American trash TV at its best: yes, it´s a straight-faced and almost boring "documentary" about the Jersey Devil. Presented here for entertainment purposes only...
Sunday, September 30, 2018
American trash TV at its best: yes, it´s a straight-faced and almost boring "documentary" about the Jersey Devil. Presented here for entertainment purposes only...
Friday, September 28, 2018
A review of "The Broken Circle-Criticism of the Buddhist religion An account of a troubling experience with Buddhism for an Asperger’s young adult."
This is a peculiar little article (only 4 pages long) by Michael Smulkowski, whose main claim to fame is apparently a Harry Potter parody known as Garry Plotter. I haven’t read it, but I did read the mystifying “Is Luke Skywalker a real person?” by the same author. I think that was parody, too!
This is a peculiar little article (only 4 pages long) by Michael Smulkowski, whose main claim to fame is apparently a Harry Potter parody known as Garry Plotter. I haven’t read it, but I did read the mystifying “Is Luke Skywalker a real person?” by the same author. I think that was parody, too!
By contrast, Smulkowski´s e-article on Buddhism seems to be seriously intended. He blames the Buddhist concept of Anatman or No-soul on the problems he experienced in senior high and the first years of college. I agree that the concept could be disconcerting (especially to a person raised as a Catholic), but with all due respect to the author, I think his problems were a combination of normal teenage angst and Asperger´s syndrome (which he is diagnosed with according to the title of the e-book).
Also, I think Mr Smulkowski haven´t studied Buddhism deeply enough, since he seems to think that the religion believes in a creator-god! Ahem, no, that would be Hinduism. Note also that no actual Buddhist led him astray, it was all his own naïve reading of some stray Buddhist or Buddhoid text which did so.
Finally, my bro, remember the esoteric secret: repeat the Nembutsu and thou shalt be saved! May the Force be with you…
A review of "Allusions to the Garden of Eden and other themes in George Orwell´s 1984"
Michael Smulkowski is the author of several rather weird e-books, including one where he argues that Luke Skywalker is a real person from the future. (You´d wish.) I´m not sure whether the man is pulling both our legs, or only one of them. This short article on George Orwell´s “1984” says very little interesting about the novel, and reminds me of the kind of literary criticism where the critic simply superimposes whatever meaning he sees fit on the text. Perhaps it´s intended as parody? Seriously, dude, write about Orwell´s dependency on Bruno R and Burnham next time!
A review of "Alternate Book of Revelation Explained" by Michael Smulkovski
I read the expanded (or “expended”) edition of this e-book, available from another product page. I think it´s obvious that this is parody. Herr Smulkowski wants to show that Revelation can be interpreted more or less as you see fit, provided all logic or historical context is abandoned. In the author´s opinion, Revelation is about group sex between a seasoned Navy Seal and seven really good-looking female dancers! If this isn´t trolling, the author must be out of his mind, which I somehow doubt…
A review of "Alternate Book of Revelation Explained (Expended Edition)" by Michael Smulkovski
A troll post making fun of Christian fundies and others to whom the Biblical Book of Revelation means whatever they want it to mean. The author argues, with a seemingly straight face, that Revelation is about a U.S. Marine who has wild group sex with seven lush female dancers! Who knew? Don´t show this to J P Holding, he might decide to include it in his next e-book on sub-Xian conspiracy theory…
The author of this little e-book, Venerable Wuling, is an American Buddhist nun. (Despite her name, she seems to be White American.) She is affiliated with a Pure Land denomination based in Australia, founded by Venerable Master Chin Kung. Pure Land Buddhism is a popular form of Mahayana Buddhism in China and Japan. This organization is Chinese-dominated.
Pure Land Buddhism is clearly different from Theravada Buddhism, and arguably also from the Buddha´s original teachings. It could be seen as a Buddhist form of bhakti yoga or even a kind of Buddhist “Christianity” or “Protestantism”. According to Pure Land teachings, attaining enlightenment is easy. It can be done in one lifetime by the veneration of Amitabha, a bodhisattva or cosmic buddha who plays a more central role in this tradition than the Buddha himself. By practicing ritualized chanting and prayer, upholding basic moral precepts, and having faith in Amitabha, the devotee will be reborn in a paradise world known as the Pure Land in the West. Once there, the believer can either chose how to attain full Enlightenment and reach Nirvana, or return to Earth as a bodhisattva in order to save other sentient beings. In standard Buddhism, salvation is difficult and can take many lifetimes to achieve. No “Pure Land” exists, the only heaven-like stations being temporary and still part of samsara.
According to the legends of this particular group, Amitabha was once a human being. During countless of eons, he accumulated enough positive karma to create a paradise-world reachable for all devotees by relatively simple means. In a way, Amitabha shares his good karma with those who venerate him. Compare Christianity: Jesus forgives humanity´s sins and opens a path to salvation previously inaccessible to the multitude. He can do this by positive karma accumulated on the cross (if you pardon my Buddhoid interpretation of Christ´s atonement). Since Amitabha isn´t crucified or sacrificed, an even better comparison would be to Hindu bhakti cults, where salvation is attained by chanting God´s name and socializing with other devotees. The theoretical justification in both cases seems to be the same: during this spiritual dark age, the old and taxing forms of initiation no longer work, hence salvation has been made easy and accessible to all.
This e-book contain very little theology or metaphysics of this kind, however. It´s mostly a straightforward description of Pure Land basic beliefs and practices. Most of the material describes various rituals and prayers used by this particular form of Buddhism. For some reason, rituals devoted to death and dying are prominently featured. Good introduction to Pure Land Buddhism, but perhaps too much on the “ritual” side. Three stars!
