Archive for January, 2011

A novel (and hypothetical) way of spam

January 30, 2011

Say you have a product, say the miracle pill Domax (“Do more! Do most! DOMAX!!!”).

Say you are a cretin, and wish people to know of Domax, so they may give their money to you, and by the power of placebo be healed of their hypochondria.

Here’s an idea of how to use the net to your advantage.

  1. Find an open coding project. It should fulfill these two conditions: one, it shouldn’t be something so massive it has hundreds of contributors, and neither something so tiny it won’t have any users. Two, it should be something so complex it can’t or won’t ever have a comprehensive help file within. A game would do; some actually useful piece of software like a text processor or a complexly configurable talking CG head of Gene Simmons would do even better. (\KissTongueWag{45}{2}{11}) Let us say this project is called “project Foobar”.
  2. Hire an unscrupulous CS graduate. His task is, since you pay for it, to be interested in project Foobar, and contribute his free time and programming skills into making it ever better. And, when he finds the place for it, to pencil in for a new something, be it a mascot, an endboss, a module, a new kind of a widget, or something else visible yet not terribly central, a name… the name Domax.
  3. Then profit; every time a user of that program googles for Domax, your medicinal results show up among the rest, and the suckers are sucked in! There can’t be any better search optimization than this — if you hawk headache pills and hook into the LaTeX community, this’ll be the idea of a century!

This, by the way, is the kind of an idea you get after blearily googling for “latex tight fit” or the like once too often.

Favorites in Tolkien

January 29, 2011

(Someone else could do this post in 500 words. I can’t.)

Happened across a post on Tom Smith’s Livejournal — he is a filk musician who you should listen to; shoo — where he noted J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday (Jan. 3), and listed a few of his favorite bits of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.

Just for curiosity, I’ll peek into my cranium and see what I particularly like.

Peek, quickly, without trying to make this a complete list; else its CTRL+A, CTRL+C, CTRL+V.

First, the Hobbit.

  • Bilbo creeping into the mountain, and conversing with Smaug. (I swear if the eventually forthcoming movie screws up the sheer terror of this scene, the malevolent intelligence of Smaug, I’ll… I’ll write a very cross blog post about it.)
  • Thorin losing it over Bilbo’s treachery (“Never again will I have dealings with any wizard or his friends. What have you to say, you descendant of rats?”) — and then the last one Thorin is in. (I admit to liking melodrama more than I should.)

Then, the Lord of the Rings.

  • The Barrow-Wight scene, the parts before that prancing Bombadillo comes to end it.
  • All of Moria, and then the Balrog. (“Ai! ai!” wailed Legolas. “A Balrog! A Balrog is come!” Gimli stared with wide eyes. “Durin’s Bane!” he cried, and letting his axe fall he covered his face.)
  • Dunharrow, and Aragorn and company going towards the Paths of the Dead.
  • The whole of the Battle of Pelennor Fields is a concentration of one awesome scene after another.
    • But especially every which part with the Witch-King.
    • And Eowyn’s yell, of course. I don’t know if I’ve ever read anything stronger than that; because I’m not that young and impressionable I may never do; but this, this is plenty —

      Then out of the blackness in [Merry’s] mind he thought that he heard Dernhelm speaking; yet now the voice seemed strange, recalling some other voice that he had known.

      “Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!”

      A cold voice answered: “Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.”

      A sword rang as it was drawn. “Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.”

      “Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!”

      Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Eowyn I am, Eomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.”

      It stays just as awesome after that, but I’d rather not quote the entire chapter.

    • And Eomer’s death wish (To hope’s end I rode and to heart’s breaking: / Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!” These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was on him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.) — well, actually pretty much any scene where Eomer speaks during the battle is awesome. (“Eowyn, how come you here? What madness or devilry is this? Death, death, death! Death take us all!”)
    • And then Denethor’s death, and Theoden’s last words are just heart-breaking. (“Farewell, Master Holbytla!” he said. “My body is broken. I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed. I felled the black serpent. A grim morn, and a glad day, and a golden sunset!”)
    • As a note — the movies. Am not happy about what Denethor’s death became there. And was slightly furious over how the Mordor side had no Southron cavalry at all, just foot-orcs and mumakil riders. There went one of my favorite lines, Peter Jackson; the last words of this:

      Southward beyond the road lay the main force of the Haradrim, and there their horsemen were gathered about the standard of their chieftain. And he looked out, and in the growing light he saw the banner of the king, and that it was far ahead of the battle with few men about it. Then he was filled with a red wrath and shouted aloud, and displaying his standard, black serpent upon scarlet, he came against the white horse and the green with great press of men; and the drawing of the scimitars of the Southrons was like a glitter of stars.

