Monday, December 6, 2021

Never mind, Lord . . .

Please, God, save us from this terrible storm -- oh, never mind, it's just stopped!

-- traditional prayer

Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning.

-- the Dread Pirate Roberts

Just yesterday, I posted on how Tooth Fairy Chen (Taiwan's dentist-turned-health-dictator) had broken his promise of a month ago and decided to mandate birdemic pecks for people like me. This obviously prompted some pretty serious praying on my part, and promises of the same from some of my readers.

Well, lo and behold, the very next day, the Tooth Fairy, exhibiting the flightiness so characteristic of his species, changed his mind. I can now get pecked or continue with the weekly charade of an easy-to-fake* DIY test -- which is how things already stood anyway. Of course he could just as easily change his mind back again tomorrow, but for now things are  back as they were a few days ago.

And I am left feeling that I ought to feel absolutely certain that this was an intervention of God's in answer to my prayers and those of others, but in fact able to offer only the uncertain prayer, "Thanks -- if that was you, I mean." I have still not resolved to my satisfaction the issues raised in my post "Shining Buddha problems."

Anyway, my sincere thanks for the prayers of those who prayed, regardless of whether or not those petitions affected the outcome.

* Just sayin'. I would obviously never encourage my readers to do anything of which Google would disapprove.

Well, that didn't take long!

November 3:

Taiwan will not mandate birdemic pecks: CECC

CECC says Taiwanese have right to reject peck

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In response to a recent incident in which an elementary student athlete was rejected from joining a school team for not having been fully pecked, Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) reaffirmed on Wednesday (Nov. 3) that Taiwan will not mandate birdemic pecks.

[. . .]

The CECC encourages people to get pecked but will not mandate pecks, Chen said, adding that the center does not want to see people lose rights inherent to them because they chose not to get the pecks, according to the report.

December 5:

Essential workers urged to get second peck before Dec. 17

Taipei, Dec. 5 (CNA) Essential workers in certain government-regulated industries will need proof of a second birdemic peck administered before Dec. 17 beginning Jan. 1, the CECC (Central Epidemic Command Center) announced Sunday.

At a press briefing, CECC spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said that the tightened rules would include requiring workers attached to certain ministries to be fully pecked by Jan. 1, with at least 14 days between receiving their second peck and their first day of work.

Those employed by or working in institutions under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), and the Ministry of Labor (MOL) will be covered by the CECC's new regulations.

What happened between Nov. 3 and Dec. 5 to make the Tooth Fairy change his mind? Well, there have been 130 birdemic-related deaths in Taiwan in that period: 1 from the birdemic itself and 129 from peck side effects. Obviously, the solution is to force more people to get pecked! Look how well that's working for every other country in the world.

As a teacher and school owner, I am subject to the Ministry of Education. I am weighing my options, of which I need scarcely say that getting pecked myself is not one. Your prayers are much appreciated.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

G-Eye Joe?

Is this what Jay-Z is getting at with his notorious hand sign?

Why "Joe," you ask? Shouldn't it be "G-Eye Jay"? No, he's Joe, too.

Or is the diamond shape just a reference to one of his other nicknames?

The first HOV "diamond lane" in the US opened in 1969, the same year Jay-Z was born. Coincidence?

The shit sandwich technique

The late Lyle Burkehead used to have a page on his site called "Why I Am Not a National Socialist," explaining his reasons in great detail. Now you've probably never heard of this person at all, but from what I've just told you, you've likely inferred that he was, well, pretty much a neo-Nazi. All respectable people are strictly Caesar's-wife when it comes to Nazism. You do not want "Are you a Nazi, and if not why not?" to be on your list of frequently asked questions.

On a completely different topic, if you search Google Propaganda for nuremberg code, the first hit right now is -- quelle surprise! -- an article called "Birdemic pecks don’t violate the Nuremberg Code. Here’s how to convince the doubters."

The article itself is just bog-standard peckprop. The only reason I'm even talking about it is because of their proposed method for convincing doubters: "If you come across someone claiming birdemic pecks are experimental, you can try the 'truth sandwich' to try to myth bust."

The idea, as they explain, is to lead off with approved government propaganda, then mention what some badthinkers are saying, and then end with more propaganda. That way, you can engage with badthinkers, but you hide problematic content in the less-memorable middle portion of your discourse, "sandwiching" their toxic ideas between two slices of wholesome FDA-approved bread. It's a classic PR technique, nothing new.

But this -- this -- is the graphic they chose to use to illustrate how a so-called "truth sandwich" works.

Now I'm no expert on sandwiches, but I always thought that a slice of baloney between two slices of bread was called a baloney sandwich, not a bread sandwich. Nomenclature aside, though, just look at that graphic without any context. What would you assume it represents?

