Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Categories of Knowledge

There are the known unknowns and then there are the unknown unknowns, it has been famously said. There are also the known knowns that aren't so and the unknown knowns that we know about but haven't noticed that we know them. The known knowns that are so make up the smallest category of knowledge. The unknown unknowns is the largest.

Then there's the unknowable. There are some things (most things in the universe) that we are too stupid to grasp. We can't even conceive of questions to ask about them let alone comprehend the answers. God is mostly unknowable. What we think we know about God is mostly wrong or just plain inadequate to describe God. Our metaphors don't really work. Pulling Leviathan out of the water with a fish hook is not a big deal for God as impressive at it was for Job. God knows we're stupid, so it shouldn't be held against us.

Animation in Commercials

The Lectric Shave commercial features whiskers with faces. They wake up when the Lectric Shave is applied and, as the fall away into the hopper, one of them remarks "That was close." What happens to those sentient whiskers once they are freed from the face? Do their lives go on in the trash can or the septic tank? They didn't seem unhappy about being shaved.

Mucinex has animated boogers in its commercials. They are depicted as moving in to a person's nose from outside and taking up residence until banished by Mucinex. This is so wrong. Boogers are products of the body. They don't move in from outside. They are a reaction to a germ or allergen and perfrom a vital function. The animated boogers in the commercial are depicted as fat cigar smoking lowlifes rather than the heros that they really are.

There's a product that fights toenail fungus that features in its commercials an animated toenail fungus that looks like a tiny Gollum. Fungi are not animals, so this is not a very instructive representation of the problem. It makes you feel a little bad about killing the toenail fungi. One of the possible side effects of the product is sudden death, so I'll just live with toenail fungus.

There's an allergy medicine (Pollinex?)with an animated honeybee with a vaguely Spanish accent. I can live with the concept of a talking bee, but the damned thing has teeth. How the hell does a bee sip nectar with a dental arcade? That's when it falls apart for me. And it doesn't have compound eyes, either. Sheesh.

I like the animated bears that pitch toilet paper that won't stick to your ass. Aside from ass wiping and talking, these bears seem fairly bearlike.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

We saw Slumdog Millionaire on Saturday night, and I found it to be one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. I loved the way the story of Jamal and Salim Malik, growing up in the slums of Mumbai, was told. Jamal is a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and is about to win 20 million rupees. Because he's an uneducated "Slumdog", he is supected of cheating and interrogated aggressively by the police. He relates each of the answers that he has gotten in the game to events in his life, and these are shown in flashback. The child actors are extraordinary.

Go see it. It's Dickensian but not as maudlin.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

One State, Two State

M. Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, has an op-ed in the NY Times in which he makes a case for a "one state solution" to the confict between Palestinians and Israelis: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/opinion/22qaddafi.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

I don't see anything in the essay that I can argue with, and I have long believed that there is no good reason for the territory that comprises Israel and Palestine to be separated into distinct polities. As its stands now, the situation is tantamount to apartheid. A single political system would provide a mechanism for the management of conflict and the sharing of power. Of course, advocates for a Jewish state would argue that sharing the state with Gentiles would render the state something other than a Jewish state. That's certainly true, but I for one do not see the necessity for a Jewish state. A homeland, yes. State, not so much, especially when the maintenance of that state entails the disenfrachisement of so many Palestinians.

In the alternative, I would support the "two state solution" if it were implemented in good faith and without regard to the Jewish settlements that have sprung up in Palestinian territory to undermine the peace process. Let the settlers be content with living as subjects of the new Palestinian state if they insist on living in the Palestinian territory.

My personal preferred solution is a single state under a Christian monarch, the King of Jerusalem, the heir to which throne is Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Unlucky Romans

Steve Scott has covered this as well as anyone http://fromthepew.blogspot.com/search/label/Re-Thinking%20Romans%2013, but I feel a need to rant about Romans 13 and other Biblical references to obeying authority. In my opinion, the authors of these texts were giving good advice to the early churches: Don't stand out as overtly seditious or as scofflaws. This made a lot of sense when persecution was a real possibility. It also made the movement unattractive to seekers who would fear to be associated with a gang of lawbreakers.

