31
Mar 15

I’m Converting to the Religion of the Aztecs and Moving to Indiana

Indiana has inspired me. The new laws there, on freedom of religion, have opened a door, so I can live out my spiritual dreams. I have decided to convert to ancient pre-Columbian religion– I’m going to be an Aztec. The only reason I didn’t do it before was, it wasn’t legal, due to the important HUMAN SACRIFICE part of the religion. But Indiana offers me a chance to practice my religious freedoms.

It’s such a sunny, cheerful religion, with all kinds of exciting symbols expressed in gorgeous artwork, and if anything was “that old time religion” the Aztec religion was. It goes way back. HUMAN SACRIFICE is an important part of it. In order to practice blood sacrifice legally–see attached picture of Aztecs worshipping–I have decided to move to Indiana. There, my freedom of religion cannot be undermined or forbidden. The anti-religious zealots who want to stop me from killing people on an altar for the pacification of the gods will be prevented from restricting my religion. Laws against murder will be, in my case, blotted out, obstructed, neutralized–long as I commit the murder in accordance with my religion.

I will of course sacrifice numerous people to Tezcatlipoca, the overgod, but I’m especially interested–since the world is overheated and drought is always a problem, with appeasing Huitzilopochtli, god of the sun, and calling upon Tlaloc, god of the rain. I will not neglect Quetzalcoatl, because he’s, well, awesome. I’m a little nervous about worshipping Ometeotl, in Indiana, however, as that is a hermaphroditic god, apparently transgender and possibly gay.

These gods –or Teotl as we neo-Aztecs call them–require blood sacrifices, and since gays aren’t freely permitted in Indiana, perhaps those who don’t want to leave the state and start over would like to volunteer to be sacrificed on the stone altar, under with a fairly sharp flint knife, in order to celebrate religious freedom.

But why stop there? Indiana is a big place–there’s room for those enthusiasts of the ancient Carthaginian worship of Cronus, in the course of which children were sacrificed, rolled alive into pits of flame. Or why not human sacrifice to Baal, as in the Bible’s land of Canaan? Or how about the druids of ancient Britain? Recent studies show they too engaged in human sacrifice. Why not a revival of Druidism in Indiana? It is only one state yet it is truly the land of the free.


29
Mar 15

“Suffering–the New Economic Indicator”

IMAGINARY Banker at Investment Convention: “…then I had an epiphany. The more working class people actually and literally suffer, the better we’re doing our jobs! Suffering is a vastly important economic indicator.

Whether they’re working fast food or Wal-Mart, whether they’re Chinese workers driven to suicide in Apple computer sweatshops, or suffering hugely from overwork in Malaysian sweat shops for American clothing stores like The Gap–if they’re suffering, then *we’re doing something right!* I see doubt on your faces! But trust me–suffering really is a positive financial indicator. I am convinced human suffering could be used like the indicators of the Dow Jones. Suffering’s up? The economy’s up!

“If they’re overworked and underpaid…how are we not making money hand over fist? I’ve gotten some quite positive responses talking this idea over with congressmen. We can actually legislate to demand more suffering from workers…since suffering on the part of workers corresponds precise with extreme, even skyrocketing profits! What’s good for us, at our level of income, is good for America; what’s bad for the workers, is good for America. Because who is the true exemplar of American essence? The well-paid, is who, my friends! You and I!

“I am quite serious. We need to legislate this in–and in order to do that I am investing in a company that will be making suffering meters for the average American low level employee, and another, slightly modified, for overseas sweatshops. We need to rehabilitate the term ‘suffering’ when it applies to workers.

“Right now the word sweatshop is a negative. Can you imagine? It should be a badge of pride. Sweat is what built America! We shop around other people’s sweat, do we not? Suffering, misery, sweatshops…these are positives. And we need to designate them that way–by law!”


27
Mar 15

Why We Don’t Need to Worry About ROBOT UPRISINGS…

‘In the most recent episode of Star Talk Radio, the radio program from popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Musk discussed the advancements in artificial intelligence over the years and expressed his own concern with its growing power. Musk warned that once robots reached the stage of “superintelligence,” they’ll simply overpower humans and keep them “like a pet labrador if we’re lucky.” That’s from the article linked below. My feeling is–these people need not worry.

