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Monday, February 26, 2007

Why society sucks?

Stave It Off Science Officer Alex Tokar posits this theory (I supply the attempted poetic paraphrase and final commentary) :

Anxiety and depression serve evolutionary purposes.
Studies on modern day primates confirm this fact.
Tribes function better when anxious members warn of danger...
and when depression keeps us on the couch
where we conserve our energy and wait
for conditions to get better.

We're better off with a healthy dose of worry and blue.
But the patriarchy, or Freud, or Pfizer, or somebody
gave everyone diagnoses and medications instead.
We don't have visionaries, so much as schizophrenics.
Now our coalmines have no canaries.
And surely the gas levels are poisonous.

Would more collective worry and depression help guide us
away from preemptive wars and welfare cuts?
Maybe they would, maybe we've traded our conscience for convenience.
But I'm not sure anyone ever listened to voices of dissent
except for those who were predisposed.
And I couldn't condemn someone to suffer for our greater good.


Oh yeah, the Oscars, I forgot

So the Oscars came and went. Ho-hum. Some guy known for making violent gangster movies finally won a little gold man for his shelf. Another old dude, who's been charming the pants off ladies for 50 years, still didn't. Seemed like a pretty predictable set of winners. I had to Google them this morning since I turned it off after watching a half hour filled with Ellen Degeneres, shadow puppets and an odd acceptance speech. Ennio Morricone, as he (deservedly!) won a lifetime achievement award, accepted in Italian with Clint Eastwood providing an awkward translation. Ellen was fine, but I missed Jon Stewart.

This year, I'm focusing on the Razzies. The true outrage: No nominations for Samuel L. Stinkbomb's Snakes on a Plane! WTF!?

Worst Picture
Basic Instinct 2
Lady in the Water
Little Man
Wicker Man

Worst Director
Michael Caton-Jones - Basic Instinct 2
Uwe Boll - Bloodrayne
Ron Howard - The Da Vinci Code
M Night Shyamalan - Lady in the Water
Keenan Ivory Wayans - Little Man


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Atheism Revisited

Thanks to YouTube, here are some clips from recent episodes of the Paula Zahn Show that I referred to last week. Now you can see the broadcasts for yourself.

The first show (featuring no atheists) produced this debate. Thank goodness for Steven A Smith (who is primarily known as an excellent sports commentator.) Otherwise, this would have been a pure witchhunt.

After sparking a major controversy, CNN offered a follow up, featuring Ellen Johnson of American Atheists and some douchebag posing as a reverend. I'm shocked that the Reverend Jessie Lee Peterson is allowed to represent anyone anywhere. He should join Tim Hardaway in his hole somewhere.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Atheism in the News

I'm not totally comfortable with Richard Dawkins representing my side in the popular dialogue about atheism vs. theism. It annoys me when he snarkily points out in his opening statements that he doesn't believe in Zeus or Thor either. He has valid points to make, but he comes off like a bit of a tool sometimes. Other atheism proponents tend to look just as bad, squawking in their Chicken Little voices about how the planet's religious zealots are bringing about the end of the world. On the other hand, if I were a Christian, I'd be downright mortified by the morons they are dredging up to defend the Biblethumpers' point of view.

Facing off against the head of American Atheists in a recently televised "talking-head pundits" show, I actually saw a preacher accuse atheists of not having ethics. He reasoned that ethics came from the Bible, and if you didn't accept the Bible as fact, how could you have ethics? This question is so shockingly ignorant, that it was not a surprise when this preacher later went on to bash gays and followers of other faiths.

Ethics, it should be obvious, come from your parents, your teachers, the books you've loved, the movies and television shows you've watched and the friends you've talked to, and (hopefully) from the private thinking you've done about life and how to live it. The Bible is certainly one source of values (though a little violent for my tastes.) And so are the Qur'an, the Bhagavad Gita, and Winnie the Pooh's Adventure in the 100 Acre Wood. So are the works of Roald Dahl, the Lord of the Rings, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater and Princess Mononoke.

The idea that one's ethics can be defined by a single collection of antiquated texts is sad rhetoric. Martin Luther King Jr., maybe Christianity's greatest modern statesman, was heavily influenced by Gandhi. If he hadn't opened his horizons to incorporate the values and teachings of various cultures and philosophers, he wouldn't have been the leader that he was. What does The Bible have to tell us about civil rights activism, or violence in video games, or about stem cell research or about a person's right to euthanasia? Only what we can loosely extrapolate. Frankly, that's not enough for me. I require other sources of information to make up my mind about how to live and what to believe in. I require the graphic novels of Alan Moore, and the 1995 Seattle Mariners, and Jack Keruac's On the Road, and Goya and Judy Bloom and Feargus Urquhart and John F. Kennedy and Frank Miller's Daredevil and the plays of Edward Albee and Vaclav Havel and the music of Nick Drake and Joe Strummer.

The idea that I don't have ethics because I don't believe in God is offensive and ignorant. I have done more thinking about personal ethics and live more in accordance with a set of ethics than most Christians. Just because I'm influenced by various sources and my ethics have evolved over the years doesn't make me different. Christians also learn and grow and change as they mature, and Christians are also influenced by media and pop culture. And yet atheists remain the single most distrusted minority group in America. Sad.


Hero Status

Hawking his new book, and enjoying the sudden celebrity of gay superhero, John Amaechi is making his rounds on the cable news channels. Known previously as a talented basketball player who never lived up to his potential, Amaechi's good looks, sexy accent and surprisingly articulate vocabulary are sure to provide him with another 15 minutes of fame as a gay athlete spokesman.

I caught him last week talking about how Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan benched him because Sloan thought he seemed anti-American. Watching John speak during an MSNBC interview, I can see why. He actually dared to suggest that criticism levied by NBA wunderkind Lebron James wasn't meaningful because Lebron "lacks experience" and "may or may not even have a passport." Once again, global citizens are suggesting that Americans need to travel the world before shooting off their mouths. Outrageous!

Many will be disappointed with Amaechi for waiting until he retired to come out of the closet... after all, several professional athletes (though none from the NBA) have done that already. People want a hero... a gay version of Jackie Robinson. It seems like the timing is just about right. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban even thinks it could be a profitable move for some brave soul. America wants an active player to make the announcement, suffer the slings and arrows of a homophobic society, and show grace under fire in order to help effect change.

I don't know. I think the fact that this guy played two full seasons in a state like Utah shows some heroic fortitude. Plus, it's just amazing to see an articulate basketball player (who even made it through an entire interview without thanking Jesus.) I thought former Knicks player and presidential candidate Bill Bradley would be the only cagey cager I would ever hear speak. It's a lot of pressure to dump on a guy, and I think the criticism is unfair. Amaechi has said that he isn't a hero. But when told by the interviewer that his actions kept others in the closet, he said (with conviction) "No, I'm not keeping people in the closet. American society is keeping people in the closet." I think that's well-stated, and statesmanship is something we lack almost as much as leadership.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Last Set of Photos

Per Eric's request, here's the rest of the lot.


Red Berries

Lava Spout

Verigated Leaves


Thursday, February 01, 2007

More Pics from The Garden State




Forest Fire


Blue Berries2