Archive for February, 2009

The first thing you think about

February 28, 2009

I played a little game with myself: whipped out a word, then wrote down the first thing I thought of.

Enjoy.

* * *

Bureaucracy — Shortly after: stalking the halls with a smoking shotgun, alternately giggling and screaming.

Bicycle — Going downhill, then noticing the handlebar assembly has detached from the frame, is not fun.

Starlight — No. I’ll take Starclassic instead. Or Starchocolate. I’m not one of those health-conscious people. That low-mass Starlight stuff gives me solar wind.

DRM — Kill destroy harm maim mutilate KILL burrow into the squirming insides relishing the agonized screams… DO NOT WANT.

Cow — They’re bigger than you think. And quicker. If they got angry, the fences wouldn’t hold them. Nor would walls. You’d sit shivering on the roof, while they wrecked the house below… and you’d hope they wouldn’t look in the fridge.

Heavy metal — Horn music. Perfect, clean and good. Music of the outsiders, music of those who don’t give a damn and who care beyond appearances. Snark suspension music. Music beyond gods and masters. If Bach lived, he would play in Iron Maiden. (Also, manganese.)

Rap — On the head, with an iron bar. Then police come, then a note on your rap sheet. Then exeunt. (Also, the music? Metal types spell it with an initial “c”.)

Crime — This black ski mask with just eyeholes was a bad idea. With just eyeholes. The cough, that was okay, but the hawking and phlegm — yeghh. Definitely a mouth-hole the next time. The cashier looks at time like I’m a lunatic; no, just committing a crime.

Lovecraft — Write it lowercase, and it’s “Ten Thousand Uses for A Pseudopod in the Bed-Room”, by “A Shoggoth”.

Cross — The usual mental state of many Christians.

* * *

Well, that was fun.

Except the part I hit a word like “new” and couldn’t think of anything. I think entries like this would have started to get a bit tedious when you came across the fifth one:

New — Umm. That’s a common word. What’s new? Um, too many choices… New, new, can’t think of a thing. Or is it that there are too many things to think about? Curses and obfustications. Nothing. Should I force myself — nah. New, new, newt. A newt? I got better. Ah, umm…

(Also, given the occurrence of words like “crime”, “shotgun”, “maim” and “screams” above: Hello, police internet early warning surveillance unit! Nothing here!)

Oneness, schmoneness

February 26, 2009

I happened to read a bit about one world-traveling guru (it’s not important here who), and that inspired me to grumble a few words about this stupid idea that “the goal of all religions is the same: oneness with god”.

Consider the following a representative quote.

“His teachings are usually based on his native mythology, but he doesn’t call on anyone to change their religion. Instead he encourages people to go deeper into their own religion and to try to understand its true message. According to him, the goal of all religions is the same — to get humans to understand their oneness with God and all reality, and to give advice on how to attain this oneness.”

This all sounds nice and uplifting, but doesn’t have much meaning.

Oneness with God and all reality sounds nice — but what is it? Does it give you magic powers? Do you levitate, stop aging, miraculously heal the sick? Do you get, like, special insights into solving all of world’s problems? Do you become really good in settling disputes and giving moral advice?

Doesn’t oneness with God give at least a few insights? Maybe a cure for cancer, or blueprints for some really nifty carbon nanotubes? Just one instance where a miracle healing doesn’t turn out to be a hoax or something impossible to confirm? Just one genuinely levitating guru?

Doesn’t seem like it.

Is “the goal of all religions” instead something hazy and intra-cranial like “being really content”? Is it, to intentionally use a slightly ominous word, just a mental state? Because if that’s all, then I’ve heard a few pints of beer are a much cheaper and quicker way. So are drugs; there are many ways of being oblivious and self-satisfied while the handbasket accelerates.

Oh, and oneness with God — what god? Which god? And how does that oneness jive with the different things that all these different religions teach? If you’re one with god and all reality, what’s your stance on abortion? Or homosexuality? Death punishment? Suicide? Freedom of speech? Blasphemy? The position of women? What will come after life? What was before it? Is evolution true? Are ghosts real? What about miracles? And is Ken Ham a reptilian humanoid from Gamma Woowoo?

