Archive for February, 2004

You Can Hardly Stand It Though By Now You Know

Tuesday, February 24th, 2004

I am a reasonably accomplished young man. At 22 I have a good degree and am on track to coast into a good Masters without too much sweat. I have all the Ben Folds albums. I can put on my clothes in the morning and take them off in the evening. I can now shower on my own without incident. In theory I could cook for myself and do my laundry and I know how to wire up TVs and that sort of a thing. I have it as much together as one could hope at my young age.

But one problem I can’t quite get over is my total lack of ability to finish things. I can start well in something, gaining an advantage over my peers or competitors and soon reach a passable level of aptitude but then it will all go into decline until I can’t even be bothered to turn up to whatever it is I am meant to be doing. Even if that thing is sleeping. I inevitably quit.

So I am going to list some of the things that I constantly fall down on. Perhaps you already do the same things but I think it might be of benefit for you all to read these cautionary tales so you can overcome whatever genetic curse (or previous life sins) that lead you into being a well hidden moron who doesn’t tie your shoe laces because 90% dressed is dressed enough for you.

If anything you will learn that it isn’t a good idea to turn up to your driving test having learnt the road rules, understood the functioning of the engine, were expert with your transmission and diligent in every area of motor navigation except for the brakes which you thought you would get around to sometime in the summer.

The majority of the adult population and the vast majority of the adult population that matters, women, recognise that computer games are things that we grow out of. They are like wearing blue tracksuit bottoms, a white polo shirt and a yellow polyester tie. Only kids think that is cool. It’s the kind of mildly embarrassing phenomenon that is classified with trying to base your life on the A-Team character Templeton “Face” Peck.

Those sensible people rightly deduce that of all the hobbies, computer gaming is perhaps the most pointless. There is very little real skill involved, no face to face interaction with people and very little chance of every impressing a girl with it. I know a guy who used to play Quake for Ireland (I am not messing) and he wasn’t beating them back with a stick. Also, that guy looks like a model in a Versace magazine ad and he is the most one-linerist person I have ever met. Only Quake could convince a girl not to bed him immediately.

Anyway, I was not wise enough to recognise that Quake doesn’t transfer easily into the real world and I would be much better off spending my recreational time playing soccer or learning chess or hanging around with con artists. But I didn’t heed that voice.

Instead I launched myself into games with abandon. I spent hours, whole nights, hunched over my PC in the dark room trying to conquer whatever imaginary world was distracting my attention from finding a cure for cancer in the time. However, the whole never-following-through thing hit me again. I didn’t pay enough attention to the Masters Of Gaming when they were instructing me in their arcane ‘g80s art. Instead I learnt about the keyboard and the mouse and the monitor and the modem doohickey and then thought I knew everything.

Tragedy followed. I didn’t know everything and I ended up playing the kind of game that Quake nerds look down on: Championship Manager. This is a game whereby you pretend to be employed as the manager of a soccer team. You buy and sell and train your players and develop tactics for your team. Then you send the virtual eleven out onto a pitch and hope that your combination of statistics and strategies would defeat the computer’s attempt.

The “game” is represented not by players running around a pitch but by flashing text alerts like “Ronaldo passes it to Zidane”. Playing a full season probably involves twenty hours of effort- or enough lecture time to do a college module. The players are generated with a probability factor that means that if you develop a successful team once then you can repeat it infinitely in all game scenarios. I recognise all these flaws but do I still yearn for the delicious statistics? Yes. Do I still get a kick out of buying a 16 year old for 45k and then selling him ten years and 400 goals later (or about 200 hours in real time) for 45 million? Sure I do. Pathetic.

I should have paid more attention and done things properly but I skipped ahead and stopped paying attention and when I next looked up I had wasted three years of my life and had put on seven stone in weight.

So learn from this fatal failing of mine. When you start to do something, whether it is seducing a lady or planning a coup, remember to stick around until the end because inevitably, that is the place where the good stuff is. There is no point in missing out on the jackpot because you forget to fill out the eight necessary lottery numbers. Or worse, like me, choose the jackpot numbers exactly right for the last three weeks running but somehow never get around to submitting the card to a lottery agent.