“Summer Lover” is essentially a porn movie, but with a slightly higher budget. It seems to be remake of an earlier film with a similar title, “Summer Lovers”. The “plot” is set on the island of Lesbos in Greece, and one of the characters is nicknamed Sappho. The references are über-obvious. The acting is extremely bad, as behooves a porn flick, but sure, there´s a lot of sex. The ending is a pseudo-tragedy á la Classical Greece. The whole thing is frankly embarrassing, but I suppose the Greek surroundings may be good for the local tourist industry…
This is the so-called Buddhist Catechism, written in 1881 by Henry Steel Olcott, mostly known as Colonel Olcott. While the Catechism is apparently still used in Sri Lanka by Theravada Buddhists, Olcott himself was not an orthodox Theravadin, but a co-founder with Madame Blavatsky of the controversial Theosophical Society.
While the Theosophists did promote Buddhism in Lanka and elsewhere, their own ideas were really quite different and distinct from the Buddha´s religion as traditionally understood. Little of this is visible in “The Buddhist Catechism”, though. Most of it is standard Theravada Buddhism (“the Southern Church of Buddhism” in Olcott´s words), with all the usual contradictions of this creed. There is an ecumenical attempt at bridging the gap between Theravada and Mahayana.
There are also some modern traits in the Catechism: idolatry and superstition are condemned, women´s equality promoted, while Buddhism and science are said to be compatible. Indeed, Buddhist parents are admonished to give their children a scientific education. The former Spiritualist Olcott believes that miracles, including those of the Buddha, can be explained in terms of parapsychology.
Some occult ideas have sneaked in too – the Buddha´s strange ability to remember his past lives (strange since Buddhism holds to “anatta” or “no-soul”) is explained in terms of accessing the Akashic Chronicles. Olcott designed a Buddhist flag, which is still widely used today, and since the flag´s color stripes symbolize the colors of the Buddha´s aura, a section of the Catechism is devoted to expounding on this theme.
In sum, “The Buddhist Catechism” is a relatively good introduction to Buddhism, but with a few Olcottian additions. Well, at least he didn´t mention the root-races, rounds and Stanzas of Dzyan…
This is an extremely interesting two-part documentary about recent research findings concerning the Neanderthals. As has been known for some time, Neanderthals weren´t dim-witted knuckle-walkers with a penchant for grunting. Rather, they were essentially just as intelligent as “anatomically modern man” (i.e. our species Homo sapiens).
Indeed, in many ways, Neanderthals were *better* adapted to life in Early Stone Age Europe than our ancestors. Their bulky and stocky bodies were better at keeping heat under cold climatic conditions, their thrusting spears were more efficient than the throwing spears used by our species at the time, and they were probably more naturally aggressive, making them a formidable opponent in any man-to-man fighting. It´s not even certain that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens always fought. Modern humans (outside Africa) have about 1% Neanderthals genes, suggesting a degree of interbreeding between the two groups.
So why did the Neanderthals disappear, if it wasn´t due to genocide or low intelligence? The documentary speculates that their disappearance was due to three factors: low population density, a geographically restricted range, and the eruption of a super-volcano about 37,000 years ago, more specifically the volcanic area in southern Italy known as the Phlegraean Fields (Campi Flegrei). The eruption would have adversely impacted large portions of Europe and adjacent parts of Asia, i.e. the core area where Neanderthals lived. Only isolated communities, such as the settlement at the Rock of Gibraltar, would have survived the blast. Homo sapiens, by contrast, had already spread to most of the Old World by this time (in my opinion, the New World as well), and therefore survived the eruption at Campi Flegrei.
During the last ten minutes or so, “Neanderthal Apocalypse” goes off tangent, suggesting that the Yellowstone super-volcano is about to blow, and that the United States can collapse within weeks. Ahem, no, most geologists don´t believe that, but everything for the ratings, right? At least they don´t blame the Yellowstone situation on Donald Trump or the Russians…
Despite that little nod to popular apocalypticism and survivalism, this production is nevertheless well worth watching, and I therefore give it four stars out of five!
This is a relatively uninteresting issue of “Atlantis Rising”, a magazine devoted to articles about unexplained phenomena and decidedly alternative interpretations of same. I happen to disagree with most of the “alternative” takes (although “Nexus” is even more extreme). This being said, a few intriguing pieces have been included. Robert Schoch´s “The Big Void” contains some personal thoughts on the nature of contemporary Egyptology. Michael Cremo´s column, while mostly a kind of diary from a recent conference he attended, mentions some less known facts about the excavations at Sutton Hoo. “Temples of the Stone Age” is a speculative but interesting article on how mystery initiations at Lascaux and other Paleolithic caves may actually have looked like. The article on the Paracas skulls was less convincing, which is a pity since I´m currently developing a soft spot for the Ancient Giant Question… Overall, I think this issue is only two-and-a-half stars, but due to the better material, I eventually give it three.
“Atlantis Rising” is a magazine devoted to alternative knowledge claims. The magazine does seem to have a kind of “line”, which includes belief in the Lost Civilization, a world-wide cataclysm around 11,500 BCE, alternative Egyptology and (perhaps) ancient aliens. Explorer Graham Hancock is often quoted, and maverick geologist Robert Schoch is a frequent contributor. Various paranormal themes are also explored, such as remote viewing, levitation and automatic writing. More weirdly, the magazine has a soft spot for Elon Musk. It features very little conspiracy theory, making it less extreme than “Nexus Magazine”.
