Monday, October 31, 2005

Standard Time: I Forgot

Oops! I forgot to turn my clocks back Saturday night. Didn't remember until I got up in the middle of the night, around 3 AM— my clocks said 4 AM— to check something out on my computer, which had set itself to Standard Time automatically.

In fact, sitting here on a Monday morning, I still haven't gotten around to changing the clocks here in my house. I've just been mentally subtracting an hour.

Good thing the time change was in my favor. In my line of work, forgetting the time change in the spring could prove embarrassing— as in, hearing the church bell ringing next door while I'm still eating breakfast in the parsonage. :-)

Actually, I've never believed in the whole railroad-era idea of time zones. In a world where we communicate instantly with people around the globe in various time zones, there's no good reason we couldn't go back to sun time. You would rapidly get a fair idea of how many minutes ahead or behind of you communities so many miles to the east or west of you were. And in today's world it would be trivial to write a program (or build the conversion functionality into a calculator) to punch in the zip code or name of a town, and read out its local sun time.

E-Mail Woes

Well, our local mom & pop ISP is at it again. Some time Thursday, my DSL connection started acting up. Part of the time, I had about an 80% chance of not being able to connect to a site at all; part of the time, I could connect, but it was like molasses, taking a minute or more to load the simplest of webpages.

Then Saturday morning I got an e-mail from my ISP, informing me that my anti-spam quarantine account was now activated. Since this was the same anti-spam quarantine account that we'd been using now for a couple of months, I wondered what the deal was. Logged in to their website, and found that my user preferences had been reset. So I set them back the way they were before, including setting one item so that all my e-mail is simply passed right along to me, without quarantining anything.

Quarantining e-mail is a pain, it requires me to go logging in to their damn website to access my e-mail. I mean, if I wanted to do that, I'd just go get a web-based e-mail account, like Yahoo or Hotmail. No, I'd much rather receive all my e-mail on my computer, where I've got Mozilla Thunderbird trained very well to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Okay, so like I say, I went and set my anti-spam quarantine account preferences back to the way they were before. Only to learn, as the day proceeded, that the "pass it all along" option is no longer functional.

Worse yet, since some time Saturday afternoon, my e-mail account has pretty well shut down altogether. Between Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening, I received no e-mail whatsoever, except for three pieces of spam, which of course were "quarantined" on their website. Less than 10% of what I'd ordinarily be receiving— all well and good, so far as it goes, though I am left wondering what else didn't come through to me.

Such as legitimate e-mail.

Believe me, this is the third time this year my ISP has launched a "new" anti-spam solution. I was already thoroughly sick of it the first time around, last winter, when I started receiving e-mails from my brother, to the subject line of which my ISP had added the word "SPAM."

And I'll be damned if I'm going to be logging in to a website all the time to be checking e-mail for my POP mail account. Before I'll do that, I'll go and get another POP mail account somewhere else. Even if I have to pay extra for it out of my own pocket.

Bush's New Supreme Court Nominee

So, I turn on the radio this morning to find that Bush has nominated Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court.

And I must confess, my first reaction was, what?! You mean Bush hasn't nominated his barber? Or his chiropractor? Or even his mother? Hey, everybody knows and loves Barbara Bush, I bet Bush could've gotten away with nominating his mom to the Supreme Court... ;-)

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Ursine Math

Hey, it's The Prime Number Shitting Bear!

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Vanguard of the Scientariat

A Thoroughly Unconstructive Inflammatory Sardonic Satire

News Wire Services— The cold autumn winds blow over the killing fields of Tyler, Indiana. The back wall of Tyler High School is still pocked with bullet holes, and stained with the red-brown splatter of dried blood. Down the street at the courthouse, People's Commissar Ye. Kamenev was eager to defend the mass execution which recently took place out behind the high school.

"They were christians (which I spell with a small c) and christian fellow travelers, defending blind superstition and a vanished way of life!" said the commissar. "While the kulaks were wrecking the Revolution out in the fields, the kulaks of education were wrecking the Revolution here in town. It was a question of mentioning 'ID' or Intelligent Design here in our science classrooms at school, as had recently been approved by our local school board.

"Fortunately," continued Commissar Kamenev, "heroic workers from the rank and file of the scientariat organized and acted decisively to defend the Revolution against all deviationists and counter-revolutionary running dogs."

On a cold October morning, students in Tyler High School science classes were asked to identify themselves if they were christians. "This was not a question intended to violate the sacrosanct separation of church and state," explains the commissar. "It was merely a survey-oriented question meant to help identify reactionary tendencies." Students were also asked to raise their hands if they had questions about evolution, or if they thought it was all right to hear about ID in a science class.

Students who identified themselves in response to any of these three questions were then herded out in back of the building, where they were lined up against the wall, and gunned down with automatic weapons. The dead bodies of the students were then bulldozed into an unmarked mass grave.

"People have said we were being harsh," says Kamenev, "but you have to understand, here in Tyler, Indiana, there's a creationist hiding under every bed! Well, you can't actually see them: it's something like Schroedinger's Cat. Which is good scientific physics, and not the pish-posh supernaturalistic metaphysics of these christians (which I spell with a small c). Why, there are even Mensheviks still hiding out in the woods, dating back to the days of the glorious October Revolution!"

Kamenev concedes that there has been considerable blood let here in recent weeks in this small town in southern Indiana. "We had to purge the entire school board for right-deviationist tendencies. But after being held for several weeks in the county jail, the members of the school board denounced themselves at their own trial! They denounced themselves for betraying the Revolution, they denounced themselves as stooges of superstitionist revanchism, before they were executed."

