Thursday, December 31, 2009

Once In A Blue Moon, It's New Year's Eve

A bit of an explanation first. I realized, upon reading this, that my mom is strange. You see, she has her own way of pronouncing some words--not a regional accent, just her. "Bicycle" is pronounced as if you just put "bi" in front of the word "cycle"; nobody does that. "Aren't" is pronounced with two syllables; nobody does that. And the phrase "once in a blue moon" has the accent on the word "blue", like "once in a BLUE moon". Again, nobody does that. But... the tag phrase to this verse came to me, unbidden, as such things do, and it was pronounced that way. So, no complaining about the meter; I already know.

As the calendar crawls toward the end of the year
And of course, as a brand new beginning draws near
I guess it’s just human to look to the past
At the things we have done; at the lot we’ve been cast,
At the friends we have gained, and the friends we have lost,
At the things we might change, had we just known the cost.
I’ll go quite a long time without thinking of you,
But, once in a blue moon, I do.

A year full of travel, of learning, of fun,
A year I’d have sworn had just only begun
Although it was tough, this was one of the best,
With the children all grown up and leaving the nest
They’re better than me, I’ll admit it with pride,
And I think I might burst, I’m so happy inside!
And my heart doesn’t feel like the thing it once was
But, once in a blue moon, it does.

It isn’t the same, but it never can be,
As time, and as life, moves too quickly for me,
The days—hell, the weeks—are a bit of a blur
And things are not ever the way that they were.
I guess I just mean that I want you to know
That I hope you are happy and well, even though
I may miss you much more than the law should allow,
Just once in a blue moon… like now.

Anyway, having suffered through that, you deserve something better. I first heard the following song sung by it's writer, singer-songwriter Patrick Alger, in a singer-songwriter charity event that became the album "Shelter". I still hear it in his voice first, and all others are imitators (oddly enough, although he sang "Once in a very blue moon" for the concert, he sings a different song on the album, which I bought specifically for that song. Worth it anyway.) The song is far more associated, though, with Nanci Griffith, for whom it is a signature song. Enjoy:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Digital Pack-Rat, Vol. 22

My apologies for no recent posts. As I was telling Podblack Cat recently, this is not necessarily a bad thing--I tend to write more when under great stress. The Cuttlekids are home from college, and I am a happy mollusk. But hey, we have plenty of stress, so stay tuned.

I know I am missing some, but here are a sampling of recent comments from Pharyngula:

Regarding Isabella Rosselini's "Green Porn" series... specifically, she was a squid:

The warm embrace of twenty eighteen arms
And Isabella's human charms
Are pure delight for Cuttlefish,
Although, of course, I'd make a wish
That she'd remove her squid disguise
Just her, beneath the sunny skies
No costume, just herself and me
As happy as two fish could be!

Ah, the wonderful past. So much better than the present, wasn't it?

Ancient Man was so much smarter
(Ancient woman played a part--her
Contribution, though gets edited, and loses quite a bit)
Than our modern Man Of Science,
Who is forced to put reliance
In the stuff we stole from Aliens, like microwaves and shit.
Yes, the Neolithic human
Wasn't always "doom-and-gloom", and
Had a better way of thinking than the average man today!
We depend on our computers
As our parents, friends, and tutors--
While we fiddle with technology, our brains dissolve away!

The most amusing billboards are not the atheists', but other Christian denominations:

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
What did you think of Joe?
Compared to God's, I think the odds
His measured up are low.

Mary, Mary, kept her cherry,
May God protect the lass;
To be like Her, good girls prefer
To take it up the ass.

Oh, yeah, the woman in the red jumpsuit tackled the Pope...

The war on Christmas grows in scope--
A woman just attacked the Pope!
While on his way to give the Mass
She knocked him on his papal ass--
He got right up and on his way
To speak to all, this Christmas day.
Although his world-view may be shit,
The geezer Pope can take a hit.

