Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eugene's fun night of blood and terror

Protip:  If you're taking advice from Insanity Wolf, your life has gone very wrong somehow.

If you are taking recommendations, I would recommend that you do not spend the last night of the year covered and blood and too worried to sleep.

First off, I'm OK, thanks for asking.  The blood wasn't mine.

Let me start from the beginning.  So last night (around 2 am) I'm happily sleeping like a drunk baby, snug between Suicide Dachshund and my big pillow when I'm rudely awakened by a loud and disturbing noise.  It was something to the effect of THUD! groan... *pause*, THUD! groan... *pause* THUD!  By the third THUD! I had gone from dreaming soundly in bed to being out the door in a hyper adrenaline state.  What had happened was that Oom Eddie (for reasons unknown) decided to exit his room at high speed in the dark and walked into his door face first.  This in turn set off a chain reaction of him trying to get up, losing his balance and falling again, then trying to get up again and slipping in the big pool of blood by his feet and hitting his face on the doorframe again.  I have no idea how long this cycle would have continued if I didn't run over to help him up.  Probably for the best that we didn't find out.  I don't see that playing out well in court:  "No your honour, I did not beat Mr Language to death.  He just slipped and fell.  Fourteen times!  No your Honour, I'm not trying to be funny..."

Anyway, so I helped him to the bathroom, stopped the bleeding, cleaned up the bloody floors and walls, got him back in bed, frantically googled "concussion symptoms" (srsly, how did anyone live pre-internet?), checked for a concussion and got him an ice cold coke (for the shock) and some headache tablets (for the pain).  Then I spent the rest of the morning worrying that I missed something concussion wise (because getting medical info off the net is risky, duh!) and worrying that perhaps giving him aspirin was a stupid thing to do because its a blood thinner and I had just stopped him from bleeding like a New Years Eve goat sacrifice.  To top it all off, I got an empathy headache and kept smelling blood even though I washed myself like Lady Macbeth and bleached the floors.  It occurs to me just now that I forgot to wash my feet and I did step in a lot of blood so I guess I'll be washing my bedding today too since that means I got back in bed with bloody feet.  Awesome.

Long story short, Oom Eddie seems to be fine apart from looking like he lost a knopkierie fight.  He's on his way to the doctor now to get his wounds looked at because one or more of those gashes are probably going to require stitches. 

On the bright side, provided there is no more bleeding of any kind tonight, things can only look up in the new year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Persecutor Envy

Some time ago I did a blog post on a Munchhausen syndrome type malady that plagues many Western Christians called "Persecution Envy".  Persecution Envy causes the sufferer to live with the deep need to feel persecuted at all times, causing them to go to ridiculous lengths to find ways to make themselves feel as such.  These ways tend to be so inanely pathetic that it's hard to believe they actually take themselves seriously but since these people are usually folks who have never known actual persecution in any form I guess it could be possible that they just don't really understand the term "persecution".

There is however another strain of envy, spreading amongst Christians* in the West that is related but significantly different namely "Persecutor Envy".  Persecutor Envy causes the sufferer to live with a deep seated jealousy of all religions that stifle criticism and satire through violence and terror, most notably Islam.  In fact, one would be perfectly correct in calling this condition "Fatwa Envy" or "Jihad Envy" I think.  It almost  always tends to manifest as passive aggressive statements on how no one who makes a joke or criticism regarding Christianity would dare make the same comment about Islam.  It will usually also be pointed out that this only happens because Christians (unlike the heathen) are sweet, gentle souls whose longsuffering nature allows them to silently** bear these vicious verbal assaults with grace and humility.  Despite that, I have to say it is rather difficult to listen to these statements and not get the feeling that they wish people would fear them the way they fear reprisals by radical Islam.  Whenever they wax on about how Muslims can do and say whatever they like while everyone gets to make fun of Christians without reprisal it's hard not to feel that they are dreaming of how wonderful the world would be if they could fire up the Inquisition again!

Now much like Persecution Envy, I'm not sure that Persecutor Envy can be cured but I nevertheless prescribe a healthy dose of truth.