So buck up. Tie your laces. Follow through on the girl who is now rubbing your arm and throwing her head back every time she laughs. Don’t play computer games and always remember to end your writing with a concl--

Your Correspondent, Who Is Not Going To Stop Until You Wise Up.

If I Ever Believe Such A Perfect Surprise

Monday, February 23rd, 2004

This journal has got to be either psuedo-intellectual or preposterous. So today I am combining the two, with the help of my maths buddy C.

C is my maths buddy because he does complex sums. In many ways he is like a hard sum. A hard equation perhaps. “I suspect that if he got it right, he would live again but then he’d have to die twice at the end”. Prizes to the person who gets that reference.

Pomos (by which I mean post-modernists, not a misspelt derogoratory shorthand term for homosexuals) like to view maths and physics equations as “invented” texts. They weren’t discovered. Oh no! Nothing so sensible. Because sense is an imperialist idea. Instead, equations that represent facts about our world are texts that need to be deconstructed. Let me quote Luce Irigaray on E=mc2. It isn’t a General Theory of Relativity but a “sexed equation” which prejudices “the speed of light over other less masculine speeds”.

In that sense, maybe C is just an equation that I invented because it suits me and you can take him (it) or leave me.

C went on honeymoon to Greece and he met some nice Grecians. This post is all about his sweet-potato cooking friends, Zenothemis and Hegestratos.

ZENOTHEMIS: By Zeus, Hegestratos! Look at this: if I arrange these seven stones in a line and then add an additional seven beneath them and then do this five more times, I create a “square” of forty-nine stones. So we might say: forty nine is seven “squared”. Oh, by the way, did you hear the teachers are striking again?

HEGESTRATOS: Forget the teachers old friend. Our idiot Government needs NATO’s help with the Olympiad next year. So much for being ruled by ourselves. Monotheistic terrorists threaten the noble games. You call this a “Civilisation”? But that is an interesting idea about the stones there and the numbers. Lovely bit of work. Well done.

ZEN: Monotheistic? They only believe in Zeus?

HEG: No, they believe in a moon god who may have been a paedophile. Anyway, this idea about the stones is much deeper than I first imagined--

ZEN: How so?

HEG: Well, initially I thought it was just one of those curious but derivative number games that you and your ilk are wont to play with now and then. But its much more substantial. It speaks deeply to me of the cumulative effect of oppression after oppression on a people until they can do nothing but reject the truth context created by the imperialists and reform the world in their own way.

ZEN: You mean, if these were really big stones and you gave seven to the oppressed masses followed by another seven and then did this five further times, you would have subjected them to oppression “squared”?

HEG: Exactly! My dear friend we are on to something here. I can almost see the nubile post-grads at my public readings! Why, if a people could claim to have suffered like this, then their rejection of the ruling elite’s “authority” would be legitimate even if it contradicted the norms of behaviour in the previous society.

ZEN: About those post-grads--

HEG: In that case, the monotheistic terror-mongers would be fully reasonable in their decision to gain “liberation” from oppression by bombing races filled with doped up Americans. Why, by your theory of the “squares”, they would be compelled to reject the oppressive regime of truth and replace it with their realisation of “reality”.

ZEN: Oh, ok. I just thought it was useful for building bridges and coming up with medical statistics and maybe sorting out home finances. Also, it made a pretty pattern--

::::

That was a less than interesting exercise in creative co-operation. I banish C and his knowledge from this website! What need do you and I, gentle reader, have for his wisdom, intellect and good-looks? None is right! Unless the reader is C in which case, I enjoyed it immensely.

Your Correspondent, Thinking of All the Things She Said

I like my sugar with coffee and cream

Saturday, February 21st, 2004

There are places in Ireland where the kerbstones are painted blue, white and red to look like the Union Jack! And last Sunday night, when it had gotten dark and everything was perfect for an ambush, I ended up in one of those places. A rural place no less, north of Belfast in Ian Paisley country. This seemed like the kind of territory where the locals turn abandoned British army outposts into Fenian detectors that begin to blare if someone who has ever owned a Celtic jersey turns up. This seemed to my eyes like the kind of little country hamlet where locals volunteered for an armed militia in case the Republic mobilised its army in an attempt to blitzkrieg Ulster and take back the six counties.

