Thursday, July 31, 2008

28 Tammuz 5768: The Three Weeks

Greetings.

Worthy causes of the day: “Promote Human Rights in China”, “Don’t let Bush veto our kids’ safety!”, “Take Action: Tell the Senate to Protect Sharks Too!”, “Tell Congress: Reject Endless War and a Torture Cover-Up”, and “Keep U.S. Waters Safe and Clean!”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Shas against women”. This gives a good example of a priority violation. Yes, anyone who is sane and decent is all for making marriages work, but one has to keep in mind that in cases of abuse the chances of this happening are slim to none and that the safety, both physical and mental, of human beings takes precedence.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s H. P. Lovecraft story, in lieu of a weird thing due to the Three Weeks, is “At the Mountains of Madness”.


WARNING: SPOILERS! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

Theological review of “At the Mountains of Madness”:

This is a story within a story, the outer story being of Antarctic explorers who explore a city of Elder Things, and the inner story is that of the Elder Things themselves.

To his credit, H. P. Lovecraft focuses the emotional manipulation of the inner story on pathos rather than horror, as a result producing something akin to The Last and First Men and The Star-Maker. The Elder Things (see the link above for a picture, because there is no way to describe them as other than “freaky” unless one wants this review to drag on endlessly) colonized Earth hundreds of millions of years before humanity, built a lot of cities, did a lot of biotechnological manipulations, competed with Cthulhu and company and another species known as the “Mi-Go”, and went into decline, eventually going extinct at the hands of climate change and the Shoggoths, creatures they created which can take any shape. The outer story, however, is a low-plot wonder, with the explorers so entranced by the ruins they find, deciphering the inner story encoded in art, that they do not have the sense to immediately run (or rather fly their airplane) away from the dangerous Shoggoth wandering around after it kills some of the human and canine members of their party. The quality of both stories is marred by Lovecraft’s scientific ignorance, e.g., proper dating of the extinct animals mentioned, that extensive past civilizations would have left the planet littered with artifacts, and that no one with at least half a brain would ever consider the possibility that the Elder Things were vegetables. (The lack of leaves and the presence of muscles is a big clue.)

Theologically, this story is just an extension of previous ones. What we learn here is that Cthulhu and company have been around for hundreds of millions of years and being doing devious things during all that time. We also learn of the existence ill-described evil lurking in the Antarctic mountains. The notion of aliens having visited Earth long ago and having an effect on Terran life also recurs (among other places) in the work of the infamous pseudoscientist and pseudotheologian Erich von Däniken (von Däniken, Chariots of the Gods?: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past; von Däniken, Signs of the Gods).

Theological rating: D.

Scariness rating: My pants did not budge. I have a pet Shoggoth in my backyard.

Bibliography:

von Däniken, Erich. Chariots of the Gods?: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past. Econ-Verlag, 1968. Trans. Michael Heron. New York: Bantam, 1970.
---. Signs of the Gods. Econ Verlag 1979 under the title Prophet der Vergangenheit. Trans. Michael Heron. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1980.


Up for tomorrow: “The Shadow over Innsmouth”.

Aaron
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