Tuesday, March 30, 2004
(9:49 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Suggestion for Political and Economic Reform
UPDATE: This will be my last post until the University without Condition reconvenes on Monday. It's a shame, because it's certainly not my best post ever. As Anthony would say, c'est la vie.
In our current economic system, there is a trend toward privatizing profits and socializing costs and risks. The public often gets stuck with massive debts, while private investors have a guaranteed rate of return. A corporation profits from activities that cause pollution, while the government has to pay to clean it up. The government is screwed over because it is not a full participant in the capitalist system, but plays instead a regulative and guaranteeing role.
I propose that national constitutions should be written to transform nation-states into a special kind of publicly traded corporation. This would not require a massive change in the national mindset. Already, we are taught to think of citizens as "taxpayers," who have a stake in the nation's future due to the money they have sunk in. The voice of the citizen would be heard even more clearly if all citizens were the nation's "stockholders."
All citizens should receive an equal number of shares in the nation, which could then be freely sold, even to foreigners. Every seven years, all stock would be called in, and the stock would be split in order to reflect any new citizens who had entered the country since then. This would be the replacement for the "social wage" or "safety net."
Nations could make money by selling their services to citizens and corporations for a fee. This would be far superior to the current system in which corporations receive government services largely for free. The nation could redistribute any profits at the end of the year in the form of dividends, or it could choose to use the profits to retire debt or invest in the nation. Citizens/stockholders would demand the best and most efficient possible government services, so that the stock would be attractive to investors.
The best part is that corporations based in a particular country could be considered wholly owned subsidiaries of the nation in question, created to serve the nation's interests and able to be liquidated if they failed to serve that purpose, that is, increase shareholder value for citizens of that nation.
(8:57 AM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
I'm taking their advice.When you are a America-hating liberal conservatives often tell you to either "Love it or leave it." I am now taking their advice, at least for ten weeks. In one hour I depart for O'Hare International Airport to board a plane to Paris, France. I am very nervous and the past couple days have really made me realize how much I will miss Hayley, my friends and the small zoo in my apartment but this just seems like something everyone should do once. I will continue blogging from deep inside friendly territory and maybe I'll find a house for all of us to move to. Any kind of well-wishing and prayer is appreciated: I am very nervous about the flight. A gauche, if I catch a Badiou lecture I'll give him a kiss from you.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
(12:58 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Natural Theology Today
In Church Dogmatics II/1, Karl Barth includes a commentary on the Barmen Confession, the official theological declaration of the Confessing Church in Germany in 1934:
This text is important and apposite because it represents the first confessional document in which the Evangelical Church has tacked the problem of natural theology. The theology as well as the confessional writings of the Reformation left the question open, and it has actually become acute only in recent centuries because natural theology has threatened to turn from a latent into an increasingly manifest standard and content of Church proclamation and theology. The question became a burning one at the moment when the Evangelical [Protestant] Church in Germany was unambiguously and consistently confronted by a definite and new form of natural theology, namely , by the demand to recognize in the political events of the year 1933, and especially in the form of the God-sent Adolf Hitler, a source of specific new revelation of God, which, demanding obedience and trust, took its place beside the revelation attested in Holy Scripture, claiming that it should be acknowledged by Christian proclamation and theology as equally binding and obligatory. When this demand was made, and a certain audience was given to it, there began, as is well known, the so-called German Church conflict. It has since become clear that behind this first demand stood quite another. According to the dynamic of the political movement, what was already intended, although only obscurely outlined, in 1933 was the proclamation of this new revelation as the only revelation, and therefore the transformation of the Christian Church into the temple of the German nature- and history-myth.
The same had already been the case in the developments of the preceding centuries. There can be no doubt that not merely a part but the whole had been intended and claimed when it had been demanded that side by side with its attestation in Jesus Christ and therefore in Holy Scripture the Church should also recognize and proclaim God's revelation in reason, in conscience, in the emotions, in history, in nature, and in culture and its achievements and developments. The history of the proclamation and theology of these centuries is simply a history of the wearisome conflict of the Church with the fact that the "also" demanded and to some extent acknowledged by it really meant an "only."
Barth claims that this conflict was wearisome because no one really wanted to carry natural theology to its logical conclusion and because everyone wanted to remain faithful to Scripture in some sense. The whole thing seemed rather innocuous, and "The resistance occasionaly offered to it necessarily came under suspicin as fanatical one-sidedness and exaggeration." It took a really extreme example of natural theology, namely the "theology" of National Socialism (which really did appeal to some Christians, including some who were closely associated with Barth), to show the true danger of natural theology. But is not Barth being somewhat one-sided and exaggerated here? Is every natural theology really of a piece with the Nazi theology that was developed with the explicit goal of undoing Christianity, rather than of expanding and rendering more comprehensible Christian proclamation?
I would argue, good Barthian that I am, that Nazism is quantitatively, but not qualitatively worse and more dangerous than every other natural theology that has been presented throughout history. Indeed, since it is a theology that is necessarily and plainly rooted in a specific period, it may in the long run turn out to be less dangerous than other possible natural theologies, in that it cannot, by nature, appeal to every person in the world. The most dangerous natural theologies might be those that arose explicitly within the church in specific times and places to deal with specific crises -- namely what could be termed "family values" theology and patriotic theology. (For a good reference of what a combination of both of those might look like, check here.)
Such theologies may have served the church well in the periods for which they were developed. Family values theology in particular helped the church to weather a storm of monastic extremism, in which some declared that Christ demands us never to have sex at all -- many people found this view convincing, so that the only way to preserve any sex at all was to point out the "necessary evil" of sex within marriage as a way of producing more people. Though this argument was basically a strategic compromise, it resonated well with certain passages from Plato and from Philo of Alexandria, which argued that it was an obvious fact of nature that all sex should be for procreation -- and since the Christian God was declared to be the creator of all nature, this Platonic idea was in some sense a "revelation" of God. Never mind that neither the Hebrew Scriptures (especially, ironically enough, the book of Leviticus!) nor the Apostle Paul give any indication that they think that sex is only for procreation. It was enough that certain scriptural passages lent themselves more or less easily to Plato-oriented readings in order to show that this natural theology, based on obvious facts of nature, an obvious interpretation of "what God intended," was broadly Christian and to be protected and promoted as such.
A strategic compromise, fraught with dangers and contradictions, changed into a matter of principle -- and as long as society as a whole continued to operate under the basic framework of the obvious interpretation of "what God intended," the Christian teaching on this matter remained a fairly innocuous item. In modern times, however, with the advent of contraception and an explosion of overt diversity in sexual lifestyles and practices, Christian teaching on this matter became less than completely innocuous. Leaving aside the question of whether particular lifestyles and practices may be compatible with God's revelation in Christ, it has become clear that Christian adherence to family values theology is threatening in some circles to replace the "also" with the "only." We have stories from across the theological spectrum showing that in some Christian circles, including in Vatican, adherence to the family values theology of appropriate gender roles is finally a more decisive litmus test for adherence to the Christian gospel than any other point -- and this is also increasingly true among certain broad swaths of the laity in American Evangelical churches.
Similarly, Christian theories of state were developed in response to the development of the modern nation-state, in a desire to guarantee the safety, first of the Reformation churches, then eventually of the Catholic Church as well. This may well have saved the Western world from further civil wars based on religion, and saved the church from destruction. In addition, separation of church and state has often given the church considerable freedom to assume a stance of productive critique -- but once this particular arrangement was made into a point of principle, such that the state handled people's bodies while the church handled their souls (see William Cavanaugh, Torture and Eucharist), then once more the possibility presented itself that the "also" of this obvious interpretation of what God intended when he gave us the social institution called the state might become an "only," such that adherence to a certain nationalist view might become the final litmus test of Christianity. And indeed, just as with the family values theology, certain texts in Scripture lend themselves notoriously easily to this reading, but then, natural theology is never an attempt to interpret Scripture in good faith, but rather to hijack Scripture for its own ends -- and so, ultimately, to hijack the church for its own ends.
Barth's rejection of natural theology is not simply a narrow partisanship, not a blindness to the truths that may be encountered outside the Bible, not an attempt to forbid Christians to interact with any other kind of thought. Rather, it is a deeply political attempt to make sure that any strategic decisions of the church to seek temporary peace with certain ideas and structures originating outside of it do not become principles that ultimately subvert the gospel -- by which he does not mean a certain style of preaching or the preservation of an ancient book, but instead a life that visibly displays a radical belief and trust that the life of Jesus Christ is where God has revealed himself and that concrete participation in that life, allowing oneself to be made a parable of the kingdom that that life announces and inaugurates, is participation in God's truth and God's saving work. Insofar as Christians' actions and proclamation illustrate that they believe in a concrete revelation of God occurring anywhere else than in Jesus Christ, whether it be Adolf Hitler or something more innocuous such as the worldwide mission of spreading democratic, free-market principles or a particular vision of the family structure that best corresponds to God's intentions at creation, they are objectively idolaters.
Saturday, March 27, 2004
(1:35 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
UWC and loyal Weblog readers, let us rise up and flood the zone.*Update: E-mail him at any time.*
For those of you who aren't completely involved in the Left of the Blogosphere, let me explain what flooding the zone means. Say a conservative says something stupid, i.e., that 50% of homosexual couples have 300 partners in their lifetime, a blog, such as this one, calls upon the blogosphere e-mail and pester this person with facts, with questions, and with plenty of gusto. This can cause a myriad of effects, the least of which is the complete and total satisfaction of those who actually flooded the zone. At least, for a day, we actually did something even if it was silly.
