World Domination Update
“Adding Fool to the Fire”
vol. VII, iss. ii

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness”
                                            —Matthew 3:3


Quote of the Moment:  “If you think that smells bad, you should smell my snapper!” — Amy, (hopefully!) referring to her fish dinner.
Secret Word of the Day:  (courtesy Cinder)  “Curse upon your moustache!”
Site of the Week:   The Lego Bible
Barbecue Sauce of the Month:  Sonoran Sam’s Agave Mash Mix (with a hint of lime, of course)

In this issue:

·  Decade After the Davidian Demise 
·  aSCHLAPPAlypse Now 
·  Help I’m a Rock 
·  Jonestown Update 
·  In Defense of Dick
·  Nixing Nero as the Number of  the Beast
·  Ask Evil Matt
·  Blessed Hedgehogs


If you were expecting a big, long rant about Iraq, then sorry: that’s just too large a topic to tackle in the short space I allow myself here.

Besides, I have bigger tuna to toast, as today is a very important day in the Branch Floridian scheme of things.

Ten years ago today, the FBI finally ran out of patience and decided to smoke the Branch Davidians out of hiding.  The claim by Frau Reno and her FBI advisory stooges were that “babies were being beaten”—a quote she has since conveniently forgotten the source of—and so in the interest of protecting those babies, they sent in several modified tanks to crash down compound walls and pump in a potentially toxic (and flammable!) nerve gas agent that is, strictly speaking, banned by the Geneva Convention.

Yeah, that sounds like a great way to protect babies...

Reno also claimed that Koresh wasn’t coming out voluntarily, and his latest claim to do so was just another stalling tactic.  Koresh said that God had told him to stay put and write an exhibition/exegesis of the Seven Seals of Revelation; once it was done, he would be at liberty to leave.  The FBI merely assumed this was yet another delaying ploy.  In actuality, Koresh was working on it, and one of the nine survivors (Ruth Riddle) actually escaped with the disk it was on.  {For those curious, click here to read it.}  Of course, if he actually planned to come out after finishing it is still debatable.

Whatever the case, the FBI had become frustrated by what they saw as Koresh’s unwillingness to negotiate.  In truth, it was the FBI who was unwilling to talk, in that they started from the viewpoint that Koresh was merely a hustler hiding behind the Bible.  Obviously they were perplexed and confused by the large amount of what they themselves called “Bible Babble” stemming forth from inside the compound at them.  The most classic example was their misunderstanding what Koresh meant by “the seven seals,” initially not realizing this reference to Revelation 5-8 was the Biblical lynchpin of Davidian theology, instead thinking it had to do with endangered wildlife in Alaska.


[note to self: suggest Ken Dill get a job as an FBI negotiator]

Anyway, since the FBI was both unable and unwilling to get on the same page as Koresh, it was inevitable that no progress could be made.  Therefore, they felt that something more drastic needed to be done.

It is still a matter of great debate on how the fatal fire started.  Several survivors steadfastly maintain that FBI tanks knocked over kerosene lamps while busting down walls to insert tear gas.  Many conspiracy theorists point to the government’s own FLIR film, which (depending on your skew) shows either a lot of sunlight reflection off of broken glass, or FBI agents entering and leaving Mount Carmel exactly where the fire started and then sniping at survivors fleeing.  The government, of course, proudly points to the electronic bugs monitoring the compound, which has the voices of Davidian occupants making comments like “spread the fuel” and “we need more fuel.”

Of course, they conveniently ignore the context of these comments, where it was discussed that tanks were not fireproof and this might be a good way to keep them at bay.

Personally, I am satisfied that Koresh ordered the fire to be started.  To me, the parallel is obvious: Masada.  Still, as the chosen people of God, something like a little fire shouldn’t be a problem for them.  Besides, put yourself in his place.  If I point a gun in your face and yell “Don’t move! Don’t move! Aaaaarrgghh!” (lunging forward), you’re probably going to panic and react badly.

A simple fact that the FBI steadfastly overlooks or ignores: if they had not gone in with tanks, the place would not have burned down.  They are, ultimately, to blame for their massive mismanagement and fatal negligence that killed 86 people.

Hey, folks: it’s your tax dollars at work, and even though you may be humming “awww, that was just a bunch of crazy cultists” to the tune of “it can’t happen here,” the fact is it did.  A dark day indeed for law enforcement, and arguably their single biggest disaster in history.

But on a brighter note, today is also another anniversary: our own.  Branch Floridians have been carrying the torch of Think For Yourself now for six years.  So curse Janet Reno’s moustache and then go singe some hair in celebration.



Is there any truth to the rumor that Teletubbies are a Grimace genetic experiment gone horribly wrong? Are they really the Grimace's attempts to genetically engineer "super soldiers" with cyberorganic antennae and video screens and all-terrain tread on the soles of their feet?



    shade’s peshar


Wow—what an interesting insight!  Although I haven’t heard that angle, I must admit it certainly makes sense.  Recent insight shows that the Grimace species are aggressive and hell-bent on revenge, so it is entirely possible that the Teletubbies are some sort of beta test for an übergrimace super-soldier.  I’ll keep an eye out for future developments on this; in the meantime, a ton of flax has been credited to your account.

