Thursday, April 26, 2007

She's a senator, damn it!

Did anyone else watch the Democratic debate tonight? Did anyone else watch Larry King afterward and notice that Senator Clinton is "Hillary" while everyone else--all the men--are Senator So-and-So and Governor That?

The one time she was given a title, it was "Mrs."

The only other candidate whose title was omitted...Barack Obama. But at least his full name was used.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

thinking bloggers

Clearly, we're all in need of a nam-shub to put a stop to these viral memes! However, this seems like a fairly benign virus to have contracted, and it's nice to have an excuse for promoting some folks whose blogs I read devotedly, and to say thanks in return for the compliment of reading rudetruth. Especially since this blog is such a hodgepodgy mess of whatever; to think that people might find such a blog thought-provoking despite itself is really quite gratifying.

In an effort to keep this from becoming too terribly incestuous, I have decided that it should be off-limits to name Krister and Scott, but everyone should know that they are among the thinkingest bloggers around.

And in no particular order:

  1. Feminary. TKP led me to this blog a couple years ago, and I have been a devoted fan ever since. When I first began reading, Feminarian was in the middle of an incredibly honest investigation into sexuality and Christianity. It was an amazing time to discover this blog, and the honesty that was so arresting regarding this intimate topic is a consistent characteristic of all Feminarian's musings.
  2. The hermits at Hermit's Rock. Reading this blog makes me wish fervently that I'd been less of a hermit myself while at Harding with these guys. This blog is eclectic, intellectual, consistently novel, and best of all, they've been eschewing their gender since 2003.
  3. Jeff Sharlet's Call Me Ishmael. I just found this one a few months ago, but Sharlet is an amazing writer whose articles on American religion are insightful and riveting, and his work on The Revealer keeps us all up-to-date on what craziness is current. His blog is, he says, "Unrevised reviews of things I saw, heard, thought about. The stuff that saves me from working" but I find such ramblings intriguing.
  4. Joe at Brooklyn and Beyond. Sometimes Joe blogs about baseball, which doesn't inspire much thought for me (though I assume it must for some people?). This blog is more personal than political, theological, or ideological, but it never fails to make me consider the world anew. Except when it's about baseball.
  5. Casey at Workers of the World. Casey has a prophetic gift/curse of empathy. A social worker in NYC, Casey knows a lot about stuff that I don't, and she is one of the people I depend on to keep me from unwittingly becoming satisfied with being a typical American ignorant parasite. Plus, Casey led me to 3BT, a blog which makes one think in a whole alternative mode: a true gift.
Those are my five, but I also want to add a couple blogs I've noticed recently and am developing loyalties to: Mark Wiebe's Yankee Spoutings, which I found through his wife Jocelyn, and Indie's The world is too much with us. And I have to mention GKB, of whom I have been a regular reader for awhile, whose provocative posts make a lot of people think who then go make comments which often make me mad.

Boy, wouldn't it be nice if I could have nominated someone from the category "blogs of people related to me"...but those people would have to actually, you know, post something more often than twice a year. I am certain, however, that they do think more than twice a year, but it appears that such lofty thoughts are not for the likes of us spectres of the blogosphere.

my other audience

Hello aliens,

I hope you're still reading the blog. I know that generally the concerns addressed here are rather parochial from your undoubtedly cosmic point of view but I like to think that my blog-in-space efforts have an audience. Unfortunately, statcounter isn't able to track you (what's your ISP?) so I can never really be sure.

But it looks like we may have found your home. Or maybe a neighbor? Or maybe we're way off...but if we're right, then you might have water, like us, your planet might be rocky or might be one big ocean, and you're probably a lot shorter and stockier than we are 'cause your gravity is 5 times the 9.8 m/s2 we've got going on here. But there's a chance that, if your planet's like ours, you might be a great deal like us...enough that we could maybe communicate. Of course, reading this blog kind of answers that question. Please feel free to leave a comment. And if we've got you confused with someone else's planet, it would be really helpful if you'd let us know. Maybe a map? Or at least a nudge in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

commenting on the weather

In American culture, commenting on the weather is basically meaningless conversation. It's not about the content--it's about the motivation: phatic communication, in which the only purpose is to demonstrate a willingness to talk, a openness to communication, a desire to be friendly and polite. It could be about anything, and because of that, it's really not about anything at all. Hence, the weather. Locally, it's been, "thank God it's finally spring!" as the initiation for every casual conversation. (Except in CRW, where it's "when the hell will they turn on the AC?")

