Power of delusion (to a point), still hit in the face

A martial artist, Yanagi Ryuken in Japan, demonstrates his "no-touch knockout" technique, and takes down a dozen or so men with easy-breezy style. Swish-sway BLAMMO! Swifsh-swish KAPOW! You get it in the first minute:

Very reminiscent of the centuries of clownery from magicians and faith healers such as Benny Hinn, who, I grant, does have truly miraculous hair:

Here Yanagi faces an opponent who does not believe in this technique. Yanagi gets hit in the face.


The Yanagi videos are mentioned in an interview with Sam Harris in The Atlantic titled "What Martial Arts Have to Do with Atheism". I like Sam Harris, but can see how some people don't. His approach on many matters is clear and deliberate. He does go slightly into woo-woo territory when talking about meditation, like striving for some magic/metaphysical crediblity after spending so much time dispelling superstitious realms of thought. Meditation probably has neurological benefits, yet he winds that woo-woo stuff in. I wince.

But back to Yanagi. Does he expect his opponent in the second video to fall under his sway? He seems stunned by the contact. Maybe he knows when he's in pantomime combat with pretend telekinetic powers mode. Or maybe he doesn't. I don't care to research the back story. This is amusing as-is. As Lady Bracknell says in The Importance of Being Earnest: "Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit. Touch it, and the bloom is gone."

What is Easter? Traditions of fertility/death replaced by NOM NOM

Coopted image does not link to any discountsBewildered by a chain of tradition from a pagan rite of spring...

to celebrating god killing OTHER people's firstborn...

to THAT god's firstborn rising after being dead for three days...

to a rabbit that hides eggs and candy all over the place...

but I'm down with that last phase when it involves spending time with family, and collateral candy.

Don't hate, mammals gotta mammalate

Oh, sure, this cat starts nursing a baby squirrel with the rest of her new litter and we're all supposed to go "Awww! Adorbs!"

But when I nurse a baby squirrel in public I get "Get off the bus!" or "Hey, leave the altar!" or "You need to exit the park, sir." That's speciesist and sexist. Supposedly the squirrel has learned from the cats how to purr. Cute? Sure. Useful? No. If the squirrel gets into the wild it is doomed.

Meanwhile, I teach my whelping squirrels useful things like how to waterski. That's both a recrational skill and a darned job that brings money back home from R.V. shows, gun shows, and auto shows.

And I choose to raise my squirrels in the Jedi faith. If you have a problem with that, you're also a bigot. Here are my squirrel kids Mr. Cheeks, Squeekers, and Darth Acorn worshipping in the park.

Many people dig this and are cool with it. If you think this is weird, I'm not going to hate you back. I just take a deep breath, let your bad energy out of my system, and say: "May the Force be with you."

Good faith marketing

In 'The Book of Mormon' musical program, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS = Mormons) had a series of full-page ads somewhat rolling with the humor of the show to invite people to delve deeper into their religion. Warm, welcoming, with a QR code! LOADS better than ads taken out by Scientologists, which tend to be prickly and defensive.

Bear in mind that for a hundred+ years the Mormons did not allow blacks to fully join the priesthood (in Mormonism, all males may become priests able to minister to their families and gain full entrance to the temple). Why was there supernatural racism in a book purportedly full of wisdom and love? Blacks took the wrong side in the war in Heaven, silly! There was a group of people who were less valiant in the God versus Satan war, and that group got their skin turned black as punishment

10th LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith (in the 1960s): "There were no neutrals in the war in Heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits" (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:61, 65-66; emphasis added).

With Look magazine in October 1963, President Joseph Fielding Smith had more ripe quotes, including:

"I would not want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Negro. 'Darkies' are wonderful people, and they have their place in our church."

More from Smith, including the Old Testament "mark of Cain" meaning an entire person's skin was pigmented dark as a curse:

"Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was place upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures. Millions of souls have come into this world cursed with black skin and have been denied the privilege of Priesthood and the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel. These are the descendants of Cain. Moreover, they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning… we will also hope that blessings may eventually be given to our Negro brethren, for they are our brethren--children of God---notwithstanding their black covering emblematical of eternal darkness" (The Way to Perfection, 101-02).