  • And oh, the host marching out of Minas Morgul, with Frodo and Sam watching.
  • And oh, the scene at Morannon that begins thus —

    There came a long rolling of great drums like thunder in the mountains, and then a braying of horns that shook the very stones and stunned men’s ears. And thereupon the middle door of the Black Gate was thrown open with a great clang, and out of it there came an embassy from the Dark Tower.

    At its head there rode a tall and evil shape, mounted upon a black horse, if horse it was; for it was huge and hideous, and its face was a frightful mask, more like a skull than a living head, and in the sockets of its eyes and in its nostrils there burned a flame. The rider was robed all in black, and black was his lofty helm; yet this was no Ringwraith but a living man. The Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dur he was, and his name is remembered in no tale; for he himself had forgotten it, and he said: “I am the Mouth of Sauron.” But it is told that he was a renegade, who came of the race of those that are named the Black Numenoreans; for they established their dwellings in Middle-earth during the years of Sauron’s domination, and they worshipped him, being enamoured of evil knowledge. And he entered the service of the Dark Tower when it first rose again, and because of his cunning he grew ever higher in the Lord’s favour; and he learned great sorcery, and knew much of the mind of Sauron; and he was more cruel than any orc.

    He it was that now rode out, and with him came only a small company of black-harnessed soldiery, and a single banner, black but bearing on it in red the Evil Eye. Now halting a few paces before the Captains of the West he looked them up and down and laughed.

  • And, of course, the Appendices. Because I’m just funny that way. Infodumps can be beautiful, too; witness the beginning of the rule of stewards in Gondor:

    When Eärnur received the crown [of Gondor] in 2043 the King of Minas Morgul challenged him to single combat, taunting him that he had not dared to stand before him in battle in the North. For that time Mardil the Steward restrained the wrath of the king. Minas Anor, which had become the chief city of the realm since the days of King Telemnar, and the residence of the kings, was now renamed Minas Tirith, as the city ever on guard against the evil of Morgul. Eärnur had held the crown only seven years when the Lord of Morgul repeated his challenge, taunting the king that to the faint heart of his youth he had now added the weakness of age. Then Mardil could no longer restrain him, and he rode with a small escort of knights to the gate of Minas Morgul. None of that riding were ever heard of again. It was believed in Gondor that the faithless enemy had trapped the king, and that he had died in torment in Minas Morgul; but since there were no witnesses of his death, Mardil the Good Steward ruled Gondor in his name for many years.

(Tangent: Tolkien was a Catholic, and wrote, consciously I think, Eru Iluvatar, his world’s “God”, as much like the Christian-Catholic God, and the Valar much as his angels, Melkor as his Satan, souls and the nature of evil as he, a religious man, saw them. This does weird things to your head when you’re an atheist. Morgoth remains the monster he is, but the story’s supposed good guys, the Valar, become evil, callous or incompetent, just as the Catholic (or more generally Christian) concept of God is to me. Thus someone who like Feanor is willing to shake a middle finger at both the assigned good and the assigned evil becomes even with all his flaws much more like the hero of the epic.)

Edit: (I think one could even argue that the Silmarillion is the story of Feanor’s actions and their results. Which include wrestling the Noldor from their gentle servitude in Valinor, and end in tragedy: the High Elves are ground down by the other evil, Melkor Morgoth, and thus have to crawl back to their former masters and beg help from those who’ve silently watched the whole humiliation of Beleriandic Wars, no doubt smirking. “Sure we could get Morgoth, but let these uppity elves learn their limits first. They will beg to sit at my feet again before the end. Ha-ha!” Mind you, “one could even argue”. And even with that being done, then there would be a great lot of argument.)

