Sunday, February 29, 2004

ponder the nature of existence!

Now appearing in a North Korean kitchen near you:

O Why Am I So Tasty?

As you might have guessed, this is being turned into a mug design.

Bon appétit.

"Oh, that this too too solid flesh should melt..."


Dantean Marmot

Yes, I think this is what's going on the sidebar. It took a lot less time to create than a cartoon, and I neatly avoid any questions about what the animal is.


I suppose I should feel guilty about changing "hole" to "hell," but in German, the word for "hell" is "Hölle," which looks a lot like "hole." What's more, the old Hebrew concept of Sheol wasn't all that hellish; it was more like a subterranean "land of the dead," perhaps along the lines of certain Greek conceptions of Hades. In fact, most old concepts of hell are underworld-ish (cf. the "hell" entry in this etymological dictionary), implying something like a hole or cavern or underground realm.

And in any case, evil is usually considered cool in a subversive way. So why not a marmot who looks like he could explode your brain with a mere thought?

Et oui-- this is going on the sidebar. Heh.

MF, did you see the Seeing Eye Blog image?


Saturday, February 28, 2004

the new schedule starts Monday

As the Real Job, which starts later in March, looms near, it occurs to me that I'll have to prioritize the blog-reading and posting. I've been lucky, with my private English teaching schedule, to have a fair amount of time on my hands, but this won't be the case in 25 days, when I'll be teaching at the university and still teaching privately. In an effort to keep blogging time down, I've decided to institute a schedule. The benefit to you, the reader, is that you'll now have an idea of what to expect here at the Hairy Chasms from day to day. And so will I!

The schedule will provide discipline and structure, and while this may mean a certain loss of spontaneity, I find that my best work often comes about when there are clear and confining parameters. So:

MONDAYS: Koreablogger roundup (le parcours coréen)
TUESDAYS: Maximum Leader, Asiablogger, and Otherblogger Roundup (le parcours des blogueurs)
WEDNESDAYS: Anything goes
THURSDAYS: Buddhism/Zen day; mainly to force me to write about this topic, to present you with new information on it, to induce me to review my old notes, learn new things, and share the knowledge
FRIDAYS: Religious diversity day-- matters of religious pluralism, philosophy of religion, interreligious dialogue, comparative religion, etc.
SATURDAYS: Saturday Swag. Since I won't be making any money as a gigolo, I'll be devoting this day to promoting my mental spilth-- my book, my CafePress products, etc. It's not simply that a Hominid has to eat: a Hominid has to pay off enormous college loans. So unlike Mel Gibson, I don't worry that I'm going to be burdened by moral questions arising from wealth. We at the Hairy Chasms are far, far too deep in the negative regions for those questions to bother us anytime soon.
SUNDAYS: Yes, I've decided. Sunday will be devoted to one thing only: a weekly SUNDAY COMIC. I haven't decided on a format yet; it might be single-panel, might be multi-panel, might have a storyline, might not. I'm not starting this Sunday, so I still have some time to finalize this.

I do have an e-commerce question for Paypal-savvy people: how do you set up a PayPal button to sell a SINGLE (i.e., UNIQUE-- no copies) item? I've been through the PayPal button selection, and there is indeed a button for selling "single items," but as I read more deeply into what the button was about, it doesn't seem to fit my needs.

Here's what I mean. Let's say I create a soap sculpture or brush painting of Bodhidharma, and I want to sell this via PayPal. How do I prevent two people from buying the same item at roughly the same time? I don't think PayPal offers a button that "closes itself off" to the rest of the public once a purchase has been made-- i.e., a button that reads, "Sorry, no more in stock!" when the item's been purchased. The problem I want to avoid is that of time-wasting refunds. The best solution I can think of right now is to have people email me first, then establish a PayPal button just for the first person whose email I receive (or send them the button through the mail, which I think PayPal allows). Surely there's a better, more hands-off way to deal with e-commerce for limited stock!

OK... that's it for now. The new schedule starts Monday. As Kevin Bacon said in "Apollo 13"...

"See you on the flip side."


is this a better marmot?

The Maximum Leader didn't immediately get that my earlier cartoon was supposed to represent The Marmot's Hole, and I can think of a couple reasons why.

1. A cartoon marmot doesn't really look all that different from a cartoon squirrel (cartoon animals aren't always drawn representatively, either: Stimpy doesn't look much like a cat!). Marmots are generally much larger than squirrels, but certain varieties of marmots, such as the so-called "yellow-bellied marmot" found out in the western states of the US, have puffy cheeks, fat asses, and long tails-- a bit like cartoon squirrels. I can see how this would throw a person off. A marmot's snout, however, is a bit longer and tapering, proportionately, than a typical gray squirrel's, so I probably introduced some confusion by drawing this marmot's face looking almost directly at the viewer, thereby foreshortening the facial features. Then again, not all marmots have long snouts. Behold!

2. The ML, in looking at the previous drawing, didn't see the marmot's hole-- which means, further, that he didn't perceive the picture had a foreground and a background; I'd intended the hole to be in the background. This is my fault for not introducing proper shading, but when you switch your Photoshop to "Web-friendly colors only" mode, you lose all the nuances, especially if you then save as a GIF, which I think I did. The ML saw the hole and thought it was a nut or something. As I looked at the pic through the ML's eyes, I realized that, yes, the hole could indeed look like a nut or something, sitting on the ground.

So a redrawing was obviously in order.

One solution to the "hole" problem is to frame the marmot inside his hole. But framing him too perfectly dead-center is no good; we need the aesthetic to be a bit wabi-sabi. I also decided that this marmot, with his razor-sharp Hoya intellect (SFS like a muthafuckaaaaaaa'), deserved better than a flimsy Chinese broadsword. Hence the lightsaber. And while red lightsabers may be cooler, blue seemed a better choice because the surroundings are all varying shades of brown.

Et voilà-- here's the new marmot and his hole.

Jedi Marmot

So, Robert, can this go on my sidebar?

By the way... if you're interested, I've got a mug design fo' yo' honky ass. If you or other Koreabloggers would like me to design a mug & set up a CafePress store for you (or something)... let's talk bidness!

UPDATE: The Marmot's wife also thinks this looks too much like a squirrel. So... back to da drawing board!


pimpin' for DigitalPixi

My buddy Carpemundi has a lovely half-Korean wife who works as a graphic designer. She's just opened up her very own CafePress/CafeShops cyberstore, and I'm proud to pimp her wares on this blog. Unlike yours truly, Luisa's an actual designer, which means she produces actual designs. They look great, too. Her shop has plenty of men's wear, women's wear, and other swag like mugs and mousepads and lunch boxes (check out the "evil pixie"), as well as items for pets and new parents (I don't know if these latter items are interchangeable). One gorgeous design is based on pets all done up in rainbow colors and moving around each other in a dynamic circle-- very cool, and it's on mugs and other products. Look for beautiful poppies and slogans like "ucked fup."

Luisa's designs also have the virtue of being blood- and excrement-free, so those of my readers who have a hard time looking at broomstick impalements, mutilated frogs, and flying bodily fluids will find her shop a pleasure.

And finally, let us praise our Lord Jesus Christ that not a single one of Luisa's creative designs strays even a little bit toward the Hello Kitty end of the spectrum. I don't know about you, but my balls are relieved.

Here are some samples of Luisa's work:

DigitalPixi Swag

"Und vhat do you zee on zis lunchbox?"
"I see... I think it's... OH, SWEET JESUS, IT'S JOHN KERRY! No! Take it away! It burns my eyes! Oh, it burns!"

DigitalPixi Swag

"Und on zis tote bag? Vhat do you zee here?"
"My God... it's like a vision of hell. People flailing in agony... three-headed angels shredding old ladies... monsters with farm implements doing horrible things to high school students... I get a very scandalous, Teletubbie vibe from this image. It unsettles me. Doctor, why do you keep showing me these things? What in God's name is wrong with you? Have you no shame? Week after week, you do this to me."

DigitalPixi Swag

"Ah, vell... ahem. Und-- how about zis tile coaster? Vhat do you sink you zee?"
"Doc, this isn't even a Rorschach blot. Come on, look at it-- if that's not Regan MacNeill spewing green vomit all over Father Karras, I don't know what it is."

DigitalPixi Swag

"Sigh... und anozzer picture. Vhat is zis?"
"I see chickens."
"Yes, chickens."
"Und vhat are zee chickens doing?"
"They're in a rock band."
"Really. Und vhat are zey singingk?"
"Some Mariah Carey cover. Doc, I need to stop. This is too horrible for words."

DigitalPixi Swag

"Und finally, zis piece of women's wear..."
"I'm not sure why you're calling this women's wear, Doc. I wear these all the time."

Damn, does this thong give me ideas for where the Howard Dean-penis might appear next. And another thong design comes to mind, too: a drawing of me smirking, and the words, "Too late! I've already been here!" Heh.

