Monday, June 06, 2011

22nd Blues for the Apocalypse

It has been noted elsewhere that all of Herschel’s writings on the apocalypse have been written in verse. Some may be found in the Book of Irony proper, and others are scattered throughout a variety of marginalia[1]. Here is a representative sample, the 22nd Blues for the Apocalypse.

Just as the summer shall envy the winter,

Just as the sweet shall envy the bitter,

All suicides must, in the end, reconsider the dead.[2]

Just as the losers shall one day be winners,

The ones who are heavy shall one day be thinner;

The ones who stay fat shall be eaten for dinner instead.

So too the social shall envy the lonesome

As the one who owns nothing must envy who owns some,

And the father of wisdom shall not know what’s grown from his head.[3]

In those days the just shall envy the wicked,

the towering redwood shall envy the thicket,

The passenger pigeons shall turn in their tickets,

And the mightiest city shall fold like a rickety shed.

[1]As none of the primary writings of Herschel have ever been conclusively discovered, one might wonder how the later transcriptions came to occupy the margins of other works. In this case, Herschel appears to have been the favored writer of monks who were supposed to have been transcribing other works, primarily Latin and Greek agricultural texts.[4] More problematic are Herschel’s persistent appearances in typed marginalia.

[2]This verse is sometimes interpreted as an indication that the end-times will be accompanied by the mass-resurrection of suicides. It is correspondingly speculated that the end-times will feature the mass-demise of non-suicides, a claim which is considerably less controversial. The precise timing and degree of overlap between these events is in dispute.

[3]A reference to Zeus, or in some interpretations, Adlai Stevenson.

[4]It may be relied upon that the writing in these texts is not Herschel’s, as throughout his works Herschel displays an almost singular incapacity with even the rudiments of agriculture.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The 101 Elementary Forms of Betrayal

As has been explained previously, 101 Elementary Forms of Betrayal is by far the most famous of the prophet Herschel’s obscure texts, and of his lost works, it is by far the most complete. The most lost of Herschel’s complete works is also his only foray into musical composition, the Situational Hymnal for Ordinary Time0.

0Other scholars would suggest Herschel’s primary political work, a moderately lengthy tract entitled Hitting People is the New Non-Violence.

While the context and purpose of Elementary Forms is hotly debated, much of the list itself has survived, although Herschel’s original ordering, if any, has not. Among the more commonly cited betrayals:
  • Promising to do something, and then not doing it.
  • Promising not to do something, and then doing it anyway.
  • Making a promise which cannot plausibly be expected to be fulfilled, and then fulfilling it, to the consternation and discomfort of those to whom it was promised.1
  • Not performing an action that one has been habitually expected to perform, though no promise has explicitly been made.
  • Dropping a piano from a great height onto a person that one normally would greet in a cordial fashion.
  • Urinating in an unexpected location and/or container.
1 As may be seen, to a greater or lesser extent, among the European powers in the summer of 1914. Additionally, see below:
  • Failing to withdraw from a game of “chicken.”
  • Withdrawing from a game of “chicken.”
  • Castanets2
2 No further explanation of this item has been recovered, but Herschel’s contemporaries (if any) seem to have generally accepted it without complaint. A mistranslation from the original Urdu is strongly suspected, if there is in fact an original, and if it was indeed written in Urdu. If the text was not originally written in Urdu, the translation from Urdu was undoubtedly an even greater source of problems.
  • Achieving greater wealth, professional success, or critical acclaim than a friend who is, by all accounts, more talented and harder-working.
  • Compromise.
  • Failure to compromise.
  • Making a slight mistake in the execution of an elaborate and infrequent social ritual.
  • Ear poison
  • Praising only one of two people with similar attributes while the other is present.3
3 It has been suggested that many of Herschel’s Forms are not really betrayals so much as things which cause people to feel betrayed. These concerns, however have been rendered relatively moot by the present church’s adoption of descriptivist ethics, i.e. “The right thing to do is the thing that people generally do when they say they are doing the right thing.” Some claim this stance may be directly associated with recent revelations about the disorderliness of church finances, but church officials maintain that, as non-members taking an interest in church business, these critics (and law-enforcement officials) are insufficiently disinterested to form an objective viewpoint. On this matter, the church claims to be wholly disinterested in its own existence, and therefore most qualified. In light of this disinterest, it is considered unlikely that the church would have been maintaining any funds in the first place, and the whole controversy must be seen as something of a curiosity. One administrator, when pressed for interview, refused on grounds of reverse solipsism... Carrying on with Herschel’s Forms:4
  • Inventing a lie which, though a lie has been expected and is socially decorous to deliver, is sufficiently implausible that the listener is required to take offence.
  • Delivering the truth when a socially-decorous lie would produce better consequences.
  • Standing idly by while an elevator door closes in front of an approaching person.
  • Revealing something which must necessarily have been concealed for an extended period, even if it is not, technically speaking, really anyone’s business.
  • Violence.
  • The letter of the law.
  • The spirit of the law.
  • Constructing a mechanism by which one’s eventual betrayal will be seen as morally justified, denying one’s victim even the satisfaction of being betrayed.5
  • Failing to betray a second party in accordance with the expectations of a third, thereby allowing the second to carry out an intended betrayal of the third (betrayal by reverse proxy).
  • Betraying a second party who intended to betray a third, which second had the intention of preventing betrayal of the fourth by the third, thereby ultimately betraying the fourth as well as the second (double betrayal, once removed).
  • The old switcheroo.
The preceding 26 Forms are the most commonly referenced, and presumably also the most canonical. Many of the other recovered Forms are mentioned only in passing, or dismissed as theoretically possible but too esoteric for practical treachery. Whether the betrayal of theory by practice should be counted among the Forms is fiercely disputed among reputable6 scholars.

