Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Boston Common

"There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness." --Friedrich Nietzsche
Many of the corporeal folks who’s opinions I admire are childless. This is partially (though it might be a large part) because I think not having kids is an admirable default position. There are at least three reasons why I should feel different. One was, to my great delight, brought into focus during a pleasantly drenching Boston summer rain.

The first reason is my own kids. This is the most obvious and least compelling reason. Anyone who digs through old blog posts here will stumble across multiple references to AOD and AYD. Read of the magic fairy sprinkles of vitality and pure love these beings dust so many of my motivations with and why not believe that all people should tirelessly pump out more of these treasures? If it were possible I might suggest such an approach, but AOD and AYD are super-beings; most people just pump out kids. The existence of AOD and AYD is actually another stanza of the reasoning why choosing not to have children is a great idea.

Putty in my hand

The second potential reason is to be found in the biology that unites people as a species. This reasoning is that the propagation of a social species should help to preserve the genetics of the species. There is undeniable truth in this reasoning…at least till one starts to run the numbers. The World Bank estimated the earth’s human population at over 6.775 billion in 2009. Though there might be more than enough in resources on the planet for double this number the doubling rate is such that resource depletion will become a major concern soon. The earth’s human population was 3.324 billion in 1965. That’s a doubling time of 44 years. The biology reason also decays into fertile ground for the childless stand.

There is a bumper crop of births swelling the bellies of women all over the town I live in. This is Utah so the demographic statistics suggest that there is a constant bumper crop of fetuses developing, and that I just don’t usually notice them. In my defense the crop is usually restricted to haggard looking people trudging weak-kneed through Wal-Mart; this autumn there are several women who I know swelling towards childbirth. Several of the pregnant women I know are also close enough to being teenagers that their pregnancies scream for some sort of ultra-pathetic attention.

Teenage pregnancies are also not uncommon in Utah, but since I avoid the company of teenagers they are invisible to me. Their spawn fills some bottomless “at risk” demographic which will help to enliven the future’s statistical description of social decay. Many of the children from these pregnancies will not be the product of choosing to have children; they will be the product of not choosing to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Despite attempts to stunt them the children become real people. The less mature parents (and the unprepared grandparents) are shaped by the burden. They talk exclusively of time to themselves, budgets, and sleep. The people are shaped by the elements of their upbringing; every once in a great while one of them is beautiful to know. Each childless adult simply enhances society’s ability to shoulder some of its un-aborted burden.

Perhaps we should offer a tax credit of $100.00 for every year after age 18 that an adult remains childless. Giving a twenty-eight-year-old woman a $1,000.00 tax credit might stimulate the economy more than giving her younger sister with six kids $6,000.00. But I digress. It is so easy to slip into the negatives associated with people having children.

It was raining after I saw my friend perform for Blue Man group in Boston. For some minutes I was amazed at little things: Boston is a lovely city; in The Common electric lights make the lake look black. East coast summer rain is pleasant; the feinting cold a welcome respite from triple-digit daytime temperatures. Conversations with someone whose own decades have collected enormous talent and experience is intoxicating. I began to visualize unimagined connection between terrifically cool things. I like to immerse myself in such things. I would wallow often if given a chance, but the opportunities are rare.

We had probably been talking about kids for a while when I noted the topic. I began thinking about the thinking about the topic. This was a conversation concerning the development of other loving humans with the kind of interest driving it that might be reserved for developing some futuristic world filled with advanced civilizations populated by compassionate super beings.

We spoke of developmental stages, and the breakthroughs that defined them. We spoke of the development of super-abilities: the ability to see, to know, to reason, to communicate, to feel, and to care.

Then a beautiful woman met us in the park and began speaking of the development of her children in a similar voice. There were two of them! Is the earth ready for this cresting wave of super beings? Will we be driving flying cars and talking with our minds before we are reduced to digging fibrous roots with the sharpened detritus of our species’ former glory?

This is not a reason to have kids though. It is a reason to help the people we have develop or heal. It is thinking of the children we have as elements of our future society.

When I finally returned to Utah I realized how full-to-bursting I was with new ideas. How can I translate them though? I could more easily capture water with a butterfly net.

Both AYD and AOD received a large hug. On each of their foreheads I planted a kiss. I stepped back and imagined them as the large brightly-colored glowing brains I once saw on a star-trek episode. I smiled.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Mummy's Curse

Give most human teenagers a choice of either taking a class in Mormon scripture from some pasty white guy or taking a class in space-alien philosophy from strangely-dressed people who mummify humans and pets in their garage, and which do you think they will choose? Mark twain called The Book of Mormon “Chloroform in print”. Alien mummification, however, is the stuff that adolescent dreams are made of; well…this and some other stuff. Sure LDS seminaries sometimes cater to the “other stuff” of teenage dreams, but they don’t get caught at it any more often than core curriculum teachers, and I’m sure the Summum church's teachers would be no less likely to provide “special instruction” to a few students.

