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My Christmas Wish For Our Troops

19/12/2014

Haddon Sundblom - soldier at home coke ad

I wish they are never sent in harm’s way just so some rich guy can get even richer.

I wish they are never put in a position where they have to take human lives needlessly.

I wish when they come home they get all the help and support they are entitled to.

underlying art by Haddon Sundblom

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Thinkage

17/12/2014

“A majority of nearly every group — non-whites, women, young adults, the elderly, Midwesterners, suburbanites, Catholics, moderates, the wealthy — said that torture of suspected terrorists can be often or sometimes justified.

“A majority of only one other group beyond liberals and Democrats disagreed: people with no religion.” — Emily Badger, Washington Post article “From moderate Democrats to white Evangelicals, nearly every demographic group believes torture can be justified”

Christian Please Jesus-Facepalm

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A Message From On High…

17/12/2014

guardian angel no kamikaze cap

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Mythologizing Jesus

16/12/2014

ron cobb jesus

art by Ron Cobb

In recent days a lot of people on all sides of the equation have been getting their tunics in a twist over what the popular press reports as a “controversy” over “mythological Jesus.”

What the evangelical atheists and the common sense denying fundamentalists all fail to acknowledge is that nobody with two brain cells rubbing together thinks the Jesus depicted in the Bible is a complete and accurate picture of the man in the sense that modern histories and biographies offer a well documented portrayal of their subject.[1]

Lemme explain it as clearly as possible:  Acknowledging that the person we know of today as Jesus of Nazareth has been subjected to hagiographic reporting and analysis that have created a popular conception of who he was, is not / never has been / never will be the same thing as saying that person did not exist, or that teachings and sayings attributed to him are the product of a committee of literary / theological hoaxers.

Let’s walk through the time line, shall we?

Sometimes circa 33C.E. an eccentric rabbi preached a message considered heretical[2] by the religious leaders of his day.  He was executed under trumped up charges, just like several hundred / perhaps thousands of other Judeans of his day.

Between his death and 72C.E., a new religious movement arose among and from his followers.  Internal and external evidence indicates this new religion spread far outside of Judea and the Jewish culture it sprang from.  During this period of time his disciples wrote a series of letters to various local groups of followers, discussing finer points of their theology, debating what certain teachings meant, and establishing protocols for worship.  While lacking any solid biographical data on the eccentric preacher, these letters do indicate a formal and well articulated religious belief based on his teachings existed at that time.

They also indicate they are not the product of a literary hoax.  In 72C.E. the Roman empire eradicated Judea from existence, all the way down to their maps by renaming the land Palestine in the process.  There is no mention of this, no hint of it in the various letters left behind by the disciples; had they been hoaxers attempting to “salt the mine” they would have been sorely remise not to include prophesies about the single most traumatic event in Judea’s history up to that point.

Lemme ask you this question point blank:  If you are a 21st  century faker trying to fabricate a prophetic Jewish religious leader who lived in 1920, would you fail to have him “predict” the Holocaust in your forgeries?

I thought not…

So before the fall of Jerusalem in 72C.E. and the scattering of the Judean people, the beginnings of a new religion were clearly underway.

As mentioned, there was internal debate among the disciples over exactly what the various teachings of their eccentric rabbi really meant.  We have no direct evidence that copies of his teachings and sayings had been collected by 72C.E.[3]

We do have evidence sometime between 72C.E. and 100C.E. that the teachings and sayings were collected into the form we recognize as the Four Gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.[4]

Why these four gospels were written then can be deduced by the disciples letters and by known historical events:  The earliest followers not only believed their rabbi had been resurrected after his death but also felt he was going to return in their lifetimes to establish a heavenly kingdom on earth.  When that didn’t occur and as eye witnesses to the events circa 33C.E. began dying off, people saw the wisdom in writing down everything they could remember their rabbi teaching and saying and doing.

Had they been hoaxers, they were putting the cart before the proverbial horse:  Logic would say you establish the bonafides of your bogus religious leader with an official hagiography, sell the rubes on that first, and only then do you begin hashing out purely academic debates about your wholly imaginary religion.

