Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Spirit Of Spirit

Why do we care about poor little Spirit?
A robot is shutting down; why all the fuss?
My theory, assuming you might want to hear it—
It’s not just a bot: it’s a real part of us.

For over six years, I could wander a planet;
This rover named Spirit would act as my eyes!
Much more than suspected, back when they began it,
So, yes, I’ll be sad when the poor creature dies.

You say, “it’s a robot—it never was living!
It’s metal and silicon, lenses and gears!
Exploring the surface of Mars, unforgiving,
Controlled from a distance, for over six years!”

Of course, this is true. It’s a robot, just driving;
It just blindly does what it’s programmed to do.
But it does so where I have no hope of surviving,
And when it shuts down, then I’m blind on Mars, too.

I think it is good that the “death” of this rover
Is met with emotion—a tear, or a frown.
We all hit the off-switch, when our time is over…
I hope you’ll feel likewise when I power down.

Inspired by this post by The Astronomist, and of course the full cartoon at XKCD.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Running Barefoot

I don’t enjoy the way it feels
To run; I always bruise my heels.
But running (so I hear) appeals
To most of you, I know.
The thing I did not understand
Is, running, on the dirt or sand
Is better if I try to land
Not on my heel, but toe.

This “running” that I’ve often cursed
Is harmful, if you land heel first;
Initial impact is the worst—
Three times your weight, and Ouch!
I’m thinking now, it might be fun
To check this out, to take a run!
Just one thing keeps me from the sun—
I really love my couch!

It's all over the news-I saw it last night on TV, today on the Beeb, and over at Laelaps (and I'm sure I'll see more). In addition, Cuttleson just finished the book, and is a new convert.

Hey, I am a big fan of barefoot. My neighbors have caught me out getting the paper, having walked barefoot through the snow to get to the box; in summer, shoes are evil. So this is a nice finding--but I have to admit, I have seen a lifetime's worth (or not quite yet) of ads for running shoes--enough to avoid an "I knew it all along!" response. I think the ads convinced me. But hey, new evidence, new conclusions, for couch potatoes as well as science.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Atheist Billboard Hypocrisy! (Or Not)

When they pass the plate on Sunday, and we put our money in,
They assure us that it lets the Church do good
So we dig a little deeper—being selfish is a sin—
And we donate like the Bible says we should.

Though we haven’t got much money, we still give as best we can,
Every Sunday morning, roughly ten o’clock
Now we see our small donations help a much, much bigger plan,
Cos we’ve got the biggest billboard on the block!

Every church around has got one, and there’s some with five or six
Praising Jesus and inviting folks to come
There are dozens in the city, and there’s more out in the sticks
And they must have cost a mighty godly sum!

When “Our Lady Of The Blessed Heart”, the local Catholic Church,
Put their new one by the highway overpass
We just couldn’t let it stand like that, with us left in the lurch;
Our humongous billboard really kicked their ass!

We’ve competed now for decades, with our steeples and our signs,
Till the megachurches left us in their dust;
And it might be steeple envy, if you read between the lines,
But there’s something now that fills us with disgust!

Yes, the godless heathen atheists, the lowest of the low,
Have a billboard that they want to put in town!
If they try it, though, I’m telling you (and really, I should know)
If they put it up, we’re gonna burn it down.

What a waste of their resources! Why, that money’s better spent
Housing homeless, feeding hungry, helping poor;
For a message on a billboard should be strictly heaven-sent—
That for all your problems, Jesus is the cure!


I got a comment (thanks, Mariano!) on the "Starving? Have a bible!" thread, linking to a hilarious article accusing atheists of hypocrisy with regard to our reaction to the Audio Bible story. Now, to be fair, the Audio Bible person (not Mariano) who commented assured us that they are not sending these bibles instead of relief items, but along with them, and by request of people in Haiti. Moreover, he or she is trying to get the future runs of the device to include a radio receiver, so that it will be of practical use in disaster areas. I maintain that, although the actions of Faith Comes By Hearing are good, and their intentions perfectly honorable (although they certainly don't need my approval), the Audio Bible, as is, does nothing to alleviate the real problems in Haiti. (It does work to alleviate some illusory problems, though; problems that stem from their belief in the first place. It may comfort them when they feel they have been abandoned by god; a solution to a problem that never needed to exist.)