Of course this is all very normal. In fact, it's the only instance I can think of in which American culture and Chinese culture completely coincide, the phatic function of commenting on the weather.

But why? Why is it that talk of the weather is always actually talk of something else? Why isn't commenting on the weather really about the weather? I suspect that it's because we're fish-in-the-water, so to speak, in our open air ocean, swimming along oblivious to that which envelops us, sustains us, comfortably and unfailingly and unobtrusively.

This is my conjecture about why (some) people don't believe in global warming. Like fish in the water, it's hard to think about how the elements that sustain our lives could somehow go wrong, fail us, not be there for us, because they always have been there and we've never had to think about them before. Weather is supposed to be the backdrop for real life, and backdrops are supposed to be unnoticed. So now, we've got smart people who've spent years studying something minutely and in detail that most of us only comment on in order to get some small talk going, telling us that we've got to stop taking some things for granted; and we don't want to listen because it means recognizing that security is an illusion and the future is not guaranteed.

A couple nights ago, I had a horrible dream about the end of the world. The world was drowning because the ice caps had melted and no one had ever done anything about global warming. We all knew about it. As we were all drowning, floating past one another and losing each other in the huge Noah's flood sans Noah, we all shouted mournfully to each other, "global warming..." It sounds silly, but I woke up shaken, because Clare was in this dream, and in the dream, we were all going to die. There was nowhere safe. Now, I know that I had this dream because I read Kim Stanley Robinson's Forty Signs of Rain. Not "typical" SF (that is to say, not futuristic), but written with the same clarity and coherence of the Mars trilogy and with the same brisk and effective characterization. What's frightening about the novel is that it's not apocalyptic. Robinson sets the novel in an ever-shifting present and it reads like it's describing tomorrow--a future so present that it's in fact now. And it's about the daily grind: the lab work of scientists hard at work on biotech because that's what gets funded, the reality of daily political compromises, the inevitable failure of well-intentioned people to persuade others that they're right. And at the end of the novel, a storm hits DC with devestating impact reminiscent of Katrina...and Robinson published in 2004. Reading Forty Signs a couple days after reading Feminarian's posts on New Orleans, the prophetic quality of Robinson's scenario struck me with the kind of sick force that only gets worked out in a nightmare, because we can't bear to realize the precariousness of existence directly.

I think this is particularly hard for Christians because our belief in a loving, benevolent, providential God somehow translates into an inability to acknowledge that life is precarious. That through human effort it can become more so--or less so. God functions as a guarantee that these things that are too huge and horrible to contemplate or imagine just won't happen. God is good, and he is the Guarantor against Global Warming. Well, that's just crap. Look around. Shit happens all the time.

So, the point is, we have to stop giving in to the impulse to bury our heads in the sand like some kind of chicken ostrich (for those of you who haven't read it, that's an allusion to a particularly charming mixed metaphor from the novel), simply because it's more comfy not to pay any attention to all the really smart people who's spent years trying to determine if there's really a problem. They're telling us that there is. It's not a conspiracy. Why would we even suspect that it was? What would be the point? When people studying rivers in the NE and people studying penguin populations in Antarctica come to a convergence of conclusions with regard to climate shift, it's not because they've been exchanging emails containing collegial hints at how to hoax the public. Give me a break. You get in an airplane and let some anonymous pilot take your life into his hands, and you trust him; why don't you extend the same epistemic courtesy to these people?

Objections I've heard that sound plausible--sure, we've only been keeping records for a fraction of the time that we need to study in order to detect "for sure" patterns of climate change. Well, too bad Mr. Australopithicus had survival on his mind and didn't bother with commenting on the weather for posterity. But my point about epistemic humility holds here. Why would I--an expert in one small corner of academia--take it on myself to judge the interpretation of data in a field unfamiliar to me? Why wouldn't I instead trust people who've spent years training themselves to do just that? I couldn't even interpret my own ultrasound, for crying out loud!