This issue contains a John Anthony West obituary, written by his longtime friend Schoch. “JAW” was a supporter of the seemingly mad idea that the Sphinx at Giza is much older than the pyramids, and hence proves that Egyptian civilization is more ancient than hitherto believed. It was West who convinced Schoch to test these claims. Sensationally, Schoch drew the conclusion that the Sphinx *is* thousands of years older than mainstream science is willing to admit. The claim has not been widely accepted by Egyptologists, but it did make Schoch an overnight hero in alternative and New Age circles.
Other articles in this issue include pieces on Calabrian megaliths, evidences for a Bronze Age “apocalypse”, Göbekli Tepe, William Blake´s view of Atlantis (clue: it´s…strange – but is anyone surprised?), “the consciousness of plants” and spirit communication. There is also a somewhat peculiar contribution arguing that ancient Sundaland in Indonesia was Atlantis…ahem, surely alternative knowledge guys should know it´s Lemuria? Even stranger is an article arguing for Intelligence Design á la the Biblical creator, which strikes me as outside the editorial line of this particular magazine…
I happen to disagree with large chunks of the material published in “Atlantis Rising”, but as a recent convert to the Lost Civilization (without the aliens) scenario, I will nevertheless give it three stars.
I haven´t seen this “special edition” of "The Mystery of the Sphinx", but I did watch the original documentary, narrated by none other than Charlton Heston of “Planet of the Apes” and later NRA fame. I admit it´s an intriguing, even funny, story. Fringe theorist John Anthony West (also known as JAW) claimed that the Sphinx at Giza must be much older than modern Egyptologists allow for. Nobody took JAW seriously, so he decided to hire a geologist to actually investigate the matter. Sensationally, Robert Schoch (the geologist in question) confirmed that the Sphinx is thousands of years older than hitherto believed?!
Of course, Egyptologists were not amused and rejected his claims. Undaunted, Schoch went further and became a fringe theorist himself, at present being a frequent contributor to “Atlantis Rising” magazine. Which, surprise, made it even easier to debunk his claims.
Personally, I haven´t got the faintest idea how old the Sphinx is (everyone seems to agree that the head is indeed from the time of Pharaoh Khafre), but I´m open to the idea of a Lost Civilization on other grounds – or rather lost civilizations in the plural, which presumably vanished in a world-wide cataclysm at the end of the last Ice Age. If the big cat at Giza is part of this mysterious legacy remains to be seen…
Five stars is for the cult factor. Otherwise, I must say that “Conan the Barbarian” is even worse than I expected. It only deserves one-and-a-half star at most. Something tells me this isn´t *really* based on Madame Blavatsky´s “Secret Doctrine”…
The natural border of Greater Finland is in the Ural Mountains, and the natural border of Greater Lapponia is at the Amur River. Or is it the other way around? Should the Saami pay homage to the Emperor of Manchukuo, since their distant ancestors inhabited Manchuria after Atlantis but before the Sons of Arya invaded Dravidaland? Well, that is an interesting question to ponder! Then there´s the entire Pan-Turanian problem complex, wow…
My review of a very curious and narrow Amazon product.
This is the flag of a small Icelandic group which promotes something dubbed “High Icelandic” or “ultrapurism”. Foreign loanwords have long been de facto banned on Iceland (at least until the advent of the modern computer age), but the High Icelanders want to go even further, purging even perceived Latinisms and Germanisms from Old Icelandic or Old Norse. The flag of the ultrapurists, Thorsfronve, shows Thor´s hammer (a “Viking” symbol) rather than the Christian cross, suggesting that this movement might have pagan revivalist traits. I´m not sure how active the High Icelanders are today, but old websites suggest that this really was their symbol. Based!
This is something as peculiar as an encyclopedic article on the Church Slavonic Bible, written by Robert Mathiesen – the article, that is, not the Bible! Mathiesen is a scholar of Slavic church history, who has also made some forays into the study of magic and modern occultism. The author ably summarizes the translation history of the Bible into Old Church Slavonic – not an easy topic!
Unfortunately, the article contains a serious misprint: at one point, it states that II Maccabees isn´t considered canonic by the Roman Catholic Church. It´s III Maccabees, of course. The article is taken from “The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet Literature” (Vol 3), published in 1979 by Academic International Press.
Good if the history and contents of Moravian, Bulgarian and Russian Bibles is something that you brood over on a weekly basis or so…
This is a short introduction to the Ostrih Bible (perhaps better known as the Ostrog Bible), the first printed Bible in Old Church Slavonic. It was published in 1581 in the Ukrainian town of Ostroh, at the time controlled by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. (There seems to be some confusion over how the name of the town should be transliterated into English!) The printer, Ivan Fyodorov, was a Russian expatriate, while the patron of the project was a Ukrainian aristocrat, Prince Konstantin Ostrogski. Curiously, the staunchly Orthodox Ostrih Bible has both Orthodox and Catholic traits. The author of this article, Robert Mathiesen, points out that Konstantin Ostrogski considered Protestants and Socinians to be the most dangerous opponents of Orthodoxy at the time, the serious Catholic-Orthodox conflict still being about two decades into the future. The Ostrih Bible has played an important cultural and religious function in many Slav lands, and Mathiesen´s article was originally a lecture delivered at a pro-Ukrainian exhibition in the United States, which explains why most names are given in Ukrainian transliteration. Apparently, one of the original copies was shown at the exhibition, held at the Houghton Library at Harvard.
This is a catalogue for an exhibition at the John Carter Brown Library at Providence, Rhode Island, United States. The exhibition included a wide variety of 16th and 17th century Bible manuscripts, and the accompanying catalogue attempts to explain their significance. While the text is perfectly readable, it *can* be confusing to the general reader. A working knowledge of this rather obscure subject probably helps in this case. The author, Robert Mathiesen, mentions the Erasmus Bible edition, the first Biblical texts printed in Ethiopic, and the great Polyglot Bibles, among others. The most fascinating character mentioned is Christophe Plantin, a nominal Catholic book-printer who was really a member of the secret “Family of Love”, a radical Protestant denomination. Not sure how to rate this material. Three stars?