And Ray "Bananaman" Comfort stole some pages for "his" book:

A book which needs no introduction
Got one anyway.
Ray's writing had the sound of suction;
Now, he'll have to pay.
His first three pages did not quite
Appear like they belong--
They'll argue over copyright:
It's surely copywrong.

Prayer works--just ask your local Cardinal.

For pain relief, take true belief,
And call me in the morning.
But be aware, there's nothing there
(Consider this your warning)

Devoutly pray, three times a day,
Not waiting for an answer;
And, what the hell, says Cardinal Pell,
It might just cure your cancer.

Wanna choose a religion?

Spin the wheel,
Roll the dice,
Throw the dart--
Don't think twice!

Win or lose?
Beat the odds!
What the hell,
They're only gods.

A gene for belief? A gene for atheism?

Eureka! I've a Christian here, genetically engineered!
Identical, as far as we can probe--
It turned out much much easier by far than we had feared;
All it took was turning off the frontal lobe.

We've carefully examined, and we've searched for any flaw,
But it seems that nothing major's gone amiss;
A side effect elicited is wonderment and awe,
But the primary? That ignorance is bliss.

What evolution started, we can fiddle just a smidgin,
And improve a lot, with very little strain;
From an atheistic creature, we can generate religion!
All it takes is just removing half the brain!

Truly conscious beings live in the "now", you know.

"Now" is a wonderful word
Or at least, that's what I've heard.
Though dead men, or 'bots,
(Whom we say have no thoughts)
With no concept of time
Nor of reason, nor rhyme
Find a concept like "now" quite absurd.

"There is no now for the dead"
I have heard (or the similar) said
Though the newly deceased
Have not claimed that, at least
To my knowledge. The claim
Is most often, the same
Made by those who are living, instead

We generate circular claims
For our own philosophical aims,
But our own points of view
(Mine is me; yours is you
Which no other can see
(Yours is you; mine is me
Hasn't changed since the writing of James!

Oh, yeah... Congress shall recognize... an asshole says "Merry Christmas!"

Mister Brown, he went to town
To pass some laws for Jesus.
He doesn't care if what he does
Is likely not to please us.

He doesn't care if what he does
Might not stand up in court;
You tell him "Happy Holidays!"
"It's Christmas!" he'll retort.

Mister Brown will use his faith,
He gladly will explain.
Of course, we could have guessed as much:
He doesn't use his brain.

Merry Christmas To You.

It's already Christmas in Melbourne and Sydney,
And for just a few minutes, in Perth;
The planet is spinning, and soon will come Christmas
To this, the late side of the earth.

Merry Christmas to you, from your Cuttlefish friend,
To my readers and friends, far and near;
I wish you good health, and great joy, and true peace,
For this season, and all through the year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Amusing Incident

Ok, before I get to the meat of this post, I need to remind you that my new book (volume 2) is out, and available at the link there (no, not the upper one, the lower one) at the right-tentacle side of the page. I also need to remind you that the pdf versions of both books are available for a price of "nothing at all"; that is, they are free, as my cephalopodmas gift to you. (It would be extremely tacky of me to remind you that the dead-tree versions are also available, and that if you wish to give them as cephalopodmas gifts to those for whom you have strong feelings of love or hate, you'd better order soon. Lulu has been incredibly fast, but you are as bad as I am, waiting this late before shopping!)

Ok, once you have taken a good look at those PDFs, or (much, much better) have read the actual dead-tree books, you are ready for this story. Once you have seen the reports of kinky preachers, foolish believers, and general tales of blasphemy (there is more than that... but there is a bit of that), you are ready.

Blake Stacey was ready. Blake has copies of my first book. Blake has probably read everything in both books, and still has the fortitude of character to give copies of the book as gifts. Blake is a god among men. (Blake also has a book out, and frankly, if you only have enough money for either mine or his, the smart money is on his. Seriously, click the link. Buy his book. Trust me.)