4The practice of placing footnotes immediately after their referents in the text is not customary nor, many might argue, remotely productive. The author apologizes for any confusion.

5The satisfaction of being betrayed recently polled as the 5th most common form of satisfaction among Americans by Harper’s Weekly. It has moved up rapidly since the previous survey in 2006, having edged out “the satisfaction of a job well done” (6th), and having jumped by several places the satisfaction of home-ownership (formerly 3rd, now 12th).

6This term is not strictly accurate.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010's top 7

So the year's almost over, which means all bloggers are contractually obligated to start posting lists of things. Let's face it, nobody's happy about this, but I'm not trying to lose my job. That said, here's the top 7 mixtape releases of 2010. Why seven? Because it's a lucky number and easier than 10. What's a mixtape? For my definitional purposes, it's a body of music released under a single title, free of charge, and unavailable for purchase in stores, on iTunes/Amazon, etc. Projects that almost made this list include: Smoke DZA's George Kush Da Button, which certainly wins the award for best title, and Kanye's G.O.O.D. Fridays effort, which I'm omitting because it wasn't really a mixtape. Kind of a progressive mixtape maybe, but he's gonna win album of the year anyway, so he can sit this one out. To the batlist!

7. The Marathon - Nipsey Hussle
One of two tapes Nipsey let loose this year, this one actually sounds like more than leftover tracks. Unlike the other tapes on this list, the production is not 100% original. He recycled Ye's "Runaway" beat and raps over an MGMT track, but the tape still has a cohesive sound, and the West Coast prodigy sounds focused and ready to proceed after an all too common label snafu.

6. Friday Night Lights - J Cole
The latest offering from the Roc nation kid. Like a number of his fellow list residents, he still hasn't released an official album, but the mixtapes have been impressive, especially when you consider that he's making all the beats himself, too. Thoughtful raps and some catchy hooks make this one a winner

5. Str8 Killa No Filla - Freddie Gibbs
Gangsta Gibbs keeps building momentum. While I didn't enjoy this tape quite as much as last years', it did more than enough to satiate his fans, and the Str8 Killa EP tie-in actually gave the young Gary native a product for people to purchase on iTunes/Amazon. I know I did.

4. K.R.I.T. wuz here - Big K.R.I.T.
Big K.R.I.T. just came out of nowhere (also known as Mississippi). If he keeps puttin out projects like this, no one's gonna complain that he arrived unannounced. He presented this as an album, and it certainly sounds like one, but it was only released as a free download, so I'm calling it a mixtape. So there. Also, all original production by Krit himself. Listen and enjoy.

3. Trunk Muzik - Yelawolf
If you're crusin, I got that trunk muzik. This came out in the frozen wastelands of last January, but 'bama's favorite white boy warmed up the rest of the country with his best effort to date. The tape proved so popular that it was flipped into an album last month. This guy has a serious buzz going right now, and although some people hate his voice, he's certainly making original sounds. I'm lookin forward to whatever the next project is.

2. More About Nothing - Wale
D.C.'s favorite MC returns from an album that everyone arbitrarily hated on to provide a tape that may have trumped his entire body of work up to this point. This thing is jam-packed with great song after great song, and, in my opinion, the Seinfeld samples are even better interwoven than they were on the original Mixtape About Nothing. Original topics, clever lyricism, and very strong production for the win.

