All posts by Kit

Why Allen Dulles won’t be in Dracula vs. Cthulhu

I did a fair bit of research into Allen Dulles for Dracula vs. Cthulhu (which is also spy fiction – it’s got a lot going on!).  I did the study thinking that he would make a good villain.  I even angst over whether I should use Dulles, personally, or just base a character on the man – deciding that I should use Dulles personally.  His multifaceted incompetence and the extent to which he shaped foreign policy in the US demanded that, if I use the dude, I open a conversation into his legacy.  Even in my sci-fi horror novel, such things are important to me.

As I’m writing background stories for DvC, though, it became clear why that wasn’t going to work: I don’t respect him enough to believe that he could be successful with the other villains and heroes in the story.  Because he was so incompetent – indeed, one of the chief problems with the CIA then and now is that people are often promoted up from abject failure; it took a fuck-up as big as the Bay of Pigs and to get Dulles fired (and, frankly, since the lead up and cover-up to the Bay of Pigs had treasonous elements, Dulles got off light) – he makes a poor hero or villain for my style of writing.  Chumps, broadly speaking, need not apply, or are, at best, minor villains and henchmen.

So, we’re back to the main villain being an ex-Nazi, ex-Communist sonofabitch based on two of the most evil men of the 20th century.  Evil, but competent.

There is no proof too much exercise will kill you: health news is the worst

There’s been a piece of “reporting” going around saying that it’s possible to exercise oneself to death. The New York Post’s headline is “You can exercise yourself to death, says new study.” A bunch of articles share that title, or slight variations on it.  Short form: it’s bullshit.  Deep and highly piled bullshit.

The news “stories” is based on a paper that has been electronically distributed by The Mayo Clinic Proceedings titled 25-Year Physical Activity Trajectories and Development of Subclinical Coronary Artery Disease as Measured by Coronary Artery Calcium by Deepika R. Laddu, PhD, Jamal S. Rana, MD, PhD, etc. I’ve provided links so, y’know, you can read it, too, if you’re so inclined. I did.

Continue reading There is no proof too much exercise will kill you: health news is the worst

Review of The Morning of the Magicians by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier

I had mostly just thought to give The Morning of the Magicians an awful review and move on. Most of the book is profoundly stupid, and often in factual error. (For instance, Piri Reis was NOT a 19th-century admiral, but a 16th-century one thus could have presented the US with anything. Radio waves and gamma rays are both forms of light, so, yeah, you can compare them. Plus, computers are binary and human-style intelligence is analog, not the other way around.  The book’s errors are numerous and multifaceted, obvious and subtle, and even worse is the broad mischaracterizations, equally untruthful oversimplifications, and the extent to which facts are taken out of context.)

However, inside the brutal stupidity that is most of the book are two interesting parts.

First, Pauwels suggests that a being of superhuman intelligence wouldn’t need to hide. Neither would an organization of such intelligences. What they said to each other would be incomprehensible to ordinary humans, much in the same way that dogs don’t understand what humans say. It would simply be lost on us.  For a fiction writer, this is a highly interesting idea.

Review of Reich of the Black Sun by Joseph P. Farrell

It’s not a good book. For me, as a writer, researching science-fiction horror, it was fairly useful but it is not good.

I’ll jump right to the biggest problem with The Reich of the Black Sun – it’s unintentionally pro-Nazi. The thesis of the book is that Nazi scientists when they discarded as “Jewish science” relativity were able to make incredible scientific and technological advances – including anti-gravity and perpetual motion machines that could power long-ranged submarines – even though the Nazis lacked the wealth and freedom of the West (and, particularly, the unbombed United States that benefited from the immigration the largest portion of Jewish scientists fleeing the Nazis). That’s not an obviously racist thing to think, but it as I read the book, it became increasingly anti-Semitic: the only thing holding back science from technologies like anti-gravity and free energy was the pernicious influence of “Jewish science.”

