Friday, December 25, 2015

Fire at Boleskine House

Yesterday much of Boleskine House, the Scottish highland mansion on the shores of Loch Ness that was once owned by Aleister Crowley, was destroyed in a fire. The fire was reported at 1:40 PM on December 23rd and drew firefighters from all over the region.

Crews from Foyers, Inverness, Beauly and Dingwall have been sent to Boleskine House near Foyers. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said a large part of the property has been destroyed. Boleskine House was owned by infamous occultist Aleister Crowley and later for a time by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.

The alarm was raised at 13:40. Flames from the fire were visible from the other side of the loch. A fire appliance from Foyers and another from Inverness were first sent to the scene. Pumps from Inverness and Beauly along with a water carrier from Inverness, a pump from Dingwall and an incident support unit from Inverness have also been sent.

SFRS said: "A large part of the property has already been destroyed by fire and crews are concentrating their efforts on the west wing of the building. Crews in breathing apparatus are using four main jets to tackle the blaze and the incident is ongoing." Crowley, who died in 1947, lived at Boleskine House above Loch Ness from 1899 to 1913.

Boleskine was the house that Crowley purchased in order to perform the Abramelin operation, though he never did complete it there. In the instructions for Crowley's Gnostic Mass the directions specify that the temple should be oriented towards Boleskine, as the house is mentioned prominently in The Book of the Law.

Get the stélé of revealing itself; set it in thy secret temple—and that temple is already aright disposed—& it shall be your Kiblah for ever. It shall not fade, but miraculous colour shall come back to it day after day. Close it in locked glass for a proof to the world.

-- Chapter III, verse 10.

In 1904, Crowley's secret temple was located at Boleskine. However, he never did obtain the Stele of Revealing itself to place there. It remains housed to this day at a museum in Egypt among other artifacts from the same period.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Against Samantha Bee

Let's be clear - this is the kind of "full frontal" she's talking about.

So there's this conservative Christian group out there that calls itself "One Million Moms." As I've mentioned previously here on Augoeides in reference to their protests of the Lucifer television series and lesbian yogurt commercials, their goal seems to be to reduce all popular culture to the level of children's television by eliminating anything deemed even marginally offensive. At the same time, the group seems to be composed of some of the same people who rail against "political correctness," which given their stated goal of eliminating offense from public life makes no logical sense.

Or, more to the point, it does if you take into account that consistency is not one of these folks' strong suits. After all, the group is not composed of anywhere near a million people and it admits that they aren't all moms. So really, an accurate name for the group would be "Nowhere Near a Million Not-Necessarily-Moms." So the fact that they rail against anything that offends them while at the same excusing anything that offends anyone else is not exactly a stretch.

Here's the group's latest stupid cause. Former Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee has a new show that will be airing on TBS in January. The group has put out a petition against the title of the show, which happens to be "Full Frontal." So let's get this straight. There are no actual obscene words in the title, it just makes use of a phrase that sometimes alludes to nudity in films and television programs. Alludes. And for that, it should be censored. Talk about political correctness!

One Million Moms, the conservative group that seemingly will not rest until all of popular culture is sanitized beyond recognition, has found a new target: January’s TBS show “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee“. Even though the show hasn’t aired yet, that hasn’t stopped the group from complaining about it and trying to rally its “family values” troops to protest it. On its website, complete with a petition to TBS to cancel the show that’s been signed by a whopping 4,900 people, One Million Moms writes:

“The title of this show alone is unacceptable. Even though airing later in the evening since it is a late night show, the name will appear in the TV lineup of programs scheduled and previews will air earlier during the day.”

In my book, criticizing a television show you haven’t seen simply for its title is sending a far more dangerous message than Samantha Bee ever could. It’s saying: Yes, judge culture by what you think it will contain, rather than what it actually does. It’s saying: Words are so powerful that the mere mention of them is enough to scar children for life. It’s saying: Don’t think for yourself, but allow your parents to think for you. It’s saying: There are “good” words and “bad” words and you’re too immature to even be told about that concept, let alone differentiate them for yourself. Not to mention that “full frontal” does not necessarily mean literal nudity; as blogger Joel Rieves points out, “the phrase has picked up another meaning along the way: nothing concealed or held back, direct, hard-hitting, etc.”

In other words, this petition is pretty much the equivalent of posting something on social media that says "Sign this if you're a dumbass." It also provides a better estimate of the group's size. If we assume that every member of the group signed the petition, along with a bunch of other people solicited from the Internet, we can fine-tune the accuracy of our count. It sounds like a more accurate name for the group would be "Not Even Five Thousand Not-Necessarily-Moms."

But, of course, that kind of honesty won't get them the headlines. "One Million Moms" sounds so much more impressive than "A Couple Thousand Crazy People."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

War on Christmas Troop Withdrawal

Back in November, I noted that the Starbucks Christmas Cup fiasco might be a sign that the "War on Christmas" was jumping the shark - that is, a sign that it was turning into something so ridiculous that no reasonable person could ever support it. According to this story from Florida, there might be some truth to that. The Christian group that has previously set up nativity scenes at the state capital decided not to put one up this year.

“My hope is that the Christ in Christmas is louder than a wood display and some figurines,” Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network, explained to the Miami Herald.

“I have been pondering this for a while,” Olsen said. “The racial tensions and mass murders, the shootings at the Planned Parenthood and in California – something is very wrong in our country. We need to step back and say we need to stop. Let the sound of the Christ Child bring hope, joy and peace instead of dissension.”

The Florida State Capitol has displayed a Christmas tree and menorah for many years. But holiday displays became a source of controversy in 2013 when state officials turned the rotunda into an open forum to allow a Nativity scene, provoking secular groups to ask for their own displays to be allowed.

The controversy lead some to declare that Florida was the frontline in the “war on Christmas.” “We pray that Christ’s message of hope and peace will be communicated in a much stronger way this year from Florida’s state Capitol, by us not placing the nativity in the rotunda,” Olsen said, adding that her group was not “retreating.”

Now it would be nice to think that the group's justification there is sincere. I mean, it actually sounds Christian to be concerned about the ongoing tension and violence in our society. But I highly doubt that's true. It's more likely that the Poor Oppressed Christians are completely unwilling to share public spaces with anyone, as similar controversies around the country have shown. They either get special privileges that elevate their religion above all others, or they take their balls and go home in a huff.

Which is good, up to a point. I would rather see nothing at all than a public display that elevates one particular religion. But as I've also said in the past, I think it would be better still to allow all religions equal access to public spaces. If the Poor Oppressed Christians refuse to play at that point, it's their own business, and it demonstrates pretty clearly their unwillingness to even allow for the existence of other traditions. Because clearly, in their minds, acknowledging that they are one religion among many is a one-way ticket to this dystopian future.

To these folks coexisting and facing oppression are apparently the same damn thing. I'm glad to see that more and more people are finally starting to realize just how stupid that argument really is.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Probably No Battle Cruisers Either

Here's an odd story that's been circulating on the Internet recently. Gary McKinnon broke into a NASA computer system ten years ago and claims to have found evidence of a "secret space program" run by the Navy which basically consists of a fleet of interplanetary battle cruisers. Here's his evidence for the secret space fleet:

Gary McKinnon believes he found evidence of a secret American space programme run by the Navy – with what sounds like warships in space.

He reveals all in a long video interview on UFO channel RichPlanet TV saying, ‘I kept going for months and months. I kept thinking, ‘They’re going to close this door’.

McKinnon has spoken out about his finds before, but rarely in such depth. He says, ‘I used a program called Landsearch, which could search all the files and folders. ‘But I scanned and looked for documents, I found an Excel spreadsheet which said, ‘Non-terrestrial officers’.

‘It had ranks and names. It had tabs for ‘material transfer’ between ships. I took that to be, they must have a ships based in space – the names started with U.S.S.’

