Thursday, September 27, 2012

Karl Denninger's "campaign speech"

Karl Denninger at Market Ticker delivers the hypothetical speech that he believes would allow a presidential candidate to capture the flag.

He starts off badly, demonstrating that he does not know the difference between a colon and a semi-colon; I would have trouble voting for such a man. After that, however, he hits his stride and I can almost forgive him. Some excerpts:
My fellow Americans;

Almost exactly four years ago the stock market began a sickening plunge that would shake the world.  Declining from just over DOW 11,000 to under 7,500 in two short months, only to fall another 1,000 points in the next three, this period marked an unprecedented time of government intervention that you were told was for all of our good, and the good of our nation.

You were lied to.

The intentional expansion of debt unbacked by anything was the cause of the market crash.  This intentional fraud perpetrated upon all of you went back to the Tech Crash in 2000, and goaded Americans into taking out loans that could not be repaid to cover up the malfeasance of those who had systematically looted Americans' retirement accounts and offshored their jobs during the 1990s. 
Ben Bernanke of The Fed has argued that his "Quantitative Easing" has helped the jobs market and will continue to.  This too is a lie; the entire and only purpose of this program is to allow the government to continue to run its monstrous deficits -- that is, The Fed is responsible for taxing you as an unelected private body.
The funds from this tax are not going into the economy.  They are going to fill the hole in the big banks' balance sheets.  These large financial firms, banks and Wall Street companies, went from having about 20% of the size of the economy in debt in 1980 to over 120% in 2007, an expansion in relationship to the size of the economy of six times.
So to the American people, I make you these promises.  If you elect me I will jail those bankers and Wall Street hotshots who lied to you, to your pension funds and to others in industry.  I will stop deficit spending and put an end to the unbacked and fraudulent emission of credit.  I will submit to Congress and demand passage of a bill that puts teeth into The Fed mandate for stable prices, ending the shell game of inflation and back-door taxation, backing that mandate with criminal and severe civil penalties for non-performance.  I will protect depositors if we must should banks fail, but nobody else; lending people money is a hazardous enterprise, and the cost of that lending should reflect the risk.  If you loan someone money who can't pay it back, under my administration you will lose your capital.  If you swindle someone under my administration, no matter how you do it, you will be indicted, arrested, tried and if convicted imprisoned and your assets will be stripped to pay back those who you stole from.
It's a rousingly acidic "speech" and a painful summation of the financial nightmare that we've been through since the dot-com collapse and housing bubble. His threat of legal vengeance might once have seemed over-torqued, but as you may have noticed, the dog in the night hasn't barked. Billions of dollars have been nicked by the banksters, many Americans are jobless and impoverished through no fault of their own, but almost no malfeasance has been punished. Jon Corzine, lately of MF Global, had a fit of absent-mindedness in which he forgot where he put $1 billion of his investors' money. At this moment he may well be enjoying the resources for hire at a swanky hotel in some scenically favored part of the globe.

So one cheer for Karl Denninger. I'm withholding one cheer for that semi-colon, and another because Denninger is so fixated on economics -- like most of his "fellow Americans" -- that he imagines that just getting our financial house in order is all that's holding us back from a glorious restoration. 

I don't mean to be unduly critical of him. Economics is his field. But he's an example of why we're in desperate straits. There is plenty of conservative resistance to the bloated federal government, insane levels and types of immigration, irresponsible welfare handouts, Muslim appeasement, and  the rest of the fallout from our soft-Stalinist regime. The trouble is, the resistance is almost all from single-issue protesters.

Takuan Seiyo has the overview. He understands that we're fighting a multi-headed beast, Cerberus times 10. Fastening on a single issue is deathly.
Few of the few who sense that something has gone terribly wrong understand either how much worse than their expectations the consequences are going to be, or how insufficient their resistance is. Liberals who think the Left will choose to protect their liberal values in preference to growing and protecting Islam, have a surprise coming. The Counterjihad activist who is not an anti-Third World immigration activist — i.e. “racist” per the prevailing nomenclature — will see his country swamped by Uttar Pradeshis, Polynesians and Zulus even if his position on Islam prevails. And if he is not an anti-statist activist as well, even if he prevails on immigration, the state will still crush him. ...

