Thursday, December 24, 2009

Atonement and learning

I don't know what I can say to begin to atone for what I've done, the things I've said, how thoughtless I've been. I didn't realize how badly you hurt, all because of me. You don't have any reason to believe me when I say I never wanted to hurt you. You may never forgive me for what I said that night, when I didn't realize what I was saying. It was so thoughtless it doesn't matter if I meant it or not, the injury was all the same. And everything prior to that, when you already had enough of my insubstantial troubles, when I was so neglecting your feelings by pining for someone else, while you were right there, all along. Your patience and forgiveness have been pushed to their limits, and it's far more than I could have ever asked for.

And even now as you show your kindness yet again, I begin to doubt that I can ever truly forgive myself. I'm trying. I'm trying to move on. I'm trying to leave her be, in life and in mind, trying to appreciate what I have now. The fact that I so badly jeopardized what we had, and was so oblivious to your pain... I know you hate promises, so I'll try instead. I can never make it up to you, but I'll try. I'm not even sure I can say I'm a good person, but I'm trying.

I just can't believe I didn't know all this before. I can't believe I actually had to learn it, and now of all times. I am learning though. I may be a complete idiot, but I can still learn. How could I not after all I've put you through? After having it hammered home so thoroughly, there's no more illusions, no more fantasies, no more games. I'm trying to appreciate what we really have, here, now. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. I've said that before, but it's more pressing than ever, to the point where every waking moment I fear that I've lost you. This will be bearing down on me for some time, no matter what happens, I imagine. Oh God... I'm sorry.

It's only been a few days, but I miss you more than ever. I want to see you again. I'm not sure I can hold back the tears when that happens. I don't want to hurt you anymore. I don't want to lose you.

You're my best friend, Xiaohuan.

I love you.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cthulhu fhtagn

He may be a fictional entity, but the Great Priest Cthulhu still has a far-reaching hold on many in the gaming culture. The nerdier you are, the more likely you are to know who Cthulhu and Yog-sothoth and Dagon are. Which is pretty much the reason I know all about them.

In case you didn't know, I have the habit of maintaining an obsession over a particular subject or activity which leads to me knowing it inside and out, before I lose interest and promptly drop it for something else, while retaining some encyclopedic knowledge. When I was a kid these things would include the Marx Brothers, dinosaurs, the Titanic, and Monty Python. More recently I've been fixated on Halo, zombies, Fable, and currently the Cthulhu Mythos. That's why just about every other thing I've had in my mind for the past week or so has in some way been Cthulhu-related.

For those fortunate enough to be ignorant of the mind-twisting horror of the Mythos, Cthulhu is a fictitious ancient alien creature locked away in a city at the bottom of the ocean, psychically influencing humans on the surface to do his bidding and hasten his return so that he may bring about his reign of madness on the earth. Maybe you've seen depictions of his distinctive appearance: a colossal humanoid creature with a scale-coated body, talons, giant non-functional wings, and a head resembling an octopus. He's mentioned in many of H.P. Lovecraft's short stories, and is the subject of the story "The Call of Cthulhu". Lovecraft's work is typically classified as "cosmic horror", a genre of horror that focuses on sources of terror on a universal scale. The basic idea is that the universe itself is alien and apathetic, humanity is insignificant in light of this, and there are creatures greater than ourselves in both knowledge and power whose scope, scale, and form would drive any of us insane if we were to catch a glimpse of them. Essentially there is nothing anyone could do when confronted by this truth except try to maintain one's composure, since human science and abilities pale in comparison to the awesome power of these alien horrors. It's a genuinely unsettling notion and makes for some great fiction.

Although Lovecraft's stories in of themselves may not be for everyone. At first I had a great deal of trouble trying to follow what he was even saying. His writing style is dense and almost archaic, and he spends a great deal of time on detailing the environment. This would be fine if Lovecraft did not have a thing for describing New England architecture in very extensive detail. I'm still not exactly sure what's supposed to be horrifying about urban decay or the insanity of the dreaded Cyclopean masonry. How exactly is an angle maddening? The stories themselves are almost always the same, too. A bourgeois, aristocratic, rational, Anglo-Saxon man is traveling through New England for completely mundane reasons, such as collecting an inheritance or sightseeing (architecture of course); the man then comes across a terrible, dark, and ancient truth underlying the whole of human existence; thus he goes insane. That's it. I dunno, it still works oftentimes.

Oh, and Lovecraft himself was a racist. Yeah, it's kind of obvious in his work too. For instance, Lovecraft describes the mad cultists in "The Call of Cthulhu" as "men of a very low, mixed-blooded, and mentally aberrant type", since being half-black is somehow supposed to be a mental detriment in this case. And in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" many characters attribute the horrible biological degeneration of the Innsmouth townsfolk as being the result of mixed blood from Asia or the South Pacific. He also had antisemitic beliefs, which is odd considering he married a woman of Ukrainian-Jewish ancestry. His racial hatred dimmed somewhat as he became more well-rounded in his travels interacting with people of different ethnic backgrounds, but he was still a bastard.

Anyway, the themes that lend to his horror stories still have a great deal of influence to the point where many consider Lovecraft to be the most influential horror writer of the 20th century, which is probably justified. I'd recommend anyone to give it a look. The fear of the unknown and unknowable is certainly more effective and memorable than the excuses for "horror" that are modern slasher films. And some of the creatures portrayed in Lovecraft's stories are in of themselves genuinely terrifying. Ever hear tell of a shoggoth?

These are the kinds of themes I keep in mind when trying (or trying to try) to write my own stories, although not necessarily featuring alien monsters. But the kind of maltheism that appears in his work still intrigues me, which is a main theme in the series I'm working on, if I ever get around to doing it.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, gaming. Somehow the Cthulhu Mythos managed to gain a footing in the world of role-playing, since there actually is a Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, which I intend to get, if the gaming company that makes it will get around to accepting my orders. I've even gone so far as to get specially crafted glow-in-the-dark Cthulhu Mythos polyhedral dice, complete with an Elder Sign on one side of each die. That's right. Cthulhu d20. I went there.

For the time being though, I've been fixated on this one bit of Cthulhu gaming which has been taking up more of my time than it ought to, and that is Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, for the Xbox. As far as I know, this is the first and only attempt at an adaptation of Cthulhu literature into a video game. In case it wasn't obvious, it plays like a survival horror game, with limited puzzle-solving and shooter gameplay elements. Despite the title, it's more of an adaptation of "The Shadow over Innsmouth" than anything, although it makes references to several other works, including "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Shadow Out of Time", and "The Rats in the Walls". The fact that it's Cthulhu-inspired is reason enough to get a hold of a copy, and it's not really that bad. It certainly has kept my attention, hasn't it?

But I do have problems with it, and more than the common bugs and glitches associated with playing an old Xbox game on a 360 (I should get one of the original consoles for these purposes). I guess the game would have been better if there were more resources put into it. It was made by a small company called Headfirst Productions that went bankrupt while it was still working on the second in a planned trilogy of Cthulhu games. It's actually pretty ambitious for such a small company to try something like this, an M-rated survival-horror with profanity and a great deal of blood and gore, and a lot of people were probably hoping this would be a really good game. I'd support any kind of effort to make another Lovecraftian video game adaptation a reality.

As for Dark Corners, I've been thinking of reviewing it, since I have yet to find a satisfactory review or playthrough of it. Sure, there are videos of how to play through the basics, but nothing very amusing for someone like me who thrives on video entertainment, especially when related to games. I'd definitely like to review it in the form of a video, but I don't know how to record video game footage and I'm not sure I'd have the resources to record and edit a lengthy video review of the entire game. But it's something I'd really like to do if anyone could point me in the right direction. If I can't do that, I could always do a text review. Not that I'd find that satisfactory. I think this little niche of gaming deserves something more substantial and entertaining.

In the meantime I'll wait for those damn dice.

I'a Cthulhu! I'a Dagon!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Is it possible?

Could it be that I've been overstating my faults and keeping myself down needlessly? Do I really have some kind of personal appeal? To be honest I seriously have to ask myself this since the concept of actually being likable is fairly new to me. Ever since all that bullshit I went through in high school I felt like the same factors were making any semblance of contentment impossible. But now it seems like I might have a shot at what in my mind is a "normal life".

From what I can tell, I should be accepting the quirks and problems that I've developed in my social life and making them more of a part of my personality, which oddly enough is not necessarily incompatible with making and keeping friends. I'm still unbelievably awkward and fairly oblivious to what would be considered appropriate when trying to engage in social activity (even for things like talking), but I'm amazed to find there are actually people who are willing to accept that as part of who I am. It's hard a lot of the time, but I shouldn't be so pessimistic or neurotic.

I just have to try and take more chances. Evidently it's not as risky as I thought.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Possible blog redemption

Obviously enough this blog has kind of fallen over the edge of the earth in terms of the amount of time and energy I put into it. Even now I'm too busy to be writing anything of length, and this post in of itself is distracting me from something I need to be doing right now.

