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Archive for May, 2009

Well, perhaps musings re: “Laodicean”, since neither meaning of the word applies to me.

I have to congratulate 13-year-old Kavya Shivashankar for winning this, especially with an obscure word that I didn’t know the meaning of until I was into my 20s.

The word in question makes me wonder, though, about the inclusion of such a very religion-specific word in a secular contest of this kind – and whether the bee also contains words which are derived from religions other than Christianity.

While “Laodicean” has to some degree been appropriated for use in describing a certain political sentiment (or lack thereof), it is more easily found in the book of Revelations than anywhere else – excepting perhaps a work of Thomas Hardy which still uses it in its religious context.

Can anyone – pardon the pun – enlighten me as to my wonderings above?

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When does a series of “coincidences” cease to be credible as such?

A great many prominent people have contrived to get themselves shot or otherwise removed from this mortal coil at a time when it is particularly propitious to their enemies.

Much has been written about the JFK assassination, and attempting to contain it all in a single post would likely bring even WordPress to its knees. So I won’t rehash too much of  it (here, at least) other than to highlight it as a prime example of a politically inconvenient person being removed.

Kennedy had wanted to ‘scatter the CIA to the four winds’, believing that a culture of corruption was poisoning US intelligence. A (supposedly former) CIA operative, Lee Harvey Oswald, put paid to that plan, and his act saw Kennedy replaced by the CIA-friendly Lyndon Johnson.

He also had a brother with the patently ridiculous vision of an America for all Americans, a guy who happened to be the ideal Democratic candidate for the presidency. A guy who, it emerged much later, was considering that other political nuisance MLK for his running mate. Let’s have them both shot too.

Once the Warren Commission established the Lone Gunman theory once and for all, there was still the inconvenient matter of the single person on the Commission who disagreed – House Majority Leader Hale Boggs. Not only was he unconvinced by the consensus, he was reportedly preparing a statement which would accuse then-President Richard Nixon of complicity in the assassination. He was also no fan of the FBI, going so far as to call for the resignation of J. Edgar Hoover on the floor of the Congress.

His plane went down in Alaska somewhere between Anchorage and Juneau, and was never found. More recent investigations suggest that the FBI picked up a lead on the whereabouts of the plane and of two survivors, but there is no indication of any follow-up.

Nixon himself was forced to resign due to the Watergate scandal; it has been suggested, however, that his resignation was the taking of a less damaging bullet. Had an investigation continued, it has been suggested that evidence would have been uncovered of his and LBJ’s complicity. One of the Watergate burglars, the late E. Howard Hunt, was also in Dealey Plaza when JFK was shot, but held his tongue. In case he needed convincing to hold his tongue, there was another very convenient plane crash which killed his wife as well as 11 other key figures in the Watergate conspiracy.

Boggs had been taken to the airport to start his trip by a young man named Bill Clinton. Did this young man know what was to come?

It is also known that an edit was made to the Warren report before it was released for public consumption… by one Gerald Ford.

Also of note is that an FBI memo clearly states that information regarding the Kennedy assassination was furnished to “George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency”; could this be our 41st President? While Bush was supposedly working independently in the oil business at the time, diaries kept by Oliver North suggest that he was in fact highly placed in the CIA, and working in a covert operation regarding the Contras.

The Iran/Contra scandal, which tarnished the political careers of both Bush and his predecessor Ronald Reagan, was investigated by the Tower Commission. Are we even surprised that commission chair John Tower has since fallen victim to a plane crash?

Should we also wonder what danger was posed by Senator Wellstone before his own tragic aerial accident? Or perhaps John F. Kennedy Jr.?

Obviously all of this is conjecture. I am, however, curious to know what our current President may know about all of this. He himself was two years old at the time of the JFK assassination, of course, and even the most radical right-wingers would be hard-pressed to link him to the event. But what does he know from briefings? And what could he find out, were he to dig?

Mr. President, I’d like to know more. Please.

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The more you stay the same, the more things change around you.

do not pet the GOP

This is not to say that conservatism is inherently wrong or negative, but rather that it is ultimately flawed; a 2009 conservative has very different views from a 1969 conservative, who is also different from a 1929 conservative – they all have fundamentally the same philosophy of resisting change.

Change is going to happen. Some of it good, some bad, some neither, but all change. That’s what HISTORY is – the chronicling of an unending sequence of change.

Conservatism is also inevitable, to an extent – what our generation fights for, we cherish and want to keep even as the next generation seeks to alter it according to their own vision. Hence the immortal quote by Robert Anton Wilson: “It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea.”

