Archive for February, 2007

Prepare A List For What You Need

Monday, February 26th, 2007

After church on Sunday, the young men gathered around for their weekly penis-comparison. This doesn’t take the form of us grouping in a corner and comparing sizes. Instead, sophisticates that we are, and nerds that we can’t help but be, we end up arguing over whether PCs are better than Macs. We have an older gentleman who owns a PC but acts as if he is a Mac owner. He purchases products based on how they look and other silly non-criteria like that.

In the midst of a full frontal assault on the “pretension” that is Mac-ownership, one of their number, their would-be leader in fact challenged me in a way I couldn’t respond to on how I can disregard the aesthetic qualities of everyday tools (I love my PCs but they are tools and I don’t choose a hammer based on how it looks and even its ergonomic qualities are subsumed within price considerations) when I am so nutty about architecture.

I didn’t have an answer for him then. So I resorted to the preacher’s first line of defence and may have proclaimed something about architecture being art in three-dimensional space (apologies to any sculptors out there) or some other high-minded rhetoric designed to woo the impressionable. But in the shower this morning I figured out why architecture shouldn’t be included in a discussion about mass-produced consumer goods. My brain works slowly, see. Its a classic case of not knowing what to say in the moment and then having a slap-your-forehead eureka moment once you leave the situation as just the right witty retort rises out of your subconscious.

Architecture is without any exceptions I can think of in the time it takes me to eat this this banana, is a one-off response to a one-off set of design demands. Starting with my least strong case: I live in a large housing estate in an outlying suburb of Dublin in a cardboard mansion. There are a dozen such mansions lining the big park in the middle of our road but they (the entire development) as a whole are a response made with care and diligence by a team of architects and engineers to the constraints presented by this brief. These houses look not a lot different from any other paper-thin space-maximising “executive” housing in and around Dublin but they are different.

This is even more clear in the huge amount of architecture that is done in Ireland that is one-off developments. The church we one day hope to build for example, will be quite unlike anything ever made before. It will be so good that they might copy it or take bits of it here and there and use it elsewhere but it will be a unique response to the needs of our community played off against our budget and set in the scene that is our location. My laptop however is a grey plastic device that was probably produced in a batch with 600,000 twin sisters and shipped all around the world. I think that is great because as a result my laptop was really cheap but it isn’t in any way designed uniquely for me. Even my i-pod which I got given as a gift at Christmas that has my name laser emblazoned on it is the same as a couple thousand other ones but just the letters engraved are different.

This realisation in the shower was brought to you by a Dell Inspiron 510M, a table from IKEA and the unique mind of Zoomtard that was catalysed by God a long time before you realised that buying a computer didn’t actually make you any more creative.

Your Correspondent, Using a banana as a phone

If The Queen Wins At The Oscars I Will Vomit

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

I asked my wife what I should write about since I have no idea. She suggested tits. Specifically blue tits. Instead I’ll share with you some smut for the discerning interweb user: Tea Birds. It is a website that serves as a library of photos of pretty girls drinking tea. My mind boggles. Your eyes will boggle.

LMNOP is a very fine website. Her entry on the glorious mercy that was the Grunge Era hit home with me. Thank God we’re not teenagers today. In fact, let me just sincerely thank God that I am not a teenager anymore. Teenagers are proof that Satan exists and he has a timeshare on every human soul.

A silly architecting friend left some architecting equipment in my house and I am going to take some time on Monday evening and utilise it for the production of Dharma initiative carriers for our beer. When you next come over to my house you are not to make fun of my nerd-dom. If you do, I will set the weirdy big black cloud that killed Ecko on you.

I love Lost. I can’t understand why people are losing faith in the plotline. I came late to this party. It was you out there, out there doubting the storyline who got me into Lost and now you’ve abandoned it thinking it too incredible and not really believing the end it promises is going to come. This has happened before people! Remember when I was a teenaged socialist and decried belief in God as a crutch and y’all convinced me that actually God was real and this big making-all-things-new project was just getting started and I should get in on the ground floor? Now look at me! I’m busy drafting theological documents and you can’t even get up on Sunday mornings.

But on March 3rd we get a chance to be reminded that there might, maybe be something, possibly going on that is bigger than you and me because there will be a total lunar eclipse. What a great opportunity to be reminded that your life is lit by a light from beyond the Sun! It’s on a Saturday. Someone could throw a lunar eclipse party. We could all dress up as our inner geeks! I could bring my Dharma Initiative Beer!

