left biblioblography: March 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Bane Of Bloggery – Wandering Witless Minstrels Named ‘Anonymous’

I’ve had to shut off the mechanism that allows anonymous posters. I have come to detest these sanctimonious little turds with a bright blue flame.

On my blog, they all seem to gravitate to this post. One that’s well over 2 years old.

Among the idiotic pronouncements are:

(Latest idiocy is….)

If this person was truly an atheist there wouldn't be a need for all this personal bashing...most atheist just don't care at all whether a God exists or not

Translation: you’re not a real atheist if you have an outspoken opinion. Same idiot:

if you were to do more research on this the logical thinking behind this is actually SOUND and PROVABLE.

This is just one of the many naked assertions some of these whiny little toads make: none of these faceless lack wits EVER BRING ANYTHING TO THE TABLE outside of some stupid comment. Obviously all that’s needed is an opinion, uninformed though it may be, it’s still valid! What horseshit.

You can read the rest of the egregious crap if you’d like – but if you want to post on my blog and tell me I’m not a ‘true atheist’, or some other such rot, at the very least, you should have another name than ‘anonymous’, and be able to respond to something resembling debate (I use that verb loosely, since most anonymous posters are grade-school kids that are all mouth and trousers and little else). If this inconveniences anyone else, I’m truly sorry, but I’m really sick of my inbox becoming a litter box.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Aimee McPherson – Another Evangelist Gone Wandering From The Flock

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!250px-AimeeSempleMcPhersonVsGorillaOfEvolution

In this day and age, the trademark of an evangelist who’s bitten the dust AKA ‘gone astray’ seems to be a modern phenomenon. Names such as Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, and James Bakker are very much household words. However, much like serial killers, there is a long history of these shepherds gone astray. One such was Aimee McPherson, staunch preacherette and anti-evolutionist.


McPherson was born Aimee Elizabeth Kennedy on October 9, 1890, on a farm near the town of Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada. Her father, James Kennedy, was a farmer, and her mother, Mildred, called Minnie, worked for the Salvation Army.Little is written about McPherson's father, and it is unclear what impact James Kennedy had on his daughter. It was through her mother that McPherson got her first exposure to religious exercise, which would have an impact on her later evangelical crusades. Mrs. Kennedy’s work with the Salvation Army included providing for people through soup kitchens. This reflected her idea of bringing faith to the people, which was reflected in Aimee’s later work in spreading the Gospel.

Historian Matthew Avery Sutton in his biography of McPherson documents that as a child, one of McPherson's favorite games was to play Salvation Army with her classmates, and at home she would create a congregation out of her dolls and would give them a sermon. Yet as a teenager, McPherson would stray from the teachings of her mother. She started to read novels and attend movies and dances, all things the Salvation Army disapproved of at the time. Even more shattering to her faith, McPherson while in high school was introduced to the teachings of Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

McPherson was deeply confused and wrestled with her conscience over who was right: her mother's faith or her high school geology teacher. McPherson began to quiz local pastors over the relationship between faith and science. None of the pastors were able to give her the answer she was looking for.In frustration, McPherson sent a letter to a national Canadian newspaper, the Family Herald and Weekly Star, asking why taxpayers supported public schools that taught evolution. Later, while still in high school, she began a crusade against evolution, which would remain a life-long passion for her. This crusade also brought the teenager her first taste of celebrity as her letter brought responses from all over North America, according to Sutton.


After the birth of her son, McPherson suffered from postpartum depression and several serious health issues. She tried to settle into a quieter home-life, but her personal call to Christian service remained. While in her sickbed after her second operation within two years, she recommitted herself to what she felt was God's call. Soon thereafter, her health improved. After this near-death experience in 1913, she embarked upon a preaching career in Canada and the United States. In keeping with the promise to God made in her illness, she left home by June 1915 and began evangelizing and holding tent revivals, first by traveling up and down the eastern part of the United States, then expanding to other parts of the country.

Her revivals were often standing room only; on one occasion she met in a boxing ring, but had to hold her meeting before and after the boxing match. According to the PBS-TV American Experience documentary "Sister Aimee," she did, however, walk around during the match with a sign inviting the crowd to attend her service after the match and "knock out the Devil". On one occasion in San Diego, the National Guard had to be brought in to control the crowd of over 30,000 people. People often stood in line to wait many hours for the next service to begin in order to be assured a seat. McPherson was committed to saving as many people as possible and did what she could to ensure the message she was providing was reaching as many as it could. Aimee had practiced tongue speaking, although she rarely emphasized it the way the majority of Pentecostals had previously. She also had been considered a great faith healer, with numerous claims of physical healing taking place, although this is something that became less important as her fame increased over the years.

She was a study in contrast: she reached out to both the KKK as well as immigrant workers.

