Friday, June 24, 2011

Week in Review

A couple interesting tidbits in the news this week.

(1) I have lately been quasi-following the question of the nation's debt and looming debt ceiling deadline. I like how this video outlines the issues very plainly. There is, unfortunately, little or no commentary as to the ramifications. These are precarious times for the U.S. economy. I'm more than a little concerned. I wish I had suggestions. I don't.

(2) Which brings us to the question of spending. Does the government spend too much? Undoubtedly. But can other folks pick up the slack? Not likely. I don't think most conservatives fully appreciate how many needs are out there.

(3) I'm sad that I now work too far away (20+ miles) from my home to conveniently bike to work. I really enjoyed my 13.2 mile commute home from downtown Minneapolis before we went to Africa. I know I was happier when I was riding my bike home from work. This article highlights some additional facts and figures surrounding cycling commuters and their relative state of happiness.

(4) Jon Huntsman, or Mormon-in-Chief #2, will vie for the top spot for the Republican Party in 2012. I appreciated this tidbit. I hope you do, too. Huntsman's website has a veiled nonsensical allusion to a biblical passage to which Joshua Green amusingly comments, "political consultants, like reporters, are so ignorant of religion that the allusion probably would not even have occurred to them."

(5) "Life moves pretty fast." This is a bit older piece but it was new to me this week so I present it to you in that vein (there's been a lot of additional commentary, see also this one for a contrarian view. I grew up in the 80s and so this movie was close to my heart as a 16 year old high school student wishing I, too, could be Ferris Bueller. While the author of this article has put a great deal of thought into the film, I am unable to devote that much time to thinking about it. For me, 25 years ago, it was simply a joy. While I have never had much fascination in the way of fancy cars, I'm sure it was the premise of skipping school with my favorite "War Games" movie star and cute girl that held such great appeal for me back then. I don't really know what I'd get out of it now. Can't say's I'll be watching it again, unfortunately. Oh, and the Charlie Sheen bit, prescient.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Website gets hacked. Ugly People Celebrate. Then they Cry.

I wish I had a long cultural commentary for today's link which can be found here: Link!

Basically, there's this dating website... for only "really really goodlooking people." 

I'm serious too. This website would evaluate whether or not you were "beautiful" or "ugly" and then only allow the beautiful applicants membership in the website.

Now, I really don't have a problem with this....niche websites should not be criticized for who they do and do not allow on their website. Of course, good looking people have it harder because preference for looks alone is quite a taboo subject these days (although I would argue the law of preference for beautiful or tall people is still operative throughout our society today, but it's just not spoken).

But the reason the website is considered news is because someone hacked the website and uploaded a virus that accepted 30,000 ugly people as members of the site. The virus itself was one thing. But the website operators went and removed those "ugly" people from their website even though they technically had memberships.

30,000 ugly people thought they were beautiful and lived the beautiful life for an entire weekend after being accepted as members. Only to have their hearts torn out from within after being told they really were "ugly" the whole time and their acceptance was a mistake.

Luckily, all the ugly people were refunded their membership fees and were even set up with a phone number to a crisis hotline as a means to cope with the rejection.

While the intricacies of this story are many, and quite laughable (for instance, what kind of world are we living in where 30,000 people are actually applying for this website?) one concern is for those thousands of actually good looking people who were previously accepted into the website?

Think about it....these beautiful people paying their hard earned dollar to be members of such an exclusive website, just so they don't have to deal with looking at the profiles of "ugly people"  when they are trying to find someone to date. And then one day  they log into the website, and find 30,000 ugly people roaming around that dating website! Can you imagine the trauma of the beautiful person that weekend? 

I just hope the site operators had some kind of recompense set up for those who were forced to look at the profile pictures of those mistakenly accepted ugly people.

(The above is sarcasm)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our Twitter Feed acting up off our blogs, as we're not getting picked up. Joel opines on Kafka and Derrida, thoughts on the (Pentecostal) teens being all right in Word, while Momo has some good stuff on the NBA Finals.

So we're posting, but there's a feed disconnect. Running a test now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Germans vs. The Zionists vs. The Capitalists (with the Winner obtaining the rights to claim Kafka as their own)

Franz Kafka, author of Metamorphosis, one of the weirdest, most compelling books I read in high school  is up for grabs.

Sure, he's been dead for nearly 90 years, but Kafka still matters man.

Basically, before Kafka died, he told his friend, Max Brod to burn all his papers upon his death.

