Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday Rock Show

Tool is among the most amazing bands around. They are certainly not everyone's cup of tea. Their official videos are bizarre, disturbing, and do not feature the band at all. They seem anonymous. Yet, they are accomplished songwriters, rhythmically complex, and lyrically dealing with themes of alienation, the struggle to feel in a world that seeks only to destroy feeling, rage at hypocrisy, and (occasionally) offering a positive glimpse of life and its possibilities.

"Rosetta Stoned" off their release 10,000 Eyes, however, is different. The story of a man's encounter with an extra-terrestrial, it might also be the dictation of a man out of his mind. Which is it? The nice thing is the song refuses to answer the question of whether or not the encounter is real. The man is certainly insane, and admits he was on a combination of chemicals ("Dead Head chemistry") bound to make anyone perceive things . . . differently.

In short, there aren't too many songs like "Rosetta Stoned" out there. Were I given the opportunity, this song would be the first piece of evidence that Tool belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and its singer/lyricist Maynard James Keenan deserved to be our poet-laureate.

Two things. Because of the recording technique (multi-tracking the lyrics slightly out of synch), the words are printed below the video. Some of the video images, taken from the film Fire In The Sky, might be disturbing to some viewers. This being Tool, should anyone out there be offended by dirty words, you might just want to skip right on over this one.

All righty then. Picture this if you will.
10 to 2 AM, X, Yogi DMT, and a box of Krispy Kremes,
in my need-to-know post just outside Area 51
Contemplating the whole chosen people thingy when
just then a flaming stealth banana split the sky like one would hope but
never really expect to see in a place like this
Cutting right angle doughnuts on a dime and stopping right at my Birkenstocks
and me yelping... HOLY FUCKING SHIT
Holy fucking shit
Fucking shit
Holy fucking shit
Holy fucking shit
Holy fucking shit...fucking shit...fucking shit

Then the X-Files being, looking
like some kinda blue-green Jackie Chan
With Isabella Rossellini lips and breath that reeked of vanilla chig champa
Did a slow-mo Matrix decent outta the butt end of the banana vessel
and hovered above my bug-eyes,
My gaping jaw,
And my sweaty L. Ron Hubbard upper lip,
And all I could think was,
I hope Uncle Quark here doesn't notice
That I pissed my fucking pants.

So light in his way
Like an apparition,
He had me crying out,
Fuck me!
It's gotta be
the Deadhead chemistry!
The blotter got right on top of me
Got me seeing E motherfucking T!

And after calming me down with some orange slices and some fetal spooning
E.T. revealed to me his singular purpose,
He said you are the chosen one.
The one who will deliver the message.
A message of hope for those who choose to hear it
And a warning for those who do not.
Me, the chosen one
They chose me
And I didn't graduate from fucking high school!

You had better
You had better
You had better
You had better listen

Then he looked right through me
With somniferous almond eyes
Don't even know what that means
Must remember to write it down,
This is so real
Like the time Dave floated away
See my heart is pounding
'Cause this shit never happens to me!

Can't breathe right now

It was so real
Like I woke up in Wonderland
Also a bit terrifying
I don't wanna be all alone
When I tell this story
And can anyone tell me why
ya'll sound like Peanuts parents
Will I ever be coming down?
This is so real
Finally it's my lucky day
See my heart is racing
'Cause this shit never happens to me

I can't breathe right now

You believe me don't you
Please believe what I just said
See the dead ain't tourin'
And this wasn't all in my head.
See they took me by the hand
And invited me right in
Then they showed me something
I don't even know where to begin

Strapped down to my bed
Feet cold and eyes red
I'm out of my head
Am I alive am I dead
Can't remember what they said
God damn shit the bed
High eye (repeated)

I believe you (repeated, heard faintly in background)

Overwhelmed as one would be
Placed in my position
Such a heavy burden now to be the one
Born to bear and bring to all
The details of our ending
To write it down for all the world to see.
But I forgot my pen
Shit the bed again

Strapped down to my bed
Feet cold and eyes red
I'm out of my head
Am I alive am I dead?
Sunkist and sudafed
Gyroscopes and infrared
Won't help the brain-dead
Can't remember what they said
God damn shit the bed
IIIIIII can't remember what they said to me
Can't remember what they said
to make me out to be a hero
Can't remember what he said

Bob help me!
Can't remember what he said

Don't know, won't know (repeated)
God damn shit the bed!