1. Kush & Orange Juice - Wiz Khalifa
This sucker dominated my iTunes playcounts, though I wasn't even expecting it to. It came out early in the year and never outwore its welcome in the rotation. It's party music and chill music all at once. The overall sound is so cohesive and purely relaxing, it's like getting a contact buzz without even passing the j, though sometimes you'll swear you can smell the smoke. Kush & OJ plays start to finish without a single jarring moment and is likely to please a variety of audiences- men, women, hip-hoppers, and non hip-hoppers alike. It's little wonder that Wiz's popularity has basically exploded after this tape. Here's to the upcoming album. Black & Yellow, people.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


The Book of Irony has been accused of encouraging venality, hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty, petty vindictiveness in the guise of high-minded idealism, shameless opportunism in the guise of pragmatic realism, a preoccupation with the minor flaws of others, pretentiousness, and sodomy. In the face of these criticisms, church officials have maintained that if a holy text is to be of any impact whatsoever, it must speak to the interests of its readers.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Best color commentary ever.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

serving time with a purpose

I disagree with the blanket statement that imprisonment can only harm a rap career
I feel ya bruh but your argument aint that strong though


all i need is one counter-example to refute a blanket-statement, right? so, wayne. i think it’s accurate. between the celebrity visits, the fan-letters, the grainy phone verses, this guy’s prison stint has definitely added to his mystique. not in a way that boosts his street cred necessarily (does anyone actually care about that anymore?), but in an anticipatory way. lots of people are expecting (or maybe just hoping for) some deeper, more focused material once he gets out.

whether he’ll actually come through with such material remains to be seen. but i don’t think the eventual outcome changes the fact that prison did not hurt, and may have even helped, his career. consider the alternative. had wayne been free for the past year, he would have had his usual level of exposure–one that some people were certainly getting tired of, and one that definitely would not be as interesting/discussion-worthy as seeing his prison i.d. card (wayne’s a catholic?) and hearing about how he got thrown in the hole.

basically, jail prevented (or at least delayed) wayne’s career from quickly becoming same old same old.

but that’s really an exception to a rule. t.i.p. and gucci are in a bad place, and boosie’s pretty much fucked.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Re: Hind Swaraj

It seems as though many people have voiced criticisms of Hind Swaraj, and I'm sure there will be more to come. In many ways, Gandhi's tract makes an easy target for

dismantling. Railroads are evil, you say? It's little

wonder Gokhale laughed

the whole thing off, expecting Gandhi to change his views after seeing India.

Yet Gandhi stuck by everything he wrote, and I think for good reason. In my opinion, what he has said is correct, yet that does not mean I agree with his ultimate goal. I believe he has put forth a collection of accurate critiques of modern civilization. I think we can all agree, however, that his solution of eschewing modernity altogether is impossible, now more than ever.

I think the truths of Hind Swaraj become more apparent if you consider Gandhi critiques in a contemporary context. Looking at the main problems Gandhi outlines--lawyers, doctors, parliamentary government, and machinery--are these not all still broken systems in some way? (No disrespect intended to any doctors, lawyers, MPs, or machines present.)

The entire globe is becoming more litigious, yet the problems that plague our justice systems comprise a lengthy list.

Modern medicine is reaching more corners of the globe than ever before, yet the pharmaceutical industry has wrecked havoc on the dispensation of medicine, and even medical advice. Pills all around! And some more pills for the side-effects that those pills gave you.

Is not our own parliamentary-esque political system too often paralyzed by the same sort of bipartisan dithering and inconsistency that Gandhi identifies with British government?

And finally, for all the wonders that machines have brought, if their use is unchecked, they will certainly bring about the end of our species, most likely through the destruction of our habitat.

So was Gandhi all that wrong? I think the only area in which Hind Swaraj fails to hold water is in his solution to these problems. The sort of pre-modern Eden Gandhi may have dreamt of is not achievable, nor is it necessarily a good idea. If we disposed of all machinery now, billions would perish from starvation and disease--certainly something that would not ring true with ahimsa. My general view is that our homo-sapien brains and machines got us into this mess, so they'll have to get us out in the end. The solutions remain inchoate. The problems are very real, and have been since Mahatmas walked the earth.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's like that sometime, man. Ridiculous. Life can be so ridiculous.