Robert Mathiesen is a scholar of Eastern Orthodox history who also writes about magic, witches and occultism. I think he is a “pagan” pantheist himself, but I´m not entirely certain of this.
This article deals with certain problems concerning the life and activities of Emma Hardinge Britten, a prominent 19th century Spiritualist active in both the UK and the US. Thus, the article isn´t a popularized account of her life, but rather scholarly “source criticism”. It´s probably mostly of interest to scholars specializing in Spiritualism, Theosophy and other odd topics.
Mathiesen believes he has identified Britten´s most prominent collaborator, the mysterious Chevalier Louis de B, as Ernest de Bunsen, an anti-Christian Spiritualist-occultist writer on religious history. He also claims that the earliest version of the Theosophical Society wasn’t completely dominated by Madame Blavatsky, Britten playing an equally important role and de facto competing with the Russian madame. Mathiesen also speculates that Britten may have been involved in a secret training program within the society, which had some resemblances to that of the later Golden Dawn.
St Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) was a controversial Orthodox monk and mystic in the Byzantine Empire. His life was almost coterminous with the reign of the famous (or perhaps infamous) emperor Basil II, known as the Bulgar-slayer to later generations. Today, St Symeon has been canonized by the Eastern Orthodox Church, but this development was by no means obvious during his lifetime. Indeed, Symeon was suspected of heresy and even banished for a period. Yes, he was supposedly a “Messalian”…
Hannah Hunt´s book is frankly boring, but it does give a good introduction to Symeon. Hunt doesn´t just discuss St Symeon´s mysticism, but also try to place him in proper historical and social context, both as regards Church history and more broadly within the Byzantine Empire of his time. Thus, we learn that Symeon was originally a court official, that he had substantial private wealth at his disposal even as a monk, and that monasteries in Byzantium were often politically oriented towards wealthy aristocratic patrons. The section on the role of monasticism within the Empire was interesting, especially since it showed that the stereotype of the Orthodox monk as a reclusive contemplative is just that (or perhaps an austere ideal seldom encountered in real life).
Symeon´s conflicts with Church officialdom were “all the usual ones”. As a strict ascetic, he naturally came into conflict with all the monks who had joined the monasteries for other reasons than the strictly spiritual. Indeed, many of Symeon´s monks actually rebelled against his authority and quite literally run away from the monastery! As a mystic with an intensely personal experience of God, Symeon de facto rejected Church officialdom, arguing that only people who had themselves seen God could possibly have authority, including the power to pardon sins. Symeon the New Theologian´s veneration of his spiritual father (teacher) Symeon the Studite (in the book referred to as Eulabes) was seen as highly aberrant by many in the Church. For starters, Eulabes was still alive when Symeon started to treat him as a saint! The mystic´s main opponent was the rationalist theologian Stephen the Synkellos, who had the ear of Emperor Basil II himself.
If this sounds suspiciously similar to the conflicts between Gregory Palamas and Barlaam the Calabrian 400 years later, well, that´s because the conflict *was* similar. Indeed, St Symeon the New Theologian is considered a forerunner to hesychasm, or perhaps even as an early hesychast himself. And yes, the hesychasts too were inevitably accused of the dread heresy of Messalianism!
Four stars, but be warned that this is a rather dry scholarly treatise (although perfectly understandable) of an almost Synkellite quality.
“Jurassic Park III” is the second sequel to the blockbuster classic “Jurassic Park”. It´s way worse than the original film, but on a much higher level than the super-embarrassing first sequel, “The Lost World”. The plot is extremely illogical, but then, it probably takes a lot of illogic to assume that anyone even remotely sane would want to go back to an island teeming with quasi-immortal Spinosaurs, T-Rexes and Raptors! Pteranodonts have been included in the highly volatile mix, too. The “Raptors” (actually Deinonychus or should we say Deinonychi) turn out to have human-like intelligence, and in lieu of a A-bomb explosion, are probably set to take over the world…or at least the three next sequels! Three stars, but no more.
“The Synarchy of Agarttha” isn´t really a pamphlet, but a short chapter excerpted from a larger work, “The Trail of the Serpent” by Inquire Within (real name Christina Stoddard). Kessinger Publishing has an annoying tendency to publish single chapters of books as free-standing works in themselves. Stoddard was a former member of the Golden Dawn and Stella Matutina. She had reached a high level of initiation when she, according to Israel Regardie, had a “paranoid epiphany” and suddenly condemned all secret societies and occultists as parts of a vast Judeo-Satanic conspiracy. The result was “The Trail of the Serpent”, still something of an underground classic today.
The chapter on Agarttha argues that the hidden kingdom in the Himalayas is supposed to be interpreted symbolically. It´s really a reference to the Akashic Chronicles. Occultists who promote belief in Agarttha, most notably Alexandre Saint-Yves d´Alveydre, are “synarchists” who promote authoritarian and probably Jewish world government and theocracy. Judging by Stoddard´s quotes, Saint-Yves´ writings were strongly philo-Semitic, calling for “Judeo-Christian religion” and even arguing that Judeo-Christianity had to present itself as Hellenic Christianity as a survival strategy. Naturally, an anti-Semite will use this to his/her advantage.
