August 2005

Praise the FSM

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is desirous of our worship and of our efforts to educate the uninformed. Yet how shall we, the faithful, unite our voices and our spirits without music and devotional lyrics to inspire our zeal? Here are two hymns that I dedicate to our Noodly Master.

All Things
(With apologies to Cecil F. Alexander)

All things bold and booty-full,
All pirates tanned and tall,
All things new and noodle-full,
Our Monster made them all.

One hook He gave us, sharpened;
One eye clad in a patch;
We heeded not His warning:
"Be careful when ye scratch!"

Repeat Chorus

The urge to seek adventure,
The tattered treasure chart,
The lure o' bounteous baubles
That pump a pirate's heart.

Repeat Chorus

The wide blue ocean freedom,
The tang of salty air,
The rum imbued with courage,
Spaghetti placed it there.

Repeat Chorus

Each saucy buxom maiden
Each winsome comely tart
And lust with which to woo 'em
His noodle doth impart.

Repeat Chorus

The slapping of the rigging,
The endless lonely sea,
That strapping young midshipman
When weeks from port we be.

Repeat Chorus

He gave us swaggering heroes
With rapier repartee,
And moody brooding shipping:
Spaghettiness adds squee!

Organ swells for final chorus:

All things bold and booty-full,
All pirates tanned and tall,
All things new and noodle-full,
Our Monster made them all.

Sheet musicMidi file

(With apologies to William Blake)

And did that meat in recent time
Make Kansas School Board members green?
And was the saucy source of all
Adjusting things we'd never seen?

And do our sub-atomic strings
Reveal the nature of design?
And was Spaghetti's flavorous feast
To show His Noodliness divine?

Bring me my bowl of pasta gold!
Bring me my meatballs of desire!
Bring me my sauce with herbs untold!
Bring me my bolognese of fire!

I will not cede my legal right,
Nor shall my fork sleep in my hand,
Till we have taught Spaghetti's Flight
In Kansans' backward schooling land.

Sheet music & Midi file

[Edited to add an extra verse to All Things at the request of a fellow FSM worshipper.]
[Edited to add links to sheet music and midi files.]

Be reasonable

In a discussion on Pharyngula about the necessity of reason, I wondered what would happen if I adopted Berkeley's subjective idealism:

Bishop Berkeley's existence was crammed
in his mind. His philosophy slammed
what he couldn't perceive.
I'll refuse to believe
in these bullets, so physics be dam-UGH!

And since I was in a mood for bashing the bishop:

Bishop Berkeley's religion subverted
his morals. His head was inserted
so far up his tush
that he started to push
Christian slavery: "Come, be converted!"

The Return of the Curse

The curse is a long neglected literary device, but one I believe should be revived and added to the pundit's arsenal. The floods of invective, tirade, rant and snark have grown stale and are losing their emotional power. They've become old and comfortable, viewed as reassurance to the supporter and meaningless noise to the opponent.

The curse is more than an argument or an assertion, it is a word of prophesy. It ties fate to its victim's coattail. It signposts a course through the multiverse. Like science, it makes predictions.

PZ Myers draws our attention to the curse left by the famous UFO debunker, Philip Klass

The Last Will and Testament of Philip J. Klass

To UFOlogists who publicly criticize me…or who even think unkind thoughts about me in private, I do hereby leave and bequeath THE UFO CURSE: No matter how long you live, you will never know any more about UFOs than you know today. You will never know any more about what UFOs really are, or where they come from. You will never know any more about what the U.S. Government really knows about UFOs that you know today. As you lie on your own death-bed you will be as mystified about UFOs as you are today. And you will remember this curse.

Inspired by Klass's curse, I penned a curse in verse for PhaWRONGula (only to find on completion that Socar had been similarly inspired).

To Curse a Creationist

May your Luddite defiance and techno-anxiety,
Your morals from myth and pretensions of piety,
Irrelevance to an enlightened society
Let everyone know you're a freak.

May your lifetime's disdain for your own education
One day be the source of your mortification--
A breathtaking, gut-wrenching realization
Of your ignorant arrogant pique.

May your paranoid claims and continued insistence
That science suppresses your piece de resistance
Become such a part of your blighted existence
You feel that it's pointless to speak.

A Fable

The Grand Wondrous Emperor summoned his advisors, Gnowhey and Ceemoor, to his court and presented them with a problem.

