Saturday, April 14, 2018

BITING THE SUN



Wow, what a great read this was!  

Tanith Lee's novel of a future dystopia (available under ISBN 978-0553581300) is a gaudy vision of human society that's been placed under firm orders from their robot masters to ENJOY THEMSELVES ANY WAY THEY WANT, IN A CONSEQUENCE-FREE ENVIRONMENT.   This world has no crime, no want, no danger.  If you want it, and if you can imagine it, you get it.

What are you frowning about?  Doesn't that sound dystopic enough for you?   It should.  With no challenges to overcome, no meaningful connection with anyone, no conflict, and not even a job to slouch off to in the morning -- in short, NO DISCORD -- people in this society , hemmed in by Order, spend a whole lot of time KILLING THEMSELVES.  Not just once, but OVER AND OVER.  And why isn't once enough to finish the job, you ask?  The robots have figured out a way to rescue you from death and they just slot you back into a new body.  Then you go back to Square One.  Welcome back to despair!!!

The story really begins when one of these people starts to seriously CHAFE, wondering how life could somehow become, I don't know, maybe the right word is MEANINGFUL.  The protagonist's efforts to find anything to do that is really worth doing starts the story rolling.  

And oh, the wonders we get to see!

This book is a wonderful process of CLEARING AWAY THE COBWEBS and walking away from everything you know.  If everything you know is 100% PHONY, you can hope that the new territory you're entering somehow turns out to be REAL.

Sighted along another axis, this is about discovering that your perfect, universal Order is screwing you up six ways to Sunday, and what you need is a serious dose of Chaos to make it right again.

This would be a great story, not just for Discordians to read, but soto Zen Buddhists, scientolators, chronic drunkards, fanatics, general-purpose hedonists and anyone else who could benefit from a little head clearing.

I want to draw your attention to what the woman in the cover illustration is doing.  She's standing in a garden...

...Plucking an apple off a tree.

That's the whole story in a nutshell.  When she rolls that apple it will change everything.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

A Thought From "Bling Ring" Attorney Sean Erenstoft



"I'm a righteous guy.  I feel like I see justice...I believe I have the pulse on what is right and wrong...I KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHAOS AND ORDER and I have a complete sense of how it should be helped...I am pompous enough to think that I have a greater sense of justice here."

OK, what is he saying here?

>> That he feels the difference between Chaos and Order needs help?  Why?  How?

>> Can you really "have the pulse on what is right and wrong"?   Doesn't he mean he has his finger on that pulse?  Does "what is right and wrong" even have a pulse?  Even on a purely metaphoric level?  If it's a metaphor, it's a pretty scrambled one.  

>> So, as far as having his finger on the pulse of Chaos?  Check.  But where's the Order in this paragraph?

>> If he knows the difference between Chaos and Order -- and when you start to pick at it you quickly realize that they're interpenetrating ghosts that bleed invisibly into each other at all times -- why doesn't he show us what the difference is?

>> And what in the name of everloving blue funk does any of that have to do with the famous case he worked on?  This quote was take from page 196 of the trade paperback edition of The Bling Ring,(ISBN 978-0-06-224553-3).  It's the story of a bunch of teenagers -- every one of them a refugee from reality TV -- who decided to burgle the homes of as many celebrities as they could think of so they could wear their watches and shoes and stuff.

I admit, there is a great deal of CHAOS in TV, especially reality TV, but in a scripted, flavorless-potato-pancake form boring enough to put Speedy Gonzalez into a coma.  It certainly feels CHAOTIC to have your place broken into and your stuff stolen, at least usually, but these kids did most of their crimes in such an ORDERLY way that a lot of the victims didn't realize anything had happened until the criminals confessed.  And many would see the intervention of the criminal justice system as the restoration of ORDER, but with excelsior like this falling from the lips of the attorneys involved -- these people are supposed to be articulate sellers of ice to Eskimos! -- I'm not sure it didn't generate more CHAOS than anything else.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

And So the Tax Follies Begin!




