April 2005

Blind Reading the Sign

I chose some frames last week for a new pair of glasses.

Good news: My new glasses have arrived.

Bad news: The prescription is WRONG.

Beowulf and Grendel

I was browsing the movie production site for Beowulf and Grendel and proceeded from there to read about the difficulties they encountered during filming as recounted by Wendy Ord (assistant director).  I wondered what would have happened had Gerard Butler (Beowulf) become confused and starting singing Phantom of the Opera songs:

Night-time sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness ends my day's long degradation
Silently my senses
Abandon their defences
Pardon me if this sounds impolite
This sweaty warrior costume smells like shite

Slowly, sternly, Iceland in its splendour
Leaves me breathless, weary-limbed and tender
Feeling is believing
Slopes here are deceiving
Wish I had just half of Beowulf's might
I'd better book a massage for tonight

Close your eyes for your eyes will only tell the truth
And the truth is the filming schedule means
That I'm climbing and fighting yet again!
How long now till the Sarah Polley scenes?

Boldly, coldly, Iceland's whims caress me
Sore winds, more winds threaten to undress me
Frostbite feels my toes
While the sand blows up my nose
Could it get much worse here neath the northern lights?
(We could have PeTA pushing Grendel's rights)

Use your eyes as we journey to a strange, new world
Leave all thoughts of the films you've seen before
Use your eyes, let the scenery set you free
And make me your Oscar nominee

Floating, sailing, sweet intoxication
Trusting, trembling in anticipation
Let this filming end
While I still have strength to spend
Wish this wobbly Viking boat was water tight
Help me make it to my homeward flight

The Gnomes of Stuff

I posted another little poem to the Somewhat Secret Secret Society forum. I think the society created for the show I attended is doomed to die. The delay after the show before the Gnomes of Stuff society was enabled has probably discouraged the members that tried to join up.

Be that as it may, I still enjoyed writing a poem for this probably short-lived somewhat secret society.

The Gnomes of Stuff

'Tis a time of arcane omen;
Show the shadow of the gnomon,
Made by moonlight, known by no man
Living life in light of day.

Keep the kernel of our knowledge
Only in our occult college;
Learn the lore that we acknowledge,
Source of stuff and weird and way.

Gnostic gnomes, we feed the fire
Of the ego's inner liar,
Preaching puzzles to the choir,
Foisting fables to the buyer,
Caching cash till we retire.
So, to seek your soul's desire
Take a ticket; read the flyer;
For our future you must pay.

Buy our blarney; crave our chorus;
Cast your credit cards before us;
Tell the tax-man to ignore us;
Life's not long so don't delay...
Gnomes will nail you should you stray.

Never Smile

I remember November. You met my pet, Bart.
Was it fate, that you hated him right from the start?
I said "Please don't you tease my poor cold-hearted croc.
He's descended (contended) from warm-blooded stock."
But you sneered at his tears and said "Keep him outdoors!"
I gave Bart a warm heart, yes indeed; it was yours.

Never Smile

Who'd have thought that crocodiles could have warm-blooded ancestors? Here's a cross-post of mine from PhaWRONGula:

I remember November. You met my pet, Bart.
Was it fate, that you hated him right from the start?
I said "Please don't you tease my poor cold-hearted croc.
He's descended (contended) from warm-blooded stock."
But you sneered at his tears and said "Keep him outdoors!"
I gave Bart a warm heart, yes indeed; it was yours.

Somewhat Secret

On Sunday evening we joined a secret society. I can't tell you much about it (but I can point you to Lawrence Leung and Andrew McClelland's Somewhat Secret Secret Society web site for further elucidation).

Last night I dreamt of latter days,
of daunting times with smoke-filled skies,
a city--more a metal maze--
lay stretched before my eyes.

An angel stood beside me there
commanding that I listen well
and write its words of deep despair--
its tales of future hell:

"The faithful, fevered by a bush
and fallen rum, did visit awe
upon the east--dominion's push
flew willingly to war.

A Texan searches long in vain
for powers hid beneath the sands;
yet finding none, can still maintain
his lust to conquer lands.

When Leonardo's heir arose
his words appeared in every store
to show the code and thus expose
conspiracies of yore.

A prince now weds a hated maid
while sneering at his erstwhile bride
who fell before the camera's blade
intrusively applied.

A pilgrim pole with voice divine,
who nurtured aids and damned the gay,
two-sixty-fifth of Peter's line,
lies dead without decay.

"Um, dude," said I to break its flow,
"your sense of time has gone askew.
This shit's all in the past, you know,
so tell me something new."