(And could I also mention the “enamoured of evil knowledge” from a quote above? Almost makes me want to write a sequel where the Mouth of Sauron and Gothmog (the Witch-King’s second-in-command) survive the War of the Ring and, free of Sauron’s repressive conservative leash, found a rationalist revolutionary republic of reason in Harad, and sail their ironclads and tanks to conquer Gondor three centuries of progress later. Then it’s to Valinor, and a doom on Mandos and the lot for abandoning Middle-Earth into the grips of Morgoth and his kin — millennia of oppression and a whole world in darkness, and five bent old men is all the elf-lovers are willing to send in help? Down with such neglectful gods! And a genital epithet to you, Middle-Earthen millennia of technological stasis! No such thing as evil knowledge, only evil bastards!)

(“What is this new deviltry?” King Eldarion cried, watching in dismay the flower of Gondor’s youth wilting before Harad’s ill breath. All the while the acrid smokecloud over the enemy grew thicker, and the cracks of their tube-drums continued unabated. “What this exhalation that breathes holes into flesh and steel? Get me my horse! I shall ride with my knights against this confounded People’s Army of Haven of Umbar! Let us see if their ‘cannons’ and ‘rifles’ and ‘barb-wire’ and the like are a match to the blood of Numenor and the blades of Westernesse!”)

(Ahem. Sorry. Back to the general point of liking Tolkien, and some bits and hints over others.)

And in all this there is the faint sadness that there isn’t anything more; though that’s an unusual thing, with the Silmarillion and the History of the Middle-Earth series and all; but that often strikes me no matter what I read or watch: the sense that yes, there is something glorious here, something breathtakingly exciting and interesting… and though it is so very good here, if only it would be better, and there was more of it. Not in the sense of fading repetitions of the same, but all the high points woven into a net of beauty and shock, with the characters and their desires hissing and spitting sparks against each other like steel balls in a mesh sack falling down a flight of stairs. More and more dimensions unfolding, each character becoming less a cartoon but someone described with sympathy and understanding, the vilest and the bravest both; each her own hub in a wheel with a hundred axles, swaying, crashing and breaking as it turns into ever new shapes, crippling flaws and obsessions, disappointments and last stands, reunifications and vows of love, words of anger and happy tears; seeking some stable state which it may never find; but never returning to any spot it has previously occupied.

If only the Mouth of Sauron had had a real occasion to show his cruelty, his rule over the western lands as he wanted it. If only there had been an army marching against Imladris over the High Pass, and dwarves and elves coming together to defeat it, or not. If only the Witch-King and the Balrog had met, and fought with words over command. If only instead of the Quest there had been a web of many victories and losses, and more shades of grey, more ambiguous and less willing to spell out the infallible good and evil of it all. If only the ice-people of Forochel had intruded into the tale. If only we had seen Harad, and Rhun, and more of Numenor before it fell, if only we had a fuller account of the grandeur and foulness of Angband and Utumno, and the fires of Losgar.

If only we’d seen what became of Maglor, left walking the coasts of Middle-Earth singing of loss and pain. Not to solve all the mysteries, but just to add to the web to make it more beautiful.

And the thing is, if there had been more it probably wouldn’t have been as good as this mirage. Even if Tolkien had kept writing his Lord of the Rings-sequel of orc-deeds in King Eldarion’s time (the first and only thirty pages are in The Peoples of Middle-Earth), it probably would have been just a “thriller”, as he felt before setting it aside. (Then again, what’s wrong with thrillers?) One probably should be more content with those jewels one gets; but it’s hard to not pound your fists against the quarry wall, sure there is more potential beauty within… but it’s just not quarried out.

Cat parade

January 29, 2011

Oh wait. I’ve written something in my cell phone, just to test how suited it is for writing things. Some idea sparked by something I saw on TV…

Keep a Hello Kitty upside down for a minute and a portal to nega opens. Goodbye Kitty comes to end mankind — the dying cat parade.

…oh, sometimes I forget I am me.

