Monthly Archives: September 2006

Not Her Cereal

Yesterday I had to run to the grocery store to pick out some food for an overtired, underfed chorister. Among the foods we had run out of was Crispix, the rice and corn chex-like cereal, of which she occasionally has a bowl before bedtime.

The cereal aisle was every bit as visually noisy as it was designed to be, and since Sunday afternoon is a prime time for grocery shopping in Evanston, people had been picking up and putting down boxes in a variety of places. I spotted the mammoth boxes of Crispix, but decided to compare the price of the smaller box, and (as is often the case) the smaller box was actually less expensive per ounce, so I grabbed a box and brought it home.

Well, not exactly. It turns out that someone had replaced the most accessible box in the smaller-Crispix place with a box of “Kellogg’s Pirates of the Caribbean” cereal, chocolate blobs interspersed with marshmallows shaped in piratical motifs. (I link to the Google image search page because the available online images come from Kellogg’s, which forces a pop-up Flash window; a salacious Hollywood gossip site; and eBay, where the images will soon have disappeared.) When Pippa reached for the cereal last evening, not only would she not touch the stuff, but she conducted a lengthy review of all the ways I should have been able to tell that this wasn’t just a promotional; box for good ol’ Crispix, and an analysis of exactly how bad for you the candy cereal must be.

Solution: I’ll bring it to compus tomorrow for “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” and leave it in the refectory.

Marked!

No, not about the graphic interpretation of the gospel.

Boingboing, geek icon and ditigalibertarian (-libertine?) bastion, summarizes the recently-released This Film Is Not Yet Rated in a recent endorsement. That summary includes the following paragraph:

The movie revolves around the mystery of the MPAA’s ratings process. Kirby Dick hires a likable middle-aged lesbian private eye who stakes out the MPAA’s LA headquarters, writing down license plate numbers and war-dialing the MPAA voicemail system until she gets the names and addresses of all the “parents” on the ratings committee, some of whom are childless, or with grown children.

Do you see what I see? The private eye’s sexuality gets mentioned in the piece, but the director’s doesn’t; even in a vigorously pro-gay venue such as Boingboing, lesbian identity is marked, and heterosexuality unmarked.

Is the private eye’s sexuality pertinent to the documentary’s plot? Maybe — but if hers is, I’d be interested to know why Kirby Dick’s is not (indeed, he’s named in the article, without indication of sexuality; she’s anonymous, identified only by occupation, temperament, and sexual behavior).

My point is not to scold Cory Doctorow or to dictate anyone how they ought to communicate. I want to bring to awareness the ways that our expressions effect messages that go beyond what “we wanted to say.” I know that Cory doesn’t think that lesbians are an aberration from a “normal” heterosexuality, but it’s worth extra trouble deliberately to compose prose that aligns with one’s considered philosophy.
Continue reading Marked!

Not Forgotten

I don’t think I ever met lilo offline, but I know that we participated in spirited discussions on #joiito, and I know that the freenode IRC net that he oversaw made, and continues to make, a great contribution to online communications.

Sometimes people say that connections made online are less real than offline interactions. I dare say that they are flat-out wrong. In time, perhaps pretty soon, we’ll have adjusted to the online dimension of human interaction, and the replacement panic reaction “that’s not a real friendship” or “you mean, he’s an online friend” will seem peculiar. That’ll be a day Rob helped prepare us for.

Chasing David

It’s a good thing that I don’t always write about online matters, and good also that David Weinberger and I have long-standing philosophical disagreements about hermeneutics and digital metaphysics. Otherwise, one my be inclined to construe this as nothing more than a Weinberger applause blog.

But David hits the point squarely with his post about “free peanuts,” the not-strictly-free enticements with which purveyors entice customers to spend [more] money. Shared music and video files — usually highly compressed, of less quality than the full originals — should constitute the peanuts that distributers write off as indirect advertising, as one by-product of the general popularity of their merchandise.

I don’t like the sound of “freechasing,” David’s neologism for this phenomenon, but this was exactly the argument I made this week to a publisher who called me up for some feedback about an online publishing project. Save money that you might spend on access restrictions, give away as much as you possibly can, and make money on your popularity, reputation, and added-value features.