Luisa's shop is called DigitalPixi Designs. Go forth and shop-shop-shop until your ass crack is positively squirting blood! THEN SHOP SOME MORE!

[PS: A link to her site is on my sidebar. Look for the flower tile.]


and another mug design!

In case you're wondering what I've given up for Lent... it's poverty. This isn't as easy as it sounds. Ever since Smallholder (who guest posts on the Maximum Leader's blog and has written a post or two here at the Hairy Chasms) made a private comment about how the PayPal "donation" button was little more than begging, I've taken it off my blog and tried my best to earn your moolah. As Janet Jackson said, "Tit for tat!"

So during this Lenten time of contemplation and probity, please aid me, Dear Reader, in my quest to acquire spiritual discipline through profit, to boil in the soul-searing, character-building cauldron of prosperity, to liberate myself from the mortal sin of penury, and know the virtuous humility of those blessed with mountains of filthy lucre. Oh, to endure such a burden!

Click the screaming alien on the sidebar and take a trip through my CafePress products. And behold the newest in a slew of mug designs:

Go suck a broom handle.

If you want to purchase the mug, here are direct links to the standard and large sizes.

Go thou and shop!


Friday, February 27, 2004

space thoughts

It's nice that we planted our flag on the Moon all those years ago, but you haven't truly claimed the Moon for your country until you've taken a shit on its surface.

Will we be the first?

I admit it: the Chinese have me worried.


people, trust, and life

The Infidel writes a meditation that, despite his infidel status, is very reminiscent of Psalm 22. Great reading.

Andi at Overboard writes a great post on meditation, strange dreams, practice, and what Seung Sahn daeseonsa-nim would call "just go straight-- don't know!"

Because Andi's post deals in some measure with the hangups of Western Buddhists, I feel free to link once again to an old essay I wrote about essentialism in Western Buddhism and the prevalence of the Jesus meme in Western Buddhist consciousness. A lot of Western Buddhists are former Christians. A lot. The essay will also serve as a reminder of those heady days when this blog was less artsy-fartsy. Heh.

Critiques/discussion always welcome.


and another mug design! will wonders never cease?

Here at the Hairy Chasms, I toil to bring you only the best in nasty drawings, writings, and products. In keeping with our already-established "harmony with nature" theme, I offer you this latest mug design:

mmm... cuisses de grenouille

If you want to buy a standard-size "Cup of Pain" mug, click this link. If you want a larger mug, click this link. Remember we've also got those cute tiger mugs, here and here-- as well as the more ball-crunching "Squirrels Find Nuts" mugs, here and here.


can you recognize them?

The test of a good logo (and these aren't really completed, but they're almost there) is whether they're meaningful and recognizable. These two happen to have been the easiest to create, since the blog names conjure up very concrete images.

If you can't figure out who these people are based on the images, write me. If you think the images suck, write me. Or bite me. One or the other.

Brand X

Brand X2

And while I'm at it, here's a new mousepad I've designed for my Cafepress shop:

HorangiNabi Mousepad, Caverns of the Big Hominid/CafePress
(actual dimensions, 8"x9.5")

Would you like to buy it? Then click this link, baby.

We hope you've enjoyed today's display. Thank you for flying Hominid. Ride us again anytime.



Kendo and komdo are Japanese and Korean pronunciations of the same two Chinese characters, "sword" and "way," but as with aikido and hapkido (harmony + energy + way), the terms describe somewhat different martial arts.

For a fascinating read, go visit Overboard and take a gander at Andi's latest post, dealing with the differences between Japanese kendo, Korean haedong-komdo, and Korean daehan-komdo. This is Part One of I-don't-know-how-many parts, but that's the way I like it: Charles Dickens also wrote episodically.

Andi covers some of the same internal/external issues in martial arts that I covered in this post on "de-linking Zen from artistic appreciation."

Speaking of Japanese/Korean differences, if Lorianne and/or Andi would care to expound on differences between Japanese and Korean approaches to Zen/Seon, I'd love to slap those posts on this blog (I know you're both extremely busy, so no rush). I've gone over some differences on this blog, but since I'm not an active practitioner, a "view from the inside" is always welcome.


Thursday, February 26, 2004

"Last Temptation"

Years ago, I went with BH and two other friends from High School to see "The Last Temptation of Christ" in downtown DC amidst all the controversy. Oddly enough the one thing I remember most about that night was driving by the Chinese embassy in the midst of the Tienannmen Square protests going on. I think I remmeber the right night. Maybe that was the night went to see HenryV.

In any event, BH got into a biblical debate with some Born Again Types protesting the film. The one thing that I came away with from after viewing that debate was how ignorant the Born Again Fundies were compared to BH. And how gleefully and intentionally ignorant they were of the world outside their particular interpretation of scripture.

For the record, I liked "Last Temptation." A little boring, and long winded, but in general it was an interesting exploration of the filmmakers faith. It was a very personal film in that respect. Definitely not worth the controversy.

Passion Musings.

Why the hell am I Fric? I wanted to be Frac!

pre-"Passion" musings

NB: What follows is the somewhat-edited text of an email I sent two friends, who shall remain unnamed, regarding some issues related to Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," now showing in a couple thousand cinemas across America as of Ash Wednesday. (I should've given up blogging for Lent. Instead, it appears I've given up sleep.)

Fric & Frac,

Unsurprising that a German nun would have "holy" visions implicating the Jews in Jesus' death, eh?

As for Gibson...

I mistrust all big-money spirituality. Gibson's apparently spoken in interviews about his own "walk through the wilderness," if you will; how he was near suicide, then rediscovered his faith (etc., etc.). I don't doubt this is at least partially true, if for no other reason than that most of the reviews of the "Passion," good and bad, leave little doubt that Gibson's giving us a real piece of himself.

But "Passion" trucker caps, "cross nail" replicas, and other merchandise?? Just how deep does Gibson's spirituality run? Why would he permit these things to be sold? One pissed-off Christian blogger reminded us of Jesus' scourging of the Temple when it was filled with money-changers. Is Gibson so different from the money-changers?

Fric: Gibson's lack of comprehension or blatant disregard of the historical context of the Gospels, and his lack of comprehension or blatant disregard of the Passion and its historical context.

On one level I can, without intending to defend Gibson, point out that this is an artistic choice. On another level, though, I admit this is absolutely problematic if the movie is being passed off as "true" in some sense other than the vaguely artistic. If "true" means "historically true," then no.

Fric: Gibson's use of non-Biblical source material while publicizing his film as being the purely Gospel version of the last 12 hours.

And there we go: this is the problem, isn't it.

Fric: Aside: last 12 hours... 12 disciples... Coincidence?

There could be something going on here. A lot of reviewers are noting how Catholicism-saturated the film is; symbols that Catholics are more likely to see than other people will, Protestant or otherwise. "12" has symbolic meaning for Jews and Christians alike.

Fric: Gibson's obsession with violence and pain.

I think it's pretty well-established by other critics that Gibson's acting & directing history together form a martyrdom-arc. I'd go with that; the man does seem intent on peering closely at agony and gore and sacrifice and Big Ideas like freedom ("Braveheart") and faith ("Signs," "Passion").

Fric: An article by the president of CUA, while praising the film, did claim that Gibson may have misread the Gospels. If two gospels depicted a particular torture scene differently, Gibson interprets that to mean two distinct torture scenes, and he depicts both taking place in tandem. The author (A. read the article) asserts that it's now believed that they would both be representations of the same event. The author seemed to think Gibson was obsessed by blood and violence, but the author didn't seem to have a problem with it. He gave the film his blessing, so to speak.

As for literal interpretation: a chuckle is warranted. How much of this actually happened as related in the gospels? We don't know. Period.

re: the issue of torture, gore, viscerality

Frac [who's Catholic; I'm Presbyterian] might want to chime in here, but my understanding of Catholic sacramentality is that it is very much the opposite of what you find in Christian Science or Jehovah's Witnesses: for Catholics, sacramental reality implies the nonduality of the divine and the material. This is what makes such phenomena as transsubstantiation plausible. There is no dichotomy. There's no clear distinction between spirit and flesh; earthly agony isn't merely an analogue for spiritual agony: it is spiritual agony! Gibson's focus on gore will be understood by Catholics in this sense. Non-Christians might look at it and see only an "obsession with violence."

I'm not in total disagreement with the Catholic idea (which, BTW, does have some scriptural justification), if for no other reason than that it seems odd to posit "supernature." Catholic sacramentality is ancient and earthy and, in a real way, brutal: to participate in the eucharist is to participate in more than a merely "symbolic" feast: that is the blood of Christ; that is the body. Sacramental reality affects the Catholic notion of "symbol" as a result: a symbol, for Catholics, participates fully in the event; it's not merely a sign pointing elsewhere or standing in for something. To take part in the liturgy is to enter an organic, divine/material/unitary reality.

