vaecrius: The infamous cartoon of Darwin's head on a chimp's body, superimposed with a MSPainted Nazi armband. (are you a monkey)
Been a long time since I've linkdumped here. But the series of links from Wednesday followed such a clear thematic pattern I have to save this.


Post-Christian America: Gullible, Intolerant, and Superstitious

One may rightly object to that last comment as a general thing, but given the links that I will link to below, it turned out to be prophetic.
Ross Douthat has written powerfully about the political consequences of post-Christian conservatism. It turns out that when men and women shed their faith, they don’t necessarily get more liberal, but they do get more tribal and vicious. Many members of the alt-right, for example, famously shun Evangelical Christianity (calling its adherents “cuckstians”). Indeed, as we learn from the battle between social-justice warriors and their right-wing counterparts — the emerging class of godless, angry populists — when you remove from your moral code any obligation to love your enemies, politics hardly improves.

The damage extends far beyond politics, of course. If there’s one abiding consequence of the shallow theologies and simple superstitions of our time, it’s the inability to endure or make sense of adversity. It’s a phenomenon that fractures families, fosters a sense of rage and injustice, and ultimately results in millions of Americans treating problems of the soul with mountains of pharmaceuticals. ...


South Park raised a generation of trolls
Is it just me or has South Park gone full cuck?” wondered fans on Reddit’s The_Donald immediately after that episode aired, and probably not for the first (or last) time. But in the aftermath of Trump/Garrison’s election, those same, vigilant cuck-watchers were back to crowing over how South Park had really stuck it to politically correct types in a scene where Trump/Garrison tells PC Principal, “You helped create me.” That South Park positioned this as less of a triumphant comeuppance than a suicidal backfire didn’t seem to matter. And the show more or less left it there—portraying Trump/Garrison as a dangerously incompetent buffoon, but also as the ultimate “u mad?” to all those liberals they fucking hate.

All of which makes Parker and Stone’s recent declaration to lay off Trump in the coming 21st season a real disappointment at best, cowardice at worst. The duo is, of course, under no obligation to tackle politics—or anything else they don’t want to, for that matter. They’re also right that mocking Trump is both redundant and “boring,” and also that everyone does it. For two dyed-in-the-wool contrarians, Trump comedy feels every bit as bland, lifeless, and sitcom-safe as an episode of, say, Veronica’s Closet. Furthermore, Parker’s complaints of the show just “becoming CNN now” and not wanting to spend every week endlessly restacking the sloppy Jenga pile of Trump-related outrage is completely understandable. Believe me, I get it.

That said: Man, what a cop out. South Park has already spent the past 20 years being CNN for its CNN-hating audience. Meanwhile, Parker and Stone have proudly, loudly thumped for a “fearless” brand of satire that’s willing to mock everyone from George W. Bush to Scientology to Mormonism to Muhammad, even under death threats. To shrug now and say, as Parker did, “I don’t give a shit anymore”—right when, by their own admission, the influence of the show’s worldview has reached all the way to the White House—feels especially disingenuous, and suspiciously like caving to the young, Trump-loving fans with whom they have forged such an uneasy relationship. (“South Park bends the knee on their fake-news-fueled portrayal of President Trump,” one The_Donald post gloated, followed by many, many more.) If they truly believe that those trolls in the mirror are “horrible people” who are helping to “fuck the country up beyond repair,” it would be truly fearless to tell them why, with no hint of ambiguous, everything-sucks irony that can be willfully misinterpreted.


Porn is Destroying Dicks, and My Job
I should probably explain that I am Tantric healer, which means that I touch penises for a living. It's certainly not all I do, as an ordained priestess who supports men in cultivating sacred, conscious relationship with their authentic sexual expression, and the Divine Feminine herself. But, for our intents and purposes, all you really need to know is that I touch a lot of penises.
...
What's wrong with bucking and clenching and grinding? they ask. Well, these are the actions that speak to Voon's findings, which state that the porn addicted subjects "had greater impairments of sexual arousal and erectile difficulties" than those "healthy volunteers" we referenced earlier. The bucking and the clenching and the grinding are all indicative of desensitization, and of my clients' desperate attempts to generate some real-life arousal, because—as we've already determined—they have become tolerant to subtle sensations, and now require gross and exaggerated stimulation to feel themselves at all, let alone to achieve orgasm. [Graphic description follows of what to expect of a healthy male and a broken one.]
...
It's one thing to be numb and unreachable on your Tantrika's massage table. It's quite another when you are entwined in your lover's arms, and she wants to share a connected, mutually-satisfying, erotic experience, but all you can do is pummel and pound while clenching your eyes and your nether regions, calling up any number of online scenarios in your imagination to trick yourself into a semblance of turn-on. Because this is yet another downside of porn addiction: It makes your partner's needs and wants and humanity kind of irrelevant, if not downright annoying, because the porn addict is used to pixelated, 2D "women," who are so much easier to (not have to) deal with than the real life-version, what with their emotions, and their periods, and their clits.

"I prefer seeing you, because honestly, I feel sort of resentful when I have to give my partner foreplay," admitted a twenty-seven year-old client.


I spent 23 years as an elite fighter pilot, and it taught me that motivation is meaningless
A cure? A diagnosis? Pride and lust are wonderful motivators.
In real life, when fear, fatigue, and doubt set in, no speech can provide the motivation you need to keep going. The only thing you and your team can rely on is discipline.

"Discipline Equals Freedom" is Jocko Willink's formula for achieving success. ...

Literally overnight, my motivation evaporated – as did most of my interest in spending a career flying from a carrier. For the first time in my life, flying wasn't fun. I realized that the dream job was just that: a job. And it was a job that was going to require me to do things I didn't enjoy or find easy.

Fear can debilitate a carrier aviator, especially in combat. To succeed, I had to get past it. My self-discipline was all that I could rely on, and I needed every ounce that I had. ...