I shall skip to the more irritating content:

Aimee Semple McPherson was very opposed to teaching evolution and became a big supporter of William Jennings Bryan during the Scopes Trial. In 1925 John Scopes was tried for teaching evolution in a Tennessee school, which was illegal at the time. Bryan and McPherson had worked together in the Angelus Temple on numerous occasions (Sutton 52). They both found the social implications as much as the theological ramifications of evolution troubling and they believed that social Darwinism had undermined students' morality (Sutton 52). According to McPherson, as was quoted by the New Yorker, evolution "is the greatest triumph of Satanic intelligence in 5,931 years of devilish warfare, against the Hosts of Heaven. It is poisoning the minds of the children of the nation" (Sutton 52). When William Jennings Bryan was involved with the Scopes trial she sent him a telegram which said, "Ten thousand members of Angelus temple with her millions of radio church membership send grateful appreciation of your lion hearted championship of the Bible against evolution and throw our hats in the ring with you . In order to celebrate the epic struggle that Bryan was facing she organized "an all night prayer service, a massive church meeting preceded by a Bible parade through Los Angeles". According to Marrow, Mayo declared that no city had followed the "monkey trial" with more emotional fervor than Los Angeles. No people shouted more loudly than the Angelenos for William Jennings Bryan to scotch the Devil. With the help of McPherson, Bryan gained support from numerous people.

And yet, despite all the collective ‘prayer’, despite her life-long battle, evolution is still in our schools. Why? Because it’s reality-based. It’s fairly apparent this woman wasn’t living in the here and now. The photo of her ‘battling the gorilla of evolution’ really epitomizes her woeful ignorance of the matter.

And of course, the essential ‘fall from grace’ followed (this is better than any modern soap opera):

On May 18, 1926, McPherson went to Ocean Park Beach, north of Venice Beach, with her secretary, to go swimming. Soon after arrival, McPherson disappeared. It was generally assumed at the time that she had drowned.

According to the PBS American Experience segment "Sister Aimee", which aired 7 April 2007, McPherson was scheduled to hold a service on the very day she vanished. McPherson's mother appeared and preached at the service in her place, and at the end announced, "Sister is with Jesus," sending parishioners into a tearful frenzy. Mourners crowded Venice Beach, and the commotion sparked days-long media coverage of the event, fueled in part by William Randolph Hearst's Los Angeles Examiner, and even including a poem by Upton Sinclair commemorating the "tragedy". Daily updates appeared in newspapers across the country, and parishioners held day-and-night seaside vigils. A futile search for the body resulted in one parishioner drowning and another diver dying from exposure.

At about the same time, Kenneth G. Ormiston, engineer for KFSG, also disappeared. According to American Experience, some believed McPherson and Ormiston, a married man with whom McPherson had developed a close friendship and had been having an affair, had run off together. About a month after the disappearance, McPherson's mother, Minnie Kennedy, received a ransom note, signed by "The Avengers", which demanded a half million dollars to ensure kidnappers would not sell McPherson into "white slavery". Kennedy later said she tossed the letter away, believing her daughter to be dead.

On June 23, 35 days after her disappearance, McPherson stumbled out of the desert in Agua Prieta, Sonora, a Mexican town just across the border from Douglas, Arizona. She claimed that she had been kidnapped, drugged, tortured, and held for ransom in a shack in Mexico, then had escaped and walked through the desert for about 13 hours to freedom.

Several problems were found with McPherson's story. Her shoes showed no evidence of a 13-hour walk-- indeed, they had grass stains on them after a supposed walk through the desert. The shack could not be found. McPherson showed up fully dressed while having disappeared wearing a bathing suit, and was wearing a wrist watch given to her by her mother, which she had not taken on her swimming trip. A grand jury convened on July 8 to investigate the matter, but adjourned 12 days later citing lack of evidence to proceed. However, several witnesses then came forward stating that they had seen McPherson and Ormiston at various hotels over the 32-day period.

Wow. Just, wow.

But wait! There’s more juicy bits!

McPherson continued her ministry after the controversy over the alleged abduction diminished, but she fell out of favor with the press. While she and her ministry still received a good deal of publicity, most of it was bad. Additionally, she became involved in power struggles for the church with her mother and daughter. McPherson suffered a nervous breakdown in August 1930.

On September 13, 1931, McPherson married again, this time to an actor and musician, David Hutton. The marriage got off to a rocky start: two days after the wedding, Hutton was sued for alienation of affection by a woman, Hazel St. Pierre, whom he claimed never to have met. He eventually settled the case by paying $5,000 to St. Pierre. While McPherson was away in Europe, she was incensed to discover Hutton was billing himself as "Aimee's man" in his cabaret singing act. The marriage also caused an uproar within the church. The tenets of Foursquare Gospel, established by McPherson, stated that one should not remarry while their previous spouse was still alive (which Harold McPherson was at the time). McPherson and Hutton separated in 1933, and divorced on March 1, 1934.

