Archive for August, 2010

Jesus and the woman taken in adultery

August 29, 2010

Your daily bit of anti-apologetics here.

“Let him who is among you without sin cast the first stone”? If taken as a general maxim for jurisprudence, this is the worst. No punishments! No sanctions! Hey, you killed my dog, stole my money, kicked me in the head — I’m not without sin so what can I do? What can I allow the courts do? Let God judge and punish you, I for sure dare not.

It’s not much better as a personal rule of life — I’m not particularly sinless, but I don’t think it’s particularly wicked of me to, say, disapprove of Klaus Barbie, or to see as good and meet the results of the foolishness on the police column of the daily newspaper. I know I am faulty and a prick quite often; but even after accounting for compassion I’m not entirely without the ability to be justly wrathful. (And if you say, “but you wouldn’t stone the drunk drivers yourself, would you?”, then I say “Uh? The story’s literally not about vigilantism, but public law; the law today is a wee bit short on stoning, right? And figuratively the story seems to be saying a bit more than I can stomach. ‘If you’ve done a bad thing, you’ve no standing to criticize the bad things others have done’? Ptah!”)

And for third, Jesus could have made several pretty nice and to us obvious comments, had he wished to. Like “Stoning? For adultery? Don’t you have anything better to do?”, or “Where’s the man who was caught in the adultery? A little bit of equality, pricks!”, or “Let’s say we forget that law. And all the laws on the books are out from now on, let’s be clear about that… or next you’ll be bringing me a witch that shall not be allowed to live, what?” or even “Don’t we have divorce, guys? And don’t you have a bit of decency, throwing this poor woman around as a tool of trying to hang me by my own words? Actually you’re such pricks I’m going to strike you down, and then make sure your whole religion is portrayed in a way that causes pogroms and massacres against you for several millennia — how’s that look like to ya? Pricks!” (Okay, that wouldn’t be particularly nice.)

(Mind you, as the story is about Solving Problems With Clever One-Liners, this wouldn’t do. Good thing not one of the mob said “Are you fucking serious, man?” Or better yet, “How about you yourself? Have you sinned any lately, Jesus?”)

But don’t worry, don’t worry if these small criticisms sting. I’m not really criticising Jesus, you know. Because this story wasn’t originally in John. It’s not in the early copies we have, nor in the best ones. It’s not in John until three hundred years after Jesus; and it was most probably picked from one of the horde of gospels and writings that were too hot and heretical for the church that came to be. (Then again, who says those gospels weren’t the right ones?)

An impulse of the weird kind

August 28, 2010

So I go to the site of Subnormality, one of my favorite webcomics*, and I notice a banner announcing prints for sale. I say “eh”, and click it.

Three different prints for sale.

One happens to be “Weird“, which is the best Subnormality ever. (That’s if you ask me, and why shouldn’t you trust me? I promise you I won’t tell no lies.)

Ten minutes later I’m twenty euros poorer and, Eyjafjallajokull etc. willing, in the future I will have A Statement to adorn a wall with.

There’s so much that one kinda would want and sorta wouldn’t dislike possessing that it’s nice when a WANT hits you in the face. (Nicer still to be a dispassionate Finn that doesn’t need to wipe face for want’s sake all the time.)

* : And obviously I can’t make that kind of a statement without a list. Nervously certain I’m forgetting something obvious, and also not implying my fandom isn’t an archive binge every two months, I’d say xkcd, Subnormality, SMBC, Wulff Morgenthaler, Penny Arcade, Oglaf, Dresden Codak, Count Your Sheep and Fingerpori. (The last is Finnish and lives on elaborate and cheap puns, so fun times deciphering that one, my international friends!)

Adam spooked by something he’s never seen before

August 28, 2010

Here’s an observation: making weird shit up is a really nice hobby. Nicer still when you’ve made yourself a place — an unsubtle plug of Mirrors of Eris goes here — to keep your coproliths of curious curvature.

* * *

And God He the Lord of Lords Maker of All said: Adam, stand aside, for I shall make acholim.

Adam stood aside, for he did not know what acholim were; and the word seemed dangerous to him.

So God raised his hands, and his face blazed with power and glory: and the earth shook. There was a growing grumble from within, and a fine veil of dust did rise from the grass. Something writhed in the soil, in the sod, and then broke through in a thousand places; and Adam threw himself down on his face and cried out in fear.

In a million places now, thousand steps by thousand steps the land affected, black and red bones rose from the ground, bending and twisting every which way as if searching: and God stood, his hands raised, and the brilliance of His face outshone the sun. Man-high the bones now rose, and Adam saw they were no bones at all, but long bony fingers, as if scoured by hunger and fire, and they ran together to a thousand hands, each with a hundred fingers in a wasted palm and a boneless wrist. Adam cried out, and cried, and was afraid.

The shaking stopped, and Adam looked up: and out of the ground had risen two giants, twenty times his height, ten times God’s height: and they were not human. They had a black-brown and red skin, all cracked and rough and torn, and not much covered by the green rags tied round their arms. They had no faces Adam could see, for both had a thousand hands raised up, long and bony, each sprouting a hundred long and bony fingers from a hundred wrists. They had no feet either, or they were hidden: where their waists were, they were still buried in the soil.