The problem there is that "non-terrestrial" can also mean "not stationed on land." It seems to me that would apply to officers permanently posted on aircraft carriers, submarines, and any other sort of ship that stays out at sea rather than docks regularly. As a funny coincidence, the names of those ships all start with the letters "U.S.S." and they are run by the Navy. Material is also transferred between them because they don't necessarily dock to pick up supplies.

So we're left with two choices. Either (A) the Navy (why the Navy?) has a fleet of space warships, or (B) Gary McKinnon's reading comprehension skills are poor. Given the fact that building space warships is incredibly expensive and hard to hide, and the fact that stupidity is incredibly common, I know which one my money's on.

It always surprises me when I come across people with poor English skills who are good with computers. I mean, aren't commands and programming statements words? Apparently, though, there are at least enough people like that out there to make the "Weird News" pages.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Universe Not a Hologram

From the "duh" files, a new experiment conducted at Fermilab shows that the universe is probably not a hologram. But you already knew that, right? Here's the deal - about two years ago, a computer simulation was set up showing that the complex dynamics found in cosmological models such as string theory could be modeled in only two dimensions and still produce correct results. This was actually a pretty important discovery, as it showed that you don't really need the 11 or 12 dimensions found in string theory to model physical behavior. It validated what I've been saying for a long time, that even if string theory puts forth an accurate model, it's far too baroque and complex to be the best possible representation.

Predictably, New Agers took the announcement of this discovery to proclaim some version of "the universe is a hologram!" which to their way of thinking translated back into their all time favorite tenet, "the universe is an illusion!" But that's not what the simulation implied at all. It just showed that a physical universe with only two dimensions could behave as if it had three or more. Take a look at a hologram sometime. It's true that the third dimension it shows is "illusionary," but the hologram itself is clearly a physical object with fixed properties. Just because the image it shows is created by the dynamics of light, it doesn't mean you can psychically control it with your mind or something.

The Fermilab researchers led by Craig Hogan were looking for signs of constructive or destructive wave interference within the fabric of space itself, using a device called a holometer. This sort of wave interference is what creates the three-dimensional appearance of holograms, and should be present if a third dimension is being projected in a similar manner.

It’s an extremely difficult thing to detect, because there are so many other things that could be mistaken for a jittery signal, including wind and traffic noise. The early signs weren’t promising when the first preliminary results (based on an hour or so of data) came in back in April. So it’s probably not all that surprising that the final analysis proved equally fruitless.

The $2.5 million experiment was controversial from the get-go, with the inventors of the holographic principle counting among the naysayers. So expect to see a bit of schadenfreude making the rounds of the theoretical physics community today. As Sabine Hossenfelder, a physicist at Nordita in Sweden and one of the more outspoken critics of the experiment, tweeted: “Holometer results are out: Nothing. Not surprising, as the idea underlying it is nonsense.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Zombie Nativity Scene Returns

Last year's zombie nativity scene generated so much publicity and online traffic for Ohio haunted house operator Jay Dixon that he decided to set it up again this year for the holiday season. And, just like last year, officials in Sycamore Township are determined to shut it down.

Dixon reviewed the local ordinances and concluded that he could legally set up the display without a permit as long as it took up less than 200 square feet - according to him it takes up about 65. He applied for a permit anyway, just to be sure, which town officials promptly denied. Dixon is being threatened with a fine of $500 for every day the display remains up.

According to Sycamore Township officials, Dixon needed a permit for the macabre display this year. But when he applied he was turned down, and now he faces a fine of $500 per day for every day he leaves it up. Having gone through the same situation last year before dismantling it, Dixon began soliciting donations earlier this year to cover the expected financial sanctions.

Friday night on his Facebook page, Dixon wrote: “We were going to take it down, decided to leave it up, all the lights are re-hooked and open for business just no roof. Let’s see what happens.” According to Dixon, his request for a permit was denied because local authorities said his display violated the town’s zoning code by taking up more than 35 percent of his front yard.

