Torgo χ


2012-04-10 (Tuesday)

Dear Log,

I very often direct people to this brilliant essay, by the already brilliant essayist (and occasional novelist) Mark Twain: "Bible Teaching and Religious Practice". Twain wrote it circa 1890. He died in 1910; and this essay and many others weren't published until years afterward.

There is minor variance in wording between the original manuscript and how it was first published years later (1923?), after his death (1910). This is briefly discussed in the editorial notes (p. 591) at the end of the 1973 edition (or later editions by the same editor) of: Mark Twain, What Is Man?: And Other Philosophical Writings, editor Paul Baender, University of California Press. Twain didn't put a title on this essay— the title "Bible Teaching and Religious Practice" was added when it was first published. Many of his essays were similarly (un)titled. I think "Bible Teaching and Religious Practice" sounds dry compared to the titles he gave essays (when he did), but this is the name that it is known by today. I post it here in its entirety. It's a bit over 1,700 words.

Two notes: The "within our century" means within the 19th century. And, importantly: In saying "The Christian Bible is a drug store"— the relevant feature of a drug store at that time was that its walls were covered with shelves containing a hundred or more small drawers and vials, all distinctly labeled— but, from a distance, they would all seem identical, and perfectly and tidily aligned. Each drawer or vial might contain a drug on its own, or might be simply an ingredient that would be mixed with others, according to the doctor's directions to the pharmacist. (A Google Images search will show you what I mean.)



“Bible Teaching and Religious Practice”
Mark Twain, (from Europe and Elsewhere and A Pen Warmed Up In Hell)

    Religion had its share in the changes of civilization and national character, of course. What share? The lion’s. In the history of the human race this has always been the case, will always be the case, to the end of time, no doubt; or at least until man by the slow processes of evolution shall develop into something really fine and high— some billions of years hence, say.

    The Christian Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same; but the medical practice changes. For eighteen hundred years these changes were slight— scarcely noticeable. The practice was allopathic— allopathic in its rudest and crudest form. The dull and ignorant physician day and night, and all the days and all the nights, drenched his patient with vast and hideous doses of the most repulsive drugs to be found in the store’s stock; he bled him, cupped him, purged him, puked him, salivated him, never gave his system a chance to rally, nor nature a chance to help. He kept him religion sick for eighteen centuries, and allowed him not a well day during all that time. The stock in the store was made up of about equal portions of baleful and debilitating poisons, and healing and comforting medicines; but the practice of the time confined the physician to the use of the former; by consequence, he could only damage his patient, and that is what he did.

    Not until far within our century was any considerable change in the practice introduced; and then mainly, or in effect only, in Great Britain and the United States. In the other countries to-day, the patient either still takes the ancient treatment or does not call the physician at all. In the English-speaking countries the changes observable in our century were forced by that very thing just referred to— the revolt of the patient against the system; they were not projected by the physician. The patient fell to doctoring himself, and the physician’s practice began to fall off. He modified his method to get back his trade. He did it gradually, reluctantly; and never yielded more at a time than the pressure compelled. At first he relinquished the daily dose of hell and damnation, and administered it every other day only; next he allowed another day to pass; then another and presently another; when he had restricted it at last to Sundays, and imagined that now there would surely be a truce, the homeopath arrived on the field and made him abandon hell and damnation altogether, and administered Christ’s love, and comfort, and charity and compassion in its stead. These had been in the drug store all the time, gold labeled and conspicuous among the long shelfloads of repulsive purges and vomits and poisons, and so the practice was to blame that they had remained unused, not the pharmacy. To the ecclesiastical physician of fifty years ago, his predecessor for eighteen centuries was a quack; to the ecclesiastical physician of to-day, his predecessor of fifty years ago was a quack. To the every-man-his-own-ecclesiastical-doctor of— when?— what will the ecclesiastical physician of to-day be? Unless evolution, which has been a truth ever since the globes, suns, and planets of the solar system were but wandering films of meteor dust, shall reach a limit and become a lie, there is but one fate in store for him.

