left biblioblography: June 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday Funny – The Kings Of Comedy, Bernie Mac

I always enjoyed Bernie Mac back in the day. I particularly enjoyed his TV show. And the world is poorer for his absence. I realize there’s no connection, but we were the same age when he passed on, and he died of lung complications (I have lung issues, but not the same kind). Here’s an extremely funny clip from the Kings of Comedy:



Saturday, June 26, 2010

AssLam – The Religion That Lets Crazies Control Instinct


Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

Pakistan. The country that was specifically created for the Muslims.  A country pockmarked by religious controversy and riots.

It is no surprise to any of us, that these sort of headlines are commonplace:

Pakistan to monitor Google and Yahoo for 'blasphemy'

Pakistan will start monitoring seven major websites, including Google and Yahoo, for content it deems offensive to Muslims.

YouTube, Amazon, MSN, Hotmail and Bing will also come under scrutiny, while 17 less well-known sites will be blocked.

Officials will monitor the sites and block links deemed inappropriate.

In May, Pakistan banned access to Facebook after the social network hosted a "blasphemous" competition to draw the prophet Muhammad.

The new action will see Pakistani authorities monitor content published on the seven sites, blocking individual pages if content is judged to be offensive.

Telecoms official Khurram Mehran said links would be blocked without disturbing the main website.

As no doubt you are all aware, Pakistan has the strictest anti-blasphemy laws – you literally cannot  badmouth religion in that country. On pain of death.

And of course, the UN concurs. Because when you grant rights to an idea over the rights of a human being, you are (indirectly) giving free rein to terrorist bullshit. And let’s face it folks: you take young men, tell them they can’t masturbate or can’t have sex until marriage, well, all that energy has to go somewhere, doesn’t it? I know that I would be extremely irritable if that were so, but luckily I live in a country that isn’t as stringent as some of these ass-backwards Sharia countries.

And this garbage isn’t happening in Pakistan alone – Indonesia is also in the grips of this stone-age anachronistic horse manure:

One of Indonesia's top celebrities has been charged under an anti-pornography law for his alleged role in sex videos which have appeared on the internet.

Pop star Nazril "Ariel" Irham and two other celebrities, TV presenter Luna Maya and soapstar Cut Tari, have denied involvement in the sex tapes.

The scandal has angered many in Muslim-dominated Indonesia.

Some conservative Islamic groups have called for the celebrities to be punished.

Zainuri Lubis, deputy spokesman of the National Police, told the BBC that Ariel had been charged with the making and distribution of the sex tapes under the controversial anti-pornography law.

He is the first high-profile person to be charged under the law, which came into effect in 2008 despite strong opposition from the public and members of government.

The law has been criticised for being too vague and for its harsh penalties.

Ariel's charge carries with it a maximum sentence of 12 years and a fine of more than $600,000 (£403,000).

The Abrahamic religions sure seems to be obsessed with sexuality. Human sexuality is a driving force – it could well be said that civilization owes a large debt to it, as much of civilization was an effort to impress the opposite sex (to paraphrase Orson Welles and Futurama). It may not be a force to be feared, but it is to be reckoned with. But when a society is in the thrall of an iron age set of rules better left centuries ago, fear is all those people will know.

Islam (AKA Asslam): it’s gotta go.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday Funny – The Sarah Silverman Show

I’ve recently been highly amused by the Sarah Silverman Show. The comic plays a young attractive unemployed self-absorbed narcissist (that’s not a redundancy – watch the show) who goes on some bizarre adventures into daily life. There’s even an episode where she has sex with god (but blows him off on the morning after). Sadly, I can’t locate a clip of that show on Youtube, but here’s a compilation of her program openings which cause jaw-dropping chuckles.

Weird stuff.



