December 31, 2012

The wisdom of the aged

Listen, you young whippersnappers. At some point (soonish), I'm going to share my old-guy wisdom with you. I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to say, but each pronouncement will be a genuine pearl of wisdom. Would you like to see a flash of the kind of thing I might flaunt? Probably at the top of my list would be something like this:

1. For heaven's sake, blot the cottage cheese with a tissue if it's wet on top.

So don't worry. Pretty soon I'll publish my final list of Important Things for Young People to Know. And then life, which seemed so hard, will become easy. You'll have the key, the code, the wisdom. You'll be set.

A future for deleted scenes

When I enjoy a book, it's a hard moment when I reach the last page. All those good feelings, all that enjoyment -- over? Done?! It can't be!

But maybe the book doesn't have to end there. What about all those great scenes the author deleted? And the story lines that were abandoned? And characters that didn't make it into the final version?

When I have time, I think I'll create a few "pages" on the Xmas Carol blog. Apparently you can set up separate pages (in addition to the main web page, in other words) that people access through tabs. I see a "Deleted Scenes" tab coming up in my future.

I want the XC blog to deliver extra value to readers, to give them a solid reason to visit. In addition to interesting posts, the deleted scenes might fit the bill nicely. And then readers can meet Margo, a great deleted character. And what about James, Maria Kennedy's other love interest? Didn't know about that one, did you?

Anyway, food for thought. Also, since Xmas Carol is an ebook, I could easily tack these features on at the end of the book. But I'm not sure that would be a great idea. Still, think about it: ebooks can go on forever if the author keeps adding stuff. Betcha can't do that with paper books.

December 30, 2012

About those TV interviews with gun nuts

In the last two weeks, I've seen at least 20 interviews with "gun advocates" on TV. Armed with this data, I think I can draw a summary conclusion about these people. They're all stupid. There doesn't seem to be one functioning brain cell in any of their heads.

So this means...the stupid people are all armed. That makes me feel real safe. You?

Weird weather across the globe

This Christmas proved to be one of weather extremes across Europe. In neighboring France, summer-like temperatures of 24.3 degrees drew holiday goers out to the beaches. But in Russia, Moscow reported temperatures on Boxing Day of minus 25 degrees Celsius and the Siberia region has reported temperatures in recent days as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius. A wave of extreme cold that began in mid-December has resulted in the weather-related deaths of 120 people in Russia, 80 in Ukraine and around 60 in Poland. 
Even as the evidence for climate change piles up around us, humans are doing absolutely nothing to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, we're fracturing the ground we stand on and poisoning the water table -- to extract more oil. (Okay, Ireland and a few other places are indeed trying to staunch the flow of greenhouse gases. But that's miniscule help in these circumstances. What's needed is massive, global change).

Our descendants are going to hate us, and rightly so. We are world-killers, species-killers. We are death incarnate.

What's the tackiest thing you've ever seen?

This would be high on my list. (Wikipedia commons image.)

December 29, 2012

The Roman Catholic church is a cesspool

I'll let PZ tell you about it. I'm too nauseous, myself. Ugh.

Who would you bring back?

At this time of year we're deluged with lists of notable people who died in the last 12 months. The reading of these names fills us with longing and sadness, and serves as a reminder. Death comes so frequently to our world. This is why we find these lists helpful: they refresh our memories.

But let's move beyond this. Who would you bring back from the dead, if you could do such a thing? Don't limit your response to those who died this year -- but on the other hand, let's not dive deeply into the past, either. Let's limit the choice to people who died in our lifetime. So no bringing back Lincoln, in other words. (And we're talking about famous people, not your sister Hildy, though she was sweet as pie.)

My answer is John Lennon. Who would you bring back?

Death porn

A lot was made recently about a NYC newspaper that printed a photo of a man who was about to be killed by a subway train. Yes, it was disgusting. But they do this all the time.

Yesterday, an 11-year-old boy was killed by a dump truck as he tried to cross the street. Local TV stations played endless loops of video of the boy buying a soda and something to eat at a deli -- seconds before he walked into the street and was killed. The video also showed him fixing his jacket and schoolbag on the sidewalk outside the store after his purchase, and stepping toward his death.

This is not okay. It's death porn and it's disgusting that the news people show this sort of thing. Yes, report on the boy's death. But don't try to titillate the viewers -- not when you're talking about a death, and especially when it's a child. I'm not even sure the parents should see that video, never mind random viewers.

I called the media vampires the other day. But it's worse than that. They're ghouls, eating the dead before our eyes. It's utterly disgusting. And if this happens in our country on a regular basis -- which it does -- then we are disgusting. Welcome to the United States of 2012.

Oy: a perfect word

If you live in Manhattan you have not one, but many, Jewish friends. It just happens. And if you've had these friends for a number of years, you know all about the word "oy". Well, maybe not all. But you understand the word a lot better than your typical goyim.

First of all, oy is not as simple as it seems when you see it written down. It's just joy without the J, right? Oy, you gentiles! You just don't get it.

Oy is not a simple word. For one thing, it has at least four, perhaps five, syllables. If you're from Iowa or Arkansas, you probably didn't know that. It's a deep word, with its own world of pronunciations and uses. Yes, it's perfect to express casual dismay, which is the way it's usually heard. But it also expresses fear and foreboding (and surprise) -- and does so beautifully. (This is one of the times when the number of syllables grows). Oy expresses hopelessness like a jewel. It is the perfect word for the verklempt.

I could go on and on, particularly about the pronunciation. But it would be far better if you did a few years of field work. You really can't teach the use of the word; you have to live with it.

I'd like to close with a final thought that expresses the utter perfection of the word "oy". Oy is the yin of yo's yang. If you had any doubts about the almost supernatural nature of the term, surely this observation blew your doubts away. If not, oy.

December 28, 2012


The headline said, "Biden Swears in Schatz". I thought, "Hmmm. Must be a Yiddish dialect."

This time I'll imitate a TV detective

Recently I spent a few days looking for timeline software. I had this illusion that there was a program out there that could track the timeline for my next novel, magically and simply. Ha. There are timeline programs but I don't find them magical, or even pleasing. Thus I remain a softwareless child.

The timeline proved troublesome in Xmas Carol. Toward the end, I realized my days were cramped and jumbling into one another. I had to adjust all sorts of things to bring them into line, which wasn't fun at all. I want to avoid this pitfall with my next book.

Without the aid of magical software, I'm going to create a timeline -- but I'll do it like the detectives on TV. I'm going to line my living room wall(s) with a long piece of paper. Then I'll put dates on the paper and string my scenes over the timeline. Surely this will work. Surely.

December 27, 2012

Weather terminology

Have you noticed that weather forecasters seem to make up terminology? For instance, my online weather report says "Ice Pellets" for today's forecast. I think they've been using this terminology for a couple of years. Before that, I'd never heard the term "ice pellets".

And right now it says "Light Snow Mist". Indeed. Is that the name of a new alcoholic drink? Something for the ladies, perhaps? Or do they really mean there's nano-snow outside my window?

They make this stuff up. In the summer I often hear the weather people say there will be a "locally on-shore wind". What in dog's name is a "locally on-shore wind"? The phrase makes no sense.

