April 1. The morning after

This morning I stayed in bed and read. Lazy Sunday morning. April Fool's day was over for another year. Our (Socar, myself, and some help from Sica) prank had run its course and entertained a few. We'd managed to get our mythical Howard Glassman interviewed on a popular weblog. We'd drawn comments (both bemused and annoyed) from Neil Gaiman's fans in a number of web communities.

But, we'd failed. Neil hadn't shown the slightest inkling of awareness.

A little after 10am, I wandered over to the computer, bearing coffee and reheated leftovers for breakfast. My Sunday morning changed in 30 seconds when I opened my browser and chat windows. Neil blogged our prank... NEIL BLOGGED OUR PRANK! Poisson d'Avril, and other interesting dishes. (No, I don't believe Neil swallowed our hoax at face value and was completely taken in. If you're a regular reader of his journal, you'd know that he remains skeptical about what he reads on the web. His entry title should give you a clue.)

Socar (the one with the inspiration and wonderful Howardly writing) has a selection of responses. Here are a couple more:

From Robin Slick: In her own write

Neil! Susan! We've been duped!
Me sulking and then totally perplexed altogether

Wow. And just a few hours ago I was sulking that Neil Gaiman had linked Susan Henderson in his blog instead of me --the self-proclaimed Empress of Cyberworld -- as concerns the lunatic I told you about who was eating all of Neil's books.

But the story has now taken a strange, bizarre twist.

Guys? We've been duped.

In fact, we have been hornswoggled.

Ha! Brilliant!

From film ick

Strange Man Eats The Compleat Works Of Neil Gaiman
I saw this link on Neil Gaiman's blog. It seems like a brilliant marketing ploy, and I don't know for sure that it isn't.

But it might just be the work of a complete and utter lunatic.

Or maybe, to be fair, an odd-witted performance artist who needed a little more fibre in his diet.

Late update (12th April):

When catching up on some delayed blog reading over at tisiwoota, I noted Shameless Adulation of Virgil and Socar.

...Unlike those wannabes who think they’re being sooo clever by posting on March 30 rather than April 1, these pros get their pranks rolling a full month in advance. And boy are they elaborate...

Evidence of the Designer

In the Sydney Morning Age this morning:

Mathematical Evidence of a Designer

"There's no use saying pigs can't fly when you see them catching swallows," quips an Australian scientist about his ground breaking work on Intelligent Design. Dr Christian Ruse of the University of Woolloomooloo in Sydney has been working quietly on complexity theory for the last fifteen years, and "bloody scientific revolution" are the words he uses to describe what is about to happen.

"Pioneers of the Intelligent Design movement, like Dr William Dembski and Dr Michael Behe, have been extraordinarily patient and committed. Those diggers have stood up and faced the barrage thrown at them by the ultra-conservative establishment. They've taken a few flesh-wounds but they're still standing tall. While they've born the brunt of the political storm, nerds like me can get on with the job of serious ID research."

Dr Ruse's discovery is bound to upset the closed minds of traditional science, and as he says, "inject chaos into academia's smug meritocracy." The evidence he's uncovered provides unmistakable mathematical proof of a designer's hand in nature. Dr Ruse says, with understandable exuberance, "Dr Behe identified the flagellar motor in the bacterial flagellum, and I've found one of the designer's blueprints for it in the mathematics of the Mandelbrot Set! Something clicked when I saw the Budding Turbines area of the Set. They're all there, tiny machines layed out in elegant mathematical precision!"

The Mandelbrot Set, first shown in graphic detail by Benoît Mandelbrot, has bemused artists, mathematicians and philosophers for the last three decades. It's only through the work of Dr Ruse that we can begin to glimpse the significance of the infinite complexity contained in the Set. And where else would we expect to find evidence of the designer but at the intersection of mathematics and art, at the boundaries of philosophy and aesthetics?

"It's an area that many scientists find daunting. There is just so much detail and so many ways to look at it. Mysteries lie just beneath the surface of the Set and nobody knows they're even there. You have to have some idea of what you're looking for before you start, but you must, must, must keep a completely open mind at the same time," emphasizes Ruse.