    The methods of the priest and the parson have been very curious, their history is very entertaining. In all the ages the Roman Church has owned slaves, bought and sold slaves, authorized and encouraged her children to trade in them. Long after some Christian peoples had freed their slaves the Church still held on to hers. If any could know, to absolute certainty, that all this was right, and according to God’s will and desire, surely it was she, since she was God’s specially appointed representative in the earth and sole authorized and infallible expounder of his Bible. There were the texts; there was no mistaking their meaning; she was right, she was doing in this thing what the Bible had mapped out for her to do. So unassailable was her position that in all the centuries she had no word to say against human slavery. Yet now at last, in our immediate day, we hear a Pope saying slave trading is wrong, and we see him sending an expedition to Africa to stop it. The texts remain: it is the practice that has changed. Why? Because the world has corrected the Bible. The Church never corrects it; and also never fails to drop in at the tail of the procession— and take the credit of the correction. As she will presently do in this instance.

    Christian England supported slavery and encouraged it for two hundred and fifty years, and her church’s consecrated ministers looked on, sometimes taking an active hand, the rest of the time indifferent. England’s interest in the business may be called a Christian interest, a Christian industry. She had her full share in its revival after a long period of inactivity, and his revival was a Christian monopoly; that is to say, it was in the hands of Christian countries exclusively. English parliaments aided the slave traffic and protected it; two English kings held stock in slave-catching companies. The first regular English slave hunter— John Hawkins, of still revered memory— made such successful havoc, on his second voyage, in the matter of surprising and burning villages, and maiming, slaughtering, capturing, and selling their unoffending inhabitants, that his delighted queen conferred the chivalric honor of knighthood on him— a rank which had acquired its chief esteem and distinction in other and earlier fields of Christian effort. The new knight, with characteristic English frankness and brusque simplicity, chose as his device the figure of a negro slave, kneeling and in chains. Sir John’s work was the invention of Christians, was to remain a bloody and awful monopoly in the hands of Christians for a quarter of a millennium, was to destroy homes, separate families, enslave friendless men and women, and break a myriad of human hearts, to the end that Christian nations might be prosperous and comfortable, Christian churches be built, and the gospel of the meek and merciful Redeemer be spread abroad in the earth; and so in the name of his ship, unsuspected but eloquent and clear, lay hidden prophecy. She was called the Jesus.

    But at last in England, an illegitimate Christian rose against slavery. It is curious that when a Christian rises against a rooted wrong at all, he is usually an illegitimate Christian, member of some despised and bastard sect. There was a bitter struggle, but in the end the slave trade had to go— and went. The Biblical authorization remained, but the practice changed.

    Then— the usual thing happened; the visiting English critic among us began straightway to hold up his pious hands in horror at our slavery. His distress was unappeasable, his words full of bitterness and contempt. It is true we had not so many as fifteen hundred thousand slaves for him to worry about, while his England still owned twelve millions, in her foreign possessions; but that fact did not modify his wail any, or stay his tears, or soften his censure. The fact that every time we had tried to get rid of our slavery in previous generations, but had always been obstructed, balked, and defeated by England, was a matter of no consequence to him; it was ancient history, and not worth the telling.

    Our own conversion came at last. We began to stir against slavery. Hearts grew soft, here, there, and yonder. There was no place in the land where the seeker could not find some small budding sign of pity for the slave. No place in all the land but one— the pulpit. It yielded at last; it always does. It fought a strong and stubborn fight, and then did what it always does, joined the procession— at the tail end. Slavery fell. The slavery text remained; the practice changed, that was all.

    During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.

    Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry. Who discovered that there was no such thing as a witch— the priest, the parson? No, these never discover anything. At Salem, the parson clung pathetically to his witch text after the laity had abandoned it in remorse and tears for the crimes and cruelties it has persuaded them to do. The parson wanted more blood, more shame, more brutalities; it was the unconsecrated laity that stayed his hand. In Scotland the parson killed the witch after the magistrate had pronounced her innocent; and when the merciful legislature proposed to sweep the hideous laws against witches from the statute book, it was the parson who came imploring, with tears and imprecations, that they be suffered to stand.

    There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain.