I was wrong of course because I am just as prejudiced as the worst DUP member when I get right down to it. I enjoy thinking the worst of Northern Conservative Presbyterians for their dryness, their judgementalism, their victimhood, their dour, teetotal lifestyles and their faintly preposterous and theologically suspect (in the extreme) Sabbath observances. I puff myself up because I am a part of vibrant, growing, grace-driven church in the Constitutional Democracy of the Republic of Ireland and I am must be better than those monarchical legalists. As if the growth in our churches and their life has anything to do with me! As if I do not fall prey to the intolerance that I condemn on dodgy and highly subjective grounds in our friends, (maybe make that acquaintances) up North.

You see, we visited the small rural community of Islandmagee. Its actually a picturesque little place that looks hard done by like so much of Northern Ireland. It bears the scars of living too long with its past. It is marked with the faded light of a region too busy fighting with itself to realise the world was changing and it could be for the better. But amidst the signs of political and economic neglect and the kerbstones that proclaimed a redundant and divisive and offensive form of nationality, there is something moving in Islandmagee.

Our two car loads of southern Catholics trying to set up a Presbyterian church where we can all just be Christians was met with the kind of generosity and support that takes your breath away. This community we visited was seeing a decline in their church that was the exact opposite to our experience. Yet it wasn’t because they lacked faith. It wasn’t because those people didn’t believe in grace. Something else is afflicting their mission but they will locate the source of their problems and overcome them because they were so committed to the Gospel.

They let us tell our story, young Catholic men and women from the South and they listened with open hearts and open minds. The bitterness that plagued this whole island and plagued the churches was gone from them. If they cared about those old divisions between Protestants and Catholic and the Republic and the UK, then their worries were overtaken by hope in what we had to tell them.

Sunday was a momentous occasion for me because I really got to tell people, for the first time in my life, that the Gospel was still Good News for all people. That it still had the power to change and renew. And that I was proof of it.

It freaking rocked!

I got out of the car thinking to myself, “What are you doing here, man? These guys are such loyalist fools that they meet for church in a building marked by these political symbols. Was this what your grandfather fought the English for in 1918? Was this what Patrick Pearse spent fighting 800 years of his life for? Was this why Eamonn de Valera spent two summers in 1656 and 1657 single-handedly building a network of pyramids around the country that functioned as radio transmitters that broadcast educational bulletins on agricultural techniques and frugal living tips to the peasantry of the West? Was this why we formed our own nation? So you can come and talk to these people? Didn’t the English kill all the dinosaurs that were still living in Ireland when they invaded? Didn’t they fill in the network of canals that the Celtic chieftains had constructed for the rapid distribution of medical supplies around the country? Didn’t the Ulster planters sabotage our fledgling space program back in the early 1700s? Can you now get out of this car and show them respect and tell them about how you became a Christian and why you think Christianity is still needed?

Well, some might say I betrayed my nation and my heritage by doing that. Some might say that the Irish speaking fishermen who built the world’s first submarine in 789AD to help catalogue and preserve a rare form of mollusc that lived only off the coast of Achill Island and that had become endangered because of Anglo-Saxon pie production would roll in their graves (beautifully carved tombs that aligned with the sun on Solstice day and formed a golden mollusc in the burial chamber- which were made of C60 which had been discovered by monks but then lost by heartless British invaders…) at the prospect.

But I think that last Sunday, the congregation of that church didn’t just renew me and my passion for Christianity but in their Christian response to me, they finally put to death the destructive myths of nationhood and allegiance that curse Ireland, North and South. Good riddance to the legend of Pearse and the O’Rahilly and all of that. Let us concern ourselves with now and with tomorrow and lets finally embrace our shared belief in the Gospel of Jesus.

-Your Correspondent, Too sweet to be sour, too nice to be mean

Should probably sleep. Eat more vitamin C

Tuesday, February 17th, 2004

I used to regularly read targum.net, which is the website of a Dublin girl who did a degree in Biblical Studies at Trinity. After she graduated she packed in updating the site but in amongst her occasionally hilarious updates was an idea I really liked. She used to try and write a hundred and fifty word summary of any book or film she finished.

Its an interesting activity because finding a way to amusingly put a book into that small a space of text is a challenge and because you can come back in a year and see if you feel the same way. Or come back in ten years and remember that you did actually read that book.

