Sunday, February 28, 2021

Snakes in the grass

The dream

I was with some friends (not sure who exactly) and we were climbing a very steep grassy hillside. More of a cliff, really, but covered with grass. Up above me on the cliff, I spotted a greenish lizard, maybe a foot long, of the skink type but with a forked tongue, with a juvenile of the same species next to it. Mother and daughter, I thought. Knowing (in the dream) that such lizards were highly venomous -- basically snakes with legs -- I kept a safe distance as I pulled out my phone and snapped a photo of the pair.

Then I looked around at other parts of the grassy cliff and noticed for the first time that the grass was positively crawling with squamata -- some legged and skinkish, others legless and viperine, all green, all very obviously venomous.

I alerted my friends to the situation, and, picking out steps carefully, we retreated to lower ground.

We were now on a flat grassy plain, which turned out to be similarly infested. We were not overly worried, though. So long as you see the snakes and avoid stepping on them, they won't bother you. I was also wearing a fairly snakeproof outfit, including heavy boots and a long outer garment similar to what Neo wears in The Matrix.

One of my friends suddenly jumped back, and I soon saw the reason. I little red viper, quite different from the green reptiles, had suddenly lunged out at her. Then it did this again. It was too far from her to be any real threat, though, so we just laughed at her overreaction and made comments like, "Aggressive little guy, isn't he?"

Then the aggressive little guy suddenly jumped at me -- and when I say jumped, I mean it took a flying leap, launching itself into the air, aiming for my unprotected midsection. I jumped straight up an spun around, making the skirt of my outer garment flare out around me like a dervish's. The snake struck only this fabric and fell to the ground.

As soon as we were both back on the ground, the little red viper came straight at me again. "Dude, it's actually chasing you!" someone said. I executed the same maneuver as before, making the snake strike the skirts of my robe rather than my body -- and this time when I landed, I landed on the snake, crushing it under my boot.

"Good thing you were wearing that robe!" someone said.

"Yeah," I said. "Next time I think I should wear a duster."


Waking thoughts

Upon waking and mulling over this imagery, I thought first of the Bible, then of the Book of Mormon, and then of the Tarot of Oswald Wirth.

In Genesis, the serpent apparently has legs in the beginning, since it is later cursed to go on its belly. The dream, too, begins with legged snakes and ends with a legless one. The other two parts of the curse are that the serpent will eat dust -- alluded to at the end of the dream, with the plan to make snakes strike a duster next time -- and that a man will crush its head.

In the Book of Mormon, Ether 9 describes people being pursued by serpents and fleeing before them -- not normal snake behavior, but matching that of the viper in my dream. The redness of the viper, and its leaping attacks, also seems to connect it with the "fiery flying serpents" mentioned in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

Finally, Oswald Wirth's Hermit card features a man in a long robe and a red snake in the grass.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Incitatus

According to Suetonius, Caligula had plans to make his favorite horse, Incitatus, a consul.

Why? Because he was insane and thought a horse was a man? Or because he was drunk on power and would enjoy seeing everyone else assiduously “not noticing” that the consul was a horse?

Something similar could be asked about the naked emperor in H. C. Andersen’s famous fable. Was he the most gullible man that ever lived — or was he just on a power trip?

And — but no, I’d better just stop here.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Saint Augustine and the mollusk

Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation 

-- Sir Walter Raleigh, The Passionate Man's Pilgrimage

Bring forth the mollusk, cast unto me



Hey, little boy, whatcha got there? 
Kind sir, it's a mollusk I've found.
Did you find it in the sandy ground? 
Does it emulate the ocean's sound? 
Yes, I found it on the ground 
Emulating the ocean's sound.
Bring forth the mollusk, cast unto me.
Let's be forever, let forever be free.

Hey, little boy, come walk with me,
And bring your newfound mollusk along.
Does it speaketh of the Trinity?
Can it gaze at the Sun with its wandering eye?
Yes, it speaks of the Trinity,
Casting light at the Sun with its wandering eye.
Bring forth the mollusk, cast unto me.
Let's be forever, let forever be free.

You see, there are three things that spur the mollusk from the sand:
The waking of all creatures that live on the land.
And with just one faint glance back into the sea,
The mollusk lingers with its wandering eye.

The apparent inspiration for these lyrics is the story of St. Augustine, the Holy Trinity, the Child and the Seashell (edited slightly).

Saint Augustine of Hippo spent over 30 years working on his treatise De Trinitate, endeavoring to conceive an intelligible explanation for the mystery of the Trinity.

