September 30, 2017

What does it mean when I get all aces in a Tarot reading?

Sometimes, a double rainbow is just a double rainbow.

One of the most commonly asked questions I hear from new Tarot readers is, "What does it mean when...," followed by some variation of:
  • I get all aces?
  • I get all face cards?
  • I get all pips from the same suit?
  • I get all trumps?
Because Tarot reading includes a lot of pattern recognition - a famously human ability - readers will find patterns every time. Including reversals, there are 3,723,720 unique ways to arrange three cards out of a 78-card Tarot deck. Pulling three aces can feel significant, but what about all 2's? All kings? Or what about all hearts? Or all spades? Or what about a run from ace, 2, 3? Or jack, queen, king? Or what about every-other even (2, 4, 6) or every-other odd (1, 3, 5)?

You can shuffle and lay down cards as often as you like and nearly every time you'll find a unique or interesting combination that by virtue of its pattern seems astonishingly important, but the reality with Tarot is that these combinations happen quite a lot.

Statistically speaking, there might be only one instance of getting all three cards as aces in a reading, but so too is there only one instance of getting any other combination from three cards. Therefore, all aces is as equally rare as any other combination among three cards and its meaning is just as significant.

Because Tarot isn't a trick-taking card game (except when it is), it doesn't matter in the slightest whether you find multiples of a kind, a straight flush, a full house, a flush, a straight, pairs, or the high card. When you get an interesting combination of cards on the table, we're not looking for point values but instead for meaning. In a way, it can be disheartening to think that all possible combinations are as equally rare as they are common. All snowflakes are unique but they're also identical in their uniqueness.

But then, it can also be very exciting to know that in a 10-card Celtic cross arrangement in which the reader is using reversals there are 72 to the 21st power possible combinations which is not only far more than the estimated 107 billion people who've ever lived but is also a number larger than the estimated age of the universe.

For these reasons, there's probably not a Tarot reader anywhere who's ever shuffled and laid down the exact same cards for the Celtic Cross in the same sequential order as any other Tarot reader ever, and I think that's exciting.

September 28, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 9/28/2017

Trump the con-man selling a wall to gullible idiots.
  1. Glitch in the Matrix: a 1950's TV show featured a character named Trump who was defrauding simple townsfolk with promises about a wall. Seeing is believing. Don't commit the Satanic sins of losing perspective or forgetting the past. 
  2. Hugh Hefner has died at the age of 91. Hail lust! Hail indulgence! Hail Hefner!
  3. Wild Intuitive shares some thoughts on what it means to be the black sheep of the family and how your black-sheepness benefits you. Read more here.
  4. Reading Tarot professionally isn't all rainbows and sunshine. Believe it or not, but it's actually really exhausting, and professional readers use a variety of strategies to sustain their focus and stamina. Read more here.
  5. Christiana Gaudet has some thoughts about reading Tarot for skeptics. Read more here. Speaking for myself, I love reading for skeptics: my experience is that they often have a terrific sense of humor and tend to have more fun than the so-called "believers" who take things way too seriously.
  6. "I'm so surprised that a religious organization which considers itself to be above the laws of the Earth and beholden only to the desires of an imaginary friend would go against the law," said nobody, ever. Read more here.
  7. NASCAR owners pre-emptively announcing that they'll fire any employee who exercises his or her civil rights seems like an invitation for a costly lawsuit. Read more here.
  8. Christian reconstructionist and dominionist Roy Moore has been elected a senator for Alabama. This doesn't bode well. Read more here.  
  9. It's never too early to start preparing for the war on Christmas! Just watch this crafty Satanist below corrupt the charming snowmen to be sold to good Christian families:

September 23, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 9/23/2017

The art of Simone Ruco via Cvlt Nation.
  1. Between Gods and Beasts: the tattoo artistry of Ruco. Read more here.
    • Bonus linkage from Cvlt Nation: the horror art of the House of Hammer magazine. Read more here.
  2. This looks interesting: the movie "American Satan" is opening in theaters on Friday, October 13th. Check it out.
  3. Take note, Jeff Mateer: transgendered children aren't part of Satan's plan. Read more here.
    • Bonus linkage: What is dead-naming and--if you care enough to not be an asshole--why should you avoid it? Read more here.
  4. Exquisite Equinox from the Church of Satan!
  5. Responsibility is for the responsible: a discussion about the illusion of free will, self determination, and consequences. Read more here.
    • Bonus linkage from Aeon: the Internet is mapping the contours of modern fear. Read more here.
  6. The Hip Hop Tarot is finished and you can see it in all its glory. If you're so inclined, you can also purchase a copy here.
  7. Want to become a good Tarot reader? Then there's only one lesson you need to learn. Read it here.
  8. Could Amazon's next headquarters be in Canada? Some people think it's likely to happen. Read more here.
    • In related news, the twin Saults of Ontario and Michigan have offered a joint application. Read more here. Shame on me for having insufficient esprit de corps, but I rather doubt my home will make the shortlist.
  9. The End is Coming. Or at least, an end is coming, and it might come in the relatively near future. Read more here.

September 22, 2017

After Action Report: Tarot Blog Hop 9/22/2017

The Tarot Blog Hop is an international group of Tarot readers who get together eight times a year to blog about a common theme relating to Tarot and fortune-telling. If you read Tarot and keep a blog then you're welcome to join us, but if not then I invite you to digest the highlights I've pruned from my favorite entries from this round.