The defender of capitalism who screams at the commie Occupiers but does not scream with them at the banksters, may save his country from ruin by the commies, but not from ruin by the banksters. The economic freedom activist who is not a reactionary cultural activist will be crushed by the open borders and free trade he advocates, and will see the lowest barbarian common denominator regnant. But the social conservative, family values warrior who is not a white ethnic activist may win the abortion fight but will still end up living in Haiti even if he lives in Maryland.
Yes, by all means, we can wish for a political administration that puts the fear of God into crooks and swindlers. But that alone won't save us. We are called to do so much more. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

I know who John Galt is, and I don't care

Take a philosophy (or ideology, if you prefer), mix in advertising-perfect sets and scenery, add age-of-railroads industrial imagery. Don't expect it to rise. Expect a film like Atlas Shrugged, Part 1.

If you're questioning my reason for watching ASP1 (on a Blu-ray disc from Netflix), well, so am I. I had been aware that it was savaged by reviewers, but it was possible that they had let their own ideology influence their judgment -- almost all reviewers are standard off-the-shelf leftists. ASP1 is short by current movie standards (an hour and a half) and I let curiosity get the better of me.

I should acknowledge I haven't read Ayn Rand's super-sized novel. I don't expect to. The next five-pound book I read is going to be Kazantzakis's The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, not Altas Shrugged.

ASP1 looks pretty good, in a picture-postcard, Architectural Digest way. It's shot in rich, saturated colors: interiors glowing with the patina of aged wood, the lemony light from chandeliers, Corot-silver ultramodern office corridors. Plenty of travel brochure shots of Western landscapes. Eye candy and all that, but pleasing.

The characters inhabit a world of glamour and industrial chic, set against the background of an America in economic chaos -- if it was explained why the country had sunk so low, I missed it. As to the storyline, I suppose it's familiar even to those who, like me, haven't delved into Ayn Rand's cult novel. There are three main characters: Dagny and James Taggart, sister and brother, heirs to a railroad (because of petroleum prices, the only form of mass transportation in the year 2016) and fortune; and Henry Rearden, head of a steel company.

Dagny and Henry symbolize the kind of titans Rand lauded. Almost everybody else in the movie is swinish, especially the politician characters. They don't make steel or run railroads or produce for society. They're leeches. The John Galt of the title, as I'm sure everyone knows, is a shadowy -- literally -- figure who appears at intervals to persuade the movers and shakers to drop out of sight and leave the untermenschen to their fate in a collectivist world.

It's possible that Rand's novel is not so simple-minded and didactic -- probably not, from what I've read of it, but possible. And in a less extreme form, her philosophy of Objectivism might have been a useful counterweight to the forced egalitarianism and subsidized dysfunction the Left has so successfully lumbered us with. But I can't admire the kind of people she seemed to admire. I don't want to live in a culture that has no use for ordinary people, for wisdom, for spirituality.

Let's talk about the acting. You're not going to get much satisfaction from what is on view in ASP1. Of course, it's hard labor for players to do anything with lines like, "That's a secondary cooler, to reduce the heat generated in the process" (or something like that; I quote from memory, but will try to be more precise later). I have seen none of the actors before other than Jon Polito, and in his case I wish I hadn't, then or now.

Taylor Schilling is Dagny, super-captain of industry. She shows flashes of technique that might be better employed elsewhere. Her co-titan Rearden is played by Grant Bowler, who has one of those handsome-pretty faces that soap opera casting directors like. His is one of the most abysmally uninteresting performances I've ever seen in a lead role. Some of the other poor wretches trying to make something out of nothing show signs of talent, albeit in a lost cause. The only actress who commands the screen is Rebecca Wisocky as Rearden's shrewish wife.

You may have gotten the impression that the story and dialogue are rubbish, but to describe them as such would be unfair. They are worse than rubbish. They are hilariously bad.

Actually, ASP1 is no sillier than the other film based on an Ayn Rand novel, the 1949 The Fountainhead. But that, one of the greatest follies ever committed by Hollywood, at least boasted a couple of magnetic stars, Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal.

I seem to recall that ASP1 was shot on a slender budget. The best that can be said for it is that it doesn't look cheap. The worst is that its ideas are fatuous, and the sets deserve above-the-title billing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Prove you're illegal so you can vote in California

 ID card for illegal immigrant. Under discussion: driver's licenses for blind paralytics; debit cards for embezzlers.