He was walking by the seashore one day, contemplating and trying to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity, when he saw a small boy running back and forth from the water to a spot on the seashore. The boy was using a seashell to carry the water from the ocean and place it into a small hole in the sand.

The Bishop of Hippo approached him and asked, "Hey, little boy, whatcha got there?"

"I am trying to bring all the sea into this hole," the boy replied with a sweet smile.

"But that is impossible, my dear child. The hole cannot contain all that water," said Augustine.

The boy paused in his work, stood up, looked into the eyes of the Saint, and replied, "It is no more impossible than what you are trying to do -- comprehend the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your small intelligence."

The Saint, taken aback by such a keen response from the child, turned his eyes from him for a short while. When he glanced down to ask him something else, the boy had vanished.

I know the official line is that this eldritch child was an angel, or perhaps even Christ himself, in disguise. Perhaps, but the story gives me goosebumps nevertheless. I suppose the legend will, for any modern reader, inevitably be colored by the horror-movie cliché of the sweet little child who suddenly looks you in the eye and reveals himself to be something sinister and otherworldly. No matter how many times I read it, I can't shake the sense that the Saint's visitant had more about him of Faerie than of Heaven -- a cousin, perhaps, to the strange little person encountered by Saint Anthony (qv).


In the allegory acted out by Augustine's apparition, the ocean is God, and the hole in the sand is the Saint's philosophical and theological system -- and the mollusk? Well, what part of a man is the most like a mollusk, most like a soft, slimy gray creature encased in a protective shell and occasionally producing pearls? The brain.

"Casting light at the Sun" -- one thinks of the absurdity, but also the profundity, of J. S. Bach's dedicating all his works "to the greater glory of God."


Also, I apologize for this in advance, but the sync fairies insist -- for cephalopods are mollusks, too.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Showtime now is getting nearer

These two songs have been running through my mind for a few days now. Now they can run through yours, too.



I've always thought the Ween song was about preparing to die. "I'm dancing in the show tonight" always reminds me of that old joke: The good news is that, yes, there is baseball in heaven. The bad news is you're pitching tonight.

And if the Ween song's not creepy enough for you, their source material was even creepier!

I can't breathe through this mask like a fool

More birdemic music. Apparently this track wasn't included on the original UK version of Dummy, so some of my friends across the pond might not have heard it.


Misinformation warning: According to our independent fact-checkers, you can in fact breathe through a mask, exactly like a fool.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Three recent sync themes united

From a magazine for Taiwanese students of English. One of my adult students asked me about this article this morning.


Here are the bits I've highlighted:
  • "1.8" -- the date of the Battle of New Orleans
  • "foxes put the flowers on their feet to hide the sound of their footsteps" -- which makes them fox socks, not gloves
  • "it is very easy to get the amount wrong" -- proper dosage = temperance
Update: Less than an hour after posting this, I checked a young student's writing and found that he had misspelt "horses" as "hoses" -- "Do hoses run fast? Yes, they do."


This is another link to Fox in Socks: "Nose hose goes some, crow's rose grows some." In this post, I connect the nose in "nose hose" with rhino ("nose" in Greek) and mention that the rhino "belongs to the same order of mammals (Perissodactyla) as the donkey" -- and, though I did not mention it before, the horse.

First thoughts on Temperance

Over at The Magician's Table, I give Temperance the once-over.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Fiddling with comments


I've turned on comment moderation for all my blogs to see if that solves the problem of disappearing comments. So, Bruce, SK, Otto, anyone else who has been affected, please try to comment on this post. If your comment still hasn't shown up after 24 hours, something's still not working.

Dupes of a deep delusion!

"Dupes of a deep delusion!" -- the phrase recently popped into my head while I was trying in vain to get through to someone very close to me, an intelligent man and a Christian, who is somehow also a birdemic true believer and couldn't understand my objection to (and I quote!) "wearing a mask and avoiding close contact for a couple years."

"Dupes of a deep delusion!" -- I knew I had read that phrase decades ago in a book about sound symbolism by Reuven Tsur (he was interested in the oo-ee-ee-oo sequence of vowels) and that it was a quote from some poem or the other (Romantic-era English, from the feel of it), so I just now looked it up.

It turns out to be from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a 1798 poem with the extraordinarily appropriate title "Fears in Solitude." I quote the passage that cut the deepest when I read it.

