aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Interludes ‎פ and צ‎: 80s and 90s

In Daniel 5, King Belshazzar throws a feast which is interrupted by a giant disembodied hand writing on the wall: MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN. The wise men of the kingdom are confused; they recognize these words only as measures of silver (“mene” is cognate with the classical “mina”, “tekel” with the classical “shekel”, and “upharsin” is about half a mina.)

Belshazzar summons the prophet Daniel for explanation, and Daniel interprets the inscription as a complicated kabbalistic pun. MENE represents not a literal weight of silver, but the concept of weighing or judging. TEKEL represents not just a shekel but a small and insufficient amount of money. And UPHARSIN is a pun on the Persians, the Babylonians’ arch-enemies. So he interprets the words to mean “You have been judged against the Persians and found wanting” – in other words, by exiling the Jews, Babylon had displayed such wickedness that God would allow the Persians to destroy them.

The prophecy was fulfilled when King Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon and executed Belshazzar for his wickedness. In 538 BC, the triumphant monarch allowed the Jews to return to Israel.

From these events kabbalists derive a correspondence between silver, the number 538, and accurate prediction of changes in political leadership.

— Gebron and Eleazar, Kabbalah: A Modern Approach

I. 1981

WASHINGTON DC – President Reagan is expected to make a full recovery after being shot in the head by an assassin while leaving the Washington Hilton.

Spectators report that the assassin, later identified as a mentally ill man named John Hinckley, pulled out a gun and shot six times. Five of the bullets hit members of the President’s retinue, one of whom is currently in critical condition at George Washington University Hospital. The sixth hit the President in the head. According to three separate eyewitnesses interviewed by The New York Times, the bullet passed straight through Reagan’s head and out the other side. Despite the injury, the President tackled the assassin and held him pinned to the ground until Secret Service agents could respond. Then, say the eyewitnesses, the President stooped to the ground, picked up a handful of earth, and filled the hole in his head as if nothing had happened.

Reagan’s press secretary James Brady was himself injured in the attack, but his position is being temporarily filled by Larry Speakes, in accordance with nominative determinism.

TIMES: Mr. Speakes, people are reporting all sorts of stories out of Washington today.

SPEAKES: Yes, you know, there’s a lot of research showing that people’s eyewitness accounts are inherently untrustworthy. In a crisis, with all the adrenaline flowing, people see some pretty crazy things.

TIMES: Did the bullet go through the President’s head?

SPEAKES: I would say “through” is an exaggeration. The bullet definitely hit the President. But you know, there are a lot of stories about people having bullets hitting their heads and doing just fine. I mean, in the 19th century, there was this man, Phineas Gage, who was too close to an explosion and had an iron spike get blown through his brain. And he was still able to function for the rest of his life! The thing is, the effects of these kinds of injuries aren’t always predictable.

TIMES: Didn’t Phineas Gage become insane, aggressive, and unpredictable?

SPEAKES: President Reagan will not become insane, aggressive, and unpredictable.

TIMES: But what about all the stories that the President filled in the hole in his head with dirt?

SPEAKES: Listen. The Untied States is at war. I think this kind of speculation about a sitting President is irresponsible. I can assure the American people that the President is not made of dirt.

II. 1987

WASHINGTON DC – To the horror of onlookers, President Reagan melted away today when a heavy rainstorm struck the rally where he was speaking.

It seemed to be a clear day as Reagan prepared to address a pro-religion rally from the Capitol Steps. But just a few minutes into his speech, a freak thunderstorm broke out, causing the President’s body to sag and, finally, melt into a pile of mud. The entire process took less than a minute.

Conspiracy theorists, who had long claimed the President was a golem, declared victory. “There was something about him,” Colonel Oliver North told the Times, “and that time he survived a bullet right through the head, it wasn’t natural.” The White House urged people “not to jump to conclusions,” saying they were still trying to figure out exactly what had gone wrong.

Meanwhile, Vice President George H. W. Bush has been sworn in as President in a short ceremony on the White House lawn. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd demanded an amendment saying that all future President-elects will have to be examined by a doctor who could certify they are human, a proposal which met with near-complete bipartisan support.