Most of my time was spent with men like Chris Kyle, who would sit next to me on rooftops, motionless for hours, observing the city through the scope of his rifle. Day in and day out, I watched him do the tedious, thankless, and unrewarding work they don't show you in recruitment videos or movies. Few things can sap your motivation and focus like Ramadi's suffocating dust and 115 degree heat. The only thing that gets you through an environment like that is discipline. And although that discipline often goes unrecognized, it doesn't go unrewarded: It allowed Chris to save countless lives and made him the most successful sniper in SEAL history.


DoD spends $84M a year on Viagra, similar meds
Not to suggest at all that the porn caused this too. But they are both repeated exposure to destructive, dehumanizing evils with significant neurological consequences.
A report published in September found that the incidence rate of ED among active-duty personnel more than doubled from 2004 to 2014.

Researchers at the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center found that the overall incidence rate of ED climbed from 5.8 cases per 1,000 person-years in 2004 to 12.6 cases in 2013, or more than 1 percent of the total population.

According to the report, 100,248 cases of ED were diagnosed among active-duty members from 2004 to 2013.

More than half of those were classified as "psychogenic," meaning the dysfunction was related to psychiatric rather than physical causes.

A number of factors can contribute to ED, from mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, to medications for treating physical and mental conditions as well as injuries, illness and aging.


"Everything Except Country and Rap": What You Really Mean
Relevant for this one line at the end:
Do you really like everything, or do you just like everything you’re told to?
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
NIV: If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

This is what I grew up with and has been burned into my mind. The fire is bad, and you escape it by the skin of your teeth.

So imagine my surprise when I see Fr. Stephen quote it: If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. and then come up with the following?
First, it is clear that he is speaking specifically about the Judgment, for he calls it “the Day.” And what fire is this that reveals on Judgment Day? Is it not the eternal fire? And, how is someone saved by fire? For clearly, some are. Who is not saved by fire?

This verse should rightly puzzle us. Particularly that “but he himself will be saved…”

Of course, there are many who will say, “He’s only writing here to Christians.” This fire that burns and saves – is it the same fire that the “wicked” enter? If it doesn’t save everyone it burns, why not?
Emphasis mine. We are not saved from the destruction of the fire, but rather the fire in destroying saves us.

I went and looked at some other translations:

King James: If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Young's Literal: if of any the work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; and himself shall be saved, but so as through fire.

Darby: If the work of any one shall be consumed, he shall suffer loss, but *he* shall be saved, but so as through [the] fire.

KJ21: If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as fire. ("Why not become pure flame?")

Most of the more reliable names on BibleGateway say "as through fire" or "as by fire". I'm assuming the Greek has whatever the Greek for ablative is and no explicit preposition.

I am wrong. It is "dia pyros": εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον κατακαήσεται, ζημιωθήσεται, αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός.

"saved as through fire"... it *can* mean someone escaping the flames, but what pre-existing pagan myth of passing through fire could Paul be referring to if not?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracles
After death, the gods transformed him into an immortal, or alternatively, the fire burned away the mortal part of the demigod, so that only the god remained.



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peleus
Thetis attempted to render her son Achilles invulnerable. In the well-known version, she dipped him in the River Styx, holding him by one heel, which remained vulnerable. In an early and less popular version of the story, Thetis anointed the boy in ambrosia and put him on top of a fire to burn away the mortal parts of his body. She was interrupted by Peleus and she abandoned both father and son in a rage, leaving his heel vulnerable. A nearly identical story is told by Plutarch, in his On Isis and Osiris, of the goddess Isis burning away the mortality of Prince Maneros of Byblos, son of Queen Astarte, and being likewise interrupted before completing the process.
(I was under the impression that there were two heroes and only one of these happened to Achilles. Nope, it's both.)

Meanwhile, the entire first page of Google for {ancient greek rituals passing through fire} is about child sacrifice, which I was certainly not expecting!


But it doesn't change the fundamental type-and-shadow theory, even if the first result is an expressly Scripturally-proscribed example:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moloch
Early modern scholarship tended to accept the Biblical and Greco-Roman accounts of child sacrifice at face value, although there were early suggestions that the biblical account might refer to a symbolic practice, among them an essay by John Selden of 1617 with the suggestion that the phrase h'byr b'sh lmlk "making to pass over the fire to Molek" might have entailed a februation (purification ritual) rather than human sacrifice.
(tangential interesting point: In 1841, both Georg Friedrich Daumer and Friedrich Wilhelm Ghillany published influential works on the topic. These authors came to the conclusion that the Biblical text reflect an original identity of Molek and Yahweh, and that the cult of Yahweh grew out of that of Molek by the abolishing of human sacrifice. The authors find numerous instances of vestigial references to human sacrifice, most notably the law that all firstborns must be "consecrated" or "given" to Yahweh (Exodus 13:2, 22:28). Relatedly, I can't help but notice how little time Jesus spent rebuking the Sadducees rather than the Pharisees - it seems close-but-not-quite is worse than not close at all.)


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firewalking
Firewalking has been practiced by many people and cultures in all parts of the world, with the earliest known reference dating back to Iron Age India – c. 1200 BCE. It is often used as a rite of passage, as a test of an individual's strength and courage, or in religion as a test of one's faith.
The article also mentions that this is done by Eastern Orthodox Christians in Greece and Bulgaria - the only Christian group on the list. Also of interest: reference to judicial trial by fire.