O Britons! O my brethren! I have told
Most bitter truth, but without bitterness.
Nor deem my zeal or factious or mis-timed;
For never can true courage dwell with them,
Who, playing tricks with conscience, dare not look
At their own vices. We have been too long
Dupes of a deep delusion! Some, belike,
Groaning with restless enmity, expect
All change from change of constituted power;
As if a Government had been a robe,
On which our vice and wretchedness were tagged
Like fancy-points and fringes, with the robe
Pulled off at pleasure. Fondly these attach
A radical causation to a few
Poor drudges of chastising Providence,
Who borrow all their hues and qualities
From our own folly and rank wickedness,
Which gave them birth and nursed them.

The problem is not political. The solution is not political. Stop distracting yourself; play no more tricks with conscience. Gaze no more in the bitter glass; beloved, gaze in thine own heart.

Those last few sentences (some of them pinched from Yeats) are addressed to myself and myself only -- but, hey, if the shoe fits . . .

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Anyone else having trouble posting comments?

Email me if you are. Moderation is only turned on in exceptional circumstances (when, through some momentary lapse of judgment, a high-traffic site happens to link to me), so any comments you post should be immediately visible. If they’re not, something’s agley.

Friday, February 19, 2021

The "No Glory for [That Guy We] Hate Act"

This goes so far beyond self-parody that any witty remarks on my part would just be overkill, but apparently it's real, straight from congress.gov (PDF). The boldface is my own, but other than that I swear I am quoting verbatim from an official government document. Really! I'm not even crossing my fingers behind my back.

A BILL

To prohibit the use of Federal funds for the commemoration of certain former Presidents [sic, plural in original], and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the "No Glory for Hate Act".

SEC. 2. FEDERAL FUNDS RESTRICTION ON COMMEMORATING CERTAIN FORMER PRESIDENTS [sic].

Notwithstanding section 3102 of title 40, United States Code, no Federal funds may be used to—
 
(1) create or display any symbol, monument, or statue commemorating any former President that has been twice impeached by the House of Representatives on or before the date of enactment of this Act or has been convicted of a State or Federal crime relating to actions taken in an official capacity as President of the United States on Federal public land, including any highway, park, subway, Federal building, military installation, street, or other Federal property; . . .

The bill goes on to list several other measures regarding these "certain former Presidents," namely:
  • No federal building or land may be named after him -- uh, I mean "them."
  • No federal funds can be spent on state buildings or lands named after CFPs.
  • No Former Presidents Act benefits for CFPs, except Secret Service protection.
  • No CFPs -- not a single one of them! -- may be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. If a CFP absolutely must be buried, it is recommended that this be done at a crossroads at midnight, and a stake driven through his -- or her! -- heart. (Okay, sorry, a bit of satire did creep in there.)
As everyone knows, Donald J. Trump is the only U.S. president to have been impeached (and acquitted) twice, and it won't matter if anyone else ever matches or beats his record, because the bill specifies only those who were "twice impeached . . . before the date of enactment of this Act."

In other words, they might as well have called it the "No Glory For Former Presidents Born on June 14, 1946 Act." Is it illegal for an Act of Congress to single out an individual by name? If so, this is a pretty freaking transparent workaround!

So if Trump somehow manages to get the Fake Election overturned after all, he'd better hurry up and get all those things built and named after him before he becomes a former President that has been twice impeached.

Four links of chain

Mary had three links of chain,
and on every link was Jesus' name
-- old person-of-color spiritual

Can we get a rosariform poem down to three links?
  • 8 links: abca dced fegf hgbh
  • 7 links: abca dced fegf bg
  • 6 links: abca dced febf
  • 5 links: abca dced be
  • 4 links: abca dcbd
  • 3 links: abca bc
  • 2 links: abba
  • 1 link: aa
Technically, the number of links can be whittled down all the way to one, but I think the scheme ceases to be interesting with fewer than four. I mean, the two- and three-link varieties are nothing but the components of a Petrarchan sonnet, and one link is obviously no chain at all.

Four links of chain it is, then, since one wants to start small before working all the way up to a full 54-link (108-line) mala.

And, having tasked myself with composing a prayer to be repeated, can it be any surprise to whom I should turn for inspiration?

Unconquer'd Joan, O maiden brave,
To thee be this petition pray'd,
That we may see, through mist and dark,
Thy lily-spangl'd banner wave,
And, rising from the dust, be men!
That from thy flaming soul a spark
Ignite our hearts. O blessed Maid
Of Heaven, pray for us! Amen.

Specs for a "rosariform" poem

Bruce Charlton recently posted about Tolkien's unfinished poem "O! Wanderers in the shadowed land" and his own attempts at composing a suitable final line for it. (Did I resist the temptation to take a stab at it myself? Reader, I did not.)

The content of Tolkien's poem made me think of the beginning of Dante's Comedy, where Dante emerges from a dark wood and begins to climb a sunlit hill, only to be confronted by the three beasts, retreat, and take a minor detour through hell, purgatory, and the heavens.

Back in 2014, I "translated" some of this material (so loosely as to require the use of scare quotes) as an experiment. I was trying to duplicate some of the features of Dante's terza rima without the hard work of making each line rhyme with two others. I called the scheme I used "snake rhyme."


Both terza rima and my own rima serpentina have a chain-like structure which makes the poem as a whole indivisible. Each tercet in Dante or quatrain in my translation is linked by rhyme to the one before it and the one after it.

The trouble is that, as the diagram above makes clear, the first and last "links" in the chain are defective, smaller than the others. For example, the rima serpentina example above has the following rhyme structure:

aba cbdc edfe gfhg h

This defect can be solved by linking the A and H links, so that the chain becomes a circular one, the serpent an ouroboros, like so:

ahba cbdc edfe gfhg

Now it has a perfectly regular structure of quatrain "links" and is now, as I have said, circular. Once you reach the end, you go back to the beginning and recite it again; you can do this indefinitely, for as many repetitions as you like, and the whole thing will still be seamless.

So, I thought, what kind of poem would people want to repeat again and again indefinitely? Well, a mantra or prayer, obviously. Namo Amitabha, Hail Mary, that sort of thing. People who pray that way use a rosary, and a rosary is a circular "chain" of beads. In other words this sort of verse, which lends itself most naturally to writing repetitive prayers, also has the same structure as a rosary!

The Buddhist/Hindu/Sikh rosary has 108 beads -- a number which is conveniently divisible by four. So a perfectly "rosariform" poem would have 108 lines, constituting 27 quatrains of the form given above. The Catholic rosary has 59, a less convenient number.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Blogroll updated

I've updated my blogroll (right sidebar, scroll down) to include (I think) all those blogs and only those blogs which I check at least a few times a month. I haven't deleted any for political reasons, and I haven't added any for reasons of reciprocity or general chumminess.

If your blog's not listed, it doesn't mean I don't like you. If your blog is listed, it doesn't mean I do like you, let alone agree with you most of the time. I think this kind of thing has to be honest -- rather than polite or politic -- if it's going to be of any use to anyone else.

I encourage others to make similar updates. And if you delete a link to my own blog, because after all you don't really read it all that often, no hard feelings!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Biden finally gets more likes than dislikes!

Of the 77 videos uploaded to the White House's official YouTube channel so far, one of them has finally managed to get more likes than dislikes (by a 2.2-to-1 ratio). It's a video of the Fake President and the Fake Doctor against a Fake Chinese backdrop, wishing everyone a happy Lunar New Year (they conspicuously avoid saying the word "Chinese") and taking a stand against the scourge of racism against Asian Americans -- you know, the only demographic in the U.S. to be richer and more successful than whites -- and, uh, Pacific Islanders. Gotta stop hating on those Pacific Islanders.


Somehow, without actually saying the word China, he manages ever so subtly to convey a pro-China message. I believe this is what is known in the trade as a "dog whistle."


Unfortunately for Biden, YouTube is banned within the borders of China itself, or else he could have gotten an even better ratio.

Also unfortunately for Biden, his Chinese fans have a short attention span. Here are the like/dislike numbers for the videos just before and just after the Asian-and-Pacific-Islander New Year message.


That's more like his usual numbers: dislikes predominate by ratios of 20-to-1 and 10-to-1.


When I visited YouTube to check the White House channel and, as is my patriotic duty, downvote any new videos, this was one of the first videos YouTube recommended that I watch. It's a scene from the 2014 Christopher Nolan film Interstellar, which I saw and enjoyed back when it came out but haven't really thought of since then.


This caught my attention because a few months ago I had written (here) of the Rider-Waite Judgement card, "And what's that in the background? Mountains -- or an approaching tsunami?"


I wrote all of the above several hours ago but have just now come back to finish it off and post it. What was I doing in the interim? Well, my wife called me downstairs to watch a movie with her on TV. And the movie she had chosen just happened to be Interstellar.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Moroni: trump, sword, banner


An angel blowing a trumpet is a universally recognized symbol of Mormonism, appearing atop the spires of most Mormon temples.

Mormons believe that angels are men -- that "there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it" (D&C 130:5) -- and this angel represents Moroni. Moroni was the son of Mormon, author of the original Book of Mormon, and added some writings of his own to that book after his father's death. Later, as a resurrected angel, he appeared to Joseph Smith, beginning the process that led to the English Book of Mormon we have today.