Otherwise, the world conspiracy is extremely broad and seems to include pretty much everyone except traditional Christians: Masons, Theosophists, Rudolf Steiner and Max Heindel, Alice Bailey, the League of Nations and (in the past) Cabbalists, Manicheans, Gnostics, Sabeans and the Hellenized Jews of Alexandria! In the background lurks the Great Serpent, the Devil himself, with his kundalini power…
If you absolutely must read Christina Stoddard, obtain a copy of the entire book, not just this chapter. Or perhaps don´t read her at all…
“The Water Horses of Loch Ness” is a book by Roland Watson, a crypto-zoologist researching the Loch Ness monster and similar beings. Watson is brave enough to investigate all reports about unknown creatures in or around the world famous Scottish lake, including the strangest ones. In “When Monsters Come Ashore” he investigated claims that the Loch Ness monster has been observed *on land*. In this book, he takes a closer look at the old Highland legends about Water Horses, Kelpies and Water Bulls. The Water Horse in particular was associated with Loch Ness long before the famous 1933 sighting of a dinosaur-like creature that triggered the current monster craze. Watson seems to think that older observations of mysterious creatures at Loch Ness somehow prove that something really is down there. After reading the book, I beg to differ. In fact, this work made me more skeptical to the whole idea of lake-monsters, especially if read together with “Lake Monster Traditions” by Michel Meurger and Claude Gagnon. Rather than proving the existence of a cryptid, the historical perspective points towards an evolving legend.
The original “Loch Ness monster” was *very* different from the dinosaur-plesiosaur-reptilian habitually observed today. The Water Horse is a supernatural being, a kind of demon, which frequently moves around on land in the form of a saddled and bridled horse. It somehow lures travelers or children to mount it, perhaps by hypnosis, and then runs down into the water, drowning the unlucky riders. In some stories, the Water Horse can even speak! (There is a similar legend in Sweden, but here the “the brook horse” is explicitly said to be the equine form of the Neck, an evil merman of humanoid countenance.) There is no way the Water Horse could possibly be a real flesh-and-blood animal, and the same goes for its more jovial cousin the Water Bull (unless you think an unknown breed of hippopotami lived in Scottish lochs until a few centuries ago).
So where did the dinosaur stereotype come from? Well, it seems it did emerge out of nowhere (or out of pop culture) in 1933. Yes, there are older observations of a dinosaur-like creature at Loch Ness, *but most of them didn´t come to light until after the iconic 1933 observation*, when people around the loch suddenly “remembered” seeing dinosaur-like creatures 50 or 60 years earlier. Thus, these observations are clearly contaminated by the 1930´s dino craze. Indeed, it seems the monster of the late 19th century is a transitional form between the Water Horse and the dinosaur, having both a long neck, a small head and a huge mane! Also, how come nobody today sees any Water Horses or Water Bulls? Did they suddenly go extinct or what (maybe the Nessie-saur ate them)? It´s also intriguing to note that Aleister Crowley, who lived at Loch Ness shortly before the Nessie craze, had heard nothing about dinosaur-like creatures supposedly living in the loch…
The only way to salvage the idea that a monster lives at Loch Ness is to assume that it´s some kind of supernatural creature, which for reasons all its own shape-shifts according to the cultural expectations of the viewer (and doesn´t like Crowley!). Or perhaps several supernatural creatures? Watson is brave enough to discuss the speculations of Tony “Doc” Shiels and the late Ted Holiday, and he was a personal friend of the latter. In fact, I think Watson once subscribed to the paranormal theory himself. Thus, he isn´t overtly hostile to it, but nevertheless tries to argue for a flesh-and-blood solution to the mystery. In the end, he decides to be undecided on the exact identity of the Loch Ness monster. Perhaps we´re dealing with several different unknown animals. Perhaps it´s a creature so strange that it has zero resemblance to any other form, living or extinct.
Personally, I´m even more convinced after reading “The Water Horses of Loch Ness” that Nessie, whatever else it might be, can´t be a flesh-and-blood cryptid. Spirit or hallucination? That is the question.
A review of "Tha Case for Shakespeare: The End of the Authorship Question"
This is a good introduction to the so-called Shakespeare Authorship Question, the claim that the 17th century British playwright William Shakespeare from Stratford on Avon didn´t write the plays attributed to him. This conspiracy theory is surprisingly popular and exists in several different versions, the original one claiming that Francis Bacon (perhaps with the help of others) wrote the Shakespearean corpus. Today, the most popular “Anti-Stratfordian” candidate is Edward the Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. A more recent proposal (not discussed in this book) is Sir Henry Neville.
Scott McCrea takes the “Stratfordian” position, i.e. the standard official position that of course William Shakespeare wrote “Hamlet”, “Romeo and Juliet” and all the other famous plays bearing his name. McCrea´s case is convincing. Somewhat ironically, he has to cut Shakespeare down to size in order to demonstrate the plausibility of a man from the small town of Stratford writing the plays. The Anti-Stratfordian position is often based on the idea that Shakespeare must have been a towering, aristocratic genius. Since the real life William Shakespeare seems to have been anything but, “he can´t have written the plays”. McCrea points out that although Shakespeare wrote excellent plays, he certainly wasn´t a genius. There is evidence of borrowing, plagiarism, and co-authors in his plays. He misquotes/mistranslates Greek proverbs (since his sources do the same), misunderstands aristocratic genealogies and uses words which doesn´t exist (i.e. coins neologisms – although I suppose an Anti-Stratfordian might consider this genial). With the exception of two plays, Shakespeare´s vocabulary is comparable to that of contemporary playwrights. His knowledge of foreign languages has been exaggerated by many admirers. The supposedly “aristocratic” imagery in the plays has also been exaggerated, and is often more “middle class” in character. Thus, Shakespeare´s plays virtually never mention university life, but contain frequent references to grammar school!
