Save Me From Myself

When I arrived at the office today I was asked, "how are you today?" I thought about it briefly and the word which best described my condition at that moment was "disgruntled." As usual, I immediately questioned my diction; it seems to me that I shouldn't call myself "disgruntled" unless I could honestly claim that I was ever "gruntled" in the first place.

Research was in order, so I put on my Googling hat (it's just like the one at left...).

It turns out I had spoken correctly, but for the wrong reasons. In this case the prefix "dis-" is not a negator (like in "disconnect" or "disappear") but rather an intensifier (as in "disannul" or "dissever") and thus "gruntled" doesn't mean contented or happy - it simply means the same thing as "disgruntled" but less so. In fact, in this case the suffix -le is what is known as a "frequentive." When placed at the end of a verb it indicates that the action is repeated frequently. Thus "gruntle" means "to grunt frequently," and the usual connotation is that the grunting is a form of complaint.

In light of these findings I can safely say that I am nothing if not gruntled, and frequently disgruntled. It took 25 minutes of searching and checking references, but I feel better now that I know my diction was etymologically sound.

That's how bad it's gotten. This is clearly a cry for help; I need to stop studying for a while, and soon. I need to stop living in my head and start doing actual work again - like, work that involves cubicle walls and a salary, without concern for "theoretical frames" or "paradigmatic constraints."

I am open to suggestions (like any good grad student...) so feel free to name the job to which you think the Pontifex Niger is best suited. Let your creative juices flow freely - I will entertain (probably quite briefly, knowing you silly lot) all of your suggestions.

The Map of Human Sexuality

I found this while preparing to teach a class on the Sociology of Human Sexuality.


Click to enlarge (you may have to click twice to make it large enough to read).

As you view all the wondrous lands of human sexuality, you may think fondly of the places you have already visited, or you may look longingly at the exotic countries you wish to go some day. On the site I stole this from you can put virtual stickpins into the map to mark your history (good or bad), or map out your future. Green pins mean you've tried it and liked it, red means you tried it and didn't like it, purple means you'd like to try it, while black pins mean it's strictly fantasy material for you. Don't be embarrassed if you run into a few terms you don't know - not everyone is up on the exact definition of "shirtcocking" or "frotteurism" but that's what Google is for, right? You can find the original map page here.

When placing stick pins, don't get hung up on who was the doer and who got done. if you were, or wish to be, on either side of the listed activity, put the appropriate pin by it. (And don't even pretend you aren't at least a little interested in seeing how many pins you can legitimately put in.) Don't forget to check the islands in the south-east - that's where the strippers are.

Once you've put in all the pins you wish to, you can save this visual representation of your sexual journey and share it with your lover, your friends, or if you're really hard core, in the comments section here on the Ministry...

Kon-Tiki; Extreme Academia

I watched the documentary Kon Tiki last night. I recall my folks taking me to see both this and Heyerdahl's other documentary, The Ra Expeditions. Both made an impression that stuck with me all these years. The men in these films seem like ordinary academics - the kind you'd meet in the halls of any university in the U.S. - and yet they did amazingly dangerous things, all in the name of knowledge.

Kon-Tiki is grainy, shot by amateurs, and somewhat disjointed, but it's a testament to the spirit of exploration. It won the documentary Oscar in 1951, and it still holds up pretty well today. I recommend watching it if you want to be reminded of how low your adventure quotient is...

Thor Heyerdahl and five other men sailed a balsa wood raft from Callao, Peru to Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands - a voyage of over 4300 miles. They had no support boats, no chase aircraft, and only a ham radio and an inflatable dinghy as a life raft should things go badly. All the human crew members survived (the Amazon Parrot who joined them got washed overboard in a squall and was lost around the 60th day of the journey).

The expedition was undertaken to prove that it was possible for people in pre-Columbian times to reach and possibly colonize Polynesia. The raft was constructed using materials and techniques available at that time (see scale model at right) and it did prove that such a voyage was possible, even if it never actually happened in period.

That's right - they risked their lives to test an anthropological hypothesis. And not even to prove that it happened, just to see if it was possible. I fear that this spirit is dead today.

Today, this expedition would be televised by Discovery. There would be 15 cameras, chase boats, GPS locators, and on-board WiFi. The boat would have RedBull and Nike banners all over it, and the crew would be munching Clif Bars. Worst of all, the events would be edited to make better television, and there would be virtually no chance of anyone dying. In short, it wouldn't be an adventure - it would be reality TV. And that is sad.