But after that I might be able to put some more time into writing my thoughts and ideas here, since a lack of expression in of itself has been terminating any meaningful thought and making it harder to think of things in a positive light.

So among the things I'm thinking of doing once I have time, there's the Doodlemastery Bible School (Christ, we're not even past the third chapter, are we?), some text reviews of either a couple video games or that dvd I mentioned in late August (I think), and some ideas for stories I've been turning about it my head. Being Lovecraftian horror stories, they may not be what people would like to read or think about, but whatever.

In the meantime I'll be doing my best not to lose my damn mind. It's bad enough that I have to write a paper by the end of the week, but adding on that social problems, both perceived and actual, it becomes neigh unbearable. I'm hardly making any progress overcoming my social anxieties and improving my social skills. I almost feel as if I ought to ask for one of those service programs for the mentally challenged, not as a volunteer but as one of those people who need help. If I don't seem like that kind of person, you have no idea.

Why couldn't we have gone on talking about TV shows forever?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'm confused, and I'm still a slacker.

Why do I have to be so infatuated? It's been going through my mind for over a year now, and I haven't made any real progress one way or the other. I guess I'm just not cut out for this sort of thing. Everything is too complicated for me to manage well. I don't even know what I really want anymore. Maybe I should have been true to my word and focused on academics. But then academics don't occupy my thoughts every other minute of every day. I almost hate to admit to being so tethered to it, but I can't avoid it if it's so persistent in my life. I'm in love and I don't know what to do about it.

I can't even begin to write how much this has affected me, so I'm just going to drown those thoughts in homework and Youtube videos for several hours. I might be too awkward to say it any other way, but I wish you the best.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Smile paradox

I'm told that smiling is attractive and one should smile often.

However I'm also told that faking a smile is obvious to most and is unattractive.

So what happens if you have no reason to smile and if you do have reason to smile you can't do so naturally?

Awkwardness ensues. Yeah...

It's hard to explain. I want to smile and every so often I'll have good reason to, but even then smiling doesn't come naturally. Involuntary expression is fleeting with me; usually it only occurs when I'm laughing or crying. Sometimes I'll smile if I feel so awkward that I don't know what to say except that I'm really happy to be there (which I can never bring myself to say). But all too often if I'm genuinely being nice to someone, I can't bring myself to smile without doing so consciously, as though I'm acting when I'm actually just trying to express what I really feel.

The fact that I can't interpret others well doesn't help either. I can usually tell when someone really doesn't want to be around me, but I really, really don't know when someone wants to be near me or hear what I have to say, unless they actively engage in conversation. When it comes to more heartfelt matters, this can be incredibly painful...

No matter what course of action I take, I'm always the sucker. I can't win except by chance.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm still a slacker

Well, maybe not academically. But obviously enough I haven't been keeping up with my promise to maintain daily posting and weekly Bible reviews. These past few days have been busier than I would have thought, mostly with readings that consume more time than I was prepared to lend to study time. But my priorities are set, so unfortunately the blog comes second (or third if you want to count extracurricular activities and stuff). That being said, I'm much happier here than I was at home, where I had no prospects for independence or a social life. At the very least I'm trying to keep up with work and other responsibilities.

I'll try to make it up to the readers though, however few readers there are. I'll cover more Bible chapters in my reviews from here on out (more than one per week). Since I missed a review this week, I'll cover the next two chapters in Genesis this coming Sunday. We need learned Bible-readers, after all.

I'm also glad to say that the secularist group is finally coming together, in the form of the United Secularist Students. After getting the necessary signatures we'll be able to take part in Activities Night next Monday. So if you're a Dickinson College student and you're reading this, show your support for promoting science and reason by signing up for the USS. You may be hearing more of our activities here too.

So... yeah. I'm still busy even now as it's approaching midnight, and since this connection still sucks and will only sometimes connect to Facebook, I won't be able to post this as a link on Facebook until tomorrow. Also I have a job interview tomorrow, so hopefully that goes well.

Later peeps.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Too excited

I'm going back to college tomorrow, and I couldn't be happier or more nervous about it. I hope I can sleep tonight, but there's just so much to think about. Some random blips:

I'm so glad to be able to see everyone again, even though I didn't take the initiative in socializing much last year. So many familiar faces, so much prospect. Although I'm still nervous and inwardly awkward as all hell. I know academics are my first priority, but still, I'm excited about actually having a life this year :)

My Chinese is nowhere near as good as it should be. I didn't catch up far enough, but I've made progress. I think I got the hang of practicing so I should be able to catch up this year. Hopefully I'll do well enough to study abroad (in China, if that wasn't obvious enough).

I wanted a comfy chair and better clothes in time for the first few days :( Still, I can get those things myself sooner or later, and I've got my own room now, and all the advantages that come with it.

My blog posts have been lagging behind. I'm going to get up to speed on that regardless of how busy it gets in the near future. Expect another Genesis reading this weekend. We'll learn all about the Fall. Joy of joys. (It is actually fun to write these reviews.)

I'm living on the third floor. O_O I should have checked if there was an elevator. Either way I hope the check-in help is willing to do some heavy lifting.

Very befuddled at the moment, but that's to be expected when you're excited. I can't wait to see everyone again.

See you guys soon! :D

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

John Carpenter's "The Thing" makes a lot more sense now...

I'll never question why they had flamethrowers at an Antarctic research station anymore. I know why we'd need one here.

I just got home from the shore, and there wasn't a lot of food in the upstairs fridge, so I went to get some chicken wings out of the basement freezer. This proved to be a problem. The freezer door was frozen shut. I had to keep jerking at the handle until the door popped open, spilling ice everywhere, and I don't mean ice cubes. I mean the freezer was lined with a sheet of dripped ice. Somehow a lot of water had gotten into the freezer interior and covered everything inside. The bags of frozen vegetables had globs of ice clinging to them, and the boxes of wings and potato skins had been encased in ice. Thankfully the wings were at the bottom and didn't get a lot of the ice on the box itself, but that meant having to chisel my way through the rest of the boxes on top. And I did not want to cut myself on a sheet of ice.

That explains the flamethrowers. This is what I have to deal with here, indoors, in New Jersey, during the summer. Imagine what they'd have to deal with at the bottom of the fucking planet.

Well the wings and potato skins are in a better freezer now, so they should be good for later. I have to keep this scenario in mind when I'm getting a mini-fridge for my dorm room. Last year our fridge was really more of a freezer, and we could never get the dial at the right temperature. That meant any ice cream that was put in there would either turn into what looked like freezer-burned pineapples (it was actually cookie dough), or it would melt instantly and seep through the container. And ice cream soup is not as good as some would claim it is. So I'll be sure to get something more suitable for lots of Stewart's root beer and, on occasion, ice cream.

Or I could get a flamethrower.

"Dammit, Childs, torch it!"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Still more personal uncertainty.

These last few days, the procrastination dial has been turned way up. I haven't even been responsible enough to keep studying Chinese, which I actually like doing. At least I know how I'm going to keep up on class material from now on. I've got to get my act together and actually live up to the "student" status I claim to have. This is especially true if I'm going to study in China next year. My GPA isn't good enough right now, so I really need to start getting A's, something I'm not at all accustomed to.

And this is most probably going to be especially difficult since I'm taking four classes again instead of three, not including the phys-ed course I finally managed to sign up for in one block this semester. Two of the other classes are pretty much variations of my Chinese studies, one being International Relations, and the other simply being US/China Relations. I'm hoping this actually leads somewhere, since it's the first legitimate interest I've shown in an actual field of study.

The fourth class is an anthropology class about female sexuality, because I feel as though I ought to be more knowledgeable in something I've been raised to be completely ignorant of. Really, when you're raised in a conservative Catholic household - where sexuality is a focal point of guilt, and where the epitome of female virtue is an obedient, subservient virgin whose greatest achievement is humbly allowing a sky god to impregnate her - you'll soon realize you know absolutely nothing about human nature in general, much less complex issues of sexuality. I also have a personal reason for trying to learn about this. Like I said before, I didn't learn anything worthwhile about my own sexuality or that of others when I grew up, to the point where I was misinformed into believing that homosexuality was a mental disorder. And my own lack of personal intuition ensures that I can't figure out anything on my own. I need resources and experience, and since the latter is sorely lacking, I'm hoping I'll have access to more of the former.

I really have no clue where my studies are leading me. I'm just hoping something can get through to me to get some idea of what I'm going to do with my life. East Asian studies sounds interesting and meaningful enough, so I'm going for it.

As for my social life... I know that for me it's not as simple as pursuing my work and letting the rest unfold itself, but I have to set my priorities. And my first priority is my academics. I do hope something good comes about in the meantime.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Doodlemastery Bible School: Part 2: God's Image = dirt

"If you're descended from monkeys, does that make you think you can act like one?"

No, the truth is much more hopeful. You see, our Lord God saw fit to craft us from dirt. Which means we should act like... dirt... human... things... with ghosts...