The Los Mexicanos Times reports:
On Tuesday, The Times reported on a proposal in Los Angeles to turn library cards into photo IDs that illegal immigrants could use to open bank accounts and access city services. ...
... The photo ID library card is a serious idea with serious advantages for illegal immigrants. City Councilman Richard Alarcon, who proposed the concept, noted that in his Northeast Valley district, some immigrants end up being gouged by payday lenders or robbed if they keep large sums of cash on hand.  That wouldn’t happen if they could open bank accounts.
Right. There'd be no break-ins if every illegal were issued sets of house keys and addresses. No robberies if they were issued unlimited debit cards for the state treasury -- wait, for practical purposes, that's already been done in California and other progressive states.
Predictably, there is opposition to the idea. A spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform complained that the cards could be exploited by terrorists and criminals and would encourage illegal immigration. (The first assertion is debatable, the second valid only in the sense that anything that makes life easier for illegal immigrants can be said to encourage illegal immigration.)
Notice the prejudicial language: the immigration reform spokesman "complained." Not said; complained. What are we going to do with these whining Blue Meanies and their "debatable" assertions?

The second objection is valid "only in the sense that anything that makes life easier for illegal immigrants can be said to encourage illegal immigration." Oh, only in that sense. The -- what's the word? -- the logical sense.

The post-Americans are getting bolder, courtesy of Papa Doc Obama. It's getting rarer to to see euphemisms like "undocumented." Few bother to hide the blunt truth. They just come right out and say illegal in the same breath they talk about ways the government Politburo can smooth the way for the colonists. Forget "No human is illegal." Now, it's "Yeah, they're illegal, and what are you gonna do about it, gringo?"

It's useless to be angry about it. We're past the point of no return. Let California and New York issue state IDs to illegals so they can vote themselves money the state doesn't have. The sooner the former United States dissolves so that, we can hope, some region will be outside the reach of the leftist-captured population and institutions, the better.

When California totally breaks down under the weight of another 10 or 15 million Mexicans with library card IDs (except there won't be any money then for libraries; maybe state-issued tattoos), it won't get sympathy from me. Experience is a dear school, said one of the founders of the former United States, but fools will learn in no other.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our slithery media

Maureen Dowd Goes Borderline Anti-Semitic: "Neocons Slither Back"

... says the article at Breitbart.

William Bigelow writes:
Maureen Dowd, on the eve of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year, decided to write a column dripping with anti-Semitism to attack Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s hardline positions on the Middle East and national defense. In her rant, titled “Neocons Slither Back” Dowd used ancient anti-Semitic imagery. ...

Then she slimed: “Ryan was moving his mouth, but the voice was the neocon puppet master Dan Senor.”
Maureen Dowd is a terrible writer, stylistically and intellectually; but Bigelow proves himself her inferior in this piece.

What does "on the eve of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year," have to do with anything? Is commentary about the Middle East supposed to be suspended for the Jewish holiday? And then there's the childish language: "dripping with anti-Semitism," "her rant," "then she slimed."

But her worst offense? Using the phrase "puppet masters" -- "The image of the puppet master was one with which Hitler was quite familiar." 

It's also a phrase many puppeteers have been familiar with for ages. Robert Heinlein titled one of his most famous science-fiction novels The Puppet Masters. Were they all anti-Semites? 

Another example of Dowd's "anti-Semitism": " ... The cocky chief of Goldman Sachs said he understands that a lot of people are ‘mad and bent out of shape’ at blood-sucking banks." Apparently she has a thing against Jewish vampires.

Dylan Byers at Politico hears the same bat squeak, or at least the "experts on American-Israeli relations" he quotes hear it:
"Dowd's use of anti-Semitic imagery is awful," Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on Twitter.

"Maureen may not know this, but she is peddling an old stereotype, that gentile leaders are dolts unable to resist the machinations and manipulations of clever and snake-like Jews," Jeffrey Goldberg, the Atlantic columnist and leading journalist on Israeli issues, wrote. ...