Dumb question in NYT

Here's how it's phrased:
Should parents object if a 6-year-old picks up “Harry Potter”? Do children rush past picture books too soon?
Duh. If the kid can read Harry Potter, his brain is a lot older than you think. As a person who read adult novels at 5, I find the notion of pushing "picture books" on such a child to be appalling. Give the kid "Ulysses" if he wants to read it.

Let kids read whatever they want to read, no matter what it is. If they're confused, they can always ask you questions. Then again, if you were thinking of pulling an adult book from your child's hand and substituting "The Cat in the Hat", maybe the child should look outside the family for someone to talk to.

PS: Some of the "discussion" included in the article is good. The writers seem to agree with my sentiment, for the most part. It's just the question itself. Oy.

Amid the chaff...

This was my favorite Xmas story of 2012 (aside from Xmas Carol, of course). It's the one about Santa signing to a deaf child. So sweet.

How was your Xmas?

The problem with "intoxication murder"

As this story tells us, when two guys get stinking drunk and go for a drive, and the passenger gets killed, the driver is (or at least can be) charged with "intoxication murder."

This rubs me the wrong way. In the car were two men who were (I assume) equally drunk and thus equally responsible for what occurred. It seems to me if the passenger is killed, he committed suicide. Unless someone outside the car is killed, the driver should be charged with DUI, not murder.

They never take into count the equal responsibility of the passenger. How were those two guys different? They weren't. The other guy could as easily have been the driver; it just wasn't his car. That's a detail, not a case for murder.

What if the passenger lived and the driver was killed? No charge against the passenger? They need to think this through again.

What's your opinion?

Update:  It turns out the passenger in this incident wasn't drunk at all. I picked a bad example. But my argument remains sound. When both driver and passenger are drunk, I think if anyone dies inside the car, it's a suicide. Wish I'd picked a different twosome for the post.

December 26, 2012

There is no god

I read a sweet but meaningless column by Maureen Dowd this morning. She trotted out her favorite Catholic priest to tell us why god allows suffering to exist in the world. Though a lovely-sounding piece, it said nothing more than this: people can help at such a time. And somehow this is supposed to mean that god is present. Christian apologetics are never pretty and they make no sense at all. If there was a god, innocent children would not be murdered. Christians dodge and weave around this obvious truth, not really knowing what to say. This column is just more of the same.

But in the comments I found this:
I have been a nurse for 34 years and I have seen every imaginable form of death--quiet deaths, raging deaths, frightfully fearful deaths, utterly cruel deaths. At nearly age 66, they continue to traumatize me. I was once a conservative Christian but, over time, became an atheist, and I am now content. Like all the rest, when I die, I will weave my matter and energy into the fabric of the universe, for the universe is oblivious to me. However, because of my beliefs, I struggle more and more valiantly to provide the kind of nursing care that promotes life, however near death a person is. I am not sidetracked by transcendental delusions. We are here, at the far end of evolution, for but a short time, after the universe we know has been blazing away for 14.7 billion years or so. We will be replaced. It thus behooves us to live this singular life [with] passionate purpose. Live, Live for what IS.
Yes. What he said.

What they're saying

They say His Eminence, Cardinal Timothy Dolan can’t touch the Host anymore because he’s become so evil. If he touches one, there is a hissing noise and then a pop. The Host is said to burn his fingers, literally setting them on fire.

Since the official Vatican plan calls for Dolan to ascend the popey throne, they created a set of special finger-pads for him. Made from nano-materials, they look like human fingers while providing an effective barrier between His Holiness and the Host. No hiss, no pop. The Vatican says the Host doesn’t even know Dolan’s nearby -- the pads are that good!

And so His Eminence can continue to distribute Holy Communion to the faithful. According to Vatican insiders, when Dolan becomes pope he'll stop all that in-church nonsense and concentrate full-time on demonizing women and gays. They have a plan, the Vatican does.

At least, that's what I heard.

December 25, 2012

Stuck on the lyrics

This (partial, invented) Xmas Carol kept working its way through my brain this season. All I've got are the first two lines. Perhaps someone out there will help me finish it. To the tune of "We Three Kings":

We tall men with elbow-length hair
Traveled here from way over there...

And then nuthin'. Help! (And yeah, I know I didn't get very far with the lyrics. Unusual for me.)

A good priest

There's an inspiring article today about Bishop Raul Vera of Mexico. This is one great guy. Vera is not only a moral man, but a tremendous fighter. Cowed by no one, he speaks out against the Mexican government's corruption and the drug cartels.
Politicians are tied to organized crime, Bishop Raul Vera bellowed while inaugurating the church's Year of Faith. Lawmakers' attempts to curb money laundering are intentionally weak. New labor reforms are a way to enslave Mexican workers.
How, Vera asked, can Mexicans follow leaders "who are the ones who have let organized crime grow, who have let criminals do what they do unpunished, because there's no justice in this country!"
As you might imagine, the church isn't pleased with the range of Vera's remarks.
Vera is clearly unafraid to speak. That makes him an important voice of dissent in a country where the Roman Catholic Church often works hand-in-hand with the powerful, and where cynicism about politics is widespread and corrosive. 
The icing on the cake is that he reaches out to gays despite the Vatican's virulent hatred toward all things gay:
Vera was invited to speak at a U.S.-based conference for a Catholic gay and lesbian organization. In 2010, he was awarded a human rights prize in Norway...And last year, the 67-year-old was summoned to the Vatican to explain a church outreach program to gay youth.
The popey no likey. Vera sounds like an old-time, moral priest -- something you rarely see in today's church of hatred and vindictiveness. The article notes that Vera will not use bodyguards. He feels that since others are unprotected, he also must move through the world without protection. 

Why does the church make inconsequential nobodies saints on the basis of fake miracles, when they could saint a guy like this? Oh, right! The hatred. I forgot. Anyway, nice to know a man like Bishop Vera exists in the church.

Merry Xmas, yada yada yada

You've opened all your presents by now, and you're eating pastry and coffee as you wait hungrily for your meal. Good for you. Try not to have a heart attack, okay?

Moving right along, there was a wildly inaccurate press notice from the EPA just before Xmas. Here's an AP article about it.
OLD BRIDGE, N.J. (AP) — For more than a month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said that the recent superstorm didn't cause significant problems at any of the 247 Superfund toxic waste sites it's monitoring in New York and New Jersey

But in many cases, no actual tests of soil or water are being conducted, just visual inspections.
I'm sure the EPA's announcement came as a shock to the people who live by the Gowanus Canal. The article notes that the Gowanus Canal is "heavily contaminated with PCBs, heavy metals, volatile organics and coal tar wastes." People, it's the most disgusting site in America. Trust me on this.

When the Canal was flooded by Hurricane Sandy, its "water" flooded into homes and basements in all the surrounding areas. Can you imagine having that kind of toxic sludge in your house?

But rest assured. The EPA says it never happened. Everything is safe, pink and fuzzy. Heck, you could eat your Xmas dinner off the floor in any of those homes. Isn't it great to have a government that takes care of things like this? Ho, ho, ho. Merry Xmas!

