Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


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


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   definite perks
Thursday, January 31 2002

setting: Brooklyn, New York

Jetlag resulting from pronounced westward travel is entirely different from its eastward counterpart. I awoke at around six this morning and began puttering around, full of energy. Most of my energy was focused on the task of sorting through and editing images from my European vacation. At around two, I took a shower and prepared to go to downtown Brooklyn for a mandatory unemployment orientation seminar. A cold rain was falling, so I maximized use of the subway in getting there.
The seminar was being held at a branch office of the Department of Labor, located on a dreary non-commercial block of Lawrence Street. The door I entered was virtually unlabeled, but once inside I knew I'd found the right place. For there it was, the requisite line, the depressing metal furniture, the splotchy dropped ceilings, the semi-stoned security guard (this one was a woman), and the single unenthusiastic bureaucrat assigned to processing the people in line as quickly as possible. She made a slight social faux pas while processing me. This gaffe was regarding another gentleman being processed right beside me - the line had become so long that a second bureaucrat was now also processing the line - in an attempt to hand it to me, my bureaucrat grabbed the clipboard from the second bureaucrat's window while the second line-person was still signing it. This necessitated a smile and an apology, definite perks within the protocols and physical laws of this bleak little universe.
After I'd been processed, I was told to go into another room. It was a classroom-type room, though it lacked a blackboard. I was the very last person allotted to this room and I couldn't find a seat, since they all appeared to be taken by others who had preceded me in line. So I went to work filling out the form I'd been handed using the top of some sort of equipment, a microwave oven perhaps. When the "teacher" came in, she managed to find me a place to sit, hidden behind a file cabinet near the front of the room.
Before the lecture began, there was a lull in activity and nothing very interesting happened. The one thing that caused anything close to excitement was the ringing of a cell phone belonging to a gentleman nearby. It was an ascending-scale ring, less common than the melodic ones than irritate us more regularly. Naturally, I only heard one side of the conversation.

Say what?
Then open it!
Say what?

Most of the conversation, as you can see, involved the gentleman beseeching his correspondent in monosyllabic grunts to please rephrase what had been said so that it might be better understood. Later, when the seminar was in full swing, the gentleman carried on another similar conversation. The "teacher," who was lecturing at the time, thought he was asking her a question. But she excuse herself (in a completely non-sarcastic manner) upon realizing that the gentleman was simply talking on his phone.

The seminar itself was a speedy boilerplate affair. We learned that we are expected to look for work and that unemployment lasts a mere 26 weeks. We were advised to make use of every means necessary in finding our next job. As bored as anyone, I scanned the room, hoping to at least see some hot toddy in attendance. It might interest the reader to know the racial balance of the ensemble. Of the 25 people gathered in my classroom, perhaps six where European American and the balance were African American. There were no Asians or Australian Aborigines, although one of the black gentlemen was clearly a flaming non-heterosexual. At the end, we were called up individually to drop off our forms. Since I was last, I was called last. I noticed that one of the unemployed women was carrying a Fast Company tote bag. It's likely that the company she'd worked for had been fast: had lived fast, had partied hard, and had never made a dime of profit.

While in the shower today, it occurred to me that the biggest weapon in the terrorist arsenal (or in the arsenal of any advantaged combatant in an asymmetrical conflict) is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. For those who don't remember their college chemistry, the second law basically says that it is easier to break something that someone has built than to fix something that is broken. Anyone who has bought a new car or built a sand castle knows what I'm talking about.

I've been fascinated by the Mormons ever since reading an article in the New Yorker a week or so ago (while on the airplane to Paris). Tonight I was finding some especially rich reading about Mormons online, including a searchable copy of the Book of Mormon, some fascinating literature by Mormon critics, and some horrifying historical accounts from early Mormonism. From the article in the New Yorker, I already had the sense that Mormonism was principled on the subconscious connection between power, sexual conquest, and eternity. Reading these articles supported my suspicions, especially learning such barbaric details as:

In Utah it has been the custom with the Priesthood to make eunuchs of such men as were obnoxious to the leaders. This was done for a double purpose: first, it gave a perfect revenge, and next, it left the poor victim a living example to others of the dangers of disobeying counsel and not living as ordered by the Priesthood.

In Nauvoo it was the orders from Joseph Smith and his apostles to beat, wound and castrate all Gentiles that the police could take in the act of entering or leaving a Mormon household under circumstances that led to the belief that they had been there for immoral purposes.... In Utah it was the favorite revenge of old, worn-out members of the Priesthood, who wanted young women sealed to them, and found that the girl preferred some handsome young man. The old priests generally got the girls, and many a young man was unsexed for refusing to give up his sweetheart at the request of an old and failing, but still sensual apostle or member of the Priesthood. As an illustration... Warren Snow was Bishop of the Church at Manti, San Pete County, Utah. He had several wives, but there was a fair, buxom young woman in the town that Snow wanted for a wife.... She thanked him for the honor offered, but told him she was then engaged to a young man, a member of the Church, and consequently could not marry the old priest.... He told her it was the will of God that she should marry him, and she must do so; that the young man could be got rid of, sent on a mission or dealt with in some way... that, in fact, a promise made to the young man was not binding, when she was informed that it was contrary to the wishes of the authorities.

The girl continued obstinate.... the authorities called on the young man and directed him to give up the young woman. This he steadfastly refused to do.... He remained true to his intended, and said he would die before he would surrender his intended wife to the embraces of another.... The young man was ordered to go on a mission to some distant locality... But the mission was refused...

It was then determined that the rebellious young man must be forced by harsh treatment to respect the advice and orders of the Priesthood. His fate was left to Bishop Snow for his decision. He decided that the young man should be castrated; Snow saying, 'When that is done, he will not be liable to want the girl badly, and she will listen to reason when she knows that her lover is no longer a man.'

It was then decided to call a meeting of the people who lived true to counsel, which was held in the school-house in Manti... The young man was there, and was again requested, ordered and threatened, to get him to surrender the young woman to Snow, but true to his plighted troth, he refused to consent to give up the girl. The lights were then put out. An attack was made on the young man. He was severely beaten, and then tied with his back down on a bench, when Bishop Snow took a bowie-knife, and performed the operation in a most brutal manner, and then took the portion severed from his victim and hung it up in the school-house on a nail, so that it could be seen by all who visited the house afterwards.

The party then left the young man weltering in his blood, and in a lifeless condition. During the night he succeeded in releasing himself from his confinement, and dragged himself to some hay-stacks, where he lay until the next day, when he was discovered by his friends. The young man regained his health, but has been an idiot or quite lunatic ever since....

I always suspected there was dread in the ick I felt about Mormonism (and Mormons), and details like this provide validation. The fact that they eat Wonder Bread® for Communion and abstain from smoking, drinking, and caffeine does nothing to compensate for the creepy applications they have traditionally found for sex and marriage.

At around 10am tonight, after watching Romy and Michele's High School Reunion a second time, my limbs felt heavy and my nerves frayed, like I'd stayed up all night and could hear the echoing chirps of the birds of morning. But I didn't feel tired. This, I decided, must be the feeling of pure westward-travel jet lag.

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