Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Above Majestic (with an excursus on turban jokes)

Last Halloween, I posted "Francis Bacon, papal keys, triple tiara, Denver Airport," which included a meme referencing that airport's sinister reputation. Yesterday, in "Hashtags, Keywords, Stones, and X," William Wright posted a still from an Elmo video, noting the striking similarity to the meme:

The character next to Elmo is supposed to be Rapunzel with her hair up, which makes it look an awful lot like the alien's golden tiara. Rapunzel and the alien both have green skin and mostly white eyes with what looks like heavy black mascara. The alien is flanked by two annoyingly cute little guys -- Minions with SpongeBob faces, I think. If you look closely, you'll see that Rapunzel is similarly flanked by two Elmos (the gold standard for "annoyingly cute") -- a picture of Elmo on one side and the muppet himself on the other. The main difference is that the alien is enjoining silence, while Rapunzel has her mouth wide open.

This made me curious about where the meme image had originally come from. It turns out to be from the poster for Above Majestic, a 2018 documentary about the "secret space program":

Take a look at that coin or medallion the alien is holding. I think that's meant to be one of the daughters of Akhenaten. She might appear to be wearing a beehive-shaped headdress like the alien's, but actually that's just how her head is shaped -- just as Rapunzel's "tiara" is actually part of her body.

Have you ever seen a cartoon where a guy is wearing this enormous turban, and he takes it off to reveal that his head is actually shaped like that? I know I've seen a comic strip like that, either in English or in Spanish, but I can't seem to find it now. Apparently, Google is deliberately making it hard to find such "disturbing or hurtful" content. Check out the very first image result with the English search prompt, though:

Seriously, six of the first ten results are from this "turban jokes to fight stereotypes" site. That's how self-parodying Google has become. And even these have a surgeon general's warning slapped on them. I can literally type bomb making instructions into the search bar and not get a warning, but here, red alert, "Memes about groups of people might be disturbing or hurtful!" Ya think? It's a strange thing to say about one of the biggest tech companies in the world, but it's hard to fight the impression that no one at Google quite understands how the Internet works.

Also, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that it is strictly impossible to use turban jokes to fight stereotypes. You can fight stereotypes by including a few totally normal people who just happen to wear turbans in a movie or something, but there's no way to make a turban joke unless there are stereotypes about turbans that you can count on your audience to share, or at least effortlessly understand. Take the first search result for instance. It assumes, and depends on, a widespread understanding that seeing someone with a turban on a plane is scary. Without that, the joke can't even get off the ground, as you can see if you replace the turbans with polo shirts or something without making any other changes. I guess the cartoonist thinks he's "fighting" this stereotype by subverting it -- in this case people avoid the turban-wearer because he smells bad, not because he might be a terrorist! -- but humor always subverts expectations and in doing so reinforces them as the norm. That's why so much humor is inherently racist and sexist and whatever-phobic. Whoever came up with this "turban jokes to fight stereotypes" project is either retarded or else a god-tier troll. Hopefully the latter, but probably not. I'll bet it says somewhere in his bio that he has a Sikh sense of humor.

Anyway, coming back to our topic here, look at what the stinky-not-scary gentleman in the blue pagri is saying: "So, I was flying to Denver . . . ." The search prompt was just turban joke cartoon, but here we are back at the Denver Airport, of all places.

I assume the movie name Above Majestic is referring to Majestic 12, the secret UFO task force allegedly created by Harry Truman. Whitley Strieber wrote a novel called Majestic, also referring to this organization. As documented in "Light shining through yellow flowers," I finished reading Majestic on October 29, 2023 -- just two days before I posted that Denver Airport meme, not knowing until today that it was from a movie called Above Majestic.

Above Majestic is available in its entirety on YouTube. It's over two hours long, but I'll probably try to watch it when I have the time:

Note added: A few hours after posting the above, I ran across this at AC. I think the implication is that she is stuck in the Denver Airport:

Lucid walking, and Carrotman Mushman

One of my collaborators on a blog about a quarter of a century ago, when blogs were still a novelty, used to use the online handle LucidWaking -- a play on "lucid dreaming" which I guess, based on the sheer number of search results it turns up now, has been independently discovered by lots and lots of people. Back then, people were constantly misreading it as Lucid Walking and asking what on earth that was supposed to mean.

Today I read a scene in Colin Wilson's Shadowlands in which the protagonist, under the influence of the chameleon men, finds himself able to enter a lucid dreaming state. He finds that if he tries to walk toward something in such a dream, he won't actually get any closer to it -- unless he walks in a specially-conscious way that he dubs "deliberate walking":

Another idea occurred to him. He tried concentrating hard, then walking toward the "circus tent." This worked; he could actually see the building coming closer, as it would in normal life.