Friday, July 18, 2008

I Started It, So I Might As Well Try To Do It Right

This quickie post I did last night has attracted a lot more attention than I anticipated. To be honest, I think it's a mish-mash, partly the result of having been written on the fly. I think, however, that have some kind of obligation to move the discussion forward a bit.

We got a bit bogged down in ad hominem amateur-hour psycho- and sexual-analysis of Neil, something I tend not to like on principle (and, yes, I did some of it, too; doesn't make me so much a hypocrite as human). Yet, considering Neil's well-mannered, thoughtful, in-depth, and honest response, I think we have done remarkably well trying to keep the whole subject on track.

In order to do so, however, I am strapping on my virtual, rhetorical Kevlar and wading in to the thick of Neil's territory. Specifically, this comment, which I shall reprint in full, without additions or subtractions, without interspersed commentary (one of the minor annoyances of Neil's), and with the link above provided just so he can't get all upset and claim I didn't post the whole comment:
ER, Alan and Geoffrey,

Thanks for making my day. I’ve been laughing on and off since clicking on the incoming link from Geoffrey’s post. Wow, what an obsession! But I must say I am cheered. It is a best case scenario: You are reading your “enemy’s” writings here and I don’t have to waste time with your comments.

ER, you are seriously mistaken about me saying I would edit your comments. What I said in my last email was this (go check for yourself): “I’ll just moderate you and approve what I feel like. I just wanted to give you fair warning.” That was after I had said, “I let you have the last word, but please don’t comment again. Nothing personal, but I’m tired of having the same conversation over and over. It’s all been said. We’re both wasting our time, and we both have better things to do. Feel free to criticize me all you like from your blog.” ER, you’re a nice guy and probably a great neighbor and friend. I wish you well.

Alan, just for the record, you weren’t banned for being gay, or liberal, or a phony (again, I love it when a guy who blogs on the joys of gay camping and hanging out with lots of naked guys in a pool - including his “husband” - likes to pose as an orthodox Christian. I mean, pro-gay theology is bad enough but even if you bought those lies you couldn’t justify that kind of behavior. And don’t deny it and say I’m lying. I zinged you on that back in the Wesley Blog days and you came back with a lame “don’t believe everything you read on the Internet line. I do believe what you wrote on your own blog.). I knew all those traits before. I just got tired of your endless nit-picking. It sucks the fun out of blogging. And you saying I’m obsessed with gays is comical. Just because I blog on the most divisive issue in the church doesn’t mean I’m obsessed. By that definition I’m obsessed with pro-life, theology, evangelism, etc., and if you look at where I spend my time I’m much more obsessed with my wife, my kids, prison ministry, CareNet, church, Bible study, mission trips, giving, prayer, accountabilty groups, guitar, etc.

Wow, I’m really an obsessive guy! Thanks for the free diagnosis.

Geoffrey, your bits typically self-destruct with po-mo reasoning. I’ve found it is easiest to let you do your own refutations.

Seriously, I hope you guys see the light someday and repent of your pagan belief systems. In the mean time, keep reading here! And gossip all you like about me at your places.

Rather than deal with the substance of the criticisms I leveled at his post on the DNA of human beings and chimpanzees (actually a pretty interesting subject, but one Neil handles poorly), he addresses the three of us in odd ways. First, he claims that he never "banned" Erudite Redneck, yet in the quoted section above, he specifically "disinvites" my Okie pal from posting at his, Neil's, blog. I don't even know what to make of this kind of inconsistency (to be generous).

As for his treatment of Alan, what he gives with the left hand, he takes away with the right. He says he wasn't banned for being gay, but for being nit-picky. He denies an obsession with gay sex, yet spends the bulk of the paragraph writing about an innocent post of Alan's on a camping trip. Only a mind fettered with odd images of what happens when gay men go camping could have turned Alan's post in to something lurid and lascivious. Yet, Neil did do, and continues to do so. He also says that Alan's belief that the Church should be open to all people, regardless of sexual orientation is a "lie".