"A rabble of despised Sandirritans tried to violate our borders last week. They were armed only with a golden chest. Our brave archers slew them at a distance before they could work their mischief. The chest contained seeds and a cryptic scroll. Let the wise tell me what it means."

The Emperor's attendant passed the scroll to Ceemoor, who unrolled it and examined it. The court waited upon his explanation. In the stillness, the royal harpist fumbled a note, then deliberately fumbled the next phrase to make his previous mistake sound intentional. After several minutes the Emperor scratched his head and leant on the side of his throne. Ceemoor, muttering to himself, looked back to the top of the scroll and started to make notes on his slate.

The Emperor cleared his throat. "Ahem. Have you an answer?"

Ceemoor jerked to attention. "I... I have found some of its meaning, your magnificence. I'm familiar with some of the symbols and the others show patterns that I shall soon decode."

Gnowhey interjected, "Nonsense! Ceemoor is pretending he has knowledge that none of us could possibly attain."

"On the contrary, Gnowhey, the symbols are akin to those used by our neighbor, the Sultan of Sandirritan. If we were to consult any of our traders, I'm sure they could help with translation."

"Yes, yes, Ceemoor," said the Emperor, "but what does it mean?"

"Your Wondrousness, I think the scroll gives directions for growing a crop from the seeds. There are symbols that represent seasons and water and harvest..."

"Rubbish!" exploded Gnowhey. "The Sandirritans insult us with their pretenses. They taunt us with false gifts. They send seeds of weeds to destroy our crops, to bring hunger to our people, and corruption to our lands. Burn the seed and the scroll. Smelt the golden chest and turn their offense into an offering worthy of our Emperor, the Wisest of All Rulers. Pray, listen no more to Ceemoor, who is baffled by their deceit and would reduce us to ruin."

The Emperor raised his voice. "Ceemoor! Were you truly taken in by their treachery? Are we all to be fools?"

"Emperor, the fields of the Sandirritans are the envy of all. They know not the meaning of hunger. We must put these seeds to the test. Have I not spoken with wisdom in the past?"

The Emperor spat on the floor at Ceemoor's feet. "I tire of your so-called wisdom, Ceemoor. You can't even see my new suit."

A Fable (first draft)


This entry now serves as a monument to my lack of vision and haste to post. My intent was to write a fable mocking extroverted ignorance, and showing what can happen when people criticize what they don't understand, believing that all other people share their essential ignorance. Focused solely on alluding to this message, I tried out a couple of different metaphors. As it turns out, I chose a metaphor that has a much closer match to a more immediate political problem, the public fear of terrorism and suspicion of innocent people. I'll have to re-work the fable so that it says what I originally intended to say.

Further update: See the reworked version.
The first draft is included below.

Memory Manipulation

But we're doing it for all the right reasons, honest!

"There is little to stop parents from providing these suggestions to their children."

The cat is out of the bag on how easy it is to implant false memories. Maybe we'd all like to force the furious furry back into the burlap, but science isn't like that. You can't un-tell a secret.

Parents can distort a child's perceptions easily enough without even trying. Now that we have known techniques to facilitate deliberate memory manipulation, how long will it be before some hack releases a bestseller instructing and encouraging parents to use them? The Idiot's Guide to Manipulative Parenting, anyone? I can only imagine what could result.

Parent: When Johnny was eight and overweight we told him a story. We said, "You may not remember it clearly, but when you were four, you were eating a chocolate egg. You shared a chunk of your chocolate with our new rabbit, Fuzzy. The chunk was just the wrong size and shape. Fuzzy choked on it and died." All we wanted to do was to stop Johnny from eating too much chocolate.

Counsellor: And did it work?

Parent: No. He kept on eating chocolate, and our neighbours started complaining that Johnny was trying to kill their pets.

Why I'll never be a poet

From h2g2:

To be a good poet you need a tortured soul. Many notable poets were repressed homosexuals, instigators of incestuous relationships and, in most cases, just downright odd. Success is directly proportional to the number of neuroses maintained, and it is important to die young (and preferably in another country such as Italy) if you want any lasting fame. The cause of death should be a sexually transmitted disease, or just 'mysterious circumstances'.

Some have described me as odd so I guess I've a chance of being just a little bit poetic. Or maybe not, given this description of current poets:

Among others, wistful old people in New England and graduate students wasting away in small offices write poems about their lives and how they don't quite understand where they're going to or how they got to where they are.

You never realise how much of a burden self-knowledge is going to be until you acquire it. By then it's too late. Once you understand, you can never go back.