From Mariano's article:
Certainly, atheists, being absolute materialists, do not see how human beings are anything but bio-organisms and require nothing but bio-organic fuel, housing, etc. Yet, the Christian view is holistic and thus, organizations such as Faith Comes By Hearing seek to provide both; food for the body and food for the soul.

Actually, the atheist view is holistic, if by "whole" you mean "all that is there, without making shit up."
Now, what of atheistic hypocrisy?

The fact is that for at least the last couple of years atheists worldwide have been literally wasting hundreds upon hundreds of thousands upon thousands of dollars in donated money not in order to help anyone in need during times of recession, war, poverty, etc. but in order to purchase anti-theistic and pro-atheism bus ads and billboards in order to attempt to demonstrate just how clever they consider themselves to be.

Now, they suddenly anoint themselves the charity police, complain and condemn based, by the way, on relative-subjective-personal preference based “morality.”

Well, my dear atheists friends; first repent of your own astonishingly wasteful back-patting boasting and then, perhaps, eventually, get around to criticizing those who are feeding, housing the needy body and soul—those who have been doing it for millennia upon millennia by the way.
I've seen atheist billboards. None in person, mind you; only online. I've seen religious billboards. Hundreds. Online, on the road, on the hill, on the bus, in the paper... By Mariano's logic, think how much money has been thus wasted, that could have been used to help those in need.

Mariano is right about one thing--the churches have been doing it for millennia. We disagree on precisely what they have been doing. I hope that Mariano himself is free of hypocrisy, and will perhaps join Sarah Silverman's "Sell the Vatican: Feed the Poor" campaign.

Actually, it kind of sickens me to read the sort of thing Mariano has linked to. The church-going people I knew while growing up were the first to donate, the first to volunteer, and never gave a thought about who else was donating or why. It was their own business. Of course, I found out years later that at least one pillar of that religious community was himself an atheist; the church was simply the best way he could help.

The billboards are up because atheists are treated as second class citizens. It's nice to see, for once, that we are considered good enough to actually hold to a higher standard than believers themselves.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On God And Haiti

“We stand here by the grace of God”
The quake survivors said,
And thanked Him they were not among
Two hundred thousand dead.
“What happened is the will of God”
But God receives no blame;
Survivors gather humbly, and
Sing praises to His name.
One wonders, in the aftermath,
If God is really there—
But which is worse: no God at all,
Or gods that do not care?

In a Saturday NYTimes op-ed, author James Wood ponders the various different invocations of God in the reactions to Haiti's devastation, from Pat Robertson, to President Obama, to the Haitian survivors themselves.
[A] 27-year-old survivor, Mondésir Raymone, was quoted thus: “We have survived by the grace of God.” Bishop Éric Toussaint, standing near his damaged cathedral, said something similar: “Why give thanks to God? Because we are here. What happened is the will of God. We are in the hands of God now.” A survivor’s gratitude is combined with theological fatalism. This response is entirely understandable, uttered in a ruined landscape beyond the experience of most of us, and a likely source of pastoral comfort to the bishop’s desperate flock. But that should not obscure the fact that it is little more than a piece of helpless mystification, a contradictory cry of optimistic despair.
It is an interesting look at the use of God in such times.
For either God is punitive and interventionist (the Robertson view), or as capricious as nature and so absent as to be effectively nonexistent (the Obama view). Unfortunately, the Bible, which frequently uses God’s power over earth and seas as the sign of his majesty and intervening power, supports the first view; and the history of humanity’s lonely suffering decisively suggests the second.
Interesting, that either view still maintains a God. I wonder why it is that a god who either causes or allows such suffering is not consigned to history. My universe works just fine with no god at all.


In an update, I had a visit in the comments on the "Starving? Have a bible" thread. A representative of the company says he will bring the idea of including a radio receiver, to make the audio bible more useful in such disaster scenarios. I think there are contact details in the link to the company website from my older post, if anyone wants to deliver words of encouragement.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Accommodationism: A Parable

I wanted to learn how to play violin;
I also wanted to swim.
I queried the maestro, who told me flat out
My chances were frankly quite grim:
A musical instrument gets in the way
And they don’t perform well, wet;
And as for tone, some soggy notes
Are all you’re gonna get.

