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:


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


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!