The members of the choir at the local Methodist Church were also rounded up and shot. Said Commissar Kamenev, "The Methodist Church is a notorious front organization for a hidden secret plot to impose a rigid theocracy on the United States. The Methodists try to hide behind the genteel facade of their potluck dinners, their quilting bees, and their visits to the elderly in nursing homes. But clearly belief in a supernatural being is in itself a sure sign of dangerous theocratic tendencies. Therefore we decided to strike against the Methodist choir before they could strike against us. Anyone who believes in a god (which I spell with a small g) is a dangerous agent of intolerance, therefore in the name of tolerance we had to liquidate them."

When asked if it is not a contradiction in terms to go about mowing people down with machine guns in the name of tolerance, Kamenev looked pensive and bemused before he explained, "You are unable to deal correctly with the question of tolerance, because you are not considering the question of tolerance dialectically. Considering the matter dialectically, you will see that as the contradictions underlying the social struggle of the Revolution intensify, tolerance will be manifest more and more in the guise of its own dialectical opposite. Thus, as the struggle against ID and all forms of irrationalist superstition enters its later stages, Revolutionary tolerance will more and more strongly assume the dialectical form of a stern, unyielding intolerance against all the foes of the Revolution. Thus your question about tolerance is illegitimate, since you do not cast it in the proper dialectical mode of thought."

Commissar Kamenev freely conceded that many of the christian students massacred at Tyler High School claimed that they accepted evolution and had no problem with evolutionary science, and that they put no stock whatsoever in the claims of ID. "But you have to understand, in the first place these students were probably nothing but lying sacks of shit, and even if they were telling the truth that they were christians (which I spell with a small c) and that at the same time they fully accepted evolution... still, they had to be eliminated. When I am operating on the body politic and I find a cancer, I do not remove half the cancer and leave the other half. No, I excise the entire cancer with the sharp scalpel of unflinching Revolutionary justice!"

This rigor extends even to Kamenev's own staff, one of whom was tried and executed for failing to clean the machine guns properly after the slaughter at the high school. "I had to deal with him, and charge him with wrecking. Wrecking is a very serious counter-revolutionary crime. Who but a secret agent of the theocracy would fail to clean our firearms properly, thus leaving us underarmed in case of a sudden need to gun down and liquidate vast masses of young-earth creationists?"

Ye. Kamenev had some final musings on the situation in Tyler, Indiana: "Many people who have not made a proper study of dialectical thought do not understand the true meaning of democratic centralism. The true meaning of democratic centralism, as expounded by Comrade Lenin in his monograph What Is to Be Done?, is that within the process of democratic centralism there is no room for splittism, bourgeois individualism, or dissent from the party line as currently laid forth. Rather, leadership under democratic centralism is dialectically concentrated within that cutting edge of the scientific community which is objectively the most advanced in its pursuit of the Revolutionary struggle. This portion of the scientific community is known as the vanguard of the scientariat. And the leadership of the Revolution by the vanguard of the scientariat is known as the dictatorship of the scientariat.

"All victory to the glorious Revolutionary struggle led by the vanguard of the scientariat! Smash all counter-revolutionary traitors, superstitionists, right-deviationists, left-deviationists, and their running dogs! No compromise with the kulaks of education, and their reactionary crimes of wrecking! Smash the dire theocratic threat of Methodism, Presbyterianism, and Episcopalianism NOW!!!"


Standard disclaimer: The author of this satire is a Presbyterian minister of theologically traditional stripe, who has always fully accepted evolution with no problem, and who finds intelligent design theory neither plausible nor compelling. The author of this satire is not, and never has been, a fundamentalist, a creationist, or a biblical literalist— he prefers to get his theology from theologians, and his science from scientists. At the same time, he has little patience (and is coming to have less and less patience) with the rigid, rabid "true believer" attitudes of those whom he satirizes above as "the vanguard of the scientariat."

Any comments which fail to take into full account the content of the preceding paragraph, or which fail to recognize the satirical nature of this post, will be summarily deleted with glee. My blog, my dime, my call.

(tip of the hat to Dean Esmay)


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to my Dad, who is celebrating his 75th birthday today!

Telegraphic Language

My favorite true telegram story concerns the 19th-century British general, Charles Napier, who conquered the Indian province of Sindh. He then sent a one-word telegram to London: "Peccavi", which is Latin for "I have sinned" (that is, "I have Sindh" ;-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The grader is a familiar sight out here in the countryside. I live on a gravel road, and several times a year, you'll see the grader going by, smoothing out the road surface. There are sections of the road, such as just to the north of my place, which tend to get all rough like a washboard. Of course, the "leveling" doesn't last long, and so by and by the road gets like a washboard again.

Until recent years, I thought it was spelled "grater." Which sort of makes sense— what the grader does to a gravel road is similar to what a cheese grater does to a hunk of cheese. Then recently I heard someone refer to a grader as a "maintainer"— accent on the first syllable, "MAINtainer." I'd never heard that one before.


Settling Back Down to Earth

Well, I'm settling back down to earth after Monday's little incident, in which I arrived home from a road trip and was surprised to discover that in my absence my home had been converted, without my knowledge, into a day-long "work zone."

I have yet to get to the bottom of it, but it seems to me that either (1) the work crew (who, I repeat, are not parishioners themselves) decided on the basis of their own self-generated schedule to show up spontaneously on Monday and, finding nobody home, they let themselves in and went to work (there is a key to the parsonage, if you know where to look). Or else (2) somebody from the congregation contacted the work crew, "Hey, the pastor's going to be gone Monday, so that would be a good day to come and work in the parsonage."

Of course in either case what happened was unacceptable: my beef with it is that nobody saw fit to inform me in advance. It's an elementary matter of respecting personal boundaries; plus, like most of us, there are items I'd like to take care of before I let anyone into my house. I mean, like tax returns lying right out in the open on a table, fer cryin' out loud?!!!