But one accommodationist
Was there to give me hope:
He said they were compatible,
And not to give up hope!
So I’m in the pool, most every day,
With violin in hand;
I practice my scales till my fingers prune up,
But I guess I don’t understand—

It just doesn’t sound like a violin sounds,
And it’s harder and harder to swim!
I’m starting to think that the maestro was right
And I’m wishing I’d listened to him!
There are times when two things simply don’t go together,
That’s the story I’ve come here to tell—
You can play a violin under the water;
You simply can’t play it too well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Starving? Have A Bible!

They were starving; they were homeless; they were dying; they were dead.
There were bodies to be buried; there were children to be fed.
There were broken heaps of rubble where the houses used to stand
There was utter devastation; there was chaos in the land.
There were frantic cries for rescue; there were howls of fear and pain
There were heroes risking life and limb, with much to lose or gain.
There were millions in donations—drinking water, food to cook—
And the most important gift of all… The Christian Holy Book.

While it cannot stave off hunger, and it cannot slake your thirst,
It’s the most important item, when your life is at its worst;
No, it cannot heal a broken bone; it cannot make you whole,
But a Bible, in your time of need, could save your mortal soul!
It’s the timeless sacred message from the Bearded Guy Upstairs,
And it speaks of His omnipotence, and tells you that He cares.
When your world is torn asunder, as your very country bleeds,
Who could doubt, the Holy Bible is the thing that Haiti needs?

It’s the latest, greatest model; it’s a solar powered job!
It can shout the Holy Scripture out, in Creole, to the mob
That has gathered there, expectant, in the hopes of some supplies—
When instead they hear the Word Of God, imagine their surprise!
We are sending them six hundred, and that takes a lot of space,
So we bumped some crates of water, and put Bibles in their place;
Planes will bring the Holy Bibles in, like manna from above…
Cos it’s Bibles, and not medicine, that shows True Christian Love.

News Item: "Earthquake survivors get solar-powered bibles"

The Proclaimer, "a ministry tool like no other" (hey, I thought that was Pat Robertson's title!) could have been a solar-powered radio (it also has a hand-crank dynamo backup), but instead of a radio which could tell Haitians where to go for food, water, or medicine, it has a microchip with Scriptures in Haitian Creole. The rechargeable battery could play the entire New Testament a thousand times or more. Some 600 are on their way to Haiti, where with any luck the batteries and solar panels will be scavenged for other uses.

Cuttlecap tip to PZ, of course.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Digital Pack-Rat, vol. 23

Welcome, to a special blasphemy edition of the Digital Pack Rat, courtesy of troll/spam commenter "DM". I was not going to include the second entry today, but since DM called this a "blasphemy blog", I really have no choice. All credit, though, must go to DM--it is his spamming that leads directly to this blasphemy. If he wants to see more, he should keep spamming. If he really cares about his faith, he should shut his pie-hole. Oh, and for the rest of you--on the off chance that blasphemy offends you, you might want to click on through to some other page right about now. Fair warning.

So... the first verse is only a *little* blasphemous. It was a comment on "America's Next Religion", the game show proposed by PZ, in which the various faiths compete to become our National Religion.

Onward, Christian soldiers! Grab your cellphones! Make the call!
To make certain your religion is the favorite of them all!
The preliminary judging puts us clearly in the lead,
But your vote must still be counted to succeed!

Onward, Christian soldiers! It's a one-nine-hundred line,
That will keep your lord and savior turning water into wine!
We know we've asked a lot before; it's really kind of funny,
But your vote is what we need now, more than money!

Onward Christian soldiers! Vote as often as you can!
For the god who loved you so much that he turned into a man,
And got nailed upon a cross of wood (which you should not attempt)
Just to keep the right religion tax exempt!

Onward Christian soldiers! Stop your praying! Grab your phone!
Your God may be omnipotent, but can't do this alone!
Yes, we told you faith moves mountains, but we're asking you now, please--
God needs action now, so get up off your knees!

