Friday, December 20, 2002

Out to get me

Apologies for the fact that half the archive links aren't working any more, nor are the permalinks on this page. This time it's not just me though -- everyone on Blogspot seems to have toasted archives. Well, you get what you (don't) pay for, eh?

Also, sorry that posting has been light and is going to get lighter. Work, Christmas stuff, etc. have crowded out those long posts I've been daydreaming about. Tomorrow morning I'm flying off to my father's house for Christmas. I may squeeze in a post or two from his computer, but no guarantees.

New Year's resolutions are: a) move to Movable Type and b) post more. Stay tuned, true believers!

UPDATE: Well, through the mysteries of Blogger, links are back. I still want to get out of here tough...
Two become one

Continuing the Camassia Cost-Cutting Program, I've decided to become one of the 3 million people in America with only a mobile phone and no land line. This is not because I am like so many people in L.A., having a phone to my ear wherever I go. In fact, it's because I don't use either phone that much. Most people I interact with are either distant friends and family I communciate with mainly by email, or people I work with and plan things with face to face. Given that, I realized I was spending a truly ridiculous amount of money on phones. I can get a $30-a-month plan and still have minutes left over.

I've also been feeling lately like I have a case of technology pile-up. There have been so many technological changes in my lifetime that, rather than keep switching formats, I keep adding things. Music is the most conspicuous example: I have LPs, cassettes, and CDs, and equipment to play all of them. A lot of people my age don't have any vinyl any more, but I feel like they're perfectly good records, why replace them? Especially since now some are saying the CD is dead and it's all about mp3 or some such thing. I just want it to settle down already.

The phone is like that. Like most people, I think of a land line as a basic utility: you move to a new place and get the power turned on and the water turned on and the phone turned on. But that's already being superseded not only by cell phones but maybe by broadband. Either way, it may disappear as a separate technology. Cell phones themselves are turning into little handheld computers.

I kind of hope that technology change, rather than getting faster and faster, follows a model of punctuated equilibrium, with rapid change interrupting periods of relative stability. Certainly it feels to me that in the communications realm, we are groping around for new standard forms to settle on. But maybe that's my wishful thinking.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Catholic blogs starting with "D"

I incorrectly identified Dappled Things as Disputations in the last post. It has been corrected. Apologies to both...

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Getting a move-on

Busy day today -- right after work I'm going out to dinner and then to the movies, so all I have time for is a quick post from work. Unfortunately, I can't think of any quick posts to do. I can think of long posts. I'd like to elbow into Peter Nixon's discussion with Dappled Things, and add to Sappho's response to Eve Tushnet on gender. But alas, there isn't time. However, if I say publicly I'm going to write these posts, I think that means I have to do it...
That sounds like my editorial meetings

Jonathan Chait thnks the Wall Street Journal is run by James Bond villains:
When I try to visualize the editorial meeting that produced this bit of diabolical inspiration, I imagine one of the more rational staffers--maybe Dorothy Rabinowitz--tentatively raising her hand and asking, "Isn't that idea a bit, you know, immoral?" Then Robert Bartley or Paul Gigot would emit a deep, sinister laugh and press a hidden button, depositing the unfortunate staffer into a tank of piranhas. Come to think of it, I haven't seen Rabinowitz's byline in a couple of weeks.

Wrath of God

Mark at Minute Particulars responded to my earlier post with a helpful clarification of the Catholic view of anger. I've heard Christians toss off the phrase "anger is a sin" before, but I kind of suspected that for intellectual types it's more complicated (I'm sure if Telford weren't so distracted, he'd have a long disquisition on it himself). Coincidentally, I ran across an article on the same subject in an old issue of First Things:
Of course it is true that in the Sermon on the Mount, as in the most otherworldly passages of Paul’s Epistles, Christians are told to (in Paul’s words) “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you” (Ephesians 4:31; cf. Colossians 5:8, 1 Timothy 2:8). However, the full Christian teaching on anger is subtler than such passages might lead one to believe. Not only does Paul himself assume the possibility of making crucial moral distinctions when he tells us: “Be angry but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26); but Christ himself becomes angry on several occasions (Matthew 21:12; Mark 3:5, 11:15; John 2:15) and even describes God the Father, by way of a parable, as responding with anger to human beings who behave unjustly (Matthew 18:34–35). (It should go without saying that this verse conforms quite closely to the numerous chapters of the Old Testament in which God becomes angry.)

