Thursday, September 30, 2010

Celebrate International Blasphemy Rights Day with Robojesus!

Almost missed this.
International Blasphemy Rights Day takes place every September 30th, to commemorate the publishing of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons. The purpose of this event is to set a particular day as a day to support free speech, support the right to criticize and satirize religion, and to oppose any resolutions or laws, binding or otherwise, that discourage or inhibit free speech of any kind. The focus on 'blasphemy' is simply because it is such a salient issue, and one for which a lot of consciousness-raising is necessary.

The goal is not out to promote hate or violence. While many perceive blasphemy as insulting and offensive, it isn't about getting enjoyment out of ridiculing and insulting others. The day was created as a reaction against those who would seek to take away the right to satirize and criticize a particular set of beliefs given a privileged status over other beliefs. Criticism and dissent towards opposing views is the only way in which any nation with any modicum of freedom can exist.
To commemorate the day and celebrate free speech, here's something I made a few years ago that some people think is kind of blasphemous: It's Robojesus!

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Some advice for internet communities

There's been a big brouhaha over at Mormon Matters. Basically what happened is that the mostly absentee owner (whom I don't know, but whose work I admire) got into a kerfluffle with some of the admins (several of whom I know and admire), who had the temerity to question his decisions and think that they had the right to set community norms. So he revoked their admin privileges. (I'm sure that story sounds sadly familiar to some of my longest-time internet friends.) Very not cool.

I could write a lot more, but a) I'm not an insider and b) I've already made several comments on a couple of other blogs so I'm pretty much written out on the subject. All I meant to do was give a quick thumbs down at Main Street Plaza and delete Mormon Matters from my blogroll (so MM will lose the five hits a month it gets from here -- that'll show 'im), but I've gotten caught up in the conversation.

Anyway, you can read an ex-admin's side here, the owner's side here, and some back and forth about the story (including several longish comments by me) here. And you can look around the bloggernacle for more.

What I really wanted to do with this post is offer some advice to internet communities.

Musical interlude: Fountains of Wayne, "Mexican Wine"

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/29/2010)

Matt Taibbi goes inside the Tea Party in his inimitable style and finds it already being co-opted.

White America has lost its mind.

Now banks are just stealing houses:
Given that the IMF and others believe a large part of the “structural unemployment” in our country is related to the struggling housing market and underwater and barely-hanging on homeowners, what is to be done? One option is to allow for options like lien-stripping in bankruptcy courts, reseting mortgages by zip code, etc. Another option is for courts to accelerate foreclosures by ignoring due process, proper documentation and legal process in order to kick people out of their homes and preserve the value of senior tranches of RMBS while giving mortgage servicers a nice kickback.

What option do you think our country is taking?
Unpublished Life magazine Hell's Angels photos from 1965. Really interesting photos, and the photographer's nostalgia for the weeks he spent with the group is rather amusing too.

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Musical interlude: The Flaming Lips, "She Don't Use Jelly"

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Atheists/agnostics, Mormons, and Jews know a little about religion; everyone else is an ignoramus

Everybody's talking about this Pew Forum survey of religious knowledge in America. It asked 32 questions about religion. (I knew the answers to 31 out of 32, BTW.)

Here's a PDF with the complete survey, the correct answers, and who got what right. You can also take a shorter quiz here. (I got 15 out of 15 right on the quiz, but only because I found out the answer I missed on the full survey.)

The highest-scoring subgroups, in order, were atheists/agnostics, Jews, and Mormons (although the scores were so close as to be a statistical tie). I've seen a few people bragging a little about the results on some atheist blogs, but there's one thing wrong with that. The average score of those three groups was around 65 percent.

That's right. The knowledgeable groups still got a D, unless you grade on a curve. It wasn't that they did well, so much as everybody else did horribly. So I think my post title is more accurate: Atheists/agnostics, Mormons, and Jews know a little about religion; everyone else is an ignoramus.

(In America, anyway. To the extent one can generalize from survey results.)

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/28/2010)

This is a news website article about a scientific paper. It's also the funniest satire I've read in a long time. (But the sad thing is I have no doubt that some journalists will begin consciously using it as a template.)

You may have heard that yet another powerful homophobic preacher, Bishop Eddie Long, has been accused of clandestinely engaging in teh gay (and coercing teenage boys, no less). Jelani Cobb (on TNC's blog) has a beautifully written account of a visit to Long's church.

Asperger's Syndrome in the workplace.

Star Wars propaganda posters.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/21/2010)

What it's like to be poor (read the comments too).

By way of contrast, the whining of the rich: a "truly amazing pasticcio of mendacity, ignorance, and small-minded cupidity." Also, although there are no lines as good as that one, here's a more thorough takedown that identifies the real source of the whine: the rich can no longer live like the super-rich, and that makes (some of) them sad.

Cross-dressing girls in Afghanistan: "...some families without sons pick a girl-child to be a boy. One day they cut her hair, change her name, and put her in boy clothes. They then send her out into the world as a boy."

