Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Both Sides Now: 1

For the next four days I'll be blogging "Both Sides Now, a Time-Loop"; one section per day.
Its four sections are:

          Dusk:             Vision of the Throne                                      
          Midnight:        The Kings of Fire and Ice                               
          Dawn:            God Bless the Grass                                      
          Noon:            The People of Earth and Sky                        

     Vision of the Throne

            He dreamed of the Kingdom, the land of masters and slaves. He dreamed in circular time, from Kingdom to Hell to Republic to Heaven and back to Kingdom; a wheel turning in place, causation linked into a loop. He dreamed of a Time-Loop, finite but endless, and within it the Kingdom, the cosmos doomed to become a chaos.
            The Kingdom is proud but decadent. It starts as the Kingdom of Heaven, a legacy of the Republic, but it ends as the Kingdom of Hell. It falls because it depends upon collective impunity. The Kingdom is truth forgotten and error denied. It’s all about the fall of pride.
            In the Kingdom, spending is free but speech is restrained. Its people fear the government, a mob runs the marketplace, and your private thoughts are everybody’s business. Its subjects say, “name it and claim it”; but they also say “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” In the Kingdom, honor trumps fact, force overpowers reason, and loyalty is key. Whom you know matters more than what you know. The Kingdom has more jails than schools, more lawyers than engineers, and more guns than butter. Its favorite sports are football and boxing.
            In the Kingdom, everybody labors, but nothing works, nothing gets done and nothing is possible. The Kingdom has bad fences; this makes for bad neighbors. Ask them no questions and they will tell you no lies. The wicked Kingdom leads from Heaven to Hell; for power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

                        *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *
            It was Sunday noon all day, that day. There was nothing whatsoever to do; nothing but sweet fat lazy time to waste; and so it had been all day, and the day before, and the day before that, for years and years. Time flows that way in a Time-Loop. It had been Sunday noon for a long, long time.
            Oh sweet freedom, present yet fleeting! Within grasp, yet slipping away! Eternally yours, already departed! Fulfillment and frustration, both at once!
            Well, what did you expect? That’s how they do things in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

            Jonathan Stone was strolling along, looking at his feet, lost in his thoughts, when he noticed a crack in the foundation of Heaven.
            It was just a hairline fracture, a few inches long. It was jagged, irregular, gnarly, fractal, and chaotic; everything that the Kingdom of Heaven is not; so it caught Jonathan Stone’s eye.
            He stopped and stared at it, having nothing else to do. Eventually he figured that this can’t be right, and maybe somebody ought to do something about it.
            As he watched, the crack in Heaven’s foundation grew. Now the fissure was a finger thick and a yard long. Air rushed through it with a whistling noise. “Somebody had better do something about this!” he said, and he took flight.

            He flew upwards to meet his supervisor; the Archangel de Sade. Jonathan Stone was a mere Angel, and de Sade was an Archangel, because in the proud Kingdom of Heaven, each soul is ranked as high as his own opinion of himself.
            Jonathan Stone approached the holy Archangel, shoving aside several other Angels on the way, and he delivered his report. The Archangel de Sade replied, “That’s not my department. For a maintenance petition, go inform my supervisor.”

            Thus the blessed Archangel passed the buck.  Jonathan Stone flew upwards to meet de Sade’s supervisor: the Principality Beria. While in flight he looked back and down. Now the crack in Heaven’s foundation was a hand wide and a dozen yards long. Air was wailing through it.
            He reported this to the Principality Beria, who sent him on to the Power Goebbels, who sent him on to the Fortress Torquemada, who sent him on to the Dominions. But neither the Little Duke, nor the Leader of the Overmen, nor the Comrade of Steel, nor even the Great Helmsman had the authority to mend the crack in Heaven’s foundation.
            It was still growing. Now it was a yard wide, and a mile long, and air was roaring through. Visible through the crack were stars, galaxies, darkness and vacuum.
            Finally the Heavenly Bureaucracy ordered him to inscribe his report upon the great and sacred Scroll of Petition, now in the hands of the Theocrat Himself, seated upon the holy Throne.