The engagement of his will in the process of walking felt odd, a little like rowing a boat. . . . This "deliberate walking" brought a sense of effort and strain, but it was oddly satisfying.

He began practicing "deliberate walking" in the direction of the circus tent, and was pleased when each determined step took him closer.

So, all you who misread my associate's moniker all those years ago, consider yourselves vindicated. Lucid walking is, it turns out, a thing.

It's interesting that Wilson compares lucid walking to rowing a boat. As the old song informs us, in dreamland it is necessary to row your boat even down the stream, even though in waking life it would go downstream automatically, without the need for any deliberate action. The effort is oddly satisfying, though, so you'll likely find yourself rowing merrily.

On a completely unrelated note (I think), William Wright has posted a couple of times recently about the Pixar character Lightning McQueen, who is an anthropomorphic racecar voiced by Owen Wilson. I was vaguely aware that there was a real racecar driver named Steve McQueen, so I looked him up. Here's the opening paragraph of his Wikipedia entry (boldface in the original):

Terrence Stephen McQueen (March 24, 1930 – November 7, 1980) was an American actor and racing driver. His antihero persona, emphasized during the height of the counterculture of the 1960s, made him a top box-office draw for his films of the 1960s and 1970s. He was nicknamed the "King of Cool" and used the alias Harvey Mushman in motor races.

Harvey Mushman! It doesn't get much more "king of cool" than that!

By coincidence, just yesterday someone brought up in conversation the 1950 Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey, the title being the name of the six-foot-three-and-a-half-inch invisible white rabbit who is the Stewart character's probably-imaginary best friend. So when I read about Steve McQueen's pseudonym, I was already primed to think of Harvey as the name of a rabbit.

Harvey is only the second individual named Mushman I've run across in my life. The first was Carrotman Mushman, one of the many stuffed monkeys my brother owned as a kid. He was given that name because the night before my brother got him, he had had a dream in which someone was chanting, "Carrotman Mushman! Carrotman Mushman!" over and over again. Carrotman also suggests a rabbit, carrots being that animal's stereotypical favorite food.

A monkey as a racecar driver makes me think of when Alex Carmichael proudly announced he had come up with an anagram of my full name: "I, jowly Chim-Chim, ate an Elvis." Due to a severe anime allergy, I didn't know until he explained it to me that Chim-Chim is the name of a racecar-driving monkey (or chimp, I guess) in Speed Racer.

Harvey Mushman also suggests Harry Marsh, used in the title of one of William Wright's recent posts.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Harry and his Bucket Full of Dinosaurs

In a comment on my post "Je suis Charlie Bucket," Ben Pratt brings up what's-his-bucket as a synonym for what's-his-face, what's-his-name, or ho-such-an-one. In William Wright's latest post, "There's a hole in my bucket-face! AND Harry Marsh and the Sorcerer's Stone," he connects what's-his-bucket with the name Harry (Harry Potter, and also the Hebrew title Ha'Ari, "the Lion"), and dinosaurs also come into the picture, as he includes two different logos for Dinoco (a fictional company appearing in several Pixar movies), one with a blue T. rex and the other with a red Apatosaurus, each inside an egg shape. He also explores the idea of the "hole" in the bucket being a tunnel or passageway.

Just after reading William's post, I was idly wondering how common the expression what's-his-bucket is. It's something my parents say sometimes, but I hadn't heard it in a long time. So I ran a search on what's his bucket (no quotation marks). Virtually all of the image and video results were for a TV cartoon I'd never heard of: Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs. I watched the first video result, an episode called "What's for Breakfast." Harry's dinosaurs include a red T. rex, a magenta Apatosaurus, and a blue stegosaurus -- and Harry's bucket turns out to be a portal to another world! He can jump into the bucket and enter Dino World. There also happen to be lots of eggs in this episode:

So we have Harry, dinosaurs, eggs, and a bucket which is a passageway -- and I got all that just by searching for what's his bucket.

This one has nothing to do with William Wright's syncs, but I was also very interested to note that one of Harry's six "dinosaurs" is a yellow pterodactylus. (See "Green Lantern's yellow pterodactyls -- and my own.")

