Wednesday, December 31, 2003
(3:30 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Aesthetic Validity of Marriage
Starting today, I am going to be spending a few days attending to various parties and otherwise preparing for the union of Richard McElroy and Kari Thomas in the sacrament of holy matrimony. It will be my privilege, as a groomsman, to stand with Richard in support of his commitment to Kari.
Hopefully Robb and Anthony will be able to stand in the gap and keep up our post-a-day schedule if my grave duties keep me from the computer. If not, then -- well, frankly, it's the holiday season, and no one is reading anyway. After the wedding festivities are over, I will be a free man for a month -- working 25-30 hours a week, with a broadband Internet connection and time to burn. The blogging possibilities are staggering.
(1:57 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
It's a new year, so what?
So I am just bitter because this New Year’s Eve I will be working at the homeless shelter, not the best place to be on New Year's. I never really looked at my life in periods of the year and its beginning and end on the 31st and the 1st. I have always looked at it in terms of the school year and I base my life around that. Summer is the end of the year and fall is the beginning. I think this may have something to do with my desire to become some kind of an academic; I just don't want to look at the year like the rest of the world. Of course becoming Chinese or Jewish would also remedy that and the plastic surgery would be much cheaper than University costs.
The e-mail you see listed to the right is no longer my e-mail because Olivet has terminated my account so please direct all fan mail and sexual invitations to email@example.com.
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
(3:41 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
From Mr. Krugman's column today:
The bottom line, then, is that for most Americans, current economic growth is a form of reality TV, something interesting that is, however, happening to other people. This may change if serious job creation ever kicks in, but it hasn't so far.
The big question is whether a recovery that does so little for most Americans can really be sustained. Can an economy thrive on sales of luxury goods alone? We may soon find out.
As we all know, history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. The history being repeated here seems to be "trickle-down" or "supply-side" economics. This was first attempted in the 1980s, when the "conservatives" took power under Reagan. It didn't work. No reputable economist ever thought it would. Anyone who thinks it works is an idiot or a complete party hack.
Naturally, then, we're giving it another try -- since Bush has no actual "ideas" of his own, the job of running the country falls to his retro 80's cabinet. We were supposed to trust Bush because of his good, experienced advisors. Maybe some journalist somewhere should have done a little digging around to see the kinds of policies those people actually supported. I can certainly see the place of super-capitalist income inequality during the 80s, when we were at the tail end of fighting the Commies -- it is certainly a symbolic victory if capitalism at its most decadent and unjust is able to defeat communism, and I applaud Reagan for the foresight of allowing us that symbolic victory. Similarly, a dualistic worldview where we blindly support and prop up rulers who are nominally loyal to us in a clash of civilizations while those same rulers act to undercut our national interest and our supposed "values" -- that makes a lot of sense when you're fighting the Cold War, like we were in the 80s.
But guess what: We're not fighting the Cold War anymore, morons! Get a calendar! The Berlin Wall fell over a decade ago, and now much of the world views the excesses of capitalism as a primary obstacle to justice and human welfare. Even though the long-term value of "Third Way" liberalism and humanitarian interventionism are questionable, at least the "liberals" made a token gesture toward coming up with new ideas during that lengthy period. The most original idea a conservative has come up with in the past decade has been to put Reagan's face on the dime. All the conservatives did was bitch and moan and plot character assassinations and come up with dirty tricks -- so that they could just repeat their program from the Reagan years.
Monday, December 29, 2003
(6:26 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Few Things to Be Glad About
Today, I had several things to be glad about. Here they are so far:
- The weather outside is beautiful -- it's like we skipped to April.
- I've gotten to participate in a pretty good exchange over at John and Belle's place, which may very well be the first time I've ever seriously discussed literary theory with anyone other than Dr. Belcher. It was especially satisfying when I pointed out that it makes perfect sense for lit theorists to imitate the style of Derrida rather than C. S. Lewis, since Derrida does the kind of thing they like and Lewis does something else entirely, and John finally broke down and said that he was tired of hearing about Heidegger and the Frenchies all the time. Also, the trackback thing actually does work.
- Through some bizarre fluke, the office has started tuning into a "light jazz" station that plays -- get this -- actual jazz. I heard John Coltrane and a lot of other old classics, and the arrangements of a couple Christmas carols (still) were actually decent and interesting. I hope they stick with this station; my only wish would be that I could know the titles and artists for each song, so that I could get paid, in part, for developing a better knowledge of jazz.
- The quest for Absolute Knowledge continues apace -- last night I went through some of Hegel's stuff about the scientific method, and I felt like I understood it well enough and was actually interested. A lot of times I know he's debating against someone, but I can't quite figure out who. In this case, since he was debating against "scientists," I felt as though I had enough knowledge to catch onto more of what he was saying. As of now, it's only 304 pages until I achieve Absolute Knowledge, at which point my blog postings will become much more interesting.
- I got to wear some new clothes that I got for Christmas. Even though I absolutely never buy clothes of my own, I do enjoy wearing new stuff. My mom, aunt, and grandma seem to have pretty decent taste -- at least they know not to buy me a turtleneck.
- Finally, I found out that I am going to get paid on New Year's Eve, rather than on Friday, which means that I can be extra-special punctual with my rent during this, my first month as the primary renter.
That's all I have for now.
(3:32 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Reading theology so you don't have to
Adam has reviewed the holy scriptures of other religions. We are all familiar with the wonderful insights into current progressive music that Robb gives us, along with the hilarious stories of embarrassment and misspent youth. I, in stark contrast, have not lived up to The Weblog’s goal of spreading the healing ointment of culture on the wounds of liberal and conservative hacks that infest the blogosphere. I intend to right this wrong.
I have decided to review Jurgen Moltmann’s The Trinity and the Kingdom because I have just finished it and I have no real reason to go to bed. I found this book in the trash pile at the Salvation Army thrift store I worked out during the summer, it was in perfect condition, seemed as if it had never been opened and since they were going to throw it away I stole it. I find this to be, as my mother would say, kind of special. Now I don’t expect everyone to know who Moltmann is so I must forgive the community service workers for overlooking the book since the only reason I noticed it was that Moltmann had, by some odd alignment of the planets, given lectures at Olivet Nazarene University my freshman year and Craig Keen introduced Moltmann as “my hero.” Being the good Keen hack that I am I decided to undertake the reading of Moltmann even though my initial reaction my freshman year was of utter and complete confusion which I defend by pointing out that it was my first semester and I was more interested in C.S. Lewis and ideas about avoiding sin (not that there is anything wrong with that) than I was about something called the Trinity or the Kingdom of God. Oh, and Craig made us read him in two out of three systematic classes.
The book goes through familiar Moltmann territory to students of Craig and to readers of Moltmann (I think this is a later book and part of a series by him from Fortress Press though I have no actual knowledge to back that up, maybe we should ask Adam in a few weeks after he attains Absolute Knowledge) by asserting Christ as the central access to the revelation of the Trinity but instead of reading the Trinity in the light of Christ as he does in earlier works he now reads the Trinity and its relationship to human liberty. This makes it of interest to anyone who, like me, is obsessed with the relationship of religion and politics. I think much in the section “The Passion of God” is repeated in all the works of Moltmann that people are supposed to read (ie. The Crucified God) but this isn’t a problem as these themes need to be repeated as often as possible. Because of my familiarity with Moltmann, these sections just seemed to drag until Chapter V, “The Mystery of the Trinity.” Here Moltmann expounds on the use of monotheism to justify monarchy. Focusing on the heresies of Ariaiansim and Modalism as the two strains of monotheism which have been the main champions of monarchy within the Christian church Moltmann also has some interesting critiques of Greek philosophy but only if you haven’t heard them before (meaning you haven’t had much Craig). After this brief expected critique Moltmann finally does something very unexpected: he critiques Karl Barth as being a proponent of a Trinitarian Monarchy.
This came as a surprise namely because I have come to see Barth as the theologian that people either ignore or accept but never critique but also because I had come to believe if any understanding of the Trinity occurs it is one that must automatically show the role of the Church to be a community of love. What Moltmann does here is admit that the Trinity, as a concept, isn’t going to save us but is also a concept that needs to be saved. Up till this point in the book, which is well past half way through, you had the feeling that Moltmann held the opposite view and many of my other colleagues had suggested that Moltmann was just a embodiment of a phase of Barth.
Trying to bring together theologies of East and West Moltmann defines personhood rather differently than Augustine intended, or at least that is what Moltmann says and since I have read relatively no Augustine I can’t really comment. More interesting to me he tries to bring together the liberalism of the West with the socialism of the East under a Trinitarian framework. There is also an odd journal length essay about the Filioque that, while impressive if it was in a journal, seems out of place in the narrative of the book.
