Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “satire”

The Müller-Fokker Effect

The Müller-Fokker EffectThe Müller-Fokker Effect by John Sladek

A couple of weeks ago I read Singularity, which is about a hypotheitcal moment when computers surpass human intelligence and human consciousness. That reminded me of this book, which I read 45 years ago, since it is also about digitising human consciousness. So I thought I would re-read this one to remind me what it was about, and to compare it with the kind of things people are saying about “the Singularity”

In this book Bob Shairp works for National Arsenamid, and is transferred to a different branch where his new task is to be the guinea-pig in an experiment to see if it is possible to back up a human being on tape. The recording process is under way when some white supremacists break into the lab, convinced that it is an attempt to transplant a nigger brain into a white man, so they kill Bob, and the tapes are dispersed. One of them falls into the hands of an evangelist, who captures himself on it and programs an android to preach for him when he is ill or would rather be doing something else. Another falls into the hands of the military.

Bob’s son, Spot, is sent to a military school where he is desperately unhappy, and his mother goes into advertising, where she meets a salesman for a process of freezing people. Bob Shairp has a series of bizarre adventures in his taped form, as do most of the other characters, though for the most part in their actual bodies rather than on tape.

It’s an extended satire on 1970s America, sending up manufacturing, advertising, the military and militarism, journalism (notably Playboy), politics and ideologies, especially white supremacy and fanatical anti-communist conspiracy theorists.

Concerning the last, one can read it as a send-up of The Da Vinci Code, as the conspiracy theorists decipher codes that are more and more complex. A nice touch, satirising a book before it is published. Of course it’s not the only one to have done that. Umberto Eco, the author of Foucault’s Pendulum, insisted that Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci code, was a character in one of his novels.  In that respect it anticipates several books. It also predicts that Ronald Reagan would become US president (Nixon was president at the time it was written).

After 45 years I’d forgotten how funny it was (in parts, anyway), and in retrospect it also throws light on some subsequent developments, technical (the Singularity), cultural and political.

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The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and DisappearedThe Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A picaresque novel about Allan Karlsson, who decided that he did not want to attend his hundredth birthday party at the old-age home where he was staying so he decided to leave, with no particular plan for what he was going to do.

He has various improbable adventures, and the story is told with a series of flashbacks to his life story. He was a self-taught explosives expert, and as such had played a minor but significant part in various world events, learning several languages along the way and earning the gratitude of several powerful politicians.

I read it mainly because I had seen a film based on the book which I had enjoyed, and from what I could remember of it the film seemed to adhere quite closely to the book.

While it is primarily a picaresque novel, the story seems to overlap several other genres. On one level it is a crime novel, a police procedural, though also with a lot of incompetent bumbling — in the film version it is more like The Lavender Hill Mob than a serious whodunit. But perhaps these are all part of the picaresque genre anyway.

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American Communism and the Rise of Feminism

I read this article on American communism and the rise of feminism, and I couldn’t work out whether it was serious or a tongue-in-cheek send-up. savethemales.ca – American Communism and the Rise of Feminism:

In a 2002 book, Red Feminism: American Communism and the Making of Women’s Liberation, feminist historian Kate Weigand states: ‘ideas, activists and traditions that emanated from the Communist movement of the forties and fifties continued to shape the direction of the new women’s movement of the 1960s and later.'(154)

In fact, Weigand, a lecturer at Smith College, shows that modern feminism is a direct outgrowth of American Communism. There is nothing that feminists said or did in the 1960’s-1980’s that wasn’t prefigured in the CPUSA of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Many second-wave feminist leaders were ‘red diaper babies,’ the children of Communists.

Communists pioneered the political and cultural analysis of woman’s oppression. They originated ‘women’s studies,’ and advocated public daycare, birth control, abortion and even children’s rights. They forged key feminist concepts such as ‘the personal is the political’ and techniques such as ‘consciousness raising.’

Hat-tip to Ibid.

So what do you think it is?

Satire? A serious academic article? A loony rant? Or something else?

