The clock is tick-tick-ticking off its judgments. Tick – stupid. Tick – Hey, stupid. It’s new. I bought it for six bucks at the local five-and-dime. La Virgen de Guadalupe smiles serenely from its face, held aloft by angels.

Black Swan, White Swan... Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Formal logic might be the blackest of magics (and it makes for the most excruciating of reads). Just try figuring out the Black Swan Problem. Read a ton of obnoxious articles by formal logicians – who I imagine wear capes and brood in towers while they go about their dark art of turning language into math – without pushing your thumbs into your eyeballs until they pop.

Donald Duck: High Priest of the Illuminati

Conspiracy theorists are dreadfully thorough, but I guess most of them missed this one: Donald in Mathmagic Land, the 1959 Disney featurette starring Donald Duck which teaches us about the Pythagorean cult, the pentagram, the Fibonacci Sequence, and the Golden Ratio.

Jack Kirby And Comic Book Mysticism

You may not recognize the name Jack Kirby, but if you’ve ever argued with your friends over who gets to be Cyclops when you were playing X-Men in your backyard, then you’ve been touched by his creations.

Eye of the Skeptic

Those “I’m always right” types absolutely need faith, or else those vicious doubts start creeping in. Not only will you find faith in the religious mind, calling God a fact, you’ll also find it lurking in the atheist, saying He isn’t. Come to think of it, anyone who uses the word “fact” so easily must be pretty faithful, at least when it comes to their own nonsense.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why the Yazidis Worship the Devil (And Why That's OK) -Sitting Now

Originally published August 28, 2014 via infectiv.com

Dedicated to Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, executed for heresy

In the past month, an estimated 500,000 Yazidis have fled Sinjar, the site of one of the largest Yazidi communities in Iraq, to escape the invading threat of ISIS. The crime they are accused of is devil worship, one that Muslims have been flinging at the Yazidis since the 16th century.

The Yazidis deny the accusation, of course. But it’s hard to do when one of only two holy books known to your faith says, “Neither is it permitted to us to pronounce the name of Shaitan (because it is the name of our God)” (Meshaf Resh).

Shayṭān (Shaitan) is one of the names given to Iblis, the Islamic version of Satan. That the Meshaf Resh (The Black Book) names him as the god of the Yazidis could be a bit confusing. But it should be kept in mind that Meshaf Resh and the other Yazidi holy book, Ketēbā Jelwa (Book of Illumination), though revered by the Yazidis themselves, are considered to be forgeries written by outsiders in 1911 and 1913, respectively. So, using them as primary sources is misleading.

Much of the “confusion” (not counting that particularly damning piece of scripture) stems from connections traditionally made between peacocks and Shayṭān in Islam.

The Yazidis are a monotheistic culture, but they also venerate seven archangels (the heft sirr), chief among them being Tawûsê Melek (translated as “King Peacock” or more commonly, “Peacock Angel”). Although they believe that a supreme deity created and ruled over the heft sirr, Tawûsê Melek still plays the role of creator in Yazidi cosmology, filling the earth with animals and plants.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Max Headroom: TV Pirate -Sitting Now

Originally published August 14, 2014 via infectiv.com

Guy Fawkes has become the face of electronic anarchism, but thirty years ago, before Anonymous and the Federal Sentencing Commission takedown, there was another discordian electro-icon: Max Headroom.

Max was the lead character of the cult-classic made-for-tv-movie, Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into the Future (played by Matt Frewer); and would later appear as a British veejay, the star of his own spinoff show, and as the spokesman for New Coke. His digitized features (created with Hollywood makeup magic) and glitchy stutter were well-known and popular in the late 80′s. So popular that I can’t believe I’m having to explain who he is. Ah, the terrible burden of the elderly.

But on November 22, 1987, TV viewers were introduced to a different Max Headroom. During the Chicago Bears highlights segment of WGN-TV’s Nine O’Clock News, the normal feed was interrupted by the image of a man wearing a Max Headroom mask and sitting in front of a wildly bobbing sheet of corrugated metal while a loud buzz of feedback was heard.

After twenty-five seconds, the sports anchor returned, looking about as confused as anyone, saying, “Well, if you’re wondering what’s happened, so am I.”

What had happened was a broadcast pirate, using a microwave transmitter, overrode the station’s signal with his own

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Where'd the Cheese Go? -Sitting Now

Originally published August 8, 2014 via infectiv.com

I guess I’m a Ween apologist. I’ve liked the Pennsylvanian band ever since my buddy’s penny CD club accidentally sent him Chocolate and Cheese instead of the Weezer album he’d ordered. After noting all the underboob on the cover, our sixteen-year-old hormones graciously decided to give it a chance, and I instantly fell in love.

They’ve always made me laugh, with the same glee that dick and fart jokes do, and I’ve often found myself singing the chorus of one sophomoric Ween anthem or another over and over like a mental hiccup.

But it was a real downer when I realized early on that the only other Ween fans out there were, as Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman has put it, “children and retarded people.” It became quickly apparent that mentioning them in polite company would almost certainly lead to sour faces and distrusting, sideways glances. 

Ween became a seriously guilty pleasure, hidden under my mattress and played only at low volumes with the curtains drawn.

My poor wife has had full access to everything behind closed doors, though, and on a recent occurrence of the ever-popular “Sing Ween Songs At Your Spouse” game (not her favorite), I found myself bobbing my head at her like an emu and barking, “Where’d the cheese go?”

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