The pay off of the book is the final chapter, “The Kingdom of Freedom.” After laying the foundation of his own Trinitarian thinking Moltmann seems to relax a bit and brilliantly goes about analyzing the current state (in 1980) of political and clerical monotheism. Part of this analysis is saying that the Trinity must be understood not in philosophical terms (like Aristotle’s First Cause) or in terms of political justification but in Trinitarian terms with the other concepts following this signifier (I can’t really say it is a master signifier, maybe servant signifier?). He says this in hopes that the doctrine of the Trinity will provide “the intellectual means to harmonize personality and sociality” in the anticipation of the coming of the final reign and rule of God’s Kingdom. At this point Moltmann introduces us to a relatively obscure figure in theology, Joachim of Fiore. Much of what Joachim says, and by virtue Moltmann, is radically different than what I had previously perceived to be going on in most eschatology but after this book I can see it all over. Joachim divided up sections of history into Trinitarian times of rule, where one of the three persons of the Trinity has a more profound influence over a certain time but not an absolute rule. The first is the Kingdom of the Father (law), the second is the Kingdom of the Son (faith) and the third is the Kingdom of the Spirit which is to come (love). This is differentiated from the Orthodox Protestant understanding which only has the first two orders with the third subsumed in the second. I think Zizek would find this interesting in his analysis of Lenin’s murder of the royal family and there are striking parallels to Marx’s analysis of history that Moltmann acknowledges. Ultimately Moltmann does argue for an open community of individuals who are free of an absolute ruler, like Liberalism, that exists as loving friends who work together for the common goal of the future which is like Socialism (or Communism, whatever). Though he sounds a lot like Hauerwas here he just does it better.
All in all, I think this book is a good primer for political theology especially if you are interested in how doctrines relate to creating political theory. It is rather short and because of that the end chapter suffers from a lack of spelling out some of the concepts or really expound on his insights. Most of my other issues with the book arise out of the philosophical assumptions made, while Moltmann critiques the Greeks feverishly there are hints of Greek metaphysics (though I think he would deny this) concerning Being (kind of like the Nicene creed) and some of his epistemology seemed a bit brash but this is theology so that must be forgiven and to Moltmann’s credit he does note that the actual existence of God is not of interest to theology or people of faith.
Now a side note: I think we should find a way to have our pictures appear next to our posts and I am blantaly ripping this idea off from John and Belle Have a Blog.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
(4:09 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
New Feature: Searching and Trackback
I have added a rudimentary Google search to this site -- it is located on the sidebar, at the very bottom. There are a couple of drawbacks to this feature. First, it only goes to the appropriate archive page, not the post itself. This is a limitation of the Blogger format, which only divides each post by an "a name" tag, rather than putting each into a separate file (a la Movable Type). If you were searching, for example, for "gay bath house," you would go to the archive that contains that post, but you would have to dig through all the other posts in order to find it. Your web browser's "search on this page" feature should be of some assistance here. Secondly, the background color of the search results is an ugly teal blue color. I would imagine that this has something to do with the fact that I basically stole the code for this feature from Juan Cole's site and made only the most obvious changes. I don't know exactly what to change, and I'm too lazy to update my template as many times as it would take to figure out. In any case, if anyone ever wanted to find a specific post, this is much better than manually scanning through the archives.
Someday I'll switch to Movable Type, which will make all these problems go away entirely. For now, though, it just doesn't seem to be worth it.
UPDATE: As part of my continued Internet binge, I have also added a Trackback feature. I'm not at all sure how it works, but I'm sure it will be great. I am adding this link to a John Halbo post on which I commented several times, to see if my post will show up under his trackback.
(12:20 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
A widow of one of the victims of 9/11 has filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration. Oddly this isn't on the front page of any newspapers, topping the headlines on the cable networks or even a big deal to the blogosphere. The reason seems to be clear; the charge seems too incredible to be real even if we all know it is. Fantastic events like planes crashing into the twin towers in New York exist in a sort of hyper-real realm where we couldn't deny that it was happening since it was televised but we could deny that this event came out of reality. These events come out of imagination, of our movie screens and come crashing not so unexpectedly into our lives. As such I am waiting in anticipation of a dirty bomb to blow up in a major city; I know I am not alone. These fears we broadcast on CNN and talk about when we are together.
Yet when something not nearly as fantastic, like the Bush administration allowing 9/11 to happen or at least using it to deceive the American public, it is unbelievable simply because it is believable. This seems to be a tautology but in the concrete world it is what the media and the masses are acting out. Hopefully the election can bring this stuff into a more fantastic light so that people will finally deal with it.
Moving from politics to my personal life in spurts, Christmas was insane and I have been trying to post since Christmas Eve but have been too tired to. I know, I sound like a 40 year-old wife but I swear it is true. And I had a headache.
I have about two weeks before Winter Quarter begins and I am looking forward to it. I get to tackle Kant and Heidegger, Tragedy and French and Ecclesiology and Politics. It sounds like my kind of quarter. Though I am envious of Adam and his relentless march towards Absolute Knowledge and can't wait until I get to learn about old man Hegel.
Where the hell has Jared Woodard been? Get back to blogging you lazy pervert!
My mother-in-law gave me a book entitled The Purpose-Driven Life that was not on my wishlist. Unfortunately I feel guilty trying to get money back for it since she wrote in the inside cover and I have considered turning it into a book review but fear that I would become much too depressed reading it. Maybe I am being too cynical about the book, after all the author of The Prayer of Jabez liked it.
I found another piece of fantastic news that can be believed because we have seen it acted (that is pretend) on screen. Linked for Sullywatch this story of the spitting peace activists.
(10:01 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Unelectable / Zizek
In Google, type in "unelectable," then hit "I Feel Lucky."
Indeed, the overall problem with Organs Without Bodies (and more generally with all of Zizek’s work) has to do with his ultimate loyalty to Hegel and Lacan: quite literally everything gets ultimately framed in Hegelian/Lacanian terms, and this means that Zizek is not really able to encounter any texts or thinkers lying outside this orbit.
Zizek’s Lacanianism, no less than any other philosopher’s formula, is justified by all the great insights it produces along the way. but still I find it suffocating that Zizek’s marvelous interpretive machine is not just a producer of sparks, but that the circle always has to be closed at the end, so that we always end up back with assertions about, for instance, the obscene supplement of superego enjoyment, or the price to be paid for denying castration.
Loyalty seems to be lacking in today's world. We should applaud Zizek for being an honest party hack.
On a more serious level, I'm sure we're all familiar with Descartes' declaration that if one is lost in the woods, it's better to pick one direction and stick with it than to turn every which way -- at least if you pick a direction, you're bound to get somewhere which will surely be preferable to being lost in the middle of the woods. Zizek has clearly chosen his direction, and perhaps his doggedness in sticking with it should indicate to us not a supreme confidence, but rather an admission that he hasn't yet gotten out of the woods. Zizek praises Lacan precisely for making bald assertions, yet no thinker in the history of the world has ever been so inconsistent and so difficult to periodize -- when you cite Lacan, you practically have to say, "Well, I mean the Lacan of Seminars VI to VII; the later Lacan would say something else entirely." Lacan doesn't have to say that he doesn't yet have a grip on exactly what's going on, because that's implicit in his often awkwardly formulated, off-the-cuff insights that sometimes even contradict each other or themselves -- all in a public forum, attended by all the great luminaries of France during the period when France was at the very forefront of the world of ideas. It's interesting that Lacan gets paired with Hegel, then, since Hegel of course was the only person who fully understood what was going on at his time -- maybe pairing Hegel with Lacan ends up being the only way for Zizek to say, as in The Sublime Object of Ideology, that Absolute Knowledge is the acknowledgement of a fundamental loss.
(For those keeping score, I have approximately 338 pages to go before I myself reach Absolute Knowledge.)
Saturday, December 27, 2003
(6:05 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Brief Word from One of the Smart Conservatives
David Brooks is supposed to be a smart conservative. The man publishes regularly in The Atlantic Monthly. He has a regular column in the New York Times. He's so smart that he's decided to address the political philosopher Michael Oakeshott, reportedly one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. He wonders whether Oakeshott would have supported the Iraq War -- certainly something that everyone gives a crap about.
This is the best he can come up with:
I remind Oakeshott that he was ambivalent about the American Revolution, and dubious about a people who had made a sharp break with the past in the name of inalienable rights and other abstractions. But ours is the one revolution that worked, and it did precisely because our founders were epistemologically modest too, and didn't pretend to know what is the good life, only that people should be free to figure it out for themselves.
Because of that legacy, we stink at social engineering. Our government couldn't even come up with a plan for postwar Iraq — thank goodness, too, because any "plan" hatched by technocrats in Washington would have been unfit for Iraqi reality.
I love the patronizing scarequotes around "plan" -- "Oh, so you wanted us to have a 'plan,' huh? A 'plan'?" All of a sudden, the fact that our government doesn't know what the hell it's doing is some kind of virtue:
I tell Oakeshott that the Americans and Iraqis are now involved in an Oakeshottian enterprise. They are muddling through, devising shambolic, ad hoc solutions to fit the concrete realities, and that we'll learn through bumbling experience. In the building of free societies, every day feels like a mess, but every year is a step forward.
I don't understand how the editors at the Times can read this stuff without screaming. First of all, the administration constantly claims to have a plan, even if the plan changes all the time. When things weren't going well at the beginning of the war, Rumsfeld was sure to remind us that we should trust him, because he has a plan. Second, I don't know if he realizes this, but the American Revolution was the exact opposite of the war in Iraq. There was no viable resistance movement on the ground in Iraq that we could come in and "support," so we can't even claim the role that France played in our revolution. The colonies had a long political tradition and already had institutions in place that would help to ease the transition to the new form of government -- it was actually new, but at the same time, it didn't just pop out of thin air. "Rebuilding Iraq" is pure social engineering, and based on Brooks' presentation of Oakeshott, it is exactly the kind of thing that Oakeshott would loathe.