Yeah, I'm not sure how anyone can go through their whole lives and not notice that loop in logic. And also never care to learn the difference between monkeys and apes. Just to make it simple: monkey -> tail; ape -> no tail. Not to mention the denial of our nature as apes. Being an animal biologically does not imply anything about our behavior, no more than a cheetah can be expected to be a house cat.

Now with that little bit of ignorance out of the way, let's resume our reading with Genesis, Chapter 2.

So the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the furniture in them. (Genesis 2:1)

God's done some remodeling. The last time we saw creation it was an empty world that was somehow full of water at the same time.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work he had done.

And he blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (2:2-3)

This is the only time I've ever seen anyone create a holiday for not doing anything. How exactly can a celestial being "rest"? Does that just mean he refrained from doing anything? What about sustaining existence through his willpower? If that's not considered an action, then neither is creating anything since it's all done the same way, with God willing it to happen. And by that same token everything that ever happens is a direct result of God's will, so he's responsible for everything. That will be important to remember for later. Very, very important.

These are the generations of the heaven and the earth, when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the heaven and the earth: (2:4)

Right off the bat we have a contradiction with Chapter 1. Right there, clear as daylight, it says that God created the heavens and the earth in a day. A single day. And it's on that day that he does all the things that follow in this chapter. Even though just a few verses ago we had this whole spiel about the six days of creation. Chapter 2 even begins by saying that God finished creation on the seventh day. This sounds a lot like two creations myths smashed together with a few verses left in the second chapter. Seamless transition, isn't it? Maybe I'm being too harsh. Let's see what else the chapter has to add to the account of our creation.

And every plant of the field before it sprung up in the earth, and every herb of the ground before it grew: for the Lord God had not rained upon the earth and there was not a man to till the earth. (2:5)

Apparently this is before God invented rain. He just held the water vapor up in our atmosphere with his magical firmament. I suppose that's easy for a theist to accept. The guy is God, after all. And good job pointing out that humankind predates agriculture. Even though agriculture also predates this creation myth, by a couple dozen thousand years.

But a spring rose out of the earth, and watering all the surface of the earth. (2:6)

In a more interesting creation myth, this is where the earth's water would break and the earth would have birth pangs before giving birth to the first life or a god warrior or some crazy shit like that. Amazingly what we get instead is even more distasteful than birth metaphors.

And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (2:7)

Ewww. Our first ancestors were made from slime? Say what you will about the human body and its reproductive system, making human beings out of slime from the riverside is pretty damn disgusting. Why did God see fit to craft us out of this naturally occurring smegma? He could have just, you know, conjured us up out of nothing. He did the same thing for the rest of creation, so why the all-natural sculpting all of a sudden? Why did he reserve this treatment for a species supposedly created in his image, complete with an immortal soul? You could say that this is God's way of making something partially divine out of something as simple as clay, but if God were said to have made us out of stardust would the interpretation have any different result? It's like the Barnum Effect. You could say anything about the way we were created and interpret it into something beautiful if you really want it to be.

Or you could interpret it into something that views humanity as being the equivalent of dirt, which some guilt-driven individuals would have no problem with.

And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed. (2:8)

Oooo, a paradise of pleasure? Ah not so fast, hedonists, no such luck in a story like this. There's nothing in this text that suggests pleasure includes anything, um... pleasurable. Apparently pleasure in this context entails having enough to eat and not dying. As much of an improvement as that would be for the many, many starving and dying people all around the world, that actually sounds pretty boring. How did God decide on this as being paradise? He couldn't even let us... you know... have fun? Eh? Know what I mean, know what I mean? Nudge nudge, nudge nudge, say no more.

And the Lord God brought forth of the ground all manner of trees, fair to behold, and pleasant to eat of: the tree of life also in the midst of paradise: and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (2:9)

I'd be an ass and say that trees were created before humankind, but it's probably just a way of saying that the trees were created beforehand. What's notable here is the addition of the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The footnotes at the bottom of the page describe the tree of life as giving anyone who ate of its fruit perfect health and continuous life. It's the biblical philosopher's stone. The tree of knowledge is simply described as being the one "To which the deceitful serpent falsely attributed the power of imparting a superior kind of knowledge, beyond that which God was pleased to give." If you've never heard of this creation myth before, you're going to be confused as hell when you first read that. "The deceitful serpent"? What deceitful serpent? In a few moments we'll get into the details of this particular tree and the nature of all the trees mentioned in this chapter.

This is just riveting stuff, isn't it? EPIC BOTANY.

And a river went out of the place of pleasure to water paradise, which from thence is divided into four heads.
The name of the one is Phison: that is it which compasseth all the land of Hevilath, where gold groweth.
And the gold of that land is very good: there is found bdellium, and the onyx stone. (2:10-12)

Gold doesn't groweth, my Lord God. It's not physically possible. Gold just sits there. It's probably a figure of speech describing plentiful reserves of wealth, but it's still a primitive way of putting it. Very precise point of gold being very good, too, because indeed, gold is awesome. Although it's next to useless in the hands of people who look on it as nothing more than a rare and shiny metal.

And I have no idea what bdellium is.

And the name of the second river is Gehon: the same is it that compasseth all the land of Ethiopia.
And the name of the third river is Tigris: the same passeth along by the Assyrians. And the fourth river is Euphrates. (2:13-14)

It's amazing that I still remember where these rivers are. At least the Tigris and Euphrates. These rivers run through what is now Iraq, formerly the site of the earliest civilizations. It was even called the "cradle of life" for its historical significance to humankind. A natural starting point for a creation myth centered on the Middle East. This does however tether this story to actual locations that can be traced geographically. And in case you hadn't noticed, the Garden of Eden, the paradise we're reading about here, simply doesn't exist. God's inspired authors said paradise lies somewhere in the Mesopotamian, and such a place doesn't and never has existed. If it did it would have left a trace. Or maybe God is being ever-so-sneaky again, obliterating earthly paradise to dust before we can inspect it. Ah well. On with the reading.

And the Lord God took man, and put him into paradise of pleasure, to dress it, and to keep it. (2:15)

Keep it how? It's paradise. It's supposed to be perfect. And you know men, they're just going to turn the whole place into a mess. But God will take care of that in a few moments.

And he commanded him, saying: Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat:
But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, though shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death. (2:16-17)

Now, my mortal advice might not be worth much, but I think this might be God's first honest mistake here. There's a certain tree which causes those who eat of it to become mortal and die. Why put it there in the first place? It's not doing anything constructive. It's just sitting there, soaking up sun and water, producing fruit no one can eat, and just generally being evil. Does this tree serve any purpose other than to fuck with people? I've heard people trying to reinterpret this passage to refer to free will itself, and even then that's a really steep and unfair scenario to put someone in, especially if that person has existed for just a few minutes. It's like building a house in a nice neighborhood, selling it to decent law-abiding people, telling them how to live in it and make it their home, with one condition: that there is a button - in easy reach, in the living room - which they may not under any circumstances push or tamper with, since it activates a nuclear bomb built into the basement of the house. You can't say that's entirely the owners' responsibility. Any sane individual would move out immediately, call the authorities, and have those responsible for the death machine in the basement arrested.

Although in this situation, no one can prosecute God. With great power comes great responsibility, but with infinite power comes the ability to screw with people.

And what's with these magical trees? Are there only two of them? Is there a genetic sequence associated with the Tree of Life so that one could replicate its amazing health benefits? Or is the whole issue of trees just an extended metaphor for human actions? What were the other trees supposed to be if not ordinary plants that one could eat fruit from?

I think the Bible's message is clear. The sooner we realize that trees are all probably evil traps and just destroy every last one of them, the better off we'll be, really.

And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone; let us make him a help like unto himself. (2:18)

I didn't screw that up, it's in the edition I have. This was approved by the Catholic Church, by the Archbishop of New York in 1941. "Let us make him a help like unto himself." Speaks for itself, doesn't it?

And the Lord God having formed out of the ground all the beasts of the earth, and all the fowls of the air, brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: for whatsoever Adam called any living creature the same is its name. (2:19)

So all the other animals were made out of dirt too, huh? Does that put us on par with the animals, my neighborly biblical literalists? No, on second thought, I retract that question, since if I ask it then I'll get caught in a vacuous discussion about the difference between spiritual souls and non-spiritual souls. I'll bet you didn't even know of such a thing. Yeah, apparently animals have souls, but not immortal souls. So souls can die... Huh. Makes you want to just sit down and take biology again.

Oh by the way, the Adam in question is the first man we read about earlier. Didn't we mention that? No? Eh, fuck it.

And Adam called all the beasts by their names, and all the fowls of the air, and all the cattle of the field: but for Adam there was not found a helper like himself. (2:20)

A helper? Oh, you mean a help! Keep your grammar consistent, my biblical friend. So Adam named all of the animals that live on the land? Zoologists are still busy doing that today, so nice job, you ancestral ass-hat. Also, it's strange that God would think that animals would be suitable partners for the first human being. Very strange considering that bestiality will be explicitly forbidden later on, but we'll get into that another time. Better than nothing, I suppose. ... What? I don't... you know, I'm just saying that... someone, in that situation, might... Christ, nevermind. We can't talk hypothetically anymore, can we?

Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam: and when he was fast asleep, he took one of his ribs, and filled up flesh for it. (2:21)


And the Lord God built the rib which he took from Adam into a woman: and brought her to Adam. (2:22)


This is a weird book.

And Adam said: This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. (2:23)

Okay, forgiving the skeletal reconstruction earlier, this is horseshit. Nothing other than patriarchal myths like this suggests that the human species can be derived naturally from full-blooded males. It's biologically impossible. Human beings and most other mammals have two chromosomes, one from each parent. About half inherit two "X" chromosomes, which generally makes that half of the population female; the other approximate half inherits one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, making that half male. The Y chromosome is a special genetic sequence only about half the population has. You can't get an XX pair entirely from an XY chromosome. That would be a hell of a mutation. Nearly everyone has an X chromosome, and having that chromosome paired alone technically makes one female. If anything, we are all derived from women. I say "technically" since God apparently fucked up in a minority of cases. An XX chromosome may still make one male, and an XY chromosome female. And there are still other chromosome pairs with various effects on one's gender. Sexuality and gender are very complicated matters. Many Christians would do well to remember that.

And the asserted origin of the word "women" is just as idiotic. I don't know about the original ancient Hebrew vocabulary, but English is a Germanic language. The German word for man or person, "Mann", comes from the gender-independent word for a human being, male or female, in an earlier form of German. The modern word "woman" comes from this older German, the original term being "Wiffmann"; for a man, the word was "Weremann". You know, as in "werewolf".

This is absolutely fascinating.

Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh. (2:24)

Yes! Haha! I knew there would be "pleasure"! Oh wait, this isn't talking about now instead of back then, is it? So being "one flesh" is still forbidden in paradise? Dammit! You know, if this was how it was going to be, I'd look forward to the Fall. What's living forever if you can't ever get it on?

I can't stand how this passage alone is considered enough for people to be convinced that only heterosexual sex should be allowed. You know, sex does more than one thing. It doesn't only make babies. It can be for pleasure, for health, or you could just do it out of sheer boredom. And if you're looking for a divine sanction for something you should be able to work out on your own, it'd better be in a far more impressive display than this bizarre ancient tale.

And they were both naked, to wit, Adam and his wife: and were not ashamed. (2:25)

Is that good or bad? I ask because in the next chapter ignorance and knowledge become key parts of the destiny of humankind. I'd say that being content and not at all repulsed by the human body is a good thing, but often you'll find Christians saying that you can't be going around strutting your stuff. Is that only because we're in the age after the Fall? Shouldn't we be striving toward better appreciation of ourselves? Or is ignorance a virtue, and knowledge something that makes our bodies unclean?

That's an interesting message: being ignorant of the world's workings will make the shame go away.

That explains why abstinence never brought me any closer to God.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The hand of fate.

After walking past the ocean washing up on the boardwalk's edge and flooding the beach, the only thing more exciting would have to be connecting with the unseen and mysterious workings of the spirit realm. Or a trip to the local psychic's office would be good too.

I should probably avoid saying who this psychic is, but I will say that according to her information card leaflet thing, she's been using her "God given gift to help people through meditation and spiritual guidance" for over 45 years, and offers to "help you or a loved one in matters of love, business, divorce, depression, finding your life path or reuniting with a soulmate." Sweet. Oh wait, that's bad. It's a really bad idea to get personal advice from anyone other than a certified expert or a close friend.

But maybe I presume too much. After all she's been doing this for 45 years, which means she's either an expert in tapping into the fabric of the universe or she's pulling off the longest con I've ever taken note of. The decor of her boardwalk-side office no longer includes the smoke fountain I mentioned in the last post, but it does have religious icons from Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and just tokens of astrology bullshit. I didn't find out anything about my horoscope, or my zodiac sign, which is a month off anyway.

I only got one palm reading, as this particular psychic's services are rather expensive. Palm readings are $10 each palm. Playing card readings are $25. Tarot card readings are $35 for a half deck and $45 for a full deck. Crystal readings are $75. And life charts are a whopping $125. Jesus fish! No wonder there are plaques adorning her walls commemorating her business achievements. She gets the big bucks single-handed for giving no real services whatsoever. I love how the "crystal reading" is such a big deal, even though you're essentially looking intently at a big piece of naturally occurring glass. Why are crystals hyped up to such a lofty position in the New Age movement? There's no significant properties in them. Now I could afford either a palm reading and a playing card reading, a half deck tarot card reading, or I could just get the palm reading and get something to eat. And since I don't support this establishment in any way whatsoever, it would be better to save as much money on this inanity as possible.

After waiting for a short while, I was at last able to see the psychic herself. This was the first time I'd actually laid eyes on her despite seeing her office for years, since she keeps herself hidden from passerby in a separate room. A clever marketing ploy, much like Cloverfield. She was a middle-aged Hispanic woman. Spoilers. She proceeded to do the palm reading. I have no idea how this is supposed to work. She's looking at the folds in my hand and somehow divines future meaning in them. Is there some genetic disposition that leads to certain aspects of my life that also leads to certain creases in my hands? Do events in the future bend the fabric of time to make these folds in my hands appear? What exactly is going on here? It can't just be a guessing game, can it? No, it's more like a guessing game and cold reading. John Edward would be proud.

And so, the reading. First, she pointed out my lifeline. Apparently I can ask the audience. Actually what she pointed out was that I will live to be 80 years old. I'd make a joke about testing that out by trying to do myself in right away, but it's more appropriate to point out that anyone taking this proclamation seriously would take it to mean they're invulnerable to life-threatening harm until they reach that age.

Interestingly she said I could read other people's palms. Really? Is this a secret ability? Do I have to go to a university or get some special training to understand it? Or am I only able to do it intuitively? How come I'm able to do it and not others? Did God decide I should be given this ability? Or do I have a high midichlorian count that lets me communicate with the Force? Hell, maybe I should do my own palm readings. Save myself ten bucks.

She said I have the ability to see spirits. Fuck, why don't I just become a paranormal investigator or some real life equivalent of Edward Carnby? Well, other than possibly my dead cat (which I'm pretty sure was actually just a step ladder I didn't get a good look at), I haven't seen any spirits. Maybe I just need to believe. I mean, the sign to the entrance did say that the psychic "has the right to not do readings for anyone she does not feel positive with." That's fine, it's her business, she can choose who she works with. But what exactly does it mean to be "positive"? Hell, I was a skeptic and an atheist going in and coming out of that place. Surely she could sense the negative energies.

She said I would be living in Pennsylvania, then asked where I come from. Why bother asking me? She should know, she's a goddamn psychic. I said New Jersey, and she confirmed her previous statement that I would be living in Pennsylvania, or Delaware. First of all, that's a really easy guess. I come from New Jersey, so sooner or later I'm going to spend some time in Pennsylvania. But why in the hell did her mind take a detour to Delaware for a second? That's another state away. Why would she second-guess where my future home would be?

She said I had marks of writing in my fingertips. Signs that I've been writing, with my hands? Noooo! Evidently I'm supposed to write inspirational stuff. Well that would be nice, but so far I just write random shit on my blog making fun of irrational belief systems and reviewing entertainment and just anything that comes into my head. At least I still occasionally get messages from people on YouTube saying they were inspired by comments I wrote on a George Carlin video. Comments I wrote a year or so back. Some people have way too much time on their hands.

She said I had "a positive loveline". ... What the hell is that supposed to mean? That I can fall in love? That it's within my human capacity? That's great, she informed me that I'm not a heartless sociopath. What are the odds? She continued that I "just need to open up a bit more". I can see why she has such a shining record as someone who gives relationship advice. I paid $10 for that little nugget. She couldn't have sensed that I'm, you know, ever so mildly autistic. I know you can't tell that right away from talking to me, but that's my point. If she had any special advice to offer, I wouldn't have to tell her that I'm an aspie. Otherwise she's little more than an unqualified counselor.

She even asked me if I was in a relationship, and when I said not as of yet, she said I could expect a love interest this August or September, if I "opened up" of course. I'm a single college student, and a virgin. Obviously I'm looking forward to going back, and hoping for the best when it comes to closer relationships. So naturally the response to such a visitor is wishing them luck in finding love soon, but this is supposed to be more than just well-wishing. It's supposed to be actual love advice. And it's so bland and predictable, and easily falsifiable. Watch, nothing's going to happen that quickly. It would have been something if she said I was actually going to have to wait until February or something to meet the right person. Or hell, maybe a year or two. But we wouldn't want to be realistic, would we? No, we need to feed people's desires as we drain their cash.

Continuing to draw out my path in life, she said I should look into engineering. I said I had never done anything related to it, and she predictably told me to open up to it. I'm sure my own ambitions or the advice of my academic counselors pale in comparison to the wisdom this woman has offered as a result of her 45-year experience of making shit up. That ended the palm reading. $10. Before leaving I asked if there was any way I could discern one's star sign from their palms. Nope. Damn. I could have made $125 a pop from the horoscopes I could write from the palms I apparently can read.