I feel like I've missed some big ones as well (the alternate water/baptismal story of Achilles is implicit in the above). Thoughts?
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
First, Fr. Stephen's post about something not directly related to stories* at all (though, of course, all things are at least indirectly related to stories*):
http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2015/10/19/excuse-me-you-are-not-rational/
Someone commented with a recommendation for John C. Wright,** which led me to this blog post:
http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/10/my-elves-are-different-or-erlkoenig-and-appendix-n/
Meanwhile, Fr. Stephen posts the following:
http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2015/10/28/about-fairy-tales/
Characters in good stories (particularly good children’s stories) are more than simple individuals with complex and unpredictable behavior. Such individuals would be of no more use in training a child, than reciting random numbers is for teaching math. What we want in a character, is, well character. We need them to be a certain kind of person (or dragon, etc.). People, including children, make sense of the world through the stories they know. Children without stories are forced to stumble through the world without a clue.
The underlined portion describes the modern approach to fiction we are all too familiar with. It speaks well of us that most of us fail miserably. (I am thinking particularly of the anti-Mary-Sue pontifications that I'm sure anyone reading this already knows - which tend, if followed literally, to produce characters as described in the underlined portion.)

In the comments, someone comments with a link to this:
http://www.ancientfaith.com/specials/orthodox_institute_2012_culture_morality_spirituality/dr._vigen_guroian_the_childs_moral_imagination
Which includes an excellent example*** of how to write fiction in imitation of Scripture. (Dr. Guroian didn't have time to mention Psalm 68(67):23; there's bound to be other stuff in there.)

The above led me to read the following two book synopses, listed in the order I read them. One left me feeling nothing; the other had me immediately searching for a copy.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glory_Season
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bambi,_a_Life_in_the_Woods
The former tries to stand for so much, but nothing in the story does so - it's just a bunch of stuff that happens. In contrast, every moment in Bambi is fat and heavy with meaning just being there. (Interestingly, the Bambi synopsis has no separate "Major themes" section; such things are irresistibly inferred through both the plot and the book's reception.)

And now for something completely different:
http://www.webscription.net/chapters/1439132852/1439132852.htm
Basically the literary equivalent of playing an FPS.** *****


*I had typed "fiction writing" and then moved on, then came back to add the parenthetical thinking I had typed "stories", then corrected what I previously typed accordingly. Maybe that's the problem: we're (I'm) not even trying to write stories anymore.

**Yes, I am aware of both these authors' involvement with certain recent controversies. I do not make this post with the intent to endorse their positions on such matters and I am endorsing their work inasmuch that I am willing to read past their real and perceived flaws, as one must always do when reading anyone.****

***In other news, misleading description of the day: Cinderella: a young girl uses her mad freerunning skills and commands an army of dinosaurs to secure her reign as queen and execute vengeance upon her enemies.

****Re: flaws, more Wright than Correia. The latter's explanation of the Sad Puppies movement makes a lot more sense than what (admittedly little, but Correia describes it accurately) I'd been reading before getting his side of it. The former's explanation of his stance re: enemies, taken at its best, is indistinguishable from a pagan perspective despite the claims to Christianity, and the best thing I got out of it was the realization that Christ's admonition to Peter about swords could also be read as a prophecy about what would happen with the Western Church over a thousand years later.


*****2015-11-01 19:14 EDIT:
But we have to be taken back to when Parker was fourteen years of age to fully understand what moves him throughout the story. In that year, at the fair, Parker set his eyes on a tattooed man whose entire body, from head to foot, was covered with images. O’Connor writes: “Until he saw the man at the fair, it did not enter his head that there was anything out of the ordinary about the fact that he existed.”
[static]
I was able to finally see the Guardian. He was a giant of a man. Every inch of his skin had been covered in strange tattoos. The ink lines moved like living things. He looked right at me across space and time.
[static]
...a perfect arabesque of colors... (this song was one of the first that had randomly come up as I read the essay)
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
The main difference is that his is actually worth reading. (If somewhat bare of Heavy Weapons Guy references, but that's probably related.)

Two articles worth mentioning:
A ‘free’ China, for him, is emphatically not ‘free’ in a bourgeois capitalist sense, nor even ‘liberated’ in a Marxist sense. It’s fascinating to see an intellectual, reckoned a ‘leftist’ in Chinese discourse, defend certain non-teleological and anti-modern Confucian political ideas and understandings as necessary for China’s continued ‘modern’ reform and development. Dr. Wang himself is likely quite aware of the irony; the reason he eschews the term ‘left’ to describe himself, after all, is because he feels a terminology imported from a Western revolutionary context has very limited traction in a Chinese one. ...

My own interest in China stems from the fact that an immensely long body of civilised tradition – a body which goes back, with few interruptions, for 3200 years – is brought into a constant, disruptive and disorienting contact with the most frantic, brutal and unvarnished forms of modernity. And unlike in other nations – like Japan or Korea – no serious attempt is made to paper over or downplay or explain away these violent juxtapositions. No soothing political noises are made to the effect that one can have a society grounded in Confucian values that is at the same time fully integrated into a value-demolishing global economy. Tradition has not yet been reduced to an ersatz of itself in the service of modern ideologies.
This dovetails well with some cultural observations I've made myself over the years, including where Chinese capitalism seems to avoid certain Western vices while exacerbating a few others. (Glaring example: the sometimes hilarious disjunct between the concerns of modern, updated Canadian estate and family law, the product of two generations of jurisprudence from post-industrial, post-sexual-revolution liberal gweilo litigants, versus what goes on on the ground with the majority of Chinese clients of similar socioeconomic status.)
Like Solovyov, Mencius recognises that human beings have the distinction of moral feelings to separate them from animals. And Mencius’s account of the ‘four beginnings’ bear an uncanny resemblance to Solovyov’s basic moral feelings. Mencius’s ‘sense of shame’ (xiu’e zhi xin 羞惡之心) and Solovyov’s are identical. His ‘sense of compassion’ (ceyin zhi xin 惻隱之心) is directly analogous to Solovyov’s moral feeling of ‘pity’. And his ‘sense of modesty’ (cirang zhi xin 辭讓之心) is somewhat culturally-coded into a Chinese mentality, deferring honours and rewards out of a knowledge of one’s place in the social fabric, but there’s enough of an analogy within that cultural coding to be drawn to Solovyov’s feeling of ‘reverence’ to be, at the very least, interesting.

