Thursday, December 31, 2020

If I ran the circus

So far schools like my own are exempt from Taiwan's mask mandate, imposed on December 1 to protect the people from the raging pandemic that has claimed an unprecedented seven lives all year. (We wouldn't want to overwhelm the hospital system, after all!) But I naturally have a contingency plan ready just in case that changes.

Here, ready to be printed and posted should the need arise, is my "please wear a mask" sign.


For those of my readers who don't read Chinese (which, I realize, is basically all of you), this literally says, "The Taiwan government doesn't want [your] face. Please wear a mask." However, as most people know, face also has another meaning in Chinese culture, only partially captured by such English translations as "lose face," "save face," etc. The sign actually says something like "The Taiwan government has no shame," but even stronger than that -- one of the most severe moral accusations in the language.

Not severe enough, though. Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth! Break out the great teeth of the young lions!

Arlo's dreams

A tip from a reader:

You recently posted about Arlo Guthrie singing the song City of New Orleans. Arlo also has a song, "In my darkest hour" which he said came to him in a dream.  The song begins: "It's the 10th of January and I still ain't had no sleep."


In a recent post, I wrote:

It appears that we are looking at a roughly five-day period here:
  • Jan 6: birthday of Joan of Arc, Maid of Orleans; Feast of Epiphany
  • Jan 7: Saturn-Pluto conjunction ends
  • Jan 8: anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans
  • Jan 9: anniversary of the beginning of Joan of Arc's trial
  • Jan 10: anniversary of Caesar's crossing the Rubicon
Today I had a sudden hunch to Google the phrase "five days in January," which brought up a novel by that name by one R. T. Lowe. Here's the blurb:

Reeling from a terrible accident that claimed the lives of his parents, Felix arrives at Portland College hoping only to survive the experience. In time, however, with the help of his reality star roommate, and Allison, his friend from home, he immerses himself in the distractions of college life and gradually dares to believe he can put his past behind him. But a fateful storm looms on the horizon: In the nearby woods, two hikers become the latest victims in a series of gruesome murders; a disfigured giant embarks on a vicious cross-country rampage, killing teenagers who fail his 'test'; an ancient society of assassins tasked with eradicating the wielders of a mysterious source of power awakens after a long silence; and a grassroots movement emerges from the shadows to capture the public's imagination, its hidden agenda as revolutionary and terrifying as the man who created it. Only one man -- the school's groundskeeper -- knows that the seemingly unrelated events are connected, and that an eighteen-year-old boy stands in the center of the storm.

No smoking guns here, but the phrases I have bolded are suggestive. Trump was a reality star; "storm" is Q lingo; eighteen = 1/8 = the Battle of New Orleans.

Some of the lyrics of "Darkest Hour" also caught my attention.

It's the tenth of January and I still ain't had no sleep
She comes waltzing in the nighttime, made of wings
She is dressed up like a bandit with a hundred sparkling rings

"Dressed up like a bandit" means wearing a bandana over her face. "A hundred sparkling rings" suggests the planet Saturn.

Her father's in his chambers with his friends all gathered 'round
They are plotting their enemy's demise
With their last detail done, they await the coming sun
While I am staring in my lover's eyes
Her brothers and her sisters are all through for tonight
Pretending that they've just come to power
But she, far most of all, knows that they can only fall
In my darkest hour

This bit pretty much interprets itself, I would say. "Pretending that they've just come to power" -- could any line be more December 2020 than that?

"Darkest Hour" is supposed to have come to Guthrie in a dream. It appears on his 1976 album Amigo, which also features another "dream" song.


Living now here but for fortune
Placed by fate's mysterious schemes
Who'd believe that we're the ones asked
To try to rekindle the patriot's dreams

Arise sweet destiny, time runs short
All of your patience has heard their retort
Hear us now for alone we can't seem
To try to rekindle the patriot's dreams

Can you hear the words being whispered
All along the American stream
Tyrants freed the just are imprisoned
Try to rekindle the patriot's dreams

Ah but perhaps too much is being asked of too few
You and your children with nothing to do
Hear us now for alone we can't seem
To try to rekindle the patriot's dreams

I'm not usually one to say this, but: Deus vult. I think we're being given another chance, and I pray people will rise to the occasion.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The first rainbow flag

Rule of thumb: The devil is the ape of God. Everything Satanic is a perversion of something divine.

In my first Joan of Arc post I reproduced a picture of Joan I had seen at The Thinking Housewife, showing Joan on a white horse holding a red banner on which is written "Au nom de Dieu" ("in the name of God"), and noted its similarity to the Rider-Waite Sun card.

The real Joan's banner was not red, though, but white, and bore a different device. Here is how she described it at her trial (all quotes and images are from jeanne-darc.info):

I had a standard whose field was sown with lilies. There was a figure of Christ holding the world and on each side of Him was an angel. It was made of a white fabric called “boucassin”. Written above: Jhesus Maria, as it seems to me, and it was fringed in silk.

Joan's banner has not survived (it was, appropriately, burned during the French Revolution), but here is how one artist depicted its central figure.

Jesus is seated on the rainbow -- called, perhaps not coincidentally, l'arc-en-ciel in French. A few historical accounts back this up.

In 1440, Eberhard Windecke a businessman from Mayençais wrote: "And the girl left with her banner which was made of white silk. Painted there was the image Our Lord God with His wounds, Who was seated on the rainbow. On each side (of Christ) was an angel who held a lily."

The city of Tournai, Flanders, (modern day Belgium) was in Jeanne's time loyal to the King of France. This city's 1455 chronicle states: "Standard of white satin, in which Jhesus Christ sitting on a rainbow, showing His wounds, and on each side (of Christ), an angel hold up to Him a fleurs de lys."

And here is a modern description by Jean-Claude Colrat.

Painted on the broadest part of the standard, the part closest to the pole, was the Apocalyptic image of Christ Who was seated on a rainbow, with the wounds in His side, hands and feet exposed. He was shown wearing a light red tunic and a bright red cloak. His right hand held the world (a blue sphere) and His left hand was raised in blessing. Christ was surrounded in an iridescent golden 'mandorle.' 

Here is another artist's depiction.

For all the details -- and I do mean all the details -- about "the Apocalyptic image of Christ," featuring the rainbow, the reader is referred to my very long post The Throne and the World. It is from this image that the final trump of the Tarot evolved -- called The World and numbered 21, the number of the coming year.

I note that this card is prominently featured in the Grateful Dead's new "Ripple" video (discussed here), but that the human face in the upper left has been replaced with a crow.