I got the most excellent news that I will be made an uncle for the fourth time last night. Niephew (the catch all term for nieces and nephews that I just made up) Number 2 was around yesterday. He noticed pavlova for the first time and asked,

What is that? Noisy ice-cream?

Argh! He is a beautiful little boy with a terrifying humming brain that vacuums everything in sight in to its web for processing. Maybe I am just feeling broody and sentimental or maybe I shouldn’t defend myself when I say this because I am profoundly right: kids make it possible for us to see the stunning, breathtaking intrinsic beauty that makes up every life. We get scarred and tired and jaded and familiar and burdened with our own shit and can’t see it so well with people who are like us, grown up, with fused skulls. Every new born baby is a sign that God has not yet lost hope with the world.

Maybe I am full of shit. Don’t worry though, since I now know the proper way to go to the toilet. You can know too by clicking here.

The Library UnSuggester gives you a list of books you’ll hate based on books you love. Its a cool idea but it doesn’t work because I tested it. There was a rigourous and complete empirical investigation undertaken in my office this morning when I submitted one of my favourite books, The Resurrection Of The Son Of God by N.T. Wright. In the top 25 books I wouldn’t like, there are two authors I have no interest in. I own about 18 of the 25 books listed. Maybe it will work better for you.

This is a funny idea. What would happen if we dropped French existentialists into battle against the Taliban? East Germany lives on in the form of a tiny Caribbean island that was forgotten during the reunification efforts. Neuro and I saw The 7th Seal this week. What a pile of crap! We’ve been watching lots of classic movies recently and an alarming number of them suck. This includes Gone With The Wind and The Graduate by the way.

I am fulfilling an ambition on Tuesday night. My best friend since we met in playschool and I are going to see Dave Matthews. Here is an article I found this morning that the only sexy white South African who isn’t called Charlize Theron wrote in Time Magazine of all places. If you throw that geeky lunar eclipse party, expect me to show up wearing a concert t-shirt.

You know what I said about classic movies? By the power of Greyskull, Hot Fuzz is a classic. When it comes out on DVD, we are going to have a Simon Pegg appreciation party. We’ll watch 4 episodes of Spaced (the best non-animated tv show ever, better than Sopranos, Lost, ER, West Wing, The Office, Arrested Development, The State, Fun Factory and Glenroe put together) followed by Shaun Of The Dead, followed by 4 more Spaced episodes, followed by Hot Fuzz, followed by 4 more episodes of Spaced. That party makes your stupid lunar eclipse party look pretty stupid. The same way Jar Jar Binks makes the Ewoks look like fuckin’ Shaft.

Your Correspondent, He’s not going to buy you porn. You can get it from railway sidings like everybody else.

Freud Inside My Head

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Someone took me up on yesterday’s challenge. It will come as no surprise to those who know him that it was Dave Barrett. He has successfully depicted the centre of my brain in image form:
Freud inside my head

Your Correspondent, Who has cracked the code you have always known but you still don’t understand.

The Guilt Factory

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Yesterday I talked about the Homunculus Freud that sits in the middle of my brain and makes me feel guilty for being a judgmental, intolerant Christian bigot.

This is a famous picture of Homunculus:

And here is a photo of that Viennese joker, Sigmund Freud:
Sigmund Freud knows what you are thinking

My question to you is this:
Wouldn’t it be a great slide to have for sermons if the homunculus in the first image had Freud’s face? Anyone up for the challenge?

No? I didn’t think so.

Your Correspondent, Kinda sexy. More creepy though.

Queens, Nonsense, Christian Unions In No Specific Order

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

So at the start of the week I had to go to Norn Iron again. Man I hate that place. It is filled with all the things I hate. Murder, for example. Crude language. A distinct metric measurement deficit. Sure, you think I am going over the top on this Norn Iron animus for your amusement. But where else are football jerseys a major political statement? I was invited by the pleasant, terrifically handsome bunch of people that make up the Queens University Belfast Christian Union, or QUBCU if you prefer awkward acronyms to address their masses on evangelism. It always surprises me when people invite me to talk about real-life Christian issues. In my mind, I’m the guy you call in when you want someone to waffle on noisily about some abstract theological point. In the mirror, I’m like a cut-rate Pete Rollins. In reality, I am a Christian who doesn’t sweat (visibly) when speaking in public and so I end up trying to pretend that I know about evangelism.

