fredag 21. desember 2007

The Santa Delusion

Chris Tilling continues last years competition on convincing the most kids that Father Christmas doesn’t exist or really is Beelzebub.

The latter scores two points. You'll also get awarded extra for each kid you manage to reduce to tears.
Read all about it here.

A more long term strategy may be to write a book.

Happy Holliday!

søndag 16. desember 2007

ELP Reunion in 2008?

While of course it is too good to be true, the rumours about an ELP reunion mentioned at my friend Tony Ortiz' My Space is a warming thought at midwinter.

It will never be 1974 again, still it may indicate that Christmas is a time when some people of good will do leave their more or less solitary confinements as solo artists - or in other groups.

In the meantime, here is this year's Christmas greeting from Keith.

tirsdag 11. desember 2007

Fanfare for the Reunion Reviews

What a night it must have been at O2 yesterday!

Perhaps the most telling about Led Zeppelin's stature these days, is that both fans and media for once agree. In any case, how irrelevant the punk and press slamming of the "dinosaurs" in the late 70's seem, when looking at the footage from the reunion.

Among raving Zep reviews, there are also some that mentions the opening acts (and pictures of one of them at Getty Images).

"There were several opening acts rotating across the stage, mainly hosted by former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman. Paul Rodgers, Keith Emerson and Foreigner got the biggest cheers."
Watch Zep reviews and footage here.

One you will not find at that link is "diamondgeezer" who at ELP-disc reported that the opening act playing Fanfare For the Common Man had

trumpets at the start but Keith was drowned out at first and only during his solo did they boost his sound. At his more theatrical moments the crowd (it was half full at that stage) responded. How this man deserves more of this kind of stage to show his talent.

After the improv. they went into a crossover bit of Zeps Kashmir and Squires The Fish before coming back to the conclusion of Fanfare. Afterwards Emo tried to thank everyone but both mics he tried weren't on! eventually he found one that worked and thanked the band and especially his roadie. It was a thankless task opening on a such a night. Even Foreigner seemed apologetic for holding up proceedings. Mind you it was a naff version of I wanna know what love is (yuk!)

Zep were brilliant. Whatever you may or may not think of them believe me this was as good if not better than when I last saw them in 75' at Earls Court and Jason Bonham was a credit to Bonzo senior.

Good to hear while waiting for the DVD. If Jimmy allows.

mandag 3. desember 2007

Where is science fiction going?

Ideas come in many shapes, not to mention forms. Some are even new, also when dealing with the future. Still, it is as hard as ever to make good predictions.

G. K. Chesterton observed this with his usual wit a hundred years ago in The Napoleon of Notting Hill.

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called "Keep to-morrow dark," and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) "Cheat the Prophet." The players
listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. Then they go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.
Lovers of science fiction witness this whenever we read or watch the classic stories from the 30's or 50's, not to mention SF TV-series from the 70's and 80's. The brave young captain of the transgalactic space ship in AD 3 000 easily solves engineering problems with his slide rule. The moon landing was described in all possible details in hundres of stories before 1969, and they all got it wrong on perhaps the most important aspect. It was directly televised.

So what is a SF author to do these days? The field may not be quite as fertile in ideas as ten or twenty years ago, still there are great stories being written. However, one idea has caught my attention more that others lately. We are talking about Eric Brown, known for his Helix novel. In a recent interview with Scifi Chick , he reveals one of the more interesting ideas ever:

I’m a big fan of G.K. Chesterton, best known as the creator of the Father Brown detective stories. (I’ve recently sold a novella to PS Publishing featuring Chesterton and Edgar Rice Burroughs meeting on Mars, improbable as that might seem.)

Naturally, as a Chesterton fan, Eric follows the grand tradition of including him in a story. Gaiman and Dickson Carr are far from alone in realising that someone so alive in his writings, perhaps more than any author, deserves to come alive again.

However, the intriguing thing here is matching him with Burroughs, perhaps the most widely read pot boiler ever on late 19th century Romantic values from the Noble White Man (except Russians), Evolutionism and Religion as mostly about Human Sacrifice, to getting as far away from the modern city as possible. The most noble is not just a return to nature, it is a return to the trees. No wonder he was my fav author when I was ten.

Who better then, than Chesterton to make for an ahem... interesting... dialog?

I am not in the habit of playing at children's games and predict which ways science fiction is going. Still, this particular road is one it hopefully will teleport even more.

lørdag 24. november 2007

The Alien Agenda

We all know aliens are out there, however their agenda has not been all that clear.