"Dowd’s column marks yet another step down into the pit of hate-mongering that has become all too common at the Times," Tobin wrote. "This is a tipping point that should alarm even the most stalwart liberal Jewish supporters of the president."
We seem to have reached a point in American political life where everyone is accusing everyone else of speaking in code. And the coded message is always one that our politically correct puppet masters -- sorry, our guardians of unfree speech are convinced is either racist or anti-Semitic. You say "Chicago," you're talking about black criminality, a hatethoughtcrime.

Let us have no more unmediated speech and journalism. It is plainly too dangerous for the American people. From now on, let no one utter or write any political opinions -- "rants," "slimes" -- who is not wired to a polygraph and electroencephalograph to record brain waves and physiological changes. No candidate's or columnist's words will be released from detention until a psychologist and polygraph expert have vetted the recordings and signed a statement that they are free from any taint of offense to anyone, anywhere (other than straight white men, of course).

American freedom must be preserved at all costs.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Today's Islamophobic news story

The Washington Times has picked up a story from a Lebanese news agency:
According to the Lebanese news organization, citing AFP [Agence France Presse?] news sources, U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, who was killed by gunmen that stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday, was reportedly raped before being murdered. 
A news report made by the Libyan Free Press is also reporting that Ambassador Stevens was sodomized before he was killed: "Libya - USA Ambassador in Bengazi sodomized and killed by his own al-Qaeda puppets."
Very likely these Libyan sources are the Middle Eastern equivalent of the National Enquirer -- although it's surprising if the original story actually was from Agence France Presse, the French equivalent of AP or Reuters.

I suppose getting murdered is inconvenient enough that being buggered doesn't really change the score that much for the victim. Regardless, the attacks on American diplomatic compounds are barbaric. Since the Middle Ages, it's been axiomatic that diplomatic personnel are guaranteed safe conduct. In World War II, diplomats of the Allies and the Axis were interned by their respective enemies -- put under house arrest, more or less. All through the Cold War, we had an embassy in Moscow and the worst the Soviets did was hide microphones and try to catch Americans with access to secrets in honey traps.

But the United States, and the whole anemic Western world, can't fathom that they are dealing with a politico-religious system that knows no rules of fair play, for whom infidels are simply dogs. The dogs have had their day. Now it's payback time.

Our politicians, even supposed experts on Islam and Middle Eastern ways, seem to have an impermeable filter in their brains that blocks the discomfiting reality. No matter what, they're ready to try one more time to show the world's Muslims that we're really nice people when they get to know us, that we'll overlook a few extremists, keep the aid money flowing through the pipeline, welcome more Muslim immigrants. There's no problem with Islam, just "violence" -- a disembodied kind, unconnected with Islam itself, that attacks like the flu.

And maybe that isn't a bad metaphor. The blogosphere has lots of talk at the moment about retaliation, teaching lessons &c. But we don't have to send drones over Libya or lob missiles into camel-parking lots; we need to quarantine Islam. No Muslim immigrants; no visas for Muslim visitors. I don't care if they just want to see the Grand Canyon. Let them get the message that their co-religionists have made them pariahs in the civilized world.

Does that sound extreme? Not half as extreme as what befell Christopher Stevens. If we don't practice separation from Islam, there will be more such atrocities, and more, until finally we run out of goodwill and the lid blows off. Then you'll see extreme.

The solution isn't "Islamophobia," whatever that means to you. It's containment. Close our embassies and consulates in Muslim-majority countries. Let the Shiites and Sunnis pronounce curses on each other and wring one another's necks. Let sad sack mullahs impose their medieval laws until Iran's next revolution. Unfortunate, but not our problem. And let's see that the fanatics understand that if they insist on their caliphate becoming our business, they won't like the way we do business.

Secretary of Appeasement Clinton reaches out to the Religion of Peace.

"But, we oh what good people we are, we will apologize for having an embassy and for having free speech and for getting our embassy in the way of their mob and our free speech in the way of our religious sensibilities. And we will see about getting all of the above out of their way. After Muslims killed thousands of Americans we did everything we could to learn about their religion, to celebrate it and soothe their ruffled feathers. Like an anxious host, we are still rushing around to see that our Muslim guest has enough coffee and egg rolls while promising to do something about that free speech that offends him."

Monday, September 10, 2012

The only issue that matters in this election

No, it's not the economy, stupid.