My Lord, Adam cried, let us run before these fearful things break free! They cannot mean to do anything good!

And God laughed, and said: The name of these things in my language is acholim; they are the acholim of life, and the acholim of the knowledge of good and evil.

The graduate student’s lament

August 26, 2010

I am a rat sliding scrabbling on a surface of smooth glass;
I am a monster truck in rain, whining mired in sucking mud;
I cannot stretch my jaws round this rubbery balloon bread;
I cannot map my way in this dark with my tiny little penlight —
I think I need to go and ask my advisor for a bit of help.

* * *

Sometimes a bit of bad poetry is just as good as screaming, tearing off your clothes and running up and down the corridors waving your privates at any passing academicians. Because it helps to pin down that certain state of mind just before you crack and go whining/courteously requesting for halp.

(“Halp, halp! ‘Tis as the elder ones told me: the more my absolute knowledge increases, the bigger my relative ignorance gets! For every one thing I understand, I learn of ten I have no clue about at all!”)

Is “Grotesque Romance” enough of a tip-off?

August 25, 2010

In our continuing series “This isn’t Hello Kitty!”, a Japanese piece of vocaloid music.

If that didn’t induce enough unease, try this one. The music isn’t as fetching but the video… the video. Dear shivering bleeding empty skies, the video.

(These particulars found through TV Tropes.)

Ecclesiastical reassignment operations

August 23, 2010

“We’ll have to keep it quiet for the good of the faithful”, a cardinal muttered.

The old man nodded; that was clearly necessary, and the best way to do things.

“Reassign him”, he said; the camerlengo made a note of this, and the matter was settled. Another inconvenient or even turbulent priest, dealt with for a time at least.

“Do we have any other embarrassments to handle?” the camerlengo asked. The old man cringed when he saw how many cardinals looked down at their papers at this; the camerlengo was young and full of zeal, but the old man had grown tired of these meetings a long time ago.

“We um have”, a cardinal began, “um some trouble with a um too conservative bishop.”

“Too conservative? For us?” the camerlengo asked, raising his eyebrows in a way that would have been charming and amusing if not for the explanation that followed. The eyebrows did not amuse the old man, because he knew what “too conservative” was a code-word for.

The cardinal coughed. “The man’s a Nazi. He’s written a book about them and their persecution of the Jews. He quotes that heretic Luther, but he also quotes several Church Fathers in an… overly literal fashion. And he’s preaching from the book! At his flock! And he’s added a swastika armband to his vestments! Someone’s bound to notice soon!”

The camerlengo looked at the old man; the old man whispered “Reassign him”, and it was done.

The next cardinal had the case of a priest with an eccentric personal interpretation of the Communion associated with his habit of self-mutilation; reassignment to less stressful duties at the Vatican Library was deemed sufficient.

Then there were several sordid cases of monetary theft and attraction of marital nature; reassignments and vows-of-silence were chosen, as well as several lump sums of unofficial alimony. Then there was the goat-fancier priest, who had sadly lapsed yet again, and ended in a hospital, involuntarily circumcised by his bestial paramour. Reassignment and vows of silence were chosen, once again; reassignment in a city parish with not even a petting zoo nearby, that is.

“Wow”, the camerlengo sighed, “what next: Jesus’s skull discovered in a cupboard?”

One of the cardinals coughed; the camerlengo quickly apologized. The old man waved a hand and asked for more reports. The skull crack did not amuse him. In the Sixties the church had discovered a skull just like that; it had taken twenty years of massive discretion and feverish research to establish the skull actually was that of a particularly pranksome medieval Pope. Indeed there was no quicker way to create villains as to name someone Innocent.

God, the old man sighed, sometimes it seemed the church was its own worst enemy.

“Now”, a cardinal began, “there has been an unfortunate development in the Philippines, since someone apparently told a monastery of ours about masochism and they’re quite, er, taken with the idea.”

“What do you mean?” the camerlengo said.

“Nudism, and priapic mass crucifixions all night long”, the cardinal sighed.

Dear God, have some sense of decency

August 23, 2010

Fu fu fu. Still a bit spent after the whole writing and tinkering of Mirrors of Eris (“ — for all your faux nuttery needs!”). Most of the new, i.e. not-reprint-from-here, stuff there was written during the last two weeks; what can I say except that the will to write rides you when it wants to. Here’s something I managed to bang together while trying to avoid the voice that says “Hey! Write a faux consp piece that says JFK was the Second Coming!” —

* * *

Dear God,

You really do your best to be as much a dick as you can, don’t you?

I mean, acting like you’re a caring father after abandoning us your children to this metaphorical cold and dangerous street that is life. You would be angry, I suppose, if one of us abandoned his children to face mortal dangers and depravities and crushing uncertain loneliness all alone — but you’re just the same.

No, you don’t get to pull the character-building excuse. This world breaks more characters than it builds. Neither the one that we’re adults, we’ll survive. Look over the past few millennia — plagues, floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, rape, murder and wild beasts human and inhuman — take a look at the average lifespan over the past few millennia. It took us thousands of years to get over smallpox and polio; we’re still dying in droves of cancer. It’s been a fairly shitty time since you ran away. You’re really some abusive parent, aren’t you?

It didn’t get better when you tried to tell us what kind of a person you were, and why you were away all the time, through these letters we call holy books. You know what? Don’t lie to your children. Don’t tell all these Flood and Creation and miracle fairytales and then try to say you didn’t mean to lie, we got it wrong, there’s some “spiritual” or “moral” truth in them. You know what we’d call a father that said he was sailing with the navy when he was really in a jail? A liar. You knew we would find out, and you knew it would hurt. You knew we would make a mess of it trying to “get to the navy” and just getting hurt: stoning “witches”, killing infidels, feeling like crap because of all the things you said we should be… and that are now just you being a bad communicator. And you bet we are feeling disoriented and betrayed.

One more thing, Father, before this letter is over: Who made you the boss? What makes you think you can do with your children whatever you want, especially with the hash you’ve made of our lives so far? We’re young and silly but even we know better than that. Might does not make right down here; why should it be any different up there in the heavens? We’re children no more. Why should we think you anything but a monster as you throw this child aside into the flames as “not good enough”, and decide this other is “good enough to forgive”? We’re thinking, feeling beings, all of us; don’t treat us like toys. I didn’t choose you to be a lord over me; I say you’re an undependable character unsuited for this work; I am not impressed with you.

Have some decency and don’t bother us no more.

yours, M.o.E.

Three years, one year, no years yet

August 21, 2010

Hey, anniversary. Three years ago today I started this blog.

The “normal” blogiversary thing would be a long and tedious retrospective of the “the best of the past year” kind; I am not going to do that.

Instead I’ll just note that this is the three-year anniversary of Masks of Eris, and also the one-year anniversary of Lemmata. A comic with a piece a day for a year is not altogether trivial. The comics themselves are, though.

Now, the reason why I write Masks of Eris, and the reason I draw Lemmata, is not any hope of reward or audience. That’d be a fairly stressful motivation for something that is a hobby. I believe if your hobby is stressful, you are not doing it right. My want is simply to spew out the stuff I do, and derive enough pleasure from the uttering and forming of it for it to be a sufficient return for going on. (If there’s a reader, well, yay! Extra! And thank you all, that have hung around; a comment now and then makes me feel mighty nice, though sometimes I can’t think up anything meaningful to say in answer to it.)

Now I’ve decided to have one more outlet for making stuff up: Mirrors of Eris; that’d be, That’s a stand-alone website, full of written crap, some of it “reprints” from here but most of it new. As it is a website, it won’t update all that often; but it should have plenty of brand-new reading if my brand of confused purposeless remythologizing and pseudo-crankery is to your taste. Atlantis, Moses, alternate Jesuses and evil mathematical conspiracies abound. (And why, the Herwennefer piece and the Ramesses-Moses-piece were small snips from the teeming cauldron of faux asshattery that is Mirrors of Eris.)

Go and have a look; I ain’t writing no best-of-year recap.

An academic proverb for today

August 18, 2010

“Remember, there’s no writing a paper without ‘pap’!”

Question Set C, “Befuddle-A-Priest”

August 18, 2010

(To be read out as a sugar rush of seven years of age.)

“Will Christians and Muslims be friends in Heaven? Will my dog get to Heaven? How about the neighbor’s mean, biting mutt? Will Daddy and Mommy still be married in Heaven? Will they do “the special thing”? What about the dead lady Daddy was married to before Mommy? Will Granny, who is a strident New Atheist, be in Heaven too? Will I have a Playstation in Heaven? Or an Xbox 360? What games will they have in Heaven? Duke Nukem Forever? Do I have to play a harp? Can’t I play a guitar? Will I still have hands and feet in Heaven? Will God have hands and feet in Heaven? If I die now, will I grow up in Heaven? If I die really, really old, will I be not all crinkly in Heaven? What language will we speak in Heaven, because I want to speak to a Pharaoh and they don’t speak English? What if Granny doesn’t get to Heaven, can I visit her in the other place? I promise I will ask God nicely, can I then? That evil bully William won’t be in Heaven, will he? What about that murderer man in the news? He won’t be in Heaven, will he, even if his friends ask for it, right? How good do you have to be to get to Heaven? Why’re we here when there’s a Heaven? Will Mommy still drink in Heaven? And make those bad jokes? And be so funny when she gets angry? Will she be she in Heaven? Will she still say she loves me more than anything else? Will I get to know, like, huge lots of stuff in Heaven? Even the thing Daddy says would make me super sad? Oh, and how do you know this is so, because Granny says you’re just making this all up, and my friend Donny Baptist says we all will be the ones to go down there, and that can’t be right, can it? Because it would be cruel if God didn’t tell us, honest real no-argument tell us, right?”