Otherwise intelligent people, like Elon Musk in the article linked below, who worry about a robot uprising, are engaging in wild speculative anthropomorphism of machines in an egregious way. They are so identified with their own human nature, their own tendency to dominance, their submission to a blind survival instinct–something we all feel–that they forget that these are inherited traits, and that machines do not have DNA, they do not have *instincts*. Nor do computers, or AIs, have an amygdala, the basic center of violence and the enacter of the darker instincts.

There is one way they can be dangerous–if we program them to be. If we tell them to be survival based and to destroy competition, then they could become that kind of being. But why would we do that? For military reasons? And even then, still no instincts, and we can program in kill switches and other devices to keep the upper hand.

It may also be that these guys are fearful of this–notice Wozniak worrying about robots getting rid of humans to “make companies operate more efficiently”–because it’s the way *they* think. That is, they’re ruthless guys. So they think AIs must be ruthless too.

Musk and friends are ignoring the fact that we evolved to be aggressive–as well as, sometimes, community oriented. Musk and the others are ignoring the structure of their genes, their genetic programming, and their own brains–which are the real source of the behavior they’re afraid of. AIs won’t behave like us in that way, unless we program them to.

http://blog.sfgate.com/techchron/2015/03/27/elon-musk-is-worried-about-a-robot-uprising-too/


26
Mar 15

That Demmed Elusive, Pimpernel

“We seek him here, we seek him there/ Those Frenchies seek him everywhere! Is he in heaven? Or is he in hell?/ That demmed, Elusive Pimpernel?”

Odd’s Blood…I love that old Leslie Howard movie, The Scarlet Pimpernel–based on a novel about a Zorro like fellow who saves people from the guillotine of The Terror. Sink me! And I’ve discovered that, in my yard, is growing…Scarlet Pimpernel. The hero was named after this flower, for reasons of his own, and it used to be a flower unknown to America, but inadvertently we’ve brought it here and it’s a common weed now…and a beautiful one. It’s a crawling, vine like plant, with fine stems, clustering displays of leaves that are themselves organized like flower petals in blossoms, symmetrically opposed; the vines sprout minute scarlet flowers; they close up at night into tiny buds that look like miniaturized rose buds. When my wife said the weed was Pimpernel I said, “No!” I went to the garden and plucked some up, brought it to my computer, held it up next to the pictures online…the same! The oracle says so!

I’ve been thinking how many weeds are wild flowers, and how wild flowers are often seen as weeds; how garden flowers were once wild flowers, were bred to garden gaudiness; how weed flowers are often rather delicate, smaller, the blossoms not so blowsy as hybrid garden flowers. Wild roses are smaller, less like the gown of a debutante with tacky taste.

Garden flowers–I like them, especially irises. When I was 12 we had an art class printing drawings into sheets of copper. The other boys made imprinted guns and fighter jets; I made an iris. I was never a very sensitive boy, truly–I loved war movies–but secretly I also loved flowers.

Now I have to pull weeds in my garden but many of them are at least as colorful as garden flowers, and most of them more elegant. Hybridized and carefully bred for domestic pageantry, for colorful ostentation, garden flowers represent human culture, and human taste, as much as they represent nature. They’re wistful; they’re our cultivation of a dream of a prettier life…


21
Mar 15

“Spock? I thought you were dead.”

An eerie moment tonight…

I felt some appreciation of the late Leonard Nimoy was needed tonight, in our house, somehow, and as we just got the Blu Ray restoration of STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN we watched that. Others too have no doubt raised their eyebrows and shivered a little, rewatching the film recently, as Kirk reunites with now-Captain Spock, and the first thing Kirk says “I thought you were dead.”

Of course, the plot of the film itself involves Spock’s demise, so Nimoy expired twice in a short time, for me.