I don't know whether any of that makes sense [NB: Fric isn't Christian]; I hope it does, because it makes a lot of things clearer: for example, the whole deal about carrying around rotten "holy relics"-- body parts of saints, usually things like bone or hair. Even for Protestants, it's a bit weird to think of the spiritual as tangible, but for devout Catholics, that's not the case. Those relics have meaning because the divine and material realms are unified within them.

So when you look at gore & suffering & all the rest, and you realize it's a Catholic filmmaker's vision of what happened to Jesus, it becomes clear that Gibson's vision does make sense from a certain point of view (said he, Kenobi-like)-- that of Catholic sacramentality.

Fric: The first point above is a very sensitive topic for non Christians living here. It's something that many Christians don't seem to understand. And in the hands of a talented, and popular filmmaker, it can be dangerous.

Yes, I agree it can be, though I think there's merit to the idea that people already predisposed to bigotry are the ones whose bigotry will be inflamed by what they see. In the case of both bigots and non-bigots, we'll take from the film what we bring into it. If we're predisposed to Jew-bashing, then we'll be happy to see Gibson confirming this. If, however, we come in with the more metaphorical attitude that, in a sense, we all crucify the Christ (and keep in mind that the Christ isn't exactly synonymous with the historical Jesus), then we're more likely to see the guilt that lies inside our own hearts-- i.e., the film becomes a humbling lesson. I imagine that Gibson would prefer that we all watch his film this way, but even he has to know that that's not going to happen... and that's why groups like the ADL are justifiably alarmed.

On the other side of the fence, critics rightly point out that the Jewish retelling and celebration of stories about thousands of Egyptians being drowned in the Re(e)d Sea present some of the same problems as the gospel stories: celebration is occurring at some other people's expense (in this case, the Egyptians'), and this has been codified into religious ritual.

One possible reply to that is the same one made by blacks when talking about who "owns" the word "nigger": it's OK for blacks to use this word because of the asymmetrical structure of the power dynamic. If you view yourself as an oppressed minority, you can't pretend to be color-blind. For a white to say "nigger" is far more dangerous than for a black to do it. I'm somewhat (somewhat) sympathetic to this argument, and I think it's applicable in the Jewish situation: yes, there are Jewish ritual moments that commemorate biblical events where one people suffered (usually the Hebrews' enemies) while another prospered, BUT because the Hebrews, and by extension the Jews, have been a long-persecuted minority all over the world, it's somewhat disanalogous to accuse the Jews of practicing the same kind of bigotry (?) as Christians who participate in gospel readings where the Jews come off as the bad guys.

That, by the way, is an ongoing debate. I report; you decide. Heh.

Fric: Gibson's dishonesty in the second point above puzzles me. He's either trying to take a non-mainstream view and make it mainstream, or he's trying to hide his motivation. Either way, it doesn't paint him in a very good light. Liar at best IMHO.

I don't know how much of this is outright lying, though if you pair Gibson with his dad, they're a scary duo. Maybe Gibson is quite sincere in what he believes (i.e., if he's lying, maybe he doesn't realize it); maybe his artistic motivation is sincere. But because this is Hollywood, and because this is big money, and because we're dealing with touchy scriptural questions and power relationships, yes, there's definite cause to worry.

For myself, I guess I'm insulated from some of this because the imagery in Gibson's film will be brutal, but won't be unfamiliar. Christians all know the story of the suffering of Jesus (or Jesus' Passion, as Catholics call it). I'd like to think that most modern, mainstream Christians know better than to take too literalist a tack regarding the gospel accounts, but...

...BUT, we're dealing with an event that many consider the essence of the Christian faith: that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures" and was raised again on the third day. I.e., literal death, literal resurrection. Easter is the most important event on the Christian liturgical calendar, bar none. It's strange, but even Christians who're willing to grant that other miracles (e.g., Old Testament miracles like God stopping the sun for three days, or NT miracles like Jesus walking on water) might not have happened, will claim that Jesus really rose again from the dead. Somehow, they find it necessary to believe this literally, even in the mainstream.

I don't want to devote this email to an explanation of resurrection theology, which is a very muddled business, but I hope I've provided a bit of Christian background for why Gibson might be doing what he's doing.

The problem, of course, is judging the film sight unseen. That's prejudicial, too. I'm going to see the movie, try to view it both critically and uncritically (is that possible? I dunno), and will definitely want to talk w/you all about it afterwards. I don't know when it's going to hit Korea, and have no clue what kind of stink it's going to make here.

I doubt I satisfactorily answered any of your questions, Fric, re: what makes non-Christians nervous, so I ask forgiveness in advance for that. I tend to think the main politico-religious issue is that Gibson may have created a "rallying point" for frothing fundies, who will go out into the world reassured of the rightness of their vision. In other words, what's worrisome is not so much the film as the fervent masses' reactions to it. The film is only a text. We, in our freedom, respond to it in various ways.

Tentative prediction: "The Passion" will cause a big stir while it's out, but the furor will die down pretty quickly as the election approaches (summer movies, too) and other matters reassert themselves in the public mind. Not so different from the national climate during the showing of Scorsese's "Last Temptation of Christ," which turned out not to be that big of a deal in the larger scale.

Might be interesting to go back and read old IMDB reviews of "Last Temptation."



Check out Ryan Overbey's review of "The Passion." Ryan also provides a link to GetReligion's take. See also Andrew Sullivan's review, in which he says "The Passion" is a kind of pornography.

"Passion" reviews and speculation abound, but one thing is clear: not many people like the musical score. Chalk up a point for Peter Gabriel and his inspired work on Scorsese's film-- Gabriel's album was, of course, titled Passion.


some mug designs

Click the huge, screaming Alien on the sidebar and go buy yourself a BigHominid mug or five.

Two new designs are out:

The "Squirrels Find Nuts" mug design...

a hit!  a most palpable hit!

And the "Tiger and Butterfly" mug design.

tiger and butterfly

[NB: There won't be any border on the actual mug image. ALSO: I might be changing the wording on the tiger one. It's supposed to be cute, but the people who go for "cute" are bizarrely averse to the word "dung." PLUS: Image resolution and quality on the actual mug will be better than what you're seeing on the screen right now.]

Go visit my CafePress site. Buy some swag. More's on the way, but there's already a pretty impressive range of items: tees, sweats, frisbees, mugs, greeting cards-- you name it. Check out all the different designs. Or if you want to go directly to the mug designs, here's the link.


Kerry and karma

If you're going to chant, "Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam," then you're going to have to deal with reporter Sydney H. Schanberg, of "The Killing Fields" fame.

This is pretty riveting stuff.

And Kerry on a lighter note (via Satan's Anus).


Thomas Covenant watch

As readers of the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever know, Thomas Covenant is dead, leaving two material corpses-- one at Haven Farm, another in the heart of Mount Thunder, in the Land. Covenant's spirit lives on in the Land as one of the Dead; his revenant speaks to Linden Avery both while she's in Kiril Threndor and during her transit back to "our" world.

So... how do you bring Covenant back for a Third Chronicles?

Let him be the "primary viewpoint character," that's how. Not only that, but play with temporality. Thus saith a Covenant-hound who was part of the audience at a reading by Donaldson:

[Donaldson] said that the 1st Chronicles were the "muscle" books where Lord Foul is akin to Hitler forging armies and A-bombs to ruin his enemies and break his prison. In the 2nd Chronicles Foul's method is an attack on the natural order of things. But in the 3rd Chronicles Foul's final means of escape will consist of a massive attack on and corruption of time itself! [breathless emphasis removed]

The first book in what is likely to be a humongous four-book series, The Runes of Earth, is due out either later this year or sometime next year.

If you clicked the first link, you saw Donaldson's emailed responses to the guy who runs the fan site. Donaldson separates himself from Tolkien right away:

3) are there any races or characters that I would like to write about outside the "Chronicles"? In a word, no. My mind doesn't work that way. I think in stories, not in races or characters (or in themes or belief-systems).

Compare this to Tolkien's delicate, meticulous construction of every aspect of Middle Earth's land, peoples, cultures, history, and cosmology. Donaldson's remark explains much.

And Donaldson at his most tersely philosophical:

6) the importance of contradiction? the nature of evil? I can't answer such questions--by which I mean that I can't think of anything to say that would be more clear than what is already in my books. But on the subject of contradiction, consider this: every human being is by his/her very nature a contradiction between material flesh and unquantifiable consciousness. That's hard to think about. Understanding ourselves isn't easy. Personally, I don't know any other way to process the dilemma of being a walking, talking contradiction except through story-telling. Certainly the fundamental postulate of traditional Western religions--dualism--doesn't do it for me. As for evil, all I can say is: consider what Lord Foul, Kasreyn of the Gyre, Master Eremis, Nick Succorso, and Holt Fasner have in common.

