Gulliver’s Travels

gt

Google images result for the title…most of these are the famous scene from chapter ONE.

I read this last summer, and while it starts out strongly enough, it gets much better as it goes on–the satire gets far darker and more biting. Maybe that’s why the single part everyone seems to know and like–Gulliver being tied down by the tiny Lilliputians–is from chapter one. Nobody ever talks about the better parts later on.

The second half of the book really ramps ups the social commentary to Voltaire levels of savagery. Consider these observations of a university, from part III:

I saw another at work to calcine Ice into Gunpowder; who likewise shewed me a Treatise he had written concerning the Malleability of Fire, which he intended to publish.

There was a most ingenious Architect who had contrived a new Method for building Houses, by beginning at the Roof, and working downwards to the Foundation; which he justified to me by the like Practice of those two prudent Insects, the Bee and the Spider.

There was a Man born blind, who had several Apprentices in his own Condition: Their Employment was to mix Colours for Painters, which their Master taught them to distinguish by feeling and smelling. It was indeed my Misfortune to find them at that Time not very perfect in their Lessons; and the Professor himself happened to be generally mistaken: This Artist is much encouraged and esteemed by the whole Fraternity.

In another Apartment I was highly pleased with a Projector, who had found a Device of plowing the Ground with Hogs, to save the Charges of Plows, Cattle, and Labour. The Method in this: In an Acre of Ground you bury at six Inches Distance, and eight deep, a Quantity of Acorns, Dates, Chestnuts, and other Maste or Vegetables whereof these Animals are fondest; then you drive six Hundred or more of them into the Field, where in a few Days they will root up the whole Ground in search of their Food, and make it fit for sowing, at the same time manuring it with their Dung. It is true, upon Experiment they found the Charge and Trouble very great, and they had little or no Crop. However, it is not doubted that this Invention may be capable of great Improvement.

And this rather wry bit where the joke about government working purely and productively might seem like a lame cliche today just shows us, yet again, that there’s nothing new under the sun:

In the School of Political Projectors I was but ill entertained, the Professors appearing in my Judgment wholly out of their Senses, which is a Scene that never fails to make me melancholy. These unhappy People were proposing Schemes for persuading Monarchs to chuse Favourites upon the Score of their Wisdom, Capacity, and Virtue; of teaching Ministers to consult the Publick Good; of rewarding Merit, great Abilities, eminent Services; of instructing Princes to know their true Interest by placing it on the same Foundation with that of their People: Of chusing for Employments Persons qualified to exercise them; with many other wild impossible Chimaeras, that never entred before into the heart of Man to conceive, and confirmed in me the old Observation, that there is nothing so extravagant and irrational which some Philosophers have not maintained for Truth.

The final section of the book has the darkest humor, such as this almost invisibly veiled swipe at expansive governments spreading their influence:

But I had another Reason which made me less forward to enlarge his Majesty’s Dominions by my Discovery. To say the Truth, I had conceived a few Scruples with Relation to the Distributive Justice of Princes upon those Occasions. For instance, A Crew of Pyrates are driven by a Storm they know not whither, at length a boy discovers Land from the Top-mast, they go on Shore to Rob and Plunder; they see an harmless People, are entertained with Kindness, they give the Country a new Name, they take formal Possession of it for their King, they set up a rotten Plank or a Stone for a Memorial, they murder two or three Dozen of the Natives, bring away a couple more by Force for a Sample, return Home, and get their Pardon. Here commences a new Dominion acquired with a Title by Divine Right. Ships are sent with the first Opportunity, the Natives driven out or destroyed, their Princes tortured to discover their Gold; a free Licence given to all Acts of Inhumanity and Lust, the Earth reeking with the Blood of its Inhabitants: And this execrable Crew of Butchers employed in so pious an Expedition, is a modern Colony sent to convert and civilize an idolatrous and barbarous People.

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The Simpsons and the San Bernardino Shooting

Dracula

The media and government’s response to things like the San Bernardino shooting reminds me of this scene from the “Treehouse of Horror IV” episode of The Simpsons:

News anchor Kent Brockman: Another local peasant has been found dead, drained of his blood with two teeth marks on his throat. This black cape [clearly marked “Dracula”] was found on the scene. Police are baffled.
Police Chief Wiggum: We think we’re dealing with a supernatural being, most likely a mummy. As a precaution, I’ve ordered the Egyptian wing of the Springfield museum destroyed.