Onward Christian soldiers! Here's a message from above:
We're about to get our ass kicked by Muhammad's boot of love!
All your praying is a waste of time; We really want to win!
Here's a New Commandment: Praying is a sin!

Onward Christian... never mind, you haven't got the stuff--
You must've thought that prayer alone would really be enough.
We lied, and you believed us. Guess we just deserved to lose.
Do we really have to suck up to Tom Cruise?

Ok... now the fun one. This one comments on an interesting find on, again reported by PZ. It seems they sell communion wafers, and in the "people who bought this item also bought these", we see... Astroglide:
I hold it as a point of pride
To walk with Jesus by my side
With him alone I will abide
It was for me that Jesus died.

I walk with Jesus, every stride;
To him alone will I confide
The things I seek, He will provide
No need of mine will be denied.

My heart, of course, I open wide
And let my Jesus come inside;
Jesus wept. And me, I cried:
That's why we bought the Astroglide.

Lastly, to keep people thinking about giving, a comment on the umbrella organization for non-believers to give aid to Haiti (and, I hope, a continuing project when it is needed):
I probably would holler
If you stole from me a dollar,
But a dollar isn't really all that much.
I could maybe buy a cola
Or a handful of granola;
Maybe tuck it in a g-string, but I couldn't buy a touch.

I'd be angry for a minute, maybe two
But a dollar might be life or death for you.

And you know I'd shout aplenty
If I went and lost a twenty
That's a pizza, and a six of decent beer
Or the cover at a nightclub
Where I'd go, or where I might, bub,
If it wasn't so annoying, so I mostly just stay here.

I'd be pissed off for a day, or two or three
But that twenty bucks might save your family.

I'd be sure my anger thundered
If some asshole stole a hundred
Cos a hundred is a major chunk of dough!
And I'm sure that I would feel it
If some wanker were to steal it
But a hundred means much more to you, as anyone would know.

And a hundred less would hardly break my neck
In perspective, guess it's time to write a check.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Dinner With Roger

It has been a little while since I last saw an attempted internet meme—your favorite five this or that; your first posts of each month, or the photo out your front window—and I thought I’d try my hand. Besides, if it works, I get to read a whole lot of wonderful writing, on a topic well worth writing about.

The rules:
First, read Roger Ebert’s amazing, moving essay “Nil By Mouth”. Take your time. Have tissues on hand. (To, er, whet your appetite, Ebert's essay is about what he does and does not miss, now that he is unable to eat, drink, or speak. It is eloquent and beautiful, and will change your life forever. I'd quote the last paragraph here, but that would spoil your pleasure.)
Second, take some time to think. You’re gonna want that. You’re gonna need that. You’re gonna enjoy that.
Third, write. What was the best dinner (or two, or three, or… I have chosen to write about one, because iambic pentameter gets old fast) you ever had, by the criteria inspired by your reading of Roger Ebert. You do not have to follow my example (you especially should not bother writing in rhyme, unless you share that particular disorder with me).
Fourth, tag some others with the meme. Who? Your dinner party, that’s who. If these blog posts are dinners with friends, who are you inviting? One person? Several?

I had entirely too many meals to choose from, but one kept coming to mind again and again, so here it is. Every bit of it is true; all I did was write it down. I could have gone into much more detail, but then we'd be in epic poem territory, and I kinda wanted to get it posted this year.

The cook leaned up against the no-smoking sign,
Lit one cigarette from another, and gave us a look.
It was late, near closing; his friends were leaving to find
A party somewhere, and couldn’t wait for the cook.
We were four Americans; the cook must have guessed
We were better entertainment. He turned, re-lit the grill,
And asked us what we wanted. “What’s your best?”
So, burgers it was—but no run-of-the-mill
Ground beef; we could choose chicken or pork,
With mayonnaise, fried egg, and yellow cheese
For condiments, and french fries to eat with a fork.
“To drink?” “Four large diet cokes, if you please.”
We sat, the four of us, and ate, and drank, and talked.
The cook looked on, amused by us, no doubt;
Once strangers, now our group of friends had walked
Through Greece and Bulgaria together, and were just about
To say goodbye, perhaps for good. We knew
Each other, loved each other, and this perfect night
Was ours. We ate our meals and looked back through
The past five weeks. I complained that the flight
Back home was coming all too soon for me.
We would have stayed there talking through the night
If we could have; the cook’s face said we should go.
We left—so very happy, so very sad.
Sure, it probably was the company, but I know…
That was the best damn cheeseburger I ever had.

