Monday, November 30, 2020

Far have I traveled and much have I seen

You know the Wings song "Mull of Kintyre"?

I've never bothered to find out exactly what the titular Mull might be (I assume it's the name of a place in Ireland or Scotland), but when I was a young child I took it for granted that of course the name Mull of Kintyre referred to -- any guesses?

The Goodyear Blimp.

I don't know how on earth I made that connection -- maybe the syllable tyre made me think of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company? -- but it has proven to be ineradicable. To this day, I cannot listen to that song without imagining the blimp floating serenely over valleys of green and past painted deserts the sun sets on fire.

After taking in Mozart's Magic Flute for the first time, I found myself humming "Mull of Kintyre" to  myself, and it took me a second to realize why. The production I had seen had the three Knaben floating around in a sort of airship, which had put me in mind of the lines

Nights when we sang like a heavenly choir
Of the life and the times of the Mull of Kintyre

I have no idea whether such associations are contagious, but if so, you're welcome.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

On vegetarianism and animal welfare


As twenty cannibals have hold of you
They need their protein just like you do
This town ain't big enough for the both of us
And it ain't me who's gonna leave

-- Sparks

I've been thinking about vegetarianism a bit recently, due to the recent conversion of a few of my closest associates to that cause. Here are some thoughts.

Consider the werewolf.

One of the books I read and reread a zillion times as a child was The Werewolf Delusion by Ian Woodward. It includes a bit about ceremonies for turning oneself into a werewolf, and one of the spells to recite is (don't try this at home!) "Make me a werewolf! Make me a man-eater. Make me a werewolf! Make me a woman-eater. Make me a werewolf! Make me a child-eater." Because that's fundamentally what a werewolf is. Werewolf -- "man-wolf" -- is a compound of the same type as sparrowhawk or ant lion. A werewolf is not primarily a man-like wolf or a man who turns into a wolf, but a predator that hunts man as its natural prey.

So, how do you feel about werewolves? I think we can agree that, to quote a book title from another of the Four Horsemen of New Alycanthropism, Werewolves Are Not Great. If they existed, we would have to exterminate them.

Exterminate them? But werewolves are virtually human! Legend has it that they are humans, cursed to transform, but even if that is not true, the Cheetah Principle tells us that they can't be ordinary animals. To live by hunting something as fast as a gazelle, a predator must be even faster itself -- and to hunt something as intelligent as a man? Werewolves must surely be sapient -- have souls -- be people -- so can we just exterminate them?

Yes. It is permitted to kill even a human being if he is trying to kill you -- and werewolves are, by their very nature, trying to kill us.

Even if you balked at actually killing werewolves -- and I don't think many people would -- you would surely at least agree that they ought to be encouraged to quietly go extinct. Mass sterilization might be a relatively humane option. And if even that strikes you as problematic, then if it so happened that werewolf populations were in decline anyway, we should at the very least not actively do anything to reverse that trend.

Most people aren't going to have so many qualms, though. Death to werewolves, right?

Fearful symmetry?

A common philosophical underpinning to ethical vegetarianism (particularly the Buddhist variety) is the idea that killing people is wrong because people are sentient -- capable of suffering -- and that many or most animals are sentient as well. Therefore, animals ought not to be killed unnecessarily.

But this view implies that tigers, for example, are basically the same as werewolves.

Tigers must kill to live. Their very existence brings suffering and death to other sentient beings. By vegetarian logic, it would be better if tigers did not exist. While we obviously can't kill them -- they're sentient beings, too! -- we should rejoice at the news that they are an endangered species. Instead of supporting the "save the tiger" movement, which directly causes suffering and death to wild boars and sambar deer, we should be thinking about a trap-neuter-release program.

No vegetarian I know thinks this way. In fact, I am sometimes asked how an animal lover (for such is my reputation) could fail to be a vegetarian. My answer is that most of the animals I love are predators, and that I therefore accept the validity of the predator lifestyle.

But not the werewolf lifestyle. My position is clear. Tigers have a right to exist. Werewolves -- or, for that matter, individual tigers who have become man-eaters -- do not.

We, too, are a predatory species, and we have a right to be just that. It's okay to be a predator. But not a werewolf. Vegetarians who disagree with that will have to ask why, and see if they have a coherent answer.

Preventing harm vs. preventing existence

Ours is different from most predatory species in that we have two very different modes of predation: hunting and animal husbandry. These days, of course, most of our meat comes from farms, with large-scale "hunting" (harvesting from the wild) being mostly limited to fish. The would-be vegetarian has to consider each separately, for they are very different.

Vegetarianism is usually grounded in some desire to prevent harm to animals. This prevention is indirect, though. If I am offered a pork chop and refuse to eat it, no harm is being directly prevented. The pig is already dead, and my refusal to eat its flesh won't bring it back to life. However, the consistent refusal of significant numbers of people to eat meat would reduce the economic demand for meat, which in turn would reduce production. Fewer animals would be slaughtered.

Fewer animals would be slaughtered -- and what would that mean? This is where the distinction between hunting and farming comes into play. For hunted species -- especially those, like the swordfish, that have few natural predators -- not slaughtering them generally means allowing them to live out their natural lives in peace. (For those lower on the food chain, it more likely means letting them be killed by non-human rather than human predators.) For farmed species, though, the situation is entirely different. How do you think pig farmers would react to a sharp drop in the demand for pork? By only slaughtering half of their swine and allowing the rest to live long, happy lives and die peacefully in their sleep -- or by arranging that fewer pigs be born in the first place? You're not improving the quality of porcine life, just reducing the quantity.