The theme for this round is food: choose a card from the Tarot and describe what it likes to cook. I participated in the hop and you can read my entry here, but this after-action report is about the other blogs I enjoyed reading so let's get hopping!

I love smoked fish. There're some fisher-folks about 45 minutes north of town who catch and smoke trout year-round for sale at the local farmer's market. If the sheer volume of salt consumed wouldn't kill me, I'd eat smoked trout every day for each meal. Read more here.

There's a southern-style restaurant in town that does BBQ of all sorts and they’ve got brisket on the menu. To be honest, I was disappointed – it wasn’t that great – but I don’t know why I’d have ever thought that a restaurant so far north could cook such a dish. It may be a traditionally Jewish dish, but I’ve only ever seen it cooked by southern BBQ chefs. *shrugs* I guess I’ll have to invite myself over the next time the author is cooking another brisket? Read more here.

Alcohol with desserts is lovely. My wife made some truffle-esque things a few years ago and had a rather liberal hand with the liquor she added. She forgot how much she added to the batch and after noshing her way through about six of them a few weeks later realized that she was going to sit down and not get back up again for the rest of the evening. Read more here.

If you like honey-flavored cocktails, then you’d get along with my friend Bryan. He buys raw honey from the Mennonites north of town and uses that to brew his own mead. He’s entered a few amatuer competitions and has gotten to the point that people are telling him to start looking bigger. His mead is evil – it goes down so smooth and easy you don’t even think about how much you’re drinking until it’s way too late. Read more here.

Who doesn't love tapioca? Nobody, that's who. I wasn’t aware that anybody thought tapioca was gross, but then again I'm something of a social recluse so I guess I wouldn't really know. I’ve only ever had tapioca as a dessert – like out the paper packets sold in the grocery store – but I’ve loved it. Add some raisins and serve it warm with a sprinkling of cinnamon and I’m in dessert heaven. Read more here.

My wife and I had a Pagan handfasting officiated by a Wiccan priestess registered with an event agency in the region. Since my wife is a Wiccan-y witch, we did cakes-and-ale at the end of our handfasting. You could tell we were super-duper serious about it, too, because our cakes were donuts and the ale was hot apple cider both purchased earlier that morning at the local Tim Horton's. It isn't that we didn't have time to prepare, we just... didn't care that much? Read more here.

Mmm… cheese-crust apple pie. Those are so good. My wife has a recipe not unsimilar to the one linked here and it’s so good that I pout when she makes it for company because I want to keep it all for myself. Read more here.

Tarot Blog Hop: Eat Me

For this edition of the Tarot Blog Hop, our host Kiss Boglarka has asked us to choose a card from the Tarot deck and use it to inspire our appetites. If this Tarot card were a person, what would it cook? I chose the Devil who loves nothing more than deep-frying unbaptized babies in hot oil. You might think this is blasphemous, but eating unsaved children really is quite a modest proposal.

Because I'm a Satanist, naturally I've got a full-fledged breeding operation in place to supply a young fatling for the black mass my coven observes at every dark of the Moon, but if you haven't such a supply then I suppose you could just cook chicken instead. Here's a recipe straight out of the Devil's cookbook for the best fried chicken you've probably never had:

  • 20-30 chicken wings, legs, or thighs (bone in, skin on). You can use breasts, but they're thicker than the other cuts and will have to be cooked separately to ensure adequate cooking time. If you don't want to cook this much meat, then you can halve, third, or quarter the recipe accordingly.
  • Equal parts lemon juice and malt vinegar (4 cups each, 8 cups total)
  • 1/4 cup Salt
  • 1/8 cup pepper
  • 1/8 cup ground cloves
  • 2-4 bay leaves
  • 3 cups white flour. If you can't have gluten, then you can substitute the flour with 1:1 gluten-free baking flour which is easy to find at the local bulk store.
  • 3 tbsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups white wine or apple cider
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 egg yolks (no whites)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped green onion
  • Wash and completely dry a bunch of parsley. You may remove the stems if you so desire.

1) Prepare your meat

Combine all the ingredients for your marinade. You can store the marinade in a large pot, or you can separate it into two large zip-lock freezer bags. This recipe is enough for 20-30 wings, legs, or thighs. You can use breasts if you like, but they're thicker and can be fussy about cooking all the way through.

When you're ready, put your skin-on, bone-in chicken into the marinade. The malt vinegar in this recipe is an acid bath which starts the cooking process like lime juice in ceviche. This flavorful marinade will saturate and tenderize the meat. Leave your chicken in this acid bath for absolutely no longer than three hours, and to be honest I wouldn't dare leave it longer than two hours. If you leave your chicken in the marinade too long, the flavor will intensify to the point that the chicken becomes inedible. Leave it longer than that, and you'll get a meat slurry.

Nota bene: This acid bath won't kill the salmonella bacteria. Handle your marinade carefully to avoid contaminating your entire kitchen, and of course remember that you absolutely cannot do anything else with this marinade when you're finished cooking except pour it carefully down the drain chased by lots of soap and hot water.

2) Heat the oil

Now you need to get your oil on the stove. If you're going to deep-fry, then you absolutely must use either a Dutch oven (an enameled cast-iron pot), or a thick-walled metal pot. The reason for using such thick, heavy pots is that they retain the heat and keep an even temperature. If you use a thin-walled pot, then the temperature will fluctuate too much and you'll ruin the batter and still get raw chicken at the end.