History was poised on the brink of allowing a select few high school students in Draper Utah to make the Mummy-Mormon choice. Unfortunately it appears as if the Canyon School District has thrown cold water on these dreams for the time being.

The Canyon School District is the district that contains Alta High school. I wrote about Alta High School’s exciting school spirit a few months ago.

The mummifiers are none other than members of the now famous Summum church. The Summum church became famous last year when the US supreme court ruled that their free-speech rights were not being violated by Duchene county (UT) when that county refused to put a monument to the Summum church’s seven principles next to the existing public monument to the Ten Commandments.

The choice was to come in the form of a seminary building. Canyon School District is building a new high school in Draper, and had set aside land for a seminary. The Summum church officially petitioned to have a Summum seminary next to the new high school, but so did the LDS church. The Canyon School District decided that there would be no seminary on the land it had purchased and labeled “seminary” on preliminary drawings.

I do not know of any public high schools in the state of Utah that do not have an LDS seminary adjacent to them. There may be one or two, but I would be surprised if it was more than that. According to the Salt Lake tribune: “83,634 of Utah’s 150,572 high school students were enrolled in seminary classes”. It takes an awfully large number of seminary structures to accommodate that many students.

I have a feeling that the LDS church will find a way to get some land adjacent to the new high school in Draper; they will simply get their adjacent land from someone other than the Canyon School District.

The coolest thing about mummies might indeed be the fact that the brains of the mummified person are removed from their skull using a hook, but mummies would be so very cool even without this manipulation. Mummies are so cool that for many years they were thought to posses magical powers. Mummia was a preparation made from ground mummies, and was thought to have medicinal properties. As late as 1908 E. Merk offered mummia powder in its catalogue. However, the best source of mummia was from “fresh” Egyptian mummies crushed to order. I have not been able to find any particular mention of which parts of the mummified corpse were more tasty or more effective.

If I were the Summum seminary teacher I would make sure that the seminary had several mummies. The Summum compound in Salt Lake features the mummified remains of the church’s founder “Corky” on public display in a squat copper-colored pyramid. The church mummifies pets for a small donation. I’m sure they could mummify a few things for their seminary. Even mummified road-kill would be more interesting than Mormon scripture.

Since they are apparently not going to get their seminary space Summum’s next move might be to compete with the school lunch program.

The LDS church has special reason to be afraid of the draw Egyptian mummies have. Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon church) himself bought four Egyptian mummies from a traveling mumia peddler in 1835. They were the last four of a set of 11 mummies one Michael Chandler had been trying to hock for two years. Chandler sold Smith the four mummies along with five papyrii which served to prove they were real Egyptian mummies. Smith forked over $2,400 dollars for the lot; what a steal.

The papyri were needed to prove the Egyptian mummies were real because many mumia peddlers were trafficking in counterfeit mumia. In the cases of the powdered material the mumia could be cut with any number of things; that was one reason why whole (or identifiable parts) were preferred. In the case of whole mummies more contemporary substitutes were often passed off as the real thing. This mumia falsa was a common blight on the trade in more genuine snake oil.

Imagine the delight experienced by the followers of Joseph Smith when he explained that their donations to his church had not only purchased some dried corpses from across the sea, but that they had also purchased magical scriptural documents. It appears as if the papyri that Smith bought were actually written by Abraham. That’s right…father of the abrahamic religions! How auspicious!

Abraham had a lot to say on the papyri. He spoke of Kolob, of pre-mortal existence, gave specifics about the stuff the universe was created from, but my favorite is the consistent use of the polytheistic notation of “Gods”. If Abraham was a polytheist it would explain why he was so quick to accept god’s being of two minds on the subject of his son. But I digress.

Translating papyri is somewhat different than translating ephemeral golden plates. The papyri were not magiced away after the translation. This left the possibility that someone else would come along and use a technology that yielded more accurate translations than the seer stones Joseph smith used.

Sure enough, in 1966, the papyri were re-discovered. The translation of the papyri proved to be almost as awkward as the soon-to-be-discovered Salamander Letter would be.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Prep School

In 1998 a mid-sized (300+ student) private school called Alta academy closed its doors. Several months ago I wrote about racist activities at suburban Alta high school in the Salt Lake valley. Alta Academy was just a short drive from Alta High; drive a bit further and you would begin climbing the grade towards the ski resort that shared the name “Alta” with both the public high school and the private academy.