(This is the place. If you are ever in Sofia, Bulgaria, there are scores of better places to eat. Unless you are with friends, and have walked the whole town looking for just the right place for a pork burger with mayo, yellow cheese, and fried egg, on a soft white roll. In which case, this is the very best place on earth. It's on Shipka street, about a block from the University.)

Now, the really tough part. My dinner party. I am going to start small, so as not to deplete the blogospheric resources too much. My reasons for choosing each are my own, and I will not share them, other than to say that I chose individuals, without much care as to how they combine. I do think having these people around my table would make for a wonderful evening (for me, at least). I am very grateful to each of them for the privilege,, according to Ebert’s criterion, of having dined at their tables so many times already. In no particular order…

Greta Christina (Greta Christina’s Blog)
Cath (VWXYNot?)
SC (Salty Current)
Bronwen Scott (Snail’s Eye View)
The Ridger (The Greenbelt)
Martin Rundvist (Aardvarchaeology)

And hey, if you are not at the table, but like the idea, consider yourself invited! Write your own, and invite your own people to your table! Oh, and link back here so I can read it!

Edited to add: More and more, I hate the notion of choosing just a few people to send this to. I have already though of a couple dozen people I wish I had "invited" to my table, and I have no doubt I will think of many more before bedtime. So. If you have read this far, you are officially tagged, and asked (politely) to write up your own Ebert Dinner. To keep with meme tradition (is that metamemology?), I will keep my dinner choices, but I have just called up the Intarweb Virtual Caterers and ordered a tent that can fit all of you. You are invited.

Don't thank me. Thank Roger Ebert.

καλή όρεξη!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Raising The Dead!

A man is crumpled by a car;
He's lying dead, and there you are--
Don't waste your time with CPR,
Just bow your head and pray.
No need to call for EMTs;
The Holy Bible guarantees
Just fall down praying on your knees
The proper Christian way.

From prairie plains to shining shores
The hospitals will close their doors;
The pow'r of life and death is yours
If only you believe.
No more a need for any meds,
Or research messing up our heads,
Since raising people from the dead's
So easy to achieve.

It's really quite a simple game:
Just find a corpse, and then proclaim
"Rise up! Rise up, in Jesus' name!"
And that's what it will do.
But if by chance he will not stand;
The corpse won't do as you command,
The fall-back is already planned:
We put the blame on you.

Over on Pharyngula, PZ has posted a video of a man who claims to have raised the dead. Says it's not that hard to do, really. In the comments to that post, there are a number of commenters who doubt the man's sincerity. I wish I could. I really do.

But, the thing is, I have known people who honestly believed that prayer could raise the dead. Despite the fact that it did not work for their son, my friend. So, of course, it demonstrated that their faith was insufficient.

I hear there are groups that are actively praying for the victims of the Haitian earthquake. I hope that praying was the second thing they did, after donating. I remember my own church, decades ago, donating far more money than they feasibly could, to the victims of a tornado-struck town. Churches can be a tremendous vehicle for good in a situation like this; they are an organized group of people with a structure in place that can be put to this use. Of course, so can clubs, sports teams, schools, and even internet communities. There is little or nothing that a church can do that these other groups cannot. On the other hand, they could easily do less, if they choose to pray instead of work.

Mocking Pat Robertson (A Guest Post by Dr. Adequate)

There is, or ought to be, a close-knit community, a guild if you will, of pseudonymous internet poets. As I have said before, I am friends with a number of them who do what I do better than I do it (I, however, make up for quality with quantity). One of our proud fraternity has recently lost his internet home, but not his penchant for skewering fools with a pen much mightier than Excalibur itself. (I note, now, that Podblack has also posted this verse. Only fair--it was she who introduced him to me.)