I wonder if Sanrio would be interested in developing a Doom clone of some kind?

(Note: There’s a Goodbye Kitty for real, though not officially. Also a Hello Titty, both as a fairly innocent parody t-shirt and as a Japanese porn franchise. Oh, the humanity.)

Discordianism a la Karen Armstrong

January 25, 2011

According to Karen Armstrong, “the principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.” (The Charter for Compassion; emphasis mine.)

A cad may ask where God is in this view of religion — but now that cad will be answered, for once God is added into this compassion-centered view of religion, the ultimate of religions, what I call Armstrongian Discordianism, springs forth like a gleeful Athena from the forehead of a formerly dour Zeus! For is God not an actor on the scene of the world? Is God not a will, a person, something more than a blind force of nature? God may not be a mere being, but He certainly is a Character! And as God feels compassion towards us, as a quick perusal of any religious tradition will tell you, so we should also act in compassion towards God — that is, we should treat God as we wish to be treated ourselves.

As a confession for the sake of a greater good, I admit I am lazy, slow, easily irritated, and have quite a few irrational fixations, dislikes and vehement hatreds; but I hold that is not something to judge me on, for these are small things; and besides, the wench is dead. Thus I won’t natter at God about His little faults; we can do better than speak of such tabloid fare.

But wait — that is the lesser of the two revelations of Karenic Discordianism!

The other reading of the Principle of Compassion is that God should also treat us as God wishes to be treated Himself. As it would be rude, crude, shrill, almost Dawkinsian insanity to say God is not a moral actor, He will act in accordance with this law — and thus we can from the ways God treats us learn the Mind of God! What God does to us, He wishes us to do to Him.

Thus if we wish to please God, we must observe his actions towards ourselves.

Firstly: God hides from us. Not mischievously or maliciously, but in a very apophatic thingamajic sort of a way. He will not be tempted into speaking his mind clearly, or showing his allegiance. He will not show Himself to the contrary unbeliever; it would demean the dignity of both.

Hence let us ignore God; or rather, steal glances at Him when He isn’t watching, but keep from saying what we think of Him. We won’t lower ourselves, and God, by showing God we believe in Him — hence we shall tear down all churches, and abstain from all symbols, and never admit we believe in Him, or have even heard of Him. Only in a few anonymous, contradictory pamphlets attributed to people who sometime met us, maybe, will we admit to having heard of God.

Secondly: God works in mysterious ways. He don’t give us a way to point at something and say “God did it!” Except that He did everything; and everything He does, He does for a very good reason. But He won’t tell; we just need to accept He has a Cunning Plan.

Hence let us not give our reasons to God. Each of us can have a Cunning Plan, and execute it as he or she wills; we need not tell God (or indeed, anyone else) what our personal Cunning Plan is. God just needs to accept we do things, things like suffragettism and caffeinism, for a Reason. Being a moral actor, He will not rail against our actions, for he knows they are not random or malicious; they are Premeditated.

Thirdly: God judges us. He doesn’t want to punish us, but if we choose to be obstinate, proud and sinful, then He bloody well will punish us. And God does not make excuses for His laws or His morals; they are what they are, and by them will He judge us.

Hence let us judge God; it is his will we do so. Let us take the morals we have, say the morals of today; and let us judge God as the megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic genocidal misogynist bully that He is. And if it seems fit to us, let us cast God into a burning pit of —

Well, in the name of compassion and practicality, let us forgive God His depravity and His sinful crimes and selfish mistakes, as He forgives those things He sees as the same in us. (Indeed, is that not almost the Lord’s Prayer?)

But only, mind you, only if God humbles Himself and accepts the spirit of Mankind, nay, the Holy Spirit of _________ (fill your name here) into His heart, and repents His follies and His pride and lust for glory and worship, and vows to Not Do That Shit Again. If God does that, and stays righteous in the eyes of _________ (fill your name here), that person is fine with God, and will reciprocate, a bit of God in a human heart and a bit of humanity in God’s, in a dotted ying and a dotted yang, as a reflection of quintessential continuous sharing, as if two mirrors ever reflecting each other, and so ascending to the infinitude of a compassionate utopia, forever.