What else lies hidden within the chaos of fractals? Dr Ruse is optimistic about his collaboration on sea horse anatomy with zoologist Dr Ophelia Rorschach, although he was reluctant to discuss their findings at this early stage. He was also unwilling to name the many other researchers who are following up on his discovery. "The political environment is still too hostile," he says, "and it's better that they be allowed to continue their research in peace rather than attracting the nay-sayer sharks before they're ready for them."

There is a tide in the affairs of science and, in good Australian form, Chris Ruse is determined to surf it, regardless of the sharks. Mark my words. Christian Ruse will be remembered for centuries to come.

An Endangered Species

Help Save The Tree Octopus From Extinction!

The Pacific Northwest tree octopus (Octopus paxarbolis) can be found in the temperate rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula on the west coast of North America. Their habitat lies on the Eastern side of the Olympic mountain range, adjacent to Hood Canal. These solitary cephalopods reach an average size (measured from arm-tip to mantle-tip,) of 30-33 cm. Unlike most other cephalopods, tree octopuses are amphibious, spending only their early life and the period of their mating season in their ancestrial aquatic environment. Because of the moistness of the rainforests and specialized skin adaptations, they are able to keep from becoming desiccated for prolonged periods of time, but given the chance they would prefer resting in pooled water.

There's more to see on the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus page. These intelligent and inquisitive creatures need our help to avoid extinction. Help out if you can.

I support the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus!

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.]

Fictionology Faction Friction

I suppose it was inevitable that the odious comparisons of the Bush administration to a Sith-controlled Star Wars galactic empire would prod at dormant questions in the Fictionology community. Old arguments are being revived. Again we're forced to address the question: "What Fictions can one legitimately believe?"

The two factions involved in this fracas are the conservative canonist Fictionologists and the extreme spontanist (or improv) Fictionologists. I'll try to summarize their positions.

- George Lucas had the whole Star Wars story, including script, worked out thirty years ago.
- George W Bush played out the whole of the WMD Fiction based on a dominionist script written thirty years ago.
- The apparent similarities between the two are coincidental but very instructive.

- George Lucas had a rough story plus script ideas worked out thirty years ago. He's been winging it ever since.
- George W Bush just makes shit up as he goes and refuses to admit that he could have been wrong.
- Lucas decided to nail Bush in Revenge of the Sith because he couldn't find any other way to inject fun into the movie.

The conflicting world views shine through in their different interpretations of the same set of observations. Why is there such a heated discussion? Can't they just believe what they want to believe? That solution only addresses the superficial nature of the debate.

Looking under the surface from a Fictionological philosophy point of view, the bone of contention is still the legitimacy of believing in a Fiction that you (or your close colleagues/family) write for yourself. Most conservative Fictionology thinkers see this as a sure way to isolate yourself from reality and alienate anyone who is smart enough to understand what you're doing. It destroys any hope that you'll even be able to recognize other people's Fictions, and inevitably leads to conflict rather than communication.

Fictionology on the Radio

I know a few people are anxious to see a transcript of my Sunday morning interview on Victorian Community Radio, 3-VCR. I hope to get permission to post a recording of the interview on my website, but until then, a transcript will have to suffice. Matthew Collins made me feel right at home during the interview. I'd given him drafts of a number of chapters from my forthcoming book. You'll see from the interview that he'd obviously taken some time to understand them.

Matthew: This morning we welcome Virgil Keys to Religion, Respect and Ridicule. He regards himself as a lifelong student of Fictionology. Virgil, not too many people are familiar with Fictionology. Tell us a little about it.

Virgil: Thanks for inviting me, Matthew. Fictionology is a religion that embraces and transcends almost every other known religion. A true Fictionologist chooses which Fictions to believe and holds to them, drawing meaning, instruction, moral guidance, entertainment and comfort from them. It taps into the essence of what makes us human: stories. It's the foundation of human society, making sense of our existence and giving purpose to these collections of organic molecules that we call bodies. Fictionology is the single unifying concept that gives meaning to life.

Matthew: Those are extraordinary claims, Virgil. Does it worry you that other religions have made similar unifying claims?

Virgil: No. In fact Fictionology accepts those claims without reservation, and yet still embraces its own broader claim. Fictionology is a meta-religion, but at the same time is itself a religion. In that sense, it even encompasses itself, but let's avoid the more abstract concepts for the moment.