I need to find an adventure like this. I am so bored with the safety of our consumer paradise. Maybe I should start building a raft...

I Love It When I'm Right

Recently, one of my predictions was vindicated by the English newspaper, The Sun. For those who aren’t up on publications in Great Britain, The Sun is a bastion of journalistic excellence ALMOST as fair and balanced as Fox News.com. In fact, the two are very similar, except that The Sun has a topless girl on page three every day… which, to be honest, would really improve Fox News.com… so long as it isn’t Sarah Palin.

But I’m not here to discuss the hockey mom’s over-nursed fun bags – I’m actually here to talk about the sweater meat of female Islamic suicide bombers. That’s right, folks – as I predicted in my weekly radio rant back in December, the newest innovation in terror is explosive breast implants. The Sun reported that sources in Pakistan and Yemen alerted the British Security Agency, MI5, to the existence of the deadly “booby traps” shortly after the failed attempt of the underwear bomber, Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The article goes on to say that top surgeons have confirmed that such a procedure is possible, and explosive experts have told MI5 that a breast-sized packet of PETN could easily damage a plane badly enough to bring it down. Now when you are covertly admiring the dirty pillows of the devout Muslim seated next to you on that international flight, you can wonder if her burkha-covered lady lumps are bursting with jihad.

Now don’t feel left out if you prefer to ogle men. The article also mentions that they are putting implants in the buttocks of male suicide bombers as well. That handsome sheik ahead of in the ticket line may have a killer ass, and not just because of the falafel he ate before the flight.

Ok, all the horrible jokes aside, this simply can’t possibly be true. For starters, the explosive they mentioned, PETN, has to be set on fire to go off, so what are they going to do - put in a wick instead of a nipple? Also, there are much easier places to hide packets of explosives – the body cavity itself has plenty of useable space in it – why bother with a cosmetic surgery that may end up lumpy enough to give the would-be terrorist away?

Never the less, The Sun and Fox News.com were both happy to scare the crap out of their already terrified audience with this story. What I put forth as a joke, they are now putting forth as legitimate news, with no consideration given to the plausibility of it. I tried to think of the most ridiculous, improbable, unlikely way to top the underwear bomber, and came up with something that was funny because it was so damn silly, and now so-called “news agencies” are touting it as fact.

The real irony here is that in Britain, The Sun is considered a tabloid – taken just a tiny notch more seriously than the Enquirer or the Weekly World News here – and yet one of these ridiculous filler pieces was picked up by Fox News and reprinted as “Fact.” Fair and balanced my non-explosive ass.

Inversely Proportional

It used to be that I worked on this blog while I was at work. I've worked in computer labs for the last several years, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, so I had ample time to write. Now, I only put in 6 hours per week in the labs, and I spend most of that time doing actual work - you know, academic stuff. The stuff I'm actually supposed to be here to do. In fact, it's pretty clear that my blog productivity is inversely proportional to the difficulty of my studies.

The idea that the vast archives of this blog (836 posts!) are simply the result of my undergrad degrees not being challenging enough to keep me busy is too depressing to contemplate. I have convinced myself and others that I am, in fact, a writer of sorts, so this is supposed to be my bag. That identity comes with assumptions, and I have embraced those clich├ęs wholeheartedly. I have allowed the world to believe, or possibly even fostered the belief that I am filled to the brim with witty observations and clever analyses of the world. It is exhausting being so laden with punditry - if I don't write it down, I might just 'splode...

The truth is significantly more dull. My life is thesis. Right now I am barely able to scrape together 3-5 minutes of left-wing venom to spew on the radio every Friday night. I know this will end, but it isn't happening fast enough - or it's too fast and I feel as though I won't get done, ever. I'll die under a pile of phenomenological articles, my cold stiff fingers clutching one more draft of the thesis that never was...

Please disregard the apocalyptic whining above - I'm over-medicated right now. The point of this post was to say that I have a plan for returning to sanity once this is all over.

In the back of my head a story has been taking shape. I suppose it would fall into the fantasy genre, but not of the Tolkien stripe. It's got some steampunk elements, a bit of swords and sorcery, and naturally, a big hunk of religion.

I'm not sure how I will go about it, but readers of this blog will certainly be privy to the details of it's composition. I have considered posting excerpts here, or possibly posting the excerpts on a separate blog created solely for that purpose while posting my notes and thoughts on the writing here. All of that will be decided when I have time to spend on decisions.

In the mean time, pray for me as I grind out the final days of my MA.