For twenty-two years of its near 30 year existence the Alta Academy had one principal. That principal was recently sentenced to serve a bazillion years in some Texas prison.
1988 Alta Academy Yearbook Photo

A couple months ago I wrote about FLDS (Fundamentalist Later-Day Saints church) members breaking into a publicly-held building where they stole a few metric tons of books. They burned some of the books, and then “donated" the rest to a LDS-run charity several hundred miles away. How many laws were broken? What purpose would such an action serve save to demonstrate the control one group had over a community. This book-burning was a true fascist-terrorist-conspiracy.

Conspiracies were apparently part of the standard curriculum at Alta Academy. Warren Jeffs maintained that the Federal Government was orchestrating numerous conspiracies. The spectrum of conspiracies Jeffs taught ranged from mind-control to faked moon landings.

“At Alta Academy, Warren told us that men have never been on the moon. He told us that the Lord would never allow man on the moon. He said that the Lord allowed them to land on a little no name planet in space but he would never allow them to land on the moon.” – former Alta Academy student

Thousands of people drive by the former site of Alta Academy every day on their way to Alta and Snowbird ski resorts. Utah created a license-plate with the tagline “Greatest Snow on Earth” in part because of the great skiing at these resorts. In the summer thousands of cyclists puff their way up the conveniently-located-yet-awesome incline. The mouth of little cottonwood canyon is some particularly choice real-estate. Selling it no-doubt helped finance the huge Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas.

Running the Academy helped to develop the twisted psycho-sexual control fantasies that are the hallmark of the over 10,000 strong FLDS faith. Control was imposed over dress, speech, and facial expressions.

“I enjoyed my time at Alta Academy, but I didn’t have anything much to compare it to” -- Former Alta Academy student

Jeffs was seen holding a five year old boy up by his ankle and “shaking the evil out of him”. Jeffs would demonstrate “proper submission” for wives by pulling one of his wives by her hair into the front of a classroom full of boys and yanking her to her knees. When he was done she thanked him.

He also allegedly repeatedly sodomized five and six-year-old boys in the bathrooms of Alta Academy.

These activities and more were reported to Utah authorities who could not successfully investigate or prosecute him. Jeffs did not completely move to the backwater of Colorado City until 2002. Most of these activities were done in an upscale suburban neighborhood of the modern metropolis that is the Salt Lake Valley.

Jeffs taught purity, goodness, and sweetness to thousands of folks. He led people in multi-hour-long prayer sessions. In order for Jeffs to be guilty a jury would have to conclude that these foundations of their own faith were not absolute protection against sin and evil. In order for these accusations to be true a jury would have to discount the very words that their faith called the definition of truth. In order to wade through the piety of Jeffs and arrive at the physical truth of the situation a jury would have to conclude that there was an accurate method for determining reality that was independent of their faith; a method that could be applied to matters of faith. It is not hard to craft a jury in Utah that could simply not go there.

Jeffs attempted to exploit this weakness in Texas. He provided hours of theological information to the jury. Despite being repeatedly admonished by the judge for presenting irrelevant material he manipulated the context of his presentations to continue his teachings. For one dodge he put a devout FLDS member on the stand so he could ask him long scriptural questions. Eventually he was shut down. The jury was not swayed by his fundamentalist-Mormon religious appeal. This was Texas after all; not Utah.

There have been some attempts to prosecute Jeffs in Utah, but they have failed or been overturned on appeal.

Some people would have you believe that Jeffs began his raping and psychological abuse only after he moved to the YFZ compound in Texas. I have even been told that he created the YFZ ranch because he could not conduct the same perverted activities in Utah without getting caught. The book-burners of Colorado City know this is not true. There is in fact every reason to believe that the rapes continue as the FLDS wage civil-war trying to replace Jeffs as their prophet from god.

Some of the rapes could be prevented if the Utah authorities put people in jail for their part in book-burning conspiracies.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

So He Loaded up the Truck and Moved

I saw the look of fear in his eyes after I raised the question:

“This place is great! Why doesn’t everyone live here?”

He stumbled slightly for words:

“I…uh…well….not as great as it seems…well”

I was standing under a squatting shade tree in the fading post-drizzle evening grey. Mosquitoes buzzed angrily at my lathering of citronella repellant.  Over its protective odor I could still smell the faintly ripe scent of estuary coming from all directions. If I began walking I would find myself at a shoreline in under an hour; regardless of the direction I chose. But I would not walk. I would stay under the dripping tree and talk to this sputtering man about California till it got fully dark.