Still, we have to give him credit for presenting Oakeshott in a way that is presumably accurate -- that is, since his presentation completely undermined his own argument, we have to assume that Brooks had nothing to gain from his presentation and thus probably did not consciously falsify it. I suppose that I could go read Oakeshott himself, just to make sure, but honestly, who cares?
UPDATE: I got the cable modem working finally, without requiring a technician to come to my house. The guy who came originally told me that every cable in the house would work with the modem, which turns out to be false. I ran a cable from the former computer room into my bedroom and hooked the modem up to that, and I called the Comcast people to get them to tell me how to register the modem myself -- but I had no apparent connection to the Internet. I couldn't even ping the registration server. I was seriously perplexed. Then I realized the solution: I hadn't turned on the modem. I am now officially one of those people who had to call tech support so that the person could tell me to turn the thing on. Now all that remains for me to return to my normal Internet-centered life is to search on Google for how to get rid of the "Internet Explorer Provided by Comcast" thing.
MEANINGFUL UPDATE: This is a much better executed criticism of the Brooks article, which has come up for a beating by virtually every blogger I've clicked on today -- Matthew Ygelsias, CalPundit, Talking Points Memo, etc. Hopefully the Times will fire Brooks, then fire Friedman, too, for good measure, then fire Nicholas Kristoff for being a little bitch. Then they can replace them with Josh Marshall, Eric Alterman, and, oh, some smart conservative -- I assume there must be a couple of them still around. Maybe Pat Buchanan is the best they can do now.
Friday, December 26, 2003
(1:43 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Every so often, Kevin Drumm has a post about how he went to some way-cool party with all the bloggers in town. He doesn't tend to go into much detail, but I assume there are a lot of people bringing up newspaper articles and editorials they read, quoting a pertinent chunk, then telling what they think. Once they're done with that exercise, they allow other people to comment on it and occasionally even interject. I'm sure they eat as well, just to remind themselves that they're in the "physical world" as opposed to cyberspace.
Due to my righteous Christmas victory yesterday, however, my upcoming blogging party will be much better than those stupid ones out in California. The victory in question is this: I received the game "Simpsons Monopoly." I still have it in the shrink-wrap, but I think the basic premise is that you play Monopoly, but you get to talk about The Simpsons. Instead of Boardwalk, you have "Burns' Mansion," for example. I played a lot of "Simpsons Clue" with my sister and two cousins (scroll down for their story) yesterday, and it was the same basic thing. I was never a fan of "Clue," but when you get to be Krusty and walk around Springfield accusing Smithers of doing it with the slingshot at The Android's Dungeon, it becomes rivetting rather quickly.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
(1:17 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
My reading of Invisible Adjunct has caused me to rethink my future career plans. First, I wonder if a masters degree provides significantly less preparation to engage in serious scholarly work than does a PhD, at least in the humanities. If I managed to find a PhD program that would pay for me, I would do it, and I am fairly confident that I'd be one of those lucky few who would finish within the time allotted, but at the same time, I'm sure that after another year and a half of masters-level work and after writing a thesis, I'll be fully capable of pursuing any scholarly interests I may have.
Of course, with an MA, I'd be even less likely to find a full-time teaching position -- but do any of us really want to teach undergraduates? I know I don't. The real fun is working in highly advanced seminars with people who really want to be there, rather than people who are just fulfilling an arbitrary requirement. I am beginning to wonder if there is any way of reproducing that kind of thing in the "real world." For a short time at the legendary Trigger's, we seemed to be coming close, presenting papers and short stories and poetry we had written, but we didn't always have very good dialogue -- probably because we were all writing about stuff that others hadn't yet read. I focussed mainly on Zizek, Bill Brower wrote about Deleuze and Mary Daly and a million other people, and Fred Ecenrode read part of a paper that was kind of on Benjamin, and everything was nice and interesting, but there wasn't enough overlap in our reading -- we couldn't really dig in, unless someone brought in Heidegger, but I think most of us were tired of Heidegger at that point.
I'm wondering if it's possible to get a group of people together reading the same thing and trying to write about it or discuss it in a focussed, serious way without necessarily having a grade involved. I would prefer for this to happen in person, but with a small enough group, some kind of online chat format might work -- I doubt it could be more than four or five people at once. I think I'm right when I say that that kind of activity is what attracts people to graduate school and is the fantasy they have of what their career will end up being like, so why not just, you know, do it?
We do seem to have enough interested parties right here in Kankakee, especially when school is in session -- even though Tara is working constantly and Kevin is living in New York and the grad program at Olivet is slowly disintegrating, I'm sure we could find four or five people to agree to read thirty to fifty pages of some book and get together for an hour or so of discussion, each week or so. If that went well, maybe we could step it up. Of course, the fact that I and almost all my friends who could be involved with this are actually in school might make the "point" of this exercise questionable for now, but anyway -- it's what I've been thinking about.
I propose that we read Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," in any case.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
(2:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I am leaving for Michigan soon, but now that I have the ability to post again, I can't stop. First, I have to tell you some things that are good.
- CD: Absolution by Muse -- This doesn't come out in the US until next month, but since Robb (whose last post I have effectively scrolled to death) gives me the inside juice, I've had it for months. Fans of their previous efforts, Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry, should not be disappointed. They have kind of an arena-rock sound, with Radioheadesque vocals and some light "tacky techno" (although production values are definitely higher on this album). High points include "Stockholm Syndrome" and "Butterflies and Hurricanes." Robb testifies that the album is so good that he listened to it for a week straight.
- Book: Introduction to the Reading of Hegel by Alexander Kojeve -- This was a thoroughly undeserved Christmas gift. I have not yet read it in its entirety, but I have already found it to be illuminating as I struggle to read Hegel this winter break (I'm only 410 pages away from absolute knowledge!). His interlinear gloss on the Master/Slave dialectic, which he presents "in place of an introduction," is probably worth the price of the book in itself. Kojeve is starting to look like one of the primary sources for all our favorite Frenchies, especially Lacan and Derrida. (It remained on my wish list after the person bought it for me, so if my mom somehow decides to select it to buy for me for Christmas, Anthony Smith will receive my extra copy [for a nominal fee].)
- Cat: Soren -- Here I thought I was allergic to Soren, but it turns out that I just have a persistent cold! I spent days pushing her aside when she needed love and affection, all because of a misunderstanding. I figure mentioning her on my web page will make it up to her, in part.
- Mom: mine -- December 23 is my mom's birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom.
That's about it. I need to go now.
(1:07 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Don't Feed the Trolls!
Although this is true everywhere, I find it annoying that the CRI General Forum is completely dominated by one or two trolls. The pattern is this: someone asks a genuinely thoughtful theological question worthy of sustained attention. Maybe there are a couple responses at first, usually brief ones, and usually someone slips up and says something that goes against the conservative talking points, so some troll writes in with the same thing he writes every time, about how he has the correct views and he's being persecuted and shut out because other people have different views (it's amazing how the American "conservative" tactics fit so well in every field -- religion, politics, whatever).
Then all of a sudden, the conversation is about the historical verifiability of the Bible, or the inerrancy of Scripture, or the penal-substitutionary theory of the atonement, or evolution, or whatever other stupid shit no one really cares about. And everyone jumps all over him! It's as though everyone is so glad to be able to hash out the same stupid, bullshit questions over and over again. No, Mr. Troll, don't you see that it doesn't make any sense for there to be a worldwide conspiracy of scientists who know the Bible is true but want to "disprove" it through Darwinism in order to take everyone to hell with them? Don't you see that the Bible contains many contradictory versions of the same events, and many irreconcilable theological views? Can't you fucking read? And he verifies, over and over, "No, I can't fucking read." This happens every time -- every time -- and it always explodes into this long, long conversation in which absolutely nothing is accomplished and nothing new is said. Meanwhile, the original good question languishes because everyone is so busy re-fighting the same battles.
Why is it that dogmatic maniacs always get to set the terms of debate? They know they're just asking the same questions over and over again, and their real goal is to keep the debate from moving forward. So what should we do, then? Ignore them. I mean, sure, go ahead and disprove the idiot conservative the first time, but if he keeps coming back, ignore him. If you want to be nice about it, tell him to re-read your previous post on the subject, because you have nothing more to say to his idiotic and irrelevant questions. If we don't ignore them, then we are just submitting to their totalitarian desires -- as Zizek says in The Sublime Object of Ideology, "totalitarian power is not a dogmatism which has all the answers; it is, on the contrary, the instance which has all the questions." No matter how eloquent we are in proving that Darwinism is not a secret ploy of Satan to lead us astray, or that our eternal destiny does not depend on believing that Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, or whatever, they still win, because we let them control the questions.
Oh, and also: Merry Christmas!
(1:45 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
The situation is entirely hopeless
I must apologize for my long absence of any substantial posts lately. I now know I could never work as an editor because the winter hits me with such debilitating depression that I have trouble forming normal thoughts. I tend to become very pessimistic and operate much like a bipolar person moving from one extreme to the other until spring heals my weary mind. Thankfully Adam and Robb have reclaimed their spots on the journal as level-headed bringers of truth, justice, and the liberal America-hating way.
I will now add my normal pessimistic and much too hopeless assessment of the current state of the world.