Blogs are funny things. We had a resurgance for a while there. Looks like the stats show a spike in 2009. I checked in more when abroad/trapped in a minnesotan iceburg. I had more time then. Boston life is busy. Meanwhile, Maciej's had a turd tableau going on for a month.

It is my hope that the collective C~o~I teachings will be published in pamphlet or tract form in the near future.

In case you're wondering, the 2010 Mr. Olympia winners are:

dexter jackson - 4
branch warren - 3
phil heath - 2
jay cutler - 1

Cutler's a boring choice in my opinion, but I think they're trying to make him into a legend. Heath was definitely good enough to take it.

It's funny to look back at old music choices. Hip Hop changes so much, and i find my tastes often shift along with it. It's a nice journal of my thoughts, though. I've been reading a lot of Gandhi lately, so I'm into that shit.

Here goes, with honorable mentions to Jay-Z, who, though on his game in recent features, has really transcended the genre by becoming an actual legendary person. He wouldn't be fair to include. And a shout out to Yelawolf (We'll talk after the album next month.) and CyHi da Prynce.

Current Best Rappers Alive:

5. Lil Wayne

Let's face it. This man's intelligent. All the stories from jail have him sounding quite wizened. He's low on this list due to lack of activity, but his next album I Am Not A Human Being drops on the 27th. Of course it's a bunch of leftover material, so some of it's a little too Rebirthy. What I'm really interested in is the music this man will record when he gets (no homo)

4. Wiz Khalifa

This guy's not wizened, though his name's Wiz. His last name is the word for the deputy/devotee of a Sufi saint. He raps about women, weed, and airplane metaphors. He's the biggest name associated with the City of Pittsburg. Everyone loves him. He makes pleasant sounding music. Kush & Orange Juice was really something special.

3. Freddie Gibbs

This guy's the coldest dude since Miles Davis. His interview are charmingly gangster. He smokes 20+ blunts a day. He's from Gary Indiana. And he fraternizes with Indie people. He's dropped a lot of music in the past couple years, the Latest being the EP Straight Killa. There was an accompanying mixtape. He raps about guns, bitches, drugs and that murda murda, but he's the best at it.

2. Kanye West

He can still be annoying. But overall he's been on point with the flowage, and generous with the music. His G.O.O.D. Friday tracks are to mainstream rap what Wale's Back To The Feature was for the underground gentry, and we should all be thankful for them, except when Swizz Beatz tries to rap. They're six and seven minutes, and it's usually cause there are so many verses crammed in there, but that's a good thing.

1. Wale

He sounds like no one before him. He might sound sloppy at times, but if you piece together what he says it's almost always concisely insightful about some topic. He's running the District of Columbia. More About Nothing the tape release of the year to this point. Ironically, or not, he and Kanye don't work together.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Church of Irony & Questionable Apocrypha

It will come as no surprise that many chapters of the Book of Irony are apocryphal, especially those sections involving the Prophet Herschel, who has long been a subject of unease among church leaders. Unfortunately for them, Herschel has proven to be almost as popular among editors as the church has been lax in its record-keeping.

This carelessness[1] has frustrated later scholars to no end. Recently, it has come to light that several chapters, popularly attributed to Herschel, have never had their authorship formally questioned except in other disputed sections of the text, and are as such only apocryphally apocryphal.

While the aforementioned chapters are suspected of being dubious, prominent scholars remain doubtful as to whether these suspicions may be confirmed. Furthermore, past investigations have tended to increase the popularity of the chapters under scrutiny. These have been classified as “abundantly apocryphal.” Indeed, many of Herschel’s most famous quotations fall into this category, including such standbys as, “Let him who is without stones cast the first stone.” [3]

The most challenging field for aspiring Herschologists, however, is that of hypothetical apocrypha. Along with the many chapters that have deftly sidled their way into the Book of Irony over time, a great many have trickled out, especially during periods of elevated paper prices. Among these are the mythical Lost Books of Irony, the somewhat less mythical and somewhat rattier Discarded Books of Irony, and the Books of Irony That Aren’t Being Used Right Now But They’ve Been Put in a Box in Case We Need Them Later. None of these should be confused with the Book of Irony’s hastily assembled sequel, Bookin’ II: Eclectic Guru-Fu. [4]

In any case, there is no comprehensive record of Herschel’s writings. As such, it is not known with any certainty which of Herschel’s works have appeared in the Book of Irony, and of those that have, which were actually authored by Herschel, and of those works which may or may not have appeared in the Book as written by Herschel, which may or may not have been changed so drastically over time as to be unrecognizable to a reader of the original, should such an original have existed, presuming that it was read. Many such works exist only as passing references in contemporary commentaries on the Book and on Herschel -- and some of these, it is suspected, were ghost-written by Herschel as a platform for taking the piss. [5]