“I got all the paperwork and how it was wrote out, and it says as long as it’s not over 200-square-foot that I can have it without a permit, and it’s about 65 square foot,” he explained, adding that he thinks the council hates the zombie theme. “I think it’s the theme,” he explained. “It just rubs people the wrong way. That’s why they’re coming down so hard on me.”

Of course it's the theme. I'm willing to bet that if somebody set up a traditional nativity scene that took up their entire yard and was bigger than 200 square feet, town officials wouldn't care one bit. I realize that traditionalists consider the concept tasteless, but I think it's funny. And I don't see why the law is being applied against Dixon in a discriminatory manner.

It's not clear from the article whether the "less than 20%" requirement is a regulation that Dixon missed in his research or if town officials are basically making it up to get rid of the display. From the photo, it looks like un the former case he might be able to shorten the fence in front, move "Mary" and "Joseph" closer together and squeeze the two "wise men" under either side of the roof, which would take up substantially less space and look about as effective.

I don't have the time to drive out to Ohio to see it, since the drive is something like fourteen hours from Minnesota. But if it were here in my home state, I would definitely want to make sure I checked it out before it was taken down.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Don't Fear the Krampus

The tradition of Krampusnacht is celebrated all over Germany and Austria. On the nights leading up to December 6th - which is tomorrow, by the way - people dress up in frightening costumes and roam the streets, pretending to terrorize local residents and abduct children. According to the krampus legend, Saint Nicholas comes to give gifts to children who have been good, but krampus comes to punish or take away those who have been bad.

When the American version of Christmas was created by Macy's department store in the 1920's, the store decided that krampus was a little too grisly and got rid of that part of the story. But the tradition endures overseas, and in some places is enacted quite extravagantly with amazing costumes, parades, and so forth.

This year, the Austrian village of Virgen has some new arrivals - a group of refugees from Syria and Iraq. Recently, community representatives met with the refugees to explain the tradition, so they wouldn't completely lose it when, say, out of nowhere they encountered an apparent horde of monsters roaming the streets.

Officials in the village of Virgen worried about how new arrivals from the Middle East would react to the local tradition of meeting so-called "Christmas Devils" who pretend to abduct kids. "In the first week of December, the good, gift-bringing St. Nicholas wanders through the streets with his evil, scary companions called Krampus," Kurt Glaenzer, the head of a local Krampus club, explained to NBC News.

Some of Virgen's around 2,000 residents wear animal skins and don carved wooden masks on nights leading up to St. Nicholas Day on December 6. Loud bells tied to their costumes clank through the darkness of the night as the creepy creatures wander the streets searching for poorly behaved children. "When the Krampus roams the town, he often wrestles people to the ground, symbolizing the abduction of bad children," Glaenzer added.

Fearing the spectacle would be misunderstood, community representatives last week visited the 22 migrants — including 12 children — who have been housed in the Alpine village since the end of October. They were shown the frightening masks and given insight into the event's history with the help of an Arabic translator. The verdict? The newcomers had "lots of fun," according to social worker Nicole Kranebitter. The migrants "will now know what to expect when St. Nicholas and the Krampus creatures knock on their door," Kranebitter added.

Krampus may finally be making his way to America, as a new movie about the monster has been released for the holiday season. Unfortunately, according to this review, the film takes so many liberties with the myth that no matter how well done it is, I probably could never enjoy it.

The mash-up of krampus with Macy's version of American Christmas leads to a pretty disturbing implication, that if you lose the "Christmas Spirit" - that is, the urge to buy a bunch of expensive crap as gifts because money = love - a giant monster will show up to kill you and all of your neighbors.

Krampus is part of European folklore going back centuries if not millennia, and the one thing he is not is a deadly enforcer for the department store cartels. That's just terrible, and brings the commercialization of Christmas to a new and frightening level. Let's hope that this idea is one tradition that's not here to stay.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Witches Versus Evangelists

Jim Bakker is at it again. The televangelist has moved on from hawking potato soup to claiming that when televangelists get caught in scandals, it's witches who are to blame. Bakker may be a creep, but never let anybody tell you that he lacks epic buck-passing skills. What he's implying is that his 1989 fraud conviction had less to do with him essentially stealing a bunch of money than it did with witches casting curses on him.

Bakker recalled a story that a “man of God” told him upon his release from prison. According to Bakker, the man was sitting next to a declared witch on an airplane, who claimed her coven would destroy the television ministry, starting with Jim Bakker.

“She said, ‘Right now, all the witches … They’re all agreeing they’re going to destroy the television ministries and we’re starting with Jim Bakker. And we are all praying, praying to destroy him,’” Bakker said.

Bakker went on to say that you “see [preachers and ministers] going through troubles and you desert some pastor who’s been caught in something… and you don’t know that all the demons in hell brought whatever, whether it be sex, drugs, or women or whatever.”

So, two reactions here. First off, Bakker did defraud people, whether or not it had anything to do with a curse. I don't doubt there were occultists at that time sending curses Bakker's way, as he was a loudmouth and a supporter of the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" hysteria that unfairly targeted occultists. Maybe one of those curses had something to do with Bakker being found out and charged, but that's totally different than what he's implying.

Secondly, this suggests that Bakker's magick sucks. Isn't his Lord Jesus super-powerful over witches and demons and evil magick? And if he is, why would he let one of his servants be tormented in this way? Either he couldn't stop the curse, which means he's weaker than a human spell-caster, or he can and just didn't want to, which basically makes him an asshole. Do either of those seem particularly worthy of worship?

Apparently, Jim Bakker still wants you to think so, and that's why you need to send him more money. You know, for Jesus!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Masons Made Me Do It

This might be a case for the Masonic Police. Too bad they're probably in jail by now. Britton Clayton Traylor, the author of a conspiracy-theory book about "the coming New World Order" was arrested after trying to rob a movie theater in Hoover, Alabama. Traylor was subdued by the theater manager and a helpful patron, who detained him until police arrived to make the arrest.

Later, when asked why he committed the crime, Traylor explained that Freemasons had made him do it as part of a "higher degree" initiation. I'm left wondering if Traylor is so delusional that he thought people would believe him, or if somebody out there is seriously messing with him. "Yeah, we're Masons... umm... rob that theater over there and we'll initiate you..."

In either case, it's clear that Traylor truly has a dizzying intellect.

"We're not really buying that as we've never heard of Masons instructing members to commit criminal acts,'' said Hoover police spokesman Capt. Gregg Rector. "It's really one of the most ridiculous excuses that we've heard lately. He may have achieved a higher level of stupidity, but that's about it."

On Monday, lawmen responded to an armed robbery at the Carmike Lee Branch Theaters on Doug Baker Boulevard. Rector said Hoover officers and Shelby County sheriff's deputies arrived at the theater to find the manager and another man on top of Traylor, holding him on the ground in front of the theater.

The assistant manager told police the man entered the theater wearing a life-like mask and brandishing a handgun. He demanded cash, escorted the employee to the office and ordered him to open the safe. He took a large sum of money, put it into a backpack and left through the building's front door, Rector said.

Determined not to let him get away, the assistant manager followed Traylor, tackling and disarming him. At that point, Rector said, the victim realized the gun was a BB gun and tossed it aside. He also ripped the mask from Traylor's face.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Not This Again...

Every so often another iteration of the Mike Warnke con rears its ugly and ridiculous head. The stories are probably going to keep coming as long as evangelical churches are willing to fork over money to these folks to speak about "the evils of Satanism." They love finding speakers who confirm their utterly ludicrous ideas of how they imagine occultism works.