    Is it not well worthy of note that of all the multitude of texts through which man has driven his annihilating pen he has never once made the mistake of obliterating a good and useful one? It does certainly seem to suggest that if man continues in the direction of enlightenment, his religious practice may, in the end, attain some semblance of human decency.

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2012-03-16 (Friday)

Dear Log,

Yesterday I went to a police station here, to file a report about someone having tried to use my credit card from my wallet that I lost. This is my first time even seeing a cop here in Canæda, much less a police station.

It looked like a demo / showroom model of a police station. It was SHINY. I sat in the ATRIUM and filled out a form.

The "police service" people had neither the demeanor nor attire of the Terminator-1000 / LAPD.

The officers looked like they each were given not only a generous monthly allowance for their uniform, but also a stipend for eyeglass frames and *coiffure*, with mandatory quarterly make-overs.

There was a rack, near the door, of pamphlets. One of them the heading "Complaints" and I picked it up and it said worried stern things, about how any police misconduct is taken extremely seriously by both the station and the Chancelors of Police or whatever, and so if you have any trouble, for the benefit of yourself and the community, please contact us about...

And flip over that cardstock pamphlet, and it says "Compliments"!, and about how the station and the Decons Of Policery are always very welcoming of anything you have to say about particular ways in which we in the Edmonton Police Service can focus on what helped you most, so...

There was another pamphlet about how March is Fraud Prevention Month. "There is no shortage of schemes and scams that fraudsters use to try to get people to part with their money. Be aware of the potential risks!..."

There was a high-screen monitor flipping thru an informational slideshow, and I glanced at it briefly. It was NOT a panic-inducing thing about "ZOMBIES WITH 'SHARPS' ARE GONNA LEAP OUT AND GIVE YOU THE HEP-C!" [f/ photo of needle in neck, to give me nightmares for life]. Instead, at the moment I glanced at it: "Our most recent study found that 71% of people who end up in prostitution were sexually abused as children and received no counseling for it".

Folks, I'm from LA. When I walk into a police station, I expect to see arc-weld marks on the floor from a recent "seige situation". I don't expect sociology.

And the only kind of "spatter" at this station was maybe a bit of a coffee stain on a desk because somebody forgot to use their coaster.

Tags:

Current Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Current Mood: atrial
Current Music: Counting Crows- "Mister Jones" (on-hold music)

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2012-01-28 (Saturday)

GET OUT

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2012-01-22 (Sunday)

DEAR INTERNET,

THE SAFEWORD IS *NOT* "YIFF".

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Current Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Current Music: Electric Six- "Naked Pictures (Of Your Mother)"

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2011-08-30 (Tuesday)

Dear Log,

«Nietzsche was a Greek born two thousand years too late... but... It is in Heraclitus [!!!] that one finds the germ of his primary view of the universe— a view, to wit, that sees it, not as moral phenomenon, but as mere aesthetic representation. The God that Nietzsche imagined, in the end, was not far from the God that such an artist as Joseph Conrad imagines— a supreme craftsman, ever experimenting, ever coming closer to an ideal balancing of lines and forces, and yet always failing to work out the final harmony.»
—H.L. Mencken, ca. 1918, from his Foreword to his translation of Nietzsche's Antichrist.
If you want such a picture of God, back away from the Joseph Conrad, and look toward Joseph Cornell— inexplicable, too strange to even qualify or disqualify as mentally ill, far past the red line where imagination and functional delusion are distinct... and notable for his artistic works, each of which is just itself and is literally self-contained, and which always begs for just one more little change, and which stops making sense the second you look away.

As cosmologies and theologies go, the idea of Universe as Cornell Box has a lot going for it; certainly, the issue of how the pieces are cobble weirdly together invites many analyses.

* * *

And, incidentally, there's a decent chance that Cornell read that volume of Nietzsche's with the introduction containing the above passage. He'd have found the tone of this book of Nietzsche's to be unwholesomely dark; but the introduction, on the other hand,...

Current Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Current Mood: boxy
Current Music: Towa Tei- Batucada

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2011-08-29 (Monday)

Dear Log,

Today I saw a site's search system start its results screen not with "Search Results:", but with "Let's See What We Have Here". It done rock my world.