What Podblack does not have, though, is his very own introduction. I do. Ladies, Gentlemen, Virtual Entities, I give you the inimitable Dr. Adequate:

You will, of course, have seen Pat Robertson's latest bit of crazy, and those who know me know that I can't see a fish in a barrel without getting an itchy trigger finger and a strong craving for bouillabaisse.

I therefore give you this little ditty, which I call ...

Unmysterious Ways

Jehovah, as I understand,
holds all creation in his hand:
the Bible leaves no doubt.
And yet he always intervenes
with great economy of means,
and takes the easy route ---

sends droughts to nations that defy
his will (and which are hot and dry);
to prove his power is great, he
judiciously supports this boast
by flooding regions on the coast
and causing quakes in Haiti.

For God, it seems, has got a chronic
dislike of anything tectonic
as Pat Robertson's revealed,
and he'll pour his wrath and hate on
folks who don't live on a craton
on a continental shield.

For petty sins like genocide
and torture, he lets those abide
and wisely stays his hand;
but saves his deadliest assaults
for those who have tectonic faults ---
that's one thing he can't stand.

The wage of sin is death, it's written:
and yet I somehow stay unsmitten
by earthquake or tsunami:
for God forgives the rather large sins
of those who shun tectonic margins,
and chooses not to harm me.

And so, as far as I am able
I stick to regions that are stable
and thus avoid my sentence.
This clever little dodge, I call
most geo-theo-logical ...
and more fun than repentance.

Help. Now. If you can.

Confession: I love David Letterman.

His first show after 9/11 was the first time I could let myself cry for that particular tragedy, even though I knew people... never mind, it's complicated. But I, like so many people, were just torn apart, and were trying to be strong, or angry, or sad, or compassionate... it was too much.

I know that there are many who have been more deeply touched by tragedy than I ever have. I am extraordinarily fortunate, by any measure whatsoever. Funny... that doesn't mean I don't get my heart ripped out. When Dave gave his post-9/11 speech, I sobbed. Alone in the room, wanting to mourn, needing to be strong, when Dave asked "Does that make any God-damned sense?", my chest heaved with the sorrow I had refrained from expressing.

Since then, I have donated blood for him. Yeah, I know, it is lame, but I know he probably can't donate any more, since his surgery, and I donate whenever I can, so whenever I have the chance to designate a donor (not always, but sometimes), I donate blood for Dave Letterman.

This is the first I have admitted it (not even to him). But it's true.

And now.

Haiti, by conservative estimates, has at least 100,000 dead. 9/11 was peanuts compared to this. Once again, religion comes a distant second to nature.

And there's Dave, again. "Welcome Late Show viewers - we need your help". Understatement, I should think. The link is to the World Food Programme. If you have not yet donated, then get off your ass and donate. If you already have donated... thank you... and consider another donation. Most of us (I make this assumption based on internet access) could donate pretty much all of this month's income and be better off than any of the folks in the devastated regions of Haiti.


If I, or anyone, asked for something like that, we'd (deservedly) get nothing. So... I am here to remind you that even ten, even five, even one dollar, is that much more than they would have otherwise. The average person in Haiti earns less than a dollar a day (depending on which source you believe, it can be less or considerably more), so even a small donation will go a long way.

So. If you are looking for some way to donate... there's one link. But, frankly, at this point, you've probably seen half a dozen reputable places--scienceblogs has had several posts with links, there is always the Red Cross, or you could even try Google.

Just in case I am the straw that yadda yadda yadda... donate now. People are dying. Donate now.

And... thanks, Dave.

No verse today. You want verse? Go donate, then complain.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Foxy Sarah Finds The Perfect Job

Sarah Palin’s joining Fox—
Vox populi gets one more vox
So bar the doors and check the locks
Cos Sarah’s back in town!

She gets to be the tea-bag muse
And share with us her folksy views,
The fair and balanced right-wing news
When Sarah’s throwin’ down!

We’ll get to hear the old refrains,
And newer bites, as Sarah strains
To show us that she’s got some brains-
She’s worthy of our notice.

