February 28, 2014


I wrote a great post about this but then accidentally deleted it. I'm not willing to rewrite it. Once is quite enough for blog posts.

So just go read it. Chris Cuomo schooled Bill Donohue on gay marriage. It's lots of fun.

Pope Francis fails

Catholics had high hopes for a recent conclave that Francis assembled. Here, we were told, the church would finally grapple with the issues of gay marriage and the status of divorced Catholics. Uh-huh. Big fail.

First, Francis mouthed this nonsense:
Pope Francis on Friday said couples whose marriages fail should be “accompanied” and not “condemned”, wading into a debate on divorce that is testing his promise to put the Church in touch with modern life.

“When love fails, and it fails many times, we have to feel the pain of that failure, accompany the people who have felt the failure of their love,” the pope said during the daily mass he holds in the Vatican.

“Don’t condemn them! Walk with them!” he said, adding: “We have to be so close to the brothers and sisters who have suffered the failure of love in their lives”.
Francis's words are completely meaningless. But that's apparently the best he can do because the Vatican plan is to keep attacking divorced people and gays. They're stuck in a hateful groove and they have no intention of climbing out. Thanks for nothing, Frankie.

And then there's this. In a discussion of how the church can deal with divorced, remarried Catholics, this disgusting morsel popped out of a holy mouth:
Another possibility could be the Orthodox model, which allows some divorcees to re-marry in church and take Holy Communion but gives only a blessing for the second marriage and does not consider it a sacrament.

Francis mentioned the Orthodox solution as a “parenthesis” on the plane during his return from a visit to Brazil and it was raised again by some cardinals in their consistory this month in which they said it could happen following “a period of penitence”.
But see, the divorced couples have absolutely nothing to apologize for. A human-inspired joining failed; these things happen. And now they're supposed to submit themselves to "a period of penitence"?! The only penance that is called for is the jailing of every Catholic priest who raped or abetted the rapes of children. I don't hear too much about that from this "moral" church.

Francis is a breath of stale air.

February 26, 2014

Noted in passing

I happened to bump into this paragraph today:
“[Obama's] arrogance is breathtaking,” Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, director and senior fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, told LifeSiteNews. The “president repeatedly insists that his personal values and beliefs are equated with the nation’s values and beliefs. When he insists that those controversial ideas constitute a human right, the president is saying that the deeply-held religious beliefs of many Americans are irrelevant.”
Yup, it's another edition of: "My beautiful Christian faith compels me to spew venom at certain groups of people while trying to harm them and destroy their families -- but I'm blameless!" I don't think we need say anything about that. It's just your typical Christian persecution complex in action. These people are nuts. But that wasn't what struck me about the paragraph.

It was the mention of the Beverly LaHaye Institute. Does that or does that not sound like the kind of place where Myra Breckenridge might work? It's perfect. (It also sounds like a great drag queen name: "And now, help me give a big hand to the fabulous Beverly LaHaye!!!")

Just saying.

February 25, 2014

Alan Alda and science

There's a nice article about Alan Alda at the NY Times. He's been great for science. He's such a smart, curious guy and he's got a pretty good handle on the issues that concern science today. How'd he get all that information? By reading. Turns out, school wasn't a good place to learn about science. I agree wholeheartedly, especially since I'm of a similar age and suffered through the same, unimaginative science lessons.
In biology, there was a teacher who talked about how when you cried, the tears got rid of toxins, so it was good for you to cry. I said, “What about the other way — is it good to laugh?” And the teacher said, “Please, be serious.”
I was never as bored as when I sat in high school science classes. Talk about a long day! They never presented one thing in an interesting fashion. And that's exactly where Alan Alda comes in. Stony Brook worked with him to set up the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. (No other university was interested. Gotta love that. Nitwits.) It's a place where scientists are taught how to reach out to everyday people, to help them understand what science is all about.

As he said, if they don't understand science, they're not primed to fund it. And that's where we are right now in America, where science funding allocations are being reduced across the board. It's as if legislators think science isn't important. Duh.

Read the article if such things interest you. I thought it was terrific. Alan Alda is an amazing American. We're lucky to have him.

A familiar place

That's the Pleiades, a star cluster that can be seen with the unaided eye from northern climes on Earth (or so they say).

The reason I put the photo up, other than its stunning beauty, is that a significant portion of book two of the sci-fi series I'm writing takes place there. It all happens on a planet called Blue.

Just think of the fun you'll have when you finally get to read it. I'm thinking 2015 for that book. Still hoping to publish the prequel, The Worlds, by Xmas, 2014. 

Visit NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site to see similar images. I go there daily. So should you.

What would your heaven look like?