(Pssst: lemme spoil it for you: attachment.)


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

le parcours II

As I examine other members of my blogroll, I can see that it's pretty much a gay marriage roundup we're in for, so let's forget about gay marriage a second and start off with Lorianne's post on my least favorite subject, clothes shopping. I hated clothes shopping as a kid, being dragged all over the mall when all I wanted to do was play arcade games or hang out in the bookstore.

While I was working at APIC in the late 90s and early 00s, I'd be given APIC Annual Conference shirts to wear. I now have five such shirts-- blue faded heavy cotton weave, button-down, ranging from 3XL to 4XL. To people I meet, it must appear that I wear the same shirt and pants every day (I have three pairs of very similar black pants, you see). I don't give a rat's ass. What matters is that I wear these shirts untucked and mostly-unbuttoned: that's Hominid Style for you. I hate suits, jackets, slacks, loafers, formal wear. Hate 'em all. Gimme my damn freedom of movement.

OK-- onward to gay marriage. Once more unto my bitch, dear friends...

Ryan Overbey takes Andrew Sullivan's side in this debate, which many are calling the latest culture war. He says:

This is familiar rhetoric. Appeals to nature, to societal stability, the lambasting of "activist judges", the frequent usage of the verb "to protect". But what does the rhetoric mean?

I have not heard a single argument in this whole debate which is opposed to same-sex marriage and simultaneously empty of misleading rhetoric. Try to argue with an amendment supporter: ask him or her what they mean by "activist judges." Ask if they have read the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision, and whether they agree that there is a compelling parallel in Brown v. Board of Education. If they don't agree, ask them why not. Ask them what they mean by "weakening the good influence of society." Does legalizing gay marriage effectively remove the rights of heterosexual couples to marry? Of course it doesn't. But what then is meant by the verb "to protect"? If the answer is "sanctity", ask for a precise definition of sanctity. Ask how sanctity is relevant to the functioning of a democracy. Ask why loving homosexual relationships cannot be sacred.

This entire debate is grounded on a very limited set of vocabulary, a narrow range of concepts and assumptions which beg to be challenged. So many people are simply repeating the rhetoric, and I'm not always sure they have a firm grasp on what exactly the underlying principles are. Or perhaps some do understand the underlying principles—those of hatred and bigotry—but they understand that they cannot utter their true thoughts in the arena of public discourse. These are the sorts who are worse than our dear friends at God Hates Fags: they share the same horrific ideology but are burdened with the additional vices of dishonesty and cowardice.

So I issue a challenge. Do any of you, my dear readers, support a marriage amendment? And if so, why? Feel free to comment below. But this game will have rules. You are not allowed to say "Because I want to protect marriage", or "Because I want to defend the sanctity of marriage." If you do attempt these meaningless lines of argument, then give them meaning. Define them. Tell us why allowing gay people to marry will damage the institution itself, will dilute the meaning of union for other couples. If you sincerely believe that permitting gay marriage will lead to the collapse of our social institutions and family structures, do us the favor of telling us why you believe it is so. And try not to be like the Baptist protester in Boston, who stated frankly and unironically that God would destroy the state in the same way He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. You can do better than that.

By the way, further down his blog, Ryan links to a French-language post re: the pleasures of cunnilingus on a blog by someone with the pseudonym Beuzl. I congratulate Beuzl in my rusty French in the comments section. "Mysterious carnal machinery" indeed.

Another explosion of commenter activity over at Bird Dog's gay marriage thread on Tacitus. Very lively.

Cobb (whose granddad just passed away this past Friday) opines on gay marriage and takes a pretty solid religious and political conservative position. He doesn't want to grant the use of the term "marriage" to gay unions (I say "What's the big deal, though?"), he views marriage as ordained by God, but he's also somewhere close to Donald Sensing's position, in which we separate the legal and the spiritual aspects of marriage and let the proper authorities have their own proper purview. Check Cobb out here and here and here. Search around for other posts; he's got a few more.

Annika is for gay marriage, but thanks President Bush for his principled stance, which puts the big decisions back in the hands of the people. I imagine she agrees with Keith Burgess-Jackson that Bush made this decision freely, but I'm not so sure. I think there's plenty of reelection pandering going on, and Bush is beholden to his own Religious Right special interests. That said, I'm over the initial emotions and think that, yes, Bush's action shouldn't be viewed either as surprising or as all that threatening. Why? Because like Annika and others point out, there's really no way this amendment will go through.

Kensho Godchaser writes a post on the "Tyranny of the Majority," however, and brings up my own and others' concern (cf. Bill Maher in Smallholder's post): sometimes the majority has its head up its ass. Of course such an assessment is countered by the accusation of liberal arrogance: "Once again, you judge everyone else as stupid." I think it's a charge worth considering, but this brings us back to Plantinga-related issues: which is more arrogant, the liberal stance or, say, a "WHITES ONLY" sign?

Kensho writes:

"We can't have gay marriage," they cry - "the majority of Americans are opposed to it."

"The people," they pronounce, "should have the right to decide whether homosexual couples can participate in marriage."

How idiotic would these arguments sound if you replaced "marriage" with "free speech"? Or "owning property"? But conservatives ignore the screaming contradiction of their position in their quest to defend the "ancient tradition of heterosexual marriage". (News flash, folks: slavery used to be an ancient tradition until we outlawed it.) These are the same conservatives who are quick to remind you (rightly!) that rights are inalienable, that America is a democratic Republic, not a democracy, and that the Bill of Rights was created to protect the sanctity of the individual against the tyranny of the majority. This argument serves their needs when the issue is gun control or the capital gains tax - but bring up marriage equality, and suddenly, the sanctity of the individual is up for vote.

Kensho, by invoking free speech and property, also ends up talking about basic (civil) rights.

[NB: Over at Cobb, there is no tolerance for dragging race analogies into a sexuality issue. He says: "What the justices of the peace (who are actually disturbing it) in SF are trying to do is to paint blacks white." I'll respectfully disagree with Cobb on this because I see this as a civil rights issue.]

Glenn also issues a challenge to amendment advocates:

I'd like one person who opposes gay marriage (whose opinion actually matters, so 99% of you bloggers don't count) to come up with a credible argument for not allowing homosexual marriages that DOESN'T INVOLVE a religious reason. Why that stipulation? Because the last time I checked church & state were seperate, and if you're going to use the secular law system then GODDAMMIT you better have a better reason than "It's in the Bible so I'm against it."


I dare anyone to come up with a reason that isn't rooted in the religious. To leave the *INSERT HOLY BOOK HERE* out of it. Because if you can't, then you need to shut the fuck up.

Also, if you try to use the argument that "marraige was intended to form families for the purpose of child bearing and creating families" I'll fully be expecting you to rail against the evils of old people getting married, infertile couples being allowed to remain married, and the consciously childless being allowed to remain married. Because those marriages ain't havin' no kids. But why allow them to remain married?

Please, someone. I dare you.

At Amritas, Dr. Miyake may skew fairly conservative, but he also comes out strongly against Bush on this.

People like Keith Burgess-Jackson will do their damnedest to paper over bigotry issues and try to keep the focus on the purely legal aspects of the overall debate (KBJ's latest tactic is to paint the pro-gay marriage side as hysterical). It's a shame, because life happens around us no matter what the musty law books say. Donald Sensing recognizes this, even if he views the situation with sadness. I admire his empiricism and pragmatism, even if I disagree with his theology.

Previous civil rights battles also involved a huge extralegal component. It's the constant push-pull of chaos and order, novelty and stasis; boundaries have to be crossed, rules have to be broken, and points have to be made by deeds, not words. So maybe the folks in San Fran are holding bogus marriage licenses. Maybe. But they've made a statement, these gay folks, as have the judges in Massachusetts. Both sides need to remember that the opposing position, however repugnant it may seem, does not signal the end of the world. The story doesn't end; the dialogue continues; the universe moves.


le parcours

As always, my blogroll proves itself way too interesting.

Over the past 24 hours, the Maximum Leader and I have been going over this question of single-issue voting, which I suppose was prompted by my "it's official" post. The ML wrote this post in response, and I responded on his blog (where I'm one of several guest bloggers) here. At this point the ML clarified his own stance, granting that I'm not a single-issue voter but that my post was reminiscent of single-issue thinking. Here's what he wrote in a subsequent post:

Your Maximum Leader would like to ask the Poet Laureate for whom would he vote if it was a Kerry v. Bush election? (Which it is very likely to be.) On the issues that the Hominid lists, one would appear to get a split decision. Bush over Kerry on Defence. A push on managing the economy. And Kerry over Bush on social issues. Does that make the Hominid likely to cast his (hypothetical) vote for Bush or Kerry? Perhaps it does come down to one issue. Gay marriage? Korea policy? Or does the plot thicken? Does the Hominid cast his vote for Nader? For Daffy Duck? For Opus the Penguin? (Or does he do the sensible thing and write in his Maximum Leader?)
(emphasis added)

The ML is suggesting that it's possible to "become" a single-issue voter when presented with candidates who are appealing in some aspects but not in others, such that a decision may indeed boil down to the One Issue to Rule Them All.


