Sunday, April 16, 2017

And Now This Bulletin From the Sibyl's Cave



"Before the threshold of hell they passed through a group of beings...forms horrible to view.   The Furies spread their couches there, and Discord, whose hair was of vipers tied up with a bloody fillet..."
 
(Thomas Bullfinch, in The Age Of Fable)

I only want to point out here that the glory of a woman -- and very often a Goddess -- is her hair.  And in mythologies from all over the world, snakes represent WISDOM.


And if that wisdom sometimes has FANGS, well, that's the way the cookie crumbles, am I right?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

...Or Kill Me


William Powell -- Another VERY Serious Apple Roller



It's a funny thing.  All this time, although I knew in theory SOMEONE had compiled The Anarchist Cookbook (ISBN 0-9623032-0-8), I never really thought much about who it might have been.  I vaguely thought it would be a collective of disaffected youths, all boys, who liked things to be explody.



I was pretty close, as it turns out.  The photo at the top of this entry is the book's author, William Powell, who gave the copyright to his creation to the publisher, Lyle Stuart.  Consequently he hardly made a dime off a book that has sold something like 2 million copies.  AND MAYBE THAT WAS OK WITH HIM, because he came to regret all the mayhem that's followed in the wake of the book's release.  That regret came rather later.  About what you'd expect out of a guy who could put together a book like this, he was once an ANGRY YOUNG MAN who sort of wanted to blow up the world, along with meeting other life goals like smoking a lot of dope and making his own LSD.  The second image in this post, the animated gif, shows some of Powell's fan base. 

The first time I saw a copy of this book it was perched proudly in the window of a Little Professor bookstore.  This was just a few years ago.  I flipped through it a little -- it was already well-thumbed by other readers, I noticed -- and what I saw reminded me strongly of other revolutionary how-to books of the era, like:


and:



Of course, neither of those books (respectively, ISBNs 978-0698105676 and 978-1560256908) taught you how to make a bomb out of a tennis ball or showed you where to order your own crossbow.  Never forget that while women were fighting for the right to ask questions in their doctors' offices and war protesters were learning how to cheese off their elected officials, there were other, more hotheaded movements going on, and William Powell was a major part of that.  This country -- the world at large -- would not be the same without him.  
 
All he really did was remind us that terror is IN YOUR HANDS RIGHT NOW.  And you should be glad that most of us choose to set it down and walk away. Otherwise your place might look like this one, remodeled by the Weathermen:


And really, what point did they make by creating this mess?





Thursday, April 13, 2017

Mouawiya Syasneh -- A Serious, Serious Apple Roller



LOOKS PRETTY ORDINARY, DOESN'T HE?  This is the kid who, at 14, wrote "IT'S YOUR TURN, DOCTOR" in spray paint on a wall in Syria, addressed to Bashar al-Assad.  Somewhat to his surprise, his tongue-in-cheek graffito started the civil war that rages to this day in Syria.  The Arab Spring had sprung and emotions were a bit high in Tunisia, Egypt and points east when Syasneh got out his spray can.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Not one to see the humor, Assad sent his goon squad out to arrest and torture Syasneh and his buddies.  This set off a wave of protests across the country; one thing led to another and the headcount of the dead now stands at 500,000 or so.  People are leaving by train, on foot and riding in inner tubes to get as far away from their home country as possible -- and there is no sign it's going to let up any time soon.  Syasneh's dad was killed in the fracas and Syasneh had had enough at that point.  He joined the Free Syrian Army (a rebel group) at age 16 and worked for some time on finishing what he accidentally started.  He has since tired of the bloodshed and wants it to end.  What Syrian wouldn't?  Oh, yeah, this guy wouldn't:


(the good doctor to whom Syasneh's graffito was addressed)

If the goal is to spread CHAOS, I'd have to say he's doing quite well.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

SEVERED

We all remember this smiley image from the online news feeds and the blogophere.



Frances Larson, in her book --




-- describes the image of a warrior holding the enemy's severed head aloft as "an assertion of control in the chaos of battle" (pg. 75 of the hardcover edition).  She goes on to say, "The same could be said of the executioner who holds up a traitor's head on the scaffold: order is declared anew."  