I don’t think this is intentional on Farrell’s part, just the ignorant blindness of most conspiratologists. Like most conspiracy theorists, Farrell is driven by his passions past the point of all reason. There is no evidence of sympathy for Nazi goals in the book, merely an ecstatic gushing about his line of reasoning that puts Nazi scientists on divergent lines of technological development that lead to amazing places.  His prior work is a bizarre theory that the Giza pyramid is an alchemical “death star,” and that it was used to destroy a planet that threatened the earth.  This guy doesn’t seem to be ideological, just passionate about his untrue beliefs.

Continue reading Review of Reich of the Black Sun by Joseph P. Farrell

Egotism and conspiracy theory

I’m reading one of the ur-texts in esoteric neo-Nazi mysticism for Dracula vs. Cthulhu, The Dawn of the Magicians. It’s pure conspiratology, and contains the same fundamental sin as The Devil’s Chessboard: Conspiratology is fascinated by “what if.” Into a broken or incomplete narrative, rather than acknowledging it is broken or incomplete, and perhaps unable to be solved due to the distance of time, place, and circumstance, conspiratologists create a narrative by asking “what if this were the case” and then deciding that their newly invented fiction is a fact.

Conspiracy is a fiction that conspiracy theorists have decided is fact – and, indeed, at several points in the 160 or so pages of The Dawn of the Magicians I have read, the authors use quotations from novels as “proof” of their thesis. They liberally quote Arthur Machen and Bulwer Lytton, saying that novelists are essentially prophets and that both men belonged to the Order of the Golden Dawn and were thus enlightened alchemists. It’s boggling, but it is part of argument built by The Dawn of the Magicians.

In this sense, it appears to me that conspiratology resembles religion. Almost all religions and religious people assert a fallacy known as “the God of the gaps.” Supernaturalist religion occurs in those parts of the universe about which humans cannot see, or do not have an adequate theory to explain. Which is why God will cure cancer now and then (a disease that sometimes goes into remission for no apparent reason, often attributed to a miracle) but adamantly refuses to regrow the limbs of amputees. Cancer going into remission is a poorly understood process that happens on the cellular level – the God of the gaps acts invisibly. On the other hand, regrowing amputated limbs is big enough to be seen, thus does not happen.

Conspiratology is “pseudohistory of the gaps.” Take for instance the assassination of President John Kennedy. The Warren Commission was deeply flawed, yes. But to leap from “the Warren Commission was flawed because we know that the CIA and FBI engaged in a coverup” to “the CIA killed JFK” puts a fictional narrative into the gaps of history. Even though there is a strong but an unprovable narrative, that the CIA and FBI wanted to deflect heat for their incompetence in keeping track of Lee Harvey Oswald (as they would later deflect the heat away from their incompetence about 9/11), conspiracy sees a gap and fills it with whatever they desire. Thus, while it is almost 100% sure that the CIA and FBI played a hard round of “cover your ass” with the Warren Commission because there’s no record, conspiratologists can leap to the conclusion that the CIA killed Kennedy.

Moving on, the authors of The Dawn of the Magicians say that we should study the 100,000 works of alchemists to discover what they discovered. The Dawn of the Magicians never goes into what a massive undertaking it would be – since the works are coded, cyphered, incomplete – and how difficult it would then be to decide which parts are useful and which parts aren’t. It’s almost certainly easier for us to rediscover whatever medieval alchemists found (assuming there’s anything left to find, given the advanced state of chemistry, metallurgy, and materials science). But they love their narrative that there MIGHT be something truly, utterly amazing hidden away in these texts, and they wildly speculate about what it might be, such as unguents that can regrow the tissues of burn victims in such a way as to leave no scars. Because, y’know, they read that some medieval doctors had such things. (They didn’t, duh.) The gap – that we haven’t sufficiently studied old alchemical journals and books – can be filled by whatever fantasy a person desires!

The idea that creative narratives are actually, for-real true is a seductive lure. Most people want to believe that the universe makes a personal sense – that we, individually, understand the driving forces behind history or the universe. Of course, we tend to imagine that the meaning of the universe or the meaning of history supports our point of view. That is the heights of egocentrism! That the universe is ordered to give tacit approval to me? That God thinks that the life I live is the best kind of life, or that my ideals are divinely granted and inspired? Heavens. Equally absurd is the idea that history ought to do the same – given weight to my fancies and prop up my worldview. That the murder of JFK becomes a prop for my fantasies is intellectually shameful and morally vacant!