Saturday, June 19, 2010

How Humanity Loves Its Stories! Triangulating The Data In Bermuda

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!bermudashorts

I guess you've heard about the Bermuda triangle
There's something going on
Nobody seems to know just what it is
And the air force won't let on
It might be hole down in the ocean
Yeah or a fog that won't let go
It might be some crazy people talking
Or somebody that we ought to know
Down in Bermuda, the pale blue sea
Way down in the triangle, it's easy to believe – Fleetwood Mac, Bermuda Triangle

Few things capture the public’s imagination like disappearances. We see the occasional child on the back of a milk carton, sometimes a billboard where someone has simply vanished and the frantic efforts of the family to find the vanishee, we hear anecdotal tales where somebody simply wasn’t there suddenly, and of course tales abound of mysterious freighters whose crews seemed to have blinked out of existence. But of all the wild tales, the famous Bermuda Triangle has spawned a series of books and movies, and anyone American instantly recognizes the phrase and its implications.

As I am fond of repeating, everything on earth has a rational, logical explanation. Everything. Five minutes on Wikipedia usually tends to thrash the wild rumors:

The Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil's Triangle, is a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean where a number of aircraft and surface vessels allegedly disappeared mysteriously. Popular culture has attributed these disappearances to the paranormal or activity by extraterrestrial beings. Documented evidence indicates that a significant percentage of the incidents were inaccurately reported or embellished by later authors, and numerous official agencies have stated that the number and nature of disappearances in the region is similar to that in any other area of ocean.

Naturally, the true ‘believers’ will concoct some conspiracy theory or whatnot. Or say you need to ‘read between the lines’, or start rattling off ‘facts and figures’  that are demographic to that specific area without comparing to any similar areas or statistics.

The boundaries of the triangle cover the Straits of Florida, the Bahamas and the entire Caribbean island area and the Atlantic east to the Azores. The more familiar triangular boundary in most written works has as its points somewhere on the Atlantic coast of Miami, San Juan, Puerto Rico; and the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda, with most of the accidents concentrated along the southern boundary around the Bahamas and the Florida Straits.

The area is one of the most heavily traveled shipping lanes in the world, with ships crossing through it daily for ports in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean Islands. Cruise ships are also plentiful, and pleasure craft regularly go back and forth between Florida and the islands. It is also a heavily flown route for commercial and private aircraft heading towards Florida, the Caribbean, and South America from points north.

With that density of transport going on, of course there’s going to be ‘disappearances’, or lost ships/planes. It’s just numbers.

The earliest allegation of unusual disappearances in the Bermuda area appeared in a September 16, 1950 Associated Press article by E.V.W. Jones. Two years later, Fate magazine published "Sea Mystery At Our Back Door", a short article by George X. Sand covering the loss of several planes and ships, including the loss of Flight 19, a group of five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger bombers on a training mission. Sand's article was the first to lay out the now-familiar triangular area where the losses took place. Flight 19 alone would be covered in the April 1962 issue of American Legion Magazine. It was claimed that the flight leader had been heard saying "We are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don't know where we are, the water is green, no white." It was also claimed that officials at the Navy board of inquiry stated that the planes "flew off to Mars." Sand's article was the first to suggest a supernatural element to the Flight 19 incident. In the February 1964 issue of Argosy, Vincent Gaddis's article "The Deadly Bermuda Triangle" argued that Flight 19 and other disappearances were part of a pattern of strange events in the region. The next year, Gaddis expanded this article into a book, Invisible Horizons.

Ah, excuse me: Fate? The handbook of the delusional? And Argosy is a boy’s adventure pulp magazine, specializing in fiction.

Others would follow with their own works, elaborating on Gaddis's ideas: John Wallace Spencer (Limbo of the Lost, 1969, repr. 1973); Charles Berlitz (The Bermuda Triangle, 1974); Richard Winer (The Devil's Triangle, 1974), and many others, all keeping to some of the same supernatural elements outlined by Eckert.

All of which are out of print.

