticking with this, I'm following God's example! I will get my reward! Every other satisfaction (academic achievement, satisfying romance, a feeling of beloning and importance) pales in comparison with the satisfaction of martyrdom! Here in the torture chamber is where real life happens -- in fact, I envy those Palestinians, and those Congolese Christians, and all those who suffer, because man! That's the life! Oh, but wait -- for it to count, they have to be thinking about Jesus at the time. Sucks to be them. They don't realize how good they have it.
Sunday, November 09, 2003
(10:44 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Christ of the Philosophers
My title is a variant on Pascal's "God of the philosophers," a mythical creature who is very different from the "God of the Bible" -- you know, the God who orders the death of thousands, who hardens the hearts of rulers so as to have an excuse to punish them, and whose demand for justice is so insatiable that it can only be satisfied by having himself put to death. I am, however, embarrassed to refer to Pascal, because he is too obviously Christian. I am embarassed to refer to C. S. Lewis, as well, because he is a favorite reference-point for Christians, and Kierkegaard just barely makes the cut of "secular-seeming enough," and that's only because he supposedly fathered existentialism. If I am going to refer to any distinctly Christian figures, I prefer to pull out people whom the commoners have never heard of -- I'll throw out Karl Barth or Jurgen Moltmann, because their German names make them sound like some long-forgotten, newly avant-garde German Idealist.
Why is it that young, intelligent Christians want so badly to read philosophy? Is the desire to change Jacques Derrida into a theologian of the cross qualitatively different for a desire for a Christian version of Limp Bizkit? Why is it that I instinctively turn to the ideas of Slavoj Zizek in theological debate, even though he is a confessed "fighting atheist"? Why do I prefer to gloss over those portions of the Bible that are incompatible with Marxism? If I'm going to do philosophy, why not just do philosophy and give up on this Jesus thing?
I think part of the problem is the collapse of the Christian cultural heritage. The thought of Luther or Aquinas is no longer as formative as the thought of Dobson or LaHaye -- two pseudo-theologians with questionable training and with little use for past traditions or historical knowledge. Part of the problem is assuredly the complete secularization of education, such that anyone hoping to provide children with any kind of serious engagement with religious thinkers must opt out of the school system altogether (in contrast to many other Western cultures that don't so rigorously enforce separation of church and state). That problem is only a subset of the larger problem of an evacuation of history in education -- both the conservative and liberal approaches to education hollow out the past and transform it into a march forward to either greater military and economic dominance or greater equality and moral uprightness, respectively.
Thus a certain subset of the smart Christians prefer to engage with contemporary philosophy, a field in which they have at best a fragmentary background, and thus tend to hold disproportionately strong opinions on philosophical matters -- Hegel is evil; Kant is full of crap; Plato is the root cause of all society's problems. Some kind of vaguely Christian set of ideas is supposed to ground this critique, but the Christian ideas in question are rather shallowly developed, sometimes consisting of "the opposite of what I've always heard about Jesus must be the truth about Jesus." (I only feel that I can say these things because I have been and continue to be guilty of the offenses I outline.)
And then there are the radically orthodox, who advocate a return to the sources. Back to Augustine and Aquinas! Of course, here, too, the postmodern collapse of history does its dirty work, leading to an "application" of Augustine in a vacuum, where a citation (sympathetic or unsympathetic) of Foucault or, better still, Negri is a substitute for creative cultural analysis.
We parse out the various puns inherent in the word differance, and then say either, "Don't you see? That's exactly what's going on in Luther!" or "Don't you see? That's exactly what Aquinas was fighting against!" It's no mistake that the radical orthodox movement contains both John Milbank and Graham Ward -- both the hater and the lover of contemporary philosophy.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this, especially given the following uncomfortable facts:
- I prefer contemporary philosophy to theology.
- I am currently writing a blog post instead of engaging with a work of theology.
- I am making a bunch of generalizations that I cannot adequately back up with "actual knowledge."
I'm sure, though, that once I finish my PhD, I will have managed to get over all these pitfalls and will become a truly rigorous and historically informed thinker. I'll get over my ingrained "postmodern" laziness and willful ignorance and be fully equipped for the task to which God has called me: to point out the ways in which I am right and everyone else is wrong.
Still, even though my field of experience is limited, I get the distinct impression that the basic phenomenon I'm talking about is a real one and it does warrant some explanation.
(5:06 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The New York Times is no longer credible
(3:49 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Military Service and Clinical Depression
I got this post by Tacitus through CalPundit. Since I've made a habit of commenting on clinical depression despite having only the most basic knowledge of psychology, I felt I should probably link to him.
Saturday, November 08, 2003
(2:04 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Brueggemann and Limbaugh
I am currently reading Walter Brueggemann's The Covenanted Self, a great book on the way an understanding of Israel's covenant with God might inform our modern practices. Brueggemann consistently makes use of the image of Egypt as a monopoly, which forces people to sell themselves into slavery in order to buy food (Genesis 47). It's pretty clear that the Bible views Egypt negatively -- even in the face of the Babylonian conquest, the true prophets are unanimous that Israel should not rely on Egypt for their defense. We often tend to view such issues as arbitrary ("God just likes Israel better than he likes Egypt"), but Brueggemann says that the key to Israel's prosperity and favor is following a just economic system, which is basically outlined in Deuteronomy and includes such "unrealistic" practices as periodic, institutionalized forgiveness of debt -- this just economic order was given to them by God himself, and he expects them to follow it.
Here's where Rush Limbaugh rears his ugly head. In See, I Told You So, he uses the example of pharoah's monopolistic practices in Genesis as an example of why capitalism works, and if I remember right, why a flat tax system works. That is to say, he misses the point of the biblical narrative entirely, and his many enthusiastic Christian readers were likely so excited to see an example from the Bible that they are now perhaps permanently blinded to the real meaning of these narratives.
We don't need a revelation from God to teach us how to institute and preserve an economic system based on inequality, coercion, and greed. I'm pretty sure we can figure out that kind of stuff all by ourselves, through the use of our God-given reason.
UPDATE: While checking for comments, I decided to follow the Rush link and read some of the reviews. Apparently about two thousand enterprising souls decided that they should post reviews of the book that do little other than make fun of him for his drug habit. I also noted that there are 941 used copies available, starting at a penny each.