Monday, February 19, 2024

Je suis Charlie Bucket

In my February 16 post "Thomas B. Bucket, the bucket of story -- oh, you know, the thing!" I write about a Ward Radio episode in which host Cardon Ellis repeatedly misspeaks when trying to talk about "the Thomas B. Marsh bucket of cream story." I joke in passing that the "Thomas B. Bucket" malapropism sounds like "one of the hero's relatives in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," figuring that at least some of my readers would remember that the character's full name is Charlie Bucket. Then I end the post by getting from Thomas B. Marsh, by way of Simonds (Symonds?) Ryder (Rider?) -- the i-vs.-y spelling being a point of dispute for both of his names -- to the classic 1979 Sesame Street sketch "The Wonderful World of T-shirts." The sketch revolves around Kermit the Frog trying to get a T-shirt with his name on it. The T-shirt salesman keeps giving him apparently misspelled T-shirts saying things like "Kermit the Forg," but each of these actually turns out to be the correctly spelled name of another customer who ordered a T-shirt with his name on it. (This ties in with the Centaur Aisle scene I reference in "My tail is dun," where all the misspelled words are actually correct spellings of other words.) In a comment, William Wright draws attention to the rather odd premise underlying the sketch:

The real question, however, is at what point does the T-shirt store owner wonder what kind of society he is living in where everyone is ordering T-shirts with their own names printed on the front?

On February 17, William posted "Pure Imagination: Willy Wonka, Giraffes breaking secret combinations, the Chocolate Milk of Life, and more names." He discusses the movie Wonka and then moves on to the one true Wonka movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder. Not having noticed my own Dahl reference, he explicitly points out the connection between Charlie Bucket and Thomas B. Bucket. Then he connects Gene Wilder with a Disney character called Flynn Rider whose real name turns out to be Eugene. In interpreting Rider's name, he respells Flynn as Flinn, which clearly ties in with the Symonds Rider spelling dispute. In a comment, I point out that Gene Wilder is also a pseudonym, and that his real name is Jerome Silberman.

Incidentally, William also interprets Wonka by respelling it as Wanka. Rather than make the obvious juvenile joke, I'll just point out that he may be mistaking the hat for the man himself.

On February 18, YouTube recommended yet another Ward Radio video. I've about had my fill of these guys and their loudmouth style, but I watched this one anyway because it has the always interesting Don Bradley in it. 

The episode is called "Taking Zelph off the Shelf!" It's about Joseph Smith's "Zelph the White Lamanite" anecdote, which is often seen as embarrassing and problematic. It's common for both Mormons and ex-Mormons to talk about a believer's unresolved questions as being "on the shelf," and when a crisis of faith occurs "the shelf breaks." There's apparently another YouTube channel called Zelph on the Shelf, which I know nothing about but which I suppose is reference to Mormon "shelf" issues and a pun on The Elf on the Shelf. Don points out, though, that the credit for the name should actually go to Dr. Seuss:


As a prologue to his analysis of the Zelph story, Don talks about an episode in the Book of Mormon where Alma and Amulek (the good guys) are arguing with two corrupt lawyers named Zeezrom and Antionah, and the editor (Mormon) interrupts the narrative to give a lengthy and seemingly pointless explanation of the Nephite monetary system. The apparent purpose of this digression is to make it clear that the bribe offered by one of the lawyers represents a substantial amount of money, but Mormon goes into much more detail than seems necessary, giving the names of 12 different denominations of gold and silver. Don argues that the real purpose of this explanation is to help the reader understand the allegorical meanings of the names given to the two lawyers. An ezrom is a denomination of silver, and an antion one of gold -- so, he says, the names Ze-ezrom and Antion-ah are equivalent to "Mr. McMoney and Mr. Goldman." He implies that these may not have been the lawyers' real names at all but rather allegorical pseudonyms used to portray them as embodiments of greed. I found this synchronistically interesting in connection with my own recent comment about the pseudonym of a Mr. Silberman (which, as I suppose is obvious, is German for "silver man").

Don then goes on to give similar treatment to the name Zelph, which he argues was intended to evoke the English word self. Joseph Smith was telling his "Zion's Camp" militia about the warrior Zelph who served the prophet Onandagus. His audience was supposed to see Onandagus as Joseph Smith (for reasons that need not detain us here) and Zelph as themselves.

Then we get this synchronistically interesting exchange:

Kwaku: Don, you gave the most entertaining explanation of this, because every other time anyone's ever talked about Zelph, it was like Cardon's bucket of cream story. I'm like, why do I care? . . . It's like, there's parts of church history, you're like, "Here's a really cool thing from Eliza R. Snow." Oh, I definitely want to read it. "Here's a cool thing from Bathsheba W. Smith." I'm like [dismissive hand gesture]. You know, there are just different people you care about, there's people you don't really care -- I've never cared about Zelph.