In fact, I think we probably need to make a four-way distinction:

  • Wild animals from prey species are going to be killed by predators one way or the other, so human predation creates no new harm.
  • Wild animals from non-prey species (e.g. swordfish, bears) or from species whose natural predators are extinct (deer in most places) generally won't be killed unless we kill them.
  • Some farmed animals (e.g. factory-farmed chickens) probably have an existence that is worse than death, and reducing the number of such animals in existence seems a worthwhile goal.
  • Many other farmed animals do not have an existence that is worse than death, and preventing their existence seems entirely uncalled-for.
Ideally we would be hunter-gatherers, tigers walking free in our natural habitat. Fish and venison are still the most honest meat. Husbandry of prey animals is far from optimal -- its conflation of the protector and predator roles is surely, in its small way, corrupting -- but I believe it is a defensible compromise with the exigencies of "modern" (i.e., post-Neolithic) life, provided extremes of cruelty are avoided.

Animal welfare vs. personal purity

Many vegetarians get into the movement via a concern for animal welfare, only to slip by slow degrees into the mindset that if they partake of animal flesh they will be unclean until even. Some will even treat meat as a contaminant, refusing to eat anything -- however meat-free it may be -- that was prepared with fleischig kitchenware. These people should drop the pretext that the mutant kashrut by which they live has anything to do with kindness to animals.

The bells are ringing

Get a load of this jackass.

This -- oh, God, why does it have to be true? -- this is John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants. You know, the lovably quirky duo that sang all those songs about conformism and mind control. I guess somehow I'd gotten the impression that they were against such things. I thought songs like "Your Racist Friend" were satire. Guess the joke was on me. Guess "Working Under Cover For The Man" wasn't so ironic after all, was it, you disgusting bootlicker?

Why am I picking on this poor guy for doing something every other celebritard in the country has probably done, too? Same reason I keep calling out the Mormons. It's not news if it's Lady Gaga or the Archbishop of Canterbury or something, but Dallin H. Oaks? John frickin' Flansburgh? These guys were supposed to be a cut above the rest.

I should have just stopped there and clicked post, but something possessed me to check out TMBG's Twitter. I can't unsee what I saw there, and now neither can you.

The Science, people!

2020: The year They Might Be Giants, without a trace of irony, warned against those who would "undermine trust in the systems."

This, to coin a phrase, is where the party ends.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Make them ask every time.

To my friends here in Taiwan, please note this little loophole in the totalitarian law that takes effect on December 1.

That's right, you can't be fined unless you actually defy a request to put on your tin foil hat. A sign in the window is not a request. "Everyone else is doing it" is not a request. Make the bastards ask you every single time. Then, of course, put on the damn hat. Why voluntarily donate more of your hard-earned money to a totalitarian regime?

And, should you happen to own or operate one of the targeted venues (my own establishment is happily exempt!), don't ever ask anyone to comply with this law. Remember, if no one asks them, they're not in violation -- or can't be fined, anyway.

Obviously, this is not official legal advice and is based only on press releases. My Chinese isn't good enough to read the law itself. Anyway, it's what I intend to do, and I advise the same to everyone else. Do what you have to do, but do not go gentle.

Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth! Break out the great teeth of the young lions!

A reminder: Don't invest too much in what's going on in Washington

Keep reminding yourself:

2020 happened on Trump's watch. He has not repented -- literally has never repented in his life -- and will never repent.

A Joe Camel administration would be even worse. But how much does "even worse" really matter at this point?

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust
If the Camels don't get you, the Fatimas must

Tune out, turn off, drop out. Follow Jesus, and let the dead bury their dead. 

Satan doing what on a what?

I've been tagging some of my posts -- those documenting the ongoing convergence/apostasy of The Church Formerly Known As Prince -- with the label "Satan popping on the apricot tree." I feel this calls for some explanation, particularly (but not only!) for those of my readers who have never been Mormons.

"Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree," by one Georgia W. Bello, is a little ditty, known to every Mormon child, about how apricot blossoms (a common sight in the Mormon heartland) look like popcorn. It is sung with accompanying hand gestures of a rather straightforward sort.

When I was a missionary, there was a persistent rumor that there was an anti-Mormon video being circulated (most often attributed to Ed Decker, who stands out for his sensationalism even in this very sensationalistic genre) which showed a clip of children doing the "popcorn popping" gesture, slowed down and dubbed over with ominous music, and presented it as some sort of black magic ritual those nefarious Mormons teach their children. I have no idea whether or not such a video ever really existed -- it's not in either of Decker's The God Makers films -- but it was notorious regardless.

This inspired a mission friend and me to make our own (somewhat less) notorious recording: We sang "Popcorn Popping," but every time we came to the key word, we dropped down into our best Cookie-Monster death-metal growls and rasped out SATAN! instead.

I looked out the window, and what did I see?
SATAN! -- popping on the apricot tree
Spring had brought me such a nice surprise --
SATAN! -- popping right before my eyes

and so on. Our tape made the rounds of the mission, and thus it was that "Satan popping on the apricot tree" became local missionary slang for ridiculously over-the-top anti-Mormon claims -- something to which we very often had occasion to refer.

So what do I mean by applying this label to my own anti-anti-Mormon posts? In part, it's a self-deprecating acknowledgement that I am, after all, being a bit sensationalistic. I mean, I've been calling prominent church leaders servants of Satan for such minor infractions as talking about global warming, parroting fascist slogans (or is it antifascist? I always get those two confused), shutting down all churches and temples well in advance of any government compulsion, and -- uh, other trivial stuff like that.

Mostly, though, it's just a bit of gallows humor to keep my spirits up. It's just so very sad what's happening.

O Apricot Tree thou art sick!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Et in Arcadia . . .

It's Thanksgiving Day for us Americans, and I was just thinking that one of the main things I'm thankful for this year is that I was in Taiwan when the birdemic BS hit the fan. Here the response has been, while still insanely out of proportion to the actual health risk, much more measured than almost anywhere else in the world. No lockdowns, no forced closures of businesses, nothing like that. People wore masks for a while, but there was never any strict enforcement, and now even that has gone back to normal ("normal" including, in East Asian countries, a certain background level of voluntary mask-wearing).