So I am proposing we join up with a certain remnant of Dialog and begin to flood the zone of one Dr. Kent Olney who writes:
I apologize for taking so long to respond to your e-mail from March 3rd. I have
been swamped with some new administrative responsibilities (Division Chair) to go
along with all of my classroom teaching. The result has been that I've fallen far
behind in my e-mail correspondence. Thanks for your interests in the ongoing
homosexual debate that seems to be capturing the attention of everyone in our
society today. We definitely need to be interested in the FACTS on this whole
I'm going to take the liberty to copy a message I sent to another former student who
was asking similar questions. Then I will respond specifically to your questions.
Here's the copied segment:
Yes, this whole issue of "gay marriage" is incredible. First of all, it is an
oxymoron . . . the two concepts don't even fit together, so it's hard to imagine
that we are now considering this question as a nation. May God have mercy on us as
a nation for distorting His design and truth about these matters.
Here are some observations:
1. You are correct to note that the norm for gay relationships is that they are
very promiscuous. Some studies report that those in the lifestyle for a number of
years have hundreds of sexual partners. A 1992 study by the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control said that 50% of male homosexuals had over 500 sexual partners. And
a recent study from the Netherlands (the first country to approve gay marriages)
indicates that the average "gay marriage" lasted only 1 and ½ years, and the
partners averaged 8 additional sexual partners during that time period. Is that
what we want to see happen in our country as we redefine marriage? Whoare we trying
to kid? This is indeed a promiscuous lifestyle.
2. It's also a diseased and deadly lifestyle. Not only is it normal for
promiscuous gay men to have STDs, but on average they die 20 to 30 years younger
than the average citizen. Today Americans, on average, live to be 77 years old . .
. unless they are gay, and then they live to be 40 or 50 (on average). How and why
would we want to endorse a lifestyle like that?
3. My understanding (I've actually read some reports from the U.S. Department of
Justice) is that the gay community also experiences quite a bit of violence. Most
people assume that violence comes primarily from outsiders who beat up gay men, but
that's not what the reports indicate. In fact, the reports say that violence is
more prevalent among gays (one homosexual practicing violence against another) than
it is among heterosexuals beating up homosexuals.
4. Further, research tells us that children, on average, are more likely to
experience sexual abuse, and more likely to experiment with the gay lifestyle
themselves when they grow up in a home with a gay parent (or two). Is this what we
want to subject our children to?
Having said all these things, it is completely amazing to me that the media
completely ignore these facts that are available in the research literature. We are
getting a very BIASED and tragic view of this situation. If you want further data,
a good resource is the following website:
Then click on "Human Sexuality" and go to "Homosexuality." You will find lots of
additional tidbits in terms of research findings.
Other great resources are Focus on the Family (www.family.org) and it Love Won Out
Conference sight (www.lovewonout.com). Also, Exodus International has a wonderful
website with lots of information and personal testimonies of those who have come out
of the gay lifestyle (www.exodus-international.org).
I hope this information is helpful. To be honest, there are so many resources and
books available today on this topic. But the problem is that the media only give
their slant to the whole issue. Therefore the facts get squelched.
Now regarding your two questions:
1. 300 partners in a lifetime? Yes, for some. More than that for others (see the
above comments). It often depends how long one is active in the gay community.
Clearly, promiscuity is the norm.
2. 60% have relationships with children under the age of 8?
I'm not sure where that statistic came from, and it seems rather high to me.
However, I have read over and over that adult-child sex appears to be commonly
reported among gay men.
I suggest you contact Focus on the Family and ask for their small booklet entitled:
Straight Answers: Exposing the Myths and Facts about Homosexuality. Also ask them
for a resource sheet on other literature pertaining to the issue of homosexuality.
As you begin reading these materials you will find lots of studies that generally go
unreported by the news media.
I hope this has been helpful in some way. Again, I apologize for taking so long to
respond . . . and for being so lengthy once I did respond!
God bless you.
Kent Olney, Ph.D.
Chair of Social Sciences
Professor of Sociology
Olivet Nazarene University
firstname.lastname@example.org [courtesy of Heather]
There are some very obvious problems with his position. For one, what constitutes sex between homosexual men? Is it purely anal or are they accounting for oral? If it is purely anal then we have another problem as only half of homosexual men participate in anal sex. What about lesbians? Where were these stats recorded at? Does a Christian homosexual act in the same way? Why focus on this issue? I am sure you can all come up with your own questions and that is what I am calling upon you to do to flood the zone. Ask as many hard questions as you can, this man has, after all, a PhD in Sociology and he ought to be able to answer them.
For this to work we need to organize to do this about the same time and surely the same day and, since we may be small, we will need to spread the word and keep e-mailing him if he refuses to respond. I am going to tentatively set the date for late tonight and go early into Sunday but I need you to comment if you are with us, in fact I need you to comment if you are with, we need to know we have enough people for this to actually work.
(7:54 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
Got The Peace Of Mind (Shoot Me In The Freaking Head)(this is a reposting of my post that was posted originally on the posting list that is Academy. I re-post it here because I wonder about the thoughts of the established Weblog "niche" regarding my thoughts that were thought a few moments ago. Okay, let me know.)
I think our image of God must always begin with a loving, divine being who is desperately seeking a relationship with us.
From this view, then, I would view Sin as a rejection of this relationship, a breaking that can only occur on our side, since God is always standing with arms open wide (a perfect picture of the day he died...to quote some old CCM song).
I don't think God looks past the Sin to the sinner. I don't think God can really make a distinction. Sin, as understood in this context, is more than stealing, gluttonizing or having sex with the same gender. Instead, Sin is a state of being, a way of seeing the world that bars any relationship to Christ. This can't be narrowed down to specific actions. It is a complete setting of one's heart, mind and soul. Thus, it's impossible to "hate the sin, love the sinner", for God at least. He loves the sinner, unconditionally, and yet is unwilling to force a relationship on that person, because there would be no relationship at all.
I regard SIN, then, as a breaking of this relationship with the Father or with his creation from our end.
Maybe Drinking, Dancing, Murder and Adultery are all symptoms we've come up with to help us realize when our relationship to God and to God's creation is broken. However, just because you start to feel fatigued or a little weak doesn't automatically mean you have botulism. I don't think it's a straight up breaking point right at the first symptom. I don't think it's necessarily a breaking point at the 85th symptom. SIN, as a breaking of relationship with God, is not necessarily commited even in the worst acts.
This is not to say that as long as one merely feels they're doing something Godly, it's okay for them to do as they please, of course. That's not a true relationship. That's paying lip service, and is something Christ often decries.
But then, if the symptoms don't always indicate the deeper problem, how are we supposed to know? We can't be in that person's heart or mind. And to this I say, exactly. Our place, as followers of Christ, is not to judge whether that person is in relationship with God or not. Our place is to love to the ultimate extent of our abilities. To "die to self" then, is to give up our own pride, our own control of our lives, our grip on history, and freely submit to the loving person of Christ in all things. To stop caring about whether we'll be sucessful, to stop caring explicitly about whether the world gets "saved", to stop being so anxious about the things of this world, to die to all those things, and embrace the calling of Christ to love those other than ourselves with everything we have.
I think part of this can entail talking about these symptoms of sin, when we witness them in another's life. But, in order to talk about anything more than the symptoms, you have to actually know the person. We have no place blanketly saying all people who do such and such a thing are going to Hell. To do so is to limit God, to say that there are rules in place which he must abide by whether he wants to or not. Anyone seen 13 Days? I'm totally reminded of the military trying to box JFK in with the Rules of Engagement. Yeah?
With this conception of sin, even if we concede that Homosexuality is a sin, which I'm not at all ready to do, we still have no place as a church to condemn homosexuals in the broad sweeping manner we do. It should be something that maybe close friends have those sort of late night heart to heart talks with someone about, rather than blanket confrontation. Any other kind of discussion shifts the focus from the Sin, that is, a break in relationship with Christ, to the symptom of homosexuality. One may exhibit the symptoms, but still fully be in relationship. Consider the alcoholic, they may never beat their addiction due to human constraints, yet they can still be in relationship with Christ.
I have to think then, that even if homosexuality is a sin, any homosexual who openly and completely gives himself to engaging with the person of Christ, even if he never settles the question, shall not have the relationship they are seeking rejected by Christ. That doesn't fit the image of a loving God who desperately is seeking to live with and among us, and thus must be rejected, or our image of God must change.
Friday, March 26, 2004
(12:38 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
"Here I stand; I can do no other."
My post about "there is nothing outside the blog" might have been annoying, but it was a nice release valve from the heavy theoretical lifting I'm having to do on dialog. It's nice to write a half-ass parody of Derrida, instead of bringing up ever more details of texts and philosophy and cultural theory -- all the while being repeatedly dismissed as the burden of proof is continually expanded just slightly beyond the limits of what I've provided. If we can be certain of one thing, if one part of the Christian tradition is absolutely beyond any reasonable doubt, then it certainly can't be the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity, or Chalcedonian Christology, or Augustine's theory of state, or the centrality of Eucharist for worship, or God's preferential option for the poor, or the resurrection of the body -- no, the rock on which Christ will build his church is the sinfulness of any and all homoerotic practices. That is the Archimedean point that can ground the church's transformative critique and practice. If we lose that, then we've lost the authority of Scripture, lost any coherence in Christian moral teaching, lost any claim to be "different" from the world.
Every good evangelical is setting him or herself up to be the next Luther: "Here I stand; I can do no other." The parallel of the many Bush supporters who portray themselves as modern-day Winston Churchills cannot be accidental.