This is something I excel at you see, as I spend my working life convincing my boss that I know things about evangelism too. Evangelism is a nasty word. I am made to feel like some kind of bully if I am honest and tell new people that I am an evangelist. Maybe that is just the homunculus Freud in the centre of my brain activating my guilt over the lives I have distorted with my clever arguments and listening ear. But I think I am on firm ground holding that many people are deeply suspicious of any kind of evangelism. My dear and very stylish friend Stig studied marketing and so he spent four years defending himself and his course at parties from uninformed accusations that he and his subject were pure evil transformed into human form and study notes respectively. That is what you get for hanging around with college students but what they were really aggressive about was not “marketing” which is a surely benign activity but successful marketing that approaches the form of evangelism. They realise that in some sense, Vodafone’s non-stop trendy music ads work on them. They get their hooks into you and you end up having a bit of your brain colonised by the red apostrophe. They hated marketing and Stig the marketeer not because of any thought through consideration of advertising’s evil or Stig’s dreadful odour but because they are epistemologically inclined to distrust any attempts to modify belief systems.

That was a clever way of saying that folk don’t like it when people launch assaults on how they view the world.

I’m verbally processing here, killing time while Neuro talks to her mom on the phone, enjoying Cake (why aren’t Cake superstars on a level with the Shins?) so forgive me if I am talking crap. Be gentle to me in the comments section. But the reason I was invited to Queens in a grand-universe-fate-providence sense was to try and stop the raw material of this fear. It is in places like Belfast where the Christian sub-culture is larger and more aggressive than any other culture that evangelism starts to get a bad name. Christians probably should never work out of positions of power (again, off the top of my head opinion) but the sheer critical mass of God-botherers in one city encourages an attitude towards evangelism that can be totally devoid of love, irony, listening or humility.

So The 3rd K and me drove up and talked about sex and God and girls, had dinner with Sam and then delivered our spiel. I only broke one flip chart, stood on one piece of musical equipment and I didn’t swear. So I did a good job. Unlike the last time I talked to Christian Union students in Norn Iron, I was not publicly called a heretic by a minister of a mainline Protestant denomination. No public condemnations has to be considered positive.

I am sorry I didn’t know about the exhibit in the Waterfront from the Ikon lads featuring their “Heresy Monopoly”- I wouldn’t have missed it (Ta to Johnny Baker for the link and pic):
Heresy Board Game From Johnny Baker's Flickr Stream

It wasn’t all good news. I failed to fit this sentence into the talk: “The muscular German cyborg dude dances with French Canadians”.

More Nonsense Links
I know why you come to Zoomtard. It is because I am so cool. So cool because I share with you a website consisting of photos of Soviet calculators. As my good friend Jurg would say, in a butchered Russian accents, Classnya Popka!

I like it when people agree with me! Joel Johnson is a bigwig in the internet-gadget-journalism cartel (who also control the flow of water in the southern hemisphere) and here he rants at idiots who buy crap like iPods that lock you into preposterous licensing commitments. If you don’t have an i-River from 2001 I won’t be your friend anymore.

I think I love Scot Adams. This blog post shows why.

After killing Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre fled to Canada and got a job as a emergency-line operator. This game is addictive. And finally for those of you who enjoy laughing, a David Sedaris article in the New Yorker.

Your Correspondent, His kisses make Judas seem sincere

If I Don’t Do It, Somebody Else Will

Friday, February 9th, 2007

So there have been many notable things written and undoubtedly missspeled in Irish papers over the last couple of weeks. Nothing tops this letter submitted to the Times of London by Wicklow resident, Frank Schnittger, regarding the opening of Croke Park to rugby and soccer and the imminent arrival of the English team.

Ireland may well be missing Brian O’Driscoll as well as Shane Horgan and don’t have the resources in depth to overcome such losses. However neither will England have the armoured cars and machine guns they had the last time they entered Croke Park!

It is a darn sight better that controversy machine Kevin Myers who had a rant (registration required) at an Anglican Bishop who is using U2 songs as the basis for a Pentecost service. The Bishop of Grantham, Tim Ellis, announced that he was trying a new liturgical track and that the pews would be removed as people were invited into a service based around U2’s extensive collection of Christian songs.