Now, if anyone can explain what the role/purpose of that baby-in-the-sun on the ’Tubby tv show is, we’ll really be onto something...


     The Gospel According to Evil Matt


Even though the Bible is the number one best selling book of all time and has had more influence on politics, culture, and personal beliefs than anything else in history, it is still a book that surprisingly few people have read and fewer people actually understand.  It has sort of become like Mein Kamph, which was considered by Germans to be a cool book to have on your coffee table but which few of its owners actually cracked cover to cover.  This is too bad, because it (The Bible, not Mein Kamph) actually has some good things to say.  Not all of it may be true, but it certainly has some truths in it, and is worth reading.

Then again, who's got the time, right?  It was once estimated that the Bible could be read straight through in 100 hours, but I think that's exceedingly generous, especially since some parts of it just make you stop and think, and others (like those pesky genealogies: "so'n'so begat so'n'so, who begat so'n'so...") are the best cure for insomnia created in the past 3,000 years.  So what's a man gotta do to get some Biblical literacy in this town?

Fortunately, we're here to help!

For those of you who have never read the Bible but want a general gist of what the plotline is, Evil Matt has come to the rescue by kindly supplying The Gospel According to Evil Matt.  Think of it as a Cliff's Notes version to the Good Book.  Broken down for both Testaments, with plot outline of most major books and some interesting commentary on how it came to be compiled in its final form, the G'EM is guaranteed to both instruct and offend you no matter what your faith basis.  Even I don't agree with some of the things he says.  An invaluable tool if you need to brush up on your Biblical literacy.

House Band Revamp


With Dr. McCarty on seemingly permanent hiatus in Michigan (and just becoming a daddy — congrats, dude!) the current in-house Cyber-Compound band, Dead Pelicans (stand-ins for the on-sabbatical Cactus Patch Kids,) has folded.Grimace Reaper

But never fear, we’ll still warp your ear!

Evil Matt (aka Matty-too-Batty) has hooked up with kindred spirits Scottie-too-Hottie (on loan from Switch 56,) Shelly-too-Smelly (on loan from Contravene,) and Zinkie-too-Stinkie (on loan from Germany) to do a tribute to the horrors of schlapperhosen, with the working title Grimace Reaper.

Current set list includes:

  • In-a-schlappa-da-vida
  • Schlappa Don’t Preach
  • Now I’m Feeling Schlappafied
  • I Wanna Schlapp!
  • The Phantom of the Schlappa
  • Help I’m a Schlapp
  • Don’t Fear the Schlapper
  • Jesus Christ, Schlapperstar
  • Schlapp the Monkey
  • Breaking the Schlapp
  • Un-Skinny Schlapp
  • SchlappaLung
  • Die With Your Schlapps On
  • Kick Out The Schlapps
  • Schlapp Around the Clock
  • Bohemian Schlappsody
  • Schlappzilla
  • Schlapp Lobster
  • Schlappa Was a Rolling Stone
  • The Star-Spangled Schlapper

And, of course, our now-infamous revamp rendition of Charles Manson’s “Garbage Dump”.

Tour dates to be announced shortly.


...and speaking of warped music...


Reorganizing Rock


Now I’m distrustful of labels anyway, but the current classifications of music by radio programmers is just too damned confusing—and misleading.  Back in high school, I knew where I (and music) stood, and what was what.  Even the sub-categories made sense.  “Rock & Roll” was the original stuff from the ’50s (Elvis, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley), “Acid Rock” was the late ’60s twist (Hendrix, Cream, Jefferson Airplane), “Progressive Rock” was the arty, pseudo-pretentious stuff of the ’70s (Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull), Heavy Metal was the dark, downer, distorted guitar-driven dirges (Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest), etc.  

These days, the lines are just too blurry.  I don’t blame the artists (well, I do, but that’s a previous rant), I blame the record execs and programmers who come up with these categories.  The worst offender in terms of labels is “alternative rock.”  What the hell is that?  Alternative to what?!?  Alternative to good stuff that doesn’t suck?  Considering that “alternative rock” is now the mainstream, this title is meaningless.  “Classic rock” is another one that confuses me.  Most of the previously mentioned categories (prog-rock, metal, etc.) get lumped into it by virtue of the fact it’s all pre-1990.  I think that’s a step short of silly, but maybe I’m just showing my age here.  Back in my day, the first time I heard Ozzy Osbourne I thought, “man, it just can’t get any heavier than this.”  Now “Crazy Train” is in an S.U.V. commercial and Oz’s got his own television show.  

But I digress.

Something’s wrong here, and I suspect it’s the labels.

So, taking a tip from geology, I’ve come up with a few new categories to hopefully help clear the confusion...