I'm not trying to start a fresh debate on homosexuality with this post, just saying that the whole topic is exhausting. It makes even less sense than the fundamentalist decision to put the inspiration of Scripture and the virgin birth before belief in God or Jesus Christ. (Maybe I'm wrong about this ordering, or maybe it's not widespread -- I just remember getting a pamphlet from a door-to-door evangelist that listed the beliefs of the church in numbered form, and Jesus wasn't very high up there. I knew what church he was from -- it couldn't have had enough money to get pamphlets that nice custom-made just for that church.)
Yes, I have gay friends, etc., etc., but I think the thing that keeps me coming back to the Gay Question is the sheer thoughtlessness of the debate, the sheer arbitrarity of the arguments used -- are people actually convinced of this stuff? Is this a conclusion that they came to through a disinterested process of logical reasoning? Or is this debate from the right nothing but desparate apologetics, trying to hold onto something that we seem to be stuck with due to other beliefs (authority of scripture, whatever), even though it makes less and less sense every day? I don't understand.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
(11:44 PM) | Anthony Paul Smith:
So you want a revolution?The Beatles represent the pinnacle of 60's music. They challenged the conceptions of what Rock N' Roll could do, they challenged the prevailing morality of the time and they even supported subversive political movements. Or so we are told by oldies radio and VH1's Behind the Music. What we actually see in the phenomenon of The Beatles was an example of how incredibly repressed the West ruled by global capital are. The Beatles did not challenge the conception of what Rock N' Roll could do, they merely made what others had done before them a commercial success. The Beatles did not challenge the prevailing morality of the time in any important way. Elvis danced, the Beatles had long hair - who gives a flying fuck? As for their politics, we see a perfect example of guilty white-men who embrace leftist thought as therapy, since we accept people in theory we don’t have to worry that the things we actually do are killing them. Do you want a revolution? Then burn your records because pop culture isn't giving you signs of where to begin.
The ideological function of a group like The Beatles is quite obvious in our blog-style analysis - they exist as an opiate. I am not suggesting that their is some vast, Right-wing conspiracy to use Rock N' Roll to subvert radical causes, rather I am suggesting that groups like the Beatles arise out of our angst when we are called to become what we already are, something new. I am suggesting that part of our humanity is the desire to see a radically new creation; I apologize that I cannot separate this from theological language but we see in religion a certain starting point for this radicalism. There is something inside of us that screams, "Hell yeah I want a revolution!" and groups like The Beatles alleviate the stress of this desire. They allow us to be rebellious without rebellion. Revolutionary without revolution.
This is not the sole function of The Beatles or groups like them. They also serve as our conscience that has the right to question our desire, after all they are revolutionary. So when we cry, "We want a revolution!", The Beatles respond, "We'd all love to see a plan." And though we all know that revolutions don't have plans, it breaks the frenzy and ends it. "But when you talk about destruction. Don't you know you can count me out." Though we know revolutions, by their very nature, don't allow safety and that we must all be destroyed for anything new to come our conscience, formed by this rightful subversive group, says “Be safe.” They very fact that The Beatles stopped playing live shows when their music started to become more "subversive" (without subversion) points to the fact that their music is a non-event. This points to their total lack of meaning to anything revolutionary. Groups, communities, are where revolutions happen, not in your bedroom with two stoner friends while you desperately hope your parents don’t smell the pot.
Once again we see that the fundamentalists have accidentally shown us the way, burn your Beatles albums! If The Beatles are bigger than Jesus, bigger than actually doing something subversive, then something has got to change. It begins by burning down our idols and beginning to recognize who are icons are.
(10:42 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Commodification of Music, pt. 3
From à Gauche:
From the spiritual songs of African slaves to Stalin's infamous Pravda denouncement of Shostakovich, music has always had the capability of inspiring intense political feeling. (Not to sound like a PBS lead-in, but it's true.) But it's a fairly safe assertion that this is no longer the case.
He cites examples, already satisfactorily commented on by Adam Robinson. Then à Gauche continues:
So if music is no longer capable of inspiring intense political feeling, why is this the case? I wonder if an answer like "commodification" isn't as trite as it sounds. For one thing, political passion in general seems usually tied to a specific time and place, like a rally or a protest or a strike. In the same way that a recorded speech by Tom Daschle is even less inspiring, I doubt Sibelius would've been in as much trouble if he had been able to distribute CDs of "Finland Awakes" instead of performing it with a live orchestra.
Is it possible to get a group of people together to listen to a CD? In the early days of radio, it was possible for a radio program to be an "event," bonding people together in disparate physical locations, as effectively as an audience for a symphony -- the only place this is now possible on a grand scale any longer is the movies and, in exceptional situations such as 9/11, on television. Everyone's feeling of being involved in the event of 9/11 was of course on many levels artificial, but then, so is everything -- political activity is always in excess of the objective brute facts, made possible by a certain arbitrary hemming in of possibilities (at its most basic level, restriction in time and place as à Gauche points out).
Obviously that artificial investedness in 9/11 had very real political effects that the left was woefully incapable of exploiting. We on the left should come clean and admit that our objection to Bush is not the form of his exploitation of 9/11, but the fact that the exploitation of 9/11 did not have left-wing content. Although all the Great Bands of our era are explicitly leftist, none have been able to create any discernable political effect or even to provoke resistance or worry from the powers -- most likely because of the effects of commodification not only on the consumer end, but also at the producer end, its role in further consolidating profit. The most genuinely subversive moves by bands in recent years have perhaps been their leaking of albums onto the Internet.
Adam Robinson comments:
While I think a Gauche's observations regarding commodification and music are mostly right and good (excepting his take on rap), I can't see why they matter because I can't see what we're losing. We still have alt country.
It's commodification in the other artistic arenas that concern me now.
In view of the 1960s alone, I think Adam is being a little too rash in dismissing the "loss" of music as a non-loss (if that's what he's doing). The commodification of other artistic arenas is truly worrisome. I will leave the plastic arts to Jared Sinclair or Cap'n Pete, as Adam suggests, but film and television are both moving away from their possible unifying effects: the development of the "home theater" and the TiVo system that allows for the complete abolition of "appointment television" may symbolize the complete foreclosure of an identifiable "public space." An analysis of the Internet would also be appropriate at this point, to coincide with Adam's observations about the underground:
For a while I have allowed mainstream music to serve merely as a curiosity for me. I have taken no respite in bands like Radiohead and REM who are supposed to be the ones that matter. Instead, I've found bliss underground, listening to bands that I can understand, that have lives like my own, that play really outstanding music and don't need the credibility that comes with being commodified.
One might ask if the underground music scene is at all like the early church -- a loosely affiliated group of "cells," consisting of people with a broadly similar, at least nominally "countercultural" lifestyle (even if it too often degenerates into partisan infighting based on the fetishization of small differences). I'm inclined to think that the contemporary Leninist turn might be a kind of half-sarcastic nostalgia. The really momentous contemporary "event" might be the Pauline turn -- a certain desire for "authenticity," an impatience that won't wait for the revolution, that demands real life here, now, today, for us. In the loss of the public space, the cynical hijacking of "values" language by powerful elites, etc., Paul is certainly our contemporary (even if my "historical reconstruction" may not take into account all the details of his texts).
This is my best shot at joining this conversation for now.
(7:35 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
There is nothing outside the blog
I coined the title. Here's my proof. But already my proof calls into question the statement itself -- is not Google outside the blog? Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not. It is already well-known that Google relies heavily on blogs in its patented, black-box "PageRank" system. Blogs themselves have used this technology to produce "googlebombs" (my favorite was "miserable failure"), which are orchestrated by blogs, the results of which are directly linked by blogs and discussed by blogs. Google is in some sense a concensus of bloggers' opinions of web sites, and in turn, Google is often integrated directly into blogs through the advertisements on blogspot and through site-specific searches. Google is not outside the blog.
But what of the news articles and punditry on which bloggers comment? A story of significant import is heavily quoted in all manner of blogs -- any given story is likely quoted hundreds of times over, in its entirety, throughout the blogosphere. Is that fair use? Take my recent post about David Brooks. I quoted almost the entire article. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have done so. Is that fair use? Are bloggers hijacking these articles? What of Atrios' site, where 90% of the text is quoted. Is that fair use? Is Atrios a plagiarist, and all of the rest of us his apprentice plagiarists, some of us even getting paid to plagiarize? What does it mean when we link to an Atrios post rather than to the article itself? What if we cannot link to the article without also linking to Atrios, as the one who gave us the heads-up? We would not have known the article existed without Atrios, or without the blogger who read Atrios and told us what Atrios had found.
The article is more real -- has more effects -- in the blogosphere than outside it, and may even continue to have effects without anyone going back to the original. The original only becomes important in terms of the ongoing debate in the blogosphere. The reference to the original takes place in the blogs, in the form of quoting the other stuff that Andrew Sullivan "conveniently overlooked," and continues to propagate throughout the blogosphere.
Was there an article before the blog? Or was the article in some sense already blogged? Already blogging itself in the play of blogging and hyperlinks? Trying to get to a "before" of the blog, we find ourselves continually confronted with the primordiality of the blog. Newspapers were already blogs in all important senses of the word. Books were already blogs, already thoroughly plagiarized, going over the same words again and again -- the Bible is a blog, the blog of the people of Israel. Human conversation was blogging already. The world of human meaning was a blog, divided up into packets of meaning, haphazardly quoting from something that I think I heard somewhere -- from mother? from Atrios? but where did they find it? The world was a blog as soon as it was divided up into night and day, perhaps even light and darkness. A future essay: on blogs, and internet blogs in particular.