Update: Don't believe me about how toxic the Canal is? A dolphin entered the Gowanus Canal and died. The rescuers wouldn't go in the "water" to save it. Too dangerous.

December 23, 2012

The Ghosts of Christmas Present

We feel the pall that hangs over this holiday. It won't go away and it shouldn't. This is the way Christmas 2012 happened: with the ghosts of children hovering over holiday gatherings, nationwide.

Looking ahead -- and we must -- I hope Americans treat what happened in Connecticut the way the people of Norway responded to Anders Breivak's mass murder of children. Instead of fracturing, they came together in love. It made them stronger rather than weaker, and more determined than ever to bring about a just, peaceful society.

We could do worse this Christmas than emulate the wisdom of these people, who have been through the same and worse. No guns, no violence. That must be our goal. This Christmas, my fondest hope is that we can come together as a nation to make this dream a reality.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Atheist chaplains

I came across this on the SF Gate site:
Figdor, 28, is one of a growing number of faith-free chaplains at universities, in the military and in the community who believe that nonbelievers can benefit from just about everything religion offers except God. 
They actually have atheist chaplains at Stanford and Harvard. Apparently, they make themselves available to students who don't believe in god, to help them address emotional problems such as stress or a death in the family. They also provide a source for discussions about the meaning of life, and try to instill a sense of community among atheist students. And it's all done with a broad humanist hand.

Here's a bit more from the article:
In humanism, "we emphasize the values of compassion and empathy alongside reason and science," [Figdor] said. "Humanism is about using science and technology to solve human problems. But it's also the belief that we should ask if something will create suffering or ameliorate it."
Though I'm not keen on the word "chaplain", this sounds like it's being done in a sensible, helpful manner. By Jove, I think I like it! Here's a final snippet to send you on your way:
And hymns?
Figdor offered two: John Lennon's "Imagine," of course, and anything by a certain punk band whose lead singer, Greg Graffin, wrote his doctoral dissertation on evolution at Cornell University.

The band is called Bad Religion.

December 22, 2012

The US needs a proud celebrity hooker

Olympic track star Suzy Favor-Hamilton has been stripped of her invitation to the annual Disneyland Half Marathon after she was outed as an elite $600-an-hour escort
There's nothing wrong with making money with your body. Construction workers do it all the time. Unfortunately, that wasn't her response to the media. She apologized. For what, I don't know.

According to the article, Suzy Favor-Hamilton said she is "currently seeking psychological help for her problem." What problem? The depression she mentioned? Fine, see a shrink about your depression. But the article makes it sound like she needs psychological help because she was a hooker. I seriously doubt that.
I'd love to see women (and men) proudly stating that they're hookers. And I'd hope they would be welcomed into the human family. Hookers have always been a part of society. Why do we not respect the vital services they provide? I don't get it and I never will.

Metal Fido

Tell me this doesn't look like a page out of Star Wars. It's a four-legged robot intended for military use. It can carry 400 pounds of equipment for troops on the move, and respond to simple voice commands like "follow me", the way a dog would. Weird. Just go look at it even if you don't want to read the story.

Stats and reality

Blogger says I've had over 50,000 visitors. Doesn't feel like it. In fact, it feels kind of chilly in here. Maybe one of the visitors left the door open.

Elephant communication

Interesting story about elephants and the way they make group decisions. Apparently they chat about it for a while.

Reminds me of the way a flock of geese chooses the right moment to fly. On the ground, they call to one another excitedly, a voice here, a voice there. The excitement builds until finally they're all honking together as they leap into the sky.

December 21, 2012

Gee, I wonder...

A day or two ago, a couple of guys escaped from a Chicago jail. Their photos were all over the news: a white guy and a black guy. So they caught one of them. Here's AP's lede in an article that does not have an accompanying photo:
CHICAGO (AP) — One of two convicted bank robbers who was captured days after a daring escape from a high-rise downtown Chicago federal jail shuffled into a brief court hearing Friday, shackled at the arms and legs. 
Gee. I wonder if they caught the black guy or the white guy. Hmmmm. Yes, it's the black guy. I'm sorry, but if you're reporting about an African-American person, you can't say he shuffled. AP fail.

Evil pope stays on point

You have to give the pope credit: he never stops beating his drum.
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The pope pressed his opposition to gay marriage Friday, denouncing what he described as people manipulating their God-given identities to suit their sexual choices — and destroying the very "essence of the human creature" in the process. 
Way to go, popey guy! Spread the true spirit of Christmas all around. Joy to the world! The article says he "made the comments in his annual Christmas address to the Vatican bureaucracy, one of his most important speeches of the year." Nice. Very nice.

And how's this for an example of colossal dissonance?
"People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being," he said.
I can't believe he said that. That's a great description of how gay people know they're gay. Because they "have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being." We don't even have to change the pope's words. Seriously, who writes this guy's stuff? A gay Vatican priest who hates the pope's hypocrisy?

And now I'll speak directly to the pope. Think of this as my Xmas message to the grand man. "You pig, you." Let me repeat this: "You pig, you." What a disgusting, amoral man. Then again, who better to sit at the head of a worldwide death cult?

Ho, ho, ho. Merry Xmas!

December 20, 2012

From Jason Rosenhouse

Rosenhouse carves up the religious wingnuts in his post, "Responses to Newtown":
Typical is this statement from James Dobson:
I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us.
Charming God they worship. He did not allow judgment to fall upon “us.” He allowed it to fall on a group of young children and the adults trying to protect them. Apparently it’s not enough for God to settle up with apostates in the afterlife. He has to allow children to be murdered in this one.
Well said. I love Jason Rosenhouse. I only wish he'd post more often. Because when he does, he invariably hits the nail on the head.

Dempster. All right!

I just read the news. Ryan Dempster signed with the Red Sox. I couldn't be happier. Mind you, I haven't watched a Red Sox game recently -- but I'm back with the team, for sure. I love this guy. I mean, have you seen his Harry Caray impression? And he can pitch!

This is just what I needed because I've been laid low by the Mets' appalling trade of Cy Young winner RA Dickey. How could they do that? First they traded Reyes, and now Dickey. This is all about Fred Wilpon, the cheesy owner of the Mets, who entrusted his money to Bernie Madoff. He lost big-time so he's going to bleed the Mets and run off with every last cent -- and the hell with the fans. I'm not going to watch one Mets game this year. So there.

And who cares? I've got my Red Sox back. I used to love them but really, I haven't been happy with the team since the whole Manny thing went down. Manny was low. Really low. So this Dempster news is much-needed. And you know what? He's going to love it in Boston, and the fans will welcome him with open arms. Ryan Dempster is a Red Sox pitcher. Very cool.

Good article

AP is running a story about Hilde Zadek, a 95-year-old opera singer. I found it interesting and wanted more. Here's a link.

December 19, 2012

Be counted

If you haven't already registered with the Atheist Census, you can still do so. It's time to be counted. We are HUGE!

Birth defects, cancer rampant among Iraq's children

Uranium-tipped munitions used by the United States in the Iraq war are apparently causing birth defects and multiple cancers in the children of Iraq. Der Spiegel has the story. It's only conjecture at this point, but the children are all located in areas where battles were waged.

