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a joyful deformation : The Church of the SubGenius and the Necessity of Ludic Sub-versions

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An early and playful exploration of the satirical creations and message of the Church of the SubGenius. To mirror the spontaneous and creative nature of the church I have used as many features of Word as possible varying fonts, sizes & colors,
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    Òa joyful deformationÓ The Church of the SubGenius : the Necessity of Ludic Sub-versions By Lee Carleton Media, Art and Text @ Virginia Commonwealth University In a nutshell: Though barely noticed by orthodox academic and artistic scholars, The Church of the SubGenius continues to practice its clever, complex, playful, parodic, art that heckles all dogmatic systems and defies fixed definition while encouraging an ongoing participatory politically subversive creativity with its viral, satyrical multimedia critique of cultic consumerism, fascism, fundamentalism and cultural homogenization. Introduction: Linguistic Ligatures    Religion and language, particularly in sacred texts, have long been inextricably intertwined. For some relevant insight into the technology of language, its srcin and use, let us begin with an amusing yet thought-provoking set of selections from the satirical 1991 Boomer Bible : When he had come upon the earth, the ape was naked and afraid. For comfort he picked up a stick, Lee Carleton 5/7/07 10:25 PM Comment: Ò Avatars of chaos  act as spies, saboteurs, criminals of amour fou, neither selfless nor selfish, accessible as children, mannered as barbarians, chafed with obsessions, unemployed, sensually deranged, wolfangels, mirrors for contemplation, eyes like flowers, pirates of all signs & meanings .Ó Hakim Bey Temporary Autonomous Zone   (TAZ)     2 chewed the end to a point, and stuck it in a nearby living thing. When the living thing died, transfixed by the stick, the ape ate of its flesh and soon conceived a great hunger for the death of other living things. Thereupon the ape made many pointed sticks and stuck them into great multitudes of other living things, including, on occasion, other apesÉ.. And the clever apes slew all the [other] apesÉuntil The clever apes were all alone on the earth, with the exception of the other living things and many, many trees that could be turned into pointed sticksÉ When the apes called Men joined together into Tribes, the practice of killing became more efficient, And the consumption of slain animals less wasteful. Accordingly, the tribe had more time and more opportunity to invent things   of which the apes had grown exceedingly fondÉThose who were the most imaginative invented words, and ideas, in order that words might serve some purpose. And all the apes were unsatisfied with this state of affairsÉ And so it happened that the imaginative ones began to ask many questions at the top of their lungs, saying, ÒWhy does the rain not come just when we need it?Ó ÒAnd why is the hunting not always as good as it could be? And why does it seem that the grass grows greener on the other side of the valley, where the next tribe lives?Ó And hearing these questions the others became quite upset saying, ÒWe donÕt know whatÕs the answer, weÕre terribly confused.Ó Whereupon the imaginative ones smiled at one another and said, ÒAll is not as it should be because you have not make offerings to the Gods, Who give us rain, and game, and grass and other things too.Ó And the others became very afraid saying, ÒWhat are Gods?Ó ÒDo they live around here?Ó ÒDo they have weapons?Ó And the imaginative ones nodded knowingly, because they had discovered a wonderful discovery, which brought smiles to their faces, and joy to their hearts.Ó Like the Reverend Ivan StangÕs Church of the SubGenius, Boomer BibleÕs   satire of Genesis spoofs the ancient human habits of killing and mind-control, subjects that The Church of the SubGenius has been parodying   3 for decades. The Boomer Bible  , in its ÒSecond Preface,Ó seems to capture this parodic spirit in a mythical explanation of the srcins of the book as a ÒPunk TestamentÓ written by anonymous punks in hidden urban labyrinths Ð a potent parody with fruitful seeds of seriousness. The punks who had written itÉbelieved that the very largest philosophical questions ever conceived were everybodyÕs   business, and they were unafraid to jeer at the ivory tower intellectuals they thought had answered those questions wrong. The book made me feel important and powerful, and that was a unique feeling for somebody who had lived on the tattered edges of self-respect since adolescence. I also understand why a lot of people would oppose publication of the book on any grounds. It laughs too hard at things nobody is supposed to laugh at, Which is the worst crime possible in a society that has lost Its sense of humor about everything important. (xix) Though the punks in the Boomer Bible   intro are fictitious, Doug Smith (Rev. Stang) is not, but he has identified some punk influence and his work clearly has the parodic punk sensibility evident in the Boomer Bible  . Language, Perception and Power As the passage from the ÒBooks of the ApesÓ suggests, language  is an ancient technology with a long history of hidden power dynamics . Even without reviewing FoucaultÕs Discourse on Language to demonstrate the politics of language, our own experience tells us that established authorities and belief systems wield an enhanced linguistic power that can shape public perception of power to authorize and include or de-authorize and exclude, depending upon local territorial inclinations. In ÒThe Law of GenreÓ Derrida notes that this process can begin with something as innocuous as the word Ògenre.