Beyond that, I reckon too much is read into the texts. They are qualified as holding that God ordains authorities to punish evil and reward good, and we all know that authorities go way beyond that mandate and even do the opposite. I suspect that this language was put in letters in case they were intercepted and that this was a kind of code for advising the assembly to avoid trouble and to appear to be loyal to rulers and, in fact, to pray for rulers and accept it if by chance they did something right. Any other reading seems absurd to me.

What is meant by authority, anyway? If Caesar conquers my country by the sword and exercises power over me, does he likewise have authority as from God? If we are never to rebel against authority, was not the founding of the United States via treason and rebellion a sin? And what of the simple subject of the crown in that rebellion? With whom was he to side? At what point is he supposed to recognize a new authority even when it is conceived in rebellion? Were the conspirators in the Underground Railroad sinners against God? What happens when one authority opposes another as in a war? Is God fighting God? Were the martyrs of the early church defying God when they defied Caesar?

I reckon the authors of these texts were stating nothing but the obvious when they observed that all authority comes from God. Since everything that happens from the beginning of time was foreordained, political events and figures were also foreordained just like plagues and hurricanes and mass extinctions. I reckon that the early Christians would have understood that but that outsiders would not have. Caesar's agents would have been able to report that Christians acknowledge Caesar's authority as Divinely Ordained. Caesar, having no discernment, might take comfort in that and, being a self important douche, would consider that it meant he was singled out. Of course, there was no pleasing Caesar, and it wasn't enough to declare him God's gift; you had to recognize him as God incarnate.

Read so as to avoid absurd implications, these texts are still good advice to Christians. Acquiesce in the requirements of rulers and avoid trouble as much as you can. It is error to read these texts as requiring blind obedience, let alone wholehearted acceptance and participation in the acts of governments.


Last night, some of us from the choir and the chorale sang at an ecumenical service of unity at a nondenominational church around the corner from ours. The host church had an espresso bar where most churches have a fellowship hall. They also had a pretty gnarly praise band.

We were the only traditional choir, and we performed a song written by our music director based on MLK's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Five pastors spoke and led prayers. One of them was tasked with leading a prayer for the officials of East Fishkill. He led off by reading from Romans 13. I reckon the purpose was to demonstrate that praying for local officials was appropriate since "all authority" is mentioned. Still, it disturbed me to have this read out at length, and I dreaded what was to come. Another pastr led a prayer for New York State officials. A passage from a letter ascribed to Peter was read as directing Christians to respect authority as God given to punish eveil and reward good. The Catholic priest led a prayer for the officals of the United States. All these prayers were for the officals to be granted wisdom and to work justice and to do right. There was, I ws grateful, no authoritarian undertone.

One of our associate pastors, the one who has the prophetic gift, gave the sermon. He spoke of unity as the body of Christ workin in the world and seeking the Kingdom. His text was from Matthew "Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness..." He decried our tendency to get together in our "Holy huddles" and focus mainly on how we worship and how we take care of ourselves. He preached a vision of a Hopewell Junction where all the churches of the vicinity came together to meet the needs of the community by building clinics, serving as tutors in schools, feeding the hungry and ministering to the poor and vulnerable, and sharing our gifts with the world not just within the walls of our churches. He talked of Jesus among us, alive today and ruling His Kingdom right here and now through His church.

It was uplifting. I was inspired to get out and help my fellow man. The feeling will pass all too soon if past experience is a guide. I pray that it won't.

Backwards Blogging the Inauguration

I liked President Obama's speech. It was inspiring, provocative, and not too long. The man's charming, eloquent, intelligent, and adult.

Do you reckon GW Bush was smart enough to know that he was getting dissed big time?

Chief Justice Roberts seemed pretty flustered by the stepstool that was provided to him to keep him from looking like a munchkin. He declined to stand on it and then flubbed the oath. Who will be the first wingnut to claim that the Obama presidency is illegitimate because the oath was not done properly?

I didn't catch the whole thing, but I didn't hear Rick Warren say anything especially crazy in his invocation. Of course, he was probably thinking crazy thoughts the whole time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Forget everything I wrote in the last post about how to stimulate the economy. I've decided we need to put every dime into the space program. We have got to get cracking on the colonization of space before it's too late. It's insane to stake the fate of humanity on this one planet when we know that it's going to be destroyed at some point.

Any day, an asteroid could slam into the planet. Or the Earth could spew up massive quantities of gas and magma in supervolcanos and drive us to extinction. We might end up like Venus. I don't want to live on Venus, do you? Not unless we fix it.

