Reaction to American Gods

I have finally started reading (listening to the audiobook of) American Gods.

As I feared, it is good. I need to finish it soon, while knowing that I need even more to know that it never ends. No wonder Gaiman and Pratchett co-operated and colluded to create a myth of the Antichrist.

The real world keeps intruding on my time with the gods. Project deadlines, children’s school issues, a sick wife. The trivialities of my reduced existence keep dragging me back from the then-there. I suffer these insults with the best grace I can.

The gods and artists, on the other hand, are urging me to default on my imagined debt to society.

“Abandon your family and to run off to Cancun or Ibiza and paint naked women,” urges Gauguin.

“Men too,” moans rock hardened Dionysus, “body painting knows no gender.”

“… butt so much sex” ejaculates Henry Miller, second class satyr and third class citizen.

“Run off with your cousin,” theorize Einstein and Darwin.

“Even better, your wife’s little sister,” says a voice I vaguely recognize from the long ago.

loki advises i write like e.e. cummings, because one in a one hundred will get an awful pun.

Switch.

I am an avowed atheist. For me all the philosophy, liberalism and religion of the ages is nothing more than an attempt to escape the inevitable graves of I and Thou. We who will be buried too deep for the worms to find; others, burned, contributing to the warming of our world. We will all, in our way, try to escape the natural ending of our being. It is only for the peasants and the soldiers to feed the future. The privileged ‘we’ will leach into the earth our noxious fluids – part formaldehyde, a greater part entitlement. Sick to the end in every possible way.

Switch.

As Homo Sapiens Sapiens, I have to believe in the oldest of the old gods. If you want to call them a trinity, you can. I won’t because that has had a different meaning since.

I believe in Civis, because it is she who keeps me safe in the modern world. She who ensures that the police will come in time. She who says my employer will pay me the monthly wage when it is due. She who says that justice and mercy, in equal measure, will guide the order of MY world, fuck yours. Without Civis, I am but a beast. I cannot be that thing.

I believe in Eros, because without him I am not that which I am. I will say no more, my Indian goddess understands.

I believe in Kaos, the Ur-god. It is the intellect which drives me to whatever heights I may achieve. It is that which my first real ancestors, looking to the sky with understanding, knew. Kaos has become has become Chaos has become mathematics and magic. It has remained steadfastly it. It will always be my other god.

Those who know, know. Those who do not know, also know. Watch my hands.

I was born in the month and the year and on the day of the trickster god. My mother lay in labor twenty-three hours to see that it was so. She and my father loved me as best they knew how after I was borne. As ravens watching over Loki, they loved me with complexity. Even as their better children were born, another three in five years, they loved me.

Was this Loki even their son? Even if son of that son was their spiritual grandson? Does it matter?

Only the last names matter. They loved me for the name. Later they loved me for other reasons I do not understand, but always they loved me in their way. I always knew my name.

And, at the last, I will say my Germanic name. “I am Black. Not black, Black. I am from the  hedged vale. I am the darkness that crawls beneath the hedges of the vale. I scuttled among the roots of the hedges and I saw you. I am darkness black and I know you.”

I have had disturbing fantasies of late. I have day-dreamed of picking herbs from my garden. Dressed in a pragmatic apron I gather greens to feed my friends.

For very special friends that last sentence gets funking metaphorical, but only because of Elliot’s gardens.

I have dreamed about a garden and a kitchen and a magic that happens twixt the twain. The magic of my hands.

Do I believe in the Trickster god?
He who is the fourth of three?
Is he the archetype for me?

Interesting question.

 

 

My meaning of life

Today was the end of the world, just not for you nor I. Our turn will come, but for some 150000 people the world ended today. A few of them got a mention and some, no doubt, deserved the hanging they got. Most, however, slipped the bounds of earth without disturbing the score keepers – the pettiness of their sins exceeded only by the inanity of their virtue. The apocalypse is always personal.

