log (2005/12/23 to 2005/12/29)

So we're going to be declaring (we hereby declare) a brief New Year Hiatus (brief enough that you may not be able to tell it from our normal neglectful posting style lately; but we're declaring it just in case).

In the meantime we gesture in the direction of the Sims Stories, which have a certain amount of unweblogged new material including a map of Neighborhood One which may help put the various semi-connected threads into some relationship, a brief musing about Damion Cormier's life after college, and a non-brief Danvers update. The neighborhood is waxing and prospering and all, and I'm enjoying Godhood as much as ever. (My continued sympathies to those readers who do not for whatever reason relish reading about these little virtual people.)

We gesture also in the direction of the usual suspects, most of whom we haven't been getting around to reading lately (and for the lack of whom our lives are probably the poorer, but time is so finite).

My main New Year's Resolution this year is, I think, (did I already mention this?) going to be to go up to Zen Mountain Monastery and do one of their Introduction to Zen Training weekend retreats. I think it'd be a blast. *8)

Speaking of which, we got a letter from a bodhisattva the other day. The important parts are:

Subject: be flashy
its me, bodhisattva gildtraceryhypnoticmcadamsswedenatrocious

If you're going to be a bodhisattva, like the old saying goes, you might as well go all out.

So the TV was on the other day, and there was this priest or something and this rabbi or something talking about kids of mixed-religion families and the holidays and stuff, and the host guy said something like "Can you send the kids to both religious education programs, for instance?", and the priest or whatever said that no you can't really do that, and that "I don't know of any church or synagogue that will accept a child for religious education if that child is also being educated in another faith" or other words to that effect.

This annoyed me wildly. Apparently he's never been to a Unitarian church, for instance, or maybe he wouldn't consider a Unitarian church to be a church. And surely, I thought, a Reform synagogue wouldn't have a rule like that.

I was actually annoyed enough to call one of our local Reform synagogues and ask the question, and it turns out I was wrong. The very nice person on the phone said that well, yes, in keeping with the policy of the Reform movement, they would not normally want to have a child in their school who was also being educated ("formally", he said, hedging a bit) in some other religion. "Too much potential for conflict", he said.

I poked around on the Web a little looking for an official statement of this Reform policy and didn't quite find it, but I did find indirect evidence; for instance one Temple Beth Sholom says:

Because TBS welcomes Interfaith families and believes that children should be given clear guidance in the development of their religious identities, we expect that parents who enroll their children in the TBS religious school have made a decision to raise their children exclusively as Jews. In the spirit of the Union for Reform Judaism resolution, parents are strongly encouraged not to educate their children in two faiths. Exceptions may be made when the parents are divorced and there are legal obstacles to prevent this.

That's the problem, I guess, that even the most liberal and elightened religions run into if they're still founded on essential truth-claims. If a Unitarian Sunday School (sorry, "RE") teacher were to find out that some kid was also going to Hebrew school, or Zoroastrian school, or whatever, the poor kid'd probably be invited to stand up and talk about the unique features of that belief system. (I should give the local Quakers a call; I'll bet they're the same way.) But in a religion that has truth-claims, letting the kids hear about a differing set of truths would sort of defeat the purpose. "Too much potential for conflict." Too much interference with "clear guidance in the development of their religious identities".

Sort of sad, really.

(Not that Unitarianism has no truth-claims at all; but they're all very meta and therefore unlikely to cause this kind of conflict. Letting little Sonal get up and talk about the Bhagavad-gita isn't likely to cast doubts into the kids' minds about the importance of "the inherent worth and dignity of every person" or "a free and responsible search for truth and meaning". Quite the opposite, in fact.)

Kids do love to ask each other "what religion are you?", and my kids have never been able to give a straight answer. They'd come home (when they were smaller) and ask "what religion are we?", and we'd have to say "well, it's a long story"; I suppose this means that we're giving them less than "clear guidance in the development of their religious identities". But, sheesh, it seems like a small inconvenience compared to being indoctrinated in a lot of superstitious rubbish that you'll then spend the rest of your life trying to overcome.

(Oops, I'm waxing a bit wroth there; sorry about that.)

I'd love it if the Reform movement or the Lutherans (just for instance) were to say "Here are the stories that we tell each other, and the things that we think are cool; children are welcome to come and hear these stories and decide if they are cool, and if those children are at other times going to other places and hearing other stories, so much the better for the development of their spiritual lives." Would that be so hard?

Often when I say to myself that it's really a pity that humanity ever invented religion at all, I answer myself by saying that religion has produced great literature and artwork and beauty and kindness and civilization, and I shouldn't complain so much. But for whatever reason it occurs to me today that if we hadn't had religion around producing all that good stuff, maybe we would have had something else in its place, producing just as much good stuff without all the exclusivity and irrationality and hatred and associated bad stuff. Impossible to say, of course, at least at our current level of understanding. But at least not self-evidently false.

