Elvis Fan vs Nostalgia Buff

I dunno if anyone else watches the Penn & Teller Bullshit show..well. I know a lot of people watch it – but if you read this and you don’t, you probably should be.

best.show.ever.

They did an episode on people who are consumed to a degree by nostalgia – normally this takes the form of “the good old days” – and often, it’s the 1950’s and a decade the folks looking back to never lived during.

It’s that wistful longing for the simpler days of Dad earns the money and Mom cleans the house wearing pearls, Leave it To Beaver nonsense that only existed on TV.

the 50's pearl necklace.....

But, it got me to thinking – is our continued devotion to Elvis all these years later on par, or is it something different?

When I think about the 1950’s, it’s the way Elvis shook it up and changed everything, it’s not longing for some Valium driven wholesomeness, it’s the excitement and the sex, the turmoil


But I don’t want to be in that era, or turn now into that era – I think we need to be building on Elvis’ legacy – increase civil rights, eliminate more diseases, create more music and figure out new ways to do thing, to combine things and above all, blow off steam and have a good time.

So, I don’t think that keeping Elvis music playing and Elvis in our hearts as backwards nostalgia and perhaps part of that is that Elvis himself was never a nostalgia act – he changed ever decade, performed current music and played his oldies with new arrangements or as medleys.

Elvis was forward momentum, and I think that we haven’t caught up to him yet.

Bloomey Weekend

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This gallery contains 20 photos.

Well, it was a mixed weekend – cloudy which was great for photos if I’d had the energy to get outside. So, I missed seeing the garden Saturday – and Sunday it rained. Still, a wet garden makes for lovely … Continue reading

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Our Brain Reward System

Our brains are working against our ability to make and carry out good choices.

It turns out that when people in a restaurant are offered a choice of salad or fries, merely considering salad as an option causes our brains to release the reward chemicals and sensations as it would if we actually selected the salad.

So, considering a good choice acts as permission to make the bad choice.

We don’t seem to consider that we may later regret that bad choice, because we tend to prefer to avoid or delay harm or bad consequences, even when we bring them on ourselves. There’s a little bit of Scarlett O’Hara in all of us.

This made me realize why so many high-profile people are so righteous – arguing for restricting gay rights and condemning gay sex as immoral is basically giving yourself permission to head to the nearest cruising zone to get yourself some.

I don’t think it’s a “do as I pray, but not as I do” situation or even arrogant risk taking anymore.

People really are not good or bad, but a neutral balancing act between the two things – I have done a good thing (condemn gays) so now I can or must do a bad thing (gay sex) in order for good and bad to be in balance.

Which really puts a new perspective on all those arguments in Dungeons and Dragons game about what actions are within any given character’s alignment. We all tend towards neutral by doing both good and bad actions and choices to create a net zero balance.

Aside: for the non-geeks – Character alignment is a character’s worldview of lawfulness (lawful, neutral, chaotic) and fairness (good, neutral, chaotic). A character can be any combination of one from the law column and one from the fair column.

Here’s an alignment quiz you can take.

I’m Lawful Neutral.

The only way to move away from these sorts of choices would be to consider future consequences instead of instant gratification.

Although in the extreme cases of dramatic differences between a person’s public morality and private activities, is probably more in need of serious therapy for the high level of self loathing the person is compensating for. Given how completely normal racism used to be (just watch any 1940’s cartoons), it’s really a matter of time before anti-gay public statements stop driving public policy.

So if you are trying to improve your health, it’s not enough to consider salad and order fries – order the salad and get the reward of considering a good choice and carrying out that good choice into future benefit. Remembering that fries may be the better option if the “salad” is soaked with fatty dressing, cheese and lunch-meats. That’s not really a salad, that’s a submarine sandwich minus the bun.

If you really don’t want to have gay sex, then stop talking against it so much in public. If you slip up and have gay sex, then instead of talking, lobbying, drafting legislation and voting for it (or the politician), make a donation to a charity instead – Doctors without Borders is about as good as it gets.

At least that way, when you get caught – and you will be – in the gay bar or outed by your lover – there’s not really a scandal because you’ve not had a public record on the matter.

