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busy, busy, busy

Friday, December 31, 2004

I'm really glad I'm not so uptight that when I find an unknown number on my caller-ID (and no accompanying message) I call the number back to see what the hell the caller wanted and the why hell they didn't leave a message. I can maybe understand it if it's someone one knows, but cold-calling a stranger to find out who they are? And then being pissed off that it was a misdial? You know, I find it a hard fact to swallow that I'm the one wasting someone's time by accidentally calling their number--which they didn't answer--when they're the one calling me.

I'm sure it has something to do with people being physically unable to tear their cell phones away from their heads. I need to do a little more research on that before I can say for sure.

The way I see it, if I don't know who called, it's probably better I don't talk with them at all. That's why I have caller-ID--so I don't have to talk to people. It's the next best thing to not having a phone.

Listening to:
Pavement - my own personal mega-mix; Bjork - "Debut"; Morrissey - "You Are the Quarry"

William Gibson - "Neuromancer"

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

American soldier shoots Iraqi after sex

Merida first told investigators the teen demanded money at gunpoint. Later, he said he killed the boy because he forced him to have sex. In a third interview, Merida said he got angry after the two had consensual sex.

Merida also pleaded guilty to two counts of giving false statements.

Meanwhile, the estimated death count from this weekend's tsunami currently stands at a staggeringly uncomprehensible 76,000, with countless upward revisions on the way.

For many, however, it's a time to rejoice, as the Rapture Index has already figured the event into its calculations (155 and rising, to be sure), and every dead human floating down the street brings us that much closer to Christ's glorious return. If you happen know any True Believers, I think now might be the right time to start hiding their car keys.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

God don't get no pleasure punishing us. But he does it.

The director of a homeless shelter says he was right to evict a 21-year-old pregnant woman and her three children after the woman violated one of the shelter's rules by allowing her children's uncle to visit in her room.

"We have to have order," said the Rev. Oliver S. Robinson, director of the Tabernacle of Faith Church Outreach Center. "She herself created this situation. She is a young woman who does not want to listen to anybody. And it don't matter what time of year it is, winter time, Christmas time, cold time or whatever."

Valan Garland and her three boys were evicted Tuesday from the shelter, where they had stayed for about four months while waiting for an income-based apartment to open. She paid $50 a month as a donation. ...

"I don't know if I feel like this is related to Jesus and Mary," Garland said. "But I do feel like it has something to do with the devil. The devil has to put it in your heart to put children out in the night three days before Christmas."

Robinson said his shelter is a credit to the community.

"These people need tough love," Robinson said. "I don't feel comfortable with it. God don't get no pleasure punishing us. But he does it. Jesus would have done the same thing." (via MemeMachineGo!)

Why is it that most evangelical Christians are the least Christian people of all? I think Jesus would have been a bit more concerned with the homeless, pregnant woman and her three children than he would have been about visitation policies at a homeless shelter.

And by the way, would Jesus also set up fake abortion-referral services intended to trick women into having unwanted offspring? Just wondering.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I was about fire off another unintelligble rant about poor, poor evolution and its heartbreaking battle against the host of Creation, but I'm going to leave the subject alone for a little while. It's not going anywhere. The world will just have to wait. Consider it my holiday gift to you, my loyal readers.

Instead I'm going to do a fluff-piece about my favorite films from 2004. It's not a top-# list, which I can't do because I didn't see every film that came out this year. So, these are just the ones I liked the most out of the few I did see, in no particular order.

Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut
Except for the change in the opening song, this is a great improvement on the original 2001 film. I don't have to mention this is my favorite film ever.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Just see it.

The Village
Beautiful and creepy, this is my favorite M. Night Shyamalan film so far. Besides being a simply great story, it's also a pretty nice critique of the culture of fear we currently inhabit.

Napoleon Dynamite
Very subtle but also very funny film about losers who aren't really losers. I think this is my favorite film from this year.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition)
This is a great improvement on the theatrical release of 2003, mostly because, once again, most of the fifty minutes of new material is (mostly) straight from the books. The extra character development is great, and the extended battle sequences are fucking awesome.

Supersize Me
The results of this guy's dietary experiment are pretty predictable not terribly interesting. The attention he gives to the marketing practices of fast food chains is great, though.

I love this film mostly because of Macualay Culkin's character. In general, the film is pretty funny, but not all that insightful, but I always like to see fundamentalist Christians as the object of ridicule.

Butterfly Effect
An interesting, if implausible, film about time travel. It greatly exceeded my low expectations.