I had never really visited Rhode Island before. Looking at the path interstate 95 takes through the state I realize that I must have driven through it before, but 95 through Rhode Island is built on a little strip of land transplanted from Elizabeth New Jersey. If I had any notions of what the rest of Rhode Island was like I imagined the hulking rust towers of Gary Indiana dissolving into a stagnant oil-slicked pool. Strange wild-haired people lived in poorly preserved vintage cars; the hoods were open to reveal that the engines had all long ago been removed.

The previous day I spent a few minutes looking at the Capital building for Rhode Island. I noticed that most of the windows had air conditioning units in them. Was this some ruse planed to turn away potential immigrants: “No central air here, and our other capital is a trailer”?

I had not brought up California to the sputtering man. Someone else had realized the two of us would be attending the same function in San Diego in a few weeks. I began wistfully recalling a fire on a Coronado beach where fighter jets with wheels extended for landing would occasionally scream over our heads with a jet–fueled intensity. I wondered about how much of a tangent this newly-met person would endure, but it was the suggestion that I move everyone I knew into his smallest state of the union that started him sputtering.

Earlier in the afternoon I met a woman with Bo-Derek braids who talked at length about her Mercedes. It or one just like it had come from California, and the story of its trip was her story. She fogged at the memory of those people who had ridden with her in her German car, and tenderly missed them.

These were not the people I wanted to see in Rhode Island, but if I had known they were there I would have.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beige Man Group

When I was young political decisions were described as happening half in the public arena, and half in smoke filled rooms. Cynics would say that all decisions happened in the rooms filled with smoke. The smoke in the rooms of power was from cigars puffed upon by fat white men in suits. It appeared as if this was a natural order of things; it contrasted sharply with the images of powdered wigs and robes that percolated up from the power-rooms of history (and England).

Monica Lewinsky connected politics to cigars in a more intimate way. The smoke was inhaled. The term “Trading in hog bellies” became more useful as a euphemism. Only the white men and suits remained.

Then came president Obama, and the “Beige Man Group” was re-cast. Only the suits remained.

Sometimes the suits are optional, and if we are to judge from the popular photos of half-naked congressmen the white men of power are not all fat anymore.

Does this mean that the rooms are empty? How different is American politics simply because it looks different?

The initial primary funding season has come to a close. Some candidates, like John Huntsman, have begun to fade simply as a result of their inability to raise enough cash. It is almost possible to accurately pick who the 2012 Republican nominee will be based on the amount of money raised at this point in their campaign. Rick Perry has avoided inspection by “not running” until this funding window has closed so his chances are difficult to assess. Of those Opensecrets.org are tracking Mitt Romney has raised around five times what the next highest earning Republican candidate has raised.

Campaign contributions are seen as free speech, and expensive free speech at that, by the Supreme Court. Romney’s over 18 million dollars (as of 30 June 2011) came mostly from large donors. This means that there are a small number of people who have a lot to say, and want Mitt Romney to say it for them. In fact 94% of Mitt’s money came from large donors. Barak Obama who will probably be the Democratic nominee has raised over twice what Mitt has raised, but only 23% of it has come from large donors. Lots of people want the president’s ear.

However, the reporting leaves out some important information. Much of this election’s campaigns will be financed by political action committees, or PACs. The money from the PACs are not specifically reported as being attached to any one candidate. Romney’s PAC (“Restore Our Future PAC”) received a $1 million dollar donation from W Spann LLC in April, but his campaign only identified a little under 90 thousand dollars as being PAC money before 30 June 2011. Three months later W Spann LLC dissolved; apparently their sole business was donating to Mitt Romney’s campaign. It appears like W Spann was just another name for one Edward Conard whohas been a major source of financial support for all of Mitt’s campaigns. Both he and his wife have each donated to Mitt’s campaigns at every chance they have had. But that was not enough free speech for them.

By the 30 June reporting deadline the Romney “Restore Our Future PAC” had raised over 12 million dollars. That is a number comparable to (60% of) the amount of money that the Romney campaign reported, and much more than any of the other Republican nominee candidates reported. Almost 1 dollar in ten in that PAC came from one man. There are over 300 million people in the USA. That’s an awful big slice of the free speech pie for one man.

You know…I would like a little free speech, but it’s so darned expensive these days.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Talkin' Posteriori

a posteriori definition” sounds like it would be best developed through the use of tight jeans and many hours in the gym. It is in fact a pedestrian way of describing the act of defining something after you know something about it. Fortunately one can mix a little a priori prejudice into the crafting of a posteriori definitions to make a complete ass out of oneself.

