Monthly Archives: June 2003

At Last!

Made it! I survived class today, after which Frank dropped me at the Apple Store, where I would meet Si for the grand opening. I walked to the door, followed the line to the corner of Huron and Michigan, turned east and walked the whole block to St. Clair. I turned south on St. Clair, again following the line, and beginning to wonder whether Si had gotten there at all, when a woman somewhat older than I called out, “Dad!”

As I gazed at her in bewilderment, she pointed to her feet, where Josiah sat eating the sub he had bought for dinner.

By 6:00, the time the store was scheduled to open, the line stretched all the way around the block and lapped over the whole length of the Huron St. side of the block. We spotted Aaron Swartz while we were standing in line, and Si introduced himself later on. Eventually we made our way in, look around, tried in vain to win an iSight (I was very, very impressed at the image quality they generated, much better than any other webcam I’ve seen), and picked up our free T-shirts. (Pictures at my dot-Mac address.)

I was going to come home, eat popcorn, watch a movie, post my pictures, and drift to sleep — but I didn’t really have time to watch the movie, and though I could have eaten popcorn while I typed and image-edited, I hastened through the process so that I could sleep all the sooner.

Reference Note

I don’t think the full lyrics of Washington Phillips’s “Denomination Blues” appear anywhere online; three or four sites have a version of Ry Cooder’s performance of it, but that leaves out a number of verses, and I disagree with some of the interpretations of Phillips’s lyrics. So I thought I’d list the lyrics here, and we can refine my hearing of them, and perhaps you can nominate a few more verses.

I want to tell you the natural facts
Every man don’t understand the Bible alike
But that’s all now, I tell you that’s all
But you better have Jesus, I tell you that’s all (repeat after each verse)

Well denominations have no right to fight
They ought to just treat each other right

The Primitive Baptists they believe
You can’t get to heaven less they wash your feet

The only Primitive that has any part
Is the one that does the washing with fear in her heart

Now the Missionary Baptists they believe
Go under the water and not to wash his feet

Now the Indy Methodists they believe
Sprinkle the head and not to wash the feet

Now the African Methodists they believe the same
Cause they know denominations they the same but the name

Now the Holiness people when they came in
They said “Boy you can make it by living above sin”

Now the Church of God has it in their mind
They can get to heaven without the sacramental wine

You’re fighting each other and you think you’re doing well
And the sinner’s on the outside and going to hell

Now the preacher is preaching and they think they’re doing well
But all they want is your money and you can go to hell

Now, another class of preachers they’re high in speech
They had to go to college to learn how to preach

But you can go to the college, and you can go to the school
But if you don’t have Jesus you’re an educated fool

That kind of a man’s hard to convince
A man can’t preach unless’n he sin

When people jump from church to church
You know the conversion don’t amount to much

When Jesus come on that Divining Day
Gonna call the sheep to enter, turn the goats away

It’s right to stand together, wrong to stand apart
Cause no one’s gonna enter but the pure in heart

The fact that I begin teaching my summer preaching course next week does not, of course, have anything to do with the fact that I was particularly interested in the lyrics to this song. Perish the thought! (If anyone helps with the Phillips lyrics, I’ll edit the text in the main entry; additional verses will stay in the comments, unless I can’t resist).

Digital Bodies, Part One

Part of my talk Friday morning involved the argument that the unfamiliarity of online interactions has fuddled us into thinking that there’s a sort of given, inescapable difference between ourselves as physical agents and ourselves as electronic agents. (I’m not guarding my language carefully enough, so I expect I’ll muff some technical terminology; apologies in advance.) I’m not denying the obvious: we can’t touch each other physically online, and even digigloves won’t equal touch. We justly prefer to spend time in physical proximity to our friends. This is good, and touch is important. So I’m not propagating such absurdities as the notion that everyone should seal him- or herself in a garret and never have physical contact with another person. Please, let’s leave banalities out of the discussion. (This whole meditation proceeds in part from discussions such as those David Weinberger summarizes in last month’s “JOHO-the-Newsletter.”)

I called the anxiety that online interaction will displace and supersede other modes of interaction “replacement panic.” It’s my term, and I’m sticking to it.

And the point of the argument is that we have always been digital — not in the sense that we’re merely binary digits in some vast Matrix, but in the sense that the characteristics that become obvious when we interact online also apply to our physical interactions (though in attenuated or infrequent ways).

So, for example, we usually do want other people to be part of our lives in physical ways. I’ve long wanted to meet Naomi Chana, Anne Galloway, Steve’s friend Sage, and one of the Tutor’s associates; the Digital Genres conference afforded a congenial opportunity to satisfy that interest. It was great to meet, physically, some people I had hitherto only read about. But there are people in the world I’d prefer not to meet. For instance, some readers of these words may dislike their bosses; might it not be preferable to interact with the Boss only online? Those who have been scarred by unwelcome physical interactions with others — should they welcome the possibility of touch? Of course, we enrich our friendships by knowing one another in a variety of settings (online, offline, at work, on vacation, in a game, in shared enjoyment of a movie, concert, whatever. That doesn’t imply that one of those contexts enjoys an ontological privilege, such that it’s real-er than others.

Now, I can just hear David Weinberger’s pointed and appropriate riposte to this argument (I can hear it because I have heard him say it several times in several different conversations): “My physical body is ontologically different because I care more about it, because if you cut it I bleed, because if this body dies, that’s it, I’m dead.” (I keep meaning to ask David if “care,” in this context, is an echo of Heidegger?) And David’s right. His physical body is different (and not his alone, I mean, although. . .). But I don’t think that “different” means “realer,” unless only living things are real. (And all this simply bypasses my theological commitments to calling into question the simplicity of death; we ought to be able to conduct a fruitful conversation about digital bodies without expecting that everyone adopt a Christian theology of life and spirit and bodies.)

If the physical is different-not-realer, though, then we’re in the position of giving an account of differences that respects our physicality without rendering it the index of our reality. Anne introduced the language of “flows” and “intensities” (from some of the theory — Foucault, Irigaray, Deleuze, Guattari, — that other DG participants roundly blasted), terms that help me point to the body as a distinctly intense locus of my identity — but not the only, the true, the real me.

That’s all on that topic for today.

DRMA: “I and I” by Bob Dylan; “Blue Spark” by X; “Lullabye” by the Judybats; “Never Let Me Down Again” by Depeche Mode; “Nature” by Prince Nico Mbarga and the Rocafil Jazz; “Love Me Tender” by Elvis Presley; “Illumination” by Fatboy Slim; “It’s So Hard” by John Lennon; “No Language In Our Lungs” by XTC; “Divin’ Duck Blues” by Taj Mahal; “Why Not” by Dorothy Love Coates; “I Ain’t Got You” by the Yardbirds.