"Impatient man! Be still," it cried,
"Heed all my words and don't forget
'tis you who'll face this evil tide;
You ain't seen nothin' yet.

See, now the signs of Satan's spite
appear in comic garb arrayed,
for in this city's clubs tonight
his servants ply their trade.

They seek to hide their evil game
by seeding secrets by the score
and hosting cliques, benign and lame,
to mask their monstrous corps

The angel paused and grasped my head
its pearly palms constrained my cheeks;
"You must record the names", it said,
"of whom this omen speaks.

The first's an infidel, filled with hate,
(and languishing for lack of lays)
the libidinous Lawrence Leung; of late
he's peddling wanton ways.

The second's Andy 'handy hook'
McClelland, clever cutlass whore,
whose raving jolly-rogering look
has never helped him score.

Don't fall for their 'society' ploy
the somewhat secret secret plot;
you'll wind up as a mindless toy,
with all your base in their employ,
your brave society: their decoy,
You'll take the heat while they enjoy
fresh groupies in the cot.

"Well, thanks," I said, "that's wise advice."

I paused a moment to reflect:
how many souls will I entice
to join my secret sect?


The longer I live, the further my understanding of the universe diverges from that of my parents. That's a polite way of saying that they believe some really weird rubbish.

I used to contemplate a question: "If they're happy with what they believe, should I try to convince them it's false?" I'd usually decide it was better to remain quiet unless one of them raised a controversial subject and pushed it at me. Even then I'd sometimes decide it wasn't worth the effort. I reason from a naturalistic mindset, while said relatives rely on religious conviction and anecdotes from sources of perceived authority.

The gulf is getting wider. It's resulting in actions that make me reconsider my libertarianism (or is that apathy?). Just last week, DaughterOfVirge & SonOfVirge decided that they no longer wished to spend time with ParentsOfVirge because of the continual quackery that was leveled at them. They're normal and healthy, so it's understandable that being continually told of the things that they "must" be allergic to becomes an irritation. Now we're at the point where MotherOfVirge has had ChildrenOfVirge performing ideomotor action experiments to test for assumed allergy-related problems. When I heard about it, I asked SonOfVirge, "Did you manage to remain polite?" Unfortunately, as a teenager, he hasn't yet mastered diplomacy, patience and firm reasoned resistance. He admitted that he resorted to mockery and sarcasm.

You can see where this situation is headed--a generation gap fueled on one side by a complete lack of respect for the intelligence of the grandparents, and on the other side by growing isolation and alienation.

It's not a lack of intelligence. Pseudo-science quackery is very convincing for people who, through life's journey, haven't developed the critical thinking skills needed to combat it. Current affairs programs are only too happy to promote the "cures that our staid medical establishment refuse to acknowledge". Churches, even ones that don't actively encourage faith-healing practices, soften people's minds with biblical stories of miraculous healing, and pulpit-delivered anecdotes of the power of prayer in contemporary lives. Even respected scientists like Alfred Russel Wallace were fooled by the ideomotor phenomenon of table turning, despite Michael Faraday's experimental findings. It's not a matter of intelligence; it's a matter of conditioning, of reinforcement of ideas over a long period of time.

I think the time has come for me to start proselytizing scientific naturalism. Either that or watch the family fragment.


Spring is young;
Do you hunger to be whole?
Would you hear me if I told you what I know?

Summer's bright;
Do I lighten listless days?
Are illusions safe when played by seasoned fools?

Autumn's long;
Are my songs just silly rhyme?
Were you saving up the time it took to read?

Winter's near;
Do you fear the fire for me?
Are your futile trembling knees for me ignored?

I had been thinking of Emerson, Lake & Palmer's C'est La Vie, and wondered how its structure and rhyme scheme would suit a poem.

Unitarian Jihad

From PZ Myers' Pharyngula I followed a link to Jon Carroll's revelation of a communique from a group calling itself Unitarian Jihad. Read it. Here's a small sample:

We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: "Sincerity is not enough." We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it's true doesn't make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn't mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.

Ancient Aardvarks

I'm still adding the occasional poem to PhaWRONGula. This one was inspired by Pharyngula: Jurassic aardvark! and Jurassic Mammal.

Popeye arms and aardvark bite,
Of ancient lineage long deceased, he
Lived beneath the lizards' might,
This late Jurassic tiny beastie;

Simple tubular teeth can munch
The termites destined for his belly;
Scratching foreclaws find his lunch:
It's Fruitafossor windscheffeli!

The Literalist

Never planning to deceive,
Nor is he naive nor slow;
Ancient texts have been his lot--
Blind to what he doesn't know.

(I'm growing to like the Awdl Gywydd Welsh verse form.)