Why do they stop car engines? Why make all those patterns in crop fields? Why make people pregnant and then removing all traces? Ever wondered why Christians so eagerly deny the existence of UFOs?

And why there is such a conspicuous absence of the ufo subject at every and all Church Council?

The explanation is simple. Some as always truth seeking Gnostics have seen the light:

Judeo-Christian elites and their oppressive ideology (which also drove European Empires), led in turn to the development of modern Western civilization. Therefore, the prejudices by official institutions in Western civilization, (against the free and open discussion of UFO phenomenon and varied human contacts with intelligent Extraterrestrial life), can be illuminated by appreciating Gnostic insights on the alleged motivations of the Judeo-Christian-guided Church which backed founders of Western civilization.

The whole problem is that Western civilisation has been driven by manipulative Christians to seemingly emphazise on science and reason. In reality it has all been a plot by the aliens themselves, who have infiltrated the major theistic religions.

John Lash, in illuminates, that the original attempt to cover-up and to deceive humanity on reported UFO-related phenomena, is the result of the use of organized religion by the aliens that sought to create opportunistic blinders to critical human awareness of the reality of alien contact. John Lash specifically traces the origins of the cover-up of UFO related phenomena, to the represented Manipulative Extraterrestrial infiltration of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Debunkers of ufo theories don't really follow reason and evidence. Skeptics like Dawkins are controlled by Christians and alien agents. They are deceived by intelligences beyond their own, which are not difficult to find. Fortunately Gnostics are not so easily fooled.

Indeed, interestingly, the denial of UFO related phenomena including alien sightings tends to be more pervasive in societies where these particular organized religions of Christianity, zionistic Judaism, and fundamentalistic Islam, have been dominant. In China, for example, were Buddhism has been relatively dominant, governments, and the state controlled mass-media in contrast, have been more open to the reporting of UFO phenomena. The traditionally Hindu societal milieu of India has also shown more "tolerance" to reporting on UFOs, than in the West.

Aboriginal and indigenous societies which include those in Africa, and other parts of the world, (who have been able to maintain an independent spirituality from the West), continue to very openly relate historical accounts of varied forms of contacts with UFOs and aliens.

This should lead to a whole new direction for Religious Studies. Comparative Religion and all that has been blind to this for too long. There is a need for bold new paradigms and field studies.

The conclusion is hard to avoid:

Christianity, as a religion, in relation to the Gnostic-represented "doctrine of the aliens", can thus, be viewed as an apparent attempt to deceive humanity from recognizing and understanding the ultimate demonic agents of their oppression, who operate by social engineering to execute the exploitation of humanity.
Still, while alien infiltration may explain some of the more odd behaviour among bishops and muftis, it is easy to see where it all breaks down. Real aliens would have made a far better job at stopping the Gnostic publishing and conference business than just releasing all those anti Da Vinci Code books.

Should have been easy with their broad range of mind control, ray guns and teleportation devices. So there is a lingering doubt that those Gnostics may not have quite got it quite right after all.

torsdag 22. november 2007


Whether you're into conspiracy theories, brave new worlds or surprises by joy, this is just to remind you that today marks the 44th anniversary for the untimely departures of Aldous Huxley, John. F. Kennedy and C.S. Lewis.

If you wonder what they talked about on their way to Purgatory, here is a report.

tirsdag 20. november 2007

Spin Off Doctors

Having just ordered Season 3 of Doctor Who (and Series 1 of Torchwood to get more mileage from Royal Norwegian Customs handling fees), it is good to notice that the series and its spin offs are alive and well.

Living in Norway means we are one or two seasons behind BBC, so these DVD's are ordered in faith (which as we all know should not be blind or in the teeth of evidence).

The latest news (November 20, 2007) is about The Sarah Jane Adventures where part one of The Lost Boy was watched by 1.3 million viewers.

The BBC's Doctor Who website has also just announced that the writers of Doctor Who Series 3 have won the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for Best Soap or Series (and strengthened my belief in the existence of clever and creative atheist writers - Russell T Davies be praised, Lem is far from the only one).

The praise and prizes are nice to see for someone who was a bit worried when witnessing the hype in London (especially in BBC programs, for some reason) on the premiere of the first program in Series 3. Still, hype is not always the opposite of quality, as fans of Beatles and ELP have known for decades.