Well, obviously, it's warning you about a method of deception. Someone offers you a delicious "truth sandwich," and it certainly looks like truth on the outside, so you eat it -- but, oh no! They had actually hidden some vile lies inside, and now you've swallowed them! That's why you need Jiminy Cricket, or a talking dill pickle, or whatever that is, to point out that, despite the legit-looking banner proclaiming this dish not just a truth sandwich but the truth sandwich, it's actually full of baloney.

But no, this is actually from an article advocating the "truth sandwich" not as a disinformation technique, but as a technique for fighting disinformation. Where the graphic labels the contents of the sandwich pretty straightforwardly as "LIE," the article explains that this actually means the part "where we talk about a false claim and how it relates to the truth." And when Jiminy Gherkin says, "Hey, you're full of baloney!" he actually means, "Hey! You're using a psychologically effective technique for addressing false claims without unduly emphasizing them!"

Is this just an example of jaw-droppingly inept propaganda, or is it possible that it was done on purpose? Is the writer blinking at us in Morse code, trying desperately to signal that the whole article is a lie, produced under duress?

Random coincidence: While searching for a Spinal Tap "shit sandwich" meme, I stumbled upon this. Funny how that phrase keeps turning up!

Friday, December 3, 2021

Gee, I think Guénon underestimates "modern" languages

I've been reading some René Guénon essays, including one on the meaning of the Masonic letter G. He begins by dismissing the idea that the Roman letterform itself could have any special meaning, since unlike Hebrew and Greek, "modern languages" (like Latin!) are devoid of sacred significance.

He then proceeds to analyze G only as a stand-in for other letters from other languages -- "sacred" ones, unlike Latin, English, and his own native French. For example, a newly initiated Mason is at first told that G stands for geometry. Geometry is from the Greek γεωμετρία, and so the G represents Γ -- the Masonic square!

Well, why didn't those learned Masons, who apparently knew enough Greek to know that G = Γ = a square, just use a gamma in their symbol? And why would that symbol consist of a square, a compass, and in the center -- another representation of the square? You'd think someone whose own name begins with la lettre maçonnique would have tried a little harder than that.

Well, let's take a look at the Masonic G -- not mentally substituting some other letter, but seeing it as itself. 

Isn't it obvious? Of what does the letter G consist but a right angle (such as is made with a square) combined with an arc (such as one uses a compass to draw)? It's not just a redundant second square in a symbol which already explicitly includes a square; it symbolizes the unity of the square and the compass, with all that implies (squaring the circle, heaven and earth, etc.) Furthermore, the angles of the square and compass suggest a square (the polygon) and an equilateral triangle, respectively. The combination of the two is 4 + 3 = 7, and G (unlike gamma) is the 7th letter of the alphabet.

Guénon also connects G with the Hebrew letter yodh -- and this is where he really should have started to question his assumption that certain "sacred languages" were divinely inspired whereas all the rest, I s'pect they jes' growed. G corresponds to yodh because it is the initial letter of God, just as yodh is the initial letter of the Tetragrammaton -- and, he notes, the word God itself strongly suggests yodh.

But if God resembles Yodh -- God's initial -- is that just a meaningless coincidence, or is it evidence that "modern" languages do have sacred significance? Éliphas Lévi made much of the fact that the Bacchic exclamation Io! Evoe! resembles a spelled-out Tetragrammaton, Yodh He-vau-he -- which I guess is kosher because Greek is a certified "sacred language." When similar parallels are found in "modern" languages (among which Latin is for some reason included), they are dismissed. The similarity of Jove to Jehovah is just a coincidence, as is that of God to Yodh.

Besides its resemblance to Yodh, God also represents the Tetragrammaton itself by way of gematria. In Hebrew numerals, yodh he vau he = 10 + 5 + 6 + 5 = 26. In English ordinal gematria, God = 7 + 15 + 4 = 26. This should make 26 the most sacred of numbers -- and guess which language's alphabet is based on that number? It ain't Hebrew or Greek.

Guénon should have known all this. I mean, in interpreting a symbol consisting of a square, a compass, and a letter representing geometry, how could he possibly have overlooked the importance of the language of the Angles?

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Was baptism an ordeal?

In "John the Drowner," I mention Rupert Sheldrake's theory that the baptisms performed by John involved holding a person underwater almost to the point of death, the goal being to effect a spiritual transformation by inducing a near-death experience. If Sheldrake is correct, it would mean baptism was an intensely traumatic experience -- a form of torture, really -- but that some were brave enough to undergo it willingly because of the promised spiritual enlightenment.

Is there anything in the Gospels to support such an extraordinary view?