            Flights of cherubim ushered Jonathan Stone into the Throne room. There He was, the Theocrat; the One who believed Himself to be Master of Heaven, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the rightful Ruler of the Universe.
            The Lord sat upon the holy Throne; His left hand held the sacred Scroll. Vast was the Master, and mighty, in His opinion of Himself. His head overtopped the clouds.
            Swarms of seraphim hovered around Him, singing;
                        “The Porcelain Throne! O hole-y seat!
                        O honest chair approached in haste!
                        For public health, relief, retreat;
                        All other thrones, compared, are waste!”

            Jonathan Stone saw that the mighty Throne was indeed made of pure white porcelain. He flew to the Scroll, and wrote his report, and saw upon it many other reports requesting upkeep for the deteriorating Kingdom.
            The Scroll also bore the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, the Four Noble Truths, the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Upon the great Scroll was inscribed the Tanakh, the Talmud, the New Testament, the Koran, the Analects, the Tao Teh Ching, the Diamond Sutra, the Bhagavad-Gita, and many other scriptures.

            The supreme Lord moaned and strained. There came the sound of trumpets, of thunder, of downpours, and of splashes. Anon His labors ceased, and He sighed.
            The King of Kings leaned forward. He reached back, holding the Scroll, and He wiped.
            The Theocrat stood and turned to face the Throne. He pressed the lever upon its side.
            A mighty torrent roared.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ghost Girls; a Sketch

The following is a sketch of “Ghost Girls”, a Bollywood-style musical. The dance numbers and music should be elaborate, but that is beyond my skill and time, so I'm not writing all of that. There are only so many hours in a day and days in a life; and I am content to write this sketch.


Ghost Girls
Sketch of a Musical

The setting is a Chinese village, whose boys outnumber the girls by seven; that being the number who were aborted; for abortion was sex-selective in that village.

Our story starts on the village green, where the boys and girls line up for a dance. Seven of those girls are dressed in filmy white; the Ghost Girls, unseen by most of the characters most of the time. The seven Ghost Girls explain that they had never been born, and they sing "Wasn't I Good Enough?"

There's a big dance number. The boys and girls pair up, leaving seven boys unmatched. They sing "Lorn Boys".

Two of the Lorn Boys sing "Forbidden Love". They approach each other and embrace; meanwhile two of the Ghost Girls dance with each other. The villagers jeer and revile the two Lorn Boys, so they leave the village, for the city. The two Ghost Girls leave with them.

A Lorn Boy, dressed in monk's outfit, sweeps the stage, singing of meditation and self-denial. A Ghost Girl sweeps the stage alongside him. They sing a duet; "What Might Have Been".

A Lorn Boy, bottle in hand, staggers around and falls over; a Ghost Girl stokes his head and sings "I Wasn't There."

"But Not Me" is a duet. A Lorn Boy, gun in hand, swaggers around and raps about how he scares everybody. A Ghost Girl retorts, "But you wouldn't have scared me." The Lorn Boy rages around the stage, robs two Parents, and boasts that he has everything he wants, but the Ghost Girl sings, "But you don't have me." He brags that he'll go to the city now, where he'll have dozens of women, but the Ghost Girl sings, "But none will be me." They leave.

On stage we see the last unattached girl - the plainest one in the village - and three unattached boys; her suitors. They plead their cases; one is rich, the second is smart, the third is handsome. She, at first wary, says she likes them all; the suitors press their case; with rising self-confidence, she sings "At Last I'm In Control". She leads her suitors and the Ghost Girls in a triumphant procession around the stage; the Ghost Girls set her on a throne and give her a crown, while her suitors grovel at her feet.

Meanwhile the Plain Girl's Parents are in a double quandary. It was they whom the Hoodlum had robbed; and he took their plain daughter's dowry. How are they to marry her off now? They can't afford it; for marrying off a girl is expensive. They sing, "Like A Fire In The House." To make things worse, the wife is pregnant again, and with another girl. The Parents ask, how can we afford another child, let alone a girl? The Ghost Girls, seeing this, sing "That's Why We Aren't Here".

The Unborn Girl steps forth. She is dressed in filmy blue, and she never strays far from her mother. She sings "To Be Or Not To Be".

The Plain Girl sees her Parents' distress, and says she has a solution. She sings a song titled, "Market Forces". Its lyrics include "Supply and demand, production and price!"  So they call forth the six parents of the three suitors, and demand a Reverse Dowry; that is, that the girl's parents be paid, rather than pay. At first the Six Parents are outraged, but then they start outbidding each other, to the tune of "Market Forces".