Luckily, there was someone about who actually had a critical eye:

Lawrence David Kusche, a research librarian from Arizona State University and author of The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved (1975) argued that many claims of Gaddis and subsequent writers were often exaggerated, dubious or unverifiable. Kusche's research revealed a number of inaccuracies and inconsistencies between Berlitz's accounts and statements from eyewitnesses, participants, and others involved in the initial incidents. Kusche noted cases where pertinent information went unreported, such as the disappearance of round-the-world yachtsman Donald Crowhurst, which Berlitz had presented as a mystery, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Another example was the ore-carrier recounted by Berlitz as lost without trace three days out of an Atlantic port when it had been lost three days out of a port with the same name in the Pacific Ocean. Kusche also argued that a large percentage of the incidents that sparked allegations of the Triangle's mysterious influence actually occurred well outside it. Often his research was simple: he would review period newspapers of the dates of reported incidents and find reports on possibly relevant events like unusual weather, that were never mentioned in the disappearance stories.

Kusche concluded that:

  • The number of ships and aircraft reported missing in the area was not significantly greater, proportionally speaking, than in any other part of the ocean.
  • In an area frequented by tropical storms, the number of disappearances that did occur were, for the most part, neither disproportionate, unlikely, nor mysterious; furthermore, Berlitz and other writers would often fail to mention such storms.
  • The numbers themselves had been exaggerated by sloppy research. A boat's disappearance, for example, would be reported, but its eventual (if belated) return to port may not have been.
  • Some disappearances had, in fact, never happened. One plane crash was said to have taken place in 1937 off Daytona Beach, Florida, in front of hundreds of witnesses; a check of the local papers revealed nothing.
  • The legend of the Bermuda Triangle is a manufactured mystery, perpetuated by writers who either purposely or unknowingly made use of misconceptions, faulty reasoning, and sensationalism.

And further:

When the UK Channel 4 television program "The Bermuda Triangle" (c. 1992) was being produced by John Simmons of Geofilms for the Equinox series, the marine insurer Lloyd's of London was asked if an unusually large number of ships had sunk in the Bermuda Triangle area. Lloyd's of London determined that large numbers of ships had not sunk there.

Yeah…none of the ‘true believers’ thought to ask a major insurer? What a surprise.

United States Coast Guard records confirm their conclusion. In fact, the number of supposed disappearances is relatively insignificant considering the number of ships and aircraft that pass through on a regular basis.

Do I need to repeat it? Numbers.

The Coast Guard is also officially skeptical of the Triangle, noting that they collect and publish, through their inquiries, much documentation contradicting many of the incidents written about by the Triangle authors. In one such incident involving the 1972 explosion and sinking of the tanker SS V. A. Fogg in the Gulf of Mexico, the Coast Guard photographed the wreck and recovered several bodies, in contrast with one Triangle author's claim that all the bodies had vanished, with the exception of the captain, who was found sitting in his cabin at his desk, clutching a coffee cup.

That one sounds vaguely familiar, probably from the days I read Fort.

The NOVA/Horizon episode The Case of the Bermuda Triangle, aired on June 27, 1976, was highly critical, stating that "When we've gone back to the original sources or the people involved, the mystery evaporates. Science does not have to answer questions about the Triangle because those questions are not valid in the first place... Ships and planes behave in the Triangle the same way they behave everywhere else in the world."

I’m stealing that line about ‘science doesn’t have to answer questions’, because it fits so well for so many debunkings. The following paragraph will no doubt sound familiar:

David Kusche pointed out a common problem with many of the Bermuda Triangle stories and theories: "Say I claim that a parrot has been kidnapped to teach aliens human language and I challenge you to prove that is not true. You can even use Einstein's Theory of Relativity if you like. There is simply no way to prove such a claim untrue. The burden of proof should be on the people who make these statements, to show where they got their information from, to see if their conclusions and interpretations are valid, and if they have left anything out."