That we invaded the wrong country makes this doubly obscene.

How does this happen?

Last night I watched "Up and Down", a 2004 movie from the Czech Republic. It was very good. Lovely photography and very funny situations. Moving, too. (It's described as a comedy/drama.) It has subtitles, which I don't mind because I find it enjoyable to hear the original actors' voices. In a dubbed movie, you lose so much. These actors had some extremely funny lines -- and their voices played a vital role in the comedic delivery.

So tell me. Why are foreign comedies funny...while all we get is Adam Sandler?

Vampire media

It's time for the media to pack up their microphones and cameras and be gone from Newtown -- but they won't leave until the last blood has been sucked from grieving residents. The reporters are vampires; this is what they do for a living.

Yesterday on CBS, I saw a female vampire interviewing a teenager. The young man said, "My neighbor up the street...her kid didn't come home." The reporter's response was to push the microphone closer to the kid's mouth and ask, "How was that?"

Ugh. Leave these poor people to their grief. Depart, unclean spirits. Return to the depths from whence you came.

December 18, 2012

Glen Stanton: Idiot Extraordinaire

On a wingnut radio show, Glen Stanton of Focus on the Family said this:
It was Christians and a Christian worldview that created scientific investigation; it has its roots in that.
Galileo Galilei must be rolling in his grave. Christianity has always fought science, tooth and nail. Faith is the enemy of all new knowledge -- because facts can be troublesome. They have this ornery tendency to conflict with the bible. I can't imagine why.

Hat tip to Ed Brayton.

The pope's worst nightmare

Apparently, China rounded up 500 members of an evangelical Christian sect. One of their beliefs is guaranteed to drive the pope batty.
Those detained are reported to be members of the group Almighty God, which is also called Eastern Lightning, after a phrase from the Bible's Book of Matthew. Widely regarded as a heretical Christian sect, the group preaches that Jesus has reappeared as a woman in central China. It has been accused of targeting Christians, kidnapping and beating them to force conversions. 
A female Jesus! I'll bet steam comes out of the man-loving pope's ears when he hears anything about this group. Fun!

December 17, 2012

Xmas past

My Aunt Sue, may she rest in the ground, used to make us laugh at Xmas. She didn't know this, but that just made it more fun.

On Xmas Eve, my extended family always went to Aunt Sue's house in Elmont, Long Island. Since the family got along for the most part, we all looked forward to this family gathering. We did the usual: ate our hearts out and gave presents to the kids.

When it came time, we would open Aunt Sue's presents with equal amounts of trepidation and glee. The paper unwrapped, we'd open the box and lift the tissue paper and see...something. She gave the strangest presents in the world. Even years later, and with extensive family consultations, we wouldn't know what the thing was. Of course, this would cause endless laughter. (Don't worry; she never knew. We were not an evil family.)

To give an example, one year she gave my sister this thing. It was a, a...sort of a necklace-type thing made of rope and beads -- but there was no way to put it over your head. The hole was too small. It didn't have any hooks or fasteners that might have turned it into a big, clunky bracelet. We were stumped -- and remained that way.

I remember one year, we asked her what something was. Her response was, "I just saw it and thought you would like it." She was very nice and always vague, dear Aunt Sue. These memories seem so sweet now. Those were great family evenings -- even though one of the uncles would always get drunk and sing. He wasn't even bad, but it was the same song, again and again. And this spanned decades. 

But we had fun and that's what Xmas is all about. By the way, I noticed they've made a movie of my book, Xmas Carol. I saw it in the listings for Turner Classic Movies. But they spelled the title incorrectly! It said "A Christmas Carol". Weird. But I'm glad someone made a movie out of my book. I'll have to see it sometime. 

Ho, ho, ho. Sorta. Don't let anything ruin your Xmas. Go have fun!

Real journalism? Great idea!

There's an important article today at theguardian. It's by Glenn Greenwald. There is a new way for people to support government transparency and true journalism. If you've been following the Wikileaks story, you know the US government hounded the organization into the ground in retaliation for revealing the wrongdoing of the United States. US companies supported these extra-legal activities by literally cutting Wikileaks out of the banking system. Presently, it's impossible for anyone to donate to the organization.

Or rather, that was the case yesterday. But things are looking up. Read Greenwald's article. Now you have a great place to direct donations. Given our secretive, power-mad times, this is a big, big event.

Favorite inventions

My favorite human invention is conversation. My second favorite is Dawn Dishwashing Liquid. And my third is the Internet, which was invented by Al Gore.

What are your favorite human inventions?

December 16, 2012

Now is the only thing that ever happens

I've been thinking about this song lately. It's always been my favorite George Harrison tune. Perfect Sunday music.

Hmmm, sounds famliar

The gunman in the Connecticut shooting rampage committed suicide as first responders closed in, the governor said Sunday, raising the specter that Adam Lanza had planned an even more gruesome massacre and was stopped short.
The more I read about the shootings, the more I think this kid might have been a fan of Anders Breivik, Norway's maniac shooter. Hence, the similar targets.

The vapid words of priests

The pope sent the following message to the grieving families in Newton, CT:
"I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer," the pope said in his first public comments on the massacre by a lone gunman. "May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain." 
Thanks, pope. Your meaningless words mean...nothing. But what does fat, red-faced Cardinal Timmy Dolan have to say about the massacre? (I knew he'd worm his way into these events somehow.)
“Even in moments of tragedy, God gives us light,” Dolan said. “We have to seek the light in the darkness that God gives us. Goodness will always trump evil.”
Yes, let's all look for that light from god, and the goodness that is surely all over these events. It must be there...somewhere. Priests offer meaningless words. It's what they do.

Yesterday on CNN, I heard a dreadful pastor speaking nonsense. The anchor asked him what we should tell the parents. I didn't get the pastor's name, but he said we must remember that we are "fallen" and must "seek redemption." You know what, pastor? Fuck you and your filthy faith. Fallen indeed. That's just what the parents need to hear right now. What disgusting words.

Religion is empty. It's a magic fence constructed around nothing. Thus the words of priests are always meaningless. It disgusts me the way these "men of the cloth" cluster around disasters to reap their own Earthly rewards, such as camera time, adulation and donations. They make me sick.

American TV: the classy channels

I happened to glance at the TV listings. Oy. And I'm not talking Fox here. These are the "classy" channels. Let's see what's on.

Let's check the Arts and Entertainment network first. Oh, look. They're showing Flipping Vegas, followed by two hours of Shipping Wars. That sounds very artistic and entertaining.

The History Channel may have even better fare. They've got a show about Nostradamus followed by a full day of disaster fare. Yay! The end of the world -- and it's historic.

Maybe there's something better on Bravo. Such a great name for a network. They must have the real classy stuff. Let's see. Ah, they've got a full day of The Real Housewives of Who The Hell Cares Where. Must-see TV!

Let's move on to NatGeo. Now this is a name we know and trust. I mean, it's National Geographic. I'm sure they'll have some classy fare. Let's take a peek. Oh, boy! They've got a full day of Alaska State Troopers! Whoopee!

Okay, this next one surely offers high-quality fare. It's The Discovery Channel, after all. Let's see what we can discover there. Oooooh, look! Amish Mafia and Moonshiners! For hours and hours!