So, off I went to get good food with the rest of my money, and some ice cream from the Chinese peeps working at the candy shop. I could have spent that $10 on something more meaningful and worthwhile. Like candy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Two ideas before college.

Well, technically three. We're still on for this Sunday's Doodlemastery Bible School, so stay tuned this weekend as we resume reading from Genesis. It should clear up some of the issues we had in the first chapter, don't you think?

As for the other two ideas, there's still the psychic. I've always wanted to see what kind of inane advice I'd get from there. I remember at one point the decor of the boardwalk-side office included a smoke fountain, that's a dish on a podium with dry ice smoking out of it. That right there sold me. At first I thought it was nonsensical mystic bullshit that was on par with the lesser sideshows, but once I saw the smoke fountain, I knew I had to take this stuff seriously. She's on the freakin' boardwalk, do I have any reason to believe she's giving anyone any meaningful advice? It is essentially just something people down here would do for fun, however there are incidents you'd hear about every now and then of some unfortunate sap relying on a psychic's advice for important matters, like relationships or finance decisions. Just talk to a friend if you can't afford any professional advice.

The last idea is that special dvd I've been saving. Maybe just a brief review won't hurt. I'll give you an idea of its contents: it is undoubtedly the worst anime/giant monster series I've ever seen. I remember the worst full-blooded anime I've ever seen, but I don't recall the title and quite frankly do not wish to endure the same pain again. That particular movie informed me that little gnomes live in our bloodstream where they make cotton candy. Yeah... But the one we're talking about has dinosaurs! And battle trucks! And strange, abusive sibling relationships! And sloths! Well, one sloth anyway.

Hopefully I'll have one of those things to write about by tomorrow.

Random thoughts.

I can't think of much else to write about since I'm still stuck at home. Stupid feral cats. Even personal matters are kind of dim in my mind, so I'll have to think it over. The next Bible review is a weekend away, I still haven't gotten an email from the college about getting a job there, and nothing else has really stirred my brains. There is one dvd I'm thinking of reviewing, but maybe I should keep it for a special occasion for friends in person. And I still haven't gone to the psychic's place for the novelty of seeing that kind of idiocy firsthand. So until something more interesting happens, here are some random thoughts of mine:

Why are ghosts always depicted as having clothes? I thought only people or living things were supposed to have souls. So shouldn't all ghosts be naked? It might be an indication that visions of ghosts depend entirely on what people expect to see. Or maybe only puritans care to come back to the land of the living.

How come no psychic has used their abilities to win the lottery? The "abuse of power" argument doesn't work since it's clear psychics have no problem with being greedy, and even if they weren't there are a lot of charities that could use that money. And why the hell would they keep any kind of special knowledge to themselves? Any kind of understanding of the paranormal could make for leaps and bounds in advancing the cause for humanity.

Are taxes good or bad? I've seen two separate articles published by the New York Post, both about Hillary Clinton. One says that she and Obama are going to destroy small businesses by raising the upper-class tax (to a more reasonable level, because it's seriously putting the rest of us - 90% of the population - at a seriously unfair disadvantage). Disregarding the fact that small businesses are not paid for out of one's pocket (and if they are then said person is not financially impaired in the first place), there was another article soon thereafter which claimed that Clinton had betrayed New York State by slashing the taxes for foreign dignitaries. But then by free market logic wouldn't that increase the amount of business taking place and make up for the tax cuts with a little extra? Not that I know anything about economics or that I'm not lazy enough to look any of this up, but I'd like some consistency in newspapers. Even in idiotic tabloids like the New York Post.

Seriously, what are symbolic days or years? I don't think anyone can adequately explain that.

How are zombies supposed to move around with no metabolism? They're obviously using some energy lumbering around feeding on the living, so they must be burning calories. But if they have a metabolism, how are they considered undead? That would put them in the same category as "the infected", people whose minds and bodies are deteriorating. Not even Max Brooks explained that one.

Why do bodies in Fallout 3 fly through the air in a ludicrous fashion? Oh wait, awesomeness factor. Nevermind.

Would it be considered offensive to point out in a conversation concerning western medicine versus traditional that traditional remedies just don't work on any level comparable to modern medicine? I only ask because several of my friends are Chinese nationals. I don't know how much of it is an issue of nationalism. It's somewhat like telling an American that prayer just doesn't work. I don't intend to be rude about it or anything, but if anything like that or astrology ever come up then I'm not really sure how to say something like that to an otherwise friendly and reasonable person. I do know it was more awkward when a girl I was interested in believed in astrology. That should have killed my interest then and there, but then again I am an idiot.

Yu-Gi-Oh. Just the show itself. Really, wtf. Card games? That's going to decide the fate of the world? A children's card game? And the "heart of the cards" can suck it. It's really sad that I know any of this in the first place.

Why does my family insist on quoting George Carlin only when particular bits reinforce their beliefs? Really, dad? Carlin? The same guy who was legendary for his awesome "Religion is bullshit" routine? Alright, if you want to go down that road. Let's take a look at some more Lewis Black while we're at it.

Does anyone else own a lightsaber? Ahhh I miss those duels. Even though the guys turned out to be jerks anyway. That's right. I'm too geeky for lightsaber duels and D&D roleplaying.

Why do we feel better leaving things up to chance only for certain things? Particularly for things revolving around birth. We won't fiddle around with DNA even if it means a better chance at avoiding genetic illnesses, and we won't give kids a fair chance when it comes to the environment they're raised in. No, we'd rather have our offspring done "all natural", which basically means setting the genetic mixer on high and letting God sort it out. Then we leave the kid to whatever destiny the parents have decided for them, about gender, about religion, about tradition, about freedom to change their mind about everything. I guess sooner or later we have to yield to a person's judgement, and just hope that person is especially caring for the next generation. Hasn't turned out too well so far, in my opinion.

Where do you get those hats, seriously? You know what I'm talking about. Those... hats! I know I'm not one for headgear, but damn there are some snappy hats out there. Where does one acquire those hats?

I'm all out of ideas, so I'm going to let this one go out as is. Hopefully next time I'll have something more interesting to talk about. Maybe it's time I finally payed "Madame Fatima" a visit.

"The deck! It senses my doubt!"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Brain has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down."

A random girl I've never seen came into the house and asked to see my older sister, apparently just to check up on her for whatever reason. She stayed for a short while then left. That was odd and memorable for the day.

So why did I almost forget that it happened today and not earlier in the week?

I haven't done much while I've been here. Mostly I leave the house to get something good to eat, but I can't even recall which days I went to which places. It seems this blog is the only way I can remember how many days into the week I am. That's part of the reason why I can't think of anything to write. I can't remember what the hell has been going on in my day. I wrote some very important comments for various peeps on facebook, but that's about it.

It's partially the summer, but really I've had considerable memory problems for some time. Odd that I remember that... I often can't remember things from my childhood or the things that made me more comfortable around my family then. I recall being a total spaz who didn't understand the jokes he memorized. Really as far as I'm concerned I'm a completely different person now, no relation. Even my memories of being a devout Catholic are fading. I do remember wholeheartedly believing some ignorant bullshit you'd probably punch me in the face for if I tried to say the same things now. Seriously.

I can't remember most of high school, and that's just as well. If I try, I can't come up with anything good. Being considered too weird for Dungeons&Dragons players and being blatantly ignored by Catholic schoolgirls. That sums it up nicely.

My deconversion... That's not so much a memory as it is an ongoing procedure. But it sucked.

That being said, at times I'm one for detail. Obscure humor is one of those things I soak up like a sponge, to the point where I have encyclopedic knowledge of any movie or video or TV show I've bothered to watch more than once. College is still pretty fresh in my mind. And I seem to remember the things I want to, especially with social matters. Things I'm told in conversations from acquaintances are among those things I remember most. I have difficulty forgetting anything I learn about or hear from peeps I'm interested in, which is as much a weakness as it is a strength. When you're left alone, those are not memories you want to be stuck with.

Essentially what this boils down to is, I'm trying to find out which memories make up who I am, and so the ones I'm more likely to remember are from my time at college. It doesn't make for interesting backstory or conversation, but it's who I am, more or less. I live almost entirely in the moment.

Or, you could just say, I don't have a good memory.

Why did I write about this again?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Panda eyes.

That's a cute name for such an unattractive feature. Just a couple nights up until 3am and staying in bed until noon is enough to run rings around one's eyes. The skin tissue just looks like it's in terrible shape, and it looked so much better before. It's something I've got to work on, and that means less internet procrastination...

Or I could just live with panda eyes. Sounds cuter than it looks.

Speaking of pandas and things I need to concentrate on, my Chinese studies have been lagging behind. Am I the only one who has no idea what he wants to do with his life? Chinese is the only consistent class so far, and I'm not very good at it. I've got to get back to practicing daily, for extended periods of time just to catch up on material I should have gotten last year. At least now I know how to keep up with current school material, but I still have no confidence in my language skills at all.