This isn't my impression of what "single-issue voting" is (hereinafter SIV for short). SIV, as far as I can tell, is a behavior/tendency that manifests itself over time, election after election: e.g., a person whose sole criterion for choosing candidates is, say, their stance on homosexuality. Or, similarly, an SIVer might also be someone who shows this kind of stubborn, blindered focus over the course of a single election cycle-- perhaps because Topic X has been the Issue of the Year. By implication, the SIVer's focus on this issue is so intense that s/he actively ignores the candidates' stances on all other issues.

More succinctly: the constitutive element of SIV is voluntarily exclusive focus on a single issue.

My own shift away from Bush (and even in the posts where I mentioned I might vote Bush, I wasn't at all enthusiastic) doesn't reflect any of the above traits because I'm not focused on a single issue. As I laid out on the ML's blog, I'm worried about the holy trinity of defense, social issues (which include but aren't limited to gay marriage), and the economy. More to the point, the ML's hypothetical doesn't necessarily produce SIVers: it merely produces voters who've been presented with narrowed choices-- i.e., we're no longer talking about voluntarily exclusive focus.

So I don't think the ML has provided a proper model for the SIV question. If you want to find out who the SIVers are among us, you have to watch their thinking over time and see whether they remain focused on a single issue.

To answer the ML's question, at least partially: if I were faced with a Bush/Kerry choice, and absolutely no other option ("CAKE OR DEATH!"), I'd choose Bush because in the hierarchy of issues, defense is on top for me. Further: since the ML's question allows for other selections, like Daffy Duck... to be honest, in a Bush/Kerry/Daffy election, I'd have to choose Daffy.

At the risk of over-repetition: Having a hierarchy of concerns isn't the same as having a single, voluntarily exclusive, focused concern. If our presidential "menu" (yes, probably Kerry vs. Bush) forces us into a choice between defense and the economy (as I've argued on this blog), then the choices we make are by no means necessarily a function of SIV.

My own point of view is premised on a particular definition of SIV, to be sure (though I'm pretty sure my definition is the conventional understanding of the term). If the ML's own conception of SIV is something more general, such as "making a choice/vote based a single issue"-- period-- then obviously ANYONE forced into the situation the ML describes does indeed "become" a single-issue voter: the scenario and terminological definitions together produce circular results.

To pull another KBJ:

1. A single-issue voter is someone who chooses/votes based on a single issue. Period. No further qualification.
2. You find yourself in a situation where your choice of candidate A or B ultimately boils down to a single issue and those candidates' respective stances on it.
3. If you vote for A (or B) while in circumstance (2), you're a single-issue voter. QED.

Circular, thanks to both the definition and the scenario. You almost don't even need (3). But:

1. A single-issue voter is someone who chooses/votes due to a voluntarily exclusive focus on a single issue.
2. You find yourself in a situation where your choice of candidate A or B ultimately boils down to a single issue and those candidates' respective stances on it.
3. If you vote for A (or B) while in circumstance (2), you're a single-issue voter. QED?

No, not QED. Why? Because it's less clear that we've established voluntarily exclusive focus on a single issue. This would require getting inside the person's head, observing their behavior over time, etc.

Then again, the ML may have an even different definition of SIV, something not covered by the above two alternatives. ML?

Moving on to the Korean blogosphere...

Kevin at IA fuels my political cynicism by noting that the Bush Administration will still be appeasing NK by funneling aid through South Korea instead of giving it to NK directly. If true, this bites, sucks, and swallows. I suppose that what differentiates a Democrat from a Republican when it comes to NK is a matter of degree, not kind: it's all appeasement in some measure.

Does this also mean that the Bush Administration's admirably undiplomatic language (and attitude) toward NK is a sham? I'd like to think it isn't, but articles like this don't give me hope. All the same, when you've got NK positively rooting for John Kerry to be elected, you have to wonder. My hope is that the Bush Administration doesn't give away the store. They will, as Kevin notes in another post, very likely try to pass off some half-measure as a "victory" in an election year, but if they revert to a less-accommodating stance after Bush is reelected (as I'm still pretty sure he will be), that works for me.

The Marmot does a roundup of Koreablogger pre-talk thoughts. He also expresses doubts about the NK "unofficial agreement" to have inspections of Yongbyon. I have a feeling that Yongbyon is, at this point (if it wasn't already before this), little more than a front for whatever Uruk-hai factory the Norks have built in their mountain fastnesses and deep underground.

NK Zone, which I need to stick on the blogroll, quotes an article questioning the effectiveness of sanctions. After all the work I did on Natsios, I can understand where the article writers (not NK Zone) are coming from. But Rebecca McKinnon, who runs NK Zone, is right to ask:

But we still have a serious problem. We still need to know how an agreement by North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons programs (plural) and to stop proliferating would be reliably enforced, and how cheating would be truly prevented. Without the "trust, but verify" piece, the engagers could still potentially wind up supporting activities that threaten themselves.

And how do you get to the point where you can "trust and verify", when you can't even monitor food aid properly?

This has always been the heart of the NK problem: verification. It's not enough to obtain a mere promise from NK about future conduct. What we need is access-- something NK isn't willing to give as they protest and bluster about sovereignty and the right of self-defense.

McKinnon also has an amusing post, referred to above, about NK support for Kerry.

The Vulture has something nice to say about his patrons. He's also counting the days until Bush leaves office. I imagine a Bush supporter could re-tool the counter so that it's a countdown to reelection. I'm still working on that Vulture logo.

Seeing Eye Blog has further remarks on NK Zone's Kerry post:

Kerry has called Bush's truth-exposing NK strategy "reckless," and said, "I'll talk to North Korea, and solve the nuclear crisis peacefully."

To Pyeongyang's dictator this means he would get back all the goodies he was getting under the '94 deal, along with the world's blind eye to his clandestine nuke program.

Naturally, if I were Kim Jong-il, I'd whip up visible evidence to strengthen Kerry's argument that the Bush strategy is reckless. I'd create signs that the crisis is worsening, getting more dangerous - in hopes that the perception of impending danger and policy failure will hurt Bush in November.

This would be a lose-lose situation for the U.S., for South Korea, for Northeast Asia, for everybody in the world but North Korea. If Kerry cared more about solving the crisis than winning in November, he would stump that he'd be even sterner with Pyeongyang than Bush has been. That would undermine Pyeongyang's brinksmanship tactics, and engender chances, however slim, and however risky, for real, productive changes.

That's what I hope Kerry does. And he'd be more likely to get my vote if he did so.

Mike also notes something a commenter on his blog (Slim) said:

You're being unfair to Kerry. He resolutely opposes North Korea's nuclear ambitions -- on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he backs the atomic programme, arguing that the Bush administration is lying about it. On weekends, he goes with the prevailing poll sentiment.

SEB also gives us a glmpse of the cutest criminal ever.

An article at Oranckay about shooting ranges at Lotte World ($30 for only TEN FUCKING ROUNDS!? Kim du Toit's head would burst!). Most disturbing tidbit: the place is a hangout for lonely NK defector-youths. Memories of home, eh? Jesus.

Words of wisdom over at the Infidel's:

Seoul, like Beijing and Tokyo, lacks the political will to end the cradle-to-grave socialism which has served the region through the respite provided by the American military umbrella. But, facing remilitarization and global economic competition, South Korea needs to revitalize a moribund culture radically. The contract, too, which saw every generation do better than the one before it, is also in peril. Where America's woes are [predominantly] cyclical, South Korea faces a structural crisis. Resisting the attractions of an ugly isolationist nationalism will take a little luck and the good graces of South Korea's neighbors, [on] which Seoul depends for its continued prosperity.

Over at Flying Yangban: what do Americans think of other countries? It's a relief to see that question, as opposed to the usual "What do Koreans think of America?"-- which usually leads to depressing answers.

A reminder to people in the States: America is talked about all the damn time. I found this to be true while living in France and Switzerland as well. There's no escaping the fact that people pay attention to us. Message to American isolationists: it's too late. Isolation ain't gonna happen. We're way too plugged in to the rest of the world. Let it go.

I'm very slow on the uptake, but check out Owen Rathbone's post on the NK/Canada connection.