Amen!

Jesus at Area 51 (fiction)

January 24, 2011

“All religions, you see”, the general said, and then frowning added, “or most probably you don’t, not having seen this war coming.”

Jack shrugged; shrugging was pretty much the limit of the abilities still under his mental and physical control, sitting in a corner of a hall where men in black-and-red fatigues loaded black bombers with black bombs painted with three red sixes while he was held at gunpoint by a bug-eyed Marine general.

Well, only figuratively bug-eyed, he added; nothing so bad it couldn’t get any worse.

“What we’ve known ever since Schweitzer’s time”, the general said, “is that there’s something mighty rotten in the Western religions.”

“See the God of the Old Testament, for example. A vindictive, small-minded control freak tyrant. Little better than a Saddam Hussein with a thunder machine.”

“Then the God of the New Testament. Much more ethereal, I grant you: but also the inventor of Hell. Hell, what an idea! Follow or burn, do or die; and doing, the people are supposed to give everything away and spend all their time praising the Great Leader. I don’t know what that is if not fucking North Korea.”

“Then the Koran, the Mormon books, the lot, the whole Abrahamic tradition: all one more schizoid overlord after another. All bent on the domination of mankind. All aliens with a bunch of rules we would follow, or pay the price. And as the years went by, the tyranny evolved. Grew to embrace the available technology. Grew to take what it could.”

“Even today, when only a dinosaur moron with a ham for a head would believe in the Ogre of the Old, near everyone believes in this quantum Jesus story, where this vague God’s always watching, though we can’t ever tell He is; and He still needs our adoration, our worship, our obedience, our alms, all of it. It’s fiendishly clever. First you use the crude old story to make people think there must be a God… then when the old one isn’t enough you call it silly and give them a quantum Jesus. Theologians won’t give a straight answer, but he says the same thing every tyrant has ever said: you got a loving Big Brother, so love Him back, or… or who knows what may happen? Not that the Tyrant wants to crush you but, eh, what can you do, Siberia or Hell for the dissidents. That’s tyranny, plain and simple. That’s religion, now and always. That’s not what America is about. Every single religion is as fucking un-American as tits on a Frenchman.”

“I tell you, it took us a long time, but eventually the United States Armed Forces do get a clue. It took a few of those scientifiction types, the War of the Worlds crowd, but by… by something, then we got it.”

“Got it?” Jack croaked.

“Yes sir! That was it: All Gods are evil aliens!”

Jack blinked.

Then blinked again.

The general’s fist smacked the table a few times, and he grinned maniacally, well in the grips of his story.

“To think of it! Us, and every other nation in the world, in the grips of some, or probably several, dastardly plans for our control! By invisible tyrants in the sky! Do you know” — he pointed a finger at Jack, and Jack blinked yet again — “do you know, churches are the control hubs? They collect all this money, all these alms, but what do they have to show for it? Your moderate tycoon can own half the world in a decade or two, but the churches skinning the world entire and getting bequests left and right are supposedly so poor? Supposedly it all goes to help the poor? Bullshit, as plain as your face when you see it. There’s precious little going to the poor, and the priests aren’t as bad hogs as some think — the funds are channeled off-planet!

“Glurk?” Jack asked; the question went unanswered.

“Or then diverted into other sinister projects”, the general grumbled. “We have our suspicions. And to think I voted for them, for two decades before I was told this all. The humanity-betraying elephantine bastards!”

“But so, it was 1908 or so when we noticed this all. We were a couple of high-ranking generals in the Planning Branch, so we of course spun off a few discreet men to take care of this eventuality. And the more we prepared for it, the more probable it seemed. Then it became an unshakeable certainty. We knew a fight was inevitable, a war, the greatest war ever fought. We knew we needed money; huge amounts of money… Well, why do you think the military black budget is so big? We get the most of it, and a good chunk of the regular one, too.”

“We needed leaders, too; men of inspiration, of devotion to duty, men that were not beholden to the lies of the aliens. Men who had seen their wickedness and their sugarcoated slavery for what it was. Men who wouldn’t say now these Gods were aliens, but there was a higher, real God also… because that would have been an evil quantum Jesus alien, too, and no mistake.”