Finally, me he dismisses off-handedly, in a way that sounds intelligent and insightful but smacks of a certain reluctance to take another person's argument on its merits. To say that my beliefs "self-destruct" is at once silly and begging for proof. Everyone's belief system destroys itself. Mine is in constant need of the most basic infrastructural investment and improvement. That is what it means to live a life of faith; continually challenged by life, when I find that something I have held to be part of my life of faith can no longer stand the strain I, obviously, discard it.

He calls us "pagans". ER is a member of the United Church of Christ, a branch of various Reformed Churches in the Congregational tradition. Alan is a Presbyterian, and I don't hold that against him. Like Neil, I am a United Methodist, and my wife is senior pastor at Poplar Grove United Methodist Church, Poplar Grove, IL. I don't know how that qualifies as paganism, but there you go.

Anyway, I print all this not so much to have the last word, but to redirect the conversation to the substantive issue that began this discussion. I am asking those who have participated in this discussion to do so with an eye on that issue. I will not delete comments; I will not ask people to stop posting. I only ask that a serious subject be addressed in a serious manner (well, OK, there can be humor involved). There is no mandate here to like, or perhaps even respect, one another. I am asking that we deal with the issue at hand.

I realize Neil will in all likelihood not darken my doorway. More's he pity, because I am offering an opportunity for him to revise and extend his remarks in his original post for us. I also think, in all fairness, that he does need to address the personal comments he directed at us. I also think he needs to address his . . . inconsistencies . . . that have been pointed out. I, for one, will be happy to admit I am wrong if evidence is given to show that I was, indeed wrong.

Anyway, there it is, and let the games begin. I hope some games begin.

Outdoing Oneself In Absurdity

Oh dear God in the most high heaven. Charles Krauthammer's column in today's Washington Post has perhaps the silliest, most absurd line I have read by a so-called "serious" political pundit. This is an instance where reading just one line makes me want to stop, because the line is so silly, the rest of the column might actually be kind of good. If you bottom out early, you have no where to go but up. I will present the wind-up, then the pitch, in italics (added by me, of course):
Barack Obama wants to speak at the Brandenburg Gate. He figures it would be a nice backdrop. The supporting cast -- a cheering audience and a few fainting frauleins -- would be a picturesque way to bolster his foreign policy credentials.

What Obama does not seem to understand is that the Brandenburg Gate is something you earn.

One can earn money. One can earn a reputation. One can earn a nickname. One does not "earn" a national monument in another country.

Now, I realize this is literal nitpicking. Or, at least sounds like it. Yet, if we are to take Krauthammer to be speaking metaphorically, it might be important to rephrase what he intended, as follows:
What Obama does not seem to understand is that only after proving oneself should one be allowed to speak in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

Is that true, however? Is it necessary to have achieved . . . something . . . in . . . someone's . . . eyes before one should be allowed to do something that others have done before? What, after all, had John Kennedy done when he stood at the Gate and said, in very bad German, "Ich bin ein Berliner!"? What had Ronald Reagan done when he stood in the same spot and said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"? Obviously, Kennedy wasn't really a resident of West Berlin, fenced in by a foreign power (ironically enough, the wall was built to keep the East Germans from getting in, not West Germans from heading east; old satellite photos taken before the wall fell showed East Germany to be pretty dark, except for a small smudge of light - West Berlin). Reagan's exhortation to Gorbachev had an ironic coda, because Gorbachev (and Reagan) had nothing at all to do with the tearing down. The people of East Berlin did it on their own.

Krauthammer's notion that one can only "do something" once one has "done something" else is silly. Barack Obama happens to be the de facto Democratic nominee for the Presidency of the United States. Germany is a united country, an ally, and the plaza (or, to be properly German, der plast) around the Gate is a nice wide open space that would hold a sizable crowd. One should assume that Obama, being a historic figure, would attract a sizable crowd. Only in the minds of someone as silly as Charles Krauthammer does the sentence above have any meaning or significance.

If there's anything more in the column worth mentioning, let me know.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm Not Sure What To Say About This (UPDATED With Additions)

I have a confession to make. I have chided ER in the past about his occasional need to travel to fundamentalist Christian websites and get embroiled in arguments. Yet, I, too, commit the same sin. Neil's 4Simpson's blog is a favorite of mine to visit.