Brod, thankfully did not burn said papers. Instead, Brod took papers and moved to Palestine (which became Israel). Out of these papers, many letters and books by Kafka were published posthumously. 

And today, those papers that Kafka requested to be burned but never were burned are still around. 

And we are talking about Millions of dollars worth of papers, some of them have never been read....(one manuscript from the pile of papers went for 2 million back in the 60's).

The paper's currently reside in Israel in a vault under "ownership" by two sisters.

The Battle:

The Two sisters who inherited the papers from Max Brod want to sell the papers outright. (Claiming private ownership, desiring money, capitalism, blah blah blah).

But here's the debate....The Israeli Library  is claiming the papers are rightfully theirs on behalf of all Jewish people, in consideration that Kafka was Jewish.

The German Library  is claiming that the papers should be theirs arguing that Kafka wrote in German and that it can better protect the papers (in consideration that it's archives are carefully maintained and that it already possesses one of Kafka's manuscripts).

But this trial is far more fascinating than I just described it as...

if you have time, read Judith Butler's article on the topic which includes some brilliant can be read here: LINK

Here is one of the more fascinating bits Butler picks up:

If Kafka is claimed as a primarily Jewish writer, he comes to belong primarily to the Jewish people, and his writing to the cultural assets of the Jewish people. This claim... becomes all the more (controversial) when we realise that the legal case rests on the presumption that it is the state of Israel that represents the Jewish people.... 

 First, the claim overcomes the distinction between Jews who are Zionist and Jews who are not, for example Jews in the diaspora for whom the homeland is not a place of inevitable return or a final destination...

The implicit understanding is that all Jews and Jewish cultural assets – whatever that might mean – outside Israel eventually and properly belong to Israel, since Israel represents not only all Jews but all significant Jewish cultural production.... 

and now through claiming significant works by those who happen to be  Jews as  Jewish cultural capital that, as such, rightly belongs to the Israeli state.

In summary, when the National Library of Israel claims Kafka's paper on behalf of all the Jewish people, and because Kafka is Jewish, Israel is in a sense saying that as a State, Israel defines Jewishness, and also speaks on behalf of all Jews, even those who don't live in Israel.  AKA even though Kafka Never stepped foot in Palestine (which would become Israel), and was entirely a European citizen, Israel is claiming that He was really one of their own.....even when he didn't know it. 

As a  Jew by ethnicity, I don't like this. I am not a Zionist.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The prayers of Jacques Derrida

Chalk this post up on account of my undying love for philosophy, and thusly, I apologize.

That said, I have recently delved into the philosophy of the "hated" postmodern philosopher, Jacques Derrida (pictured above). Derrida, the "father" of deconstruction, was nothing like the stereotypical caricatures that I had grown accustomed to which said Derrida thought truth was "relative." In fact, before he died, many postmodern philosophers went to great length to derail Derrida's ideas.

What has interested me especially, was Derrida's religion that he was outspoken about before he died. Much of this unique religion is covered in the book The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida's which has sparked my fancy.

The religion of Derrida, is quite paradoxical. He considered himself an atheist, but yet he would pray at least nightly, sometime to the point of tears.

What is so interesting to me is not so much the atheism, nor the fine intricacies that Derrida went about to define his religion as a "Religion without religion" and who prayed to a "God without God."

But rather what has been so moving to me is the sincere humility Derrida went about his religion and prayers...

In short, Derrida realizes first and foremost, that he is human. and thus he is fallen and fallible. And the human tendency is to think that our world revolves around each one of ourselves.

But yet, we know the world doesn't revolve around us, and we are not the center of the universe.

Thus prayer in a way, is a way Derrida seeks to rid himself of self. He wants to love people, and thus in prayer he attempts to repent of himself so that he won't get in the way of love.

Derrida is the one who had me speechless when he asked "what do I love when I love my God?"

And in that one question I felt as if I had entered into a question that was absolutely divine....

When I pray, who am I praying to?

Of course, I am praying to Jesus who died for my sins.

But am I letting Jesus be Jesus in my life?

Or is the Jesus I pray to and confess my loyalty, an idol image where I have constructed Jesus to be the Jesus that appeases my own life and lifestyle?

Is my Jesus just the Jesus that I follow because He makes me secure and tells me that I get to go to heaven when I die?

That is why I love the way Derrida asked the question: He didn't ask : "who do I love when I love my God?" But rather, Derrida asked "What do I love when I love my God?"

Perhaps, in our most fallen nature, we aren't following a who when we follow God, but rather a what in the form of a carved image that satisfies us and our anxieties.