Contemporary racist rhetoric for the 60s? Sure. But based in allegedly holy writ. This stuff doesn't have the excuse of being culled together by flawed, dumb human beings thousands of years ago, or 1,500 years ago. The Book of Mormon was written in the 19th century under hilariously shoddy & scammy circumstances by a twice-convicted con man (Joseph Smith). Actually, it was not written by Smith. It was dictated. Speculation is that Joseph Smith could not write, but could ape the verbal rhetoric of the King James Bible. He read aloud, translating from golden plates from behind a curtain (Smith never let anyone else see these golden plates).

Lo, and behold! Haters, attend! Deliverance is nigh! Among growing social pressure, in 1978 the Mormon President Spencer Kimball received a call directly from God that black people are a-okay and can become full members of the Mormon Church. And there was much rejoicing. A PBS account of how this revelation (blacks are nice, and definitely not eternally cursed for decisions their ancestors made in a fantasy some dude made up!) swept through in a wave of relief is amusing. Thank god?

Okay, I passed out and suddenly find another few hundred words I've typed up about the flaws of believing in magic books written by fellow primates and blind faith in magic institutions run by fellow primates. How does this keep happening? Is it Satan? Odin? An instrument of Shiva? Shake it off. Concentrate.

Mormons, on a personal level, can be really nice people. But so can everyone else.

The Mormon Church contributed millions to the Prop 8 campaign in California, banning same-sex marriage. It learned nothing from their "black" experience on wanting to ban civil rights. Their millions of dollars poured into California hurt thousands of families, inheritance rights, ability to see spouses/partners in the hospital. If "traditional" marriage is meant to create children, should we ban marriages that don't produce children? Of course not. History will judge Mormons and anti-gays harshly. Good.

Scientology remains the most annoying western religion. Is anything more annoying than dim-witted people thinking they are super-smart because they repeat it to themselves, and pay thousands to have it said to them, over and over again? Tom Cruise thinks he's smarter than all psychiatrists, for Christ's sake!

For the record, my gut instinct remains that Tom Cruise is a genuinely nice guy, but worried about holding on to talent and success and wanting routines and rituals to maintain and build on that success and praise.

Movie/social critic "poisoning nation's soul"

Caught a link to this pernicious, hand-wringing article by Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Violent media poisoning nation's soul"

Photo linked to the awful article, read at your moral peril!It's ignorant, muddled, terrible, and awful.

I understand some people feel there is a correlation between violent media and violent actions, and believe in the free choice people have to not see violent entertainment. Hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. take in these entertainments and do not behave violently.

Watching violence is cathartic, whether in theater, song, movies, video games. They are scapegoats for our fantasies, and for opportunistic politicians not wanting to look at true root causes. We're not far from the days of blaming Catcher in the Rye or Ozzy Osbourne or Marilyn Manson for the acts of people who have severe mental breakdowns or illnesses. In our Western history we had public executions, hangings, and gladiatorial combat as everyday occurrences. Shall we talk about human-written magic books promising eternal bliss to suicide bombers? No? Video games are easier political points? Uhm, yeah, okay.

The author compares marketers targeting the young male demographic to what the Taliban does. He pretends to be pro-free expression, but this section speculating on how a movie reviewer may soft-pedal a scene with a movie theater massacre smacks of Carry Nation hysterics:

And so the critic would end up writing something like this: "The movie contains a disturbing yet highly effective scene of violence transpiring at a movie theater." Forget any mention of the insidiousness of inserting such poison into the national mind, of the morality or decency of feeding audiences crack.

Barf. Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds had a movie theater massacre as its climax. It was a fantasy piece about mowing down Nazis and the power of cinema. Jewish soldiers got to kill Hitler and other Nazi leaders years ahead of time. A hail of gunfire and a blazing inferno and it felt shocking and great. To my knowledge, no one tried to replicate that in real life. It was not treated as poison in the national mind. Art should not be required to have a moral or social obligation. When it does, people become tightly wound and societies get even more twisted and weird. Catharsis is necessary, imagination is necessary, otherwise we get sick inside.

I recently rewatched the Michael Moore documentary Bowling for Columbine, which tries to get at why the U.S. seems to have so many more violent gun deaths compared to other nations. The film doesn't get into per capita statistics, but other things I've read still show the U.S. as significantly higher per capita, even though gun ownership rates are comparable in Canada. The movie throws a bunch of ideas into the air for consideration, fair enough as there aren't any tidy solutions, but compellingly speculates that heightened social anxiety drummed up by the news media may be a factor. Overrepresentation in the news of crimes by minorities, especially compared to white collar/corporate crimes and environmental crimes, makes us fear incipient personal criminal attack from the mysterious Other.