So when we try to get back to what we're blogging about, to the real life on which we are commenting, we find that there was never anything there. Any attempt to get behind the blog to the real reporter, the real commentator, the real David Brooks, the real Adam Kotsko, the real Atrios is doomed to failure. There was never a "real life," and this is not by accident, not some problem inherent to the Weblog or to Atrios or even to the Internet. There is nothing outside the blog. Any belief to the contrary is a nostalgia for something that never was, a melancholia that never allows itself to become mourning. Our task is, precisely, blogging, and ever will have been.
(5:07 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
Will Work For GraceNew Official motto for the church. I demand it. It's time we start being honest at least.
Seriously..when did everything about grace leave the church? You know..Blessed are the merciful, the meek, the poor, the hungry? Or basically that whole sermon. Or basically every word ever spoken by Christ.
When Christ spoke, he went completely against conventional wisdom, he brought something completely new and refused to be held down by rules, refused to be held down by the traditional way of thinking. Instead he invited everyone to come to Him and gain a different perspective. To gain a perspective from the cross, one that sees those who are poor, broken, hurting and dying. It more than sees, it becomes part of them. This rejection of traditional ways of thinking is central to the person of Christ. Christ wasn't harsh because they were hypocrites in the sense that they said one thing and did another. They DID every single thing they said they'd do. There is perhaps never a more "holy" grouping of people. But they had become so inculcated in their conventional wisdom that they failed to see that it is necessary, by the very nature of claiming to be a people of God, to work against traditional ways of thinking, to bring a perspective centered around love for others.
Could the church get any more inculcated than we are today? Is there any seperation from the modern world? NO I DO NOT mean is the church as a body not drinking, not smoking, not dancing, not engaging in homosexual activity and everything else. I mean, is the church, are Christian people endeavouring to live with the invitation of Christ to a new view of the world, a new wisdom seperate from that that we find around us. Are we Christians doing anything like loving the loveless, reaching out to the hopeless, becoming one with the fatherless, the alien and the widow? More so, even, than programs that provide food and clothing, though God knows those are glorious, but are we embodying this different worldview which should define us?
I have my doubts about it. I have my doubts about myself, but dangit, at least I'm trying. The idea of grace, the idea of love, the idea of forgiveness and sacrifice and everything else for the church is exactly the same as that of the world. Grace is offered freely - to those who are willing to work their butt off for it. Once you come miles past whatever demons you struggle with, working your butt off to get there, than okay, maybe we'll come out and meet you. Why aren't we busting off the porch to forgive those who have gone astray? At what point do we realize that Christ was delivering a message which called us not to living within the constructs set up by the world, but to a radically different point of view. That's the whole point of the cross.
Yet all we can do is talk about what we've earned. About others "earning" grace, having to phrase everything in such a way as to ALWAYS put the burden on the other person, rather then holding ourselves up to the massively challenging call to seek grace for all to whatever capability we have, in whatever way we can. Isn't that hard enough? Why do we have to add to it the job of making sure everyone else is earning their keep? What does that have to do with the gospel? AT ALL?
Maybe one day I'll join the rest of the weblog in belief that God is dead (though, of course, I don't think they really believe that), but for now, it certainly seems like the Church as an active and moving body representing the path of Christ to the cross is pretty sickly, if not dead itself.
Sorry, I'm a little frustrated at the moment after several notes from Olivet's Academy list server (political science discussion), besides, I thought that title was the greatest thing ever, and was deserving of a rant to go with it.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
(10:21 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Prolegomena to Any Future Political Discussion
A recent post on Olivet Nazarene University's dialog listserv reminded me of one reason that I hate the right wing: every conversation about politics degenerates into a discussion of the etiquette of political discussions. Example:
Right-winger: I support a stupid policy.
Me: I don't support that policy, because it's stupid.
Right-winger: Oh, I see! You're all in favor of free speech as long as it's the radical left-wingers who are speaking, but when a Republican says something, all you want to do is shut him down.
Attentive readers will note that the right of the right-winger to hold and express political opinions was never in question in this conversation at all. Interestingly, though, by bringing up the topic of free speech in this way, he is effectively trying to "shut down" the left-winger by characterizing the left-winger's sincere, good-faith political disagreement as an opposition to free speech -- without, take note, actually addressing the content of the left-winger's speech.
The same general trend can be seen in the response to those who leave the Bush administration, then write critical things about it. Very seldom do right-wing hacks bother to address the substance of those officials' remarks. Instead, they discuss the many ways in which the speaker is discredited in advance. It doesn't matter what he's saying, because he does not have the right to say anything and be heard.
In short, with the right wing, every conversation degenerates into a discussion of the grounds on which some future conversation would be possible at some point in the future -- with the right wing being the responsible custodian of such meta-discussional princinples.
This is where Karl Barth would jump in and say, "Nein." As a socialist, he was already well-acquainted with the sloppy rhetorical tricks of the right wing -- reading some of the responses he got from the local business community during his "Comrade Pastor" period is deeply disturbing, in that nothing has changed. The insinuation that Barth is completely uninformed, the insistence on pointing out small factual errors without addressing the substance of what he said -- it's like Rush Limbaugh is responding to Barth. This context gives us a way to understand Barth's insistence that no prolegomena to theology is necessary or desirable. The theologian must simply begin by affirming the content of God's revelation in Christ, rather than speculating about the grounds on which such a revelation and our knowledge thereof might be possible. His prolegomena is the doctrine of the Trinity.
How arrogant of him! How presumptious! Does he not recognize how irrelevant that doctrine is to the world, how much ground he has to cover before someone could possibly even begin to imagine thinking about affirming that doctrine? Barth suggests that some arrogant presumption is necessary. The best apologetic is a good systematic theology. Letting the world set the terms for the Christian proclamation will lead to an inevitable misshaping of the Christian proclamation -- and I believe that this is strictly equivalent (in my mind as in Barth's) to the distortion introduced by allowing the right wing to set the terms for a left-wing proclamation.
In conclusion, a proposed experiment: when we decide to take a year to read Church Dogmatics at a pace of 30 pages a day, perhaps we should be reading Capital alongside it.
(4:48 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
Love Will Tear Us ApartToday's trip to the Wharehouse of Music was eternally better than last week's. This week I found success in finding Iron & Wine's "Our Endless Numbered Days". I've listened to it about 5 times since then, including falling asleep to it once. I had a bit of an issue with his earlier stuff..it seemed obviously talent-filled, but missing a certain something to take it from "really good" to brilliant. It could have been something as simple as me downloading at 128 bits, instead of my normally mandatory 192, or it could have been with the music itself, I'm not sure. Whatever the problem was, it wasn't enough to keep me from moving Iron & Wine up to the "have to buy it to keep a good conscience, since I know I'll enjoy it immensely" list. It was a good choice, it's one of the more beautiful records I've ever heard. So relaxing, so peaceful, it'd fit both a fantastically sunny day and a first snowfall type day easily. While more produced than the past 2 albums I've heard, this doesn't lose the "back porch of a florida swamp house" feel at all either. I think I'm in love, like the Jessica Simpson song.
I also renewed acquaintences with the manager, I think last tuesday he was a bit hesitant to talk, minus that one brief discussion over the style of Sufjan. This may have been because it'd been about 3 months since I'd been in, mainly because no one on my list of "need to buy, not "obtain"" had released anything. This week he was much more talkative, reccomending I check out Kings of Convenience if I like Iron & Wine, being sure to point out that their first album was the best. He also looks like the lead singer of Staind, so that's always somewhat quizically funny to me. Hopefully between these two weeks in a row, and the fact I'll have to be back 2 weeks from today to get the new Modest Mouse and Ben Kweller will bring a renewal in my "regular" status. I'd hate to be irregular. Ew.
I finally got my CD player working. I jiggled the wire just right after about 15 minutes this morning, and was rewarded with an end to all frustration. Thank God. There is no better radio station than OKC's 105.3 the spy, so I could almost have lived without a CD player..except that from 5-6:00 they always do New Wave Happy Hour. I love the new wave as much as the next guy, I think, but I can't stand more than 2 songs in a row of it. As a nice balance to the general "indie pop" and rock which 105.3 the spy plays, it's great, ecstatic, all the go..but if you're going to play a straight hour of people with deep voices singing depressing lyrics with a poppy beat over casio keyboard tones combined with jangly guitars..why do it when everyone's driving home and thus all but forced to listen? Why do it every day of the week? Maybe one needs to understand the goodness of The Spy at other times to understand the full let down of New Wave Happy Hour... On my way to school this morning, I heard Rilo Kiley first, then Radio 4's "Dance To The Underground", then some Royksopp, followed by The Smiths, then The Shins, The White Stripes and Placebo. On my way from school to work in the mid afternoon, I heard Supergrass, then Nirvana, then The Sounds, followed by THe Clash, The White Stripes, The Kills and The Starlight Mints. It was brilliant. I finally, then, got in the car to go home after enduring my 3-4 hours of work, only to hear ..you know..Joy Division..followed by New Order..followed by some Depeche Mode..and then some ..you know some Other Two..Monaco..Electronic..and on and on and on. Even one "New Wave" band without an English accent would be good, but I don't think any exist really. So, all that to say, thank God my CD player is back up and running after a much needed week off.
