Monday, December 23, 2002

One of the things that has always bugged me about faith is that it is supposed to be something beyond rationality, beyond reason. You just *feel* it and then act forevermore like whatever you feel is unquestionably correct. The problem is, people feel all sorts of things, and emotions aren't necessarily tanamount to truth. Aside from the fact that emotions change (which they do) and conflict (which they also do), emotions are only to be trusted in the long term when they've been examined against the widest possible body of evidence. There's no sense in quitting the examination once you *feel* you've discovered the truth. Why? Because you'll change. Why? Because the world will seem different ten years from now. Why? Because we're all just floundering around on a mote of dust talking ourselves silly until we think we've arrived at the truth. Our feelings don't mean shit. People *feel* that Vishnu is watching, George Bush "feels strongly" that attacking Iraq will preserve peace, somebody *feels* that their dead husband doesn't want them to eat wheat germ. Whatever. In the old days, people suspected the sun was a glowing testicle pulled across the sky by giant invisible oxen. They had faith that tossing virgins into volcanos kept Pele happy. Aztecs slew thousands in the name of Quetzecoatl. But the point is not to drum up the tired old litany of religious abuses: people have done great things in the name of religion, too. The problem I have is that wishing something to be -- even wishing it so badly or ignoring alternatives so consciously -- doesn't change the reality. Do I understand faith? Very much so. I have equal faith that a giant rubberized daffodil calls the shots than some haloed twelve armed virgin on a golden camel. I've spent hours discussing faith with my old man (a minister). I've felt the warmth and love of religious good feeling, the beauty of community united even if the fundamental premise was a bit wonky. Religion provides meaning, and people with a sense of purpose seem to feel better about things. Still, it doesn't make religious beliefs any truer. My old man does great work with people -- he's one of the best people people I've ever met. He couldn't do what he does without some sort of larger framework to operate in -- people just wouldn't go for it if he prayed to a rubberized daffodil.

I think one of the biggest assumptions that people with faith make is to assume that the rest of the world needs some higher order of being to judge their lives by, to gain comfort from, to provide purpose. I have a supreme faith in the quality of human beings and the beauty of life. That beauty is only increased with the knowledge that there is no larger meaning to it, that it is so ephemeral, so transitory. I am amazed at how relavent the existentialist philosophers continue to be. I thought for awhile there that they would just be another intellectual fad acquired and tossed aside during my teen years. They have proven to be more resiliant than I thought. Still, I fight against them: I don't find the universe bleak and cold and humorless for all of its lack of god or higher importance. I find it funny that we walk around all puffed up and sure of ourselves, screaming platitudes into the void, fucking each other silly, making up riddles and games and obstacles, defining everything, catagorizing the universe as if we were masters of it. I repeat: we ain't shit, we don't know shit. No need for me to get shrill about it, though. People would be infernally dull if they all believed the same thing and God knows maybe I'll change my mind someday...

Merry Daffodil Day, all.


Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Days of Silent Radio updated.
50 minutes until my last final of the semester. Then I'm home free. Everybody's burnt out around here. Ezzpecially me. I looked in the mirror this morning, marvelled at how my youthfully strong jawline is starting to drop under the pressure of bad lighting and useless worry. Or am I just getting old? No worries here on that account. Not really. I fully expect someday to have a face that looks like its been pan-fried. Why worry about it? Youthful smugness invariably gives way to a recognition that nobody gets a free pass when it comes to aging. Even people like Cher and Joan Collins with all their plastic surgery start looking ghoulish. Anybody seen Liz Taylor recently? She used to be a real beauty. Not anymore. Now all she's got is "inner beauty" which is pretty ugly from the outside. I saw her at the Magic Castle in Hollywood a few years ago. She was being supported by a handsome young buck of no more than thirty -- her 57th husband I think. The poor guy must have been angling for cash 'cause hitting that ass would be like fucking a giant raisin, just drier. Good for Liz, though. If I'm ever a rich and lonely I'll go for the Floating Space Harem (my dream of an orbital penthouse full of mindless love slaves). If Liz is still alive she can join me up there and we can drink martinis and scrape against each other like a dry leaves.