My feeling (the truth may be different) is that there's something to the movie's point about the news media. I make a distinction between social violence in the news portrayed as "real life" resonating differently with people and how those same people engage with art/entertainment, something they know is fake and not an imminent threat.

Growing up I remember adult media debate over whether television should air violent cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Road Runner on Saturday mornings. I don't recall anyone I knew ever dropping anvils in real life, or playing with dynamite, or running off a cliff to see whether flapping their arms could hold them up in the air. However the news media has recently flapped its arms over the "fiscal cliff crisis" as a real thing we all need to be concerned about and panic over. And we did.

If you can read this, we're all still here...

Tough to find someone who was authentically anxious the turnover from the 13th to 14th b'ak'tun of the Mayan calendar, calculated to begin December 21, 2012.

While it's all silly, each supposed end time passes, and the level of mass mockery rises. Sort of amusing, sort of tedious. But I take the mockery as a sign of collective mental health. It wasn't all that long ago when we were often broadly convinced and end time/judgment was a-comin' and we'd prepare ourselves circumstantially and emotionally. "Take me home, ye sky gods! (But let me see the toys of mine enemies smashed and their bodies crush during my beatified ascension!)"

Made this image macro for the occasion.

On the anniversary of Hitchens' death

One year ago today (December 15) Christopher Hitchens died from esophageal cancer. In May 2011 he gave a reflective interview with Anderson Cooper talking about life, death, prayer (no effect), and the bogusness of "closure". Cooper, a Vanderbilt, does well here on these topics. His father died when he was 10, he brother Carter committed suicide in 1988.

Apologies for the stretched video. I'm sensitive to 4:3 images stretched to widescreen, and am stupefied when people don't notice/care. Tried to correct it, but this is the way the CNN video is.

Cooper: "You burned the candle at both ends."

Hitchens: "And it gave a lovely light."


Royals make more royals? Feh! Go back to Russia!

Mostly immune to the royal glamor (ehm, glamour?). When Charles and Diana got married, the press coverage was extraordinary but I didn't understand what the fuss was about. I do enjoy their foibles from time to time.

Imbuing magical properties onto books, institutions, or people typically leads to trouble. Folks who say the royal family is a harmless lark should remember that the royals preside over the Church of England and Parliament. Let's recall the U.S. colonies were founded to escape royal and religious tyranny.

Having a royal family is dumb.

Holy art critics!

Seems like superstition is the only thing that makes objection to a work of art homocidal.

A few years ago, Danish cartoons skeptical about Islam and Muhammad led to death threats, attacks, and death. Now many people have lost their minds over a YouTube movie critical of Islam. Riots. People dead. For what? Superstitions.

On February 14, 1989 Iranian cleric and ruler Ayotollah Ruhollah Khomeni ordered a fatwa against Salman Rushdie, author of the new book The Satanic Verses. The fatwa was a sentence of death. Khomeni offered the  bounty out of his own pocket.

Did Khomeni actually read the book? Probably not. A mild book. A fatwa is not issued against non-believers. Rushdie, who grew up Muslim, was an apostate. THAT was worthy of death. Khomeni was also contending with a raft of shit for hundreds of thousands of Iranian deaths in an ongoing battle with Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Wrestling with the ambiguities of war and fading public relations? Declare a holy war against a straw man!

Rushdie lived under death threats for many years. Publishers and translators of the book were attacked and left for dead. Why? Superstition.

And many significant figures in the West were of little help. Rather than defend the right to free expression, several thought Rushdie brought the misery and mortal peril upon himself for seeming to challenge superstitious beliefs. "Respect of faith" was deemed more importance than free expression. Examples:

"I well understand the devout Muslims' reaction, wounded by what they hold most dear and would themselves die for."
- Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury

"Both Mr Rushdie and the Ayatollah have abused freedom of speech."
- Immanuel Jakobovits, chief rabbi of Great Britain

Ecumenical attacks on free speech are not a solution. Superstitions make people think they are no longer bound by the social contract or the law. Superstitions cause people to believe that misbehavior in this life will lead to eternal reward in the next life. Misbehavior in this life can be a fine thing, but eternal bliss is false. Its touted rewards tend to be numbingly dull or tellingly revenge-driven and tawdry.

I'll take bad art over sloppy books claiming magical powers any day.

But, hoo-boy, by this THIRTEEN MINUTE MOVIE TRAILER this movie looks like an unholy mess!