My family and relations keep asking me why I took Chinese, or they say how Chinese is the language of the future or something like that. I don't really know how to explain it myself, other than that I wanted to have a second language secure in my head and that Chinese and Arabic were the two that seemed more useful at the time that did not involve the roman alphabet. An ex-Muslim friend of mine dissuaded me from taking Arabic, so I decided on Chinese. Every now and then I think I might have wanted to take Japanese, but regardless I'm going to keep Chinese as my second language. Not that I know what I'm going to do with it other than understand conversations and text in Mandarin. I've made quite a few friends and acquaintances who are Chinese nationals, but I'm never sure how much my own social life amounts to. And when my family and relations keep bringing up possible paths of work for someone who knows Chinese, I'm never really the interested in the choices. Translator, interpreter, diplomat, businessman, even being a teacher seems like a lofty and unrealistic goal for me. I don't know, I still only do most of my favorite work in some kind of advocacy for secularism.

Whatever the case I've got to set aside more time for Chinese. My GPA is far too low for me to study abroad, so I've got to start getting A's straight away. Nevermind that I still don't really know how well I'll manage in my other classes. I just want to be able to study in China for a while. I have no idea what for, but that's pretty much the story of my life.

Oh, and I'm sick of the ignorance my family shows to foreign affairs, but moreso their ignorance of Asians that live right here at home. That's why I'm still a little uncomfortable whenever race comes up, even for humor.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Confidence problems.

It's hard not to have them when your family's relationships are best defined by mutual disrespect. My parents don't respect my sisters, my sisters don't respect me or my mom, and nobody really respects my dad. The whole religious guilt equation doesn't help either.

All of it just builds into my fear of not being taken seriously. Especially since all my school years were filled with me being a spaz and all my "friends" being sure that I was mentally impaired. And aforementioned family feels the need to scold me for minor mistakes as though it indicated something was terribly wrong with me. Just today we were ordering takeout (from a friend's house that's a ways away, since my dad has a tendency to inform me of these things at the last minute, so some of my virtual crops withered) and as soon as I got the menu my sister told me to hurry up. They took their time looking at the menu so I don't know why I got a warning even though I hadn't done anything. And then when they called the place up we were told they ran out of one side dish I'd ordered, I asked for a little clarification and my sister scolded me again saying "Just. Pick. Something." As if I couldn't grasp that concept. I hate being talked down to like that.

I don't know if this has to do with their awareness of the fact that I (and possibly my dad) have Asperger's Syndrome, but it shows a pretty cruel interpretation of it, where somehow my being aware of it means I'm still responsible for the way my minds works. (I'm still worrisome about the idea that I may become more like my dad in the future, both slow and impatient.) And I don't know what this means for the people I know at school. My social anxiety is not nearly as bad as it used to be, but when I lack confidence in myself it tends to show in the way I act around others. I don't know what some people would think if they knew that I talk to myself in private at times or that I flap my hands when I get excited. I'm getting better I guess, but some things will never change.

At least I have some more direction right now. (I pretty much typed this up because I couldn't think of much else to write about. Enjoy my complaining rants!)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Doodlemastery Bible School: Part 1: In the beginning was a godless heathen and a book...

So, here's what I'm going to do every Sunday. My mom wants me to "try", basically put aside all the logic and evidence I find convincing and delve into stuff that makes no sense outside of a believer's context. If that's what she wants, so be it. I'm going to read the Bible from beginning to end, starting today, and verse by verse I'm going to indicate exactly what about this book (more like a collection of heavily-edited loosely-related manuscripts) isn't as good as the nickname suggests.

It's not that I look down on religious people or enjoy controversy, it's just that there are very good reasons to believe that this is not a good book, for historical, literary, or moral value. As long as people are detached from reality there will be conflict, and as long as books like the Bible and the Koran are deemed "good" or even appropriate in the mainstream, there are going to be problems. You can't marginalize fundamentalists and literalists from mainstream religion just for trying to understand these texts as they are, and I'll try to include as much citation as my laziness will allow. For those of you who are curious, this is from the Douay-Rheims Bible. I'm not using the King James Bible because a) I highly doubt the highly poetic Anglican edition could be any more accurate in capturing the original meaning of the text, and more importantly b) I don't own a KJB and would rather save my money on more important things. Like video games.

Why am I including the readers in this? Well, I thought I would share with you what it's like to appreciate what this highly influential text actually contains. Yay? I'll go verse by verse but spare you going over each and every word by skimming over unimportant or uninteresting bits. To keep it in context, I'll give you a sum-up from the perspective of a believer and the real-life implications. Come on, it'll be fun!

(It's not going to be fun.)

Now then, let's settle in with Genesis.


"God createth the Heaven and Earth, and all things therein, in six days."

You knew this would be the first issue to come up in a review of the Bible, and that fact is probably inducing some moans from people who didn't want to drag creationism into the reading, so bear with me.

What do you think when you hear the words "creation in six days"?

I bring this up because almost everyone I speak to seem convinced that I'm implying a fringe nutjob group is representative of the mainstream. "No, of course the universe wasn't created in six days, that's ridiculous to ask, you're making a strawman argument, it's supposed to be symbolic, don't be so condescending to religious people," etc. etc.

First of all, it's not a fringe belief. It's a minority, but it's mainstream all the same. By that token, I think it's condescending to say anything to the effect of "No one could be that stupid. You're trying to make religious people look like idiots." If that's the reaction to taking creationism seriously as a problem, then said person has unwittingly referred to a large portion of the population as hopelessly idiotic. I'm not that blunt and hateful, since I believed in the creationism mess at one time in my life. You don't have to be an idiot to be fooled. It could happen to almost anybody.

Second, without even addressing the intention of the original authors, consider the symbolic interpretation. What exactly is a symbolic day? What does the day represent? Eons? How many years is a symbolic day? How many millions? Has anyone thought this through? And then there's the issue of this creation supposedly taking place only 6000 years ago. What's a symbolic year? How are the years shorter than God's days? I've heard the claim that time is insignificant to God, and so a day to him would be eons to us, and a year to us would be a microsecond to him. But even this is moot on its own terms. What's a finite amount of time to an infinite being? Next to nothing. In fact, an omniscient and omnipresent being would perceive time a lot like Doctor Manhattan, with time being simultaneous and interconnected, despite human perception of time as being linear. So it wouldn't be a day to God. All of time to him would be next to nothing, an imaginary point in the midst of infinity. And actually, the use of the word "imaginary" could not be more appropriate when dealing with a being that's supposedly the foundation for everything, for whom willing something to be is enough for it to become so. We'd all be figments of a greater being's imagination... This is starting to sound too existential for most religious people I've known. In fact that's the sort of vision of despair I've heard being paired up with disbelief.

We haven't even gotten past the subtitle of the first chapter. God help us all.

In the beginning God created heaven, and earth. (Genesis 1:1)

For the sake of religious moderation, I'll just assume earth means all of material existence and that the beginning is the beginning of existence rather than the beginning beginning, before there was even a universe for nothing to exist in.

And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved over the waters. (1:2)

What waters? I thought the earth was void and empty. A glass can't be empty and full of water at the same time. And how can the spirit of God - "spiritual substance" not bound by time and space - move? Maybe there's some literary devices or phrases I'm not picking up on.

And God said: Be light made. And light was made. (1:3)

Yoda in this edition, God is.

And God saw the light that it was good; and he divided the light from the darkness. (1:4)

I'd say that God arbitrarily deeming light to be good and dividing light from darkness would be unnecessary, but presumably these are things that needed to be spelled out before anything existed in the first place.

I'm just getting the gears out of this God thing while we're starting, it won't continue later unless there's a particular problem I've got with something.

And he called the light Day, and the darkness Night. And there was evening and morning one day. (1:5)

OK, now we're getting somewhere. The first day of creation is over. But isn't a day a measurement of time based on the sun's exposure to a particular location on the Earth's surface? I thought this was when everything was starting out, and the planets and the stars weren't properly formed yet. There couldn't have been days, much less evenings or mornings.

Speaking of which, where was the light coming from? Light has to have a source, so there would have to be energy before there could be light. If God wanted people to be aware of the making of the universe, shouldn't he have pointed out to somebody, anybody, that energy would have to predate light? But then that would be too much scientific knowledge for humans to handle, and who the fuck needs science when we can have mythology?

That brings me to the symbolic interpretation of this so-called origin. This does not in the slightest resemble the Big Bang Theory astronomers take as the most likely origin point for space-time and matter as we know it. I've seen so many attempts to retell Genesis that have the words "Let there be light" and then there's a big explosion that supposedly links the two explanations together. Theists everywhere seem so proud of the fact that science has shown that existence has a starting point, as if that were integral to the claim that God is necessary for sanity or morality, or the Christians' claim that Jesus was God incarnate. There's nothing to suggest that this means an infinite being caused it to happen, or even that the Big Bang needed a cause. I've actually heard arguments that use scientific principles to explain exactly how something can come from nothing. Common sense doesn't matter for shit if it doesn't make any sense in light of evidence.