So I might do that here.

Super Troopers
I may or may not have seen this film on a div-x that I found on my hard disk, a leftover from Christmas and forgotten in some dusty part of the stupidly titled My Videos folder built into XP. Or I may have legally rented the movie from an authorised film rental store. That’s neither here nor there for you.

What matters is that it’s a funny film. Its all about the State Troopers in Vermont and the crazy shenanigans they get up to even though their budget is about to be cut due to the incompetence of their buffoonery. It was written by the actors and it stars a couple of Hey Its That Guy!-s. Its got some classic set pieces; particularly the scene where they give a guy a ticket while replacing the word “Now” with “Miaow” as often as possible. Gold. Go see it soon.

Wah-la! That didn’t hurt too much did it? The bus and rail strike managed to keep me away from college and watching movies this afternoon. The best way to oppose inevitable opening up of the transport market to competition is to strike again. Everyone knows that!

People tend to have sympathy with a striking workforce because they realise that they must be in a serious place if they are willing to give up work and go on a picket. However, afternoon stoppages don’t demonstrate any real seriousness in the workers’ lives and their action is somewhat undermined by the fact that they went on strike and won better pay about three years ago. Enough already! I am so poor I can’t afford cotton boxers (which are proven to increase the chances of potency in men) and these guys are taking away the only kind of transport except for cycling and walking that I have.

The day wasn’t all lost however. I encoded ten sermons from 1998 that were given by Trevor Morrow at Lucan Presbyterian Church. This is a particularly stupid project I dreamt up and volunteered myself for. I am converting ten years of sermons from audio tape into mp3. Then we’ll have a great archive and library available for download and we won’t be able to afford the server space required. Oh well. It will, someday, be worthwhile. And it will, someday, be completed.

Your Correspondent, Hoping Family Never Find His Opinions

I’m Only Just a Man of Steel

Saturday, February 14th, 2004

Stay away from the beer German until my grammar normalises must I. The typoes in the last few zoomtard updates have been apalling. I endevor nevir to let such errors in entries again to.

Does believe in mean believe that?

I may believe in Socialism but I don’t need to see that Socialism exists as an object somewhere. Cuba is Socialist but it is not true to say that Socialism is in Cuba. If it doesn’t follow that believing in something requires that we believe that something to be, then surely we can believe in a God without believing that that God is in a literal sense.

If it holds, then we can claim to be Christians and still not take the Bible to be true in any objective sense and not take Jesus’ claims to divinity (or the claims made by the emerging Christian hierarchy led by Paul in their attempt to break free of the Jewish tradition and perpetuate their sexist power-holding… yadda yadda yadda) seriously.

But Socialism is not the same type of thing as God. Sure, both are ideals and both are believed in and both are believed in in similar ways and for similar motives, but unlike Socialism, God is conceived of as an object. Comparison between the two is non-sensical because God, at least in Christianity, is defined as inherently personal. As real. As an entity. (Admittedly as entity different in nature to our nature but entity nonetheless).

Now you can still aim to undermine the idea that the Christian conception of God and the universe is coherent and consistent but you can’t claim it from this instance.

So take that Don Cupitt! Stuff that up the front of your expensively tailored suit and belly flop a small orphan child with it seeing as all “moral values are created by cultures”- it can’t be wrong.

I don’t believe in Socialism. Just to re-assure you. As is expected in the development of a well cared for child who isn’t made to feel guilty about their relative wealth, I grew out of Socialism at the age of 15.

Your Correspondent, Feeling fairly certain his proposed argument is flawed like his grammar.

Headed to the car

Thursday, February 12th, 2004

I always imagined this website as a lightweight thing filled with amusing lies that take about hundred and fifty words to tell. It hasn’t turned out that way and I blame a weird development in my personality since I started my Masters. I have become more serious.

I was never laid back. I was never cool and one of the requirements for cool is to be relaxed, to think, “take it easy”. I’ve always wanted to take it all, easy, hard, big, small, fast and slow-- everything. I have no time to settle for just taking it easy.