My generation, whatever us 20-somethings and younger are, is conservative because they, and me too though I am not conservative, are scared shitless about the future. We also happen to have formed some kind of unholy alliance with those in power and, though these students are the either the majority or control the silent masses, we are starting to control academia by killing it off. We will fight to keep those lives comfortable even if it means losing the world. It is nihilism in the negative sense of that term.
Our comfort, that is to be neither very rich nor poor in our life, is essentially the way we protect ourselves from the lack of meaning in our lives. Finding and maintaining this kind of comfort makes sense when you are a modern nihilist, it follows from this kind of mindset if life has no meaning and you don't really have the passion to kill yourself then you just ride the wave and try not to get bored. This seems to be characteristic of late capitalism; something even Marx fortells in Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, that old Jewish prophet. You find a decent job doing something you don't really like but can deal with, you watch a lot of news that scares you and a lot of reality TV that convinces you that "life is sure funny", if you read you tend to not think about it, you have sex to break up the monotony and though you may have watched American Beauty or gone to church neither really effects the way you live. Our unnoticed despair, our nihilism, is precisely the sickness unto death; we deal with the sickness by bringing death upon all that threatens our despair or nihilism and watch that death on our TV as if it never happened. Death to those who would challenge our comfort even though this eventually means our own death.
"Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith:
[Say it out loud and say it with me]
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again." - Book of Common Prayer (Episcopal)
Adam has remarked, and I think accurately, that Christianity seems to offer the answer of speaking up for the oppressed and poor, waiting patiently for someone to kill you after getting pissed off and then hoping for a miracle. That is the mystery of our faith in slightly non-poetic form. There can be no human understanding of hoping in this. Christ, by all accounts of science and reason and good ol' common sense, did not rise and if he is coming back again it sure is taking him a hell of a long time.
Adam is dead on again concerning the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Human beings want to be led, religion is a form of guidance towards some ultimate end and it works a lot better when it is set in stone (or metal or read-only file). Much of what makes the situation hopeless for me is that Jesus hasn't come back and the Church hasn't done anything to act like he is coming. Part of this problem is contemporary Christianity's understanding of religion as such. I will now sum that up in a parody to be heard in proper accent:
"We have this here book that explains exactly what we should do to live a good life. Pretty much we have this grace thing which allows us to sit on our butt and as long as we follow some arbitrary moral guidelines we make it to heaven which I hear is for rich folks. Oh and we should support our conservative leaders cause they are a lot like heaven."
I could use some hope in the form of a smoking gun over Chicago. I hate that it has come to that and I hope some miracle happens but miracles tend to be even worse than smoking guns. We passed up revolution and the only thing left is to kill us all or die trying but the mystery of faith says we will rise again.
Monday, December 22, 2003
(11:35 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Book Review: The Book of Mormon
I have been reading the Book of Mormon lately. I received one for free from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints my sophomore year of college, but I never got around to really reading it until now. A few things came together to motivate this -- conversations with a Mormon PhD student at CTS, a discussion about Mormonism in Ted Jennings' class, together with all the latent interest in Mormonism from Mike Hancock's "Mormon Phase" during high school (a surprisingly common phase). Before I begin the review proper, I must say that I have only read 1 Nephi through Words of Mormon (in other words, the prophet Mormon's transcription of the shorter plates of Nephi, containing mainly spiritual matters). I still have to read about two thirds of it. I probably will end up doing so eventually.
The prose style of the Book of Mormon is like an unfunny parody of the King James Bible. It was admittedly written ("translated") in the 1820s, which can account for some of the antiquated language, but the style is excessively ornate -- it's as though Nathaniel Hawthorne has finally decided to stop being so straightforward and get down to the business of some serious circumlocution. At times, five consecutive verses will begin with "And it came to pass that...," even when all five of them are describing a continuous series of events that happen within minutes of each other -- Verse 1: "Someone hit me." Verse 2: "And it came to pass that I was in pain." There are also many awkward moments where the word "loins" occurs more than three times in one sentence. Overall, though, this is something that one can get past. At least the atrocious prose style is consistent, and in fact it probably helps one to read more speedily.
The characters are thin, to say the least. In this respect alone, the Book of Mormon compares unfavorably with the Bible. Whereas in the Bible we get morally complex characters like Saul, David, Peter, Paul, etc., in the Book of Mormon we get people who are basically either irredeemable moral monsters or completely admirable men of faith (and I do mean men -- in terms of homosociality, the shorter plates of Nephi give The Lord of the Rings a run for its money). The closest we even get to a real character is Nephi himself, and many of the most affecting moments are the ones that are ripped off from the story of Joseph: his older brothers despise him because he has these pretensions to holiness and leadership, for example. His best moment, in terms of humanity, is when his brothers tie him up while they're sailing for three years to America ("the promised land"). It came to pass that his ankles and wrists swelled up, and it came to pass that he was in much pain. Once he arrives in America, however, he forms a faction, including some younger brothers, and from then on, vulnerability and emotional immaturity have no place.
In terms of plot, it's difficult to judge so far -- Nephi does explicitly state that he has one set of plates (the ones I read) for spiritual matters, and one set for historical matters. Nephi's story of how he struggled with his brothers and secured the plates (see below) from the evil guy in Jerusalem is the best story we get in any detail, and in my opinion, it's not really that impressive. I can't imagine a situation in which I would want to discuss some detail of the story, in the same way that I would discuss details in novels or in the story of Jeremiah, for example. I'm sure if I were raised with the Book of Mormon as part of my holy scripture, I might see things differently.
Yet the success of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land is evidence enough that people are willing to put up with a lack of character and plot if they can be assured of a satisfying game of identifying allusions. On this front, the Book of Mormon performs very strongly. Much of 2 Nephi is chapter after chapter of quotations from Isaiah, with notes that make it clear that everything is about Christ. In fact, in the Book of Mormon, prophecies work just like people expect them to work: every "prophecy" from before Christ is a detailed, verifiable prediction of what will happen when Christ comes, with some view of later history. In fact, the prophecies are so strong and detailed that the prophets expect that people will begin following Christ right then, even though he's not supposed to come to earth for 500 more years. The search for justice characteristic of many of the prophets seems to be mostly absent from the prophecy in the Book of Mormon, but perhaps adherence to the teachings of Christ, who is predicted in the prophecies, takes care of that part.
Other biblical allusions are not so satisfying. The book of Jacob contains a lengthy "lost prophecy" from the extra-biblical prophet Zenos. He starts with the basic groundwork of Paul's analogy of the vine from Romans (the "wild branches" of the Gentiles are, contrary to nature, grafted into the "domesticated root" of Israel), and then takes it to such ridiculous lengths that I started to wonder what the point of the metaphor was -- the Lord of the vineyard cuts off the domesticated branches, but he throws them somewhere else so they can take root on their own, and meanwhile the engrafted wild branches start bearing (surprise, surprise) wild fruit, and the Lord gets upset, then he remembers those one branches he threw aside.... On and on it goes, for 80+ verses, and verses of the Book of Mormon are long.
My theory, however, which I've already floated to a few of my dear readers, is that the Book of Mormon is basically what people have been set up to believe the Bible should be. As absurd as the idea of keeping documents on metal plates might be in itself, insisting on metal plates is a way of insisting that Joseph Smith had the original documents, as hand-written by the original authors -- which is what most naive Christians believe we have in the case of the Bible. Also, the translation is itself divinely inspired, such that we can trust it completely and don't need to consult the originals. It contains some stories, together with some more or less clear prophecies about Christ and his teachings, all of which are fulfilled. Most Christians seem to view the Old Testament as some kind of extended foreshadowing of Christ, which is a perfectly good theory until you start actually, you know, reading the Old Testament.
Even though the historical events and historians in the Book of Mormon are obviously just made up, the narrators are fairly explicit about what they're doing, why they're recording these particular events, why other things didn't make it in, etc., in sharp contrast to the rather bewildering presentation of history in the Bible -- ironically enough, a book that surely contains no historical events is more in the style of modern historical writing than the Bible, which contains at least a couple real historical events here and there. Finally, since the Book of Mormon was written pretty much at one go (or, in its own self-presentation, with a very small number of authors and editors), it can be much more consistent than the Bible, even than the New Testament. And finally, the Book of Mormon basically answers the kinds of questions that modern readers ask, which is perhaps to be expected since it was written during the modern era, generally speaking.
Overall, I have to recommend the Book of Mormon, or at least some part of it. It is fairly interesting just in itself, to see what it looks like to write new scripture in the 1820s, and it also sheds some interesting light on the false expectations people have when approaching the Bible. I would contend that unlike the Bible, the Book of Mormon is probably a book that you can base a religion on -- meaning a book from which you can derive consistent practices and doctrines. Of course, since they have still more books in their canon, maybe I'm wrong about that.
(11:01 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I am learning patience right now. First, I am learning patience from Comcast High-Speed Internet, which came to "hook up my service" today, by which I mean drop off a cable modem, verify that it works, alert me to the fact that their entire network is currently down, give me instructions in how to register the modem myself -- then run off before I realize that the modem is, in fact, defective. They could get to me maybe around next Monday. The guy who came to my house was really nice, and the two people I've talked to on the phone were really nice, but the company itself appears to have the sickness unto death pretty badly.