As change – history – marches on, the hardline conservatives in positions of power appear to grow ever more hysterical in their attacks. They are, however, ultimately doomed to failure. Society WILL move on. It was progressives rather than conservatives who had the vision of founding a nation with values based on freedom; who abolished slavery; who allowed women to vote. A day will surely come when progressives also see gay marriage become legal nationwide, even worldwide.

It speaks ill of us as a nation that any of us are still blindly following the hardliners’ mindtrap.

Forward motion and change do not necessarily mean that our moral backbone is being eroded, or that we have lost respect for traditional values. We are, however, a species blessed with the intellect to analyze and evaluate the benefits of progress, and to balance said progress with our personal value systems.

Perhaps we ARE slouching toward Bethlehem. Maybe Armageddon is nigh. But if so, it’s got our name on it already, and no amount of kneeling and kissing Limbaugh’s ring will stop that.

In the meantime, I count myself a progressive, and look forward to the next societal paradigm shift we can bring about together.

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Today I’m guest posting over at CougarMicrobes.com for the first, but hopefully not only time.

So there’s not much to see here, but I will share the recipe for the rhubarb pear crisp which went over so very well, rather than letting it languish in the comments on an older post. There should also be a new update of One More Morning later today.

Pear Rhubarb Crisp

(If anyone wants this in metric, let me know and I’ll do the conversions.)

Ingredients:
Fruit base:
4 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups chopped pears (recommend Taylor or Bartlett for sweetness)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp orange extract

1 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Crumbled topping:
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups oats

Butter the base and halfway up the sides of a 9″ by 13″ baking dish. Mix together the fruit base ingredients (if the pears are not juicy, you may wish to add a little bit of apple juice, but no more than 1/4 cup) and layer in the baking dish.

Mix the flour, oats, salt and baking soda in one bowl and the butter, sugar and vanilla in another, then combine and stir well. Layer this over the top of the fruit mixture.

Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes.

Serve hot with vanilla ice cream (recommend Edy’s Slow-Churned) or frozen yogurt (recommend Perry’s All-Natural).

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(Inspired by questions posed by Catastrophe Jones in her LiveJournal, and adapted from my subsequent comments.)

We live in a world very much a victim of its own societal norms, often ostracizing or punishing those who deviate from the same. And yet, we understand so little about the brain hardware and psyche software that surely any attempts to assert exactly what goes on in there must be taken with a giant salt lick.

What IS sanity, really?

Given that the very definition of ‘sanity’ must be a state within an arbitrary level of deviation from an arbitrary norm, it stands to reason that the people with the most ‘middling’ psychological state will also be those who most strongly conform to the societal standards – as such, the people most likely to opt for mainstream art, music and fashion, since they are precisely the people to whom it is marketed. They are the ones most likely to enjoy reality television, most likely to hold moderate opinions in matters of politics and religion.

Of course, sanity is hardly a line on a chart, nor even a region of a scatter plot. Different forms of deviation from the arbitrary norm are invariably going to manifest in one of three forms – a concordant form, in which the esthetic and lifestyle choices follow the pattern of supposed “deviation” (hence the more radical movements which dot our history); a discordant form, in which it fights against the “deviation” (as evidenced by the pathological need for conformity displayed by some individuals); and an anarchic form, in which it bears no relation to the “deviation”.

The polarization of psychological ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ is inherently destructive, both for those who try to push against their ‘weird’ element and be normal or indeed those who revel in nonconformity and thus try to accentuate that ‘weird’ element at the expense of normal. That second example is the reason we see the subculture and counterculture groups we do, and also the reason for the ironic fact that within any given subculture or counterculture there is just as much conformity as outside it. If you don’t believe me, hang out at Hot Topic for an hour or so. Ultimately, the only way to break free of either trap is to be oneself, and not give a flying fuck about where you fall on any arbitrary spectrum.

Breaking out of this societally imposed reality tunnel also sheds some light on discussion of both religion and magic; I believe that there has long been a mindset whereby people lump together everything they don’t understand and call it magic, as though having a label for it somehow makes it fit more easily into their limited worldview. Other people, for perhaps an even longer time, have been doing the same thing but instead labeling it ‘God’. Some have had the lamentable notion of putting the things they like under one label and the things they don’t under the other, leading to a plethora of tragedies throughout history.

I feel this view is generally decreasing – science, though in some ways still in its infancy compared to magic/religion, has shown that many phenomena do in fact have a rational explanation, hitherto undiscovered. There may indeed be a supreme entity, or at least higher entities, behind some of the weirder shit that goes on – goodness knows evolutionary theory tends to start gibbering when faced with the platypus – but we are more aware than we once were of the “magic” of magnetic fields and nitrogen cycles and dielectric gaps and the other scientific things which make the world as awesome as it is.