Better yet, stop thinking about sex – any sex as a bad thing – sex is a good thing, it’s good for stress release, creates intimacy, feels good and is a great cardio workout. So, if you shift your framework just a bit, the sex (gay or not)  can be the neutralizing act in and of itself – the perceived immorality is balanced by the health benefits.

NDEs, Aliens and Satanic Abuse

The overlap between “near death experiences”, alien abductions and Satanic ritual abuse survivors is curious.

And not just because a lot of people who claim the experience all have a book to sell you about it.

the tunnel or white light

Near Death Experience or NDE

People who claim to have experienced near death often have died or come close to dying – because it is often associated with surgeries.

But the medical definition of death is a slippery and difficult to define status; there is a clear point beyond which the person is irreversibly dead – but at what pinpoint is it? Brain death, heart/lung death? It’s an important issue when we have the technology for people to be connected to machines to be kept “alive” in pretty much the dictionary meaning and not an meaningful meaning of the word.

In the NDE, the most common hallmarks include:

  1. leaving or floating out of your body
  2. being aware of the doctor and nurse conversation
  3. seeing a tunnel or a white light and entering it
  4. being with people that you know to be dead who want to guide you on or tell you that you have things yet to do
  5. being with higher beings (perhaps angels,aliens or ??) who want to guide you on or tell you that you have things yet to do

So, you either don’t fully go into the light or tunnel and are sent back or refuse to go – and wake up in a room where you might be told you “died” on the operating table and from there you put it behind you at one end or write a book and go on a tour to promote your plan for world peace.

The most interesting thing to me about NDEs is that no one ever returns and identifies which religion got it right and telling everyone what we need to convert to.  Which, if this experience was real and factual, you’d think someone would be able to tell us – and that it would be more consistent an experience.

The fly in the ointment is that these experiences can be explained – partly by what occurs in the brain when you are deprived of oxygen and glucose for brain functioning, and partly by how our brains work to understand what we experience.

We are pattern seekers who connect information and events even when there is no connection and we don’t really like chaos,so we impose a pattern or order on our experiences in order to understand them.

The particular pattern or order is very culturally and personal bias dependent.

In the middle ages, people would frame these same events in the context of fairies, elves, goblins, succubus/incubus or maybe angles.

Today, it’s aliens that have largely replaced these “earthier” explanations.

Here are the other two experiences that I think are related to the NDEs – I’ll list their common characteristics and then tie them together.

Modern Aliens replace Middle Ages Incubus

Alien Abduction

The basic pattern of alien abduction stories is:

  1. Capture. The abductee is forcibly taken from terrestrial surroundings to an apparent alien space craft.
  2. Examination. Invasive medical or scientific procedures are performed on the abductee.
  3. Conference. The abductors speak to the abductee.
  4. Tour. The abductees are given a tour of their captors’ vessel.
  5. Loss of Time. Abductees rapidly forget the majority of their experience.
  6. Return. The abductees are returned to earth. Occasionally in a different location from where they were allegedly taken or with new injuries or disheveled clothing.
  7. Theophany. The abductee has a profound mystical experience, accompanied by a feeling of oneness with God or the universe.
  8. Aftermath. The abductee must cope with the psychological, physical, and social effects of the experience.

Prior to the Betty and Barney Hill claim, the few people who made UFO abduction claims were more widely varied – in terms of describing the aliens, the ship and the nature of the encounter.

However, just like news coverage of a crime taints the jury pool, so does mass coverage of a fantastical claim firm up the basics of the claim for subsequent claimants.

the horny goat devil

Satanic Ritual Abuse

That the FBI conducted an extensive investigation, and that no police force in the US, Canada, UK or really any country has ever discovered evidence for organized satanic cults that were ritually abusing children and killing babies (for whom there is never any birth records and no one seems to specifically report them being missing), means nothing to devotees.

Aside: That’s sadly common, facts and actual evidence tend to not sway woo devotees or conspiracy theorists from their belief. But  considering how creationists reject all of the scientific evidence from multiple areas of science for evolution, it’s perhaps not surprising.

When adults discover that they have been satanically ritually abused, it’s invariably during therapy.