If I knew the answer, maybe I would avoid it.

Anyway, I saw this post, and was wondering what, exactly, Neil's point was in posting it. The title is misleading, because it attempts to dismiss an article that points out the fact, well-known among scientists and those scientifically literate, that human beings and chimps share all but %1.5 percent of their genetic code. That "45,000,000" number represents the differences. Now, this has been known for some time, and is unremarkable. This makes chimps far closer, genetically, to human beings than any other living creature, which is important for all sorts of reasons.

Yet, Neil, being a creationist, attempts to make something out of nothing here. The analogy he uses as a closer is about as dumb as it gets.
Nearly all cars have 4 wheels. That doesn’t mean they were genetically related, just that the designers have a model that works well so they replicate it. Perhaps next time the Chronicle will have headlines stating that “chimpanzees and humans are both carbon based life forms” or “Houston is hot in the summer.”

Neil also notes that there are common genetic strains among all life on earth. Nothing surprising there, since the biochemistry that governs evolution would provide for carrying all sorts of material that is just baggage. Birds have genes for teeth, yet those genes are chemically "switched off"; scientists have developed birds with teeth by turning those genes on.

Again, this is no big deal.

Was Neil's point that this article was not scientific in some way? Was his point concerning what he calls "the unproven assumption" about common ancestry for humans and chimps? Since the genetic similarity between humans and chimps is far closer than any other related species, it seems to me pretty clear this proves the whole common ancestry thing. It isn't about using an unproven assumption; it's about using science to test a theory.

Now, I know that Neil says truth is correspondence to reality. He and I have gone down that road before. Since this is a case of reality not corresponding to Neil's understanding of truth, I just wonder how he deals with it?

Oh, that's right. He wrote this post to show that he deals with it by showing off his lack of scientific literacy.

UPDATE: Maybe this isn't fair. Maybe it isn't even nice. The following partial paragraph contains what, I am quite sure, Neil accepts as devastating, unanswered questions that refute the whole concept of evolution.
It would have been nice if they had explained how the DNA could have tens of millions of changes in only a few million years (according to their theory), as well as how it kept changing at the same pace throughout the human population without us veering off into multiple species. Or if it changed at a rapid pace, why did it do so for some and not others? And how did the males and females just happen to evolve similarly and simultaneously?

The scientific ignorance behind these questions is staggering. The idea that "only" could be applied to the phrase "a few million years" by a human being genetically programmed to live no more than 120, and limited to less than that by a variety of environmental factors is surprising. Human beings think of a couple millennia as a long time. Even a couple centuries is almost beyond our comprehension. A hundred millennia? A thousand?

The whole "male and female" thing just defies credulity. Does he honestly believe this is some kind of devastating question? If so, that only shows how truly ignorant of contemporary science he is.

How sad.

Some Liberal Theological Thoughts On What Happens When We Die

This is part of a larger project, I guess, on giving a positive statement concerning what I believe. Rather than be all critical, or at least only critical, I thought it might be important to talk about what I believe in a positive manner.

One subject that really gets me - and I am serious about this - is the whole issue of heaven. When I was but a wee little lad, I wondered where, exactly, in the Bible people found detailed information on what happens when we die. All this "believers go to heaven, non-believers go to hell" business has no basis in Scripture. I see no way one can even tease it out through an interpretive scheme.

The best counter-argument I come up with is to discuss the passage in which Jesus debates the Sadducees on the resurrection. At the time Jesus lived, two of the main bodies of Jewish thought were the Pharisees (with whom Jesus often sparred, but mostly over details rather than in any serious break) and the Sadducees. The latter were a group that held official posts in the Temple. They were seen as compromised politically and religiously because the Temple was desecrated by the image of the Emperor in the forecourt and the Roman flag flying over the top (for details, see N. T. Wright's The New Testament and the People of God). A main difference between the two groups was that the Pharisees held a belief in the resurrection of the dead; the Sadducees denied such a belief. When questioned about the resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees got all literal and legal and asked Jesus what happens to a man after the resurrection who has remarried because his first wife predeceased him; to whom is he married? Like most literalists, they thought they had him there . . .

