Tag Archives: William Bain MP

Bedford Skeptics Are in The Pub…or are they?

20 Feb


The truth is out there

The truth is out there

Well I have finally come up against a subject that foxes me. Baffled. Gobsmacked. William Shatnered! Philosophy. Over my head by some miles. Last night’s meeting of Skeptics in the Pub featured a very bouncy Clio Bellenis who spoke to a fairly large crowd of people who were either very clever or unlike me were keeping their confused state under wraps. 

Imagine it having "Bedford" at the top!

Imagine it having “Bedford” at the top!

I got slightly animated when a picture of Data from Star Trek came on and I thought I was on safe ground but then matters moved to whether he had a soul or a sentient conscience. He’s a robot. Then we got onto beam technology and I think we were supposed to be talking about whether your soul beams down or whether having beamed down to the planet Zarg are you the same person or just a load of atoms. I was thinking of the seaside. BUT THEN…Riker got mentioned and an episode where he gets split into two identical Riker’s by the beam, that was a good one and he started off a bit bad and then joined the resistance on Deep Space Nine. Then Clio started talking about philosophy again and I was back on the beach.

Now I’ve heard this bit before but apparently when Jason and his Nauts were sailing on the Argo battling giants, winged goblins and those skeletons at the end well they had to keep repairing the ship as they went on. To the point where when they got home all of the ship had been replaced. Now someone was following them picking the old bits up and had managed to build a slighty dodgy but still recognisable Argo patched up with polyfilla. And the philosophical question was “Which ship was the Argo”. Now I don’t remember this from the famous 1963 film but I reckon Clio might want to update this and use the Sugarbabies pop group instead as they changed singers to the point where the final three Sugarbabies weren’t the original.

And to be honest at this point you're not the slightest bit interested in what they are singing....

And to be honest at this point you’re not the slightest bit interested in what they are singing….

And then the original three Sugarbabies got back together again and there was a battle in space or something like that. See what I mean.

And then whales can recognise themselves in mirrors begging the question as to how they discovered this. And in science to prove this wasn’t fluke or a very clever whale they would have had to do say 20? Maybe more…


I asked about Schrodinger’s Cat (I changed the subject matter from philosophy to Quantum wot not and she was too polite to tell me but I knew already) which debates whether a cat in a box is dead or alive and my tip is if you hear it meow that’s a good sign. A rotten stench is a bad sign. And Schrodinger never played the piano with Snoopy in Peanuts that was his son Schroeder!

Schrodingers Oiano

Schrodingers Oiano

Philosophy, physics, psychology…it’s all a bit much on a Thursday evening when you’ve spent all day wading through lists of hazardous chemicals while simultaneously waiting for news as to whether your cars passed its MOT test but despite being both impressed and confused by the subject matter, with emphasis on the latter I enjoyed the evening with the Skeptics and at least I know now when it comes to philosophy to give it a wide berth. I asked Debs if she understood it having told her that I didn’t , she pondered a minute or so and said rather philosophically “Nope me neither”.

Skeptics in the Pub meets monthly at the North End Social Club which is Bedford’s premier” Phoenix Nights” style venue and rather good! And as it’s a club not a pub that explains the title. I think! Therefore I am!





The Most Influential Photocopier in History

9 Sep

Feeling a bit drained at the moment so I’d like to set you dear readers loose on the below article about a wonderfully bonkers book called the Principia Discordia and the anti religion Discordianism. Without knowing it we were following the general principles of Discordia most of our lives so when we chanced upon a joke masquerading as a religion lots of things started to fall out of place and dealing with life becomes a whole lot more fun! Enjoy and Hail Eris and remember don’t take anything too seriously!


In the mid-1960s a photocopier was state of the art technology, and having access to one was something of a privilege. The act of using an office photocopier after hours for personal projects, without the boss knowing, was therefore a far riskier and more rebellious act than it is today. This was certainly the case for Lane Caplinger, a secretary for New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison.

Hail the Goddess of Chaos

Hail the Goddess of Chaos

In 1991 Garrison was portrayed by Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone’s movie JFK, a film based on Garrison’s book On The Trail Of The Assassins. But this was 1965, a year before he became involved in Kennedy conspiracies and two years before the Summer of Love thrust hippies, psychedelic drugs and alternative lifestyles in front of an unprepared public. Things had not yet begun to ‘get weird’, in other words, and for a respected public figure like Garrison, there was little to indicate what surprises the future had in store. He would have been quite unprepared, then, for the book that Caplinger and her friend Greg Hill were clandestinely producing in his office.