(this last one is not the best quote by a long shot. The entire thing is well worth reading.)
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
Progress is, in many ways, a modern myth and a rhetorical device by which Modernity doesn’t have to give a reasonable account for its failures. Everything’s in progress so no matter how bad we’re doing, “we’re improving.” And, as we’ll see in an article I’m working on now, everything that doesn’t agree with this is simple “like something out of the Middle Ages…” That is, able to be dismissed as not even belonging to our own time period.

This technique was used repeatedly by the colonial powers in order to justify their wholesale rape of other cultures – and continues to justify the wholesale rape of many traditional cultural values in our own land. It should rightly (and accurately) be compared to the repeated 5-year Plan justifications of the Soviets, for whom wholesale slaughter and genocide could be justified by Marxist progress. The Brave New World has almost destroyed the inhabited earth several times within the last century.


We had plagues and infections. Now we have obesity, diabetes and cancer.

We had cripples and the lame. Now we have crippling debt and the overqualified unemployable.

We had slaves that we owned and had to feed and care for. Now we have indentured workers who have no ability to exercise their theoretical choice to stop working, that we have no responsibility for and can throw away at any time - rented from no lessor.

We had soldiers who would burn down and depopulate inconvenient villages for us and send the survivors into slavery. Now we have corporations and gentrifiers who enslave first, and backhoes and law enforcement to do the rest. (Admittedly, the killing is now kept to a minimum, or at least a reasonably slow trickle.)

We used to live at the mercy of the weather and the elements, which at any time may destroy all that we hold dear. Now we live at the mercy of stock prices, market forces and the politics of government regulation.

We used to live in regular dread of famine. Now we are in danger of the entire world becoming unable to produce food and we don't feel a thing.


And now an idea for that far-future thing:
ancient alien race lives for tens of billions of years fleeing dying star after dying star, with only survival in mind. they attack earth, and capture a saint for interrogation. they torture him to death over the course of a year trying to get "the truth" out of him, about what humanity "really" is, and the result drives the torturers insane in a reverse Lovecraft scenario. someone picks up the transcripts and disseminates them to all public channels, sending ruin among the stars as the ancients destroy themselves in a nihilistic orgy of violence. we take their ships and infrastructure, learn to replicate it and use our newfound habitable planet indices and FTL travel to colonize the galaxy. we never learn how the FTL actually works and after the initial wave there is a gradual deterioration until everyone is isolated again.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
A rock-club which is supported by the church keeps its own coffin, and if a believer wishes to lie down in this coffin for a while and think about death, he is not forbidden to do so, because many Russian saints used this practice. "The main thing, you should not forget that life is wonderful," Hegumen Sergy says.
The entire linkdump will take some time to go through.


All that "Christianity is a way of life", "you need the Spirit in you", "accept Jesus into your heart" talk is, I think, incomprehensible without this framework:
Barlaamists and Barlaamizers not only are empirically ignorant of this spiritual and angelic liturgy, but they deny it, dishonor it and mock it. They completely identify worship with hymns and prayers, which they want to understand with their reason, because otherwise they don’t feel like they are praying. In other words, they are based entirely on their reason and make it absolute. The question is: if they think in and desire to pray this way, then how will they learn about the other-worldy liturgy and how will they enter into this after their death, since they are ignorant of it and fight against it now?


And more:
The Law applies in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament. The Law is not only in the Old Testament. The Law is in the New Testament as well. Why? Because it is Our tutor to bring us to Christ’. The Apostle Paul says it clearly: ‘The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ’ (Gal. 3:24). But when St Paul says Our tutor to bring us to Christ’ he does not mean, as the Lutherans and others suppose, that the Old Testament Law is a tutor to lead us to the New Testament. No. The Law leads us to the state of purification.
[the writer explicitily ties this to the Miserere further down.]

Also of note:
“Because the beginner cannot manage this, as he has not yet distinguished between the nous and the rational faculty, he sits and prays as much as he can with the rational faculty, under the guidance of his spiritual father. He prays continually until the day when, instead of praying this prayer with his rational faculty, he begins to pray it with his nous in his heart.”

The amazing thing is that, when the nous enters the heart and prays, the rational faculty is outside observing the movement of the nous.


The distinction seems very close to the rider/beast analogy I had before. And the description of the underlying problem seems to be describing the same thing with respect to each, but with a different (obviously mine inferior and more misguided) approach.


Wherein I am tempted to move out to Chilliwack so I have an excuse to go to Fr. Richard's parish on Sundays, as he points out the emperor in such majestic, priapic nakedness in this whole hideous kerfuffle:
...What I am suggesting, though, is that in our preoccupation with canonical questions about sex, we forget to ask something more essential: to what extent do our sexual behaviours manifest self-desire rather than desire for our Creator? Even if our sexual behaviour is ‘canonically approved,’ so to speak, how can St. Paul’s words to the Romans challenge us to repent of the lusts of our hearts and turn back to a love of the One who made us?

Again, this is a question we too often neglect to ask of ourselves, and our neglect continues to hinder our struggle to understand the place of sexuality in a God-centered human life. While we may win the canonical battle, we end up losing the moral war because we have lost sight of where the ‘front line’ really lies.