If you're deep-frying with a Dutch oven, thick-walled metal pot, or a deep fryer, then you can use some cheap vegetable oil. Even though more expensive oils can improve the taste, the difference isn't substantial and the delicate flavor will be wasted on the savory sin of fried chicken. If you're Southern frying with a shallow cast-iron pan, then you should absolutely use lard. Believe me when I tell you that battered chicken fried in lard is something you're going to love.

Heat your oil to between 350 F and 375 F, and keep it between 300 F to 325 F while cooking. My preference for monitoring the temperature is a large candy thermometer. There are people who'll eyeball the temperature by using a wooden spoon - if it makes air bubbles when you stick it in, then it's ready - but I'm not willing to risk salmonella poisoning from half-cooked chicken on a wooden spoon.

3) Mix the batter

While your chicken is acid bathing and the oil is heating, prepare your batter: as usual, mix all the dry ingredients first and then add the wet ingredients second. You can use a wooden spoon if you like, but I prefer a metal whisk for best results. This recipe includes alcohol in the batter, and I recommend a cheap bottle of Jackson-Triggs white table wine, but any sweet table wine will do. There are two reasons to use alcohol in your batter:
  1. Alcohol is more volatile than water and when you put it into hot oil it will violently expand. This creates more surface area on your fried batter, while also resulting in a crispier and lighter bark.
  2. The fruity notes in the wine offer a sweet contrast to the sour marinade.
If for whatever reason you just don't feel like pouring half a bottle of wine into fry batter, then I recommend apple cider, but remember that without the alcohol you won't get the same crisp on your chicken bark.

Pro tip: if you don't want to waste the separated egg whites, then you can use them to cook waffles (2 cups white flour or g-free 1:1 flour, 2 cups milk, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, all the egg whites, and a splash of white wine or apple cider.) Cooking with just the egg whites will produce the fluffiest, crispiest waffles you've ever had, and the vanilla and brown sugar are so good you'll think you're eating carnival food.

4) Cook until delicious

When the oil is hot and ready, you can dip your chicken straight into the batter. Don't worry about shaking it off or letting it sit - just dip it right into the batter and then straight into the oil. Be aware that every time you drop a piece of chicken, you cause the temperature of the oil to fall. For this reason, you won't be able to cook probably more than four pieces of chicken at a time, and if you're cooking 20-30 pieces then you should get two pots of oil boiling so you're not standing at the stove for an hour. A deep-fryer can save you a lot of time.

Deep frying will take about 10 minutes to cook to golden crispy. If you're going to Southern fry with a shallow cast-iron pan, then you can probably fill the pan with as much chicken as you like. Just remember that you'll have to flip each piece after the first 5-6 minutes and cook the other side.

Pro tip: don't rest your fried chicken on a paper towel or it'll steam and get soggy. Instead, rest your chicken on a wire cooking rack laid over a baking sheet and kept warm in the oven around 150 F. This way, the chicken will get a chance to crisp and continue cooking in the oven. As an added bonus, the oil drains off the chicken without steaming and you can pour it straight off the baking sheet when it's time to clean up.

After all your chicken is cooked, you can fry the parsley. Use the freshest parsley you can find, and be sure that there's absolutely no water on it whatsoever or else you'll make a sputtering mess with your cooking oil. Drop the parsley into the oil and cook it just a couple minutes. Remove it, shake off the excess oil, and sprinkle over the chicken.

5) Hail gluttony!

Mm-mm - nothing like classic American fried chicken. Spread some butter on the waffles, lay the chicken on top, hit it with some North Carolina BBQ sauce, and then dust the whole thing with powdered sugar. Sweet baby Satan, it's so good that you'll swear you've died and gone to Hell. I cook this recipe twice a year and eat it over waffles with my friends, and the only reason I don't cook it more often is because the caloric content would kill me.

The only things missing are buttered grits, collard greens, corn on the cob, and maybe some pork links. Add a pitcher of sweet tea to wash it down plus a pecan pie for dessert and you'll have everything you need for a classically Southern family Sunday lunch. Drinking alcohol is traditionally discouraged on Sundays in the South, but that never stopped anyone from enjoying an after-lunch whiskey while relaxing in a rocking chair on the front porch. Be it ever so decadent, there's no place like home.

September 20, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 9/20/2017

  1. Want to live forever? Then donate your body to science and let the final knowledge of yourself live on in the memories of nurses and physicians. Read more here.
  2. Interesting: Reflections on Melek Taus, the so-called Yezidi equivalent to Satan. Read more here.
  3. In the end, they'll call you a Satanist whether you carry the Devil's name or not. Read more here.
  4. Gwyneth Paltrow's "Goop" is selling a pocket-sized bottle of psychic vampire-repellant. Whether it repels vampires of any variety has yet to be demonstrated, but it sure does a good job of transferring money from your bank account to Gwyneth's. Seeing is believing.
  5. Citizen Valefar wants you to know that resisting technology is a dead end. Read more here.
  6. Navy Corpsmen in Florida photographed themselves flipping the bird to newborns, making them dance to rap songs, and calling them "mini-Satans." Perhaps they are mini-Satans? After all, these infants at only hours old managed to get two idiots fired from their jobs. Read more here
  7. Racism is expensive. Specifically, it's $63,000,000,000 expensive according to the US Department of Health and Human Services which completed a study showing that immigrants have a vastly net positive impact on the economy. Read more here.
  8. If you're such a Satanist who thinks that the Alt Right is a cute little movement that is a useful embodiment of accusation and opposition, you're a stupid idiot. This is what they really believe.
  9. Jack of Wands has some thoughts on wrath. Read more here.