Whatever you may believe about where they have gone does not matter, their sentience has departed this time-place. They are done and dusted.

Of course their consequences and memory will live on. This may, or may not, be a good thing. For the most part it will be a mix – humanity scattered in uneven lumps across the corporeal sphere, here excellence and there excrescence. The biggest lumps will be the stuff of the stories that survive them. Stories for the living to tell to their children.

Our minds are made up of stories. We see the fictitious cause behind each effect. We conjure meaning from the gossamer stretched between this and that, then and now. We contrive the threads tying us to the past – be it five minutes or five millennia ago. In the survival of the fittest, it was our ancestors who saw patterns in everything that lived long enough to procreate. It was the rapey kings who told the best stories about their potency who procreated the most. It was always the stories that won.

Hold on to those stories, friend. They are our humanity.

I am not asking you to believe the little lies of power and lust our leaders sell us today, those lead to bad places. I plead instead for the big lies, the important lies. Lies like truth, justice, love and faith. Believe those lies with all your heart and mind, without them we are less than beasts. The thing that believes nothing; clings to nothing; hopes for nothing; that thing is worse than any thing, be his aspect ever so fair.

The subconscious mind turns and churns, throwing up random connections to the reality now observed. Here some red, there a beggar. Music from a distant speaker echoing a yesterday, forever gone. Harsh sunlight on dead grass in the park saying… something. My children fly across it, oblivious. Winter will come. Winter will go.

I like my subconscious, it keeps me humble. It learns and burns. It burps as I lean for the lubricant; anal-izes my onanism; mocks my enthusiastic ejaculations of honesty; wakes me at four in the morning to let me know that I am awake. It teaches me that honest self-love hurts.

This little white pill in my hand is all that stands between me and depression. Those that know the dense fog where stories go to die, know. I have no words for it. I no longer know if it is my dependence on the pill or my natural disposition that would drive me again into the grey pit. All I know that is that I swallow this bifurcated compound to keep the ultimate reality from swallowing me. Having been there before, I can live with the pharmaceutical deception. My family cannot live without it.

There are other little lies I swallow every day. Slow magnesium, vitamin B, meditation, misinterpreted research. Little lies that will possibly counteract my habits and genetics – maybe hold off my death an extra year or two. Long enough for me to see the last of my children reach their majority. Long enough for me to say to my responsibilities: “It is done.” Long enough to say something, anything, of significance to the world.

I am due a prostate exam.

We live at a great time in our solar system’s history. It is about 4.5 bullion years since earth’s creation and another 4 billion years or so until our sun will become a red giant, it’s circumference extending to the earth’s orbit, scourging this Goldilocks anomaly with fire. Any sentient life will then have been erased from the local environs. Some of our descendants may have escaped to other worlds, but speciation means they would not be like us at all. A better bet would be that no-one escapes this planet alive. Anyway, a thousand years is the upper limit for a civilization. This billion years stuff is nonsense.

So that is the material I have to work with for my jokety-jokes. I may have to add a bit more sex.

 

Edward Snowden did not dump anything.

Most of those who would lynch Edward Snowden do not know what he did. The Trumpan lie runs not only through this election cycle, but through the politics and journalism of the American era.

Take David Plotz and the team at the Politics Gabfest podcast as an example. On the last Gabfest, David repeated the fallacy that Snowden ‘dumped’ data to Wikileaks. This from the editor of Slate at the time of the 2013 revelations. Was this basic ignorance or simply an affect of age?

Mr Plotz is what I think of as a solid journalist and honest person. He did good at Slate and Atlas Obscura is a thing of beauty. His co-hosts are at least his equals. Emily Bazelon would certainly count as one of my top three references for US supreme court interpretation. John Dickerson is, in my biased opinion, as close as the US will ever get to another Cronkite.

Here are three eminently intelligent and informed Americans blithely perpetuating a very consequential lie about everything that Edward Snowden did.