For those who've been following the Lee Seung-yeon flap (an actress who made the very tasteless mistake of posing for pictures as a scantily-clad and beat-up-looking comfort woman), Jeff at Ruminations in Korea has the goods on the latest twist in the soap opera: Lee is going to America for a while, ostensibly because her lower back needs treatment (from all the apologetic bowing to the real comfort women?), but Jeff thinks otherwise:

So, does this mean the story is finally over now that she has subjected herself to voluntary exile? Not hardly. According to news reports (in Korean) Ms. Lee had signed a one-year modeling contract with "H" company. However, according to the company, because of Ms. Lee's actions, any product with her image associated with it is completely unusable, and as a result of their association with Ms. Lee, their company's reputation and marketability has suffered enormous damages. They are prepare to file a lawsut seeking damages from Ms. Lee. The amount is likely to be more that USD 1,000,000.

As the punk-biker-dude shouted in "The Road Warrior," YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE!

Then again, I hear Osama's on dialysis and he's been running and hiding. Miss Lee's younger than Osama-- smaller, faster; she has a fictional lower-back problem, and can disappear for years in LA's huge Koreatown. Be careful, Miss Lee-- if you stray too close to those Hollywood surgeons, you might resurface in the public eye as a man! Hairy Soo!

Guess who works at a bar in South Korea these days? Go to Kirk for the answer.

A weekend of rain, temples, migraines, coffee (always coffee), queers, and many other things besides over at Overboard. Oh, and Andi's gi-ding p'aet ah-roun dah heep.

Polymath provides a great survey of South Korean opinions about America and North Korea, laced with his perceptive commentary. One quote from an old Korean gent struck me:

"Can anyone believe everything North Korea says? If it doesn't work out again, then I guess we'll just have to fight it out, I'm old but I can still pick up a gun and go to war. I've done it before, I can do it again." - Retired teacher and Korean War vet, Kim Hak-jun, 76.


Drambuie Man hosts a GOP Korea gathering and remarks:

One of the things in my experience that has always amazed me is how grassroots the GOP really is. I know all the rhetoric about the GOP being in big business' pocket. However in all my experience I have seen that to be opposite. Contrasted to some Dem meetings and functions I have been privileged to attend, yesterday's meeting (despite the aforementioned differences), as far as I can tell, was made up entirely of people with humble middle to lower class backgrounds.

Why? Simple, getting a fifty dollar tax cut means more to scrappers like me than making sure that the guy in charge of the "Blind Midnight Basketball Diversity Awareness Feasibility Study Blue Ribbon Commission" gets a comfy chair for his desk.

Of more interest is his lengthy post about MREs, Meals Ready to Eat. You can buy them all over Seoul, where you'll find old ladies selling piles of them on flatbed carts along with other canned and wrapped foreign products.

Kathreb observes that, in China, they don't fuck around with corrupt officials: they simply dispose of them. I doubt they dispose of them fast enough: my impression from reading the other Chinabloggers is that China's got plenty of political and business corruption to spare.

A pissed-off Party Pooper writes in defense of most American soldiers-- and rightly so, since most of them don't commit crimes.

And you know what? I'd planned to continue on through the blogroll, but this is taking way too much time, so I'll stop here. More later.


on a lighter note...

I just wanted to show the world that it is indeed possible for Man and God's creatures to live in harmony.

Either that, or this is a picture of me suffering the Maximum Leader's wrath at the hands (or jaws) of his most trusted attack squirrel.

Seriously, I'm thinking this is going to be a new mug design, though the final background color scheme might be a bit different.


it's official

My choices have pretty much narrowed to John Edwards and Daffy Duck. Just a couple weeks ago, it used to be "Bush or Daffy" until (1) I found out more about Edwards, and (2) Bush went ahead and did this, which has pushed me over the edge. No, not into rage-- just into finding a new competitor for Daffy Duck.

By the way, Edwards doesn't seem too keen on gay marriage, but here's what he has to say:

"As I have long said, I believe gay and lesbian Americans are entitled to equal respect and dignity under our laws. While I personally do not support gay marriage, I recognize that different states will address this in different ways, and I will oppose any effort to pass an amendment to the United States Constitution in response to the Massachusetts decision.

"We are a nation comprised of men and women from all walks of life. It is in our national character to provide equal opportunity to all, and this is what unites our country, in laws and in shared purpose. That is why today, we must also reach out to those individuals who will try to exploit this decision to further divide our nation, and ask them to refrain from that effort."

Edwards takes a federalist-sounding position, which is no longer my position, but it's a damn sight better than the bullshit emanating from La Casablanca debajo Bush.

Turns out, though, that Ralph Nader is very pro-gay marriage, and Keith Burgess-Jackson, who spares no effort to marshal arguments against gay marriage, has been going on about voting for Nader this time around. I love it.

UPDATE: Check out some Smallholder posts over at the Maximum Leader's blog re: gay marriage.

And a comment about backlash: conservatives have been predicting this for a while, it's true. And it's quite possible that the country's mood will become much less accommodating if the shriller elements of the pro-gay marriage movement are given too much air time. I don't expect any simple resolutions to this question anytime soon, but as the ML himself pointed out long ago (and as Donald Sensing also pointed out recently), the overall tide is turning in favor of this form of marriage.

I highly recommend that you track down and read through the Tacitus thread on this subject. The thread brings up a lot of what's being discussed these days re: the separation of the civil and religious aspects of committed union. While I've become an advocate of adding a Constitutional amendment that makes civil marriage available to consenting adults no matter their gay/hetero sexual preference, another equally palatable option is the one advocated by Sensing and others: leave holy matrimony to the churches, and leave civil marriage, hetero and gay, to the state(s)-- the state doesn't get to define marriage as strictly "between a man and a woman," but the churches are free to handle this as they will, with neither tromping on the other's purview. Specifically, Sensing says: rough solution to the present controversy on both coasts has two parts:

1. Have states issue only "Civil Interpersonal Contract" registrations that may be used by any two adults of legal age. CICs (remember, I'm retired Army and I love acronyms) would accomplish the same thing as marriage licences do now regarding property rights from local to federal level, and other matters relegated now exclusively to spouses, such as the right to make certain medical decisions for the other in emergencies, etc. What they would not do is continue to involve the secular state in deciding what marriage is - apart from the legal aspect, this is a metaphysical question the state has no business even attempting to answer.

2. Certificates of marriage, having no additional legal effect, would be issued by churches, synagogues or mosques, not by the state. Holders of CICs who also wanted to be married - with all the social and religious implications thereof - would find their desire unencumbered by state burdens, and churches would be freed of the pressure to unite couples in matrimony for reasons often having little to do with religious nurture.

From my perspective as a pastor, separating the civil-legal aspects and the religious aspects would have some salutary effects.

*It would allow more time for me to work with couples who have a religious interest in their interpersonal relationship without the deadline pressure of the wedding date. Of the gazillion things on the mind of the bride and her family to get the wedding done well and on time, religious reflection and counseling usually rank about last. The couple usually perceives, correctly, that there is time for that after the wedding.

*It would permit me and the engaged couple to go forward with less sexual hypocrisy. Well more than half of men and women betting married today are already living together, living as husband and wife in every way except the legal certification. For a large number of the men - and most of the women - the spouse they will take is not the first they have cohabited with. The historical teaching of the Church, of course, is that sexual relations should follow, not precede, the wedding.

My personal policy in this is "don't ask, don't tell." I have not asked couples whether they live together, but when they both report the same mailing address it sort of gives the game away. By far the majority of couples I marry these days are already cohabiting. That means that the contractual nature of the wedding is more prominent than ever; they are certainly not looking for the Church's sanction of their relationship. They really seek legal, not religious, recognition of their troth and all the legal benefits it entails. For them, the signature on the license is far more important than the words of the litany. The ceremony changes essentially nothing about their lives, except often to make the in-laws on both sides more accepting of the state of affairs. Reconciliation is certainly a role for clergy, but frankly, I sometimes feel like I'm being used for essentially selfish concerns on their part.

If a couple wants a marriage, not merely a partnership, then I'd rather it be because they have genuine impulses toward spiritual union with one another and God, under God's grace and the care of the Church, not because it simplifies other parts of their lives.

Homosexual partners who want to share the same legal rights as traditional married couples would be able to do so under this arrangement. It would not entail the state defining them as married, nor require anyone else to recognize them as married. There are denominations that would issue them marriage certificates, though, the Metropolitan Community Church being one (they already do, but the state doesn't recognize them as contractual documents). But Catholics, Baptists and Methodists, et. al. would be able to maintain their orthodoxy of what marriage is and devote their attentions away from the legal-political arena to where it belongs: the care and nurture of souls.

If Sensing means what I think he means, then this might actually work for me. Sensing's basic view of gay marriage, unlike mine, is negative: the moment humanity was able to separate marriage from certain previously-ironclad biological realities, Pandora's box opened up. But like me, Sensing simply acknowledges this to be the fact of the matter. This throws arguments from history/tradition and biology into jeopardy, because the idea that "humanity has always been this way," while a factual claim, is now faced with the equally empirical fact that "humanity doesn't have to continue this way." (And on a possibly-related note, Kensho Godchaser also urges people to realize that the engineering of humanity is an inevitability. Yep, I agree.)

