Black Gold

Kenworth PilgrimageI wish people would stop whining about the cost of gasoline. Instead of complaining, we should stop buying gas-guzzling SUVs and other tank-like monstrosities, use public transportation more, and put pressure on auto manufacturers to make more fuel-efficient cars. The current price spike is very different from the 70s crisis. Back then, Americans used innovation – gasohol and fuel-efficient compacts – to break OPEC’s spirit. Today, people are buying SUVs and the like at high rates. It’s obvious that the high prices haven’t really hit people where it hurts. When people start trading in gas-guzzlers for efficient vehicles, I’ll believe that prices are high enough to worry about. Even then I’ll have little sympathy for drivers until they start pressuring Detroit to produce more efficient cars. So long as there’s demand for inefficient vehicles, auto makers will keep supplying them. Innovation is expensive and it won’t happen if there’s no demand for its fruits.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

11 thoughts on “Black Gold

  1. Steve N

    Amen, Funky. And while we’re at it (i.e., not buying humongoid gas-guzzling tanks), we can also start making other life decisions that minimize energy consumption like living near to where we work and shop… a side benefit being that we’ll start caring more about our communities because they’ll be real communities and not just places we lay our head and watch the boob tube. I’m personally rooting for gas to reach $5/gallon.


  2. terry george

    can it be? Have I finally found some serious Catholics who are also serious about their environment?! Praise God!

    couldn’t help myself

    Terry >

  3. Jerry Nora

    Having a wife with a 1.5-hr. commute, I do not join Steve’s wish for 5 dollars of gasoline, but I would like to see the SUV sunk.

    The NY Times did note that SUV sales were dropping off, however, in part due to how expensive they are to sell.

    Hummer fans need not fear, however, as they are coming out with the fuel-efficient H3, which I hear gets 20 mpg on the highway. (Downhill. With the wind behind it.)

  4. EmilyE

    I am happy to say that I own a Chevy Prizm (31 city / 34.5 highway).

    But I would like to see more public transportation available outside of major cities. In my city in NE Ohio, I can’t go to the places I need to go without a car. That’s a Catch-22 that our consumeristic culture created:
    1) There is no public transportation. So one is forced to buy a car.
    2) Because everyone has a car, there is no public transportation.

    The bus and rail network in Russia is better than in the United States. That’s rather pathetic, if you ask me.

    I don’t think I’d mind if gas hit $5 a gallon — provided that the spike in prices motivated officials to develop widespread, reliable public transportation systems.

  5. Jerry Nora

    I hope to post in the next day or so about some innovations within the private sector and also by private individuals on the energy front. Interesting stuff. More government help couldn’t hurt, but I like seeing real people taking the initiative as well, even if D.C. drags its sorry tail.

  6. Tom Smith

    I wouldn’t tend to consider a car at 22/30 to be a gas guzzler. What do you guys think the standard for “gaz guzzler” status should be?

  7. Andrea

    In defense of my gas guzzler (22 city/30 hwy), the reason it’s so gas hungry is that it weighs a lot which is because it has AWD, which is a safety feature in this part of the country. (And no, it’s not an SUV, it’s a compact wagon)

    I am however not really bitching about the price of gas, because as Eric said – it’s hasn’t hit where it hurts.

  8. Jerry Nora

    Steve, what about farmers and so forth? They feed us, so what about their paying 5 dollars a gallon? Commentators on this blog are pretty big about social justice, so what about the rural folk and working poor? It takes a while to build new mass transit insfrastructure, even after all the planning phases (assuming they ever truly end!), so what would that do to the people?

    I’m for gradual change, as frustrating as it is; yeah, I’m anti-car, and want to move into a more sustainable situation for my own family as well as the rest of the country, but too many people are trapped through no fault of their own with commuting, and five dollars a gallon would be a recipe for a nasty recession or even depression (which, again, would often pinch hardest the most vulnerable in our society–heaven knows what would become of more vulnerable cities like Youngstown or the Monongahela Valley communities near Pittsburgh).

  9. Steve N

    We need food more than we need gas… Farmers (like all producers) would merely have to pass increased energy costs onto consumers. It would result in inflation… and probably economic catastrophe… but interest rates would rise to combat this, encouraging folks to trim down and save as much as possible. The free market’s a bitch. At any rate, it’s going to get increasingly expensive to mine fossil fuels… eventually (not if, but when) this will be naturally reflected in costs to the economy…

    But has the free market really been at work in creating the mess we’re in? Not entirely on its own, IMO. Gov’t policy since the 50s has been to create over sized roads for travel/commuting… when the roads become insufficient, gov’t policy makes them wider or makes more. Local gov’ts are to blame for zoning laws that ultimately force a separation of homes from places of business… and thus we have unbridled development of both in increasingly different and isolated circles. And local gov’ts are falling over themselves thru-out the nation to welcome with open arms companies like Walmart, only one of which is necessary to put completely out of business the center of a small town. So you can’t walk to the local h/w store, electronics/book/record/clothing shop, anymore… Just hafta drive out to the Walmart. Well, there’s plenty of parking.

    The lesson is to act locally, and look beyond the extra low prices to the kind of lives you’d like your grandchildren to be able to live…

    OK off my soapbox.

  10. Steve N

    Yeah, I wouldn’t think of 22/30 being a gas guzzler, per se’. Under 17 comes to mind as a kinda threshold. Our ’95 Taurus wagon probably only gets around 21… but we’re carting a family of 7 in it, so in passenger miles/gal, we’re kicking butt! I think it would be best to define gas-guzzling as more than you need…

    Jerry, I’m sure that your circumstances are the best you can do in the current situation, but I hope you all’ll be able to live closer to work, eventually. For that amount of commute, even a Civic hybrid would guzzle quite a bit of gas…

    I’m feeling rather smug as I leave work to bike (~5 mi) home from work…


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