“So, in 1913, we arranged to have our first Inspiration Leader disappear off the face of the earth — this Bierce fellow supposedly went into Mexico to report on the civil war, and just, poof, was gone. Great story, a great man; you wouldn’t believe the stuff he wrote for our internal use. Those last twenty years were the most prolific and beautiful of his whole life.”

“We’ve acquired a few others, too, later on. Like the next Insp-Lea, the little Russian, the one who supposedly was killed with an ice axe in Mexico? Not so. I suspect, by the way, that the whole Soviet Union thing was engineered by Them, too. Maybe they got a hint of us; but probably not, they’re not omniscient though they like to give us that idea. Probably they just saw the rise in people that were rebelling, though just in a panty-assed intellectual way, agnosticism and the like, and decided they needed to cover that possibility too. Hence the fucking Soviets and their huge-bearded god Marx. They always go for long hair, the dirty space hippies. Always.

With something approaching hysteria Jack noticed the general was clean-shaven; so was every single soldier he could see. Most didn’t have any hair at all; the general’s balding crew cut was severe enough to resemble an inky black cube with a tan dome peeking out of it. One of his decorations was a red bar with black lettering: “NO GODS, NO MASTERS”; Jack was pretty sure it wasn’t standard Marine issue.

“When the first Great War came, we were well set to take a bit of money and materiel aside — the money was well used; the materiel isn’t all that useful anymore. With every war since we were readier and took more aside. With the Second Big One we got this Groom Lake place. Hasn’t had a church, mosque or temple of any kind within a hundred miles of it, ever. That church at the rest stop outside you saw? It’s ours. Bugged and packed full of TNT. If a God shows up there, He ain’t walking out — and before it comes to that, we have slaver rays waiting. Our best boffs on Project Pluto say we might make one of them bastards into a soul bomb; ought to take out a few Heavens and a million of them sucker-mouthed angel bastards as one goes. All Gods are aliens, but they aren’t invincible, or really immortal. We can fight them, we can kill them, we can win.

The general’s smile was somewhat deranged, and quite bloodthirsty. Jack wished he could but couldn’t remember if gods, any gods, were supposed to have red blood, golden ichor or something else.

“So, what do you say?” the general said, lowering the gun.

“Er”, Jack said, and looked in vain for help.

None was forthcoming. Just more men loading bombs, and a squad in like ebony-and-crimson camoflage, jogging behind a sergeant with a goat mask; their chant seemed to be: “E-I E-I O, Catch an angel by the toe; If he hollers let ’em blow! Ratta tatta, tatta tatta raa!”

“Er uh”, Jack stammered, “this all seems er a bit overreacting er in a good way. A tad psychotic but I hope you don’t take it in a bad —”

“Psychosis?” the general roared. “Why you little! Do you really think we’d do all this because of an idea? You think we’d spend a century and more money than a thousand Apollo projects, and trip-wire every church in the country, and sponsor Anton fucking LaVey and Christopher effing Hitchens just to get the people to hesitate so we can fight a war they’ll never support, you think we’d build the Pentagon in that shape, fund every heavy metal band ever, and assassinate a fucking president even, just on a theological hunch? Who do you think we are, the fucking Homoiousians? We — have — fucking — evidence!”

He grabbed a radio off his belt and snarled into it: “The General! Get von Junzt, get him to open the Theophage, and get the lift up! I’m going to get our little visitor to behold the plight of the fucking faction of fallen angels and the likewise imprisoned Son of God!”

Turned out there were aliens at Area 51 after all.

Three random thoughts about skepticism

January 23, 2011

I

Astrology is dumb: it is not consistent, can’t discriminate between its varieties, has been demonstrated to not work, and has no mechanism by which it could work. (Not that you need to know a mechanism, but when you have neither “this works” nor “this might work something”, there’s nothing left!)

People that believe astrology works are either gullible, incurious, un- or miseducated, some other similarly negative condition… or then just dumb. But “dumb” is a minority condition here, unless one defines it to include those others.

A lot of things are dumb; people, not so much.