Now, seriously, does this make sense?  The author spends a great deal of time in this book talking about the 13-month Reign of Terror during the French Revolution -- I looked up the body count out of curiosity, and was astounded to learn they offed about 40,000 royalist sympathizers in that short time.  They certainly cleared the royalist sympathizers out of France, but is it really possible to gaze into a basketful of severed heads and see ORDER there?   She also gives the example of a Japanese soldier's skull mailed from Guadalcanal to someone's girlfriend back home in the States and affectionately named "Tojo."  Far from imposing ORDER on their lives, this act infuriated the Japanese, and made the American military look pretty terrible in the eyes of the nation and the world.  On both sides there were cries of protest over this CHAOTIC behavior.  The point at which ORDER was restored was the moment the unlucky soldier's skull was repatriated -- and, I hope, properly identified somehow. 

Earlier in the book, Larson goes into some detail explaining how the Amazon Basin tradition of occasionally hijacking spiritual power from enemies by shrinking their heads caught the attention of souvenir-hunters from Europe and the USA.  These tourists, who wanted souvenir heads of their own to put in the den, transformed the local custom and turned it inside-out, changing headhunting from an act with spiritual significance in a single local tribe to a fairly grisly way all over the rainforest of getting money and guns out of 'whitey.' 

Does any of this sound like "ORDER" to you?

It doesn't to me.  It seems to me that Larson, like most people, is unthinkingly saying 'THINGS THAT MAKE ME SHUDDER' = CHAOS.  But most of her examples have zero to do with the sublime state of confusion and discord under discussion in this column.  

To be sure, war is pretty chaotic, and Guadalcanal was an outstanding example of how brutal and terrifying war can get.  Never forget that Eris, the Goddess of Discord, is the twin sister of Ares, God of War. But to me, holding an enemy's severed head aloft is ANYTHING BUT a statement that things are IN ORDER.  All it really says is LOOKIT ME, GUYS, I CUT THIS GUY'S HEAD OFF!  The terrorist shown above, having just decapitated poor Nick Berg (an engineer who was in the wrong place at the wrong time), would be hard pressed to say he is making any sort of statement about imposing ORDER on CHAOS.  He isn't even imposing Islam on other belief systems in this photo.  All he's saying is LOOKIT, GUYS, HOW SCARY AM I?

If anything, terrorist acts are about imposing CHAOS on ORDER.  Because ORDER usually isn't very scary.

But here's the catch:  as soon as you start imposing this particular kind of CHAOS on any sort of ORDER, your point is lost.  If I could collar that terrorist at that instant and ask him what he'd just accomplished, he might not have anything to say at all.  Cutting some poor guy's head off doesn't say anything, good or bad, about Islam.  It just says he believes cutting people's heads off makes him look like a badbutt.  Maybe he hasn't even thought it through enough to be able to tell me that much.  Maybe he just did it WITHOUT any point in mind.  

And is that not the very essence of CHAOS and CONFUSION, right there?  Is it not the opposite of ORDER?

Larson's book was a thought-provoking read but I wish she'd gone farther.  Why not talk about the caves full of severed heads in The 13th Warrior or Dr. Carl Hill in Re-Animator, or even Jan in the Pan from The Brain That Wouldn't Die?    



I also wish she -- or her text editor -- understood English well enough to eschew the odious phrase "decapitated head."  C'mon, peeps, "decapitate" means "cut the head off of."  How exactly do you cut off a head's head?

THERE's your dose of ORDER for the day.  The Grammar Nazi strikes again!  


Monday, March 27, 2017

John Lydon Bucking For Discordian Sainthood?


"Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten backed Brexit and called former UKIP leader Nigel Farage "fantastic" in a TV interview Monday.

"The working class have spoken and I'm one of them and I'm with them," Rotten said on ITV's Good Morning Britain.

He said that after Farage's encounter with Bob Geldof before the Brexit vote — when the two led opposing flotillas along the Thames, shouting insults at each other — "I wanted to shake his hand because it was silly beyond belief."

The "Pretty Vacant" singer was also asked about U.S. President Donald Trump and said he was a "complicated fellow" but blamed the "left-wing media" for dubbing Trump racist.

"One journalist once said to me, 'is he the political Sex Pistol?' In a way," Rotten — real name John Lydon — said.

"There are many, many problems with him as a human being but he's not that [racist] and there just might be a chance something good will come out of that situation because he terrifies politicians."

He added: "This is a joy to behold for me. Dare I say, [Trump could be] a possible friend."