It is impossible to describe to the everyman the steps that Edward took to protect the source information he provided to journalists. He waited five months for Glenn Greenwald to get a clue about secure communications. He destroyed his access to the information once the journalists had control of it. He ensured that, at the time of his disclosure, every fact published would go through a writer, an editor and a publisher. Not to mention being checked with the US government for reasonable objections. I am certain that the NSA knows more about the Gabfest presenters’ sources and intimate lives than they know about the data that Snowden took.

I would also contend that no-one has managed source data with greater care than him. Certainly not Hillary Clinton, David Patraeus, the Office of Personnel management, The New York Times, Yahoo… The list of the incompetents is endless.

Here I must pause to invoke Hanlon’s razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” or more pertinently but less poetically: “Don’t assume bad intentions over neglect and misunderstanding.” I do not believe that the Gabfest had malicious intent when talking about Snowden. Their discussion was not even particularly egregious compared to much of what is being said. It was simply based on false facts.

I will let Trevor Timm invoke the repudiation of the Gabfest. I will only say this: If every data point a source disclosed was done through the agency of the journalist, how does one claim that the source is tainted while at the same time claiming the purity of the journalist?

It can only be done by fetishisizing the media. It can only be done with the American ideal.

Post-factual America was born in 1787 when James Madison cantered into Philadelphia with a briefcase of ideas clutched to his chest. Ideas about men that did not include women or slaves. Ideas about all men being created equal, without accepting the inequality of their birth. Ideas spawned in the hallowed halls of ideology. Ideas innocent of the battlefield’s blood and the plantation’s whip.

Ideas, in short, that were only ideas. On such shit was the greatest democracy of our time accidentally conceived. On that verbal spaghetti does it persist.

Edward Snowden may have fashioned himself a Cincinnatus, but he was only a Cincinnatus in the time of Sulla or Caesar. A dangerous thing to be.

One can only be betrayed by those they trust and I feel betrayed by my virtual friends at the Gabfest.

 

In defense of John Robbie

Let me first admit that John Robbie is not my favorite person. He is not even my favorite presenter on 702. He will never be a cunning linguist comparable to Stephen Grootes, nor a mass debater on par with Eusebius Mckaiser. He lacks the je ne sais quoi of Redi Thlabi and the elan of Xolani Gwala. He is, in short, something of an anachronism.

He persists with that Republican ragamuffin on the US Report and spews the sponsored content with a verve unbecoming of a serious thinker. I have often screamed at my radio “I bet you voted for Maggie Thatcher,” even as I knew that was impossible and unlikely.

And yet…

I have seen John change his opinion. On global warming. On racism. On gender. On everything except technology. I have seen an older (than me) white man change his understanding of the facts as his knowledge of the facts changed. I think it gathered steam when his first grandchild was born. We all become aware of our legacy when another generation eclipses us.

Now I am on his side. His questions may be awkward as he gropes towards the known. He still makes me cringe on occasion, but I cannot deny his desire to understand. I cannot help but admire his team sitting with him in the hours before dawn talking carefully through the issues at hand. I am certain that he is sometimes still the bombast. I am sure they still shake their heads on occasion. It is not always easy walking in the valley of the shadow of 4 am.

To those actually affected by the issue of being black while being educated, to the black girls with hair, to everyone who stands with all of you: You are right, I hope you win this fight.

To the rest of the Twitter lynch mob that went for JR. I see you all, ephemera. Do you think for one second that I could not dig up the dirt on any one of you, were you worth more than one second of my time?

Do you really believe you are of any more significance than the millions of trolls who threaten women with rape and murder? You whorebaggers who calculate which side of an argument you should be on this time? You prudes who think self-righteousness will shield you from the slings and arrows of reality? You content miscreants who choose to boost your pages or profiles by excoriating a well known name? You holy degenerates?

To you: please sod off. Your piety will not save you in this world or the next. Your clamor for compliments does not justify your existence. You will not get laid because of your tweet. Ninety percent of you never even heard the interview, you unconscionable sycophants.