At times, religious people speak about the nature of heaven. I've had the misfortune to hear some of these gits say that it's a place where we will marvel at god's perfection for all eternity. On our knees, I assume. Oy. That sounds like eternal detention to me.

Heaven doesn't exist, of course. But a heaven of the type humans hunger for -- a place of eternal joy -- would have to be tailored for each individual. We like different things, so this is the only workable solution. This raises an interesting question. When you imagine the perfect heaven for you, what are its features? I considered this question last night and came up with my answer.

In my fictional but perfect heaven, there would be a book that tells the stories of all the intelligent species of the universe: how they lived, what they were like and how it ended for them (if it did end). Did any species succeed in the grandest sense? Did they create a living heaven for themselves? I want to know. The book would be incredibly well-written, of course, making every sentence a delight to read. And when I finished the book, I'd be able to discuss it with intelligent alien readers residing in their versions of heaven. (Gotta socialize, right?)

What would your heaven look like?

February 24, 2014

Amanda Marcotte nails it

At Raw Story, Amanda Marcotte has a great post about the documentary, "Questioning Darwin". In the movie, creationists are allowed to speak their mind without anyone putting them down. And that ends up being pretty scary. These people are frightened. I'm going to excerpt the same section PZ highlighted on his blog:
By going back and forth between creationists and Darwin’s life story, the documentary crafts a compelling image of the conflict between two world views: That of curiosity and that of incuriosity/fear. I agree with the New York Times reviewer that the creationists are presented non-judgementally, but as these clips amassed by Gawker make clear, the creationists do all the work for you anyway. There’s a pastor explaining he would have to accept it if the Bible said “2+2=5″ and people talking, over and over again, about the strategies they have to employ to shut down their minds in the event that they’re presented with an opportunity to think more broadly.  The major emotion that comes off them in waves is that of fear: Fear of asking questions, fear of the “world” (which is always talked about negatively), fear of difference, fear that thinking might lead them into dark places, fear that they really aren’t special that manifests in making up a God who loves you so you never have to go a moment without that feeling, fear that they will fall into the abyss without blind obedience to authority, and, of course, fear of death.
Is that perfect or what?

Going primitive

My writing partner.
I once read a post by a female writer who said she would do anything to avoid writing. She would read any stupid thing on the internet, clean her closets, color-coordinate her clothes - anything to avoid facing that blank page. On a mini-scale, I can relate.

My writing motor is running smoothly again, but I did have some rough months. What I did to avoid writing was move my writing materials - ideas, notes, research, etc. - from one program to another, and then to another, and another ad infinitum. It was all about getting ready, an amorphous thing for a writer. But I finally realized that getting ready is something that happens in my head, not in computer apps. And this allowed me to begin writing again.

I abandoned my digital aids and returned to writing notes in, of all things, a notebook. It was a good move. I feel like I'm home each time I pick up my pen and write something down. (Mind you, the actual writing of the novel occurs in Scrivener, the world's best writing program. That's a given.) Without notes, I'm flying blind. They're a necessary tool for writers.

I discovered something long ago, but forgot it. I can record my ideas by typing them into a program, but there's something about writing the old-fashioned way that burns the idea into your brain. It's as if writing the idea down on paper makes the brain allocate a set place for it. That counts. I seem to lose many things that I type into a program - they're still there but I don't remember them or consult my notes to find them. But my handwritten notes are always there, always retrievable. Although I'm a very digital guy, I am reminded that writing by hand has benefits. I was happy to rediscover this.

I guess writer's block has similarities with baseball players who lose their swing. It's painful to watch them during these periods. They'll try anything to get their groove back, so they take advice from everyone and end up unable to play. And when they finally do find their swing again, they almost always say that the solution was to return to what they used to do when they were playing well. That's what I did. Notebooks are part of the way I write. I need them, I've got them and now I'm writing every day.

I know it sounds simple but that's how it worked for me. I'd love to hear about other writers' experiences...but that never happens on this blog. I used to write regularly about being a fiction writer. I hoped other writers would visit and share their concerns, habits, tricks, etc. The idea was that we could all benefit from hashing things out.

But I gave up. Why hold a party when no one ever arrives? Any writers out there? How does it work for you? A comment or two would be very nice. I'm not going to hold my breath, though. One learns from experience.

February 23, 2014

Two links

Still waking up here. In the meantime, I'll post these links:
  1. Great article about transgender acceptance in the military.
  2. And here are two wild Croatian cellists. (h/t to Joe.My.God, where I found it this morning.)
And don't forget: do not go to church today. And try to stop friends from attending mass. Oh, and don't forget to blaspheme. Remember, it's Sunday.