I went over and had a massage at the Club this morning, and I'm still in this sort of fluffly relaxed sleepy cloud. If it didn't cost so much I'd do it every Friday; very decadent and Sybaritic and all, but worth every penny. Must remind planners in the Ideal Communitarian State not to forget massage therapists in the computer models. (As usual, in the Ideal Libertarian State market forces will take care of the supply for us.)

So there's this sort of religious idea I want to write about. In Buddhist terms it's the idea that everything that you do (that I do, that one does) is inevitably perfectly aligned with the dharma, that one is at every moment the perfect manifestation of Mind; and further (and/or therefore) that realizing this fact does not put anyone more in accord with their true nature, since they're perfectly in accord with it already. Realizing the dharma is just realizing the dharma; not realizing it is just not realizing it. (To the extent that those words manage to have meaning at all, anyway.)

There is some room for paradox here, in that lots of Buddhist practices are most simply interpretable as trying to realize one's true nature so as to be more in accord with the dharma; this is why them Zen guys are always laughing and bopping people with sticks and stuff.

(Note that I'm not saying that this is any kind of Official Buddhist Belief, or that all or most Buddhists believe it; I'm just using Buddhist words to try to express it.)

In Ariadnite terms, the idea is that whatever one does is inevitably the will of (and/or identical with) the Goddess. As the old spiritual says, "All life is Her glory, all process Her will" (where that last phrase is ambiguous between "every process that occurs is a manifestation of Her will" and "everyone processes (that is, carries out) Her will"). This is more or less by definition, since the Goddess is just ("just") a metaphor for everything that exists (or might exist, or doesn't exist).

Not so much room for paradox here; the Goddess wills (smiles upon, approves of, is) everything that we might do. So she's no direct help at all in deciding what to do: we have to work that out for ourselves. But at least we know that whatever we decide to do, there's at least one all-powerful universal being that approves of it. (Again, to the extent that that could mean anything.)

In Christian terms, the idea is that since God is all powerful and all knowing, and has a definite plan for the universe, and created the whole thing, then everything that we do is inevitably in accord with God's plan, and is according to God's will. Given the importance of sin in Christian thought, there's lots of room for paradox here also, in that it seems odd that there are sinful actions that God punishes, even though they are manifestations of His will and he's all-good and not any sort of insane sadistic loon or anything.

I'm not aware of a Christian tradition that gets all zany with these paradoxes the way that Zen does in Buddhism; pointers welcome.

A similar but perhaps not identical idea is that (to start with the Christian wording this time) this place right here is Heaven; wherever we are, we are in Paradise. It's relatively easy to derive this from some basic Christian premises (God created the universe, God is perfect and good and all-powerful, so the Universe must be the best possible thing), but again I'm not aware of any Christian tradition that emphasizes this (again, pointers are welcome). The Christianity that I've brushed up against tends to stress how very much imperfect and not-Heaven this world right here is (with words like "fallen" and all that).

The Ariadnite teachings don't really contain a notion of Heaven (maybe we should stick one in), so I can't think of an Ariadnite version of this form of the idea.

In Buddhist terms, the idea is that the Pure Land is here and now, that nirvana is not something other than samsara, nothing other than ordinary life. I was reminded of this form of the idea by reading something just now by Thich Nhat Hanh ("Touching the Earth", reprinted in "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005", edited by Melvin McLeod and the editors of the Shambala Sun); f'rinstance:

I know that the Pure Land is not an illusory promise for the future. The Pure Land is available to me now, wonderful in all aspects. The path of red earth with its border of green grass is the Pure Land. The small golden and violet flowers are also the Pure Land.

(He also mentions that the mud and manure that the flowers grow out of is the Pure Land, but he doesn't get any deeper into the Problem of Evil than that in this passage. In other things of his that I've read he does ease around to the notion that, difficult as it is, the barbed wire and the killing fields are also the Pure Land.)

Generally Buddhist writings in this vein (or at least the ones that I've read) talk about the ordinary world being potentially the Pure Land and/or nirvana, being available to us as such, if only we will open our eyes and see. The more radical version of the idea is that ordinary life is nirvana whether or not we open our eyes and see; it's mostly those Zen clowns again who go that far.

I'm not sure why I'm so attracted to this idea, and in particular to its more radical forms. Certainly a religious idea that goes all the way out to the end of this pier loses pretty much all prescriptive (or proscriptive) power (as Ariadnitism explicitly does): if everything we do is the will of God, and every place we can be is Heaven, those facts no longer tell us anything about what we should do or where we should be.

Or at least they don't tell us anything about that directly. It may well be, though, that there are things that we'd only do if we thought that this place was not Heaven, or that certain happenings were not God's will, and if we believe that it is and that they are then we might not do those things.

And that's about as far as I'm going to take that thought today.