I hate agreeing with John Robbie, but Twitter has become an idiocracy and Facebook is seldom any better on anything political.

My domestic worker’s daughter has gone to school with many different haircuts. Cornrows, Afro, short cut hair. Not once did it occur to me that the fascist shit I dealt with as a strange white kid still applied. Now I know and I will ask her. The basis for that conversation will not be the incoherent crap of the Twitterati or the insouciant arrogance of Eusibius. It will be the honest questions of Xolani and John and the – albeit sometimes inchoate or incomprehensible – answers of the people that spoke to them.

The one true atheist

In order to function in society, I must believe the lies. This is my reality paradox.

What is the one true atheist to say?

I watch with admiration as the humans around me cleave to meaning. Would I had the ego to stand as an arbiter of the universe. How do you do it?

I see you all – Dawkins, Hawking, Erica, Ada, John, Joan, Rene, Mozart, Mo, Iseous, Moshe, Ahura and Socrates. You spoke your truth, even if that truth was only a construct of your time. Your children in this time pretend the same.

What will the man of mud say to the scientists and sentimentalists? I see you all. I love you for your childlike faith, it has served your people well. Your words were not true, but they were true enough.

I see you all , genetic progenitors’ mine. Blood of my blood. Rapists and reactionaries, revolutionaries and loyalists, tillers of the dirt and builders of stone. Women of silence and of dissent. Pillars of strength and people of pustulence. Whores and heroines. My Homo Sapiens and your antecedents, the Neanderthals evident in my European roots.

To my 17498005798264095394980017816942 ancestors, do I say: “Well done! Behold the Homo Nihilus of your rutting?” Would that I could impute some meaning to your successive successful intercourse as your other offspring have done, even if only to worship the gods of genetic science. If only I could cling with more than the limpet’s lust to your fallacies and lineage. If only I were not obstinately I. If only I could see myself as more than an accident of probability.

I see you too, my evolutionary brain. Willing as you are to believe in magic and the music of the spheres. You seeker of patterns; you seer of shapes in the shadows; you son of Rorschach.

I feel you groan at night. I feel your impassioned, wistful strumming at doors of unreason. I feel your winter chill, your thrill of novelty and desire. I am aroused at your humility. Your empathy is admirable. I have seen you slow-dance with those the others would call demons. You have flirted with the monster’s mother and seen that she was good.

Let us call you Satyr and observe our slow decay.

I see me and all my devious machinations. There is no hubris in the soon-to-be-dead man. No pride in the dust so constituted.

What is the one true atheist to say?

Let him prey with sincerity at the alter of the one true G-d.

Abandon all hope

I remember being told of a movie in the 1980’s where the hero enters a room with one bullet in his gun to find which of the people around him is whatever monster. Said monster will be betrayed by eyes that glow in the dark or some such nonsense. The hero turns off the lights and sees nothing but glowing eyes all around him. He raises the gun to his own head.

I can only imagine this is how Gwede Mantashe felt this weekend. The saddest ‘Amandla’ in history sufficed for the bullet.

Our country has always been and oligarchy but today the kleptocracy has asserted it’s power. Those who play by the rules have lost as they always do.

Let the media fuss and fret. It is done.

A corolally to The Theory of General Relativity

[Author’s note: I am sure this is the restatement of some basic law I have not read. I find it fascinating nonetheless.]

All energy is transmitted through mass-less or massive particles.

Energy transmitted through massive particles cannot be said to be travelling in a vacuum even if they are travelling through a vacuum.

Any mass-less particle, such as a photon or graviton, will travel at the speed of light in a waveform.

Any particle travelling at the speed of light experiences infinite time dilation and infinite space contraction. In the coordinate frame of the particle 0 time is taken to traverse 0 distance. It follows that any point on an arbitrary coordinate frame K in a vacuum would have an infinitely small effect on the particle for an infinitely short period of time.

To rephrase this: Any interaction between space time and a mass-less particle in a vacuum is infinitely small.