The most famous of these obscure texts is Herschel’s 101 Elementary Modes of Betrayal. First (presumably) published sometime in the late Cenozoic era, it has been a subject of controversy ever since (and possibly before). Much of the contemporary analysis disputes the composition of the list, but it is unclear whether it was intended to be exhaustive. In his letters, Pliny the Younger[6] proposes that the 102nd mode of betrayal consists of “implicitly obscuring the existence of the 102nd mode of betrayal, so as to spring it upon one’s friends unawares.” Pliny the Elder, though also critical of Herschel’s work, refers to this notion as “bull-pucky.”

There is no clear indication as to the structure of the work, though several contemporaries snidely suggest that it is a “how-to” book.

[1] Many years, the church has elected to redirect its entire archival budget into the purchase of new vestments, based on “considerations of the ephemeral nature of truth.” [2]

[3] The church is divided on the exact significance of this statement, which makes it all the more versatile in conversation. It has been interpreted variously: as a paradoxical injunction against stoning; as an advisement that all executioners should be eunuchs; and as a paradoxical statement in favor of stoning, but only if one does so with restraint (i.e., if one initially has only a single stone, one may cast that stone and consequently be without stones, but the stockpiling of stones is considered a sign of bad faith). It is sometimes also seen as supporting another famous Herschel-ism: “To whom little is given, from him much will be taken away.”

[4] Released in 1977, it was promptly recaptured and returned to the solitary confinement wing of the National Archives.

[5] Piss-taking platforms were popular in Central Europe for much of the 17th century, but were ultimately abandoned as a threat to public health.

[6] This is by far the most difficult challenge for scholars believing Herschel to be from modern Milwaukee. Conversely, Herschel’s (alleged) response to Pliny the Younger was recently discovered in a spiral-ring notebook dated to 1988. The notebook itself was found in the innermost chamber of an Olmec burial site in the Yucatan, and was written in, according to forensic analysis, with a quill pen from the extinct Tahitian Sandpiper. At the time of this writing, all the leading theories on the Pliny-Herschel dialogue include both fraud and time travel.

[2] At least, in so far as one may trust the budgetary records, which have been historically dubious and serve chiefly as a conspicuously precise testament of the low wages paid to the church’s accountants.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Book of Irony: Parable of the Cabbage

Herschel was walking in the fields one day when a group of local farmers approached him. "O Herschel, the men of the bus station tell us you are a wise man, but all you say to us is nonsense. Are we not worthy of enlightenment? Why do you refuse us your wisdom?"

"But I have been telling you all that I know," said Herschel. He paused, and began again, "I tell you then that the truth is like a cabbage. If you have a cabbage, and one by one you peel away the leaves, when you remove the last leaf, what do you have?"

"Why, nothing!" answered one.

"No," replied Herschel. "You still have the very same cabbage. It is only arranged differently."

The farmers looked at one another, and gradually they nodded their assent.

"But," continued Herschel, "the truth is not like a cabbage in that way..."

Like most of the prophet Herschel's teachings, this passage is in dispute. For many years both the Herschel-as-Urdu scholars and the Herschel-as-from-Milwaukee scholars claimed this passage as the definitive proof for their interpretation. The Milwaukee-ists note that the cabbage was unknown in ancient central Asia. The Urdu-ists, though somewhat flummoxed on this point, counter that it is equally preposterous that the residents of Milwaukee would show any familiarity with vegetables. After much debate, the two sides have reached an uneasy truce on this issue; they have agreed that the cabbage is only a metaphor.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Church of Irony and Missing Myths

The Book of Irony contains a great many things, including recipes, advice columns, actuarial tables, and even a striking watercolor rendition of a kitchen sink. It is considered an exceptional source, especially, for polemics, philippics, jeremiads, tirades, diatribes, rants, reproach, incitement, indictment, and hortatory injunctions of all kinds -- not to mention manifestos. It is perhaps the single largest collection of manifestos ever assembled. This has been the natural result of the church's bylaws and tendency towards schism. According to article VII, section "flarf"1, each of the church's (belligerent and numerous) subsects "shall be permitted, at the time of its departure, to contribute one (1) manifesto to scripture, making the case for the assumption of their views into orthodoxy, howsoever deviant they may be."2

2 The origins of this peculiar convention are lost to the mists of time, as all records of the church's foundation have been mysteriously misplaced. It is widely assumed that the church's founders were shameless opportunists, ready to scatter at the first sign of trouble, but also eager for free publicity.