I never lied to myself about this personality trait that constantly, obsessively searches for more challenges. My dad lies about his personality and he counsels advice about putting things in perspective and taking things slowly but his actual idea of a holiday is modifying the seat on a 1986 Volkswagen Golf with some left over bits of plastic from an old toolbox and a discarded radio he found in a skip. Once the Golf has a safety harness and in-seat heating installed and functioning he can get down to the serious bits of the holiday and fit new windows into the cottage he is staying in and then when it gets so dark that the maglites don’t make any appreciable difference, he will retire inside to do a bit of painting and maybe read some manuals. Or maps. My dad enjoys maps too much.

Back on track you! The point is that I have become more serious since I started this sociology thing. I enjoy mischief and conversation just as much but I need to warm up to it. If I meet a witty friend on the bus or in the street, I feel like it takes me about 20 minutes (who am I kidding, an hour at least) before I get into sync and start being witty. Before that, the best I can do is facilitate the other person’s humour.

There is no glorification of the ego in helping other people be funny.

I don’t know what I should do to stop the rot. I may be a bit to involved in the substantial books I have to read and I should go back to comedy for a while or horror of horrors read some of that shitty science fiction so many seemingly sane people enjoy. Or they claim to enjoy it. Maybe the pages of those books are laced with pheromones that only work after prolonged exposure and the sci-fi readers got into a rut by watching Star Trek (which has visual pheromones- that explains its success) and then it transfers over to their Iain M Banks novels and their Circles of Plentotasia of Mogdragon II fan fiction crap.

One thing I could do to lighten this blog up and stop me from writing about theology or computer science or evolution would be to go down the fan fiction route. Do the great bloggers have fan-fiction groupies?

I could do a Mimi Smartypants fan fiction blog where I imagine Mimi and her cohorts move to Dublin and I create magnificent adventures for them. Or I could do fan fiction for que sera sera and imagine that she doesn’t move to New York to become the darling of the literary set but instead moves to Belfast and joins a republican political party. My friend I would have to do the erotic fan fiction for Mrs Kennedy because I suspect he has a crush on her. Who wouldn’t though? Very few funny male bloggers I notice.

– Your Correspondent, Caught up in organised crime

A visit back from the dead to haunt you some more

Saturday, February 7th, 2004

My beloved web readership: I offer a full apology for the downtime since my last response.

I have been busy with college and other responsibilities and I had no appetite for zoomtarding. I’m not trying to justify it, just explain it.

I preached a full sermon for the first time there last Sunday. Momentous step. I feel it went well but my criticisms are harsh and detailed. I didn’t stay on message sufficiently. The digression were entertaining by were not compact enough in themselves and they did not have an apparently direct relevance to the message and none of the sections ended smoothly or ran into the next in a clean transition. But, it was satisfying to have to knuckle down to a Biblical passage and teach something from it. The Bible leaves a lot of space for waffle and bad teaching so filtering out the interesting or the amusing to leave just uncluttered sense and wisdom is hard.

The cardinal rule of writing is that you should know what you want to say it and then say. However, there is a little reported but far more important rule of writing. The Papal rule, if you will, is that you should make sure that what you want to say has any validity.

This is even more true in a Church content because you don’t want to get things wrong. The technical term for that is heresy. In the passage I was dealing with, naively, heresy could jump out at me at any point and grab me in a headlock. Throughout the prior week as I was preparing, heresy shadowed me. I think he moved into a vacant house across from mine and had me in his zoom lens at all times, just waiting for his opportunity to slip into my text.

It seems I have dodged him this time. But my tendency to equate complex Biblical teaching with Homer Simpson quotes suggests that heresy may become my lifelong foe. My autobiography will be entitled, “Heresy: Nemesis Vanquished”.

My fiancé is in South Africa doing something for the oppressed. At least that is the cover story. In reality she is using the weak Rand (currency of South Africa) to buy up lots of desirable consumer items cheaply and she will smuggle them back into Ireland in a bag with the name of some AIDS charity prominently displayed on the side. No self respecting customs official would ever search the bag of a young lady dedicating her life to AIDS orphans in the Dark Continent.

Don’t worry though. She’ll tithe 10% of her profits to sub-Saharan causes. It’s a new take on Fair Trade; which is after all, a campaign concerned with the breaking down of unfair trade barriers. Fiancé is just choosing to ignore the trade barriers.

On that lying note, I bid you French for goodbye.

-Your Correspondent, Skiing in the Lake District