So anyway, Blake Stacey ... let me quote (with permission, of course) his email:
I ordered three copies of THE DIGITAL CUTTLEFISH, VOL. 2 from last week, and today a box from Lulu arrived in the mail. "Hooray!" thought I. "That was faster than I expected." I opened the box to find three copies of "Faith Journeys: Devotions for Spiritual Enrichment", by a certain Thomas R. Feller, Jr. I don't particularly know what to make of this. I think I'd be irritated, if it weren't so amusing.

I don't know if Mr. Feller and I got each other's orders, if this was a Lulu error or a FedEx error, or what, exactly. However, the mental image of three books of Cuttlefish verse arriving on the doorstep of Greenville, North Carolina's Landmark Baptist Church, addressed to the music director, fills me with what one might call unholy glee.

Blake Stacey
Much as I am sorry that Blake Stacey got copies of "Faith Journeys", I have indulged myself in fantasizing Mr. Feller's (or, sometimes, his mother's) face, as he (she) opens the unexpected delivery and finds the "Eulogy for Gary Aldridge"...

Y'know... That verse was the very first that really got me noticed, and I wrote it before I started this blog (ok, technically, it was before I changed this blog over to what it currently is, but shaddup), so it never got any hits or immediate comments, and since I have no verse to go with this story (Blake's email is poetry itself!), I think I will reprise it. The Reverend Gary Aldridge had, sadly, gone to meet his maker, and no one was happy about that. Some, however, did have a bit of a tee-hee over the condition in which the good Pastor was found... wearing 2 wetsuits, bound with several (11?) ties, and with a dildo (properly covered with a condom) inserted... where I suppose you would expect it to be inserted, I suppose. Clearly, a sad occasion, approached only by Second City's "Funeral", the sad tale of a man who was suffocated, by getting his head caught in an economy size can of Van Camp's Pork & Beans.

Remember, go buy Blake's book. For cephalpodmas, squidmas, Xmas, christmas, or any other mas you have lounging about failing to contribute to the economy.

We gather here to eulogize
The Pastor and the Man
Old Gary Aldridge, often wise,
Though not his latest plan.

A member of the Christian nation,
Friend of Jerry Falwell,
His last attempt at masturbation
Didn't go at all well.

For fifteen years, he'd preached the word
A Southern Baptist minister
His death--now, is it just absurd
Or something rather sinister?

How does a person come to wear
Not one wetsuit, but two?
(Although, I know, I should not care
I'm curious--aren't you?)

I tend to think that, years ago,
He spied a rubber glove,
And wondered "Should I--well, you know--
When God and I make love?"

He tried it on, and found a tube,
Half hidden on his shelf,
Of KY--smiled, and murmered "Lube
Thy neighbor as thy self."

And minutes later, hard at work,
He felt a little odd
Was this a sin, or just a quirk?
He talked it out with God.

"Is what I'm doing here a sin?
Or is my pleasure Thine?
Is this as bad as skin on skin?
Lord, please, give me a sign!"

So God produced a pamphlet: "Your
Vacation in Aruba!"
And pointed out--right there, page four--
The wetsuits used for SCUBA

See, God's not really how you think
A deity might be
He's got a wicked bondage kink
(Just ask His son, J. C.)

So Gary died, not steeped in sin
But following God's plan;
So straight to Heaven--come on in!
And bring the wetsuits, man!

A story, sure, but it may yet
Explain what happened then.
The moral is, please don't forget:
Your safeword is "Amen".

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Real World vs. Bible

I’ve seen fossils of the ammonites, in lovely curving spirals,
I’ve seen children saved from certain death by modern antivirals,
I’ve seen salmon swim up waterfalls, to find their tiny brook--
And you’re asking me to trade it for the contents of one book?

I’ve seen galaxies, and nebulas of brilliant glowing gases
I’ve seen Painted Desert valleys; I’ve seen Rocky Mountain passes
I was at the Gulf of Corinth when the earth beneath me shook--
Do you really think I’d trade it for some stuff that's in a book?