Firstly, anyone who claims that the critics of Christianity are loathe to similarly criticize Islam is talking out of their ass.  I'm sorry, there is no diplomatic way to put it, a claim like that is absolute bovine excrement*** and only demonstrates one thing - that the person making this claim didn't even spend 5 seconds of fact checking before pulling this winner straight from their nether region.  Any critic of religion in general and Christianity in particular I can think of - from Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens to Myers, Brayton and Thunderf00t - have all spent plenty of time criticizing Islam.  Anyone who claims differently just never bothered to look.  If there is a difference in the amount of criticism leveled at Christianity compared to that leveled at Islam and other faiths then the reason is simply geographical.  Someone who lives in a majority Christian country would be dealing with Christianity for the majority of their time, I don't know why it should even be necessary to point that out.

To be fair, Persecutor Envy usually just responds to criticism in the form of "OK sure what we did was bad but did you see what that Muslim guy did?  It was super terrible!  Why don't you criticize him instead?".  What really gets the condition to flare up in full blown "Oh if only we could still burn people at the stake!" mode are jokes at the expense of Christians. I have a theory that your sense of humour is inversely proportional to how much of a fundamentalist you are. 

Just recently the Saturday Night Live cast did a sketch about Jesus visiting Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos and Pat Robertson did not care for it at all (for your convenience, you can check out both clips here).  Not only did he see this sketch as an example of bigotry against Christians, he also took a moment to reminisce on how high the death toll would be if SNL produced such a sketch featuring Mohammed.  What Pastor Pat and others like him do not grasp however is that "fear of bombing" isn't really the reason why comedians don't have much Islamic material.  Actually it's far more pragmatic than that.

It's simple really, if you don't understand something then jokes about it won't be funny to you.  I didn't find that Tebow sketch terribly funny because I don't follow American Football and I had to look up who Tim Tebow is.  Rule of thumb, the more reading you have to do to understand a joke the less you will laugh at it!  But don't take my word for it, here, listen to an actual comedian:

Get it?  We have fun with the things we are familiar with.  That's why I, having grown up a fundamentalist Christian, find blogs like Stuff Christian Culture Likes and Scotteriology really funny - they are written by fellow recovering fundamentalists talking about this particular Evangelical sub-culture I know all too well.  If I grew up Buddhist, I don't think I would find jokes about terrible Contemporary Christian Music acts all that funny.  We can hardly joke about things we know nothing about now can we?  Also, I think there is an unwritten rule that you don't joke about those outside your own group.  A poor person can tell jokes about being poor and it's funny - a rich person telling jokes about poor people just comes across as cruel.  Telling (and laughing at) cruel jokes about other groups you don't know or understand lessens you as a person.  Most people understand that.

So instead of wishing there was a way to make everyone who says things you don't like shut up forever, why not ask yourself why people are saying the things they do?  I know this isn't the easy way, Persecutor Envy will make you make that they're simply doing it because everyone is evil and controlled by Satan and therefore they hate you because you have the One True Faith.  Fight that impulse and try to see if there are other reasons.  Is that thing you're being criticized for maybe something you need to work on?  Perhaps you're being called an ignorant bigot because you're being ignorant and bigoted?  They could be wrong of course but what's the harm in reevaluating your position?  And those people laughing at you, any chance that maybe they're making fun of you because you're being ridiculous?  Look at that Tim Tebow sketch for instance.  Wouldn't you agree that believing in an all powerful Creator who cares so deeply about the outcome of a regional sporting event that He actually intervenes because of the prayers of one of the players is maybe an extremely ridiculous thing to believe?  Also, didn't Jesus have a lot to say about how He disapproved of public displays of piety?   Maybe no one is mocking Tim Tebow because he's a Christian, maybe they're mocking him because he didn't listen to Jesus!

Look, power is seductive.  Not the good kind or seductive either!  Historically the more power Christians have had to censor and control others, the worse it turned out for everyone.  So don't envy those who use their power to prevent others from laughing at them.  Take a moment and think about what that says about them.  Think about what that says about their beliefs.  Now think about what it says about you that you wish your world could look more like theirs. If you have to force people to respect you through fear and threat, can your beliefs even be considered remotely good?  Can you?  If people are laughing at you or critizising you because you are doing stupid things then you only have yourself to blame.  If they are mocking you for doing what is good, then they are the tools and they will be the ones who will end up looking stupid.  You don't have to take my advice, though it is in the Bible too:

"If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name."  1 Peter 4:14-16

*I'm focusing on the manifestation of this disease amongst the religious but a good case can be made that you will find this amongst the members of any group losing their grip on absolute power over society and culture.
**It's worth noting that when Christians in the West suffer in silence, they do so rather loudly.  There is after all no point in bearing hardship if no one is going to admire you for it!
***I'm trying to class up my blog a little. Is it working for you?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

To all my friends, followers, lurkers and complete strangers passing by, have a very merry Christmas!  Wherever you are, I hope you are having a great time that includes a room full of loved ones and at least one food coma.  I know that's my plan for the holidays!