To say nothing of a toilet bowl which was threatening to develop into a complete independent ecosystem.

Oh well, I've got a busy day ahead of me today.

Update: A parishioner who had read my blog dropped by this morning to sympathize with me. Very much appreciated! :-)

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Man's Home Is His Castle, but a Pastor's Parsonage is the Village Commons

You'll have to pardon me. I seldom blog directly about my work, especially about the trials and ordeals of the pastorate; but right now you'll just have to bear with me, because I'm on a tear.

On second thought, I'm going to proceed indirectly, by metaphors and by questions. I'm not going to name any names, but I assure you, all of the incidents which follow are entirely true and historical.

Each of the incidents which follows is a metaphor, if you will, for an unexpected situation I encountered when I arrived home late this afternoon from a day and a half's visit to my folks over in Wisconsin.

Metaphor the First: When I was a youngster, and a preacher's kid, I grew up with an unholy terror of parishioners entering the manse without knocking. [Editor's note: Presbyterians call it a "manse," everyone else calls it a "parsonage."] Yes, a fear of parishioners entering the manse without knocking. I think this derives from the fact that, in my father's earliest years in the pastorate, parishioners were indeed in the habit of walking right into the house, without knocking, without ringing the doorbell. My mother relates that more than once, when she was standing at the sink, she turned around to find a member of the congregation standing there silently behind her in the kitchen. It freaked her out, because she had no idea anyone else was even in the house. And why should she? They had let themselves into the manse silently and without giving any sign of their presence.

Metaphor the Second: By the time I was old enough to remember, this practice had largely ceased, because my folks had talked the members of the congregation into ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door, just like you'd do at a real house. Nonetheless, I remember one time when I was eight or nine, hiding in terror underneath a bed upstairs, because someone from the congregation had walked in the front door and was walking around downstairs calling out in a loud voice, "Is anybody home?" They finally concluded nobody was home, and left.

Metaphor the Third: When I was in my first pastorate, in a river town in Illinois, straight out of seminary, I was buying some potato chips one day at the gas station, and the gal behind the cash register asked me, "So, do So-and-So's still come walking in the front door of the manse in the evening without knocking?" I said no. She told me that in my predecessor's time, this one couple (who more or less thought they owned the church) would not so infrequently walk right in the front door of the house without knocking, usually right about the time the pastor's wife was trying to get the kids off to bed. Of course you could forget that, with unexpected company suddenly materializing right there in the living room. I repeat, opening the door without even knocking.

Metaphor the Fourth: I know of a Methodist pastor who was in the bathtub once, taking a bath, when he became aware of the sound of somebody in the house. It turned out to be one of his parishioners, who had simply opened the front door and walked right in. "Oh, there you are," she said, as she opened the door to the bathroom. The pastor, sitting there in the bathtub, was mortified. I could name for you the town where this took place, but I'm not going to.

Metaphor the Fifth: I know of another Methodist pastor— oh hell, this was in my home town, at least 45 years ago— he and his family went off somewhere on vacation, and while they were gone, members of the congregation were suddenly seized with the bright idea of cleaning the chimney in the parsonage. So they let a chain down the chimney, and swung and rattled it all around. This had the effect of blowing soot through the duct system, out of the heating grates in various rooms, and all over everything inside the house. When the pastor and his family returned from vacation a week or two later, they were astonished to find all their furniture and belongings covered in soot, and all the drapes in the house pulled down and lying in a sooty heap in the bathtub, where the dismayed parishioners had piled and abandoned them.

Metaphor the Sixth: I know of a former Presbyterian minister who had served in a town not too far from one of my interim pastorates a number of years ago. Some of his parishioners were of the opinion that the housekeeping in the manse was none too tidy. So while this pastor and his wife were gone on vacation, said parishioners let themselves in and undertook a white-glove inspection tour of the house. This was the first domino which led in short order to the unraveling of his pastorate there, immediately after which his wife left him and his mother died.

Metaphor the Seventh: One of my classmates at seminary once went to interview for a possible pastoral position. While the search committee was showing him around the manse, he noticed that two of the rooms had in them low tables and small chairs. There were crayons and coloring books lying on the tables. "What's that?" he asked. "Oh," said the members of the search committee, "we use those two rooms here in the house as Sunday school classrooms." Need I add, that was the end of my classmate's interest in that particular congregation?

Metaphor the Eighth: There was a young single pastor at a Presbyterian church up in northern Wisconsin. The people of the congregation were in the habit of walking in the front door of the manse without warning. By now you know the drill, right? The people just walked right in, without knocking, and without ringing the doorbell. The pastor asked people to please ring or knock before entering; they ignored his request, and kept walking right in the front door, into his living room, without warning. The pastor took to locking the front door; but many parishioners had keys to the manse, and they would simply unlock the door and walk right in. Without ringing the doorbell. Without knocking. Well, by and by this pastor got married. One evening he and his new bride were sitting there in the living room. They got a bit amorous. It went from one thing to the next. All of a sudden, a parishioner unlocked the front door and walked right in without warning... to find the pastor and his wife having sex right there in the living room.

True story, I kid you not. At least it has a happy ending: that was the last time anyone in that congregation entered the manse without knocking on the door first.

Anyhow, those are the metaphors. Now here are the questions:

How would you feel if you were away for a day and a half, visiting relatives, and returned home to find people marching in and out of your front door with buckets and mops? What would you think to find your chairs, tables, cabinets, etc. moved out of place to make room for a work crew in your house? What would you make of it if all this took place completely unexpectedly, without so much as a hint of advance notice to you that it was going to take place?

(The work crew themselves not parishioners, but engaged by the congregation.)