What the early church did was to see the commentaries written first, and only after they were already well established did anyone think to get all the important stuff written down for future generations.

A lot of evangelical atheists will want to dismiss this all right now, but they can’t do that.  This may not be the best evidence we might desire from a historical perspective, but it is the only evidence we have, and the evidence points away from a deliberate hoax and fabrication and more towards a theology that grew organically from a single point.[5]

And this is important because while it agrees that the sparse historical image we have of Jesus of Nazareth has doubtlessly undergone a certain degree of hagiography or “mythicalization”, it is absolutely not the same thing as saying it is entirely false, a myth made up by hoaxers for no discernable reason and with no discernable reward for the perpetrators.

The number of first, second, and third century Christian writings, not to mention their widely spread origins, indicates that if the religion was based on a hoax, it was a hoax with an enormous number of co-conspirators who had nothing to gain through their hoax nor any means of seeing if their hoax was successful or not.

You get the occasional doctored fossil or forged historical document in the real world that manages to pass immediate scrutiny, but they only succeed when they are isolated incidents not open to wide public examination.  When there are thousands of faked fossils, or dozens of bogus documents and they are all open to view, the forgeries become transparently obvious.

Further, when we compare the letters written by the various disciples with the gospels themselves, it’s pretty clear the former represents a wide variety of insights / opinions / writing styles while the four gospels offer a remarkably consistent moral philosophy expressed in a unique and inimitable personal style.

This is not the product of a committee of forgers, but rather the expression of one single, remarkable mind.

There are those who claim the glove maker turned theatrical impresario is not the true author of Shakespeare’s plays but rather some other person wrote them instead.[6]

Fine, let’s play that game:  Whoever that person was who wrote Shakespeare was Shakespeare.

And whatever we may think about Shakespeare the glove maker turned theatrical impresario, it doesn’t alter the fact that some literary genius whom all the existing evidence points to as being a glove maker turned theatrical impresario wrote the impressive body of works we refer to as Shakespeare today.

Whoever the real Jesus was, whatever his real biographical data, that person was the author of some of the most profound moral / ethical / spiritual teachings in human history.

Which pretty much makes him…Jesus.

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[1]  And even with scrupulous documentation, copious eyewitness accounts, audio and visual records, even the subjects speaking in their own voice, there’s still huge debates over exactly who these people really were or what the events really mean.  Look at how many differing interpretations exist of Harry S Truman the man and the presidency; or the brief presidency of John F. Kennedy; or the enormous complexities of Johnson and Nixon.  If we can’t agree on the particulars of people and events that occurred under intense scrutiny in our own lifetimes, why is anyone surprised that much of the ancient world is even less clear today?

[2]  i.e., threatened to cost them money.

[3]  Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as the old saw goes, but we can only play the cards we are dealt, and those cards offer no documentation of the teachings and sayings being recorded at length prior to the fall of Jerusalem.

[4]  There are fascinating articles on how these gospels may have been compiled and in which order, as well as a possible source document for three of them, fragments of other gospels, “sayings” gospels that included various teachings but no linking narrative, and other accounts of the rabbi’s life and teachings that were considered either redundant or at odds with the four main gospels.  That’s what Google is for, folks…

[5]  Skeptics are more than welcome to point out logical holes in the evidence; they won’t find anything believers didn’t discover millennia ago and have been debating ever since.  What the skeptics can’t do is dismiss the only records that exists without offering equal or better proof that those records are fake.  Without contrary evidence, the existing records are the only evidence we have.  Wishing them away will not make them go…

[6]  This is based on the premise that plebians are just too fnckin’ plebian to write Shakespeare.

