[the palaverist]

Thursday, February 15, 2007

[lost in translation]

Now and again, various diplomats ask me about English idioms or snippets of text that they don't understand.

Today I got a doozy: the following quotation from the Reverend Ivan Stang of the Church of the SubGenius:
If you sincerely desire a truly, well-rounded education, you must study the extremists, the obscure and "nutty". You need the balance! Your poor brain is already being impregnated with middle-of-the-road crap, twenty-four hours a day… no matter what… Network TV, newspapers, radio, magazines at the supermarket…even if you never watch, read, listen, or leave your house, even if you are deaf and blind, the telepathic pressure alone, of the uncountable normals surrounding you will insure that you are automatically well-grounded in consensus reality.
What particularly through my diplomatic colleague was the sentence "You need the balance," because balance with what?

I did my best to explain that the Reverend Ivan Stang is not in fact one of those inspirational Christian pastors with whom Koreans are so often enamored, but I'm not sure I managed to convey the extent to which Stang is a figure of counterculture and satire — elements of our culture that most Koreans have difficulty grasping anyway.

I followed that up by suggesting that the balance was between the mainstream point of view, which we will learn automatically, and the views of the extremists, which it takes effort to study. I think I got this idea across.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to ask where the diplomat had stumbled across an inspirational quotation from Stang, of all people. But know that the Spirit of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, Jr., has entered the United Nations!

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Blogger Ankara said...

Those ancient *censored* that we planted in laundromats, fleabag motels, and car washes, has finally made it's way into international diplomacy. Everything is going according to plan.

Won't be long now.....

12:29 PM  
Blogger Rev. Ivan Stang said...

That particular quote is from the intro to the book "High Weirdness by Mail." I think. It's not from our NEW book (from Thunder's Mouth Press/Avalon) "The SubGenius Psychlopaedia of Slack - The Bobliographon," which I have now plugged. See subgenius.com for details!

1:49 PM  
Anonymous DKNY said...

I am beyond thrilled that Rev. Ivan Stang is reading your blog, or at least following Google to it. I believe Google to be a powerful force for slack in the world, not least for its ability to siphon cash from "Pink" day-traders, a truly Subgenian gesture.

10:32 AM  
Blogger [the palaverist] said...

I gotta say, I'm impressed by the speed with which the SubGenii responded to my post. Google Alerts rock!

Of course, I can't be sure that's the real Rev. Ivan Stang, though I sincerely hope it is. If so, I think he'd enjoy reading through this subversive nonsense. And thanks for your radio broadcasts, which I used to listen to on WFMU back when I was in college in the mid-nineties, and which brought me much joy.

Oh, and I also thought of the Church of the SubGenius just the other night, when I watched a Nova episode about bonobos. You guys are seriously memeriffic.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Phaedra Lari said...

How charming!

I still remember back when I was an admin assistant trying to explain to my Russian coworker why my email to the office about leftover pizza contained the sentence, "Let the ravenous hordes descend." Once I explained what the sentence meant literally, he wanted to know why it was funny and I couldn't think of a way to explain.

4:17 PM  

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