We'll get more into the inadequacy of this particular story later. We've still got a whole chapter to read.

And God said: Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters: and let it divide the waters from the waters.

And God made a firmament, and divided the waters that were under the firmament, from those that were above the firmament. And it was so. (1:6-7)

Ah, the firmament. The wall dividing the waters on Earth from the waters in the sky. This doesn't sound like old nonsense, does it? What waters in the sky, exactly? The natural water vapor in our atmosphere? There's plenty of that here near the ground anyway. Sounds a lot like some primitive mojo explaining how water can fall from the sky by having a deity open up celestial floodgates to let the blue water from the sky fall down. I'm glad people believe in a God who was nice enough not to tell us about something as simple as water vaporization cycles. Or the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun.

And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and morning were the second day. (1:8)

God decreed that Heaven was literally in the sky, keeping the water from falling down. Anyone who's flown in an airplane should know this is not a good claim to make if you want to sound credible. Come to think of it, why do people still look up to Heaven and down to Hell? I'm pretty sure places that by definition can't exist in the material world don't... um... exist in the material world.

Then there's the separating of the waters on earth so that land could appear. Fine and good.

And he said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And so it was done. (1:11)

Wait, this isn't trying to say that plant life was the first on the planet, is it? Not bacteria? No, of course not bacteria, since the writers couldn't have known about it. But then that would put this book on par with mortal writers rather than the inspired word of God, so what do we make of this?

Professor Andrew Parker, a research fellow at Oxford University, actually wrote a book on this matter, reinterpreting the Genesis account to match the scientific explanation of origins. He describes this particular passage as being the development of lifeforms that rely on an early form of photosynthesis. Yeah, bacteria. That spread seeds. And bear fruit in trees. Right.

So the third day was a total fuck-up in orderly creation.

On the fourth day God made the sun and the stars to rule the sky during the day and the night.... Wha?

And God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day: and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars.

And he set them in the firmament of heaven to shine upon the earth.

And to rule the day and the night, and to divide the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good. (1:16-18)

So after God created plants (or photosynthesizing bacteria, whichever you prefer) he made the sun and the moon. Oh, and the vast majority of the stars in the universe. But mostly the sun and the moon. Even if we blatantly ignore the fact that this does not even come close to resembling the truth that the sun and the stars formed long before the Earth and the moon, and that the Earth and the moon formed long before any life; even if we ignore all that, how in the hell is plant life supposed to exist without sunlight? In fact, how are light itself, evenings and mornings, night and day, supposed to be possible without the sun and the moon and the stars? Where was the light from the first day of creation coming from? How could there be night and day with no sun or moon?

Oh right, because God says so. Checkmate.

This is something else Andrew Parker wrote about, suggesting that this period refers to the evolution of sight, enabling creatures to become aware of the sun and the moon and the stars. Okay, what creatures are we talking about? Because at this point in creation, the only living things on this Earth are plants. Or bacteria. Goddammit, this is stupid.

And then on the fifth day, God created aquatic animals and flying creatures. WTF?

And God created the great whales, and every living and moving creature, which the waters brought forth, according to their kinds, and every winged fowl according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (1:21)

This presents another problem to the symbolic interpretation of Genesis: birds being created before land-roving animals, at the same time as sea-dwelling creatures. This is completely counter to everything human beings can possibly infer from the fossil record, which tells us that birds would have to develop from dinosaurs starting in the Jurassic period. Hell, I learned that as a kid from a Magic School Bus PC game. The "inspired" writers of this text could not have surpassed modern 1st grade level intelligence. Oh, and if we're going by Oxford fellow Professor Parker's logic, these animals came after plant-bacteria with eyes. I can see why he's so credible in religious spheres.

Also notice the use of the word "kinds". There's going to be some problems when making interpretations of this word later in Genesis. We haven't even gotten to the crazy part of this book. Yeah, this is the easy stuff. It's only going to get worse.

And he blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the waters of the sea; and let the birds be multiplied upon the earth. (1:22)

This little ditty will become an interesting counterpoint to a popular claim in a minute.

So, the fifth day: plants with eyesight evolve into whales and birds. Next.

On the sixth day God finally creates land-based animals, which should have gone before birds, but whatever, that's not even the stupid part. He also creates human beings on the same day.

And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness; and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. (1:26)

The word "us" here is interpreted as proving in the Old Testament that God is plural, that there are three persons in one God. Don't even get me started on this nonsense concept that is the Trinity, but even this verse has no biblical support for the plurality of divine persons. God seems to speak to his spiritual counterparts, the angels, on a regular basis, and it doesn't seem strange in an ancient Israelite context for God to speak with them as a group. Unless we're going to suggest that God "inspired" the Jewish authors to write about a trinity they didn't believe in, just to be sneaky.

And God created man to his own image; to the image of God he created them. Male and female he created them. (1:27)

I think this passage is trying to tell us that God created them. And that man and woman came about simultaneously, which from an evolutionary perspective is accurate, but from a biblical perspective... it's complicated. We'll see in Chapter 2.

What exactly is God's image, anyway? Apparently it's supposed to mean that we have reason and free will like him, but that's a stretch of infinite magnitude, literally. No mortal being could come close to comparing to an infinite being, at all. It's just not possible. On a scale of infinite standards, a saint is on par with both a sociopath and dirt. How exactly are we supposed to be in God's image? And how are we supposed to know what God's image is? Wouldn't an infinite being be impossible to comprehend? So then how can we talk intelligibly about it at all? The main reason why people try to talk about God's image in the first place is so that there's some objective standard of morality beyond what we perceive. I just don't see the point. Isn't happiness and contentment enough? Isn't altruism hard-wired into our minds enough to make us want to live together without appealing to impossible rationale from the sky? I guess not.

And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all the living creatures that move upon the earth. (1:28)

Anti-environmentalists bring up this passage all the time, as if we can't do a damn thing without consulting ancient myths written by ignorant men long before scientific knowledge. But I'd like to point out verse 22, which says that the animals should be able to multiply as they damn well please. So aren't we doing God a disservice by limiting their dominion and hunting and harvesting them for food? I know there's an obvious contradiction here, with both parties being told to multiply to no ends, but then what's this passage worth if there's another one within the same chapter saying the complete opposite? But that's something you get used to with the biblical perspective: contradictions are resolved entirely by personal preference, as long as you declare your personal preference to be the inerrant word of God. Brilliant.

Wait, if we're supposed to be fruitful and multiply, shouldn't we be having more open sex with everything and everybody? I guess with the Catholic Church the multiplying part is no problem. Just anecdotal evidence, but I'm from a family of 4 children. My father's one of 8. My mother's one of 11. Global responsibility pales in comparison to God's word.

And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all the trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat:

And to all beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon. And it was so done. (1:29-30)

Wow! We're like kids in a candy store! We can have anything we want in this place! Every living thing on the planet can be used for our nourishment, and it's all for the taking! I'm sure that all of this stuff is edible and none of them are just dangerous and poisonous traps to catch many of us off-guard before we learn simple culinary techniques! And I'm most certain that none of the animals our God has created will suddenly be considered unclean and verboten under divine law! And I'm sure there isn't one tree in particular which will be placed inexplicably on the earth only for us to be forbidden under penalty of death from eating from it, essentially bringing the fall of our species into suffering and despair down to a decision about eating some otherwise harmless fruit, right?


And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good. And evening and morning were the sixth day. (1:31)

See? It's not just good, it's very good! There's nothing on this earth which could inevitably result in the misery and destruction of countless lives. And even if it did, our Lord God has decreed it very good, which renders the concept of good meaningless, but don't question his logic! After all, God created logic! Which proves... I dunno, something.

So, for anyone who's been keeping track, according to the inspired authors of God's word on Earth, the creation of all existence is as follows:

In the beginning: The spiritual realm of Heaven and the empty realm of matter. And possibly the planet Earth, which is empty and filled with water.
Day 1: Light from no source in particular. Or all the mass and energy ever. Day and Night and evening and morning despite the lack of a sun.
Day 2: An invisible wall keeping the monstrously large amounts of water in our sky, and Heaven again.
Day 3: Dry land and oceans, and plant life. Or photosynthetic microorganisms, the first lifeforms are kind of implied.
Day 4: The sun and moon and stars, 3 days after the light they should have been emitting along with the day and night they make possible were created, and 1 day after the plants (or bacteria) that depend on sunlight were created. Or eyes evolved... on bacteria.
Day 5: Sea creatures and flying animals. 1 day after the eyes they should have had first developed, and 1 day before the dinosaurs they evolved from were created.
Day 6: All the other animals on the earth, and humans. Everyone's told to multiply like crazy.

Aren't you glad we have people insisting on teaching the controversy? Not the controversy of the science, but just based on the views of anyone with a book they haven't read from beginning to end. I'd like to hear your interpretations.