Jesus responds by telling the Sadducees they were thinking of the time after the resurrection in the wrong way. The old rules will not apply.

Paul, educated by the renowned Pharisaical rabbi Gamaliel, embraced he idea of the resurrection of the dead, and expands upon the notion, in most detail in 1 Corinthians 15.

As Jurgen Moltmann points out in the first section of his The Coming of God, in which he deals with the question of personal salvation in light of Christian eschatology, even these detailed accounts leave many questions unanswered and unanswerable. He wrestled gamely with them, but the results are as much speculation as anything.

These detailed discussions do not contain anything about pearly gates. They do not speak of a place in the clouds. The "streets of gold" reference comes from the New Jerusalem passages in Revelations, which deals with the final consummation of history.

I will be honest enough to say that, even though I say it every time I recite the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed, I am troubled by the whole "resurrection of the dead" thing, Paul's argument in 1 Cor. 15 notwithstanding. Perhaps it's true. Perhaps not. Yet, I feel far better being troubled by my misgivings over an actual historical doctrine of the church than I am about whether I will float away on wings to a cloud city or spend eternity stoking the furnaces of hell. These are myths, the syncretistic result of melding various incongruous non-Christian myths and beliefs about the afterlife and baptizing them.

The clearest thing I get out of a reading of Scripture about what happens when we die is this. At some point, those who have died "in Christ" will be raised from the dead, gather around the throne of the Father and the Lamb who was slain, and sing a hymn of praise. Those who are not so lucky get chucked in to the pit reserved for the devil and his angels, but once that bundling and chucking occurs, the entire thing gets wiped away, annihilated. Since the alternative - that when we die, our bodies are worm and fly and bacteria food, and anything that makes us uniquely "I" becomes energy for new life on a bit of a smaller scale - results in the same thing as the Bible's description of what happens to unregenerate at the end of time (annihilation, the removal from existence), I fail to see how this is, well, scary or frightening. Since I will be no more, worrying, caring, being sad about it, mourning my loss - these are among the myriad things on the endless list of things I will no longer be doing. Indeed, it makes no logical sense to speak of an "I" in this state at all.

More to the point (at least for me), is that I really am not all that vexed by the question of what happens after we die (if that sentence has any meaning at all). I do not believe that is why Jesus taught what he did, and suffered and died. I do not believe the Church exists to make sure I, or anyone else, ends up with a harp floating on a cloud. I do not believe that a God defined by the prodigal grace we see in Jesus would, through some arbitrary decision unrelated to any act or decision on my part, would separate us from that prodigal grace.

I suppose spending time writing what I believe about something I don't think about all that much might sound odd, even self-refuting. Yet, final questions, including about our own finality, are part and parcel of living. Different belief systems offer different answers, and I really don't know how to deal with them except to say the Bible offers this as an answer, but whether one believes the answer (and its underlying premises) is neither here nor there. Since all we need do is confess that we believe Jesus is the unique manifestation of God for all humanity, I really don't see what the big deal is.

Since Bush Dirties Everything He Comes Near . . .

There has been quite an uproar in my denomination over the decision to put the Bush Library (what possible books would be included in such an institution?) at Southern Methodist University. At General Conference there was a resolution demanding the South Central Jurisdiction do something about this travesty. Well, the report came back, and it seems the denomination's hands are tied.

Apparently, SMU went and signed all sorts of contracts and legal documents that limit the ability of the denomination to keep this pus-filled boil off one of the flagship institutions of higher learning our denomination has going. While some members of the SCJ committee have said that "it's not over", the best they can hope for is to put up some firewall to protect the "integrity" of SMU from the threat of infiltration by an institution dedicated to furthering the Bush-view of the world.

Since Bush has no respect for the law, I see no reason why the UMC should. Get out from under the weight of this contract, by hook or by crook. Keep that monstrosity away from anything having to do with my beloved denomination.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some Liberal Theological Thoughts On The Bible

I suppose a bit of context is in order here. Over at Marshall Art, they're all in a dither about a stupid lawsuit a man is bringing against two Bible publishers. I fail to see what's to get upset about, but then again, I don't view the Bible in quite the same way as Marshall and some of his commenters.