And of course, the piece-de-resistance: having an affair with Milton Berle!

In Milton Berle's autobiography, Milton Berle: An Autobiography he described a brief affair with McPherson in 1930. Supposedly he met McPherson while at the RKO Hill Street Theater in Los Angeles where he was doing a charity show. After his performance, he states that he waited for her backstage and she invited him to see the Angelus Temple. Berle states that they never made it there.

Instead of going to Angelus Temple, Berle asserts the two of them went to lunch, then to an apartment of hers so that McPherson could change into something "cooler". While Berle was waiting for McPherson in her apartment, she supposedly reappeared from her room wearing "a very thin, pale blue negligee". Berle could see that she was wearing nothing underneath and "'Come in' was all she said." Berle supposedly met with her on one other occasion at her apartment a few days later for sexual relations a second and final time. In Milton Berle: An Autobiography Berle recalled their second and final rendezvous: "This time, she just sent the chauffeur for me to bring me straight to the apartment. We didn't even bother with lunch. When I was dressing to leave, she stuck out her hand. "Good luck with your show, Milton". What the hell. I couldn't resist it. "Good luck with yours, Aimee." I never saw or heard from Aimee Semple McPherson again.”

She overdosed on medication – ruled accidental.

Here then, is the cautionary tale – and a premium example of how religion is a horrendous waste of time. Aimee was a bright, strong, charismatic woman who very well could have done marvelous, incredible things for our species. But she was misled by this delusion of the supernatural, that caused her to shut out reality, that led her down a path that ran contrary to her own natural inclinations. A horrible waste of time and life. How many more people must walk the road of the unreal, and find that nothing lay at the end of that road but a dead-end? It is to weep, sometimes.

Till the next post then.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Because Of Course, Islam Wouldn’t Take Advantage Of The Mentally Challenged…

The controversy over Fitna, like all such controversies, renders one fact about our world especially salient: Muslims appear to be far more concerned about perceived slights to their religion than about the atrocities committed daily in its name. Our accommodation of this psychopathic skewing of priorities has, more and more, taken the form of craven and blinkered acquiescence. – Sam Harris

It really beggars the imagination, sometimes:

Down’s syndrome bombers kill 91

Baghdad’s fragile peace was shattered yesterday when explosives strapped to two women with Down’s syndrome were detonated by remote control in crowded pet markets, killing at least 91 people in the worst attacks that the capital had experienced for almost a year.

Iraqi and American officials blamed al-Qaeda, and accused the terrorist organisation of plumbing new depths of depravity. Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, said that al-Qaeda’s use of mentally-handicapped women as bombers showed that it had “no political programme here that is acceptable to a civilised society and that this is the most brutal and the most bankrupt of movements”.

And why, pray tell, did they do such a horrible deed?

A mobile phone rang incessantly amid the shoes, prayer beads, identity cards and other debris. Sunni fundamentalists consider the selling of pets to be haram — forbidden on religious grounds.

Yet strangely:

Though the use of women in warfare violates religious taboos, they have obvious appeal for terrorists because they can conceal explosives beneath their black robes — abayas — and usually escape the rigorous body searches to which men are subjected.

Ah yes, the old mix ‘n match that ALL the religions do in the name of convenience.  As if it’s not horrifying enough that they send human beings to their deaths using shallow rhetoric and children’s fairy tales, that they lack the humanity and morals not to not use those less capable of making anything NEAR an informed decision compounds the horror. Not that any religious decision is informed: usually, it’s the opposite.

Islam is barbarism. So says this Infidel.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Write This Down On Your Calendars – King Katholic Rat Is Actually Correct About Something…

A christian troll on another blog brought this to my attention:

Guess who says pope was right about condoms, AIDS
Harvard scientist: Those mocking pontiff's stand are wrong

A senior Harvard research scientist confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI, who endured heavy criticism for declaring that condom distribution programs worsen the AIDS epidemic in Africa, was actually correct.

Dr. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development

Studies, told National Review Online last week that despite AIDS activists and media outlets pounding the pope for downplaying the effectiveness of condoms, the science actually supports the Catholic leader's claim.

"The pope is correct," Green told NRO, "or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope's comments."

"There is," Green added, "a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded 'Demographic Health Surveys,' between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction 'technology' such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by 'compensating' or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology."

– so I smirked my liberal smirk, and started doing some research. My first probe was looking into Thailand, which embarked on a campaign against STDS/AIDS (due to the high volume of both, as well as the casual sex industry, which is big business in that country).:

There are very few developing countries in the world where public policy has been effective in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS on a national scale, but Thailand is an exception. A massive programme to control HIV has reduced visits to commercial sex workers by half, raised condom usage, decreased the prevalence of STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) dramatically, and achieved substantial reductions in new HIV infections.

