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Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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   what is news
Wednesday, November 7 2001

In the early afternoon today, I switched on CNN (as I often do these days) and was treated to a spectacular sight: an eighteen wheel tractor trailer rig, fully loaded with lumber and a small crane, was careening down a Dallas freeway. The whole back end of it was on fire. The story was that it had been carjacked and the driver was refusing to stop. Police were driving ahead of the rig and clearing intersections as the driver took a rambling tour of the major arteries of suburban Dallas, honking and waving at spectators as he passed. He handled his rig with considerable skill, narrowly avoiding other vehicles as he executed tight turns in various intersections. This went on for something like 40 minutes. The commentators felt the need to justify the coverage by saying they were performing a public safety service by alerting us to his whereabouts. Perhaps to justify their coverage further, periodically they'd moralize, making predictable comments about how the driver was showing "absolutely no regard for the safety of others." They were, however, forced to conceded that he was driving very well considering the circumstances, though they felt the need to add that their comments on his good driving were in no way meant to justify his actions. It was such a hot story that CNN never broke for commercials.
Then suddenly it all came to an end. The driver stopped and peacefully climbed out of the truck, was swarmed by members of a SWAT team, and that was it. Immediately CNN broke for a commercial and then never once mentioned the story again. They'd spent perhaps an hour covering what they later judged to be a complete non-story. Why had they covered it? Clearly they were expecting it to be live news, but in order for it to graduate to that status the driver would have had to kill other people or go down in a blaze of glory. His surrendering peacefully robbed CNN of justification for the coverage. Though it had taken up a sizable chunk of my afternoon, the story was such a non-story that I had to go to the Dallas Morning News website to find a anything about it.

In the evening I was reading an book review in the New Yorker of Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God. I wasn't much interested in the book being reviewed, but I was interested in one of the points being made: that Christians give God praise for undoing the mischief He made at an earlier time. Why is this such a common human reaction to the fixing of fuckups, extending from IT departments to lofty global organizations? Why did Henry Kissinger win the Nobel Peace Prize? Did people actually forget his role in escalating the Vietnam war, whose end they partly credited to him?
It also occurred to me that one of the reasons Christianity is so maddening for me is that it is an information system built atop a foundation of Judaism. Since Christianity was never a radical new religion, it had the responsibility of answering questions raised in Judaism and patching fundamental tenets here and there as necessary. It's not a perfect solution, since in religion there's no demand for rigorous logical vigor and consistency. To an outsider like me, Christianity looks like a logical mess, a shanty town of patched ideologies. I'm not too familiar with it, but I suspect Mormonism is even more this way, since it represents yet another logically unrigorous information system built ontop of the already shoddy foundation of Christianity. In a way it's analogous to the shoddiness of Windows Millennium Edition, since this computer operating system has to do what it does while sitting atop a foundation of DOS. Similarly, our complex cerebral brains are forced to sit atop a more primitive system inherited from our reptilian ancestors. Such layerings of complex information systems are the inevitable result of the quest for innovation in a world that demands a measure of backwards-compatibilty. The marketing of Christianity to the Jews wasn't going to be easy unless it acknowledged that the old practices had some value. Likewise, early adopters of Microsoft Windows needed the assurance that they could still run their old DOS programs. Most demanding of all, though, was the requirement for continuity of survival-insuring cognitive function in all the intermediate stages of life between pre-cerebral reptiles and Albert Einstein.

(Mind you, I'm sure every now and then Albert Einstein would drop down to the command prompt and execute a few basic commands in his reptilian brain.)

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