[A quick disclaimer before doing so: my primary criteria in identifying anything as ‘rock’ is the incorporation of the electric guitar in some predominant fashion in the song by musicians who actually play the instruments (as opposed to merely sample someone else’s work.)] 


metamorphic rock — music where the artist changes style a lot, either within an album or even a song, or over the course of their career.  Examples:  Queen, Zappa, Bowie, Beatles

volcanic rock — bombastic, over-the-top, in-yer-face stuff that is more positive in content than heavy metal.  Examples:  Van Halen, Kiss, Ted Nugent

sedimentary rock — in geology, sedimentary stone is formed by silt settling at the bottom of the ocean, so in this case “sedimentary rock” is the bottom layer, lowest of the low... dare I say, rock bottom.  Basically repetitive three-chord ‘rock anthem’ crap waiving the ragged flag of sex, drugs & rock & roll (dude!)  Examples:  Bachman Turner Overdrive, The Guess Who, Lynyrd Skynyrd

igneous rock — ignorant, ignoramus, ignoble... pretentious crap for potheads who are exactly half as smart as they think they are.  Examples:  Oasis, R.E.M., Edie Brickell & New Bohemians

party rock — relatively mindless but fun, with a good beat for dancing; stuff you put on as background music.  Examples:  AC/DC, Aerosmith, Quiet Riot

fraggle rock — aimed at kids.  No meaningful content but not intended to have any (so the parents won’t freak out.)  Examples:  Hanson, Cindi Lauper, Loverboy

testosterock — targeted at angst-ridden teenage boys.  Examples:  Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Twisted Sister

coprolite rock — per paleontology, “coprolite” is fossilized dinosaur excrement, so the musical parallel is literally shit rock.  Take the ‘sedimentary rock’ example above and dig deeper.  Examples:  Brian Adams, Creed, Winger

  Stuart: “hey, man: Winger’s cutting edge!”

Butthead: “(huh, huh) yeah, cutting edge of suck!”



Jonestown Video Analysis


In last issue’s reprise of recent Jonestown tragedy developments, mention was made that a copy of the videotape showing the airstrip massacre had surfaced.  I now have a dub of it, and can offer the following analysis in an effort to confirm or disprove an especially disturbing conspiracy theory that has been making the circuit for at least ten years: that it was not people from Jonestown who did the initial assassinations but some type of “professional” hit squad.

First, a context check to reset the stage.

The chain of events leading to the mass suicide of 913 people on September 18, 1978 was Congressman Leo Ryan had flown down to Guyana at the behest of “concerned relatives” to investigate various accusations made by apostates about the Jonestown commune.  Among Ryan’s entourage were a film crew from NBC.  The trip did not go well—at one point the Congressman was attacked and almost killed by knife-wielding Jones follower Ron Sly—and Ryan wisely decided to get the hell out of there before something worse happened.  Alas, he only made it as far as the local airstrip (Port Kaituma) seven miles away.  While preparing the plane to leave, a tractor hauling a trailer rolled up, and a group of gunmen disembarked.  A one-sided shooting spree ensued, during which the Congressman and a number of others were killed.

The incident was captured on film by Bob Brown, one of the NBC cameramen.  It was the last act of his life, as he too became a casualty from the turkey shoot.

The airport massacre has since become the subject of some debate, in part because the tape became very hard to find.  The prime piece of contention seems to be who, exactly, composed the hit squad that assassinated Representative Ryan.  Although the obvious common sense guess would be that Jones himself had sent some followers out to do the deed, there is an audio tape of the first half of the subsequent mass suicide where, upon learning that Ryan is dead, Jones is clearly upset over the fact—not the reaction you’d expect from one who had just ordered it.  Among his comments on the final audio tape: “I didn’t order the shooting”; “I don’t know who shot the Congressman”; “I can’t control these people [who did]”; “I waited against all evidence... I tried to prevent all this from happening”; “I wish I could call it back”; “I never wanted to kill anybody”; “How many are dead?... Oh, God Almighty, God help them...”

A bit ambiguous, granted, but very perplexing, given his ostensibly genuine tone of alarm, concern, and despair.

One early analysis of the airport video (from former Peoples Temple member Laurie Efrein Kahalas on her comprehensive—if conspiracy-skewed—site offered the analysis that the hit squad all wore military fatigues (as opposed to the casual clothes of everyone back at the compound), were well armed (Jonestown had a few .22 pistols and maybe a rifle or two) and ran what is known in military circles as a ‘squad diamond’ formation.  If all that were true, it strongly suggests that someone other than Jonestown members were responsible for the murder of the Congressman.  And that, of course, throws the door wide open for conspiracy theory.

Well, I finally got a copy of the video, so decided to see for myself if any of that was true.

The tape runs a little over an hour, and is exceptionally poor in quality—especially the audio.  However, it is at least a third-generation copy (originally shot in 1978, you will recall) so to an extent this is forgivable; just keep some extra-strength Excedrin handy if you ever watch it.  It starts at the Georgetown (Guyana) airport, and chronicles the Congressional visit as it flies out to Port Kaituma, the drive into Jonestown, and several interviews with the “concerned relatives” and their People’s Temple family counterparts.  We even get footage of a “party” thrown for Ryan, including some surprisingly good soul/funk jams by the Jonestown house band and an audience sing-along of “The Greatest Love of All.”  At last the investigating delegation leaves with a large number of defectors.  We see them loading up the plane, and then the tractor trailer with its lethal cargo arrives.