Thus, for Derrida,  prayer is not just a lifting up of God, but it is also just as much a repositioning of one's self in relation to God as to not distort our view of God,

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Bible's Birthday!

The KJV turns 400! In a series of short essays and poems, Harper's magazine offers some "re-imagining, revising, and refuting" of history's bestseller from some of today's significant literary figures, including the incomparable Marilynne Robinson (who states about these days, "The Bible is much thumped and little pondered).

Alas, Harper's only allows you to read their articles if you subscribe online, but it's worth buying at your next book superstore visit!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Are You Offended?

Here's another article for your consideration. Personally, I am not offended by the tag line "Jesus, a Prophet of Islam." Although I can see how a great majority of Christian believers would feel threatened by the claim. I recently met a guy named "Isa." I said "Oh, your name means Jesus." He was a little startled by my assertion, as he was encountering someone who had at least a passing familiarity with his religion and wasn't threatened by the fact that he was a Muslim.

Just because one faith's holy book has a different interpretation of who Jesus was and what Jesus did doesn't mean we can malign them with impunity. I do not accept the validity of the "Jesus story" as presented in the Quran, because there are some pretty direct contradictions to the book I hold to contain absolute truth. But I'm not threatened or offended by a billboard wherein Muslims are expressing their belief.

Inasmuch as Jesus, in his humanity, had to submit himself to the will of God in dying on the cross . . . well, the meaning of the Arabic word transliterated as "Islam" is submission. So, in essence, there is some credence to their claim. On the other hand we cannot accept the Quran on par with the Bible.

I think the best responses to this article are summarized in the following two statements.

1) Regina writes, "I'm not offended. My God is way bigger than an advertisement on a bus."

2) "Joe Stalin," who is obviously an ignorant troll, writes, "islam is a vile and filthy death cult started by the child rapist muhammad."

We can work in peace, promoting dialogue, mutual understanding, and respect. Or we can preach an equally vile and repugnant intolerance and hatred for those who espouse beliefs that do not match our own.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Radio is in denial. But they also may be onto something.

First and foremost: Yes that is a picture of Herbert Hoover. Yes, that Herbert Hoover, As in 31st president of the United States, Herbert Hoover. The very president who guided us through (or into) the abyss of the dark depression onset by the Wall Street Crash of 1929. And apparently Herbert Hoover kind of did a lot for the radio industry before he was president in one way or another. And therefore, when you Google image search  "radio" you are bound to come across this picture of the Hebert Hoover (of depression fame) listening to a radio... but note that he is not only listening to the radio, he is so posing for the cameraman at the same time. And if you ever wonder how to become president, we see no better proof than here: To be president you must not only be able to do something cool (like play football as in this photo of Gerald Ford), but also pose for the camera while doing something cool (like posing next to a dead elephant inferring that you shot it in this photo of Teddy Roosevelt). Also, being a male seems to help, but that is not relevant. Nor is much of this rant on presidential portraits...

The real point is this article about radio.

Here is what we learn: Radio DJs were ordered by a CBS radio head to start informing the audience more and more the name of a song and the artist of a song.

Apparently, the the past couple decades have been marked by less and less DJ talk (including the identifying of a certain song.) because for some reason radio executives thought people didn't like hearing other people talk. They thought we only wanted music.

They were so wrong.

Because, we really, could care less about the music.

We actually will listen to whatever our contextual peers listen to.

Thus we care more about the brand name behind the music (e.g. who sings the song)  than the song itself. That is, we care more about what the music represents via the artist who sings the song because it identifies with the culture we want to align ourselves to.

Take me, for instance...I like finding music that you haven't ever heard of. Yes, I'm that guy. Thus, when I listen to music, my question is, who sings this song? And if you haven't heard of the artist who sings the song, I will like it. It's that simple.

(I kid, I kid).

Okay, this is all cultural critique that is not in the article about the reentry of song and artist titles within radio.

But, I stand by my assessment because the article doesn't do the best job at explaining the importance of this transition except some consumer speculation....

However, there is one thing that must be considered regarding the article and radio:

 The article vaguely mentions that it was the music studio heads who made the recommendation to the CBS radio boss to put song title and artists over the air with the song itself.... this also translates: "Hey, we need money, and radio is failing and we don't want to acknowledge that radio is failing to the likes of smart phones & iPods because that may mean their jobs, so they have to find small details to change on radio to convince themselves that the problem with the decline of the music industry is not because of the internet but rather because DJs are forgetting to mention song titles on the airwaves.

Also, here is a picture of Richard Nixon bowling: