June 01, 2004


Posted by shonk at 04:20 AM | permalink | comment

I apologize for the lack of content this weekend. Aside from the fact that Curt and I were both stuck in dial-up land, I was laid up for most of the weekend with three straight days of migraines. Hopefully, new content later today.

February 29, 2004

Simmering blood-feuds in the comment-box!

Posted by Curt at 03:43 AM | permalink | 1 comment

To those of you who have followed the comments on my original post on Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ it should by now be apparent that many people have invested themselves personally in this debate more than is the case in most of the issues that we treat of in this weblog. I should say up front that in my opinion the relative artistic merits of the film are fairly irrelevant; the controversy sparked by this film has touched upon issues which have swirled about almost since the time of Jesus, and will doubtless long outlast the notoreity of this film. In this respect, so far as these issues are concerned it matters not at all whether this film is a masterpiece or a turd. My concern is with the fundamental issues involved, not with their representation in this particular film, so any further comments regarding the film itself will henceforth receive no further attention on my part. Now, as for these more substantive issues, I wrote the original post intending to critique the activists who have quite irrationally, in my opinion, protested this film on account of its depiction of Jews as primarily responsible for the death of Christ. Now, surprising as it may seem in light of the numerous comments which have criticized me for allegedly questioning the historical validity of the Gospels, virtually the entire basis of my point in the post was to opine that, absent any substantive historical evidence to contradict the Gospel account of Christ’s death as being primarily the fault of certain Jews, the protests against this version of the story amounts to little more than a futile desire to exonerate the Jews without historical evidence, combined with a bullying victim-oriented ideology bent on exonerating them with or without evidence. Actually, my larger point was that whether or not any Jews are legitimately implicated in the death of Christ should have no bearing on how we treat living Jews, who had no part in these events of the distant past, and that in a larger sense punishment for historical crimes should never be inflicted on the perpetrators’ descendents.

Now, I could well have understood have understood a criticism of this opinion to the effect that crimes of the father actually do accrue to the son, and that issues of historical guilt and innocence need to be worked out in the present to bring the cycle of vengeance to an end. Instead, criticism (aside from the trivial issue of whether I have dealt fairly with the movie, which I freely admit that I have not seen and which only interests me insofar as the controversy surrounding it sheds light on the larger issues which I speak of now) seems to have come from quite a different quarter, namely the argument that I should not even consider questioning the validity of the Gospels, nor should I criticize a rigid adherence to the doctrine and narrative laid out in them. Now, I should perhaps state that I am not a Christian nor do I follow any religious denomination, so, to put it bluntly, I could not give a flying fuck whether anyone is offended by me taking an irreverent attitude towards scripture. Now, anyone who has read my words carefully will realize that I actually grant the Gospels historical validity in accordance with the non-contradiction principle, that is to say that I consider them reasonably historically valid absent documented contradiction of them. But I certainly will not move from that limited and conditional endorsement to a wholseale and unquestioning acceptance of them historically, morally or devoutly. Such an unquestioning acceptance of them is, in my opinion, highly characteristic of, in not the definition of, fundamentalism. Too many words have already been expended on overly subtle readings of my every word, so let me state this clearly and succinctly: I consider those who blame living Jews for the alleged crimes of their ancestors to be irrational, perverse and despicable. It is definitely a fundamentalist attitude to conclude that because the Gospels blame Christ’s death on certain Jews, this is indubitably the case. It is not necessarily a fundamentalist belief that because certain Jews living at the time of Christ were responsible for his death, Jews living to day should suffer reprisal, but it is a common characteristic of fundamentalists to, as Yeats observed, try to separate religious identity from the rest of human existence, so that members of a particular religious denomination, Judaism, for example, are viewed religiously as no more than a sum of the doctrines that their group espouses and of the actions of their group throughout the course of history. Again, this does not inherently accompany a religiously fundamentalist mindset; fundamentalism has enough unappealing qualities as is without attaching this inextricably to it. However, a retributive historical mindset does often accompany a fundamentalist mindset, accords well with it, and explains, I believe, most of the vengeance-seeking holy wars throughout the ages. The reason that I consider this despicable as well as superficial is because, as I said in my original post, moral responsiblity is solely characteristic of individual existence. An individual can be held responsible only for his own actions, and cannot be held responsible for what he had no part in. Hence, seeking vengeance for ancient historical crimes is wholly illegitimate. Finally, I should be the first to admit that fundamentalism is not limited solely to religion; one can apply this mindset to Mao’s little red book or to Adam Smith, but this does not mean that the religious fury that I have described above does not qualify as fundamentalism. Perhaps I should have said “the basic hollowness of the attitude of the Christian fundamentalists who wish to extract vengeance on living Jews” rather than “the basic hollowness of fundamentalism,” but my opinion remains unchanged regardless.