If we adopt Sensing's solution, we avoid a lot of the messiness that my own position would entail re: the legislation of love and marriage. Just so you know, I'm hinging my own view on the idea that marriage in American society is (or should be!) a basic civil right-- something about which Andrew Sullivan did perhaps too good a job of persuading me. This being the case, if it's going to be leglislated at all, it shouldn't be done piecemeal, state by state. It should instead be enshrined in the Constitution in the same manner that voting is: i.e., by making factors X, Y, and, Z nonissues.

I'm willing to grant that my perspective (1) isn't popular even among gays, and (2) probably isn't where we want to go if, as Sullivan also argues, the Constitution should be viewed as a "sacred document" (don't get me started on the whole "sacred" business), something to be tweaked only rarely and for very, very good reason. So after I read more about Sensing's position (which is also appealing for how it continues the spirit of "separation of church and state"), I'll get back to you about whether I've actually found a stance better than my own.

Sensing does a roundup of his own gay marriage posts here.

Final note: You can see the difference between Sensing's and Keith Burgess-Jackson's positions. Both see the marriage issue in terms of dichotomy, but whereas Sensing's categorical split is spiritual/legal, KBJ's is moral/legal-- a split I reject because I believe all legislation has, at its base, a moral impetus: the promotion and sustenance of a maximally stable, harmonious, and flourishing society (with the acknowledgement that stability, harmony, and flourishing are usually but not always complementary). Only a lawyer would think to separate the legal from the moral. Sensing's dichotomy, that of a soldier-turned-clergyman, is pragmatic and has the virtue of being better-rooted in reality, I think.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The Maximum Leader ignores pretty much my entire blog opus and professes amusement at what he perceives to be single-issue thinking. Let's make this clear: Bush just made an important speech, and this post's focus was primarily on the issues in that speech (ah, yes-- a link to the text of that speech here). Focus on a single issue in a single blog post doesn't constitute single-issue thinking. The ML knows me better than that.


Korean Buddhist cinema

Via The Revealer, I learn about director (and star) Kim Ki-duk's movie, "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring," which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. Sounds like an amazing flick.

Later that afternoon, Sundance held the world premiere of Korean director Kim Ki-duk’s new film, “Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter . . . and Spring.” Set on a floating monastery in a lush, unnamed valley, “Spring, Summer” is the story of a Buddhist monk and his young protégé and the cycles that bind and loose their lives.

In the opening segment, “Spring,” the boy explores his mischievous side by tying small stones to a fish, a frog, and a snake and watching them struggle to carry the weight. He laughs with cruel pleasure, the just-past-innocent pleasure of a boy learning how he can manipulate the world. The monk watches secretly, disappointedly.

The next morning, the boy awakens under the weight of a large stone. When he cries to be released, the monk tells him to first go release the animals. “But if any of them have died,” he warns, “you will carry that stone in your heart for the rest of your life.”

Spoken like a koan, those words become a prophecy. As the seasons change, the boy grows by a decade or more, and by the time we arrive at “Winter” he has learned about the cycles of love and hate, birth and death, bondage and freedom.

Ki-duk depicts Buddhism as a blessing and a curse, a force for evil and redemption. We are constantly reminded of the role of the Buddha statue, which, in this monastery, is made sacred only to haunt its worshippers. Both the master and his pupil are forced to confront the reality that freedom from the self may finally mean self-obliteration.

Much of what is interesting about Sundance is what happens after the screenings, when there is usually a Q&A session with directors/actors, and then an extended period of milling about. “Spring, Summer” had no representation, but audience members were yet eager to chat with each other. As the lights came up after the movie, I turned to get the reactions of the four guys sitting behind me. Hollywood screenwriters all, they were buzzing with the lessons they learned from Ki-duk’s precise, methodical storytelling. They didn’t know anything about Buddhism, they said, but the movie had awakened dormant curiosities.

Not having seen the film, I'm not sure how to take the reviewer's contention that, "Both the master and his pupil are forced to confront the reality that freedom from the self may finally mean self-obliteration." In Buddhism, there's no self-obliteration because, well, there's no self. Is the writer referring to something tragic that happens in the movie? A monk crushed under a Buddha statue, for example? I don't know. But to describe Buddhist practice as "confronting" this reality isn't quite right. Realizing jae beop gong sang, all things (lit. "all dharmas") have the character of emptiness, isn't somehow negative or horrifying or disturbing. The reviewer sounds a little too much like many Westerners who mistakenly equate Buddhist emptiness with the French existentialist's Void or Nonbeing.

This film was also being offered for consideration for the Academy Awards, in the Best Foreign Film category (see here for another interesting writeup).

I don't know the Korean title (at a guess, "Bom, Yeoreum, Ga-eul, Gyeo-ul... Bom"), but I'm going to look this film up. If it's already available as a DVD in the States, I might nab it through Amazon.

Back in 1989, while I was living in Fribourg, Switzerland, I saw Bae Yong-kyun's "Why Has Bodhidharma Left for the East?", a fascinating and Zen-saturated film (WARNING: not for people who need fast-paced action). "Spring" sounds like a film in a very similar vein.

UPDATE: I found the listing for "Spring," with a romaja transliteration of the Korean title.


cognitive pissonance

I haven't had a Coke in a few days. I want one. Fucking Coke addict. I don't know what's keeping me from getting one. Perhaps it's the weight of my enormous ass, trapping me in this seat.

I don't like either Bush or Kerry. I suspect Bush will be firmer on defense matters (and though I understand Kevin at IA's point about Bush being wussy on NK, I tend to think his administration is making NK more nervous than Clinton's did. It's certainly making South Korea more nervous!), but he's running the economy into the toilet, his head is up his ass on social issues, and as the Air Marshal points out, we've got corruption, secrecy, and other integrity issues. I suspect Kerry will be somewhat better for the economy, maybe a bit better on social issues, but he's plagued by this strange, lifelong cycle of "be gung ho, then regret-- repeat as necessary," and his internationalism worries me. At this point, I have almost zero faith in the UN and get the feeling that Kerry would gladly fellate Kim Jong Il to placate "world opinion." Ditto for Chirac, with whom he can banter in French while slurping away. Alors, mon vieux... (slurp-slurp)... et que dirais-tu si je te cédais (slurp-slurp) tout l'Israël? I'm surprised more Republicans haven't satirized Kerry on this point. Maybe too many Republicans also speak French? Heh.

[UPDATE: A brief post from NK Zone relates North Korean praise for John Kerry. Another reason not to vote for him.]

Six-headed angels no longer visit me while I'm crapping. I can't seem to bring myself to care.

And greasy Joan doth keel the pot!

Whatever the hell that means. Shakespeare can eat me.

I think I'm going to go take a walk. Maybe buy a Coke.

Oh, yeah-- among other pieces of (f)art, I'm drawing some logos for various Koreablogs. I'm not quite sure what works best for Incestuous Amplification... I keep getting images of a guy diddling a woman from behind while she screams through a bullhorn, "Big brother is MY DADDY!" But that's just wrong. Maybe I'll do a visual representation of "bombtits." Or Kevin's classic "Gotta be fuckin' kidding me."

The Marmot's logo was fairly easy to figure out (no brainer: a marmot and a hole); the question now is the details.

I'm pretty sure Cathartidae is going to show a vulture plucking out Bush's eyes or pecking his brain or something.

Seeing Eye Blog was also fairly easy, though as I stare at the logo, it occurs to me that it doesn't quite make sense. Might have to redo.

The Infidel's logo is either Jesus on the cross shouting, "IS THAT ALL YOU GOT!?" or a robed Arab sporting a cross, a Magen David, and a huge, toothy grin.

SINCE I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK AN "ORANCKAY" IS, I HAVE NO GODDAMN CLUE HOW TO DRAW ONE. Is it a monkey??? Please write in, Mr. Schroepfer, and enlighten me.

Only a newbie to this blog would be unaware of what logo I plan on drawing for It Makes a Difference to the Sheep.

Still working on others. Please write in if you have preferences, or don't really want me to logo-ize your blog. I'm thinking of sprucing up the sidebar by turning the links into tiny images.


Tuesday, February 24, 2004

before you get your hopes up

North Korea once again has its own preconditions for the six-way talks, and they're the same as ever: you pay, we play.

Your source for this pungent glop of oral caca: Yahoo! News.

Thou shalt chew upon my leprous, leathery, loathsome nads, Kim Jong Il! Now and forever!

Sorry, folks, but whatever progress you're hoping for ain't gonna happen this time around. It's just like the Pope said about North Korea: "It is as it was." I suspect NK's sending a delegation to Libya with only one question: "How the fuck did you guys back down from the US and still retain your balls?"