I’ve seen elephants and rhinos; I’ve seen buffalo and deer
I’ve seen humpback whales I almost could have touched, they came so near;
I’ve seen giant redwood forests, where I craned my neck to look;
Is there anything so awesome in your tiny little book?

I’ve seen microscopic beasties of a thousand different forms
I’ve seen hurricanes, tornadoes, snow and hail and thunderstorms
I’ve seen babies reach adulthood—Oh, how little time it took!
And I would not trade one heartbeat for that obsolescent book!

I’ve seen beauty that you couldn’t buy, no matter what the price;
I have tasted of life’s bounty, each ingredient and spice--
I would throw it all together in a pot, and let it cook…
And I guarantee it’s better than the contents of your book;
Yes, I’d sooner starve, than swallow all the poison in your book.


Inspired by, but totally not a copy of, this.
And yeah, it's all true. Which is the best part of all.

Getting The Ball Rolling

Just as a followup to yesterday's exceedingly cool octopus video, another exceedingly cool octopus video.

'Neath the waves, at the turn of the tide,
Where the sand gives you nowhere to hide
Savvy octopi* know
There's just one way to go--
Find a coconut shell; crawl inside!

*don't even start.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What The...?

Inkily, Slinkily,
Tool-using octopus
Armors its body with
Coconut shells;

Film has been shot of this
Gives me the mother of
All "What the Hell?"'s

Excellent coverage by the BBC here.
Dr Mark Norman, head of science at Museum Victoria, Melbourne, and one of the authors of the paper, said: "It is amazing watching them excavate one of these shells. They probe their arms down to loosen the mud, then they rotate them out."
After turning the shells so the open side faces upwards, the octopuses blow jets of mud out of the bowl before extending their arms around the shell - or if they have two halves, stacking them first, one inside the other - before stiffening their legs and tip-toeing away.
Dr Norman said: "I think it is amazing that those arms of pure muscle get turned into rigid rods so that they can run along a bit like a high-speed spider.
"It comes down to amazing dexterity and co-ordination of eight arms and several hundred suckers."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The War (On Christmas) Comes Early (Cuttlefish Classic)

From the Cape of Good Hope to the Newfoundland islands,
The sands of Iran to the Panama isthmus;
From Outback Australia to Inverness Highlands
It’s time to take arms in the War Against Christmas!

My weapons are mistletoe, Christmas trees, holly,
A yule-log, and caroling out in the snow;
Sleigh-rides and snowball-fights, eggnog and Jolly
Old Santa Claus, laughing his loud “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

We’ll make them forget all the Truth of the season—
The sacrifice planned by a god up above—
And have them believing some bastardized reason
Like giving, or kindness, or caring or love!

I’ll cruelly and callously help out a stranger
Who’s down on his luck or has suffered some loss,
I won’t even speak of the babe in the manger
Whom God sent to Earth to get nailed to a cross;

When the winds of December conspire to freeze us
I’ll help collect sweaters and coats for the poor,
Neglecting to make any mention of Jesus,
Whose torture is really what Christmas is for.

My hatred of Christmas will focus my labors
On weaving an atheist fabric of lies—
For instance, I’m giving to all of my neighbors
Gift baskets, cookies, and fruitcakes and pies!

I’ll say “Merry Christmas!” I’ll say “Season’s Greetings!”
I’ll say “Happy Holidays—Joyous Noel!”
Intending of course, that with each of these meetings
The Truth About Christmas can just go to hell.

The truth is that Christmas is not about presents
It’s no time for songs, It’s not time to be nice
It’s not time for feasting on turkeys or pheasants—
It’s sin, and redemption by blood sacrifice.

No time to be jolly; no time to be merry
It’s time to be solemn, and grim, and devout!
The heathens might find it depressing or scary
But that is what Christmas is truly about.