In our case, I suppose it plays out like this:

Mainstream media: Another mass shooting has occurred, in a well-planned and coordinated attack. Pro-ISIS propaganda was found posted online by the suspects, and their house was full of pipe bombs. The motive is unclear.
President Obama: We think we’re dealing with racist conservatives, most likely Christians. As a precaution, I’m going to demonize them and push for even more gun control.

I realize I just compared President Obama to police chief Wiggum. My apologies to police chief Wiggum.

Dear Reporters of the Future: Here’s the Scandalous Dirt on Huston!

So, you’re a reporter and at some point I’ve become a figure of public note. Anything’s possible.

For whatever reason, society has become aware of me, and it’s your job to provide the details that will disgrace me, because that’s how the media works.

But that requires endless hours of tedious online research, digging into every little thing I’ve ever done. And this blog alone has over 1500 entries! What’s the busy would-be muckraker with a calendar full of Internet porn to do?

Well, look no further! As a service to the journalists, pundits, and (who knows?) rival campaign staffers of the future, here, in one handy-dandy collection, is a treasure trove of quotes that you can use to embarrass me in front of the tabloid headline-addicted world.

Sure, you’ll have to take them out of context and selectively edit them, but you’re part of the press! That’s what you do.

 

 

“I hate all the      

problems society gives to

minorities.”

“I enjoy sleeping with

my family at home at night while all the other families and

children

sleep in their homes.”

“I support killing

any attempt to censor the views of

my political opponents.”

Star Wars Episode I was

not

a really good movie.”

 

 

That last one alone should get any target demographic to rally against me!

An Easy Template For Your Next Angry Rant Against the Mormon Church

It’s tough out there for a progressive Mormon these days. Reacting with horrified indignation on the Internet to current events has nearly become a full-time job! It’s almost enough to make one re-examine one’s passionately believed liberal assumptions. Almost.

But before you do something drastic like that, here’s how to deal with the exhaustion of always needing to rant online. After all, there are only so many synonyms for “sad” that you can dredge up in the service of your public moral vanity.

Just use this easy, user-friendly template for your next angry tirade against the LDS Church. It’ll even work for those trendy new rants that poorly veil their murmuring under the guise of being diplomatically disappointed.

Here it is:

I am (outraged / shocked / depressed) by the recent event in the LDS Church that everyone’s talking about. It (sickens / offends / discourages) my sensitive and compassionate conscience. Once again our leaders have shown themselves to be (out of touch / tone deaf / afraid of change / consistently faithful to their calling).

When will the Church finally (evolve / wake up / get with the times / become as good as I am)? And when will they finally start thinking about all the (minorities / non-Mormons / children / sensitive and compassionate progressives)? When?!

Don’t they know that this is the last straw and that oodles and scads of people are now (leaving the Church / not joining the Church / speaking out against the Church / scribbling stale criticisms online for cheap social capital)?

How do I know the Church is wrong on this issue? I’ll tell you: (insert string of logical fallacies here; begging the question, straw man, reductio ad absurdum, ad hominem, and false analogy work especially well). The Church’s stance on this one issue is obviously (a radical conspiracy by old white men / inspired by some conservative politician my friends and I don’t like / based on decades if not centuries of doctrinal precedent).

Now that the Church has thrust us into a dark age we will have just have to hunker down and patiently (wait for change / pray for our leaders’ enlightenment / waste time showing off online / seek faith while quietly serving others).

Hopefully I’ll never have to write anything negative about the Church again. (NOTE: when posting this in future years, remember to use updated references to whichever Church leader / social conservative / Republican politician is being called stupid by the media at that time. You don’t want your rants to start sounding predictable!)

“Primary Education of the Camiroi”

XTRTRRSTRB1988One of my favorite science fiction stories is R.A. Lafferty’s “Primary Education of the Camiroi.”  I remember reading it in the Issac Asimov-edited anthology Extraterrestrials at the old Charleston Heights library in the late 1980’s.  I loved how weird and silly it was–I’d never read anything quite like it.

Reading it again now on Google Books, I see it as a pretty biting satire of an American education system that even by the late 60’s, when the story was first published, was already showing cracks.  I especially loved the schema for the alien curriculum near the end, which I’ve copied below.  In fact, I think this story helped influence young me in my decision to become a teacher.

I really think we should consider some of the “modest proposals” in this story.  I would have loved having a class in “laser religion” as a high school freshmen.

My grade for this story now, nearly 30 years after first reading it?

A+

Lafferty 1 Lafferty 2 Lafferty 3 Lafferty 4 Lafferty 5

Celebrating 20 Years of Mocking Political Correctness

America has been making fun of political correctness for at least 20 years now.

1994 saw the release of, for example, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, a reworking of classic fairy tales with a more enlightened view, and PCU, a David Spade/Jeremy Piven movie about a typically “politically correct university” full of clueless leftist zombies.  

So, obviously, this brain-dead scourge has since been completely erased from our society.  Yup, no new awkward neologisms have been forced down our throats since then; no new restrictions on what’s acceptable discussion and belief have been foisted on us by our elite media betters.  Certainly, the rules of PC have not grown so Byzantine and ubiquitous that they’ve all but dictated how public life works these days.

*sigh*

It’s almost enough to make one lose faith in satire…

PCU

Pro Community

Everyone knows I love The Simpsons.  Usually, when talking about it, I tend to focus on the quality of its satiric social commentary.  However, there’s another area where it excels which draws me in, too.

The Simpsons invented and perfected the art of both subverting sitcom conventions while generally operating within and even celebrating those conventions.  It’s a genius balancing act of ironic innovation and standard storytelling, and they were the best.

Until now.  Certainly the reigning champ of satire for at least a decade has been South Park, and now the geek contingent has a new paragon of worshipful TV meta-analysis.  It’s Community.

I’ve watched on and off for all three seasons, but it was only in the second half of this last season that I started watching faithfully.

If you haven’t seen the two paintball-themed, spaghetti Western parody episodes that closed season two (“A Fistful of Paintballs,” “For a Few Paintballs More”), you’re missing some of the funniest TV ever made.

But they just got snubbed in the Emmy nominations for the third year in a row.

Here’s  a great bit from the credits of the second episode they aired.

Conservative Commentary in Monty Python’s Life of Brian

How telling that common sense satire, so subversive 30 years ago, is now so contrary to political correctness that it may well now constitute a hate crime.  Here, we see the logical failure of sexual identity politics in the real world, and the juvenile futility of the anti-imperialism bandwagon.

 

 

So You Want to Make Dead Mormons Gay…

A satirical web site has gone up inviting users to help the “many Mormons throughout history [who] have died without having known the joys of homosexuality.”  You enter a name, click a button, and the deceased will then somehow have the chance denied them in mortality.

I think this is a great idea.  Seriously.

The only problem is, this web site’s method isn’t truly analogous to what Mormons do in their temples at all.  Here would be a far closer parallel:

Users would first have to do research to identify their own ancestors who died without being able to try homosexuality.  After all, your motive in this project is to bless those whose lives led to your own.  This will require dozens and even hundreds of hours of interviews, online research, and contacting vital records departments.

Once you’ve identified your ancestors, you can’t simply click a button, though.  You must travel to a certain special place dedicated to this work, which will require you to set aside a few hours, on average.  Once there, the work itself involves a simple ritual, but one that must be done precisely, and repeated for each ancestor.

If you care about your departed forefathers being able to enjoy the same things you’ve been blessed to enjoy, then this effort should be a small price to pay.

I genuinely hope that the creators and users of this site will upgrade their satire and find a richer spiritual experience through their service, as millions of Latter-day Saints find in baptism for the dead.  Then, I think, we’ll have more to talk about.

Young Abraham Lincoln Gets an Education

As everyone knows, Abraham Lincoln was a very well educated young man.  He became exceptionally fluent in literature and history early in childhood.  This was due to the amount of tax dollars the government spent on public education.  Federal programs, also, allowed computer technology, multicultural activities, and paid teacher trainings to bless young Lincoln with the massive support structure necessary for anyone to learn anything.  Thank goodness there weren’t any budget cuts to threaten the funding for Lincoln’s many years in elementary school!  Otherwise, he may not have become such a great leader, and we may never have won World War II! 

Next week: How Joining a Union Made Socrates a Better Teacher

 

Note: for the satire challenged, the truth is that Lincoln, like many great people of years past, had very little formal schooling at all, and educated himself by reading serious classics on his own.  Without taxpayer-funded schools or unions!   This joke was inspired by this post.

The Educational Rapture

From the Holy Book of Teacheriah, an Epistle to the Unionians, chapter 5, verses 5-10:

5  And in that great and last day, there shall be a famine of public-sector budgets in the land, and the houses of learning shall be in mighty want;

6  And there shall arise many great heroes, like unto the saints of old, who shall go forth armed with self righteous power to do battle with the Anti-Nice, that fiend who fails to respond to demands for funding, and his legion of dragons, the Fiscally Conservative Beast;

7  But lo, and verily, those Holy Activists, clothed with authority by virtue of their indignation, shall cleanse the lepers and raise the dead, and they shall multiply the few scant dollars in the treasury to become many millions, that thus the ancient bureaucracy may continue to thrive;

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If the Real World Worked the Way Students and Parents Think School Should Work

Scene 1

IRS- Tax forms must be submitted by April 15.  No exceptions. 

Citizen A- But I didn’t have time!  I had other things to do. 

IRS – What things got in the way of a priority obligation that comes around ever year?

Citizen A – You know, like dances and field trips and clubs and stuff.

IRS – That’s OK.  Just get it in when you have a chance, please.

Citizen B – I didn’t understand it.  Can I just do it later?

IRS – Did you file for an extension with us first?

Citizen B- No.

IRS – Did you contact us for help ahead of time?

Citizen B – No.

IRS – Sure!  Do whatever you want! 

Citizen C – I have some other excuse.  Can I get out of it, too?

IRS – Of course!  Those firm deadlines aren’t for people with excuses for not getting it done. 

Citizen D- This sucks.  I don’t want to do it either.

IRS – Hey, sure, cool.  No pressure.  Do some of it when you can, or not.  Whatever you want. 

Citizen E- I already did my taxes, but I did them way, way wrong.  Can I still turn them in and get credit?

IRS- Fine by me!  It wouldn’t be fair to make you do them over.

 **********

Scene 2

Boss- Smithson, you’ve been late to work more often than not, you no-call/no-showed twice, your last expense report was copied from Wikipedia, and you keep breaking the company’s policy about no personal calls during work hours.  I’m afraid I have to reduce your salary.

Employee- You can’t do that!  You hate me!  That’s not fair! 

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The Secret Book of Mormon

NOTICE: The following is SATIRE.  Think about it.

**********

Here’s the easiest way to know that Mormons don’t really think their Book of Mormon is true: they hide it as much as they can! 

The next time you talk to some Mormon, ask them why nobody but the “worthy” is allowed to even see a copy, not until after they’ve served the church for years and given it a ton of money.  If the Book of Mormon is supposed to be concrete evidence that their beliefs are true, then why keep it under wraps until after people already have “faith”? 

If Mormons really believed that their book was that capable of building and defending their faith, they’d be trying to get everybody in the world to read it.  But since they keep it hidden like some mysterious secret, they must know that if skeptical non-Mormons ever read it, it would be exposed and embarrass them. 

In fact, there are some theories out there that the Book of Mormon doesn’t even exist.  Some scholars think that Mormons made up the whole story about it as a way to fool the gullible, to tease them into working for their church, and by the time these suckers were in deep enough to be shown the text of this alleged book, it was too late–they were hooked.  The few bits and pieces that are publicly quoted have probably been cooked up and revised over the years just to keep the charade going. 

Can you imagine if the Mormons actually ever published the whole book, and invited–even challenged–the whole world to dig into it as deeply as we can, promising that it would not only stand up to analysis, but spiritually convert those who took it seriously?  Even worse, imagine if their church founder had done that back at the very beginning!  That would take some major guts. 

But luckily we don’t have to worry about that.  As long as they keep covering it up, we can rest easy that it’s surely a scam. 

In fact, let’s call them on their bluff.  Confront the next Mormon you see and demand that they give you a copy of this so-called “Book of Mormon” for you to study.  Bet you anything they’ll refuse.  Mormons hate it when people try to read the Book of Mormon.