27 February 2006

Strange Newes of the Absurditie of Anatomy

Black Monday--the day I should have taken out the yard debris to be carried off by the yard debris fairy. It was the loud crashing noises made by the yard debris fairy that woke me up this foul monday morning. I probably should have stayed in bed.

16 February 2006

Cosmic Static

I crawled out of bed late this morning--say around six or so--and talked with Greg for a bit. We watched another installment of the curling competition at the Olympics; as far as I'm concerned it's an incomprehensible game that involves sliding rocks across the ice into something that looks vaguely like a target. It's nowhere near as boring as baseball to watch, even if somewhat baffling.

After I saw Greg off to work I took Zephyr for a walk up the street and fed the fishes. There was ice on top of their tanks and I had to break a hole in each to get the food to them. Since it's cold I suppose they won't eat much, but still--well, I don't know.

The cold is supposed to get worse; we're talking at least one day where the low will be say fifteen degrees and the high freezing. I'm not looking forward to any of it.

And then I came home to fight with the dishwasher, now entering its tenth year of being on its last legs. I thought at first maybe the pump had died, but it was only a clogged drain.

And that I guess brings me to here.

11 February 2006

For Want of a Nail

Okay, we can't all be captain, as my father used to say, there has to be crew--there has to be something for you to do. Apparently in France they have something called a pig-squealing contest (not to be confused I guess with our own American hog-calling contest). Last August the AP circulated a picture of a man taking part in the contest. AP Protests Use of Photo in Controversy: "The picture shows a bearded man wearing fake pig ears, a pig nose, and a pink embroidered cap on his head. He was wearing the costume while participating in a pig-squealing contest at an annual festival in a farm village in southern France last summer." Okay, fair enough--so what?

So how did this picture help lead to riots, the burning of embassies, the destruction of property and the deaths of at least ten people?

Well, see, that's the sixty-four thousand dollar question, as they used to say in my time. Somehow this picture got included with the eleven caricatures of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) that were published last September in a Danish newspaper. The Danish Muslim leader responsible for this had no explanation, except that it had been "sent to the group as an example of a provocation" according to the AP report. Earlier accounts claimed that it had been sent to an unnamed Muslim (presumably in Denmark) who apparently interpreted it as a depiction of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) as a pig. (Maybe a friend sent it to him as an example of the idiocies of the West?)

Somebody's been hoaxed here, and my money's on--well, okay, I don't know who's responsible. I do find it puzzling that the Danish delegation felt it necessary to add other material to the eleven caricatures, if those caricatures were the issue. There's no question about the eleven--why intermingle extraneous and irrelevant material then? Is it, as some have charged, because the cartoons themselves weren't considered inflammatory enough? In other words, is this just an elaborate publicity stunt for Islam?

In any case, it's clear that the Muslim rioters owe Denmark a humble and abject apology over this issue. Will they get one? I'm not holding my breath.

09 February 2006

Chicago Tribune | Eric Zorn

Chicago Tribune | Eric Zorn: "The opinion of the Tribune's editorial page is that the cartoons were 'juvenile' and 'cheesy,' a judgment I don't share after going online to see them for myself"

08 February 2006

Gates of Vienna: Anne Frank and Hitler, Reclining

I'm not sure what "Blog This" does, but I'm trying to create a link to Gates of Vienna: Anne Frank and Hitler, Reclining; the discussion of cartoons there is at least mildly interesting.

Why Hens Have No Teeth

Keep the mind perfectly still, place the fingers on the home keys, and begin typing. Whatever emerges--that's mindscum. Today's episode of mindscum features the Byzantine Majority Text, or maybe the Beatles' 1964 Australian Tour--it's sort of hard to tell the difference. The vitriol that has been thrown is sort of amazing, when you think about it. How much difference is there, say between the Textus Receptus and Ringo Starr? or between Jimmy Nicol and the Byzantine Majority Text? And if they can all be added together, do we really gain anything? Nicol I can't help but feel sorry for--where do you go from here? asks a reporter. Well, Ringo's going to join them in Brisbane, and then it's off to oblivion for me says Jimmy. And he disappears from the scene, a handsome guy with a drumset and no future. Still, it beats being a Spinal Tap drummer, I suppose.