Ó As soon as the word ÒgenreÓ is sounded. As soon as it is heard, as soon as one attempts to conceive it, a limit is drawn. And when a limit is established, norms and interdictions are not far behind. (56) As thinkers like Foucault deploy powerful metaphors like Òarcheology of knowledgeÓ many are beginning to see the socially constructed nature of reality and how language, especially the language of an elite, is a major tool in this construction. Thinkers like Derrida complicate this by noticing   4 the slippery nature of language, how the same word can mean different things and ultimately defer final, fixed meaning. In practice, language is a chaotic flow of multiple meanings. If this is true, then perhaps we can take the rigidities of DISCIPLINARITY  less seriously, see academic boundaries as less absolute, and free our minds and energies for potent, creative intellectual cross-pollination. In ÒThe Law of GenreÓ Derrida observes that language resists fixity and precise prediction partly because language is a tool of discourse, a flowing, participatory verbal exchange that involves an unpredictable other/s whose reception of our consciously intended meaning is never guaranteed. As long as I release these utterances (which others might call speech acts) in a form yet scarcely to be determined, given the open context out of which I have just let them be grasped from ÒmyÓ language-as long as I do this, you may find it difficult to choose among several interpretive options. They are legion, as I could demonstrate. They form an open and essentially unpredictable series. This unpredictability means chaos, an anathema  to authority and control, and a costly disruption in our smoothly purring global consumer culture . So are our bodies. This is why language and embodiment are monitored so closely. This is why ads have so many words feeding fear of chaos, why policing and police oriented programming is so pervasive. This is why we are being alienated from nature and our embodiment so we can keep the machine running smoothly buying products to ÒfixÓ our ancient biology. In On Grammatology  , Derrida articulates these mechanisms of authority, language and capital: It has long been known that the power of writing in the hands of a small number, caste, or class, is always contemporaneous with hierarchization, let us say with political difference; it is at the same time distinction into groups, classes, and levels of economico-politico-technical power, and delegation of authority, power deferred and abandoned to an organ of capitalization. With the [coercive] growth of corporate values in higher education, many academics seem content to abandon the power of writing to this Òorgan of capitalization,Ó but we might better serve students by returning to the Lee Carleton 5/7/07 10:17 AM Comment: In Welcome to the Machine   Jensen and Draffin discuss how this is accomplished via ÒmechanicalÓ administration: Members of this community must begin to perceive themselves not as fluid threads in a complex and ever-changing web of relationshipsÉbut as gears within cogs within gears in what they now perceive as a giant machine over which they have no fundamental agency, no loving stake. They must perceive their value no longer as inherent but as strictly utilitarian: they must be converted from human beings to workers. They must be made to perceive relationships as strictly hierarchical.   5 Socratic foundations of the academy: pursuit of a reflexive self-knowledge, active critical awareness and creative democratic participation . The key complaint of The Boomer BibleÕs   mythical punks, and many actual youth as well, is that the academy got  [is getting] it wrong  Ð that the truly important questions are not about disciplinary boundaries or how to Òcompete in the global marketplaceÓ but about how to survive  long enough to evolve  beyond our simian territorial patterns  Ð patterns that have become an unprecedented threat to our survival and our current level of technical development - considering our nuclear and  other war technologies and our lack of control over them. Combine the US military/industrial/media war machine with the   citizen control  capabilities of the modern surveillance state as explored in  Jensen and DraffanÕs Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance and the Culture of Control  ,  and the triviality of many a disciplinary debate comes screaming out at us Ð as does the peril   of our contemporary context. What progress might we create without  the intellectual, creative and material drain dictated  by our addiction to policing and war? Language, whether written or spoken, is a technology so much a normalized part of our environment, that we rarely if ever consider its function as a tool, or its impact on human consciousness. Nor do we often consider the ramifications of the fact that its earliest masters were profiteers  and priests . The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis may not be useful in a strictly deterministic sense, but a Moderate Whorfianism ,  as described by Daniel Chandler of the University of Wales, is a useful perspective for enhancing our awareness of the technology of language, its limits, contexts and specific influences on our thinking. Though often criticized for holding a deterministic view of technology, McLuhanÕs observations about the impact of alphabetic literacy are widely evident in our world, especially in the academy where linearity, order and hierarchy are replicated in a complex web of language and systems from administration to academic departments and disciplines. These language-derived systems of organization certainly have their use as tools, but most university teachers and students are too familiar with the drag they can be on creativity and change. And McLuhan reminds us that the alphabetic dragonÕs teeth sown by Cadmus spring up as armed men  , language ready to fight, not unlike the words filling the journals of academia or the halls of a seminary (McLuhan 117-124).   Lee Carleton 5/9/07 11:27 AMLee Carleton 5/7/07 10:38 PMLee Carleton 5/7/07 10:35 AM Comment: A ÒparanoidÓ idea before the advent of HOMELAND SECURITY. (click both) Comment: As an example on p. 85-87 they cite Regine PernoudÕs discussion in Those Terrible Middle Ages!  that attempts to trace the srcin of the saying: ÒKill them all. God will know His own.Ó It has been attributed to Pope Innocent III on the occasion of the murder of 100,000 gnostic heretics in 13 th  Century Beziers, France. Jensen and Draffin highlight that Pernoud and other scholars are arguing over the attribution of a saying   rather than discussing the fanatical religious murder of 100,000 people by a religious authority that had a strong hold on public discourse and information. Which analysis of language might be the most relevant today? Comment: How much impact did the industrial revolution  have on the rigidities of our educational system as the clock and the assembly line became, not only tools of efficient production, but also the unconscious metaphors organizing our lives? And, as the information revolution  rockets us through new changes, how are these new technologies affecting our interaction as human beings and citizens of a free democracy?
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