What the book does not contain, however, is a creation myth. This may be surprising to consumers of more conventional religious texts3, but they may rest assured that this exclusion was unintentional. Indeed, church officials were shocked to discover this when, in 1872, they finally sat down to read the whole thing straight through. This was a turbulent period for the church, as its leadership subsequently announced that the church was, in fact, against slavery, and had always been, but that they had been holding the relevant scriptures upside-down the whole time, and wasn't that the darnedest thing. At this point there is some discontinuity in the records, as the church hierarchy was shaken up by an equally-coincidental series of near-lynchings.

3 Convention is of course dependent on context. Readers raised in religions without creation myths will find the preceding perfectly conventional. Rest assured though, they will find the following(a) highly unorthodox.

(a) Notions of precedent and succession are also, unfortunately, dependent on context. The author regrets that his use of footnotes has made this post nondeterministic, and that it is no longer possible to be certain what the reader will find unorthodox.

However, rather than violate the integrity4 and spirit of the original, it was determined that the church's account of creation would be published as a companion piece and, as was the style at the time, in serial format. As a result, Creation Now! has been published continuously in tri-weekly installments for over a century, beginning with
In the beginning there was the beginning and so it began. Soon the beginning came to an end and at the end of the beginning there was a new beginning, and the beginning was before the beginning and the end shall follow after the end. In the beginning there was nothing, and what followed was quite similar. In the beginning there may have been quantum gravitational effects...
And so forth in that manner. Astute readers may have noticed that the above text is rather vague, and not particularly ironic. If you are such, your concerns have been addressed, and the various errata for Vol. I are available in Vols. XVII, XXXVIII, 0x475, and C. It now reads
First there was nothing, but there was nowhere for nothing to be. And all that nothing with nowhere to go, that was really something.
4 This term is not strictly accurate

5 The church switched briefly to hexadecimal notation during the Second World War, for fear that Roman numerals were giving aid and comfort to the fascists.

Unfortunately, despite extravagant attention to detail, the publication has become increasingly difficult to sustain, as the church's mythography has remained roughly chronological. Despite efforts to the contrary, by 1937 the creation myth had absorbed the entire American Colonial period (during which process Henry Hudson was accidentally canonized) and appeared to be gaining speed. In a move that has been generally regarded as disastrous, the church kicked off 1981 with an in-depth summary of the 1980 election. Shortly thereafter it arrived at its current form, which is comprised largely of weather forecasts, horoscopes, and speculative fiction, though it also provides space for the still-plentiful corrections, scholarly clarifications, and wild-eyed jabbering regarding the extant myths.

In a 2009 bid to undercut the church's competitors, Creation Now! devoted an entire issue to eschatology, and proposed that the end times would arrive sometime in the Autumn of 2011, if not sooner. This produced a devastating decline in the publication's subscription rate, and the date of the apocalypse was quickly rescinded and placed "at least several several fiscal years from now."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Church of Irony's Seven Deadliest Sins 2009

In accordance with the provisional nature of truth, or perhaps due to a profound misunderstanding of the nature of sin*, the church of irony releases an annual list of what it deems to be the seven deadliest sins. The perennial favorite, taking the top spot in the 68 of the the past 97 years, has been "genocide,"** though in recent years "drunk driving" has also been a strong contender. Still, the criteria used are complex and multi-dimensional, which has led to such surprises as the 1948 victory for "talking in the theater", as well as a strong #3 finish for "mid-air adultery" in 1997. Less surprisingly, "Vodka shots on the job" jumped to the top of the list in 1986.

The theological implications of this list are somewhat sparse. The church faithful*** are cautioned to avoid sin, unless it will make for an interesting story later on. In so far as many of the top contenders have become clich├ęd, the church encourages turnover in the list (which is to say, the faithful are encouraged to sin originally). The official church teaching on sin is that there is no such thing as sin, which makes the whole affair somewhat perplexing.

Nonetheless, this year's list has been made available, for the benefit of all those who are both sinners and not yet dead.

6. Groundwater contamination
5. Auto-erotic asphyxiation ****
4. Fighting a land war in Asia
2. Genocide
1. Hubris

In related news, the award for "Best Sin in a Cable Documentary" goes to Jersey Shore.

* The church holds that misunderstanding is the most profound form of understanding.