As a source of authority for the Christian Church and its teaching, the Bible has no equal. All the silly, meaningless debates about what, precisely, it means to call the Bible "the word of God" are beside the point; the issue is, simply put, one of where we rest our case for what we believe. It took several hundred years for the final canon of the Bible to be settled, after serious disputes and not a little robe-renting. Fifteen hundred years later, Martin Luther took the extraordinary step of removing from the Bible several books, and portions thereof, that he felt had not place, including the wonderful book of Tobit, and the Wisdom of Solomon. He also had issues with the Epistle of James (all that works-righteousness stuff) and the Apocalypse (it was so dense and confusing even a trained scholar like Luther had problem figuring it out). Since then, we've had the LDS add an entire Testament, and the general trend to downplay the Hebrew Scriptures (all those New Testaments with the Psalms, you know).

There is nothing magical about the Bible. There is nothing inside the Bible that creates through reading some instantaneous change. People get out of the Bible what they put in; if they are reading looking for wisdom or insight or some key to a particular problem, more than likely they will find an answer. If they are looking for the inerrant Truth about Life, the Universe, and Everything, provided they are willing to suspend all that we now know about the way the world works, they will find it. Neither of these things are reasons to venerate the Bible; neither of these approaches to scripture make it what it is.

Simply put, the Bible and the Church were birthed together. What the earliest adherents of a belief that, in Jesus, something unique and unprecedented in human history had happened did was set down their impressions of what this event meant. For some, even most of the people then alive, it meant nothing at all because they had never heard of it. For those exposed to it, some found it silly, some found it blasphemous, and some found it life-transforming. These last bequeathed to us a testimony of their own struggles with what, exactly, this meant for them. It has been offered to us as a guide. No more, no less.

Making more of the Bible than it is has been a curious pastime among many Christians. Whether that means imbuing it with magical powers or seeing it as some kind of magic wand to be waved for our edification, instruction, and judgment, we are transferring to the Bible qualities that reside in God alone. The Bible is "Holy" because it is a testimony of who God is. It is not "Holy" in and for itself. The Bible is the source of our understanding of what it means to be a Christian because human beings need a source.

I suppose in the eyes of some this diminishes the Bible in some way. I suppose I should be honest and say I don't understand why.

Beyond Satire

In light of the New Yorker cover kerfuffle, I thought it would be interesting to investigate the reaction of some seriously funny folks to our right-wing fellow-Americans. Thus we turn to this post yesterday at Sadly, No!, in which Brad, in the midst of attempting to make fun of some seriously stupid words and acts lets loose a "Dean Scream" and pronounces himself at the end of his rope:
* …I actually find it a very enlightening piece of commentary that exposes the Nazi Left’s tendency to coddle our enem…


OK, I can’t take it anymore. The layers of sheer insanity on display at all of these right-wing blogs is really getting me down, to the point where satirizing them becomes nothing more than a joyless, reflexive compulsion. It seems that every time I come up with some ridiculous new way to lampoon these crazy fools, they somehow manage to write something that make Hunter Thompson’s infamous mescaline-and-ether binges look positively tame. Life is horrible.

This is the problem with satire and humor. Insanity isn't funny. It's sad, and it's frightening, and that there are those who take insane people seriously isn't funny, but frightening. Whether it's Michelle Malkin or the folks at RedState or the usual suspects who get a coal-raking at Sadly,No!, there just comes a point where laughing at them makes no sense, because they honestly believe that the satirical things said about them are true.

There are people on the right who honestly believe that Barack Obama is a closet terrorist, who will invite more plane-flying terrorists to take down our buildings, institute shari'a, and abort all Christian fetuses in the 38th week. There are people on the right who honestly believe the Democratic Party hates the United States, despises our military, and would subsume our Constitution under the supranational authority of the United Nations. There are people on the right who actually believe that George Bush has never lied to the American people, that our current Iraqi adventure is a noble good that has accomplished so much, including recently discovering the true whereabouts of Sadam Hussein's WMD arsenal, thus legitimating the entire enterprise.