How would you feel if you had gone away for a day and a half leaving your bed unmade, plates and glasses from your latest meal sitting on the kitchen table unwashed, dirty laundry lying in a heap on the floor, toilet bowl badly in need of cleaning, personal papers including your latest tax returns lying right out in the open on a table... with no idea that while you were gone all this and more would be laid open to the eyes of people who were unexpectedly and with no warning going to be entering your house?

I repeat, I just raise these as idle questions. Questions, nothing more. Questions, with a backdrop of assorted metaphors.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go and rearrange the furniture in my bedroom, to put my cedar chest and my rocking chair and my TV cabinet back where they were originally sitting before I left on a day and a half's trip yesterday noon. The rest of the displaced furniture in my house can wait until tomorrow morning.

Yeah, try to rearrange my bedroom back to the way it was 36 hours ago. Then go see if I can work up enough appetite to force down a few bites for supper. Because ever since I pulled into my driveway late this afternoon, I've had no appetite at all. I just can't get any food down.


On the Road Again

Here it is, my day off, and I'm over in Madison visiting my folks. Regular blogging will resume soon. Like, tomorrow.

(Just didn't want my six or eight regular readers to think I'd dropped off the face of the earth. :)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Slide Rule Universe

K&E 4081-3 front (detail)
   (Click on this and all pictures for a complete full-size view of the slide rule)

I've blogged before about my interest in slide rules. I have a collection of a few dozen slide rules, and my favorite is a Keuffel & Esser Log Log Duplex Decitrig, model 4081-3, from back around 1940. The 20 scales are machine ruled on celluloid, over a core of mahogany. The front of the 4081-3 is pictured above, and here's the back:

K&E 4081-3 back (detail)
I have this slide rule sitting in its leather case on my desk, and I often use it in preference to a calculator.

Yesterday my friend David e-mailed me, complete with pictures, about a slide rule that he's got. And it looks to me like virtually the same model as mine! His has a "K+E" symbol on one side that mine doesn't, but otherwise they are the same slide rule. What can I say? Great minds have the same taste in slide rules! :-)

K&E 4081-3 front
There are a number of slide rule sites out there, but without a doubt the greatest is Walter Shawlee's Slide Rule Universe. Tons of pictures of more slide rules than you can shake a stick at (if you'll pardon the pun :). Tons of info. Plus slide rules for sale.

K&E 4081-3 back
A few years ago, I picked up a Post Versalog 1460 at an antique shop over in Decorah. Very nice, except the little glass cursor window on the back was missing. I contacted Slide Rule Universe out in Vancouver, BC, and obtained a replacement part. The Versalog is probably my favorite slide rule, next to that K&E 4081-3 that I've got sitting on my desk.

One of these days, I intend to get my entire slide rule collection up on my personal website. In the meanwhile, you can see a few of my favorites from my collection here.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Moonrise atop Wheatland Ridge

Driving back from Mt. Hope last night, I sighted the moon rising in the sky, and I knew that when I got home I had to get a picture. Here we are, the moon just past full, coming up on fire in a muddy brown sky, high atop Wheatland Ridge.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Senator Whose Oldsmobile Couldn't Swim

At first I thought this recent news story was an Onion parody. But no, it's true: Ted K attempts water rescue.

(h/t Caltechgirl)


Yesterday I headed out to a nearby town to eat at Subway. Got there, ordered a foot-long Italian BMT, and the young lady working behind the counter asked me, "Kah'chiss?"

She asked me, "Kah'chiss?"

I said excuse me, and she repeated herself, this time more clearly: "What kind of cheese?"

Things went fine again until we got to the various veggie toppings. She asked me, "Works?" This I could decipher: she was asking me if I wanted the works. I said I'd have everything except onions and peppers.

She said, "N'urrrh?"

I had to ask her two or three times to repeat this before it became disambiguated as, "And cucumbers?" Oh, of course, silly me— "urrrh" is the obvious collapsed enunciation of "cucumbers"!

But they were almost out of cucumber slices, so she excused herself by saying, "Beh'minneh!"

Since she then disappeared somewhere into the back of the shop with the plastic dealie for cucumber slices, I took "Beh'minneh!" to mean, "Back in a minute!"

Another gal behind the counter took advantage of this lull to ring me up at the cash register. Of course, with the requisite, "Would you like to get the meal with that?" and "Would you like to super-size your soft drink with that for an additional twenty cents?" Already knowing a free way to supersize a drink— just don't use as much ice— I declined that one.

Now the mumbler returned from out back, with a plastic dealie full of cucumber slices. She asked me, "Sauce?"

I asked for mustard, and she said, "Spicy'en?"

I couldn't figure this one out, so I got her to repeat it a couple of times until it became clear that this was her abbreviation for "Spicy or honey mustard?" Ah, I see, name one of the alternatives and leave the customer to infer the rest...

So I said spicy mustard. And she then asked me, "Cherryin' oop?"

You heard that right: "Cherryin' oop?"

I had to ask her to repeat this at least twice before I realized she was asking me, "Did she already ring you up?"

Oh, right. I mean, "Cherryin' oop?" is the obvious and natural compression of "Did she already ring you up?" You know, "Did she already ring you up?"

We were now entering the territory of lossy data compression.

I fled to a table, and sat there eating my sandwich as I listened to puzzled customers in line bombarding this gal with, "What? What? What?"

I can testify that she was a native speaker of English, she had no speech defect, and she seemed to be somewhere within the normal range of intelligence. I think she had simply gotten into such a rut in her work, repeating the same phrases over and over again all day long, that these phrases had somehow worn down into half-hearted attempts at a vocalization, never use six syllables when you can squeak by with one.