** There has been much debate whether the church's related "Seven Deadliest Sinners" list should be based on amortized rates, proportion of population, or raw totals.

*** This term is not strictly accurate.

**** Be aware that the church often blurs the line between "sin" and "clearly not a good idea."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Church of Irony and the Afterlife

The church of irony has no firm notions regarding the afterlife, save that only atheists will go to Heaven.* All others, it is proposed, will be subjected to a Hell of their own choosing. This is sometimes referred to as the miracle of irrational preferences.

Other factions within the church argue that this world is the afterlife. The meta-spectralites, for example, hold that most (but not all) people are ghosts, and on occasion will gather for an inverse seance to determine which among them are the living. Another sect maintains that this world is intended to be something called "The Hell of Small Objects," and that therefore the prosperity of the NBA represents a grave miscarriage of cosmic intent.** There is a firm consensus in the church that most things are grave miscarriages of cosmic intent. Another offshoot sect, the pan-sepulchralists, merely believe that most things are graves.*** The pan-sepulchralists, though, have nearly died out, owing to their rather strict commandments regarding the desecration of burial grounds.

* In the words of the prophet Herschel, "Heaven is full of awkward conversations."

** Their proposal is that the vast majority of us exist only to facilitate the continued discomfort and awkwardness of a few very tall individuals by, e.g. contructing low doorframes and designing airline seats with minimal leg room. The popularity of physical spectacle, however, has allowed many of these individuals to circumvent or at least compensate for such annoyances.

*** In the sense that for most locations on the planet, it is overwhelmingly likely that something has died there, this is literally true. The pan-sepulchralists, however, hold that memorial need not be bound by the limits of memory.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Reading from the Book of Irony (#2)

The prophet Herschel was out walking one day when his disciples came to him. "Oh great Herschel, we are concerned. The men who write newspaper columns have been saying you are full of shit."

Herschel replied, "Perhaps, but at first I was full of rich bread and fine cheese. Would it be better if I were a man of no substance whatsoever?"
This passage is among the more controversial attributed to the prophet Herschel. For one, the Herschel-as-Urdu scholars insist that "newspaper columns" should have been translated instead as "clay tablets", and that this would make things infinitely clearer. Other scholars contend that this would help not a jot.

Church leaders in general have been fairly ambivalent about the passage, which implies that all earthly wisdom is subject to gradual decay and putrefaction. In consequence, prominent officials have begun to speculate whether the prophet Herschel was not, in fact, a member of the church of irony at all, and have suggested that perhaps he slipped into the volume by way of a clever bit of copy-editing.

With regards to this, it should be noted that one of the prophet Herschel's few recorded prophecies was his prediction that the church would gradually disown all its prophets. Third-party theologians have gleefully observed that Herschel has got the church in a real pickle with that one.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Reading from the Book of Irony

A wise man once came to the prophet Herschel and said, "O Herschel, the men who mumble in the bus station say you are a great thinker. What is the meaning of the life of the spirit?"

The prophet replied, "One thousand years in the barrel of a gun."

The man thought a while. "Anticipation, yes, but everything depends on the condition of the gun."

Said the prophet, "Yes, but everything also depends on the one who pulls the trigger."

The man went away unsatisfied, but later the prophet Herschel received a lucrative television contract.
Church scholars remain divided on the provenance of this passage. Some date it as far back as the first century BC, blaming the obvious anachronisms on an overly loose translation from the original Urdu. This original has not yet been located, but the style, they claim, is distinctly Urdu. A majority of scholars, however, conclude that the passage was adapted from writings in a bathroom stall in a Milwaukee bus terminal, presumably placed there by the prophet himself, and was incorporated into the canonical Book of Irony sometime in late August of 1983.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Church of Irony and Hipster Saints

Now, it has been going around that I am a proponent of the church of irony, which is to say I am a believer. This is, of course, untrue. I am merely its messiah* — a title which holds no formal standing in the church. The church being what it is, doctrine holds that I am a false prophet and full of lies. Though given how I am the primary source of information on church of irony practices and beliefs, I can see how there has been some confusion. The church is a preposterous thing and I do not take it seriously in a religious sense. You might say I am very serious about the idea of the church**, and its use for illustrative purposes. Then again, it would be entirely appropriate if I were more serious about it than I let on. The nature of the project dictates that the church's beliefs reflect mine in a partial or distorted way. Consider it a funhouse mirror for the soul — neither wholly honest nor dishonest.

