August 6th, 2008

breaking bad

Barack Carpathia?

Slacktivist has nearly completed his five-year-long read-through (1st instalment here from Sept 03) of the execrable and massively popular Rapture novel Left Behind. I don't read many evangelical Christian blogs, as you may imagine, but Slacktivist is brilliant, thoughtful and full of insight.

Left Behind is part of a novel series which has sold - incredibly - over sixty million copies, almost exclusively in the US Bible Belt, so it's a very important body of work. It begins with the Rapture in which all good Christians disappear from the Earth, and concerns the struggles of a group of sinners to find Jesus and defeat The Anti-Christ, and his evil Jewish sidekick 'Stonagal' (Stone-a-gal as in Rock-a-feller; yes it's as bad as that).

The Anti-Christ (A Romanian, hilariously called 'Carpathia') is portrayed in a very particular way in these books - he is wildly popular, charismatic, liberal, anti-war, smooth, cultured etc. He travels the world being feted and applauded by all.

Now look at this McCain advert about Barack Obama (link to video embedded in a Crooked Timber discussion thread). The advert makes no sense in its own terms. It shows Barack as wildly popular, charismatic, liberal, cultured, travelling the world being applauded.... hang on.

Here's another discussion of the ad by someone from an evangelical background, and another.

I agree with all these commentators that this video is designed to speak to the millions of readers of the Left Behind novels, not just as readers of the novels but as believers in a detailed and imminent eschatology. Although it is designed to be deniable (it doesn't say 'Obama is the antichrist') it is designed to be readily decoded as such.

I find the phenomenon fascinating in many different ways, as a cultural and social phenomenon. Perhaps most of all in reminding us that we appear to live in the same world as our fellows, but many of them live in a very different world from us. Millions and millions of them.
breaking bad

Synaesthesia test

Synaesthesia is where you feel colours or see sounds or whatever. Here is an on-line test to see if you are at all susceptible.

Do you hear anything when viewing the moving dots? Play the movie repeatedly for best effect. Some people hear sound when seeing this movie (and also when seeing other examples of moving or flashing objects). The sounds are simple such as whooshing or bubbling, and non-linguistic. The sound perception occurs automatically, not requiring effort or imagination.


If anything I might hear a very faint rasping or scratching sound, but not too much. The only time I get a quite strong synaesthesia effect is when I am falling asleep. If there is a loud sound I see it as a (typically) reddish flash of light. However, this may be that I wake up and my visual system suddenly comes on, so I see light through my eyelids. I also get colours/feelings associated with numbers etc, but these are not consistent and coherent as they are for a true synaesthetic (invented word?).

What about you?

Via metafilter.