I'm posting a lot about music of late, and to some extent I apologize about that. I've been sort of catching up on "classic" movies I missed because I didn't watch many movies at all until senior year of high school. So, I doubt anyone would want to read about Pulp Fiction (yeah..hadn't seen it till just tonight), or True Romance, or the like. Eventually I'll get back to the more recent stuff, the "independent", the "thought provoking" and so on. I was supposed to go see Fog of War last sunday, but I didn't. As far as books, I've only read the two I talked about last time in recent weeks. But once I finish off a book for class, I will start The Ticklish Subject, so that might provide some post material. Outside of media..my classes this semester have been pretty uninspiring as far as anything deeply intellectual. I still don't really know anyone in Oklahoma City, a couple guys at work, couple guys at church..but, no one seems to ever want to go out and..you know, actually do stuff. So, all I have is music pretty much right now given me any sort of "inspiration" or interesting stuff to write about. There are a few childhood stories to dish out here..though I try to save them for the most desperate of times..I might have to bust one out soon though. Really, it's pretty frustrating, cause I have some thoughts throughout the day, contrary to all evidence..but by the time I drive home from work and finish my homework, I can't ever remember what they were. Perhaps a notepad shall have to be carried with me from now on. If only I could have the seemingly free flowing, first thing to pop into mind style of a Kamala..sigh. Until I get a life, though, feel free to keep reading the never-ending fount of beautiful prose and essay, The Adam Kotsko, the greatest mind of our generation.
As a final note..did anyone know Sixpence None The Richer broke up a month ago, and Steve Taylor is no longer affiliated with his own dream, Squint Records. It's basically just another CCM label eaten by Word Records now..strange and sad..especially if that means Steve's new solo album and his numerous movie productions won't get made.
However, in trying to find more about this, I did come across this page which told me Sixpence was the devil. Perhaps it is a blessing of God's triumph over evil that God has brought them to break up. At least they don't have to put up with this sort of crap from Christians any more. However, in my book, that's one big minus to the scattering remnant of good christian bands left.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
(9:27 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Is the world a board game? Perhaps.
The world is unlike the boardgame Risk in the following ways:
- In Risk, there are no civilians. In real life, there are civilians, who prove to be more vulnerable than soldiers to implements of war, on average. A territory that might house only two little risk guys might actually have millions of people, many of whom the conquerer must kill as he rolls his dice to victory.
- In Risk, an entire nation can be pacified with one army. In real life, a police force, government bureaucracies, court systems, social services, and a variety of other institutions are necessary to bring genuine stability to a region.
- In Risk, the only options are absolute world domination or complete annihilation. In real life, it is very possible to have a world that is balanced between two or more major powers who agree to respect each other's right to exist and negotiate disputes in a peaceable manner.
- In Risk, once a territory is conquered, only an army from another territory can take that territory away. In real life, there is always a remainder that resists any conquerer.
- In Risk, once the whole world is conquered by one power, the game is over. In real life, there would be constant rebellion and a very real possibility of the one-world government falling, making any attempt at total world hegemony a fool's errand.
In light of these contrasts, two steps must be taken as soon as possible:
- Someone must remove the Risk board from Dick Cheney's office, as well as Donald Rumsfeld's "lucky dice."
- George Bush should step down as the Republican presidential candidate and advise all those who had planned to vote for him to vote for Ralph Nader instead, given that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.
This exercise could perhaps be repeated with the games Monopoly, Clue, or Candyland.
(7:17 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Charting the Decline of the New York Times
This week's David Brooks column, entitled "One Nation, Enriched by Biblical Wisdom," starts off by making some points about the civil rights movement, in response to the Supreme Court's upcoming decision on the Pledge of Allegiance:
Chappell argues that the civil rights movement was not a political movement with a religious element. It was a religious movement with a political element.
If you believe that the separation of church and state means that people should not bring their religious values into politics, then, if Chappell is right, you have to say goodbye to the civil rights movement. It would not have succeeded as a secular force.
Who believes that? Who? Furthermore, who even thinks it's possible? And finally, since Brooks is bashing the naive liberal Northerners for their insufficient grasp of human nature and their ineffectiveness -- who actually, you know, passed the laws? It wasn't like Martin Luther King just prayed really hard and all the sudden blacks had the vote.
Now he broadens it:
Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible and commentaries on the Bible can be read as instructions about what human beings are like and how they are likely to behave. Moreover, this biblical wisdom is deeper and more accurate than the wisdom offered by the secular social sciences, which often treat human beings as soulless utility-maximizers, or as members of this or that demographic group or class.
Whether the topic is welfare, education, the regulation of biotechnology or even the war on terrorism, biblical wisdom may offer something that secular thinking does not — not pat answers, but a way to think about things.
Right, because some of the "pat answers" -- institutionalized forgiveness of debt, etc. -- would be pretty inconvenient. It's better to have some vague "values" that we can later "act out." And here's the final insult:
For example, it's been painful to watch thoroughly secularized Europeans try to grapple with Al Qaeda. The bombers declare, "You want life, and we want death"— a (fanatical) religious statement par excellence. But thoroughly secularized listeners lack the mental equipment to even begin to understand that statement. They struggle desperately to convert Al Qaeda into a political phenomenon: the bombers must be expressing some grievance. This is the path to permanent bewilderment.
Wait -- but didn't the civil rights movement itself call into question the tidy distinction between religious and political movements? And didn't the civil rights activists have some pretty definite, and overwhelmingly justified, grievances? Can't you write one column without shifting into "party hack mode"?
But he does redeem himself here:
The lesson I draw from all this is that prayer should not be permitted in public schools, but maybe theology should be mandatory. Students should be introduced to the prophets, to the Old and New Testaments, to the Koran, to a few of the commentators who argue about these texts.
From this perspective, what gets recited in the pledge is the least important issue before us. Understanding what the phrase "one nation under God" might mean — that's the important thing. That's not proselytizing; it's citizenship.
I actually agree with this in the abstract. The fact that he's putting the Koran on the syllabus makes me agree even more. The simple fact that he's putting primary texts of any kind on the syllabus warms my heart -- the thought of all the time I wasted reading bland, expensive, useless textbooks saddens me.
David Brooks isn't all bad, just like 95% bad.
Monday, March 22, 2004
(12:32 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
So Much For The City...This is a post about things. Things have been observed of late. These are a few of them:
- Facial Hair. I need some outside opinions - am I right in suspecting that nearly every single female absolutely hates facial hair of almost any sort, and certainly of the ghotee/beard sort? I know the many many females in my family do, and I know I've overheard women at least 10-20 times say something like "but..he has a ghotee" or.."If you two start dating, the first thing you need to go is to get him to shave.." Is this correct? I ask because, in my experience, almost every male thinks he looks cooler with facial hair. What's more, he thinks other males look cooler with facial hair. I also ask because I tried an experiment with a beard again, and was just screwing around, trying some things different to have some fun, and expressly stated to everyone I knew that it was just for fun and I certainly didn't think it was anything serious, yet every male told me it looked great, and every female told me it looked terrible.
Corrolary Question: Is this dichotomy directly related to women thinking of the face in terms of kissibility? I had a friend in high school who said he always knew he was "getting places" with a girl when she asked him to shave his ghotee, then he'd wink and knowingly nod and say stuff like "you know what I mean? ha ha..I mean..you know what I mean, right? ha ha" He actually said ha ha too..he didn't like..laugh. Anyway, I hope this is the case, as then, by my friend's standards, I can instantly assume that every girl who mentioned that my ratty looking beard needed to come off ultimately was hoping to get with me, in the JC Chasez sense of that phrase.
- CD Change Day Posts - My CD player in my car is broke, so, my CD Change Day posts are also broke. There is some faulty wiring somewhere, I just get static on the channel that is supposed to be my CD player..this is perhaps an improvement over previously when randomly it would break into static for a bit after working fine, causing me to curse and crash each time, and then it'd come back, and then it'd go out. And then I'd have to jiggle the wires in the back until eventually it'd be fine again. Then this would happen again. I know I'm a lot closer to Jesus just listening to the radio the last week.
- Concerts I Have Been To But Not Posted About With SXSW going on last week, we got a lot of leftovers. So I went to a lot of concerts. I skipped out on The Walkmen on sunday and The Monolith last night, but still I saw The Starlight Mints again last saturday, The Unicorns on Monday, then I saw John Vanderslice on Tuesday, Preston School of Industry on Wednesday, and Low Flying Owls tonight. This was my idea of spring break.
Here's a quick synopsis:
Starlight Mints: Gods. Best band out there today? I think so. FLAME ON! Also..they played the rare but beautiful "popsicle" for the home crowd, I reccomend you all buy the single, it was their first.
The Unicorns - Freak yeah. Crazy. Good. Who will cut our hair when we're gone?
John Vanderslice/Okkervil River ### Okkervil River opened but only played 4 songs, but after the show they said they liked my "My new fighting technique is unstoppable" t-shirt. Vanderslice is amazing, greatly cool, great songwriting. I totally love the dude.
Preston School of Industry +++ Come on, it's a Pavement off shoot, you know how much I urine I had to clean up when I saw they were coming to OKC? Of course it was amazing, and I didn't post a review because it'd just be me saying "oh my-lanta" in DJ Tanner like tones for pages and pages on end.
Low Flying Owls ÷÷÷ Alright, not up to the snuff of the other shows of this week, but God bless 'em for trying, because trying is something to be blessed.