And just as fun, we’ll see some try
To back her up, to justify
Her ever-growing long good-bye,
And flog her run for POTUS!

She’ll join the ranks of Bill and Glenn
The strutting cocks will gain a hen
They’ll rant and rave, then say “Amen”
To punctuate their chatter.

She went rogue at the voting booth
And lost, but now the foxy sleuth
Has found a job that needs no truth-
On Fox, it doesn’t matter.

NPR reports that Sarah Palin is joining Fox "News". I wish her a looooooooong career there.
NY Times also--the comments at their "Media Decoder" blog are delicious.

Blessed Are The Republicans, For They Shall Say Things Like This

"Omniscient God, we pray to you,
In case you hadn't heard;
To smite the folks who want to do
What they think is your word.
To heal the sick, to help the poor,
And other hateful stuff,
When faith-based healing, I am sure,
Is medicine enough.
Oh, Lord, we need your guiding hand,
So we beseech, in prayer:
Please, Jesus, look throughout our land,
And smite the ones who care."

The context, and a hilarious/horrifying video, is over at Pharyngula.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

We Have To Have A Talk About Vaccines

We need to have a talk about vaccines--
The evidence is right before your eyes,
And everybody knows just what that means

When journalists can peek behind the scenes
And see the anti-vaxxers through disguise
We need to have a talk about vaccines.

Their science isn’t worth a hill of beans
And so the anti-vaxxers turn to lies
And everybody knows. Just what that means

May not be clear. The argument careens
From point to point, and if you cross your eyes,
We need to have a talk about vaccines.

But if you look more clearly, through the screens
And clouds, their falsehood dies,
And everybody knows just what that means.

They use, instead, publicity machines
Which amplify their pseudoscience cries:
“We need to have a talk about vaccines!”
And everybody knows just what that means.


Some context. Two of my favorite bloggers, Orac and PalMD, have each written about Barbara Loe Fisher and her early attempt at winning the "Hypocrite of the year" contest in the first month. For me, this is a bit of an opportunity--most importantly, it gives me a chance to link to them, and to do what tiny bit this little-fish blog can do to add to the side of right... but also, I think this is my first villanelle! I have wanted to do a villanelle for some time now, and this finally does it. I must offer my thanks to Barbara Loe Fisher, for epic hypocrisy; without you, I could not have written this.

European Advice, Please?

This post is aimed especially at my European readers, or any readers who have traveled in Europe. As I have mentioned before, Cuttleson is going to be in Europe (Denmark) soon, for roughly 4 months. At one point (I need to ask him the specific dates, but it is in Spring) he has 2 weeks free to travel. For some of that, he may be traveling with friends, but perhaps not all of it.

Anyway, he is looking for ideas. At this point, he claims to be less interested in, say, ruins than in natural beauty. The sites he mentioned to me included things like Croatia's Plitvice Lakes, and Meteora in Greece. He thought the idea of climbing Mt. Olympus was wonderful. He is clearly not opposed to making a long trip from Denmark. His current ideal would be to find a place to stay as a base for at least a few days, while he explores several different nearby areas.

So... I am asking for your advice, your ideas, your experience. Do you have a favorite place that is unlikely (or is very likely) to be found in a tour guide? Any places he really ought to avoid, if (as he claims) he'd rather see the French countryside than the Eiffel Tower?

I know I have quite a few European readers, from across the whole of the continent. Please don't be shy; post in the comments, or (if you really want your special place to remain a secret) that's my email address over there to the right.

From the North, with the cold and the ice,
To the South, where the beaches are nice,
To the East, to the West,
If your country's the best
Then it's you whom I ask for advice!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Makin' Khalwat

News item: 52 couples detained under Sharia Law, charged with the offense of "close proximity".