Drawing room

This morning I encountered the term "drawing room" in an article, and for the first time wondered where this came from. Luckily, there is such a thing as Wikipedia (to which I'd leave most of my money, if I had any). Here's the scoop:
In a large sixteenth- to early eighteenth-century English house, a withdrawing room was a room to which the owner of the house, his wife, or a distinguished guest who was occupying one of the main apartments in the house could "withdraw" for more privacy.
And then it was shortened with the passage of time, as many things are. Seriously, what would we do without Wikipedia? Change your will today to add Wikipedia as a beneficiary.

February 22, 2014

Pope porn

Be still, my heart. I can't believe the news.
VATICAN CITY — Retired Pope Benedict XVI joined Pope Francis at a ceremony Saturday creating the cardinals who will elect their successor in an unprecedented blending of papacies past, present and future.
Is that papal porn, or what? Just think: two popes for the price of one! You can almost hear the cries of the church barkers: "Come getcher popes heah, we gotcher two pope heah!" Oh, the excitement!
After processing down the central aisle at the start of the service, Francis went directly to Benedict, clasped him by his shoulders and they embraced. Francis greeted him in the same way at the end of the service, and Benedict removed his white skullcap in a sign of respect as Francis approached.
I don't know about you, but I am clutching my chest, my pearls and my bible right now. What uplifting news! There's even a rumor that the two popes (I love to say that) will appear together in a Spearmint chewing gum commercial!

Oh, the times they are a'changing. I'd write more but I'm so moved, I have to go kneel in the garden and pray. Two popes, two popes, two popes in one! Be still, my heart.

February 21, 2014

I give in

I tried not to post this, but I have to. It's just too much fun.

February 20, 2014

Drip, drip, drip

Twenty-three inches of snow is melting outside (and on) my house. That's a lotta snow. I hope the roof holds. So far, so good but I'm seeing leaks in places that never leaked before. What a winter this has been. And the polar vortex is coming back in a few days. Sheesh.

But I'm giddy. You know why? Because I told my VCR to record ten spring training baseball games! Baseball returns in eight days!!! That is so great. No more watching dumb movies to while away the evenings. I'll have games up the kazoo. This is the best news imaginable.

I'm also hopeful about my Mets' chances this year. Sure, go ahead: laugh. But Terry Collins is a great manager and the team picked up some good players in the off-season. I'm particularly happy about the signing of Bartolo Colon. That's him at left. He is such a sneaky, smart pitcher. And now he's on my team. Plus, we picked up Curtis Granderson - and that ain't hay.

I've got big hopes for this season - despite your snickers. I think my Mets will surprise everyone. Heck, they might even end up playing the Yankees in the World Series and winning.

Okay, back to drip, drip, drip. One week to go!

February 19, 2014

Names matter

Bill de Blasio, New York's new progressive mayor, made a few missteps in the early days of his mayoralty. (How he handled the snow and school closings; whether he used his influence to get a friend out of jail, etc.) Because of this, he seems on the defensive more often than not. This is the first time he's had so much attention focused on him, and it shows. I like the guy and he has my sympathy. It's not easy to gain your stride while the cameras are rolling.

But yesterday, I think he made another mistake. He announced a new policy push called Vision Zero. Now, I know the name comes from Sweden's program of the same name. It refers to the hope that the number of pedestrian deaths can be reduced to zero. This is big in New York right now because there have been a lot of pedestrian fatalities lately.

But I'm sorry. If your political footing is insecure, you shouldn't call your big policy push Vision Zero. This will be used as a catcall against him. It doesn't sound good. It makes it seem like he has no ideas at all.

Just because a phrase works in Sweden doesn't mean it will work here. His advisers must be idiots.

Photo stolen from Raw Story.

February 18, 2014

Sins that slide past the copy desk unobserved

I used to work at a copy desk. At Variety, where I worked for a time, it was a huge table around which all the copy editors sat.

Articles were passed around the table, giving everyone a chance to note anything wrong and fix it. That was our job. Kinda fun if you like to play with words. (And I do.) But the greatest sin a copy editor can make is allowing a mistake to get past her -- and that often means past all the copywriters. Tch. Not good.

Which brings me to a sentence I saw this morning on AP's page at the New York Times. Here it is:
Hungarian Jewish leaders say they have found 103 Torah scrolls taken from Hungary during the Holocaust in a Russian library.
Ahem. The Holocaust didn't happen in a Russian library. Not now, not ever. It's simple to fix a flaw like this. Here's one way they could have handled it. 
In a Russian library, Hungarian Jewish leaders found 103 Torah scrolls taken from Hungary during the Holocaust.
See how easy that was? I swear, copy desks have fallen on hard times. I guess since no one reads anymore, simple copy fixes are out of their reach. Pity.

