Saturday, November 18, 2017

GHOSTS OF THE TSUNAMI






This one -- ISBN 978-0374253974 -- qualifies as one of the most Discordian reads of 2017.  Nominally a document of the devastation of Miyagi Prefecture by the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, it's also a close study of the wavery, blurry line they maintain in Japan between Order and Chaos.  

The Japanese are understandably more tuned in to disaster preparedness than anyone else on earth.  They live on top of a chain of volcanoes situated along the infamous Ring Of Fire, where almost all the world's volcanic eruptions occur.  They're also surrounded by a fairly stormy body of seawater; the word "typhoon" comes to us from their neck of the Far East.  

But wait!  There's more!!!  Japan sits on the meeting point of, not two, but four tectonic plates.  Tokyo itself sits on top of the spot where three of the plates grind together, sometimes imperceptibly, sometimes violently.  Japan has about 1500 earthquakes every year.   So next time you see Godzilla striding ashore from Tokyo Bay and laying waste the Ginza, just remember that this is where some of that symbolism comes from. 

The earthquake that led to the tsunami that led, in turn, to the creation of Parry's book, was the fourth-most-violent ever recorded, a 9.1 on the Richter scale.  (The scale only goes to 10.)  It lasted 6 minutes, and at the end of it Japan was 4 feet closer to the United States than it had been that morning.  Because of Japan's excellent anti-earthquake building codes, even tall, fragile-seeming buildings were left largely intact and just a handful of people died.  This is a great example of how the Japanese have imposed Order on their extremely Chaotic environment.  

He never goes into it very much, but the author says that he put on a radiation suit and visited the damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant with its ruptured reactor.  He also says that nobody at all has died as the result of the leaky, shattered reactor.  No doubt some people got sick, but nobody has died.  Why?  More Japanese know-how, is why.  They know more about the dangers of radiation, and the prevention and treatment of radiation sickness, than anyone else.  This is an even greater example of how they have imposed Order on Chaos in Japan.

The tsunami that followed the earthquake was another story entirely.  The wave was 33 feet tall and washed away 300 billion dollars in public buildings, people's homes, farms, personal belongings, family heirlooms, cars, trucks, boats, temples, and, of course, the people themselves. 18,500 of them were tumbled to death in a wave of mud, timber and twirling cars ground up by enormous stones.  The final death toll was over 22,000.  This included most of the students and all but one of the teachers in an elementary school that did not have any tsunami-evacuation plans in place, because no tsunami had hit there in so long that nobody thought it was really needed.  This was where Chaos replied to the Japanese, "Try to impose Order, will you?  Watch this!"

The book explains that in the wake of this enormous disaster, ghosts started showing up in large numbers.  Yes, ghosts -- the lyric, phantsmal apparitions experienced by the guilty, the lonely, and the delusional.  The phenomenon that almost everyone -- including almost everyone in Japan -- dismisses as nonsense.  Some people started seeing and speaking with them; others were possessed by them and spoke in their voices, telling their stories.  Some of the spirit possession extended to animals, like the household pets lost in the disaster.  Some people saw one ghost, or had one ghost inside them; others had many, many more cross their transoms.  This started MONTHS after the cleanup was underway, when the homeless were staying safely in government-issued prefabs, and most of the dead had been found and given decent burials.  

"Try to impose Order, will you?  Try this on for size!"


Sunday, November 05, 2017

Get Me To The Church On Time!

I saw this marquee as I was driving past a church...You know the kind that lets you rearrange the letters to give the message of the week?  It was one of those.  This one said,
 
SMILE
 
IT CONFUSES PEOPLE
 
OK, great; that's a tactic I've used with great success myself. 
 
(It's especially disconcerting when you beam adoringly at a recess-yard bully when he's trying to get you to cry.  That's your tip for the day.  It's only hard to do the first time; from there it gets easier and easier.)
 
But I'm struggling to imagine what scenario the people who run this church had in mind when they put up that sign.  Who are they trying to confuse?  More to the point, who is it they want ME to try to confuse?  And why?
 
Maybe it doesn't matter.  Getting out there and confusing people is ALWAYS good advice.


Keep it up, kid!  I think it's starting to work on her!

Friday, August 25, 2017

OUTSIDE VERDUN






This is a book I can only describe as the Discordian Read Of the Year!  I later found out this is part of a tetralogy by Arnold Zweig called The Great War Of The White Men, but this novel (ISBN 978-1908754523) stands very well on its own...And after that my thoughts trail off in confusion and I HARDLY KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN.  Let me think a minute here.

The story is nominally about the accidental meeting of a young attorney named Werner Bertin, who's serving at the front lines, with another young soldier named Kroysing, who asks him a favor.  Kroysing is killed the next day, before Bertin can do what he's been asked to do.  From there the story really picks up steam when Bertin meets Kroysing's older brother, who wants to ask Bertin a much bigger favor.  I'm not going to ruin the story for you, but it's basically all about private battles waged against the backdrop of the massive, devastating Battle of Verdun.  In real life, Verdun claimed 262,308 lives, and the story is essentially a race to see if Bertin and the elder Kroysing can do what the dead brother needs them to do before they, too, are vaporized by artillery.