All right, this started out a really reasonable post with a faint promise of becoming a nicely structured essay and devolved into sheer ranting. It must be the heat. But trust me, that's not really a comment on the weather.

Friday, April 20, 2007

feel good

Go here. And then go on your way rejoicing in the miracles that do happen. Sometimes. This time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

silly songs

There is a tradition of silly songs in my family. My grandmother on my father's side is particularly famous for this, having a beautiful voice and a marvelous sense of humor. Here's a sample:

"At the boardinghouse where I live
everything is growing old
there are gray hairs in the butter
and the bread has turned to mold (has turned to mold)

When the dog died we had hotdogs,
when the cat died, catnip tea
when the landlord died I left there
spare ribs were too much for me (too much for me)..."

There's also, of course, the Orchestra Song and "Maggie Dear," and a whole host of others but those are the ones I can remember at the moment. (Incidentally, if anyone knows the third verse to "At the Boardinghouse" my entire extended family--and that's a hell of a lot of people--would be indebted to you if you would share it. We can't remember it and always skip to the fourth verse where for some reason the churchhouse is suddenly on fire and we suspect the third verse is the culprit.)

I guess that's why I find myself singing to Clare all day long. Tuneless monotone things with ridiculous lyrics. Or sometimes actual melodic phrases with a decent rhyming structure. Or classic songs with alternative Clare-specific lyrics. I'm no Laura Hays or anything, but Clare's not old enough to know I'm not really talented.

First there was "Who loves Baby Clare?" which really has no melody to speak of, but the virtue of which is that the chorus can list basically everyone in the world and their kitty cat, because of course, everyone and their kitty cat loves Baby Clare. Then, "Who's the cutest (smartest, funniest, fattest, heaviest, most superlative in whatever way is appropriate at the moment) baby in the whole wide world?" which was great because for awhile, Clare would stop crying if I sang it to her. Before breakfast, there's "Twinkle, twinkle little Clare, how I wonder... what you eat for breakfast" (credit goes to my niece Sol for that one). And, to the tune of "O Christmas Tree":

"O Baby Clare, O Baby Clare,
How lovely is your sprouting hair.
O Baby Clare, O Baby Clare,
It is so thin and sparse up there.
O Baby Clare, O Baby Clare,
Your bald patch is beyond compare.
O Baby Clare, O Baby Clare
How lovely is your sprouting hair."

I've also found that, when she's screaming bloody murder into my ear for no discernible reason, that it really helps me retain perspective to sing my mommy pep song:

"Who loves her baby even when she's fussy (angry, tired, screaming, you get it), who loves her baby all the time?
Mama does, mama does, mama loves her baby, mama loves her baby all of the time."

Just my way of getting through the day, dears..."the Samaritans were engaged."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


So, those of you are not (or never have been) CofC may not be interested, but is a marvelous website to check out if you are. Since I am already most decidedly convicted on the subject of Gender Justice and Churches of Christ, my favorite part of the site is the forum. Sadly, over the last year the forum has slowed down quite a bit. I faithfully checked it every day for months and months even though there was rarely a new post to read. I now probably check every week (or so). It's not that gender justice is any less urgent or fascinating a topic of discussion among us; just that, I think, everyone who reads and participates in the forum conversation has been there awhile and has had ample opportunity to share and say what they think to a sympathetic audience of like-minded people. And now that we've done that, we exist in companionable virtual silence with each other, just occasionally checking in.

Not that companionable silences are bad, but they make for a boring blog. So I've posted a comment on the forum hoping that it will stimulate some conversation. And my hope is that I can continue to every so often post something that will elicit our lurkers to comment and interact with each other. Since I posted a couple days ago and no one has responded, I figured it couldn't hurt to use this blog to direct people there (since there is some overlap in readership).

And if anyone has ideas about strategies to get the conversation re-started over there, I would love it if you'd share them with me. You can post a comment here or you can email me (my email address is available through my blogger profile).