This book was the original version of what would become known as the Principia Discordia, or How I Found The Goddess and What I Did To Her When I Found Her, by a writer named Malaclypse the Younger. They made a first edition of five copies. At the time it was little more than a joke for some of their friends, but its influence is now scrawled in a haphazard, and frequently illegible, manner across the history of the late twentieth century.

There was some debate in the 1970s, when the book’s influence began to spread, as to just who this ‘Malaclypse the Younger’ was. Some believed that the book was the work of Timothy Leary. Others claimed it was written by Alan Watts, or by Richard Nixon during “a few moments of lucidity”. It is now generally accepted that the book was largely the work of Caplinger’s friend Greg Hill, although large chunks were also written by Hill’s old school friend Kerry Thornley.

The ideas behind the book can be traced back to the late 1950s, when Hill and Thornley attended California High School in East Whittier, a rural Southern Californian town that was then nestled amongst vast orange groves. In school they were viewed as nerds. Hill was short, squat and introverted, while Thornley was tall, very thin, and bursting with a nervous energy. They both shared an enthusiasm for pranks and strange ideas. They were also both keen on bowling alleys, largely because they served alcohol and remained open until two in the morning.

It was in one such bowling alley in 1957 that Thornley showed Hill some poetry that he was writing. It included a reference to order eventually arising out of chaos. Hill laughed at this. He told Thornley that the idea of ‘order’ was an illusion. Order is just something that the human mind projects onto reality. What really exists behind this fake veneer is an infinite, churning chaos. For Hill, an atheist, the failure to understand this was the major folly of the organised religions of the world, all of which claim that there is an organising principle at work in the Universe.

It all makes perfect sense!

It all makes perfect sense!

Hill also told Thornley that the Greeks were an exception to this rule, as they had had a Goddess of Chaos. Her name was Eris, which meant ‘strife’ and which is translated as ‘Discordia’ in Latin. Clearly, if anyone wanted to worship a deity who could be considered real, in that they were genuinely and unarguably active in this world, then Eris was the only sensible option. All that was needed was for someone to create a religion around Her which, naturally, they decided to do. They called it Discordianism.

Slowly Hill and Thornley recruited a few like-minded friends into their new religion. Their aim was to undermine existing belief systems by spreading confusion and disinformation with as much humour as possible. To this end they each adopted a host of new names under which their Discordian endeavours were credited. Hill became known varyingly as Malaclypse the Younger, Rev. Dr. Occupant, Mad Malik, Ignotum P. Ignotious or Professor Iggy. Thornley became Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, Rev. Jesse Sump, Ho Chi Zen or the Bull Goose of Limbo. Many different Discordian chapters were founded – the majority of which contained only one member, and some contained none. Discordians would then write essays and letters under these aliases, only to then follow them with completely contradictory essays and letters under a different alias. Gradually this process spread and, by the time it reached its height in the late Sixties and early Seventies, it had become known as Operation Mindf**k. The aim of Operation Mindf**k was to lead people into such a heightened state of bewilderment and confusion that their rigid beliefs would shatter and be replaced by some form of enlightenment.

That was the aim, anyway. In practice it rarely worked out so well, with those heavily absorbed in Discordianism proving as likely to succumb to paranoid schizophrenia as to any form of enlightenment.

Discordianism is often described as being either an elaborate satire disguised as a religion or an elaborate religion described as a satire, a description which wrongly assumes that it cannot be both at the same time. It certainly was a joke, of course, at least to start with. The whole concept was an atheist satire or, at most, a way to deal with nihilism by wrapping it up with a Goddess and a sense of humour. As events unfurled and strange synchronicities began to stack up, however, it became harder and harder to claim that what was going on was ‘just’ a joke.

For those early Discordians it became increasingly tempting to believe that when Greg Hill used D.A. Garrison’s photocopier to produce the first edition of Principia Discordia, something, some spirit of Discord and Chaos, emerged, or returned, or arrived in the world we know. Of course, Greg Hill was an atheist who intended Discordianism to be a satire of religion. He certainly did not start out taking the idea of Goddesses or spirits seriously. By the late 70s, however, he was convinced that his Discordian adventures had stirred up something that he was unable to explain. As he told his friend Margot Adler:

If you do this type of thing well enough, it starts to work. I started out with the idea that all gods are an illusion. By the end I had learned that it is up to you to decide whether gods exist, and if you take the goddess of confusion seriously enough, it will send you through as profound and valid a metaphysical trip as taking a god like Yahweh [the Jewish/Christian/Muslim God] seriously.

