Misanthropic Quote: Anne Lamott on Paranoia

Almost all [of my writing students] have been writing for at least a little while, some of them all their lives. Many of them have been told over the years that they are quite good, and they want to know why they feel so crazy when they sit down to work, why they have these wonderful ideas and then they sit down and write one sentence and see with horror that it is a bad one, and then every major form of mental illness from which they suffer surfaces, leaping out of the water like trout — the delusions, hypochondria, the grandiosity, the self-loathing, the inability to track one thought to completion, even the hand-washing fixation. And especially, the paranoia.

You can be defeated and disoriented by all these feelings, I tell them, or you can see the paranoia, for instance, as wonderful material. Surely one of your characters is riddled with it …

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, pp 10 – 11

Aha! I Knew It, Part III

The more ideological a psychological or sociological study, the less likely it is to be replicable.

That’s common sense, but it’s nice that someone has written an article documenting the proof of it. Of course, the concept “ideological” is itself a relative one. Ideologues can’t see their own precommitment and would just call it common sense. So keep that in mind.

Now, here’s another article by the same author …

The go-to test for measuring implicit bias (based on reaction times in milliseconds) doesn’t actually predict biased behavior and probably isn’t even measuring what it claims to measure.

This feels like a vindication. One of my major reasons for distrusting psychological and sociological studies is that they claim to be able to scientifically prove to the victim … I mean research subject … that he or she “has” something like unconscious racism. And because it’s unconscious and has been scientifically proven, there’s no way to refute it. Denying it is further evidence that the claims are true. This kind of reasoning goes all the way back to Freud.

Aha! I Knew It Part I here

Aha! I Knew It Part II here

Cultural Appropriation Fail

The rule is, your Hallowe’en costume should be either be a horror creature, or else something  clever and funny and preferably inanimate.  Be a deer or a demon or an avocado or a donut or a steak. Don’t dress up as any kind of a person.

The only time you may dress up as a person is when you already look exactly like that kind of person, in which case, depending on the circumstances, it may or may not be much of a costume, but I digress.

A year ago I broke this rule and here’s what happened.

I am a middle-aged blond woman.  I went as Mario from Super Mario Bros. My costume consisted of a fake black mustache and the trademark Mario hat.  (It was a costume of convenience. My kids had developed an interest in Mario and Luigi, and had already acquired the props.)  It was a not terribly convincing costume, since with my shocking white skin and light-colored, curly hair poking out from under the hat, there was no disguising that I was a lady of Dutch ancestry. Also, I don’t own any blue coveralls.

Trick-or-treating in our then neighborhood was the most fun I’ve ever had trick-or-treating. People decorate their houses, come outside, and sit in lawn chairs in costume, holding bowls of candy, sometimes flanked by a glowing brazier or a bowl of dry ice.  The streets throng with families.  All the little kids and many of the parents are excitedly complimenting one another’s costumes. Cars, if they venture out at all, drive at 2 mph. Everyone is feeling happy and excited.  No one is drunk, but their inhibitions are down. It’s a real party atmosphere.

(The year my one son was two, he was so cute that people kept giving him extra candy. After an hour, his trick-or-treat bucket was so heavy that he couldn’t carry it.  But I’m digressing again.)

When I showed up in my Mario costume, it was immediately recognized by a mustachioed, curly-haired man about my own age. He pointed at me and yelled at the top of his voice,

Look! It’s an older Greek woman!

Then as I doubled over in laughter, he added, “That’s how we tease our Grandmas.”

Darn. I was trying to appropriate Italian culture.

Misanthropic Movie Review: Angels and Demons

Photo by Javon Swaby on Pexels.com

Reader response is a wonderful style of literary criticism which allows the reviewer to just note down their personal reactions, even if those reactions occurred while watching the show at midnight, when we get sleepy and our inner five-year-old emerges.

This post doesn’t explain the plot step by step, but it does contain all the spoilers and all the sarcasm.

So, my reactions to the movie version of Angels and Demons, in order …

1. Oooh, these Catholics are so mysterious and sinister!

2. Science-y stuff is happening inside the big collider.  The people are speaking French.  They think the collider might blow everything up, but they press on anyway because it’s Science.

3. Now they have made antimatter. 

4. The messenger from the Vatican speaks English with a cool, ominous accent.  He seems to be perfectly fluent, but he can’t remember the word formídable.  The closest he can get is for-mi-dá-blay.  The professor has to translate for him.

5. The professor is really smart. He knows more about Catholic history than the Catholics themselves.  Seems legit.

6. The Illuminati were a bunch of honest truth seekers who were absolutely, positively not into the occult.  They were just rationalists and scientists who were persecuted by the Catholic Church.  Now they want to use the antimatter to blow up a small country (Vatican City), but that is totally justified because the Catholics branded a cross on the chests of five Illuminati back in the 1500s.

7. The Illuminati have kidnapped the four preferiti, a.k.a. Cardinals who are being considered to become the next Pope.  The other Cardinals are in conclave.  The Great Elector, the leader of these, is obviously the bad guy.  He doesn’t want to evacuate St. Peter’s Square, even though it clearly might be a good idea.  He has “I WANT TO BE POPE” written on his forehead, and it’s possible he is behind this whole scheme.  He either works for the Illuminati, or is more likely using them. 

8. The Illuminati assassin is torturing the preferiti one by one and leaving them around Vatican City for the Professor to find.