Second, I am learning patience from SBC Yahoo! Dialup service, which I am using because the AOL software included with Windows ME apparently doesn't work, and neither does the Prodigy, and I certainly wasn't going to use the AT&T service that came preinstalled, because AT&T is the devil. I have a Mastercard through them that came with a calling card -- $50 of free calls. I thought that would be a lot of time, but it turns out it was somewhere around $20 a minute. I talked much more than two and a half minutes, and my credit card bill was huge by my sophomoric standards. I called them and said, "Don't you think that rate is a little high?" They said, "That's our rate." AT&T also used to do the high-speed Internet crap around here, and they were a nightmare to work with. Comcast has kept up the proud tradition.
That's my bitching post for the moment. I don't know why I didn't think to sign up for a dial-up service temporarily before -- all of them offer the first month for free. Perhaps I just wanted the peace and quiet. At the same time that the Internet is a wonderful way of staying connected to people, it's also a tether. I enjoy running this blog and hope to get re-involved in all the comment-section intrigues (and incidentally to get some referrals again), but I think having a week pretty much off has done me some good. I've spent more time cooking decent meals that include vegetables, I've read some stuff, I've bonded with my cat, and up until tonight, I had no uncontrollable fits of rage.
Saturday, December 20, 2003
(9:15 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
Everybody Wanders in the Wilderness...
Whoo. It's good to be back. I just flew in from Dubuque and boy are my...
Yeah you get it..been gone..I'm back. And what better way to return than with the greatest story of all time? That's right kids, gather round, get real close, but not too close as I smell slightly of peppermint. Not the good peppermint smell either.
Yes, there's a bad peppermint smell.
It all started back in the day, we're going all the way back to 3rd grade for this one. This, if I haven't mentioned it before, is my ideal age. If I were ever to teach elementary, I'd definitely want 3rd grade..there is still enough innocence that they can sit on your lap, or hold your hand, girls still have cooties, being outside is still the most fun thing in the world..and yet the beginnings of independence are there as well.
Well, for the purposes of this story, that independence suddenly flared up and became akin to teenage rebellion.
Gym class. Not just any gym class, Mrs. Godra's "little gym" class. The little gym at Randel's was insider code for "the ripped out former library" or, "the suckiest gym in the world, due to it's 10 foot by 12 foot size". Seriously..the year or two we had to play in that crap was the worst time in my entire life. We couldn't play games like "tag" or "race", much less full fledged sports because..it was literally about 15 feet from corner to corner..if you used any sort of speed you'd be running head first into walls. Instead, we played stupid games like "The Invisible Chair Olympics" where we all crouched against the wall like we were sitting, and the one who did so the longest won a ribbon. For the record, I was locked in stiff comptetion with Jay Hall on that one, until I was (seriously) unable to walk to go to school on the third day of competition and he won by default. Other favorites included stuff like dancing in place to the Footloose theme song, which would have been horribly uncool for 3rd graders, except Mrs. Godra called it "Michael Jackson Time" which lended it some street cred (This was before all the latest shenanigans, remember..the world loved Michael Jackson). Sometimes, on a rare friday we got out those little 4 wheeled seat-scooter things that you could wheel around on..5-6 of us got to scoot around the floor on those at a time.
So, obviously gym sucked. Mrs. Godra was an insane old girl, but she was nothing if not a realist. She knew this sucked - I mean, throwing the word "olympics" behind all sorts of inane little competitions like "The Who Can Be Quiet The Longest Olympics" or "The Hopping On One-Leg Olympics" or my favorite, besides the invisible chair, "The Yelling Real Loud For The Longest Time Without Taking A Breath Olympics" lost its novelty after a while. So, she was faced with a choice - continue in outdated methods with inadequate resources, like every other teacher, or strike out on her own doing something new. From this desire came THE TRIP TO THE WOODS.
(I don't think that simulated music is from anything..it was just sort of what ran through my head when I thought of scary music. Try singing it out loud. It will brighten your day like a maglite.)
Yes, one fateful day we came into gym and were told to go back to our class and gather up our coats, mittens (gloves for the boys...except those who needed Mittens for better tetherball playing), and galoshes...we were heading out into the world. Mrs. Godra told us this story of how she'd been wandering aimlessly through the woods behind the school the other day and had found a MAGICAL WORLD. A world...popularized by each of the Disney characters! Due to how, again, crazy this woman was..this story was completely believable.
But, the point remains, you get Disney involved, and you pretty much have a hit with anyone under 12. Look at the popularity of that game "Kingdom Hearts" amongst the youth (For the uninitiated, that's a role-playing game like Final Fantasy..except here you can like..call Bambi out of thin air to run over the octo-lady from The Little Mermaid..coolest.thing.ever). You throw disney characters in to every day situations, and suddenly, they easily become the coolest thing in the world. Imagine how much mowing the lawn sucks. Okay, now imagine mowing the lawn with Pluto running ahead and barking at the motor. Cool, right? I mean, I never have exercised much, at least not with that express intent..but you throw on Mickey Mousercise and I'm still gonna be doing the motions all day, especially to that one great Beagle Boys song. (You know.."get the money..we gotta get the money..get the money..Uncle Scrooge's money!")
It seemed simple enough, a voyage into the woods behind the school to see certain segments supposedly resembling the various lands of Disney folklore. And everyone was pretty geeked at first. So we headed out across Brobeck Street to the great unknown. Mrs. Godra, however, like I said, was completely crazy, for all of her originality. Unfortunately this led to the combination of bad slotting of the various lands, and an ignorance of the fact that the natives were growing restless. We started out with something akin to Little Mermaid Land, on to The Domain Of Sleeping Beauty, and then further we'd go to Cinderella's Brothel. We didn't know what a brothel was yet, we just knew that this was all girly. Without exception we'd been led out expecting pirates, evil, and perhaps even a glimpse of that hilarious Genie. But no, we were stuck in the middle of girly lands. This quickly combined with the fact that each land was exactly the same..The whole difference consisted in Mrs. Godra pointing to a branch lying funny and say "look..there's Thumper!" one time, and then 10 minutes later leading us in a circle before pointing to the same stick and saying "Look...there's the three mice from that one movie! Maybe they'll sing their Cinder-elli song for us!"
Yeah, she was that crazy.
We caught on, we were third graders, not dope fiends. Instead of the promised "trip to a place like Disney Land!" all we ended up with was extreme cold and the knowledge that we had been used. As guys, we should have been getting used to this..and all probably would have been okay, except for the endless barage of girly sites..Not only did this continuously suck while we were out there..we were gonna here it from the older classes for being caught in Snow White's Forest for at least a good week. We were at the breaking point. We started throwing rocks and sticks at each other, saying things to make the girls cry, acting rowdy. To counteract this, Mrs. Godra did the worst possible thing she could do. She said "Hang on guys..Peter Pan land is right over there to the right..we'll get there right after we go through Belle's Rose Garden and The Crazy Hippos From Fantasia's Dance Studio. The hippo thing might have been enough to catch our attention..except..she mentioned PIRATES! And she pointed to where the Pirates were. We walked a few more paces before the entire back half of the line, the guys who had slowly migrated away for better stick throwing possibilities, suddenly realized that there was a possibility of cannons and guns and...and..bandanas over our heads. Slowly, pretty much one by one, the entire male population left the well beaten path and started out through the trees for this mythical pirate land. I, however, was well practiced in the art of sucking as a person, even then, and stayed with the group cause I didn't want to get in trouble. It took Mrs. Godra about ten minutes to turn around and realize she only had 11 girls and 1 guy hanging out beside her, but when she did, all heck broke loose.
Out of nowhere, she just turned and started yelling..undistinguishable at first, but then slowly forming into threats towards the various kids who'd wandered off. Stuff like "ED HARRIS!!! I'M CALLING YOUR PARENTS RIGHT NOW! YOU ARE IN BIG TROUBLE WHEN YOU COME BACK!" of course, for those in the woods, this simply meant "okay...I'm in big trouble if I go back, thus, I shant go back..I shall live with the pirates for the rest of my days."
You'd think Mrs. Godra might lead a brave Fellowship Of The Lost to rescue the freaking 3rd grade kids who she was 30-40 years older than, but instead she just kept screaming people's names and other crap, and walked off. The rest of us could hear some of our classmates yelling for help...the reality that they were thouroughly lost had finally set in. Even as the only person who had any clue how to get back home left, myself and a large group of girls mustered up our courage and set off to help our brethren. Eventually we all got seperated, and the woods were literally filled with people yelling names or the occasional "HELP!"
I think this may have been the scariest thing to ever happen in my life. I was all by myself, with no clue how to get home, and only the sound of screaming as company. Finally, I managed to somehow come to a clearing I recognized as "Minnie's Dress Shop'" From here I somehow made it back towards the school, and was so filled with joy I literally started crying for the first time all day. It was like that scene from Shawshank Redemption, except it wasn't raining, but I did smell like sewage.. It was the greatest feeling of freedom I'd ever felt. And then, to confirm that I was indeed going towards school, I saw a sight previously thought impossible - Mrs. Godra! And many kids behind her! I thought my class had been reunited and was coming to look for me. In this belief, I wandered up towards them with a big goofy grin on my face, expecting embraces and pats on the back. But this wasn't my class..this was one of those strange "non-multi-age" classes..dear lord! I'd heard rumors of what being in a class with only one age group could do to people! What's worse, I got within 5 feet or so, and suddenly Mrs. Godra burst into the worst screaming fit I'd heard yet that day, which was quite a feat. Before I knew what was going on, she was yelling at me for having ran away, and telling how my parents were waiting at the school and I could expect all sorts of beatings and heck once I got back..so I better keep marching! (Again..her psychology wasn't the greatest).