Yes, Jesus is really the ultimate reason
And Christmas is really redemption and sin;
The war against Christmas is early this season—
For God’s sake, let’s hope that the atheists win!


I had recently linked to this one, so many have recently read it, but for the handful who get here by other means, I'm reposting. As most of us know (except, of course, the people who need to the most), the beginnings of Christmas in America (home of The War On Christmas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fox News) were not festive in the least. The Puritans had better, purer things to do on December 25th (for a couple of decades in the 1600's, Boston even had a law prohibiting the celebration of Christmas!); a Christmas holiday as we know it did not begin until the 1800's. Interestingly, celebrating Christmas (as opposed to observing it) spread with the notion of Santa, "The Night Before Christmas", and commercial connections to stores and products, not with the story of the birth of god's human sacrifice.

Those who wish a return to the traditional values of Christmas, away from the secularization, are welcome to stay inside, draw their curtains tight and stick their noses in their bibles. I will expect them to show up at work on the 25th (as, indeed, Congress did in 1789, the first Christmas under our constitution). Myself, I will gladly take the opportunity to celebrate with Cuttlefamily and friends. We will probably feast, and may even sing--such decadence would surely have been frowned upon, even fined, by the founders of our Christian Nation (TM).


Saturday, December 12, 2009

An Atheist Christmas (Cuttlefish Classic)

We’ll all open presents, and cook a big dinner,
And share in traditions we learned long ago
But Christmas is different for this humble sinner,
No “birth of the saviour”, just people we know.

It has nothing to do with a babe in a manger
Or kings being led by a star up above,
But rather in family, friend, and in stranger,
In kindnesses done for the people we love.

A spirit of hope, and a spirit of giving,
A promise of peace in a troubling day,
A chance to examine the way we are living--
The courage to say what we’ve wanted to say.

You don’t need to think there’s a god up above you
To want to be good to your fellows on Earth.
To give to your friends, and to tell them “I love you”
Has nothing to do with some son of god’s birth.

For love, and for giving, we say “tis the season”
For caring, for kindness, for sharing good cheer
But why limit ourselves? I mean, what is the reason?
Why can’t we be giving the rest of the year?

This Christmas, my wish for each sister and brother,
To you, and to everyone you may hold dear;
Remember, this Christmas, to love one another—
Not only this season, but all through the year!


So today, Cuttlefamily got our tree. Many changes since last year--it was nice to be able to take a dog along again, but of course that was a potent reminder of the last few (declining) years of our poor old pooch. The energy in a young dog is a wonderful thing, especially a dog that reeeeeeeeaaaaaaalllly likes snow. It was significantly below freezing, and I had misjudged the depth of the snow at the place where we went, so my shoes filled with snow as I broke through the crust every 5 or 6 steps or so. Friends from different areas of the world appear greatly amused that we not only have a real tree (as opposed to an artificial one), but that we cut our own. It is one of the wonderful rituals of the season and something the kids, now both in college, see as a quintessential part of life.

Anyway, it put me in a good, but very contemplative, mood, so I thought I'd repost some of my older Christmas verses, now that I have more people reading than in previous years. Happy holidays, all of you, or just happy moments.

Gotta go--time for the traditional untangling of wadded up strands of christmas lights.

Could A Comic Book Save Your Soul?

If you ask about science in science class
Could a comic book save your soul?
If you like to smoke a little grass
Could a comic book save your soul?
If you'd like to try to cast a spell,
If you've killed a man, and you're in a cell,
You're a breath away from a trip to Hell--
Could a comic book save your soul?

If you're Catholic, Muslim, Witch, or Jew
Could a comic book save your soul?
If there is no God, according to you
Could a comic book save your soul?
If you like to listen to Metal bands,
If you do your thinking with your glans,
If you don't do all that God demands
Could a comic book save your soul?