And I prefer free popcorn to free peanuts.

Me Neither

Catching up unsystematically on posts I’d missed, I came to Les Orchard’s pre 9/11 post, “I refuse to be afraid.” He and Bruce Schneier (whom his post cites) have it exactly right — you can’t beat terrorism by brute force. Our response to terrorist attacks should always be, “How can we conduct our collective affairs in such a way as to make terrorism pointless?” Saber-rattling coercive politics positively invites persistent attacks; it challenges terrorists to beat us at the game of destruction. In such a game, the terrorists always hold the advantage of surprise; it’s a lot easier to outmaneuver a monolith than for the monolith to devise preventive measures against any possible mode of attack (as our belated, retrospective gestures demonstrate).

At this point, the number of deaths after the terrorist attacks outnumbers the deaths on that date by a factor of, what? 10? The U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have not disabled Al-Qaeda; neither Afghanistan nor Iraq has a peaceful, benign, democratically-elected government; the U.S. population does not live in a higher degree of peace and security than it did on September 10, 2001. Thousands of military families, and tens of thousands of Iraqi families, bear the long-term costs of a misbegotten and failed policy.

I’m not afraid of Al-Qaeda; I am afraid that U.S. efforts to dominate the world are inadvertently advancing the cause of fear and terror, and are corroding the political ecology in which the ideals for which the Constitution and Bill of Rights represent an admirable, hopeful, vision.

[Edited to read “admirable, hopeful, vision” rather that “admirable, hopeful, ideal,” which was repetitive and imprecise.]

On Not Banging My Head Against The Wall

It’s been more than two days since I cleared a bit of comment spam. This is so intensely satisfying that I can seriously begin thinking about starting a “Beautiful Theology” blog at the Disseminary site; I’m working on cleaning up the other constituent databases, and then upgrade the MT engine, then “Beautiful Theology” here I come.

Speaking of which, Temple of the Seven Golden Camels blogs about drawing and design, emphasizing design for animation or comics; it includes a scan of the widely-circulated Comic Strip Artists’ Kit.

Chronology Cards

I settled on six pages of eight cards each (Avery 5390 template), with most of the same material as in my previous post. I fixed some dates, changed the specific reference to Septimius Severus to a commemoration of Perpetua and Felicitas, added Athanasius’ Festal Letter, omitted Apollinaris (not because he was unimportant, but because I didn’t have a handy single date for him), added Theodosius’s establishment of Christianity as state religion, added Pelagius, added the Council of Toledo and its Filioque, and added Dionysius Exiguus.

I’ll print out a set to use for class, will upload jpeg pages to the Disseminary Flickr site, upload corrected jpegs and pdfs for the Theology Cards game, and begin thinking about re-formatting the Theology Card Game to fit the Avery template (for ease of printing and separating). Now, beating on the syllabus, working in the emphasis on composition, checking dates, and reading the books I’m supposed to review (and writing the reviews for them). Plus, Pippa’s Latin tutorial at 3 PM.

A Different Theological Divergence

The Bishop of the Diocese of Southwest Florida (where I used to serve) has urged his diocese, “I would encourage you to join me in a 40-day fast from reading the web blogs. ” To be fair, Bp. Lipscomb has in mind the topical, controversy-mongering blogs that derive a sort of vampiric appeal from exacerbating the disagreements that beset the Episcopal Church these days. When he refers to “the blogs” (without specific antecedent in the letter), he pretty surely refers to just a few.

At the same time, the letter bespeaks some sad misunderstandings about Blogaria, and about media in general, that risk casting Bp. Lipscomb as the House of Bishops’ Ted Stevens. I have no way to know whether anyone has answered his appeal, but I haven’t detected any less blogging, nor have any of the church-in-crisis blogs reported a fall-off in readership. Indeed, Kendall Harmon’s (not itself a flame-brandishing blog, though some arsonists frequent it) reports all-time high readership.