Monday, December 16, 2002

So I was verbally harangued by my attorney the other day for implying that I was happy about (or at least responsible for) writing a paper about writing history. Note to the world: I hate writing about writing history and They made me do it. Scholars waxing about the "important" contributions of other scholars doesn't interest me in the slightest. Not only are such discussions self-serving, but they are generally bogus. Scholars rarely provide anything of actual importance to anyone. I know, there are people who argue that so and so's thesis on the working habits of lower class women in seventeenth century Virginia finally gives us an adequate explanation for the revolution. Even if we thought our previous understanding was incomplete, its doubtful to imagine that this revised interpretation will blow the doors off of reality as we have come to experience it. Others claim voting patterns of Narragansett Hog Islanders laid the foundations for democracy as we know it. They bicker back and forth in voluminous journals. They present papers to comatose audiences in Des Moines. They pray that CNN will invite them on for a chance to produce a 15 second sound byte on some extremely tangential and generalized aspect of their research. Those people are fools. We are bigger fools for pandering to them. C'est la vie. They are harmless.

Me, I'm just happy that a bunch of scholars left me free pizza after a discussion seminar. Don't know how long its been sitting. Don't particularly care. I eat bacteria, bacteria eats me. That's the way it should be.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Buzzword of the year:


(listen for it: you'll start hearing it everywhere. You won't be able to get it out of your head. It will appear in instant messages and in policy discussions on the radio and in cooking shows. Your grandmother will use it in discussions about Harry Truman.)
[A faint odor of ozone pervades the air. Clay Sails hums tunelessly, making vague gestures to the music. We hear cuckoo clocks in the background.]

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Ah, blog. How I've missed thee. Where have I been? Writing 28 page papers about doing history research online. Pretending I have a clue about why China is so possessive of Taiwan. Speculating about why Henry Kissinger is such a jerk.

And imbetween, yes imbetween, I have been redoing my resume, studying for finals, buying plane tickets for the holidays, purchasing non-toxic toys for tots, and going absolutely obsessively nuts fiddling with my electronic music studio. Know what its all about? Its all about Fruity Loops. FL is an easy, extremely powerful program for managing and creating samples. Drum samples, synthesizer samples, wierd effects, word phrases like "Time To Get Groovy" and "I've Got to Hawk Up Some Loogies Before I Can Sing" (don't ask).

Yes so with this studio things there's been no sleep happening, very little eating. I can feel the melanin draining from my skin. I find myself constantly muttering in German. I have the urge to dress in tight leather pants and say "Yah" to everything and to blame George Bush for every problem no matter how trivial. Soon I will be smoking Marlboros and zipping around town on a bicycle even though it is well below freezing outside.

On other fronts, I blew $500 on my car today. $200 on an insurance payment, $300 for a new radiator. In January I will drop $400+ for a school parking permit. Expensive damn machines. Where's that fucking bicycle?

Here's a gem. Have I ever ranted about scholarly hatred of "the passive voice"? The passive voice is basically a sentence in the following format:

"While riding his bicycle, the wanna-be German electronic music guru was crushed by an S.U.V."

the non-passive voice would be:

"An S.U.V. crushed the wanna-be German electronic music guru while riding his bicycle."

I have a theory about why this annoys scholars so much. I think it is due to the fact that scholars are so often derided for being passive. They want to be bold in their claims. Make their mark on a world of action and energy visible only through the tinted panes of library windows and school halls. Just my thoughts. But today my relentless use of the passive voice was vindicated.

Here is the sentece I wrote:
"It should be obvious by now that my concentration is focused primarily upon web page content produced by "amateur" historians."

Sure, its passive, a bit gangly, and boring as hell (want to read the other 27 pages?), but here is what grammar check suggested I use in its stead:
"It should be obvious by now that "amateur" historians focus my concentration primarily upon web page content produced."