Nor is it:

Education/the Middle East/Mormonism/abortion/gay marriage/you did (didn't) build that/anything else the piss-stream media write about and pollsters ask about.

You could (in theory) have every one of those controversies resolved to your satisfaction in the election and it wouldn't matter, other than to make you feel good for a little while, somewhere between five minutes to a few months.

Because they are all either derivatives of the real issue, or of trifling importance by comparison.  With political correctness implanting cowardice on the tonsils and strip mining the brains of We the People, the one issue that really matters is taboo even to speak of publicly.

It's population replacement.

To one degree or another, just about every government in the Western world, most certainly including that of the United States,  has been engaged in a deliberate policy of massive immigration to reduce the indigenous population to a helpless minority.

Economists can argue their heads off about importing and exporting products and raw materials. That's nothing compared to the importation of people.

The people imported in overwhelming numbers aren't just a random collection of foreigners, although that in itself would create social problems out of proportion to whatever benefit it might offer. Rather, our new "Americans" are a specific kind of people: non-white, uneducated, unskilled. They come from Third World countries in which the rule of law is mostly nonexistent, where corruption is endemic. The idea of informed citizenship weighing the good of society is incomprehensible to people from tribal cultures who have spent their lives battling against the odds just to survive.

The two most powerful forces in today's United States are instrumental in bringing them here: (1) the Leftist Establishment, which thrills to the prospect of an abysmal class dependent on the government, whose votes are bankable, and who will soon outnumber the hated white middle class; and (2) the Corporate Establishment, which can use them as bottom-dollar table wipers and car polishers.

As long as population replacement (which, of course, our traditional political parties take as the natural course of events) continues, the Leftist Establishment and the Corporate Establishment will win every election. Including the one we are suffering through now.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Your version, my version, introversion

There's a corner of blogdom for introverts. I discovered Kingdom of Introversion by accident. Its blogroll lists related sites: "A Keen Introvert Observer," "A Mother's Insightful Observations of Her Introverted Child," "How Not to Annoy an Introvert," "Introverts Are Not Mentally Ill," etc.

It's probably unnecessary to explain introversion to Reflecting Light readers, but in case anyone needs a quick refresher, here goes:

The term comes from the psychological typology of Carl Jung, which includes the extroversion-introversion scale. Extroverts' consciousness is centered in the outside world and other people. They crave company, activity, sense stimulation. Introverts are attuned to their inner selves, preferring solitude or a few close and familiar relationships. They are uncomfortable with strangers, crowds, and noise. (Most people are at neither extreme.)
It looks like Kingdom of Introversion may be on hiatus: the most recent posting is dated January 3. But it's an interesting one. Its author, whose nom de blog is Gluon the Ferengi -- that no doubt means something to the in-group, but I have no idea what -- offers his or her thoughts on "Introvert Survival: Basic Protection from Ostracism."

Some of the suggested self-protections:
-Always eat meals with the people you’re living/working with if possible.
Humans instinctually form communal bonds when they eat together. Eat what they’re eating, even if it tastes horrible, at least for the first few months. This is the easiest and most effective way not to get ostracized.

-If you are offered some food, a ride, whatever—never refuse, even if you don’t want or need it. Even if the one who offers isn’t your favorite person. To accept is to become a person in their eyes and a member of the community.

-With members of the opposite sex who are close to your age, never, ever try to ignore them. Both males and females will subconsciously feel rejected, even if there’s no attraction.

Keep divergent interests in sci-fi/fantasy, computer games, any unusual hobbies concealed until you’ve known people for a few months. Anything nerdly or out of the ordinary that’s put fragrantly on display right away will cause people to judge you quickly.

-Show familiarity with their favorite brands, TV shows, bands, etc. Go on wikipedia if necessary.
I offered the following comment (which the site says is "still awaiting moderation" -- maybe there's nobody home there):

"Sounds to me like a recipe for a pretty miserable life. Spending time with people you don’t like, talking about stuff you aren’t interested in, eating foods you don’t like … man, that’s quite a price for avoiding rejection by people who probably don’t think about you much one way or another."