NEVER FORGET that the Great War is the one that brought us surrealism, Dada and all the other artistic forms that deliberately introduce CHAOS and CONFUSION into forms previously characterized by ORDER.  To give a couple of examples, e.e. cummings served in this war, as did the great Discordian Scribe Saki, who died at Beaumont-Hamel, one of the many, many casualties of the Battle of the Somme.

And over here on the other side of the war is Arnold Zweig, talking about their attempts to protect something he keeps referring to as a Pentagon -- the Discordian symbol of Order -- while his characters juggle yellow apples that fell off a tree, for Pete's sake -- the Discordian symbols of Chaos.  This book was originally published in 1933, more than 20 years before Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill had the bowling-alley vision of the Goddess of Chaos that introduced them to the Sacred Chao:



To my astonishment, square in the middle of the book, one of the characters quotes the Assassin's Creed, one of the best-beloved catch phrases of Discordians everywhere:


"Nothing is true.  Everything is permitted."

After that, my brain just trails off into bewildered silence, you know?

Saturday, July 08, 2017

A Letter From The IRS






Well, after all the fuss and feathers about having my identity stolen -- filing a fraud affidavit, meeting in person with an IRS representative, alerting the authorities and all those people who generate my credit reports -- I got a letter today in the mail.  The seal shown above was on it.

The letter informed me that I might have had my identity stolen!! and let me know that the IRS is ON THE JOB.  They told me what steps to take so that I, too, can be ON THIS JOB.  Enclosed was another set of the instructions I'd already received from the nice lady at the IRS office.

There were two copies of the letter in the envelope.

Never let it be said that they aren't working on this DOUBLE TIME, using up TWICE THE PAPER, INK AND STAMPS needed to prosecute these bastidges and KEEP ME INFORMED.

It was just today's funny little Golden Apple moment.

Trump's Voters -- Who Are They?






More than a few of the 7 billion Homo saps on this earth are in throw-the-bums-out mode right now.  Many of those with voting rights are applying them towards this goal, for instance the 65% of French voters who chose Emmanuel Macron, a guy with zero previous political experience, to be their next president.  

Some of those WITHOUT voting rights are just, you know, setting stuff on fire, hoping that will improve matters.

I read somewhere that 5% of Trump voters wanted him to act as a "wrecking ball."  What the article didn't say was exactly WHAT they want Trump to wreck.

I haven't seen much wreckage just yet.  All he seems to be doing is shooting his mouth off.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

In Which I Go Forth And Part The Red Tape




Well, THE SUSPENSE IS OVER.  I had my appointment at the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center today in Flint, Michigan, after having my identity stolen, which someone used to file a phony tax return in my name.  The link to the left will take you to the earlier episode in this Erisian adventure.

I was delighted to learn that there was no Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) office closer than an hour from where I live.  I'm not even half an hour from the state capital BUT THEY DON'T HAVE ONE THERE.  They don't have one in the large college town 20 minutes away.  

So I got onto the pockmarked, rutted, potholed, perpetually-being-fixed highway between me and Flint.  There is nothing not to like about this freeway.  I heard on the radio on Monday that one of the northbound lanes was closed for emergency repairs "after a void opened up under the pavement," as the DJ said.  This photo was taken at the scene of a different freeway sinkhole, but you get the idea:


 Luckily for me, the emergency repairs had already been done, so I went ahead without hours of extra delays. 

Of course, on my quest I took an armload of proof that I AM WHO I SAY I AM.  This year's tax return; last year's; my voter registration card; my Social Security card; a mortgage statement with my name on it; a utility bill showing the same address, also with my name on it; all the letters the IRS has sent me about this debacle; all the letters my tax preparer sent me about it; and the names, phone numbers, and advice given me by everyone I'd already talked to at the IRS Fraud Department.  You never know what they're going to ask you to present.  I lugged it all in a 25-lb zipper case too big to fit in my backpack.

The drive was nerve-wracking.  I kept finding out I was in the wrong lane to get to my exit ramp just as a thyroidal pickup truck was trying to "Ben Hur" me off the road.  But once off the freeway, the place was simple to find.

I was over the moon to find that the office doesn't have a public restroom.  THIS IS OUR GOVERNMENT AT WORK, PEOPLE.  Planning in advance matters at a time like this, and it stood me in good stead now.  I left an hour and a half early because the backups on this freeway have been so ridiculous lately.   Naturally, there were no backups of any sort today and I arrived early enough to give me time to go around the corner to the Michigan Works! building for a badly-needed pee.

I got back to the TAC office with ten or fifteen minutes to spare, and I was just opening one of 3 paperbacks I'd brought to while away the wait when the guard came over and said it was my turn.  This was a full 20 minutes before my appointment time.  Great!  Never mind the book!  I plonked the zipper case down on the desk and handed over 3 forms of ID.  I also tapped my Social Security number into a little keyboard gadget on the counter in front of me.