My first thought, of course, was IS HE FUCKING NUTS?  But I slowly realized that he had a point.  Trump is doing his utmost to leave a trail of CHAOS behind him everywhere he goes, more or less analogous to Richard Nixon's trail of MANURE.  Whether he leaves the country's poor and underprivileged dead in the streets, or just turns everyone inside the borders against the U.S. gummint, while making us the laughingstock (or ICBM target) of the rest of the world, well, TRUMP WILL CONSIDER IT A JOB WELL DONE. 

And it must be much easier to watch when you're John Lydon, and you can pack a bag any time you like and go home to England.

And notice how he praises silliness in the quote above.  Isn't silliness at the very core of the Discordian vision quest?  Yes.  Yes, it is. 

And John Lydon is the guy who sang "Anarchy In The U.K."  He knows about this stuff.

Friday, March 24, 2017

This Week's Discordian Epiphany



This experience was a REAL standout that taught me a great deal about Erisian spirituality.

OK, last Friday morning I went to get my taxes done.  My accountant was running quite a ways behind after a 3-day power outage, and so all she did during our meeting was take down my data and collect my paperwork.  She'd get to filing it all in a few days, she said.  OK, great.

So, from there I went straight to my P.O. box, and what did I find but an envelope from the IRS.  They've never really come to terms with the fact that I stopped being self-employed well over 12 years ago, and I expected this to be another sheaf of estimated tax payment vouchers.  But it was a letter saying "We can't process your tax return until we get a copy of your driver's license or Social Security card."

It had been mailed from Austin, Texas, 2 days before.  So, shit.  Somebody must have filed a phony return in my name.  The letter gave me a long list of different types of ID I could use to prove that the return was kosher, and if it wasn't they advised me to go to the IRS website and print out forms so I could prove that I hadn't filed yet.  They said I absolutely, positively had to call a certain number to present my ID in person to even discuss it, and gave me a number to call so I could make an appointment.  I was told I would be on hold for about the next 45 minutes, but it finally dawned on me after untangling the text of the letter further -- this was no small job -- that I was waiting to get an appointment to go in and prove to them that the phony tax return was the real one.  I hung up.

At some point I mentioned the situation to my supervisor, who asked to see the letter from the IRS.  She pointed out that it was odd that my Social Security number wasn't listed on it, and that is odd, because they usually put that on everything, as least the last few digits.  She thought to type the return address from the letter into Google Maps, and it showed that the address was of a cemetery in Austin.

So I called my tax preparer for some guidance.  Her receptionist, after some gasps of horror and a few "Gosh, I never heard of this happening before" type of comments, gave me 3 or 4 different numbers to call.  I called the one that was given me with the comment "we've had better luck with this number than any of the others."  That made it sound incredibly unlikely that any of the growing list of numbers would be able to help me, but I held my breath and dialed.  I got through immediately and reached a very nice person named Nancy Jackson, who listened patiently while I sputtered out what had happened, and she gave me yet another number to call, the IRS Fraud Hotline.  This was different from several other Fraud Hotline numbers given me by my tax preparer, Google and my boss.  Nancy Jackson told me exactly which prompts to punch in so I would be able to talk to a live person.  Thank Flod for Nancy -- I never, never would have found my way through that maze of choices without her.  They all sounded practically identical.

So I talked to a guy at the Fraud Hotline who took my report and explained how it would all go down, in the heaviest, most undefinable accent -- I wish I could describe it -- sort of Serbo-Mexicali-Sino-Italian.  He had no name, only a long employee ID number, and I wrote that down as fast as I could, but it was something like 18 digits and I wasn't given enough warning to let me reach for a pencil before he started on it, so I quit before he got to the end.  It was impossible to keep up with him.  I explained that a very doubtful-looking letter had arrived claiming that I'd already filed a tax return when I hadn't, and he looked it up and dang if it wasn't true.  A return HAD been filed more than a month before, in fact, by...some asshole.  The fraud guy filed some kind of report and said that from now on they would use a higher level of security with my taxes. (So they're not all highly secured?  Is that what you're telling me, 11106DQ23900017?)  He advised me to drop everything else I was doing and call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Office and tell them what was going on.  So I pictured this Inspector General, of course:



He kept saying there was another number I needed to call too, and he looked for it a very long time -- I could hear him clicking through one webpage after another without finding anything -- and he finally said, eeeehhh, forget it, just call the Inspector General.  That was reassuring. 