But the Byzantine Majority Text--there's a losing concept. Let's count the readings, and see how many variants it takes to fill the Albert Hall. Create your own New Testament. Wanted: three thousand Greek calligraphers to write new version of the gospels; must be able to follow copy with ninety-five percent fidelity.... Who comes up with these things? Of course we could fall back on the Textus Receptus, the Mr. Ed of the textual world. Sure we know who created it, and when, and on what basis--but hey, Erasmus got it straight from the horse's mouth, or maybe from the Holy Ghost. Would he lie?

Throw the two into a pit and let them fight it out--two doddering old lamplighters on their last legs, throwing punches into the air and hoping for the best. Pitiful, just pitiful, as Jed Clampett might have observed. Like watching the Old Globe text duke it out with Pope's--is there some point to this? Where is Dr. Gonzo when you need him?

I wonder if Jimmy Nicol and Pete Best ever got together. Them two, Andy White, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr could get together and form an all ex-Beatles drummer band. It would probably have as much validity as the Byzantine Majority Text. At least you could dance to it.

06 February 2006

Thinking about Christopher Marlowe, for no good reason--atheist, playwright, poet, and spy for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the First of England.... born some time this month four hundred and forty two years ago. (So was Galileo Galilei, come to think of it.) Transformed English drama with a handful of college buddies in his twenties--and dead before thirty. God, what a crew they were, these young men with their Senaca, their Ovid, their blank verse, and their incessant reading. Marlowe, Nash, Kyd and the bunch.

English theatre was in horrible shape till they hit the scene. Oh, yeah, we had the over-precious plays of Lyly to work with--and what else? Things like Common Conditions, and Sir Clyomen and Sir Clamydes--and believe me, these things have to be seen to be believed. (And how I wish I could for once see Clyomen and Clamydes--it's hard to believe it could ever have been performed, with its awkward fourteen-syllable rhymed verse and wholly preposterous situations.)

05 February 2006

Standing on Fire

I have no topic but as usual my fingers will come alive on the keyboard and make words until sense follows. This may or may not have some sane point, but nobody is reading this anyway. Certainly not me.

The night has been filled with images of Orientalists and infighting, with ancient peoples and modern, and with scrolls and palm leaves. I remember reading the Koran for the first time--a copy that had the suras (or chapters or whatever they are) in the wrong order, or at any rate in an order different from the traditional. I had to go back to the index repeatedly to read it in sequence. I was in a high-school gym, seated on bleachers, while people were screaming all around me. (I'm not sure why, now--maybe some event was in progress.) I was working my way through a long piece on "Women" and I had the thought--my god, what a long-winded asinine piece of boring garbage this is. In a way it was a heretical thought--I felt committed to the notion that there was some "good"--some piece of significance anyway, some reason, some purpose, something--in any piece of literature people had chosen to deify. Even Gone with the Wind.

The Rig-Veda had kind of shook me up in that respect, but at least it had the charm of antiquity. It is not unreasonable that in trying to get in touch with people over ten thousand miles and three thousand years away the connection might be faulty. But the Koran was born in the full glaring light of history--it was written down on palm leaves, and assembled in a big council immediately after the death of its creator--why did people read it? What were they thinking? It was like reading Atlas Shrugged.

It was a moment only, and I went back to inputting data, taking it in as I took in other stuff--provisionally. Some day I would read it in Arabic, I told myself, and I could form a real opinion.

But that day never came. At school I had a choice among several possible languages, and actually signed up for Arabic--but at the last minute a chance to learn Coptic came up, and I switched. I figured that Arabic would come later--but so far it hasn't. And I haven't learned Chinese for the Tao Te Ching or Spanish for Don Quixote either.

Translations are always unsatisfactory, somehow. Like listening to a description of a banquet rather than being there.

04 February 2006

Outrage

Today's quick pick of various random blogs found some in foreign tongues, and some equally incomprehensible even though in English. The only one I stumbled into that made sense to me was this one I guess called Our Vortex or something like that.

Okay, sorry about that--something just killed my browser and I lost most of the rest of this post. It's discouraging to try to repeat myself, but I'll give it a stab. "Somebody, somewhere, will use these cartoons as a pretext for violence," this author wrote. "But don't expect me to have any sympathy or understanding for their cause. All they're doing is proving the cartoonist's point."