February 17, 2014

Things are looking up

I received good news yesterday. Casey Shain agreed to do the cover for the next book. Woo hoo! He's the artist who created the Xmas Carol cover. As I told him when we spoke, each time I see that cover I'm thrilled. It's the perfect image for the story.

So it's all systems go. The new book -- The Worlds -- is being written as we speak, and now we know that it will be well-dressed. BTW, you may have noticed that "The Worlds" is also the name of this blog. I named it after the book because, well, it's the greatest story ever told. The concept of The Worlds is literally the mother of all ideas. You'll see. (Snickers to self.)

Okay, it's time to write. Thanks, Casey. You put the wind in my sails by agreeing to do the cover. And as for my blog readers, if you haven't read Xmas Carol yet, get yourself a copy and dive in. You'll be glad you did. It will frighten and startle you while showing you things you've never seen or dreamed of. It will also make you laugh -- and in the end, it will lift your spirits. (PS: Did I mention that it provides an alternative to the god idea? A real alternative?)

The book is calling to me. Gotta go.

February 16, 2014

Sunday reading

Check out this op-ed by Jennifer Finney Boylan in today's New York Times. It's about the casting of a cis (non-transgender) actor in the role of a transgender woman in Amazon's "Transparent". It's not only perceptive and kind, it's very funny.
Jared Leto’s casting in “Dallas Buyers Club,” for instance, has been met with a sense of exhaustion by some parts of the trans community. In the wake of Mr. Leto’s Golden Globe for his portrayal of the character Rayon, the trans activist Jen Richards wrote, “That’s it. I’m going to write movies with entirely trans casts. Even the cis” — or non-transgender — “characters will be played by trans people. And then we’ll have our own awards ceremony and lavish them with awards for their brave portrayals.”
See what I mean? Boylan is terrific. Go read it now.

February 15, 2014

Belief in hell depresses people

Given that religious people are always talking about hell-fire, you'd be forgiven for thinking that they enjoy the idea, maybe even rejoice over the existence of a hell. Apparently not.
After controlling for variables like age, income, education level, religious attendance, and sex, the two researchers again found that belief in Hell was associated with unhappiness while belief in Heaven was associated with happiness.
So why do they do it? Why do they insist on this ill belief in a punitive afterlife that never ends?
“[T]he belief in Hell, and religious malevolence more generally, may contribute to the encouragement of rule following, through the deterrence value of supernatural punishment, but may do so at the cost of well-being,” Shariff and Aknin wrote.

“This creates an intriguing trade-off between the interests of the group, which benefit from the ethical behavior of the group’s members, and the interest of the individual, who shoulders the emotional costs of a society that follows norms out of fear.”
"He was a god-fearin' man." I often hear that said when some religious git dies. To me, it seems like a negative comment about a person who was too fearful to live his life. But religious people see "fear of god" as a plus. Well, too bad. The votes are in. Rather than being healthy, belief in hell is a horrifying notion that takes a toll on believers. Who would have thought the prospect of being burned for all eternity was negative?

I'm sick of religious nitwits telling atheists and gay people that they're going to hell. So it's refreshing to learn that this belief harms them. But in truth, the believers are already in the only hell they'll ever know.

Ditch religion, reclaim your life. Works for me.

February 14, 2014

Snow hath fallen

Jeez, did it snow last night. We got at least 18 inches and some of the drifts are four feet high. It reminds me of snowfalls from my childhood, when snow was big.

Staying indoors was my only option. So I drank espresso, kept warm and worked on the book. In this way, I was able to spend the day on a tropical beach with an invigoratingly intelligent, old physicist. He's one of my favorite characters. I love hanging out with him -- and I made good progress. (That's such a weird expression. It implies that somewhere out there, there is someone who is making bad progress. Fun.)

As I mentioned recently, blogging at The Worlds will be light and intermittent in the coming days (months?). If I don't finish this book, you'll never get to read it. And I can't let you down, I just can't. You mean that much to me.

February 13, 2014

Let them eat cake

If you're rich, you will never be jailed -- no matter what you do.
Federal prosecutors say they're appealing the sentence for billionaire Beanie Babies creator that included no prison time for hiding around $25 million from U.S. tax authorities.
Hide twenty-five million dollars from the government, pay no taxes, get found out...and the judge says no problema. If you're poor and black and you steal a dollar, they lock you up forever. But this guy gets off -- and is praised in the process.
At his sentencing last month, a judge went to lengths to praise Warner's charitable giving and concluded society would be better served by keeping him out from behind bars. He was sentenced to two years of probation.
Must be nice to be rich. 