Current Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Current Mood: enq
Current Music: Towa Tei- I Want To Relax, Please!

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2011-07-30 (Saturday)

Dear Log,

Another "poor life choice": I got a copy of The Plague by Camus and tonight I've read the first fifty pages.  I THINK IT'S A SUBTLE ALLEGORY ABOUT SOMETHING, CAN'T TELL WHAT.

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Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Mood: ganglian
Current Music: Queens of the Stone Age- No One Knows

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2011-07-15 (Friday)

Dear Log,

I used to live in Evanston and now I'm going to live in Edmonton and I muddle the words, so I'm going to call them both Entemanns.

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Mood: twoshod
Current Music: Adam Ant- Goody Two Shoes

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2011-07-14 (Thursday)

Dear Log,

Wine boxes are the ideal size for packing books in and if you think that that is ironic then you are very extremely correct.

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Mood: pact
Current Music: "Breaking Bad" title music

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2011-07-11 (Monday)

Dear Log,

Got a house in Edmonton. More importantly, found the Tim Horton's. The pieces/donuts are all falling into place.

Current Location: Ketchikan, AK
Current Mood: food now
Current Music: Dead or Alive- You Spin Me Right Round (Like A Record Baby)

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Dear Log,

«In audio components, it seems, black means high tech, silver means solid state, yellow means waterproof, woodgrain means you picked it up at Goodwill, and anything else means it's My First Sony.»
—Carl Steadman, 1999, in a Feed product review of an mp3 player (where he made some very wrong predictions about MP3.)

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Mood: chrome
Current Music: MR. ICED TEA- COLORS

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Would you uproot your life and move to another city for someone that you love?
Dear Log,

Already packing, bitches!! And ya know, sometimes there's not much to uproot.

Current Location: Ketchikan, AK
Current Mood: allons-y
Current Music: David Bowie- Absolute Beginners

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2011-07-04 (Monday)

Dear Log,

Oh hey, you can peek at my RTF book!

Tags: ,

Current Location: Freak Wharf, Alaska
Current Music: "Breaking Bad" theme music

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2011-07-01 (Friday)

Dear Log,

«A heterosexual or homosexual who engages in bisexual activity during a three-way/threesome/ménage-à-trois, 3-on-2, or other group sex is known as a vortex bisexual.»
"Bi-curious", English Wikipedia entry

Look at the square of your screen space starting with "«" and ending with "entry".  That space constitutes a Borges-style aleph that is all jokes at once.

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK

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2011-06-28 (Tuesday)

Dear Log,

I been book readin.

«On the strength of the fact that I had published a book on Nietzsche in 1906, six years after his death, [then, years later, during WWI:] I was called upon by agents of the Department of Justice, elaborately outfitted with badges, to meet the charge that I was an intimate associate and agent of "the German monster, Nietzsky." I quote the official procès verbal, an indignant but often misspelled document. Alas, poor Nietzsche! After all his laborious efforts to prove that he was not a German, but a Pole— even after his heroic readiness, via anti-anti-Semitism, to meet the deduction that, if a Pole, then probably also a Jew!»
—H.L. Mencken, ca. 1918, from his Foreword to his translation of Nietzsche's Antichrist.
IT'S SPELLED "J00" AMIRITE

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Mood: superybur
Current Music: Cake- Comfort Eagle

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2011-06-12 (Sunday)

Dear Log,

Maybe it's kinda hard to find clothes just my size, so I think I'll just go print some out.

Wait.

What.

3D printing clothes.

Now, I'm a 100% cotton kinda person, so for most of my wardrobe, nah. But... maybe insoles, maybe a watchband...

Ya know, when people started really talking about A Singularity, or at least a big peek at one, I always assumed that a sort of foreshock would be machines start getting not actually intelligent but kinda clever, or that I'd start hearing about fumbling first attempts at drugs that'd radically slow aging at some basic lever, or I'd hear about proper nanotech, or about hints of impending breakthrus in psychoneurology, cognive science, etc...

But now I have the odd feeling that an initial blip of it is when you've got clothes, or at least components of them, that are printed out.

(Hoping the pixels won't itch much. To me, everything is about threadcount. Soon: dpi!)