II

I really do think skeptics are superior to gullible/incurious/uneducated believers: we’re right, or at least open to rightness should it come by, while they are wrong, or then clinging to a particular opinion for fairly awful reasons.

A proponent of healing herb Z might be correct about its potency, while a skeptic wavers; but as long as herb Z hasn’t gone under the grinder of scientific testing the fact remains one of them is correct, and the other thinks correctly. As time goes by, the second is a lot more important, because it will imply the first, and a lot more; but the converse is not true.

III

It is sometimes accused that some join the skeptic ranks just to get to feel superior. If so, well, the misguided dicks! One should join to become superior. Not in any fuzzy Ubermensch way, but better in thought and deed. Which hopefully includes being more just with one’s compassion, more effective in one’s charity, more willing to strive together for a better world and better people in it… not just being better in contrast to others, but also in connection to others.

And skepticism is a good road for self-betterment like this, because merely wanting to “be good” or “do good” is never enough; merely that is a terrible thing, one to fuel endless pyres, to fill prisons and shed tears without end; “do compassion” or “do the good thing” are horribly mistaken commands unless one is also inclined to think what “good” is, and whether one’s seeing the world as it is. The witch-burners were, I think, for a large part sincerely compassionate men — they didn’t want the poor women to go to Hell, so they settled for the real lesser evil instead of the imaginary bigger one. Seeing how the world actually is, and where they went wrong, well, that’s where skeptical humanism shines.

The Adventures of Dee Titius-Bode, Rogue Astronomer!

January 23, 2011

I had free time. Now I have a few titles for a book series about an annoyed advocate of science.

  • Titius-Bode Boos the Music of the Spheres
  • Titius-Bode Slams Down the Geocentric Model
  • Titius-Bode Wrecks the Empyreal Heaven
  • Titius-Bode Expels Aether
  • Titius-Bode Breaks the Dome of Stars
  • Titius-Bode Stomps On the Steady State
  • Titius-Bode Violates the Hollow Earth
  • Titius-Bode Bends, Folds and Mutilates the Flat Earth
  • Titius-Bode Defecates on the Young Earth

Eripuran lait

January 23, 2011

So (I’ve been beginning a lot of posts with “so”, so I probably should cut back on that. So, like, if I remember to.) —

So a few days ago it was the last minutes of a boring day at the university. I was sitting in my room, thinking it was twenty minutes to until the bus went by, and I had nothing to do that’d fit that spot. Thus I cast my mind around for something unofficial to do — and casting, my eyes fell to my bookshelf, to a Loeb volume of Greek mathematics to John Allen Paulos’s Mathematics and Humor to —

To a copy of the Principia Discordia (online here).

Because I haven’t gotten around to finding my three copies of the Necronomicon and putting them on that shelf. Because they’d sit even better next to that plastic life-size skull that (figuratively) greets my few visitors.

(Literally, too, if I find a bit of time and a bit of electronics.)

And so a few minutes later this had sprung out —

* * *

Otteita Malaklypse Nuoremman haastattelusta Suuremman Metropolisen Yorba Lindan Uutis-Sanoma-Kaupunki-Lehti-Keski-Tahto-Voima-Torviaura-Uutis-Länsi-Posti-Kansa-stadtbladetissa ja (Edelleen Samaa Lehteä) San Franciscon Discordiaanisen Yhteisön Ilmoittimessa, Integalaktisessa Raportterissa ja Paavaimessa.

Lehti: Oletteko te todellakin tosissanne?

Mal-2: Joskus otan huumorin vakavasti; joskus vakavan asian humoristisesti. Väliäkö tuolla.

*

Lehti: Olette kenties vain pöhkö.

Mal-2: Totta! Mutta minun pöpiyteni ei olisi syy pitää näitä opetuksia väärinä. Minä olen pöpi koska nämä opetukset ovat tosia.

*

Lehti: Eli Eris on totta?

Mal-2: Kaikki on totta.

Lehti: Jopa ne asiat jotka eivät ole totta?

Mal-2: Jopa ne asiat jotka eivät ole totta ovat totta.

Lehti: Miten ihmeessä?