White House Press Secretary Larry Speakes told the Times, “President Reagan led this country during a difficult time. Although we are still investigating what happened on Tuesday, he has the thanks of a grateful nation, and we appreciate the sacrifice he made for the American people.”

The pile of mud will be available for viewing in the National Cathedral for the next three days.

III. 1993

NEW YORK CITY – Jalaketu West, King of Royal Colorado, spoke to the United Nations today about his proposal for an international treaty regulating the use of Divine Names.

“A strong international intellectual property framework is the only way to incentivize a global theonomic industry capable of developing weapons that can protect the human race from supernatural threats,” the so-called Comet King told the meeting in a speech punctuated with references to his own defeat of the Drug Lord a decade earlier. “As long as it is more profitable to pirate Names discovered by each other than to invest in the scholarship and hard work of discovering new incantations, we will never create the capacity necessary to fight off the forces of Hell, let alone protect the world in the case of a sudden breakdown of Uriel’s machine.” He repeated his theory that the laws of physics will catastrophically fail sometime in the early twenty-first century, and that humanity needs to be ready for a sudden increase in the power of demons and other mystical entities at that time.

According to Coloradan sources, negotiations have been entered by over fifty countries, including the Untied States, Britannic Canada, Cuba, Trinidad, Tobago, El Salvador, El Pais Del Diablo, the Most Serene Empire of the Darien Gap, Brazil, North Peru, South Peru, Ecuador, Primer Meridiano, New Country, the European Communion, Neu Hansa, the Icelandic Empire, Norway, Desmethylnorway, Finland, Britain, Vatican Crater, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sloviria, Slovobia, Switzerland, Estonia, the Cyrillic Union, Novaya Zemlya, Multistan, Iran, the Israel-Palestine Anomaly, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Eridu-Xanadu Consortium, the Lotophagoi, Ethiopia, South Africa, the Malabar-Zanzibar Consortium, Somaliland, Ouagadougou City State, the Harmonious Jade Dragon Empire, Indonesia, the Sulawesi Conspiracy, Lesser Mongolia, Greater Mongolia, the Platinum Horde, the Distributed Republic, Kerala, Uighurstan, Thailand, the United Hydrological Basins, Swiss Polynesia, Armenian Samoa, and honorary non-observer member THE REAL.

Untied States president Bill Clinton praised the effort, describing it as “a new step towards international free trade and cooperation.”

IV. 1996

CHICAGO – Ralph Nader reached out to voters in a rally here today, describing his Green Party as the only force in American politics willing to stand up for the poor and middle-class. The centerpiece of his campaign is opposition to UNSONG, the free trade and intellectual property agreement supported by both Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican Bob Dole.

“This is nothing more than a corporate takeover,” he told a cheering crowd of supporters. “Why should you have to pay Wall Street hundreds of dollars for a piece of paper with a Name on it, when the cost is just a piece of paper and some ink?”

Nader’s campaign received an unexpected boost after the publication of The Temple and the Marketplace, a two-hundred fifty page book by Raymond Stevens, a crotchety Unitarian minister who argues that Biblical passages predict the advent of the Divine Names and command their universal spread according to communal utopian principles. His followers, who called themselves Singers after their habit of singing the Divine Names in public, have become a centerpiece of Nader’s rallies, frequently singing Names that result in pyrotechnics or other impressive displays.

Stevens himself has stopped short of endorsing Nader, but believes his victory has been foretold in Job 5:11 – “he puts those who are in low places up to high places” – the “low place” being a reference to Mr. Nader’s name.

V. 2000

VANCOUVER – The third recount to determine who will receive Salish Free State’s twenty electoral votes has begun here today amidst scattered reports of violence by Gorist, Bushist, and Naderist factions on the East Coast.

Meanwhile, statistician Andrew Gelman reports that the chances of all three candidates receiving an exactly equal number of popular votes in the Untied States’ most northwestern territory is more than 1/100,000,000,000, suggesting that something has gone terribly wrong.

All three candidates urged restraint. Vice-President Gore appeared on the White House steps with outgoing President Clinton, stating that it was important Americans of all political beliefs remained calm and let the Salish vote-counters do their work. Governor George W. Bush of the Texas Republic made a similar statement from his Texas ranch. And pro-consumer firebrand Ralph Nader, whose disappointing third-place finish in the 1996 elections was nevertheless the best performance by a third-party candidate in recent history, urged his followers – mostly enthusiastic young people – to keep their protests peaceful.