For instance, when dealing with unmarried people struggling with lust in its various forms, our concern tends to lie with ensuring that a person’s sexuality is ‘contained’ in a heterosexual, monogamous marriage. Once the single person finds themselves a suitable mate (we believe), their lustful urges can be safely channelled. If they were tempted to lust after sexually explicit images on the internet, they can now ‘safely’ act out with their spouse. Less often do we question whether a single person’s problem with lust might have less to do with the absence of a canonical ‘outlet’ than with a sexual identity fundamentally oriented to self-desire...
tl;dr those who accuse one side of this culture war of pharisaism have a point. But the corollary remains that Christ came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
Some contextual points on Hong Kong.
  1. Hong Kong was a fishing village on a goddamn rock when it was annexed by the British in 1842. The population grew and exploded during the 20th century as a result of a number of factors, but a huge one is the creation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). During the Chinese civil war and subsequent purging, thousands fled the violence by escaping to Hong Kong — including both sets of grandparents in my family. One was a Western car dealer in Shanghai; the other was from a landowning family. FWIW, I still have some distant relatives from the latter side in China. I have no living relatives in China on my maternal grandparents’ side. Everyone was killed.
  2. Throughout the 20th century, Hong Kong flourished, grew, and developed a distinctive culture and economy. I’m not saying everything was rosy as an English colony. I’m saying the culture and economy are real and independent from China.
  3. The events of Tiananmen may seem like they were a long time ago, and have entered history as the kind of event that’s lost its shock over time. But twenty-five years is a short time for many Hong Kongers, and Tiananmen’s outcome was far from predictable at that time. Remember that Tiananmen was only eight years before the handover. Imagine watching the coverage that summer and knowing that was to be your government soon.
  4. All of this is to give just a bit of history as to why I and many others say: Hong Kong people do not consider themselves to be the same as mainland Chinese. When I say I’m from Hong Kong, I mean that. It is not the same.


A Real Look Into The Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution.
I’ve had so many concerned friends from around the world recently message me, concerned for my safety in Hong Kong. This post is to show my dear friends, and those from around the world what its actually like here in Hong Kong at this moment.


a word from Gary Pollard
Start with this: that the parents or grandparents of almost every Hongkonger came here to escape the politics and chaos and lawlessness of mainland China.

Today, they look at a local government made up almost entirely of people chosen for their loyalty to the PRC, irrespective of their ability or their personal ethics. Almost every government minister has profound “communist” sympathies or former DAB or “leftist” connections. Some are not so “hidden” Communists. That is the only reason they are there. It feels to many Hong Kong people that they are trapped, ruled by these people. No one voted for them. When the public DID vote a prominent leftist out of the Legislative Council, the Chief Executive just appointed him to the Executive Council, which has MORE power. Screw your democracy.

That would not seem so bad if the Legislative Council could impose any restraints on the government. But too few observers understand or care that the Legislative Council is half made up of functional constituencies who are either kowtowing to Beijing or to big business. There is a split voting system where legislation must be passed both by geographically elected legislators and these special interest legislators, who are basically lobbyists. The public did not vote for them, but they can veto ANY legislation aimed at controlling the government or supporting grassroot interests.


How do protesters stay in contact with each other when the government has shut down or censored Internet and mobile networks? Simple: You don't use either.
Meet Open Garden's FireChat, the messenger app protesters in Hong Kong have been using to circumvent government attempts to prevent them from organizing by blocking social networks like Instagram. Instead of relying on a single website or government-controlled networks, FireChat uses a technology called mesh networking for its "Nearby" chat mode.


‘Against My Fear, I See That You Hope’: A Professor’s Open Letter to Her Hong Kong Students
I am inspired that you are making the student boycott your own. Earlier I had written that you were inspired by May Fourth and the awakening of social consciousness. But observing you I have come to realize that this interpretation is far too simplistic, that initial reportage did not give you enough credit for both adaptation and innovation. Some have invoked May Fourth, and some—like Longhair when he spoke to you—lectured on Gandhi and Martin Luther King. No doubt their examples have inspired you. But reading the Chinese University boycott magazines and your reportage in Ming Pao, I see that your examples are recent and cosmopolitan. You are looking to 1968 in Paris, the 2011 Chilean student boycott, and 2012 in Quebec. You self-consciously organized the preceding campus meetings to follow Quebec, to be as democratic as possible, to give each of your classmates ownership. What I thought had been naïveté was a careful imitation of a model you had identified to be successful. So, though elements of your protests may have historical roots, I salute you for seeking a new model for Hong Kong, one which—your leadership tells us—will influence student movements to come.


Things that could only happen in a Hong Kong protest
Apologising for the barricade you put up
An entrance to the Causeway Bay MTR station was barricaded and emblazoned with signs shouting out for democracy. In the middle was a small cardboard sign - also written by the protesters: "Sorry for the inconvenience."
and the "violent", "extreme" contrast.
vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
[2016-01-06 Before reading this it might be better to read Jack Monahan's "refrigerator box" essay which is much more informative.]

From the sighting and aiming discussion here a few things occur to me:


Iconic representation

Icons and all the talk about making present, etc. never made any sense to me until I saw some comment about someone watching a "cradle" Orthodox believer pray to one, and the whole exchange(!) looked like they were having a conversation with a person standing before them. At once it all clicked: the skewed perspectives of various objects, far from being a matter of failing at mere "representation", were required for the full presentation to the viewer to address specific requirements for interacting with what was portrayed on the 2-dimensional space. Things are deliberately moved aside or extended or not foreshortened, or viewed from a different angle than something right next to it, to reveal that which if you were physically there you'd be able to see with no more than a very simple, unconscious movement - the top of a book being opened, the objects on the surface of a table, the hand of a person holding a heavy object. The entire image - and each portion thereof - is made not to reproduce the mechanical light-impression of the physical presence, but as an interface.

It also explains why I've always preferred Doom and Quake's centered guns over the angled views of later FPSes: while more "realistic" in the sense that the side of the gun would be a closer approximation to what you'd see from either eye while the weapon was pressed to your shoulder but before you started looking down the sights, it permanently blocks your view of whatever is below you to your right - something you would be able to see in meatspace with minimal effort by as little as a slight turn of the head, an action that probably should not deserve its own keybind.

As applied to my so-called "realism" Doom mod, unlike most shooters with such aspirations I keep the crosshair rather than sights - which crosshairs, as crude approximations of sight pictures, only (but always and automatically) appear wherever looking down the sights would be an option in another game. The weapon sprite itself is kept as out of the way as would remain faithful to the original aesthetic. No more than movement of the eyes, or at most a slight turn of your avatar's direction to move either sprite or crosshair out of the way, is required to look around. The ultimate result is a double view of your weapon with a large gap in between that you would never see in real life, but which allows the viewer to extract information with no more effort or artifice than if the object had been physically present in the viewer's own equivalent space.