- Sufjan Stevens His new album, Seven Swans, came out on tuesday. I went to my Music Warehouse which is staffed by indie rock allstars to get the cd, and they didn't know who he was. I am reaching new indie heights. The manager, who is as close to a personal friend as I come, because he considers me a regular, was all like "Dude..is that something like Air or something?" and I got to be like "No..it's sort of like Bright Eyes or Elliott Smith..except bright and cheery instead of dark..or something, I don't know" How much more indie conversation can you get? I'll be writing for Dusted and Pitchfork in no time. But, anyway, I ordered it from Amazon. Apparently this album is much much more "Christian" but..in a way that gives proper respect to the fullness of the religious topic without letting it overwhelm the music. I think really, the Pitchfork review of this CD summed up everything I've ever though about the struggles of Christian Music, including a slight reference to my analysis that "sex" is missing when he discusses the one misstep by Sufjan on the album as "impotent." The dude is totally ripping off my material! But seriously, this paragraph said what I've been trying to say in sum of most Christian music for years:
"Religious content, by its very faith-based nature, is passionate and fantastical, and, if not fashioned with a commensurate degree of care and artifice, the emotion exceeds the form, throwing the listener headlong into the realm of melodrama and self-parody (confer all "Christian rock" bands)."
View the rest here. Hopefully I'll have better luck at the Music WHOREhouse come tuesday, when I go to fetch the new Iron & Wine CD. If not, I'll have to hit the small record shops, because waiting 2 weeks for Amazon's SUPER SAVER shipping is just not worth it, but neither is 3-4 bucks in shipping charges.
Almost forgot, I did pick up Norah Jones' newest, as well as Damien Jurado's newest in lieu of Sufjan, so as not to waste a trip. Both are spectacular. I had originally typed "spectaculicious" there, but felt it was overdoing it. I ask you, the reader, would it have been?
- The Passion. I finally saw this thing that everyone speaks of. I am way late, so I won't give it the full review I want to..but to answer Curious's question from a long long time ago, yeah..I agree with Adam, the Romans killed Jesus. I think with any picture of God, you must start with love. To picture Jesus as someone sent purely to die so God's blood-lust could be met and then he could allow people in is not picturing God as love, I don't think. In that sense, I'd say God didn't kill Christ, and thus the crucifixion wasn't pre-ordained to happen or anything. Yet, at the same time, there was no chance it wouldn't happen because any time perfect love meets up with the perfect evil of this world, someone is going to die. But, God didn't kill Jesus. Our sins didn't kill Jesus. The path Jesus took in stark contrast to that of conventional wisdom, inviting people to see the world through a different perspective, killed Jesus. We killed Jesus only in the sense that if He were to come back again today, we'd kill him again. Who knows, maybe we have.
Thus, I'm somewhat disappointed with The Passion focusing so much on the bloodiness of the cross, and focusing so little on the message of the Christ. Yes, he suffered insurmountable torture, probably not to the point where the guards were tossing the cross back and forth, flipping it over and all that. But the point is not the crucifixion itself..if so, our love belongs just as much to the 1,000 jewish insurrectionists who were crucified, or to Peter, or to the gladiator revolt, or to the hundreds of thousands of others who were also crucified. The point of the crucifixion, what makes it so crucial to the Christian faith, is that it is the ultimate statement of giving up a grasp on history..it is the full follow through of the message of Christ - to live a life based in love instead of fear, to refuse fear of death, or fear of being forgotten, or fear of not being successful while alive. I pity that that aspect..which is the only thing that makes Christianity something "worth it" was relegated to haphazard and short flash backs, while we were treated to 90 minutes of non-stop gore and blood in something of a cosmic guilt trip.
- Summary. I think that's all. Tomorrow The Velvet Teen are in town, but I'm somewhat sick of concerts, so I'll probably skip. The Strokes are here on Wednesday with The Sounds, but I have class on wednesdays, and have a group presentation to work on in class that day. Dangit. Although I wasn't totally crushing on the 30 dollar tickets. I also read Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" last week, and am almost done with Marcus Borg's "Jesus: A New Vision"..American Gods was great if not deserving of a full fleshed review, but I liked the concept of all the gods brought over with the immigrants and dying and vying for power and what not. Reminded me a lot of Douglas Adams' "Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul" except infinitely less funny and thought provoking..but still..Gaiman shows promise, even if Pratchett was clearly the driving force behind the genius of Good Omens. The "New Vision" book is decent too, though it's basically turned out to just be a re-telling of the history of The Quest For The Historical Jesus. I'd like it a lot better if he didn't start the book by having a very good chapter on why whether or not this exact stuff actually happened doesn't matter...then spending the entire book going through what scholars can say with some umption did happen, and what they must say "might have" or is "probably part of the kerygma"..sigh.
Oh, also, I saw Second Hand Lions with my sister, because she cooked dinner, and thus got to choose the movie...that's actually a really great film, as far as feel good somewhat kid's movies go. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also saw the Parker Posey movie The House of Yes last night, and that was some screwed up stuff, but very darkly funny, and even Tori Spelling and Freddie Prinze Jr. couldn't screw it up. Oh yeah, Parker is hot as well.
I think that pretty much clears out everything I meant to post a long post about but never did..now maybe I can get some fresh ideas..?
Thanks for your time.
Sunday, March 21, 2004
(10:09 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
News Brief: Sometimes American Foreign Policy Hurts People
With that headline, I have officially gone off the deep end. I am now part of the Chomskyan left. Any credibility I once had has now been shattered by my overwhelming irrelevance and lack of patriotism. Any troops who are reading my web page will be heartbroken at my lack of support. I am, as they say, objectively pro-fascist. A Saddamite, in all likelihood.
I still must stand behind my headline, because I have gotten a very grim picture from reading Chalmers Johnson's Blowback. Sexual assault of those whose countries our military "protects" is rampant. Countries that are facing no plausible threat are coersed into purchasing expensive weapons systems. Entire national economies, including in some respects our own, are laid waste by the movement of finance capital. And throughout the book, I kept wondering: How exactly is America supposed to be benefitting from this? In order to prop up the economies of our Asian sattelites, we have gutted manufacturing and industry in our own nation, while simultaneously undercutting the very economies who undercut us. They vastly overproduce in order to maintain an export economy, until we can't afford to buy any more of their exports, because our manufacturing and industry is gutted. We sell weapons to other countries and then are shocked -- shocked -- when they use them either against their neighbors or against randomly selected targets in their own country.
Johnson proposed several sensible changes in policy: nuclear disarmament, withdrawal of troops from Korea and Japan, imposing restrictions on imports such as requiring that manufacturers pay a certain wage if they want access to our market, etc. I can't begin to imagine a situation in which those proposals would be possible to implement, even though they would clearly be in nearly everyone's best interests.
The problem here is the use of the term "America" to refer to diverse things: the military, the investment class, and the actual normal people who live in America, with their government. It's pretty clear that the military and the flow of capital are now largely beyond the control of the government, especially when the military and capital combine in such a way that they aren't obviously under the jurisdiction of the US government. If empires impose their own social structures on the territories they conquer, then we must say that it is the US military, much moreso than US capital or the US government, that is the true imperial power. Every nation in the world is required to become ever more militarized, even as the US military shows its true colors when stationed overseas, where soldiers are allowed to do things they couldn't imagine doing back in the US -- and are then exonerated, showing contempt for civilian government and authorities.
The military, in general, is an organization set up to terrorize and kill people. We should not expect it to do anything but terrorize and kill people. We should not expect it to "keep the peace." We should not expect it to "rebuild a country." Sometimes it might seem necessary to set up a military in response to a specific threat, but we simply cannot maintain a standing, mercenary army many times larger than the nearest competitor's and expect the world to be a peaceful, stable place. We should not be surprised when the excess military capacity of the US ends up working its way into other countries and supporting rulers who want nothing more than to terrorize and kill people and maybe make some money while they're at it. This stuff is dangerous. We're stupid for keeping it lying around, especially when we're separated by two oceans from any credible threat to our country. We were stupid to help arm other countries during the Cold War, and we were stupid to instigate an arms race that led to ever more advanced weapons, such that now our mainland could be threatened from across the ocean within the next couple decades. All of that was completely stupid. It only helped the military structures and those capitalists fortunate enough to have a stake in it.
Now I can see why Hardt and Negri are arguing that we can't view empire simply in terms of a nation-state (such as the US), since things have gotten beyond the control of any one state. Hopefully once I read their book, I will have finally achieved the absolute knowledge that Hegel promised and failed to deliver. In any case, I wonder: are the governmental structures and values of the United States such that they inevitably lead to a military-capitalist overgrowth that has grown beyond our control, or was that a historical accident that could have been prevented? What role does national leadership have in all this? And what is the meaning of George W. Bush's abject pandering to the military and to capital?
All I know is that when the terrorists attacked the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, they weren't attacking "America" as such, or at least not all of it. They weren't attacking the Southern whites still making nigger jokes. They weren't attacking young men trying to achieve literary and rock-music stardom. They certainly weren't attacking snobbish East Coast intellectuals cursing themselves for not having been born French. Yes, America is much more than just the military and the investment class -- and I think people around the world recognize that.
Saturday, March 20, 2004
(6:30 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A Lackluster Lent
I went to church tonight. I have so much reading to do that I know that I wouldn't go if I put it off until tomorrow, and I already skipped last week. On top of that, I didn't give up anything for Lent and ate meat last Friday. All in all, I'm sure God is weeping over my lack of piety, assuming he exists.
We had the singular privilege of having the bishop of Joliet to celebrate the Blessed Sacrament with us today. I remembered him as being much more personable and funny at the rite of election when I was going through RCIA, but he did make a cute little joke: "If someone gives you a free ticket to Liberia, don't go." He visited that impoverished, war-torn nation while on the committee that runs Catholic Relief Services, and after several days of being forced to take cold showers, he wondered, "What am I doing here?" The gospel for today was the Prodigal Son. Reading that Jesus was hanging out with tax collectors and sinners, I wondered who would fill those roles today: phone solicitors? The meditation on the Prodigal Son, a story so utterly familiar that it begs for fresh, creative treatment, was lackluster at best. The father is really God. We should be more forgiving, because God forgives us so much. The basic theme of the homily is so frequently repeated that I'm starting to suspect that it's part of the Cliff's Notes to the lectionary.