The Washington (DC) Shakespeare Company will perform Hamlet in Klingon. (And Orange Hoodie will be an extra!)

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Musical interlude: Arvo Pärt, "Spiegel im Spiegel"

"Mirror in (a) Mirror," From the movie Gerry...

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/20/2010)

The latest Swedish mystery novel: The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut.

Truth in advertising: pattern in cat's fur says "cat."

How to record the cops (instant streaming is best).

Why you should read Ta-Nehisi Coates: because (even though he makes an annoying number of typos and grammatical errors) he can write like this, brilliant both in his insight and his prose as he describes his desire to understand the minds of slaveholders:
In this society, we view compassion as a favor, something along the lines of forgiveness extended to the humble and deserving. No. My compassion is utterly selfish, and is rooted in a craving for power. It is compelled by my curiosity, itself, just another name for hunger, for desire, for want of the great power of knowing. It is not enough for me to sit around scoring morality points on dead people, all the while blind to the living morality of this troubled time. There's no power in that. I need to know more.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another follow-up to "Science rocks/philosophy sucks"

I wanted to follow up on a few things related to my post on science and philosophy.

I'll start off by saying again that although it represents my real opinion, the post wasn't meant to be taken very seriously. I'd have thought that using words like "rocks" and "sucks" would've been enough of a hint at that (along with the tag "humor" at the bottom). But maybe not. Anyway, I'll be a little more serious in this post. (Mostly.)

Second, I am (obviously) neither a trained scientist nor a trained philosopher. If you think that means that I have absolutely no right to pontificate on either subject, well, fuck you* fine. I disagree. I have a computer, an internet connection, and a blog; that gives me the right to pontificate on anything I want.

Third, contra some opinions at reddit, I know the difference between epistemology and ontology (although they can be frustratingly difficult to tease apart, and far be it from me to ever sneer at anyone who confuses them once in awhile). I talked about epistemology in my post, not ontology. The Gouldian definition of "fact" that I used ("In science, 'fact' can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.'") is very much a question of epistemology. It makes "facts" a question of what we know, not of what is.

Musical interlude: Laibach, "Tanz mit Laibach"


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In which I feel ambivalent about blogging...

Another one of my posts has gotten picked up on reddit. It's nothing like the last time it happened, though. I've gotten a couple of hundred extra visits instead of 10,000-plus. Very noticeable on a little blog like this one, but no longer WOW! territory. Still, many thanks to whoever posted it.

I can see several possible reasons for the post not taking off: it's about science and philosophy, not Star Wars, and thus of less general interest, and the reddit Philosophy board (group? page? I don't actually know what they call them) is much smaller than the Atheism one. But mostly I think it's because my "Star Wars destroyed my faith" post was much better written.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Science rocks; philosophy and theology suck

I've been thinking about thinking lately. More specifically, I've been thinking about epistemology. How do we know any fact? What are the tools we can use to know facts? And the point of this post: of the facts we know, what disciplines have been used to acquire that knowledge?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Vote for me, I'm a maniac!

This one has been going around all over the place this week. One Phil Davison wants the Republican nomination for the Stark County (Ohio) treasurer election. And when I say he wants it, I mean he really wants it. Really, really, really wants it.

As if that wasn't funny enough, in the comments, people were posting quotes from other righteous rants. I posted this from Animal House:
Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
To which a genius commenter replied:
@kurinbo The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, idiot. Do yourself a favour, from now on and look everything up on Wikipedia before you voice an opinion. It will lend credence to your side of the argument, and I'm not talking about CCR when I say credence. That level of ignorance is simply unacceptable, and makes you seem less informed than any kid in school... to think that you can likely vote. The Horror. The Horror.
There's really not much you can say to somebody that stupid. Even if one concedes that ignorance of Animal House is acceptable (which I do not), it should have been obvious from a) the movie quotes that other people were throwing around and b) the complete non sequitur nature of my comment that it was a quote from somewhere. But that's just further proof that YouTube has some of the worst (i.e., boring, dumb, useless, etc.) comments on the internet.

(BTW, my only response to him was quoting the next line: "Forget it. He's rolling." Several other commenters gently pointed out his error in typical YouTube comment fashion.)

Oh, and Phil didn't get the nomination. Too bad; it would have been fun to see more of him.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Musical interlude: Frente!, "Bizarre Love Triangle"

New Order cover.

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Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/9/2010)

It's hard out there for a sane conservative. Daniel Larison keeps trying to make reality-based arguments. I wonder if anybody on his side is listening. This time he takes on an absurd article by Dinesh D’Souza.

Explaining opposition to the "Ground Zero Mosque" community center and mosque to be built two blocks away from the future site of the Ground Zero commercial buildings and shopping mall: "Tolerance for minorities tends to wane when the country is at war with co-religionists of the minority group, during periods of economic decline, and during election struggles when politicians can use the issue as a way to mobilize the electorate."