Matthew: Definitely. I think my brain just turned inside-out. What does Fictionology mean to the average person?

Virgil: It means peace of mind, understanding who you are in this chaotic universe, and making sense of how people behave. It means having access to role-models, mentors and companions in your journey. It broadens your outlook, makes you think outside the box, exposes you to new paradigms, and frees you from artificially constrained thought patterns.

Matthew: So far, you haven't said a lot about what Fictionologists actually believe. Is there some secrecy?

Virgil: Far from it, Matthew. The problem with trying to say what Fictionologists believe is there are too many widely varying beliefs. Adherents of Fictionology are free to choose their Fictions. The most important parts of Fictionology lie not in what you believe, but how you believe. It's a difficult topic and one that I don't think we can do justice to in the space of one interview.

I'd love to be able to give you and your listeners a five minute "fix" that could transform your lives, but it can't be done. That's why I'm putting so much time and effort into my book.

Matthew: Let's talk about your book for a couple of minutes. I hear it's been generating a lot of interest.

Virgil: Indeed it has, Matthew. Since I published that brief Fictionology FAQ on my journal, I've been stunned by the flood of emails. I'm not sure that I'll be able to answer them all personally. I figure the best thing I can do is complete the book.

Matthew: Yes. Thanks for the draft chapters you sent me last week. In chapter 4, I found your descriptions of the way Fictionology was changing people's lives very moving. It's been a running theme here on Religion, Respect and Ridicule that many forms of religion can have an extremely negative impact on individuals. Your examples present Fictionology in a very positive light. Is this realistic?

Virgil: It's true, most of the stories I've included are of positive life experiences. I've tried to present a cross section of Fictionological life without bias. My experience in studying Fictionology shows that the stories are, on the whole, good news stories. People aren't perfect and they can hurt one another very easily, but Fictionology minimizes the effects of these imperfections. Life is a storm of harsh uncaring physical reality with tiny shelters of communication and support. Sharing a Fiction opens up a channel of communication between people, allowing them to be really human. For most people, this is a positive rewarding experience.

Matthew: But you acknowledge that some people try Fictionology and then give it up?

Virgil: Fictionology is not for everyone. It requires imagination, and sadly, there are people who show a staggering lack of imagination. There are people who just can't get much out of reading a book.

Even imaginative people can have difficulties with Fictionology. In chapter 7, one I'm currently working on, I tell of my encounter with a lapsed Fictionologist named Barry. Barry had some bad experiences in a Sailor Moon Fiction group which left him bitter and dejected. Interestingly, he still regards his time in the group as the most connecting and fulfilling experience in his life, but he blames himself for lacking imagination: he couldn't imagine himself not actually being Sailor Mercury. It caused friction within the group and also ruined his promotional prospects as a taxation auditor. The only way he could cope was to cut himself off from Fictionology altogether.

Matthew: You make a point in chapter 2 about problems that arise when people try to live out the lives of their chosen Fictional characters.

Virgil: Yes, Matthew. It's a common mistake made by people who haven't understood Fictionology. Being in a role-playing group doesn't make you a Fictionologist. It's of paramount importance that you understand your own identity. You are one person. You cannot be anyone else whether you believe they exist or not. Role playing does have its uses in Fictionology as an aid to understanding your chosen Fiction, but at the end of the day, you are yourself.

We see this exhibited even in Naive Fictionology. Take, for example, the WWJD meme in Christianity. Its adherents try to base their decisions on the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" This is role-playing without any hint of a suggestion that the devotee could think of themselves as Jesus.

Matthew: So you'd conclude that Barry's problem with Fictionology amounts to a lack of understanding.

Virgil: That, and some unresolved identity issues. Yes.

Matthew: You said that Fictionology is not for everyone. Is there any hope for these people?

Virgil: There will always be those who are condemned to misunderstand life, just as there are people who can never detect sarcasm. I dream of a world of understanding, where everyone embraces their own Fictions while allowing others to have theirs. Most people are intelligent and imaginative enough to be a part of this world. Some will never be.

Matthew: I'm afraid that's all we have time for this morning. Thanks for coming in, Virgil.

Virgil: My pleasure, Matthew.