Police are investigating reports that Raymond Stevens, an anti-corporate agitator whose philosophy of open-sourcery helped kickstart the Nader campaign, urged violent revolution in a message from his California home. Stevens previously made waves when declaring that the exact equivalence of votes for every candidate was a message from God, predicted by Isaiah 40:4: “Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain”.

The military is standing by in case of any disturbances.

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107 Responses to Interludes ‎פ and צ‎: 80s and 90s

  1. IrrationalPolarBear says:

    Desmethylnorway? Uighurstan? I think Uriel broke more than anyone knows.
    Also, if physics are going to break in the early 21st century…I spy a Chekhov’s gun.

    • Daniel Blank says:

      This will probably be the Apocalypse Aaron mentioned, and the world may run out of Divine Light soon.

      • stavro375 says:

        Fredlage on reddit has this to say:
        From the comments to My Father’s Business:

        So, Uriel’s previous estimate was 50 years of working physics in 1990, thus ending in 2040. With 20 years shaved off, that means the “present day” part of the story is at best 3 years away from the machinery collapse, assuming Thamiel didn’t manage to trick Uriel again.

      • nipi says:

        Not run out of divine light but be flooded with it.

    • Susebron says:

      I mean Uighur independence isn’t entirely impossible given the political upheavals in former China, but Desmethylnorway implies that either all the methyl has been removed from Norway (which is a terrifying prospect given its prevalence in organic chemistry) or Norway has become a more specific version of Nor-Norway (and being Nor-Norway would itself be pretty weird).

    • Terdragon says:

      Chekhov’s gun

      I think you mean Chekhov’s pun.

      (At least, they’ve all been Chekhov’s puns so far.)

  2. The coment king says:

    This one was fun.

    Also, you could tell Scott was just having so much fun finally getting to mention all the fictional countries.

    Also also, if Bush Sr. was involved in the Drug Lord wars, that’d explain the “followed a Bush into the desert with no exit plan” line.

    • The coment king says:

      Also also also, is Thamiel interfering with american elections? and did Trump run on a platform of breaking up Unsong here?

      • Given the Kabbalistic implications of Trump mentioned while in Las Vegas, and the Kabbalistic strength of _any_ competitor named Trump (stronger than perhaps every name — perhaps even Victor), I’d say I’m not entirely sure he’d _need_ a platform.

        • Except, of course:

          I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

          Which is not Trump (although it could be), it’s Genesis 12:2.

          There’s also a bit in Revelations about a great city split into three parts and the cities of the nations collapsed. Very possible that’s happened after the 2000 election.

        • OTOH, McGovern lost so there are limits to nominative determinism.

          • Having a VP pick named Eagleton would make sense kabbalistically as well, if running to be the symbolic leader of America.

            My understanding is McGovern was so soon after reality broke that the math-based system still mostly worked. Uriel presumably had to make more cutbacks as time went on and resources got harder to maintain. Could be another explanation, though.

          • LHC says:

            It is a time of shaking up old orders. The son of the old government will not form the new one.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Also also, if Bush Sr. was involved in the Drug Lord wars, that’d explain the “followed a Bush into the desert with no exit plan” line.

      Nah, Chapter 2 says that wasn’t until the turn of the millennium.

  3. If Sarah gets wet, will she melt down into a laptop?

    • nipi says:

      Lets hope she requested more sturdy materials.

    • 75th says:

      Probably not. First:

      “Many people build golems,” the Lady said dismissively. “A clump
      of mud, a quick pull of the Animating Name off a scroll wheel, and
      you have a golem. Hideous misshapen things. I build costumes.
      Beautiful bodies, fit to be filled with any intelligence you please.”

      Also, we should not be surprised that Reagan was made of dirt, because humans are all literally made of dirt:

      Four hundred years earlier, an old man in Prague had explained to
      his students that yes, you could make a golem, you could bestow
      upon it the nefesh, the animal soul. With sufficient enlightenment,
      you could even bestow upon it the ruach, the moral soul. But the
      neshamah, the divine spark, you could not bestow upon it, for that
      was a greater work, and would require a greater Name than any ever
      discovered.