p.s. I didn’t really mean to write an attack of fundamentalism, although little love for it is lost on my part. However I will say that even if I were a fundamentalist I don’t think I would choose to defend my mode of belief on grounds of rationality. If I were inclined to stake my entire belief-system on unconditional acceptance of doctrine, the syllogistic system of moving from given premises to a valid conclusion which is the central dialectical mode of logic would seem to be pretty thin soup by comparison. Those who attempt to apply principles of logic to events and ideas in the world generally remain in a constant fog of doubt, never able to assent to anything more than conditionally and consistently hemmed in by the scope of their premises. Now, in a shadowy sense one could mimic the motions of logic within a fundamentalist framework by equating doctrine with logical premises, and then proceeding to conclusions purely within the bounds of doctrine. But shadows should not be mistaken for reality, and the key difference is that those who really follow a logical mode of thought never assent to either their premises or their conclusions unreservedly (of course in mathematics validity and truth are tantamount to the same thing, because the logical identity of numbers and their actual nature is identical as far as we know, but in any case this surety does not extend to the world outside of mathematics). Were I a fundamentalist, were I desirous of maintaining absolute surety on the matters addressed by the doctrine I had accepted, logic or rationality, with their terminal and irresolvable uncertainty, are the last things with which I would want anything to do. It should be pretty obvious that believing anything wholly unquestioningly is just as abstract and impossible as doubting everything, but starting from a state of doubt and questioning all that one can at the beginning seems less arbitrary to me than simply fixing on certain beliefs with certainty from the beginning.

February 14, 2004

How to explain bumper stickers?

Posted by Curt at 04:44 PM | permalink | 9 comments

Why are the anti-war activists and the anti-capitalism activists and everyone else who might be suspected of having it in for the U.S. government so desperate these days to assert their patriotism? I’m no supporter of activists of any stripe, but it seems to me that they do themselves a double humiliation by insisting that their blind obedience and self-abasement before some idiotic cause does not preclude them from also blindly obeying and self-abasing themselves before a flag. I have my doubts about the sincerity of a lot of this rhetoric, but even if all of the braying to the effect of “Peace is patriotic” or “I’m just as patriotic as anyone in this country even though I think the U.S. should be exactly like Sweden” were sincerely meant, it’s still rather contemptible. Why not be unpatriotic? Would that be insufficiently narrow-minded? Once again, we must have recourse to the under-appreciated sage Bill Hicks:

“I was over in Australia and [everyone asked:] ‘Are you proud to be an American?’ And I was like, ‘Um, I don’t know, I didn’t have a lot to do with it. You know, my parents fucked there, that’s about all. You know, I was in the spirit realm at that time; [I shouted:] ‘Fuck in Paris! Fuck in Paris!’ but they couldn’t hear me, because I didn’t have a mouth. I was a spirit without lungs or a mouth, or vocal cords. They fucked here. Okay, I’m proud.”

But of course, it’s better that they didn’t fuck in Paris, because than he would have been French, and it remains an open question whether the French possess a sense of humor (this article suggests that they don’t).