I answered a call from my tax preparer this morning.  They'd left me a message saying they had "a question."  I had already dropped off my information for them to work on.  There was no question they wanted to ask.  They warned me that I need to withdraw $920 immediately from my Health Savings Account because, according to my HSA statement from the HSA bank guys, I had paid in far too much, and if the IRS got wind of it they were going to want to PUT ME ON THE RACK AND TORTURE ME WITH HOT POKERS. 

Now, this is IMPOSSIBLE because I always put the exact amount of my insurance deductible in there -- about half of the yearly maximum contribution -- and I generally use it all up by July, so that when the next January comes I can start over fresh refilling the empty account.  My first, worrying thought was that I'd somehow SCREWED UP my yearly enrollment paperwork at the office.  There's a box to check and a row of empty slots to fill out on your computer regarding this sort of thing, and I wondered if I'd asked my employer to deduct money from my paycheck and route it to the HSA without realizing I'd done it.  I've even done this once before in the past, so it seemed possible despite all my doublechecking.

Nope.  They printed everything right out for me, and it all matched up with my information.

So I went to the HSA bank's web address and -- after a desperate search, because they keep rearranging the site so you can never find anything -- looked at the contributions made in 2017.

It said exactly what it should say.  I paid the full deductible amount in November and that was all the money I had in there.  Minus a few shekels, because I've already used some of it.  There was no thousand-dollar surplus.

So all I could think of to do was click on "Contact Us" and tell them what was going on.  They claim they will respond within 2 business days.  You click "SEND" and it vanishes; there's no way to document that I contacted them at all, which really grinds me.

So now we wait.



Friday, March 02, 2018

Why Wait Until Next Year To Post This?



I finally got around to observing my sacred New Year's Eve ritual of watching The Poseidon Adventure last night.  I know, I know, it's March!  But that's just another way of keeping things CHAOTIC around here, am I right?

I adore this movie.  It's so rich and complex that I get something new out of it every time I see it.  And this year the detail that popped out at me DIRECTLY CONCERNED THIS BLOG, so here I am reporting it to you, just as if it were something you needed to know.

Remember the scene right after the ship capsized, when Gene Hackman suggested using the Christmas tree as a ladder to escape the ballroom?  OF COURSE YOU DO.  Well, I've seen this movie and this Christmas tree many, many times but this is the first time it really registered on me that between the ropes of tinsel garland, you can see the other Christmas ornaments on there:


Row after row of these GOLD SATIN BALLS.  The kind you never see anymore in the stores.  They were nearly INESCAPABLE at Christmastime at the time this movie was made.

And -- VERY interestingly! -- those ornaments, resembling outsized GOLDEN APPLES, kept appearing and disappearing when you looked at the tree.  There were tons of them at the moment the tree toppled, sending injured partygoers scattering in all directions.  

It was such a nice image of DISORDER, symbolized by Golden Apples glittering on a tree in a room -- a world -- turned UPSIDE DOWN.

(Just an aside, here:  THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN was also supposed to be the 4th book in the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles by prominent Discordian author and Erisian saint Robert Anton Wilson, but he never got around to writing it.  Such a pity.)

Then a bunch of the men got together and stood the tree back up so they could use it as a ladder to escape the ballroom.  Suddenly, there was hardly a golden ball to be seen on the tree, as if the disorder were in retreat for a moment.  Undoubtedly because the survivors had made a plan and were now working together to achieve it.

And then the water poured in, and people started scrambling up the tree in terror, and hey, look at all the golden apples on the tree!  They appear at the moment CHAOS RE-ENTERS THE ROOM.

And then the tree was submerged and the moment passed.



Sunday, February 25, 2018

More Gun-Related Insanity, Courtesy Of The Middle American Helicopter Parents' Movement

DATELINE:  PARMA, OHIO, February 8, 2018

Joey Mertel was suspended from Greenbriar Middle School for failing to RUN SCREAMING TO AN ADULT and tell on the kid who pointed a toy gun at him.

A TOY gun.  




Never mind, peeps: It COULD have been a real emergency and they COULD all be dead now.  They were right to suspend 11-year-old Joey.  The rule must ALWAYS be:  IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.  