Lest it be thought that I am ignorant of, or unsympathetic with, the problems of being an introvert I assure you that I am one -- an asocial, mopey bookworm. Years ago when I applied to be analyzed at the Jungian training institute in San Francisco they first gave me the Gray-Wheelwright typology test. I was almost off the map for introversion (intuitive-feeling breed). I'm never comfortable at parties, or wasn't back when I was invited to them.
Our American culture seems designed to plague introverts. A high value is assigned to being a joiner, talker, enthusiast. To be quiet and inward is thought, by many, unusual. (When I saw a tray at my office labeled "Outgoing Mail," I asked, "Is there one for introverted mail?")

Not having a lot of social contact, introverts brood too much. They imagine being rejected, true or not. So it's useful for introverts to have a support network, to feel less alone and misfit.

Support networks have positive and negative poles. The emotional uplift, the welcome understanding, are positive. But paradoxically, too much fixation on differences with the rest of humanity can also reinforce alienation.
Introversion actually isn't as rare as introverts imagine. Peter Whybrow, M.D. (in A Mood Apart: The Thinker's Guide to Emotion and Its Disorders) says, "Probably 20 to 30 percent of the population meet criteria for a general notion of shyness -- reluctance to start a conversation, few spontaneous gestures to strangers, finding new social situations uncomfortable ... ." Since most people fall between the extremes of introversion and extroversion, probably a majority of people have moods of introversion. Introverts needn't feel like freaks.

In any case, the recommendations by Gluon the Ferengi -- can anybody tell me what the name is about? -- strike me, a card-carrying introvert, as nonsense.

First, I don't think it's possible to be a pseudo-extrovert. Who has time to study up on popular TV shows, movies, sports, etc. to present a facade of knowledge about them? Besides, it won't sound convincing to extroverts, even if they can't point to why not.

Second, it's an act of surrender, an acknowledgement that introverts are inferior and must (for "survival"!) pretend to be something they're not. It's as if the introvert not only believes himself an outcast, but that he deserves it.
Many of the commenters at Kingdom of Introversion and other sites I've sampled sound like they are genuinely suffering. But here's the thing: in most cases, they're not suffering because they're introverts. They're suffering because they're depressed.

Depression, a persistent emotional barrenness coupled with low self-respect and other symptoms, is widely believed today to result from a combination of innate temperament, genetically inherited, in combination with life experiences. Some are born with a tendency to melancholy, but few if any are inherently depressed regardless of circumstances.

Introverts do face special challenges. They get no pleasure from many of the things the culture holds up to them as fun and exciting. The world seems to get noisier all the time -- I myself have come to dislike eating in restaurants because so many now play loud music. When things are tough, many introverts lack the comforts of a large group of friends and companions.

But the worst is that too many make themselves depressed by believing there's something wrong with them, that like Gluon the Whatever they must act an unnatural role to be accepted. I can't say I didn't have this syndrome when I was younger.

Being inward doesn't have to be associated with depression. Dr. Whybrow says, "Even the most expansive of surveys classify no more than 10 to 15 percent of the population as seriously depressed. To be shy does not mean that one is destined for major depression." To avoid clinical depression, however, you have to avoid falling into the trap of regressively feeling bad because of feeling different, then feeling bad about feeling bad, then feeling bad about feeling bad about feeling different.

As for others' acceptance ... introverts, lost in self-awareness, mistakenly assume that extroverts are analyzing them all the time. But it's rarely overt analysis -- more often, just picking up unconscious impressions.

I'll share something a counselor said to me once, casually, but I think one of the most valuable things I've ever heard. It was this: "People aren't looking for ways to judge you negatively because of differences, but they are acutely sensitive to your discomfort about being different. If you can accept your uniqueness, so will they." All right, my fellow introverts? All right.


Thanks to a couple of readers, now I know what "Gluon the Ferengi" means. I had speculated it was some kind of adhesive fern. No. It is a character from Star Trek.

Blimey O'Reilly, I don't half feel old and out of it.

I thought introverts read books and listened to Chopin. Not, apparently, in GluonWorld. He follows Star Trek, a TV series from the 1970s that Hollywood picked up on.

So let me get this straight. Young Goodman Gluon (I don't know for sure that he's a man -- scratch that; I know for sure that he's not a man, but I strongly suspect he's not a woman) imagines himself a deeply sensitive, hothouse flower because, wait for it, he's immersed in an old and immensely popular TV series. You could get a million Trekkies together for a  Star Trek convention, but Gluon considers himself burdened with a love that dares not speak its name, the cross he must bear for being a Star Trek fanboy.

