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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

So this is what the Internet is like

Just had DSL installed on the home laptop (though now I have to go and get a wireless router for Nick’s and Janet’s computers).  That’s right, friends, Romans, countrymen, I’ve spent the past three months blogging from a 56K modem dialup.  Like playing ice hockey in sneakers.  Or, as George Williams once said, like sucking air through a cocktail straw.

So much for item number five on my plan for world domination by 2009.  (No, I’m not going to tell you what item six is.) And with my brand new blogging powers, I hereby direct one and all to Eric Alterman’s latest column, the one that concludes,

The far-right smear machine is saying: We will do anything--up to and including McCarthyite attacks on 9/11 widows and orphans--to insure victory in November. We are on the cusp of something extremely ugly in 2004.

By the pricking of my thumbs, something extremely ugly this way comes.  Paid for by Bush/Macbeth 2004.

Posted by Michael on 03/30 at 04:45 AM
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Monday, March 29, 2004

Double-dealing deities

From the front page of today’s New York Times comes a question I hadn’t even thought to ask:

Like Christian booksellers across the country, Bob Fillingane is doing everything he can to prepare the way for “Glorious Appearing,” the climactic installment in the “Left Behind” series of apocalyptic thrillers that goes on sale tomorrow.

Mr. Fillingane, owner of Lemstone Books in Hattiesburg, Miss., has arranged television, radio and newspaper advertisements and even a marquee over the front of his local mall, and next week he will hold a book signing by the authors, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, on a Bible Belt bus tour from Spartanburg, S.C., to Plano, Tex.

Not that “Glorious Appearing” needs his help, Mr. Fillingane said.

“I really believe that there is a blessing on this series from the Lord,” he said. “Just like with the ‘Passion’ movie, it is all part of the warning we get before Christ returns.” He added, “Many people have asked me, Do you think they will finish the series before Christ comes?”

So this is what the religious right is worried about these days:  will Christ return before the “Left Behind” series is finished?

Well, this raises all kinds of complex eschatological problems, now that I think of it.  First of all, what does the Book of Revelations say about fundamentalist-Christian pulp-fiction writers who are trying to complete their Revelations-based book series before they’re raptured into heaven?  Does Scripture itself predict whether novels about the Final Days will be published during the Final Days?  Do they arrive in bookstores just after the seven-eyed, seven-horned Lamb opens the first of the seven seals (6:1), or do we have to wait until the appearance of the seven-headed, ten-horned dragon (12:3)?  Second, when Christ returns, will He hang out for a while-- maybe even serving as an editorial consultant on the remaining “Left Behind” books-- before initiating the series of events leading to the Apocalypse, or will He just be all about the Apocalypse?

Most important, why would Christ return before LaHaye and Jenkins have finished their work in the first place?  Wouldn’t that be, like, God giving away the ending?  I hate it when people give away the ending.  I hate it even more when omnipotent beings-- who obviously have the power to restrain themselves-- give away the ending.

In all seriousness, let’s turn back to the author, Tim LaHaye:

In an interview last week at his home in Palm Springs, Calif., however, Dr. LaHaye, 77, said that his only agenda was spreading the Gospel, by illustrating both the gruesome perdition ahead for unbelievers and the merciful salvation awaiting faithful Christians. What’s more, he said, he was merely relying on what he considers the literal meaning of the words of the Bible.

“If I invented the story, you’re right, I’d be terribly arrogant,” he said, “but I didn’t invent the story.”

. . . and let’s remember that the LaHaye-Jenkins books aren’t just blockbuster bestsellers (the first eleven installments have sold 40 million copies); they’re documents, based in fact, and spiritual guides for a lot of the people currently running our country.  These would be, of course, the people who believe that God Himself picked our current leader and has been directing our foreign policy since the attacks of September 11.

Yes, I know, you’ve heard this all before.  But then it turns out (in a related story) that God has in fact declared war on America, according to the new Hamas leader, Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi:

“We knew that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims,” Dr. Rantisi told several thousand Hamas supporters attending a rally at the Islamic University in Gaza City. “America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God, and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon.”

What’s up with this?  It sounds to me like this God guy is double-crossing us big time.  I mean, this is the very definition of treason-- whispering in LaHaye’s ear one day and Rantisi’s the next.  What a creep.  And after we went through all that trouble to put Him in the damn Pledge of Allegiance, here He goes and declares war against us.  I say we take ‘Im out.

So, to that end, I’ve joined the VFW-- for Victory over Fundamentalist Wackos at home and abroad.  Flash me a V sign if you’re with me.

UPDATE:  Readers write in and they’re not about the V-- they’re all about the S.  Yes, I did a bad bad thing-- I wrote “Book of Revelations” instead of “Book of Revelation.” Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.  You know, I could go back and fix it, but I think I’ll just leave it there . . . a Real Mistake.  Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Now get off my case already.

Posted by Michael on 03/29 at 09:26 AM
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Friday, March 19, 2004

Mel Gibson Honored for Promoting Understanding

NANTES-ON-WABASH, INDIANA (Christian News Network), March 19-- Prominent conservative Catholic and Protestant leaders today announced that they plan to award Mel Gibson a special Citation of Interfaith Healing in response to his controversial film, The Passion of the Christ.

The Passion is an exceptionally powerful film,” said Hugh Ginnow, chairman of the American Association for the Eradication of Popery, “and it has compelled us to rethink everything about our mission here on Earth.  Basically, we’ve spent almost five hundred years fighting the Whore of Babylon in the form she currently takes in the Vatican.  But Mel Gibson has shown us in two hours what we have failed to understand for half a millennium-- that the Vatican is not our enemy.  Jews are our enemy, and we must ask for our Catholic brothers’ forgiveness in Christ.”

Ginnow’s remarks were echoed by Tom More, president of the Catholic Campaign for the Re-Establishment of Medieval Practices and Punishments.  “Gibson has changed my life,” More said to a gathering of followers and reporters today.  “All my life I’ve been obsessed with sects-- all these damned Lutherans, Calvinists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Wesleyans, Puritans, Quakers, Baptists, Anabaptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Mennonites, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, all running around denying the authority of the Holy Father and the sacred mystery of the Eucharist.  Time was, I wanted to take them all and dip their various body parts into vats of boiling oil until they prayed to the Virgin Mother and acknowledged the power of the clergy to forgive sin.  But Hell, now I say let bygones be bygones-- we have bigger fish to fry.  It’s time for us to forget that whole crazy Reformation - Counter-Reformation thing and get back to job one, namely, persecuting the Jews.”

Ginnow and More also announced the formation of Partners in Christ, an interfaith organization dedicated to encouraging conservative Catholics and Protestants to forgive each other for centuries of religious bloodshed in Europe and the Americas.  “I’m sorry for so much,” said Ginnow to More, opening the reconciliation by admitting that “we’ve been beastly in Ireland, just beastly, and I hope you can forgive us.” ”Te absolvo,” replied More, “and I apologize for Cardinal Richelieu,” adding, “I love you, man.”

Curiously, however, tempers flared briefly as Ginnow pointed out that he had apologized for over three centuries of Protestant rule in Ireland since the Battle of the Boyne, whereas More had apologized for only one historical figure-- “and a guy who was despised by many of his own allies, at that,” remarked Ginnow.  But within minutes order and agape were restored as Ginnow offered to take More to see The Passion again-- “and this time,” he noted, “I’ll let you bless the popcorn.”

Posted by Michael on 03/19 at 06:49 AM
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Just for the record

Hockey fans only:  I stepped onto the ice last night against the first-place team in the B division and scored on my first shift-- and then on my second, third, and fourth shifts, too. With 40 minutes left to go in a 55-minute game (running time), we were up 5-0 and I had four of ‘em.  Needless to say, that doesn’t happen all the time.  And needless to say, I didn’t score again-- hitting the post a bit later, and then hitting the knob of the goalie’s stick on a slapshot he never saw.  Still, the four-goal game gives me 43 on the year (in 24 games), and most important-- remember, there’s no I in “team,” and no X, J, or Q, either-- we’re 12-1-1 since January 4.

OK, enough fun and games.  Wednesday is Graduate Seminar Day, so back to work.

Posted by Michael on 03/17 at 01:42 AM
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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Conference update

I’m glad to see that my ideas for academic meta-conferences are catching on.  But if that’s the case, then I’d better drop the other shoe.

Ever since I served as a director of a humanities center (the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, 1997-2001), what I’ve really wanted to do-- instead of just hosting another conference-- is to direct a short video about conferences.  So far all I have are a couple of ideas I’ve hashed out with Janet and with my associate director at IPRH, Christine Catanzarite.  On day one of the conference, things would go as I’d suggested in my earlier post-- especially those three-minutes-plus questions/ comments that have little or nothing to do with the paper.  But then at the end of the day, we see the conference organizers get together and decide that on day two, all questioners will have to stand up and speak into microphones placed in the aisles of the auditorium.  The mikes, however, will be placed just in front of hidden metal plates under the aisle carpet, so that whenever a question goes on and on and turns into a three-part “comment,” the speaker can simply press a button and deliver sharp electric shocks to the feet of the questioner.

But alas, our conference organizers are foiled.  The next day, we learn that electric shocks to the feet do not, in fact, deter the questioners.  The first one gets up, says, “I wonder if I could comment on your paper’s failure to address neoliberalism--” and quickly jumps and cries out in pain as the speaker secretly “buzzes” him.  “Ow!” Slightly aggravated, the questioner soldiers on.  “As I was saying, the expansion of neoliberalism is the inevitable horizon of your reprivatization of the social, and-- ow!  Jesus!”—proceeding to deliver the rest of the “question” by hopping from one foot to the other-- “seems to me the unspoken assumption behind your move to-- ow!-- conceive of ‘empire’ as simply an aftereffect of intentionality-- ow!  ow!” and so on for another four or five minutes.

Over at Invisible Adjunct, I see that someone named “polychrome” in the comments section (comment # 7) has said,

“I must hang out at the wrong conferences. What I’m used to (this is all very interesting, but why aren’t we discussing me?) is really really bad coffee. There’s just something . . . special . . . about conference coffee.”

Well, polychrome, you read my mind.  The video will also contain a sight gag along the following lines: in the foreground, two conferees are doing shop talk that mixes academic comings and goings with sports commentary in a kind of mishmash-- “I hear Chicago picked up Cordell and Whalen at the deadline for a pair of prospects”; “yeah, I heard that too, but I can’t believe Texas-Austin got hit with recruiting violations for picking up candidates in the university-press helicopter”; “me, I see Kentucky taking an early exit from the playoffs unless they can get themselves a decent Hegelian”; “no way Princeton’s going to stay under the salary cap if they sign Gates,” that sort of thing.  In the background, though, we see a long line of people waiting to serve themselves at the coffee/tea table.  One by one, they hit the spigot on the coffee urn, add their creamer and sugar and whatever, take a sip from the little paper cup, and-- bbbleah!-- spew the foul and tepid coffee in all directions.  But-- and this is the key, of course-- no one gets out of the coffee line.  This scene should go on for 50-60 seconds.

Last but not least.  This one wasn’t really my idea-- partial credit (or whatever) here needs to go to my friend and former bandmate Kevin Carollo, from when he was a Comp Lit graduate student at Illinois.  So I need to know if it works.  Here goes.

On the final day of the conference, the “wrapup” panel is squabbling and the audience is getting unruly.  It seems that no one can agree on whether the term “hybridity” reinscribes the very forms of cultural essentialism it seeks to contest!  (Don’t you hate it when that happens?) Just as tempers are flaring dangerously, however, there is a flash of light, and a Being from Another Planet appears, dressed, Ed Wood-style, in tinfoil.  “People of Earth,” says the creature, “Please!  Please!  Stop all this bickering!  I have been sent from the planet Effexor to serve all humankind!” Conferees sit in stunned silence.  “People of Earth, on my planet, we have solved the problem of hybridity.” General gasping can be heard.  “And as a result, our academic conferences take fifteen minutes, not three exhausting days.” Now there are faint murmurs of interest.  “On Effexor, all our oceans are black, not just one!  Please, people of Earth, let me leave with you copies of my most recent book, as well as brochures for future conferences on Effexor.” The murmuring increases-- the conference is collectively flummoxed.  Finally, one of the panelists slowly rises from her seat, one raised finger in the air.  “Um, creature from Effexor?”

“Yes, Earth person?”

“I have a question that’s really more of a comment. . . .”

Posted by Michael on 03/16 at 11:40 AM
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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The employment of employment

I learned today that Vivian Wagner has published a most generous review of my 1998 book, The Employment of English:  Theory, Jobs, and the Future of Literary Studies in Workplace, the internet’s premier journal of academic labor.  Thanks, Vivian!

I’m reminded of the first internet review the book received-- from James Diedrick at the Authors Review of Books almost six years ago.  And then later in 1998 there was Janet McNew’s somewhat more critical (but still quite nice) review over at the American Book Review.  I should have acknowledged these things long ago, I guess, but I didn’t have a blog then, now, did I.

Posted by Michael on 03/09 at 04:38 PM
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