Dispatches from Outland
A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down your pants. Copyright © 2003 Roy M. Jacobsen.

Friday, July 25, 2003  

The Return Of The Son Of The Bride Of Links For The Linkless Department: Whenever the whim strikes, I go trolling through the blogs in IdeaJoy's Who Links Who list, pick a couple with no incoming links and talk about them a bit.

And that led me to Peznet by Darin Pesnell. The most recent post is about the incident recorded in John 8:12-29, about which Darin notes:

Jesus does not attempt to outwit his opponents, but rather defends his original statement, namely that he is the light of the world, by appealing to his relationship with and the approval he has from the Father. While Jesus may not have "convinced" his listeners, he has given us some precious insight to what it means to both know the Father and to live like Jesus. Jesus Christ both fulfills and embodies the prayer that "God’s kindgdom come". He gives up his initiatives for the purpose of the Father’s message. He always does what pleases the Father. He is taught by the Father. He withholds his own judgements (which are righteous) for the purpose of speaking the words of the Father. He exists in such a close and mysterious relationship with the Father that he can say, "knowing me is knowing the Father".

It therefore seems right to me that giving up my initiatives for the intiatives of God will lead to true blessedness and pleasure. Withholding my own judgement (which is often unrighteous) for the declaration of the truth of God will satisfy my own longings for meaning and purpose. Doing the things that are pleasing to the Father will ensure that the Father is with me, and seeing that knowing the Father is the essence of eternal life, this will be deeply satisfying, although it will be accompanied often times with rejection and suffering (again, look at Jesus).

I just couldn't not click the link to almost nomral. (Yes, that's how it's spelled, and you have to do a wee bit of detective work to figure out why.)
One thing that bothers me about most churches these days is that all they teach is the Love of G-d. He has another side too. It never gets taught in Sunday school for fear of attendance loss. G-d is all love. But he is also all things, all everything else. He is all anger and all wrath. He thinks about killing Moses before he gets to Egypt.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 10:46 AM

Those Wacky Kids Department: Once it was swallowing goldfish, packing phone booths, or conducting Chinese fire drills. Now it's flash mobs.

Using email to coordinate the logistics, a large group people gather in a place, perform some action, and rapidly disperse, usually within 10 minutes. For example, on July 2, about 200 people gathered in the Grand Central Station Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York, applauded loudly for 15 seconds, and then left.

Here's a weblog with information about several instances, and the Orlando Sentinel has an article describing the phenomenon.

Now people around the world want to start their own flash mobs, which is no surprise to Internet guru Howard Rheingold, author of the classic Internet chronicle The Virtual Community. Rheingold has written a new book, Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, which examines how people around the world are using technology to rewrite the social contract.

According to Rheingold, people have used cell phones, text messaging and the Internet to help a failing candidate win an election in Korea, to organize protests to help bring down Joseph Estrada's government in the Philippines, and to arrange the massive American and European protests that took place before the recent war in Iraq.

"These are all instances of people who are able to collectively organize in the face-to-face world -- the real world -- more effectively, on a larger scale and at a quicker pace because of the combination of mobile communication and the Internet," said Rheingold, who expands on these themes at his site smartmobs.com.

<curmudgeon>"Oh, yeah, it's all fun until someone gets hurt!"</curmudgeon> Needless to say, these things are freaking out the people responsible for security in public places, and I can understand why. How hard would it be for someone to organize an "event" like this for ulterior motives? Not hard at all. But for the authorities to decide that because of the potential for harm, any and all flash mobbing should be banned would be a foolish overreaction. We don't ban public assembly because some people have used public assemblies to start riots.

At any rate, this genii isn't going back into the bottle any time soon. Have fun, kids, but keep it safe.

(Link via Slashdot.)

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 9:18 AM

Here Come De Judge Department: Lileks says:

If a judicial candidate says “I’m personally opposed to (social issue X), but it is legal, and any rulings I make on the matter will be informed by the law, not my own beliefs,” ought that not be sufficient? I want my judges to uphold the law, not contort it to fit their views. I don’t want them teasing penumbras from the emanations of the glow of the spark of the reflection of the echo of the intent of the Framers - I want them to deal specifically with the specific words of the law, as they specifically apply. So if someone accuses a judge of being unable to uphold the law because they hold a personal belief that conflicts with the law - even though that belief has nothing to do with the specifics of the case - then the accuser might be giving us a window into their own souls. The accuser might be suggesting that they would overturn a law to fit their personal morality, regardless of the fitness of the statute. Isn’t that how people behave, after all?

It’s called “projection,” I think.

If it walks like a duck, James.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:16 AM

Thursday, July 24, 2003  

Reciprocating Blogroll Department: The Speculist has me in his blogroll. And contrariwise, too.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 11:39 AM

WMD Department: Captured documents may help track down a massive cache of bombs and even fully fueled and armed fighter planes hidden beneath an airport . . . in Germany.