Okay, I'm starting to get upset. But there's one more classy channel to check out: The Learning Channel. Well, that's got to be terrific. Oh, it seems they're showing many, many hours of Undercover Boss. Am I learning now?

And this is the cream of the crop. Welcome to American TV. Sigh.

Also too: The names of the stations I've mentioned are Newspeak, just like the Clear Skies Act, No Child Left Behind and the latest one: Right to Work. It's all Pleather. Ah, America! Of thee I sing.

December 15, 2012

Too much pain

I think what happened in CT yesterday is even more painful for atheists than believers. At least the latter have delusions to distract them. But atheists know those children lost the only lives they'll ever have. That's the reality of the situation and it's too painful to bear.

If the parents recover from this blow and go on to live meaningful lives, they have my utmost admiration. No parent should have to suffer like this. But of course it goes much further than the immediate families of victims. The kids who survived will never be the same. And the echoes go out from there, spreading far and wide. Will any kid in a U.S. elementary school ever feel safe again?

I have so much anger. Radio silence for the rest of the day.

December 14, 2012

The adventures of the popey guy

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Christmas season is kicking off at the Vatican with the traditional lighting of the tree in St. Peter's Square — and a reminder from the pope about what happened when the "lights" of God were turned off in past atheistic regimes. 

Were lots of kids raped? Were they, huh? Those damned atheists!

To "get off the stick"

I found myself searching for the origin of a phrase today. All my life I've heard people say, "Get off the stick". It means get going, or stop making excuses and do it. The meaning has always been clear.

But when I searched for the phrase, I found nothing. For one thing, people seemed to think the phrase was "get on the stick". I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that. Some folks suggested it had to do with gears and planes, but no one really knew where it originated.

Which of these phrases do you hear in your area? And is your understanding the same as mine? (Oddly, the reverse saying -- "get on the stick" -- means the same thing: get going.) Anyone know where this comes from? I'm always interested in phrase origins.

I checked my two dictionaries of phrase origins, too. Nope. And after writing this post, I wonder if people who say "get off the stick" are committing a common error. They're aiming at "get on the stick" but they're echoing "get off the pot". Hmmm. Words. I love 'em.

The finger knows

I'm intrigued by the partnership between our bodies and our minds. We know some things; our body knows others. We see this split clearly when considering our own hands.

If you type well, your fingers have no problem finding the right key. But if you need to peck something out on a touchscreen, using only one finger, you're not as nimble. You've had this experience, surely. Our fingers know things that we don't. (This applies as well to playing the piano. You can't think about which keys you're hitting. You just do it. And what about dancing? If you tried to choreograph every movement with your conscious mind, you'd find it difficult.)

What brings this to mind is something I just noticed. I have a desktop Mac and use Apple's stand-alone trackpad with it. I also have a MacBook Air and an iPad that use trackpads.

Here's the thing: I've set gestures -- the finger movements used to control the device -- differently on all three machines. On each, swiping and dragging and whatnot are performed with different finger movements. Yet my hands have no problem with the changing systems. They know which device they're using and they're familiar with the rules specific to that machine. If I think about how many fingers to swipe, I don't know what to do. But my fingers do it simply and easily.

Our minds and bodies work in partnership. It's not all top-down. I try to be aware of this so I don't intrude on my body's turf. It does fine without a brain guiding it. Good old bodies. Don't you just love them?

Brayton on the Supremes

In a post about the (un)likelihood of SCOTUS saying, "G'wan. All you gay people can git married now," Ed Brayton said:
I think we’ll start seeing more states repeal their bans starting in 2014 and by 2020, I expect them only to be in place in the most conservative states, mostly in the South. After that point, and only after that point, I expect the Supreme Court to issue a broad equal protection ruling making equality the law nationwide. As one wise wit put it, the Supreme Court likes to be the last player in on a gang tackle, running in at the last second to jump on top of the pile while yelling “let’s do some justice here!”
I love that description. I read Brayton's blog, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, every day. There are tons of posts, all excellent. After, it's my favorite web destination.

December 13, 2012

Mind-boggling tone deafness

I'll let Ed Brayton tell you about it. It's amazing. These people live in a dark closet with 20 locks on the door.

What's wrong with this picture?

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican has happily accepted a donated Nativity scene for St. Peter's Square this Christmas after a previous setup costing €550,000 ($717,000) was exposed by the embarrassing scandal over leaked Vatican documents. The pope drank wine from a platinum chalice as he watched bare-chested workers set up the installation.

Unaware person of the day: Bill Donohue

Bill Donohue, Christian blowhard, actually said this:

"We as Christians never harass, intimidate or insult atheists."

Really, he said that. (Warning: Fox News link. If you've just eaten, don't click.)

Uh, wait a minute...

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A U.S. law firm hired by the Ukrainian government has concluded that the trial of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was rife with problems including violating her right to defense and unfairly imprisoning her before she was convicted. 
You mean, like the US imprisoned Bradley Manning though he was neither convicted nor charged with a crime? Like that?

(I'm also greatly amused when the US issues sanctions against other countries because of human rights violations. Hypocrisy, thy name is United States.)

Smoking pot is just like gay marriage

On his blog yesterday, Ed Brayton made fun of a Christian's authoritarian ways. David DeWolf was apparently upset by Washington's decision to legalize marijuana.
To David DeWolf, who teaches law at Gonzaga University, a Catholic institution in Spokane, the votes reflect individuals disconnecting from the rest of society, “elevating the desires of the individual over the needs of the community.”
Yes, someone else doing something you don't like...affects you, somehow. This reminds me of the inane argument that gay marriage somehow diminishes straight marriage -- though the two never meet in any way. Wingnut logic. It's all over the religious landscape. These people want to paint the world in their own, drab colors.

Ah, but there's more. In the same post, Brayton mentions another conservative Christian wingnut, Steve Beren, whose argument is no less unhinged:
He sees the votes as giving license to people to do other things he considers wrong. Each time something “clearly wrong or obviously immoral” is given sanction, celebrated or even ignored, it implicitly sanctions other immoral acts, he says — for example, President Clinton’s sexual transgressions.
These people just don't get the concept of logical connections.

Slice of (deer) life

So a deer was caught out on the ice in Germany, and couldn't get back to land. Unfortunately, the ice wasn't strong enough to hold the men who wanted to save the deer. However, someone had a bright idea. From Spiegel:
That's when the deer's guardian angel appeared in the form of a passing police helicopter that happened to be in the area. "Its pilot had been listening to the police frequency and heard what was going on," the spokesman said. "He offered to help and had the idea of tilting the helicopter to create a strong downdraft. That literally blew the deer off the lake."

Once the animal had hit the shore, it got up and skipped off into the forest, apparently unhurt, the spokesman said.

The case may have set a precedent. "Every time a deer's in trouble somewhere, we're going to have to call in a helicopter now," said one policeman. 
Kinda fun. I hope this becomes a trend. Maybe they can blow kids off the ice, too.

December 12, 2012

From Tristero? Can't be.