Thailand, though, is also a reminder that success can be relative. Its well funded, politically supported and comprehensive prevention programmes have saved millions of lives, reducing the number of new HIV infections from 143,000 in 1991 to 19,000 in 2003.  Nonetheless, more than one-in-100 adults in this country of 65 million people is infected with HIV, and AIDS has become a leading cause of death.3

Unless past efforts are sustained and new sources of infection are addressed, the striking achievements made in controlling the epidemic could now be put at risk. Factors such as an increase in risky sexual behaviour and a rising number of STI cases have led to concerns that Thailand could face a resurgence of HIV and AIDS in coming years.

And I recalled this:

The development of antibiotics in the 1940s made most of the severe venereal diseases of the time curable, namely gonorrhea and syphilis. In the early 1960s, The Pill became available; at first for married women only, but demand and changes in attitudes later led to it becoming available to unmarried women as well.

With the threat of disease and pregnancy now reduced, much of the post-WW2 baby boom generation fearlessly experimented with sex without considering marriage.

And the evolution of antibiotic-resistant STDs is documented history. Also, has the possibility of the advent of anti-AIDS drugs spurred some onto reckless behavior?

Here’s the qualification: you just can’t distribute condoms to folks and tell them they’re safe. Condoms break (American condoms are higher quality, so they do better), sometimes they slip off (I know this because I’m a gusher) and it’s about education. Human behavior being what it is, most folks think they can just wallow on into the deep end because the sharks have been driven off and ignore the barracudas because no one told them about that specific threat. So the right wingnuts seem to think that condoms are being distributed sans education (and for all I know, that may be the case).

Education breeds educated choices. And magic bullets don’t exist.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? – Watching The Watchmen

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase from the Roman poet Juvenal, which literally translates to "Who will guard the guards themselves?", and is variously translated in colloquial English as "Who watches the watchmen?", "Who watches the watchers?", "Who will guard the guards?", "Who shall watch the watchers?", "Who polices the police?" or other similar translations.

I haven’t watched the movie, but I have read the graphic novel, and for an interesting change of pace, I decided to buy the Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic.

It was a little bit of all right. Of course, there was no monkeying about with the storyline, so no liberties were taken. Kind of fun, though. My only complaint is that

  1. They should have had more voice talent, and
  2. It would’ve been nice to have actual women’s voices for the females characters

But other than that, it was an interesting way to spend some time. Be forewarned: we’re talking around 5 hours here. Luckily, it comes as a 2 disc set. If you enjoy the comics media, and like the idea of actually watching a motion comic, this is a must-get must-see.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Idiocy Of Theodicy – How Free Will Is The Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card


Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

Theodicy is defined as follows:

Argument for the justification of God, concerned with reconciling God's goodness and justice with the observable facts of evil and suffering in the world. Most such arguments are a necessary component of theism. Under polytheism, the problem is solved by attributing evil to a conflict of wills between deities. The solution is less simple in monotheism, and it can take several forms. In some approaches, the perfect world created by God was spoiled by human disobedience or sin. In others, God withdrew after creating the world, which then fell into decay.

I overheard this ridiculous conversation a few weeks back. There’s this store called East Meets West in Mountain View. It’s what anyone would call a New Age nook. I wander around in there sometimes – it has a lot of pretty knick-knacks, the place smells wonderful, and it has the occasional good Tai Chi book (plus I occasionally buy incense, my sense of smell has come back gangbusters since I quit smoking).

So I pass this fellow, who’s dressed all in black, white hair, white mustache, chin pubes, my guess is he fancies himself some kind of wizard (the clothes are modern, it’s just the image projected). A few minutes later, I overhear this woman talking about how she’s from Columbia. Then she tells Mr. Wizard that somehow, the universe wanted her to move to the US. I bite my tongue and move on, thinking, “Geez, yeah, YOU’RE not a little self-involved.”

So my old HS buddy, the Young Earth creationist/bible literalist, is in town. I shoot over to Pleasanton to go visit. As I’m leaving to go home, I repeat the eavesdrop. Sure as shitting, he starts in about how he’s convinced that there’s someone out THERE (point-to-sky is inferred) who’s interested in every single human being that lives on this planet.

So I bring up the eye-worm topic. He starts waffling about how ‘Man hasn’t fixed that yet.’ I rolled my eyes at him. So I told him: look, I can understand a little suffering, I can understand some pain, but this? I mean, why the fuck does this deity let tiny children starve to death, but runs interference in the lives of the folks who aren’t in any kind of hazard?