At the very least, such passages complicate the somewhat facile denigration of anger heard so often today. Anger—as everyone from Jesus Christ to the wisest philosophers and theologians seem to recognize—is not inherently depraved. It is, rather, a salutary expression of the same natural love for one’s own that motivates human beings to assert their God–given rights and dignity against those who would deny them. It is thus also rooted in mankind’s innate love of justice—a love that ultimately draws us closer to God.

So, I stand corrected. (Well, technically I lounge back in my desk chair corrected, but same thing.) I was also probably too hard on Mark with the "bloodless obeisance" line. There is a difference between being righteously angry and heaping abuse on people, and he was trying to point that out.

Also, I apologize if the NPR tale sounded like an anti-Catholic stereotypes. I did not mean to imply Mark would side with the nuns either. The main reason I brought it up was to describe my thought process. Often my unconscious will send me a smoke signal in the form of a dream or a persistent thought or image, so my forebrain goes, hmm, what's this about? You could see the same process happening in this post. I suppose I don't really need to include the smoke signal in the post, and perhaps it's distracting. But I think it's more interesting that way, and it better shows where I'm coming from.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

You plant a demon seed, you raise a flower of fire

Slate today explained why the Ku Klux Klan burns crosses. It was a case of life imitating art: Thomas Dixon's novel The Clansman included a cross-burning, as did the movie version, Birth of a Nation. So even though the KKK hadn't previously burned crosses, they took it up after the movie.

The inimitable Cecil Adams covered this some years ago and added another life-imitating-art layer to it: the idea had originally been popularized by Sir Walter Scott's poem Lady of the Lake. It really was an ancient Scottish custom, but Cecil adds a wrinkle:
Just one problem. The fiery cross of Scottish legend wasn't the upright Roman cross commonly used by the Klan. Rather it was the X-shaped cross of St. Andrew. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and an X-shaped cross probably also was a lot easier to make a signal bonfire out of. But nobody ever said the Klan's big attraction was its meticulous sense of detail.
Falling from grace

The Gutless Pacifist fears he's heretical for linking to Razormouth's laceration of a Huggy Jesus Doll.
Running low on awful, possibly blasphemous Christmas gift ideas this year?

Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great schlock; kitsch shall be to all the people.

For unto you is placed this day under the tree in your living room a doll, which is Huggy Jesus!

Verily, for only $29.95, plus a mere $7.00 shipping and handling, your child can receive from you this "collectable, soft and cuddly, hypoallergenic" Jesus doll designed to let kids know how much the Lord loves them. By parting with a piddling 37 bucks, says, "All can enjoy the warmth and comfort of Huggy Jesus."

Hey Pen, since you're a heretic too now, you want to join me in a rousing chorus of Plastic Jesus? That's sure to get us both hit by lightning...

In the gloaming

My gym is (mostly) closed for repairs this week, so I've taken up the very un-L.A. habit of walking. This is especially unusual because the weather has been, by SoCal standards, bad. Today I walked to Venice Beach, about two miles from my apartment, in a howling wind.

I arrived at the beach just after sunset. I'd never been there when it was like this. The tourists, buskers, bodybuilders, trinket-sellers, even the surfers were gone. The ocean was roiling, the palm trees bowed, and the sand blew low to the ground in currents and rivers of wind, overtaking the pavement in sinous patterns. Although it was cold and the sand kept blowing into my eyes, I was thinking: yeah! Woohoo! Nature is so tame here most of the time, there's something thrilling about being out in it when it gets dramatic.

I walked home, thinking how tomorrow we'd wake up to cleaner air, a bluer sky and dead palm fronds scattered all over the road. Then I got home to find that the wind was the southern edge of a storm that killed nine people. Such is nature, in all its beauty and destruction.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Time out

I fell on my bad wrist yesterday and it's swelled up and sore, so my typing stamina is rather limited. Such as as it is, I feel obliged to save it up for work. I'm especially annoyed because I'd really like to respond to Minute Particulars, but that will have to wait.