I was surprised to see Tristero's post at Hullabaloo this morning. It uses outmoded, misleading terminology.
Not saying that there isn't a heritable component to sexual preference and gender identity, just saying that the way this is reported sounds way too schematic to be believable.
Sexual preference? C'mon, he really didn't say that, right? The only acceptable (and accurate) terminology is sexual orientation. The term "sexual preference" makes it sound like we stayed up late one night and decided to go gay.

However, I hedge my criticism. He may be echoing the terminology used in the strange report that he's knocking. Mind you, that's no excuse. Preference indeed! Bah, humbug!

Note: It seems impossible to link to an individual post on Digby's blog. Same with Joe.My.God. If anyone can tell me how to get around this, I'd love to learn the trick.

The best-laid plans

In honor of the season, I bought red flannel sheets for my bed. I have a lovely, dark green comforter to go with them and I hoped the combination would look like an Xmas tree. It does. Success!

But then I stepped back, took in a wider view and realized my mistake. The bed is cherrywood. It looks awful next to the red sheets. It's like I combined red and orange. Ugh. A color mistake; how shocking. I hardly ever make those. And this one is a full-frontal mortal sin. Ah, well.

Moving right along, Cousin Carmine sent the photo you see with this post. When I asked him to take some Xmassy images for the blog, I made a special request for this very image. Of all the joys life has to offer, nothing is better than walking through a wintry lot where Xmas trees are for sale. That scent! More than anything else -- even reading Xmas Carol! -- the scent of pine makes it seem like (okay, I'll say the word) Christmas. 

Very nice!

The end of the run

My latest manic episode lasted eight days. And let me tell you, they were fine days. I swear, mania is exactly like speed. (Trust me on this; I know.)

The world sparkles when I'm manic. No matter where I focus my attention, I'm fascinated by what I see. And all the while, my head is filled with ideas, splendid ideas. It's all I can do to write them down before I forget them, or before another thought takes their place.

When I'm manic I don't want to eat, I don't want to sleep. It's exactly like speed. The only difference between being manic and being a speed freak is that you don't know when the high is coming.

Unfortunately, the crash is also similar. At the end of a manic toot, I feel like I'm carrying a truck on my shoulders -- like right now. And though sparks of ideas are still flying through my mind, I don't have the energy to write them down -- or even revel in them. I'm exhausted.

It's odd that they call this syndrome manic-depressive I don't get depressed afterward; I'm just too tired to act. Or is that what depression is? I have no idea, or rather I'm too tired to think about it.

All I can do is stand here in the surf of lost ideas, waiting for the next wave. Mania, come back!

December 11, 2012

Use, not abuse

This is an important milestone for medical marijuana in the U.S. Very nice to see this happening. Now, why do I think Obama will throw a wrench in the works? (Sorry for the HuffPo link, but the story is a good one.)

Plastic fantastic humanity

We humans are plastic. In case you're not familiar with this use of the term "plastic", it means malleable, changeable, fluid. We bend to circumstances, and change to accommodate them. This is why we won't be residing in flesh bodies much longer.

We can be anything. If a human mind was put it into an android or robot body, the mind would soon think of the new body as its own. And by "soon", I mean within minutes. The new body's abilities would be our abilities. Humans adapt. It's what we do. This change is going to happen, and what makes this possible is our amazing plasticity.

Let's do an experiment that extends the body. (This isn't my own creation; I read it somewhere.) Hold a pen or pencil in your hand, and run the tip over a surface such as a nubby fabric. You can feel it through the pencil, which has become an extension of your sensory apparatus. Try it on a few surfaces. Isn't it amazing that so much information comes to you from this process? We are plastic. We bend to circumstance. We can be anything.

We sense this when we drive. If you've ever hit a concrete wall or a tree with your car, you probably said "Ouch!" or some similar expletive. The reason this happens is that when we're driving, we extend our being throughout the car. That's you out there, not the front bumper.

We can't remain in our biological bodies. They're subject to ill health and they eventually wear down and stop functioning -- the ultimate indignity. We will pass on to other shores, whether machine-like or virtual. We will change and we will grow. And in the end, we will become something entirely different.

I write about these changes in my novels. Why? Because they're coming and we have to start thinking about what this means for humanity. Alas, no one thinks about the future anymore. But that's a post for a different day.

December 10, 2012

Daddy has to go write a new book now

Can you kids be good while I'm gone? Amuse yourselves. And whatever you do, be kind to each other. Daddy will be back very soon.

In the meantime, use this as an open thread. You can say whatever you'd like in the comments, especially if it's about Xmas Carol. But remember what I said: be good!

Translation: light posting for a while. Gotta write.

December 9, 2012

Iranian YouTube

Iran says it has launched a video-sharing website in the latest move to create government-sanctioned alternatives to Internet powerhouses such as YouTube.
I'll bet it's loads of fun.

Lotsa football

I watched the Army-Navy game yesterday. I swear, it's like I'm turning into a straight guy.

Nah. I've got too good a sense of color.

Writing: next steps and a look back

I've almost finished reading the draft of my sci-fi novel, "The Worlds". It's the book I'll be working on this year (throughout 2013, actually).

My reaction so far is that some sections of the book sing, while others seem like they were written by a (not very talented) high-schooler. The latter problem is something I'll handle in direct fashion: I'm going to rewrite huge sections of the book, from scratch. The day I finish reading the draft, I'll begin.

I've come up with a new way to begin the story. I think it will work well. The reason I'm heading toward a rewrite is that that there are basic elements missing from the draft. I didn't know enough about writing when I produced it four years ago. I've learned a lot since then and will put this knowledge to good use in the rewrite.

Writing Xmas Carol was the best experience of my life. I've never had so much fun -- and I was learning all the while, which is perhaps the best thing. My learning curve was so dramatic that by the time I finished writing the book, the beginning seemed amateurish. There was that much of a bump in my skills level. This led to over a year of editing, which I don't regret. The editing is where I really learned how to say things.

I cannot wait to apply what I've learned to "The Worlds". Much excitement ahead.

December 8, 2012

McClatchy today

With concern over the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons stockpile reaching a fever pitch this week, international experts are cautioning against alarmism, saying there’s no confirmation that the Syrians are mixing weapons components or loading them into delivery systems, as some U.S. news organizations have reported.
We're not really going to do this again, are we?

"Their Royal Highnesses"?

"Their Royal Highnesses were looked after so wonderfully well at all times by everybody at King Edward VII Hospital, and their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha's family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time."
Ugh. I find that language disgusting. "Their Royal Highnesses", indeed. Isn't it marvelous that Royal Beings could look down upon mere mortals for a moment, and send a message on down to the masses?

That poor woman died because she believed in the existence of Royal Beings, mythological creatures who, by birth, are set far above mere mortals. There are no Royal people anywhere on Earth. There are no kings, queens, princes or princesses. There is PR; there are celebrities. But "Royals" don't exist. Like gods, they are a man-made fantasy. It's sad that this woman died because she was unfamiliar with this truth.

Supreme Court tries to touch me

When yesterday's news came out about SCOTUS' intention to consider gay marriage, I felt anger. I always have this reaction when strangers think they have have a right to say anything about my life and my rights.

I won't go into a big harangue here. But how is this different from the U.A.E. making decisions about what women can and can't do? No one has the slightest right to tell anyone else how to live his or her life. If you're not harming others, you're free to engage in any action you choose. This is the basis of human life.

Honestly, I get sick each time this comes up.

It finally hit me: PZ is right

PZ Myers on his blog, Pharyngula:
Religions are systematic collections of threats and cajoling lies intended to bully a population into living in fear and supporting a parasitic priestly caste.
He says this all the time but the sense of it never came through to me until this reading. It's true. It's all about "supporting a parasitic priestly caste". Elsewise, why religion?

Football is not like baseball

You probably know that football is different from baseball. But it comes as news to me because until this year, I never watched football. Sure, I caught a game now and then but I never got into it. This is the first season where I've truly enjoyed the game. That's putting it mildly. I'm addicted.

One difference between the sports is that football players are much more affectionate toward opposing players. They're always helping each other up and patting butts and bopping hands on helmets. It's much friendlier than baseball, where you'll sometimes see a runner talk to a first baseman, or a batter say something to a catcher. But you certainly won't see a hug or any other physical expression of affection. In fact, I remember the fans booing Ike Davis, the Mets first baseman, when he offered to take an opposing player's gloves and pads across the field during a game -- to save time, according to his later statement. This was seen as extremely poor behavior. How dare he be nice to an opposing player?

But football guys bump body-parts and exchange friendly remarks with opposing players all the time. They like them. I suppose it's because there's much more physical contact in football. The players are like puppies in a box, crawling over each other in a friendly, intimate way that breeds a brotherly familiarity.

Just noted in passing. I love this game. Can't wait till Sunday. One last note: I wish they'd spread the games out. There are other days in the week, you know. Even with two tuners, it's impossible to catch all the games I'd like to see. Doesn't make sense.

December 7, 2012

Yay, a new popemobile!

German automaker Daimler says it has delivered Pope Benedict XVI his new popemobile — a customized Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV with special security features.

...Daimler says the white-painted vehicle's central interior design feature is a "throne" embroidered with the pontiff's coat of arms. 
It must be wonderful to live in a gold palace and ride around in a mobile throne. The pope must feel like Cleopatra. I hope the windows on the vehicle extend to the floor so everyone can marvel at his red shoes.

Bill Donohue, Catholic loon

"[H]omosexual marriages dilute the privileged position of traditional marriages." -- Bill Donohue
Examples, please.

Much laughter was heard

Mormon leaders unveiled a new website Thursday encouraging church members to be more compassionate in discussions about homosexuality.
Uh-huh. The Mormon church. The one that led and financed the fight against gay marriage in California. That church. These people have no sense of shame. More from the linked article:
"Same-sex attraction itself is not a sin, but yielding to it is," the website states. "However, through repentance Jesus Christ will offer forgiveness." 
I see. We should feel free to be long as we don't act like ourselves. Sure sounds like open arms to me. This is PR -- and bad PR, at that. The Mormon church is known as a religion of hatred and laughably loony beliefs. PR won't help. Nothing will.

Americans love (nonexistent) miracles

Jerry Coyne quoted from a HuffPo article on his blog yesterday. It reported that:
. . . [A]s more people appear to be turning away from organized religion, a new study finds that the number of Americans who definitely believe in religious miracles increased 22 percent in the past two decades, with 55 percent now certain of this supernatural phenomenon.

Overall, some
four in five Americans believe miracles definitely or probably occur, researcher Robert Martin of Pennsylvania State University reported at the recent meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver.

... No one, Martin and other researchers point out, may have done more for this spiritual phenomenon than Oprah Winfrey, who with her extraordinarily popular television show and other ventures made accounts of the miraculous a regular part of the lives of millions of Americans.
Thanks for spreading idiocy, Oprah. That's just what our already illogical world needs: more nonsense. Something tells me Oprah doesn't include books like Xmas Carol in her recommendations. She should. It sounds like her audience needs a dose of reality.

PS: Though I generally loathe the internet obsession with cats, this is funny. It's also from Coyne's blog.

December 6, 2012

The other side of Xmas

I'm totally stealing this from Joe Jervis at Joe.My.God. He put the video up this morning. It's faaaaabulous, a great new Xmas song. You can also get a free download of the song at the YouTube link. Here's the video.

The night I decided to go gay

I remember it well. It was a hot and humid Tuesday in Tampa. I was on another of my endless business trips, which took me all around the country. That evening, I was laying around my damp motel room in the nude, hoping the feeble air-conditioning would belch out a cool breeze at some point. It never did.

I sighed, thinking about the man I'd bested in business that day, the wench I'd bedded afterward, and the fellow I'd just beaten up at the motel bar. I laughed, but for some reason it sounded hollow. I had been living like this for too long. I wondered if I was getting jaded.

"Well," I thought, "At least I'll be back home with my loving wife and six children tomorrow night."

Just then, the TV caught my eye. They were showing one of the first gay weddings, and right there on the TV screen were two guys kissing! And they were husband and husband!

It hit me in a flash -- I could leave my heterosexual drudgery behind by going gay! Right then and there, I decided to do it. I pulled on my boxers and was about to put on my pants when I looked down at myself and thought, "Damn!" I kicked those boxers to the floor and put my jeans on au naturel. I figured why just go gay when I could go commando, too? It felt right.

I walked out the door of the motel room and saw a man standing in the parking lot. I walked up to him, grabbed him by the chest hair and hauled him back to my room, where we had wild man-on-man sex. Wow!

I've never looked back. That very night, I thought, "The heck with my wife and kids. I'm getting a divorce so I can get gay-married. Hooray!"

Never mind. Go read "Xmas Carol"!

December 5, 2012

Atheist hero steps up

I'm really proud of this kid. Just go read the story.

America and the Roman Colosseum

Every day, there's a new story like this. It's sickening.
RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) — The warden of a North Carolina prison where inmates said they were forced to rub hot sauce on their genitals has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation. 
Six inmates allege correctional officers forced them to perform numerous humiliating acts, including gulping hot sauce and slathering it on themselves, resulting in painful blisters. The male inmates also reported being forced to simulate sex acts for the entertainment of guards, as well as to capture and kiss wild snakes while working on a road crew. 
It's become America's hobby: enjoying the pain of others. We see it in this and similar stories. We see it on "reality" TV shows and on all those incarceration shows where viewers eat the inmates' misery like candy. Judging by the photos that came out of Abu Ghraib, we have a grand time torturing "terrorists" at our military prisons. And we actually have a major political party that holds rallies where supporters call for poor people to die without insurance.

America is becoming the Roman Colosseum, where people were killed for the entertainment of viewers. Murdering people on live TV is probably something America will do within a decade or so. Read the tea leaves. It's coming.

What has happened to the United States? And why is no one pointing a finger at our newfound hunger for the misfortune of others? Oh, that's right; I forgot. Americans like it.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Good words

Charles Deemer, on his blog:
Old age is endlessly puzzling. It's like the melting of the witch. Wait wait!
I love that. Deemer is a writer, and a good one.

December 4, 2012

Funny idea

I think I should create one of those "signatures" -- the line that appears at the end of every email. And I'll use it here on the blog, too. From now on, I'll end every post with:
Never mind. Go read Xmas Carol.