If I may may take a moment, to suggest a really great gift this season I would like to suggest giving the gift of Community.  I don't mean human interaction and togetherness I mean ... OK woah, that came out horrible!  You know what,  you should totally give people the gift of human interaction and togetherness this season!  Reach out to people, talk to them, listen to them, spend time with them - this is a really good thing!  But while you're doing that, also share the TV series Community!  I love this show and it's currently in serious danger of being cancelled and I can't just sit by and watch another great comedy go the way of Arrested Development!

Here's the thing though, you can't just start anywhere.  I saw a couple of episodes from season 2 last year and I thought it was OK but I couldn't see what all the fuss was about.  That was my mistake though.  You don't just show up to the Greendale Community College study room and sit down with the group, you will feel left out.  You need to take the journey with them from the beginning.  So get season 1, sit down (with some friends and lots of food) and start watching it from the beginning.  If you think the first couple of episodes are pretty standard sitcom stuff, just stay tuned.  It will win you over and by the time you reach the first paintball episode you will wonder why you ever watched anything else!  Unlike say Big Bang Theory, this show doesn't just point at nerds and geeks and go "Nerds, right?! They so weird!!"  This is a show by nerds, for nerds and if you stick with it you will be greatly rewarded.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Intro to Eugenics

So you're considering an eugenics project?  Need some advice on how to get it right?  Well you've come to the right place!  Here is the only thing you need to know about eugenics - you have no business messing around with eugenics.  There.  You can forget everything else and just remember that.  But that's not going to be enough for you is it?  Fine, I'll elaborate.

You have no business attempting an eugenics program for one simple reason - you are too stupid.  Trust me, I mean that in the kindest way possible.  I'm not talking down to you, please don't look so offended.  It's really nothing personal, really.  Look, I don't know you but I don't really need to.  If you are a human being (and I'm assuming you are) then you aren't up to the task.  You may be the best and the brightest human to ever grace walk this pale blue dot but when it comes to eugenics you may as well be as smart as a small bag of rocks for all the good it will do.  OK so now you feel offended and you're still not convinced that you aren't supposed to meddle with eugenics.  Fine!  Here's the long answer.

Look, no one is saying you can't do it, I'm saying you shouldn't.  We clearly can do it and we've been doing it for thousands of years.  I have living proof that we can get some pretty interesting results via eugenics sleeping right next to me as I type this actually.

Pictured:  Eugenics

My sweet Suicide Dachshund here is the very embodiment of why we as human beings suck at eugenics.  First of all, we don't know when to quit.  Look, I will grant you that eugenics gave us all our domesticated farm animals, crops and pets.  If we just turned a wolf into a dog and then stopped everything would be fine.  But we didn't.  We couldn't.  It's just not in our nature!  That's why we now have the Chihuahua and the Sphinx cat.  It probably won't end there either, eventually someone will breed something that is even more of an abomination.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder right?  What I see as an unholy abomination others may see as a thing of beauty.  That's true.  Which brings me to my second reason:  we value all the wrong things.  Evolution can be a messy process but it works like a charm.  It may be a blind watchmaker but it builds watches that work dammit!  Human beings on the other hand are less pragmatic than nature.  When we practice eugenics we focus on eye colour, hair, ears perking just so and tails curling in a very certain way (dogs, I'm focusing on dogs for now).  That's how we end up with animals that have trouble breathing because we just had to have pets with flat faces.  Our pets suffer from hip dysplasia and intervertebral disc disease because we would rather have them look a certain way than for them to have healthy and long lives.  Great Danes have the shortest lifespan of any breed (according to Animal Planet's Dog Breed A-Z) and suffer from a horrible condition called "bloat" or "gastric torsion".  See, their stomachs aren't attached to their ribcages so if they run around with a full stomach, their stomach can flip over and basically knot their intestines causing a very painful death for the animal.  Natural selection would never tolerate such a condition.  Artificial selection (aka eugenics) on the other hand totally would because we would rather have a certain shape of head and a certain length of leg than an animal that won't live a short, pain filled life.  This is really bad when we do it to our pets.  It becomes infinitely worse when we try do do it to ourselves.