Satanic Jihad

In terms of the Satanism-related writing that I'm publishing on my blog, right now a lot of it is to do with the differences (and sometimes the similarities) between the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple. 

On the side of the Satanic Temple - at least from where I'm standing - there doesn't appear to be much animosity toward the Church of Satan. From what I've observed, the most common sentiment expressed from members and supporters of the Satanic Temple is that the Church of Satan is irrelevant owing to the fact that the Church of Satan as a matter of organizational policy refuses to agitate for any social or political position and has also disavowed any role as an actively engaged leader in public discourse. 

On the side of the Church of Satan, the most common sentiment expressed is that the Satanic Temple is either simply not Satanic or else is some kind "Satanism Lite" without the meaty, spicy undertones of the Church of Satan. Speaking for myself, I reject both those criticisms of the Satanic Temple. I think that those accusations are ignorant and invite anybody who feels that way to not commit the Satanic sins of either solipsism or herd mentality.

It's fair to say that the greatest opposition among travellers of the left-hand path toward the Satanic Temple is coming from members and supporters of the Church of Satan, and speaking as a member (but of course not a spokesperson) of the Church of Satan, this is something that I think is worth discussing.

I have more thoughts on what I believe to be the reason for this hostility than I'm expressing here (and those thoughts may yet surface in a future essay), but the focus of this essay is on what I believe to be separate jihads being waged by each organization. Specifically, I've come to the perspective that the Satanic Temple and the Church of Satan are fighting lesser and greater jihads:
In his work, The History of Baghdad, Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, an 11th-century Islamic scholar, referenced a statement by the companion of Muhammad Jabir ibn Abd-Allah. The reference stated that Jabir said, "We have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad." When asked, "What is the greater jihad?," he replied, "It is the struggle against oneself." -via Wikipedia
Thus, the lesser jihad is the fight against others, whereas the greater jihad is the fight against oneself. 

In this sense, the Satanic Temple's monument campaigns, their contributions to legal battles in support of women's right to bodily autonomy, their support for children to not be beaten in school, and their efforts to expose mental health workers perpetuating the Satanic Panic (and other falsehoods) are a lesser jihad which is waged against others. The overall goal of the Satanic Temple (as seen by an outsider) is to create change in the outside world in accordance with their will.

Likewise, the Church's of Satan nude witch revues, album release parties, curated art shows, use of tools as discussed in The Satanic Witch and The Satanic Warlock to gain power and pleasure, use of ritual as self-transformative psychodrama, and overall emphasis on self-awareness in regards to level of stratification is a greater jihad waged against oneself. The overall goal of the Church of Satan (as much as I understand it) is to create change within the self in accordance with the individual's desire.

If these analogies are accepted as valid--and if you see it differently, you're welcome to comment why--then I believe it's fair to say that on the whole, the membership of the Satanic Temple is more extroverted and involved in other people's affairs, whereas the membership of the Church of Satan is more introverted and involved in their own affairs. Seen from this perspective, the conflict perpetuated between the two organizations is needless and appears to be sustained by people whose identities and sense of purpose are strengthened by artificial conflict.

Or said differently, if the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple were wolves, they'd not only be hunting different prey but would be hunting in different forests. In the Venn diagram of Satanic priorities, there's scant overlap between the two organizations and as I believe this makes animosity presently observed between the two possible only when it is engineered by interested parties.

Now let it be said that the distinctions I've made here are not only based on my own perspective and what I've seen, but also generalized. It's true that there are members of the Satanic Temple who are less interested in campaigning for justice and more interested in self-perfection and self-satisfaction. And let it also be said that there are members of the Church of Satan who are less interested in self-indulgence and more interested in civil rights and equal enforcement of the law. Let it be said that the canon literature of both organizations embraces both lesser and greater jihad. I'm not arguing that either organization is exclusively one or the other.

What I'm arguing is that I believe based on what I've seen that each organization promotes and encourages a different jihad. The lesser jihad is not "less important," and the greater jihad is not "more important." I think that both jihads are worth fighting, and that Satanic soldiers on each side have more important things to do than to get in the way of the other side's preferred jihad - especially since each side's jihad is complimentary toward the other's.

September 14, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 9/14/2017

"Friday Fun" by Reginald Pean / Frenchinald
  1. NSFW: the BDSM-themed artwork of Reginald Pean.
  2. Church's of Satan high priest Magus Gilmore reflects on the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Read more here.
  3. Whether or not you support the Satanic Temple, victories against forced-birth legislation are worth celebrating. Read more here.
  4. Looking for a new Tarot deck with an indie flair? Spiral Nature rounds up 11 of the best independently published Tarot decks on the market today. Read more here.
  5. The real-life, true story about the Christian ventriloquist who wanted to rape, kill, and eat children. Read more here if you dare.
  6. The Stuff You Should Know podcast did an episode about Satanism. Check it out!
  7. Church's of Satan high priest Magus Gilmore and Magister Johnson appeared on the Dead Radio Podcast. There's a lot of cool stuff in the podcast, but I'm disappointed that they almost immediately started the show with childish name-calling about the Satanic Temple.
  8. In related news, what is the Satanic Temple actually teaching in its After School Satan clubs? The world may never know.
  9. Want to learn Tarot without spending a fortune to do it? Benebell Wen has you covered with five entirely free resources for new students. Read more here.

