As part of my ongoing effort to secure for myself a harem of young Amish ladies, I have enrolled in Penn State’s online German program. Part of our homework is to listen to German music and learn the lyrics. In the course of my studies, I have discovered a song that I like very much indeed. If I knew how to play the guitar, I’m quite convinced that I could use it to serenade Amish ladies and lure them out of their buggies and into my vile clutches.

Sadly, when I ran the lyrics through Google’s translate function, the result was a bushel basket full of incoherent gibberish.

So, with the aid of several online dictionaries and a bit of guesswork, I have translated the lyrics myself.

The basic jist is that while technology and general smarty-pants-ism is great and everything, Springtime is way more awesome than anything else.

I believe these are exactly the sort of sentiments that will endear me to the Amish fathers, who might otherwise object to their daughters running off with the “English.”

I am afraid I do not have the skills necessary to translate it in such a way that preserves the poetic nature of the original. If any people reading this actually speak German, please send me corrections, as I’m sure I have made several errors.

Anyhow, without further adieu, here is my translation of Frühling by Monsters of Liedermaching:

I recently learned
That a 13 year old kid
cracked the FBI’s code,
I think you say it was “hacked”

I myself own a computer now.
I think it’s really good.
However, when I use it,
it’s still really just a typewriter.

It is really amazing how smart some people are.
I have such a respect for it that I can’t express in words.
Yes you are always amazed what is happening today,
But more important than anything is that it is finally Spring.

Somewhere in a desert,
I wish I knew where more precisely,
a team of researchers at the dig
found the very first human

Here lie all our ancestors,
for who knows how many years.
I ask myself how they knew
exactly where they had to dig.

It is really amazing how smart some people are.
I have such a respect for it that I can’t express in words.
Yes you are always amazed what is happening today,
But more important than anything is that it is finally Spring.

When you watch debate shows,
all you can do is shrug,
because they are all so smart and sharp,
I can’t understand most of it.
Always this back and forth,
Pros and cons, this and that.
No, it is really not for me.
It always makes me dizzy.

It is really amazing how smart some people are.
I have such a respect for it that I can’t express in words.
Yes you are always amazed what is happening today,
But more important than anything is that it is finally Spring.

Books: Gospel of the Living Dead

Gospel of the Living Dead

Gospel of the Living Dead is a solid summary of the entire Romero Canon and the various remakes of some of the films.

The structure is very logical — Pretty much one chapter for each film. Each chapter begins with an extremely detailed summary of that movie, and ends with a discussion of the religious issues raised by that particular film. The religious commentary was essentially limited to comparing Romero’s vision for hell-on-earth with one of the various circles of Hell in the Divine Comedy.

Frankly, I was a bit disappointed. There is entirely too much retelling of the movie’s stories, and not enough religious discussion. If I’m buying a book like this, I think it’s safe to assume I’ve seen the films.

The author is a professor of religious studies, so I was expecting something with more depth than just Dante’s version of hell. Maybe I was in an overly analytical frame of mind from having just read The Undead and Philosophy a few weeks ago.

If you are new to zombie movies, and want to get up to speed on the Romero quadrillogy, this is probably a good place to start. If you’re looking for Romero’s take on the ontological argument, you’re out of luck.

There is a good discussion of the social criticisms in the Romero films. Racism, sexism, and materialism/consumerism are all discussed in some detail. If you think zombie movies are just mindless violence and escapism, you’re wrong, and this book will help sort you out.

Anyhow, I give Gospel of the Living Dead 3 Jihadis out of 5.

3 Jihadis out of 5

Books: World Made By Hand

World Made By Hand

I am a big fan of Jim Kunstler’s work. I listen to the KunstlerCast every week, I loved his TED talk, and I read his weekly rant every Monday.

I like his work not necessarily because I agree with all, or even most of what he says, but because I love his bombastic “the whole world’s fucked up, and it’s all your fault” rhetorical style.

World Made By Hand is a piece of fiction set in the post-apocalyptic, post-peak-oil world of upstate New York.

The beginning of the book is almost all setting. The plot seems to function merely to move the characters around the town so the reader can observe how each of Jim’s predictions for the collapse of civilization have come true.

The setting is dire, even in comparison to Kunstler’s own predictions in his other work. People ride around on horses because there is no way to make bicycle tires without petroleum. All levels of government have ceased to function. A plague has decimated the population, and Nuclear explosions have destroyed Washington D.C and L.A.

After this tedious bit of exposition, the story picks up pretty quickly. There is a murder, a kidnapping, a jailbreak, and all sorts of high adventure and brigandry on the Hudson River.

Even in the midst of this nightmarish scenario, you get the impression that Kunstler thinks this is in some ways a better world than the one we have now. People talk to their neighbors. The townsfolk do things together, and get out of their living rooms, since there’s no TV to watch.

I really do not think the near future looks very much like Amish Wonderland Kunstler describes, at least not along the same timeline (around 2025, by my reckoning). Nevertheless, it’s a fun story in an interesting setting, and I look forward to the sequel(s).

I give World Made By Hand 4 Jihadis out of 5

4 Jihadis out of 5

You can read a sample chapter at

There’s even a video trailer.

Swatara Rail Trail

I took the monkey out yesterday to fart around on the Swatara Rail Trail. I had never ridden on this trail before, and it’s pretty rough. There were several blowdowns across it, and it was a muddy mess.