The lady said that according to her records, the case had already been resolved.  The IRS determined that the mailed tax return I sent out WEEKS AND WEEKS AGO had adequately proved to them that I AM WHO I SAY I AM.  They sent out a letter a day ago certifying that and promising to mail me, at long last, my refund check.

I never needed to make that drive or collect all those documents.


Behold The Terrorist Of The Moment



This man is not, in fact, a fashion model appearing in an ad for a splatball camp or a chain of sporting-goods stores.  Oscar Perez is the guy who recently hijacked a police helicopter, dropped it low over the Venezuelan Supreme Court building in Caracas so everyone could see the protest banner hanging from the door, and pelted the vicinity with bullets and grenades. 

The banner said "350 And Liberty," referring to a clause in the Venezuelan constitution saying that if the government there gets too authoritarian, the people have the right to OVERTHROW it.  That's a hell of a clause, and I don't think the US of A has any equivalent -- just those tedious checks and balances that keep President Trump from going full-bore MUSSOLINI on us.  But back to Venezuela.  This is only the latest spike in hostilities after MONTHS of protest against the Maduro regime.

The funny part of this story is the fact that Perez co-produced, and starred in, an action movie with some of the same elements going on.  He also released a rather dramatic filmed statement about what he's up to.  Great production values in here -- ISIS TAKE NOTE.  Their costume designer could really CLEAN UP by going into business outfitting other terrorist groups:




Don't they look snappy?

What I like best is the fact that Perez announced that he's seeking "BALANCE."  I have to agree on his goal.  Whatever else he is, Oscar Perez is not my idea of BALANCED.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

FUZZ






Fuzz, by Ed McBain (LOC # 68-12156), #22 in the 87th Precinct series, is a book I wanted to read because it's a police procedural that actually seems to have started a crime wave.  A terrible, terrible movie with the same name, based on this book, was shown on the ABC Movie of the Week not long before someone apparently copycatted a crime from the story in Roxbury, Massachusetts.  As you can see from the book jacket above, part of the plot involves Detective Steve Carella's attempts to capture some young hoods who are pouring gasoline on sleeping hobos and lighting them up.  The same week the movie aired on TV, a woman named Evelyn Wagler was walking to her car one night with a can of gasoline, and some young hoods made her pour it over herself.  They set her on fire and she died a few hours later.  I first learned about this because Stephen King mentioned it in Danse Macabre.  He said that when they caught the killers, the kids explained that they got the idea from the movie.  In fact, they have never been caught, but someone noticed the coincidence and that's still one theory -- not a bad one -- about where these young guys got this horrible idea.  For those of you not alive in the early 1970s, when flocks of pterodactyl still blackened the sky for miles in every direction, in those days there were only about 6 TV stations, not 253 or whatever they have now.  The TV guide was in the daily newspaper, so everyone in the viewing area knew what was showing, complete with plot summaries, so there was always a general sense of what was on the small screen. 

Life really does imitate art.  Apparently, idiots with cans of gasoline have been setting fire to hobos ever since.  This meme is such an institution in American crime that even Hudson Platt, the cameraman character in Cloverfield, mentioned it while the plucky survivors were fleeing the monster through a subway tunnel.  That's just one example off the top of my head.  If you Google "set fire to homeless," case after case pops up -- new and different killings every time you look.  That's a lot of impact for a book and a movie that (if you ask around) practically nobody has ever heard of.

But I review this well-written page-turner here as a Golden Apple, because if there's a central lesson in this story, it's that random events change everything.  In here you see the police go off on what looks like, and what turns out to be, a wild goose chase related to their attempts to find a master criminal they call the Deaf Man.  The more they investigate, the farther it seems to take them from the man they are looking for, but they proceed because hey, it looks like some kind of crime is shaping up here anyway.  And it has nothing whatsoever to do with the hoods torching winos with gasoline.  But then a random event occurs...other stuff happens...and the fuzz find themselves confronted with an unexpected solution to every crime on their docket.

And here's the ripest, most fragrant golden apple in the whole barrel.  Remember Evelyn Wagler and the hoods who killed her in Roxbury?  She borrowed a friend's car to go somewhere that night, and it happened to be low on gas.  It conked out in a spot that forced her to walk past where these hoods were waiting.  If she hadn't been walking specifically down Blue Hill in Boston on that night, she never would have run into these three guys.  This wouldn't have happened if she has borrowed a different car.  If she hadn't been carrying a can of gas, she would never have been set on fire; the hoods who killed her were not armed.  If anything at all had gone differently, Wagler almost certainly would have lived through the night and gone back to raising her 6-year-old.  And if this ugliness had never happened and been reported around the world -- Evelyn hailed from Germany so the interest was international -- this particularly foul crime would not have spread with it.  When I Googled "set fire to homeless" just now, the first case I found was from Germany.

Life is terrible sometimes.

Evelyn Wagler, 1949-1973

Friday, June 02, 2017

Today's Golden Apple

"Clever people master life; the wise illuminate it and create fresh difficulties."
 
(Emile Nolde)