Another view of "Czar Vladimir"

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, has an interesting op-ed in today's New York Times. In "Czar Vladimir's Illusions", we see a different view of Vladimir Putin. I found it fascinating so I'm providing a link to enable you to read it for free. (The NYT has gotten crabby about page views recently.)

Here's how it begins:
NEW YORK — As the Winter Olympics begin in Sochi, a close Russian ally in Ukraine is suppressing and shooting pro-democracy protesters. 

One could be forgiven for thinking that the hour of triumph for autocrats and the retreat of democrats is at hand as the world gathers to celebrate the shining rule of Czar Vladimir.
Veddy inteddesting. And good morning, ya'll. Big snowstorm settling over my area (New York) right now. If I disappear, it means we lost power. Don't worry. I'll be back.

February 12, 2014

Buying so many..."at your age"?

It's a weird question. If a 20-year-old woman finds a dress that looks great on her, she may decide to buy it in several colors. But how many should she buy if she's 70 years old?

I bump into this situation all the time, now that I'm 65. Say I find the ultimate notepad. Should I buy several? Ten? Twenty? Or is that pushing it? How about that perfect sweater I just got? I look nice in it. Should I get another, or maybe two more? I'll probably never find a sweater that fits this well again.

In other words, when making purchases as an older person, you have to ask yourself when you think you're going to die. It becomes a regular part of your purchasing strategy.

I had to consider this today when I finally found the ultimate pair of white cotton gloves. (What can I say? I love white cotton gloves. How else can I tell when the bannister's clean?) Anyway, these gloves actually fit my huge hands. That never happens. I wondered if I should I buy a few extra pair. But what about my age? How many pair will I have the opportunity to use? I scrunched my eyes and computed.

You don't do this when you're young. It never comes up. You just buy tons of everything "for the future". But when you're older, there's something out there on the horizon, trying to squeeze your future. Where did the hell did that come from? Drat!

Anyway, I thought it over and bought 36 pair. I plan to last for a while.

(And okay, so they're made in China and only cost $16.99 per dozen. Still. I'm just saying.)

February 11, 2014

Good creationism article at Slate

I always enjoy a good evisceration of the creationist stance, and this one does the job admirably. It's by Mark Joseph Stern.

One thing jumped out at me:
True believers yearn for the rest of us to be locked up in the same mental prison where they have consigned themselves and their children.
Yes, indeed. And this is the basis of their jealous rage against atheists. How dare atheists and other free folks not consign themselves to a equally horrible prison? This gets on their nerves. It's why old religious guys are always telling people they're going to hell. (Note the glee in their eyes as they say this!) They so want this to be true. Because if it's not, they've lived their entire lives in a squalid prison for absolutely no reason.

Yup. Ha ha.

The bible is a collection of fairytales

Just in case you missed this:
Camels appear in stories of early Jewish patriarchs in the Bible, even though it was before the animals’ time, evidence that writing or editing of the book happened long after the events it narrates. 

February 10, 2014

I'm writing this week

Gotta get the new novel out. Light posting ahead.

This should be on every wall and pole in America

David Atkins (There Is No Spoon) this morning:
It is not an inaccurate or extreme statement to declare that ideological Republicans do not understand what it means to be human. They view human beings as economic units to be plugged at their lowest possible price into a maximally efficient market that provides the greatest possible returns on investment to the wealthy few, with any resulting human resentment and misery dulled by humility before a pleasure-fearing angry God promising rewards to the obedient in the hereafter. It is a dark, meager, shriveled and cramped vision of humanity.
To accept their worldview is to reject the essence of human identity and purpose. If human beings could create a sustainable world of plenty free from violence, war, hunger or want, a world in which human beings were free to devote 24 hours a day to the leisurely pursuit of whatever activities they wished so long as they harmed no one else, conservatives would be terrified.
It's not so much that conservatives don't believe such a world of boundless human potential is possible. It's that they don't want it to be possible.
That's the whole tale, right there. Nice to see someone say it plain and clear.

February 9, 2014

Bruni for your Sunday

Frank Bruni has an excellent column on Pope Francis in today's NY Times. Here are two snippets:
If you’re going to define yourself in opposition to a predecessor whom many people had misgivings about, go all the way. Francis is the Bill de Blasio to Benedict’s Michael Bloomberg, doing a complete semiotic overhaul. Less investment in festive footwear, more in the washing of other people’s feet. He’s not telling priests to stop being priests, any more than de Blasio is telling the police to stop being the police. He’s just urging them to tamp down the brusqueness and bullying. No more theological stop-and-frisk.
He does have a way with words. Here's the other:
“Who am I to judge?” he said. This, from a pope, is like Streisand saying, “Who am I to sing?” It’s a bit of self-effacement that you never saw coming.
How can you not love this guy? No, not Francis -- Frank Bruni. I think of him as a civilized version of Matt Taibbi. 