That being said, Shakespeare (i.e. the man from Stratford) wasn´t an unlettered country bumpkin either. His family was middle class by Elizabethan standards, and his father served in positions comparable to mayor and judge in Stratford. Shakespeare would have gone to grammar school in Stratford, and we know that such schools taught the students Latin. He could have picked up French in London, where there was a sizable expatriate community from France. Shakespeare actually lodged with a French family for a time. Other people from Stratford also knew French. Knowledge of Italy, including the Italian language – often used as an argument against Shakespeare´s authorship, since he never visited the country – could have come from published books in English (including a teach-yourself-Italian guide) or from Italian expatriates in London. Shakespeare certainly moved in aristocratic circles in London, but even the middle class had picked up “aristocratic” pastimes, such as falconry and bowls. (A detail not mentioned in this book is that Shakespeare supposedly was a next cousin to Henry Neville, proposed as the real author of the plays. But if so, surely the Swan of Avon could have gotten information about matters aristocratic from Neville?)
As already mentioned, the Earl of Oxford is the most popular Real Shakespeare candidate today. Unfortunately, he died already in 1604, while Shakespeare lived on until 1616. The “Oxfordians” must therefore claim that all Shakespearean plays were written before that date, apparently a Herculean task. Thus, “The Tempest” is inspired by the 1609 shipwreck of “Sea Venture” at Bermuda, as described in a book published in 1610. “Macbeth” must have been written in 1606 at the earliest, since it contains hidden references to Henry Garnett, the Jesuit executed for de facto aiding the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The play also contains allusions to King James I´s peculiar pamphlet against tobacco-smoking!
The author also points out that a “lowly” background (including lack of university education) was quite common among famous Elizabethan playwrights. That relatively few documents about Shakespeare have survived isn´t strange either – other contemporary playwrights haven´t left much of a paper trail either. Nobody during Shakespeare´s lifetime questioned his authorship, and the so-called First Folio, published in 1623 by his friends, clearly mentions him as the author of the plays. His funerary monument in Stratford implies that he was an author of some sort. Of course, Anti-Stratfordians claim that this was all part of the cover up…
I admit that I don´t really care about William Shakespeare either way (I can´t stand reading poetry in 16th/17th century English) and it´s always fun with a good mystery, but it seems Scott McCrea is right after all. This really is the end of the authorship question.
It is with great fear, trembling and trepidation, I, a woke Swedish socialist and anti-fascist who believes Minnesota in the 1930´s was the pinnacle of world civilization, have decided to review a work by that most based of all based cyber celebs, the notorious “Bronze Age Pervert” (also known as “Bronze Age Mantis” and “Conan the Bulgarian”).
BAP is easily on the top-ten list of Alt-Right trolls, probably even number one, and forms the hub of a vast Twitter network of ironic neo-Nazis who are, of course, actual real neo-Nazis. When I tried to troll these people some years ago, they mistook my feminist memes showing female fire-fighters with yuge biceps (which I used to demonstrate Gril Power) for “Aryan race warriors” and embraced me as one of their own. Clearly, they misunderstood my ironic use of the term “bugman”. When I tried to demonstrate my woke Antifa credentials by poasting pics of domineering Blaq mothaz from Ancient Afreaka, they took this as evidence for me being a Nilo-Hamitic ally of Malik Obama and Kanye West…
Clearly, trolling on Twitter is a difficult art form not mastered by all Swedish socialists! Still, for the record, I´m on the same side in World War II as Salazar, Badoglio, Metaxas, Mihailovic and (arguably) Pope Pius XII (who was hiding Jews at his summer palace). In other words, the, ahem, Allied side. With that little detail out of the way, I will now get down to business…
As already indicated, BAP is one of the most popular “Alt-Right” accounts on Twitter, no doubt because of the ironic in-house humor. BAP makes constant references to alternative history, conspiracy theory and (of course) body-building. Many of his pics are homo-erotic in nature, while others show half-nude girls in suggestive poses. I admit that the captions are often dastardly funny, bordering on the brilliant. The *real* message of BAP is less clear from his timeline, but there are hints of anti-Semitism, White Power nationalism and Red-Brown blocs. Sexism, homophobia and transphobia are all present (despite many of the pics obviously being taken from gay lifestyle magazines). At the height of his popularity, BAP was actually mentioned by Atlantic Magazine in a surprisingly ironic article on the Alt-Right. Apparently, the dark genius of the Dark Enlightenment, Mencius Moldbug, had tried to troll Atlantic into thinking that BAP was the Alt-Right´s go-between with Steve Bannon in the White House!
People who enjoy BAP´s humor might be disappointed by “Bronze Age Mindset”, the troll´s first attempt to write a coherent politico-philosophical treatise. While some sections are probably ironic, most of the tract is relatively serious, although eclectic and meandering. These are the musings of a layman philosopher. He has even improved his English spelling and grammar. I long suspected that BAP is Russian or Serb, and “Bronze Age Mindset” confirms that impression. Russian or Bulgarian would be my present guesses, but I suspect a Bronze Age aficionado would rather call it “Scythian” and “Thracian”.
So what is the message of the BAP, then? It is strongly vitalist, with the cosmic life force taking the place of “God” in other systems. It is also racialist, with the Whites or Indo-Europeans (or at least their elites) being at the apex of humanity. Or perhaps humanities in the plural, since BAP implies that the different “races” of man might really be different species altogether. (As a side point, I note that the cover art is made by Owen Cyclops, an occultist on the far right nationalist side of the political spectrum.) While BAP is patriarchal and heterosexist, he is also ambivalent towards women and gays (“grils” and “gheys”). On the one hand, women can become domineering matriarchs crushing the internal fire of the young, warrior-prone males. BAP believes ancient matriarchy is real! On the other hand, women are closer to Nature (and hence the universal life force) than many men. As for homosexuality, I´m sure BAP knows that the ancient Greeks and Romans – which he much admires – practiced male homosexuality, including in warrior contexts. He doesn´t mention the Heruli, but maybe next time?