I was still in shock that this woman could simply leave 25 third graders in the middle of the woods and walk back. What's more, she somehow got up the nerve to lead another class out there! While people were still screaming for help! Did I mention this woman was crazy? I got back to the room finally at about 2:00, we'd left around 10. Some people didn't make it back until 4 or 5pm. Mrs. Nancy, my teacher, reassured us that in fact, Mrs. Godra had been in the wrong and we weren't in too big trouble. Sure, we shouldn't have wandered off, but Godra had just walked back to the school and didn't tell anyone what had happened until Mrs. Nancy went an hour later to find out where in the heck her class was.
The fallout was thus: No more trips to the woods. And Mrs. Godra got moved to the high school. I guess they figured if they gave her a really big gym and kids who weren't entirely helpless and at her whim, she wouldn't insist on getting people lost. Ironically, it was this same Mrs. Godra who later became co-sponsor for my founding of The Intramural Badminton Association. She was also the same teacher who continually didn't show and locked all the badminton equipment up after the first 2 weeks..while insisting that it was I who hadn't shown up that week. This really sucked because miraculously I'd gotten 20-35 people to show up each time.
Oh, yeah, she also was the one who failed 3 of my good friends on their GYM FINAL senior year because one of their book bags was close by, though zipped up. Close by..as in..a good 25 feet away..at least two sections of bleachers down. There was no way anyone could have seen anything, had the book bag even been open, without binoculars. Apparently she was afraid people were really looking to break her GYM FINAL code. GYM FINAL!
That day in the woods I learned a lot about myself. First: I was too much of a goody-goody..instead of the initial joy of setting off for Pirate land, I stayed behind because that was the right thing to do, and I still got in as much trouble as everyone else, even though I got no joy whatsoever out of the experience, but only pants-wetting fear.
Secondly: Mrs. Godra really was that crazy. I didn't know her daughter was incredibly hot yet either, so there was no qualifier whatsoever..the woman was loonier than Canadian currency. This taught me for the first time that authority figures have nothing on you, and are often times much stupider than you, even if you are in third grade.
The ironic fact is that this all probably took place in a nice quarter-mile area. Yet, we were little, it seemed like we were stuck in the middle of the Klondike for all we knew. I'd eventually end up living a matter of feet from the scene of that horrible crime, and taking walks in the wood pretty regularly through high school. So, I guess I somehow learned to cope with the memories.
Like Jesus emerging from his fast in the woods, I became a new person from that day forward. Transformed into the bitter, self-loathing, other-loathing beast that I am today.
All because I wanted to see some freaking Pirates!
Friday, December 19, 2003
(12:56 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Christmas Time is Here. Happiness and Cheer...
I am sorry to be away from my blog for so many days (two). At this time of year, when Jesus Christ is so relentlessly commercialized away, the insightful critical commentary that only blogs can provide is more necessary than ever.
I have two posts planned: one book review and one on Christmas carols. This will be the one on Christmas carols. The book review might have to wait until Monday, but it will be more than worth the wait once you see what book I'm reviewing.
At work, we have been listening to Christmas music for the last few weeks. Normally, I would be annoyed about it (as the doctor is), but this year I'm listening differently. I'm asking, as I listen, how it came to be that we have such a small set of Christmas carols. Beyond that, I wonder why it is that so few new Christmas songs are successful -- have we lost the ability to write new Christmas carols?
This question seems to me to be related to canon formation, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition (in traditions where the entire canon falls from the sky, such as Islam or Mormonism, this doesn't seem to apply). There was some classical era of the Christmas carol when most of our current carols came out -- I don't know when this is historically, but it seems like it was probably in the modern period. Some of the older ones are now incomprehensible to us, such as "12 Days of Christmas" or "Here We Go A-Wassalling (sp.)," but we keep them because they have been grouped in with the other Christmas carols. More ancient ones seem to be more "authentic," and they are more universally popular -- "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" (technically an Advent song, but just go with it) and "Greensleeves" are the best examples of this phenomenon.
Some carols just barely sqeaked in, and there is some debate about whether they are really Christmas "carols" at all. These are primarily the ones surrounding Santa Claus, and many of them were either written for or popularized by television specials. They are relatively late, and they do not have a lot to do with the main tradition of Christmas carols (namely, talking about Jesus), but they are still grouped together in the popular mind, even if they don't appear in hymnals. Other songs, such as those that talk primarily about the weather or about bells or some such thing, are also more peripherally related to the main tradition of Christmas carols, but they are still part of the main group in the popular mind.
This process seems to be more closely related to the formation of the Hebrew Scriptures than the New Testament, since Judaism is a combination of an ethnic tradition and a religious tradition in a way that early Christianity wasn't, and in a way that contemporary Christianity is. The "writings" section of the Hebrew Bible corresponds to the more marginal Christmas songs, in that many rabbis have wondered whether, for example, Song of Solomon really belongs in the Bible, just as many might wonder why we're singing about how the weather outside is frightful on a day celebrating the birth of Christ. But since we generally celebrate the birth of Christ during the winter, it's related to the main tradition of Christmas music, albeit indirectly -- the Santa tradition, too, is related primarily through the time of year when Santa Claus was supposed to have given his gifts, although now obviously it's taken on a life of its own and produced such other characters as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Since Christmas carols aren't very important, no one has ever sat down and written out a canon of carols, but it took a long time before anyone wrote down a canon of Scripture, too. I don't think people think nearly enough about how we came to have the Bible -- they assume it just fell out of the air -- and thinking about how we came to have a priveleged group of "Christmas songs," many of which are not directly related to Jesus at all, might help us understand at least how the Hebrew Bible came about, in general terms.
The New Testament probably requires a different model, since strictly theological concerns seem to have been more prominent, given that early Christianity, in contrast with rabbinic Judaism, represented a decisive break with all extant cultural traditions. We might ask, however, how so many spurious attributions came to be believable -- might the Pastorals (attributed to Paul, but almost certainly not written by him) have been included in the canon because it reflected the general Roman morality that many Christian thinkers had consciously or unconsciously come to think of as "Christian"? Since the Hebrew Bible is understood as a group of concentric circles, with Torah at the center, Prophets (the Deuteronomistic history and what Christians call prophets) outside of that providing commentary, and the Writings (miscellaneous category) being even more marginal, maybe we can understand the New Testament in the same way -- the Gospels are at the center, the authentic Paul provides the privileged interpretation, and the remaining materials in the New Testament (Acts, other letters, Revelation) provide more marginal, perhaps "optional" perspectives.
Yes, I came to these conclusions from thinking about Christmas carols. In addition, I think that this is more of a question for a theologian rather than a biblical scholar, because I still don't think that Christians really know what to do with the Bible -- the dominant evangelical model, whereby we are supposed to "base" things on the Bible, is logically incoherent and, I would argue impossible.
I will follow up on these thoughts in my book review. I'll try to include more humorous materials in my next post. Well, here's a little something to reward those who made it this far: BOOBS!
(3:25 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
They do like me
So my birthday is over. The crazy 21st was, in true Anthony Smith form, not crazy at all. I had band practice to get ready for our show in Peoria today and then I hung out with the elusive Ryan Hansen until Hayley came home with my Get Fuzzy book and then we headed to the kind Mr. Adam Kotsko's house.
We all sat around drinking apple cider and eating cheap Aldi's pizza talking intellectual bullshit and it felt really good. Later on Jessie Bridges, the sometimes contributor to the comments section and constant good times fellow appeared, followed closely by my good friend Paul Anderson (who has one of the best beards I have ever seen). It was a nice masculine night, the only thing missing was football but I hate football so I didn’t mind. It really lifted my spirit and hopefully I will be able to come out of this nearly 8-month depression after this night and the coming weekend that will be filled with even more good friends.
We really do need each other. At least I need other people.
I find it very interesting that for all his disdain of God and those who "follow" God Nietzsche had a faith just as absurd; faith in other human beings. It's moments like tonight that are our little glimpses of the coming kingdom of Christ or the Overman, whoever we just need a savior.
I hope Robb and Adam post soon, my babble is getting hard to handle.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
(11:50 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
They don't like me
I have been planning, against my better judgment, to study in Paris over Spring semester with Dr. Naas, a noted philosopher but mainly noted for his extensive translations of Derrida's work. I found out about the trip later than would have been desired but there were still some options for financial aid. I applied for a Gilman and even though I knew hundreds of others from around the country also applied I still felt I could make a strong case. I spent about forty dollars applying after transcripts and fees but since the grant was for five-thousand it seemed worth it.
That was in October, before Hayley and I found ourselves in the dire financial situation we are in now. I found out on the 15th of December that the Gilman committee decided that I was not one of the top applicants and being the person I am I took this very hard.