Yet, that’s the core message of conspiratology – that whatever narrative that you CHOSE to believe lurks in the dark corners and past the horizons of history. There is no need to get proof! Belief, alone, is enough because history is murky. Therefore all ideas have equal merit! Which is egocentric nonsense, and contrary to any epistemology that seeks truth rather than glorifies the self at the expense of the truth.

My other bike: Mechashark!

I’ve given love to my fast bike, Emu, so it’s time to give some love to my slow bike, Mechashark!

It’s a 2014 TerraTrike Rambler.  I got it because, well, at the time I was nearly four hundred pounds, and there aren’t a lot of bikes that can hold a dude that big.  This is the bike that got me over the initial hump of weight loss so I could move on to faster bikes and longer rides.

Now, it’s the ride I use for more casual stuff and local errands.  I’m now a strong enough rider that this bike is useful so I’m not constantly champing at the bit, looking to go ahead of people, so it’s usually the bike I use when riding with other people!

Initially, it was named Shark, but I installed an FSA Metropolis Patterson front drive to increase the gear range:

Now, the front tooth serves both as a 28-tooth ring and a 45-tooth ring.  With the internally geared hub in back, I can spin up to about 20 miles per hour with favorable conditions – which is enough for most rides!

It also has a bike computer mount and a light mount in front.  It’s the bike I prefer to ride at night because of its stability:

Seen from the back, that’s where I put my water and groceries.  The bags hold about two plastic grocery bags worth of stuff, so I do much of our shopping on Mechashark!

The bike is also equipped with fenders for when it’s wet outside, making it my de facto all-weather bike.

While not as sexy as Emu, I’ll always have a fond spot in my heart for Mechashark because it started me on the road to cycling.  So I’m very happy to have found additional uses for the bike in my day-to-day life.

Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner review – it’s a history of the CIA!

I have finished reading Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner. I found it to be a very odd book.

On the one hand, I have no fault for Weiner’s research. Since I’ve been following the CIA for a while, much of it was known to me, but seeing it collected in one spot was moving – the CIA has done so much evil.

On the other hand, Weiner doesn’t follow his research to the obvious conclusion: that the CIA never worked, and never will, that people operating in secret cannot be trusted, and secret services are a threat to democracy and global stability. Which is to say, the CIA should be shut down for the good of the United States and the world.

Continue reading Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner review – it’s a history of the CIA!

Nearly Quit Writing This Week

I almost quit writing this past week. Art is a very rough road, and there are no clear signs to “success.” Effort and ability are not enough. I’ve got a bookshelf and tablet full of indie writers who have gone through the considerable effort of writing and publishing their works – but the truth is that few people are likely to read what they write. It is as I said: hard work and ability aren’t enough.

The flat truth: the number of writers in any given market are increasing at a much faster pace than the number of readers. The limited amount of time and money the audience has is being more finely distributed over an ever-increasing number of authors. So bad is it that it is considered de rigeur for indie writers to pay promotional sites to give away their books. It is a reader’s market, and for the readers it’s great! They get to read to their heart’s content and not pay a dime, to have a plethora of high-quality work for free, indeed, the expense is borne by the writer, not the consumer.

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Weight Loss Monday (on, y’know, Wednesday), Part 9

I lost about three-fourths of a pound over the last week, which is slow for me, but there was a big contributing factor: I was at a convention. Four days! This is going to be an issue, I think. It’s very easy, at cons and shows, to rationalize overeating. Since I’m an introvert, cons are inherently stressful. I enjoy them, but there is stress. So when I’m at a gas station, and I see some candy, I get it. And then, because I don’t have access to my kitchen, I end up eating at a restaurant, which rarely has healthy choices. And if I go out with other people? Add some beer into the mix. Lastly, at cons, I don’t exercise – no bike, no gym. So, duh, it’s harder to lose weight at a convention!

However, I managed to do it, if only a little.  So, yay!  Hashtag goals or somesuch.

Still, before the con, I did ride 94.8 miles that week, though I didn’t do any lifting.

Which is a boring update, which is probably why it’s so late!