See the third way in which we lack the intelligence for successful eugenics is the tiny issue that we do not know the future.  Combined with our tendencies to value the wrong attributes, this spells certain doom.  Let's run a little thought experiment for an example here.  Imagine for a moment that the Nazis won World War 2 and that they then instituted and completed their eugenics program.  Everyone on earth is now a 7 foot tall, blonde Adonis with a body like Mr Universe.  We all have blue eyes, white skin and we can run faster, jump higher and bench press more weight than any humans ever.  How useless would that all be?  We don't push plowshares through the earth anymore, we don't stride across battlefields waving giant swords and axes at each other anymore!  Unless everyone on earth is going to be an underwear model, having big muscles and wavy blonde hair is pointless.  None of that is useful in the information age.  How does being tall and handsome help you when you're stuck behind a computer all day?  How does being strong and fast help you work in a cubicle?  None of that would help you get into space either come to think of it.  In fact I'm pretty sure there is a reason astronauts aren't built like Eastern European bouncers - in a space shuttle, space is at a premium!  So if Hitler had his dreams come true, we may have very well bred ourselves right out of the space- and information ages entirely.

So there you have it.  No matter how smart you are, you are too stupid to be good at eugenics.  There is just no way you can understand enough or see far enough ahead to not screw it up for everyone involved.  Evolution may not be perfect but it still does a better job of adapting species to their environment than we have ever managed.  Actually someone said all this much better than I could way back when Eugenics was still the great white hope:

"The history of the race shows endless examples of the pain and suffering that men have inflicted upon each other by their cocksureness and their meddling.

    We know something about biology. We know a little about eugenics. We have no knowledge of what kind of man would be better than the one that Nature is evolving to fit the environment which he cannot escape. We have neither facts nor theories to give us any evidence based on biology or any other branch of science as to how we could breed intelligence, happiness or anything else that would improve the race. We have no idea of the meaning of the world “improvement.” We can imagine no human organization that we could trust with the job, even if eugenicists knew what should be done, and the proper way to do it. Yet in the face of all this we have already started on the course, and the uplifters are urging us to go ahead, with no conception of where we are going, or what route we shall take!

    In an age of meddling, presumption, and gross denial of all the individual feelings and emotions, the world is urged, not only to forcibly control all conduct, but to remake man himself! Amongst the schemes for remolding society this is the most senseless and impudent that has ever been put forward by irresponsible fanatics to plague a long-suffering race."

Extract from "The Eugenics Cult", an essay by Clarence Darrow that appeared in The American Mercury, Volume VIII, Number 30, June 1926 (available in full online here)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Remedial Class Warfare

I stole this from Leaving Alex Jonestown.  Go read her Christmas countdown series , it's scary and hilarious!

I don't think I could work for Fox News.  It's not just because I'm not blonde a pretty enough either.  Having to constantly act outraged at the most trivial bullshit imaginable would just take too much of a toll on my general wellbeing, I don't think I could handle that.  If I had to spend my days acting like a new type of lightbulb is the worst thing in the history of anything I would have to fucking kill myself before the inevitable aneurysm puts me into a permanently vegetative state.  I don't know which is worse either, having to constantly pretend that the most trivial nonsense is worse than Hitler or having to ignore the genuinely terrible things out there because you're paid to pretend it's the best thing since the discovery of cheese.