Only thing that really worries me is whether this represents a trend among young people. I mean, I've gotten used to upspeak. I've adjusted gradually to tattoos and body piercing. I've adjusted even to those colored gummy-rubber bracelets which I've seen worn by otherwise grown twenty-somethings. But if we are now entering into an era of LZW speech compression, or the spoken equivalent of the chat room's "thk u ppl 4 ur help l8r peace out"...


Sunday, October 16, 2005

To Paraphrase Proudhon, "Text Is Theft"

I stole the following text (or as they say in the lit crit world, "extracted it from its previous mistextualization and attributionlessly recontextualized it") from here. It somehow reminds me of my long-ago days as a grad student at Duke University. What really bugs me is, I'm almost certain it's a parody; though when it comes to literary criticism, you can never quite be sure:
Modernism in the works of Pynchon

Barbara la Tournier
Department of Politics, University of Michigan

1. Postdialectic construction and Debordist situation
The characteristic theme of the works of Eco is the difference between class and sexual identity. If textual discourse holds, we have to choose between Debordist situation and Lyotardist narrative. However, Bataille uses the term 'modernism' to denote the failure, and thus the meaninglessness, of precultural class.

In the works of Eco, a predominant concept is the concept of capitalist language. Abian[1] suggests that we have to choose between Debordist situation and cultural deappropriation. Thus, Sontag uses the term 'neocapitalist theory' to denote not, in fact, sublimation, but subsublimation.

"Society is part of the meaninglessness of sexuality," says Baudrillard; however, according to Dahmus[2] , it is not so much society that is part of the meaninglessness of sexuality, but rather the paradigm, and some would say the futility, of society. The subject is contextualised into a Debordist situation that includes reality as a paradox. It could be said that an abundance of discourses concerning the defining characteristic, and eventually the absurdity, of material class may be revealed.

"Consciousness is responsible for capitalism," says Derrida. Subtextual socialism implies that narrativity is capable of intent. However, the genre of modernism prevalent in Fellini's Amarcord is also evident in 8 1/2, although in a more predialectic sense.

The premise of textual capitalism holds that the task of the writer is social comment. In a sense, the main theme of Humphrey's[3] essay on subtextual socialism is the bridge between class and art.

Debordist situation suggests that the collective is capable of truth, but only if culture is distinct from sexuality; if that is not the case, we can assume that truth is used to marginalize the proletariat. However, the primary theme of the works of Fellini is not dedeconstructivism, as Foucault would have it, but neodedeconstructivism. Bataille promotes the use of the textual paradigm of narrative to challenge class divisions. Thus, the subject is interpolated into a subtextual socialism that includes art as a reality.

In Amarcord, Fellini denies modernism; in La Dolce Vita, although, he affirms Debordist situation. However, the characteristic theme of Long's[4] critique of postmodernist narrative is the role of the reader as observer.

The subject is contextualised into a subtextual socialism that includes language as a whole. It could be said that many desublimations concerning textual nationalism exist.

The premise of modernism holds that sexuality is capable of significance. Thus, Debord uses the term 'neostructuralist narrative' to denote not discourse, but subdiscourse.

2. Fellini and subtextual socialism
If one examines modernism, one is faced with a choice: either accept Marxist capitalism or conclude that the goal of the artist is significant form. If modernism holds, we have to choose between the semiotic paradigm of discourse and postcultural theory. However, the main theme of the works of Fellini is a mythopoetical reality.

"Sexual identity is intrinsically elitist," says Derrida; however, according to Parry[5] , it is not so much sexual identity that is intrinsically elitist, but rather the genre, and subsequent failure, of sexual identity. Baudrillard suggests the use of subtextual socialism to modify and attack society. But the subject is interpolated into a modernism that includes truth as a paradox.

If one examines subtextual socialism, one is faced with a choice: either reject the textual paradigm of expression or conclude that reality comes from communication, but only if Sontag's analysis of subtextual socialism is valid. Debord uses the term 'Debordist situation' to denote the rubicon, and eventually the stasis, of neocultural sexuality. However, the subject is contextualised into a subtextual socialism that includes consciousness as a totality.

"Class is part of the absurdity of sexuality," says Lacan; however, according to de Selby[6] , it is not so much class that is part of the absurdity of sexuality, but rather the collapse of class. Foucault uses the term 'Debordist situation' to denote not situationism per se, but subsituationism. In a sense, the example of modernism which is a central theme of Eco's The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas emerges again in Foucault's Pendulum.

A number of deappropriations concerning the role of the poet as artist may be found. However, in The Limits of Interpretation (Advances in Semiotics), Eco analyses subtextual socialism; in Foucault's Pendulum, however, he affirms Debordist situation.

Marx promotes the use of subtextual socialism to challenge sexism. In a sense, Lacan uses the term 'modernism' to denote a conceptualist reality.

The characteristic theme of Hanfkopf's[7] critique of subtextual socialism is the role of the reader as writer. However, McElwaine[8] suggests that we have to choose between neoconstructivist cultural theory and subsemiotic nationalism.

Modernism holds that the significance of the observer is deconstruction. Therefore, if Debordist situation holds, the works of Tarantino are not postmodern.

Foucault uses the term 'capitalist appropriation' to denote the meaninglessness, and therefore the paradigm, of neomodernist reality. In a sense, the main theme of the works of Tarantino is not, in fact, narrative, but prenarrative.