If you're curious while attending church
Could a comic book save your soul?
Are there pamphlets there, to help your search?
Could a comic book save your soul?
There's a little screed, by Jack T. Chick
It will make you laugh; it will make you sick,
But it just might make your brain go... *click*...
Could a comic book save your soul?

I remember these. I still find them, left in restaurants, or classrooms, or the library. I always take them; better me than their intended audience. As a kid, I must have seen some of the very first of these (the site says they have been produced for "over 40 years", but not how much over; I'd have been on the leading edge, anyway) in church, and remember seeing his version of Judgment--my life, on the big screen, with the whole earth's population privy to my deepest thoughts... which, at that early adolescent time, were impure.

Here's to ya, Jack. From one that got away.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Cephalopodmas Present To You

I should have done this long ago, but for the unfortunate fact that I am an idiot. Anyway, you have probably forgotten all about the two buttons over there to the right that lead to Lulu and to where you can buy my books. (Still sounds strange in the plural.) I have, as my present to you, just figured out that I can give you the downloadable version for free. So now, that is how both books are set (my apologies to those wonderful people who already paid for a download of Vol. 1. No such apologies are needed as yet for Vol. 2.), and I encourage you to click on over and grab yourself a copy of each. It will be slightly more convenient than printing out the entire blog, although the books don't contain any of my commentary--just the verse.

If you like, then, you can just print out a copy of a particular verse to tape anonymously to someone's door, or stuff in the church mailbox, or try to pass off as your own. If you really like, you can then buy a copy for Uncle Sid or Cousin Mildred or that weird neighbor down the street, and (at least as of this writing) it will get to you in time for squidmas. And if you feel guilty, there is the tip jar, also over there to the right--but I expect no squid pro quo; the free downloads are indeed my gift to you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to grading...

To all of my readers, from me,
There's a present for under your tree
Just a PDF file
That might make you smile--
The important part is: it's for free!

(let me know if it isn't showing as free. It ought to be, but I never was good with computers, so if it could be screwed up, it likely is.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Atheism 6.2

I found the following drifting lazily down through an eddy in the time-space continuum...

In Atheism 6.2
The features that we add for you
Revise the changes we’d begun
In 5.5 through 6.1

In 5.5 through 5.7
Metaphors of hell and heaven
Were allowed, but pearly gates
Were strictly seen as 5.8’s

You must remember 5.9,
In which we said communion wine
Was for the first time “good to go”
(We took it back in 6.0.)

But frankly, wine was lots of fun,
So just as quickly, 6.1
Restored the wine, now 6.2
Allows us cheese and crackers, too.

But wine and crackers, even cheeses
Are not blood, nor flesh of Jesus,
(Once, of course, we called it true,
But that was version 4.2.)

Accomodationism maths
Makes some folks mad as psychopaths
They rant and rave like total jerks
And say “The beta version works!”

It has no bugs; it needs no mods,
It’s simply “no belief in gods”
But whiny people soon complained,
So changes soon were entertained

The purists say it came undone
As early on as 1.1
Which left believers free to claim
That “God” was “Nature’s other name”

Before you knew it, 1.3
Included “spirituality”
From there, by pieces, fits, and starts,
The later versions hit the charts

I wonder, what could be in store
For 6.3 and 6.4.
So pick your fave, and start a schism.
One thing it’s not… is atheism.

Context? Sure... PZ writes about Atheism 3.0... He terms it "Atheist, but...". I much prefer "Atheist and". Not "atheist and spiritual", that would be an example of an "atheist but". I prefer "Atheist and versemonger", or "atheist and dad" or "atheist and late for dinner". Not an atheism that has to be blended with religion or spirituality or anything else, but atheism that is perfectly well defined, now what else are you?

Monday, December 07, 2009

I Am The Bishop

I am the Bishop, the moral authority,
The good of my flock is my highest priority
Unless (or until) there’s a Shepherd accused,
And a lamb from my flock is among the abused.