Seems there may be a slight hope to survive the dark evenings of the Pre Season Season again.

søndag 18. november 2007

Secular Anti-Humanism

It is often illuminating (or making one pause a tad, depending on my mood) to look at some of the slightly hyperatheistic blogs out there.

This time it is the fearsome pharyngula that raised my brows. One of Darwin's present bulldogs, PZ Myers, has read a rather humane Secular Humanist, Richard Norman's thoughts about the New Atheism.

Myers is as usual frank

"First, I have to confess: I'm not a humanist. I'm just not that keen on defining myself by my species, and I'm not going to join a group that willfully excludes squid. Still, I sympathize with the aims of secular humanism and I'm willing to work alongside them, just as I'm willing to work with reasonable Christians and Muslims - I'm just not ever going to be one of them, and I'm not going to hold fire and abstain from criticizing them."

Myers touches here one fundamental dilemma when attempting to build a basis for values in an atheistic universe.

a) How to establish the dignity and value of humans (and human values at all)?
b) How to make sure this does not exclude animals (but bacteria)?

It is not an easy excercise if you want animals on your team. However, embracing squids and squirrels, does seem to provide a feeling of a moral higher ground to some (though they rarely mention snakes in the same breath) . That is fine with me, as long as one does not use it to denigrade human value. However, it is hard to avoid some stealthy anti-humanistic attitudes creeping in here, below the radar.

Whatever the psychology and moral notions involved, some atheists definitely don't consider Secular Humanism to be kosher. The very term Humanist is a red flag. Most interesting about Myers' blog this time, however, are the comments. Why is it so wrong of atheists to be Humanists? Here are some replies.
"When I began to deliberately identify as atheist I was encouraged by friends to attend humanist gatherings and I found I was generally put off by the tenets that promoted human proliferation. Although my run-ins with humanism (and Unitarianism) have given me a clear idea of what I don't believe, I'm still at a loss for what we call a philosophy that explicitly rejects speciesist views but still embraces rationality and goodwill as virtues among humans."

When human proliferation becomes a bad sign for some, it is needed to raise not one, but two eyebrows. However, all is not rational out there.

"Over the last dozen years or so I've gotten into the habit of attending humanist, atheist, skeptic, and Unitarian Universalist conferences and events. What I've found in practice is that the skeptic and humanist groups are the most oriented towards method, reason, philosophy, and science. The atheist groups are a bit more political, and I always seem to run into at least one person who's into alternative medicine, psychic powers, or some sort of wacky conspiracy theory -- and thinks that because they are "rational" enough to be an atheist their other beliefs are of course rational, too. Very frustrating."
One can imagine. So that makes for the question "What labels are there for non-humanist atheists to embrace?" Not surprisingly, one answer is

"Scientist. Seriously. It's almost 2 at night, so I won't give it any deeper thought and just say that all philosophy other than science theory is useless."
Fortunately later commentators notes that science theory is a poor basis for any philosophy. However the comment above is one of severel that indicate not only an aversion against Humanism, there is almost as much against Philosophy.

"I tend to look upon philosophizing as nothing more than mental doodling, but not all of it is useless in the real world. "
Where the guy comes from may be derived from him pointing at Jiddu Krishnamurti as
"a very deep thinker, and very worthwhile reading. Of course, I'm not sure you could, strictly speaking, call him a "philosopher"".

No, not quite, which may be why he is recommended. Some, however, are a bit more willing to consider Humanism:

"Mostly, I just think of philosophy as a bunch of really hard to read books. But there is something there. Science can't be the simple answer to everything. Science doesn't give me a reason to give a crap. When I eventually admitted to myself that I was an atheist, it enabled me to answer a lot of difficult questions. But without an invisible man in the sky, I need some other place to root my values and beliefs. So here it is: Human suffering is bad, and human happiness is good. I think that's all I need to be moral. I'm not 100% sure, but I think that makes me a humanist. I'm big on principles and reason, not so much on labels."
And perhaps not on what makes for solid ground to build values on. The commentators may however agree a bit more on making sure to avoid silly and sentimental Christian values:

"I hope the lecture on the ethics of genetic manipulation does not rely on so-called "moral intuitions" that can be traced back to socialisation within a society which has long been influenced by Christian notions of morality and virtue. I'm just saying ...I mean, maybe the person giving the lecture will be a hardline transhumanist. That would be refreshing. But there are too many biocon irrationalists like Leon Kass, Jurgen Habermas, Margaret Somerville, Francis
Fukuyama, Bill McKibben, etc., etc., floating around, all claiming to base their views on secular thinking (and all, surprise surprise, at least deferential to religion)."
And you have the more profound (well, perhaps not, it takes all kinds to make commentators) thinkers:

"We are all human beings here - well, most of us anyway - whether we like it or not. Are we in any way special? In the absence of a god, who is to say? Well, actually, we can if we choose. That human beings done things of which they should be ashamed is, I would say, beyond question. Is it equally true that they have achieved things in which they may take justifiable pride? I would also say:
yes, they have. Does any of that makes us special? In some ways, but not as much as does our capacity to ask such a question."
It boils down then, to our abilty to "choose" (whatever that is to the more avid new atheists) and our capacity to ask good questions (whatever they are). However, few animals are able to ask such questions.

So this guy may be a Humanist, and hence (by the Myers Doctrine) a speciesist.

The horror.

tirsdag 13. november 2007

Rick out, Keith still in

As mentioned, the Led Zeppelin reunion concert and Ertegun Tribute was moved to December 10th, as Jimmy Page's hand was hurt. No doubt from drawing too many pentagrams.
As Wakeman was unable to participate on the new date, Emerson will be the only keyboard player on stage in one of the opening bands. There are rumours he has done such before, so he may hopefully manage again.

Things don't always go as expected when Keith is the only keyboard player on stage.

søndag 11. november 2007

More Da Vinci Farce

Just to remind you all that the Da Vinci Code Farce is not quite passé. There is always another commercial cad out there, somewhere. Though unfortunately not over the rainbow.

This time it is about The Da Vinci Coda. It turns out there are musical notes encoded in The Last Supper, if you just look closely enough. How it sounds? Like this.

Not quite Keith Emerson.

mandag 5. november 2007

The Love Formula

What better way to celebrate November and the dark Age ahead of us, than by quoting one of my very fav authors, the Polish SF-writer Stanislaw Lem?
Quite the opposite of other atheist authors, like Philip Pullmann to mention a relevant case, Lem is fair to folk of other philosophies - and rather fun to read, to understate a tad.

Here is but one example of why Lem would have deserved the Nobel Prize far more than Doris Lessing, to understate rather more than a tad.

From The Cyberiad, a true work of genius:

Love and Tensors

Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tred the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to _n_,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!

Come, every frustrum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not--for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
Cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he known such a^2 cos(2 \phi) !

Other translation may be found here.

Use you vectors wisely.

fredag 2. november 2007

Zep reunion postponed to December 10th

Jimmy broke a finger - read all about it here. Which means that the Emo/Wakeman band also will have to wait.

In the meantime, here is a hoot.

Happy Birthday, Keith!

And so it is time to send the customary garland of Martian fire flowers to Keith Emerson who celebrates his 63rd birthday today.

We toast him by tipping our hats and Hammonds!

May he live long and prosper.

Heed the advice all ye people!

My fav blog by an English postgraduate theological researcher in Germany, Chris Tilling, offers today some advice on Biblical Evangelism.

As usual, his pure fun is more than pure folly. Take heed.

onsdag 31. oktober 2007

Please sign up!

One of the most interesting blogs around is Bede's Journal, dealing mostly in fields combining History, Science and Philosophy/Religion.

It is run by James Hannam, a historian who has a PhD on the history of medieval science at the University of Cambridge, from 2007. At the moment he is looking for a publisher for his book on this, a rather difficult task if you're not a known name.

Here is a favour James asked for in his latest blog message:

I hope regular readers will forgive me for once again asking, please could anyone who follows my writing sign up their email at my book's website where I am trying to gather enough people to interest publishers in my book on medieval science. Registering here creates no obligation on your part. The list will only be used to try to convince publishers that there is a market for my work. You will not be sent any emails apart from one confirming your registration and another when the book is published.

Getting published in non-fiction is almost impossible unless you are already either a journalist, a publisher, a celebrity or a senior academic. The quality of the book has almost nothing to do with it. Almost all popular history is written by journalists and the genre suffers seriously as a result. So, by signing up on my list you will also be helping to strike a blow for history to be written by historians rather than amateurs with the right friends. Click here to read the first chapter of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science absolutely free.

Take care to sign up.

I, for one, am too curious about this book to let it go unpublished. So don't disappoint me!

mandag 22. oktober 2007

Eugenics and Other Evils

Nobel Laureate James Watson is at the moment a rather non grata persona in many circles. This has led a professor of genetics to attempt a history of eugenics, in The Guardian.