It worries me what I am going to do to myself when I start applying for graduate schools. Still, nothing else I want to do so we will press on.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
(12:09 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
On not reading books
Via Invisible Adjunct, which is fast becoming one of my favorite blogs, I find that Crooked Timber's Kieran Healy has a post about the best books that she did not read this year. My personal favorite is #9:
Athenian Democracy by A.H.M. Jones. I picked up a copy of this in Melbourne and read two of the essays, so you may think it doesn’t qualify. But the book — a marvel of compact, lucid prose and judicious use of the sources, by a mid-20th century giant in the field — deserves its place here. It is so well-written and approachable that you can read pages and pages of careful commentary on the social structure of Athenian society before remembering that you have no real idea who any of the historical figures are, what the relevant sequence of events is, or which century is presently under discussion. Athenian Democracy is that rare sort of book, in other words, which you can have read and still effectively have not read at all.
In the comments to the Crooked Timber post, I also found a link to a Slate story that asks famous literary critics what they haven't read. I was relieved to find that I'm not the only one who hasn't gotten all the way through A la Recherche du Temps Perdu [In Search of Lost Time] -- Louis Menand hasn't, either, although he tries to make up for it by citing the title in French.
On an unrelated note, I always enjoy CalPundit's weekly Survivor post -- here's his last one for the season. The main thing, of course, is the comments, and there are always trolls who mock us Survivor fans for watching TV. This comment thread includes a preemptive strike against such trolls, but I'd like to add that I like Survivor because I watch it with all my friends and because it's fun to talk about what's going to happen next and to analyze the missteps everyone made the week before. I never would have watched it if Tara hadn't forced it upon all of us, and I realize that I could probably be using that time to write sonnets or read the Critique of Pure Reason, but still -- come on. How is trolling comment sections complaining about people watching Survivor any less loserly than actually watching it yourself?
Monday, December 15, 2003
(12:00 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Internet Connection Difficulties
Due to Richard moving out and the incredible bureaucratic inefficiency of Comcast High-Speed Internet, my internet access will be sporadic for the next week. This applies not only to blog posting, but also to e-mail -- whereas normally I can be relied upon to receive e-mail within a couple hours, that will not be the case next week. I do, however, have a phone that will continue working throughout this difficult time.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
(3:08 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
To Criticize the Critics
While we spent years trying to detect the real prejudices hidden behind the appearance of objective statements, do we have now to reveal the real objective and incontrovertible facts hidden behind the illusion of prejudices? And yet entire Ph.D programs are still running to make sure that good American kids are learning the hard way that facts are made up, that there is no such thing as natural, unmediated, unbiased access to truth, that we are always the prisoner of language, that we always speak from one standpoint, and so on, while dangerous extremists are using the very same argument of social construction to destroy hard-won evidence that could save our lives. Was I wrong to participate in the invention of this field known as science studies? Is it enough to say that we did not really mean what we meant? Why does it burn my tongue to say that global warming is a fact whether you like it or not? Why can't I simply say that the argument is closed for good?
What has become of critique when there is a whole industry denying that the Apollo program landed on the Moon? What has become of critique when DARPA uses for its Total Information Awareness project the Baconian slogan Scientia est potentia? Have I not read that somewhere in Michel Foucault? Has Knowledge-slash-Power been co-opted of late by the National Security Agency? Has Discipline and Punish become the bedside reading of Mr. Ridge?
Most telling is his account of the ways in which Republicans, in trying to avoid environmental regulation, "make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue" (the quote comes from the mouth of the Republican himself, not from Latour). After citing that, Latour asks:
Do you see why I am worried? I myself have spent sometimes in the past trying to show the "lack of scientific certainty" inherent in the construction of facts. I too made it a "primary issue." But I did not exactly aim at fooling the public by obscuring the certainty of a closed argument–or did I? After all, I have been accused of just that sin. Still, I'd like to believe that, on the contrary, I intended to emancipate the public from a prematurely naturalized objectified fact. Was I foolishly mistaken? Have things changed so fast?
I'm sure that he answers all these questions and decisively changes the direction of cultural criticism in the sections you have to pay to read.
(11:48 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
Justice will not be served
I am going to be the unrepentant, pissy nay-sayer of the current Iraq War by saying true justice will not be served when they send Saddam to trial. Presumably, he won't get a trial by an international court instead it will be an "Iraqi" which of course means American court. Second, he had a lot of help and those people won't be brought to the trial I am sure (Rumsfeld for one, Bush the First for two).
(9:14 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Paul Krugman Will Be So Upset
They found Saddam. Now, maybe he can tell us where his good buddy Osama bin Laden is.
UPDATE: Most comments ever? My gentle readers need to work on producing those kinds of numbers.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
(12:32 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I've Got the Bonhoeffer Blues
Don't get me wrong -- I'm excited about my final Bonhoeffer paper. I believe I have adequate secondary support for my thesis, and I'm even going to squeeze in a few quotes from Hegel. I'm fairly sure that my particular topic has not been tried before, and I believe that it might be a genuine, if small, contribution to theology.
The problem is the actual physical writing of the paper: flipping through books to find quotes, forcing myself to sit there and type, watching as the pages don't fill up quite fast enough. As regular readers can tell, writing as such is not difficult for me -- in fact, I really enjoy writing. The problem is writing things when I know in advance what they're going to look like. For instance, even the most innovative academic paper is going to have to contain some workaday, merely functional prose: close textual analysis, dull exposition of past scholarly positions, etc. I tend to view writing as a process of discovery and creation, and if I already have the idea in my head, especially if it's close to being already formulated, it takes me longer to write simply due to my own internal resistance -- I already know this stuff! I don't need to see it written out!
Last night's History of Christian Thought take-home final was truly the worst in that respect. I didn't even need to have taken the class in order to answer her question, not really. I just needed to write out, in a very boring and straightforward way, the facts at hand, with a little perfunctory interpretation. The professor in that class, partially due to the huge size of the class, demands very close adherence to the letter of her assignment and, for the purposes of this class at least, discourages much creative argument or daring interpretation. As such, the easiest assignment in the world took me about four hours to do.
That's about it for now. I need to get back to writing out the paper that I have largely already formulated in my head and that I don't feel like I need to put down on paper (or silicon, I suppose) in order to prove to myself that I know it. Perhaps the academic life isn't for me after all.
Until next time, I'm taking suggestions for a "winter break project." Leafing through Hegel's Phenomenology last night, it occurred to me that I might use this time to Actually Read Phenomenology of Spirit -- for real, complete with underlining and question marks in the margins. at about five hundred pages for the text of the book itself (not including the "analysis of the text" in the Oxford edition), that would be roughly 80-100 pages of pure Hegel each week. Since I'm taking a course on Derrida next semester, as well as a course on globalization that might include Hardt and Negri's Empire, this project might prove to be great preparation. It would also help me to approach that copy of Derrida's Glas that I now, quite mysteriously, somehow own. If I can read the whole Faerie Queene, I can do this.
Before last night, my default option was to spend the break working through my German book, but I don't think that the Hegel option would exclude that. Another possibility was to read Barth's Romans, although I believe Ted might be offering his Romans course next year, in which case I will have to read it anyway. On a completely different track, I could try to read a "Big Thick Novel," probably Don DeLillo's Underworld. Finally, I could just fritter away my time on the Internet and enter my next semester of graduate education full of self-loathing and bitterness. Let me know if you have any thoughts on my existing suggestions or any other ideas.
(2:49 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
The Middle Period of Get Your War On
Adam, Robb and I have split over the hilarity of the middle period in the wonderfully hopeless comic strip Get Your War On(declared as Adam to be roughly sections 16-24). Adam claims, and Robb stands by him, that "[d]uring that period, it seemed to be needlessly obscure and often just plain stupid [...]." They are both wrong! Instead of the usual fight to the death I thought we could spare the loss of valuable Weblog contributors if I gave a needless and short of short analysis of sections 16-24 to settle the manner. I included links to each section and I highly recommend reading the comic in another window in tandem with my comments. Just to make me feel good.
Section 16 - Ok, so this one is not that funny, or funny at all, and by the looks of the second strip the author is seriously lacking in material. Adam and Robb win that round. Although one has to admit that the crossed out computers and the monocle merit a chuckle.
Section 17 - Making fun of Henry Kissinger, the murderous bastard, is always funny. Making fun of him using shitty clip art, funnier.
Section 18 - The use of North Korea as a head, and as a singularity that can talk as one, GENIUS! I also think the critique of National Sanctity of Life day, while not that funny, is perfectly lucid and smart.
Section 19 - This one passes as great for one reason, but I think it is a good reason, the line "Grown-up's did that. Never forget that." in relation to the naming of the Patriot Act.
Section 20 - Ok, not funny. Still it's the one sign of hope, albeit maybe not sincere, in the whole comic series.
Section 21 - This section is full of good stuff. Not as funny as early or later GYWO but smart nonetheless. It's dead on concerning Bush's "Press Conference" before the Iraq War, it echoes my own "crisis" of faith with the "pray harder" comment, and it portrayed the exact feeling I had coming up to St. Patrick's day which also happened to be the scheduled day of war. What kind of country do we live in that we schedule fucking wars? Especially on the day of a major saint for God's sake? At least we were drunk.
Section 22 - I laughed at this one. The "long speech" about being called a hippie over not supporting sanctions and imploring demand that the Iraqi's burn their oil fields and "piss off the right people" gave me a sudden fit of nihilistic joy. Kind of like Sept 11th itself. Or so Jean Baudrillard would say.
