Archive for the 'Ranting' Category

To the barricades (between the cubicles), comrades!

I tend to think that whether or not you believe there’s a God is less important than what kind of God you envision. After all, it’s not like searching for Bob, where you have a name and just need to find whether someone answers to it. Here what you imagine you’re searching for will largely determine what you find. For some, God lies in everything around them. For others, the divine is anything but the perceptible–it’s like the hole in which our universe rests. I would give you my opinion about the merits of these views, but I’m still trying to apply for my Russian visa, and I’m not sure which direction they’re leaning these days there.

And that process already has enough pains. For instance, I have to get an AIDS test to apply for the visa. Apparently testimonials from ex-girlfriends aren’t enough. This requirement is all backwards though. Americans should be testing Russians when they come here, not the other way around, since it’s Russia that’s the AIDS cesspool that has managed to become practically the only place outside the damp bit of Africa to have a male life expectancy under 60 and a rising rate of HIV infection.

On the other hand, there’s not much point in getting old in Russia since old people there are completely worthless after being pressed for their entire lives into a mold that’s the complete opposite of anything that might be needed to make money and survive independently. Of course the old have trouble communicating across the generations in any society. Life is like a pool with parallel lanes and the elderly are like the 400-lb.-dead-lifting East Germans that have almost reached the finishing point at the far end and for someone like me, the Equatorial Guinean that doesn’t even have a pool to practice in and who’s still back near the starting line, has to shout even to make himself heard by them that far away. No wonder they usually have a hard time hearing.

In any event, fortunately we are spared the fate of Russia by a nimble army of great-hearted warriors of freedom, namely the ACLU. Just today I saw a flyer of theirs advertising internships with the slogan: “Because civil liberties can’t defend themselves.? Since, in keeping with current advertising-slogan fashion, that’s neither a complete sentence nor a complete thought, I think they should have added: “they need the high ethical standards of the legal profession looking after them.?

Hard-core hagiography

Behold perhaps the most ludicrous movie trailer I’ve ever seen. The unintentional comedy is too various to even mention here, but when are people going to get off this subject? After accepting that the Virgin Mary was impregnated by a beam of light and the doctrine of consubstantiality, why are we pretending to be skeptical and look for evidence for our theories now? On the other hand it doesn’t surprise me that the people that Jesus was supposed to have become the father of are French, or that the French renouncing of the authority of the Catholic Church has by an admirably circuitous act of deviousness now allowed them to claim to be the children of the Son of God.

At any rate, this scanning of old paintings is turning the museums and cathedrals of Europe into Us fucking Weekly. “Is she pregnant?” “Do they look together in this picture?” So far fundamentalist Christians have been locked in a long and extremely un-scary feud with the entertainment industry, but now my biggest fear if Jesus does come back to earth is that religious veneration and its idolatrous cousin celebrity culture will merge. The Beatific Vision is basically the same principle as one long gratuitously doting photo shoot. The Rapture will probably be some interminable red-carpet ceremony and all eternity will be Oscar night, with the blessed collecting their trophies and the condemned passed up for the award for “Most Convincing Design of Prosthetics for 70-year-olds” forced to sit there and stare at the doors with fire-exit signs saying “No Exit” above them.

Whatever the Future Business Leaders of America say, no society would work if everyone were a leader. Most people have to be followers. So it makes sense that most people have an innate tendency to fawn on those that seem to be leaders. But just like with porn, religion and celebrity worship have both managed to lure an instinct with a perfectly useful and necessary biological function for survival off the path and trick it into rubbing its leadership-worshiping member for something that’s either not there or has been created purely to agitate this very feeling.

the inventor-of-dynamite peace prize

As much as people may admire the winners of Nobel prizes, the discouraging fact remains that becoming prominent enough in physics or medicine or literature to win one probably lies beyond the intellectual capacity of most. Fortunately for them, a consoling hope still exists in the form of a Nobel prize for mediocre minds: the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s gotten to the point where any Democratic President of the U.S. (or even presidential candidate) who doesn’t win one should probably consider themselves a total failure. All it used to take seemed to be spending a weekend at the presidential retreat with the leaders of a couple of warring Middle Eastern states and standing between them like a minister between bride and groom at a wedding while they recite vows that they are just as unlikely to keep. But now even that much isn’t necessary. Granted Al Gore doesn’t get to take advantage of the presidential retreat to host dictators taking time off from planning their next invasion of their neighbors to take credit for negotiating a settlement to their last one. Still, not only is it entirely unclear how spreading propaganda about global warming contributes to world peace, this is a man so unwilling to bury the hatchet that he did his best to break up the peaceful electoral succession of U.S. leaders by sending a pack of lawyers to Florida to bandy theories about the electoral preferences of a few senile gas emitters from Florida for two months. Now that the Nobel committee has made its criteria for winning the Peace Prize so opaque and unclear through seemingly trying to become a mirror for every trendy global fad of the moment, I’m praying that this doesn’t lead at some point to them wheeling out an actual mirror at the prize-giving ceremony and declaring that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is “YOU.”

Life stretched thin

If the basic desire of man, as Miguel de Unamuno contends, is personal immortality, and immortality consists of the endless repetition of a person’s thoughts on to eternity, then he comes as close to realizing his dream in Del sentimiento trágico de la vida as anyone probably should. How many different ways can you possibly say “I want to live forever”? Personally, I don’t know what I’d do with eternal life. Generally, I take it as a premise in life that you shouldn’t long for those things which you can have no possible knowledge, evidence or report of, not because they’re impossible but because how do do you know that they’re really all that great? Anyway, if everyone’s existence has a certain finite value and you were to divide it by an infinite length of time, its value at any given point in time would come so close to zero as to make no odds. I call it the Mick Jagger Principle, since he’s basically lived an eternity in rock-star years. Surely I’m not the only one who would respect him a lot more if he had had the dignity to choke to death on his own vomit at 28 like Hendrix? Not that any of this will probably dissuade those hell-bent on immortality (so to speak), but, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, those that most want to live forever are probably those that you’d least want to actually do so.