THE WRATH OF KHAN starts off a bit raggedly–partly because Kirstie Alley seems woefully miscast as a vulcan, and other scenes seem stilted, and of course the bridge tech now seems sadly outdated. But the film soon goes into warp drive –we take pleasure in the adoring shots of the Enterprise leaving dry dock, Nicholas Meyer’s feel for the Big Story and the grand theme, the energy of clashing personalities, the sheer fun (and effulgent charisma) of Montalban chewing the scenery as Khan quoting Moby Dick, and, after all, the film still works. The Genesis device, too, is still an interesting concept. And of course Spock’s parting scene with Kirk is genuinely touching. Nimoy was a wonderful Spock in life and wonderfully poignant now, as Spock dying.


20
Mar 15

Has The Walking Dead Become Mere… ‘Torture Porn”?

I always did enjoy well crafted horror, but, despite my having written some extreme fiction, I don’t have the stomach for some extreme imagery in film and television. This last episode of THE WALKING DEAD…well…I keep starting to swear off The Walking Dead but then they do something that makes me curious. They’re very clever at that. And the actors are good, direction is good, dialogue is good…So I grudgingly start watching again. I think they may finally have pushed me too far. They seem to have crossed a line into torture porn. Watching two characters get eaten alive, in one episode, up close and personal, drawing the process out…showing most of it…and one of them a beloved character … the whole bit with the revolving door was very clever…But…

And the recent sequence about the horse being eaten alive was altogether too cruel, to say the least. And it wasn’t long ago that the production terrified a baby–actually terrified it–in order to get it scream in fear on camera.

Probably as there are, if I recollect rightly, just two more episodes in this season, I’ll watch them, having watched all the others. Curiosity mostly. But I doubt I return next season. I mean, I had feelings akin to PTSD, from watching this latest episode. The show’s all misery, all the time. Not that it probably wouldn’t be like that if it played out in the world, given the premise. But it’s just depressing. And now this latest–I’ll have distressing memories of that imagery every time I go through a revolving door. They really didn’t have to *show* that stuff happening. Up close.

Also it seemed to me there were other solutions to the character’s dilemma…

And here’s more about the infant-child abuse that–arguably–took place on the set of The Walking Dead, all for your entertainment: http://www.john-shirley.com/blog/?p=2459


16
Mar 15

“Harvester of Eyes, That’s Me”

There is no one time for harvest. It’s always harvest time. The cemeteries throng with the hulls of ongoing harvests. Who is the harvester? Merely the old man with the long beard, or Time, the winged hourglass seen on the old Calvinist headstones? Or is it the hooded scythe bearer? No, those are the masks of the harvester’s servant.

The harvester watches from within us; and it watches from without, perhaps using the moon as its magnifying lens. It is the harvester of perception, of experience. The harvester is seated behind every pair of human eyes, behind ego and false self; it’s seated too, in simpler creatures: behind the glittering eyes of a bird, behind clusters of spider eyes. It watches from behind blind fish; it harvests all perception, even perception via cilia. The harvester reaps *seeing* itself, along with the raw energy of untamed life released when the organism disintegrates…

The death of the outer organism, of the vehicle of the faceless infinite inner seer, then comes about in utter completeness: unrestrained, unstoppable, annihilating personality, memory, conventional self–unless…

Unless the outer organism, sentient enough, perceptive enough, and diligent enough, makes an arrangement with the harvester, and creates a field of independent selfhood that can perceive, and harvest, in other planes; to provide more finely attuned harvests for the harvester.

Or, cf., this book, say: Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas


14
Mar 15

Nature Will Not Be Overthrown

Outside, here in central California, on this muggy warm spring day we can pretend that all is well; water is in short supply but we can still water our flowers for now. And flowers, wild and cultivated, are in such frantic bud, so widespread, so sharply in color contrast, you think unavoidably of a very-slow-motion film of fireworks unfolding. The hills are billowy frozen waves of green, stippled with amber-colored California poppies; wallowy waves eternally about to break over our suburban valley. At the base of the hills, numerous wild turkeys are promenading, waddling along making their absurd gobble which seems perfectly dignified to them; so do their splendid fans of tailfeather displays. The hens seem unimpressed.