Happy Sunday, everyone. Now remember, don't go to church. That's the worst thing a person can do on a Sunday. It sullies the day. Instead, go out and enjoy your life, maybe blaspheme a bit. But read Bruni's column first. You'll be glad you did.

February 8, 2014

What a good idea

Jerry Coyne, my favorite blogger, mentioned someone in a post today. Here's how he introduced her:
"Reader Diana MacPherson, who is famous for reversing the toilet rolls at other people’s houses..."
What a good idea. I'm scandalized by the incorrect placement of toilet tissue in other people's bathrooms. Have they no sense?! I'm going to start doing this immediately.

I could state, here and now, the correct position for toilet paper. But because it's so obvious to rational people, I don't have to bother.

Let's start a national movement, people. We'll call it "Right Those Rolls!" People have been looking for something positive to rally around. I think this may be it!

Religious bartering

A trip to South Korea this summer by Pope Francis is looking more likely after he approved honoring 124 Koreans as martyrs.
Couple of saints here, a few dispensations there. These are the tools of the spiritual trade. Want to get into heaven after an evil life on Earth? It'll cost you, but it's doable. Go see that priest over there; he's in charge of accounts.

February 7, 2014

Sochi gets even creepier

The Sochi Olympics are not boosting Russia's reputation.
On the same day the Russian deputy prime minister told gays coming to the Winter Olympics not to touch children, he divulged that cameras are keeping an eye on Olympic tourists while they’re in the shower.

The blunder happened when Dmitry Kozak was asked about conditions in hotels and the lack of water, the subjects of ongoing media criticism.

Kozak suddenly became defensive and blurted: “We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day.”
If anything, the Olympics seem to be lowering Russia's reputation in the world. I don't think this is what Puti intended.

Same old Vatican

It seems the Vatican is not pleased about being chastised by the United Nations. AP has the details.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican struck back Friday at a U.N. human rights committee that issued a scathing report on sex abuse by priests, accusing it of straying beyond its mandate and discrediting the U.N. as a whole by adopting the "prejudiced" positions of anti-Catholic advocacy groups.
Ahem. So, let me get this straight. Pointing out the church's monstrous moral failings is the equivalent of being "prejudiced" against Catholicism? Well, there's a handly primer for you. The Vatican implies that the church cannot be criticized in any form or fashion. Ever. (This reminds me of Israel's penchant for calling everything it dislikes "anti-Semitism". I guess the church took a page from Netanyahu.) 

Here's more from the article:
[The UN report] called for the Holy See to use its moral authority to condemn discrimination against homosexual children, or children raised by same-sex couples.

In his statement Friday, Lombardi said by entering into such matters, the committee "appears to have gone beyond its competence and interfered in the moral and doctrinal positions of the Catholic Church."
Seems like a fairly innocent request by the UN. How hard could it be for the church to condemn discrimination against gay kids? A moral church would have no problem complying with such a request, right?

But what a colossally deaf response this elicited from the big V. Apparently, stopping the church's systematic harassment of gay kids would directly contradict their "moral and doctrinal positions". I mean, seriously, these people are evil. How can they use the term "moral" like that? Don't they know what the word means? But it seems they truly want to keep driving gay kids to suicide. Because it's godly to harm children -- if they're gay or girls, anyway. This church is morally disordered.

As if to solidify this impression, we get an additional paragraph that makes the Vatican position exceedingly clear:
The areas of the committee's report that most piqued the Holy See were those concerning girls' access to reproductive health care and the need to protect gay children and children in same-sex households from being discriminated against. Those issues are key parts of the treaty, but they also touch on core doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church.
Hating gay children in a way that drives them to suicide is a Catholic virtue. And preventing girls' access to reproductive health care is also a strong Catholic virtue. The Vatican actually took the time to make this clear to the world. It's godly to hate gay kids.

And note that one of the main hate-mongers is still issuing the marching orders at the Vatican. The church's despicable words were spoken by longtime Vatican mouthpiece, the Rev. Federico Lombardi. He has been a consistently vicious voice against gay people for a very long time. That Pope Francis allowed this guy to continue to speak for the Vatican is anything but a hopeful sign.

The article ends this way:
Despite the Vatican's objections, [Lombardi] said the Holy See was nevertheless committed to working for the good of all children via the U.N. treaty.
Indeed. They're going to "continue" to work for "the good of all children". It's just amazing. Tone-deaf, committed to hatred of gays of all ages, and impervious to criticism -- that's the Roman Catholic church under Pope Francis. Same as it ever was.