The film offers a glimpse into the final day of Jonestown, and it is creepy to realize that 99% of the people shown on it will be dead in a few hours.

As for the shootout at the airport, it comprises only five seconds of footage, and much of that is blurred and rolled as the camera starts.  The film has a clock  counter in the lower right, and this can still seen to be running for almost a minute after the image goes to black snow, presumably from collateral damage that killed the poor cameraman.

blurry NBC footage of the shootout

Still, enough of those fatal five seconds are available that an analysis of sorts can be offered.

First, the gunmen are all dressed differently.  Although one—presumably the tractor driver—is partially obscured by the clock counter, he is clearly wearing a white short sleeve shirt and light-colored pants.  Several of the gunmen disembarking from the trailer have similar attire.  All in all, these are definitely not military fatigues.

As for being “heavily armed,” that is a bit more difficult to tell.  A number of shots can be heard on the audio (as well as the cry of pain of at least one person getting hit) but I am unable to tell what type of ordnance is being fired.  The shots are spaced out enough, however, that it is obviously not automatic fire.  The standard military issue at the time was the M-16, which had a single-shot and full auto setting (current models, the M-16A2, also have a 3-shot burst setting, but this was introduced long after 1978.)  My guess would be that an attacking unit would do some full-auto spraying, but that is obviously not the case.  In any event, it is hard to tell what weapons are being wielded, with one exception.  If the tape is run on slow-motion, the above-mentioned driver can be seen quickly lifting his left hand, and then a small puff of smoke arises from the end of it before the arm is lowered.  This is obviously a pistol shot.  You would think, per conspiracy theory, that a “well-armed” group would all have assault rifles.

Lastly, we come to the infamous “squad diamond formation.”  I have no idea how Ms. Kahalas determined this, as the film shows most of the gunmen still disembarking, and then goes to grain damage before any type of assembly can be seen.  At least one member (the driver, at the front) was out of position, though, so while it is effectively impossible to tell what grouping they ultimately cohesed into to advance on the plane, I would say that it is unlikely that it was anything as coordinated as a squad diamond.

I’m not seeing what she says she’s seeing, so I gotta call shenanigans on her whole scheme.

Based on the available evidence, I would have to opine that the shooters were, indeed, from Jonestown.  If we are to take Jones’s subsequent audio comments at face value, it would seem that the hit squad was an impromptu ad-hoc vigilante squad that took matters into their own hands without formal authorization from Jim Jones.

But why take my word for it: watch it yourself.


Note: this article has a follow-up.  It was also printed, in slightly altered form, in the Jonestown Report


and now,,,


For Those Who Don’t Know Dick



"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words."

Philip K. Dick


Philip K. Dick is the Frank Zappa of science fiction literature.  Like the Zap-man, the Dickster was both dated yet decades ahead of his time.  Like FZ, PKD never really hit mainstream popularity but even now has a small cadre of fanatical devotees who buy up his entire (and, in both cases, exceedingly prolific) catalogue.  And like Zappa, with Dick’s works you either get it or you don’t.

Philip K. Dick

Most people familiar with PKD know only hybridized (and not very faithful) movie versions of his works: the films Blade Runner (loosely based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Total Recall (from the short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”) and most recently Minority Report (also a short of the same name) are mainstream examples.  Other Dick books that have been filmed include Screamers (from the short “Second Variety”), and the French fare Confessions d’un Barjo (an adaption of his book Confessions of a Crap Artist.)  Word has come down that another short story of his, “Paycheck,” is set to start filming, directed by John Woo and starring Ben Affleck.

Yeah, I’m cringing, too.

The first half of PKD’s literary career was devoted to pumping out short stories for pulp sci-fi mags (hey—gotta pay rent somehow,) but by the mid ’60s he was working on full-length novels, and this is where he hit his stride: the shorts show so much potential but the required limit on length hampered their development.  Still, neophites looking for a good place to start are recommended to either UBIK, A Scanner Darkly, or The Man in the High Castle (which won the prestigious Hugo Award for best sci-fi novel of 1963.)  Also worth reading is an interesting and insightful non-fiction essay, “How to Build a Universe that Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later.”

Although much of his stuff is set within the framework of the Cold War, a major underlying theme that shows up in his works is an exploration of the question, “what is ‘reality’?”  By 1972, he had an answer of sorts:

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

One reason for his obsession on this subject was because in the early ’70s he stopped writing science fiction because he was too busy living it.  In 1974, a chain of events caused either an epiphany or a mental breakdown, from which he emerged (again depending on your point of view) a mystic visionary, an existentialist philosopher, or a raving lunatic.  His novels also took a decidedly autobiographical turn at that point as he himself tried to work out through his fiction just what the phuq was going on.  