The main purpose of existence is to embody the life force and live life to the fullest, away from the herd and its mundane mediocrities. The ideal is the pirate, the mercenary, the tyrant, none of whom are bound by ordinary standards of morality. The antithesis of the amoral vitalist hero is the “bugman”, the city dweller, the stupid peasant, the brain-washed denizen of the global village. BAP is anti-modernist, but his anti-modernism is rooted in an individualist-elitist perspective, rather than in neo-primitivism, deep ecology or traditionalism. In fact, he is contemptuous of most ancient civilizations and tribes, the sole exception being the “Bronze Age barbarians” of ancient Greece, Rome, Germania and Scythia. I think BAP´s anti-modernism is tied to the fact that high modernity tends to make the warlord and his band superfluous. A strange contradiction in the tract is that BAP simultaneously upholds both the pirate, the refined aristocrat and the decadent. “Bronze Age Mindset” contains supposed real life anecdotes about BAP´s wanderings in red light districts among pimps, prostitutes and low level cops. Perhaps BAP views everyone who is “liminal” and outside the System as somehow better than the average herd? Or perhaps he is a decadent who dreams of being a refined aristocrat with piratical pastimes? It´s also curious to note that his pamphlet says relatively little about Islam, claims that Africans can become temporary allies (because of their barbarity?) and singles out China as the great adversary. Russia is hardly mentioned at all.
BAP´s political advice is surprisingly “moderate”, at least if compared to his barbarian message of burning down the cities and embracing nuclear war (which he has done on Twitter). He believes a nationalist movement should concentrate on cultural rejuvenation, social work and Internet memes. Broad alliances should be built in the here and now, especially against immigration. BAP of course supports Trump. The only “based” advice is to infiltrate the military in order to stage an old-fashioned military coup, presumably along the lines of, say, the Greek junta 1967-74. But even this is a far cry from the Hyborian Age when bronze-tanned barbars roamed the land in search of hueman prey…
It will be interesting to see if the BAP can still claim the mantle of Kekistan Caliph emeritus on Twatter after this foray into semi-serious reflection, or whether he will have to abdicate the bronze throne to some challenger with hotter memes, but either way, “Bronze Age Mindset” was a relatively interesting read and I will therefore give it five stars and a firm Roman salute. Now, let us all go baq and rebuild Swedish welfare state.
I never read the famous novel this film is based on, but if it had a serious message, I must have missed it in this version. “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” comes across as a comedy with bizarre twists. It becomes serious only at the end, during the classical confrontation between Miss Brodie and Sandy. Miss Brodie is a “progressive” teacher at a conservative girls´ school in interwar Scotland. Her teaching turns out to be a blend of fascism, romanticism and implicit sexualization. Brodie chooses a group of girls, known as the Brodie Set, and attempts to groom them into becoming a fascistic-aesthetic elite, while actually manipulating them in cult-like fashion for voyeuristic sexual ends. If this is supposed to be sinister, the film doesn´t convey it very well. Most of the girls are skeptical of their mistress, making fun of her behind her back. The voyeurism isn´t really treated as particularly dangerous either, since the viewer in effect becomes the voyeur when Sandy makes out with the art teacher, or the school girls dance with each other while discussing sexual intercourse! Nor is Miss Brodie´s fascism treated as dangerous (except at the end). It is rather a quixotic romantic obsession to be scoffed at.
I´ve seen another version of this story, but it was so long ago, that I don´t remember when it was produced and by whom. Miss Brodie was much older and borderline senile. The girls were more obviously sexualized, and the whole story felt even more absurd than the “canonical” version. Also, Sandy´s hair was much shorter!
As a funny aside, this film was referenced by a super-serious Anglo-Catholic writer for Vox when analyzing Jordan Peterson and Bronze Age Pervert (sic). Well, Miss Brodie´s putative ancestor Willie Brodie, a bank robber with two mistresses who was hanged on a gibbet of his own making, does sound like the Nietzschean ideal emulated by BAP. Sometimes the memes make themselves!
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” feels like a retro version of the two first Star Wars movies. In fact, it would never have worked without them. The magic is mostly gone, and if this had been the first Star Wars film, nobody would have given a damn. That being said, if you are a hard line “Warsie” (or whatever they call Star Wars fans), you will probably enjoy this rendezvous with all the old characters: Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, Chewbacca, the robots and a properly bearded Luke Skywalker himself. And yes, that big red goldfish alien is still marshal of the Resistance. Even a Darth Vader-like character with a fishy family background has been thrown in for good measure. He venerates the relics of the original Vader! I also noticed that the film is borderline cringey, just like the original films… Even so, the copy is never better than the original. Three stars.