Despite his frantic backtracking, James Watson's statement that Africans are less intelligent than Europeans follows a long and dubious tradition of geneticists claiming that supposed racial differences have a genetic basis. The idea goes back to the birth of the science of evolutionary genetics and its bastard sibling: eugenics.
One not overtly amusing thing about this is the myth (perpetrated by e.g. Dawkins) that it was Evolution and modern DNA-research that proved the equality and value of humans. Racism and religion went hand in hand, until science dispelled both by bringing light on the matter.

In reality, values and equality are religious or at least mystical notions, just as racism may be. However, if evolution and DNA provides the only data available, it is impossible to prove matters like "same value" or "equality".

No humans are really alike, not even twins. Value is all in the eye of the beholder. So it is not surprising to see that the ones traditionally supporting eugenics seem to have been rather progressive people, whether biologists or bishops, with their own various and often well intended agendas to improve society and mankind.
Eugenics societies sprang up at the beginning of the 20th century in most western countries to promote breeding programmes, but the movement was not confined to scientists. Browse through the Eugenics Society's membership list and you find lords, ladies, bishops, academics, writers, doctors, artists and politicians from all sides. In November 1913 the Oxford Union carried a motion approving the principles of eugenics. As a cabinet minister, the young Winston Churchill advocated compulsory sterilisation of "the feeble-minded and insane classes". George Bernard Shaw and HG Wells were profoundly influenced by Darwin. The contraception pioneer Marie Stopes campaigned to pass laws to enable sterilisation of the "hopelessly rotten and racially diseased".

But the writings of literary eugenicists betray their real roots: fear. In 1915 Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary: "On the towpath we met and had to pass a long line of imbeciles. It was perfectly horrible. They should certainly be killed." HG Wells openly advocated the killing of the weak by the strong, insisting that "those swarms of blacks, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people ... will have to go".
Despite some goode observations, it is hard to avoid the feeling that the geneticist in Guardian is just as political correct as the eugenists. Not the least as he fails to mention voices that protested against this mania, long before Hitler managed to make eugenics a pariah of postwar science.

Perhaps the foremost was G.K. Chesterton.

Eugenics is a nice-sounding word, combining as it does the Greek words for "good" and "birth." And Francis Galton, who made up the word and the idea, proposed Eugenics "for the betterment of mankind." But that's as far as the nice-sounding stuff goes. The actual definition is rather horrible: the controlled and selective breeding of the human race. Galton based his ideas on the theories of his cousin: Charles Darwin. By the beginning of the 20th century, when Darwin's theory was safely embraced by the scientific establishment, Eugenics was getting good press. The New York Times gave it constant and positive coverage. Luther Burbank and other scientists promoted Eugenics. George Bernard Shaw said that nothing but a Eugenic religion could save civilization.

Only one writer wrote a book against Eugenics. G.K. Chesterton. Eugenics and Other Evils is one his most prophetic books.

The edition linked to above is heartily recommended. Not just for Chesterton's perceptive ravishing of the logic behind eugenics and the objectives beneath the surface, whether one agrees or not that the movement combined the capitalist desire to maintain cheap labour with the socialist desire to scientifically organize society.

The most thought provoking part is the last. Here eugenicists of the period speaks through a series of authentic articles and letters.

Hair raising stuff.

lørdag 20. oktober 2007

Keith and Rick warming up for Zep

Interesting news on Rick's site:
Rick appearing with Keith Emerson at Led Zeppelin Reunion
Rick will be joining Keith Emerson, Chris Squire and Simon Kirke to warm up the crowd for Led Zeppelin's reunion gig at the new O2 venue in London on 26th November. No specific details have been released yet, but as soon as they are we will have them on the RWCC site.
And on this blog.

Evolution, or The Fight to Death

For someone who believes that evolution basically is a convenient and credible model which fits most of the facts, but doesn't really care if is is absolutely true or not in all and every matter (I'll kindly allow scientists to work out the details the next centuries, including the scientific issue of whether I am free to write blogs or not), it is interesting when someone rather intelligent stirs up some controversy.

The latest hoot is from Scott Adams and Dilbert, not to mention Dogbert. If nothing else, he very much keeps the Blog Evolutionists on the alert. Scott is involved in not a little controversy in this area, still Dilbert is the only comic I read daily.

And the one I shamelessly utilise in my talks at work. Or at least used to, back in the nifty 90's, when less than 50 % of my colleagues did.