Philip K. Dick died of a stroke in 1982, so he never reached a satisfactory answer.  

In many ways, his spiral into either dementia or revelation began on November 17, 1971.  Someone broke into his house, ransacked his office and safe, stole many of his files and papers, and did enough pointless vandalism to suggest (in Dick’s mind, at least) a threat against him.  Curiously, a book he had written in 1964, The Penultimate Truth, had just been reprinted.  The book is set in a dark, Orwellian future where we ultimately learn the government uses intense, often ingenious misinformation (including an imaginary war) to keep the populace under control.  Dick suspected that his portrayal of authority in The Penultimate Truth was close enough to the real truth that it upset some higher-ups.  

Paranoia on this part aside, things got out of control on February 4th, 1974.  He had already been taking large doses of mega-vitamin supplements designed to stimulate (creative) brain activity, and then he went in to have an impacted wisdom tooth removed.  The dentist gave him sodium pentathol for the pain, and after returning home, he answered the door to accept a delivery.  The delivery girl was wearing a gold necklace of a fish with the Greek letters ΙΧΘΥΣ.  Most of you have probably seen similar symbols on the backs of Christian-owned cars.  Technically, ΙΧΘΥΣ is the Greek word for fish, but ancient Christians used it as an anagram: Ιησυς Χριστος Θεος Υιος Σωτηρ: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. 

Mesmerized, he asked the woman what it was, and she replied it was the original symbol of Christianity (before the Cross took over in popularity.)

In an instant, PKD had a flash of insight, what the Greeks called “Anamnesis” (literally, loss of forgetfulness): humanity was still living in the late First Century Messianic Age, and the subsequent 1,900 years of “history” were essentially a false memory hoax put on by the Romans.  Nixon was Nero, the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK were really the martyrdoms of early Christians like Stephen, etc.  In short, The Empire Never Ended.  (boldface courtesy PKD himself: that’s how he wrote it.)  

Still struggling with this insight, he was thrown for another loop a few weeks later.  While listening to Strawberry Fields Forever, the lyrics suddenly changed, and John Lennon sang to him “Your son has an undiagnosed right inguinal hernia.  The hydrocele has burst, and it has descended into the scrotal sac.  He requires immediate attention, or will die.”  Deeply disturbed by this, and not knowing what “inguinal” and “hydrocele” were, he checked up on his son.  The boy said he felt fine.  Still, Dick took him to the hospital anyway, and had them run a test.

Lennon’s” diagnosis proved to be 100% accurate.  Fortunately, they operated on his son in time to save his life.

Slowly his world returned to “normal” over the next month, and even though he began to second-guess his Roman False-Memory theory, he was still greatly shaken by the experiences and his glimpse into what he came to call “the black iron prison” (a term liberally borrowed from Gnosticism, which was he became increasingly interested in.)

By the way, it should come as no surprise that he was good friends with Robert Anton Wilson, and the two frequently questioned each others’ sanity.

PKD himself often doubted his own sanity and conclusions, and aside from writing full-length novels exploring the subject, he also privately wrote an 8,000+ page Exegesis, understandably never published in full, though an excerpt called The Great Satanic Blasphemy has passed into high praise among certain circles of lateral thinkers.  Throughout Exegesis, Dick explored one possibility after another of what the hell was really going on.  He never reached an answer that fully satisfied him.

Both the ICQUS and Strawberry Fields events appear (in thinly disguised form) in Valis, perhaps Dick’s most complex and challenging piece.  

saint’s aside

When I was about 12 or 13, I remember my mom bought a copy of Valis, apparently on a whim—she read a book a week, and preferred science fiction.  One day, I found the book in the trash can.  This surprised me: an obsessive compulsive pack-rat, mom saved everything.  I asked her about it, and she said “that was the worst book I have ever read.”

Intrigued, I picked it out of the trash and started it.  I didn’t make it more than a page before agreeing with her.  After all, the main character was named “Horselover Fat.”  How stupid was that?

Obviously, I didn’t realize at the time that “Philip” was Greek for both “horse” and “love,” and that “Dick” was German for “Fat.”

Anyway, I kept the book, and began sneaking into mom’s room and replacing whatever book she had moved on to with Valis, putting the bookmark in the middle so she wouldn’t notice at first and pick up in the middle.  Then I began hiding it on her in random places.  It became a game, until she finally wised up and disposed of it where I couldn’t get it.

Many years later, at shade’s recommendation I started reading PKD on my own, and while scouring bookstores for copies I hadn’t read yet, discovered Valis.  I had no idea he’d written it.  Remembering my and my mom’s earlier opinion, I laughed my ass off, then decided to give the book a second try.

I was stunned by what I read.  I was delving heavily into Gnostic thought at the time, and Valis showed a very perceptive familiarity with Gnosticism and especially various parts of the Nag Hamaddi Library.  

