Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Generation Now

After writing yesterday about the perpetual doomsday as suggested by Francis Ford Coppola's film, Apocalypse Now, I asked myself a question. How exactly does a person operate when they live at the end of the world? In a subsequent post later in the day, I offered a kind of candy-in-the-sky response by stating that we should devote our hearts and souls to peace. However, upon reflection, I'm thinking that is a bit simplistic.

It occurs to me that the apocalypse is a singularity, and a singularity, being an event of profound effect, is something that has features. It is not something with a single smooth aspect, rather it has components that converge to make it what it is. With this in mind, I went on to think that there is a generative facet to eschatological thinking. What we experience is not simply a wave of mutilation wiping out all our hopes and dreams each day (what a dreary possibility!), it is a bipolar phenomena with diametrically separated points of occurrence.

These points, if you will, are destructive and creative, respectively; as decay takes place, there is also a birthing of new material, whether that material be metaphysical, political or personal. To cite the metaphor of the river from my previous post, as it flows forward it is also flowing backward, creating an estuary of symmetrical dynamics at play.

Well, all of this sounds so wonderful, doesn't it? *ahem*

What really is at stake is daily life, right? I do see applications here. In regular existence the principles that surround us come in contact in similar, diametrical ways. I believe they manifest in the interplay of accountability vs entitlement. To reduce my argument even more, I believe that living at the end of the world confronts each of us with an ethical dilemma, and we must choose each day if we will be accountable or entitled.

What do these choices represent? I'll get into that when I have more time to expand on this post. For the moment, I simply want to write that, instead of thinking in an Apocalypse Now mindset, I am focusing on Generation Now and exploring just what that means.

Stay logged.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Victory vs Reform

What in your esteem is the entire disgrace of my God, is in fact the sacrament of our salvation.

This quote from Tertullian was forwarded by a friend earlier today and has rung in my head since, for several hours actually. It emerged from a dialogue about the distinction between Christians and Mohammedans, and if the latter will ever experience reform. Figures like Luther and Chauvin nee Calvin were instrumental in reforming how we perceive the Way of Christ: will comparable figures emerge from Islam?

My friend made the point that, while Mohammed took up the sword to champion his cause, Christ gave up his life. There is a crucial difference. Christ did not raise up a holy army to take Rome. That happened later, at a great and terrible cost to Christendom, leading to schism and ultimately Protestantism, in which such deep divisions appeared within the church that they continue to fracture believers today.

I came away thinking about the golden value of sacrifice. Christ laid down his body rather than lift a fist to the State. His resurrection three days later remains the cornerstone of Christian belief and the lighthouse of our holy desires, desires for unattainable communion with the master of the world.

In today's partisan climate, the US is experiencing a crisis of faith. How can we communicate Christian values in the realm of governance, believers ask; how can we introduce the rainbow of faith into a spectrum of polity? James Dobson was quoted recently as saying, "There is disillusionment out there with Republicans. That worries me greatly." I wonder what it is that worries him. Is he inclined to believe that the system will fail and the State will let us down?

Historically, I think Christians already know that the State failed, when it executed Christ. How does the State make up for that little blunder?

I don't want to sound glib. Neither do I want to come across as if I am calling to reject all forms of discourse, that Christians should all escape together into the desert and spend their lives in cold contemplation of I AM. No, we are in the world, engaged with it, and this is just what Christ has called us to do. He has not called us to stand in judgement on disbelievers, nor to make war on them to show we are right and they are wrong.

What can worry Mr Dobson, one of the most influential public figures in this country, when victory has already been achieved? It isn't human victory that Christians celebrate, it is the victory of Christ.

How does this jibe with Mohammedan reform? I am not sure. What I do know is that the current situation is grave. In an earlier post I wrote about the perpetual apocalypse, that at every moment we are living at the end of the world. The rampant atrocities taking place in Beirut, Gaza, Baghdad, Darfur, Kashmir and other regions across the globe are part of a fundamentalist conflagration. Yet the foundation has been forgotten! On every side we hear the battle cry for victory, when that has been accomplished already.