As Micah asked me, “Would Bp. Lipscomb ask that his diocese not read any books for forty days?” Would he say, “I encourage you to undertake a 40-day fast from newspapers?” Or “neighborhood hang-outs?” “telephone calls?” If he asked people to avoid a particular subset of blogs, or to eschew all media of a particular tenor (“ecclesiastical tabloids,” let us call them), that would be one thing; but alas, Lipscomb’s gesture toward cultivating a more irenic atmosphere seems likely only to provide fodder for. . . the blogs.
Continue reading A Different Theological Divergence

September Stromateis

• Via Liz Lawley (who was mentioned by name and quoted in the Newsweek article), Presentation Zen endorses Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. I read Making Comics a few days ago, and enjoyed it — but it’s still not a patch on Understanding.

• Via Accordion Guy, Pajiba’s “The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen,” the kind of column that I read and note, which I draw on in video stores to amaze my family with masterpieces that they’ve never heard of. We have in fact already seen Shallow Grave, though not the rest.

• Via Language Log, Wayne Leman’s Better Bibles Blog shows that God approves of the use of “they” as a singular pronoun.

• I missed it, but didymustk has started seminary at Luther. Say hey to my faculty friends there (which is about a third of the teachers). . . .

• One of these days, I’ll turn off comments for a little while, to facilitate upgrading Moveable Type. It’s hard to imagine anyone getting upset about that, but if you were tempted to see it as a sign of some sort, please bear this in mind. [Later: I went ahead and did that, for the time being. When I get the spam backlog under control, I’ll backup, upgrade, and then we’ll see what happens. For the time being, the boldface link below will use your email client to send a comment to my email address, which has the advantage that it saves a copy in your “sent” folder and my inbox. Then I’ll go in and edit the entry itself to incorporate your comments.]

• I think Si is taking a class on Python. I don’t know for sure, because when things are going well with him, I don’t hear much — but I’m pleased that he’s at least considering learning a scripting language.

• Pippa and I went to get some frames for the paintings and pastels that she’s been making. I take delight in the art itself, but even more so when the framers express surprise and admiration for her work.

• I can’t tell you what a relief it is to look at the “comments” section of my MT interface and not see full pages of spam. I know, this is only a makeshift interim solution, but it’s exciting.
Continue reading September Stromateis

The Water’s Fine

As so many other Apple customers, I whooshed through the tubes of the internet to check out the new downloadable movies feature of the iTunes Music Store. The terms-of-use remain opprobriously restrictive for a resolute open-access advocate such as I — you can’t archive your movie on a DVD, evidently, only watch it on your computer and iPod — but the assortment of movies is pretty good, for starters. I expect that as Disney and Miramax begin making money on downloaded movies, the other studios will succumb to Steve Jobs’ blandishments and drink the Kool-Aid. As I was browsing, I wandered over to the music videos section and found that they still have almost none of the videos in which I’d be most interested (OK, “the only videos in which I’d be at all interestes”), that is, the videos from the early phase of the genre, the first few years of MTV. U2’s “Gloria” video? Not there. Talking Heads? Nope. Springsteen, “Rosalita”? Elvis Costello? Buggles? Flash and the Pan? Peter Gabriel?

The silly thing is that rights-owners spent considerable money producing these videos, and now most of them are gathering dust, perhaps deteriorating or getting lost, where they could be making back some of the investment from people of a generation that appreciated them, with disposable income to devote to preserving the relics of their memories.

Good thing the people at the Participatory Culture Foundation have brought Democracy Player (formerly just DTV) to such a fine condition. An open-access culture will be good for artist-creators, if only we can get there. . . .

National Media Weekend

Over the weekend, I found out that I’d made appearances in two national magazines. In one, I was identified by name: the Anglican Digest apparently cited my blog post from September 20, 2004. My first reaction was concern — with all the ill-considered things I write at this site, what my TAD have selected to call the church’s attention to my cantankerous folly? When I learned that it was the preparatory reflection towards a St. Michael’s Day sermon, I was greatly relieved! My second thought was, “How odd that Kendall chose to use the preparatory reflections rather than the sermon itself, which (after all) appears online just a few days later — but as I look them both over, I think I may prefer the reflections to the sermon.

Then also, I found out that the Newsweek article about World of Warcraft mentions me, though not by name. On page 49 (page 2 of the onlline version), Steven Levy mentions that among the members of Joi Ito’s guild, “There is a priest whose character is … a priest.” That’s me.