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Fictoid: Not Exactly Hemingway…

15/12/2014

God I need a drink

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Fictoid: One Night In China…

13/12/2014

Austin Biggs - not what it looks like cap

underlying art by Austin Biggs
joke stolen from Hudson Hawk

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Here’s What I Think re The CIA Torture Report

10/12/2014

least of my brothers cap

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Christmas Re-Posts 2014

10/12/2014

Christmas kitty reflection

oldies but goodies from previous years

On The Reason For The Season:

Unwrapping Christmas Present
(2011)

The Science Of The Virgin Birth
Part 1 (2011) and Part 2 (2012)

A Poem For Christmas 2012

I’m Dreaming Of A Pop Culture Christmas:

Movies You Don’t Think Of When You Think Christmas Movies

And Now, A Perennial Old Favorite Christmas Song

One Of My Very Favorite Christmas Songs
(“Merry Christmas From The Family”)

If I Have Any Say, This Will Be The New Holiday Standard

Put!  The!  Krampus!  Back!  In!  Christmas!

A Special Holiday Message From St. Nicholas

Once Again, As The Holiday Approaches…

Stop The War On Christmas!!!

ChuckBB Keeps A Holiday Tradition Going

Isaac Lenkiewicz Puts The Krampus Back In Christmas!

Jim Wheelock Puts The Krampus Back In Christmas!

Benito Cereno Explains The Krampus

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Governor: “Slain Black Male ‘A Common Thug’”

9/12/2014

Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts has described the black man killed Monday by soldiers in Boston as “a common thug” and “a fugitive from the law” who brought about his death by attacking lawful authorities, refusing to disperse, and resisting arrest.

Attorney John Adams, representing the soldiers and officers who have been accused of manslaughter, said the slain man had precipitated the conflict by his “mad behavior” at the head of a crowd of “motley rabble.”

William O’Reilly, a well known town crier, observed that the soldiers were assaulted by “saucy boys, negros and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs” and thus forced to defend themselves.

Sean Hannity, another well known town crier who works the same side of the street as Mr. O’Reilly but at a different hour, claimed the dead man had “undertaken to be the hero of the night” and had paid the price for his arrogance while Ann Coulter, a notorious scold, said the soldiers were the true victims in this case as they were accosted in performance of their legal duties.  Spinster Coulter also noted that the man was a fugitive with a price on his head having fled his lawful owner.

(William Cosby, the noted educator, was also scheduled to speak at the press conference on the matter of how the victim’s fashion choices had led to the behavior that resulted in his death, but the appearance of a large crowd of angry women carrying pruning shears prompted Mr. Cosby to hastily leave the stage.)

Governor Hutchinson promised Bostonian citizens that the government and military would maintain order in the face of such lawlessness as exhibited Monday, and prevent any further rioting or looting.  He also decried members of the so-called “patriot” movement for attempting to capitalize on Crispus Attucks’ death, saying by definition anyone who refuses to pay his royal taxes unless he is allowed representation in Parliament is no patriot but merely a rebel.

crispus attucks lawt_what_ill_tell_my_kids_about_america_on_independence_day_580x290

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I Luvz Me Some RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH

5/12/2014

PKDRadio_free_albemuth

It’s widely accepted that (a) Philip K. Dick was the greatest novelist to work in the science fiction genre[1] (b) wrote five of the best sci-fi novels ever but (c) nobody can agree which five of his 40+ books those are and (d) was a bugfuck crazy paranoiac and (e) a doper and (f) experienced profound religious visions of a degree that would leave Billy Graham weeping with envy.

Are ya with me so far?

None of which is to say any of that is true or for that matter than any of it is false — or rather, any of that is factual or any of that is fantasy — because the mind and/or universe that PKD inhabited does not seem constrained by simply binary yes/no true/false constructs.

It’s entirely possible they’re all true or none of them are true or they are true and un-true simultaneously or even that they are all true and un-true simultaneously but in a manner we can not comprehend.

Still with me?

PKD may have been crazy but he sure wasn’t stupid and he realized telling too many people outside the circle of sci-fi fandom that he was experiencing intense religious revelations from an entity he sometimes referred to as God but more often as VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System) was a surefire way to get himself even more good & ignored that he already was in his lowly status as sci-fi writer to he turned his experiences into an autobiographical sci-fi trilogy in which he was no the recipient of these visions but rather just a supporting character in another protagonist’s story.

Are ya still with me?