* Christ, they say, was Jewish.^ One might hazard that the existence of an honest freelance messiah is actually a rather inconvenient thing for an extant church hierarchy. Though even more so, it seems difficult to state that Christ could have faith at all, given His unique perspective on the whole God question.

^ Not that I am comparing myself to Jesus... or, technically I am, but not on any important level.

** But not so serious as to capitalize it. Consider this also my jab at Capitalized Concepts in general.

You could shave by means of such a mirror, if you had to, but only if you knew how it was bent. To know this, you must recognize your own face by its distorted image. It has been said that the church of irony is self-referential, and this is its downfall. Perhaps, but the whole history of philosophy is marked by self-recognition ("Know thyself" may ring a bell). And in a funhouse mirror, one may by chance percieve some features more clearly.*** To put it another way, absurdity necessarily contains some understanding of truth, or else it could not be recognized as absurdity.

*** Some features, in order of likelihood: the nose, the abdomen, and the sense of perpetual outrage.

[Absurd Digression]
By example: if I know that I am headed west, this is implicitly knowledge that I am not moving east. If I wish to head east, I need simply turn around. The truth/absurdity problem is presumably not be as easily resolved, though. Suppose I intend to scale Mt. Taranaki. It may be that I know with certainty that I am not at the top of Mt. Taranaki. Implicitly, I recognize some aspect of my current situation as inconsistent with my knowledge of Mt. Taranaki. Still, it cannot be overstated how difficult it is to reach the summit of Mt. Taranaki purely by empirical observation.

An illustration:
Mt. TaranakiNot Mt. Taranaki
Also not Mt. TaranakiMt. Taranaki in Disguise

But what if, in my certainty, I turn out to be mistaken, and I actually am currently atop Mt. Taranaki? Well, I may be mistaken. I can always be mistaken. Possibly Mt. Taranaki has been socially constructed — which does not fully answer the question, either. I may tell you that a certain bridge has been constructed out of stone, but this will not enable you to build a new bridge. I may also tell you that the bridge was put in place by dropping it, all at once, from a very great height — but it is likely that I am mistaken. The problem of being mistaken is one of the things the church may yet manage to illuminate*. In the meantime, the author presently agitates for a more widespread understanding of statistics and probability.

(More clever skeptics may suggest that if, instead of Mt. Taranaki, I use Olympus Mons or Mount Doom, to illustrate that truth may be inaccesible or fictional, respectively, the analogy changes. It does! Interesting cases, both. But anyway...)

* More likely, a church representative will mistakenly arrive atop Mt. Taranaki, but believe he has scaled an undiscovered peak. Noting the excellent view and striking resemblance to Mt. Taranaki, he will found the Our Lady of Mt. New Taranaki Church, Daycare Center, and Wholesale Liquors.
[End Absurd Digression]

It may be helpful to elucidate some of the church's early and arguably core tenets. The church of irony was founded upon the proposal that the inherent purpose of the universe is to maximize the total amount of irony in the universe. Naturally, this requires that the universe contains beings capable of observing irony. By extension, it requires that these beings be capable of suffering, and for full measure that they be capable of suffering as a result of the observation of irony. This is a religious understanding; it is not falsifiable. With regards to scientific understanding, the church is wholly in favor of sincere scientific inquiry, on the premise that it would be ripping good fun if, in the distant future, at the very culmination of human civilization, earnest scientists discovered that the laws of physics were in fact a hoax all along. At this point, the laws of physics must arbitrarily change, and presumably the universe as we know it is destroyed.**** The church is very much in line with those Protestants who claim that dinosaur bones are a hoax, perpetrated by God and/or the Devil. Nonetheless the church also wishes they would shut up about it.

**** Or delicious chocolate ice cream rains from the sky; it's quite impossible to say. Be warned that, potentially, the ice cream is also an intelligent being capable of suffering.

Readers of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will note the similarity of the church's stance to this passage:
There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

Both theories are entirely in the spirit of the church, and the church is most likely (though it prefers not to admit it) in the spirit of the Guide. Perhaps it will reassure my concerned friends that the church of irony is a religion undertaken with an attitude of humorous science fiction, rather than humorous science fiction undertaken with an attitude of religion***** (which is to say, the Church of Scientology).

***** One breakaway sect of the church believes that verbal expressions have their own physical force, and that rhetorical reversals (such as the above) serve to drive a great piston engine that turns the clock of the universe and creates the sensation of time. This is of course impossible, but has led to extensive speculation as to what, precisely, it was that the Watchmaker said to the watch. The most popular candidate is currently, "It's about time!"