September 09, 2017

Movie Review: IT (2017)

Have you seen IT? If not, you should - despite my criticisms, it's still a very scary movie and I think you're going to love it. This review includes some spoilers, so stop reading now if you want to see the movie with fresh eyes. In no particular order, here are my chief observations, criticisms, and takeaways from the movie:
  • The movie will be more meaningful to you if you've read the book.
IT (2017) received some very gentle plot revisions from the director in terms of what sorts of movie monsters the children feared, and there were a few scenes from the book that were either reinterpreted (the deadly blaze at the Black Spot) or completely ignored (Stanley's terrifying encounter in the water-tower.) Or, Bill's make-shift smoke-lodge and his vision of the great turtle. If you haven't read the book, then those things are meaningless to you, but if you have then you understand how they fit ever more deeply into the greater plot that ties everything together.

And then, there are other things from the book are included but never explained. For example, Pennywise's famous line, "Beep beep, Richie!", is without context unsettling all on its own, but it makes more sense in the totality of the book.

Another example of something taken from the book but not explained in the movie is the scene when Pennywise captures Beverly and hypnotizes her. Long story short, his head opens up like a big, toothy vagina and deep inside are seen three spinning lights, the sight of which puts Beverly into a catatonic state.

In the book, Stephen King uses these lights as a device to illustrate madness, insanity, and what lays beyond the outer limits of comprehensible reality. When Pennywise hypnotizes Beverly - an absolute but forgivable deviation from the book's plot - he's actually transporting her mind to the farthest limits of the universe where the fabric of reality begins to unravel. 

If you're a fan of Lovecraft, then you'll recognize this element of stupefying terror and incomprehensible horror. There's a much more elaborate method in the book used to return the (adult) Beverly from the thrall of the deadlights, but the method used in the movie is predictable yet satisfyingly effective.
  • The plot sprints to the finale at a blistering pace.
I was going to see IT just like I was going to see The Gunslinger no matter what the reviews said because I'm a big fan of Stephen King's writing, but I gotta say: have you ever noticed that Stephen King's books are frequently adapted very poorly to the screen? I think this is partly because the directors who make his movies are focusing on the visual horror as an end (and not a means), but also because King is the kind of writer who very effectively uses gross horror to illustrate fine reality.

As King himself is fond of saying, the most hideous monsters he can write are everyday people like you and me. All he needs do is to turn off the lights and watch what happens when food and water start to diminish. If you don't believe me, then you should watch The Mist which is perhaps the most oblique manifestation of King's horror philosophy.

Because King writes so much into his books, this results in multi-layered stories with a whole bunch of threads that require the nuance of the written word. When this dense bundle of narrative is translated from the page to the screen, this always results in critical cuts being made to important threads which would have created a more fulfilling movie so long as you've got an unlimited budget and upward of 10 hours to tell the story.

Movies are a different medium than books, so sacrifices must be made. Naturally, it's difficult to strike a balance between telling the story in its most pure and perfect state and the movie studio making a return on its investment. Despite the graphic and frequently violent nature of the book, IT is also very thoughtful and contemplative book. In King's book, these things aren't contradictory but complementary.

But in a horror movie? No matter how masterfully King wrote IT, the movie adaptation in 2017 has to compete with garbage like Annabelle (Creation), a movie so awful that it's bound for cult status immortality. For reasons that can only be explained by mass stupidity, people are lining up in droves to actually pay money to watch this eyesore of a turd.

So yeah, I get it: a balance has to be struck between storytelling and moneymaking. Unless IT was going to be an arthouse movie, chances are it would never get remade. What this means for IT is that achieving the balancing point between narrative and money required the plot of the movie to sprint at a blistering pace through each character's introductions, how those characters met, and the dynamics that evolved between them. IT might have been better done as a miniseries on Netflix or Prime so that the time was available to properly treat the 1,138 pages of King's IT, but instead we get two hours and 15 minutes to account for roughly 569 pages of content.

Despite the break-neck speed at which the plot moves in order to prepare for the movie's climax, I thought that the necessary compromises were effective and didn't ultimately detract from the movie.
  • The movie would be scarier if it didn't rely on computer graphics.
But you know what did detract from the movie? The computer-generated special effects. Part of what made IT (1990) so terrifying was that it made remarkably little use of special effects. There were a lot of practical effects in IT (1990) which - even if they're dated by today's standards - worked very well to make the movie frightening without distracting attention from the action on the screen.

IT (2017), on the other hand, didn't seem to integrate the special effects successfully. Sometimes during the movie I felt like I was watching Silent Hill (2006) - which was also a thoroughly entertaining movie - but Silent Hill was so thoroughly saturated with CGI that it more or less blended into itself. When IT (2017) uses CGI, though, it often feels like an interruption to the movie which is made worse by the irritating habit of CGI these days to appear muddy and indistinct.

So much of what makes IT (2017) terrifying has remarkably little to do with CGI: the haunted house on Neibolt Street, the clown room inside the Neibolt house, pretty much any scene featuring Bill Skarsgard's portrayal of Pennywise, Beverly escaping from her father, or the bully Henry being verbally assaulted by his father - these and several other scenes I could name thrived without any CGI at all, and the rest of the movie would have been improved if Skarsgard's Pennywise were given more screen-time without the use of CGI.
  • The movie would also be scarier if it used fewer jump scares.
I understand that different moviegoers want (and expect) to see different kinds of scares when they go to see a scary movie, but not matter how much I enjoyed so much of this movie, my opinion is that it made excessive use of easily predicted jump scares. Some people like jump scares, and then, some people like the Annabelle movies.