I couldn't help wondering, as I recited my birthdate, Social Security number, blood type and DNA profile to this guy -- who had JUST told me that the IRS never asks ANYONE for that type of information -- I couldn't help wondering what was supposed to keep Fraud Guy from stealing my identity too.  Maybe he was the original identity thief.  How would I ever know if he was?  Who would be in a better position to do it?  He would be the Hercule Poirot in the situation: above suspicion.   Just one reassuring thought after another, you know what I'm saying?

I dialed the number he'd given me, and got another maze of phone prompts, and this time I had no Nancy Jackson to guide me through.  "If you've had your identity stolen and it affects your taxes, press 1.  If it doesn't affect your taxes but you want to tell us about it anyway, press 2.  If you've had your identity stolen and an incorrect 1040 Schedule C is part of the paperwork, press 9.  If you have already filed a 10439 even though the fraud doesn't affect your taxes and you checked box #1 in the second section on the form, press 7.  If you have no idea what a 10439 is but have been the target of a phishing scam and would like to file forms or would like to file a 20900-A by phone, press 6."  On and on until I punched in a prompt, more or less blindly.  I got a voicemail prompt; leave a message and we'll call you back. 

So I left my cell number, thumbnailed the situation on the Inspector General's voicemail and hung up, morally certain that I was never going to get a call back.  Somehow, I just knew it.  And indeed it has not come to pass.

But I got curious about that Google Maps result from a couple of paragraphs above and typed in the letter's return address myself.  I know that my supervisor is, well, not the best typist.  I discovered that the cemetery is across the street from a genuine IRS center.  At least the notice was starting to look kosher.  So I printed out, filled out, and mailed a Form 10439 (which turned out to be a Fraud Affidavit) to an address I found online. 

This form was a model of its kind, honestly.  I could not be sure which boxes to check based on the instructions, but it clearly and carefully spelled out that I was NOT supposed to fax it to the fax number listed at the bottom; it specified that I was NOT supposed to present it in person at a Tax Assistance Office, after explaining in detail how to find one; and it clearly explained that I was supposed to mail it...without giving me an address. 

I crap you negative.  I studied it every time I had a free moment for 2 days, sure that I must have missed something.  I hadn't.

Finally I tried Google again and it gave me a strikingly vague address in Fresno, hardly more than General Delivery, but it was more than I had before.  I put 2 of those Harvey Milk memorial stamps on the envelope, just to be sure.  He was murdered in California, so who knows, maybe his unquiet spirit will guide it to the right mail slot.  He seemed like such a helpful guy.

Funny how the act of slipping that envelope into the mail made my blood pressure drop back to normal.  It's these little symbolic acts that make the difference. Now all we can do is wait, I guess.

But here's my Discordian insight.  All those numbers and websites I was searching are all geared to set things in ORDER

if you have been phished, or had your identity stolen, or some other event that most people would see as CHAOTIC,


...are just layers and layers of CHAOTIC bureaucracy painted on top of a well-meaning attempt to impose ORDER, and ultimately the layers of CHAOS they make the identity theft itself seem pretty ORDERLY by comparison. 

I thought I knew before why there is so much talk of bureaucracy in the Principia Discordia and the other sacred texts, but now I get it, I really do.  The more you try to impose ORDER on CHAOS, the more CHAOS you get.  This was a revelation, the kind of stuff you learn while walking blindfolded through Chapel Perilous and simultaneously trying to fill out forms in dodecatuplet with the blood of a willow tree that floweth from a goose quill and shit.

Don't try this at home, kids!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

President Jeff Davis, I Mean Donald Trump, Catches Another Wrongdoer


Well, the hot news today is that this man -- Muhammad Ali, Jr. -- was recently detained for 2 hours at a Florida airport and questioned closely about his suspiciously Islamic-sounding name. Who are you?  Where are you going?  Let's just have a look in that overnight bag.  Wheredjoo get that name of yours, huh?

His dad wasn't the biggest hero of the Civil Rights movement by any means, but he did take a stand for his principles.  And yes, he did join the Nation of Islam and change his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali.  And then he named his son after him.  Ali has been gone since June of last year, and I thank whatever God he chose to worship that he didn't live to see this disgrace.

BUT THE REST OF US ARE WATCHING.