1. Abian, J. H. ed. (1970) The Expression of Collapse: Subtextual socialism in the works of Fellini. University of Georgia Press

2. Dahmus, T. K. I. (1982) Modernism in the works of Mapplethorpe. University of North Carolina Press

3. Humphrey, C. ed. (1979) Postconceptualist Theories: Subtextual socialism and modernism. And/Or Press

4. Long, H. Z. (1985) Modernism in the works of Madonna. Harvard University Press

5. Parry, W. ed. (1970) The Dialectic of Consciousness: Modernism in the works of Eco. University of Michigan Press

6. de Selby, Q. B. W. (1983) Modernism and subtextual socialism. University of California Press

7. Hanfkopf, H. Y. ed. (1970) Postmodern Semanticisms: Modernism in the works of Tarantino. Panic Button Books

8. McElwaine, F. Y. L. (1986) Nihilism, modernism and capitalist discourse. Loompanics
After reading all that, I have only two questions:

(1) Where are the obligatory references to the writings of Pierre Bourdieu?

(2) Why didn't they shoehorn in the term bricolage? ;-)

Friday, October 14, 2005

American Gothic on DVD

american gothic
Back ten years ago there was this TV series which came on CBS. It didn't last long, but it immediately became one of my favorites.

American Gothic was a very strange show about the town of Trinity, South Carolina, and Sheriff Buck, who ran the town. Sheriff Buck had unnatural powers. He had a way of looking after his own. But watch out! Owing the sheriff a favor was very much like selling your soul to the devil. In fact, Sheriff Buck seemed very much like the devil himself.

There was also a boy in town named Caleb, said to be the son of Sheriff Buck. ("Luke Caleb, I am your father!" —"No!") Will Caleb go over to the Dark Side of the Force? Or will he develop his own powers, and stand up to his father? (Ahem, archetypes common property of the collective unconscious, or something like that ;-)

Anyhow, at long last American Gothic is coming out on DVD. On October 25. You can preorder from Amazon now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Automatic Self-Writing Lord of the Rings Computer Geek Parody

You know, some parodies almost write themselves once the basic idea pops into your mind. So I was middling pleased with myself the other day when this little piece assembled itself in my head, almost without effort:
Three laptops for the Elven-hackers using WiFi,
  Seven servers for the Dwarf-admins in their halls of stone,
Nine PCs for Mortal Men doomed to bluescreen,
  One OS for Bill Gates on his dark throne
In the land of Redmond where the Shadows lie.
  One OS to rule them all, one OS to find them,
  One OS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the land of Redmond where the Shadows lie.
I was middling pleased with myself, that is, until I Googled around and found that only about 15,000 sites had beaten me to the punch on this parody, or some facsimile thereof. :-(

In fact, I found about 60 search results in Google for Linus Torvalds and Tennessee Tuxedo!

What does it take to be original these days?! I can almost envision the Internet turning into the cyber equivalent of all those monkeys pecking away on typewriters and producing the works of Shakespeare...


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Some of My Favorite Songs

Truth is, I'm one of the least musical people you'll ever meet. As I sometimes put it, I'm about as musical as a fencepost.

Nonetheless, there are certain songs that are favorites of mine. I was formed in my musical tastes from the mid 60s on up through the early-to-mid 80s. Here's my list, not of the best rock songs, probably, but just a few of my favorites. In no particular order. A lot of this became favorite music for me simply because I was young, and I was there, and there it was:
  1. Incense and Peppermints, Strawberry Alarm Clock
  2. White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane
  3. Jackie Blue (long version), Ozark Mountain Daredevils (gee, is that rock? well, I don't care :)
  4. Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary (definitely not rock— but it was the music for the opening credits of A Clockwork Orange)
  5. Journey to the Center of the Mind, Amboy Dukes
  6. Paint It Black, The Rolling Stones
  7. Mighty Quinn, Manfred Mann
  8. Venus, Shocking Blue
  9. Back in the USSR, The Beatles
  10. Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In, The 5th Dimension
  11. There Is a Mountain, Donovan
  12. Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall, Simon & Garfunkel
  13. Midnight Confessions, Grass Roots
  14. The House of the Rising Sun, The Animals
  15. You're So Vain, Carly Simon
  16. I Am the Walrus, The Beatles
  17. Mellow Yellow, Donovan
  18. I Am a Rock, Simon & Garfunkel
  19. Fragile, Yes— the entire damn album, from beginning to end
  20. Waterloo, ABBA
  21. Hooked on a Feeling, Blue Swede
  22. I'm on Fire, 5000 Volts
  23. Brandy, Looking Glass
  24. Rikki Don't Lose That Number, Steely Dan
  25. Shambala, Three Dog Night
  26. Ebony Eyes, Bob Welch
  27. Rhiannon, Fleetwood Mac
  28. Bungle in the Jungle, Jethro Tull
  29. Electric Guitar, Talking Heads; also, off the same Fear of Music album:
  30. Heaven and
  31. Paper
  32. Seen and Not Seen, Talking Heads
  33. Reeling in the Years, Steely Dan
  34. Dust in the Wind, Kansas
  35. The Other Side of Life, The Moody Blues
  36. Oliver's Army, Elvis Costello
  37. When Doves Cry, Prince
  38. I Want to Know What Love Is, Foreigner
  39. Fingers on a Windmill, Damnation
  40. Revolution 9, The Beatles (yeah, well, I'm weird)
Remember, when you read that list, you've got to think of a boy in a small town up north of Madison, Wisconsin, listening to the Madison rock stations on his Aircastle AM/FM/SW radio. I remember when The Age of Aquarius was at the top of the charts: I was just finishing seventh grade. May 1969. Yes, it was the Sixties. That was a different world back in those days.


Monday, October 10, 2005

A Politically Incorrect Link

Meet Sally and Johnny, two clueless grinning white preppies who proudly proclaim, "Hey, Black People Love Us!"

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Law of Propinquity

No matter how large the parking lot, no matter how few vehicles are in it, and no matter how far away from the store and from everyone else you park... when you come back to your car, you will find that someone has parked right next to you.