This error on Joey's part is NO DIFFERENT, either in quality or severity, from the usual reasons kids get suspended, like STEALING, DESTROYING PROPERTY or CLOBBERING OTHER KIDS IN THE RECESS YARD.  I'm sure we can all agree on this.


DATELINE: DAPHNE, ALABAMA, 
Friday, February 16th, 2018

A school bus was stopped and SURROUNDED BY POLICE after a kid riding in it overheard someone else talking about bringing guns to school.  He did what Joey Mertel should have done and CALLED 911.  Later that day, the county school superintendent released a lengthy statement to the effect that this phone call led to "NEEDLESS PANIC AND CHAOS" after it transpired that the kid in question was talking about those guns that shoot Nerf darts.  Like the DEADLY WEAPON shown above.  The superintendent, Eddie Tyler, summed up by saying that IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING, but only if there you're not reporting a bunch of IDLE TALK AND GOSSIP.  

Because kids can invariably distinguish between IDLE TALK, GOSSIP and SERIOUS BUSINESS.  Right?

Because kids on the school bus are ALL BUSINESS and would never indulge in IDLE TALK.  Right?  The kid who called 911 certainly thought so, the overreacting little whiner!

Because if this had been an actual emergency and the kid's call had headed off the next school shooting, the mayor would have given him the keys to the city.  Right?

That's why the SWAT team responded.  Right?

I just think it's kind of DUMB that kids are given their own private phone lines, instructed to use them in situations like these, and then penalized for it when they do exactly what they're told.  

Meanwhile, Joey Mertel is the real winner in this deal:  he's been given a 3-day, a 5-day, maybe even a 10-day vacation with the school's blessing!



Now Here's A GREAT Idea...


About five minutes after I got through recommending Gene Sharp's books on nonviolent social change strategies in the previous blog entry, I stumbled across a column written by this guy, Mehdi Hasan of TheIntercept.com (among other periodicals).

THE MAN IS BRILLIANT.  He suggests, in this piece, that in a country with between 3 and 7 million Muslims -- often viewed with terror by many other Americans -- a SIMPLE SOLUTION TO SEVERAL PROBLEMS AT ONCE is simply to have all of them join the NRA. 

THINK ABOUT IT A SECOND HERE.  

>> There are only about 5 million NRA members in total.  What if 4 million more signed up this week -- and they were all Muslims?   That's what you call a CONTROLLING INTEREST, my friends.

>> We all know what the NRA does if anyone, anywhere suggests any sort of minor gun-control law.  What if the 3 million new members had a different perspective on that?  Would the NRA's stance have to change?  YES INDEEDY.

>> The NRA is well known to have the United States Government by the short hairs.  Nobody wants to risk losing all those political campaign contributions.  What if the people contributing all that money to the cause were tired of taking all the blame for everything ISIS, al Quaeda and Boko Haram ever did, and wanted the country to get back on a saner footing?  Then what?

>> What if the new members -- who might actually outnumber the existing ones -- wanted to back the Green Party for a change, or the Libertarians?  Even those damn vegetarian Democrats??? What if they wanted to back a Muslim presidential candidate?  No, NOT Barack Obama -- a real, live Muslim.

>> The NRA has always been about gun safety and responsible gun ownership.  What if the new members not only AGREED with that -- and I assume you'd have to agree with that before they'd let you join -- but they then started suggesting NEW MEASURES to make that really work, like the ones used in countries with little to no gun violence?

>> What would the foaming-at-the-mouth white supremacist doomsday preppers in the NRA do if 3 million Muslims showed up at the mixer for new members?  I don't know, either, but it would be interesting to watch!  I mean, they might QUIT!  They might be forced to discuss their views with someone who doesn't agree with them 100%!  They might not know a Muslim when they saw one -- especially those sneaky-pants Indonesian, Uighur or white guy Muslims who don't look Middle Eastern.  THEY MIGHT EVEN MAKE FRIENDS WITH THEM AND FIND COMMON GROUND WITH THEM BEFORE THEY REALIZED WHAT WAS HAPPENING.

Man, I'd like to change my name to Bulbul Faroukh and sign up JUST TO SEE.

However it came out, this bold experiment would be the finest expression possible of the Discordian saying, 


"ILLUMINATE THE OPPOSITION!"