I also immediately understood why my mother loathed the book: without the appropriate biographical knowledge and theological background, Valis is close to incomprehensible.  A scene in Valis sums this up, when Horselover Fat seeks counseling/help from a psychiatrist:

  "Do you believe man is created in God's image?"
"Yes," Fat said, "but the creator deity, not the true God."
Fat said, "That's Yaldabaoth. Sometimes called Samael, the blind god. He's deranged."
"What the hell are you talking about?"

Like shade said: either you get it or you don’t.



Phone Number of the Beast,
Part II



Last time, we told you about Kentucky Mountain Bible College’s recent acquisition of a “666” phone prefix.

Well, Ma Bell at last acquiesced to their complaints, and changed their numbers to 693.

However, not everyone in the area was so lucky.  Such as the First Baptist Church in neighboring Jackson.  However, they’re not as uptight about it.  Reverend Vaughn Rastor commented, “If people start giggling when I give my phone number, I know they have at least read the Bible.”

Which is more than can be said about most people...


anyway, I will again use that as an appropriate segue into our next piece... 


saint’s sermon
Revelation 13:18 Revisited


Last issue we explored the infamous “Number of the Beast” and gave what were hopefully convincing arguments that it was more correct to express it as “Six Hundred Sixty-Six” than as “666.”

While setting the stage for that, I gave lip-service to the most common theory floating around on what the Number refers to:


The most popular theory is that it is a Kabalistic/Gematria code for “Nero Caesar,” though I have a number of nitpicks with that which I feel all but conclusively prove it can’t be Rome’s favorite fiddler.  A lengthy digression I’ll spare y’all (though available on request.)


Apparently this piqued interest among several readers who requested that lengthy digression, enough that I have decided that it was worth sharing the wealth on this matter.  Besides, if you are one of those who are keen on deciphering the cryptic identity of The Beast via its number, this will help give you a good grounding in what is most likely the best place not to start.

First, for those wondering why Emperor Nero would be seen as being The Beast, the answer lies in history.  Nero hated Christians.  Actually, he hated everybody, but he seemed to have a thing about Christians which apparently stemmed from their being the scapegoats for the Great Fire of Rome in 64AD (of course, Branch Floridians know what really happened there!)  Nero persecuted Christians with vigor: crucifying them, using them as Coliseum sporting fodder, and even as living torches for his Vatican palace garden parties.   Some twenty years later, when Revelation was penned, it’s not too improbable to see a residual fear of Nero and some lingering horror that he might return from the dead and start the persecutions anew.  As contemporary candidates for who The Beast would be (and remember, Revelation 1:1 says the following events will “shortly come to pass”) Nero’s a pretty good guess.

So how does one get Nero out of Six Hundred Sixty-Six?

For that, we must delve into Hebrew as a language, and study both its alphabet and how it uses them to convey numbers.

Hebrew is alphanumeric, meaning that it uses the letters of its alphabet to convey ordinal numbers.  To put this in English-language equivalents, think A=1, B-2, C=3, etc.  However, English incorporates Arabic numbers, Hebrew does not.  In Hebrew, there are, of course, full-fledged words for the same concepts, and both are commonly used.  Right now, we’re interested in the alphanumeric equivalents.

Hebrew alphabet and numerical values

You will notice five of the letters (Kaph, Mem, Nun, Peh, and Tzadi) have two forms, the second known as a “final.”  This is employed if said letter comes at the end of a word.  We’ll put that aside for the moment, though it is (in my humble opinion) the lynchpin in disproving the “Emperor Nero” theory of The Number of the Beast.

Obviously, any word in Hebrew (or any alphanumeric language, such as Biblical Greek, called “Koine”) has a numerical value, achieved by totaling up the sum of the letter values.  There is actually an esoteric science in that, known as Gematria.  Heady stuff, and generally treated with suspicion by most orthodox Jews.  For those curious, the movie “pi” offers a decent crash course into Gematria and has some good examples of how goofy it can get.

Anyway, hopefully y’all have a handle on the basics on this, so let’s turn to the conception that The Number of the Beast refers to Emperor Nero.  A good summation of this school of thought can be found in the Oxford Companion to the Bible, in the entry for Six Hundred Sixty-Six by :


This number, mentioned in Revelation 13.18, is not, as sometimes thought, a conundrum to be solved by readers in order to discover the identity of the beast described in that chapter.  The identity of the beast is clear: it is the absolutist state as personified in the Roman Emperor Nero.  The emperors claimed divine authority and their powers seemed invincible.  John wanted his readers to understand that the state and its rulers were neither divine nor invincible.  They were human and carried the seed of their own destruction: their number is only 666, and does not reach the completion of seven.  The number was arrived at by presenting Nero's Greek name Kaisar Neron in Hebrew letters, which also function as numbers: qsr nrwn; q = 60, s = 100, r = 200, n = 50, w = 6, so qsr nrwn adds up to 666.  (Some western manuscripts read "six hundred sixteen"; the scribes possibly did not understand John's usage of Hebrew numbers, and thought in terms of the Greek kaisar theos, the "god-emperor," which would add up to 616 using the Greek letters as numerals; but it is more likely that they simply dropped the final n: qsr nrw for Kaisar Nero, making 616.)