"Market Forces" is interspersed with plot-advancing dialog. So we see Dad, Mom, Unborn Girl in tow, the Plain Girl, and the three suitor's Dads.

It starts with Plain Girl seeing her distraught parents; she says it's all right, she has a plan. "What plan?" says Dad, astonished by her sudden uppityness. She whispers into her Mom's ear, who in turn whispers it to Dad. He says, "outrageous!" Mom says, "Impossible!" PG says, "But they'll agree! It's just a matter of... Market Forces!" and then sings the chorus of "Market Forces", which includes

"Supply and demand, production and price;
so who pays who, and what’s the rate?
One plain prediction should suffice;
the market will equilibrate!"

The three Dads come in; they demand dowries; he starts playing them off against each other. The price starts to plummet; the three Dads bewail this predicament in verses of the song, and sing the chorus. At each reduction, Dad 1 says "Outrageous!" Dad 2 says "Impossible!" Dad 3 says "Agreed!" Dad 2 says "Agreed!" Dad 3 says "Agreed!" Finally Dad asks for a dowry of zero. "Outrageous!" "Impossible!" "Agreed!" "Agreed!" "Agreed!"  Then Dad starts bidding up the Reverse Dowry. "Am I bid fifty? Fifty? Yes, fifty to you! Am I bid sixty? Sixty! Am I bid seventy?" Another round of "Market Forces", and Dad closes the deal. "Sold!"

The rich boy's parents win the auction, and the other two boys vow to go to the city, or even overseas where perhaps they can find a wife. But their parents sing, "Trouble Coming".

The Unborn Girl steps forth and stands silently while the rest of the cast sings "To Be Or Not To Be".



Let some rich pro-lifer, or some wealthy feminist, with ties to Bollywood and China, make this show! Or not, I don't care; it has something in it to offend everyone! I am done now.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In Praise of Hypocrisy: 7

            This Essay is Hypocritical

            Compared to such celestial heights - and abysmal depths - of duplicity, most mundane deception is naive candor. How anticlimactic, then, for this essay to end by denouncing itself!

            For consider this essay. It praises hypocrisy as a virtue - but does it possess that virtue? I say that it does just as much as it does not!

            For if this essay is hypocritical, then its praise of hypocrisy would express its own values; but that would be sincerity, not hypocrisy. On the other hand, if this essay is not hypocritical, then its praise of hypocrisy would be insincere, and that would be hypocrisy.

            If this essay is hypocritical, then it is sincere. If it is sincere, then it is hypocritical. Therefore this essay is as hypocritical as it is not. It sums to zero. Like hypocrisy itself, it has two faces. Its praise is ridicule and its ridicule is praise.

            That is why you, dear reader, need not take this essay at face value. You are free to misinterpret this essay any way you please.

            How convenient!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

In Praise of Hypocrisy: 6

            Sublime Hypocrisy

            The hypocrisy-based community offers perfect freedom from responsibility. It revels in the triumph of the whim. Under its care, consequence is reversed; the innocent are punished, the guilty are protected, the able are ousted, the incompetent are rewarded, the virtuous are cursed and the vicious are blessed. By the power of pride, true is false and false is true, upon command. The hypocrisy-based community transcends veracity to attain impunity. O rapture!

            You cannot find a more ancient creed than Hypocrisy; nor one more faithfully practiced by the reputable; nor a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

            Hypocrisy has the strength of ten because its heart is impure. Hypocrisy destroys virtue in order to save it; for what profit it a man to save his own soul, but lose the world?

            What mere saint can rival Hypocrisy? For a saint can only redeem the repentant; but Hypocrisy rewards its worshippers without insisting that they change their ways. Why, then, bother with meddlesome saints? What need for repentance when you have Hypocrisy?

            What mere angel can rival Hypocrisy? For an angel is a messenger, serving the truth; but Hypocrisy is its own boss, self-made, telling its own truths, creating its own reality. Hypocrisy is worship of itself, by itself, and for itself. Hypocrisy rushes in where angels fear to tread.

            What mere creator can rival Hypocrisy? For a creator offers possibilities, but Hypocrisy offers impossibilities. It proclaims a luxurious mirage, spurious by design, free of meaning, ruled by whim, fraudulently concocted out of Hypocrisy’s own emptiness. What mere creator would dare to emit such chaos?