On our discovery of Dark City last week (heh, only one log entry last week; bad us!), readers write all sorts of things, including comments on the film:

"Dark City" is ace!

What I remember of Dark City: "Hey, that looks like Richard O'Brien." "Wait a minute...that *is* Richard O'Brien." "Wow, he hasn't aged in 23 years."

(To save everyone else the forty-five seconds to look it up: Richard O'Brien, who plays Mr. Hand in Dark City, also plays Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (and just incidentally also wrote The Rocky Horror Picture Show).)

And some movie recommendations and stuff:


anything with Iris Chacon

Handy Andy in the Andes III: Cum Ride with Me

Donnie Darko

Shaun of the Dead

La Strada

Oo! Dogma. Vie.

You didn't know about Dark City? Crimeny! What else must we include in your remedial education? Have you heard about about 2001? Metropolis? The Matrix? Sheesh!!

Gosh, There are so many good movies. Perhaps I should suggest a genre instead. How about "Kate Beckinsale Fetish Movies"? They work for me. Leather: Van Helsing. Latex: Underworld. Contingency: Serendipity. 40s Costumes and Makeup: Pearl Harbor. Derivative Movie Stardom: The Aviator. Well, OK, some of these are rather narrow fetishes, But still!

"Ferengi billionaire"

So lesee. I've asked M to put some of those onto the NetFlix queue. I haven't seen "Mirrormask" or "Donnie Darko" (or "Shaun of the Dead" or "La Strada" or...). I have seen 2001 and Metropolis and "The Matrix" (which of these things is not like the others?), and "Van Helsing" but not the other fetish ones. (I always think her last name is "Bekinsdale".)

"Handy Andy in the Andes III" is of course very hard to find, but I do have a copy of "La Mujer es un Buen Negocio", which also includes Iris Chacon, that I got cheap on ebay. It was cheap no doubt because it's just a straight pirate transfer from tape or something to this DVR disc with a black and white paper cover glued on; no Special Features or anything (not even a Scene Menu, or say English subtitles). But it definitely includes Iris Chacon, in a speaking role even. A more detailed report and perhaps notable screenshots (if I can remember how to do that) perhaps to follow.

"Ferengi Billionaire"? Is that that new reality show?

On another subject but in the same box, one or two readers write, perhaps on the same subject as each other:

Hurrah for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania!!!


I've just started reading it, and it does seem pretty good. On the other hand I have some sympathy for people who are taxed to pay for schools that teach things they think are wrong (and even deeply evil), even if I myself think that those things are in fact right. (In the Ideal Communitarian State those people, or perhaps the other set of people, are pretty much out of luck; in the Ideal Libertarian State there are of course no government schools, and those people can send their children to private schools that teach whatever they like.)

Another reader writes:

Have you seen spam blogs like this one?: http://adoptee49.blogspot.com/ It is oddly convincing! (I am not a spammer, though they're so good it's becoming harder for even me to tell.

Amusingly, that and many many other similar pretend weblogs can be found by various Google searches. Enjoy!

Suzette Somnia completed the "Sleeping Through College" Challenge with flying colors (although nowhere near the amazing scores that the couple of Real Sims Gurus over on More Awesome Than You got when they honored me by trying it themselves).

I got a little carried away with the story; it's 152 pictures long. This was apparently too big for the EA site to allow me to upload to their exchange, so I made a custom Photoshop action and a Perl script and some brand-new CSS and put it up right here on david chess dot com in a snazzy one-picture-per-page format that I'm quite proud of, for your reading enjoyment. (Rated H for modest amounts of hot girl-on-girl action; once again I think my own gynophily has influenced the development of an innocent female Sim.) It's intended to be at least mildly amusing, although some of the jokes will make no sense if you don't play The Sims 2.

(The 152 pages make extensive use of the "Next" and "Previous" and even "Start" values of various "rel" attributes in HTML, so you can look and see if and how your browser supports those; Opera 7 here develops a very useful "Next" button when viewing the story.)

I also got around to writing up two books, and I copied the weblog words over into a Notes page about Dark City.

Thank Ford!

- 3 for "hack webcams"
- 1 for "helen naked pictures"
- 1 for "w g stone g hirliman"

Anyone understand that third one there?

Here's some old scatological graffiti that I have to record:

Theses are like feces
You can blow them out your ass
I think I'll pass
My God that's crass

I read these on some men's room wall at Princeton like twenty-five years ago (there were either three or four different handwritings involved), and they apparently made a deep impression on me, in that I still remember them. But when they suddenly popped into my mind last night (for no reason that I can imagine), I found to my horror that I couldn't remember the critical nouns in the first line there. ("Smackies are like taxis?" "Cherries are like berries?") Fortunately they did ultimately return to me, but to hedge against losing them forever (and thereby becoming definitively Old) I'm recording them here. Apologies if they accidentally embed themselves in your memory as well; these things happen.