Myers has a go at Ellis and indeed Paige Blair (who he correctly identifies as the key figure in the U2-as-liturgy movement. I initially made the claim that it was Beth Maynard (Thanks to Ms. Maynard for correcting me.)). He accuses them of being:

Ignorant of Christian theology, ignorant of the meaning of the Eucharist, ignorant of the Bible and of the great music of the church

Sure. Since Bishops and Priests are often much less invested in these areas than say, newspaper columnists. The best part of the article is how this experiment somehow lets us empathise with “Muslim loonies”. Terrorism as a protest at the mis-use of Where The Streets Have No Name? That is an innovative slant on it.

For those of you who don’t attend the same church as me and missed the Bill Hybels interview with Bono we showed a few weeks ago and still don’t understand why Christians seem intent to call U2 songs like “Grace”, “Wake Up Dead Man”, “Yahweh” and “40” liturgical, maybe you’ll find this 1982 interview with Contemporary Christian Music Magazine illuminating.

You will be glad to hear that I am not one of those authors who write naked. Often.

Your Correspondent, He had to steal away cos the time seemed right

Pretending To Know The Difference Between God And You

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

On Authority
This idea of what Christians mean when they say the Bible is their authority is actually very interesting. Maybe I am just flogging a dead horse and if I am, tell me in the comments. I am big enough to take the criticism. Jimlad. I’m looking at you.

It is a crazy claim to make. That God inspired a book and that it takes the form of some laws, lots of stories and some very erotic poetry. One of the things people have to understand about the claim is the difference between us Catholics and us Protestants. I am a Prodolic. Raised Catholic. Living as a Presbie. The lads in Rome think that authority comes in the form of Scripture and tradition. I ain’t going to work out the exact specification of how that works because they themselves are confused about it at the moment. But as someone (*cough* Tom Wright *cough*) wrote in a book I read recently, when you claim that there are two authorities, you change the meaning of the word authority. There are folk in Utah who claim to have two wives, but that is a categorically different term from the one I use when I complain that my wife keeps leaving me alone at night to go hang out with her friends who don’t have lisps.

Wives come in ones, otherwise they become something considerably less interesting. Authorities come in ones, otherwise they just become guiding voices.

Claiming tradition (which means the practice of Christians down through the ages) is authority is like a soldier who receiving his orders in the mail mistakes the the postman for his commanding officer.

On Literality
Another question that people ask alot is whether I believe the Bible is literally true. Literal, originally, (literally!) means the “sense of the letter”. So ask me if I read the Bible literally. Go on ask me.

Yes! Of course I do. Well I try to. I mean, that is what the game is all about- understanding the original meaning of Scripture and I do my best.

When it says that Solomon built the temple, I read that to mean Solomon built the temple. That is what it means to communicate right? When the Bible says some lad wants to wander in the fragrant gardens of his beloved I take that to mean something a little more, meaningful. When the Psalms say God has smoke coming out of his nostrils, I usually don’t take that to mean God is a dragon. Don’t be silly! God didn’t even make dragons! He left that to us. But just because I believe that “metaphorically”, to use the language of the average Freddy Sceptic, doesn’t mean I don’t believe its true. For something to be an effective metaphor, it has to map on to reality. Thus some no name poet talks about digging for potatoes being the same as coming to terms with his identity as a poet and that makes sense to us. If Shay Heaney had talked about potato digging as an illustration of a business phone call then we wouldn’t have his hung his poster on our teenaged walls.

We all did that, right?

Thus, when Hosea tells us that God thinks we are all adulterous fiends, he doesn’t mean for us to think we married the Big Fella one drunken night in Vegas and can’t remember it. He is telling the truth though. Truth so profound one has to resort to poetics to get it across.

Literal is not the opposite of metaphorical. I have made this point often before on Zoomtard. When Robbie Keane “literally cannons the ball into the back of the net” we are speaking literally in metaphorical terms. He did score a goal. But the ball moved very fast. Talking about the event in the terms of a physics textbook, “rapid velocity propelled the inflated sphere into the commonly agreed target” doesn’t do justice to the dramatic context of an international soccer match. When people ask about the literality of the Bible they think they are asking whether or not the Bible can be taken seriously. When I say often one must read it metaphorically they hear me say the Bible is a load of fairy tales. But that is not the case. The most potent moments in our life must be described in terms of poetry, story, drama. Reductionism won’t do.

Your Correspondent, Touring Europe with his musical rendition of My Left Foot

The (W)Right Authority

Monday, February 5th, 2007

There was a little flurry of activity around our tiny dark, dusty cupboard of the internet a few weeks back when the Nerdlingers (Jaybercrow, Peebles, Bob and me) blogged boringly about the Bible and what authority it might have. Because I was reading a book about homosexuality in the church (yawn) I started reading Tom Wright’s little book explaining his views on the topic. Oh what a book it is!