She’s not a bride
He’s not a groom
But they decided
To share a room
The law’s been tested
Now they’re arrested
For makin’ Khalwat

It’s New Year’s Eve
At the hotel
They figured “hey,
We might as well”
I’d like to see ya,
But it’s Shariah—
We’re makin Khalwat

Picture a Malay melee
Down to the last detail
Cops in ambush to waylay
Couples now facing jail

All through Selangor
They’re facing time
You wanna bang her?
Well, it’s a crime
But don’t forget folks
That’s what you get, folks,
For makin’ Khalwat

They’ll do two years
And pay a fine
And then, my dears,
The sun will shine
Hope it was nice, cos
They paid the price, cos
Of makin’ Khalwat

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Evidence Of Religion In Octopuses

"Thousands of dead octopuses wash up on Portugal beach" (BBC News)

It’s a tragic little story, more than just a little odd:
My suspicion is, an octopus had just invented “god”;
When he told the other fishes, most dismissed him as a fool,
They had never heard such nonsense in their years in fishy school.
His relatives, embarrassed by his ineffective search,
Through a misplaced sense of sympathy, signed up and joined his church.

As we skip ahead a little, past the growing of his flock,
Past the bible-thumping rhetoric, the gospel-driven schlock,
To the cult of personality, their leader is their friend,
And they’d follow where he takes them, true believers to the end!
If they only have sufficient faith, the stars are in their reach—
Now they wash up by the thousands, on a five-mile stretch of beach.

From the BBC:
Thousands of dead octopuses have washed up on a beach in northern Portugal, in what is being called an environmental disaster.

They cover a 5-mile stretch of Vila Nova de Gaia beach - no reason has yet been found for their appearance.

The authorities have warned the public not to eat them.

Update: ok, so it's not an update on the actual story, like I had hoped. I was looking to see if there was more information anywhere, but without luck. But over on Current, a reader's comment suggests that my version may well be the truth:

The money quote: Whatever the reason, its what god wanted. Maybe they were just stupid, like all the whales getting washed up.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

God Delusion Video (Markella)

I had never heard of this (former opera, now popular) singer, but Podblack told me about her just this morning (er, evening for her). Knowing I have a soft spot for A) rational thought, B) music, and C) Greek women, I can't imagine what Podblack was thinking. Markella's site has information about her, but only a brief clip of her song "God Delusion"... but a quick search found this powerful video:

Not my type of music, frankly, but certainly my type of message. Hmmm... ya think she's do an album of Cuttlefish covers?

If rational thinking you seek
Take a listen to this lovely Greek
If you find, as I do,
That her message is true
Pass it on! Let it grow! Hear her speak!

Danish Cartoonist: 1--Muhammad: 0

It must, at times, be really hard
To be cartoonist Westergaard*.
To be a controversial Dane,
Targeted by religious insane.
Trying to live their normal life,
A normal man and normal wife,
But with a price put on his head—
A million bucks to see him dead.

His drawing was a mortal sin
(To those who need a thicker skin):
The Prophet (praise be unto him)
Portrayed in features rather grim,
With bomb in turban, fuse alight,
Offensive to a Muslim’s sight!
Since such an insult could not stand,
“The man must die.” the cold command.

Islam’s Qur’an, the central text,
Has poor cartoonists quite perplexed—
It calls for peace, or that’s the claim,
While breeding martyrs in its name.
But should one choose to illustrate
This problem, well, we know the fate:
The peaceful clerics draw a breath
And send the artist to his death.

Kurt Westergaard is still alive
His freedom, also, will survive—
He will not bow to terrorists
Although his name is on their lists;
He chooses still, by all accords,
To set his pen against their swords
To freely live, as best he can—
So, fuck Muhammad—Kurt’s the man!

*I have been corrected; my pronunciation of Westergaard is incorrect (thanks for nothing, ITN News!) My apologies!

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Specifically, a religiously-motivated terrorist tried to murder a cartoonist. God's very own prophet is apparently so thin-skinned, a cartoon is offense enough to try to kill a 74 year old cartoonist.

I am paying closer attention to Denmark these days; Cuttleson will be heading there for a semester. I am so envious. I suppose, though, I will have to caution him against doodling images of Muhammad.

From the article:
Danish police have shot and wounded a man at the home of Kurt Westergaard, whose cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad sparked an international row.
Mr Westergaard was at home in Aarhus when a man broke in and threatened him. He pressed a panic button and police entered the house and shot the man.
Danish officials said the intruder was a 28-year-old Somali linked to the radical Islamist al-Shabab militia.