      Six thousand years earlier, the wind of God had moved upon the bare
      red dirt of Eden and shaped clay into the figure of a man. It stood
      there for a moment, a crude statue, and then a voice from Heaven
      spoke a Name, and the clay came to life, lumbered into a standing
      position. It spoke a second Name, and the clay’s eyes opened, and
      within them were innocence and curiosity and the capacity to wonder
      and learn. And it spoke a third Name, and it was as if a light went
      on inside of it, and the dust became aware that it was dust and in
      so doing was dust no longer.

      A golem possesses only the nefesh, given through the Animating Name. But humans don’t melt in the rain, so either the ruach-granting Name, the neshamah-granting Vital Name, or the combination of the two bestows imperviousness to small amounts of water.

    • Ninmesara says:

      If all golems are made of earth (even those made by the Lady), then it is a big blow to the theory that the Comet King used a golem to fake his own death… Surely someone must have been noticed that the corpse of the Comet King is actually dirt, right? Especially if it fell from the clouds. Simeon wohuld have thought of it, unless he believes that the Lady can also make bodies similar enough to fool the cometspawn (or even regular soldiers who might have retrieved the body)

    • Ninmesara says:

      Maybe the comet king was actually buried in cheyenne mountain, behind a big rock in a place where no one normaly goes, and following a (telepathic) conversation with Ana, Aaron will suggest they sohuld check out the body and they’ll go there to find that the stone has been moved years ago and the tomb is empty. Or maybe the stone is in the same place but there is no body. I believe this has been done before…

      The Comet King can probanly cast the Static Name on himself (no pulse np reflexes, etc), to be uncast with a time delay (maybe, IDK, 3 days?) so that he can get out of the tomb when things have calmed down.

  4. Daniel says:

    Ooh, I got a cameo!

    “People have gotta know whether or not their President is a piece of crockery. Well, I’m not a crock!”

  5. g says:

    The last paragraph of the epigraph is the funniest thing I have read all week.

  6. Sniffnoy says:

    The first part of this chapter reads weirdly, because the bit about “in accordance with nominative determinism” doesn’t seem to fit the newspaper style used for the rest of it.

    • 75th says:

      Speaking of style quibbles, there are a couple of “Meanwhile,”s uncomfortably close to each other in one spot

      • Quintopia says:

        I was going to mention this one. The second could be changed to “On Capitol Hill” without affecting the meaning.

    • Daniel says:

      It seems not to fit because “in accordance with nominative determinism” is a weird in-joke in our universe; but in the Unsongiverse it’s a scientific fact. They’re doing political analysis.

      • Marvy says:

        Right, they would say this in the same tone of voice we would say something like, “As predicted by modern genetics, the basketball player’s child is tall for his age”.

  7. boulder says:

    “the counting of votes that are of questionable legality does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner” (Bush) – Justice Scalia

    Let me guess, Thamiel temporarily resurrected (necromantic style) some dead people so they could vote for Nader.

  8. Doug S. says:

    No butterfly ballot jokes?

  9. “From these events kabbalists derive a correspondence between silver, the number 538, and accurate prediction of changes in political leadership.”

    Where *do* you find these? I’m beginning to think that you have some sort of program that just crunches through masses of random facts looking for coincidences like this…

  10. Matt says:

    Just got up to speed. Sad I have to wait now…

  11. LHC says:

    Reposting this from my comment on chapter 31:

    John is derived from the Hebrew names “Yohanan” and “Yehohanan”, meaning “Graced by God” and “God is gracious”. The one who popularized the name was a high priest of the temple in Jerusalem during the Bablyonian exile. According to Flavius Josephus, he got into a fight with his brother, Jesus (no relation) and killed him in the temple. This was seen by the few who were aware as desecrating it, but few were aware. John was also the name of King John Hyrcanus, who was popular at the time for destroying the Samaritan Temple (even though it, too, was a temple of Yahweh, it was detested by the Jews in Jerusalem because it was not theirs). John is one who cuts off tributes to God both domestic and foreign.