Farenheit 9/11
You know, I didn't really like this film. Perhaps I was expecting something that would match the caliber of Bowling for Columbine, or maybe I was expecting a film that asked serious questions and provided real answers (because, you know, that is what Moore promised). Instead, Moore provided his audience with trivial conspiracy theories and superficial speculation, and used it all to build a case against Bush that was entertaining but ultimately pointless. Instead of focusing his zeal on nebulous connections that made Bush look shady, which he should have known would never work against an incumbent Republican politician, he should have investigated tangible issues that people actually care about: the economy, environment, war, etc. Despite my dislike for the film, though, I included this it on my list for several reasons: 1) Despite the bullshit (or because of it) it got people motivated, an accomplishment so rare in this country it has to applauded; 2) It put the reactionary Right and its sycophants in the media on the defensive and; 3) The final half-hour or so of the film is very moving and truly excellent.
Keep an eye out for my favorites in music and literature from this year. It will happen sometime.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Oooooh Geoffrey, we could all paint our twangers couldn't we?

While I was I child of the late-1970s/early-1980s watching psychedelic, drug-addled children's programming on PBS, my British counterparts were receiving valuable lessons in descriptive anatomy. Hold on to your twangers. (via Pandagon)

Update: Once the initial shock passed, I really couldn't believe this was actually shown to children. After some light research I found that it was indeed a prank. Get the full details here. The show was apparently still brimming with inuendo, just not as much or as obvious as in that clip.

Which reminds me, I've been trying to track down the story behind this video (longish download, but well worth the time). My gut reaction is that there's no way in hell it could be real, but I've been unable to find any information regarding its origin (which pranksters always provide). Mac, where the fuck did you find this?!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Dead horse-beating time.

Evolution creates new round of tension

The debate over how to teach Kansas students about the origins of life returned Tuesday to the State Board of Education with accusations of rule breaking and attacks on a committee appointed to revise science education standards.

The board, which took no action, received the first draft of the standards.

But some members of the board attacked the committee, saying it hadn't properly considered views about creationism.

Board member John Bacon, of Olathe, said those who favored teaching creationism as another theory alongside evolution were ignored. ...

[William] Harris said the draft science document denigrates religious beliefs by excluding other schools of thought. He argued the two could be taught in the classroom to give students a well-rounded view of science.

"Public education can be kept free of religion by teaching origins of science objectively," Harris said.

Intelligent design is a secular form of creationism that argues the Earth was created by a series of intelligent happenings, not random chance. Evolution, on the other hand, says species change in response to environmental and genetic factors over the course of many generations.

Greg Lassey, another of the eight dissenting members, said others on the committee were narrow-minded because they would not question evolution.

"If you don't allow any other dissenting views, then what you're teaching is a dogma," he said in an interview after the meeting.

McDonald said evolution was not dogma or a philosophy.

"Once you have a paramount theory in science, that's how you view things until you have a better theory to explain them," he told reporters. "Evolution is not a religion. Science has no need of God -- that's far different from saying, ‘There is no God.'"

Creationism is not a school of thought--it is a religious belief system. How exactly could students obtain a more "well-rounded view of science" by studying concepts taken directly and solely from the Bible? Our public schools are backwards enough as it is, and now some wingnuts want to hold the Bible up as a source of scientific knowledge? The thing is only barely useful as a mediocre historical document, and it has even less value for science.

The idea that science education is not "objective" because it fails to "allow any other dissenting views" is particularly laughable. The inclusion of dissenting views hardly makes something objective--objectivity is all about how something is presented. Evolution can be and is taught on its own in an objective manner, because all proper science is inherently objective. Differing ideas can be useful, but aren't necessary. Religious beliefs, on the other hand, are entirely subjective; there is no possible way to teach Intelligent Design objectively. All ID does is attempt to exploit alleged holes in evolutionary theory, and all of its questions require answers that exist only in a religious context in the Christian Bible. If that's not subjective, I don't know what is. Of course, the true test of the creationists' quest for objectivity will be when other religious groups want their partiular stories of creation included in science instruction.

And for the individual, and the many others like him, bemoaning the fact that creationism is being ignored in the draft science standards, I have only this to offer:

1.(b) The Act impermissibly endorses religion by advancing the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind. The legislative history demonstrates that the term "creation science," as contemplated by the state legislature, embraces this religious teaching. The Act's primary purpose was to change the public school science curriculum to provide persuasive advantage to a particular religious doctrine that rejects the factual basis of evolution in its entirety. Thus, the Act is designed either to promote the theory of creation science that embodies a particular religious tenet or to prohibit the teaching of a scientific theory disfavored by certain religious sects. In either case, the Act violates the First Amendment. ...