Papers among thousands of files captured from the Stasi, the secret police of East Germany, claim tons of live Second World War munitions were buried in concrete bunkers beneath the runways of Schoenefeld airport in East Berlin. It is now the main destination for discount airlines, such as Ryanair, and numerous charter companies.
<Fe>Does this mean that maybe the U.S. was right to enter WWII after all?</Fe>

n.b. Fe is the chemical symbol for iron. <Fe> is the pseudo-html tag for irony.

Link via the Brothers Judd.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:33 AM

A Plaque On Your House! Department: Some good news from the U.S. National Park Service.

Bronze plaques displaying Bible verses removed from Grand Canyon National Park after a query from the American Civil Liberties Union were returned to the park Wednesday.

The plaques, quoting three verses from the Psalms, were returned to Hermit's Rest, Lookout Studio and Desert View after Donald Murphy, deputy director of the National Park Service, ordered them put back.
It isn't a permanent move; a spokesman said they're waiting for "someone further up the food chain" to research the legal aspects of this a bit more.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:19 AM

Say It Ain't So! Department: This news story is not for the faint hearted. You have been warned.

OK, kidding aside, if the geniuses at Center for Science in the Public Interest really wanted to help us out, they'd quit being such nags. Great googly-moogly!

(Link via Jenn.)

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 7:59 AM

Wednesday, July 23, 2003  

Was Hilaire Belloc Born On A Bel Aire Hillock? Department: "All that can best be expressed in words should be expressed in verse, but verse is a slow thing to create; nay, it is not really created: it is a secretion of the mind, it is a pearl that gathers round some irritant and slowly expresses the very essence of beauty and of desire that has lain long, potential and unexpressed, in the mind of the man who secretes it." -- Hilaire Belloc

When I ran across this quote, I was reminded of something I heard poet William Kloefkorn say: "A poem is a distillation of words nibbling at the edge of something vast." He also said that poems have to be about things that matter, and "The things that matter stick in your craw, and you can't choose what sticks and what doesn't."

Just some quotes on a summer afternoon.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 5:07 PM

The Other Hand Department: One of the things that has been bugging me about the post-war coverage in Iraq is that it seems terribly one-sided, especially the television and radio reports. "Another US soldier was killed today . . ." It makes it sound like our troops are just standing around getting picked off one by one.

But that isn't really what's going on. Strategy Page offers some information about what's really happening in Iraq, along with some cutting insights into the state of the media today:

What is really happening in Iraq? The media make it sound like another Vietnam is developing, with the Iraqi population sliding towards mass resistance as Iraqi society collapses in violent anarchy. But the reality is a lot different. Attacks on coalition troops are declining, the availability of public services is increasing and public opinion towards the coalition becomes more favorable each day. The gunmen who are attacking coalition troops are being hunted down and killed or arrested, and huge arms caches found and destroyed.

Actually, all of those trends ARE reported, but are buried in the far more numerous gloom and doom reports. This unsavory situation has developed for the usual reasons; bad news attracts more eyeballs than good news. And the news business is all about being a better eyeball magnet. Mass media has operated on this principle for over a century, or about as long as there has been mass media. Along they way, mass media moguls have invented the phantom crime wave (by simply reporting all the normal crime and dubbing it a crime wave), started wars (the Spanish-American War) and stopped them (Vietnam). The mass media have also given us vapid celebrities, sensational (but meaningless) trials and great success at combining "how low can you go" with "can you top this." From a marketing point of view, it works. But as a means of delivering timely, accurate news, it doesn't.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:18 AM

Tuesday, July 22, 2003  

Eschewing Obfuscation Department: Heh! King's Kid posted an "Academic 23rd Psalm." Obfuscation, indeed. it has "Notwithstanding the fact that I make ambulatory progress through the non-illuminated geological interstice of mortality, terror sensations shall not be manifest within me due to the proximity of omnipotence."

Oh, yeah, real poetry, that.

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 5:45 PM

Reinventing the Wheel Department: Our Sunday newspaper comes with the Parade magazine, and last Sunday's featured Tobey Maguire on the cover, with the quote "I Had To Find My Own Truth."

So yesterday evening, a stack of newspapers was sitting on the floor, ready to be taken to the recycling bin, and that cover was on top. My wife walked past it and said, "Every time I see or hear that phrase, I think that it sure is a good thing that not everybody feels like they have to do that, that they can't learn from someone else. What a waste of time."

Most people don't think that it's necessary to go through the work of reinventing mathematics or medicine. You never hear someone say "I have to invent the wheel for myself;" they're quite content to enjoy the benefits of literally thousands of years of engineering experience as they drive to work. Very few people go to the effort of inventing their own language and rules of grammar (unless you're someone like J.R.R. Tolkien, and he just did it for his own enjoyment, really; he used English most of the time).

So why do people think that they have to find their own "truth?"

posted by Roy M. Jacobsen at 8:26 AM
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