            Whom then shall I compare Hypocrisy to? Beyond saint, beyond angel, beyond even creator...

            Whom could I possibly compare it to but...

            ... a certain politician, here unnamed!

Friday, January 27, 2012

In Praise of Hypocrisy: 5

            Curing the Yet-Somehow Disease

            Such is the healing convenience of absolute hypocrisy that merely admitting its existence can ease a troubled mind. Consider this anguished cry:

            “The bill is called the Clear Skies Initiative, and yet it increases air pollution.”

            Consider the mental turmoil expressed by those two words, ‘and yet’. They evoke cognitive dissonance, shock, awe and confusion. The speaker is stunned by the mighty chasm between rhetoric and reality.

            Fear not, O sufferer; relief is at hand. Know that absolute hypocrisy exists; and in the light of that revelation, contemplate this statement:

            “The bill is called the Clear Skies Initiative, and therefore it increases air pollution.”

            From ‘and yet’ to ‘and therefore’; that’s one small verbal step, and one giant mental leap. Clarity replaces confusion; what had made no sense before, now makes perfect sense. Reason is no longer violated by the contradiction; instead it is vindicated. The mind, re-energized, rejects paralysis. Blessed release!

            Consider these cries of pain:

“He promised smaller government, but instead he made government bigger.”
“His party preaches fiscal responsibility, yet somehow their budget is unbalanced.”
“He is eager to send others to war, even though as a youth he dodged the draft.”
“He promised reform, but paradoxically he appointed corrupt regulators.”
“His foreign policy ironically endangers national security.”
“He preaches liberty even as he works against it.”

Compare them to these bold roars:

“He promised smaller government, so of course he made government bigger.”
“His party preaches fiscal responsibility; and that is why their budget is unbalanced.”
“He is eager to send others to war, precisely because as a youth he dodged the draft.”
“He promised reform, so naturally he appointed corrupt regulators.”
“His foreign policy deliberately endangers national security.”
“He preaches liberty because he works against it.”

            From bondage to liberation, merely by observing hypocrisy. Imagine then the effect of participating in hypocrisy!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

In Praise of Hypocrisy: 4


            There’s a fine line between relative and absolute hypocrisy. Consider the case of Lesser-Evilism.

            “Choose the lesser of two evils”; that’s the classic advice of the hypocrite sage. As a compromise it is perhaps forgivable. It doesn’t pretend that its choice is good, just that the alternative is worse. An uncomfortable doctrine; it promises at best a holding action, more likely a disorderly retreat.

            But now consider this mutated version of that advice: “The lesser of two evils is therefore good.” This theory, which I call Lesser-Evilism, is very convenient; for it guarantees a foolproof path to virtue. To be good, you need only be other than somebody else who is worse.

            So if Paul steals $2 from Peter, and if Paul and Saul are rivals, then isn’t Saul justified in stealing only $1 from Peter? Even Peter will agree that’s only half as evil. And if Saul then kicked Peter, then wouldn’t Paul be in the right if he retaliated by merely slapping Peter? Another lesser evil!

            Why stop there? $10 is less than $20; vandalism is not as bad as arson; armed robbery isn’t nearly as scary as kidnapping; and so on. The possibilities are endless! In fact Paul and Saul can lesser-evil poor Peter straight into the grave, with Paul and Saul alternately not-to-blame.

            Note that Paul and Saul are rivals in name, but they’re partners in practice. Their crimes justify each other. Paul and Saul have a lot more in common with each other than either of them has with Peter. And as for poor Peter, he has only himself not-to-blame. After all, he got what he didn’t deserve.

            You’d think that Lesser-Evilism would fail when Paul and Saul are both too obviously wrong to justify themselves or each other. But that is precisely when hypocrisy becomes absolute, and doublethink takes over. Lesser becomes greater; so Lesser-Evilism becomes Greater-Evilism, and the race to the bottom accelerates towards its goal.

            The trouble with Lesser-Evilism is that you can never be sure that the lesser evil is lesser; but you can always be sure that the lesser evil is evil. (If you weren’t, then there would be no talk of lesser evils.) Thus Lesser-Evilism tends to revert to Evilism; the belief that all evil is good. Evilism is, of course, a core hypocritical value. Once you accept it as a moral axiom, then all else follows.