This is the thing that gets me. These maniac Muslims make it perfectly clear that the newspaper in question was right--their attitudes are indeed a menace to freedom of the press. You can try to spin that in any direction you like, blasphemy, politeness, whatever--and it still comes down to that. These guys have the same attitude toward the press that Stalin, Mao, and George III did--the press is free to print anything it likes, so long as they agree with it. That way lies--well, I don't remember what I wrote before, but something slimy and probably spineless is what it looks like.

The thing is, as this guy wrote, "I have the right to outrage you just as much as you have the right to outrage me. Put down the Kalishnikov, grow up, and join the Goddamn world community." It's high time. And by the by, if you've got to boycott something, take a lesson from our own Dixichristians--boycott somebody who can make a difference. Don't pick targets at random or call for government apologies--it just makes you look like loons. What you want to do is go after the pocketbook of the publisher. That will get their attention.

02 February 2006

Tempests for Two

I overslept again, probably an effect of this miracle medication I'm taking, but who knows? I see by the news today that we who complain about being censored by people with opinions are being bigoted and narrow-minded and right-wing, or at any rate insensitive to the beliefs of others. Okay, let me put it this way....

All my life people have trampled on my beliefs. People have ridiculed them, kicked them around, and told me in no uncertain terms to shut up. My fifth grade teacher told me that I was clinically insane for believing in the scientific fact of evolution, not merely Darwin's theory of the causes of it. (She also believed that "nobody really knows what electricity is or how light switches work--we just take it all on faith" and that the abbreviation Xmas is some sort of conspiracy to take the Christ out of Xmas and that "a noun is a person place or thing" so she may not be the best guide to what is sane or insane.) A guy recently told me that saying "Happy Holidays" is an insult to Christians. Still another proclaims loudly that objectivity is some sort of Western con, rather than an achievable state. Tolerance, I am told, is the easy way out and only the irrational is worth believing.

Whatever. I know there are a lot of people out there who don't share my beliefs. It would be a much duller world if everybody else did. (It would probably also be a much safer world in many respects; and as we followed the buffalo herds we would all have animated discussions about the possibilities of some day domesticating animals, or maybe planting edible grains for ourselves.) Every day animists, patriots, christians, libertarians, baconians, muslims, objectivists, canonical critics, and devotees of the Byzantine text of the New Testament are doing things that (if I knew about them) would offend me deeply. When they come to my attention I am outraged. Just because I don't go out on some rabid snark hunt, jumping wildly about and making a monkey of myself, doesn't mean I'm not infuriated. It does mean that I've got better things to do.

If I buy into this notion that certain muslims and their western apologists are making--that every time somebody says, writes, or draws something they might find offensive, somebody owes them an apology, then, by the same token, every time somebody says, writes, or draws something I find not merely offensive, but downright filthy, I am owed an abject and irrevocable apology. In this spirit, I submit a list:

People who Owe Me Apologies

(1) Donald Rumsfeld: If for nothing else, for his callous reaction to the destruction of one of the great temples of knowledge in this world: "Stuff happens." Practically every time he has opened his mouth in public, it was to say something so contemptable that even a civilized person might be tempted to throw something in his general direction--a rotten egg at least, or maybe a small explosive object of some kind.

(2) General Peter Pace: His outrageous misrepresentation of a cartoon that appeared in the Washington Post--a cartoon whose meaning is obvious to the meanest intellect--as anti-serviceman, is an insult not only to all Americans, but to all thinking people everywhere.

(3) Michelle Mashraqi: Her claim that "The press is very disrepectful if they see the outrage as Muslim's rebuking free press" is utterly offensive to all believers in the free press everywhere. This is not an issue of what Muslims believe--this is a matter of what free people are allowed to do or say. She, and any others expressing this inane viewpoint, are being deliberately disrespectful to all of us, and especially to me.

In fact, as I start thinking about all the people who owe me apologies on this basis, I start feeling a bit overwhelmed. Which, I suppose, is one of the reasons not to think about it. I really do have better things to do. And I suggest that if these protesters don't have better things to do, they should at least make a start by re-evaluating their lives.
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