Thursday, June 30, 2011

Atheism From The Minds Of Christian Babes

No, this isn’t a post about what attractive, female followers of Jesus think of atheism (no one gives a shit about what the Palins think).

Atheists are bombarded on a daily basis with religion, primarily Christianity (or at least what passes for it these days). In many ways, atheists have a better vantage point for analyzing religions, because believers are often in a situation where they cannot see the forest for the trees. While the Christian has convinced themselves their faith is all about things like love and compassion, those on the outside looking in have a clearer view of reality.

This isn’t because atheists are just so amazing and intelligent, but because Christians basically never shut the fuck up about their religion. Their dogma is everywhere, and it permeates American laws and social norms. We all know what Christianity says, and those of us on the outside have a much clearer view in regards to what Christianity actually does.

Just as an example, the Christians have attempted to appropriate marriage as an institution that was “created/ordained by God.” Logically, this makes no sense, because people have been forming their own family units since before God was ever a twinkle of the eye of the Bronze Age desert Semites who borrowed him from their Pagan neighbors. However, taken in the context of the belief that this God has been around since the beginning of time, it makes a bit more sense (or at least achieves an amusing semblance of sense).

So, let’s flip the tables.

What do Christians know about atheism? Well, as it turns out, not much. Most Christians I have met cannot even properly define what atheism is. Really stop and consider that for a second, because this may be one of the root causes of the other problems I want to delve into regarding Christian perceptions of atheism.

Frankly, I am astounded by the things I have heard Christians say about atheism and atheists (both in general or about specific atheists). If you had asked me a decade ago what I thought of Christians, when I was a newly minted atheist of just a few years, I would have told you Christians were mentally deranged, and that they clearly suffered from some form of cognitive disorder.

Over time, I found this insanity to be far too systematized to be organic. Generally, a mental disorder is expressed differently in different patients. For example, if two people are hallucinating, they probably won’t see the exact same thing. If you’re an atheist for any length of time and you engage Christians in discussion, you will find that the madness they exhibit is far too standardized and similar to be the result of spontaneous mental failure.

In other words: Christians are saying the same crazy things, so the most likely reason for this is not disease, but rather that crazy people are feeding crazy ideas to Christians.

What sort of crazy ideas? While there are a finite number of these dim-witted views, they are far too numerous to list them all here. In fact, I would also need an inordinate amount of time to collect all of these ideas, because the roots of Christian apologetics run deep. They’ve been shoveling bullshit for thousands of years, after all, so the pile is bound to be pretty high.

Just some examples:

- atheists believe in God, they just refuse to worship out of pride
- atheists worship Satan
- atheists leave religion because they cannot adhere to God’s morality
- atheists are angry at God
- atheism is a phase some young people go through
- atheists are possessed by demons
- atheists believe nothing created everything
- atheists are all gay
- gay people are all atheists
- atheists can’t be trusted (since they can’t swear on the Bible)
- there are no atheists in foxholes
- Charles Darwin recanted on his deathbed
- atheists have no moral compass
- atheism is a religion
- atheists can’t prove there isn’t a God, therefore there is one

And the list goes on, one canard after another.

Most Christians don’t talk to atheists about atheism. Let’s be honest: religion doesn’t come up very often in daily conversation. I’m sure Christians interact with plenty of atheists on a daily basis, they just don’t know it. This is why it’s such a shame to me how closeted most atheists are, because most people only have one type of interaction with atheists.

I would be willing to bet a fair amount of the exchanges a Christian knowingly has with atheists will be adversarial in nature. The oft-cited “they got offended by me saying ‘God bless you’ when they sneezed” or “these atheists were protesting the Christmas tree downtown” are the only time some Christians are exposed to atheism.

This might account for some of the hostility Christians display, a sort of misguided, ill-informed counter-counter-protest attitude. Christians have no way of knowing how unbelievably fucking annoying they can be, so in their mind, here’s the scenario: atheists appear magically out of the blue to screw up the happy, smiling community that just wants to keep on marginalizing people in peace.