There were a couple of washboard sections that made me wish for a suspension fork.


Mud Monkey

Mud Monkey

Books: In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food is sort of a sequel to the Omnivore’s Dilemma.

It’s a condemnation of the whole idea of “nutritionism.” The idea that people need scientists with beakers and test tubes to tell them what to eat and how to be healthy.

The general idea is that we’ve outsourced our food production to the industrial agriculture system and food preparation to restaurant cooks. Nobody knows how to cook anymore, and nobody even knows what to eat without consulting a “priesthood” of nutritionists who will tell you to eat less carbs or more Omega-3, depending on the fashionable nutrient du joure. The result of all this bullshit is that now everyone is fat, diabetic, or has high blood pressure.

He goes on to recommend that people not buy stuff in the grocery store because most of it isn’t even food, but “edible food-like substances.” He encourages people to cook at home, subscribe to a CSA, and shop at farmer’s markets.

He frames these activities like they are an act of open revolt against the system. I am never so happy as I am when I feel like I’m sticking it to the man, so I am joining Spiral Path (our local CSA) this year, and Brandi and I are going to try to grow at least one edible plant in a flower pot on the back porch (we don’t have a yard to plant a garden in).

Viva la Revolución!

Here’s an (hour long!) YouTube video where the author explains this stuff better than I do.

Anyhow, I give In Defense of Food 4 jihadis out of 5

4 jihadis out of 5

You can download an excerpt (90k PDF) from Michael Pollan’s website.

Books: The Quotable Atheist

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the waiting room at my mechanic’s, waiting for them to change the oil in my car. I was bored, and so I fired up the Kindle and bought this book over the wireless.

The Quotable Atheist

The Quotable Atheist is a collection of quotations from several atheists from ancient history to modern times.

It’s quite a fun book to read, and because each quote is very short, you can read it in tiny little intervals, which makes it an excellent toilet book.

Each entry consists of maybe a paragraph to introduce the author of the quote (so you have a little context), and then the quote itself. The editor often includes his own snarky remarks, which I found distracting.

Here are two of the quotes that I hadn’t heard before that I thought were funny.

“When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a
new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord, in his
wisdom, didn’t work that way. So I just stole one and
asked him to forgive me.”
— Emo Phillips

“Several thousand years ago, a small tribe of ignorant
near-savages wrote various collections of myths, wild
tales, lies, and gibberish. Over the centuries, these
stories were embroidered, garbled, mutilated, and torn
into small pieces that were then repeatedly shuffled.
Finally, this material was badly translated into several
languages successfully. The resultant text, creationists
feel, is the best guide to this complex and technical
subject.” ( creation vs. evolution).

–Tom Weller

I give The Quotable Atheist 3 jihadis out of 5

3 Jihadis out of 5

I would have given it 4, but the editor’s goofy commentary in the middle of the quotes was really, really annoying.

Grandma: 1927-2009

My Grandma passed away last week. We had her funeral today. After the service, the ladies from the Lutheran Church had sandwiches and casserole dishes of macaroni-&-cheese and crock pots full of baked beans for everyone.

It was a very Lake Wobegone kind of scene, and it made me homesick.

Grandma was a very nice lady, and it’s sad to see her go. I will do my best to honor her memory by continuing to enjoy some of the things that she enjoyed:

  1. Nature
  2. Moonshine

Grandma the Nature Girl

Grandma drinking moonshine

Bye, Grandma!

Books: The Undead and Philosophy

The Undead and Philosophy is volume 22 in the wonderful Popular Culture and Philosophy series.

The Undead and Philosophy

It’s a collection of essays by various professional philosophers about the philosophical significance of zombie and vampire stories, with a few digressions into specials cases, like bioethics of the Frankenstein monster and the problematic case of the not-quite-undead “Infected” people from the 28 Days Later films.

Some of the topics I found most interesting were discussions of the ethical considerations between zombies and vampires. Vampires are fully self-aware, so staking them without due process is somewhat problematic from a human rights standpoint. Zombies, on the other hand, are not “people,” and can be dispatched without ethical consideration. This, of course leads to discussion about why zombies are not people in a way that vampires are, and what exactly does it take to be considered a “person.”

There are also a few essays on political philosophy, which I found interesting. During a zombie outbreak, should you adopt an “every man for himself” individualistic strategy, or band together in more communitarian groups? The Romero films explore these themes in some depth.

Framing the obscure ideas of philosophy in terms of pop culture is a great way to make philosophy accessible to non-academics, and The Undead and Philosophy makes it fun and kind of silly.

Like the rest of the series, the book is not available for Kindle, which burns my ass to no end, but nevertheless, I give it 4 Jihadis out of 5.

4 Jihadis out of 5

If you want a taste of what the book is like, you can read Wayne Yuen’s essay on “The Bloody Connection Between Vampires and Vegetarians” online for free. It’s probably a representative sample of what the rest of the book is like.

Change we can believe…oh nevermind

Well this is just fucking great.

Obama creates faith-based office with wide mission

Before signing the order in the Oval Office, Obama told a prayer breakfast it would show not favoritism to any religious group and would adhere to the strict separation of church and state.

Uh, forcing me to tithe to faiths I don’t believe in shows favoritism to those faiths. Giving government monies to religious groups is the very definition of violating the separation of church and state.

I really hope that Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is getting some loot out of this.