Surely if “the goal of all religions is the same”, there should be some unified illumination on some of these subjects, some specific answers instead of generic platitudes (“[insert god here] is Love&Peace!”) — unless, of course, oneness with God means a total lack of curiosity. Judge not, care not?

This oneness stuff seems to be built on the common mistake that all religions are somehow all good, but just misunderstood. That just isn’t so, unless you rephrase it as “you can pick and choose parts that are not morally objectionable from any religion” — but then the sentiment doesn’t sound so world-embracing anymore, does it?

This all seems to me to be, pardon my language, just flipping the bird at both the detailed doctrines of the religions involved, and the generally skeptical mindset opposed.

Sorry, but the one thing all religions share is that they are all made up: some because of greed, some because of delusion, but the most simply because the world is a big, complex, scary place and seems to need an overseer of some sort to keep on running.

The only connecting thing behind all religions is not some nebulous Overgod, but the tendency of men to make up stories to explain things that they don’t know, and to mistake elementary probability for deep mystical connections, paraeidolic quirks of the brain for signs from above.

(If you want a more saccharine formulation of that, “all religions are just a pursuit of meaning” — a wild goose chase.)

Still, if you want to get one with that, our tendency to be bloody awfully uncritical, be my guest.

* * *

These New-Agey bovine excrement salesmen mild religious folks are just as bad as the smear-the-walls-with-poo maniacs fundamentalists, except from a different direction: whereas the latter hit you like a massive coprolith projectile straight to the forehead, the former ooze all over you like a mist of powderized fecal matter wafted by the rectal trumpets of platitude, obscuring all, revealing nothing.

Oy, that’s a pleasant turn of phrase.

* * *

The sentiment of this piece brings to mind the occasional saw that atheists often feel they have more in common with religious fundamentalists than with moderates — which is, in a way, true.

Moderates are much nicer people, but they’re often so far into deism/agnosticism that they don’t really have anything to say about the world, no claims to defend, nothing miraculous that really, grown-up really, exists. Their claims are so diluted by modern knowledge and modern secular ethics that their Bible’s just a pamphlet of parables, and their God barely exists and never really acts.

As I said, they are much nicer and better people than fundamentalist whackaloons, but their vagueness and unwillingness to articulate what they really believe is really, really frustrating.

Or it would be, were they not sliding up the slope to contented atheism.

The Parable of the Blackmailing Mad Scientists

February 25, 2009

The first time a Mad Tinkerer called the President, he demanded a lot of things: and since this is a Mad Tinkerer I am talking about, many of those were a bit unusual. There would be blood, chaos, destruction, and evil atomic mutants unless the whole nation would stop wearing ponchos, increase their pizza intake and never, ever make jokes about ions.

The Tinkerer added that an effective deterrent for this last one would be criminalising the deed: an Anti-“I’m positive!” Act of sorts.

The President declared the nation would not be blackmailed by a kook with a science degree from Mouhaha Tech — mainly because the democratic equivalent of blackmail (elections) every four years was already more than enough for him — and fine, there was blood and chaos, destruction and three green-skinned giants with laser eyes. The nation got over that — not the President, though, as the next election was all about “being soft on the physics menace”. That particular Mad Tinkerer fumed a bit, but his threats were increasingly hollow, thanks to the Pan-Continental Atomic Mutant Early Warning System (PCAMEWS, pronounced pee-zee-myers).

The next Mad Tinkerer, seeing that blackmailing the entire nation was a bit troublesome — some were willing to obey, others not, and no matter what the final decision was, there would be grumbling and everyone would blame the would-be world-ruling scientist, and no-one would understand his Grand Vision — well, seeing that, the next Mad Tinkerer went personal.

One day every TV everywhere turned on, and the sneering, weak-chinned visage of the engineer with a Ph.D., too much free time and a “Spock so loved the world”-t-shirt glared at the populace. He proclaimed he had devised a giant distributed Atomic Robot-Mutant Killer Legion which consisted of insect-sized nanite drones, scattered all across the nation.

His ultimatum was clear, though the reasons for it were obscure: Ponchos for everyone. No more pizza. And ion jokes every Thursday, on every TV station and radio channel, at least five of them. (If there were as many — he didn’t tell.)

Anyone that didn’t obey would be immediately and personally killed by the distributed drones.