    John is much more prominent in the New Testament. There are several New Testament Johns, though they were conflated in antiquity. John the Baptist is considered by Christians to be equivalent to the prophet Elijah. He was the predecessor to the Messiah, Jesus, and baptized him; when he did so, God came down from Heaven and announced that Jesus was his son. The Gospel of John is one of the more mystical books of the New Testament, and the one that most clearly equates Jesus with God, a tentpole Christian belief. Revelation was written by a John and speaks of the Antichrist, a prominent world leader, being grievously struck in the head, revealing him as a nonhuman agent of Satan. John is one who publicly reveals the supernatural puppetmasters of great leaders – violently if necessarily.

    John is also slang for a prostitute’s client; John is one who is unable to obtain a woman’s affections without acting immoraly. John is also slang for a toilet. Hell, which is in the center of Earth and the universe, was traditionally thought to be in the center of Earth and the universe because it’s the asshole of the universe, where gravity collects all the spiritual shit of the universe. John is one through whom the energies of Hell flow.

    Warnock is a Scottish surname meaning “son of the follower of St. Mearnag”. John Warnock Hinckley Jr. is the son of a follower of George H. W. Bush. John Warnock is a Mormon computer scientist who, in OTL, cofounded Adobe; it’s probably a theonomic in Unsong called Adamah. He also helped fund Salon. Warnock’s Dilemma, as described by Bryan Warnock, a Perl programmer, is the problem of not knowing what readers thought of something you posted online because none of them responded. Warnock is also only one letter removed from “warlock”. A Warnock is one who taps into arcane magic, creates the news by becoming an active participant in it, has a special connection to his father’s leader, and is tone deaf regarding people’s response to his actions.

    Hinckley derives from a British place name which means, in Old English, “Hynca’s Farm/Woods/Clearing”. The only Old English etymology I can find for Hynca suggests that it refers to a bear cub. A bear is a dangerous creature and a woods or clearing is its element, though we’re specifically referring to a cub, which is less so. “Junior” is synonymous with “the second”, but has a connotation of childishness which people with that suffix can never escape. A junior is someone in their third year of high school or college. A “Hinckley Jr.” is a dangerous young man.

    The origin of “Jodie” is unclear. It appears to come either from “Judith” or “Joseph”. “Judith” means “woman from Judea”, and, deuterocanonically, was a woman who got an enemy general drunk and decapitated him in his sleep. “Joseph” is a very common biblical name, but is most prominent in Genesis in the Torah, where he is a Jew sold into Egyptian slavery who acquires status through his Godly interpretation of dreams as prophecies. “Joseph” is also the New Testament father of Jesus, who provides the ancestral connection to David but is not Jesus’s biological father. We might, then, expect a Jodie to be someone intoxicating, who comes to someone enthralled in their sleep, and wreaks destruction and tells of the future. “Jodie” is not actually a given name of Jodie Foster, but a stage name; her real name is Alicia Christian Foster. So the “Jodie” who came to John Hinckley Jr. was not the real human being he thought it was, but an artificial creation of Gadiriel; how ironic that she would inadvertently be her own undoing! There are accidents on set and then there are accidents on set. This is not unusual; it is Thamiel’s way to turn beautiful things, like those Gadiriel creates, away from their intended functions.

    “Foster” is most likely an Anglicized version of a surname meaning “forester”, but it also has a literal English meaning invoking adoption of a child. John Hinckley Jr. became obsessed with Foster when she was still legally a child (though not by the traditional Jewish definition, as she was 14 and was thus already a young woman). Freud associated the forest (an anagram of foster, and obviously what a forester, or Forster, deals with) with puberty; this is, for example, the basis of Into The Woods by Stephen Sondheim. “Foster” is also used figuratively in English to refer to the act of creating feelings in others, as in “to foster discontent”. It is not unusual to see a young teenage Foster as the object of a pedophile’s obsession.

    Incidentally, in Taxi Driver, the film that inspired Hinckley’s obsession, Foster portrayed a teenage prostitute who inspired the protagonist to assassinate a politician. This fictional assassin, Travis Bickle, was possibly based on the real would-be assassin Sam Byck, who attempted to kill Richard Nixon, outraged over the Watergate (Outer Gate) scandal. This assassination would have been carried out by crashing a plane into the White House, foreshadowing 9/11, but since it failed so badly (he never even got off the ground as he didn’t know how to fly the airplane himself and could not convince others to do it at gunpoint) it was not taken seriously and measures were not put into place to prevent a future successful incident. The Unsong equivalent of 9/11 was the Other King killing the Comet King, but George Bush may well have been assassinated by BOOJUM via plane-crash; this would certainly be an impressive display of ritual magic. Perhaps Sam Byck was a ritual magician in Unsong, but utterly failed to impress.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Huh. That last paragraph… I had no idea. A real assassination attempt inspired by a fictional one inspired by a real one. That’s something.