Warnke was discredited in 1991 by a Christian publication that set out to investigate his claims of being a "Satanic High Priest" with more than fifteen hundred followers. He eventually conceded that his "coven" actually consisted of only thirteen people including himself, but stood by many of the other aspects of his story even in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary. However, his first book was published in 1973 and was popular with evangelicals, so he was able to bilk them out of quite a bit of money before being found out. It's possible that Warnke once assembled a coven of that size, but with all his lies and distortions it's hard to tell.

Another confidence artist who tried the same trick was Bill Schnoebelen. Schoebelen did run a Wiccan coven in the early 1970's, but that's where the accuracy of his claims end. My fellow blogger Frater Barrabbas was in fact a member of Schnoebelen's coven for four years, and a while back posted a full first-hand account of what really went on. No surprise, his account shows Schnoebelen to be a run-of-the mill occultist with a couple groups of followers consisting of maybe forty people in total, not the thousands he claims in his books.

See, here's the most basic problem. There just aren't enough occultists in the Western world to populate the nonsensical worlds of Schnoebelen and Warnke, let alone enough "Satanists" - who are a subset of the overall occult community. In addition, the practices described don't even make sense from a magical standpoint. The only explanation besides the most likely one, outright fraud, is that these people are such incompetent wielders of magick that they go around incurring great risk to themselves breaking laws in order to accomplish absolutely nothing.

So that brings us to today's nitwit, a guy named Zachary King. I say nitwit because even if this guy is managing to con the evangelical establishment, his story is so unoriginal that anyone with access to Google can find where he got it from.

When I was about 12, a friend introduced me to a group that played Dungeons and Dragons that also believed that magick was real. It turned out that this group was a satanic coven. A lot of people ask me, ‘wouldn’t you run and hide at that point?’ I remind them that I grew up in the 70’s where satanic covens on TV are really scary, but … I love pinball machines, video games, and science fiction, like Star Trek and Star Wars, and these guys had almost every science fiction and fantasy movie you could ever want to see. They had pinball machines, an in-ground pool, a big barbeque pit, and it was just like a boys and girls club, and it was just a lot of fun. Let me put it this way, they knew how to recruit. They knew everything that a kid would want to do, so I got involved with it that way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Goatman is Trending!

Goatman has to be one of the weirdest and hardest-to-believe urban legends out there. The story goes that a half-man, half-goat was accidentally created by some bizarre experiment at an agricultural research station in Beltsville, Maryland. The creature subsequently escaped, and has gone on the terrorize the woods of Prince Georges County, also in Maryland.

In 2005 a friend and I traveled to Prince Georges County to look for evidence of the Goatman. Sure, there also was a NOTOCON going on in nearby Reston, Virginia, but we went out earlier in the week to spend some time shooting video at some of the locations associated with the legend. We got footage from around Governor's Bridge, an abandoned tuberculosis sanitarium where some sightings had been reported, and so forth.

We never actually saw a Goatman, but we did encounter a few weird things along the way. One of the weirdest was that people at the agricultural research station visitor center refused to say anything about it, or even go on camera stating that they had never heard of the Goatman. It was pretty suspicious, and perhaps implies that government knows more than it's letting on. Or maybe they just thought it was a waste of time.

Anyway, the video linked above has been trending on the Internet lately with the story of Goatman. Most of the details of the legend are correct, although it should be noted that one of the photographs in the video is not a picture of the monster. It's a hunter in a custom-made goat costume, designed to allow him to get closer to a herd of mountain goats.

One other claim in the video is that Goatman might live in a cave near Governor's Bridge, but we found no evidence there of any sort of a cave that might fit the bill. The area around the bridge was still pretty wild when we were out there, with trails through the woods and places where it looked like teenagers - or maybe Goatman! - had built fires and such.

Also, it should be noted that in 2005 Prince Georges County appeared to be undergoing rapid gentrification, with housing developments all over the place. It seemed as if there would soon be no wilds left for Goatman to inhabit. But perhaps the crash of the real estate market in 2008 slowed that process down a bit.

Despite our failure to capture the creature on video, the story of Goatman remains one of the most amusing urban legends that I've encountered over the years. So enjoy!