I could go on and on with the list of insane things people on the right believe - I recently asked an interlocutor what, exactly, is "the homosexual agenda" I keep hearing about - but I hope my point is clear. It is impossible to laugh at people who, when confronted with the fact that the things they proclaim are true are only worth mocking turn around and say, "But, but . . . it's all true!", we have reached a point where the relationship between what occurs in the real world and what occurs in the minds of those who want to be a part of our public discourse has been severed so completely that repairing the damage seems beyond hope.

There are those who see the New Yorker cover as depicting reality. That is why the Obama campaign is miffed. Yes, it was an attempt at humor. The problem is, for some, this is no joke, but a clear and present danger to our nation and the world; Obama has to fight this kind of crap coming from the right on a daily basis. Why should he have to deal with an attempted lampoon of the right that only reinforces this nonsense?

I find it interesting that so many on the right paint liberals as humorless. There was a time, I think, when earnest lefties and liberals drew some imaginary line and said, "Thou shalt not make light of [insert pet project/issue]", and that only made people see them as humorless. Thus, George Carlin, in an attempt to drive home the point, did an entire routine in which he tried to show that rape could be the subject of humor. Tasteless? Probably. Unlike John McCain's stupid joke unearthed yesterday, the difference is the Carlin was trying to make a point, whereas McCain was merely being an ass.

The major difference, as I see it, is this. In the past, these "humorless" liberals were young, idealistic folks who saw attempted humor at their expense as an attack upon their views. The right, currently, sees satirical takedowns as confirmation of the things they say and believe. They don't get the joke, because they don't realize they are the joke.

To Prove A Point

I said the other day that I tend to gravitate to sad, melancholy songs. That is true, but I also love real good love songs. I have had this song going through my head for the past couple days, oddly enough, so I thought I would share it, first, to prove that I'm not exactly a sour puss. Second, this is one of those great songs that disprove the notion that music in the 1970's sucked. In fact, some of the greatest music ever recorded made it out of giant record companies in those days, partly because they were flush with cash and could invest time and money in such a variety and still see a return on investment.

The best love songs weren't the "power ballads" of the 1980's. The best love songs came earlier, and most of them were soul ballads. The stupid, bland "Adult Contemporary" sound is an attempt to make a formula out of what is really a hit-or-miss proposition. They don't make songs like this anymore, and that's OK, because this song is already out there, and it's perfect for dancing slow, or other, more private moments. This is the Manhattan's with "Shining Star":

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It Isn't Nothing, But I Don't Have Much

The President had a news conference today. I think his approval ratings dropped while the ten people who watched it paid attention. Why does the press even cover this joker anymore? Seriously. If we ignore him, maybe he'll take the rest of his Presidency off, staying down in Crawford and looking over his poll numbers from 2002.

An old "joke" of McCain's surfaced today.
Did you hear the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die? When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, “Where is that marvelous ape?”

What a despicable human being. If this is the best the Republican's can do, I do hope they are ready for a beating. If Obama doesn't win at least 35 states and have a margin of at least 75 electoral votes, I will consider it a McCain victory.

Finally, John Boehner managed to prove how stupid he is, and by extension most conservatives. Eight years ago, we were told "the adults" would be in charge when the Republicans went on to victory. These aren't adults, but emotionally stunted child-men and -women, who feel quite free to just get up and say and do whatever they want without any remorse, without any sense of decency, without any need to worry about accountability for their actions. Only children act that way.

Rant over.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Music Monday

Ask and you shall receive (except for "La Vida Loca" and Sheryl Crowe, so sorry). First up is DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince before Will Smith tried acting, with "Summertime":

I always liked Toad the West Sprocket. Just the band's name was pretty cool (even more cool that Hootie and the Blow Fish). I liked their melancholy songs. I guess I just gravitate to that kind of thing. My only problem was they were lumped with the whole phony "alternative rock" thing in the early and mid 1990's, and they weren't at all. I like this song because it traces the deterioration of a relationship in a realistic way. The man is mourning the fact that his lover and he just cannot connect, "Something's always wrong," even though he can't see it. It's a very sad song, in many ways, because it tells a real story, rather than relying on cliches. I especially like the image of the guy beating himself with a "penance rope". How many of us have flagellated ourselves needlessly? This song is a good antidote to romanticism.