But me being the moviegoer that I am, the kind of horror I prefer is the slow, creeping horror. The horror that you see coming yet are powerless to stop. The horror that once it's touched you, it becomes part of you. The horror against which there are no physical weapons. The horror which makes you recoil from the people you thought you could trust. The horror which makes you question whether you truly deserve to live.

A great example of this kind of horror is found in the movie It Follows (2014), but for my preferences I've been equally (or even more) terrified by germ movies. There's a South Korean movie whose name I'm forgetting at the moment about the spread of a super-flu introduced into the country by illegal immigrants who were smuggled into the country in a shipping container. I'll ignore the deeper metaphor and what it says about immigrants and immigration, but even though that movie had a relatively low production value I found it to be so frightening that I had to stop watching about a quarter into the story. If IT focused more on the narrative horror instead of the visual horror, and also gave Skarsgard's Pennywise more screen-time, I think the movie would have been substantially improved.
  • This is the first of two movies.
This wasn't a surprise to me since I knew that when King wrote IT the book was actually two stories woven together: the story of the principals as children, and then the story of the principals 27 years later as adults. I knew going into this movie that it was going to be the kids' story, but there are a lot of people who think Annabelle is great weren't aware of this plot twist. For them, the movie probably felt like it ended on an empty note, but for people like myself who know the story and are aware of the broader narrative that King was trying to tell, the movie had a satisfying conclusion.

There's a metric tonne of stuff from the children's half of King's IT that I would have liked to see either included in the movie or where present in the movie just better explained, but as a stand-alone creation I thought that IT was very effective and equal parts terrifying and compelling. IT was a worthwhile movie experience, and I'm looking forward to seeing the story of the adults told in the second chapter in mid- to late-2019. If Pennywise-induced nightmares don't kill me, the wait for the second chapter will.

Stuff & Nonsense 9/9/2017

  1. Remember that woman who claimed that Salvador Dali is her father, and had his body exhumed in order to extract DNA and perform a posthumous paternity test? Yeah... he's not the daddy. Read more here.
  2. Beware the Satanic crucifix! I must not have reached the next level of Satanism, because nobody's ever invited me to perform Satanic prayers over crucifixes and rosaries. Read more here.
  3. This "Peacock angel statement" doesn't have much to do with Satanism except for the occasional conflation of peacocks with Satan, but it's still pretty cool.
  4. Love is in the air, and this heart-shaped arrangement is just as good as the next love-themed arrangement to figure out who does or doesn't love who. Read more here.
  5. A murderer in Australia in prison for life is filing suit against the state because they wouldn't let him have Tarot cards in prison. Read more here. Like the last time this came up, my opinion is still that if we allow Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and others to have religious books in prison, we should allow neo/Pagans to have Tarot cards in prison. I have no great love for convicted murderers, but the laws must be applied equally.
  6. Human evolution is fascinating. Read more here.
  7. The Wheel of Fortune: a Tarot project displayed at Burning Man in 2014. Yes, I know this was three years ago, but it's new to me and I thought it was worth sharing. Watch it here.
  8. This is why you don't throw people under the bus when they've outlived their usefulness to you: several people of interest in special counsel Mueller's investigation into Donald Trump are people who've been publically humiliated by President Trump. Read more here.
  9. Could there be secret life under the antarctic ice caps? Read more here.

September 06, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 9/6/2017

Based on the game "Dungeon Solitaire - Labyrinth of Souls"
  1. The End of All Things has arrived. No, this isn't an announcement of the apocalypse, but of a new book. The excellent Matthew Lowes who created Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls has joined other authors in writing fiction based around the Tarot cards used to play the game of the same name. The other books in the series have been terrific, and Matt is already a great author, so I feel safe assuming that this is going to be an excellent book. Check it out here!
  2. Are you the master or the slave of your smartphone? James Hind has an opinion on the matter, but speaking for myself I got so tired of the psychological pressure created by my phone that I disabled or uninstalled very nearly all the apps. If I didn't need it for work, my phone would only do SMS and voice calls.
  3. In Utah, a nurse was unjustly arrested for lawfully refusing a police officer's order to draw blood from an unconscious patient. In the video, she's heard hysterically screaming, "Why are you doing this?" Somewhere, there's a black person saying, "So now you care because it's happening to you?" This is why it's important to fight racism and authoritarianism: the way the state abuses minority members when nobody's looking is the same way the state will abuse majority members when they think they can get away with it. 
  4. What does Satanism have in common with the prosperity gospel? A command to not play the victim! After his remarkably slow response to hurricane Harvey, salesman Joel Osteen gave a sermon this weekend in which he told his customers that they shouldn't nurture a "victim mentality." Maybe I don't see it, but when everything you own is destroyed in a flood, looking for help is a pretty natural thing to do especially when you don't have hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank like Joel Osteen. Read more here.
  5. Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating both President Trump and his allies on the campaign trail, is a very smart man. Read more here.
  6. A Baptist pastor in North Carolina says that he woke up from a cough-syrup induced black-out to find himself covered in blood, a knife in his hand, and his wife with multiple stab wounds. I'm genuinely surprised he didn't blame it on the Devil. Read more here.
  7. Creepy: a photographer visits iconic places featured in 1960's advertising that have been abandoned and left to fall apart. Read more here.
  8. Stratification is real, and the consequence of ignoring it is the collapse of multiple economic levels which sustain the natural hierarchy in which we all reside. Read more here.
  9. Pennywise is back. Will you go to see IT? Despite the seeming curse that Stephen King movies consistently poorly adapted to the big screen, I'm going to see IT anyway. Read more here

September 02, 2017

I was wrong about the Satanic Temple

This past January I wrote an essay about the stupid things I've seen Satanists do. It touched on a lot of different subjects, but the principal point of the essay is that I believe that it's more important to work toward one's own success than it is to try and ensure another's failure. 