And the following is Sad But True, #2:

Skeptical researchers, such as Ernest Taves and Barry Singer, have noted how mysteries and the paranormal are very popular and profitable. This has led to the production of vast amounts of material on topics such as the Bermuda Triangle. They were able to show that some of the pro-paranormal material is often misleading or inaccurate, but its producers continue to market it. Accordingly, they have claimed that the market is biased in favor of books, TV specials, and other media that support the Triangle mystery, and against well-researched material if it espouses a skeptical viewpoint.

No surprise there. SIGH.

Finally, if the Triangle is assumed to cross land, such as parts of Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, or Bermuda itself, there is no evidence for the disappearance of any land-based vehicles or persons. The city of Freeport, located inside the Triangle, operates a major shipyard and an airport that handles 50,000 flights annually and is visited by over a million tourists a year.

Wow. Has any of these pro-Triangle folk interviewed any inhabitants of Freeport, and checked for weird stories? I’d bet the rent on NO.

One of my all time favorites about this ‘mysterious patch of ocean’, is the famous ‘compass gone crazy’ crap:

Compass problems are one of the cited phrases in many Triangle incidents. While some have theorized that unusual local magnetic anomalies may exist in the area, such anomalies have not been shown to exist. Compasses have natural magnetic variations in relation to the magnetic poles, a fact which navigators have known for centuries. Magnetic (compass) north and geographic (true) north are only exactly the same for a small number of places - for example, as of 2000 in the United States only those places on a line running from Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico. But the public may not be as informed, and think there is something mysterious about a compass "changing" across an area as large as the Triangle, which it naturally will.

As was mentioned earlier, this is one of the heaviest travelled shipping lanes in the world. If compasses didn’t work there, logic would dictate it would be one of the least travelled shipping lanes, not vice versa.

So, in conclusion: if you’re planning a trip to Bermuda, it’s perfectly safe, no matter what fish story you may have heard.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday Funny - “I’m Crushing Your Head!”

I’ve always adored the wonky humor of The Kids In The Hall – but the Head Crusher was always a favorite staple:



Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Vagrant Oddities Of The Religious Mind – Is There An Off-Switch Called ‘Religion’ In Our Brains?

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!insane

(Hat tip to the Dribbleglass for these…stultifying glimpses into the religious mindscape.)

Riots in Bangladesh killed one and injured as many as two hundred when Muslims reacted violently in protest of a new sandal which carried a design that they said resembled the Arab script for Allah. Executives of the Canadian-based Bata Shoe Company were ordered into court to explain the design.

I’m guessing here, they don’t want to walk a few feet, let alone a mile, in those shoes…

The Reverend W. N. Otwell, Texas gubernatorial candidate in 1990, declared that the floods and other natural disasters that had bedeviled Texas since 1986 were the Lord's retribution for all the attacks on Otwell. Said Otwell, "We've been keeping stats on this."

So…the imaginary sky daddy is focusing solely on some whackadoo in Texas, cataloguing all the ‘attacks’ on this guy, and besieging Texas? Can you say ‘narcissist’, boys and girls?

During 1980 and 1981 the Internal Revenue Service asked taxpayers to enter the number 666 as a code on a form reporting individual retirement accounts. The IRS said that the Social Security Administration chose the number because scanner could read it easily. After complaints from fundamentalist Christians, the IRS changed the number on 1992 forms to 555.

Bad news, fundies: IT’S JUST A NUMBER! And all that crap in Revelation? Pure fiction.

Californian Enrique Silberg changed his name in 1985 to Ubiquitous Perpetuity God after a judge refused to allow him to change it to simply "God."

Yes, because the universe is all about YOU, Enrique…are you kidding?

Late in July of 1989 a kitten with eight legs and two tails was born in the village of Machala in Ecuador. Rejected by its mother, it died within hours. The devout Catholic population there saw it as a bad sign. "We are nearing the end of the world because people are so decadent," said one.