Matthew: Don't forget to look for Virgil's book, Fictionology: A Panacea for the Information Age (Part 1) when it's released later this year. Until then, I'll keep struggling to untangle my own Fictions.

Evacuation Redux

A full night of sleep has cleared my head and allowed me to review the events of last night. It is apparent to me now that the theatre evacuation was no minor security scare or safety problem. It was clearly one of the slickest and most efficient cover-ups in the history of black helicopters. It would have been impossible to conduct without advanced mind control, well beyond the current state of human technology.

Here are the clues that led me to a greater understanding of what had been done:

1. SonOfVirge commented as we left the theatre that time had passed very quickly since we entered. He was surprised at the lateness of the hour. This observation, coming from a teenager for whom several hours at a screen are credited as "just a few minutes", should have told me that something unusual was happening.

2. There was a complete absence of anxiety in the crowd. The crowd's phlegmatic uncritical acceptance of the need to evacuate, together with my own uncharacteristic self-censored curiosity should have not only been ringing alarm bells, it should have had Mike Oldfield's greatest hit on track-repeat.

3. Most importantly, the evacuation served to interrupt my viewing of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The parallels between real life events and elements of the plot should have been a giveaway. The only thing that could have stopped me seeing the connection last night is mind-control.

I guess they didn't count on any of the victims wearing a tinfoil hat to bed. I'll tell more of my revelation later. Right now I have to go and see my private brain-care specialist.

Fictionology FAQ

What is Fictionology?

Fictionology is a religion above all other religions. It both embraces and transcends almost every other known religion. A true Fictionologist chooses which Fictions to believe and holds to them, drawing meaning, instruction, moral guidance, entertainment and comfort from them.

What is Naive Fictionology?

Most adherents of traditional religions refuse to admit that they are actually practising a type of Fictionology. We refer to this as Naive Fictionology. It is a much more mentally draining position, and has been shown in scientific tests to consume as much as 90% of an adherent's concentration just in coping with the interplay of simultaneously-held conflicting ideas. Some hold that it is this mental load that prevents Naive Fictionologists from comprehending true Fictionology.

Isn't Fictionology just believing any old crap?

An extremely facile view of Fictionology may lead to that interpretation. However, any mature, intelligent adult with even a rudimentary understanding of philosophy would recognise the wonder of the existence of narrative, the benefits of complete immersion in Fiction, and the edification that comes from exercising a faith. You must learn to think on the next level up from the prescriptive religions you're used to.

Do Fictionologists have churches?

Some do, but you won't always recognize them if you're used to traditional churches. Some meet regularly in small groups outside movie theatres. Some gather in members' homes to read, watch videos or role play. Some dress up and meet in dark noisy clubs. It depends on the Fiction selection of the group.

What are the benefits of Fictionology?

Peace of mind. Understanding. Significance. Prosperity. Friendship. Confidence. True humanity. (Not necessarily all at the same time and not necessarily just for you.)

Can I just choose my favorite book and believe it?

You can, but that won't grant you all the benefits of Fictionology. You need to know the way to apply Real Fiction to your ways of thinking.

How can I become a Fictionologist?

Send me an email and I'll add you to the growing list of people waiting to purchase my new book "Fictionology: A Panacea for the Information Age (Part 1)"

Fictionology Gets Bad Press

[From Pharyngula: It sounds so absurd, it might just be real…] Why oh why oh why must reporters pretend that all Fictionologists believe the same things? Read this pathetic mischaracterization in The Onion. And they quote a plastic surgeon saying:

"Sure, it's total bullshit," Jurgenson added. "But that's Fictionology. Praise Batman!"

That's disgusting! How can they call that fair and balanced reporting?!? Of course they only interview the Fictionology extremists--the Batman-worshippers, the big-budget Hollywood plastic-fiction Ellroyites--and make out that those are the views of the whole religion. By Zaphod, that makes me mad. People like Jurgenson give Fictionology a bad name.

Talk to any Rational Fictionologist and you'll understand that what we have is a sensible and logical faith. Fiction is only "pretend" while it's forming in the mind of an Author. Once it's published, it's real. (BTW, retcon is for the faithless hacks who lack the imagination to see the potential truth of Real Fiction.)

It's clear that we Rational Fictionologists need to do a better job of promoting our beliefs.

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