This, connoisseurs of Mad Tinkerer lore proclaimed, was a new and very interesting approach — usually mad scientists went for the “everyone obeys, or the skies will fill with green shit!” ultimatum. This concern for individuals — and the willingness to go for individual throats and other fatal spots — was, according to the specialists, the herald of a new age in the glorious history of blackmail by almost all-powerful figures unwilling to make an intellectual case for their curious demands.

* * *

The meaning of this parable — that is, the parallels to the Gods of the Testaments Old and New — should be obvious. In the Old, either the nation did as the Lord said, or there would be much blood, chaos and destruction, though no evil atomic mutants. According to the New, either an individual does as the bum rabbi said, or the individual goes to Hell — which may or may not contain distributed insect-robot-drones (the New Testament, even the Revelation, fails to mention those).

In other words, those religions were and are just blackmail.

* * *

And this has been your dose of “same God, different guise” for today. See the older ones here.

N-word stories

February 24, 2009

I’ve written a few six-word stories before — well, more like abbreviated a few of my longer stories into that length, without any serious loss of worth — so, here are some more.

Just for variety, these are not all six words — nah, one each of five, six, seven and eight words, and all about religious matters.

  • 5: Aquinas right. Saints watch. Crud.
  • 6: Odinic Ragnarok; no Jesus. Oh, Hel.
  • 7: Paraeidolic poo-poo destroyed! Holy shit hits fan!
  • 8: Out of Norway: An oiled man of Cod.

Glossing the first requires a quote of more than five words from Thomas Aquinas, a medieval theologian: “That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell.”

My comment to that could be encapsulated in two words, but I won’t write them here.

Just to be a bit more verbose — the “oiled” is supposed to resonate with a) “messiah”, Hebrew for “anointed (with oil)” and b) oil, as in the black lucrative stuff of the North Sea, and one of Norway’s main exports.

Yecch; that was a gloss five times the length of the tale.

Blogroll update

February 24, 2009

My blogroll — which for me just means “regularly visited sites, some of whom are actually not blogs, plus the WordPress.com link to honor my kind hosts” — was a bit out of date so I added a few items, all places where I’ve lurked for a long time and still do.

I’m a very good lurker since I seldom think up anything topical and original to say; it’s a gift of Finland. For Finns the amount of people when thoughts and words flow most freely and daringly is not two — it’s one.

Or that’s my excuse anyway.

* * *

I’ll try to say a few words about each link below. As I am, again in typically Finnish fashion, very bad in saying good things, and even worse in the hyperbolic American-style adulation these links deserve (and often receive), I will now issue a blanket statement: all the links below are to awesome sites.

Blogroll newcomers (though none are new acquaintances to me) are in bold.

  • Bad Astronomy — Phil Plait’s blog. Astronomy, space science stuff, skepticism, and hitting certain wackaloons — such as paraeidolists, moon hoaxers and anti-vaccinationists — over the head with the scathing shovel of his mind whenever there is cause.
  • Daylight Atheism — Ebonmuse’s blog about atheism, with an adjacent “static” site, Ebon Musings. Both are among the most forceful and beautiful expressions of the subject I’ve read.
  • Geologic Podcast — George Hrab’s podcast. The best podcast I’ve found so far; I don’t have high hopes of finding a better one. It’s — uh, I guess unusual humor, news commentary and slices of life. Except much, much better than what you probably imagine by that description. If ever the words of a nameless internet hobo (me) have moved you, move now and go listen to Mr. Hrab.
  • Greta Christina’s blog — One of those blogs that make me feel somehow perversely proud that I share at least one characteristic with the writer — atheism, namely. Like Ebonmuse above, she writes not only forcefully, but beautifully.
  • Halfway There — Zeno’s blog; atheism and math teaching. I could make a sly remark about how it is nice to read the thoughts of another mathematically oriented person, but that is unnecessary; Halfway There is a well-written, thoughtful blog, period.

A little break. I just have to mention that writing these descriptions is rather awkward — I’m not used to praising so many in so quick a succession. Makes me feel like a priest in some thousand-god Hindu temple. Then again, it would be weird should I clutter my ‘roll with mediocrities — ah well.

  • JREF — James Randi Educational Foundation, another tireless fighter in the ceaseless war against mankind’s primal gullibility. (And surely you know ‘skeptic’ is the opposite of ‘gullible’?)
  • Pharyngula — PZ Myers’s blog, with incredible amounts of traffic, staggering thousands of comments, and an equally prodigious output of posts. The place for the latest about atheism, anti-creationism and general clear-thinking science-mindedness. (Also daily theist vivisections. The comments can get a bit heated.)
  • Piled Higher and Deeper — Jorge Cham’s webcomic about graduate students. It is not as made up as you might think.
  • Richard Dawkins.net — The website of Richard Dawkins Foundation; the subtitle “A clear-thinking oasis” describes it pretty well. Enough videos and collated articles to keep one happily bloated for a long while. (And by “bloated” I mean “both entertained and educated”.)
  • Rumic World — The best Rumiko Takahashi fansite I know. (A-ha! Thought this was going to be another atheist site, huh? Didn’t you? No! No sirree! I have interests outside atheism and skepticism, you know! Like, y’know, naked women. And Rumiko Takahashi.) If this identification rings no bells, may I suggest going to your local bookshop and ordering the first volume of Ranma 1/2? Only a few dollars or euros, and quite possibly a start for a long, expensive, and hugely enjoyable addiction. (Dang. This always happens when I try to recommend something.)
  • Skeptoid — Brian Dunning’s podcast. Ten minutes of skeptical goodness about one chosen subject every week. Dunning’s better than any book of ghosts or unexplained tales I’ve ever read — he not only tells the mysterious tale, but also looks at it carefully, skeptically, and offers an explanation for it; and I can’t think of a single occasion when the (probable) explanation was any less intriguing than the initial mystery.
  • Subnormality — A webcomic. Smart, funny and unusual. (Those are pretty much the three words that, in my opinion, should be enough to send anyone scampering for the target, but if that’s not enough, imagine an “extra” in front of each. And, keeping to a certain theme in these here links, there’s one piece about An Atheist Apocalypse.)
  • The Amateur Scientist — A blog and a podcast about science- and lunacy-related things. Very funny. (Sorry. After all these items, my ability to think up unique words of praise is getting strained. Really, it’s a good podcast. Though a bit embarrassing when it’s coming out of your earphones and you try to stare at the cereal aisle at the local supermarket and avoid maniacal laughter while the podcast co-host duck is suffering grievous and hilarious bodily harm — that was episode 43, and around the words “Thou shalt not pass!”)
  • Whatever — John Scalzi’s blog. He’s both an ancient of the web-diary world and a successful science fiction writer. And a very funny guy. (I said I was running out of praise juice. Too many links to describe. Ugh.) If you want to know, Bad Astronomy, Pharyngula and Whatever are the only three blogs I check every day — because I know they will deliver something worth reading.
  • WordPress.com — My lovely host-organism… eh, host-mechanism. I’ve wandered from one blog to another, reading them and looking at all the incidentals and commenting mechanisms and such, but I haven’t seen one that would have looked better than this choice o’mine. Pretty, smart, versatile, agile, with no irritating quirks — hey, WordPress has all the qualities a good girlfriend should have. (Well, except that WordPress can’t give you — wait, what’s this button?)
  • xkcd — Randall Munroe’s webcomic. The best webcomic I know of. I’m willing to hazard a guess that it’s the best webcomic there is; and why stop with webcomics? One of the best comic strips I know. Right up there with Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes. (325: “Instead of office chair package contained bobcat. Would not buy again.”; also, after reading a bit, try hovering the mouse above it.)

In addition to these additions, I removed Perry Bible Fellowship (doesn’t update no more, though the archive is stellar), Engrish (I don’t go there that much anymore) and WordPress.org (uh, the .com link should be enough to show my gratitude; besides, long blog-and-whatever-rolls are inelegant).

* * *

As there are a few podcasts on the roll, I take the chance to mention a few of my opinions about those: If one wants to retain me as a listener, no endless repetition of what is ahead. No endless hur-huring and snarky backslapping among the hosts; that might amuse them, but just irritates me — if I want to listen to pointless laughter, I’ll go to a bar and sit there nursing a Coke. No promos except in the end, where one can skip them; I don’t long for commercial breaks as long as this little thing called a “pause button” exists. No endless, aimless jawing, hello-ing and whatcha-happening-ing. And, by the empty heavens above, if that is in any way possible, please, pretty please, no commercials.

If one wants to hear three podcasts that, in my opinion and a bit limited experience, are smooth and nice listening by their format and construction (and, of course, by their content), Skeptoid, Geologic Podcast and J.C. Hutchins‘s 7th Son podcast novels (specifically, the “chatterbox edition” or the “version with a frame story” as I think of it) are where the quality’s at.

Now: the Acme-Amica Chalk Gun 3000!

February 23, 2009

For the serious lecturer only: the new Acme-Amica Chalk Gun Mk. 3000!

A sleek, elegant machine of plastic and aluminum not much bigger than a shoe or two, this exciting new Acme Amica product shoots hundreds of tiny chalk pellets per second to distances of up to 50 metres — accurately! No more running back to the chalkboard to add that missing circumflex or plus sign — just draw the Mk. 3000!, point, pull the trigger, and see the absent tidbit etched to where it needs to be!

The days of old-school chalk waving and scratching are over — express yourself in a classroom setting without getting your hands dirty! The rhythmic patter of Acme Amica chalk guns is the sound of the future — the steady heartbeat of easily digestible, clearly expressed information emerging, in sharp and rugged letters, from behind the lowering chalk-white clouds of the Acme Amica’s swift operation!

The first 500 to order will get a free bonus gift of 24 practice targets, including an A-to-Z alphabet, a concise table of mathematical symbols and, purely as a gag gift not intended for actual use, several outlines of recalcitrant students! Act now before we — or they — run out! Har har!

The Acme-Amica Chalk Gun comes with a handy shoulder holster quite invisible under normal worn jacket-style academic clothing, and also — only in this model! — with a handy laser pointer in addition to the standard, classic retractable pointer-bayonet sturdily fixed under the gun’s aluminum rotating barrels!

The Mk. 3000! can hold up to 3 loaded, nitrogen-powered chalk cartridges simultaneously — and the pre-loaded cartridges are now available in over 16 gloriously bright colors, including the all-new NAPALM PINK for sudden electricity outages — when the classroom de-lights, Acme-Amica delights!

That’s the Acme-Amica Chalk Gun Mk. 3000-factorial — the one with five expert-designed settings for your demanding academic operations: text, figure, wake-up, crowd control and WWZ — and it’s available wherever fine academic tools are sold.

Please contact your local distributor for more.

(Some practice may be necessary. The Acme Amica corporation cannot be held accountable for any Chalk Gun rampages. Never point the gun at people. Never point the gun at students, faculty or pets. Surfaces indicated with the laser pointer may get hot and emit ions. The classic pointer is sharp and not a toy. Use only in well-ventilated areas away from all flammable materials, e.g. paper, clothing, hair. Always wear protective clothing. If the gun fails to fire, do not approach it for an hour; then if explosive deconstruction has not occurred, call our repair service. Do not place in mouth or any other bodily orifice.)

* * *

It’s a bit sad when this is the best your brains get out of sitting in a seminar for an hour.

Ah well.

By the way, the “Amica” of this fictional Acme(-)Amica is from Fazer Amica, a business that handles university catering. And the Acme, well, I can’t help you if you haven’t ever heard of  that.

Guide: H5 Between wars

February 22, 2009

or Chapter VII of A Guide to Finland, titled “Between the Wars, a King and some Fascists”

* * *

There are two interesting things in the history of Finland between the end of the civil war (1918) during the First World War’s flames, and the start of the Second (1939): the episode of a King of Finland, and the tale of Finnish Fascists. Both are tales of failure.

So, the year 1918. Finland had declared independence from the ruins of Russia, and had fought an unpleasant civil war between republican-aristocratic Whites and socialist-communist Reds: the latter had lost, and thus were either rotting in prison camps, or doing the same six feet under, or otherwise not in a position to have a great deal of say about the ways the country was run.

The First World War was still raging; and as to the perceptive and wise leaders of Finland the invincibility of the German war machine seemed certain, they queried if the German Kaiser could find a suitably lofty lord, preferably a relation of his, to take up a crown for Finland, to cement the love and friendship between the two countries, and to create a royal millstone the greater realm would be willing to defend should some calamity — say a war against Russia — happen.

For the most part, Finnish history has consisted of waiting for the next war against Russia.

This royalty request was made to Germany because there wasn’t anyone else — the other side of the Great War wasn’t interested in helping a country whose civil war had involved a few German soldiers and more German-trained ones on the side now crowing its victory; the newly red Russia wasn’t keen on the red-crushers, and Austria-Hungary… eh, I guess they didn’t know where this speck called Finland was. Anyway, Germany had for a long time been a source of culture and science for Finland, being more cosmopolitan than Sweden, and less distant than France or Britain. (Also, Germans understood that a man just has to get roaring drunk now and then.)

The Finns doing the asking were a mixed bunch: some were idealists, and certain that since there was no lofty enough nobility in Finland — leftover Swedish nobility, sure, and maybe some expatriate Russians, but no real gloriously all-Finnish royal blood they could imagine with a crown — a foreigner from a strong, well-regarded neighbor was the only choice.

Besides, said others, Finland had been ruled by a Swedish king when the land was under Sweden, and sort-of ruled by a Russian King/Tsar when under Russia, so surely this newfangled democracy stuff was against all the laws in the books. (Well, Finland had been sort of declared an independent republic in 1917, but that had been before the unpleasant anti-monarchic red stuff of the civil war, and all.)

Finally, some were more pragmatic, and felt that a king, a strong symbol, would be necessary to keep the uppity peasants and troublesome reds from causing too much trouble.

Some politicians weren’t royalists, but since most of the left-leaning leaders were out of favor and out of office because of the recent civil unrest, the royalists carried the day, the Kaiser gave a name, and on the ninth of October, in 1918, the Finnish Parliament elected Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse, brother-in-law of the Kaiser, as the King of Finland. (“Charles I, King of Finland and Karelia, Duke of Åland, Grand Prince of Lapland, Lord of Kaleva and the North”, some say. Karelia’s the border region of southern Finland and Russia; Åland those isles off the southwestmost point of Finland, Lapland the northern half of Finland, and Kaleva just a traditional name that just might mean Finland, all of it.)

Soon after this king-election the invincible German war machine went down the tubes, and on the 14th of December, 1918, after a “reign” of two months, without ever coming to Finland, without a single command or coronation, Frederick Charles politely said “No”. Thousands of enthusiastic Finns sighed in dismay, and the sale of formal royal portrait postcards plummeted.

Almost immediately, by one of those amazing feats of hindsight, when it now became clear there wouldn’t be a king, no glorious monarch from Great Germany, quite everyone suddenly confessed he hadn’t been a royalist, not really.

Finland quickly adopted a republican constitution, with a president as the (uncrowned) head of state. The 200-seat Parliament was already in existence, as was universal suffrage — Finnish women were, in 1906, among the first to get the vote.

So, after these royalist missteps, Finland thus became a democracy — and like so many democracies, was eventually threatened by the bogey of fascism. The Finnish branch of this unlikable ideology manifested in the western coasts, called Pohjanmaa, and was named after one of its cities “Lapuan liike” or the Lapua Movement.

Ah, Finns aren’t very good in thinking up striking names.

Basically, the movement was a continuation of the victorious White ideas into rather brutal extremes. Eventually the prison camps were closed down, and the remaining skeletal prisoners walked free. Elections were held, parliamentary occurences occured, and the socialist parties came back to the Parliament.

Since this restoration wasn’t exactly what some factions wanted, there was much grumbling, and much of this happened in Pohjanmaa, the part of Finland stereotyped as stout, quiet, slightly homicidal coastal-plain farmers who, when they’ve had enough, whip out the traditional knife and do ugly things with it.

This backwoods nationalist-slash-fascist movement was basically an immense, burning hate affair against everything even slightly red in color. Rallies were held, action from the government (e.g. “Ban the reds!”) was demanded, and though there was some response from that direction, it never was enough.

Now and then, when enough liquor had been consumed, some suspected red-sympathiser was bundled into a waiting car by a clutch of knife-wielding ruffians, driven a long way eastwards and then kicked out. This practice, which sometimes ended with the beaten and terrified victim shivering in some wood near the Russian border, or then in some town of eastern Finland, was known as muilutus — the term is impossible to translate, but throw Shanghaiing and mild lynching together, and you have an accurate enough description. Sometimes such antics ended in a murder.

As time passed, the list of reddish people grew by bounds that now seem almost ludicrous — socialist? liberal? pacifist? labour unionist? Damned commies all! Most probably atheists, gays, book-reading types, foreigners and people who just spoke funny were included as well.

The movement had many initial sympathizers — after all, anti-communism seemed necessary in those days, with the muscle-flexing giant Soviet neighbor and all — but as educated and power-holding people couldn’t quite understand the use or charm of violent eastward-rides and other paranoiac populist yells, that support soon waned, and as Finns aren’t good in rising up in open rebellion, the movement found itself in trouble. Even the formerly acquiescent generals and White militia leaders started to question the increasingly shrill things they were told. (“No, I am rather certain that rifles don’t rust because there’s a stealthy communist blowing on them!”)

When the ultra-nationalists then made the mistake of kidnapping the ex-president Ståhlberg — he was, after a rough eastward ride, released in some small eastern town — the polite if forced smiles turned into frowns. The moderates said “Ah, copulate this all!”, and as only the extremists were left, they got even shriller, even more demanding. In 1932 they tried a rebellion of sorts, with little support and less planning. The then-president, Svinhufvud, made a radio speech — possibly along the lines of “Come on, guys. What the fuck do you think you’re doing? Go home and sleep that booze off.” — and the rebellion crumbled. Some trials, some prison time for the leaders, and a general feeling of embarrassment followed. The movement was dead.

Finns aren’t very good with mindless populist fervor; it’s probably because of the cold, cold winters.

In 1933, fascism-related things failed to crumble in Germany, with bad results.

Curiously enough, these two little things related here were the most dramatic occurrences between the wars (1918-1939), but they aren’t considered very important by Finns. No, of all the happenings of the 20th century, the distinction of universal recognition falls on the wars just before and just after them — the kinslaying civil war, and the wars related to the general brouhaha of the Second World War, to which we will turn in the next chapter.

Now, one would think that after all this Finland would be a bitterly divided and fragmented nation: grumbling royalists, haughty aristocrats, harried democrats, leftover Jaeger soldiers, careful socialists, stealth communists, frothing nationalists, rabid fascists, bumbling hicks, and so on. Maybe that was so, but in 1939, when this tale continues, Finland was united by the strongest unifying force of all.

No, I am not speaking of love.

Rather I refer to xenophobia: the fear and hate of the External Enemy — in this case, Soviet Union.

Finland would really be lost without some variant of Russia at its eastern borders.

* * *

For the other chapters of this Guide to Finland, go to the fixed-page Contents page, where among other things you can find the latest, most proofread-est copy of this chapter.

Official atheist minion application

February 21, 2009

As there are many capable young atheists that are not yet official Atheist Minions, Ilk or Cronies, the EAC has authorized me to make the official Atheist Minion Application (RDSHCHDDPZM–42) available here.

Please fill and return as instructed.

In the name of Darwin (pbuh), act now!

pdf: Atheist Minion Application

PS. Official Atheist Minions get a 25% discount in all affiliated computer stores!

PPS. The Evil Atheist Conspiracy wishes to remind you that it does not exist. Also, the brain of Hitler does not reside inside the cranium of a senior EU leader.

A fitting coincidence

February 20, 2009

For some reason I find it very amusing that, when commenting on Pharyngula — the atheist capital of the Internet as far as I know — occasionally a technical glitch will present you with a page titled…

“Submission Error”.

That, of course, was a flat joke unless your mind links the word “submission” to the same in Arabic, namely Islam, and to the general theist habit of brain shutdown OBEY (fnord). In which context Pharyngula indeed is a zone dedicated to discussing the error of submission.

Another point — seems every time you try to explain something you found very funny it, eh, just isn’t.

Your pop-rock for today

February 18, 2009

The band is called Tiktak, the song Sankaritar or She-Hero.

She-Hero since I can’t write “Heroine” without giggling thinking of all the possible misunderstandings.

The song’s good. The band’s good as well. My official brand of approval and all that.

Below the fold is my attempt at translating the lyrics. I’ve added a few second-markers to make following it a bit easier. (more…)