      Also, I can’t help but read this bit

      Revelation was written by a John and speaks of the Antichrist, a prominent world leader, being grievously struck in the head, revealing him as a nonhuman agent of Satan.

      as a prediction of this chapter, even though Ronald Reagan is presumably not the Antichrist. (In our timeline, he was shot in the chest, not the head.)

    • Deiseach says:

      George Bush may well have been assassinated by BOOJUM via plane-crash

      That certainly seems like a BOOJUM thing to do, I can imagine Dylan cackling about finding some kind of verbal twist in the name of the flight route that let him divert a plane to crash (either with Bush onboard, or crash a plane on top of where he was).

  12. Anonymous says:

    The Temple and the Marketplace

    It was spelt with capitalised ‘and the’ previously.

  13. Rand says:

    Meanwhile, statistician Andrew Gelman reports that the chances of all three candidates receiving an exactly equal number of popular votes in the Untied States’ most northwestern territory is more than 1/100,000,000,000, suggesting that something has gone terribly wrong.

    Is this supposed to say “less than 1/100,000,000,000” or am I missing something?

    • Marvy says:

      Yeah, it should be less. Or maybe the odds against are “more than BIGNUM to 1”.

      • LHC says:

        Something has gone terribly wrong, so the chances of this absurdly improbable event are actually considerable. The odds aren’t supposed to be greater than 1/100,000,000,000.

  14. Kolya says:

    “Meanwhile, statistician Andrew Gelman reports that the chances of all three candidates receiving an exactly equal number of popular votes in the Untied States’ most northwestern territory is more than 1/100,000,000,000”. Does this mean the count has been done and the 3 candidates tied, and Gelman is giving the ex ante probability, as I think it does? Currently wording seems weird.
    Why would “El Pais del Diablo” join the fight against Thamiel?

  15. Reagan did not break the Curse of Tippecanoe in the Unsong universe, which explains the mention of president Cheney

  16. Anders Sandberg says:

    Nice to see that Cohen the Barbarian has (of course, given his name) a counterpart here in the Platinum Horde.

    Sweden seems to have disappeared. Maybe absorbed into Norway, Desmethyl Norway or the Neu Hansa.

    The truly puzzling one to me was “honorary non-observer member THE REAL”. Does that mean the UN is aware that it is in a fictional universe, but doesn’t know there are readers?

  17. Malcontent says:

    I just found out about unsong and got to here, but I think I might have had an interesting thought. Since angels cannot understand aramaic, doesn’t that mean that there could be Kabbalistic interpretations that they cannot know?

  18. Escapement says:

    I am not an expert on the Bible or biblical interpretations. I don’t really understand why Scott here quotes the writing on the wall as “MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN” rather than “MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN” – the double MENE seems to be much more common on e.g. Wikipedia on Balthazzar’s Feast, on JewishEncyclopedia.com, and in translations including the KJV to NIV. Can someone explain?

  19. nipi says:

    The pile of mud will be available for viewing in the National Cathedral for the next three days.

    lol 😀

  20. teucer says:

    I’m impressed they got the Lotophagoi to help do anything at all

  21. NothingIsEverAUsername says:

    Not related to the current chapter, but I think I may have found the origin of Sohu’s name. Comes from a Hopi legend about a comet?

    http://www.viewzone.com/kachina/

  22. JJR says:

    So, nominative determinism is a real thinng in the UnSong ‘verse. That has some interesting implications. For instance, a singer is someone who tries to do good. Everyone should change their last name to Singer asap. By normative determinism they will all find themselves trying to do good, even if it’s just a little bit more than before. Indeed, changing ones name in an attempt to create more goodness in the universe is itself an attempt to do good.