January 23, 2004

The Friday catharsis

Posted by Curt at 09:43 PM | permalink | comment

At the risk of doubling my crime of Yeats-quoting, here is one of his notes to “Responsibilities” which I think pretty well sums up my main point of detestation of both religion and politics because what it criticizes are, I think, not characteristic not only of their Irish (or American) manifestations, but of the concepts themselves:

“I am constantly reminded of…of the futilitiy of all discipline that is not of the whole being. Religious Ireland…thinks of divine things as a round of duties separated from life and not as an element that may be discovered in all circumstance and emotion, while political Ireland sees the good citizen but as a man who holds to certain opinions and not as a man of good will.”

September 16, 2003


Posted by shonk at 03:43 AM | permalink | comment

I know I haven't updated in a while; my life is extremely hectic right now. Hopefully I will get settled into a routine soon and updates will be more regular.

August 27, 2003

Paucity of posts

Posted by shonk at 11:04 PM | permalink | comment

You know, every day I think to myself that I'm going to make a real post. And everyday, I don't. Today my excuse is that my new computer came in and I'm having way too much fun playing with it. After I spent half an hour trying to get it to find the damn DHCP router, that is.

That, and pens keep blowing up on me. I'm a big fan of those Pilot rollerball pens, which write great and last a long time. The problem being that if you take them from high altitude to low altitude (or vice versa), they tend to leak ink. Usually all over my hands and/or face. The trouble is, I always seem to buy pens in Colorado, but I'm always using them in places like Tennessee or Philadelphia. Which is pretty stupid, when you consider that this has been happening to me for the last 4 years. The only thing worse is taking one on a plane - needless to say, knowing my track record, I'll probably do that on Friday when I fly up to Toronto. I wonder how my girlfriend would react to a giant black inkstain on my pants when we see eachother for the first time in months.

Anyway, each of the last two days I've ended up with black ink all over myself and had to throw away two pens. I may be forced to go back to the generic ballpoint just to save my clothes.

August 07, 2003

Internet Explorer

Posted by shonk at 09:46 PM | permalink | comment

Well, for the first time, it's time for me to complain about Internet Explorer. Now, I know this is a common complaint among web developers, but you have to understand, this is my first real attempt at building a page. Okay, now the complaint is this: there's supposed to be a sidebar to the right of these entries, containing links to archives, other pages I like, the book I'm currently reading, etc. But, if you're using Internet Explorer, you may see this stuff at the very bottom of this page instead of to the right.

Why? Well, I'm not exactly sure, but here's a partial answer. In the main stylesheet, I've indicated that the blog entries are supposed to take up 60% of the total width of the window. Now, this leaves 40% for the sidebar, which is more than I would really like, but not too bad. Now, in IE, if the browser window is small enough, IE decides that 40% isn't enough for what's in the sidebar and kicks it down to the bottom of the page. What's the rationale for doing this? I have no idea, but I think it may have something to do with how IE wants to display the calendar (hopefully) at right. And, I should mention, Mozilla doesn't have this problem. So, in an attempt to fix it, I've reduced the width of the blog entries from 65% of the page to 60% as this allows a much smaller window to view the page and still see the sidebar on the side.

Gee, IE making more work for web developers (of which I am one only in the loosest possible sense) - who could've imagined?


Posted by shonk at 01:11 AM | permalink | comment

My format has finally come out of generic hell and actually looks like I spent more than ten minutes on it (it doesn't look like I spent as much time as I actually did, but that's because I'm incompetent with CSS; thank god for W3Schools). Huge thanks to Petya for all the help. Мерси!

I spent all the time I might have spent writing an actual post in changing the look of the site, instead. Which is a good, since all I'm doing is packing my stuff to move, anyway. Gotta load up the U-Haul trailer tomorrow, then leave for Philly early Friday morning. It's going to be a long weekend.

August 05, 2003


Posted by shonk at 01:16 AM | permalink | comment

p>Just had to go through and fix a whole bunch of ASCII fuck-ups. Hopefully it won't happen again.

Oh, and I added a new plug-in, so now you can look to the right of your screen and always know what book I'm currently reading. Aren't you thrilled?