The effects of invoking a made-up god, in other words, were no different to sincerely invoking a ‘proper’ one. This was going to be an eventful realization for those that invoked Eris. As Thornley once remarked to Hill, “You know, if I had realised that all of this was going to come true, I’d have chosen Venus.”

Much better than singing in church!

Much better than singing in church!


Fun and Games over the border!

24 Jul

The best way of describing last night’s Commonwealth Games opening ceremony?…. it was a “Happy Shopper” version of the Olympics one from two years back. The impression I got was “Welcome to wee bonny Scotland, come on in, the fire’s toasty warm”. Policemen, council gardeners, office workers, students and crack dealers all coming together for an impromptu “open mic” session in the city centre, like one of those Disney films where half of London break out into a song and dance routine. Brilliant stuff! To tempt us none sports lover’s in we had a mixed bunch of comedians, singers, ex sports personalities from the 80s and that tedious John Barrrowman who proves you don’t need talent to be famous.

Barrowman did a routine bigging up Scotland, mentioning all the things the Scots had invented.  He conveniently didn’t mention the disproportionately large part Scotland played in the slave trade and the spread of the British Empire, an irony that won’t have been lost on the poorer Commonwealth countries. Rod Stewart crooned the crowd with a voice that would have had him booted off Britain’s Got Talent within seconds and by the time Susan Boyle turned up I’d wandered off to the Bedford Bypass creative writing zone tucked away down the garden!

Oor Wullie's message to the English. My bother has all the annuals by the way!

Oor Wullie’s message to the English. My bother has all the annuals by the way!

Then an hour or so later after Wiz had come a visiting to see what I was up to I wandered back and the whole spectacle was still droning on with hordes of competitors from small unheard of dots on the map doing the walk around wavy take selfies thing before being corralled into their own bit of the floor for two hours and surrounded by multi coloured dancers who must have been on Speed or Ecstasy to keep grooving freestyle like that for so long!

At regular intervals we got asked to text donations through to UNICEF for the children whilst at the same time we supply Israel with arms and I wasn’t certain whether I’d swapped channels and was on Children in Need as James McAvoy messed about with his phone to kick start the donations. The Queen was hanging around somewhere and having just had her £80,000 cash prize taken away for having a doped up horse she must have been well pissed off! Lets hope Borrowman had a fiver to lend her!

What was “nice” was that there was no choreographed finesse about the thing. In fact no expense appeared to have been spared. Either that or something had gone wrong but by far the best bit was two (that I saw) pre-taped appearances from Billy Connolly who gamely told us that he’d not been well but despite looking a tad frail delivered two corking eulogies to Glasgow as his home city, its lost industry, hopes for the future and its being a pioneer of simple little stunts that helped turn South Africa’s apartheid system to dust! Love you Billy, don’t go quietly..rage rage rage!

Where much of Bedford Bypass is written down!

Where much of Bedford Bypass is written down!

The leader of Glasgow City Council spoke…and for all the world sounded like some sort of Dr Who villain ready to press the “destroy ” button and then more comedy gold. There’d been some sort of disjointed scrum down on the stadium floor with people grabbing a single baton off each other. At least in the Olympics they’d had mass produced torches but for Glasgow just one wooden thing, if you touched it your ailments vanished. Maybe! The baton had a note inside. That the Queen put in last year. And its been round the world since then. And they couldn’t open it. Marm stood there watching attempts to get the top off, I was waiting for her to grab it off Chris Hoy and show them how but then it struck me that if she was waiting to read the note, as she wrote it she could have just had a rough guess. In the end she declared the games open!

You'll not beat the Scots team when it comes to mooning!

You’ll not beat the Scots team when it comes to mooning!

One big happy family of competitors but Messrs Usain Bolt and Mo Farah from Richard Branson’s Virgin Islands weren’t there, maybe there’s an elite in sports, almost like its own royalty!

And now, for the next ten days we have a small army of people running hither and thither, some jumping over things and other’s throwing javelins and balls, maybe the odd caber! Then there will be talk of the legacy and we’ve both heard it all and seen it all before!