Before I start, let me be clear that generally speaking I'm not opposed to accusation and opposition. I think that if somebody has done something that's materially impacted the quality of my life, then he or she has justly earned the time and energy I spend punishing him or her. But for the record, let it also be said that I'd rather spend my time eating grapes from the vine than forcing somebody else to drink vinegar.

Regarding the Satanic Temple, two of the specific criticisms I made are:
  1. They've contributed nothing new to Satanism.
  2. I oppose their test of radical inclusion.
The first criticism I made is that they haven't contributed anything new to Satanism, and that their approach to Satanism is no more than an appeal to Milton and other Enlightenment-era interpretations of Satan (or Lucifer) as liberator and rebel against tyranny. I said that this isn't new because these interpretations of Satan (or Lucifer) are already present within the canon literature of the Church of Satan, but what I also implied is that these documents aren't "valid" because the Satanic Temple is unable to claim any new literature that didn't already exist. 

At the time I wrote that criticism, I did not regard their adoption of The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France as legitimate. To my eyes, such a literary adoption was nothing more than sifting through the dusty footprints of the Church of Satan to find something of value left behind on the road to success. And would you believe that I made that criticism without having actually read The Revolt of the Angels?

Looking back, I'm astonished at myself that I could make such a criticism without having actually read their foundational document. That's a fair bit of stupidity on my part, huh? After all, if somebody said something outlandish about the Church of Satan that was easily resolved by actually reading the Satanic Bible, I'd call them stupid and tell them to go read the Satanic Bible.

So shame on me for committing my own stupidity. The point where I realized I'd succumbed to my own dogma was when I listened to the Black Mass Appeal podcast in which the hosts shared some favorite lines from The Revolt of Angels. Who'd've thunk it? If you actually look beyond your assumptions, you'll find something worthwhile. I never thought that the Satanic Temple was only a parody of Satanism which exists for the sole purpose of trolling Christians, but I did often think that they were a bunch of empty hats using the thinnest literature to achieve the impression of depth.

I was wrong: the Satanic Temple isn't an empty hat or a collection of poseurs. Listening to the Black Mass Appeal podcast, plus watching some videos of Satanic Temple-oriented rituals and events (not the protests) showed me that they're not only sincere and committed to Satanism-as-religion and world-view, but that they've got the depth of knowledge to back it up and are well versed in modern Satanism. 

This sudden shift in perspective was an interesting experience for me. If I may still be permitted to do so, I consider myself fairly intelligent and don't believe that unquestioning dogma plays a role in my decision making, but what else other than willful ignorance or dogmatic opposition can explain me blindly avoiding their foundational documents and irrationally characterizing their entire organizational membership as empty hats?

What I'll also add is an emphasis on my criticism that they don't contribute anything new. In hindsight, that criticism says more about me than it does about them. After all, if the chief criterion which I'm using to determine "value" is whether the Satanic Temple is following an original foundational document, or is doing something so radically different that it has no precedent, then I guess I should start removing all the Shostakovich and Verdi from my music collection.

Something need not be "new" to be "worthwhile," a point made by those who admire the writing of Dr. LaVey who frequently opined for the past and made no effort to conceal his contempt for innovation. Some people want to go forward in time, but everything I've ever read taught me that Dr. LaVey only ever wanted to go backward in time. There are so many treasures of the past which have been buried by disposable consumer culture. Going by this logic, it's preferable to look to the past for the enduring gems than to look to the future and sift through the rubbish.

The second criticism I made against the Satanic Temple is that I oppose their test of radical inclusion:
I oppose all private religion in all government places, therefore I don't feel like I can logically support an organization which uses state- and federal-level RFRA style laws to insert private religion into government places. If this test of radical inclusion works, then religious plurality in government places is protected and we still have private religion in government places. If it fails, then this strengthens the position of existing private religion in government places. For me, neither outcome feels like a victory and this is why I prefer to support organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation which are already working toward the goal of removing private religion from government places without inserting private religion into government places.
Generally speaking, I feel the same now as I did then. I oppose all private religion in all government places - even when that religion is my own. But specifically, I've come to see this differently.

Now let it be said that there are critics of the Satanic Temple's monument campaigns (both the Baphomet monument to compliment the 10 Commandments, as well as the Bowl of Wisdom to compliment veterans' monuments) who characterize the Satanic Temple as jealous victims who whine in front of the cameras about how they're not being represented. I have always thought that this characterization is ignorant, and I reject it.

Instead, what I had always thought is what I said above: I feel like it's hypocritical to insert private religion into government places in order to oppose private religion in government places; however, in hindsight, I've come to feel differently and have two thoughts on my second criticism.

First, I'm forgetting the stubbornness of religion. I can't find any of them to link right now, but I've heard several atheists make the argument that religion can never be defeated. If I'm mis-remembering the argument, then somebody is welcome to correct me, but the way I heard it is that judging by all of recorded history, human beings not only appear to need religion as a tool to satisfy a variety of internal needs and desires, but persistently create it despite all efforts to eradicate it. So I remember the argument going, the goal of the atheist then is not in fact to eradicate religion or steal away people's cultural traditions, but to encourage rational, science-based public policy so that the consequences of private religion are confined to the private individual.