Mal-2: Vitustako minä tiedän; en minä tätä keksinyt.

*

Lehti: Miksi te olette niin kiintynyt kaikenlaisiin kielto- ja käänteisilmauksiin?

Mal-2: Sulattaaksemme ne.

Lehti: Kerro toki lisää.

Mal-2: En kerro.

*

Lehti: Onko POEE:n takana jonkinlainen syvempi, äh, pointti? (Poentti?)

Mal-2: Eräs zen-tarina kertoo oppilaasta joka kysyi Mestarilta buddhalaisuuden olemusta, merkitystä, tarkoitusta, äh, pointtia. Tähän Mestari sanoi, “Kolme kiloa pellavaa!”

Lehti: Ja tuoko oli sitten vastaus?

Mal-2: Tietysti ei; pelkästään esimerkki. Vastaus kysymykseenne on VIISI TONNIA PELLAVAA!

*

(Pellavansiemenistä saa mm. Omega 3 -rasvahappoja!)

* * *

— this being a translation into Finnish of the Malaclypse the Younger interview at the beginning of the Principia.

Who knows, I may translate more and put that up on Mirrors of Eris, because though I try with the plastic skull, the world’s still much too serious. What else then but P.D., or “Kuinka löysin Jumalattaren, ja mitä sitten tein Hänelle (ollen johdatus Erisläisiin Mysteerioihin JOTKA OVAT TOSI KIINNOSTAVIA), kuten jumalallisesti tehtiin tiedettäväksi hänen ylhäisyydelleen MALAKLYPSE NUOREMMALLE (KSC), loistavimmalle kullallisneitsyyden moni-isälle ja Eris Esoteerisen Parateo-Anametamystisyydellisyyden (POEE) YLIPAPILLE”.

The thing is, I’ve grumbled a few times about the difficulty of translating well. And from the few bits I did, it seems likely the result would not be quite the same book, especially when after looking at a sentence a while I can’t even say which of the three different meanings I see it was meant to have, primarily or at all. Reminds me of an idea I once had, one about a hypothetical book so rich in its expression it would take several translations, each seemingly of an entirely different work, to adequately express it in a different language.

I’d have to guess a bit, accept the loss (or accidental survival) of the bits I just didn’t get; and sometimes translate what was said, and sometimes find a way to say something else, but still mean the same… that is to say, it would be quite a lot of fun for me; the reactions of a reader might be something else. (Simulated reaction: “What next? Will a monkey be set to smear the Mona Lisa with heaped handfuls of elephantine faeces?“)

Oh, and the title? If I was inclined to translate even that, which I am not, “Eripuran lait” would be one of the thousand almost-accurate ways to do “Principia Discordia”, or “Principles of Discord” / “Precepts of Strife”.

A close call of the skull

January 19, 2011

So I am writing a small home page for a course I do TA-work for; that fell to me because the professor is not computer proficient, and while I am neither, I hack, burn and slash together a page now and then.

I am writing (in English, because there’s a, as in ‘singular’, exchange student on the course and the Finns need the exercise), then saving, then uploading — then thinking the bit of text seems a bit too long — and then I read it again.

Hell, not only had I accidentally pasted, the clipboard text had been (accidentally) copied from a Pharyngula comment thread.

Let me tell you, a passage of practical details for a mathematics course gets a bit surreal with the random midsentence inclusion of this bit:

etting 8 million metric fucktonnes of skullfucking ejaculate. It’s great to be a sceptic

“So, any questions?”

“Eh yes. The lectures, exercises, exams you have told us but I, exchange student, would have a question about the skullfucking ejaculate. Is it mandatory?”

“A question about what now?”

Student life in two pieces of paper

January 17, 2011

Seen on the stairwell noticeboard of a student block; one one of my brothers lives in.

First paper; angry spiky handwriting in red: “THE REGULATIONS SAY THERE WILL BE NO RUCKUS NO LOUD SOUNDS AFTER 22:00!!! I AM TIRED AND SICK OF THE NOISES!!!”

Second paper; pinned to a corner of the first: a bar receipt; quite some items; stamped 24 minutes after midnight.