I liked Smashmouth until I saw them on Letterman at some point. I realized watching them they couldn't do it live. But, there's just something fun about their music, especially this song that is all retro late-60's psychedlia (the organ and guitar remind me of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky"):

Next week I would like to do something completely different - recent or contemporary performers of classical music (no, I do not mean Sarah Brightman, although her CD covers are hot). Glenn Gould is an obvious choice, as is Yo-yo Ma, so I would like to avoid them if at all possible (although Gould's cocaine-soaked rendition of Bach is wonderful). Choral groups and directors (except for Leonard Bernstein) are also acceptable because, especially the latter, are interpreters in their own right. Any Rostropovich fans out there?

John 8: 12-19

Lisa's latest sermon series in on the "I Am" statements of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. As these are directly related to the proclamation of the name of the LORD in Exodus ("I am who I am, or I will be who I will be"), there is a radical association of Jesus and the God of Israel in these statements, even as Jesus is distancing and dissociating himself from Pharisaical interpretations of who this God is. Lisa used this passage, in which Jesus proclaimed himself "the light of the world", and John 15, where Jesus proclaimed himself "the true vine". She preached on the latter image, but it is the former one of which I wish to speak. The exchange with the Pharisees here is interesting. First, from the Revised English Bible (oh, those nutty Brits and their translations!), here is John 8: 12-19:
Once again Jesus addressed the people: "I am the light of the world. No follower of mine shall walk in darkness; he shall have the light of life." The Pharisees said to him, "You are witness in your own cause; your testimony is not valid." Jesus replied, "My testimony is valid, even though I do testify on my own behalf; because I know where I come from, and where I am going. But you know neither where I come from nor where I am going. You judge by worldly standards; I pass judgment on no one. If I do judge, my judgment is valid because it is not I alone who judge, but I and he who sent me. In your own law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I am a witness in my own cause, and my other witness is the Father who sent me." "Where is your father?" they asked him. Jesus replied, "You do not know me or my Father; if you knew me your would know my Father too."

One thing to note here is how Jesus creates distance between himself and his Jewish milieu, by referring to "your own law". There is, in the Fourth Gospel, this distancing between Jesus and the Jews, and it most likely resides in early (Gentile) Christian anti-Jewish feeling (I refuse to use that anachronistic term "anti-Semitism" here). Without surrendering to such prejudice, nonetheless, I think we can use this distancing in a less problematic fashion, perhaps. That is to say that Jesus is here not so much separating himself from his own Jewish roots so much as he is offering to the Pharisees a dose of their own medicine; they are quick to paint themselves as the true interpreters of God's law, and on this basis call Jesus and his life and ministry in to question. Jesus here is turning the tables on them.

To that end, it is important to realize that the Pharisees do not take the time to deal with what Jesus has to say. They become nit-picking lawyers, claiming that his testimony is out-of-bounds because he is doing so on his own behalf. Jesus does a double-whammy on them, first, by saying that they are judging based on "human standards" when in fact they are using the Mosaic code, which is supposed to be God's law. Further, he says that he does not judge, even as they are judging him.

How often do we get all caught up in discussions that hinge on how others insist our words are to be interpreted? How often do we hear people say they were "misquoted" or "misunderstood"? Jesus here is showing how to deal with these problems. Simply throw it back on those who would try to go all "meta" on us, telling us how wrong we are. Jesus does not defend his words in some kind of reasoned argument. Rather, he say, in effect, "Your criticism is illegitimate because you do not understand what I am saying. If you understood, you wouldn't be all critical. Your criticism is evidence of your willing ignorance."

I like this. I like Jesus showing how to ignore an argument started by others by saying, "Homey don't play that way." He is telling the Pharisees their rules no longer govern the way human beings are to live in relation to God. He is offering people the possibility of getting beyond legal nit-picking and the trap of literal belief. By telling people that, in following him, Jesus is offering them a light to freedom, a light that will never be extinguished, he is telling people that his, rather than the authority of others, even of the tradition of which he is himself a part, is the way God wants people to live. By arguing with Jesus over the whole issue of the legitimacy of his own words, the Pharisees indict themselves, hoist on the petard not of their own, but Jesus' words.

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