    Also travel. When traveling from one well defined point to another along a well defined pathway the correct choice at every intersection is take the right turn. At least, in English speaking countries.

    • An instance of nominative determinism: The last author of this article.

    • CalmCanary says:

      Wouldn’t it be more effective to change your last name to Good or Goodman?

      • JJR says:

        You might think so at first. But the kabbalistic meaning of good man is one who is consistently tricked by the devil. We derive this from the works of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, including the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Charlie Brown is known for a few things (his shirt unique shirt, the phrase ‘oh bother’) and ore importantly his relationship with a character named Lucy (Lucifer anyone?). She has a habit pretending that she is going to let him kick a football, only to pull it away at the last second. He falls for this, every single time.

    • Dindane says:

      I don’t know if this is the exact right approach, or if it would just make the universe angry…

    • Wander says:

      I’d be quite happy living in a world with nominative determinism, because my name means something along the lines of “Great, Eternally-Ruling King”.

  23. Quixote says:

    I love it.

  24. J says:

    Saw this on the “computerfact” twitter account and thought of Sarah: “its not that computers are bad at keeping secrets, its just humans are really hard to tell apart”

    • Dindane says:

      That twitter account is super apropos. For example (minor spoiler-y thing for the next chapter), https colon slash slash twitter dot com slash computerfact slash status slash 774256314885300224

  25. Aran says:

    From these events kabbalists derive a correspondence between silver, the number 538, and accurate prediction of changes in political leadership.

    Oh, nicely done indeed.

  26. dsotm says:

    So is there a specific reason that ESR rather than RMS got to be Stevens ? – the later’s approach to free software is by far more evangelical

  27. Aodyssey says:

    Aww wot. Just “Thailand”? I thought we’d either annexed the Suvarnabhumi region, been annexed by our numerous more advanced neighbors or just changed our name back to Siam already. Alternate histories, man. They never addresses your homeland unless it’s got top billings during WWI and II.

    • Nominative determinism: the land of the free must remain independent.

      • Aodyssey says:

        Ol’ General Strange meant Thai the predominant ethnic group, not Tai’s “to be free from domination, slavery”!

        It’s a sorta nearly a homophones though, so maybe I owed Scott an apology.

        • Wait a moment…

          The name “Thailand” was based on a pun?

          • Aodyssey says:

            According to one theory, yes. I’d presume it’s a coincidence as it’s based on historical anecdotes and linguistics theory, but, y’know…

            FYI he also changes the name from Siam to Thailand in a nationalistic bid to be free from foreign influences; the people of Ayutthaya called themselves Tai (meaning people), it’s the British and French mapmakers that labeled the country Siam.

            In doing so he discounts the ownership of the country by six-dozens minor ethnicities in favor of the majority so yeah.

    • Galle says:

      Hey, at least your country wasn’t turned into literal Hell on Earth.

  28. tcheasdfjkl says:

    I really want someone to make an Unsong world map.

  29. Murphy says:

    Question: I get the whole patented named thing but 1: how come the names known previous to unsong also appear to be patented too? Would there not be a reasonably large collection of names in the public domain? The goal is to incentivise discovery of new names after all.

  30. Alan Robinski says:

    “Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd demanded an amendment saying that all future President-elects will have to be examined by a doctor who could certify they are human, a proposal which met with near-complete bipartisan support.”

    I think “President-elects” should be “Presidents-elect”, right?

    • Alan Robinski says:

      “Meanwhile, statistician Andrew Gelman reports that the chances of all three candidates receiving an exactly equal number of popular votes in the Untied States’ most northwestern territory is more than 1/100,000,000,000, suggesting that something has gone terribly wrong.”

      Also, “is more than 1/100…” should probably be “is less than 1/100…”

  31. Sniffnoy says:

    Whoa, what happened with the numbering here?

    • Daniel says:

      Oh hey. Looks like the interludes were shuffled for kabbalistic reasons.

      As of last week it was Interlude ע: Eighties and Nineties and then Interlude פ: Hell on Earth. Now Eighties and Nineties is the Interludes with gematria values of 80 and 90, while Hell on Earth is the Interlude of the Devil. This is much punnier, I approve.

    • Stib says:

      That means a planned interlude in the future got sacked, though? Or the switch-up was planned from the start…

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