He whips out the Free Will card. It’s one of those ridiculous pieces of apologetics. It’s not been resolved in all the centuries of belief. Responses vary anywhere from ‘Gee, gob don’t want zombies to buddy with him up there,” to “hey, it’s all our fault”, as well as “hey, why ask why?”

My favorite response from the other side is this (from John Howard Yoder):

  • Where do you get the criteria by which you evaluate God? Why are the criteria you use the right ones?
  • Why [do] you think you are qualified for the business of accrediting Gods?
  • If you think you are qualified for that business, how does the adjudication proceed? [W]hat are the lexical rules?

Which just smacks of presuppositionalism. It basically boils down to the old Job/Gob response: “Where were you when I created the world?” (The book of Job, incidentally, used to be my favorite bit of whimsy when I was a gob-hugger, but rational evaluation has since relegated it to a position of utter horror.) Difficult indeed it is, to evaluate something that is so manifestly absent, is it not?

I think I’m with Hume on this topic:

Hume, along with Thomas Hobbes, is cited as a classical compatibilist about the notions of freedom and determinism. The thesis of compatibilism seeks to reconcile human freedom with the fact that human beings are part of a deterministic universe, whose happenings are governed by the laws of physics.

Hume argued that the dispute about the compatibility of freedom and determinism has been kept afloat by ambiguous terminology:

From this circumstance alone, that a controversy has been long kept on foot... we may presume, that there is some ambiguity in the expression.

Hume defines the concepts of "necessity" and "liberty" as follows:

Necessity: "the uniformity, observable in the operations of nature; where similar objects are constantly conjoined together..."

Liberty: "a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will..."

Hume then argues that, according to these definitions, not only are the two compatible, but Liberty requires Necessity. For if our actions were not necessitated in the above sense, they would "have so little in connexion [sic] with motives, inclinations and circumstances, that one does not follow with a certain degree of uniformity from the other". But if our actions are not thus hooked up to the will, then our actions can never be free: they would be matters of "chance; which is universally allowed not to exist."

Moreover, Hume goes on to argue that in order to be held morally responsible, it is required that our behaviour be caused, i.e. necessitated, for

Actions are, by their very nature, temporary and perishing; and where they proceed not from some cause in the character and disposition of the person who performed them, they can neither redound to his honour, if good; nor infamy, if evil."

This argument has inspired modern day commentators. However, it has been argued that the issue of whether or not we hold one another morally responsible does not ultimately depend on the truth or falsity of a metaphysical thesis such as determinism, for our so holding one another is a non-rational human sentiment that is not predicated on such theses. For this influential argument, which is still made in a Humean vein, see P. F. Strawson's essay, Freedom and Resentment.

But my response to theodicy is this: you will need to bring some actual meat to the table, prove that there IS indeed a benevolent omniscient creator. THEN we can discuss why this critter has been absent lo these many years.

Till the next post, then.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Into The Wild – A Movie Review

I recently watched this film, Into The Wild – and while I usually enjoy Sean Penn’s films, I wasn’t overly crazy about this one.

It was well-scripted, the wilderness scenes were lush, and it was based on a book by the same name.

Into the Wild recounts the life of Christopher McCandless, an actual student-athlete at Emory University, as told by his sympathetic sister. In response to his parents, whom McCandless perceives as materialistic, manipulative, and domineering, McCandless destroys all of his credit cards and identification documents, donates $24,000 (nearly his entire savings) to Oxfam, and sets out on a cross-country drive in his well-used but reliable Datsun towards his ultimate goal: to live alone and in the land between Alaska. Along the way, he leaves his automobile in the course of a flash flood, to hitchhike his way there after burning the remainder of his dwindling cash supply. Taking an unintentionally circuitous route, he encounters many unconventional individuals on his itinerary, such as a group of hippies, a farm owner (Vince Vaughn), and a lonely leather worker who offers to adopt and be a grandfather to Christopher (Hal Holbrook), as he purposefully trudges onward to his final destination, arriving in the wilds of Alaska nearly two years after his initial departure. He starts living in a "Magic Bus" serving as a shelter for people walking in the area (though in the film there is nobody else). Resourceful, McCandless finds joy in living off the land, and begins to write a book of his adventures. Unfortunately, as the spring thaw arrives, he is cut off from civilization by waterways. As his food supply lessens, he resorts to eating plants. Although he consults a brought-along book about the edibility of plants, he confuses an edible and a poisonous kind, which shuts down his digestive system forcing him to starve to death. As he dies, he continues to write, detailing his painful demise as a dramatic denouement to his autobiography.

The item that really got under my skin were all the GOD-NODS – he has a conversation with Hal Holbrook where they discussed this ‘gob’ character. What was the most irritating point was that the poor fellow ingested a poisonous plant that looked exactly like an edible one, a point that will escape most of the Jebus crowd.