“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is a supernatural action drama geared towards teenagers, mostly girls. The main character is a girl who learns that she is really a Shadowhunter chosen by the angel Raziel to fight demons. Personally, I didn´t think the story was particularly interesting, and the influences were pretty obvious ranging from “Harry Potter” to “Star Wars”. The villain has the rather obvious name Valentine Morgenstern! And yes, the Holy Grail is there, too. At least when showed on TV, the film is too dark, so much of the demon-hunting, vampire-slashing action was near-invisible. Funny detail: the werewolves are on our side in this story…
Thursday, September 27, 2018
The Mandela Effect is a popular conspiracy theory on the web, and many clips on the matter can be found at Youtube. The purported “effect” is named after the fact that many people distinctly remember Nelson Mandela having died in prison at some point during the 1980´s when in reality he survived, was released and became the president of South Africa. (Or rather “many Americans”, since I never heard any Europeans imagining this – let alone South Africans!) This collective false memory is intriguing, of course, but doesn´t prove anything except that low-information Americans don´t know who Mandela is (although that´s rather remarkable in itself). The conspiracy theorists couldn´t let it be, however, and came up with the idea that Mandela really *did* die during the 1980´s, but in an alternate universe. Somehow, this alternate reality has then switched to another timeline, in which Madiba didn´t die but really became the leader of a post-apartheid South Africa. The low-information people, who simply got it all wrong, can now claim to have access to privileged information about alternate realities!
The true believers in the Mandela Effect has discovered countless of other examples of false collective memories, all of them American, and most of them related to pop culture or company logotypes. A well known example is the children´s show “The Berenstain Bears”, which most viewers assume was really called “The Berenstein Bears”. Rather than admitting their mistake, they assume that the erroneous title is really the right one – in the old reality, now somehow replaced by another in which the “absurd” spelling “Berenstain” is suddenly correct. Naturally, many conspiracy believers speculate that something more sinister than simple quantum displacements is at work here. “They” have changed something in the Matrix, “they” being demons headed by the Anti-Christ, who have invaded Earth through a portal at CERN in Switzerland. The most bizarre speculation is that Gabriel (the archangel) has turned and now supports the dark side…
This little book is filled with other examples of the Mandela Effect. I admit that I laughed when I read it – this is simply silly, and I remember most of the “wrong” titles, lines or logos quite correctly (that is, correctly according to Official Reality, which presumably makes me brainwashed by the demons). Thus, I know that the correct spelling of Pete Townsend is really Pete Townshend, that the famous vampire film from 1994 was called “Interview with *the* Vampire”, and that Darth Vader doesn´t really say “Luke, I am your father” in “Star Wars”. I admit that I *do* recall Forrest Gump saying “Life is like a box of chocolate”, which – surprisingly enough – is a false memory. Or maybe it really isn´t, since it´s a well known fact that many films have alternate versions (a rather mundane explanation for many Mandela effects, never considered by the true believers). Try watching “Blade Runner” and see what happens…
Sometimes, the Mandela effects mentioned by this author and others are borderline trollish, such as the claim that Greenland looks larger on new maps than on old ones. Ahem, no, you have simply been looking at a map in Mercator´s projection… A subset of Mandela Effect promoters consist of Christian fundamentalists who claim that the demons have supernaturally changed the King James Version of the Bible. Apparently, some fundie prude has discovered that the KJV contains the word “pisseth” (it really does!) but since the holy of holies of fundie-ism just can´t contain this unholy word, the Devil put it there. For reasons best known to himself, the Evil One has also changed the prophecies of Isaiah, which now says that the wolf will lay down with the lamb, when previously it was the lion. Well, actually the full verse reads: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6) Somebody clearly missed Bible class in Sunday school…
It´s rather remarkable (well, not really) that virtually all of these examples are from TV, music or logotypes. Why haven´t Gabriel changed something important, say our memories of World War II, the Vietnam War or the last US presidential election (many people would love to forget that one!). I suppose a supporter of this particular conspiracy theory would respond that he has, and that the brainwashing can be cracked on pop culture level only because the Controllers don´t consider it important…
Personally, I consider the Mandela Effect to be “up there” (or “out there”) with the Flat Earth, or the claim that insects seen on perfectly normal footage are really evil nanobots connected to UFOs and Chemtrails. I´m almost certain *those* Youtube clips were inspired by an outright troll (he trolled people on Amazon forums about 12 years ago), and one cannot rule out that the entire Mandela Effect craze also started out as a joke. I mean, is there any hard evidence that millions of Americans actually assumed Mandela died before the fall of apartheid?
Perhaps it´s suitable that a conspiracy theory about fake memories may have started out as the troll of the decade…
“Wild Pacific” (also called “South Pacific” in some jurisdictions) is a fascinating documentary series about animal and plant life in the South Pacific and Hawaii. New Guinea, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and Polynesia are featured (including Easter Island).
If you like weird stuff, this is definitely for you! How about real footage of large sharks gathered to eat young albatrosses which are learning how to fly? Apparently an annual spectacle on a certain reef in the Pacific. Meanwhile on New Zealand, you can run into penguins in the forest. Another island features enormous crabs living in the palm trees. The poor cat Tibbles, who supposedly exterminated an entire species of songbird, is mentioned in one episode, although it seems feral cats had decimated the population of Lyall´s Wren already before his arrival at Stephens Island. Also featured are underwater volcanoes and above-water ones at Hawaii. Somewhat surprisingly, “Wild Pacific” promotes the idea that the culture at Easter Island might have been destroyed by rats.
One problem with this series is that most episodes tend to depict the Pacific as some kind of pristine paradise, which it definitely isn´t. This is particularly galling when discussing Hawaii, “the most isolated island chain in the world”. Yeah, except for Honolulu and the little detail that Hawaii is the 50th state of the Union! Nothing about the civil war at Bougainville, the near-civil war at New Caledonia, the nuclear tests at Mururoa, the military coup at Fiji, you get the picture. Instead, we are shown happy natives living in fundamental harmony with nature. Only in the last episode do we get some insight into the environmental problems besetting the region, such as overfishing, coral death and climate change threatening to wipe out entire island nations.
That being said, “Wild (or South) Pacific” is well worth watching, and I therefore give it five stars out of five. And yes, I´m still eating tuna…