Eventually, the moon is going to fly away from Earth's orbit, and then the planet will lose its stability unless we come up with some handy dandy planet stabilizer. At some point, the sun is going to burn out, and then how comfortable will Earth be? Not very, if my calculations are correct, and I think they are.

Did you know that Andromeda and the Milky Way are on a collision course? That won't be pretty. Well, it might be pretty, but it's bound to be destructive and not conducive to life.

I don't want our descendants (your descendants anyway since I don't have kids) to say "if only our ancestors had invested in the space program in 2009, we'd be a two planet species and could survive [apocalyptic scenario here], but at least we have some nice bridges."

We can't afford to procrastinate any longer. Everything depends on the space program. Everything.

Suggested Stimuli

Build a new Tappan Zee Bridge with ten lanes each way. It won't help me, except I won't have to listen to my conspecifics from Jersey bitch about their commute. Nobody held a gun to their heads and made them live across the Hudson. I make it a point wherever possible to live on the same side of the river that I work so as to avoid choke points like bridges and tunnels. Mrs Vache Folle once had a job on the other side of the Potomac in Virginia, but she commuted against traffic and took the subway most of the time.

It's high time for a National Clown College to take its place alongside the other service academies.

Pave the Taconic State Parkway with a substance that will not disintegrate after every snowstorm leaving enormous wheel killing potholes. It's the 21st century for crying out loud; let's come up with some good paving material. And you know the drain grates on the edge of the road? How about we make those flush with the rest of the road. And do the roadwork outside the rush hours for a change or let us know ahead of time that you'll be tying up the road so we can take alternate routes.

Let's make high speed internet and cell phone access available everywhere in America. No dead zones!

Extend the NY subways into neighboring jurisdictions such as Westchester and Nassau and over into Jersey. Take the monorail in Seattle and extend it to Portland and Vancouver. Monorails for every city while we're at it. You know the trolley systems that once existed in many towns but were torn up? Rebuild them! Let that trolley in Seattle go all the way to Issaquah and Everett.

Let's put all the power and telephone lines and cables underground so we can make historic movies without worrying about power lines in the background.

New schools would be nice. A lot of towns have been using "temporary" structures for decades. Let's give them fancy new digs with separate cafeterias and auditoriums. No child should have to suffer the indignity of eating in or attending an assembly in a "cafetorium" as I did at Dug Gap Elementary.

Let's buy everyone a high powered rifle and train them in its use and maintenance.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Defense of Marriage

As a person of faith, marriage means a lot more to me than how it is defined by the state. It has a spiritual and personal dimension over which the state has no authority and in which the state should have no interest. The state does not legitimize my marriage; rather, it demeans it by conflating its concept of marriage with the totality of Marriage as experienced by couples.

The state imposes burdens and grants benefits to married couples under its licensing scheme that are unavailable to unmarried couples or that are difficult for unmarried couples to achieve through private arrangements. Why does the state confer these benefits on married people? What state interest, if any, is furthered by the licensing scheme and the exercise of jurisdiction over marriage? Based on the arguments of would be defenders of traditional marriage, I imagine that the state reckons that it should promote and reward relatively stable domestic arrangements. These are supposed to be conducive to the public order, the rearing of well adjusted and healthy children, and the welfare of the participants. Married people are said to prosper.

Conceding for the sake of argument that this is a legitimate state interest, why would the state limit the benefits and burdens of marriage to heterosexual couples? Wouldn't any couple (or polygamous group for that matter) benefit from stable domestic arrangements just as much as heterosexual couples, especially if they are rearing children? Wouldn't the interests of the state be served just as much by conferring the benefits and burdens of state sanctioned marriage on anyone who seeks them without regard to gender or sexual activity?

Suppose a brother and his widowed sister want to live together and raise her children together. Allowing them to form a civil union, despite the nonsexual nature of their relationship, would be a benefit to them and would advance the interests of the state. Suppose two friends of the same sex decide to pool their resources and establish a household on a long term basis. How would denying them the chance to form a civil union further the aims of the state?

Whether the proposed couple is sexually active should be a matter of indifference to the state. Stable domestic arrangements aren't really about sex, as anyone who has been married for a long time can attest.