I agree that a private religious monument in a public government place gives the appearance of preferential treatment, but the goal to remove all private religion from all government places might not be achievable. Going by the argument that religion itself is not the primary target, the goal then becomes respect for religious pluralism in government places. If other religionists are able to accept the presence of other religionists, then - even though I personally oppose all private religion in all government places - it's fair enough to say that everybody wins. But if the barest measure of tolerance (or even recognition) for other religions is cause for those already represented to have a conniption fit, then they're welcome to agree to change the rules so that no private religions may be represented in any government places.

What I've said above isn't a new discovery. If a member of the Satanic Temple read the above paragraph (and I'm skeptical that many of them do read my blog), he or she would say, "No shit, stupid. That's what we've been saying all along." So even though I've heard this argument almost verbatim in the past, what was it that prevented me from understanding the logic of it? I'm inclined to think that I was biased in my opinion based on a sort of Satanic tribalism which encouraged me to reject any argument put forward by the Satanic Temple no matter how much I would agree if it were being put forward instead by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I'm willing to cop to my stupidity, but again - if I may presume to do so? - I like to think that I'm an otherwise intelligent person who's frequently observed that nothing happens in a vacuum. If I'm having this reaction to the Satanic Temple, then I'm willing to bet money that there are other Satanists having the same reaction, too. The root cause for that reaction is worth discussing.

Second, Satanism is a religion which supports the social contract and encourages respect for law and order. I personally believe that what is legal may be wrong, and what is illegal may be right. I also accept that unquestioning obedience to plastic rules is a poor substitute for critical thinking. Put all of this together, and you start to see my worldview: if as a society we agree that laws are important for the protection of hard-won social order, then each of us are to an extent obligated to respect the laws of the land. If we accept that as a society we've created laws which allow for the display of private religious monuments on public government property, then this law must be applied equally. 

There's no room for special pleading in this scenario: either all private religious monuments are accepted for display, or all are rejected. Barring displays which glorify universally rejected wrongs (such as raping a baby) or promote activity which is itself against the laws of the land, then there is no middle ground. When the Satanic Temple petitions to have its monuments displayed, this isn't a crybaby routine full of crocodile tears for the media, but a test of the laws of the land. Do we as a society accept the rules by which we've allegedly agreed to play? Or do we as a society accept the special pleading of the dominant religionists?

The Satanic Temple's test of radical inclusion is a parallel to the battle in which the Philistines fought against King Saul. When King Saul realized that he would be overtaken by the Philistines, he refused to die by their hand and fell on his own sword. This isn't a great example since the Satanic Temple doesn't want to kill anybody, but it's an apt metaphor. 

When the Satanic Temple petitions the court to be treated equally under rule of law, they're forcing Christians to fall on their own swords, and that's an outcome which I can support. I can't speak for Dr. LaVey - he's been dead for 20-some years - but as much as Dr. LaVey cared about the rule of law and enjoyed antagonizing Christians, I think that using the rules of the game to force Christians into rage-quitting is an outcome he could have supported, too.

As for my other criticisms of the Satanic Temple - that they're purely rational and totally skeptic, and that they're deeply committed to moral, upstanding behavior - I suppose that says more about me than it does about them. I have not been in the past and I am not now in the present a member of the Satanic Temple, and I have not in the past nor do I now in the present oppose the Satanic Temple. For reasons that I made clear in the original essay linked at the opening to this one, I don't think that the Satanic Temple is worth opposing.

But I do think that their goals - no matter who achieves them or how they're achieved - are worth supporting.

Stuff & Nonsense 9/2/2017

via Cvlt Nation
  1. Should Norse and Germanic runes be actively reclaimed from the neo-Nazis and racists? I'm a Satanist, so I don't have a Heathen horse in this rune race, but as an observer it's an interesting discussion about aesthetics and the use of symbols. Read more here.
    1. Bonus linkage: Heathens United Against Racism is a thing
  2. Responsibility is for the responsible. If you want to own a gun and be able to kill multiple people in the span of a few moments, then you'd better complete a safety course for your class of firearm, be fully licensed, have your firearm regularly inspected, and carry liability insurance. Mass shootings are preventable, and we're all getting tired of talking about them. Read more here
  3. Pick-up artists make a big deal about how difficult it is for men to get laid, but according to a lesbian it's actually super easy to satisfy straight women.
    1. Bonus linkage: And if you don't know how to please a woman, just ask her. It really is that easy. Read more here.
  4. Yay, history: What are the lost origins of playing-card symbols? Where did the pips come from? Read more here.
  5. Yay, more history: Makenzie at Cvlt Nation discusses the history of selling one's soul to the Devil. Read more here.
  6. Authoritarians of a feather abuse power together. Read more here and here.
  7. A Game of Thrones Tarot deck exists, and you can read an interview with the deck's creator right here
  8. Tired of the Page, Knight, Queen, King pattern? Beth at Little Red Tarot has some alternatives you might enjoy. Read more here.
  9. Satanic radio waves are allegedly changing people's DNA in order to make them hate Donald Trump. Read more here.
    1. Clearly, Radio Free Satan must be part of the conspiracy.
  10. Tarot is not Tarot - rather, Tarot is itself, and through our desires for the role we want it to play we make it into what we want it to be. Read more here.