His journal entry for that date reads, "Extremely weak. Fault of pot[ato] seed. Much trouble just to stand up. Starving. Great Jeopardy." McCandless had been digging and eating the root of the wild potato—Hedysarum alpinum, a common area wildflower also known as Eskimo potato, which Kari's book told him was widely eaten by native Alaskans—for more than a month without ill effect. On July 14 he apparently started eating the pealike seedpods of the plant as well, again without ill effect. There is, however, a closely related plant—wild sweet pea, Hedysarum mackenziithat is very difficult to distinguish from wild potato, grows beside it, and is poisonous. In all likelihood McCandless mistakenly ate some seeds from the wild sweet pea and became gravely ill.

Really, what sort of creator makes two plants, one edible and one poisonous, so much alike? Answer: NONE. Other than that, it’s a fair movie. Exploration of the ‘noble savage’ myth, it was evenly casted, and the central character was quite likable despite all the GOD-NODS.

A reasonable expenditure of two hours, but I’d not watch it again. I give it a  mid fist.


If You Are After Empty Blogging Calories, Then Don’t Feed Here

I keep watching that feedburner just beneath my profile and all my shameless requests to have folks subscribe – and frankly, it burns me up a bit. It stays at a steady number of 12, jumps up, then sometimes it whittles down, or it’ll plummet.

I’ve noticed that this occurs most often when I actually post something that I realize most atheists would disapprove of.

I realize it’s sheer folly to rail at the readers, given the fluidity of the blogosphere – how many millions of amateur raconteurs are appearing per week, after all? But the issue as I see it, is that most folks, regardless of any ideology, tend to flock to the places that pander to them. However, attention whore that I am, I draw the line at sticking my nose up anyone’s backside.

So, thanks again steady readers. Your loyalty is appreciated. Those of you who would subscribe today, only to go frittering off somewhere else, well, go fritter off today.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Sleeping Serpent Creeps Up The Spine – The Possible Dangers Of Yoga

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!


I am firmly convinced that a number of Eastern modalities do indeed work, independently of their respective philosophies and/or religions. One such is Yoga – it is increasingly prescribed for physical therapies to aid athletic injuries. Another one is Tai Chi (being an avid practitioner of this art for 16 years, yes, I do have a bias here). There are studies that catalog a degree of efficacy for this set of exercises.

One of the factors that gets lost in the New Age hooey is that breathing affects the individual’s physiology. Longer inhales/exhales have a much different result than hyperventilation, for instance (easily tested at home). And holding different postures during controlled breathing has a distinct impact on circulation AKA the body’s chemistry. The high is quite akin to a ‘religious’ experience, trust me. By regulating the oxygen flow to the brain, one can bring oneself to an alpha state.

As a rule, most of the simpler exercises (Yoga or Qiqong) are harmless. However, for every silver lining, there’s usually a dark cloud accompanying.

This is known as the Kundalini Syndrome. This is also known as qigong psychosis.


The American Psychiatric Association now includes the Chinese correlate to Kundalini activity of "qi-gong psychotic reaction" and disorders of dhat, jiryan, sukra prameha, and shenkui in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual -IV Appendix I.



Researchers affiliated with the fields of transpersonal psychology and Near-death studies (see references below) have suggested some common criteria that describe this condition, of which the most prominent feature is a feeling of energy or heat rushing up the spine. Other sensory and motor symptoms may include the feeling of cranial pressures, the perception of inner sounds, experiences of inner lights, vibrating or tickling sensations in the lower back, tachycardia (rapid heart rate), spontaneous trance states, changes in breathing, spontaneous bodily movements, sensations of heat or cold moving through the body, localized bodily pain that starts and stops abruptly, vibrations and itching under the skin.Mental and affective symptoms include fear, anxiety, depersonalization , intense positive or negative emotions, spontaneous slowing or speeding of thoughts and experiencing oneself as larger than the physical body.

A few theorists within the transpersonal field, such as Greyson, refers to this symptomatology as the Physio-Kundalini syndrome, while other Western academics use the description Kundalini-experience/awakening. Transpersonal literature emphasizes that the overview of symptoms is not meant to be used as a tool for amateur-diagnostics. Any unusual or marked physical or mental symptom needs to be investigated by a qualified medical professional.

Even though the symptoms at times may be dramatic and disturbing, theorists such as Sovatsky and Greyson tend to interpret these observations in favor of viewing the unfolding symptomatology as largely non-pathological, maturational, and of evolutionary significance for humanity. According to Scotton Kundalini-symptoms may, or may not, be associated with psychopathology, but are not reducible to any psychopathology. He also thinks that it is important to differentiate between the signs of Kundalini and the symptoms of pathology, and not subsume the signs of Kundalini under a pathological diagnosis. Other writers, such as Kason, tend to view the broad scope of the process, with the accompanying symptoms, as resulting in a "psycho-spiritual house-cleaning".