At one point he is talking about the vexed issue of how we split the bits of the Old Testament we don’t live out anymore away from the bits we do. Dave and I were just chatting about this last week. (Dave actually gave me book in the first place; thanks Dave!) Wright talks about the continuity and discontuity of the OT laws. He says that which is left behind is that which was pointing to Jesus and fulfilled by Him. Obvious examples include the Jewish keeping of the Sabbath. Its a quick way of describing the solution but one of the masterly things Wright does is bring the best possible illustration to you so you can grasp the complex idea (really that is what the 5-Act debate was all about, an illustration). (Well, an illustration grown up into a model, but…)

Here is what Wright says about the discontinuity and continuity issue:

When travellers set sail across a vast ocean and finally arrive on the distant shore, they leave the ship behind and continue over land, not because the ship was no good, or because their voyage had been misguided, but precisely because both ship and voyage had accomplished their purpose. During the new, dry-land stage of their journey, the travellers remain- and in this illustration must never forget that they remain- the people who made that voyage in that ship.

Now us nerdlingers can take a moment to compose ourselves in the face of our inadequacy. Why can’t we write the way Wright writes? Eh?

Nightmare Where A Knife Bearing Pregnant Lady Screams At You
Over the weekend we watched Last Kiss. Just like in his last terifically successful indie flick aimed at 20-somethings, Zach Braff plays on stereotypes. In Garden State it was the fancifully unreal Natalie Portman character. Here it is four friends in their late 20s right out of a militant feminists’ attack on maxim mag readership. I’m not in my late 20s yet but if all my male friends far exceed these characters in maturity and vision, then I conclude he may be cutting his characters out of cereal boxes.

The whole movie rests on a faulty premise. I guess when you are dealing with matters of the heart, illogic does not lead to incoherency. Braff’s character is concerned that his life is too stable, that there will be no more surprises, that its all planned out. An unplanned pregnancy precipitates this crisis.

Thankfully there is a character written who is mature enough to see through this navel gazing and set the young man back on track. Its Tom Wilkinson playing the father of his girlfriend. In the great scene of the movie and in one of the best lines of recent times he says, “What you feel only matters to you. It’s what you do for those you say you love that counts.” Damn straight. Amen. Preach it brutha! And so on and so forth. The movie is worth it just for that.

If I were a badly disciplined blogger I might jump off here to some meditations on how marriage is the great adventure offered to humankind or to thoughts on how we all desperately long for home in a way more profound than Dr Scrubs can yet articulate but you know I’d never do that you you, don’t you?

Don’t you?

Your Correspondent, Lead singer of Captain Downer and the Buzzkills

Counting Crows Greatest Hit Was Inspired By Her, Pre Sex-Change Op

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Welcome to the latest Furious Thinker, orthoperplexis (go write her a welcome comment). I don’t know her. Teragram (The Queen of Furious Thinking) doesn’t know her. But yellowsnow says she is cool. If she encourages yellowsnow to write more, then she’ll be a miracle worker.

I have been struck down by a heinous flu this week. Its left me uselessly lolling around the house reorganising my music files and trying to decide what my favourite word is. I have decided it is heckle. That’s a fricative word, if you don’t know. Or at least I hope it is. Otherwise I’ll look stupid publishing this.

I’m a very bad sickly person. I get whingey and whiney and restless and I end up annoying everyone I come into contact with. But when you have a flu you do get to overdose on hot whiskeys. That has been the highlight of my week.

Norah Jones has released a new album and I can’t help but think that all the TV ads are an attempt to cover over the fact that basically, Ms.Jones’ music is ideal in the background while researching pension funds.

Since I had a neglected childhood, it was only today that I first saw popcorn corn popping. That is some pretty amazing stuff. One moment they are little hard nubs of corn. Then they come flying at you and suddenly they are puffy white balls of deliciousness. Check it! So cool.

The first thing ever sold on Ebay was a broken laser printer for $14.00

Kevin Smith is a movie maker who may or may not be very good. The Zoomtard jury is still out. But here is his very interesting top 10 list of 2006 movies.

When the Harvard Business Review lists the top 10 breakthrough ideas for 2007, you should read them so that you seem really clever at cocktail parties, beach barbeques, church lunches or waiting in the methadone clinic.

Your Correspondent, He Travelled The World And The Seven Seas, He Is Looking At You Through A Camera!