9. VATICAN CITY SCAVENGER HUNT!!!

10.  Wow, I am just learning so much from this movie.  I had NO IDEA that the church adopted the symbols and holidays of previous pagan religions, or that Dec. 25 was originally … oh, wait.  Yes I did.  I wrote an article about it here.

11.  Also, English was the language of rebels and mavericks, like Shakespeare and Chaucer.  (Chaucer????)

12.  Honestly.  There are no admirable characters in this movie.  Not the Great Elector, not the Komandant of the Swiss guard, not the Illuminati assassin because torture, not the Professor because he always looks like everyone is getting on his last nerve with all this religion stuff … The only admirable character is a young priest who was the Pope’s protégé and who confusingly still loves the church as a place of simple people full of compassion even though he admits the church has “always sought to impede progress.”  I’ll bet he apostatizes before the end.  Either that or he becomes the next Pope.

13.  The Pope was murdered, by the way.  Turns out he didn’t really have a stroke.  I think we are supposed to feel sorry for him (or for the protégé), but the scene when they open his coffin displays a black, swollen tongue protruding from his mouth and spreading a stain over the rest of his face.  Clearly super symbolic.

14.  Speaking of symbolism, in one scene the Professor gets trapped in the Vatican Archives.  To preserve the ancient books there, oxygen is kept to a low level and the walls are lined with lead.  When the power goes off, the electronic doors lock.  The professor has to break out of this hall of old books where he cannot breathe or communicate with the outside world, or he will literally die from being stifled. The only way he can break out is to push a heavy bookcase full of priceless artifacts into the re-enforced glass, destroying these precious objects. 

Hmm, what ever could all of this symbolize?  Let me think …

15. OK, they have saved the one remaining preferitus.  And they have found the antimatter.  But – oh no! – they can’t replace the battery that will prevent an explosion, without possibly causing an explosion.

16.  The protégé is taking the antimatter up in a helicopter so the explosion doesn’t kill anyone!  He’s going to be martyred and made a saint!

17. Oh wait, he parachuted out!

18. But the explosion high over St. Peter’s Square is blowing his parachute all around! He’s going to die after all.

19. He survived!  Now the cardinals are finding an obscure bylaw that allows them to make him Pope. 

20.  But the Professor has just found a hidden video that shows the protégé was the one who hired the assassin!  He just made it look like an Illuminati plot!  It was him all along!

I did not see that coming.

21.  But the reasons he did it were the same old tired reasons we have been told all along.  He killed the Pope because the Pope was OK with the scientists making antimatter and the protégé thought it was blasphemous.

22. In other words, he did all this in order to impede progress because he thought it might diminish the power of the church. 

23.  The lady scientist feels guilty about having made antimatter because it was stolen by the assassin and almost used to kill thousands of people.  She wonders if they should go on making antimatter. 

The professor encourages her to make some more.  That’s good advice.  After all, what are the odds of something like this happening again?

24.  The Great Elector is now allowing the remaining preferitus to become Pope and is acting all nice & humble towards the Professor.  “Religion is flawed, but that’s because people are flawed.”

OK, I was wrong about the Great Elector.  Still, this feels like Dan Brown is trying to have it both ways.  He’s just spent an entire movie showing us that religious zeal is really really bad and destructive, but now he wants to say that it’s also not, with no reasons given.

Verdict: I ended up really enjoying this movie because it was so twisty.  But that doesn’t change the fact that it was a hatchet job.  Even the twists serve its purpose, because the person behind the evil plot turned out to be the character who seemed the most saintly and was certainly the most zealous.  He ends up setting himself on fire, murmuring, “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit” and then screaming and writhing like a demon as he burns.  If that’s not blasphemous I don’t know what is.

An Actual Viking Reacts to Marvel’s Female Thor

Bjorn Andreas Bull-Hansen blogs here about men’s mental health, viking culture and bushcraft (“viking camp”). That’s why I call him an actual Viking.

I realize that not all of you will make the time to watch this 8-minute video, so below are some highlights of the transcript. But you need to watch the video to get the full effect of the Norwegian accent, the poignant eye contact, and especially the emotion in this guy’s voice at 6:55 when he talks about “our gods. Or what we perceive as holy.”

Highlights of Bjorn Andreas Bull-Hansen Talking about Female Thor

“So, you want to make Thor a woman.”

[takes swig from beer bottle]

“… you people.

“Listen.  I’m OK with a female Thor.  I don’t care!  That’s only because I’m a grownup. 

“But here’s the thing.  Thor is a symbol of masculine power.  But I do suspect that … the writers … have a little bit of an agenda and they think it’s interesting to tear down that concept of masculine power.  But let me tell you, there is actually such a thing.”

[takes swig of beer]

“My ancestors, they knew how important masculine power is for our society, for the family, and for our culture.  And let me just say that you are stepping on something now that means a lot to some of us.

“So go ahead, make Thor a woman.  But just know this: if you think it’s OK to make Thor a woman, you should never again criticize anyone for ‘cultural appropriation.’

“Every day, I walk my dog among the grave mounds of my ancestors.  And my belief system is no less important than any other belief system.

“We should all lower our shoulders when it comes to our gods. Or what we perceive as holy.  I think the world would be a better place if we did.  But never again will you cry out about ‘cultural appropriation.’  Because that’s what you’re doing now, making Thor female.”

[swig of beer] [shakes head] “You people.

“So go ahead, go ahead!  I don’t care. Thor is still out there.  All around us, as a symbol of masculine power.  He is present in every healthy society, in every healthy family.

“That’s all for now. Have a wonderful day! Bye-bye.”