It seems to me that what should worry Mr Dobson is too much reliance on the apparatus of State. We are blessed with grace and joy and faith, the tenements of belief and the true calling of Christ. The only reform that can take place is to answer the call with our hearts and souls, rather than denying what has already been won, and concern ourselves, when it does come to matters of State, with the peaceful exchange of ideas, as in the best that politics can accomplish.

The Horror, Revisited

I swore never to watch Apocalypse Now again. After having the finest cinematic experience of my diseased life watching the "Redux" version at Cinerama (Seattle's largest screen and loudest sound system), I made my big fat oath never again to see it. What could top this glorious sound and fury?

Well, so much for swearing, I watched it again the other day. I'm glad I did.

There is an implicit theme in the film that may or may not be the work of Francis Ford Coppola, the writer/director/producer. On the commentary track, Coppola posits that great art accomplishes what it does not appear to accomplish; in other words, the sum of the whole goes beyond logic and creates an experience transcendent from the material. I believe he succeeded in transmitting that kind of experience here.

Coppola talks about the river journey towards the heart of darkness. He describes the soldiers going back in time even as they move closer to their target, the jungle-maddened Colonel Kurtz. By the time they reach Kurtz, they have reached a primal nexus of human experience, a timeless place of myth and blood, and there is enacted the first story of humanity, the killing of a king and ascension of his assassin to the throne. I think there is more going on, even more than this profound truth of our species.

I think the title gives away an implicit theme: the apocalypse is happening now, and is always happening NOW. That is an eschatological assertion, okay, but that's what I'm talking about: Revelation is always, constantly, perpetually at play in humanity. As we go forward we are also going backwards. Consequently we always stand at the end of the world, because the world is always in the process of ending. Perhaps, then, this is what Kurtz means when, with his dying breath, he whispers, "The horror, the horror." He may be seeing the perpetuity of doom that surrounds us.

That, if you ask me, is heavy stuff.

Far be it from me to say that this or that is what Coppola wanted to do with his incredible film -but it has imparted an experience to this one guy over here and he's not afraid to blog about it! Should you happen to watch Apocalypse Now anytime in the near future, let me know if you agree or think I'm way off in some mad jungle of my own mind; I'd appreciate the dialogue.

Sock Puppet

By now everybody knows about Lee Siegel, The New Republic's infamous blogger. According to the NYTimes, he "insulted his detractors and posted rhapsodic comments about himself using a 'sock puppet'." Jonathan Zittrain, an Oxford "professor of internet governance" further expanded and wrote that "the use of sock puppets is one of the graver transgressions you can make online."

This is the first time I have seen sock puppet used in this context, and it really stuck to my noodle after I read about it. How did that become the dominant metaphor for disguising your identity online, did Tom Zeller Jr, the NYTimes reporter, pull it out of the atmosphere?

Looking up the term on Wikipedia yields revelation on this front. Sockpuppet (sometimes known also as a mule, glove puppet, alt(alternate) account, or joke account) is an additional account of an existing member of an Internet community to invent a separate user. This may be used for fictional support of separate people in a vote or argument by falsely using the account as a separate user, or for acting without consequence to one's "main" account. It is often considered dishonest by online communities, and such pretending individuals are often labeled as trolls. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_sock_puppet)

Examples of other sock puppets are cited, going back as far as 2000. Surely there are earlier examples, yet the point is made: sock puppets are an online phenomenon and a regular practice by the less-than-scrupulous. Such individuals could be more accurately charactised as being scrofulous, or morally tainted.

The first encounter I had with sock puppetry dates back to the mid-nineties, when a male friend pretended to be a 14 yr old girl in order to lure unsavory types into chats. This activity at the time would have been described as a tentacle, the in vogue term then. Yet, according to Wiki, sock puppet goes all the way back to "July 9, 1993 in a posting to bit.listserv.fnord-l".

Funny, isn't it, that it took a conservative columnist at a right wing rag to bring sock puppetry into the media spotlight. Then again, I suppose that's a sign of the times.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

"He has the disk!"

The other day somebody asked if I remembered my first CD purchase, and I had to admit that I cannot. I remember Donnie Darko was the first DVD I bought, just a couple years ago. While I have never owned many compact discs (I don't even have an ipod) and have contented myself with an outmoded clutch of cassette tapes, recently my DVD collection has expanded.
I mention this because today I added to the shelf what might be the most important DVD disc of them all: Midnight Run. When I saw it at the shop for a mere twelve bucks, I couldn't pass by in good conscience without making a buy.
Midnight Run is a deeply storied part of my life. I can quote this foul-mouthed comedy front to back, and so can some of my dearest friends. Whenever we find ourselves in the same room -sadly, a rare event these days- anybody in hearing range will hear a salvo of four-lettered dialogue from guys that normally keep it relatively clean.
One quote is from towards the end of the movie, shouted by Robert DeNiro's character, "He has the disk! He has the disk!"
Ah, but now isn't that true in more ways than one?

Second Life: Wowzers!

I've just been on my first jaunt in Second Life and feel overwhelmed. There is so much to see and do and fly over... that's right, you can fly. Technically speaking, you can "page up", but same diff.
After creating my appearance, I just zoomed around for 30 minutes or so and felt like I only pecked at the surface. If anybody has tips on good ways to indoctrinate one's self into this brave new world, give with 'em quick! T'would be much appreciated.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Get Ready for Season 3

The best drama on tv is Battlestar Galactica, and the new season starts in 2 weeks.
Yes, Lost is a fine show, and I hear The Wire is too. For sheer ingenuity and guts, though, Battlestar cannot be topped. Each episode is a cinematic experience. Each episode brings radical changes to narrative and characters alike, without sacrificing high standards of quality or betraying the audience for the sake of cheap sensationalism. Each episode tackles a relevant topic. The producers' aim is to make a show that is about the world we live in today, by transporting viewers to a far-flung drama in the stars. Does that sound far-fetched? You bet it does.
I came to the show skeptical, but now look at me. I challenge the most hard-nose skeptics to give Battlestar a shot: I guarantee that almost any single episode from the two previous seasons will win you over.
If you go now to SCIFI.COM, you can catch a salvo of webisodes readying us for the new season. Go here: http://www.scifi.com/battlestar/video/index.php?cat=webisodes&vid=29339
Currently Battlestar is considered a "cult" phenomenon, because it only draws a little over 2 million viewers per new broadcast (!). Given more exposure, I think it can impress a much larger audience. Here's me doing my duty for the show and telling you don't miss out. You won't regret it!

Monday, September 18, 2006

United States of Planet Rockstar

Virtual Laguna Beach is set to launch from MTV, where already 22,000 people are signed up to participate in the latest iteration of There.com (it is designed by the same folks). Several hundred of the first subscribers will be designated lifeguards, avatars who greet new online arrivals. Not so much an offshoot of the "reality" show, Laguna Beach: The Real OC, so much as a trumped-up chatroom, this virtual world promises to expand the already nearly ubiquitous idea of watching yourself in the form of an electronic self.
"MTV speaks uniquely," says Judy McGrath, the Networks' chief exec, "to a group of people who are endlessly fascinated with watching themselves."
Soon residents will be able to buy a car and house for Gold membership fees; Platinum will secure VIP access to nightclubs. In addition to Virtual Laguna Beach, two other "worlds" are planned to be launched at the same time. VMTV will allow visitors to club hop, buy music, watch videos, sing karaoke and start their own bands, while Logoworld, an offshoot of the homosexual cable channel Logo, will exist primarily for gays and lesbians (so much for coexistence, eh?). Yet, why do they separate into three worlds what could suffice in one? The "worst" anyone can do in any of them is ohmygosh kiss.
"It's Catholic school kissing," explains a senior vp at MTV, possibly referring to relations between priests and kids, "the lips touch, but the bodies don't." I guess nobody told MTV that virtual means "not real".
In other words, there will be no hot coffee served in the phantom electrons of MTV online, not like it is in the United States of Planet Rockstar. When it came out the the last Grand Theft Auto game (created by Rockstar Games) had a hidden feature called "Hot Coffee", where your avatar could bump artifacts with other (female) characters, the ensuing storm of righteous indignation resulted in a recall of the product. Yet Rockstar can truthfully say that long before now it created the kind of "worldly" experience of buying cars and houses, dancing all night, making friends and diversifying your wardrobe; the difference between it and MTV's version is that, given the proper amount of effort, one can sleep with beautiful women. If that isn't real world, I don't know what is.