And yet the world persists, 21 years later…

A fist-fight broke out when 60 traditionalist Roman Catholics tried to take over the main altar at Saint Maclou Cathedral near Paris so that they could celebrate the mass in Latin. The brawl lasted over an hour until a priest agreed to move to a side chapel for his Latin service.

Yeah, religion shore do improve pay-pul, dunnit?

Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, says he experienced a vision in which a UFO took him from a Mexico mountaintop to a "mother wheel" where the voice of Elijah Muhammad, founder of the religious sect, told him to tell the world that then-President Ronald Reagan was planning a war. Farrakhan said that the later air attack on Libya was partly foiled by the Mother Wheel. "The Wheel was, in fact, present and interfered with the highly sensitive electronic equipment of the aircraft carrier, forcing it to return to Florida for repairs."

Things like the paragraph above give me a conclussion – that is to say, when an otherwise intelligent and rational individual is exposed to an insane conclusion, it gives them a concussion.

Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baptist minister Dwight Rymer used electric shocks to help him teach the Bible to children. He asked for young volunteers to sit on a stool wired to a six-volt lantern battery in order to demonstrate that sometimes God "can shock you into hearing His word."

My question is: were there any volunteers at all?

On nationwide television in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, a mystic named Patrice Tamao had himself nailed to a cross "as a sacrifice for world peace and understanding." An unforeseen snag developed when Tamao's foot became infected the following day and physicians ordered him pried loose and taken down. His wife Marita then volunteered to be hammered up in his place.

Let’s see: world peace? No. And Marita – that’s your husband’s cross to bear.

The ability of the human mind to turn a blind eye to obvious idiocies still stuns me, after 51 years on this earth. I love humanity, but holy crap, are we dim or what?

I wonder, sadly, I wonder…

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tuesday Funny – The League Of Gentlemen

I’ve been watching this online on Netflix – and it’s pretty funny. Albeit it’s an extremely dark series, full of all sorts of bizarre grotesqueries.



Saturday, June 05, 2010

Allegories Gone Wild: Comstockery Was No Laughing Stock…

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

"Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it” -  Macbeth, Act I, Scene IVNewYorkSocietyForTheSuppressionOfVice

In a recent post, Mr. Garton expounded upon the sexual horrors that some would perpetrate upon us. Sadly, American history is rife with those who would gird our loins for war against our wills. Anita Bryant, for instance, led a vicious movement against gay rights that was religiously motivated. The AFA (American Family Association – what a gentle name that hides the insanity of its members) to this day is virulently anti-gay and labors mightily to foist other violations that run contrary to the (many) principles upon which this country was founded.

As outrageous and horrid as these recent efforts to deprive the few of the liberties granted to all, a brief history lesson will chill the blood and clench the knuckles white with rage. We can breathe a sigh of relief that these days are past us, but we must always be on guard lest the past come back with foaming jaws to bite us in the ass.

Anthony Comstock was a sexually repressed control freak, who left vivid scars on the sexual psyche of America:

Comstock was born in New Canaan, Connecticut. As a young man, he enlisted and fought for the Union in the American Civil War from 1863 to 1865 in Company H, 17th Connecticut Infantry. He served without incident, but objected to the profanity used by his fellow soldiers. Afterward he became an active worker in the Young Men's Christian Association in New York City.

In 1873 Comstock created the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an institution dedicated to supervising the morality of the public. Later that year, Comstock successfully influenced the United States Congress to pass the Comstock Law, which made illegal the delivery or transportation of both "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" material as well as any methods of, or information pertaining to, birth control. George Bernard Shaw used the term "comstockery", meaning "censorship because of perceived obscenity or immorality", after Comstock alerted the New York police to the content of Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession. Shaw remarked that "Comstockery is the world's standing joke at the expense of the United States. Europe likes to hear of such things. It confirms the deep-seated conviction of the Old World that America is a provincial place, a second-rate country-town civilization after all." Comstock thought of Shaw as an "Irish smut dealer." The term comstockery was actually first coined in a New York Times editorial in 1895.