 There are multiple problems with this argument, some obvious, some subtle.  I will put aside that he has confused/reversed the values of Samekh and Qoph, as that does not affect his math but merely confirms that he doesn’t know what the Hell he’s talking about.

The first half of his argument is an observation pointing out the “imperfection” of 666 not reaching the “completion of seven.”  Technically, 666 exceeds 7; I think he meant to say 777.  By the way, in Greek Alphanumerics, Jesus (Ιησυς) adds up to 818!  However, hopefully my previous article showed the fallibility of thinking in such “modern mathematical” concepts.

One can also argue against citing the “absolutist state as personified by Emperor Nero” by referring to Romans 13:1-5.  Here we read Paul arguing that the Empire (and its Emperor) are the chosen instruments of God, and are to be blindly obeyed: disobeying the Emperor is the same as disobeying God.  [click here to read my exegesis/sermon on this blatant piece of Brain Police propaganda.]

However, lets move beyond abstract theology to concrete common sense.  Revelation was written in Greek, yet we are expected to believe that in the middle of this John of Patmos suddenly decided to shift out of that language and suddenly adopt a Hebrew numbering system?  You’d think he’d stick with the familiar Greek for the sake of the readers and listeners, in which case the Koine value of Καισαρ Νηρων would be 1295 (or 1290 adopting his ‘Nero vs Neron’ argument to explain the 616 anomaly.)

Putting that aside, the crux of the biscuit here is the (Hebrew) spelling of Nero Caesar as (and I transliterate to English for convenience) qsr nrwn.  [For those wondering about the ‘w’ in the formula, this is technically correct.  Hebrew has no vowels—the system of dots surrounding letters to indicate vowel sounds, called Masorah, are a device originating from the Middle Ages.  Before then, such as in Biblical times,  letters doubled as vowels.  Vau (or Wau, depending on your Sephardic/Ashkenazi preference) was one such example, standing in for “o”.]  

But I babble; back to qsr nrwn

Anyway, you will recall that Hebrew has five letters that, should they fall at the end of a word, have a different form, and these finals also have specifically different numerical values.  Nun is one such consonant, so with the accepted spelling of “Neron” it would come into play here.  Final Nun has a value of 700, so by definition we are already past the target of 666.

As Gerald Posner is fond of saying, “Case Closed.”

A very weak argument could be made that John did not have a good grasp on Gematria and did not fully grok the concept of Finals, but if that’s the case, we have yet another nail in the coffin of the concept of Biblical Inspiration and Infallibility.


shade’s peshar

A few years ago I researched this very issue, puzzled, as saint obviously is, at the usage of the Final Nun and why no scholars seemed convinced of this otherwise obvious stumbling block.  One reply that I received was rather interesting:


Thank you for your e-mail.

May I recommend the "Word Biblical Commentary of Revelation" 3 volumes, by David Aune.

The Greek word "beast" in Hebrew also equals 666.
The final nun = 700 may be a late development in gematria.
An Aramaic document from Wadi Murabba'at seems to confirm Nero Caesar = 666. Aune, volume 2, 770.

The earliest variation of 616 is in C = Paris: Ephraemi Rescriptus from the 5th century AD. Also in arm4 and Tyc2. Irenaeus reported it in some MSS, but thought it was a scribal error see Adv. haer. 5.30.1.

Stephen C. Meyers, Th.D.
Institute for Biblical & Scientific Studies


My response to Dr. Meyers on this brought up an obvious problem: if the Final Nun = 700 is a “late development,” how was 700 represented before this?  Alas, he did not answer.

Although many scholars, as well as the authors of the Wadi Murabba’at fragment, seem to think that 666 = Nero, these are late developments written after Revelation.

Only John knew what he truly meant when he wrote it.



Ask Evil Matt

 The Evil One fields your queries, as channeled by Sister Ob’dewlla ‘X’.

But first, an apology...


Before beginning this issue’s Q&A, I feel the need to make a ’fess up and admit that (gasp!) I was wrong about a previous comment.  

About a year ago, I got an ‘ask Evil Matt’ wanting to know why didn’t the Enola Gay didn’t crash from the EMP of the first atomic bomb.  My answer was technically correct (of course!) but in discussing it I cited a supporting detail that was, in fact, inaccurate.  Specifically, I gave the explosive yield of Little Boy (the bomb dropped on Hiroshima) as 35 Kilotons.  A recent conversation with BruddahMax touched on this subject; I again cited my 35KT figure, he countered that it was a mere 1.5KT.  Well, we both checked into it, and turns out we were both off.  Sources vary, but the ballpark figure is that Little Boy was between 12.5 and 15KT.

Anyway, I always admit when I’m wrong—or would, if I actually were wrong about anything (other than nuclear destructiveness,) so I offer up a mea culpa to this and hope that this hasn’t shaken everyone’s faith in my position of official Branch Floridian Mr. Know-It-All.

That said, let’s put this shameful moment past us and get to the questions...


Q:  What are Marilyn Monroe's measurements?