Monday, April 16, 2007

It's this week!

Check out this link to CCfB's team for the MS Walk on April 22. Clare and I briefly considered walking but...oh yeah, she doesn't walk yet. (She is standing up on her own, though, and cruising along the furniture--but if she really wants to get somewhere, she uses the Old Reliable: crawling.)

There's a donation link available from the site linked above if anyone wants to contribute. I would like to consider myself as performing the service of linking up readers with something resembling "disposable income" with a nice way to dispose of a bit of it. [People who have no jobs, people who are students, people who are living at home with their parents, etc., are excused but the rest of you, c'mon, what are you earning all that money for anyway?]

Sunday, April 15, 2007

There's a beautiful sad thought over at Someone Like Me Too.

Campbellites? Nay, Cranmerites!

So, this is really Brent's post except that he's too lazy to write it so I have to do it instead. No, no, that's slanderously untrue. Brent is too busy writing his funereal dissertation to blog, whereas I'm just about to give up the pretense of being an academic altogether after last week's fiasco.

We have noticed over the past couple of years, Brent and I, that an incredible number of discontented CofCers have landed in the Episcopal Church. We're discovering new refugees all the time--mostly through the blogosphere but Brent also met two people while visiting VTS a few weeks ago, someone in the PTS bookstore, and there's a priest here in the Diocese of New Jersey who went to Lipscomb... It's enough to make us wonder, anyhow; and so here are the questions I have, for anyone who happens to be a former CofCer turned Episcopalian (not Episcopal, which is an adjective).
  1. Why the Episcopal Church? Why not something closer to home--like Disciples of Christ, for instance?
  2. How many other churches did you check out before choosing the Episcopal Church as home?
  3. What continuities do you see between the Episcopal Church and Churches of Christ?
  4. What was the last theological/doctrinal "hurdle" to overcome in joining the Episcopal Church?
  5. Aren't vestments cool?
  6. How long have you been Episcopalian? Do you still maintain any CofC ties? Does your family pray for your salvation or are they cool with your Episcopalian-ness?
  7. Have you met many other former CofCers? Why do you think so many turn to the Episcopal Church when they leave the CofC?
  8. Give us your vote--do we baptize Clare as an infant or not? (Not that sacraments are a matter of majority rule or anything...)

(it's me, Margaret)

Me: hi god
God:Hello there. What is your name?
Me: don't you know?
God:Sure I know. But I cannot tell you right now.
Me: okay. then i can't tell you either.
God:OK with me too. It goes without saying. Why is it a secret?
Me: that is such a good question. why are you so secretive?
God:Thanks. Next question?

My conversation ended when I said "I like people. I don't think they should go to hell." Apparently either God detected the enormous falsity of "I like people" OR God was mad that I think people shouldn't go to hell. In any case, there were no more responses from God.

Have your own conversation here. And eavesdrop on the Feminarian's conversation here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Monday, April 09, 2007

on being savonarola

So, the Wild at Heart discussion over at KB's blog, and the related discussion here, prompt me to wonder--not about societally assigned gender roles, really, since I've been reading other stimulating material lately on that topic--but about the ethics of the disposal of books.

See, I own a lot of books. I also married into a lot of books. A lot plus a lot, is, well, a whole lot. So many that Clare's first word, and I assure you that now she most definitely means it, is "book." BooKKKK. Booooooooook! Book-ook. B-gook. Book!

Our books are important to us. They are for work and for play and for comfort and for personal betterment. They are advisors, friends, lullabies, nostalgia. But lurking among their ranks are traitors: books from the past which betray my former self, back before I started, you know, thinking about stuff. Shameful books. False friends and bad advisors. Books that keep me awake at night and remind me of aspects of my past I'd rather forget.

Brent used to turn the spines backwards on books he preferred to pretend weren't infiltrating our bookshelves (oddly, he has the same habit with old evangelical T-shirts; he still wears them--but inside out). Now, quite a lot of our books are boxed and in storage (displaced by the small but disproportionately powerful presence of Clare). Most of the shameful titles are therefore now safely tucked away out of sight in the perpetually damp storage space provided for use--at the tenant's own risk--in the basement: Book Hell. Our multiple copies of James Dobson's marriage book, all wedding gifts, are down there. Transforming Your Workplace for Christ--a random title I picked up at an estate sale for use as a resource of example text for a Christianity in Culture final exam a couple years ago, is down there. The Purpose-Driven Life, and workbook, are down there. Who Stole Feminism, which I wrote a book review of my first semester at Harding, is down there...back before I was a feminist.

I'd like to get rid of these books, I think. But how?

There's a dilemma in getting rid of the traitorous books of one's shameful past. What, exactly, can you do with them? You can't give them away to people you know--unless you want to try explaining 1) why you no longer want to be associated with that book and 2) why you think it's just perfect for them... Perhaps, then, you can sell it: at the annual PTS book sale, enormous and anonymous, or But then you think, wait. How can it be okay to give away a harmful book? And even worse, to make someone pay you for that harmful book?

Of course, there's always the bonfire option. But Fahrenheit 451 is not on my list of traitorous books.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

damn it.

Dear blog readers, please forgive the fact that the intended audience of this post is not (originally) you. I just don't have the strength to explain it all again.

The Metametaphor of Information,
or, You are What You E-Know,
or, How/Why I Forgot my Lecture and the Nam-Shub of Enki

Were it on purpose, it might be clever to offer virtuality in place of Real lecture. (Or perhaps some of you would like to comment on whether there is any substantial difference…)

The Story of How I Forgot to Lecture is a simple one: a narrative which involves the (mis)coding of information. Once upon a time there was a conversation: a dissemination of information via sound waves, which, when received and properly internalized, is encoded chemically in the brain for later data retrieval. This process is, of course, sometimes hit-or-miss; so once upon a time there was also a dayplanner, into which the same information could be coded into written symbols, a different code repeating the same information received by the sound waves and encoded chemically in the brain. But these symbols can be misunderstood, corrupted, lost or obliterated over time…Or dayplanners can simply go unopened, and like long-lost clay tablets with vital information on them, if they go unread, the information therein is ineffective.

The nam-shub of Enki turns out to translate from the cuneiform as, “isn’t Dr. Osmer still in Germany?”


The plot of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash hangs on the supposition that Information is All. Why can a human being get a virus from a computer? Answer: what is a computer?—a machine that codes information/ what is a virus?—a tiny bit of self-replicating information/ what is a human being?—a conglomeration of genetically coded information. As Hiro Protagonist, broke and recently unemployed resident of U-Stor-It, Greatest Swordsman in the World and Warrior Prince of the Metaverse, gradually realizes, not only is the Metaverse an instantiation of Information, a collection of coded protocols written in languages that manipulate the basic binary code of computer-existence, Reality itself is constituted by information, a collection of physical, biological, social and cultural patterns of information enacted and embodied by various artifacts: machines and people and ideas, animals and franchulates and religions. Information is the substratum of Life and Reality.

We as readers must, just as Hiro must, negotiate these intersecting media of information, tracing the virus across these intersecting levels of genetic/biological, linguistic, cultural and virtual instantiations. Snow Crash is first presented to us as a computer virus, encoded in binary form; then a neurolinguistic virus coded in glossalalic syllables; then a biological virus, genetically encoded in infected blood cells. The virus, variously instantiated, is the same Information, which, regardless of its medium, enacts the same disruptive result on those who contract it—through religion, through exchange of bodily fluids, or through the binarily coded information on a bitmap accessed through the optic nerve. The destination of the virus is to coil like a serpent around the human brainstem, and it may travel in whatever way is convenient to get there.

To say that Information is All is to say something basic about, well, everything. To say that human beings are genetically coded Information says…what? It is commonplace now to refer to genetic code as “blueprints,” to think of our human genes as an instruction kit for the various proteins to meticulously assemble themselves into a human being over a 9-month (give or take) period of construction. Human being=a certain pattern of information assembled out of a supplied medium. What anthropological assumptions are at work here? And what are the implications for humans as mobile biological information systems?

It is no coincidence that the posthuman appears again in Snow Crash. If we are embodied patterns of information, and Information is All, then we (like the Snow Crash virus) may be variously instantiated in media other than the strictly biological. Information is pattern; and pattern can be replicated using different materials.

But Stephenson gives us more than a vision of The Posthuman; he gives us a variety of posthumans, and a companion cyborg species. (Post-dog as post-man’s best friend.) Ng is perhaps the most grotesque of the posthuman figures Stephenson gives us: “a sort of neoprene pouch about the size of a garbage can suspended from the ceiling by a web of straps, shock cords, tubes, wires, fiber-optic cables, and hydraulic lines…At the top of the pouch, Y.T. can see a patch of skin with some black hair around it—the top of a balding man’s head…Below this, on either side, where you’d sort of expect to see arms, huge bundles of wires, fiber optics, and tubes run up out of the floor and are seemingly plugged into Ng’s shoulder sockets. There is a similar arrangement where his legs are supposed to be attached, and more stuff going into his groin and hooked up to various locations on his torso” (225-6). Bizarre though this physical manifestation is, as Ng coolly explains to Y.T., the van is nothing more than a really souped-up motorized wheelchair. The apparatus attached to him enables the informational pattern that constitutes Ng to resist disintegration; it is an alternative medium, but the Information is Ng.

Likewise, Ng’s creation of Rat Things allows for a certain psychological continuity in which the instantiation of Information in the purely biological medium is retained in the memory, and forms the informational pattern that makes the Rat Thing the same dog it always was: B-782 is Fido, and Rat Thing B-782 loves Y.T. because Fido loves Y.T. (443-4). Most telling is Ng’s explicit statement to Y.T. countering her disgust at both him and the Rat Things: “Your mistake is that you think all mechanically assisted organisms—like me—are pathetic cripples. In fact, we are better than we were before” (248). [Here, the really interesting question of the overlap Ng achieves between Metaverse and Reality, symbolized for us in the virtual masseuse that gives a Real massage through the electrocontractive gel Ng's Real body is immersed in, prompts us to wonder, with the Velveteen Rabbit, what is Real? Which Ng is the real Ng? A question we will return to with regard to our Hiro.]

In contrast to Ng and the Rat Things, who are Information preserved in alternative media, are the wireheads of L. Bob Rife. The wireheads are still fully biological in terms of life-sustaining systems; their cyborg parts are in addition to, rather than substitution for, their biological ones. Yet despite their higher degree of biological integrity, the wireheads are the truly frightening posthuman figure, for they are corrupted Information, rather than preserved Information. L. Bob Rife has left the medium more or less unmolested, but the Information—that which carries identity—has been purposefully hijacked by the virus.

Occupying a gray area between Ng and his Rat Things, and L. Bob Rife’s wireheads, are the gargoyles, and Hiro himself. And the difference between Hiro as freelance hacker, sometime Warrior Prince of the Metaverse, and Hiro as gargoyle (265) is a matter of degree so slight as to disappear. Which brings us to the question: is the difference between Hiro’s access of technology and our own interface with it also a degree so slight as to disappear?

This indeed would be the question that Donna Haraway would put to us via her "Cyborg Manifesto." To be a cyborg is not only to have machine literally grafted into flesh. It is also simply to be so dependent on technology that one cannot function without it—and this, I dare say, describes every single one of us, members of the technological elite, who interface with our technology multiple times a day.

Haraway’s ultimate goal in the "Manifesto" is not to laud the imminent arrival of the cyborg as a technophile. Rather, she is deeply suspicious of the oppressive economic possibilities of technology in a way resonant with the landscape of Stephenson’s future America of Burbclaves and franchulates. Stephenson draws for us a caricatured but logical extension of tendencies already present and at work in American culture: to identify with people who are “like us,” and paradoxically at the same time, to manufacture identity as image. The nearly infinite fracturing of group identities is obvious in the ever-growing list of ethnic identities that includes “jeeks” and “Nips” but also “the Military” and “skateboarders” as distinct ethnic groups. The fracturing of the United States government into independent franchises mirrors the ethnic fracturing in a literal way: each Franchise is for “people like us” and some, such as the New South Africa Franchulate, are violently racist. Stephenson offers no anodyne for this disturbing social development. There seems to be no possibility for identity and solidarity other than that of natural identity and origin—those “like us.” Haraway, too, pegs this tendency in her "Manifesto," and prescribes as nam-shub, “affinity,” that is, “related not by blood but by choice, the appeal of one chemical nuclear group for another, avidity.” When one is hybrid, identification by natural origin is precluded—and this, Haraway and Stephenson both tell us, is a good thing. It is not by accident that Hiro is racially hybrid, ethnically hybrid, and occupies an intersecting set of economic and class categories, in addition to becoming something very close to the cyborg of Haraway’s essay.

Which brings us to the question: who is Hiro Protagonist, Really? Is the real Hiro the penniless former-Deliverator freelance hacker in the U-Stor-It, or is Hiro indeed the Warrior Prince that he is in the Metaverse? Is the Warrior Prince a manufactured image, much as the facades of Uncle Enzo and the daffy Chenglish-speaking Mr. Lee are? Or is it that Hiro, unburdened by the limits of circumstance, becomes more fully himself in the Metaverse than anywhere else? If this is so—again, what does this say about what constitutes a human being? As Hiro’s identities converge, leading to a Metaverse triumph with very Real consequences, what might this say about the connection between image and identity in a world of malleable information? If Hiro is Information, can he be re-imaged/re-written/re-programmed?

Of course he can: for this is the threat of the Snow Crash/Asherah virus. And this brings us, finally, to the question of religion as virus, a metaphor Stephenson puts forward in several places. Religion, like any other cultural meme (or in Stephenson’s term, me), spreads like a virus: through contact, specifically, linguistic contact, for language is the medium of interpersonal informational connection. Consider "truthiness." Consider, if you will, Wikiality. Like truthiness, religious doctrine is more or less contagious, depending on the susceptibility of those exposed to it: a conceptual virus that enacts itself by re-patterning behavior of those who catch it. But in Stephenson’s conception, religion is a cultural meme like any other: praise God, bake bread. It is simply information that generates behavior. Is this what religion is—simply a set of more or less compelling ideas? Is religion is so thoroughly naturalized that the metaphysical disappears into the social?

Or does it? The mystical reappears under the same guise that quashes it: Information. For Information is All. And Information must come from somewhere—and for this, Stephenson reaches for the Metavirus from Outer Space. The Fount. The Source. The Logos. Hiro observes during the course of his researches with the Librarian that the Metaverse is a single vast nam-shub, enacting itself on L. Bob Rife’s fiber-optic network (211). But the Metaverse is simply another version of Reality, a single vast nam-shub enacting itself variously on the biomass, spoken into existence by the Metavirus from Outer Space. Information acting itself out in various media.

But religion as virus is not unambiguously negative, for the Snow Crash/Asherah virus through which L. Bob Rife the paranoid egomaniacal Texas wants to control all Information (and therefore everything), is countered by the nam-shub of Enki, the Babel/Infocalypse, a counter-neurolinguistic virus which is Reality’s salvation from undifferentiated, centralized Informational Control. Religion, then, is a medium for information, rather than Information itself, a constant of human nature (as Juanita points out, 200-1) that may be exploited for either good or ill.

There is, perhaps, an underlying Good that may be identified in Stephenson’s narrative of the Babel incident, and that is, the value of diversity. In the fractured landscape of Burbclaves and franchulates, where every group has its label, (its mascot, and its company motto), diversity has become estrangement. But Stephenson also offers us the information that diversity is necessary, valuable, and in a certain sense, salvation. Monocultures, like fields of corn, are vulnerable. “Maybe Babel was the best thing that ever happened to us” (279).

…In conclusion, I would point out that you, fellow members of the elite techno-priesthood, are also en with powers over multiple nam-shubs. Every day you work your magic through simple speech: 'I love you' is as transformative an utterance as one might ever give or receive, in any language. And as I again beg your indulgence for my personal snowcrash this week, I would most humbly remind you, so is, as well, absolvo te.