The "drone effect"

Which takes us to the next great hazard in "realistic" first-person shooting. You have a mouse and keyboard. This gets rambly fast. )
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
The best stupid pun ever.

But I don’t want to stop there. There a few deeper and more mysterious applications of this. The Lamb slain at the foundation of the world as a type of evolution.

That said, another, biologically more, philosophically less cf. colonials: more* ambitious take on the Nth Men story.
(Also he has thought out giant spiders :O :O :O||||~)


*2014-08-21 EDIT: The more I think about it, the more I think Bogleech is right. This is better in every way: humane where MAM was profoundly misanthropic, humble where F&LM was arrogant and certain, hopeful even in death where MAM and F&LM are ambivalent. This is what science fiction ought to be.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
An Orthodox Christian Exposition of Islam
Truly il miglior fabbro, compared to my shoddy attempts at conveying the comparison.

tl;dr if you take Orthodox Christianity and replace the guts with all the guts that were rejected by Orthodoxy, while keeping all the trappings of Orthodoxy that aren't directly contradictory to the newly implanted theology (e.g. icons versus wholly transcendent, never-incarnate God), you basically end up with Islam.

A good deal of Protestantism (including what I've rejected in the past) goes the same way with the same replacements, but inherits radically different trappings. If Orthodoxy is Wolfenstein and Calvinism is Doom, then Islam is Map31 - old look and feel, new engine. (The analogy breaks down, obviously, when the "new engine" is the one with less features, functions and versatility.)

(That said, it's definitely worth a read if you have any interest at all in either Christianity or Islam. Also the reference to the Christian God as Allah in the end is, intentionally or not and at least to the eyes of this Western-raised near-English-monoglot, a brilliant inversion of the technique used in the Beatles' "My Sweet Lord". [2014-07-21 Prompted to re-read b/c of this. Definitely intentional given the progression from "God/Allah" to "Allah" alone.])

It occurs to me that one of the big rebuttals to the Protestant argument about the "fall of the church" also applies here: how did two movements so removed from each other in space, culture and time end up with such similar, independently arrived at conclusions, unless there was some kind of truth to it? But the analogy stops there: the "fall of the church" usually is in reference to preceived additions - Trinity, icons, liturgical tradition - but what we're looking at here is deletion in a sincere attempt to fit everything into a rational, logical order.

- The Trinity contradicts itself and borders on polytheism, so let's remove it. It is beneath God to come down to Earth as one of us human scum. (In Islam from the start; eventually you get more unitarian groups from the Protestant tradition)
- This old verse says no graven images, so let's get rid of all images.
- We need to standardize everything, so let's make "The Book" binding (no pun intended) so that everyone's reading the exact same law-reduced-to-writing and everything not in that book is treated as hearsay and optional, unreliable apocrypha.
- The wrathful, vengeful God of the Hebrews looks all wussied up in the New Testament, so that is clearly a later deviation. Let's go back to being sinners in the hands of an angry God.
- If God is all that is good, then things are only good because God wills it to be good. Therefore, any "moral compass" we may have in our hearts is only a temptation and a passion.
- The last 3 points, if taken without a deep underlying faith in the starting assumption of a loving God, strongly imply that we need to be as harsh and unforgiving as possible, to be maximally true to God's divine image. (cf. Westboro; Taliban every sharia jurisdiction that isn't actively trying to soften its image for some material or political gain/survival)



(also new tag for Christianity-related posts)
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
Missionary Secrets 5: How to fruitfully insult the Prophet, or: what every proselytizer in a traditionally Christian-privileged country will get wrong if they don't go out of their way to try to get around this problem.
First, you need to earn the right to be heard. Say you're in Cairo, for instance. Demonstrate a knowledge of the history of the place. Show that you know a lot about Egypt and the people there. And this is the hard part: you actually need to really know this stuff. You really need to know about Chalcedon and arrival of Arab Imperialism (ie, Islam) and the Fatimids an Mamlukes an so on. You need to show that you know about the contemporary challenges faced by Cairenes: that Egypt imports more than 50% of its wheat, that the currency has become very weak, and so on. You also need to show that you know more about the Qur'an and Islam than your hearer. Not in a pompous, bossy way of course. Finally, you need to be able to do all of this by mostly asking questions and (really) listening to their answers (and really caring about what they say--there is no substitute for sincerity).


And seeing something like this from a missionary in public is surprisingly inspiring. We are saved in our weakness but too often do everything in our power not to boast of it.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
A perspective, for those of us who have long looked from outside and been baffled:
For non-Roman Catholics, it is almost impossible to comprehend the attachment a Catholic has for the Papacy and our reaction was highly defensive. In the past, when we came across serious works of history which contradicted the Roman Catholic position, we were skeptical and if we found that the author was Protestant, or the book came from a Protestant publishing house, it was given scant attention and if it contradicted a dogmatic belief it was dismissed immediately. Only Roman Catholic historians have a pure line to objectivity, especially when it concerns articles of faith. This is what Catholics are taught and it is this belief that will keep their faith inviolate. This teaching is best exemplified by Pope Leo XIII in his celebrated Letter to the Prelates and Clergy of France (September 8th, 1899). While encouraging them to the study of history he reminds Those who study it must never lose sight of the fact that it contains a collection of dogmatic facts, which impose themselves upon our faith, and which nobody is ever permitted to call in doubt. Cardinal Manning of England is even more blunt, The appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the divine voice of the Church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be divine. 10 At another time Cardinal Manning wrote, The appeal from the living voice of the Church to any tribunal whatsoever, human history included, is an act of private judgment and a treason because that living voice is supreme; and to appeal from that supreme voice is also a heresy because that voice by divine assistance is infallible.