I am the Bishop; to me they will come,
Both Shepherd and Sheep (because people are dumb)
I’m trusted to do what is just, what is right,
To head off a scandal, and keep things from sight.

I am the Bishop; the power is mine,
The law is of earth, but the issue’s divine
It’s morally righteous to hide the report,
And to fight and appeal when they take us to court.

I am the Bishop. The transcripts disclosed
I created a smokescreen when duly deposed;
I watched for my shepherds, and helped them escape
From those cruel allegations of beatings and rape.

I am the Bishop—Archbishop, New York;
I won’t admit shame, like in Dublin or Cork,
Here, cases are fewer, convictions are less—
It’s to me, not the cops, to whom Shepherds confess!

I am the Bishop, so I can forgive—
They’ll surely be punished, but not while they live.
The civil authorities think it’s a scam
But I am the Bishop; I don’t give a damn

I am the Bishop; I’ll sink straight to Hell,
With most of my Shepherds beside me, as well,
Where Satan’s the judge; no one grants an appeal…
But I am the Bishop. I know it’s not real.

A very depressing editorial in the New York Times today speaks of Bishop Egan, the moral authority who did his job protecting his abusive priests.
In the end it was not the power of repentance or compassion that compelled the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., to release more than 12,000 pages of documents relating to lawsuits alleging decades of sexual abuse of children by its priests.

It was a court order.
That immoral, secular court stepped in when the Bishop's Christian conscience failed to motivate him.

The most moving portion compares Egan's [lack of] response to the clear message (to some, still inadequate, but that may simply be a reflection of the enormity of the sins involved) delivered in Ireland under similar circumstances:
Absent in those pages is a sense of understanding of the true scope of the tragedy. Compare Bishop Egan’s words with those of the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, who, after the release of a recent report detailing years of abuse and cover-ups in Ireland, said:

“The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime in canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the report is that while church leaders — bishops and religious superiors — failed, almost every parent who came to the diocese to report abuse clearly understood the awfulness of what was involved.”

Bishop Egan, with institutional pride, looks at the relatively low rate of proven abuse cases as a sort of perverse accomplishment.

“It’s marvelous,” he said, “when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have even been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything.”

Sunday, December 06, 2009

By Request...

Ok, this is not The Book, but there is no way that The Book (with actual chapters, illustrations, commentary and such) could possibly be ready in time for anyone to order it for Squidmas. I really wish it could be, but I am much too swamped with Real Life.

So this is The Digital Cuttlefish, Vol. 2, which is merely the stuff I have written (well, lots of it, anyway--I did not include literally everything) in the year since Vol. 1 came out. I put this one out (in a hurry) because of a couple of requests, so that people could give it to friends (or enemies, I suppose) for the holidays. It does have some of my very favorites in it, and I must admit it was great fun revisiting the year as I rushed to put this together. Volume 1 is still available, too, of course. If Lulu has a way of doing a package deal, I'd be glad to put one together and save you some money.

I wouldn't blame you a bit if you waited for the deluxe edition, but there is no way it will be out before the new year, and perhaps well into that.

Oh, yeah, it might help if I gave you a link:
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Heh... boy, do I know how to write an ad...

Friday, December 04, 2009

For H. M.

My day goes by in bits and pieces,
The crossword puzzle, conversations,
Doctors asking, running tests;
They seem to know me; I don’t know how.
And who is that old man in the mirror?

My day goes by as days do, I suppose,
I watch TV, play bingo, read…
Today the crossword is very easy!
I don’t remember when I moved here—
And who is that old man in the mirror?

My day – I don’t recall yesterday—
A pleasant day, with pleasant friends,
I know my way through this house,
But I do not remember moving here,
And who is that old man in the mirror?

My day goes by in one-act plays
Old plots forgotten with the new,
I never know the actors’ names—
Each one is nice enough, it seems;
But who is that old man in the mirror?