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Another Discordian Lance Saint Lost To Us!



Gene Sharp, good Discordian saint material, has gone to the Great Wherever after a long, illustrious career spent teaching ordinary people to PROTEST. 

Here are a few of his training manuals:


All of his books are GREAT STUFF and there is a big pile of them for you to read.  The principles apply to all issues, from the tall to the small, but of course in THIS country we are all about making sure people have their civil rights, and being sure there's no taxation without representation, no unpopular wars, but also no gun control, and that kind of American protestamenta.  

In fact, no matter WHAT your issue, Gene Sharp will probably have some good suggestions for you.  And see the word "nonviolent" in some of those titles?  He's not suggesting Molotov cocktails or anything else that's going to get you arrested. 

AND YOU STILL MIGHT GET WHAT YOU'RE AFTER.

Discordia Rules OK In Post-Literate USA




It's just endlessly entertaining, the way people in this country have  COMPLETELY LOST THEIR GRIP on the meaning of what they are saying, because they HEARD it once, GUESSED at the meaning of it, not to mention the SPELLING, and never had the chance to clarify it in their minds because they never READ it anywhere in their lives. The inevitable result:  COMEDY GOLD.  

If you belong to the post-literate ORAL SOCIETY in America, you might be heard to say, or seen to post on the Net...

"Is this true, or is it an old wise tail?"

Before Discordia came to rule the USA, this speaker would have known s/he was talking about old wives' tales.  S/he would have understood further that old husbands help perpetuate such tales...


...But I digress.  Such a person might also be heard to say, or seen to tweet, "We're under the throws of a winter storm," when s/he really means "We're in the throes of a winter storm."

Or "I just play it one ear at a time.  I just play it ear by ear."

Or "I'm having a nervous breakthrough!!!"  (This probably also qualifies as a class-A Freudian slip.)

Or -- my all-time favorite -- "This shit hits me like a fan!"


(and you know that sucker really hits hard!)

Because of this effect, very day is a A STRAIGHT-FACE CHALLENGE for erudite moi, and I'm having the time of my life writing all of it down in a notebook.  When even English professors and wealthy stockbrokers are making comments like this at the dinner table or on the Net, well, it makes us look like a bunch of refugees from a Walt Kelly cartoon strip.  Pick up a copy of I Go Pogo and see if I'm not right.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Market Volatility: the Drinking Game



I wish I could find the original tweet posted a few days ago by some renowned financial whiz I'd never heard of before.  I stumbled across it reading stuff on Google and then lost it. I apologize to the author of this brilliant idea, whose name I have also misplaced.

The early-afternoon tweet said, more or less, "NEW DRINKING GAME.  TAKE A SHOT EVERY TIME THE MARKET CHANGES DIRECTION TODAY.  I'D BE DRUNK ALREADY."   He posted that on the day the market slid 500 points, then shot back up higher than it was originally, then dropped almost as far as it had before, but not quite, then rose again to just about the original position it had been in when the bell rang that morning. 


When radio announcers tried to say whether the market was rising or dropping that day, they kept giggling and apologizing.  One actually sounded near tears because she didn't want to commit to whether the market was better or worse, and she just kept backpedalling before making a wild guess. 

I gather this is the combined effect of those cutting-edge robo-investors that make zillions of transactions per minute, Trump's quiet deregulation of the market -- the ONLY thing he's done quietly in the past year -- and the emotional shock of the massive, not-at-all-quiet tax cuts he just signed into law, handcuffed to his loud promises that he's going to SPEND, SPEND, SPEND on infrastructure to the tune of grillions more dollars.  

I used to work on the Consumer Attitude Survey at the Institute For Social Research, which simply asked 500 people a month how they thought the economy seemed to be going and how they thought it was headed in the future.  The results of the survey proved to be so deadly accurate -- because peoples' feelings about the economy dictate their financial decisions -- that it was finally added to the Index Of Leading Economic Indicators.  I would really love to know what kind of results they are getting lately.

What should we start with, the Jose Cuervo or the Midori?  I still have some of that raspberry Smirnoff if you want to finish it...