An important treatise on how to make friends and influence people.
The distinction between customs and crimes has special relevance to female genital cutting (FGC), also known as female genital mutilation (FGM), the preferred term of advocates. For several years now, the age-old practice of “purifying” girls by excising some portion of their external genitalia has been a serious concern of NGOs, the United Nations and some governments around the world. Laws have been passed against FGC, and messaging campaigns have sought to educate the public about its many ill effects. But these efforts have not eradicated the custom. On the contrary, they have tended to further entrench it, because traditionally minded people concerned about external threats to their corporate identity do not like having alien elites meddle with what is sacred to them.

What has worked is an unusual NGO called Tostan, which means “breakthrough” in Wolof, the predominant language of Senegal. Tostan began in a few rural Senegalese villages in 1991, and now runs additional adult education programs in Djibouti, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Somalia and Gambia. Tostan was not founded for the purpose of ending FGC, but rather as a way to provide “informal education” to a population ill served by the formal schooling provided by most African governments. That schooling is authoritarian in spirit, based on rote learning and focused on preparing a small elite for university entrance exams.

Based in the villages, the Tostan program is rigorous. Students (called “participants”) are required to attend three classes each week for three years. Teachers (called “facilitators”) must be from same ethnic group as the participants. The method is to use local folk crafts and storytelling to impart practical information about agricultural methods, health and hygiene, and the management of money. When the participants graduate, they are numerate, literate in their own language, and eager to use their new skills to tackle old problems. Today, Tostan is best known for its extraordinary success in ending FGC. To date, the organization has been instrumental in the decision of 6,778 communities in eight African countries to abandon the practice. But as noted earlier, this was not Tostan’s original purpose, and the organization did not achieve it by staging mediagenic events or shouting from a public rostrum.

...

[Tostan founder Molly] Melching first encountered FGC in 1975 while visiting eastern Mauritania with a friend who had grown up in a small village there. During that visit, she met a local doctor who confided to her that he opposed “the tradition” but could not change the minds of his wife and mother, both of whom were intent upon cutting his daughter. Thus did Melching, after only one year in Africa, gain a sense of how hard it is to change a deeply ingrained custom. If a girl’s own father cannot keep her from being cut, what chance does an outsider have?
They did this not by degrading their former shaman based faith but by showing them that Christianity was the fulfillment of that faith.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
Tempted to add, or at least reference, this in the Aornos setting.

That all said, a second opinion about that 3WC guy. tl;dr he's a dirty sodomite that "rape is legal in this sci-fi utopia" thing actually wasn't some super-meta take on patriarchy, nor the "true ending" to 3WC merely a reconsideration of the Confessor as an individual character, but what those things look like on a more obvious level.

A potentially helpful guide as to when a rape analogy might not be wholly inappropriate.

So with that in mind: "The most basic, most rudimentary spiritual need of the Russian people is the need for suffering, ever-present and unquenchable, everywhere and in everything."

---

And now, more RPG ideas so this isn't purely a linkdump.

"Alignment" system based on species' Fundamental Narrative.

Winnowing; Cummunion; __________

I propose Dialectic, but only for the purposes of the system for now. NB: this also posits humanity as the honour-obsessed tribal warrior race.

The D fundamental narrative in a nutshell: 2 opposing sides accumulate resources and merit. Resources is wholly abstract and includes numbers of individuals allied with a side as well as merit of otherwise equivalent resources. Our entire moral system is based on the honour bestowed upon the side that wins.

The fundamental assumption is that merit and resources are connected.

Evo-psych explanation: Fighting between groups over resources and territory has been the fundamental struggle of almost all our evolution.

Because of the impossibility of instant communication within a group, and the historical inefficiency of constantly dedicating and sacrificing numerous individuals in long-term processing of possibilities (cf. ants), we have required each group to develop a "head" to coordinate it. The coordination takes place through arbitrary tribal displays which became increasingly complex over time in an arms race against fraud and espionage. This is further complicated by a layer of pack-based system of mating and family groups.

Classified guide for deep-space agents: When dealing with the ones with the fleshy heads on stalks, please remember the following basic rules:
  • Do not ask a question directly any manner of direct question to which the human is privy, whether asked directly of the human or not, if the human did not initiate the contact to tell you the answer. A question must be couched in at least 2-3 key points of indirect phrasing to sufficiently distract their thoughts before the combat instinct kicks in and your query is responded to as an honour-challenge. Simple methods include using a descriptive phrase in place of a noun, or "baby-talk" avoidance of a pronoun, as well as turning the question into a meta-statement about how you feel about the issue at hand.
  • When a human accuses you of some terrible non-specific violence, it may be a simple figure of speech congratulating you for something you did well or they otherwise enjoyed watching. They do not mean any offence, but may take offence if they notice you cringing at their well-intentioned compliment (they are surprisingly good at reading normal body language even though they claim to rely greatly on their peculiar eye- and mouth-flaps and headstalk-waving).
  • If attempting to capture a human ship, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, SURROUND IT WITH OVERWHELMING FORCES AND ATTEMPT TO NEGOTIATE USING REASON. A statement that there is no rational alternative but surrender has a special meaning in their honour code as a licence to fight to the death of every living being in the area (cf. the catastrophic Galaga siege). Disable the ship by stealth and isolate unarmed crew members (risky - "the only unarmed human has had their arms cut off") or cargo (less effective - there have been cases where humans have jettisoned high-value cargo because of some thing or other triggered in their honour code) to use as hostages or bait.
  • If captured by multiple humans wearing non-matching colours, try to get one of them to state out loud a very specific means that is the best means of killing you, or even better, our entire people. This is extremely counterintuitive but many of our best agents swear by it: such a statement, once heard, is inadvertently accepted as a challenge, they will fight each other over which method is the best and you can escape in the confusion.
  • Do not let them see your fear. Humans have unfortunately assumed a deeply-ingrained fear response to the appearance of our own fear-response displays. Which would seem relatively harmless, except that, having evolved as a slow-moving apex-predator opportunistic scavenger, their fear response is attack.
  • Use the name they give you, however unpronounceable. Humans routinely slaughter people over perceived slights respecting names, killing human, myconian, aerealine, spacer, prosophosid or otherwise indiscriminately.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
I was not aware of this. tl;dr brown Aragorn is canon, God said it, I believe it, end of story


Ask versus Guess culture. (h/t [personal profile] conuly)
More judgmental commentary here. Given I had reblogged this with the tags "shame culture" and "guilt culture" I will admit I agree with this commentary.


one tab
the immediately following tab
Totally unintended.