As Professor Marion tells us, the bishop is the only true theologian. All of them are automatically granted a doctorate in theology if they don't already have one, whether they're qualified or not. May God have mercy on us.
I have been longing, however, for a high Latin mass with fourteen priests and twelve deacons lately, and tonight was as close as I'm going to get out here in the boondocks: a bishop, two priests, and a deacon. The priests actually concelebrated, rather than being part of the "God squad" to distribute communion or just sit decoratively in the sanctuary. The Kyrie and Agnus Dei were in Greek and Latin, respectively. Hearing the three of them try to sing together during the "Through him, with him, in him..." was mildly amusing -- three old men who can't really sing, singing together.
My only complaint about the liturgy as such is that in our parish, the closing hymn every Sunday in Lent for the last few years has been a song that says, "Stay with me, remain here with me, watch and pray...." It would be wonderful for communion, but it seems obviously inappropriate as a closing song. The first time they used it, I remember people being very hesitant to leave the church. My parish has also adopted the rather tacky practice of greeting one another before mass, in addition to during the sign of peace -- but during Lent, we "forego" that, "in order to enter more fully into this season of Lent." I have no idea what they could possibly mean by that. I am probably just too postmodern to have any concept of relative "depth" for anything other than holes.
I figured that since Adam Robinson has a post of capsule reviews, I might as well review the last public event I went to. He also mentioned in the comments to my last post that he didn't approve of the number of parentheticals therein. He's right: I should have done footnotes instead. They have technology to insert footnotes in Movable Type blogs, of course, but I don't especially want to see if they have an automated footnote generator for Blogger.
The post is ended; go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
[Heather, I answered your question in the comments to the post "See Kotsko Live."]
(2:21 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Weblog: In Retreat?
Today is a sad day for the Weblog: all my illustrious co-bloggers, from the stolid and dependable Robb Schunemann to Michael "Johnny-Come-Lately" Hancock, have been scrolled to death. This is the first time that I can remember this happening. I understand everyone's reasons, but it still seems somewhat sad. But hey, at least we're producing at a faster clip than The H is O or a house falling in the sea.
We would be living in a very different world today if I ever figured out a clever way to blog at work. I do occasionally use lynx for web browsing, especially on slow days, but the blogger interface is rather clumsy in that format. Even worse, I haven't figured out an easy way to cut and paste URLs (or even to know what the URLs are for the page I'm on). The most I can squeeze out is usually a comment or two at Chun or John and Belle's. If I had the normal Internet Explorer at my disposal with the Google Toolbar, the "Quick Links" sidebar would be filled at a startling rate. I read a lot of good posts this morning, but going back and finding them all, then linking to them all at once seems to defeat the spontenaity that is that the heart of the blogging genre. The "Blog This!" button is truly a godsend -- I cannot recommend the Google Toolbar enough, to bloggers and non-bloggers alike. Yes, I am getting paid to say that, but I stand behind my product 100%!
For all that, though, the real obstacle to adequate blogging is clear: school. I keep thinking that I need to take time off of school so that I can finally get down to the business of reading, and now it's becoming clear that I need to get down to the business of blogging as well -- because when you've got a blog, you've got a commitment. You don't just let your blog lay fallow for six days (and counting), and you certainly don't start a blog and then invite a hundred people to write for you, hoping that a couple of them will write a substantial amount so that you can get all the glory with none of the work. No, when you've got a blog, you get on the computer, and you post on the fucking blog!
I wonder if my page rank would be higher if I didn't use such foul language? That's one feature of the Google toolbar I probably need to turn off, since it drives me crazy -- I know for a fact that more people are blogrolling me now, yet I'm stuck at 4. This summer, when I was a young unknown, I was coasting at 5. Do I just need to comment at CalPundit more? Is that it? Maybe the New York Times (please note, fellow bloggers, that The Weblog follows the latest edition of the MLA Handbook, though I don't know what edition that is, since I'm now involved in a discipline with whose documentation style I am unfamiliar and which I am deeply opposed to learning -- curse you, Kate Turabian!) needs to start posting comments on CalPundit, too, because its page rank has fallen from 9 to 8. Is it David Brooks, driving people away with his outrageously bad columns? Or is it just that people are starting to realize the Washington Post (take note again) is a better paper? Or, even worse, is it possible that Andrew Sullivan has convinced the vast right-wing blogging conspiracy (and is it any wonder that one of the most popular right-leaning blogs contains the word conspiracy in its title -- is this the point we've reached, where ideology can show its cards so clearly, yet still function, as Zizek maintains?) to stop linking to the Grey Lady? And while we're on the topic, is it possible that SullyWatch mentions Lacan more often than any blog outside of me and à Gauche?
In conclusion, to make up for a missed opportunity, I would like to point out the similarities between the incident in which I am rumored to have punched a 12-year-old girl and academic mega-star Michael Bérubé's satire of academic conferences, in which he brilliantly lampoons the "this is more a comment than a question" phenomenon.
In real conclusion, a question: do you think it's better to have a rather spare blogroll to reflect the blogs that I actually read on a regular basis, or a huge one to reflect my sense of self-importance? I'm willing to add some stuff if the latter turns out to be preferred. I know Atrios has been in agony ever since I de-blogrolled him, so maybe it's time to bring the poor guy back. (An idea: Is anyone doing an "Atrios-watch" blog? Would it be possible to do such a page critiquing Atrios from the left? Would it be a good idea for a one-time gimmick when I have a day off this summer?)
Thursday, March 18, 2004
(9:10 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Although we should certainly feel free to continue discussing "Library of Babel," I think it's a good idea to start preparing for Derrida. In a nice coincidence, "Force of Law" is one of the assigned readings in my seminar on Derrida, and Prof. Jennings always gives us a list of supplementary readings and questions to help us better understand the reading. Here is a brief summary of the sheet he gave us this time:
- Walter Benjamin, "Critique of Violence" in Reflections
- Franz Kafka, "Before the Law"
- Jacques Derrida, "Before the Law" in Acts of Literature
- Jacques Derrida, "Declarations of Independence" in Negotiations
- Sort out the following relationships: law/justice; law/force; force/violence/power
- The question of aporia, the three examples of aporia. How is it related to the aporia of gift, hospitality, or forgiveness?
- What might it mean that justice, as opposed to law, is "undeconstructible"? Or that deconstruction is justice?
- Why is discourse regarding justice necessarily "oblique"? What is the opposite of "oblique"? Are there good examples of what must be and what need not be "oblique"?
- Founding vs. preserving violence: instability of the distinction
- The role of the death penalty
- The importance of the "to come"
I might also recommend the text "Hostipitality" in Acts of Religion (the same collection in which we find "Force of Law") -- it brings together the later Derrida's themes of hospitality and forgiveness in some interesting ways.
Now I'm obviously not saying everyone has to read all the other stuff, or even that they necessarily should. I just thought that since I had some orientation materials at hand, the university without condition could benefit from them.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
(10:18 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
See Kotsko Live! (updated)
Tomorrow, Thursday, March 18, there will be a presentation on the crucifixion of Christ as viewed through a political lens, at the Maternity BVM parish center (in the school) at 11:00 and 7:00 PM. The two presentations will be identical, except that the first will include some junior-high age students from the school.
The presentation will include a consideration of the local political circumstances in first-century Judea and will then widen to include a discussion of Paul's political response to the cross. Only the finest tools of historical-critical analysis will be used. I will be the main presenter, and Jared Sinclair and Jesse Bridges will deliver dramatic monologues in the voice of Caiaphas and Pilate, respectively. There will be a discussion period following the presentation.
No refreshments will be provided.
UPDATE: Both presentations went well.
As Jared noted in the comments, I did indeed duke it out (intellectually) with a twelve-year-old Catholic schoolgirl. Tonight, one of the previous presenters in this series said that she fielded a few questions from that same girl, and that Fr. Jim was there and bailed her out -- he extended no such courtesy to me. In essence, she waited patiently for me to finish my half-hour presentation and then pounced on me with the question of how to get to heaven. I did my best, even though it was only tangentially related to my topic (or was it?), and ended up embracing a radical Augustinian position. One woman started spouting some Pelagian bullshit she probably heard on Christian radio ("God doesn't decide who goes to heaven; we decide, through our own actions") and I jumped in and said that although that's a good way to extort good behavior from people, it's not really scriptural and isn't really supported by the tradition. But, you know, whatever.
The evening discussion was even better. I was able to add in some more asides, since I felt more comfortable in a group of fifteen people than in a group of one hundred people, most of whom were bored out of their minds. Andy Kring, Jared Martin, and Rachel (never met her before tonight and didn't get her last name) came to represent the Olivet contingent, and as much as Jared and I have butted heads online, it really helped to spur some very productive discussion. In my paper as it stood, I had already characterized the real Paul and pseudo-Paul has having different strategies, and through discussion of what it might mean if Paul really wrote the Pastorals et al. (which he didn't), I came to the realization that the church might be in a situation where none of the strategies represented in scripture are available to us any longer. For instance, as Craig Keen has emphasized, the path of martyrdom is not available in America today -- no one seeing what would have been called a "martyr" in the olden days would find that appealling at all, if they even saw the "martyr." Simply due to the larger scale of everything, the situation is phenomenally more complex than in Paul's day -- and we no longer plausibly have access to "Jesus coming back."