In short, I heartily dislike it when something I wish would become popular, really does.

onsdag 17. oktober 2007

Keith Calling

For anyone lacking their daily dose of Keith Emerson News (in Norway belonging to the nice and noble tradition of The Finn Kalvik News), there is a brave new interview at Vintage Rock.
Rather cozy too.

Not the least interesting is the news that fans can track the progress of his new record (Marc Bonilla on guitar), to be released next year.

We’ve already shot an awful lot of footage of work in progress in the studio. I’ve got one complete piece, which will go up on YouTube in the next month or so. There will be a My Space and YouTube coming up very soon, of which I’ll be making an announcement on my web site. Yeah, there’s some great stuff of Marc and I recording together, personal interviews with Marc and myself, and a lot of interesting things. I just want to put these out periodically on My Space and YouTube and get the excitement going.
Rest assured, we'll be back with more. Stay tuned.

søndag 14. oktober 2007

Dawkins blows it

Sometimes you have to grab your arm rather hard to check if you're awake. I had no intention of writing on Richard Dawkins until next month. And then, suddenly, he proves beyond doubt that he is the madman who has lost everything except his reason, according to a recent news report.

In his speech, Dawkins portrayed a black-and-white intellectual battle between atheism and religion. He denounced the "preposterous nonsense of religious customs" and compared religion to racism. He also gave no quarter to moderate or liberal believers, asserting that "so-called moderate Christianity is simply an evasion." "If you've been taught to believe it by moderates, what's to stop you from taking the next step and blowing yourself up?" he said.
The rationale behind this is no doubt Dawkins' blind faith in all religion being blind faith. He still hasn't learned anything from Alister McGrath. In Norway this attitude resulted yesterday in a rather extreme urbanist, and notorious public speaker, declaring the Nobel Prize Laureate Al Gore to be a Christian Fundamentalist.

The logic is simple. Gore is a believing Christian, hence he also must be a fundamentalist - or he wouldn't really believe. All religions are alike, especially suicide bombers.

So the question is. When will Al Gore leave his cover of fighting against global warming and go on to blow himself or the planet up, whatever his fancy is?

And if the danger is really blind faith, when will Dawkins take the nest step and blow himself up? Not to mention start to advocate arresting anyone suspected of a tad of theism, before they blow anyone up.

At least there is hope that Gore will wait till he receives the Nobel Prize in Oslo this December. With Dawkins there is no time limit.

mandag 8. oktober 2007

Autumn Holliday

Norwegians tend to do the opposite of common sense, not to mention otherwise than members of the EU.

Six weeks after school has started after summer, we have the National Autumn Vacation - all kids out of school for one week. October is definitely autumn in Norway, dark and rainy. So, what would Norwegians do when having some days off in that season?

Well, some has travelled so long down the Path of Decadense to take some days in Spain or Greece to catch some more summer. We even witness such behavior during Easter.

True Norwegians, however, do the opposite, as there are places in Norway even colder than where people live. So when Autumn Holliday arrives, our family goes by car with our kids and sometimes some friends of theirs, for over 3 hours to a cabin (a bit like the one in the picture above) in the mountains to celebrate the possibility of even more rain and cold, sometimes even snow.

Of course, this is far from modern facilities like running water or webservices. That is one reason this blog has been hibernating for a week or so.

The days are mostly spent reading, hiking (nice weather this year, rather annoyingly warm in fact), talking and watching DVD's (Star Gate SG-1 Season 3 and Surface - the short first (and unfortunately only) season). Not to mention eating and drinking well.

In short, cozy around the fireplace and all that. Refreshing is just the first name.

Here is a live webcamera from Trysil - 30 km from our cabin in the mountains, with a nice view to the piste slopes.

It is the Norwegian Way. Some of us even get used to it.

onsdag 26. september 2007

Buridan is da man!

Hear all ye people, hearken to the advice from Bedes Journal about Medieval Science Fiction. Or more precise, Medieval Science.
SF author Michael Flynn has written a novella about Paris in the late 1340s. The rector of the university, John Buridan (1300-58) and two famous students - Nicole Oresme (1323-82, later also rector in Paris) and Albert of Saxony (1316-90) - decide to carry out Galileo's experiments on falling weights (from nearly two hundred years later).

This was an important step. One of the biggest hinders to overcome for modern science to develop at all, was Aristotelian theory of motion, which e.g. insisted that heavier bodies would fall faster than lighter.

Naturally, Flynn is aware of an even earlier forerunner who today is overlooked in many circles. The Alexandrian John Philoponus (490-570) had done "falling weights" as a thought experiment, arriving at the same conclusion as Galilei (in opposition to Aristotle) would do more than thousand years later.

Unfortunately events placed Philoponus on the sideline. Not only for muslim natural philosophers, also christian Europe forgot him until the 1200's. And even then he was perceived too much a lone and heretic figure. Until Buridan and his students start reconsidering in Flynn's novella.

The story is fun, interesting and eyeopening. It imagines an alternative scientific revolution in the fourteenth century, within Thomistic and Aristotelian concepts. And Flynn makes it plausible, based on a solid and sensible understanding of medieval natural philosophy.

The story is followed by a thesis, based on Standard Medieval Dialectic with 1) the question to be determined, 2) objections, 3) arguments, 4) the determination of the answer and 5) replies. In short, just like discussion foras on the web. Or how they should have been.

You can get the magazine as an e-book here. Or just approach your nearest Medieval Science Fiction Sales Guild.

torsdag 20. september 2007

Bush bans Chesterton

At least indirectly. A rather suprise move from a government considered more religious than most, still in the War Against Terror all seems allowed.

Too dangerous for US prisons?

"The New York Times reported this past week on a Bush administration plan that allows the government extraordinary jurisdiction over what is acceptable in religious practice. According to the article, the Office of Inspector General in the Justice Department issued recommendations to the Bureau of Prisons designed to prevent American prisons from becoming terrorist recruiting centers in 2004.

One of the recommendations was the "Standardized Chapel Library Project." The name itself elicits shivers, but what it does is worse. It first required a group of experts to compose a list of "150 book titles and 150 multimedia resources" for each religion. In order to be accommodating, lists were prepared for religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Bahaism and the African tribal religion of Yoruba.

If a book doesn't make the list, it is removed from the library. This required purge has only recently begun to wreak havoc on federal prison libraries. These libraries have amassed a huge quantity of books through donations and must now purge most of those books. According to USA Today, an inmate at the federal prison camp in Ostieville, N.Y. claims that about 600 books were removed by the chaplain this past Memorial Day to comply with the order. Six hundred books is an astounding number, but it's still not enough to recognize the vast wealth of knowledge that has now been banned.

Consider a few prominent Christian authors of the past century. Fulton J. Sheen was the first televangelist and won an Emmy in 1952 for his television series "Life is Worth Living." According to the official Web site of the cause for his canonization, Sheen wrote over ninety books. G. K. Chesteron was a popular Catholic apologist. The American Chesterton Society's Web site says Chesteron wrote 100 books and made contributions to 200 more.

So between only two Christian authors, there are about 200 to 300 works. Not all of these works will be banned, but it shows how much is being lost. The scope is magnified when you consider that Christianity has so many other authors. Between C.S. Lewis, John Calvin, Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian authors over the 2,000 years of Christianity, how can one select only 150 books?

150 book titles per religion? One can imagine someone will have to write 50 books or something on the Yoruba way of life to reach the number at all. And ban 50 000 on Christian life, thinking and history to get down to it. And who is to decide what is acceptable in religious (or non-religious) practise?

There is of course something to be said for censoring of prison libraries, as for most political decisions. People reading The Late, Great Planet Earth or the The God Delusion may notice a raised adrenaline level. I have personally banned TV-evangelists from my own bookshelves. Still, there are a lot more than 150 books to be written against such policies.

As long as the present American Foreign Policy is accepted, there will of course always be a need for radical anti-terrorist measures. Even if terrorism will not easily disappear with a wiser policy, my religious hangups indicates that it is rather foolish to behave like fools.

Buying Byzantium

Walking Through Byzantium mentioned here may now be ordered here.

tirsdag 18. september 2007

Wakeman's Treasure Chest

Rick may not quite be my fav rock composer (aorund 10th position), still he ranges high on my list of keyboard players (number 2 or 3, depending on my mood). However, as entertainer and stand up musician he is definitely #1. Noone tells stories like Rick, or performs more tongue in cheek. That is one reason he has become such a household name on British Television.

And he was the artist I saw most often in concerts in the 70's (3 or 4 times). One reason, of course, was that ELP never attacked Norway.

Now it is possible to relive his 70's and 80's prog and circumstances, even the iconic, not to say excessive, King Arthur on Ice Show from 1975. With skaters and the full scoobie gang.

As Rick mentions in the video interview on this Treasure Site where you can order the set, the critics slammed the Arthur show even before it had been done. As it went for three sold out nights at Wembley, there was hence no need to provide any press tickets.