Name that fairy tale

I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans

Apropos of the Battle of New Orleans, this old Steve Goodman song, as sung by Arlo Guthrie, came to mind: "The City of New Orleans" -- which is not actually about the city, but about an Amtrak train called the City of New Orleans, running between Chicago and New Orleans.


A few lines in particular caught my attention:

Dealin' card games with the old men in the club car
Penny a point ain't no one keepin' score

"Dealin' card games" suggests Trump, whose name is a card-game term and who wrote The Art of the Deal. "The old men" are the oldest president ever and his even-older opponent.

"Penny" = Pence. "A point" = appoint. "Ain't no one keepin' score" = no need to count the votes. If, as some are speculating, Pence hands Trump a win on January 6 by refusing to count those electoral votes which are contested or obviously fraudulent, this line will turn out to have been strikingly prophetic. It would then take Biden a couple of days to concede -- because you have to fire once more before they begin a-runnin' -- so that his concession would be perfectly timed for the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans.

Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea

To paraphrase: "down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico."

Note that Biden is known as "Amtrak Joe" and is said to have traveled more than two million miles by train. And of course he is a "Blue" -- that is, a Democrat. This makes him a "railroad blue," no?

But all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rail still ain't heard the news
The conductor sings his songs again
The passengers will please refrain
This train got the disappearing railroad blues

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Ark in the dark

What I was looking for when I happened upon "The mosquito question" was Yes and No, a very long puppet show in verse. I didn't find it, so the best I can do is quote a few passages from memory.

The character No (Noah) is relating the story of the flood, presented as an undoing of the six days of creation. And just as the creation ends with God seeing that all he had created was good, the flood story begins

When God, surveying all he had
Created, saw that it was bad.

There follows a bit of (clever, allzuclever) pun-heavy badinage in which No's interlocutor questions how anything created by God could be bad, and then No gets back to his story.

I'll answer all in time. Now hark!
God spoke, and said, "Let there be dark!"
And dark clouds gathered in the sky
To hide earth's shame from him on high.
"The vault that keeps the seas below
And those above apart must go,"
Said God. The firmament was broken,
The seas set free as God had spoken.
"Let dry land disappear," said God.
"Let not a scrap of stone or sod
Remain above the surface, though
It top a mountain." It was so.
No fruit tree bearing fruit was seen,
Nor herb, for all that once was green
Was overwhelmed beneath the blue.
All living creatures perished too.
The lions, tigers, bears, and horses
All were turned to bloated corses.
The cattle and the creeping things,
The fowl as well, whose worn-out wings
Had not at last the strength to keep
Them safe above the rising deep --
In short, all things in which was breath
Succumbed to universal death.
And God's own image, which had crowned
His whole creation, also drowned.

Why was I thinking about this? Because Joan of Ark is, as the jokes have it, Noah's wife, and Noah is associated not only with the ark but with the arc (the rainbow, l'arc-en-ciel), and now with the dark (d'Arc) as well.

My post on the dark rainbow connected it with the crow. Noah released a raven from the ark (as noted in my original, pre-birdemic post on corvids). And when they made a Noah movie back in 2014, the titular patriarch was played by -- who else?

The mosquito question

I wrote this ages ago and just found it while digging through some old papers looking for something else. I post it here for whatever it's worth, which is probably -- well, I'll let you decide.

Did no mosquitoes suck at Christ?
Was (once in them) his blood shed twice?
How many brave mosquitoes drank
At Jesus’ breast and back and flank?
How many brave mosquitoes died
With God’s atoning blood inside?
And, for that blasphemy they braved,
Are those mosquitoes damned –– or saved?

It's a bit self-referential, you see. The real question is, What say ye of someone whose whole approach to the divine is typified by the fact that he wrote something like this? Damned, or saved?

Not that I lose much sleep over such questions. As Chesterton once said (didn't he?), mosquitoes can fly because they can take themselves lightly.

The white doe

My last post connects Joan of Arc with Virginia Dare. Virginia means "maiden," as does Joan's traditional title La Pucelle, and some contemporary documents give Joan's father's surname as Dare rather than Darc. Virginia Dare was, according to legend, transformed into a white doe -- and the female name associated with Doe is Jane, another form of Jeanne/Joan.

Them I thought, wait, isn't there something in Plutarch about a white doe? Well, yes, there is. The following is from his Life of Sertorius.

Spanus, a plebeian who lived in the country [of Lusitania], came upon a doe which had newly yeaned and was trying to escape the hunters. The mother he could not overtake, but the fawn — and he was struck with its unusual colour, for it was entirely white — he pursued and caught. And since, as it chanced, Sertorius had taken up his quarters in that region, and gladly received everything in the way of game or produce that was brought him as a gift, and made kindly returns to those who did him such favours, Spanus brought the fawn and gave it to him.

Sertorius accepted it, and at the moment felt only the ordinary pleasure in a gift; but in time, after he had made the animal so tame and gentle that it obeyed his call, accompanied him on his walks, and did not mind the crowds and all the uproar of camp life, he gradually tried to give the doe a religious importance by declaring that she was a gift of Diana, and solemnly alleged that she revealed many hidden things to him, knowing that the Barbarians were naturally an easy prey to superstition. He also added such devices as these. Whenever he had secret intelligence that the enemy had made an incursion into the territory which he commanded, or were trying to bring a city to revolt from him, he would pretend that the doe had conversed with him in his dreams, bidding him hold his forces in readiness. Again, when he got tidings of some victory won by his generals, he would hide the  messenger, and bring forth the doe wearing garlands for the receipt of glad tidings, exhorting his men to be of good cheer and to sacrifice to the gods, assured that they were to learn of some good fortune.

By these devices he made the people tractable, and so found them more serviceable for all his plans; they believed that they were led, not by the mortal wisdom of a foreigner, but by a god.

Sertorius's white doe was supposed to be an envoy of Diana -- a virgin goddess whose symbol is the bow and who might therefore be called La Pucelle d'Arc.

Maiden name

Who was Noah's wife? Joan of Ark.

Who first said "Real women have curves"? Joan of Arc.

It's a funny name. Most people, including myself until I looked it up, would probably assume that there is a place somewhere in France called Arc and that Joan or her family hailed from there. There isn't. Apostrophes were not used in those days, and Jeanne d'Arc is likely just as much a mistake as, say, Jacques of Fenbach or Jefferson d'Avis. Her father's surname (never applied to herself during her lifetime) just happened to begin with the letter d and was later misinterpreted. Joan's father is most often called Jacques Darc in contemporary sources, but variant spellings include Dare, Dars, Dart, Darx, Day, Tarc, and Tart.

I mentioned in a comment to my last post that d'Arc suggests the black (dark) rainbow (arc). The variant Dart is also interesting, since an arc is a bow and a dart is an arrow.

Dare as an alternative form of Joan's surname is interesting because it suggests Virginia Dare -- whose given name, Virginia, has the same meaning as La Pucelle. Legend has it that Virginia Dare was transformed into a white doe. An unknown woman is referred to as Jane Doe -- Jane being nowadays more common than Joan as the English form of the name Jeanne.

And of course no post like this would be complete without a guest appearance by our favorite bird. When Virginia Dare and her fellow colonists disappeared, one of the only clues they left behind was three letters carved on a tree: CRO.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Black crow, black rainbow

A modern-day Balaam wouldn't ride an ass; he'd take a taxi.

Ted Hughes wrote Crow between 1966 and 1969 and published it in 1970. It includes these lines.

To hatch a crow, a black rainbow
Bent in emptiness
over emptiness
But flying

The year 1969 also saw the foundation of the first of several black-led "diversity" organizations to use the name Rainbow Coalition. Jim Crow laws had been abolished a few years before the Rainbow Coalition, but founder Fred Hampton had earlier been a leader of the movement against them.

In 1975, Paul Simon referenced the Hughes poem in the lyrics to "My Little Town."

And after it rains, there's a rainbow
And all of the colors are black
It's not that the colors aren't there
It's just imagination they lack

In 1978, the gay pride Rainbow Flag made its debut in San Francisco. While the colors officially represented various things (red for life, orange for healing, that kind of crap), in practice the rainbow stands for the spectrum of sexual neuroses and perversions, with the whole explicitly representing the cardinal sin of pride. Spiritually speaking, "all of the colors are black." 

In 1995, the "Dark Side of the Rainbow" phenomenon -- pairing the 1973 Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon with the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz -- was discovered. One of the main characters in The Wizard of Oz is the Scarecrow.

In 2020, the birdemic arrived and was named for the crow -- Corvus corone, a member of the corvid family -- because a scarecrow may scare crows, but in 2020 (as in Soviet Russia), crow scares you!

I am told that in the UK, the rainbow has been (somewhat to the consternation of the LPGABBQ community) coopted as a symbol of the need to "save the National Health Service" by, um, wearing masks and clapping or something. (In Soviet Russia, on the other hand -- and this is one of the few ways in which that much-maligned country was not back-to-front -- medical professionals save you!)

I do apologize for all the "Russian reversals." They're part of my heritage as a Ukrainian-American, but that's no excuse. We all know how annoying it is when someone keeps repeating the same tired jokes -- and (you knew this was coming) in Soviet Russia, the same tired jokes keeps repeating "you"!

More details on the current Saturn-Pluto conjunction

This graph shows the motion of Saturn and Pluto through the zodiac from January 2019 to February 2021. I have plotted data only for the first day of each month (midnight GMT) because I'm just kind of lazy like that.


And this one shows the "orb" (angular distance) between those two planets over the same period. Planets (other than the Sun and Moon) are generally considered to be in conjunction when the orb is 8 degrees or less, though some astrologers are more generous. As before, I've only plotted one data point per month, which is why the curve isn't terribly smooth. As noted below, the orb actually reached zero in mid-January 2020.


Here are the most important times and dates (for Washington, D.C.).
  • The conjunction began (entered 8 degrees of orb) at 6:45 a.m. (EST) on January 15, 2019.
  • At 12:00 noon (EST) on January 12, 2020, there was perfect conjunction of the two planets at 22 Cap 46'34".
  • The conjunction will end (exceed 8 degrees of orb) at 3:05 p.m. (EST) on January 7, 2021.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Year of the Tragelaph

Some reportedly dream in black and white, others in color. Among verbal dreamers such as myself, there are those who dream in ordinary language — and those whose preferred idiom is the convoluted multilingual pun.

I woke up this morning with the word tragelaph in my mind, at the center of a half-remembered dream-web of associations. Tragelaph means “goat-stag,” which resembles Gottestag, which means “day of God,” i.e. judgment day. Going the other way, tragelaph suggests tragi-laugh, tragicomedy, something simultaneously funny and sad. Scripture assures us that the day of the Lord will be, like a perfect pun, both “great and terrible.”

(I always though it odd that Plato and Aristotle should have used the tragelaph as their example of an impossible zoological mashup. Goats and stags are, after all, very similar -- so similar that the word buck and its cognates have been applied to both indiscriminately.)

How surreal!

The second morpheme in tragelaph means "deer" but looks as if it ought to have something to do with an elephant, and so pachydermic portmanteaux were part of the web as well: the Neufchatelephant of Gustave Verbeek, the hierophant of A. E. Waite (in chess, elephants became bishops; in Tarot, a bishop became a hierophant), the gorilephants feared by Esmeralda in Tarzan of the Apes.

(Speaking of Tarzan, isn't the very name Edgar Rice Burroughs a prophecy of our time? Edgar is linked, via Poe's "The Raven," to corvids and the birdemic. Rice is a metonym for China. Burros are donkeys, symbol of the Democratic Party. The trifecta!)

A hour or so after waking up, when I was out on the road, I remembered that there was some other fantastic creature whose name began with trag-, and that it had something to do with the Harpies in the role as "hounds of Zeus." After several minutes on the tip of my tongue, it came back to me: tragopan -- an extremely obscure heraldic creature in the form of a bird with horns. As a child, I had connected the heraldic tragopan with the picture of the Harpies in Edith Hamilton's Mythology -- which represents them as birds of prey with long snake-like tails. In my mind, a tragopan had been an eagle with horns and a serpent's tail.

Just after remembering that, I happened to see this while waiting at a red light.


What is this logo but a stylized bird with horns and a long tail?

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The distribution of mixed polyhedral dice rolls

In a recent post, Kevin McCall wrote,

We might compare [a particular hypothetical distribution of IQs] to rolling all 5 Platonic solids: one 4 sided die, one 6 sided, one 8 sided, one 12 sided, and one 20 sided, which would have a completely different distribution from rolling five 6-sided dice.

And I commented,

Would rolling a mix of polyhedral dice really result in anything significantly different from a normal bell curve. I haven’t done the calculations, but my assumption is that it would not.

Then I almost immediately retracted this statement ("Never mind. I've checked it, and my assumption was totally wrong!") because I'd put the possible rolls of three dissimilar dice (a d4, a d6, and a d8) into a spreadsheet and it had given me a histogram that looked nothing like a normal distribution.


But now I have to retract that retraction and reaffirm my original assumption. The weird-looking histogram is an artifact. Rolling the three dice mentioned yields one of 16 possible values, from 3 to 18, but the spreadsheet software (Google Sheets) for some reason made a histogram with only 13 bars. Most of the bars represent a single value, but 3-4, 9-10, and 15-16 are grouped together, which is why those three bars are abnormally tall. Making a 16-bar histogram by hand, I find that rolling mixed dice does after all yield a normal bell curve.


The moral of the story: If it comes down to trusting either your own instincts or the basic competence of Google programmers, go with your own instincts every time!

But you already knew that.

Trump, Old Hickory, and 2020


The U.S. 20-dollar bill has Andrew Jackson on the front and the White House on the back. It is the only banknote to depict the White House. It is the only denomination of U.S. currency whose number corresponds to an election year.

I am not the first to have connected the 20-dollar bill with the year '20. Back in 2015 -- the centennial of the Battle of New Orleans -- a movement called "Women on 20s" was launched, with the stated goal of getting Old Hickory off the 20-dollar bill by 2020 and replacing him with a woman. It was later decided (by a vote, naturally) that this woman would be Harriet Tubman. The reason for choosing the 20-dollar bill, and the year 2020, was that 1920 was the year women began to participate in mass voting in the U.S. (A secondary reason, of course, was that the Democratic Party hates hates hates the man who founded it.)

During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump announced that he would oppose this plan to replace Jackson with Tubman, and made it clear that he was pro-Jackson rather than anti-Tubman. CNN quoted him thus:

"Well, Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it's very rough when you take somebody off the bill," Trump said during a town hall on the "Today" show on NBC Thursday morning. "I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic, but I would love to leave Andrew Jackson or see if we can maybe come up with another denomination."

When Trump moved into the White House in 2017, he immediately had a large portrait of Andrew Jackson put up in the Oval Office. He clearly sees himself as a second Old Hickory.


The 2020 election made it clear that Trump's decision to keep Jackson was the right one. To allow him to be replaced by a woman-of-color named Harriet on the 20 would have symbolically foreshadowed Trump's allowing himself to be replaced by a woman-of-color named Harris in '20. But Jackson stayed, and so will Trump, and regular readers will know I have reason to suspect his final victory will take place on or around the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans.

By the way, Women on 20s is now saying the Jackson's continued presence on U.S. currency is what killed George Floyd. From their website:

Women On 20s and associates are calling on the U.S. Treasury to take a knee and make our $20s counterfeit proof and upgrade it with a portrait of Harriet Tubman. The Treasury’s failure to update the $20 cannot be separated from the tragic events which led to the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020. . . . As we’ve been saying for years, symbols do matter.

You may recall that the reason Mr. Floyd was in police custody when he died had to do with his alleged attempt to pass a counterfeit 20-dollar bill. If only that particular denomination had been "upgraded" with the counterfeit-proof likeness of Harriet Tubman, he would probably still be alive today!

Well, they're right about one thing anyway: Symbols do matter. Keep playing this song.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Clarification on the end of the Saturn-Pluto conjuction

I have previously said that the current Saturn-Pluto conjunction will end on January 8. That turns out not to be precisely correct. Assuming an 8-degree maximum orb for a non-Sun, non-Moon conjunction, the Saturn-Pluto conjunction will end in Washington, D.C., at 3:05 p.m. on January 7, 2021. At that point, Saturn will be 2°24'46" Aquarius, and Pluto will be 24°24'46" Capricorn, for an orb of precisely 8 degrees.

Of course, this is a sort of false precision. The 8-degree standard is an arbitrary one, and some astrologers consider planets to be in conjunction even with an orb of 10 degrees. Nevertheless, by that one fairly widespread convention, the conjunction will end on the afternoon of January 7, and January 8 will then be the first full day on which Saturn and Pluto are no longer in conjunction.

This means that the license plate I saw -- 192 NYT -- is not a near miss after all but does code the precise date that the conjunction will end: 19 - 2 = 17, and 19 + 2 = 21; the numbers 17 and 21 correspond to the date 1/7/21. The significance of "NYT" remains to be seen.

It appears that we are looking at a roughly five-day period here:

  • Jan 6: birthday of Joan of Arc, Maid of Orleans; Feast of Epiphany
  • Jan 7: Saturn-Pluto conjunction ends
  • Jan 8: anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans
  • Jan 9: anniversary of the beginning of Joan of Arc's trial
  • Jan 10: anniversary of Caesar's crossing the Rubicon
By the way, when did the Saturn-Pluto conjunction begin? I have a hunch about that; let's see if it checks out. Stay tuned.

How is 2020 like Soviet Russia?

Church falls away from you.


"But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead."

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.
-- Christina Rossetti

Merry Christmas to all my readers. Keep the faith.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Maid of Orleans

Following up a lead from commenter NLR a while back:

Joan of Arc -- Maid of Orleans -- Battle of New Orleans

I read Laura Wood's blog, The Thinking Housewife, from time to time, and at the top of her sidebar is this picture, captioned "St. Joan of Arc, defender of all nations."


Joan died at the age of 19. White horse, plumed headdress, red banner, the number 19 . . . what does that all remind me of?


Tradition has it that Joan was born on the Feast of Epiphany, January 6, 1412. Her trial for heresy began on January 9, 1431. The Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The new "Ripple" video

 A couple of days ago, on December 20, I suddenly thought of the old Gustave Verbeek comic strip The Upside Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo -- famous for its reversible pictures.


Doing an image search to find some Upside Downs I hadn't seen before took me to the Wikipedia* page for "Ambigram" -- which I don't think I had ever read before because, well, I already know a thing or two about ambigrams. There I saw it mentioned that the cover of the Grateful Dead album American Beauty featured an ambigram -- which, despite the fact that I own said album, I had never noticed. (It turns out it's a fairly weak ambigram; supposedly Beauty can also be read as Reality.)

I haven't listened to the Dead in ages, so I suddenly thought, hey, isn't "Ripple" on that album? Scrolling down to the "Track listing" section of the Wikipedia article, I saw that it was, and that "Ripple" had its own page as well. I clicked on that and found that "In December 2020, a Tarot-themed music video was released."

I went to YouTube to find this new music video and discovered that it had been released just two days previous, on December 18!


I have nothing special to say about this video, but I thought it was remarkable that a completely random train of thought led to my discovering it just two days after it was released.

* Yes, I do still use Wikipedia from time to time despite my boycott. It's more or less impossible to avoid; Infogalactic, with its much smaller pool of editors, just isn't as detailed or up to date. I still don't link to Wikipedia, though.

Note added: The Tarot cards used in the music video are based on the Rider-Waite but differ in many ways. For example, the pillars between which the High Priestess sits are normally labeled J and B -- Jachin and Boaz -- but the music video labels them R and H instead.


I tried to think what those two letters could possibly stand for, but the explanation turns out to be a rather prosaic one: They are the initials of the late Robert Hunter, the author of "Ripple." (The pillars are also on fire, presumably because Robert Hunter's birth name was Robert Burns, the poet of that name being his great-great-grandfather.)

Why is this interesting? Because in my post Hair and pillars, and pills, I point out that the traditional J and B are the initials of Joe Biden -- so the video replaces Joe Biden with Robert Hunter. Biden's most notorious son doesn't usually use his first name, but in fact his full name is Robert Hunter Biden.

Second note added: Shortly after writing that the pillars are on fire because Robert Hunter's birth name was Burns, I read this line in Unsong: "Brenda Burns went up in a conflagration of nominative determinism" -- that is, caught fire because her surname predestined her to do so.

Kevin McCall is now blogging

Kevin McCall, whose name some of you will recognize for his mathematical and Tarot-related contributions here, has finally started his own blog, No Longer Reading. His most recent post there is Synchronicity, prophecy, and the Magi, and he's already posted on a wide variety of other topics, from Goethe's IQ to the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. Go take a look.

The magic number six million

On Sunday I checked William M. Briggs's blog, which I haven't been reading much these days, to get some birdemic statistics I needed for an argument. I found a post (posted on December 10 but not read by me until the 20th) called Four Million Dead In The Raging Pandemic! Of course no one is claiming that anywhere near that many have been killed by the birdemic. This is one of Briggs's old tricks: running a headline that would seem to justify the birdemic panic, and then revealing that it is actually about another pandemic from a few decades back, one that you've never heard of because, despite being much more serious than the current unpleasantness, it didn't cause a panic and a worldwide totalitarian coup. The post begins thus:

The WHO itself, the unquestionable unimpeachable unerring medical authority, tells us that as many as four million died in the pandemic.

Not one million. Not two million. No, sir, not even three million. But four full million souls perished from the earth in the pandemic!

This happened not just once. This happened, dear readers, but it happened twice since 1957. . . .

The first reader comment, left by someone called Dean Ericson, reads, "Four million?! It’s six million, heretic!" This is of course a humorous reference to one of the shibboleths of Holocaust orthodoxy. Everyone is required to say that the Nazis killed six million Jews, and messing with that number is a thoughtcrime of the highest order. So much as suggest that perhaps the Nazis only killed, say, five and a half million Jews, and you will immediately be branded a "Holocaust denier," anti-Semite, neo-Nazi, and all the rest. Them's fightin' words.

Because saying the Nazis "only" killed four or five million Jews is brushing off the Holocaust like it's no big deal, saying the National Socialists really weren't all that bad. In order to be Literally Hitler, you just have to kill six million; no lesser number is sufficiently heinous.

A few hours after reading the post and comment quoted above, I read this in Unsong:

He gave the example of all the Jewish scholars who lost their faith during the Holocaust. How, they asked, could God allow six million of their countrymen to perish like that?

But read the Bible! Somebody counted up all the people God killed in the Bible, and they got 2.8 million. It wasn't even for good reasons! [. . .] What right do we have to lose faith when we see the Holocaust? "Oh, sure, God killed 2.8 million people, that makes perfect sense, but surely He would never let SIX million die, that would just be too awful to contemplate?" It's like -- what?

Another reference to the silliness of insisting that only killing a full six million is sufficiently shocking. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

The rain god and the weather dogs

On the road today I stopped at a red light, and the motorcyclist in front of me was wearing a helmet similar to the one pictured below, except that the color scheme was different. The helmet was predominantly green and black. The words "RAIN GOD" were written in white, with the "GO" in green. (I didn't take a photo and wasn't able to find a photo of the exact same helmet online.)


This caught my attention because the Chinese word for "dog" is 狗 -- transliterated gou and pronounced like the English word go. (When I was first learning Chinese, the P. D. Eastman book title Go, Dog. Go! served as a mnemonic.) So the helmet design highlights the dog in God, and it is a green dog. I connected this with my recent posts God and dog at the Panama Canal and The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown) A further coincidence is that this helmet is produced by a company called Zeus; an important step in the train of associations in my "God and dog" post had been that Suez:Zeus::dog:God. Looking at the photo now, I also notice a black "two-prong crown" behind the words "RAIN GOD," but I can not be sure the helmet I saw also had this.

(Incidentally, if the letters GO, written in a different color, are removed, what remains is an anagram of INDRA -- who was indeed a "rain god" and is considered the Indian counterpart to Zeus,)

A rain dog. Words that become other words when written backwards. Suddenly I thought of a story fragment one of my sisters had written when she was a little girl, called The Planet Tennalp. Fortunately, my family has kept lots of our juvenilia and I have it in a PDF, so I was able to look it up. It begins thus:

Once upon a time there lived seven dogs. Their names were: Thunder, Lightning, Snowy, Misty, Rainbows, Showers, and Sleet. They were the Weather Dogs. They lived on Tennalp.

Weather Dogs, including one named Showers. And of course Tennalp is basically just planet written backwards. As we read on, we learn that Tennalp was created by a sorcerer called Nrogara (Aragorn backwards) from the planet Dalrow (world backwards, with a vowel added for pronounceability). Given this context of things written backwards, it can scarcely be considered a mere coincidence that the opening sentence -- "there lived seven dogs" -- contains a backwards devil as well as a backwards God.

All this flashed through my mind in a second as I waited at the red light. In my original "God and dog" post, I recounted a story from Whitley Strieber in which God/dog was associated with seeing a coincidentally meaningful license plate. I glanced down at the license plate of motorcyclist with the Rain God helmet: "192 NYT." NYT was at least a meaningful series of letters -- New York Times -- so, although the number didn't immediately mean anything to me, I memorized it for future reference. Later, while still on the road, I suddenly thought that 19 - 2 = 18 and 19 + 2 = 21, so the number encodes 1/8/21 -- January 8, 2021. Of course it doesn't, though, because 19 - 2 is actually 17. So close!

Note added: I just looked again at the PDF file I opened to check The Planet Tennalp -- 33 pages of miscellaneous story fragments with titles beginning Mo-Sa -- and noticed that the very first page is one of my own childhood compositions, from which I quote the second paragraph.

He walked over to his coon-shee, who was nibbling at the rich, green moss which carpeted the forest floor. The coon, too, was a recent purchase. It was a strong, healthy stallion of good pedigree, and the flickering patches of green on its sleek, black coat were unusually brilliant. It carried on its back a huge, lidded basket with several small saddle-bags tied to it.

What is this coon-shee? The name is a hybrid of Cŵn Annwn and cú sídhe -- Welsh and Irish faery-hounds, respectively -- and my idea was that they were actually faery horses (or, to be precise, diminutive chalicotheres), mistaken by outsiders for dogs because of their small size and clawed feet.

Do I really need to make that coinsídhence pun again? You must surely be getting tired of it.

American politician spontaneously combusts!

This is from an email I wrote on December 10:

Since we're sharing unjustifiable premonitions, the phrase "spontaneous human combustion" has been persistently presenting itself to me recently, together with the idea that some prominent person (possibly [I name a specific American politician]) is going to fall victim to that extremely unusual phenomenon, causing a sensation. Obviously the odds against any such thing happening are astronomical, but I wanted to go on the record just in case.

I can't say exactly when these "spontaneous human combustion" premonitions began, but certainly no later than November 26, when I used the phrase in an unrelated blog post because it had been on my mind.

And this is a passage from Scott Alexander's novel Unsong which I read yesterday, December 20. The story exaggerates the uncertainties surrounding the 2000 presidential election (the "hanging chads" and all that), such that inauguration day comes and goes without a clear winner. George W. Bush finally takes office on March 20, due to a decision by the Supreme Court secretly manipulated by Dick Cheney behind the scenes. On January 29, 2002, he delivers his State of the Union address. There has been no 9/11 in this alternate history; instead, a terrorist magician named Dylan Alvarez, leader of an organization called BOOJUM, has been assassinating people. President Bush's address concludes thus:

"[. . .] But with the help of all the brave people in different government departments and all around the country working on this case, we’ve got Alvarez on the run and are tightening the noose around his neck. Some of these people are here with us tonight. People like Robert Mueller, director of the FBI. Like Michael Gellers, a police officer who successfully defused a BOOJUM bomb in Philadelphia. Like Sonja Horah . . .”

President Bush spontaneously caught fire. “HELLLPPP!” he screamed as the entire executive, legislative, and judicial branches watched on in horror. “HELLLPPP . . . HELL . . .”. By the time Secret Service agents reached him at the podium, he was already a charred corpse.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say – in the midst of his laughter and glee – he had softly and suddenly vanished away – because Dylan Alvarez had hacked his teleprompter to display the Mortal Name.

In the story, Jahorah is the true pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, called the Mortal Name because it causes anyone who speaks it to die on the spot. (Since this is Unsong, biblical puns are never far from the surface; here, as in Exodus, we have the name of God coming from a burning Bush.)


What is the nature of the relationship between my persistent "premonition" and the Unsong passage? The thing is, I'm fairly sure I've read the Bush episode before, although I have no conscious memory of it. My first encounter with Unsong was the interlude about Trump and about how The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe predicts the outcome of the 2016 election. Enjoying that, I started reading the book from the beginning but couldn't really get into it -- so I stopped halfway through Chapter 1 and just read some (maybe all?) of the interludes. I know for certain that I read Trump, Obama, Miss American Pie, and There's a Hole in my Bucket. As I've said, I have no memory of having read Bush -- not even a sense of familiarity after reading it yesterday -- but I think I surely must have.

I started reading Unsong all the way through on or shortly after November 16, which is the date of an email from a reader recommending it to me. So such evidence as I have suggests that my premonitions about spontaneous human combustion began shortly after I began to read the novel.

The most prosaic explanation of my "premonitions" is that starting to read Unsong triggered subconscious memories of the Bush episode, which appeared in my mind as the free-floating idea of an American politician spontaneously combusting. I mention again that I had no idea at all that that idea was connected with the book I was reading, or that the politician was Bush. (I had another specific politician in mind, in fact.) It's not clear why that particular episode would present itself to me like that, but apparently it did.

Another possibility, is that my premonitions were genuinely precognitive -- but that what I was "premembering" was not an actual event in the world but just my reading a fictional account of such an event. My past work on precognition has shown that one of the most common things to premember is something from a book or movie one is about to read or watch.

Both of these two interpretations would mean that the premonitions were essentially a false alarm, relating to a novel and not to the real world, and that no one is actually going to spontaneously combust.

Looking a little deeper, though, one can see signs of the synchronicity fairies' involvement. Why did a reader happen to recommend Unsong at that particular point in time? Why did I happen to remember or premember the spontaneously combusting politician (but not that it was Bush) rather than any of the other episodes in this rather long novel? Why does the context of that episode -- a disputed election, not resolved until long after the usual date -- fit so nicely with current events in December 2020, when I read it?

To be clear, I am not predicting that anyone is going to spontaneously combust -- that's just a little too crazy even by my standards -- but I am suggesting that the "burning Bush" episode may have some hidden significance that will become clear in the coming weeks or months.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)

So I was listening to various songs from the Manfred Mann's Earth Band album The Roaring Silence, and YouTube decided that what I really wanted to listen to next was a Fleetwood Mac song called "The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)."

Fleetwood Mac is a band I associate with synchronicity because one Christmas when I was a teenager, I gave my father a Fleetwood Mac compilation CD and a T-shirt that said "Only you know if you're hungry" -- and he gave me the same Fleetwood Mac compilation CD and a sweatshirt said "Only you know if you're hungry"! Despite that, I don't really know their music very well and had never heard of this particular song.

The first thing that caught my attention was the picture that accompanied the song on YouTube -- a naked guy on a white horse, suggesting the Sun card of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck.


Looking up the picture, I found that it was from the cover of the 1969 album Then Play On -- which was strange, because "The Green Manalishi" wasn't on that album and wasn't even recorded until 1970. After a bit of searching, though, I found that it was included as one of four "bonus tracks" on the Deluxe Edition of Then Play On released by Rhino Records (!) in 2013.

The phrase "two prong crown" also caught my attention. I have been reading Unsong, and in the novel the devil has a weapon called a bident ("like a trident, but with two points instead of three"). The name caught my attention because of its similarity to the name of a certain American politician.

Yesterday, when one of my readers suggested a possible astrological significance of the date January 8, 2021, I had to consult an ephemeris. I was 99% sure which astrological symbol represented Pluto, but I looked it up just to be sure. The reference work I consulted explained that the symbol consisted of "Pluto's circle and a cross or bident." Up to that point, I had assumed that the bident was Scott Alexander's invention, but it turns out it's been a standard attribute of Hades/Pluto all along. In my astrological post, I gave bident the parenthetical definition "like a trident with only two prongs" -- similar to Alexander's wording, but (for no particular reason) using the word prongs instead of points.

So when serendipity threw a "two prong crown" my way (crowns being like tridents in that they generally have more than two prongs), I sat up and took notice.

What about the titular "manalishi," though? Is that even a word? Did they mean maharishi or something?

I looked it up, of course, but before I get into that, let me remind you that in my recent post God and dog at the Panama Canal, I had occasion to mention the coin sídhe, legendary faery dogs of Celtic folklore. And, unlike the Black Dogs that are their counterparts in England, the coin sídhe are green.


According to Infogalactic, this is how "The Green Manalishi" came to be written:

[Peter] Green has explained that he wrote the song after experiencing a drug-induced dream, in which he was visited by a green dog which barked at him. He understood that the dog represented money. "It scared me because I knew the dog had been dead a long time. It was a stray and I was looking after it. But I was dead and had to fight to get back into my body, which I eventually did. When I woke up, the room was really black and I found myself writing the song."

This is not a coinsídhence, because nothing is ever a coinsídhence.

Here come the twenties

Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.

-- Daniel 2:37-38

Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

-- Revelation 12:12

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

-- 1 Peter 5:8

The final decade of the 19th century was known as the "Gay Nineties." Back in the 1990s, I used to joke that that decade would be remembered by the same name, for entirely different reasons.

Google can confirm.

We've gotten used to using the number 2020 as shorthand for the current dystopia -- but there are less than two weeks left in the year, and I daresay the dystopia is going to last a bit longer than that. Get ready for the second coming of the Roaring Twenties.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Yeah, they ran through the Breyers

 From "The Battle of New Orleans":

Yeah, they ran through the briers and they ran through the brambles
And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn't go
They ran so fast that the hounds couldn't catch 'em
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

The briers = the Supreme Court, as typified by Justice Stephen Breyer -- who, according to allegator Lin Wood, has it in for the President

The brambles = ?

The bushes = the RINO establishment, as typified by the Bush family

A rabbit = Justice Amy Coney Barrett -- either individually or as representing the pro-Trump faction within the Supreme Court. (The indirect article is significant: a rabbit = A. Coney!)


The hounds = surely not God! No one can outrun God.

And here's Dolly Parton.

Saturn-Pluto conjunction to end on January 8?

With reference to my recent post about January 8, my correspondent writes:

Also, in this post William Wildblood talked about a conjunction of Saturn and Pluto:

I will quote the relevant paragraph

On a totally different note, there was a conjunction of Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn in January. This lasts for about a year as Saturn moves forward then goes retrograde in May, going back to within a degree or so of Pluto in October, before moving forward again and going out of orb, as it is called, early next year. Saturn and Pluto are the two of the most difficult (in terms of the challenges they present to human consciousness) planets to deal with. Saturn represents restriction, limitation and what is hard and unyielding while Pluto symbolises forces of death, transformation and destruction. Put together and in Capricorn which is ruled by Saturn, meaning its effects are magnified because of a similarity of expression, they represent quite a package. What it means is that problems that have been suppressed or denied will be brought to a head. There will be no escaping them and they must be faced and dealt with. This will mean hard times but out of that may come, if one reacts with sense and really does face them, a new understanding. The potential for new life or death are both there.

From this paragraph it sounds like the conjunction is ending in January but I'm not sure because I haven't been able to find anything specific about when it ends, only that it's happening.  But wouldn't that be amazing if it was ending on January 8?

So I checked an online ephemeris, giving the positions of the planets at 05:00 Eastern Standard Time (i.e., Washington, D.C.) for each day in 2021.

When neither the Sun nor the Moon is involved, conjunction is generally defined as an angle of 8° or less. At 05:00 EST January 8, Saturn will be 2°27' Aquarius, and Pluto will be 24°26' Capricorn. That's an angle of 8°1' -- just barely out of conjunction. At 05:00 EST January 7, the two planets will still be in conjunction, at an angle of  7°26'. I don't have access to hourly data, but it appears that the conjunction will end either on Jan 7 or Jan 8. Given a change of 5 degrees in 24 hours, we can estimate that the conjunction will end about four-fifths of the way from 05:00 on the 7th to 0:500 on the 8th -- in other words, almost precisely at midnight!

I also note that one of the symbols of Pluto (incorporated into that planet's astrological symbol) is the bident (like a trident with only two prongs) -- a word which has also been brought to my attention recently by Scott Alexander's novel Unsong, where it is the devil's weapon of choice.

Update: I've checked with someone who knows more about astrology than I do, and he has confirmed that the Saturn-Pluto conjunction will indeed end on January 8.

January 8?

In a recent post, I mentioned that an email correspondent of mine had looked at the daily Mass reading for December 14 and tried interpreting it synchronistically as a prophecy. That actually wasn't the only date he looked at.

The post inspired me to do my own synchro research (on a much smaller scale).  For each day of the year, the Catholic mass has daily readings.  I checked January 8, January 20, December 14 and also the Sunday after January 20, which is the 24th.

I knew that December 14 was the day the electoral college voted and that January 20 was Inauguration Day, but the other date mentioned didn't mean anything to me. I wrote,

And forgive my ignorance, but what’s the significance of January 8?

He replied,

I realized after sending this email that January 8 was a mistake. I remembered reading that date in a comment, but I must have been mistaken because the significant day is January 6, when Congress meets to count the electoral college votes and declare a winner.

I didn't think anything of it at the time, but that should have been a huge red flag. A mistake? Like an accident? A coincidence? This is synchronicity research -- we don't believe in that stuff! You drop a Tarot card out of the deck while you're shuffling, that's not an accident; it's part of the reading -- probably the most important part.


The email exchange I've quoted took place on November 16-19, and I revisited it on the eve of December 14. Then I suddenly started thinking of the song "The Battle of New Orleans" -- which I hadn't heard or thought of in decades -- and couldn't get it out of my head. I had a very strong impression that it was relevant to the electoral goings-on but couldn't see how. New Orleans? Trump won Louisiana handily, and it is not one of the contested states. Battle of Atlanta or Detroit or something would have been more apropos.

Yesterday, I attempted an analysis of the song. I gave it my best shot but still felt like I was missing something essential.

Well, today I finally had the bright idea of reading up a bit on the Battle of New Orleans -- the battle, not the song -- and now I know the significance of January 8. I'm quite sure that I didn't know the date of the Battle of New Orleans before -- I had kind of assumed, based on the song, that it took place sometime in 1814 -- but it was January 8, 1815. In fact, "The Eighth" was a major American holiday from the election of Andrew Jackson to the start of the Civil War. As the date of America's last battle against the British, it was considered a sort of second Independence Day. (The war had already been won, and a treaty signed, but the treaty hadn't been officially ratified yet, and news of it had not yet reached New Orleans.)

So I am officially making a prediction that Something Very Big -- most likely Biden's formal concession -- is going to take place on January 8.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

A first attempt at cracking "The Battle of New Orleans"

I've already mentioned that the synchronicity fairies keep bringing the Jimmie Driftwood song "The Battle of New Orleans," as made famous by the Spectacular Johnny Horton in 1959, to my attention in connection with the ongoing electoral circus in America. (Remember "Shadilay"? This is this year's "Shadilay." I'm not sure yet how or why, but it is.)

Here, for a little variety, is the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band version:


I was taught this song in a public elementary school, which goes to show how much times have changed. Can you imagine kids today being taught a song that glorifies gun violence, cruelty to alligators, and so "problematic" a personage as Old Hickory?

Anyway, here's a first stab at an analysis.

First of all, we notice that singer who made the song famous was named Horton. Horton is also a Dr. Seuss character, an elephant, known for his repeated lines, "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant, and an elephant's faithful one hundred percent!" (Johnny Horton had not yet released his first album when Horton Hatches the Egg was published.)

. . . unlike the British at the Battle of New Orleans!

Johnny Horton used to perform the song in a period uniform, holding a musket with a flared mouth like a trumpet.


And now we come to the lyrics themselves.

We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin'
There wasn't as many as there was a while ago
We fired once more and they began to runnin'
On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico

Fire has more than one meaning, but when Donald Trump says, "You're fired!" he's not talking about artillery. Couldn't "We fired our guns" mean "We terminated the employment of several top-level defense officials"?


"We fired once more and they began to runnin'" could mean, among other things, that the firing of some officials led others to resign of their own accord.

We looked down the river and we see'd the British come
And there must have been a hundred of 'em beatin' on the drum
They stepped so high and they made their bugles ring
We stood behind our cotton bales and didn't say a thing

President Trump has stayed pretty quiet and played his cards close to his chest -- unlike his enemies, who have been beatin' on the drum and making their bugles ring.

Old Hickory said we could take 'em by surprise
If we didn't fire our muskets till we looked 'em in the eye
We held our fire till we see'd their faces well
Then we opened up our squirrel guns and really gave 'em -- Well . . .

To look someone in the eye is to tell him the truth, or to challenge him to tell you the truth.

"We held our fire till we see'd their faces well" means we waited for all our enemies to identify themselves and show their hand before striking.

We fired our cannon till the barrel melted down
So we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round
We filled his head with cannonballs 'n' powdered his behind
And when we touched the powder off, the gator lost his mind

Finding a way to fight another round even after your cannon has melted means continuing to fight even when everyone is saying you've already lost.

An allegator is one who makes allegations. (Alligator is etymologically el lagarto, "the lizard"; I'll let David Icke handle that one!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

God and dog at the Panama Canal

I have, as I may have mentioned a few times, been reading Scott Alexander's novel Unsong.

Today I read a bit before dinner and a bit after. When I stopped for dinner, I had just read a reference to the palindrome "A man, a plan, a canal -- Panama," which served as the point of departure for my after-reading train of thought.

I thought of an old friend who had, ages ago, been my partner in crime in coming up with ridiculous anagrams and palindromes and such. One of our running jokes had been to take famous palindromes and deliberately ruin them -- for example, changing "Able was I ere I saw Elba" to "Oolretaw was I ere I saw Waterloo." You sort of had to be there. So I thought, hey, you could replace Panama with Suez and get, oh, I don't know, "Zeus, Lana, candy, a Haydn, a canal -- Suez!" No, not dumb enough. Or too dumb. Anyway, not as funny as Oolretaw.


And that reminded me of a story I had heard as a kid -- supposedly about a friend of a friend but probably just made-up -- about a guy who had named his dog Suez because Zeus is a god and dog is god spelled backwards.

And that made me think of an anecdote from Whitley Strieber's book The Afterlife Revolution.

I was in meditation one afternoon [in 2012] when I saw in my mind's eye a dog I had known in my youth. He was called Quagmire . . . I had not thought of this dog at all since I was a teenager.

When I told Anne about it, she said, "Dog-God. You just had a visit from God."

God? Was she kidding? God was a distant, immeasurable, and awe-inspiring presence. I said, "I'd need some sort of sign if I was going to believe that."

Half an hour later we left on our afternoon walk. And there, parked at the curb in front of our house was a car with the vanity plate QGMIRE. Quagmire. A coincidence, but also too much of one. She said something along the lines of, "He's ready to be your dog even though it's his universe. So lighten up and let it happen." . . .

In our many future conversations about the sacred, Anne always referred not to god but to dog. "Dog's going to be disappointed, Whitley, if you do such and such." Or, "Ask Dog. Dog will help you."

Dog did, and does. Dog's here and he's not going anywhere. But then again, how can he? He's everywhere.

(Incidentally, when Strieber was a boy, he had a dog named Candy -- one of the words in my lame-ass ad-hoc Suez palindrome.)

So that's where my train of associations had taken me -- from a Panama Canal palindrome to praying to "Dog" for help.

Little did I know that Alexander, having presumably taken an entirely different train, would meet me at the station. I picked up Unsong again after dinner and read on. One of the characters, having gotten into a tight spot while sailing through the Panama Canal, finds that (for a very silly reason that need not detain us here) she needs to pray to God backwards as "Dog."

"Okay, Dog," she said. "I haven't always believed in you. I mean, I've always believed in dogs, but . . . no, this is stupid. Listen, if I let you have this piece of meat, will you save me and my friends?"

And an actual dog suddenly appears on her ship, and she and her friends are saved. Never mind the details. "Ask Dog. Dog will help you." Dog did, and does.

How surprising is it that Alexander and I both independently connected "A man, a plan, . . ." with praying to God as "Dog" for help? After all, a palindrome does naturally make one think of words that become other words when reversed, and god/dog is surely one of the best known such pairs. (Did you hear about the agnostic dyslexic insomniac?) Still, for us both to arrive at someone actually praying to Dog -- a coincidence, as Strieber says, but also too much of one.

Note added: In a comment, Bruce Charlton corrects my coincidence to God-incidence. Well, these things are translingual -- Socrates himself used to swear "by the dog" (a very Sirius oath indeed!) -- and coin means "dogs" in both Irish and Scottish Gaelic, so replacing that element with God is singularly appropriate.

God-incidence reflects Bruce's position that synchronicities are the work of God. Regular readers will know that I prefer to attribute them to fairies -- or, as the Irish would say, sídhe.

I mentioned that in Unsong, when Ana prays to "Dog," an actual dog appears on her ship. It is described thus:

It reminded her of those black dogs that ye olde English had viewed as signs of death, the ones that would appear on windswept moors. It looked at her. Its eyes seemed too deep, too intelligent.

The reason the dog seems so uncanny is, of course, that it is actually God. The description suggests, despite the reference to "ye olde English," the faery hounds of Celtic folklore.

This is not a coinsídhence, because nothing is ever a coinsídhence.

Another unremarked milestone

According to the latest figures , the pecks have now killed more than two-thirds as many people in Taiwan as the birdemic has, and that rat...