In any event, for the empire seminar, CTS's house journal is doing a special issue, and these presentations should give me some good material for a paper along those lines. As a sidenote, if you want to learn about the very latest in biblical interpretation and study under theologians who also teach courses in political economy, you'd probably better come to Chicago Theological Seminary. If not, then just keep working at your boring dead-end job like the lazy piece of crap you are.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
(9:31 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Spain: Home of the Brave
Today in empire class, Herr Doktor Jennings brought up the contrast between the Spanish response to their terrorist attacks and the American response to 9/11. In America, people had to be told to go back to work and normal life; they were stocking up on duct tape and plastic sheeting; they were utterly paralyzed. In Spain, nearly a quarter of the nation's population took to the streets. He wasn't sure what that contrast meant, but he was sure of one thing -- that's not how a nation behaves when its people are afraid of terrorism. That's not how they behave when they lack resolve.
There have been many sins against language perpetrated by our current administration -- and let's not let ourselves believe that such sins are inconsequential; as Kant tells us, every lie breaks down the trust that allows any communication to take place at all, and how much more the lies that lead directly to war? Perhaps the worst sin they have committed is to have hijacked nearly all moral terms, nearly all terms referring to desirable characteristics -- courage, resolve, goodness, justice, etc., etc. -- in such a way that direct analysis of their position is impossible. Every argument with a particular position taken by the Bush administration has to start five steps back and prove that, in essence, it is possible to be a decent, moral person and disagree with the Bush administration. That is where our national debate is. That's what it looks like for one side to have a stranglehold on the terms of the debate.
The Spanish people do not lack resolve. They know what they want, and they knew what they wanted a year and a half ago, when they took to the streets in protest -- they want to choose their own course. They want to opt out of the project of American imperialism. They showed that in their recent election by holding their president accountable for lying to them and by choosing a leftist party to lead them, a party that will at least stand a fair chance of being in touch with the needs of common people.
They wanted to live their lives without letting the fear of terrorism control every decision they made -- do the American people even remember how to want that? Do the American people understand the sheer idiocy of basing one's vote for president on the long-shot fear of another terrorist attack? I knew that American history has been driven by greed from the very beginning -- but has it always been this driven by fear?
Monday, March 15, 2004
(8:17 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
UWC: "The Library of Babel"
This is just an open thread for now -- I might update with a more substantial post after the discussion gets going. For instructions on trackback, see the previous discussion.
UPDATE: Okay, the response has been pretty lackluster so far -- maybe some substantive content here will help.
I know the most obvious feature of the story is the fascinating idea of the unimaginable number of permutations of texts, the collection of seemingly all possible vessels for meaning -- but there is something outside the text in this case. First, there is the sheer arbitrarity of the books themselves. No book could have 410 pages, I don't think, since I'm pretty sure all books have to have a number of leaves divisible by four. And when exactly did the alphabet start having twenty-two letters? The Spanish alphabet has even more letters than the English alphabet. Why no punctuation other than a period or a comma? Do people in the world of the library of Babel never ask questions? Do they never exclaim?
Moving outside of the books' format, what about the perfectly arbitrary hexagonal rooms? What about the limited number of shelves? What about the librarians themselves? Where did they come from? What blinded them to the finitude of the library? Why the hopelessness at the prospect that everything had already been written? After all, it would be a simple matter to know, absolutely for certain, that you had produced a text that doesn't exist in the library -- just make it 411 pages long, or introduce a new punctuation mark. There's a whole world of possibilities that the library itself just can't touch, on its own terms.
If only the librarians had thought to introduce a couple well-placed question marks.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
(6:24 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
For several years, I studied the Old Testament closely, devouring it in huge chunks -- I still wanted there to be scripture, but the New Testament had long since become a dead letter to me, killed through proof-texting, killed through explaining the interesting parts away. Having already decided that the Old Testament's claim to historicity was questionable at best and still finding myself in some sense a Christian, I found that I had significantly greater freedom in reading it. The various historical accounts are obviously mutually contradictory (anyone who says otherwise is either evil, stupid, or willfully blind), and the really interesting things are precisely the differences -- exactly how malleable was the history of Israel? Was it possible that the many contradictions were accidents, or had the Hebrew Scriptures been selected, in part, for their diversity? I never developed a complete theory; I didn't have to. I was just reading, letting the words flow into my head, using the scholarly break-points as mnemonic devices.
Trying to make it all say any one thing seems to me the ultimate blasphemy -- the same blasphemy that killed the New Testament for me. Even now, studying under Ted Jennings, a careful and enthusiastic reader of St. Paul, I feel that I have to guard myself against much of the New Testament, lest I stumble across those same old proof-texts that were used to stop conversation, to suck the life out of community. (The Book of Revelation remains for me a completely closed book, even though I know that it wasn't "meant to be" a 1st century precursor of Nostradamus.) I've had conversations recently about the letters of Paul, and I'm not sure that it's worth it. Even if academics can bring the texts back to life for a moment, what are we to do with the churches? When "the Bible" has become the defining point of Christian moral practice and political engagement, a "Bible" in which everything it would have been worth God's time to reveal has been explained away or domesticated or made to say its exact opposite, a "Bible" in which the key passages are Romans 13:1-7 and a few catalogues of vices with obscure Greek words mistranslated as referring to modern vices -- what good can the Bible possibly do in the world? When atheists have to defend the Bible against Christian misinterpretations, then we must seriously ask ourselves: Can these dry bones live?
Is the church in exile? I think it's a valid question, especially during this period when many of the institutional leaders of the empirical church seem dedicated to restoring the ancien regime -- and I wonder, even if the church succeeds in reversing the trends in sexual morality (which seems to be a primary project of late), will it cease to be in exile? When Ezra brought the Jerusalem elites back from the exile, was the exile really over? Were the Judeans really at home in their land, which was claimed and conquered by empire after empire? Even in the traditional land of Israel, was Judaism at that point not essentially a faith of the diaspora? And then there is the lingering what if -- what if genuine historical narrative doesn't happen until the exile? What if none of it happened -- what if it was all a bunch of myths and legends given meaning by the uprooting of the exile?
And we could ask -- what if the church was never supposed to have a home? What if the councils themselves, which set our orthodoxy, were the ultimate betrayal? What if the New Testament itself is compromised? What if Christianity sprung out of a religion of the diaspora and assembled its scriptures in order to make sense of its newfound home in the Roman empire? What then?
Saturday, March 13, 2004
(9:45 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Ease of Use
My first full-length post on The Weblog was devoted to the quest to rid my web browser of the "provided by Comcast High-Speed Internet" in the title bar -- my reasoning was that Internet Explorer had come with my computer and that if I wanted to forget which particular ISP I was using, that was my business. Thus it only seemed appropriate, after reading the Menand article cited in the "quick links" area, to write another post about why computers suck. It will take the form of a bulletted list:
- First of all, it is not "easier" if selecting text with the mouse only allows you to select whole words. This is because the algorithms used to control such text-selecting schemes are not written with HTML tag in mind, so that you inevitably end up selecting a greater-than or less-than along with your text. Why not just assume that people know that highlighted text is selected and allow them to select as much, or as little, text as they want, on a character by character basis?
- Why doesn't Microsoft Word know anything about outlines? Their outline feature is very useful once you get it going, but I cannot imagine any teacher anywhere instructing his or her students to use the outline format that is Microsoft's default setting. Everywhere I've ever read an outline, the format has been the same: I. A. 1. a. i. -- and then if you need to go down to another level, make something up. Have Microsoft's programmers never read a book? Have they never attended school?
- Also, when I try to use footnotes in Word, why is it that no matter what I do, they never end up on the right page? Even if, by some fluke, they end up on the right page at first, within seconds Word will "recalculate" and move them to the next page. Footnotes go on the same page ass the footnote reference, dumbass. Don't make me use endnotes every time. I am actually afraid of the first time I have to submit a paper to a journal that requires bottom-of-the-page footnotes, because I absolutely cannot figure out how to get Word to do it right -- and I'm the kind of guy who has lovingly caressed every possible setting in order to create the best possible work environment.
- Another thing: Who's the fucker who decided that every time you type in an apparent URL, it's necessary to make it blue and underlined? Most of the time, people print off Word documents, which means that hyperlinks are of very little use to the end-users of such documents. I assume that they made this the default setting because they were so impressed with themselves for having come up with such a clever idea, and they knew that if they made it an opt-in thing, no one would ever, ever turn it on.
- If someone wanted to do something really useful, it would be to allow the user to make a database of all works cited, with appropriate stats, then format it according to a certain style manual. I wouldn't trust Microsoft to do this right of course, but maybe some plucky group of open source devotees could manage it. A word processor designed around writing academic papers in general would be a good idea -- one could abstract a couple levels away from the text on the page, so that all quoted text could have a citation tied to it and the citations could be given a uniform format. (When I finish my PhD and am assistant adjunct lecturer at Podunk Junior College, this is how I'm going to make my fortune.) This would be a major step ahead of most "educational technology," such as Blackboard, in that it would actually respond to students' and instructors' needs as opposed to creating a new subset of problems to deal with.
Someday, I'm sure that I'll finally lose all patience with Windows and with graphical user interfaces in general. From that point on, I'll write everything in Postscript, using vi -- and none of this vim crap, I don't need the hand-holding of an on-screen indicator for whether I'm in editing or general mode. (If I can be honest for a second, during my Linux Total Immersion Period, I gave up on using vi for anything other than quick web page corrections because the cut-and-paste function was just way too difficult to figure out. Do any computer nerds out there know whether it's possible to "copy" in emacs other than by cutting and immediately pasting the selection back in? Oh, sorry--killing, then immediately yanking?)