Try it next time you go shopping. In a parking lot large enough to hold 200 vehicles, with only half a dozen vehicles in the entire parking lot... park at the far distant end, no other car within six or eight parking spaces of you... and see if you don't end up, in short order, with someone parked right alongside you, so close that they can hardly open their door without putting a ding in the side of your car.

I have never understood the why or wherefore of this law. But it never fails.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Nightmare: The House of War

Last night I had a dream that I lived in this large complex of rooms and corridors, and amidst the confusion I had a small apartment. Sometimes I would sit in a chair in the carpeted anteroom outside my apartment, reading a book. And then one time I went wandering the corridors, and I ended up inside this gigantic auditorium.

The auditorium was big, larger than a gymnasium. And there were pews set up inside it. Chairs? No, pews. And people were milling about and gathering, and I realized that a large number of us Christians were gathering here for worship.

I was dressed in a wool poncho, with a wool hat on my head and a wool scarf wrapped around my face. I was sort of wandering around, looking for a place to sit, when suddenly off on the other side of the auditorium I heard voices rising, shrill, as if in panic. Then I heard a loud burst of machine gun fire.

I looked up, and far off, over by the entrance, there were several Arab men in flowing robes and turbans. They were armed with machine guns, and they were threatening everyone, motioning them back, trying to herd everyone together. Now and then someone would break and run, and then one of these Muslims would mow them down with a rat-a-tat-tat from his machine gun.

The auditorium was now filled with terror. I didn't know what to do. Should I flee? But then they would gun me down. Should I hide beneath a pew? But surely they would find me. I stood there, frozen in indecision. Then again a machine gun fired, and as I stood there, it was like Neo in The Matrix: I could see the bullets flying by me in slow motion, as if in bullet time.

Now one of the Muslim men was coming down the aisle, carrying his machine gun, and he sighted me, perhaps because of my distinctive wool clothing. He motioned for me to follow him, and then he led me over to a table by the side of the auditorium, where he ordered me to sit down.

This Muslim man then handed me a paperback book. I looked at its stark black and white cover. On the front was a title, in Arabic, but printed in the Roman alphabet: Darm al-Harb. I looked at the back cover of the book; in a small box was the following text:
Explodes the infidel promises of Romans, the Gospels, etc., in favor of the glorious revelation delivered unto the Prophet, blessed be his name.
Oh, I thought, so this dude must think I'm convert material. No way! But I heard more bursts of machine gun fire around the auditorium: if I tried to flee, surely they would open fire on me.

I prayed to God for deliverance, and suddenly, like Philip in the Book of Acts, I was taken up and was no more to be found in that place. I had a parting vision of the Muslim man coming back to the table, in consternation, nothing there but the book and my wool scarf.

Then I was set down, at twilight, on the roadway out in front of my grandparents' old farmhouse, up in central Wisconsin. I felt guilty that I had been delivered. Should I have stayed, perhaps faced martyrdom? I felt like a filthy coward. But I had been delivered. Now what?

Postscript: When I got up this morning, I checked on the Internet, and sure enough, I found the following: "Dar al-Harb (Arabic: 'house of war') is a term used in many Islamic countries to refer to those areas outside Muslim rule. In some conservative traditions of Islam the world is divided into two components: dar al-Islam, the 'house of submission' or the 'house of God', and dar al-Harb, the 'house of war': the home of the infidels or unbelievers (Arabic: kufr).... The goal of some aggressive Islamist organizations, such as Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, is to expand the borders of dar al-Islam at the expense of dar al-Harb, and to create a universal Islamic community. According to their philosophy, this is the meaning of the term jihad."

Dar al-Harb, the House of War, the realm of the infidels who are to be conquered: No doubt I'd seen that term before, somewhere in the blogosphere. And now I'm having nightmares about it.


The 20-10 Rule

Damn, I did it again! How many times have I told myself, never pay with a $20 bill for a purchase of less than $10?! How many times have I told myself, you know from experience that that's one of the surest ways to get shortchanged by a store clerk?! And yet yesterday I did it again...

I was out shopping, and I stopped off at a store I frequent to pick up some mousetraps— yes, it's getting to that time of the year again. Price came to a couple of dollars, and I paid with a twenty. Then the store clerk was momentarily distracted when some other flunky came up and was talking with him about something. When he turned back to the business at hand, he gave me a five and a few ones in change.

I said, "Excuse me, did I pay you with a ten or a twenty?" Of course, it was hopeless: the twenty had long since vanished into the till, so it was my word against his. And since I shop at this place often, I decided not to make a federal case of it. I just added this store to my mental list of places where I will never again pay with a twenty for a small purchase; write a check for $2.11 instead, if I have to.

This is hardly the first time this has happened to me. In fact, this is hardly the first time in the past six months this has happened to me. I repeat the 20-10 rule: never pay with a $20 bill for a purchase of less than $10!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Flappy Bird I Am, Then

Could somebody please tell me what's going on with The Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem? For a long, long time— months now— I have consistently been a Slithering Reptile in the TTLB rankings. Then, just yesterday, I was suddenly demoted to a Crawly Amphibian, down around #11,000, just a few days after I'd added two new blogs to my blogroll, and been blogrolled by another new blog myself.

(I don't even know if outgoing links count for anything; but a new incoming link ought to help, not hurt.)

Now, this morning, with the "inbound unique" links in my TTLB ranking suddenly cut in half, I have been promoted for the first time ever to a Flappy Bird, rising in only 24 hours from about #11,000 up to #6,801.

I repeat, with my "inbound unique" links suddenly cut in half, I have risen meteorically.