I was recently skimming over some blogs I frequent when Self-Taught Atheist served up a video of Bill O’Reilly trashing liberal media’s coverage of the recent tragedy in Norway. For those of you who don’t know an unbalanced anti-Muslim extremist recently killed a whole bunch of non-Muslim kids at a liberal-run summer camp in Norway to bring attention to the fact that everyone should be more concerned about Muslims in Norway. Don’t worry too much if that last sentence did not make sense; in fact if it made sense to you there may be more cause for worry. If you want to know more about the motivations behind the massacre the killer wrote a long manifesto outlining his motivations. It goes on about how we need more Christianity in Europe, and even provides some hints as to how Christianity can be reformed to make it better (He suggests re-uniting the Protestant and Catholic churches in what would be a re-reformation). The only saving grace in all this is that we now have a picture of a strapping Aryan mass-murderer frothing about something other than Jews. Evil done for new reasons is not a sign of progress however.

Here is the video of Bill O’Reilly:

What struck me was that Billy says that Mr. Norway killer (MNK) was not a Christian because no Christian would do something like that. One might have casually defined MNK as a Christian due both to his rantings and his baptism, but now that he has produced some significant evil he is not a Christian. Perhaps he is no longer a Christian now that he has crafted this evil, but was one up until he killed the first kid? Perhaps he stopped being a Christian when he decided to kill the first kid? Perhaps he stopped being Christian when he thought about killing people for the first time?

The question that haunts me is “What is he now that he is not a Christian”? He is obviously not a Muslim. I would venture to say that he is not a Jew, or a Buddhist, or a Jayne, or a Hindu, or just about anything. What do you call someone that is not defined into any faith: AN ATHEIST!

Somehow the notion being lumped into the same “other “bin that accumulates producers of evil is unsavory to me. The more defining monikers like “Secular Humanist” begin to sound attractive.

Of course it would simply be best if Billy would get his a priori out of his a posteriori; though I think it may be stuck.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Psychotropic Jesus

I have often been told that I am angry because I am an atheist. When I am told this when I am not angry I find the statements amusing. When I am angry I find listening to the statements discomforting. I have accepted the idea that I will continue to have emotional responses to my world. Although fine tuning may be possible my emotions are generally pulled from a mixed bag. I would not, however, trade the love that transmogrifies lust into desire for a guaranteed respite from a few fleeting moments of anger.

I have been told that by “accepting Jesus Christ as my Personal Savior” I will not have to experience any anger ever. Most Christians I know do not prescribe to this most powerful psychotropic Jesus. The ones that do are often crazy like bat droppings, so I am not sure if the statements concerning the effectiveness of psychotropic Jesus are lies or delusional ramblings. If these statements were limited to the phlegm-speckled tirades of street preachers I might not even notice them.

There is something enticing about the upturned scrub-blushed face of enforced innocence. The eyes look with the hint of a fear that what they see might invalidate some promise of redemption. There is misdirection in the placement of outward facing protections against disillusionment. The promises of purification are for delivery after death; they rely on no real proof, and no amount of reality can insist on addressing the stuff they are made of. The only unstoppable threat comes from within the skull the eyes look from. It is in that flask that the unstable chemistries occasioned by the mixing of such volatile ingredients as opportunity and desire are explored.

What event could cause someone, like a pretty young mother of two I recently met, to become enraptured with the idea of purification after death? Some hurt too terrible to relate? Some injury carved in tender skin uncomplicated by the scars of experience? Some unmentionable wrong she committed which continually floats to the top of her conscious; buoyed on a tide of guilt? Complete purity always hints at a dark evil hiding just behind the apparent transparency of purpose. What weight could be fused to such an agreeable countenance like a surgically implanted prosthetic hump?

It is often something lacking rather than something lurking which causes this type of imbalance. That lacking ingredient is usually a grounded perspective. The influenced of a skewed horizon is suggested by the reliance on a fix occurring after death for a problem that that affects one’s life. There are problems that cannot be fixed during life, but those are different situations.

Perspective may be an essential lacking ingredient, but supplying that ingredient might not be the most effective fix. Perspective, in and of itself, is not very compelling. Better to redirect the psychoactive intensity towards engaging pursuits, like scrapbooking, or imagining why so many more stars are reflected in a lover’s eyes than the billions present in the night’s sky. Better still, one can develop varied emotional attachments and create a world filled with a cacophony of secret languages.

There, in a world full to bursting, a horizon can be used. There, hand in hand with an understanding confidant, you can look out at that horizon, and watch the sun rise.

There is no reason to be all messed up on Psychotropic Jesus. Love is just waiting to well up inside your every thought. Give up on god and find true love by just being human again.