Somebody really needs to tell the Supreme Court that evolution is Just A Theory.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

blahg blahg blahg.

New science standards may include intelligent design

The board is expected to vote today on standards for teaching history and government, and hear an update on the proposed science standards being written by a committee of teachers and scientists appointed by the board.

About a third of the committee writing the science standards released proposed revisions Friday that encourage critical analysis of evolution. If adopted, that might allow including intelligent design theory in the standards. And three of the six conservatives who will be on the school board in January have signaled they would initiate or support efforts to have intelligent design theory included in the science standards.

Another reason I am so happy I don't have children. Oh yeah, those proposed history and government standards are appearing to be quite controvertial as well:

On Friday, Morris said she had found another problem with wording in the proposed standards describing the U.S. Constitution as a "living document."

The term "living document" is used by people who believe the Constitution is archaic and should change each year, she said.

"That is liberal terminology, and it has no place in our standards," Morris said. "It's not our job to indoctrinate students."

Moderate board member Bill Wagnon said Morris and Abrams' efforts were a disservice to the social studies standards committee.

"There's a tendency to do some wordsmithing on the board that is ideologically driven," Wagnon said.

If one agrees with what is being taught, it's education. If one doesn't agree, it's "indoctrination." There is a fine line between stupid and clever.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Merry Christmas. (via TMW)

Listening to: The Fiery Furnaces "Blueberry Boat"
Reading: Neal Stephenson "The Diamond Age"

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

School science debate has evolved
"We've been fighting this since 1925,"says Witold Walczak, a Pennsylvania ACLU lawyer. "Why aren't people questioning atomic theory? Why aren't they questioning the theory that the Earth revolves around the sun? That's because evolution conflicts with their religious beliefs."
Why? At a base level it's really not about religious beliefs. The study of physics simply doesn't resonate with most people; they don't care about atomic theory or celestial mechanics because neither plays an important role in defining their perception of their identity. Biology does define one's identity, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Remove all notions of religious belief, and many humans will resist the truth of biological evolution out of a simple revulsion at the ideas that human beings--and all life--are the product of unguided natural adaptations, and that at some point far, far down their family tree a human can find a non-human relative, a "lesser creature".

Religion is a system of control based primarily on fear. Little more. Many are lured to religion out of a fear of possible eternal damnation, but religion also provides relief to those who fear the idea that humans are nothing more than an "accident" of nature. In return for answers and the feeling that they are indeed a "special creation," humans give blind faith and a promise to proselytize to non-believers.

The whole "debate" regarding evolution, placed in a religious context, is nothing more than a ploy to bring more people into the fold, to keep more minds under control. The more people find answers in spheres of influence outside of religion, the less control it has. Rather than adapt to the changing playing field, though, religious leaders change the rules of the game so it becomes a battle between beliefs in which evolutionary theory is itself a competing religion (simply done by adding "-ist" to the end of the word). Evolutionists believe you're the product of monkeys, evolutionists believe you're result of an accidental combination of lifeless chemicals. Never mind that evolution--or any empirical science--requires not a shred of faith or belief; the false dichotomy, the "debate" constructed solely by creationists, is firmly implanted.

Creationism is devoid of science, as is its modern "scientific" front Intelligent Design. Its proponents obviously know this. Why else would they be attempting to force their "theories" into the public school system through legislation, or at the very least instilling doubt in evolutionary science through legislation? If they are so concerned about their children being exposed to evolutionary biology in public schools, why not place them in private schools that teach creation, or even home-school them? Why don't they use sunday school programs to counteract the influence public school science instruction?

I imagine supporters of creationism do do all those things. This conflict is not an issue of balanced instruction of competing theories in public schools, nor is it about developing the critical reasoning skills of American students, as so many creationists contend. Creationists do not care about teaching science. This conflict is about proselytizing to a captive audience, many of whom have little to no critical reasoning skills, especially when it comes to science. It is about sowing seeds of fear and insecurity in young minds, with the hope that those feelings will turn them to religion for answers. It is about control.

Army to deploy robots that shoot

The military could use this as a fundraising tactic; similar to the Best Idea Ever of remote-control hunting, for a substantial fee the chickenhawks and warbloggers sitting stateside can do their part to further the cause of freedom. With an additional fee, those brave Americans can have the added bonus of a screenshot or two of the "hearts and minds" they "liberated" from the enemy to show off around the country club or office.

And anyway, since when did the army not deploy robots that shoot?