February 6, 2014

Cut from the same cloth

Heroin is like a visit to the Nexus

Star Trek's Nexus
In one of the best Star Trek episodes, we were introduced to the Nexus, a heavenly ribbon passing by in space. If you're lucky enough to catch a ride on the Nexus, you will experience perfect happiness for all eternity. Here's Wikipedia's explanation, in case this isn't jogging your brain:
The Nexus is an extradimensional realm in which one's thoughts and desires shape reality. Inside the Nexus, time has no meaning, allowing one to visit any time and any place that one can imagine.
You never want to leave the Nexus. Never. Nothing can compare with the ecstasy it provides. I always thought the episode was a parable about heroin use.

See, that's the thing no one understands -- except people who have tried or are addicted to heroin. The high is the most wonderful feeling a human being can experience. In other words, there's a damn good reason people seek this high. In the pantheon of human pleasures, nothing compares to a heroin high.

That's why Philip Seymour Hoffman could relapse after 23 years. It's why any of us could. I know because I was a heroin addict when I was young. Getting off heroin was the hardest thing I ever did. It's not that withdrawal from heroin is so painful; it's not. The problem is that it calls to you. It knows you, it knows exactly what you want. And unless you mount some powerful juju against it, it will win in the end. The siren calls never stop, no matter how many years you stay away from it. It's always just a shot away.

TV coverage of Hoffman's death, and the endless stories about heroin addiction's resurgence in America, have been difficult for me to watch. See, the way I've managed to stay off heroin for about 45 years is simple: I never let myself think about it. Because if I did, I'd start to want it again. So I avoid the topic like the plague. I even change channels when a movie shows someone shooting up. It's too damn appealing -- and that will never change.

In the future, when you think of heroin and wonder why so many people are addicted to it, try to recall the Nexus. That's why they do it. I hope the news stories will diminish in the coming days. Because I have to avoid thinking about this drug. I really do.

February 5, 2014

Sochi toilets: the full picture

I'm sure you've heard about the awful bathrooms the Russians set up in Sochi. They're literally unbelievable. For the best toilet rundown I've seen, read John Aravosis' post. Jeebus.

Sochi. Ugh.

The horror stories are flowing out of Sochi -- as is the yellow water. Reporters and others are sharing their tales about the appalling accommodations available in Sochi. Short version: nothing is ready, everything's a wreck. Here's a bit:
Stacy St. Clair of the Chicago Tribune was ready to take the Olympic torch to her place.

“My hotel has no water,” she tweeted. “If restored, the front desk says, ‘do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.’”

She later tweeted a somewhat terrifying picture of two glasses filled with a urine-colored liquid.
Lookin' good, Puti. You sure knocked this one out of the park. Seriously, read the linked article. It's a nightmare.

And now for your special bonus, a photo of a Russian woman who lives just outside Sochi. Don't you love the fashion sense of these Russians? I snapped this during last night's TV news. This coat is a case of leisure piping gone mad. Russian fashion is typically 20 or 30 years out of date. And color is not allowed. Only black and grey, please.

It was actually a sad story. The woman lives in a town that has been obliterated by Sochi construction crews. The town's people are cut off from the only road out of town, their water is undrinkable and the land itself is poisoned. And though they've complained loudly, no one in the Russian government will respond to their concerns. After all, this is Russia.

The omens have spoken. This is going to be a tacky, dangerous, third world-style Olympics. I don't envy anyone who's attending the games. Poor babies!

PS: Don't turn on your electronics in Russia. I watched an NBC segment last night that showed how a computer or smartphone is hacked within one minute after it is turned on. Seriously. This is the Sochi Criminal Olympics. No one should bring a smart phone or computer into the country unless they want their finances ruined.

Russia: land of opportunity. Oy.

February 4, 2014

Quickie post

Two things:

1. If I disappear tonight, it means we lost power in my area. A foot of snow is on the way and there's a rumor that it will be the wet, heavy kind that takes down wires.

2. I found a great article about Pope Francis at Spiegel Online (Der Spiegel's English web site). It's longish but if you want the inside story about the church's much-talked about survey of the faithful, you'll find answers here. It's a well-written, informative piece. I recommend it highly.

February 3, 2014

About "choosing" to be gay

We gay people have been trying to clarify this issue for ages. But it's not working.

Bigots love to talk about how sexual orientation is different from race because we chose to be gay. Uh-huh, just like they chose to be straight. But this obvious retort doesn't seem to have diminished the vast number of people who rely on this senseless "argument" to put us down.

I used to harangue people who use the term "sexual preference" instead of "sexual orientation". Preference pretty much puts it right out there. The message packaged with the phrase is that we "chose" to be gay because we "prefer" it. In the old days, I'd try to fight this by saying that the term "sexual preference" is incorrect since it implies that we stayed up late one night and decided to go gay.