I don't know what's going on, but I can tell you that my day has brightened immeasurably, to learn that I'm now a Flappy Bird. Presumably all six or eight of my regular visitors will also be overjoyed, to know that they are privileged to rub shoulders with such a stellar luminary as your humble narrator. ;-)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sitting on a Park Bench

Yesterday I took the Jeep in for repair work— we're reaching the stage of the inevitable several hundred dollars you have to pour into any used vehicle soon after you buy it— and I ended up sitting on a park bench in downtown New Albin. Sat there watching the traffic go by, passing through town on Highway 26.

The passing cavalcade confirmed my impression of recent years that the traditional car is now in the minority among vehicles on the road. At least in these parts, the most common vehicle is now the pickup, almost matched in numbers by the SUV. These two categories together add up to a solid majority of the vehicles I saw go by.

Of course there were also a good number of cars going by— almost all of them what I once would have thought of as "compact" or even "subcompact." There's still an occasional full-sized "big" car— what in the old days I would've thought of as a "normal" sized car— but nowadays mighty few of them.

Lots of semis and other big trucks going by. A few milk trucks. Other gigantic vehicles, hard to describe, though they might be agricultural in intent.

And several vans, two motorcycles, one Volkswagen, one station wagon, and one Hummer. By their vehicles you shall know them.

Watching Baseball

Okay, get this straight: ordinarily I have virtually no interest in sports. Indeed, about the only way I can work up genuine interest in a sports event is if somebody I'm acquainted with is playing in it. Though I always say that if I were interested in a sport, it would probably be baseball.

Nonetheless. Every year baseball season rolls around, and I pay no attention. Or rather, this year I did listen to maybe half a dozen Brewers games on the radio. Something like that. Still, a lifetime of disinterest is not easily overcome.

However, yesterday someone dropped by and happened to mention that the baseball playoffs were starting. So, would you believe it, last night I actually found myself watching the Yankees versus the Angels on TV?!

I don't know enough about baseball to engage in any real commentary without sounding like an idiot, so I'll limit myself to the obvious: how about that first inning?

I hardly ever watch TV, and this is the first time I've even had my TV turned on in weeks— maybe the first time I've had my TV turned on since way back some time into the summer. As usual, I'm always surprised at the state of special effects in TV commercials, my perception of which is frozen back circa 1995. I was also surprised last night at how many of the commercials were for computerized or other high-tech gizmos. A TV commercial for servers??! And was that a cell phone that downloads music from iTunes or whatever??!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The 125th Anniversary of St. John's

st. john's
St. John's United Church of Christ celebrated its 125th anniversary this weekend. We had quite the get-together— three worship services in two days, people coming from far and near...

It was 125 years ago, in 1880, that settlers came from Germany to the countryside of northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota, and founded St. John's. The Rev. F.W. Spindler officiated at a service to dedicate the church building on August 15, 1880. By the time he left in 1882, there was a church building, a parsonage, and a barn for the pastor's livestock(!). The same church where the descendants of those pioneers gather to worship God to this day. The same parsonage next door where I live. (No, I don't have any livestock. ;-)

The church used to be known as the Bush Kirche. In 1895 the German schoolhouse was built next to the church, and for many years the youth of the congregation attended this school where they learned their catechism, hymns, and other religious instruction. Of course German was the language used in both church and schoolhouse, on up into the 1930s.

St. John's was originally a Lutheran congregation. In 1885 it affiliated with the German Evangelical Synod of North America, which eventually merged into the Evangelical & Reformed Church, which in turn merged in 1957 into the United Church of Christ. The old German heritage is still strong out here on Wheatland Ridge.

Since 1954 St. John's has been yoked with Mt. Hope Presbyterian Church, several miles down the road. I came here in the summer of 1999, and it's been a real privilege to live and serve here as pastor.

This weekend we had a Confirmand Reunion worship service Saturday evening, with a former pastor, the Rev. Laura Odegard, preaching, and then we gathered in the church basement and in a large tent outside for lunch afterwards. (In these parts, "lunch" is any meal at any time of the day or night, other than the usual three a day.) Folks who'd been confirmed at St. John's came from far away, indeed from all around the country, and we had confirmands present from as far back as the class of 1921.

Sunday morning we had our Quasquicentennial worship service, with a former interim pastor, the Rev. Jan Bodin, preaching. The Rev. Dick Scheerer was also present, to bring greetings from the Minnesota Conference of the UCC. (St. John's is in Iowa, two cornfields south of the state line, but is in the Minnesota Conference.) The service concluded with a procession to the church cemetery, where we all joined in singing "For all the saints who from their labors rest." Afterwards, in basement and tent, we had a huge catered meal— beef and ham and pork, I had all three.

Sunday afternoon we had a Service of Consecration and Rededication, with a former pastor, the Rev. James Parker, preaching. The St. John's Choir sang "The Church on the Ridge," a song originally written for the centennial celebration in 1980 by the Rev. Milton Kading. Rev. Kading was also present for our celebration this weekend.

In the schoolhouse there was also a historical display on the history of the congregation, and souvenir St. John's 125th anniversary Red Wing crocks on sale. (If you'd like a souvenir crock, shoot me an e-mail.)

125 years that folks have been living here in this corner of Iowa and Minnesota, worshiping and serving God. On the front cover of the bulletin for our Quasquicentennial weekend was Habakkuk 2:20: "Aber der Herr ist in seinem heiligen Tempel. Es sei vor ihm stille alle Welt!" ("The Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before him!")

You can find more about St. John's, including pictures and a complete history of the congregation, on our St. John's Quasquicentennial website.


Monday, October 03, 2005

A Day Just to Crash

Whew! The 125th anniversary celebration here at St. John's over the weekend went just fine. But I'm exhausted. Slept till mid morning, got up just a few minutes ago. And, this being my day off, I'm just going to crash. Will blog more about our quasquicentennial doings tomorrow.