The actual content of Shaw’s play was quite benign by today’s standards. It was more of an effort to humanize an otherwise ‘taboo’ topic.

Of course, this ass-clown rivals even the modern-day Taliban in their ludicrousness:

Comstock's ideas of what might be "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" were quite broad. During his time of greatest power, even some anatomy textbooks were prohibited from being sent to medical students by the United States Postal Service.

I suppose that gynecologists had to use guesswork in those days? Of course, he had a great many detractors:

Comstock aroused intense loathing from early civil liberties groups and intense support from church-based groups worried about public morals. He was a savvy political insider in New York City and was made a special agent of the United States Postal Service, with police powers up to and including the right to carry a weapon. With this power he zealously prosecuted those he suspected of either public distribution of pornography or commercial fraud. He was also involved in shutting down the Louisiana Lottery, the only legal lottery in the United States at the time, and notorious for corruption.

Frightening, no? It gets worse:

Comstock is also known for his opposition to Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin, and those associated with them. The men's journal The Days' Doings had popularised lewd images of the sisters for three years and was instructed by its editor (while Comstock was present) to stop producing images of "lewd character". Comstock also took legal action against the paper for advertising contraceptives. When the sisters published an expose of an adulterous affair between Reverend Henry Ward Beecher and Elizabeth Tilton, he had the sisters arrested under laws forbidding the use of the postal service to distribute 'obscene material'–specifically (and ironically) citing a mangled Biblical quote Comstock found obscene–though they were later acquitted of the charges.

And worse:

Less fortunate was Ida Craddock, who committed suicide on the eve of reporting to Federal prison for distributing via the U.S. Mail various sexually explicit marriage manuals she had authored. Her final work was a lengthy public suicide note specifically condemning Comstock.

And even more sickening:

Comstock claimed he drove fifteen persons to suicide in his "fight for the young". He was head vice-hunter of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. Comstock, the self-labeled "weeder in God's garden", arrested D. M. Bennett for publishing his "An Open Letter to Jesus Christ" and later entrapped the editor for mailing a free-love pamphlet. Bennett was prosecuted, subjected to a widely publicized trial, and imprisoned in the Albany Penitentiary.

“Weeder in gawd’s garden’ my homesick ass. He was a morality monster, one of those beasts that is so afraid of human sexuality, it warps the weft of the mind.

Some comeuppance was en route, but unsatisfactory:

Comstock had numerous enemies, and in later years his health was affected by a severe blow to the head from an anonymous attacker. He lectured to college audiences and wrote newspaper articles to sustain his causes. Before his death, Comstock attracted the interest of a young law student, J. Edgar Hoover, interested in his causes and methods.

Wait – JEH? Not that old Lola of FBI fame?

During his career, Comstock clashed with Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger. In her autobiography, Goldman referred to Comstock as the leader of America's "moral eunuchs". Through his various campaigns, he destroyed 15 tons of books, 284,000 pounds of plates for printing 'objectionable' books, and nearly 4,000,000 pictures.

Yes, because of course freedom of speech only applies when good church-going folk decide that it does, right?

Comstock boasted that he was responsible for 4,000 arrests and 15 suicides.

That anyone claiming to be human could ‘boast’ about driving people to suicide, illustrates what an evil, evil little man Comstock was.

His legacy obviously continues today. It should end here, in the 21st century, where religion is losing its invidious grip on hearts and minds, where science has expanded our intellects to the juncture that these anachronistic atavistic throwbacks are more a cause of comic relief than mystic dread.

Carry on the fight, my friends, lest the old days returneth with blood and shouting and pain.

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Tuesday Funny – MST3K

Which is short for Mystery Science Theater 3000

Definitely WAY up there on my nerd-o-meter: