28 May 2010
“I love technology! A fungophobe is someone who fears all mushrooms, who assumes they're all deadly poisonous and isn't interested in learning about them. A fungophile is someone who is intensely interested in mushrooms, who reads about them, samples them, and learns which ones are poisonous, which ones taste good, which ones are medicinal and for what, which ones are allied to which trees or plants or animals. This is precisely my attitude toward technology. I am a technophile!I don't look at human social organization as just another natural phenomenon, so I'm not on board with trying to consider civilization from the perspective of nature. But the point about real something-philia being attuned to both blessings and dangers? It's worth keeping in mind.
“Now, what would you call someone who runs through the woods indiscriminately eating every mushroom, because they believe ‘mushrooms are neutral,’ so there are no bad ones and it's OK to use any of them as long as it's for good uses like eating and not bad uses like conking someone over the head? You would call this person dangerously stupid. But this is almost the modern attitude toward ‘technology.’ Actually it's even worse. Because of the core values of civilization, that conquest and control and forceful transformation are good, because civilization ‘grows’ by dominating and exploiting and killing, and by numbing its members to the perspectives of their victims, it has been choosing and developing the most poisonous technologies, and ignoring or excluding tools allied to awareness, aliveness, and equal participation in power. It's as if we're in a world where the very definition of ‘mushroom’ has been twisted to include little other than death caps and destroying angels and deadly galerinas, and we wonder why health care is so expensive.”
27 May 2010
“A broader point is that conversion-in-general is often a response to a two-part movement of the soul. First, you realize that you are painfully inadequate, that your knowledge is incomplete and your beliefs are flimsy. Second, you find something better than what you have -- better than what you are, at this point in your life -- and fall in love.
“This is a movement that can take place entirely within the Church. It's the experience of St. Francis. It's what we experience constantly, as we are abruptly made aware of our own sins and our own longing for God. I know it can be depressing to feel stuck in an endless cycle of confessing the same sins to the same priest, lather-rinse-repent, but if we are attempting to truly and fully acknowledge and turn away from our sin, each confession is a miniature conversion. (This is why I love the priest who often asks me to read a psalm as my penance -- the psalms capture every mood of David's conflicted, needy, bone-deep love of God.)”
25 May 2010
“What I meant is that there is no theory for itself; theory is always for someone, for some purpose. There is no neutral theory concerning human affairs, no theory of universal validity. Theory derives from practice and experience, and experience is related to time and place. Theory is a part of history. It addresses the problematic of the world of its time and place. An inquirer has to aim to place himself above the historical circumstances in which a theory is propounded. One has to ask about the aims and purposes of those who construct theories in specific historical situations. Broadly speaking, for any theory, there are two possible purposes to serve. One is for guiding the solving of problems posed within the particular context, the existing structure. This leads to a problem-solving form of theory, which takes the existing context as given and seeks to make it work better. The other which I call critical theory is more reflective on the processes of change of historical structures, upon the transformation or challenges arising within the complex of forces constituting the existing historical structure, the existing ‘common sense’ of reality. Critical thinking then contemplates the possibility of an alternative.
“The strength of problem-solving theory relies in its ability to fix limits or parameters to a problem area, and to reduce the statement of a particular problem to a limited number of variables which are amenable to rather close and clear examination. The ceteris paribus assumption, the assumption that other things can be ignored, upon which problem-solving theorizing relies, makes it possible to derive a statement of laws and regularities which appear of general applicability.
“Critical theory, as I understand it, is critical in the sense that it stands apart from the prevailing order, and asks how that world came about. It does not just accept it: a world that exists has been made, and in the context of a weakening historical structure it can be made anew. Critical theory, unlike problem-solving theory, does not take institutions and social power relations for granted, but calls them into question by concerning itself with their origins, and whether and how they might be in process of changing. It is directed towards an appraisal of the very framework for action, the historical structure, which the problem-solving theory accepts as its parameters. Critical theory is a theory of history, in the sense that it is not just concerned about the politics of the past, but the continuing process of historical change. Problem-solving theory is not historical, it is a-historical, in the sense that it in effect posits a continuing present, It posits the continuity of the institutions of power relations which constitute the rules of the game which are assumed to be stable. The strength of the one is the weakness of the other: problem-solving theory can achieve great precision, when narrowing the scope of inquiry and presuming stability of the rules of the game, but in so doing, it can become an ideology supportive of the status quo. Critical theory sacrifices the precision that is possible with a circumscribed set of variables in order to comprehend a wider range of factors in comprehensive historical change.”
24 May 2010
It's no real spoiler to say that "letting go" is a theme of LOST. Which is weird for a show that spends so much time trying to hook you, to make you keep on watching, to get you invested in theories, characters, and mythology. But with a new job and a new city — and an apparently bright future — it's clearly time to put these little vices behind me to whatever degree I can. To get off the Island, so to speak.
And though the creators surely didn't have this interpretation in mind, I am taking that beautiful final scene as a valediction for adolescent obsessions.
*I mean, not exclusively: I did serious things during this time. I'm talking about one theme among many.
23 May 2010
22 May 2010
And I'll be curious to re-read Chuck Colson's quite reasonable defense of his work with Prison Fellowship after I've read Hunter's book, to see how close Hunter really is to what Colson calls “quietism.”
20 May 2010
Wye Oak covers The Kinks
The AV Club's midway through a feature where they invite bands to their office to play cover songs. I'm getting more into this than I should, and it's clear that the quality varies widely. You could even say that the songs fall into three categories. The best of the bunch obviously have had some work put into the arrangement and the performance. The second tier consists mostly of stripped-down versions, performed well, but without much transformation. The bad entries are the ones that seem thrown together with lousy harmonies and improvised instrumentation.
- Wye Oak - Strangers (by The Kinks): The most recent entry is by far my favorite. Wye Oak have done right by the original, but added some ripping solos. Jonathan Meiburg from Shearwater sings the harmonies wonderfully.
- Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Everybody Wants to Rule the World (by Tears for Fears): The series led off with Ted Leo, who set the bar so high that the next seven entries seemed pretty disappointing.
- The Fruit Bats - One on One (by Hall and Oates): I'm really glad that the Fruit Bats grabbed this one, because the lead singer knows how to sing, and I doubt that most of the other singers could have pulled off the song's range and key change at the chorus. The Fruit Bats also chose to take the song seriously, which was good. Compare with Cursive's annoying deconstructive approach (below), and you'll get some insight into what makes an effective pop cover.
- The Clientele - Paper Planes (by M.I.A.): It's hard to do this song without the gunshots and cash register, but the cool violins make up for it. Again, playing the song without winking at the camera is the right move.
- Ben Folds - Say Yes (by Elliott Smith): Ben Folds does a good job with this one, and it's tempting to put it in the top category. But I don't think you can get within striking distance of the lovely original without a larger band; Elliott Smith completely owned the stripped-down performance. Still, it's definitely a worthy tribute.
- Justin Townes Earle - Atlantic City (by Bruce Springsteen): I like the picking pattern and the desperation in Earle's voice, but he can't touch the Boss.
- Alkaline Trio - Web in Front (by Archers of Loaf): I was disappointed in this one. There's nothing wrong with Alkaline Trio's performance, but the original is a quick, melodic, musical version of a punch in the gut, and I didn't get the same urgency here. More guitar work might have helped, or a harmonica, or something.
- Maritime - Enjoy The Silence (by Depeche Mode): I feel bad about putting this one so low, but it just didn't grab me. I don't know the original, and while I like a bunch of songs by the Promise Ring, that affection doesn't carry me through to Maritime.
- Retribution Gospel Choir - Kokomo (by The Beach Boys): They tried to have fun with it, but letting the drummer sing lead was probably a bad idea. It's nice that they like the song, though.
- Cursive - We Built This City on Rock and Roll (by Starship): Tim Kasher is singing terribly here. Maybe they like the original in a so-bad-it's-good way, but their approach exaggerates what's annoying in the song and ignores anything that might have been good about the original performance. This is exactly the opposite of what the Fruit Bats did, and you can see where it puts Cursive on the list.
19 May 2010
“As I reflect on the show having seen all six seasons, I think the central thematic tension of Lost has always been that of the global vs. the local, the big view vs. the narrow view, “for the greater good” vs. ‘my own private island.’The whole post is much longer, and all of it is worth reading. My attempts to come up with something similar kept foundering on the difficulty of pinning characters to the leadership styles of actual leaders — I thought I might have had something with a comparison between George W. Bush and Locke at the height of his man-of-faith phase, but I couldn't really make it fit. But where my allegorical readings stumbled, McCracken's analysis of themes really succeeds.
“The show presents a way forward for our chaotic, treacherous, ‘WTF?! Where are we??’ world. And the way forward is sacrificial love for our neighbor– ‘neighbor’ meaning our children and love interests, but also our broader global family… those who are very different from us and yet nevertheless struggling to make sense of ‘the island’ we all inhabit.”
18 May 2010
“…even today a huge number of Korean pastors and theologians view Barth’s theology as a dangerous ‘liberal’ deviation from Calvinist orthodoxy. Young-Gwan Kim’s study doesn’t go into much detail about this Calvinist context of Korean theology; but I think it’s one of the most fascinating aspects of Korean Barth-reception. Protestant liberalism has never taken root in Korea, and this fact alone has a decisive influence on the way Barth’s work is read and received. It helps to explain why Barth’s avowedly anti-liberal theology could be condemned as a ‘liberal’ threat by so many Korean theologians and institutions.”
16 May 2010
15 May 2010
Robert A.M. Stern, 1986: “[Uptown Charlotte has] the ugliest collection of third-rate buildings in America. Charlotte has defined a type unto itself — a town that has grown very fast in a very mediocre way. There’s no place like Charlotte.”
(I should confess that I'm immensely fond of the exterior of the Hearst Tower in Charlotte, though I've never been inside. Actually, now that I think of it, none of the interesting buildings were around in 1986. Hopefully our city center is a little better now.)
He wrote a blog post called “Beauty and the Barthians,” which explains why, for all the good things to be found in Barth's theology, Barth is a dead end as far as theological aesthetics are concerned. I'm just dipping my toes into Barthian waters now, and I'm really glad that Milliner has already mapped out how Barth relates to Hart, whose book The Beauty of the Infinite I read and enjoyed several years ago.
And then, a few days after showing us a dead end, Milliner points to the more promising paths explored by Jacques Maritain in an article for Public Discourse about “The New Maritainians.” Clearly, I'm going to have to chase down some of the books he's mentioning here.
Really, millinerd.com just keeps getting better and better.
14 May 2010
New York Magazine's Vulture blog is running a discussion panel about a recently published long-form interview of David Foster Wallace. The interview was conducted in 1996 or thereabouts, around the time Infinite Jest came out. It will probably be quite some time before I get around to reading it, for the following reason, which was offered by Garth Risk Hallberg:
The urge to turn our dead artists into motivational speakers is perhaps a symptom of the peculiarly American disease Wallace is concerned to treat in his fiction. It works well enough for pop music, which after all is an art already made out of sound bites; I'm as heartened as the next guy when I pass that ride on Coney Island with an airbrushed Tupac and Biggie presiding over the kiddie cars, friends in death, as they couldn't be in life. But as someone who was imaginary friends with David Foster Wallace, there's something unsettling about the compelling simulacrum this book offers.
It's maybe unfair to pit an interview against a novel this way, or to judge a book by its cover. But if you're really interested in Wallace's "astonishing, humane, alert way of looking at the world," and are new to it, Vulture readers, don't start with this book, and don't listen to the revisionists who tell you DFW's journalism is his great achievement. Get thee to a bookstore, and go read Infinite Jest.
I don't have enough global experience to know if this is an exclusively American danger, but a book-length interview seems like a way to try to get around wrestling with the books and stories and essays.
“Because you can see the endless walls of the abyss both below you and facing you, nothing is hidden except what is down the hole. Standing on the rim, you are very close to a mystery: a space receiving the light of the sun into which we cannot see.”Really, take a look.
(via Alan Jacobs)
02 May 2010
-Donald Bloesch, in Essentials of Evangelical Theology, Vol. I: God, Authority, & Salvation
I'm only about fifty pages in, but I'm enjoying this book. It's succinct, highly readable, and the author draws on a wide variety of sources. It's got to be good for me to take occasional tours across the wide domain of evangelical theology. One should know one's tradition.
01 May 2010
Anyways, if I'm ever within seventy miles of this place I'm going to do whatever I can to make a visit.
I have a feeling that it is going to be an important place in the post-apocalypse.
Via Eve Tushnet.