I was, as I say, just thinking that -- when someone told me the news: Masks mandatory in most public areas in Taiwan starting Dec. 1, to be enforced by fines of up to US$500. This would be a stupid and evil policy anywhere in the world, but the stupidity and evil is particularly transparent in Taiwan. Here's the birdemic death data for Taiwan, according to Google:

That's right, a whopping seven deaths -- not 7,000, not 700, just seven -- have been attributed to the birdemic to date, with the most recent more than six months ago. For comparison, Taiwan has a population of about 24 million. Lightning strikes kill an average of 12 people a year. Billionaires outnumber birdemic victims five-to-one. "It's just the flu, bro" would actually be an absurd overstatement, since last year's flu killed 89 people 530 people, plus 15,185 pneumonia deaths, here. In short, the risk of dying of the birdemic in Taiwan is not appreciably higher than the risk of falling victim to spontaneous human combustion.

The mask mandate has generated no noticeable controversy or resistance. After all, winter is coming! There might be a second wave! Seven more people might die! Maybe even eight!

So this is the reductio ad absurdum of 2020. If people in Taiwan -- where IQs are among the highest in the world, and where literally nothing is happening -- can fall for this, then all bets are off. This isn't a case of people erring on the side of safety, or even being innocently bamboozled. This is people with fully functioning brains willfully choosing to be dumber than a bag of hammers. This is civilization committing suicide. This is "2 + 2 = 5." This is the end.

Oh, I almost forgot: #GiveThanks

First person, second person

When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, he proclaimed "I AM THAT I AM" and even gave his name as I AM. An appropriate choice of pronouns, since God is, in the later Christian schema, the First Person of the Trinity.

"I am," said God, and waited for a reply from humanity. He had to wait for a long time, but around a millennium and a half after this epoch-making announcement, mankind had finally composed its response, in the person of a man named Yeshua -- Yes, you are. And this, of course, was the Second Person.

(I'm not a Trinitarian myself, just a coincidence-noticer.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Dallin Hoaks

What a coincidence! It turns out that the Historically Mormon Apostle who took it upon himself to announce that Black Lives Matter (you can now buy black hoodies with the quote on them!) also happens to be the only HMA to have publicly endorsed the climate hoax. Oh, and his name just happens to be Dallin H. Oaks -- Hoaks.

Here is Dallin Hoaks's BYU-Hawaii commencement address, delivered February 25, 2017. He chose the hilariously ironic title "Push Back Against the World."

These are challenging times, filled with big worries: wars and rumors of wars, possible epidemics of infectious diseases, droughts, floods, and global warming. Seacoast cities are concerned with the rising level of the ocean, which will bring ocean tides to their doorsteps or over their thresholds. Global warming is also affecting agriculture and wildlife. Nations whose prosperity depends on world peace and free trade worry about disturbing developments that threaten either or both of these. We are even challenged by the politics of conflict and the uncertainties sponsored by the aggressive new presidential administration in the world’s most powerful nation.

Global warming alarmism, a gratuitous swipe at President Trump, and a bit of dramatic foreshadowing for the birdemic -- all in one paragraph!

And here is Mr. Hoaks speaking at the October 2020 general conference on the topic "Love Your Enemies." (Note: When Jesus said that, I don't think Satan was the enemy he had in mind!)

In public actions and in our personal attitudes, we have had racism and related grievances. In a persuasive personal essay, the Reverend Theresa A. Dear of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has reminded us that “racism thrives on hatred, oppression, collusion, passivity, indifference and silence.” As citizens and as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we must do better to help root out racism. . . .

One reason the recent protests in the United States were shocking to so many was that the hostilities and illegalities felt among different ethnicities in other nations should not be felt in the United States. This country should be better in eliminating racism not only against Black Americans, who were most visible in the recent protests, but also against Latinos, Asians, and other groups. This nation’s history of racism is not a happy one, and we must do better.

Apparently it is appropriate for prophets of God to quote the NAACP -- to remind us that indifference and silence lie on a continuum with hatred and oppression. Mr. Hoaks also twice uses the popular catchphrase "We must do better." This is what is colloquially known as quacking like a duck.

And finally, the quote that got printed on hoodies. Here is Dallin Hoaks speaking at BYU on October 27, 2020. The title of his talk is "Racism and Other Challenges."

The shocking police-produced death of George Floyd in Minnesota last May was surely the trigger for these nationwide protests whose momentum was carried forward under the message of “Black Lives Matter.” Of course Black lives matter! That is an eternal truth all reasonable people should support.

I wonder if he would also characterize "It's okay to be white" as an eternal truth all reasonable people should support. No, actually I don't wonder.

Here's a sobering thought. Russell M. Nelson is 96 years old, and Dallin Hoaks is next in line to become President of the Church. If you thought Nelson was a game changer, you ain't seen nothing yet!

Synchronicity: Woman feeds snake

Way leading on to way as it does, I somehow ended up watching this video of President Trump reading the lyrics to the 1969 Al Wilson song "The Snake."

A woman finds a "poor, half-frozen snake," takes it in, and feeds it honey and milk until it revives. The snake of course repays her kindness by biting her, and when she protests,

"Oh, shut up, silly woman," said the reptile with a grin.
"You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in!"

Just after watching this, I sat down to prepare for the day's English classes, the first of which is a basic phonics course for very young children. Their book provides this passage to exemplify the "long a" sound.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Under a blue sun


Not easily with both hands could a man, such as mortals now are, hold it, were he never so young and strong, but Aias lifted it on high and hurled it, and he shattered the four-horned helmet, and crushed together all the bones of the head of Epicles; and he fell like a diver from the high wall, and his spirit left his bones.
-- Iliad, Book 12

And the sun was blue
-- The Grateful Dead, "Scarlet Begonias"

Now there's a word for this. It starts with an i. That word is insanity.
-- Andre Marrou

I've been thinking lately about green suns and red suns and such, and I got to thinking about Athas, the world of the Dark Sun campaign setting in Dungeons & Dragons, about which I read a great deal in my teens. In the distant past, Athas had enjoyed a Blue Age, when the sun was blue and water was plentiful. Later, some terrible magic turned the sun yellow, ushering in the Green Age -- to be followed by the Red Age, when some magic even more terrible had turned it a deep crimson.

Something about that Blue Age, with its blue sun, captured my imagination, and I had a sudden vivid fantasy in which I saw Telamonian Ajax lifting his great boulder on high and smashing in the head of Epicles -- and the sun was blue.

Have you ever noticed that nothing -- absolutely nothing -- in Homer is ever described as green or blue? You can check. Those colors didn't exist in the Homeric world. Homer's "wine-dark sea" seems bizarre to us moderns, for whom wine is red and the sea is blue. Under a blue sun, though, the sea would not look any bluer than anything else, and "red" -- reflecting less blue light than any other visible color -- would be a close cousin to "dark."

As for the preternatural strength of Ajax and the others, it is simply the Superman Effect. Kal-El, born under the red sun of Krypton, becomes super under the yellow sun of earth; so it stands to reason that we, a yellow-sun species, would be super under a blue sun. This also explains why so many of the Hindu gods have blue skin -- in the light of the blue sun, men were virtually gods.

Am I seriously suggesting that the Sun used to be blue, or that blue light would somehow give people supernatural strength? Of course not, but when such things come to me, I record them nonetheless.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Not Beetlejuice -- Beteljuice!

Last night I was out on a night hike with my wife, who is Taiwanese. It was a clear night, and she was asking about some of the stars.

"And that one's called Betelgeuse," I said, pointing to the big red star in Orion.

She looked slightly disgusted. "Seriously?" she said. "Because it's red?"

It took me a second to make the connection, but here in Taiwan, bright red betel juice, spat by those who have the habit of chewing areca nuts wrapped in betel leaves, is a familiar sight!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Why Fahrenheit is the one true system of degrees

It recognizes that freezing and boiling are diametric opposites.

The riddle of Russell M. Nelson

And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, "I will persuade him."

And the Lord said unto him, "Wherewith?"

And he said, "I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets."

And he said, "Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so."

-- 1 Kings 22:21-22

They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.

-- Jeremiah 6:14

So Russell M. Nelson -- leader of That Historically Mormon Organization With the Really Long Name -- has given a "shared message of hope and healing" that is being heavily promoted. And I -- no, of course I didn't watch it! Talking video is talking video even when it comes from God's Mouthpiece on Earth. But, having been alerted to its existence by strange goings-on at the Junior Ganymede, I did read the transcript (pdf).

I'm really struggling to know what to make of this man. Here are a few excerpts from his address, interspersed with snide remarks.

As a man of science and as a man of faith, the current worldwide pandemic has been of great concern to me.

And your dangling modifier is of great concern to me as a man of English -- but that aside, I agree. The death of science and its replacement by "The Science"; the voluntary institutional seppuku of all organized religions; the way Satan, with a great chain in his hand, veils the whole face of the earth in darkness and looks up and laughs, and his angels rejoice -- all this should be of utmost concern to all men of science and of faith.

As a man of science, I appreciate the critical need to prevent the spread of infection. . . .

Oh, right. There's that, too. Good to cover all the bases.

As a man of faith, however, I view the current pandemic as only one of many ills that plague our world,

Preach! The birdemic is not the sole ill. This is where he's gonna break out the Imprecatory Psalms and give it with both barrels to Satan and the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.

including hate,

Tell me he didn't just say that.

civil unrest,

Worldwide totalitarian coup takes place. Populace shrugs, or begs for more. World's biggest problem: civil unrest. 

racism, violence,

Checks out. Oh, wait, did you mean something else?


Yes! How the hell did this not get top billing? I mean, I know it's not as critical as "preventing the spread of infection" or anything, but still . . .

and lack of civility.

Between the states. Say between the states. I just can't abide the word "civil." And -- wait, is this the end of the list? What about global warming? You forgot global warming!

Skilled scientists and researchers are laboring diligently to develop and distribute a vaccine against the [birdemic].

And as a Man of Science™, you know this is totally necessary.

But there is no medication or operation that can fix the many spiritual woes and maladies that we face.

Tell us about it, doctor. The sickness unto death -- Sygdommen til Døden, as the Danes call it.

There is, however, a remedy -- one that may seem surprising -- because it flies in the face of our natural intuitions.

Whatever you do, don't trust those natural intuitions. 

Nevertheless, its effects have been validated by scientists as well as men and women of faith.

Tell me, how can scientists validate something as a remedy to spiritual woes and maladies? I'll tell you: Because you're actually talking about therapy and using "spiritual" to mean psychological.

I am referring to the healing power of gratitude. . . .

Maybe we could clap, too.

Over my nine and a half decades of life, I have concluded that counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems.

Yes, I know recounting means "giving an account of." Still a dubious choice of words in November 2020.

No matter our situation, showing gratitude for our privileges is a fast-acting and long-lasting spiritual prescription. Does gratitude spare us from sorrow, sadness, grief, and pain? No, but it does soothe our feelings. . . .

Seriously? It soothes our feelings? Lulls us into carnal security, you might say? You're supposed to be a prophet, man, not a psychotherapist.

As a doctor, I know the value of good therapy. So, dear friends, may I prescribe two activities to help us experience the healing power of gratitude.

We don't want therapy. We want spiritual leadership. And I hate to break it to you, but "as a doctor" doesn't have the cachet it used to.

First, I invite you -- just for the next seven days -- to turn social media into your own personal gratitude journal. Post every day about what you are grateful for, whom you are grateful for, and why you are grateful. At the end of seven days, see if you feel happier and more at peace. Use the hashtag #GiveThanks.

And the Lord spake unto Moses and said, "Let's get this hashtag trending." Any prophet worth his salt would have said get the hell off social media ages ago.

Working together, we can flood social media with a wave of gratitude that reaches the four corners of the earth. Perhaps this will fulfill, in part, the promise God gave to Father Abraham, that through his descendants “all families of the earth [shall] be blessed.”

And this, in the immortal words of Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, "marks the absolute zero in human goofiness." I'm going to bow out at this point. Any further repartee on my part would be overkill.

Would you believe me if I said that this evil speaking of the Lord's anointed is a sad duty which gives me no pleasure? Of course you wouldn't -- but the pleasure is genuinely bittersweet. No matter how much evidence stares me in the face, it's still hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that the leaders of (what used to be) the Mormon Church are now on the wrong side in the spiritual war. But they are.

I met Russell M. Nelson once, some 20 years ago in Utah. I remember his extreme tidiness, the almost mantis-like precision of his movements. I remember the way he always kept his arms very, very close to his body, as if he were trying to take up as little space as possible. I remember how he delivered his address with his face tilted slightly downwards, as if he had stopped wearing glasses years ago but never lost the habit of peering over them. I remember how, despite all these less-than-macho mannerisms, he exuded self-confidence and right to rule.

(Wait, I've just described a Gray alien, haven't I? I swear I didn't do that on purpose! Only after writing down my impressions as I remembered them did I realize who they reminded me of.)

I do not remember being bowled over by any aura of spirituality, any sense that this was a prophet of God. But neither do I remember the opposite. He seemed a decent person. But this is war, and being decent is neither here nor there. All that matters is which side you're one.

How did so many decent people end up on the wrong side? And how did a sin-ridden old fleabag of a spirit like myself somehow manage to find the right one? Where, I ask, is the justice in that?

Saturday, November 21, 2020

It turns out I invented a new way of estimating average distances between planets.

From a Physics Today article by Tom Stockman, Gabriel Monroe, and Samuel Cordner, published on March 12, 2019:

As best we can tell, no one has come up with a concept like PCM [point-circle method] to compare orbits. With the right assumptions, PCM could possibly be used to get a quick estimate of the average distance between any set of orbiting bodies. Perhaps it can be useful for quickly estimating satellite communication relays, for which signal strength falls off with the square of distance. In any case, at least we know now that Venus is not our closest neighbor—and that Mercury is everybody’s.

It's hard to believe that three professional researchers somehow missed out From the Narrow Desert in their literature review, but I'm claiming priority on this. I independently used the same method in my post "The geocentric order of the planets," published November 9, 2018. At the time I had no idea that I was doing anything other than slapping together a kludge to avoid having to do any math above my pay grade, but apparently I was making an Original Contribution to Physics.

Thanks to reader Kevin McCall for bringing the Physics Today article to my attention.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Genuinely prophetic counsel from then-Mormon Apostle Quentin L. Cook

In days of old, when Mormons roamed the land -- i.e., way back in 2012 -- Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles -- card-carrying prophet, seer, and revelator -- gave this prophetic address to young adults, with the straightforward title "Don't Wear Masks."

He begins thus:

As I have reflected on who you are, the feeling has come over me that you might not fully appreciate the significance of your generation. I believe you have the background and the foundation to be the best generation ever, particularly in advancing our Father in Heaven’s plan.

In view of the enormous potential for good that you possess, what are my concerns for your future? What counsel can I give you? There will be great pressure on each of you to act out of character—even to wear a mask—and become someone who doesn’t really reflect who you are or who you want to be.

To become, for example, a cringing, criminally gullible bootlicker begging for more totalitarianism please? This is prophecy. This man is -- or was in 2012 -- a prophet.

There follows a brief lapse -- a warning of things to come? -- in which Elder Cook cites Abraham Foxman (the leader of a prominent hate-police organization) as some sort of authority figure, ironically condemning in the same breath those who "appointed themselves as so-called moral watchdogs." Later he also quotes a New York Times policy with approval. Homer nods, but the talk as a whole remains solid.

While the (plausibly deniable) birdemic angle is what stands out the most when one reads Elder Cook's remarks in 2020, he also comes out against the very obviously harmful practice of Internet anonymity.

I do believe, in our day, when being anonymous is easier than ever, that there are important principles involved in not wearing a mask and being “true to the faith … for which martyrs have perished.”

One of your greatest protections against making bad choices is to not put on any mask of anonymity. If you ever find yourself wanting to do so, please know it is a serious sign of danger and one of the adversary’s tools to get you to do something you should not do.

Ironically, all the Mormon and historically-Mormon bloggers I read use pseudonyms.

Note: It pains me to report that Mr. Cook no longer identifies as a Mormon and currently serves on the governing board of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Members of the Church of Jesus Christ. This is what he looks like today.

Utah is of course no longer a free state, and Mr. Cook has no choice but to wear a mask in public or face legal consequences. I can hardly blame him for not being a heroic martyr -- but I can and do blame him for not publicly repenting.

The spirit. Definitely the spirit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Monday, November 16, 2020

Welcome to the Normalarchy!

It has been decided that the new totalitarian world order will be called the New Normal.

People used to be ruled by a hierarchy -- from hieros, "holy" -- but our masters no longer make any claims to (of all things!) holiness. They're just normal guys, regular Joes, and the Satanic agenda they enforce is just common sense and basic decency. It's not even political, really, so don't try to "play politics" by disagreeing with it!

It's not a hierarchy anymore. It's a Normalarchy.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Hair and pillars, and pills

Hillary Clinton

Here's Mrs. Clinton's current blurb on Twitter.

It used to say "pantsuit aficionado" as well. That's gone, but "hair icon" is still there.

And here are her 2008 and 2016 presidential campaign logos.

Both logos turn the letter H into two blue pillars -- with an American flag in front of them (2008) or a red arrow cutting through them (2016).

Nancy Pelosi

The name Pelosi literally means "hairy" in Italian, and of course there was that hooha about how, whilst publicly professing her support for Satan and all his works, she visited a non-Satan-approved hair salon on the sly.

The Pelosi coat of arms prominently features two pillars.

The Italian pelo, "hair” — whence Pelosi — comes from the Latin pilus. The English word pillar derives from the very similar Latin word pila.

Joe Biden

Mr. Biden's interest in other people's hair is well known.

His own hair has also occasionally made headlines.

As for his connection with pillars, the guy's initials are JB.

These are Jachin and Boaz -- the two pillars that stood in front of Solomon's temple and later became an important symbol in Freemasonry. The J pillar is typically on the right, as specified in the Bible, but the Hebrews read from right to left, so it's still JB, not BJ.

Donald Trump

Mr. Trump is very obviously a "hair icon" as well.

His connection with pillars is that he knocks them down. As I have said many times, Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign logo depicts Trump (the red arrow pointing right) slashing through the two pillars of establishment party politics.

What other "hair icon" is known for knocking down pillars? Samson. Just as Samson's strength depended on his never getting a haircut, Trump has kept the same hairstyle for a really long time. And like Samson, who was a Nazarite from the womb, Trump has never had an alcoholic drink in his life -- despite, like Samson, living a somewhat profligate life in other respects.

The name Samson derives from Shamash -- the Sun -- and I have already discussed Trump's connection to the Sun card of the Tarot. The German form of Samson (Trump is of German extraction) is, since Luther's translation, Simson. The TV show "The Simpsons" is known for having predicted a Trump presidency way back in 2000, and it portrays him -- like every other character -- with a bright yellow face.

Red and blue pillars

The historical Jachin and Boaz, described in some detail in the Bible, were made of bronze and followed the same design, and there is no indication that they differed in any way. As Masonic or occult symbols, though, the two pillars are often represented as contrasting. You can see this in the illustrations I have given above. In one, Jachin is topped by the celestial, and Boaz by the terrestrial, globe. In the other, Jachin is white and Boaz is black.

Another convention sometimes encountered is to make Jachin red and Boaz blue.

In the lower of the two illustrations above, red Jachin is marked with the alchemical symbols of air and fire and is topped with the Sun; blue Boaz, in contrast, is associated with the feminine elements of earth and water, and with the Moon. (The words aesch and maijm written at the top of the picture are transliterations of the Hebrew words for fire and water, respectively.) The Sun is emitting a beam of light labeled pater. The Moon -- which, oddly, has its dark side facing the Sun -- is actually radiating a beam of darkness, labeled with the word mater written upside-down. (The upside-down M is now a W, transforming mater to water.)

This association of Boaz with inversion is reinforced by the alchemical symbols on the pillars; we naturally think of the fire triangle as a "normal" triangle and the water triangle as "upside down." Elsewhere in the picture, the word superius is written right-side up against a white background, thus associating it with Jachin; inferius, written upside down against a darker background, is linked to Boaz.

Strangely, despite both the historical positions of Jachin and Boaz and the universal symbolism of left and right, this picture puts Jachin (father, Sun, air, fire, higher, right-side up) on the left and Boaz (mother, moon, earth, water, lower, upside down) on the right. The only justification I can see for this is to make Jachin the "first" pillar and Boaz the "second" for those accustomed to reading European languages. (Another oddity: Since when is Taurus between Aries and Pisces in the zodiac?)

All these correspondences are consistent with the American political symbolism, current since 2000, of red Republicans and blue Democrats. But in the Hillary Clinton logos, where I have interpreted the two pillars as symbolizing the two parties, both pillars are blue -- and now, in 2020, they both bear the initials of the blue candidate, Joe Biden. And this, too, is appropriate. While the Republicans may be "the party of the right" by comparison to the Democrats, both parties are by any historical (indeed, by any sane) standard very, very far to the left. It's a blue world.

Red and blue pillers

Can anyone read this discussion of red and blue pillars without being reminded of red and blue pillers -- those who have metaphorically taken the red or the blue pill of Matrix fame?

Pill derives from Latin pilula, a diminutive of pila, "ball" -- which in turn is believed to derive from pilus, "hair" (meaning originally a ball of hair).

Prior to the 2000 election, neither of the political parties in the U.S. was consistently associated with any particular color. "Red states" and "blue states" date back no earlier than the days of Bush and Gore. The Matrix was released in 1999, but it "correctly" puts the red pill in Morpheus's right hand and the blue one in his left.

In the film, taking the red pill means facing reality, and taking the blue pill means staying in a comfortable delusion and "believing whatever you want to believe." In recent years, the term "red pill" has -- again, appropriately -- increasingly come to be associated with the political right, and in particular with anti-feminism. (When Maroon 5 released an album called Red Pill Blues, they had to apologize and assure their fans that "we are all hardcore feminists in the band.") The association of the color blue with what would later be called feminism dates back at least to the time of Lord Byron.

(Ironically, the Wachowski brothers, who created the metaphor, are firmly in the "believe whatever you want to believe" camp; as of this writing, what they currently want to believe is that they are actually the Wachowski sisters.)

Matrix -- originally meaning "womb" -- derives from mater. One of the meanings of matrix is a grid, or anything arranged in rows and columns. Take another look at that Jachin and Boaz picture.

At the bottom is a grid -- a matrix -- and the triangular alchemical symbols on the two pillars can be seen as arrows indicating direction. The blue pill(ar) leads down into the matrix, and the red pill(ar) up out of it.

But we no longer have a red J and a blue B. Both pillars, both J and B, are now blue. Blue J -- blue jay -- and yes, in case you were wondering, a blue jay is a corvid. There's a Beatles song called "Blue Jay Way," and this is how it begins.

There's a fog upon L.A.
And my friends have lost their way
We'll be over soon they said
Now they've lost themselves instead

What should we do, finding ourselves in Blue Jay World? Well, the Beatles themselves said it best: Please don't belong.

How did the "Drumpf" crowd miss this?

Oh, right, because les Schtroumpfs are blue and der Drumpf is orange.

Rendre le Grand Schtroumpf à nouveau grand!

You're fired!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

I. Can't. Stop.

Telling the synchronicity fairies to take a hike was, it turns out, about as smart as giving a hornets' nest a whack with a baseball bat. They immediately unleashed a fire hose of syncs on me and -- okay, I give up. In true Charltonian fashion, I repent, but I'm not going to stop. See The Magician's Table for my latest post on the birdemic as the sole ill.

On the positive side, I have been able to keep one part of my resolution. I haven't been reading the news or anything like unto it. Actual news was cut out of my diet ages ago, of course, but I had still been reading news satire (Babylon Bee), news-focused bloggers (Vox Day, William Briggs, Laura Wood), and even President Trump's Twitter. For a few days after the recent election, I even (I blush to confess) took a peek or to at the New York Times -- but just for the election results! The modern-day equivalent of reading Playboy for the articles.

Since deciding to take a break -- which was, I know, like two days ago -- I haven't touched any of that. And I don't intend to until February. Let the whole electoral drama play itself out; there will be plenty of people to watch the show without me having to be one of them.

Throwing a bone to the sync-fairies

Okay, this is not technically political. If I post it, will you get off my back?

It has just come to my attention (in the course of studying the Sun card of the Tarot) that the Wuhan Battle Flag -- created in that city and used by the Republican revolutionaries in China in the early 20th century -- features 19 yellow circles and kind of looks like a -- I don't know, what does it look like to you?

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Three unsatisfying models of repentance

Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.
And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.
-- Joseph Smith, Doctrine & Covenants 82:7

I know, I know, I said that I would quit
All right, I promise, no more after this
-- They Might Be Giants, "Thunderbird"

We should not even pretend that we 'will do better in future' and will strive to 'cease sinning' because this is not true. We will not do better, nor will we strive to do better; instead we will carry on sinning just as we do now. However, we acknowledge and repent this.

Let's talk about something serious for a change.

Back when I was a church-Mormon, my understanding of repentance was that implied by the two D&C passages quoted above. Provided I confessed my sin, worked up an adequate degree of sincere sorrow over it, and never did it again, God would forgive me. But if I did do it again, the repentance was null and void and I was back to square one.

It's easy to see the logic behind this view. After all, if you say you repent but don't actually change your life, how exactly is that repentance? The prodigal son quit his riotous living and returned home -- and if he hadn't, that wouldn't have been repentance. What could be more blasphemous than saying Ave Deus, peccaturi te salutant! ("Hail, God, those who are about to sin salute you!") and then going about your business as before? That's not repentance. Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

Looked at with a cold eye, though, the D&C model of repentance (meaning the one implied by those verses; I don't presume to call it "the" Mormon model) is grossly inadequate. It promises forgiveness only for past sins. It says that provided you become morally perfect (forsake all your sins), God will forgive you for not having been morally perfect in the past. Not exactly reassuring! If that's how it is, we're all damned.

Which leads us to the Thunderbird model of repentance. (Thunderbird is a kind of cheap wine; the TMBG song is about alcoholism.) God will forgive you only if you "go your way and sin no more" -- but of course you know that, being human, you're going to sin again. But that's okay; you just repent again. Forsaking all your sins is easy; I've done it hundreds of times!

But of course each repentance -- each act of supposedly forsaking your sins forever -- has to be sincere. At the moment of repentance, you can't be thinking that you're probably going to do it again tomorrow; you have to make yourself believe that you've really changed your life for good. Baby, please, I know what I said before, but this time's gonna be different, I swear!

In other words, you have to lie to yourself and lie to God.

Some people will advocate the "fake it till you make it" approach. -- keep on pretending to change your life, trying as hard as possible to fool even yourself, and one of these days it just might really happen! However, to my mind, any moral gains acquired by this method would be more than offset by the habits of self-deception and bad faith that would come with them.

Finally, there is Bruce Charlton's model. The context is that of sin which is "compelled" by the powers that be -- but not really compelled. What we are literally compelled to do, such that there is no possibility of doing otherwise, cannot even be considered a sin. He is talking about sinful actions which could in principle be resisted -- but only by "heroes of faith," which most of us are not. In other words, the context of government "compulsion" is not really central to his point. All mortals are in a similar situation: We could in principle resist every temptation to sin but in fact are not virtuous enough to do so.

Bruce's idea is that you can know that you're not going to do better -- know that you're not even going to try to do better -- and yet still repent. What can repentance mean if it doesn't mean even trying to change? Basically, it means confessing -- acknowledging that your sins are sins, not making excuses for yourself or trying to kid yourself into thinking that what you're doing is actually right.

Is that really repentance, though? Isn't it just Ave Deus, peccaturi te salutant? Saying "I know this is a sin, but I intend to keep doing it anyway" -- isn't that almost the definition of being un-repentant, of openly and deliberately defying God?

I don't have any good solutions here. We all sin, and the reason we don't stop is, ultimately, that we don't want to stop -- or don't want it enough, want other things more. How are repentance and forgiveness possible, and what do they mean, for such creatures as ourselves?

Coming up for air

Okay, I think in my last post I finally snapped myself out of this. It reminded me of how much I used to enjoy Walt Kelly as a child -- and how little patience I had for his periodic indulgence in "dark," sententious, joyless, "politically relevant" storylines. And what did I write at the end there? That I don't want to write about politics, but the synchronicity fairies are making me do it? The hell they are. Take a hike, synchronicity fairies!

Whose perceptions can be trusted? Those whose eyesight has adjusted. Letting one's eyes adjust too much to the dark -- searching out all the secret plans of Gadianton -- is a risky business. Sync for sync's sake is a mug's game, and light and love and the world above don't mean nothing to a mole. It's time to take a break.

So that's what I'm doing. No reading, writing, or engaging with anything topical, political, or evil until -- let me check my calendar -- February 9 of next year. You want to chat about politics or the deep things of Satan, I think I can pencil you in for then. Or not.

If any of you catch me backsliding on this -- posting topical stuff here or commenting on it elsewhere -- be sure to call me out on it!

Monday, November 9, 2020

Stick to facts! Malarkey is president ... that much is clear ... we can count votes later.

More unintentional prophecy -- this one from cartoonist Walt Kelly in 1953.

Deacon Mushrat: In all due respect, Mr. Simple J. Malarkey, nobody voted you to the leadership ... and the name we have is quite satisfactory ......

Simple J. Malarkey: Betsey, here, got six or seven votes in her alone, but stop the wayward bickering ... stick to facts! I'm president ... that much is clear ... we can count votes later.

The character Simple J. Malarkey was obviously intended as a caricature of Joseph McCarthy -- but there's no question who the word malarkey is most closely associated with today!

(No, I don't intend to turn this into a political blog, but I am the mouthpiece of the synchronicity fairies, and if they feed me political stuff, that's what you get.)

Note added: Deacon Mushrat's hat, glasses, and schnozzola look a bit familiar, don't they?

The other Trump trump

 See more at The Magician's Table.

Biden in the Bible

Sunday, November 8, 2020

It is written in the Book of Thoth: Trump still wins.

When, in late October of this year, I posted on how the Rider-Waite Tarot accurately predicts the results of every U.S. presidential election from 2000 to 2020, it didn't take much chutzpah to declare Trump the prophesied winner of this year's race. Trump winning in a landslide seemed the only possible result, and I dismissed Biden as a soon-to-be-forgotten Walter Mondale figure. Even when the synchronicity fairies kept stubbornly bringing Biden to my attention (via Jay-Z, Dr. Seuss, Steve Martin, and Clickhole), I just couldn't take him seriously as a potential winner. ("I don't know why the synchronicity fairies are feeding me all this material on a man doomed to become irrelevant in two weeks' time," I wrote on October 25, "but who am I to kick against the pics?")

Now that the Media -- supported by their political arm, the Democratic Party -- have "officially" called the race for Biden, I'm going to stick my neck out and double down on my prediction. The Tarot has been 100% accurate in stating the winners of every other presidential election this century -- with the 0th trump predicting the winner in '00, the 4th trump the winner in '04, and so on -- and the 20th trump unambiguously says Trump. I stake my reputation as an interpreter of the Tarot on this prediction. If Trump doesn't win in the end, the Tarot is not what I think it is.

Let's go over what I mean when I say that. For those who don't know it, this is the 20th trump in the Major Arcana, called The Judgement.

1. Did you know that the word trump only occurs twice in the entire King James Bible? Both instances refer to the scene portrayed on this card.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:52).

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

An aside: Obviously, the name Biden as such does not occur in the Bible -- but if we ignore spaces, it does: "Thou sayest, Lo, thou hast smitten the Edomites; and thine heart lifteth thee up to boast: abide now at home; why shouldest thou meddle to thine hurt, that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee?" (2 Chronicles 25:19). This seems to allude to Basement Biden's "sheltering in place" and to prophesy his fall after boasting that he has smitten the Edomites. (Edom means "red" in Hebrew, so the Edomites are the Republicans -- and I suppose everyone knows to which modern people the name Judah refers. Judah is of course also the same name as Judas.)

(An even-more-tangential aside: Looking for other 2020 names in the Bible led me to Deuteronomy 14:7, which reads, "Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you." The camel, the hare, and the coney. This seems to connect Kamala Harris with another woman who came to prominence in 2020, Amy Coney Barrett, and to pronounce them both unclean. Does this presage some future treachery from ACB?)

2. The trump has a flag attached to it. Trump was born on June 14 -- Flag Day.

3. The flag has a big red cross on it. Red is the Republican color, and the cross resembles T for Trump. This is in fact St. George's flag, signifying victory over the dragon.

4. The angel has a full head of blond hair, with a touch of orange.

What are we to make of the scene on the lower half of the card, which shows the dead rising from coffins which appear to be floating in the water? A few thoughts:

They could represent Trump voters -- defeated, "dead," and then with their fortunes unexpectedly reversed. The water could represent the Trump's claim that lots of Trump ballots were dumped in rivers.

Alternatively, they could represent actual dead people -- who, as we know, voted in record numbers in 2020! The problem with this is that they appear to be cheering for Trump, when in fact corpses appear to have voted overwhelmingly for Biden.

But perhaps they're cheering because they think they've won -- gotten rid of Trump. He's up in heaven, an angel, dead. Little do they realize that the day of reckoning is coming.

And what's that in the background? Mountains -- or an approaching tsunami?

What about the prophecy -- which, believe it or not, I also take seriously -- that Trump will invite "Joe Camel" (Joe and Kamala) to the White House? I don't know what to make of that yet, but here's my best guess: The recounts and lawsuits ("Sue sews Slow Joe Crow's clothes," i.e. suits) and everything will not be completed by January 20, Biden will be sworn in, and Trump will peacefully "invite him to the White House." Shortly thereafter, the election results will be overturned by the Supreme Court, and Trump will be restored.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. The highway is for gamblers. If I end up being wrong, I will, as they say, eat crow.

(Cross-posted at The Magician's Table.)

Just one of those coincidences

From this site:

Ezra [Koenig] tells how [he] knew a classmate in high school who believed that "armageddon" was pronounced "ar-MAGA-don" (similar to the naming conventions of dinosaurs) until the release of the 1998 film Armageddon.

Somehow they neglected to capitalize the d.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh as one

I was listening to an audio recording of the Book of Mormon, and when it got to the part where Nephi says they "did live upon raw meat ...