I would like to see the state get out of the business of regulating domestic arrangements altogether, but short of that I would like to see the term "marriage" replaced by "civil union" or some such thing as Sunstein and Thaler suggest in Nudge. That way, churches can be free to define marriage any way they like, and the state can treat all its subjects equally.

Good Riddance, GWB!

I'm looking forward to the departure of GW Bush with glee. I can't stand him. The sound of his voice is like fingernails on a chalk board. His chimplike face and idiot smirk make me want to hurl projectiles. I have less than zero respect for the lying sack of shit. I don't even respect his office. He has ended any consideration of respecting the presidency for all time. Once a GW Bush has been president, the whole concept is permanently debased. Instead of Hail to the Chief, we should play the Benny Hill theme music whenever a president appears.

Also, it will be a relief not to go to bed at night wondering what moronic thing GW Bush might decide on to get us all killed.

So far, GW Bush is the Douche of the Century.

Some reckon that history will vindicate him. I reckon that the most GW Bush should expect from history is the onset of a postapocalyptic dystopia which will suck so much that folks will look back on the Bush years as better than their hellish existence.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Big Hollywood

Tbogg takes the low hanging fruit that is Big Hollywood and lets it critique itself: http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/2009/01/11/well-youll-make-a-rope-of-words-and-strangle-this-business/

Evidently, Big Hollywood is dedicated to the proposition that film moguls make movies based on something other than their desire to make money. These moguls have a moral duty to make "conservative" movies, if by conservative one means mindlessly nationalistic and devoted to depicting war as heroic and fun rather than ugly and difficult. Filmmakers should not depict soldiers as anything less than heroes sacrificing all for the state and reaping their glorious reward.

I reckon that there are lots of crappy movies with no moral ambiguity to confuse the "conservative" mind and that the gang at Big Hollywood should subscribe to NetFlix and gorge themselves on Chuck Norris movies. Or they could rent some propaganda films from WW2.

Maybe they could shop some scripts around and see if they can get their dream movies made. Here's the pitch: Conservative blogger is thrust into the International War on Terror and singlehandedly takes on the forces of the Caliphate. Along the way he rescues an entire harem of grateful scantily clad women enslaved by the evil terrorist ringleader, and they agree to have sex with him. Explosions and car chases abound. Lots of patriotic monologues not unlike conservative blog posts.

Better Air Travel

I wish, without much hope, that the stimulus plan for the US economy would result in a high speed passenger railroad system. I would take the train even if it took twice as long as a plane because flying has become such a hellish experience. Competition from trains might get the airlines to do better.

Speaking of planes, I learned on Ecopolis on the Science Channel this weekend that most of the noise of airliners comes from the air moving around the planes themselves. If the shape of airliners was changed to more of a flying wing, the noise would almost disappear, and more airports could be built without annoying people. This would improve air travel.

Friday, January 09, 2009

New Unjokes

Set up: How do you tell the bride at an Italian wedding?
Punchline: She's usually the one in a white dress up in front of the church.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Vache who?
Vache Folle.

Set up: What's the difference between ignorance and apathy?
Punchline: Ignorance describes a state wherein one has no knowledge, whereas apathy indicates an absence of interest or concern.

A cow walks into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender says "We don't get many talking cows in here." The cow says nothing and leaves without paying.

A Frenchman, a German, and a Pole are on walkabout and arrange to spend the night in farmer's barn. The farmer warns them that they had better stay away from his beautiful daughter and that he'll be sleeping with one eye open and a shotgun at the ready. The Frenchman and the German decide that it would be foolhardy to mess with the farmer's daughter, but the Pole decides he'll give it a try. He sneaks up to the farmhouse and climbs in the window, whereupon the vigilant farmer shoots him dead.

Set up: What do you call a hundred lawyers on the bottom of Lake George?
Punchline: A mystery.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Old Testament Interpretation

I read the Old Testament differently from many of my coreligionists. I don't read it as an historical narrative at all. As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter whether any of the events described in the OT happened. In fact, I would be disappointed to learn that God ever sanctioned genocide or that some of the other disturbing events took place.

The Creation Story is simply a myth, and there is no reason to believe that creation happened as described. That doesn't make the story worthless, though. It just means it has to be understood differently and that you have to work to glean the wisdom from it. The same goes for the Tower of Babel and the Deluge. These things never happened. The stories are valuable, however, in that they reveal how the understanding of God emerged and developed over the centuries among the Jews. The reason that God seems so different in the early books and the later books is that the understanding of God matured over time. At first, God is just like every other deity. You have to placate him with barbecue or He'll smite you. He might smite you anyway. Only later is God concerned with justice and mercy.

Exodus probably didn't happen the way it is described in the Bible, either. I reckon some of the Jews who made up the tribes of Israel had come out of Egypt, and their story, with embellishments, was mythologically useful and served to legitimize the takeover of Palestine and support the national identity. There's good stuff in there; don't get me wrong. But you have to read it for what it really is and to understand it as myth, not as a history book.

The lists of rules and laws is interesting, but there's really no reason to believe that God transmitted this minutiae to the Jewish priests. That was just the customary law that developed among the Jews, and it should be taken for what it's worth. There's no good reason to believe that these laws and rules are appropriate for any society today. You can follow them if you want, but you should really have a better reason for doing so than that they were written down a long time ago and that the authors claimed that they came from God. If I told you that this blog post came from God, would you believe that?

The prophets were writing about their own times and circumstances, so there's no use looking for predictions about now or the near future. That doesn't mean the prophets aren't valuable. They're just valuable in other ways.

Psalms are fabulous poems and should be read as the poet's devotions. The proverbs are just a bunch of sayings that are or or less wise. Some suggest that the righteous always prosper and that the wicked get their comeuppance, but we all know that's just not true. The concept of God in such writings was unsophisticated: if you follow all these rules, only good will come to you. Ecclesiastes is better.

Some would argue that my way of looking at the OT makes for too much freedom of interpretation and diminishes the authority of Scripture. I'll grant the latter, but I don't think you can have too much freedom. I trust the Holy Ghost to guide the reader.

More on Israel

My opinions about Israel have been developed over many years and are pretty well informed. They are quite a bit more complex than it is possible to express in the usual discourse about the subject. ME: "I disapprove of Israeli policy X." INTERLOCUTOR: "Antisemite!"

Some of my conspecifics seem to be of the view that Israel is infallible, and it is not really possible to discuss Israeli policies or activities except to praise them. I am perplexed by this view, and I can't figure out what has informed such an opinion. On the other hand, some reckon Israel can do nothing right, and this is equally perplexing.

Here are the core principles that I have developed in thinking about the conflict in Palestine:

1. God loves both the Jews and the Arabs, and both categories of people are entitled to the same consideration.

2. Peace is good, and violence is bad.

3. Violence in the name of a state is not morally distinguishable from violence by non-state actors.

I am at a loss to figure out what it is about these principles that is antisemitic or why they are so difficult to discuss.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New Testament Interpretation

My take on the New Testament is considerably different to that of many of my co-religionists. I like to think of the books in the New Testament as having a historical context. There were a number of texts in circulation in the early centuries of Christianity, and a committee of Bishops took on the task on deciding which of them to include in the official canon of the official Church and which to exclude. One of the principles used in deciding was "apostolic authority". If a text purported to come from an apostle, it carried more weight than anything written by someone of lesser status or later in time. Another principle was that the text had to jive with the views of the bishops and to support their authority.

The earliest texts, according to scholars, are the letters of Paul, considered an apostle by virtue of his encounter with the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus. There are fourteen such letters, and seven of them are considered pseudopauline and written by someone else altogether, in part because they are so inconsistent with the genuine articles. Paul probably wrote a lot more letters, but these did not survive. Paul was writing to particular churches about particular problems, and I doubt that it ever entered his mind that his letters would one day be taken as holy scripture. He'd have been a lot more careful about what he wrote if he thought he was drafting the Bible. I take Paul's letters, the real ones, as authoritative in the sense that they reflect the views of an important figure who knew Jesus and the other apostles. I don't consider them to have been dictated to Paul by God or to be infallible or inerrant.

I take the other letters by Peter et al in the same way, although I doubt that Peter was the author of the letters attributed to him.

The Gospels and Acts are dated later, John the latest of all. They don't agree in certain details, but I don't reckon that they are meant to be read as historical narratives. The themes and the sayings of Jesus are what matters. Whether Jesus ascended on Easter or 40 days later doesn't much matter. Whether he was born in Bethlehem and visited by the Magi is of no consequence. The Gospels certainly weren't dictated by God, and they should be read with an open mind and an open heart.

Revelations is of little use and probably does more harm than good by being included in the canon. The prophet was writing about his own times in a kind of apocalyptic code.

Ultimately, we each must listen to the Spirit and work hard to discern how to read and use the New Testament.

Sometimes, I wonder when preachers speak of the "Word of God" if they are not conflating the "Word", the Logos with the Bible. In what sense is the Bible God's Word? As far as I can tell, it's the word of human authors who were more or less inspired or discerning, and this does not make it any less important as a source of wisdom.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


I have three kinds of socks: about ten pairs of identical black dress socks, about ten pairs of identical white athletic socks, and three pairs of khaki warm socks. This system allows me to forego worries about mismatched socks or sniglets. It's genius. Mrs Vache Folle resisted this idea for many years but now has seen the light. She maintains a variety of socks to this day but does not seem to mind going to the effort to keep them matched and to select the right sock for every occasion. That's her prerogative. I can't be bothered.

When socks go missing, I've learned that they have likely attached themselves via static charge to other items of clothing. I check myself in the mirror to ascertain whether there might be a sock clinging to my shirt or sweater.

Lies My Parents Told Me and Some Truths


Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. All nonexistent. All entirely gratuitous lies, except for Santa who was sometimes used to extort a few weeks of goodness in December.

Everyone in America is Equal and Can Do Anything They Set Their MInds To. Growing up in the South, I unconsciously added "as long as you're white" to this proposition. I hung on to that one into adulthood. That lie made me feel bad that I never amounted to anything when, truth be told, I did pretty well for cracker spawn. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn't have tried as hard as I did if I hadn't been lied to about my prospects.

A Job Well Done is its Own Reward. Having been stiffed on a few well done jobs, I can tell you that this is definitely not true. Payment for a job well done is the reward. And if you do the job badly and still get paid, that's sometimes even better.

This is Going to Hurt Me More than it Hurts You. Really? Now that I'm an adult and have been really pissed off at some kids whom I mostly love, I can tell that there must be some real satisfaction in flogging them.

The Policeman is Your Friend. This one I figured out pretty early was bollocks. When I became a policeman, I learned just how unfriendly cops really are.


Always Whittle Away from Yourself.

College Football Championship

Which college football team is truly the best? There's really no way of knowing for sure unless they play each other, and there's too many for that. All you can really say is which team is the best in its conference, and if two conference champs go head to head in a bowl, the winner is the best in both conferences. That's good enough for me what with not giving a rat's ass about college football.

Some advocate a playofff system, but I reckon that would take away the pleasure of arguing endlessly about the merits of teams and conferences. As it stands now, each of us is the arbiter of championship and none may gainsay us.

A simple way of deciding championship would be to have the SEC and Big 10 champs play in a bowl each year, the winner being crowned champion of the universe. Everybody knows deep down that the SEC and the Big Ten (or wjatever number it is now) are the only real football playing conferences. I'm not saying there aren't some decent teams in the other conferences, but they have weaker opponents. The Big East and the ACC are pitiful imitations of football conferences.

I am told that some colleges out west field football teams and play each other. One of them, whose mascot is a popular condom brand, even defeated Penn State in a bowl. In time, they may develop a real football tradition.

Monday, January 05, 2009

One True Religion

Our church is having a Wednesday night series of discussions of thorny theological issues. Our pastor calls it "Doubt Night".

The first meeting is supposed to focus on whether there is one true religion. I know the answer to that one. Yes, there is one true religion; it's my religion, and any deviation from my point of view is a deviation from the truth. Of course, I can't prove that my religion is the one true religion, and I have to admit that there is a possibility that I may be mistaken about some things or everything. In fact, the one true religion might not have been discovered yet by anyone. And what is meant by "true"?

I've been thinking a lot about the afterlife lately, mainly because I've been reading a book about Resurrection and what Jews and early Christians believed about thje afterlife. In the first century, there was a widespread belief that the spirits of the dead resided in a place akin to Hades, a joyless abode from which none returned and where there was neither punishment or reward or hope of any kind. The Pharisees had a novel idea that the righteous would be bodily raised at the end of time and their spirits reunited with their bodies. Other sects didn't agree and like Jews of yore reckoned that the present life was all we had. Worship God now, for there is no worship in the land of the dead. Eat and drink and take pleasure in your toil.

I don't know what to make of Christian references to the raising of the dead and to the notion of the afterlife. I have difficulty reconciling the relative importance of an ephemeral earthly life with an eternal afterlife. Is there something about earthly life that is missing from the afterlife? There's evidently no marriage and presumably no sex. Maybe we look back at our miserable time on earth with longing and nostalgia. Maybe there is no afterlife for most of us or any of us. Maybe all the blessings of heaven (absence of toil or pain and what have you) are the blessings of the grave.

Of course, one solution to the "problem" is the Holy Ghost. Those in whom the Holy Ghost dwells will not readily be tempted to focus on the sweet bye and bye and to forget to work for the Kingdom and the betterment of the world in this life.

A Solution for Darfur

What is wanted in Darfur is a benevolent warlord, a defender of the people who will rule them kindly and stand against the criminal syndicate that controls Sudan. Apparently, there's some oil to be exploited, so there might be an economic base to support a warlord and his army of retainers in the long run, especially if those who cry out for military action in Darfur will foot the bill for the initial conquest of the region. A few benefit concerts might go a long way toward funding the crusade to save Darfur.

As I see it, a well equipped division of soldiers of fortune and caring crusaders could secure the safety of the refugees from Darfur, occupy and secure their former homes, repatriate the displaced, and secure the entire region of Darfur against further attacks. A smaller force could continue to defend it and maintain internal order after the Republic of Darfur breaks away from Sudan. Thereafter, the principal concern would be the suppression of any competiing would be warlords within Darfur.

Darfur is poor, and its denizens are not capable of defending themselves from their government. Peacekeeping in that land will require a permanent security apparatus, and the mercenary king might just be the solution.

Shame on Israel

Israel's response in Gaza seems grossly disproportionate to me. As I see it, Israel has two ways to go with the Palestinian problem: (1) do justice to the Palestinians, or (2) wipe them out or drive them away. It looks as if Israel is taking the latter course. Under cover of widespread and inflated fears of Islamic extremism and terrorism and American fundie Christian's lusting for apocalypse today, the Israeli government reckons it can do just about anything it wants to its Palestinian subjects.

It seems to me that Israel's overtures for peace have not been made in good faith. Settlements continue to encroach on the occupied lands, and Israel keeps demanding that Palestinians acknowledge Israel's "right to exist", whatever the hell that means. It appears to mean that the Palestinians must acquiesce in the existence of the state of Israel in the exact form it is today with all its policies and aims and agendas unchanged. The best way to manifest this acknowledgement and probably the only way Irael would accept it would be for Palestinians just to go ahead and kill themselves.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

House and Feeder

So far in calendar year 2009, I have observed 14 species of birds on the feeders. I have been using a mix of songbird and woodpecker blends and have been spreading some cracked corn on the ground. The corn is meant to distract the deer that have been noshing on my shrubbery since the snows began to fall.

Yesterday, Mrs Vache Folle and I changed the two flourescent light fixtures in the kitchen, Mrs VF never liked them, and one of them broke when we were cleaning bugs out of it. My ineptitude in anything "handy" coupled with the jury rigging that the previous lights had been subjected to meant two hours to hang the damn lights. There were no boxes in the ceiling, just wires, and the anchors for the old lights were not in the right places for the new fixtures. The main problem was how tiresom it was to hold the fixtures up and installing anchors overhead.

Speaking of handiness, the kitchen sink has had a leak for a few weeks, and we have had to empty a bucket several times a day. Our neighbor the plumber was a no show, and we haven't gotten around to getting another plumber. I know that I don't even want to try to fix the damned thing myself, and I feel emasculated by my uselessness. At long last, a handyman has been found and is to come on Tuesday. We are making a list of handy stuff for him to take care of. He is the husband of Mrs VF's hairdresser, and he wants this kind of work.

Friday, January 02, 2009


My circumstances were such that I had a lot of roommates and housemates when I was a student. At the University of Georgia, I was unable to get a dorm room and had to scrounge for off campus digs. My first habitat was a double wide trailer in a trailer park outside of Athens with Al, a pre-vet student from Brooklyn, and Jeff the Hobbit, a perpetually stoned, hairy little man from Calhoun who was obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons and who never seemed to leave the trailer. He did on one occasion come with Al and me to a porno.