I'll bet he (I'll call this entity he out of courtesy) raves on classical music. Led Zeppelin? ("Well, you know, they're like classic rock, you know.")

Introversion should be made of sterner stuff. This time it's his turn to not get the reference.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Afterlife Investigations

Anyone who would make a serious documentary about survival of the human spirit after the death of the physical body faces daunting obstacles. The evidence is largely based on spontaneous phenomena that can't be summoned at will for the camera. It depends on the cumulative weight of many individual data points rather than a few spectacular events. Logically, even the strongest cases defy "proof": it is hard to conceive anything that would see off every alternative explanation to survival.

As if that weren't enough, any producer, director, or writer for such a film is at the mercy of network executives if the program is intended for TV viewing. TV is designed for entertainment, not truth. So we get junk shows about ghosts and haunted houses featuring credulous witnesses and spooky music on the sound track. Intelligent viewers are more likely to have their skepticism stoked than to be convinced or even have their minds opened.

Occasionally, though, someone overcomes the odds. Tim Coleman has made what is, as far as I know, the first feature production with extensive footage of the sessions that resulted in the Scole Report, originally published in the Society for Psychical Research Proceedings, now reissued as a book. The video, The Afterlife Investigations, is available on DVD.

For those who would like a relatively brief summary of the Scole investigations, here is an article by Montague Keen, one of the three SPR investigators who were present at and witnessed many of the remarkable paranormal events.

Back to Tim Coleman's video. In addition to making good use of video recordings from Scole, The Afterlife Investigations introduces us to Marcelo Bacci, who is somehow able to use an old table radio (it looks like '30s vintage) for communication with the deceased; other examples of the electronic voice phenomenon, in which spirits in the afterlife speak to the living on tape recordings; and Allison DuBois, of whom I know nothing except that she is said to be a famous medium on which the NBC series Medium is based.

DuBois is shown (allegedly) communicating with the spirit of Montague Keen, who died several years after his role as lead writer for the SPR's Scole Report.

The main interest of The Afterlife Investigations, for me, is the shots taken at Scole, showing amazing spirit-generated "physical phenomena." The mediums involved are interviewed and give their own first-hand accounts.

Despite having appeared on television (something unfortunately called UFO TV -- I don't know if that's a U.K., U.S. or both network), the video's tone is determinedly non-sensationalistic, even if some of the phenomena shown are pretty sensational. What is seen here deserves the careful treatment it gets.

Not that the video is flawless. It stops from time to time to insert man-on-the-street interviews of pedestrians giving their views of life after death, which struck me as pointless. I also could have done with fewer repetitive establishing shots of the town of Scole seen from a traveling car; one would have been enough, and each return to Scole could have been labeled with computer graphics.

Nevertheless, I consider The Afterlife Investigations to be an immensely valuable contribution to a much-abused cinematic genre -- the paranormal show -- and frequently fascinating. I can strongly recommend it to anyone willing to consider the evidence for post-mortem survival on its merits.

For the record, I am not a disinterested observer, since I met Monty Keen soon after the Scole Report appeared and talked with him at some length both at SPR conferences and when he and his wife Veronica came to the U.S. on visits. The account and conclusions of Scole Report were not accepted by many SPR members, but he had no doubts. "I have seen miracles," he told me.

Of course the whole subject of survival, spirits speaking through mediums and electronics, producing physical evidence and so on seems absurd to many people -- most people, in our age of materialistic science. Neither The Afterlife Investigations nor the Scole Report, not to mention the huge body of literature on spirit communication, renders doubt impossible. But I think it makes belief possible.

There was Monty Keen -- dead for seven or eight years now -- interviewed in the video, looking and speaking just as I remembered him, seeming almost present thanks to the high resolution of digital video. Imagine telling someone in, say, the 18th century about such a phenomenon. Imagine the response: "Sir, I fear either your mind is disordered or you have been nipping at the claret to an unseemly degree."

Yes, it would have been self-evidently ridiculous. Like spirits of the "dead" speaking to the living through mediums or electronic instruments, preserved on videotape.