You might be an American Evangelical if…

You might be an American Evangelical if:

10. T-shirts with Christian catch-phrases are a part of your evangelism strategy.

9. Your car is equipped with the ever-popular license plate frame that reads, “In case of rapture, the car is yours!”

8. You’re convinced Jesus was a Republican.

7. Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind book series is gospel truth.

6. Your favorite authors are Stormie Omartian and Joel Osteen.

5. Anyone who disagrees with you has taken the wide path.

4. You’re convinced Sarah Palin has a bright future as a political candidate.

3. Your notion of God’s purpose for your life happens to correspond nicely with upper middle-class suburban life.

2. You can’t fit anymore music on your ipod because it’s full of songs by John Tesh and Michael W. Smith.

1. You feel this post is alienating and abrasive, and your first inclination is to unsubscribe from this blog.

With acknowledgements to Christians in Context: from orthodoxy to orthopraxy.: Top Ten Marks of a Mainline Evangelical.

The Beaker Common Prayer

Here’s an interesting satire on fluffy bunny spirituality. Hat-tip to St. Aidan to Abbey Manor: Revised Prayer Book issued

The Beaker Common Prayer:

So I was looking for a form of exotic spirituality that would let me make a fortune. But which one? I had a large house with plenty of space to expand, so it had to be rooted in the Bedfordshire landscape somehow. The Celts had been done. And Buddhism’s just so Islington, don’t you think? I thought of traditional Norman spirituality – but no-one’s gonna buy sitting in a Gothic chapel mumbling unintelligibly. Apart from the Prayer Book Society. But sitting up late in my conservatory one night, reading about the mystery of the Amesbury Archer, it all fell together. Because this early Bronze-Age man, buried within the environs of Stonehenge, was a Beaker Person. My third piece was in place.

Random acts of political correctness

Yesterday I posted some thoughts about giving money to street beggars as an act of Christian charity that some people wanted to outlaw. A couple of commentators seemed to have a problem, or at least a query, about my calling this Christian. Then Notes from a Common-place Book: Those Wacko ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ Christians pointed me to this:
I’m Not One Of Those ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ Christians | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source:

I’m here to tell you there are lots of Christians who aren’t anything like the preconceived notions you may have. We’re not all into ‘turning the other cheek.’ We don’t spend our days committing random acts of kindness for no credit. And although we believe that the moral precepts in the Book of Leviticus are the infallible word of God, it doesn’t mean we’re all obsessed with extremist notions like ‘righteousness’ and ‘justice.’

It’s good to be reminded of the need to live a balanced Christian life and to avoid fanaticism and extremism. Perhaps that’s what it means to be “a moderate”.

Hymn parodies

PamBG’s Blog: Very Entertaining has links to some amusing hymn parodies, including this one:

Let us, with an open mind,
Put the formal Church behind:
Sea of Faith, O let us sing,
For we don’t believe a thing!

Cupitt’s books we try to read,
But our minds he doth exceed:
Sea of Faith, O let us sing,
For we don’t believe a thing!

But my favourite dates back to the Cold War days, and came from a book called Quake, quake, quake; I can’t remember the author.

The day God gave Thee, Man, is ending
the darkness falls at thy behest
who spent thy little life defending
from conquest by the East, the West.

The sun that bids us live is waking
behind the cloud that bids us die,
and in the murk fresh minds are making’
new plans to blow us all sky-high.

American civil religion

Our President which art in Washington,
May the U.S. empire be called after thy name.
Thy military come. Thy war be done in Iran, as it is in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Give us this day our daily battle.
And forgive us our pacifism, as we ridicule the critics of your wars.
And lead us into combat, but deliver us from Muslims:
For thine is the army, and the navy, and the air force, until your term is up. Amen.

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist nut, I’m seriously beginning to wonder whether George Bush is not the most convincing contender for “the Antichrist” that we’ve seen for a long time.

Anyway, check The Predident’s Prayer to see who wrote it and why.

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