When children claim to be undergoing satanic abuse, such as in the infamous McMartin preschool, it tends to be a blending of a child story telling becoming a contagion made worse by the adult investigators using methods to plant wilder and wilder ideas.

A few years back, I worked at the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective and in our newsletter was a book review of a Satanic Ritual Abuse survivor tale. The volunteer who reviewed the book took the position that it was a pretty comedic book not to be taken at all seriously. Her review about about 300 – 400 words.

A Vancouver area counselor sent in a 20 page letter demanding a retraction and included the claim that 99% of Canadian children are in fact Satanically Ritually Abused.

I had encountered this particular counselor during a public meeting into the meltdown of the Vancouver Lesbian Centre, which had a variety of issues that exploded, but at the centre was a staff member who had acted inappropriately with serious consequences for other people who was fired. She claimed that the Centre had discriminated against her, as they knew she had been Satanically ritually abused.

The letter writing counselors was her counselors. It wasn’t strange that everyone who came to see this counselors recovered memories of Satanic ritual abuse.

It’s always the same counselors or therapists who’s patients are largely Satanic Ritual Abuse Survivors or UFO Abductees. It doesn’t seem to matter what they went to therapy for, they come out with a whole new identity.

And it’s a vicious circle – the therapist layers the Satanic/UFO explanation over the trauma the patient is experiencing, and the therapist becomes known as a specialist in that area – attracting more people who are pre-disposed to beleive in the diagnosis – which in turn reinforces the therapist view that the Abuse/Abductions are occurring.

As to the claim that 99% of Canadian Children are Satanically Ritually Abused – I say that would mean that at least 60% of the Canadian population would be practicing Satanists. That would be a majority of the population, which would mean that it wouldn’t be hidden but openly practiced.

When you think Canada, do you imagine a majority population of child molesting, baby murdering Satanists?

Tying it all together (sorta)

I’ll qualify that by saying I don’t buy into a grand unification theory of anything or everything. The universe is random and nothing is driving or guiding events. Any patterns and causation relationships that we see are more often than not a function of how our brains work than any actual pattern or causation.

What do NDE, Ritual Abuse and Alien Abduction have in common?

And in the middle ages, these would have been encounters with demons, angles, witches – because the experiences are the same, only the explanation differs over the decades.

The main thing is that it gives the person a sense of being special and on a mission.

  • The NDE/Abductees often beleive that they have been charged with saving the world – or at least the people willing to buy their books or come to their lectures.
  • The Satanic Abuse Survivor believes that they are exposing a vast conspiracy and saving current and future children.

All three are also claiming special knowledge that the world is not how the rest of us beleive it to be – which is an overlap with conspiracy theorists.

With NDE and Alien abduction, there is a clear physical cause – oxygen deprivation during surgery or perhaps a sleep disorder (like sleep apnea).

With Satanic Ritual Abuse, it is invariably during therapy which includes hypnotic regression – which is too easy for even a well meaning therapist to create the very trauma and memories they have alleged uncovered.

The last thing that each person has in common is that they have experienced something that has taken away their sense of control.

Having a sensory experience that is outside of our normal and understandable experiences is distressing. Any explaination, even fantastical ones, are comforting – especially when we’re the centre of a big story and get to have a mission.

Aside: Which also explains why video games are so attractive – and they also can do funny things to your brain and perceptions. Qualifier: I am a gamer from way back to Atari 2600 days

When you layer a bizarre and disturbing experience with knowledge of the general NDE, Abductee or Ritual Abuse Survivor stories – it’s a potent mix to connect your brain’s experience with pop culture explainations.

The more media coverage a fantastical claim gets, the more people claim to experience the phenomena.

Sort of like how multiple personality disorder was very popular after the book and especially movie version of Three Faces of Eve.

Last anecdote:

I had a creative writing teacher in college in the 1980’s gush once about a student who was a multiple personality disorder. She went on at length about the hald dozen personalities that would come to class and refuse to accept the homework of “other” students, their other personalities.

I don’t know how long she had been telling this story for, so I asked “And it didn’t occur to anyone that all her personalities were interested in and could show up for a weekly writing class, when they supposedly are unaware of the other personalities?”

The Three Faces of Eve