"Offensive weapon"?

So the naked guy on the equestrian statue in London's business district had his day in court. (NSFW images at HuffPo, if you'd like to see them.) I kind of enjoyed the spectacle he provided. Even in still photos, it's evident that this was performance art. And I find it funny that one person without clothes can result in such a ruckus. The story about the court scene revealed an odd fact.
"Motrescu, a Ukrainian citizen of no fixed address, was convicted Tuesday of possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage and a public order offense. A magistrate at Westminster Magistrates' Court sentenced him to 12 weeks in jail."
One wonders what "offensive weapon" a naked man can wield. I'm hoping they found a pen-knife in his travel bag, or something. Otherwise, this is an exceedingly strange charge. Perhaps they're just overreaching; he's said to have pulled a piece of a sword off a statue and then bit it. (I can't imagine what that means.) Is that the "offensive weapon"? Weird.

The wisdom of Jan Brewer

Arizona's GOP governor on climate change:
Everybody has an opinion on it, you know, and I probably don’t believe that it’s man made. I believe that, you know, that weather and certain elements are controlled maybe by different things.
I wonder if there are any neurons in a GOP brain. (Hat tip AmericaBlog.)

Subway question for New Yorkers

Another person was killed yesterday on NYC's subway tracks. He was pushed and then was run over by a train. It was a tragic event, and one seen all too often on the subways.

But every time this happens, I wonder about something. We (NY'ers) have all stood on subway platforms, waiting endlessly for trains. In those off-moments, when you look across the tracks to the platform on the other side, you see a space under the platform. Looks fairly roomy, too.

So why can't someone who is on the tracks and sees a train coming, scoot into the relative shelter of the space under the platform? It seems to me that would keep a person safe. No? It's been a while since I was on a subway platform. What do you think? Is this possible?

Religious death cults, up close

First, we visit dear, fat, sweet Timmy Dolan as he tours a nursing home and touches all the patients. Here's what he told the residents:
“Life is all about waiting, waiting, waiting,” Dolan said. “We wait for Jesus to come again for us at the moment of our death ... and in a way, you’re all doing that here at Ferncliff...”
And now we jump to Yemen:
Amnesty International says an al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen crucified the remains of an alleged spy and beheaded a woman for the crime of sorcery, then paraded her severed head through the streets. 
Religions are death cults. And those who push this brand of lunacy on innocent people are monsters.

December 3, 2012

Ah, the lovely mania

I'm happy to report that I went manic this morning. Huzzah! Now, this isn't definitive. It has to last a day or two before I can trust that it's here for good a while. I sure hope so because I feel faaaaabulous!

In a good sign, I went back to reading "The Worlds" today. It's the book I plan to work on in the year ahead. It needs help, that's for sure. But it's a great story. All it needs is some tender, loving care. This is going to work.

If you're a writer, it's never about what you've written. What you're writing now is what matters. Good to think I'm almost back on the stick. (Where did that awful expression come from, anyway? Cars?)

Whoopee! Mania!!!

PS: says "Early 20th. century aviation, airplane controls consisted of only a rudder and stick. To 'get on the stick' was to take control of a situation, problem or circumstance." I love the internet.

The pope's handle

Today's headline roars Pope joins tweeting masses with Pontifex handle. Indeed.

When I was in college, I had a boon companion who was as obsessed with language as I was. One evening, as we toyed with words, we decided that fex was the singular form for feces. Welcome Pontifex!

Is Obama waking up?

Krugman seems to think so. I hope this isn't like when Lucy holds the football for Charlie Brown.

American opinions about art. Oy.

This is an excerpt from a Hollywood Reporter story about Brad Pitt's new movie flopping with movie-goers:
After receiving a rare F CinemaScore from moviegoers, Brad Pitt's independent crime drama "Killing Them Softly" opened nationwide to a soft $7 million, coming in No. 7.

Directed by Andrew Dominik, the violent crime drama becomes only the eighth movie ever to receive the failing grade. George Clooney's "Solaris" and "Killing Them Softly" are the only non-horror titles among the bunch.
"Solaris"? The best movie I've ever seen? That movie?! This is why I laugh at "10 best" lists. The American public is no judge of, well, anything. Get yourself a copy of "Solaris" if you want to see a truly excellent movie.

What's with all the flags?

There's one thing I hate about football: the endless flags. They're very irritating and they seem to come after nearly every play. It reminds me of when I was in Catholic elementary school and the nuns would click those evil little things they held in their hands. One click meant kneel; two clicks meant pray or speak in tongues -- I forget which. It was just like these incessant flags: annoying as hell.

If there's no obvious evidence of knife-play on the field and no weapons are discharged, I say get on with it. Play the damn game. Sheesh.

The photo above was taken by cousin Carmine at yesterday's Jets game. He brought his son, Nick. Good seats, eh? It was Nick's first game and it was an odd one. The Jets' Sanchez seemed determined to lose the game. I mean, the guy threw two interceptions in the first quarter! And another later in the game. They finally pulled him and put a new kid in his spot -- and won the game. That's not the most exciting way to win, but the Jets will take it. I hope Nick enjoyed the game. He's a great, wonderfully baseball-mad kid. Right up my alley!

December 2, 2012

The Christmas of "Xmas Carol"

Jeez, it's already December. Christmas is rushing toward us at 300 mph. If you haven't read "Xmas Carol", you may miss out this season. Because this isn't just any Christmas. It's the Christmas of Xmas Carol. It's a worldwide event.

You know how you've always wanted to read a novel that presents atheists as normal people? Well, your long wait is over. Get your copy of Xmas Carol today. It's available as an ebook at every major bookstore, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (If you'd like to pump up a more independent vendor, you can pick up a copy at Smashwords.)

But whatever you do, get your hands on this book and start reading. It's a great horror story with an Xmas theme and tons of great atheist characters. It will make you cry; it will make you laugh. (Okay, mostly the latter.) And did I mention it's only $2.99? Seriously, what are you waiting for? Get your copy today!

Sunday music

I like the interplay between uke and guitar on this song. It's also a very Sunday song. Gregory Alan Isakov, "The Stable Song".

December 1, 2012

Mars hooray, Mercury meh?

I'm amused at the lack of attention that the discovery of water on Mercury is getting. Oh, and did I mention there's also evidence of organic compounds?

Let me put this in perspective. There was an excited rumor about ten days ago when John Grotzinger said, in a rather off-handed manner, that there had been a history-making discovery on Mars. Everyone, myself included, was in a tizzy to know what it was. Had they found life? Had they found organic compounds? Whoopee! But then NASA tamped down the rumor. Nothing to see here; move along.

And then, hardly a week later, we discovered organic compounds and water on Mercury...and no one cares.

Duh. This is the same discovery we were holding our breath and hoping to see on Mars. And if organic compounds had been found, the teevee would have lit up and the pundits would have roared, "This must mean there is or was life on Mars, and therefore life is everywhere! Hooray!!!"

We found what we were looking for, but on another planet. But since it's not the correct planet, hardly anyone cares. People, there might be life on Mercury! Wake up and enjoy the news.