Current Location: Ketchikan, Alaska
Current Mood: warpty
Current Music: Geoff Baker- What Our Children Is Learning

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2011-06-10 (Friday)

Dear Log,

I'm moving to Canada.

To Edmonton, Alberta. I shall haunt the grand U Alberta library there.

It'll be a few weeks from now. I'm packing, talking to a pair of realtors, banks, converting currency... vacuuming the cats...

Tags:

Current Location: Ketchikan, Alaska

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2011-06-03 (Friday)

Dear Log,

The Firefox 4 spinner looks like a "body piercing" ring to me:

Firefox 4 spinner

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Mood: unnnhhhh
Current Music: Tom Waits- That Feel

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Dear Log,

Dang, complicated graphics just from Japanee ASCII:

Japanaspam

In fact, in case you want to copy any of the characters from it, here it is as a (utf8) text file: japanese_spam_ascii_art.txt

Also, lookit the Wikipedia entry "Shift_JIS art".

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Mood: width-fixed
Current Music: Shriekback- All Lined Up

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2011-05-29 (Sunday)

Dear Log,

HERE IS HOW TO CAREER.

STEP ONE:

Survey the job market:
JOBBIES

--
--
THEN PART TWO

The Interview~~
SUBSTITUTE JANITOR

--
--
THEN THIRDLY

Talk to HR!
CAAAAAAAAROL!  CAAAAAAAAROL!

--
--
IT IS EASY AND THEN YOU WILL MEET ANONYMOUS ("BARNEY").

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Mood: SCHOOLED
Current Music: Yello- Oh Yeah

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2011-05-24 (Tuesday)

Dear Log,

So all these years I've been pronouncing "chrestomathy" as /'krε stə ,mæ θi/ when it's actually /krε 'sta mə θi/!! But, well, at least it turns out that "chrestomathic" is /,krε stə 'mæ θɪk/, so I wasn't totally lost! Whew!

Current Location: Freak Wharf, Alaska
Current Mood: jingly

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2011-05-23 (Monday)

Dear Log,

«The Great Disappointment was a major event in the history of the Millerite movement, a 19th century American Christian sect [...] that Jesus Christ would return to the earth during the year 1844.»
"The Great Disappointment" (wikipedia)

"Disappointed a few people? Well, isn't that what friends are for?"

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Music: Public Image Limited- Disappointed

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2011-05-22 (Sunday)

Dear Log,

I got "SPAM" in my e-mail box today!! Yeah, I know!!!

It's about t-shirts that you get custom printed, and you can print on normally, and also print other parts on that appear only when the person wearing them starts pouring with reeking sweat!  It's a sense-memory sensation!!!!!

«And it doesn't matter what promotions you do. The thing is, customers love products that make them special and different. Sweat Activated T-shirts are just the thing to make your customers sign up right away.»
"Watch These T-Shirts "Sweat" Your Logo!" (email blurb)
Look:

[click to view larger image]

All You Need Is You

[click to view larger image]

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Mood: huffff
Current Music: Laurie Anderson- O Superman

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2011-05-20 (Friday)

Dear Log,

And the fact, dormant in my brain for two decades, now resurfaces: "French letter" is (old-timey?) slang for "condom". That does it, from now on, all my official correspondence is going to be twenty or thirty paragraphs of random Cyrillic characters. Including all the funny ones like Џ Ѯ Ѩ Ҡ.

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Mood: hhhhhhh
Current Music: A thousand bees in my brain

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Dear Log,

Strangest use of formalistic notation I've ever seen since David Byrne:

writing a French business letter

It's from this, which I found the Google books scan scan of...

French commercial practice connected with the export and import trade...

I stumbled on it as I was googling around for the page structure and typical fawning first paragraph of a typical French business/diplomatic letter:

I was going to write the Syrian government a quite sternly worded in proper diplomatic langue et langage, French about some unwelcome deeds of theirs, until they caved and LET MY FRIEND'S SISTER OUT OF JAIL and so I didn't get to write the letter.

Current Location: Freak Wharf, AK
Current Mood: dziplomatsik
Current Music: Tom Tom Club- Beautiful

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