Dick’s work always touches in some form or another on the quest for ultimate Truth, to know what really is is, to tear away the veils & masks around us and truly know our place in the universe.

It is, by its very nature, a religious quest as well as a psychological and philosophical one.  Dick and his characters are seeking operating instructions from on high, something that will give them sense in what appears to be a senseless universe, something that makes the pain and suffering of everyday existence meaningful and worthwhile.

Radio Free Albemuth is a tangential part of Dick’s unfinished VALIS trilogy (the trilogy consisting of VALIS, The Divine Invasion, and the unfinished book The Owl In Daylight).  Essentially a first draft of VALIS, it also differs considerably from the latter book although remaining a fragmentary part of that “universe”.

You see what I’m getting at re not being able to easily categorize PDK’s work?

The variant of Radio Free Albemuth / VALIS that I’d like to draw your attention to, however, is the long-in-production / finally-released feature film, Radio Free Albemuth, currently available on Netflix.

PKDRadio_Free_Albemuth_FilmPoster

Radio Free Albemuth is everything I look for, everything I hope for in not just a sci-fi film but any sort of movie.  It’s actually about something as opposed to senseless / pointless chasing / fighting over a macguffin.

Radio Free Albemuth follows music mogul Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe) as he becomes aware of VALIS attempt to communicate with him through an alien[2] satellite orbiting Earth.[3]

PKDphpThumb_generated_thumbnail

The problem — or perhaps it would be better to say the reason – is that Radio Free Albemuth doesn’t take place in this reality but in an alternate one, where President Ferris F. Fremont[4] rules the US of A with an iron fist, sweeping aside Constitutional limitations and fighting a never ending war against a terrorist organization known as Cobra Aramchek, which apparently exists only in his mind.

Fremont and his Gestapo-like thugs, the Friends of the American People (derisively referred to as FAP in a delicious piece of unintentional irony), fear the message coming from VALIS via the satellite, a message that basically pulls back the curtain and reveals that Fremont’s power and authority comes from a false fear, that all people are capable of living in peace with one another, and that wars and hatred are foisted on us by those seeking power for their own ends.

PKDphpThumb_generated_thumbnail2

Brady and his muse / co-conspirator Sylvia (Alanis Morissette) are tracked down and killed by FAP, and Brady’s friend Philip K. Dick (Shea Whigham) is imprisoned as an enemy of the people.  In prison he learns from a fellow inmate, a former pastor now held for subversive ideas, that the ideas Brady and Sylvia received and tried to spread were identical with those of Jesus and the early Christian church, and that while VALIS and the Truth may have suffered a set back, other followers have gotten the message out and the seeds of a rebellion against the authoritarians is starting to grow.

If this sounds like a too-spot-on transliteration of contemporary US politics, guess again; Radio Free Albemuth was written in 1976 and only published posthumously in 1985.  Dick was long gone from the scene before the country was stampeded off in a panic for a war on terror.

The film is well made; inexpensive, but wisely focusing its attention less on spectacle and more on the attempts of human beings to come to terms with an idea that will transform their world…if they can live long enough to implement it.  It’s well cast, and while production and post-production were strung out for nearly a decade, it looks and feels the right scale for the story.

Highly recommended,
no matter what your
level of reality.

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[1]  Acknowledging that greatest novelist doesn’t mean wrote the best science fiction novel or best writer of science fiction or even best writer of science fiction novels but rather was the best master at the specific art & craft of writing 50-80,000 word stories that we refer to as novel-length format.  Because there’s a lot of truly exception writers vying in this field and although PKD was among the very best, we can’t put him at the absolute pinnacle, so instead we give him a slot near the apex and a qualifier that honors his skill & talent without painting us into a corner quality wise.  ‘Cuz Bradbury and Ellison are duking it out on the short story side and Bester has a lock on the best sci-fi novel ever although his output pales in comparison with Dick’s.

[2]  Implied angelic beings tho never clearly identified as such in the film.

[3]  Dick, in the novel, shifted much of his own experiences away from his character and onto Brady.

[4]  “Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast.” — Revelation 13:18 (MEV)

 

 

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