Don: So now you care because now you are Zelph, right? So, you know those shirts people did or whatever over in France after Charlie Hebdo was attacked, "Je suis Charlie Hebdo" or whatever? [gesture showing writing on a T-shirt] "I am Zelph," right? There you go.

So there's yet another reference to the Thomas B. Marsh "bucket of cream story" -- which both William Wright and I have connected with the Roald Dahl character Charlie Bucket -- and it's immediately followed up with a reference to Charlie Hebdo. Then we have a link to "The Wonderful World of T-shirts," where everyone wants a T-shirt with his own name on it, as Don talks about T-shirts saying "I am Charlie" and "I am Zelph." The latter would, I guess, mean "I am Self." I am Atman.

When I posted about Thomas B. Bucket, it made me think Aaron Smith-Teller's kabbalistic analysis of "There's a Hole in My Bucket" in Scott Alexander's novel Unsong, so I went back and reread that. It's quite William Wright-esque in its analysis of names, except that the focus is on Hebrew rather than on Tolkien's languages. One of the characters in the bucket song is called Liza, which Smith-Teller analyzes thus:

Looking up "Liza" we find it derives from Hebrew Elisheba, a complicated name I have seen translated as "God is an oath", "God is satisfaction", "God is wrath" or -- if you take it entirely literally -- "God is seven".

The last reading, the entirely literal one, becomes the starting point for his exegesis:

There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza. There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

Now everything starts to come together. Harry (= Ha'Ari ["the Lion," a title of Rabbi Isaac Luria, the father of Kabbalah]) bemoans the shattered nature of the universe to Liza (= "my god is seven" = the seven shattered sephirot down in our vessel with us, the only form of God accessible in our finite world).

Now look back at Kwaku's comment comparing Zelph to the bucket story. As examples of aspects of Mormon history he is and isn't interested in, he mentions two women named Eliza and Bathsheba. Eliza, like Liza, obviously derives from Elisheba, meaning most literally "God is seven." The second morpheme is shared with Bathsheba, which could be literally translated as "daughter of seven."

What does the second part of the name Charlie Hebdo mean? It means "weekly" in French, but its ultimate source is the Greek word for "seven."

Incidentally, "There's a Hole in My Bucket" also got the Sesame Street treatment back in the seventies:

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Chameleons everywhere

I wasn't looking for chameleons today, but the sync fairies had their own plans.

First I saw this on one of those Mormon videos YouTube keeps recommending these days:

Apparently it's a comic book about the story of Joseph Smith and the golden plates as told by an old man in Madagascar -- because, well, why not Madagascar? (In fact, if you believe the Mormon folklore about the ships of Hagoth, I guess the Malagasy people should be, like their Polynesian relatives, Nephites.) And, I learned today, about half of all chameleon species live only in Madagascar.

(Judging by the presence of red ruffed lemurs, this is apparently the Sava region of Madagascar.)

Then about an hour later, when I was (for complex psychological reasons) searching for a photoshopped "hybrid" of a zebra and a hippopotamus, I found this:

That's a chameleon head shopped onto the body of a gray tabby cat. My January 25 post "An old pre-dator, chameleons, and le Demiurge," opens with this image of a gray tabby cat blending in with its surroundings as if it were a color-changing "chameleon" like the title character in the movie Predator:

Friday, February 16, 2024

Thomas B. Bucket, the bucket of story -- oh, you know, the thing!

Thomas B. Marsh, the relatively obscure Mormon historical figure is in the air. Leo has posted on him extensively at his blog ("The Curious Case of Thomas B. Marsh" and "Thomas B. Marsh: Alternate Ending #1" so far, and I assume that "#1" means there's more where that came from), and William Wright picked up the theme with "Swampy Key Holders: Pokelogan and Thomas B. Marsh." My own sync-stream has featured such marsh-adjacent content as pokelogan (a kind of marsh) and a novel called Swamplandia!, but I haven't posted anything about Thomas B. himself -- until now.

Ever since I watched that Don Bradley Liahona thing, YouTube has decided that Ward Radio (a loud and goofy Mormon podcast, not that there's anything wrong with that) is my kind of thing, so today at the top of my suggested videos was something called "Thomas B. Marsh is Getting OUT OF CONTROL!" (shouting in the original) -- about how suddenly everyone's hearing about him. The whole video is basically a response to this comment:

I just have to say, I NEVER heard the Thomas B Marsh bucket of cream story until I started listening to this podcast. Now I've heard it about 5,000 times.