Anybody remember Gadaffi's "line of death"?

We need to be thinking about driving a very firm wedge between NK and Libya right now. We also need to be thinking about the accusations (quite possibly justified) of dictator-coddling that will accompany a warming (thawing?) relationship with Libya. Gadaffi may have to go. I don't know how this might happen, but it may have to happen if the US is going to strive for some internal consistency.

(Granted: Now that Libya's capitulated-- somewhat-- it might not be our most pressing concern. However, in light of the intelligence failures that allowed Libya to get as far along in its weapons program as it did, I think it deserves more than a little of our attention.)


America doesn't need its own Noh Mu Hyon

I think the country would be better served by Young John than Old John. Kerry's got way too many inconsistencies, and while I think people may be going too far in digging up shit about Kerry's military past, the man did invite inspection with his repeated mantra, "Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam."

Here's a cute little animation on John Moore's site that lays out some of Kerry's inconsistencies. Enjoy.


just kill 'em all?

"This guy makes you look like a North Korean sympathizer," writes Smallholder in an email. Here's the link to what he's talking about. You decide: is this writer a bit over the top?

Some quotables:

During all these years, one thing stands out clearly: The North Koreans never backed down, never yielded to pressure, never blinked. While the North Koreans had a very large standing army, the U.S. and S. Korean forces had overwhelmingly superior technology backed by tactical nuclear weapons that had the undeniable ability to even out North Korea's numerical battlefield superiority. Despite this, North Korea remained belligerent and bellicose.

We now know what was going on behind the scenes. While the United States was wringing its hands, wondering what to do every time the North Koreans pushed or prodded, North Korea was building up its stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, and working hard on its nuclear weapons program.

Shortly after President Clinton took office, North Korea threatened to pull out of the non-proliferation treaty, interrupting international inspections of nuclear facilities. This came as a big surprise to the Clinton administration, which had been operating on the presumption that the North Koreans were abiding by this treaty, and were not pursuing nuclear weapons.


North Korea received active and enthusiastic help and support from Pakistan in exchange for several of its potent missiles. Pakistan, of course, had already invented the wheel, and so could point the North Koreans in the right direction with their own bomb development. Add sufficient smuggled Soviet-era plutonium for two or three bombs, and you have a nuclear-armed North Korea with the ability to strike at least two or three targets almost anywhere.

On Oct. 16, 2002, that's exactly what the Bush administration revealed. The North Koreans have had an ongoing nuclear development program all along, and have - for certain - at least two to four bombs in their arsenal, with the capability of creating another dozen or so in the next few weeks, and up to 30 per year thereafter.

Now you know why President Bush is so eager to install an anti-missile missile system in Alaska as soon as possible - even yesterday - if we could do it.

The U.S. reaction to this revelation has been quiet, but firm. True to its history, North Korea has pushed right back. On Christmas Eve, North Korea warned of an "uncontrollable catastrophe" unless the United States agrees to negotiate new terms in a revised agreement on its nuclear energy and weapons programs.

On its face, such a threat is frightening, since North Korea now has the teeth to back up its boasts. Nevertheless, I am reluctant to believe that North Korea really can successfully launch and hit any U.S. targets with its nuclear-armed missiles. In fact, even launching them against South Korea or Japan carries a big risk, because North Korea has no depth to its nuclear arsenal. American retaliation would be swift and sure, with only one reasonable outcome.

So what is the actual threat?

I undertook an investigation over Christmas to discover what North Korea had available in its chemical and biological weapons arsenal.

According to information I gleaned from many sources across the Internet, North Korea currently has approximately 5,000 tons of chemical agents specifically manufactured for weapons use. The chemicals fall into two categories: blistering agents (mostly a mix of Lewisite and Mustard gas) and the nerve agents Sarin and VX. Because of their persistence, the blistering agents and VX can be used to deny further use of an area to the opposition, and they all can be used to incapacitate a troop concentration or destroy the population of a city.

North Korea has limited its biological weapons stockpile primarily to Anthrax and Smallpox, although it is known to have investigated Botulinum Toxin, Cholera, Hemorrhagic Fever, Plague, Typhoid, Typhus and Yellow Fever, and has accused the U.S. of employing each of these against North Korea at one or more times during the Korean Conflict.

North Korean Anthrax is the same weaponized strain developed by the Soviets during the Cold War.

Until recently, the world believed that the only stocks of Smallpox virus were safely held at secure locations in the U.S. and the old Soviet Union. On Nov. 4, 2002, however, the Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control division of the CIA announced that four countries - France, Iraq, North Korea, and Russia - probably possess undeclared samples of smallpox.

Not only does North Korea have a significant stockpile of chemical and biological weapons, but South Korean authorities identified six chemical weapons storage areas, three chemical production facilities, and eight chemical research centers scattered across the northern half of the peninsula.

In light of this developing information, it seems much more likely that North Korea could launch an all-out biological and chemical offensive against the United States, Japan and South Korea, while holding its nukes in reserve for a follow-on strike, while we scramble to protect ourselves and recover from the initial attack.

I can see only one way to prevent this scenario from taking place. Unless we pre-emptively destroy North Korea's ability to strike first with biologics and chemicals, and unless we simultaneously take out its nuclear capability and its overwhelming troop strength, we will likely be in for a long, drawn-out conflict with heavy casualties on our side.

The only way we can accomplish these simultaneous goals is to strike all known North Korean biological, chemical and nuclear centers with air-burst nukes of sufficient capacity to wipe them out, and simultaneously to hit all their known troop concentrations with tactical neutron devices, which are specifically designed to kill living things without destroying the surrounding infrastructure or leaving any residual radiological contamination.



Monday, February 23, 2004

not far from enlightenment

Being sucked dry by leeches isn't so bad.
You will be sucked dry by a leech. I'd stay away
from swimming holes, and stick to good old
cement. Even if it does hurt like hell when
your toe scrapes the bottom.

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?
brought to you by Quizilla

With thanks to Zen teacher Lorianne Schaub, who got the same results, which makes me enlightened by association. Now that I'm able to float three feet off the ground, breathe fire from my ass, mentally implode a moose's head from fifty yards out, and do all the other cool things that enlightened people routinely do... I say, gimme my damn ingka!



As I continue my current cyber-plunge into autoerotic irrelevancy, I find I'm no longer all that excited about what the Big Bloggers are thinking and saying. The blogging movement has burgeoned and diversified-- further evidence that the Protestant Principle is a sociological fact. My attention turns more and more these days to what friends and co-bloggers are blogging (apologies for the lack of shout-outs in recent days; I've been going nuts with my scanner and drawing Freudian cartoons).

But today's quick once-over of Satan's Anus brought me up short. It's a brief post, but one brimming with exciting potential. The post in full:

JUAN COLE is starting a project to translate American political thought into Arabic. As one Cranky Professor observes:

I can't imagine a better thing for intellectuals to do than pay semi-employed Iraquis [sic] with good English to translate (the translator should indeed be a native speaker of the destination language).

Cole has more on his project here.

This had me practically jumping for joy, and I hope more people get involved with this.

Dialogue doesn't have to be about agreement, but at the very least, it's about presence and engagement. It's vitally important for the ideas to get out to the people-- specifically, for Muslims to educate themselves about Western thought, culture, politics-- the whole shebang. At the same time, we Westerners need to continue raiding the Barnes & Nobles, reading up on Muslim culture and history, balancing our Karen Armstrongs with our Bernard Lewises, and returning to the intellectual and spiritual fray.

In the end, the war on terrorism is a war of the mind and heart, and for people to poo-poo dialogue and rest all their hopes in military solutions is simply stupid. I don't view dialogue as a catch-all solution; nothing can be so. By extension, I can't view war as a catch-all solution either, because in both cases, with dialogue and with war, the story never ends. The process is itself dialogical. No definitive "The End," no "once and for all." Reality moves, and solutions consistent with a moving reality will also move. People who seek cosmic firmness or absolute stasis are doing no more than driving short pegs into shifting sands. And that's vanity, as the Tao Te Ching and Ecclesiastes both agree.

So at the risk of pissing off a lot of Muslims who probably won't like what they see, we should indeed open our discourse up to them. The fastest way is through this type of translation project, because we can't wait for (or realistically expect) the entire Muslim world to learn English.

Ideally, this translation project needs to grow huge and variegated-- allow itself to fall victim to the Protestant Principle, so that Muslims will have choices about where to go, whom to read (and how to read around). Perhaps the more level-headed among them will "diversify their blogroll" and scan many and varied opinions (if a blogging metaphor isn't too precious), perhaps coming to the realization that the world is indeed wide and Allah paints in many unexpected colors. It wouldn't be wrong for us Westerners to remember this as well, as we sit comfortably at our keyboards.