In a season where many in the media are even more nonsensically outraged than usual, Fox has once again managed to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack with its current outrage at The Muppet Movie:

That's right, the fact that the bad guy in the movie is a rich oil tycoon means that the Muppets are teaching class warfare to kids.  Fox totally calls it like it is there, liberal Hollywood is  totally demonizing the rich!  It started way back when with classic movies like It's a wonderful life.  Basically every Bond movie ever along with all Superman movies that featured Lex Luthor had evil rich villains.  Of course there are also horror movies like Hostel where evil rich people pay to torture and kill young people and sci-fi movies like The Phantom Menace where the Trade Federation (a group of interplanetary job creators simply protesting a tax hike) are portrayed as the bad guys.  Also, when the A-Team got hired it was usually because some rich guy was trying to muscle out a smaller competitor.  In pretty much any period piece or Western I can think of the bad guy is almost always the rich landowner/tycoon trying to destroy the hard working poor.  Actually, come to think of it most villains tend to be rich and powerful people oppressing the poor and disenfranchised. It makes sense though, having the protagonist be richer and more powerful than the antagonist just wouldn't be good storytelling, why would anyone root for someone like that after all?  This is another reason I can't work for Fox, I don't think I can pretend that I think Ebenezer Scrooge should have been the hero while holding a straight face.

Of course while Fox I knows all about the infamous liberal bias of Hollywood, they may not realize that this evil liberal bias against the rich is everywhere.  Not just in movies and the media but also in books!  And not just in radical fringe works like The Communist Manifesto either, I'm talking about the world's favourite all time best seller - The Bible.

The Bible is just class warfare from cover to cover*.  Well by Fox standards anyway.  You have Jesus commanding a job creator to redistribute his wealth to the welfare cases.  There is the socialist setup of the original church which is portrayed in a positive light.  Jesus even told this one parable in which a rich man goes to hell because he was rich and a poor man goes to heaven because he was poor - not because of their creeds, dogma or belief systems, riches and poverty are the only things mentioned in the parable.  Also that whole thing about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven didn't seem very pro-capitalism at all!  It wasn't just Jesus being all hippie either.  As The Slacktivist pointed out recently, the prophet Nathan once used a story about an evil rich man who took from a man who had very little to illustrate to King David just how evil his actions have been.  In fact, demonizing the rich seems to be a running theme with the prophets.  The Bible has lots to say about money but it rarely has a good word for those who have a lot of it.  It has plenty of really bad things to say for those who make their money by exploiting others, those who don't pay their workers fair wages (promptly) and especially those who foreclose on widows (See Deut 24:15; Isa 58Mark 12:40 for but a few examples)

Clearly the Bible is one long piece of anti-capitalist propaganda and I bet Fox would be outraged that it is taught to children.  Of course they can't be outraged by it since they've clearly never read it.

*To be fair, Fox is also wall to wall class warfare but unlike the Bible, they side with wealthy.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Vindication Videos

Every once in a while I come across something that totally vindicates something I blogged about earlier.  I won't lie, it feels good to be right.  Sure, I always try to put my facts on the table when I post something so it's not like I just pull these posts out of my ass but still, it's nice when you find something that corroborates your original thesis.  Usually I resist the urge to do the "I told you so" dance but this is the season for giving is it not?  Now I could do a separate post on each one but that seems a little bit like cheating to get my post numbers up.  So instead of doing three separate short posts, here they are all rolled into one:

Most recent first.  In my previous post I talked about being a better person than the generations before you.  I found this old PSA that shows that we are indeed managing to do that.  Sure, there are still plenty of people out there who consider homosexuals to be mentally ill predators intent on infecting young people with gayness but those people are fast becoming a minority.  While they may still be a vocal minority they at least don't get to be as vocal as this anymore:

See?  It really does get better.

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.  When I blogged about Christians saving their first kiss for the wedding day I'd wager some people didn't think I was entirely serious.  Surely such a thing doesn't happen in real life, right?  Oh but it does and now I have video to back me up.  I did my best to describe the practice in my post but I don't think I could ever hope to accurately relay the awkwardness of it all the way this video does:

OK, so maybe that wasn't quite a thousand words.  More like three - Hard. To. Watch. (Especially that kiss.)

Finally, did you catch Lady Gaga's Thanksgiving special?  If you didn't then you missed out on something truly amazing - and I'm not just saying that because I'm a huge fan.  It was a thing of beauty, pure and simple.  If her talent didn't bowl you over then you are dead inside!  And the waffles!  ZOMG the waffles!!  But I digress.  Remember when I said that Lady Gaga was the last of the Nazirites?  If not, go back and read what I said there and then watch this video:

Did I nail it or what?

It's OK, you don't have to answer, we both know I totally nailed it.  Her speech at the 6:30 mark was exactly what I said being a Nazirite is all about.