Now, this is not to say that you should immediately stop intoning “Om” while seated in the Lotus position, or ignore your physical therapist when s/he hands you a set of yoga postures to practice while rehabilitating an injury. But be aware that there are darker sides to just about anything you do in this life – glutting on sugar can induce diabetes, whereas the occasional indulgence in the sweet tooth is relatively harmless.

I cannot help but think that there’s a great similarity between some of the symptoms listed above and some of the experiences related by the fundies. Chew on this: many religions have adherents chanting or praying a specific pattern. In large groups, the chemicals flowing, the group members experience this connectedness, almost a unity of thought and feeling. And in an alpha state, the human animal is extremely suggestive. 

There are even crazy folk who think that specific exercises invoke jinns, as shown by this particularly scary fundie. Not limited to Islam, Ron Rhodes does a write-up on these items, and of course, his magickal thinking gets in the way of the facts. Both of these fellows fall prey to the nuanced xenophobia that is common among the religious.

“Eenie meenie chili beanie, the spirits are about to speak,” as Bullwinkle was wont to say. Gimmee a break.

No. It’s all chemicals. The human body can be used like a large scale chemistry set. Of course you can’t accidentally blow yourself up through a set of breathing exercises, or accidentally create hydrochloride acid, but you can alter the state of your consciousness. You just have to be careful.

Masticate on that, get back to me.

Till the next post, then.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Because Jebus Is A Self-Loathing Zombie…


  A Jewish zombie no less. 

Wow, so there are zombies a-plenty in the New Testament (Matthew 27:51-53):

51 At that moment the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart,

52 and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead

53 after Jesus' resurrection. They left the cemetery, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.

Don’t forget Lazarus.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Movie ‘M’ – Definitely One For The Collection

I kept seeing this pop up on my Netflix recommended list – and finally I thought, “Hey, what the hell?” and rented it.

Like most modern viewers, I tend to skip items that are black ‘n white in favor of something more up to date. But when I read the blurb -

German-American director Fritz Lang presents his first "talkie" -- and cinema's first serial killer -- in this 1931 classic. Plump pedophile Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), propelled by a compulsion he can't control, escapes the eye of the law -- but not the wrath of the Berlin underworld being blamed for his crimes. The character of Beckert was later used in Nazi propaganda films to illustrate the evils of sexual deviance.

I thought, “Hmmm…okay.”)

It’s all black and white, there’s no music theme, and none of them thar fancy See-Gee-eye ee-fects, so anyone under the age of 18 would probably treat this the same way they treat classical radio stations – time to change the dial! There’s no sex, gratuitous nudity, or blood ‘n guts fight scenes. There’s some cussing. Sounds like a real snorer, no?


Well, the long and short of it, is that this was a fantastic movie. As it turns out this was Peter Lorre’s breakout movie. Children keep showing up dead, everyone starts freaking out (understandably), and the Berlin underworld decide to hunt him down, and put him on trial. There is one scene where an old man chats with a little girl, cautioning her to be careful as she runs off, and he gets jacked up by this HUGE guy who demands to know what is his interest in a child. A crowd forms, and almost becomes a mob. One of the smaller shocks in the movie is when the Berlin police raid known underground hide-outs – a cop is physically hauling a hooker up to the street, and she’s shouting ‘Put me down you god-damned bastard!’ (It was filmed in 1931, which is why I double-blinked.)

And no GOD-NODS – nobody appealed to the sky, no priests, it was an entirely secular film.

Peter Lorre’s character (Beckert) eventually gets nabbed by the Berlin mob, and put on trial. Beckert’s ‘trial’ scene is magnificent, with M bellowing his pain and sickness at the crowd in German (and hey, you don’t need to speak it to appreciate it – it IS in subtitles).

And Lorre was nothing short of magnificent. Whenever he’d see a child and his compulsion took hold, he’d whistle ‘Peter and the Wolf’ (the only music in the whole flick). You could actually see the ugly desire take over, or when he was afraid, you believed it. Truly an actor’s actor.

But hey, rent it for yourself. I give it a full fist up.


Monday, March 09, 2009

I Watch A Load Of Movies Lately...

...and as such, I will start reviewing movies. I go through about 5 a week, thanks to Netflix. I shall attempt to treat them with grace and humor, but the likelihood is I'll be blasting away at some of the more contemptible ones with my standard caustic humor and slack-jawed contempt.
Please note that there are already some lined up here.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sugarcandy Mountain - The Pavlovian Promise Of The Hereafter

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

Heaven, n.: A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own.

The Devil's Dictionary

As per my promise, let us talk, you and I, about that most ephemeral of places, Heaven.