Tiny beelike insects, which don’t seem bees but which clearly are packing on the pollen–I can see it on their legs–appear to be filling the niche left by the diminished honeybees. They’re an insect called “bee flies”. Real honeybees there are, but fewer than in previous years. Scarcely a breeze at the moment but you can feel the air on your skin as you walk through laterally trailing cottonwood puffs; our wisteria seeming very optimistic in its gush of rather sexy violet catkins. Nature will not be overthrown. Our little human niche may be crushed, humanity overthrown, but not nature.


09
Mar 15

IN VERIZON HELL AND I DON’T EVEN HAVE A VERIZON ACCOUNT

There was a man sitting in a car, in front of my house, intently watching my empty driveway. He was sitting in a rather dusty old Honda Acura, hunched over the wheel, staring. I was coming into the front yard to water the plants, and he noticed me looking at him.

He got out of the car–a fox-faced Hispanic man of about forty, casually dressed, slight accent–smiling and waving. “Hi! There’s been a mix up at Fed Ex! They are accidentally sending my packages to your address! I just spoke to them–the driver’s on the way!” A wider, toothier smile now. “Do you mind if I pick up the packages here?”

“Um…guess not.” I decided I’d think about this some more as I did my watering, see what’s up. I began watering, and pondering, and as each second passed I became more certain that something illegal was going on here, and it was an illegality that used my street address. I didn’t have my cell phone on me. I decided to go into the house and get a pen and paper and my phone, write down his license number–but that’s when the Fed Ex truck drove up.

Waiting Man rushed up to the driver, chucklingly gave him the story, gave him a name…I heard “Garcia”…and apparently showed some form of ID. The driver barely glanced at it, and handed over four packages, each the size of a brick; the man from the Acura walked toward his car happily looking the packages over, hefting them one by one. He really looked pleased.

The Fed Ex truck left and I hurried in to get a pen. I should have tried to memorize the plate, because when I came out Waiting Man was gone.

I called the police and a local cop took the incident report. Yeah, a common scam, he said. They used fake data to buy a phone, they have it shipped to someone else’s address, then intercept the delivery and pick it up there. Nothing the police can do without a plate number. Tell Fed Ex, he advised.

I called Fed Ex and they said, “All I can tell you is that four cell phones went to that address from Verizon. It says here, cell phones…” They wouldn’t talk to the cops. Suggested I tell Verizon.

You can’t email Verizon about this topic–their email fraud form is only for, well, email fraud, there’s no other useful email address. Nor could I find a postal mailing address for administration. So I called them, spoke to billing–couldn’t get anyone there interested in the issue because that was not their department. “We only deal with new accounts or billing problems…”

I decided I’d done what I could. But within ten days we got a pile of separate bills from Verizon for “Donald Kinyon” and “Victoria Kinyon”, two people I’d never heard of, at this address. This was disturbing. Probably it wasn’t identity theft per se but it smelled like something akin to it.

I tried Verizon’s customer service again. “We don’t deal with that in this department.” Who does? “No one. But you can talk to fraud…” It took about an hour to get through to Verizon’s fraud department. The man said, “Yeah, sounds like they picked your address at random…Open the mail for me please, find the account number.” I opened it, saw a bill for thousands of dollars in charges for these two probably imaginary people. I gave him the account number, told him we’d been in the house for seventeen years, never heard of these people on the bill. He said, “Yep it’s billed to your house, I see.” He couldn’t get it unbilled from the house. “Just write ‘No one by that name at this address’ on the bill, and Verizon will stop sending them.”

I did as he suggested –they didn’t stop sending the bills.

I talked to the postman who said when he saw them he’d send them back as wrongly addressed, and he does do that sometimes, but sometimes they come anyway.

Months later, many moons, we still get bills–four today. Annoyed, I called Verizon billing. They said, we don’t deal with that, and put me through to Customer service. Customer service heard me out and then said, “There’s nothing we can do. It’s billed to that address.”

“But they’re not here. Surely Verizon doesn’t want to bill to an address where the people are not in residence.”

“We don’t deal with that here.”

“Then who does?”

“No one that I know of.”

“Let me give you the account number–”

“How’d you get that? You…opened the bill?”

“Yes, had to, to get your 800 number.”

“That’s against the law, opening other people’s mail!”