Section 23 - Tell me you aren't laughing at this!
Section 24 - I think this was pretty biting concerning the indiscretions of William J. Bennett, the man who wrote The Book of Virtues. Maybe this was only funny to me because I listened to a lot of talk radio when this story broke and I remember the right-wingers, mainly Rush, making a huge deal out of it not being a huge deal.
Well, I think they are funny. And smart. Good God. I'm writing like Josh Marshall now.
Friday, December 12, 2003
(9:55 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I have added the wishlists of the three current contributors. I don't expect to receive anything as a result, but it never hurts to have it out there. I have also added a feature that tracks referrers to this page. I will take it down if it proves to be too depressing.
My post below is much too long, and I apologize.
UPDATE: I further altered the template by adding a couple new people to the blogroll: John and Belle Have a Blog and Invisible Adjunct. I highly recommend John and Belle's newest post (as of this writing), which is about whether philosophy should be clear and touches on the issue of whether Heidegger sucks or not. I can think of a few regular readers and/or writers of this blog who could contribute to the discussion there.
(If one of my life partners would like to have a blog added to the blogroll, let me know.)
(8:08 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I can't find my brittle youth
Growing up, I usually had a dog. Our first dog was named Candy. A vicious hell-spawn, she destroyed everything she touched. She barked uncontrollably at everyone and sought out things to chew up -- the worst was one of my dad's CCM's, which I later came to understand contained an interview with Steve Taylor. Seeing that magazine in shreds was sickening; what she did to the kitchen cabinents was inexcusable. We took her to the vet to be "released," in the euphemistic terms made famous by The Giver.
Our second dog was named Pumpkin, although she was most frequently called Punky or Punker. She was a dark colored "yorkey-poo," or Yorkshire Poodle, and she was perhaps our best dog. When my dad was on worker's comp for a brief period, he bonded deeply with Punky. We had her for years, and we came to trust her too much to stay in our unfenced yard when we let her out. One night we left her outside for too long, and she was hit by a car. My sister, believing it was her fault, was for a time unconsolable. We kept her collar and other memorobilia and believed that we were not "ready" for another dog, so deeply did we lover her.
Within weeks, my mom was at the barber shop and overheard someone discussing a thoroughbred Lhasa Apso that a disgruntled husband had to give away in order to please his wife. Although Hannah and I didn't realize it at the time, the loss of Punky had hit my dad really hard, and my mom felt like we needed to get the new dog as soon as possible. She was already named Chloe when we got her, and she was and remains one of the dumbest dogs in history. At first she seemed like a bizarre interloper -- too "already-trained," too thoroughbred for our family -- but after my parents moved into their new house while I was at college, she was the rock of stability our family needed to get through that difficult time. She now has my family trained to give her a treat on command, and she occasionally expresses her displeasure at me and my sister's absense by urinating in the house. Her nickname is "Cloafy," a take-off on an old Saturday morning cartoon interlude featuring a dog named Loafy. I am the only person who is still conscious of that etymology -- my little cousins (sadly, not so little anymore) almost certainly believe that "Chloe" is a nickname for "Cloafy."
A word about my little cousins, the sons of my mother's sister. The older is named Tyler and the younger Tanner. They are approximately 12 and 10 years old. Tyler is just like me at that age, painfully so: awkward, easily embarrassed. His brother Tanner helps to bring him out of that shell, however, in a way that Hannah couldn't do for me -- he is outgoing, hilarious, and clinically insane. He looks just like my dad, which at times leads to awkward jokes when people realize that he's not technically in their gene pool. He loves to play board games, and even when he's obviously going to win by a landslide, he will do whatever it takes to make the game last longer, making disadvantageous deals in Monopoly with reckless abandon. At Thanksgiving, the ladies and children of my family (a group that includes me and my dad -- basically the people who don't watch football) played dominoes, and in the version we played, the double blank domino was the kiss of death. Tanner stacked the deck so that my dad would get the double blank one, in a fairly obvious way, and as we all laughed over it, he announced, calmly and unembarassedly, that he had wet his pants. If we brought it up again to him in the future, he wouldn't be embarassed -- he would laugh with us. The only problem was the exact process he should follow in cleaning his pants.
I said much more about Tanner than about Tyler, which is completely unfair, but from their infancy, they were paired off -- Hannah got Tyler, and I got Tanner. Tyler is the more athletic one, like Hannah, and Tanner is the one people just don't know what to make of, like me. From a very early age, everyone in the family had noticed a special bond between me and Tanner. When I was in late high school, going through every imaginable kind of struggle with my family, he was the only one I could relate to.
He and Chloe. I still maintain that I was Chloe's favorite. Just like now, I was a homebody in high school -- while mom and Hannah were off at a dozen athletic events and dad was working twelve hours a day with an hour commute each way, I was sitting at home with Chloe. We had our rough days, a few times when my neglect could easily have led to a replay of Punky's demise, but by and large, we remained close. Then during the summers and breaks, the same situation obtained, when everyone else would be running around with their "busy lifestyles," leaving me and the dog at home.
There's a new dog in my life now, named Wrigley. He will be leaving soon, and I feel slightly sad about it. I feel like there's something I should have done -- he's horribly misbehaved and barks uncontrollably at new people and jumps up on everyone, but over the weekends when (again) it was just me and him and the cats, he was manageable. He's not even my dog, but a "surprise" Richard launched into our life on a caprice, yet I still feel like I've failed him in some way. I think that I'm still responsible for the other, even when I never asked to meet the other -- isn't that what Levinas/Derrida are talking about, anyway?
That I can only think this way in terms of a dog says something about me -- after all these years, during which it should have become clear that not everyone is like me, I still feel like they should be. A dog or cat represents "the other" as Levinas describes it -- vulnerable, saying "thou shalt not kill." A self-reliant American adult is not "the other." They should be able to take care of themselves, damn it. They should be able to fall into a job like I did, and pay their bills on time, and keep the house spotlessly clean, and remember to put the dishes in the dishwasher, and get their assignments done, and write their own stupid papers.
I have a high degree of self-reliance. That might be why I am becoming a cat person. Wrigley aside, the life of a cat has long appealled to me, and in point of fact, my small female dogs were always more like cats than dogs, functionally: jumping up to cuddle occasionally, but mainly just hanging out. They would enjoy the occasional game of fetch, but they didn't need it in the same way that Wrigley needs it, just like he needs a daily walk. Aside from a brief spell of pooping throughout the house, which was really my fault, Soren has been a wonderful cat, and our new temporary cat Toby has been good, too.
I will miss Toby when she's gone, and I think I need Soren -- so that I won't ever really be home alone. I can handle being by myself for long periods of time, generally, but I start to break down when I'm physically alone -- when I've had no physical contact of any kind with anyone for a while. Having a cat to sit on my lap occasionally is no replacement for a real human person, but it's good enough. That's why spinsters get so many cats, and I don't think it's pathetic, not really. They can handle life alone, maybe even prefer it deep down, but sometimes they just need to touch someone, and a cat can be good enough -- just barely, but good enough. I'm sure Soren looks at me in the same way.
(5:21 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
We will hang the rich from their houses
There is an old man running around Kankakee with that as a tattoo on his arm. He calls himself a "Bomb-Throwing Anarchist". Hayley's seen him once when he came into PetCo to buy some stuff for a sound garden. My friend Jessie, who comments sometimes here at The Weblog, had a conversation with him at The Chicago Dough Company. I, however, have not met him.
Still I think that tattoo is pretty bad-ass and I want to hang the rich from their houses just as much as he does. That is, as long as the rich aren't really people and then it gets pretty fuzzy. Still, I'll admit it, I think that sniper rifle kicks ass! I don't know, maybe if I had a Lenin to lead me... Does anyone agree with me when I think it is very odd that this man is always seen in some marketplace or other?
The term Anarchist is very odd. I know many people who hold that it is more of a libertarian (ie. stupid) political ideology and then there is organizations like Crimethinc. that basically runs itself on Communist/Christian principles. Of course, they are super into deconstruction so they look really fluid and you can't quite get a bead on them (Good for them!). I know Emma Goldman, the most famous American Anarchist, didn't like Marxism and Marxist didn't like the Anarchist of his day but they seem to be a lot like the proletariat that Marx hoped for.
If you feel like being angry you should watch this video, but it is relatively disturbing albeit not the most graphic. Afterwards you should read this comic, it will make you feel better.
I've mainly babbled in this post, which is odd considering my most eloquent posts are done at 3 am and it's only 5 pm. Oh yeah, and there are now only 6 days of Birthday shopping before I turn 21 and remember Jesus and I are only 7 days apart which has to mean something good! Oh and support Adam as well, though he is much too shy to ask on his own behalf. I would say support Robb, but he is actually a nice guy and I can't find an Amazon wishlist.
Seriously though you think it is easy to write on this thing everyday? We aren't paid in comments! And by the looks of the job market for PhD's Adam and I both will be working in some God-forsaken office until we go crazy (Robb will have then sold his soul to Satan and be the overlord of the history department at Olivet), renounce our pacifism, and go on a shooting spree the likes of a Bush Christmas in an Alaskan wildlife reserve! Which brings me back to the original title of the post, we need to hang the rich so I can have their money, now that I see that I don't need a Lenin I just need that kick-ass sniper rifle.