Day 1 – I got a haircut today. It’s a lot shorter now but not working class short, not army short. Back at home, Sarah said that she liked it, that she could see herself playfully gripping tufts of my hair during sex. I said, “Why don’t we test that hypothesis?” and she obliged. God, I love her so much. If anything were to happen to her, I swear…

Day 2 – Sarah’s dead.


overlooked D&D monsters.
Also his comic (arbitrary example) is my Best Thing Ever of the whole week. (It really is.) (seriously.)


[personal profile] helarxe, I would be surprised to learn you had no part in the making of at least one of these alien races.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
[The implicit setting is from my own private attempts to reboot the Avernum setting with closer attention to the details of living in a magically-powered cave ecosystem. I might post some of that here in the future. This particular post, however, is the direct result of trying to think of an analogy about reading texts free of the context of the traditions they were written within. Source text is this recipe for lemon pound cake.]

Milk is unusual and, shall we say, an acquired taste. The pig has just started farrowing and the wooly rats were recently shorn, so let's go with the pig; it would take quite some time to get an entire cup, though, we may need to get the dog in on this. Postscriptum: the dog was not cooperative. )
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
We Don't Go There At Night
Rules & Guidelines:
  1. The story text should be the only text in your comic.
  2. Use the text any way you like.
  3. Your comic can be as long or as short as you choose, in any medium, on any subject.
  4. Your comic must be spooky.


The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang
We don’t normally think of it as such, but writing is a technology, which means that a literate person is someone whose thought processes are technologically mediated. We became cognitive cyborgs as soon as we became fluent readers, and the consequences of that were profound.
A thing that needs to be read. Fiction, if I recall.



Eating indigenously changes diets and lives of Native Americans
History and health came together one dark November evening for Marty Reinhardt at Northern Michigan University.

Reinhardt, a professor in the Native American Studies program, was helping to serve up fry bread, Indian tacos and other offerings at the annual First Nations Food Taster, a fund-raising event for the Native American Student Association, when he had an epiphany: “Would my ancestors even recognize this as food?”

Much has changed between Reinhardt and his ancestors. Indians have long since been removed to reservations, and diets based on seasonal hunting, fishing, gathering and gardening have been replaced by government-supplied commodity foods. Indians have suffered a crisis in diet-related obesity and health issues.

These disparate threads converged that evening in the Lake Superior port city of Marquette, Mich., as Reinhardt, of Anishinaabe Ojibway heritage, turned his question inside out, “I wondered if I could eat what my ancestors ate.”

The spark of curiosity soon evolved into a formal, university-sanctioned research study, the Decolonizing Diet Project — a year-long challenge to eat only foods that were in the Great Lakes region before 1602. The initial food challenge ended in March but the research into indigenous diet continues.
I remember during one of those days on campus in September where various clubs had their stands and one of them was the First Nations Law club and they were giving out free fry bread. I remember quietly politely accepting, but being less than impressed in the end and wondering what had been lost. The memory of that flavour is vivid, as is my post-dinner memory of my mother's very Chinese, very good cooking, and it is that contrast that makes me pay so much greater attention to this article.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
And [personal profile] helarxe breaks his long silence with of all things.

Incidentally, on notes of such monstrosities, while I've spent the week demanding in vain a proof of the apostolic succession, whatever line of thinking got an outspoken adherent to this kind of insight from someone who is not immediately in that situation himself is to be presumed not to be all that egregiously founded on falsehood.

Incidentally, on what to be when grown up.


While contemplating the theology of the Passion versus the assumptions of patriarchal privilege, an idea for a horrible, equally possibly blasphemous and important depiction occurred to me. Here is some discussion about that. The real discussion is actually in the comments and the article itself can be skipped if you read those.
(Ultimately the idea was decided against, as there was no way to ensure a non-prurient motive)


"Taking this into account, the authors revise the family tree of jawed vertebrates, showing that there is a serious possibility that the modern bony visage originated with E. primordialis’s ancestors. This would mean that humans look more like the last common ancestor of living jawed vertebrates than we thought, and that sharks are less primitive than palaeontologists assumed, having done away with their bones as an adaptation."


That's some strong pale fire right there. tl;dr Jane Chance gives the L.R. the same sort of postmodern, use-the-book-it-shouldn't-use-you-who-is-the-master, death-of-the-author "analysis" that I was taught in high school and undergrad. I bought into that sort of stuff hook line and sinker back then, managed to get As without reading more than 1/4 of any of the books (if even that).

For entertainment's sake, a more liberal (mostly in the sense of "liberally applied") evisceration here (although this writer misses the whole problem with the other book).


Stop the presses, I'm getting off.


All that the malice and atheism of the Dragon, the cruelty and rapacity of the Beast, and the fraud and deceit of the false Prophet can generate, or accomplish, swell the the list. No personal or national interest of man has been uninvaded; no impious sentiment or action has been spared...Shall we, my brethren, become partakers of these sins? Shall we introduce them into our government, our schools, our families? Shall our sons become the disciples of Voltaire, and the dragoons of Marat; or our daughters, the concubines of the Illuminati?


In a word, yes.

I know this

if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.

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