Here it is. It's worth listening to at least part of it just to hear Cardon Ellis pulling one Biden after another. First it's "the Thomas B. Marsh bucket of story" (a smaller-scale version of Haroun and the Sea of Stories?), and then he actually calls him Thomas B. Bucket, which I think was one of the hero's relatives in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Thomas B. Marsh -- who supposedly left the Church over a dispute about a bucket of milk -- is one of the go-to examples of people leaving the Church for stupid reasons. I heard the story countless times growing up Mormon. The other overused story with this moral is that of Symonds (Simonds?) Ryder (Rider?), who is supposed to have left the Church because Joseph Smith misspelled (or did he?) his name. As I was listening to Cardon holding forth on Thomas B. Bucket and his bucket of story, my mind melded the two stories together and created something new.

First, though, I know my readers are a pretty cultured lot, but if you have somehow never seen the classic Sesame Street sketch "The Wonderful World of T-Shirts," you should watch that right now before proceeding.

Anyway, the scene that spontaneously emerged in my mind went something like this:

"No, no, I'm sorry. That says Thomas B. Shawarma. You see, Marsh is M-A-R-S-H. I think you made some kind of mistake."

"Heh-heh-heh. I never make mistakes."

"No, but you see there's no such person as Thomas B. --"

Enter the Fat Blue Anything Muppet. "Hi. I'm Thomas B. Shawarma. Is my T-shirt ready?"

Yes, I know shawarma isn't an anagram of Marsh, but that's just what appeared, okay? -- fully-formed, as it were, like Athena from the headwaters of the Suez. I trust the reader has enjoyed this note.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Aloha, Jeremy!

In my last post, "Local boy called as janitor," I recount a dream in which I saw what I took to be a reference to my brother Luther on a bulletin board in the Mormon chapel in Kirtland, Ohio. (Kirtland happens to be very important in Mormon history, but in my case the link is personal: I lived in the Kirtland Stake in my teens and have been in that chapel countless times.) 

That same night (night of February 12-13), I had another dream of which my memory is extremely fragmentary. I think it also took place in Kirtland. There was a small group of people who, although I'm pretty sure they were White, expected me to greet them "in the Hawaiian way," which meant saying aloha for "good-bye" but something else (I think it was nuwa or something similar to that) for "hello." I found that confusing, since I'd always thought aloha meant both "hello" and "good-bye," but I thought it would be rude to ask them about it. That's really all I remember of that dream.

The afternoon after these two dreams, I wanted something to listen to while I did some housework, and for some reason YouTube recommended a rather old (2014) interview by John Dehlin of Jeremy Runnells. I didn't have anything better in mind, so sure, why not? Mr. Runnells is apparently something of a celebrity in ex-Mormon circles, but I left the CJCLDS in 2002 and had long since stopped following such things by the time he made his big splash, so I didn't know anything about him. I didn't listen to the whole interview, but several bits jumped out at me in connection with my dreams.

First, as Mr. Runnells is talking about his experience growing up in the CJCLDS, he mentions out of the blue that one of his bishops in California used to greet people with aloha:

The ward that I was in was just fantastic. I had awesome bishops. One of the bishops was Hawaiian. Every week, "Brothers and sisters, aloha."

Later he talks about serving as a missionary in New York City and being there when 9/11 happened. My brother Luther was also a missionary in New York City when 9/11 happened, so there's a better than even chance that they actually know each other.

Then he talks about a Church leader doing a Q&A:

Well, he was asked by someone in the audience what his thoughts were regarding the droves of members that are leaving the Church over Google, over history. His response was basically we're experiencing an apostasy that we haven't seen since Kirtland over history.

So there's aloha, Kirtland, and a biographical detail that fits my brother Luther. I'm not sure what that means, but the way it matches my dreams of the night before is interesting.

Note added (February 15):

A pen friend sent me a link to a podcast by Whitley Strieber on YouTube -- an interview with Andy Thomas about crop circles. Oddly, given my long-running interest in Strieber, I didn't even know he was on that platform. I listened to it while exercising, not realizing that I had the autoplay feature on, and when the interview finished the algorithm served up another recent video from Strieber's channel: "Science and Magic in Hawai'i." After the intro music, the very first words spoken in this video are: "Aloha, Dreamland! My name is Jeremy Vaeni" -- a White guy named Jeremy saying aloha. Dreamland is the name of the program, but I suppose it also syncs with my dream about White people expecting me to say aloha to them.

I haven't listened to Vaeni interview yet, but I'm updating the title of this post to "Aloha, Jeremy!"

Above Majestic (with an excursus on turban jokes)

Last Halloween, I posted " Francis Bacon, papal keys, triple tiara, Denver Airport ," which included a meme referencing that airpo...