One of the few hints I can find of baptism as an ordeal is in Mark 10, and the parallel passage in Matthew 20. James and John have just asked to sit on Jesus' right and left hand in his glory.

But Jesus said unto them, "Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"

And they said unto him, "We can."

 And Jesus said unto them, "Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared" (Mark 10:38-40).

The clear import of Jesus' question is, "Are you prepared to endure the ordeals that I will have to endure?" -- and the metaphors he chose to convey this are those of drinking from a cup and submitting to baptism.

The cup metaphor appears to have been a common one. Several Old Testament prophecies portray the Lord as punishing people by figuratively making them drink from a cup. (See, for example, Isaiah 51, Jeremiah 25, and Jeremiah 49.) Just before his betrayal and execution, Jesus famously prayed, "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done" (Matt. 26:42). When Simon Peter tried to defend him with a sword, Jesus said, "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11).

Baptism as such was something relatively new and could hardly have become a stock metaphor like that of the cup of wrath. Nevertheless, Jesus knew that James and John would understand his meaning; it was natural for them to connect baptism with the idea of an awful ordeal.

John's "baptism of fire" metaphor also suggests baptism as an ordeal.

And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matt. 3:10-12).

The meaning of this fiery baptism is disputed, but at least in Matthew's version, the context strongly suggests that "baptize you with fire" means "burn you up," like chaff or like a barren tree.

Against this idea that baptism was traumatic, we have the fact that it was so enormously popular. Luke 3:7 says a "multitude" came to be baptized. According to Mark 1:5, "there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan." We might imagine an extraordinary person like Jesus submitting to a death-defying ordeal -- after all, he followed up his baptism with a David Blaine-like 40-day fast! -- but the entire population of Judaea and Jerusalem? There have admittedly been occasional "crazes" for self-flagellation and the like (see the Convulsionnaires of Saint-Médard), but nothing on this scale.

And, speaking of that 40-day fast, Matthew tells us that "Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water" and then marched out into the wilderness to fast for 40 days and be tested by the devil. Whereas, if Jesus' baptism had actually been a drowning, John would have dragged his unconscious body out of the water and resuscitated him, and Jesus would have lain gasping on the shore, coughing the Jordan up out of his lungs, and certainly in no condition to set off on a 40-day camping trip with no food.

More to the point, though, the whole idea of John drowning people in order to produce near-death experiences is ridiculous. NDEs are not at all common, and in fact are essentially a modern phenomenon, made possible by modern medicine's ability to bring people back from deeper and deeper states. You have to bring someone very, very close to death for an NDE to occur, and obviously if you deliberately try to do that, you're going to end up killing the person more often than not. Can you imagine wanting to have an NDE of your own and asking a friend to hold you underwater until you seemed almost dead and then bring you back up and resuscitate you? Isn't it obvious that this would be a criminally insane thing to do -- that you would be very unlikely to experience an NDE and very likely to just die, in which case your friend would be guilty of murder?

John had enemies, and he eventually ended up in prison -- but only for the crime of criticizing the marital irregularities of the Herods. When he was finally executed, it was not for any capital crime he was accused of, but to satisfy the whim of a vengeful woman. If John had really been doing what Sheldrake suggests, he would have had victims, lots of them, and it would have been trivially easy for his enemies to have him put to death for murder. That they did not do so -- and that the Pharisees were afraid even to criticize him because of his popularity with the people -- strongly suggests that he wasn't doing anything like that.

Does this mask make me look like a blobfish?

Taiwan's very own downmarket Dr. Fauci, Health Minister Chen "Trust Me I'm a Dentist" Shih-chung, models the latest in mouthwear fashion -- a sexy new black satin face mask with a daring heart-shaped cutout!

Ah, I stand corrected. This is actually a special persons-with-disabilities mask, worn out of consideration for those who are both hard-of-hearing and illiterate and also don't understand sign language. There's some intersectionality for you!

Of course, according to Tooth Fairy Chen's own rules, it's okay to just not wear a mask when giving a speech or appearing on television (germs being notoriously camera-shy), but where's the fun in that?

As for the question I asked in the title, the answer is:

You know, if I were a down-on-my-luck dentist reduced from filling cavities to doing daily panic-update propaganda pieces for the government to keep everyone scared, I don't  think I'd be able to resist beginning every speech with, "This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill."

I shouldn't always be making fun of the old son-of-a-canine, though. After all, look how well he's being doing with the birdemic these past few months.

That's right, only one birdemic death in the whole month of November! Isn't that fantastic news? I give all the credit to the Minister of Flossing and his life-saving pecks. Just think how many lives might have been needlessly lost without them!

Never mind, Lord . . .

Please, God, save us from this terrible storm -- oh, never mind, it's just stopped! -- traditional prayer Good night, Westley. Good work...