In practice, though, every answer brings with it at least two further questions – often “why” and “how”. Modern magic is more about making the “why” be your own will and the “how” be your knowledge. As such, just as you suggest, the wonder is lost. Here’s the thing, though – when you as a magician are becoming the how and why of any given phenomenon, you aren’t using the phenomenon so much as supplanting it. Perhaps when you take yourself back out of the equation, you do so with a better understanding of what kind of forces are conspiring to cause the phenomenon when you’re not there. This is science, magic, religion, all rolled into one tasty meta-burrito.

Now, part of the reason magic rushes in where science fears to tread is that magic will not restrict itself to the phenomena which make sense – magic can work against the logical thread of physics just as well as it can work with it, or in its own way (concordant, discordant, anarchic – notice a theme?). However, working with the forces supplied by Nature is inevitably easier than working against them, and requires a greater exercise of will. It also requires sufficient cognitive flexibility as to be able to sustain belief in the desired outcome rather than in the assertions of science. This cognitive flexibility is, of course, antithetical to standard definitions of ‘sanity’.

I have proposed a number of times, and continue to suggest, that all entities capable of cognition are indeed part of a greater whole, wherein each of these individual instances of psyche is a vector in a massive reality matrix. The sum total of said matrix is the observable reality of which we all speak, and in which we all interact. Because we retain our individual mental set, we are able to disagree on many matters, especially when it comes to such complex vectors as morality, but we are nonetheless joined by this matrix. Magic – and indeed miracle, for the religious – is what occurs when one such psyche is endowed with sufficient will as to allow its vector to exert greater influence on the mathematical whole of the reality matrix. This influence leads to an observable phenomenon which, once observed, is then believed by others, and therefore leads to a paradigm shift in observable reality as more and more individual psyches also incorporate it into their own mental sets.

(It should be noted that this approach calls for some sort of baseline; an n-dimensional reality matrix does not hop into being all on its own. There may be a small but fundamental set of “core” laws of physics which underlie all of this. It may be the will of God, or of the planet itself, or of another still-unknown agency.)

This form of influence by will has become more difficult to bring forth in the modern era precisely because we are all so interconnected in other ways. A magician in the 1500s only had to exert sufficient will to overcome the mental sets of those nearby in order to accomplish many of his or her works, whereas a 21st century magician must be able to exert so much will into the matrix as to be able to overcome a great many more mental sets.

This is also true of our emotional states and desires – more than simply the interaction of id and superego, we have each other’s mental sets to contend with, and that causes struggle as we seek a way to match our individual state to that of another person without disturbing the surrounding whole enough that anything becomes unbalanced. The Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is therefore perhaps better expressed as “you get out of the reality matrix what you put into the reality matrix” – if your movements within it are helpful to another, then they will generally be more inclined to return the favor. If you are instead obstructive to another, there will likely be strife in both directions. Ergo, it is logical to make your contribution as positive as can be, or at least not harmful (concordant or anarchic rather than discordant).

It also seems to me that the summed vectors of individual psyches can have profound effects. If you and I both find that the sum of our contributions is positive (not numerically but in terms of appeal), this is then a scientific basis for friendship, or even love. If we find the sum negative, we will be predisposed to mutual antipathy. And if one of us finds it positive and the other not, therein lies the potential for frustration and heartbreak such as that of unrequited love. But enough of sadness.

I would love to hear feedback on this, as the notion of the reality matrix has been kicking around in my head for a few years now.

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The Week That Was

Haven’t posted much this last week, at least in comparison to my more recent flurry of activity. However, a few notable items.

Dollhouse appears to be renewed, against all the odds. The official announcement of such things from Fox comes tomorrow, but well-placed sources are printing the renewal as news.

My readership appears to have seen a bump in numbers in general, and particularly in Kansas. Hello to you all, and welcome.

One thing I have been greatly enjoying is the ongoing game of flash-fiction tag in progress here.

In other news, though this is more a today thing than a last week thing, I appear to make a truly amazing pear-rhubarb crisp. Yay!

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It seems hope is not yet lost.

Dollhouse renewal talks are ongoing. That Fox didn’t simply slam the door is better news than I expected.

The DVR numbers are encouraging, and DVD pre-orders are already setting a startling pace. The Stability Index Rating is one of the highest in network TV today. Plus, the show is cheaper to produce than many of the others (and the licensing fee goes to a sister company in 20th Century Fox).

Fox has picked up Human Target, and pairing Dollhouse with this on Monday nights could lift the show out of the ratings doldrums inherent in a Friday night time slot. Reports suggest that this idea is being kicked around the table.

I’m not uncrossing my fingers yet or anything… but I feel like there’s more hope than there was.

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