Almost every society since the beginning of recorded history has promised this haven from the blood, sweat, and tears this mortal life visits upon us. A promise of rest, of a surcease of worry, a womb of security and safety when the final breath ceases. From Nirvana to Asgard, from Jannah to Tamoanchan, humanity has ever yearned for peace and quiet, a commodity in any time or place in history.

It is a simple reason why this fantasy evolved so many permutations. After all, life is hard, sometimes excruciatingly so. And our evolutionary heritage, that snake that runs up our back, the reptilian hindbrain that avoids pain and seeks pleasure, that is the root of it. Subsequently, the environment around different tribes shaped various visions of an unglimpsed, unproven utopia.

It perhaps drove our primitive forbears forward – for there have been bleak epics in human history, and the only light at the end of the tunnel was the promise of a hereafter, because life in realtime seemed so bleak. But that was then, and this is the 21st century. Now it is an anachronistic holdover from backward times, but it hangs on like a terrier unto a rat. Why so? Because again, it is a promise of relief from the aggravations of modern life.

But it is a mad belief. It is antagonistic to modern life. For one, this belief channels living energy into a dark void, because the believers of such, instead of investing in reality and humanity, seek to engineer a path towards the unknown, the unproven. And the blood that is spilled , the lives that are spent, the horrors that have been hatched to ensure the building of a stairway to on high, is staggering. It also sends the mentally ill into a destructive downwards spiral, and oftentimes drives others to extremes in an effort to ‘save souls’.

It has been said that atheists don’t talk much about heaven. But this is untrue: I myself rail against the mindset that feels obligated to impinge on our freedoms to ensure that we are ‘saved’ – and not allow any of us any say in the matter. And the dangling of a carrot on the stick is an insult to many who are intelligent.

And, to top this post off, I feel obliged to point out that the Heaven/Hell option is actually a fallacy – specifically the false dichotomy.

I say the illusion of the soul is detrimental to our species. It diverts resources, both mental and physical, funneling them into nowhere. It is a form of Pavlovian terrorism, an argument from force. And last but not least, it leads those that believe to force their metaphysical constructs onto those of us who do not.

Till the next post, then.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Crack Whores And Disney Stores - Is Underdog Anywhere To Be Found?

Now that I've caught your attention...

Have I mentioned that I absolutely love living in Mountain View? Not only does El Camino Real border it (an incredibly long street that if you drive it, you can taste any sort of extreme extravagance, from crack whores to Disney stores, not that I do either), but it's just such a nice, NICE town. People are friendly (they'll chat you up out of the blue) the homeless out here are a paygrade above the east bay homeless (cleaner and better mannered), the crime is all but non-existent (to illustrate my point: lately I've been forgetting to lock my car. In Hayward, this would've resulted in either A. someone sleeping in it, or B. disappearance of car) outside of the occasional listing on Craigslist for a prostitute.

So imagine my surprise, that Mountain View has its own superhero.

Yeah, you heard right. He calls himself The Eye. He's about my age, demographic, etc. No, it ain't me - funny as it is, as goofy and jolly as I am, I at least have limits. I'm fairly sure it's a joke. Because if it ain't, then wow, a constant struggle with reality.

If you're in the mood for oddness, here are 10 people with extraordinary abilities, but are unlikely to show up in the upcoming movie The Watchmen.

ADDENDUM - before you think that Mountain View is a utopia, I have two glaring faults that I'll share right up front:
1. All the public parks that have gazebos, ALL of these gazebos are open-air. In other words, if it rains, you duck inside one of those gazebos, you're still gonna get wet. WTF?
2. There is a Scientology center on Castro Street, and a Scientology Church right down the street from me (both of which I intend to desecrate in the very near future).


Thursday, March 05, 2009

And Here's Ken Starr, Pissing Away More Taxpayer Money...

So for those of you who don't recall this asshat, he's the yo-yo who spent a pile of dough trying to impeach Bill Clinton.

He's now trying to defend the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Here's  the latest on that. And like any demented dimfuck fundy, he trots out 'think of the children!' - anyways, sign this petition please.

(And I'd like a refund on the taxes I paid into his last debacle.)


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Blasphemy, The Movie - A Review.

This is a rare treat: an actual movie about atheism that makes the effort to see the worldview from the atheist's side.

The blurb reads:

In John Mendoza's Blasphemy, a young Hispanic man (Carlos Leon) declares to his family that he doesn't believe in God. His parents immediately disown him, and it's up to his aunt to bring him back into the fold. From here, he tries many religions and this comedy skewers every one of them.

You can safely skip that last sentence: it's a load of crap. There are actually a number of clips lampooning various religions (and some of them are fairly amusing).

I skipped to Part II on youtube, as many of you will likely bristle at the idiocies that come pouring out of the protagonist's parents' mouths. And the 'aunt' in the film is one  scary lady, the sort of fundie that has the bulk of online atheists using pseudonyms.