As the trailer park turned out to be too far from campus for a carless student, I next roomed with a certain Travis H. from Atlanta, a minor Coca Cola heir, in an old lady's garage that had been converted into a guest house. This was very close to campus and on the campus bus route. Travis and his best friend Hector were party animals, and I accompanied them on a few of their forays into the Athens night life, not a few of which ended up in brawls. I would have happily stayed with Travis, but a dorm room opened up and I wanted to have the dorm experience.

My roomie in the dorm was Ralph, a huge ER Burroughs fan (a plus) and the president of the Campus Crusade for Christ (not such a plus). I had been immersed in religious fanatacism in high school and did not intend to get back into the subculture in college, so I was a hard case for Ralph. And since I didn't drink, smoke, do drugs, or screw, I was an enigma to Ralph and his minions. Knowing the jargon helped me mess with their minds. I joined the Episcopal Student Union to get them off my case. So Ralph and I were just amiable room sharers and never developed a social relationship.

When I transferred to American University, I lived in a triple because I had to watch every penny. The first semester, I had Curt B., son of a prof at Penn State and an Elton John fan, and Guy B,. a melancholy literature majot transferred from Towson State. I never realy got to know Curt, but Guy became my fast friend. He walsked around all semseter with a copy of Vanity Fair, the novel, and enaged in a futile courtship of an inaccessible girl who lived on the ground floor of Lett's Hall. He wrote bad poems and mooned about. He drank like a fish and very nearly flunked out of school despite being highly intelligent. I knew from unrequited love, having engaged in a pattern of chasing girls who clealry weren't interested in me in high school, so I endeavored to mentor him.

Neither Curt nor Guy were interested in staying in a triple (and maybe they didn't like living with me) and moved out at the end of the semester into doubles, Guy with a mutual friend Mr Mike down the hall. I had the room to myself for several weeks in the beginning of the Spring Semester, and then Kassra and Mehran, Iranian dudes, moved in. Kassra supported the Islamic Revolution (not enough to participate in it, apparently) but was a peerless partier. Mehran supported the Shah and was more moderate in his sinning. We had some heated discussions that semester. I went with K and M to the St Tropez disco in Georgetown a few times and marvelled at their ability to pick up women with the English phrases I had taught them. I taught them to talk like the Czech brothers from the Akroyd/Martin skit on SNL. "That's your funeral!" always cracked me up. I helped them get into East Tennessee State when they finished their ESL program at AU, and I'm sure they enjoyed living in the rural south during the Iranian hostage crisis the following year.

So ended my undergraduate career of cohabitation.

Konservatives I Have Known

I've known a few different kinds of "conservatives" in my day. My kinsmen were what I regard as true conservatives, fans of Barry Goldwater and minding your own damned business. As a lad, I'd run around under the opaque cloud of cigar smoke and listen to their political discourse. They really didn't know what to make of hippies.

Later in college, I ran across the species collegus republicanus and its mutant form the YAFfer. These were perpetually dateless boys (and some precious few godawful girls) who had turned their rejection by society into misanthropy and their datelessness into misogyny in particular. They were the ones defending apartheid when the rest of us were criticizing it. They purported to promote draconian measures to resolve all manner of social ills and reckoned that their hard, and frequently criminal positions were signs of their ehnanced virility.

This strategy failed to get them laid, and many of them resorted to condemning sex altogether and to railing against feminism. They supposed that their social retardation and unattractiveness had nothing to do with their weekends spent in Risk and D&D marathons. They were as big a bunch of douches as I have ever encountered in my life.

Now some of these same wankers pass for "public intellectuals" in some circles, what with the intellectual pond of the right wing being so shallow. Some of them got to make policy in the last eight years, and we all saw how that turned out.

The third kind of conservative was the right wing fundamentalist religious nutzoid. The ones I knew couldn't really articulate their political ideology because they were just mindlessly following some leader or another who had told them that party A was aligned with God in a cosmic struggle. I never met any of the leaders, but I reckon that they are just trying to make a living by duping the feebleminded. Preachers have been doing that for centuries, so it's hardly surprising that some would find a niche in politics.

I don't regard the college republican or religious nut varieties as true conservatives. They're not out to conserve anything and, in fact, are pretty radical. They want to turn back centuries of classical liberalism and modernity to establish an authoritarian state. What's conservative about that?