Although it'd be easier if we just said the writers were wrong. Regardless, this is probably a better Bible School then you'll find for your kids. The fact that this is being taught to kids as truth, and that people are trying to push it into the public curicullum, is actually pretty scary.

See you next Sunday!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Remember when summer used to be fun?

Yeah, those were good times. But those were also the times when I was considerably more annoying and completely unaware of how my ignorance would bite me in the ass later.

I'm spending most of my time at the north Jersey shore now, so it's like the beach you would go to, only dirtier. Not being home alone anymore ensures that I will have to spend more time with my family, which for me is not good. Our relationship never really went back to the positive levels it was at in my childhood, ever since my confirmation into the Catholic Church (since 15-year-olds are perfectly capable of deciding which organization they will tether their immortal soul to for eternity) around which time I figured out my family would act in certain ways regardless of their own moral convictions and would never listen to reason or compassion. This wouldn't have been so bad if faith weren't so important in holding the family together, and ever since I became an atheist at 17 things have been somewhat tense whenever those issues come up. Which they do. A lot. As long as I keep my mouth shut and hide all my books, I'm fine. Otherwise there'd be disagreements and... well, you know about all that already.

Basically I can just use all this as an excuse to use all my time to study chinese, which I really need to get going on before classes start again. Other than that there's just a bit of light reading and a lot of dvds to keep me busy. So there's not too much for me to write about as yet, although I do have a certain idea of what to do with my Sunday entries, which I'll show when Sunday comes around ;)

I miss the campus and everyone living there, and I look forward to working, studying, advocating, and socializing. Two more weeks, and I can have my life back. Three more years, and I can be free.

NOTE: I just remembered something else here at the shore: a psychic's office on the boardwalk. I'm a Gemini as I recall, so what's that supposed to make me again?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Your money's no good here!

After seeing District 9, I could tell you about how it parallels the discriminatory politics and economics of apartheid South Africa, or how it tells the story of a man of privilege and his redemption by facing the harsh reality of being scorned and oppressed, or how the CGI and creature effects expose us to the notion that it doesn't matter so much how one looks or even lives as much as it does how one needs and feels.

But I think the best reasoning to see this movie can be expressed through an advertisement:

*New, from Human&OtherCorp! It's the PrawnMech 9000! Utilizing the latest in extraterrestrial technology, this mechanized armored exoskeleton features a direct neural interface allowing you to decimate enemies with a mere thought! No training or understanding of alien language required! Also featured is a direct uplink to your personal mothership, giving you remote control to help allies from afar!

The PrawnMech 9000 is highly resistant to small arms fire of all sorts, allowing one to take thousands of hits and keep on going! It even features a remotely magnetized telekinesis module that enables you to literally take rounds from enemies and fire them right back at them! The suit's reflexively activated movements allow for agile movement in the blink of an eye! You can even catch a launched RPG in midair!

Included in this unit's amazing array of alien armaments is a full set of land-to-land missiles, plasma weapons that liquefy any humanoid creature instantly, highly accurate chain guns, rocket-propelled electric brain-scramblers, and the TK module can even be refitted to lift and fire pigs and other livestock with incredible force!

All of this can be yours for 100 cans of cat food! That's a 10,000 cat food can value, yours for just 100 cans of cat food! Order now!

(Individualresultsmayvary, bodyarmordoesnotguaranteesurvivalundersustainedfire, catchingactiveexplovivesinmidairmaycausebodilydismemberment, largequantitiesofbiofluidmaycauserednessandirritation, consultyourdoctorbeforelinkingupwiththeneuralinterfaceorrectalsteeringcontrol, allHuman&OtherCorpproductsonlyfunctionforthosewithextraterrestrialgenetics, pigssoldseperately.)*

PIG. GUN. Go see it now.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Esoteric humor ftw

It's damn near impossible to distance myself from jokes and references few people will understand. Not that I haven't made acquaintances with those few people and that I won't have to worry about it as much, but it seems odd and awkward when the majority of my humor comes from places where one would have to see a movie or an online video in order to understand what the fuck I'm talking about.

So far this summer I haven't been seeing or talking to many people so it's not as much of a problem, and the few people I chat with in the meantime are mildly bemused by my nonsensical quips. But really, when just hearing "Only, it doesn't make a bit of difference, guys..." or someone shouting "STAAAAY!!" is enough to get me giggling, I have to wonder if I might want to try more conventional avenues of humor...

Nah. XP

What's on the television, then?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm a slacker

And I suck at getting jobs on campus. I thought Dining Services was always hiring... Apparently they're all full. I should have done this first year, but there you are.

I've been lagging behind on pretty much everything: socializing, job searching, studying, and writing. I've yet to finish my review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which I need to get out of the way sooner or later since that piece of shit really deserves a once-over. With pipes.

Also I haven't really written much that's in a positive light of any kind, and the only personal information I've cared to disclose is probably too sensitive for most peeps my age to touch. At least that's what the comment count suggests. No, I'm not going to dumb down my attitude towards religion and pseudoscience. That's a part of who I am, and goddammit it's interesting to talk about. At the very least it's a critically important topic.

I'll have to do more to advertise my blog, but first I actually need something to work with. So starting today I'm going to be posting daily, just to get anything that's on my mind down into text where it could be more meaningful.

Because seriously, summer alone blows. At least it's almost over.

To start off these daily triads and rants, I guess I could talk a little about the coming semester on campus. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone again, although sometimes I ask myself why. It's not like I had such promise in the previous year, either socially or academically. The academic troubles are entirely due to my being a slacker and I'm trying to get my GPA up so that studying abroad is a more viable option, but the social issues continue to mystify me. I often feel like I haven't connected with anyone in a meaningful way, and if I have it's hard to say my efforts have been acknowledged.

Every now and then I make an effort to keep regular contact with someone and the favor is rarely returned. I find myself telling classmates to keep me in the loop because I'm especially inept when it comes to staying in touch with others, and they just don't. Do I have to call every time to ask? Is that how it works? Is that only how it works with certain people? Nobody tells me, so how am I supposed to know? I've made the mistake of being overly eager when it comes to getting to know somebody and trying to hang out with them, but nobody told me this was a mistake even when they knew how unbelievably awkward I am. I feel like such a pest sometimes. And then when I give people time to think my requests over, they evidently think me away, since almost nobody calls me back. I have no idea what the middle ground is, since I've never had a "normal" social life, the kind where you just get to know people you see every day and meet up with the people you like. I don't know what that's like.

And it doesn't help my self-esteem either when almost everyone I try to talk to seems like they'd rather be somewhere else. It would actually be refreshing if a would-be acquaintance just told me to fuck off. At least then it wouldn't be a guessing game. I hate to sound so pessimistic, but how else am I supposed to react when so few people ask anything of me? I've heard that people like to talk about themselves and will prefer when someone shows interest in their lives, yet somehow many see fit to answer me in monosyllabic responses and then end the flow of the conversation then and there.

It's not as if I like being alone. Really, I can't stand it. I've had over three years to get used to being disliked and avoided and spending so much time by myself, and it turns out I'm not very durable. I don't bend, I break. I'm not sure I can ever get used to that kind of isolation. I'm just too damn sensitive. Yeah, wearing my heart on my sleeve is a bad move, but I can't let anyone get the idea that I prefer to be this way or that I'm especially impervious to emotional stress.

I don't know. Am I that unappealing? I'm not sure what to change. I've been trying to appear as nice as I genuinely feel towards people. Do I seem disingenuous? I can't really help it. I tried explaining to people that I don't express my heartfelt emotions naturally, and that's it's really an exercise in acting every time, even though the feelings are all real. And you could say my classmates have been nice to me in return, which they have, but I know that people can just be nice out of courtesy. Often I take their word for it and it doesn't necessarily end well.

Another point about the overly-eager problem I have: I've read in a book about love for people with Asperger's Syndrome, and apparently the appeal women often see in men with Asperger's is their apparent independence of socializing or pursuits in a love life ("apparent" being the key word since aspies greatly differ from those with autism in that they desire more social contact and acceptance), like getting a break from men who are too eager to enter into a relationship or get into bed. This just makes it worse for me since in that regard I've blown it. I'm always so eager to find some kind of connection with someone, and with my awkwardness that must kill whatever appeal there ever was in me. It's so rarely an intellectual matter for me, so I don't identify with that aspect of the Syndrome.

It's a painful learning process to say the least. I just have to keep going and try not to repeat my mistakes. Still though, I can't help but feel like I'm just not getting enough in return. Whatever I do, I'm not going to pretend. I might be socially impaired, but I know there should be more to a social life than making your personality a complete fabrication.

It's not all bad though, I guess. I'm going to be talking to people more often now that our campus group for secularists if finally getting off the ground. And that's something I'm going to be working on a lot of the time, so my interests in science and rationality at least have a place in my efforts to connect with others. And it's not as though I'm giving up on the campus job search. I won't accept unemployment as an option this semester, so there's another place I could familiarize myself with other students. I still wish I could get that job in the Dining Hall though. You pretty much see everybody that way.

I'm only 20. I have time.