But the astute observer will notice that my efforts and those of others have had virtually no effect on the bigots. Because they're stupid, they don't even understand the distinction. It seems we need a new move -- and I've got just the thing.

From now on, let's call ourselves The Chosen. This has several bonuses. First, it positively reeks of religion and let's face it, religion is our primary enemy in this fight. If people didn't believe in fairytale gods, gays might be fine. But no, teh bible and all.

But the phrase also screams the truth, that we did not "choose" this orientation. We were, in fact, "chosen". BTW, I think we should use the upper case T and C, to make it sing. We're not the chosen, we're "The Chosen". Okay, kids. You know what to do. Spread this far and wide.

Choice, my ass. We are and always will be The Chosen.

February 2, 2014

Watching the Super Bowl with one eye

Okay, I've decided that I'll turn the game on at 6:30 -- but I will not park myself in front of the TV. I'm going to cook spaghetti with garlic and oil and broccoli (just like in Xmas Carol!). And I'll peek at the game now and then. That's all I'm willing to do.

Thing is, it's on Fox. And that means it won't be enjoyable. Fox destroys the football and baseball seasons by having the odious Joe Buck call the final games. I always end up in the same place, unwilling to listen to even one word that comes out of that blowhard's mouth.

Speaking of which, I heard he almost had a career-ending problem with his voice. But he got over it. Darn! So close yet still so far. I also read that all New Yorkers hate Joe Buck. Good to know. I guess I'm in league with my local brethren (and sistren).

In any case, I'll be cooking and I hope Manning wins. Why? Because I hate Pete Carroll, the Seahawks' manager. Again, this is due to the fact that I'm from New York, where we all grew to hate Carroll when he coached the Jets.

So I guess in the end, it's all about where you came from. I'll be getting in touch with that very thing by cooking a traditional Italian meal. At least I can eat the food when the game ends. It's something.

Are you going to watch the Super Bowl? Do tell in the comments.

Murderous machines to be the next big thing

In an article about artificial intelligence -- and Google's intention to develop and use this capability -- there is a particularly chilling note.

The authors speak about the ways the United States currently kills enemies by using drones. That's bad enough but it's about to get much, much nastier:
"Right now everything we have is remotely controlled and there's always a human in the loop," Akerson says. "We're heading in the direction to give the decision to kill to an algorithm."
That's right. The plan is to unleash murderous drones that don't need humans to push an actual kill switch. They'll be able to do it all by themselves.

Oh, brave new world that has no people in it. Scary stuff.

February 1, 2014

Sex trafficking, my ass

I was wildly irritated by the intense media coverage of prostitution busts in New York and New Jersey this week, all part of the Super Bowl media thrust. And that's all it was: a staged media event. This has nothing to do with right and wrong, and has minimal -- if any -- connection to "sex trafficking". So it was refreshing to see a sensible article about it in the NYT this morning. It's written by a woman who knows a thing or two about prostitution: Kate Mogulescu, the founder and supervising attorney of the Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project at the Legal Aid Society.
TENS of thousands of people have descended upon the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area this week for tomorrow’s Super Bowl, accompanied by the usual media frenzy. A now familiar feature of this coverage, wherever the Super Bowl is held, is an abundance of stories, from Reuters to CNN, reporting that the event will cause a surge in sex trafficking to capitalize on the influx of fans and tourists.

Representative Christopher H. Smith, Republican of New Jersey and co-chairman of the House anti-human trafficking caucus, and Gov. Chris Christie announced a law enforcement crackdown. Cindy McCain, in advance of next year’s Super Bowl in Arizona, flew in to stand at Mr. Christie’s side, declaring that the Super Bowl is “the largest human-trafficking event on the planet.
The problem is that there is no substantiation of these claims. The rhetoric turns out to be just that.
Sure, slam the women to make the police look "good" in the run-up to the Super Bowl. This is a media spectacle, not a reality-based event. And the harm falls on women who were having a hard time to begin with. Pisses me off.
Remove the guise of “preventing” human trafficking, and we are left with a cautionary tale of how efforts to clean up the town for a media event rely on criminalizing people, with long-lasting implications for those who are then trapped in the criminal justice system. If we continue to perpetuate fallacies like the Super Bowl sex-trafficking phenomenon, we will continue to perpetuate the harm caused by prostitution arrests in the name of helping victims.
You tell 'em. This is just more police-state nonsense, brought to you by the states of New York and New Jersey. It's an attention-grabbing men v. women ploy for the cameras -- and only the women suffer consequences. The whole thing makes me sick.