(This is described in Extracts from the History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet. If you are ignorant of this document, you are ignorant. Go read it right now. It's less than 8,000 words. Why are you reading this sentence? I said right now.)

Why the trumpet? The "old spirit" who appeared to Joseph Smith had no such instrument. I have been told it's an allusion to Revelation 14:6 -- "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" -- but that angel is not described as having a trumpet, either. Many of the angels in Revelation do have trumpets, though, so perhaps this one ended up being depicted with one by association. Anyway, whatever the reason, the trumpet is now an essential item in the Angel Moroni's accoutrements.


On January 26, "G" of the Junior Ganymede blog wrote that his wife had "dreamed the Church announced it was taking down all the angel Moronis on the temples to replace the trumpet with a sword."


Moroni was the son of Mormon. Mormon was named for the Waters of Mormon, where, centuries before his time, 204 converts had been baptized by a fugitive priest who preached in the wilderness to escape the vengeful eye of the wicked king he had once served. As Mormon himself wrote when recounting the story,

And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever. And these things were done in the borders of the land, that they might not come to the knowledge of the king (Mosiah 18:30-31).

So the name Mormon would have had connotations similar to those of Jordan. Alas that there is no longer any Mormon Church to carry on the legacy of that name!

Mormon named his son Moroni, after the great Nephite military hero Captain Moroni, of whom Mormon had written,

And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;

Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.

Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.

. . . and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men (Alma 48:11-17).

Like Joan of Arc centuries later, Captain Moroni was known for his distinctive banner, called the Title of Liberty. This banner was flown in the war against Amalickiah, a pretender to the position of King of the Nephites, who would later swear an oath that he would drink Moroni's blood.

And now it came to pass that when Moroni, who was the chief commander of the armies of the Nephites, had heard of these dissensions, he was angry with Amalickiah.

And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land . . .

And it came to pass that when he had poured out his soul to God, he named all the land which was south of the land Desolation, yea, and in fine, all the land, both on the north and on the south—A chosen land, and the land of liberty.

And he said: "Surely God shall not suffer that we, who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions."

And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying: "Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them."

And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments (Alma 46:11-21).


Moroni's banner was spotted, and filmed, at the January 6 protest at the Capitol.


My sister Kat Valentine, whose portrait of Joan of Arc has already appeared on this blog, also did one of Captain Moroni. When she first showed it to me, I thought he looked saintly but insufficiently martial. However, it's rather grown on me since then.

More prophetic music?

Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1999


Psychic spies from China try to steal your mind's elation
And little girls from Sweden dream of silver screen quotation
And if you want these kind of dreams it's Californication

Chinese spies? Little girls from Sweden? Sounds very 2020s, doesn't it?

Born and raised by those who praise control of population
Well, everybody's been there and I don't mean on vacation

No comment needed.

Destruction leads to a very rough road but it also breeds creation
And earthquakes are to a girl's guitar, they're just another good vibration
And tidal waves couldn't save the world from Californication

No act of God can save those who don't want to be saved.

Sicker than the rest, there is no test, but this is what you're craving

No act of God can save those who don't want to be saved.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Not one jot or tittle?

Over at The Magician's Table, I ask why Waite systematically modifies the letter yodh ("jot") when he writes the name of God on his Tarot cards.

The birdemic death toll may have been slightly overestimated (by a mere 1667%)

Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.
-- Mark Twain


See the full report here: PDF. It's even peer reviewed, which makes it not just science but the science.

Not that it matters of course. Totalitarianism is justified if it saves even one life.

Hymn to Ahriman

(Acxiom is a "database marketing" company.)


Kate Bush hit a similar theme back in 1989 with "Deeper Understanding."

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

I loved my banner 40 times better than my sword.

Joan's banner and sword

Regular readers will know I have been experiencing a fairly constant stream of synchronicities relating to Joan of Arc.

Many of the early syncs focused on her banner:

Later, the emphasis shifted to her sword, and this sword was associated with Donald Trump:

  • In hoc signo vinces? Joan's sword as an answer to the question "What's going on in Washington?"
  • Darkest hour: The dream-phrase épée d'Arc is associated with a Babylon Bee article in which Trump has "the Darksaber."
  • Small hands, you say? Much is made of Joan's sword being held by someone with small hands, a stereotypical attribute of Trump.
  • Trump with a sword again: The sync fairies lead me to a random op-ed in which the author randomly says "for some reason I picture Trump carrying a sword."

St. Michael

On February 8, I received an email from a regular correspondent, subject line "The Archangel Michael," soliciting thoughts on "whether Michael means anything special (perhaps vital?) for modern Christians, here-and-now."

I replied that I had no particular beliefs or feelings about that specific archangel, but that a Latin prayer to St. Michael, recommended to me by another online friend, had once proved effective in a specific unusual situation I found myself in back in the summer of 2019.

Hundred years' wars

This morning, yet another online friend, knowing and sharing my particular interest in Joan of Arc, sent me a link to a January 3 sermon by an anonymous Catholic priest on Regina Prophetarum, called "Ending the Hundred Years War Using Saint Joan's Holy Banner of War" (mp3). After a Hail Mary and some other preliminaries, it begins thus:

Saint Joan of Arc led her army to some of the greatest military victories in the history of the world. To make these victories possible, she was instructed by Heaven to make a banner with the holy names of Jesus and Mary painted upon it. She herself held this banner and led the way to victory, saying later, "I loved my banner 40 times better than my sword."

Joan struck the decisive blow in the Hundred Years' War with England, and the priest then refers to "a new Hundred Years' War . . . declared by the Devil himself in the hearing of Pope Leo XIII." In this war, "we have the names of Jesus and Mary, the holy names, but they need to be brought back and placed on the standard of war." The priest later says, "We need another Joan to lead the way. Come back, dear Joan! We need you again, to put a death blow to this new Hundred Years' War."

Joan has come back. I am not her only witness.

Not being familiar with this "new Hundred Years' War" declared by the Devil, I looked it up and found an article called "Leo XIII & the one hundred years."

It is said that after he had celebrated Mass in the presence of some Cardinals and members of the Vatican staff on October 13th, 1884, Pope Leo experienced a vision of the future concerning the Church in which the power of Satan would be unleashed for a period of 100 years.  He was so shaken by the spectre of the destruction of moral and spiritual values both inside and outside the Church that he composed a prayer to St Michael the Archangel which he ordered to be said at the end of each Mass throughout the Catholic Church.  This is the prayer--

St Michael the Archangel defend us in the day of battle.  Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.  May God restrain him, we humbly pray, and do thou, the prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.  Amen.

This got my attention because I immediately recognized it as an English translation of the Latin prayer to St. Michael that had just been brought back to my memory by a random email query.

Many suns

Here is another extract from the sermon on Joan's banner.

In her great work The Mystical City of God, Venerable Mother Mary of Ágreda speaks of when the time had come to name the Holy Child on the octave day of Christmas. She writes, "When the great mistress of heaven -- Our Lady -- and St Joseph conversed with each other about the holy name of Jesus, innumerable angels descended in human form from on high, clothed in shining white garments . . . and emitted a greater splendor than many suns.

I had been listening to this sermon alone in my car. When I arrived home, I found that my wife had put some music on. She's been on a Chester Bennington kick lately, and I was greeted by the Linkin Park song "The Catalyst."

God save us, every one.
Will we burn inside the fires of a thousand suns?
For the sins of our hand,
The sins of our tongue,
The sins of our father,
The sins of our young? -- No!

I recognized "a thousand suns" as an allusion to the Bhagavad Gita -- the lines made famous by Oppenheimer when he quoted them with reference to the atomic bomb: "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once in the sky, that would be the splendor of the Mighty One."

Bigger than Trump

Near the end of the sermon I listened to, the priest says that, while he certainly hopes Trump will be restored to the presidency, we need to realize that our problems will not be solved by having a crooked election set right, that we must set our sights higher.

I have associated Trump with Joan's sword. But Joan loved her banner -- bearing angels and the holy names of Jesus and Mary -- 40 times better than her sword.

I have associated Trump with the Sun. But the angels associated with the holy names of Jesus and Mary emitted a greater splendor than many Suns.

I feel that a very coherent message has, in the language of synchronicity, been communicated to me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Trump with a sword again

The image seems to be in the air. (See also the trump/sword link here.) On a whim I got on Google News (something I haven't done in a good long time) and clicked the third link it served up -- a goofy op-ed piece about Impeachment Two by someone called Matthew Walther (the name sounds familiar but I can't quite place him).

From a legal perspective Trump's refusal to testify is a no-brainer. But for the American people it's nothing short of a tragedy. Why not turn the Senate phase of impeachment into a massive O.J. Simpson trial-like spectacle, complete with celebrity lawyers and some kind of instantly memorable and hilarious prop (for some reason I picture Trump carrying a sword, or perhaps an eagle)? Instead of something that journalists will tweet about, a Senate trial in which Trump answered questions from Wacky Jacky and Pat "No Tariffs" Toomey and Corrupt Kaine would be a genuine cultural and political event drawing hundreds of millions of viewers to cable television, which is almost certainly on the edge of a massive ratings cliff.

Note: The verdict of "goofy" may be premature. Having found what the sync fairies sent me there for, I didn't read any further than the quoted paragraph. I mean, really, who reads this stuff?

A good day for music

This one isn't new, of course, but I just discovered it today.


I found it unexpectedly moving, this old song about Messianic hopes that never came true. People were expecting a Messiah, King David 2.0; what they got was the Christ. Having one's hopes upended isn't always a bad thing. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor. 2:9).

What everyone's been waiting for

Leo Moracchioli has done "Rasputin."

It's a good day.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Ape linkin'

I mentioned in my post "Year of the Ox" that this Chinese New Year -- 2/12 -- is "the 212th birthday of both Abe Lincoln and ape-linkin' Charles Darwin." A bit more on that pun/coincidence.

The connection between Lincoln and Linkin' is well established. The rock band Linkin Park, for example, is named after a Lincoln Park in Santa Monica, California; they changed the spelling because the domain name lincolnpark.com was already taken.

The name Abraham means "father of multitudes"; the first element, whence the short form Abe, means "father." It is this element that corresponds to ape in the pun, and Darwin's ape-linkin' took the specific form of claiming that apes were our fathers. Abraham is metaphorically seen as the father of everyone ("Father Abraham had many sons / Many sons had Father Abraham / And I am one of them / And so are you . . ."); after Darwin, the apes have taken over this role.

Abraham Lincoln was famously ugly, like an ape. (When a political opponent called him "two-faced," he quipped, "If I had another face, do you think I'd wear this one?") He was the first American president to wear a beard -- and specifically the mustache-less "Shenandoah" style, similar to the facial hair of a gorilla or chimpanzee. (The mustache is one of the things that distinguishes us from the apes.)

The final scene in the 1963 French novel La Planète des Singes prominently features the Eiffel Tower, but when the story was adapted for Hollywood, this was replaced with a similarly iconic American landmark. The 1968 Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston went with that old Hollywood standby, the ruins of the Statue of Liberty. ("Why does Hollywood hate that statue so much?" one of my students once asked me.) The 2001 remake with Mark Wahlberg, on the other hand, takes advantage of Lincoln's ape-like features and ends with a Lincoln Memorial that memorializes not Lincoln but the ape character General Thade.



(By the way, trying to find a picture of that scene led me to an Euler diagram showing the relationship between "things that appear to be the Lincoln Memorial" and "things that are the Lincoln Memorial." The Internet is a very strange place.)

Update: Just minutes after posting this, I check Vox Popoli and find a comment saying the Super Bowl halftime show “looked like a scene from Planet of the Apes.”

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The kingdom is not of this world

ATTENTION. DUE TO A SCALE BACK IN COVERAGE, THE MORAL ARC OF THE UNIVERSE NO LONGER BENDS TOWARD JUSTICE. WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE.
-- Unsong

Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
-- John 16:32-33

Is the Arc still bending toward justice? Possibly, I hope so -- but if not, it really is just an inconvenience. Not that it doesn't matter. We should work for justice, hope for justice, pray for justice -- just as we do for health and long life for ourselves and those we love. But we should also recognize that living on earth for a really long time was never really the point, that no one's ever going to live all that long no matter what we do, and that in the end we must suffer death before we can transcend it. And the same is true of injustice. "Resist not evil" -- said in the same spirit as "Don't be afraid to die."

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Found poetry

I think this guy all of a sudden
could see time.
He can actually look into space and see
his movements from yesterday
and tomorrow.

When he tries to drink his coffee,
he picks up the one
from a couple of hours ago.

When he moves, time is shifted
in spontaneous ways so that there is no way to tell
the actual time.

His body and clothes are also
shifted throughout time, so his face
and pajamas are different when
he gets out of bed.

(source)

Another sign idea

The birdemic death toll in Taiwan just shot up more than 14% in a single day -- meaning eight people have now died, a jaw-dropping 0.00003% of the population.

So far, schools like my own have been exempt from the mask mandate, but given how unspeakably dire the situation has become, it's only a matter of time before some benevolent bureaucrat thinks of the children.

When they do, I'm going to be good and ready.


We are all Hong Kongers now -- not a statement of solidarity, just a fact.

Year of the Ox

Blackboard art by one of my employees

I've never really paid that much attention to the Chinese zodiac (which approximates the cycle of Jupiter in the same rough way that our calendar months approximate the cycle of the Moon), but this year it feels significant.

The year just ending (Jan. 25, 2020 - Feb. 11, 2021) is the Year of the Rat (or of the Mouse; Chinese doesn't distinguish between the two), which strikes me as a singularly appropriate designation for 2020. A rat is a quisling, an informer, or just generally an unpleasant person. A mouse is proverbially quiet and timid, often unfavorably contrasted with a man, and is also of course a computer input device. And let's not forget Mickey Mouse -- icon of the global mass media, and also a way of saying something is shoddy, substandard, or not to be taken seriously. Any of that sound familiar?

On 2/12 -- which, for those who notice such things, also happens to be the 212th birthday of both Abe Lincoln and ape-linkin' Charles Darwin -- we begin the Year of the Ox (or Bull, or Cow; the Chinese really aren't big on these fine zoological distinctions).

February 12 happens to fall on a Friday this year; 2/12 F = 212°F = the boiling point. Our word boil derives from the Latin root bull-, as in ebullient. This symbolism of reaching a boiling point is reinforced by the proverbial rage of bulls. What clearer contrast to quiet as a churchmouse than bull in a china shop?

The only point of agreement between the Chinese and Western zodiacs is that the second sign is the Bull. In the alphabet, however, the Bull comes first -- "bull/ox" being the literal meaning of the letter name aleph or alpha. I always think of aleph as being connected with the Greek elaphos, "deer," and elephas, "elephant," though the similarity has no known etymological basis.

The Bull is one of the Four Living Creatures of Ezekiel and Revelation -- the only one to figure in the Chinese zodiac -- and as such appears on the 21st Tarot trump, the World. (The Quenya word for "bull" is the Spanish word for "world," mundo.)

The two letters of the word ox represent, in East Asia, "yes" and "no." On TV talk shows in Taiwan, the members of the studio audience are often given a pair of signs marked O and X, which they can hold up to show agreement or disagreement with something.


This fits with the Western tradition of describing a dilemma as a beast with two horns. And of course in the famous Japanese koan, one un-asks an impossible question by saying mu -- or, to English the spelling, moo.

Most importantly for me, though, bovines symbolize slow, deep thinking (St. Thomas Aquinas was called "the dumb ox") and impassiveness. The cow ruminates -- chewing and swallowing the same food again and again to extract every bit of nutrition from it -- and this behavior is part of what qualifies it as a "clean" animal under the Mosaic code. In the Discordian Deck, each suit includes a Cow card, which "may symbolize someone in the midst of whatever [the suit represents], but not actually affected by it."

In the coming year, it will be necessary to slow down, think more deeply, and minimize our reliance on, and responsiveness to, external stimuli.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Small hands, you say?

I know I said I was done with the election, but a sync is a sync and I have a sort of responsibility to report it.

Last night, I received a new comment on my January 11 post "Darkest hour." This post is illustrated with a picture from the Babylon Bee of President Trump holding "the Darksaber" (something from Fake Star Wars, I think) and connects that word dark with Jeanne d'Arc.


The comment, from one Drew, reads:

It occurred to me last night—and I'm sure you're aware of this already, but I haven't seen you explicitly mention it in your writing—that Joan of Arc saved France from a false (or disputed) claimant to the French throne. Indeed, the English king Henry V and his heir Henry VI (in his minority) possessed the French throne for nine years after the treaty of Troyes in 1420.

The connections to our present difficulties, our disputed "throne," are even more pronounced.

Forgive me if this is obvious to everyone. It wasn't immediately obvious to me.

This morning, after a week or two of not reading much other than blogs and the Bible, I picked up Mark Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, which I started some time ago but am not very close to finishing. Right there, on the very first page I opened up to, I read this:

When God fights it is but small matter whether the hand that bears His sword is big or little.

Joan is speaking of herself, of course, responding to those who doubt

how a country-girl, ignorant of war, can take a sword in her small hand and win victories where the trained generals of France have looked for defeats only, for fifty years -- and always found them.

Still, small hands -- who does that remind me of?

I make no predictions. I just want to let people know that the sync fairies are still at it -- and, despite everything, I still kind of trust the little guys.

What I look like


Following the example of William Wildblood and Frank Berger, I’ve added a photo of myself to the sidebar. Fact is, when I’m reading a (non-ancient) book, I keep flipping to the back flap to remind myself what the author looks like — that’s an essential part of the reading experience — so it’s only fair that I should allow my own readers to do the same.

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