Today, I’m feeling very tired;
I don’t know why—I’m much too young
To stiffly walk, to ache to move—
I must have worked hard yesterday.
I feel like that old man in the mirror.

As I write this, they are finishing up (just a couple more hours, perhaps!) the sectioning of the brain of H. M.. Henry Molaison, known to biology and psychology students everywhere as "H. M.", is perhaps the single most famous patient in history. Perhaps. He was studied for over half a century, from when he underwent psychosurgery in 1953 to alleviate epileptic convulsions, until his death last year. Henry had an extreme case of anterograde amnesia--the inability to form new episodic memories. He could learn new tasks, but would not know that he had learned them (his performance surprised himself!). He taught us, or allowed us to learn, more about how remembering works than we had ever suspected before. Abilities we thought as single were exposed as many parallel abilities, and not always the neat splits our introspective accounts may have predicted. (that may not be expressed well. It is late.)

His story has moved me more than I would have expected. I have written verse from the point of view of gods, but I cannot wrap my head around what Henry's life was like. I don't know that I would want to.

Anyway, if you follow the link above, you will see that they are looking for money. The goal is to make H.M.'s brain available to everybody--an atlas of the most studied brain in history. This is expensive. If you have any money left over after you have donated generously to my tip jar (fortunately, I am channeling H. M., and will not remember having written that), you should consider sponsoring some brain slides. And, just for practice, try imagining that you are living Henry's life. If you can get a handle on it, drop a note and let me know what it is like. I just can't do it.

The Digital Pack-Rat, volume 21

It is, as it always is this time of year, approaching the ragged end of the semester. I am inundated with grading, so it is time to collect the detritus of blog comments, assemble them together, and pretend to post. If I find the time, I may come back and actually add links, but not now!

Also, I know the last "pack rat" post was #19. So was the one before it, so this #21 is the proper number.

Re: Uganda’s proposal to execute HIV-positive individuals, and impose life imprisonment sentences on gays.
It may seem cruel; it may seem strange,
These cold, barbaric tactics.
But think of all the souls thus saved
From using prophylactics!

We could be wrong; perhaps we purge
And yet the virus stays--
At least we're doing something, right?
And what the hell, they're gays.

Re: the Deep Rifts in atheism--
The thing about atheist creatures
Is, we're willing to challenge our teachers;
Don't call it a schism,
It's mere criticism:
These things, they're not bugs--these are features.

Re: a Godwinization of evolution…
Your misattribution claims mean evolution
As sole inspiration for Hitler;
What poor execution! Its small contribution
Could probably not have been littler!

Religion's pollution, and claimed persecution,
Contributed more, don't you know?
The right institution to grant absolution
And Hitler was ready to go!

Re: the eating of live cephalopods (!)
I'll admit there are meals that have certain appeals,
And some, I should say, that excite me.
But if any here wish a live cuttlefish dish...
Bite me.

Re: creationist logic and middle fingers—
Stupidity lingers; we see it in fingers,
Which clearly could not be descended from fins!
They're perfect, and Godly, and from this we oddly
Conclude that the myth of the goatherders wins!

And of course, the return of the son of the bride of… Wafergate.
Desecration of a cracker is uncivil disobedience
The son of god, remember, is the whole of its ingredients!
You tried to make a point, but with unsuitable expedience--
It was your right, but surely you were wrong!

The epitome of sacred, you reduced to mere profanity;
One wonders if you've kept the merest sliver of humanity!
You're clearly out of touch with any form of christianity,
As on the road to hell you trot along!

Our point of view is crystal-clear; our pithy editorial
Accuses you of crimes unseen since time long immemorial,
Perhaps the worst since humankind first ceased to be arboreal
Or since the first prokaryotic cell!

And so, Professor Myers, I will say with all sincerity
In case you choose to sin like this with any regularity,
I wish you strength and perseverance, boldness and temerity--
You'll need it, cos you're going straight to hell!