Thursday, March 15, 2007

GENESIS - Wherein the AUTHOR doth explain himself (somewhat) ...

This is the ubiquitous first post on a new blog that seeks to justify why on Earth anyone would want to add yet another self-indulgent weblog to the net and says something about themselves and their plans for their blog. They do this acutely aware that (i) there's a very good chance that this blog will go the way of most and splutter to an awkward, stumbling and unlamented halt after a few feeble posts that no-one on the planet bothered to read and that (ii) even if that doesn't happen and the blog in question gets an audience, no-one bothers to go back and read the first post on a blog anyway.

So, reveling gloriously in the knowledge that no-one is ever going to read this, I can reveal that I have absolutely no justification for inflicting another pointless blog on the world and I have very little idea what kind of purpose it will have. I do suspect it might develop a focus, but essentially I intend to keep it to vaguely topical rambles and rants and see if some kind of theme then shambles out of the mire.

Largely, it will probably be an excuse to write sentences that end in absurd phrases like "shambles out of the mire".

Firstly why "Van Demonian"? Largely because I grew up in Tasmania (formerly called
Van Dieman's Land) and thus Tasmanians can be called either "Taswegians" or "Van Demonians"; though they are usually called "inbred", which is unfair when you look at Crown Princess Mary of Denmark/Mary Donaldson of Tasmania. And partly because it's a cool word, in a very stupid heavy-metal-album-cover kind of way. I've lived in Sydney for 12 years now and was born in New South Wales, so I'm not really a Tasmanian at all, but Tasmania has a way of getting into your head and your blood, especially if you spend your formative years there (eg first crush, first beer, first fuck there etc). It becomes an idealised, half-real place much the way Ireland does for expatriate Irish who'd never go back there to live, but sing heart-aching songs about the place nonetheless.

The "Demonian" part also evokes an oblique semi-reference to
Tasmanian Devils - who are among the weirder and more interesting animals unique to my native island state. You have to love a carnivorous marsupial that has the highest jaw pressure, relative to size, of any animal on Earth and which communicates with its fellows by depositing evocatively fragrant turds in communal latrines (no, really).

Many years ago - when the internet was a very, very small place inhabited only by academics, people from NASA and the US military and the web had yet to be invented - I cut my teeth in the gentle art of internet debate via USENET discussion groups. This was way back in 1991, so I'll avoid talking about 14,400 BPS baud rates and
ASCII art and other relics of those antediluvian days of the net, because that makes me feel like someone's grandfather reminiscing about wax cylinder gramophones, daguerrotype photography or experimental steam-powered flying machines.

Anyway, I spent several weeks that should have been spent proofreading my Masters thesis in wordy, heavily referenced and flamboyantly rhetorical debate with a bloke who was, in fact, a rocket scientist about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. He was an evangelical Protestant fundamentalist and a
Creationist (despite his large brain - always a disturbing combination) who had - oddly - become convinced of the authenticity of what was, after all, a fake medieval Catholic relic. And I was an ex-Catholic atheist medievalist who knew a fake medieval relic when I saw one, by St. James' bones.

So battle was joined and the good folk of USENET's "sci.skeptic" stood back while we hurled headlong at each other like frisky young mountain goats. He cited semi-scientific analyses of the Shroud made in the 1970s while I waved the 1988 carbon dating results in his face and quoted the Fourteenth Century Bishop of Troyes,
Henri de Poitiers, writing to the Pope saying that not only was it a fake but he'd actually caught the guy who painted it. This went back and forth for days and eventually my opponent had to call a semi-truce, writing:

> You are certainly no idiot, which is why I'm willing to continue this dialog with you (and
> why I interact with this newsgroup at all - I can disagree with, and thereby learn from,
> some highly educated and highly intelligent people).

And then added:

>If the Tasmanian-Devil
-of-the-net wants more for dinner, so be it.

I can't deny that being called "the Tasmanian-Devil-of-the-net" tickled me somewhat and for years afterwards I signed off my USENET posts with "Tasmanian Devil". I grew out of that.

So "Van Demonian" it is and hopefully anyone who stumbles across this blog will find it amusing, or something. But please - and this is important - please, whatever you do, don't read this first post.

Now, go away.

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