On the Koran burning (or not) nutjob, Rick Pearlstein says the real problem is the media:
The problem is that elite media gatekeepers have abandoned their moral mandate to stigmatize uncivil discourse. Instead, too many outlets reward it. In fact, it is an ironic token of the ideological confusions of our age that they do so in the service of upholding what they understand to be a cornerstone of civility: the notion that every public question must be framed in terms of two equal and opposite positions, the "liberal" one and the "conservative" one, each to be afforded equal dignity, respect — and (the more crucial currency) equal space. This has made the most mainstream of media outlets comically easy marks for those actively working to push public discourse to extremes.

A 15-year-old American girl ran away with her online boyfriend to Brazil, where a court bizarrely gave the boy's uncle temporary custody. But here's the money quote from the girl herself:
"I definitely do not want to go back. I'd rather jump off a bridge with sharks and piranhas in the water, with meat tied to my neck, than go back there," she said. "Obviously, they don't care how I feel. I'm happy here."
You gotta love 15-year-olds.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/7/2010)

Noam Chomsky is the new judge on Simon Cowell's X Factor show (h/t: Mind Hacks).

Fareed Zakaria: "Nine years after 9/11, can anyone doubt that Al Qaeda is simply not that deadly a threat?" Me: No shit, Sherlock. It took you nine years to figure that one out?

Inside the "mind" of the right wing: Obama says "They talk about me like a dog." Muslims don't like dogs. Therefore, his words are further proof that Obama is a Muslim. Seriously, I know there are sane conservatives. Don't you ever feel like telling those people "Get off my side!"?

The guy who wrote the actual "Jump the Shark" Happy Days episode tries to defend the episode and himself. This quote, however, suggests that he may be a little unclear on the concept:
Fortunately, my career didn't jump the shark after "jump the shark." When "Happy Days" ended, I went directly to the ABC Paramount hit show "Webster" and, after that, wrote and produced, among others, "It's Your Move," "He's the Mayor, "The New Leave It to Beaver" and "Family Matters."
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Musical interlude: Blur, "Girls & Boys"

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Full Metal LOL

Full Metal Jacket is one of my favorite movies. As I said in my One-Sentence Movie Review, "The boot camp sequence is one of the best things ever in any movie, while the Vietnam part is just very, very good." If you've never seen it before, or it's been awhile, here's part of said boot camp sequence, featuring the creatively obscene Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (language not safe for work/children/prudes):

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/4/2010)

Dozens of "Men's Room" and "Women's Room" signs in a discussion of how gender is constructed. (The signs are still cool even if you're not interested in the gender discussion.)

My dog has hemispatial neglect!

Fascinating pictures and discussion of a Tomahawk missile test blowing up an airplane and the actual mechanism by which the explosion and fire happen.

My favorite "Hi, I'm a Mormon" profile (h/t: The Liberal Agnostic).

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O Lord, how long shall I cry?

Roger Ebert does this thing where he puts strange pictures on his blog and invites readers to write captions for them. It's often very funny.

Anyway, I enjoyed today's picture, and my caption, so I've reproduced them below.

O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! (Habakkuk 1:2)

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Covers that you might not have known are covers: "Susie Q"

Lots of times, the most familiar version of a song isn't the original version. I'll be posting some of these "covers that you might not have known are covers" on Saturdays.

"Susie Q"

Familiar version: Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968)
Original version: Dale Hawkins (1957)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Musical interlude: The Faces, "I Know I'm Losing You"

It's easy to forget how great Rod Stewart used to be (and what a tight band the Faces were). Here's a reminder.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (9/1/2010)

Some devout Mormons discuss why God won't heal schizophrenics. (Or amputees. Or quadriplegics. Or people with MS. Or with Alzheimer's disease. Etc.) None of them go near the Big Scary Answer, though.

An answer to self-serving "no one could have known" excuses about Iraq:
One thing we can be fairly sure about is that thousands of Americans who are now dead would still be alive and tens of thousands of Americans who are now wounded, some of them catastrophically, would not have been. We also know that America would not be perceived throughout the region and the world as lawless aggressor, our relations with any number of important allies, including Turkey, would not have been badly damaged, and jihadists would not have been given an open killing field on which they were largely free to murder people by the thousands, nor would jihadists have been given such a powerful boost to their propaganda and recruiting. We know that American attention and resources would not have been distracted for years from the war in Afghanistan, which might have otherwise been brought to a close by now, and the American military would not be so badly strained and overstretched. If the U.S. had not invaded, Iranian influence in the region would not have grown as much as it has, a refugee crisis in which millions have been displaced and Iraq’s professional classes have been decimated would not have occurred, and the complete dismantling of the Iraqi state and military apparatus would not have happened.

A rush transcription of Obama's speech on Iraq (language NSFW/C/P).

Rule 34 (if you can imagine it, there is porn of it) in action, cosplay edition (NSFW! Seriously, it's a porn site, although there's nothing very naughty on the front page, so don't click on it if you'll get in trouble.)

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Musical interlude: 4 Non Blondes, "What's Up"

One of the best songs of the '90s...

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