No journalists (outside the growing prog press) will line up for these DVD's, either. That makes it easier for the rest of us.

The Return of Prog?

That meek and modest magazine, Terrorizer, has recently started a series on "The Return of Prog".

While prog never really left the building, it disappeared in many a journalists' eyes for the flashy and fashionable, not to mention the frenetic hunt of highly selcted parts of the underground scene for for the Next Big Bang. Which makes one gratefull for the return of prog in music magazines the last decade.

Another good thing is that publications like Terrorizer have not fallen for the standard media myth. It however still speaks volumes that the magazine feels obliged to mention that

"Rock fans growing up in the 80's were regularly informed that punk rock destroyed prog rock forever. This is of course utter nonsense. In fact, throughout punk rock's brief flash of tabloid infamy and chart-topping ubiquity, the behemoths of prog rock - Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes and ELP in particular - marched on, largely impervious to the impact of a cultural phenomenon that was far more significant in terms of its later influence than it was dominant at the time".
That cultural phenomenon was little else than a new generation arriving, more fond of straight and simple music, raw and romantic, beer and beat, than something that needed engaging the intellect. In short, Prog rarely got you broads.

Looking at Terrorizer is a welcome breath of sanity (and dare I say honesty?) from more mainstream magazines. And despite the ritual reprimanding of ELP, Terrorizer is obviously in even more awe of that band than of other behemoths.

We are invited to a general and generous feature article, as well as several pages on Rush, Sean Maline (Cynic), the influence of Prog on Metal, Van der Graaf, Ian Anderson, Zombi and Steve Hackett. And great photos of Keith and Rick.

Next issue is already in the kiosks (though not in Norway) and deals with stuff like Prog Art (capital letters needed, of course), Dream Theater, "forgotten prog" (hopefully they'll mention the forgotten fact that even Bowie and Elton John were influenced by prog in the early 70's), and Davy O'List (guitarist of early The Nice).

Rolling Stone Magazine and Q will in no way the next decade or two admit that Prog didn't "lose" to punk or retired (in the 80's prog related bands and artists sold more than most, while hundreds of new prog bands emerged - a trend which has only accelerated the last decades). Still, it is promising that niche magazines like Terrorizer are out of the cupboard.

mandag 17. september 2007

Virtual walk

As somewhat of a time travel buff, though wary of the real thing (too many nasty smells and bacteria, not to mention daggers in the dark), I have followed virtual reality with a rather keen interest.

Sooner or later, we will be able to make virtual walks through ancient Rome and Jerusalem, not to mention Tenochtitlan or Cordoba. While waiting for that (I predict it will take less than five years for the most famous cities), it is a pleasure to announce that a great "virtual guidebook" to my fav metropolis, Walking Through Byzantium, now has been printed.

By some whim of fate (or conspiracy, more likely) there has been a peculiar lack of movies and TV-series placed in Medieval Constantinople. Though novels abound.

For those of you into Norwegian, I would also recommend my blog post here (with illustrations), for the rest of you I would recommend this site.

Soon it will even be possible to order the book.

God guarantees success

At Cadre there is a helpfull guide to write an atheistic bestseller.

As present experience shows, you are guaranteed success if you write on God and Jesus. Just take care to remember to be against them. And to vent anger/sarcasm/indignation about all and any religion. Make also sure to get an endorsement from Richard Dawkins on the front page.

Best of luck!

søndag 16. september 2007


Hunting for my childhood forrest, recently I made a groundbreaking discovery.

The penny dreadfull (or something like that) series about the Shawanoe Deerfoot (Hjortefot, in Norwegian) was published in a 100 pages book format in Norway. Rereading those 40 years later, made me shudder not a little. Short and simple sentences, abrupt change of settings, sketchy character descriptions, to say the least.

Still there was something about this series. An undefined romantic mood, an adventurous angle, a fondness for the pioneer and indian way of life. Haunted by my memories, and puzzled by something this bad being even considered for publishing in the US in the late 1800's, I decided to check the original.

And a pleasant surprise it was. After some quick eBaying, an American edition arrived. And made me se how much I was cheated as a boy. The Norwegian edition was about 30 000 words. The original had more than 80 000.

If nothing else, this made for even some more and quicker eBaying.

Still rather simple? Yes. A bit moralistic? You bet. A few sermons along the way? Amen. Coloured by the 19th century view on coloured people? A tad or two. Enjoyable for present day grown ups, when in the mood? It helps with two glasses of wine.