“But…the ‘other people’ don’t exist–I mean, they don’t live here and they probably don’t exist…Look, I know you guys can simply stop sending these bills for someone else to my address–somewhere there can do it.”

“No,” he said coldly. “We can’t.”

He insisted–rudely and very sniffily repeating it over and over that I had to talk to the Fraud department, or no one.

“But I already–”

He cut me off mid sentence, and put me on hold.

Eventually I was back at Fraud. This time I got another man in Fraud department who said, “This is not a fraud issue.”

“How is it not? They’re defrauding your company of phones and the bills are coming here. End this!”

“Can’t do that, the bills will keep coming to that address.”

“But–someone at Verizon has to know how to stop sending a bill to an address where the person billed is not in residence.”

He suddenly sounded suspicious. “But you say the person doesn’t exist!”

“Then– billed to an address where the name is wrong, and the account doesn’t apply to anyone here.”

“There’s no one who can deal with that.”

“No one at Verizon can stop a bill going to a house where the person billed is not in residence and never has been? They won’t stop wasting effort, paper, time, billing a residence when they know, by now, it’s fraud?”

“I can connect you to Customer Service…”

“But I’m not a customer–I’m a person affected by your company’s refusal to reasonably deal an issue of fraud that has impacted me. And in fact I’m also trying to help you guys by reinforcing the report of this theft and saving you trouble by asking you stop sending the bills for the stolen phones to–”

“There’s no one who can stop the billing to that address.”

“No one? You guys at Verizon are completely at the mercy of your computers?”

I could almost hear him grate his teeth–this was his Hell too. He didn’t feel like working on Saturday in the first place. “Sir, this is not a case for our department. I can connect you to billing…”

“They sent me to you!”

“…but the bills will continue to come to your house.”

“For how long?”

“I don’t know.” There was a slight satisfaction in his voice as he added, “Maybe forever. Goodbye.”

Welcome to the new corporate America. We are opaque. We have filters; we have human firewalls. If you have an issue with us, you had better fit through a tiny slot that profits us. Or, you could sue us. Good luck with that.

Otherwise, simply…go away.


06
Mar 15

Fierce, Fierce Little Creatures

Ah look, what a pretty, compact, little brown and yellow butterfly–*snatched up!* I goggle at the adorable little songbird snatching the butterfly in midair, flying to alight on the branch of a shrub where it gobbles the Umber Skipper down. Oh you think songbirds are cute little budgies, adorable plump songbirds out of Snow White–but they’re FIERCE, I tell you! Fierce! On two occasions I watched as small songbirds behaved like tiny hawks–in one instance a towhee; the other, in a shopping mall, was a sparrow of some kind. They dived like a raptor, snatched the Umber Skipper butterfly, a white moth in the other case, right in midair, scarfed it down. Perhaps the little bird deposited its prey in its crop, to regurgitate for nestlings.

Admirable, really. I usually think of hawks, with their keen predatory eyes, spotting a prey, diving with (in my mind) dive-bomber sound effects: grabbing the squealing mouse up in its needle sharp claws, flying smugly away on its big majestic wings. But day by day these little songbirds cock their keen predatory eyes, spot a moth, or some diaphanous flying insect, and flutter down toward it; adjusting for the prey’s crooked flight path they *nab* it in mid air, in a *small beak*, the bird casually returning to its perch with its still-living meal; all accomplished in one fluttering flight. The little songbird must have capabilities of sight, of calculation, we don’t usually think about in such a creature…

Meanwhile, on our back porch, sit my wife’s hiking boots–rather too long. A spider has woven a web in one of them, covering the opening meant for her foot; a very prosperous spider, its web festooned with gutted, hollow corpses: crickets, flies, earwigs. The web is the sort with a tunnel in its midst and the tunnel dips very neatly, looking like water going down a drain, into the depth of the boot. I shine a light from my cell phone into the hole and see a cluster of bright eyes reflecting redly back at me from deep, deep inside where the spider hunkers.

It’s probably a non-toxic Agelenidae funnel-web spider, I assure my wife, so she can certainly put the boot on without fear, but she declines to. She claims she does not wish to uncharitably deprive it of its home.