A:  Currently, 25-3-13.  I suspect you meant “what were her measurements when she was alive,” though, and that would depend on who you asked.  20th Century Fox claimed she was 37-23-36, her dressmaker claimed she was 35-22-35.  The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner claimed her bra size was 36D.  It is possible that dieting and lifestyle altered her figure enough that all these are correct.

Q:  How much does the Leaning Tower of Pisa lean each year?

A:  The gradual lean is not a constant, so there is no way to answer your question except to give the general range.  Although several factors are involved here, a major contribution to the tower’s lean has to do with the soft clay soil that is several feet under the base.  How much rain Pisa gets a year (and thus softening the clay) varies, so the tower’s gradual slant does, too.  Also, the weight of the Tower itself also contributes to the sloping: the farther it leans, the more the weight of the top contributes to its sloping demise.  However, the general range of leaning currently ranges from 1 to 1.22 millimeters a year.  That may not sound like much, but recall that construction was completed in 1350; so it does add up over a while.  In 1998, the inclination was about 13 feet off center, which was considered to be dangerous, and the most recent of many attempts to lessen the slope were undertaken.

Q:  What is the correct pronunciation of "Samhain"?

Evil Matt in Samhain shirt

A:  Depends: dialectic variants come into play.  Irish Gaelic prefers “SAH-win,” Welsh Gaelic uses “SAH-ween,” and Scottish Gaelic (which spell it “Samhuinn”) opts for “SAH-ven.”  Being Welsh m’self, I of course prefer “SAH-ween” as it is obvious that the Welsh are superior to other Celts in all aspects.

The word is Gaelic for “Summer’s End.”  Although there was an extremely minor character in Celtic mythology named Samhain (his claim to fame being that Balfor of the Evil Eye stole his magic cow,) the most widely known application is the literal translation as the celebration of the end of summer.  In Celtic chronology, there are only two seasons: summer and winter, so Samhain occurs on November 1st.  The night before, festivities would begin, which were in part the equivalent of a New Year’s Eve party. But a lot creepier.

Q:  Who was the last non-Italian Pope?

A:  Adrian VI, who was born in Utrecht, Holland and never even set foot in Italy until his election to the Papacy in January 1522.  Adrian VI’s reign only lasted 20 months; he inherited numerous financial and political scandals—it is agreed by all, including Catholic historians, that the Church at that time was fiscally and morally bankrupt—and he set about to reform it.  Unfortunately, these seemingly sincere attempts at changes stepped on too many influential toes, and on September 14, 1523 he suddenly died.  The best guess by those in the know is that he was poisoned by his own doctor, though the identity of the puppeteer pulling the physician’s strings is a bit murkier (several top Princes and Cardinals comprise the short list of culprits.)

Anyway, depending how you count, there have been roughly .   Information about the first 15 or so is vague at best and almost always suspect.  Of those that we have reasonably reliable documentation on, the overwhelming majority have been Italian: 200+, of which at least 72 were specifically from Rome.  Hey, they don’t call it the Roman Catholic Church for nothing!  Of the remainder: 14 were French, 6 German, 4 Spanish, 4 Syrian, 4 Byzantine/Greek, and (not counting Adrian VI’s sole representation of Holland) one each from England, Portugal, Switzerland, and Poland.  And, of course, if you are one of the few who buy into the yarn that the Apostle Simon Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, 1 was from Galilee in Judea.

One other interesting side-note: as noted, after Adrian VI’s death, it would be 455 years before another “foreigner” would wear the triple tiara.  Karol Wojtyla’s transformation into John Paul II almost didn’t happen.  When Albino Luciani (aka John Paul I) died and the Conclave of Cardinals met to elect his successor, voting was pretty much split between Cardinals Giovanni Benelli and Giuseppi Siri—both Italians, if the names didn’t give that away already.  Benelli came within 9 votes of the required 75%+1 votes needed to become Pope, but an obvious stalemate had arisen among the Cardinals, and the Polish Wojtyla was selected as a compromise to end the deadlock.


Got a question?  .

    And finally,,,

The Hedgehog Corner

By Harriet the Hedgehog


Holy Hedgehogs (part 3)


Returning again to the import of hedgehogs in religious tradition and their reference throughout sacred literature, we find a third reference to them in an obscure Zoroastrian text:


The fifty-seventh subject is this, that it is not proper to kill a hedgehog; and, everywhere that they see it, it is necessary to take it up and carry it into the wilderness, so that it may go into a hole, which is ever considered a great good work. Because, when a hedgehog is in their nest, some ants will die; it will also catch and eat thousands of snakes and other harmful creatures, and it eats all noxious creatures.  Therefore, owing to the whole of this, these words are expedient.

Sad Dar 57:1-3


Its a shame that the Catholics killed all the Zoroastrians; if their treatment of hedgehogs is any indication, they knew whats up.




    That’s it for now, folks; and yall know the drill:


      Trust no one

      Deny Everything

      and Always keep your lighter handy!



© 2003 (VII,ii)

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