Archive for November, 2006

The problem with curses

Posted in Uncategorized on November 29, 2006 by Patrick

And here’s the problem with curses, in light of the voodoo curse I mentioned last post:

Steve Favela, 30, and two other officers crashed as the motorcade traveled across Hickam Air Force Base to meet troops for breakfast early Tuesday. Light rain had been falling, and some roads on the base were slick.

Also from the same article, apparently it’s pretty dangerous to protect the President right now:

In a separate incident, a fourth solo motorcycle officer crashed and injured his wrist when attempting a U-turn on loose gravel while escorting the president last Monday night. He was treated and released.

Also during the president’s 16-hour stopover, a White House staff member was hospitalized early Tuesday after being mugged by three assailants near Waikiki Beach.

Some might count this success. I don’t. I count it bad aim and murder of innocent people. Those who protect the president do so because it’s their job and their duty.

The original curse, you’ll remember, was designed to:

. . . send spirits to possess Secret Service personnel guarding Bush and put them in a trance, leading them into falsely thinking the president was under attack, thus eventually causing chaos in Bogor Presidential Palace, where the American leader was scheduled to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday.

Pak Pamungkas, when you resort to violence to solve your problems, you just create suffering.  And do you think the President of the U.S. cares that much?  You made him write out a few “get well cards” and a “sympathy” card, and he probably didn’t even write them himself.


My Way News – Voodoo Practitioner Tries to Jinx Bush

Posted in Political, Speculation, Weird on November 18, 2006 by Patrick

My Way News – Voodoo Practitioner Tries to Jinx Bush

BOGOR, Indonesia (AP) – A renowned black magic practitioner performed a voodoo ritual Thursday to jinx President George W. Bush and his entourage while he was on a brief visit to Indonesia.

What strikes me as odd is that it’s refered to as “voodoo.” I thought maybe this was just a clumsy way to translate the Indonesian idea of “ilmu hitam” (literally “black knowledge”) but a friend of mine more knowledgeable in Indonesia than I says that it’s quite possible he really is practicing voodoo. Neat.

Zadie Smith — KCRW | 89.9FM

Posted in Literature and Performance on November 18, 2006 by Patrick

Zadie Smith — KCRW | 89.9FM

Zadie Smith:

But the problem with readers, the idea we’re given of reading is that the model of a reader is the person watching a film, or watching television. So the greatest principle is, “I should sit here and I should be entertained.” And the more classical model, which has been completely taken away, is the idea of a reader as an amateur musician. An amateur musician who sits at the piano, has a piece of music, which is the work, made by somebody they don’t know, who they probably couldn’t comprehend entirely, and they have to use their skills to play this piece of music. The greater the skill, the greater the gift that you give the artist and that the artist gives you. That’s the incredibly unfashionable idea of reading. And yet when you practice reading, and you work at a text, it can only give you what you put into it. It’s an old moral, but it’s completely true.

from BoingBoing

Portable Magic, by Donald Tyson

Posted in Book Review, Uncategorized on November 15, 2006 by Patrick

I wax hot and cold on Donald Tyson.  First, I remember strongly disliking The New Magus when I first read it many and many a year ago.  But I developed a stronger fondness for him after his editing job on Agrippa.  Portable Magic seems like a really cool idea — using tarot cards as vehicles for magic.  And the execution is excellent.  He sets up a whole ritual system that seems very well-thought-out and clever.

My only criticism is that it’s a system that could be explained (at least to someone familiar with ritual magic) in a five or ten page pamphlet.  There are other interesting uses of the cards that he never touches on (like, what about using them to develop the siddhi associated with the paths?  What about using them in conjunction with the Hebrew letters to make sigils or words of power?  What about invoking them as archetypes?).

I’ve tested the system, and it works pretty well.  It just seems to leave so much depth unplumbed.  Ah, well.  For what it is, it’s worth the money, and I recommend it.

Ahh, relief; and DuQuette

Posted in Magical Systems, Speculation, Techniques on November 9, 2006 by Patrick

I got a brace for my wrist, and it says on the box that I can type with it on, which is a partial truth. There’s still occasionally twinges when I reach for the t or the g, and q and shift are a bit scary, but I’ll live. Beats hunting and pecking, to which I was reduced these last two days.

Anyway, Sunday I went to see Lon Milo DuQuette speak in Des Plaines (Des Plaines is a suburb of Chicago, and much to the pain of those of us who know some French, it’s pronounced “dez plainez”). DuQuette spoke on the Qabalah, the Goetia, and Enochian. I found it stimulating and interesting, especially the talk on the Goetia.

I’ve always, as you know if you read my books, felt that browbeating spirits is bad form. But DuQuette regards it as a bit of a sine qua non. So I asked him about it, and he explained that the Goetic demons, at least, are creatures of nefesh (the animal soul) and so you need to “handshake” with them at first with the strong emotions of the nefesh before rising up and using the ruakh (the intellect) to communicate with them. This progression, he explained, also emulates the progression from their “fallen” state to their redeemed status. I found a lot to think about in his discussion. I’m not sure that anger and blame are necessarily the only ways to accomplish that nefesh connection, but I see his point.

He also said something that got me thinking a lot. He said when you evoke a goetic demon for, say, love, you’re saying “I’m not the kind of person love happens to. Make me that kind of person.” So, he says, you’re evoking an adventure designed to turn you into a different kind of person, one to whom love happens. It’s an interesting, if rather potentially solipsistic, idea.

We were rushed for the Enochian lecture because all the toilets in the building backed up (Chicago plumbing, oi). We did a group Enochian working; I hate working in groups of strangers. For me, magic is something a bit more intimate than sex. So mostly I sat there with a faint embarrassed stomach ache while everyone else chanted; I hope no one noticed that I was a party-pooper. My friend Eric who went with me got rather into the whole thing, though.

I think DuQuette’s forthcoming book on Enochian might be a worthy purchase. I intend to pick it up when I see it.


Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2006 by Patrick

I’ve got lots of good stuff to blog, among them a seminar I attended in Chicago with Lon Milo DuQuette that was very informative and interesting. But I have a mysterious and ill-defined pain in my left wrist, which might be some variety of repetitive stress injury. It hurts a bit to type, so I’m going to wear a brace for a couple days and keep my typing at a relative minimum (so, only about a thousand words a day, instead of two thousand). Occupational hazard. Please be patient.

Superstitious Atheist

Posted in Speculation on November 4, 2006 by Patrick

Let me preface by saying I like atheists. I have had very good friends who were atheists.

But I’ve noticed a number of trends in atheist publications that strike me as odd, even superstitious.

For example, evangelical atheists sometimes insist that people who believe in God have no good reason to do so. “You’re just sheep,” they say. This error is called the fundamental attribution error — assuming that others base their actions on some sort of personal characteristic or label, but yours are based on reaction to outside forces. If I get an F on a test, someone committing the fundamental attribution error might say “he’s stupid.” If they get an F on a test, they might say “It was too cold in the room; I didn’t study enough” and so on.

Another common hiccough in reasoning I often see atheists make in debates is the argument from assumptions. So I might say “I believe in God” and they respond “Belief in God is irrational because a being can’t be both omnipotent and benevolent, and still allow evil to exist.” To which I reply — why do you think that I accept your assumptions about (a) omnipotence, (b) benevolence, and (c) evil?

A third common error in reasoning is the circular argument. “God can’t exist because only matter exists.” I think that one speaks for itself.

To be fair, religious people make this one too — in fact, they make all of them; it’s a people thing, not just an atheist thing. That’s my real point — I’m not out to pick on atheists. Irrational thinking is one of those things we humans just do a lot of. And maybe it’s not even necessarily a bad thing. . . . but that’s a topic for another post.