Of course they are then going to get upset at these atheists who are suggesting such extreme ideas as not using public funds to erect a monument to the ten commandments (over half of which aren’t even laws…).

It really comes down to two different ways of looking at things: those who are rational, and those who rationalize. Those who are rational tend to want to change what is wrong with the world to make it a better place. Those who rationalize want nothing to change, and in order to defend it, will dig down deep and pull every possible argument they can find out of their ass and shove it in your face, like a rhetorical Dirty Sanchez.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Atheism and Pride

Pride is a funny thing, and not “ha ha” funny. While not a word with many letters, pride is a big word, one which encompasses many different ideas, and it’s a word that means many different things, not only to different people, but even within the mind of the same individual. Because it changes with circumstance, it’s important to understand what kind of pride we’re talking about.

In this case, pride is the open expression and self-satisfaction that comes with some personal characteristic or group membership.

To me, pride is sort of like God. It’s something other people talk about feeling which I just simply don’t. Once, in 2007, I thought I felt pride, but it turned out to be a brief bout of high self-esteem.

Atheists face a dilemma. Oddly enough, it’s one they share with white supremacists. An atheist trying to publicly express atheist pride is met with a similar hostility and censorship as someone wishing to express a “white power” message.

I wouldn’t say I have pride in atheism, though I’m not ashamed of it. However, I would be just as biased as society if I didn’t openly acknowledge the double standard atheists face. Christians flaunt their religion in every way imaginable: before meals, at funerals (especially for atheists…), when accepting awards, even on the floor of Congress. It’s pretty much the Lord God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy fucking Ghost everywhere you turn in America.

In a sense, I feel surrounded by flaming Christians. I’m talking “get down on your knees in front of a shirtless, hung guy with a six pack” flaming.

Now, I’m cool with people being themselves and not hiding who they are, but it’s irritating to me how deep in the closet these types of people have driven most atheists.

I think Christians need to take a page from the Irish. Sure, both are associated with violence, but the Irish have managed to take a holiday like St. Patrick’s day, put aside differences, and say that everyone on that day is Irish. They are inclusive, not exclusive. Instead, Christians tend to use their holidays to further polarize the issue, insisting it’s all about Jesus, and that any attempt to secularize the celebration is an attack on Christianity.

But this example shows a fundamental difference between some groups and their aims. For Christians, it’s “us vs. them,” and Christians dream of a Christian nation, populated by all Christians. The Irish wished to integrate into society, to become one of “us.”

I tend to side with the Irish on this one, preferring to have no “them” at all. We’re all “us,” and I’m not proud of it.

Wednesday Word: Drugscapades

drugscapades: high-jinx

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Top Ten: Things You Can Do For/To/With Someone Else, But Not Yourself

10. Be a Professional Reference
9. Independently Verify Facts
8. Sort Out A Relationship
7. Make Laugh Without Looking Insane
6. Marriage
5. Perform Open Heart Surgery
4. Speak at Funeral
3. Throw a Surprise Party
2. Listen and Sympathize
1. Leave

Republican Sodomy

One advantage of being married to someone Jewish (besides not having to worry about doing my own taxes) is that I have access to different ideas than I was exposed to growing up. I grew up Catholic surrounded by Protestants (I’m not sure which made me go atheist, to be honest) and I married a Jew. If I can find a Muslim best friend, I will have a complete set of monotheists.

So anyway, one of those Jewish ideas came my way today when I found out that the term “sodomite” has nothing to do with Sodom.

The word “sodomite” as used in the KJV of the Bible is never used in reference to Sodom, but rather to a fertility cult that has male prostitutes. The word translated as “sodomite” is transliterated from Hebrew as “qadesh.”

In other words, the way the Old Testament is actually written in Hebrew, “sodomite” or “one from Sodom” is not a reference to homosexuality. This was a later attribution, one which begins to appear around the time of Jesus. It enters general Jewish philosophy about a century before Jesus. “Sodomite” ends up in Christian translations because translators see little problem centuries later of using a commonplace term (sodomite) where it contextually doesn’t belong.

When the Jewish people became subjugated to Greek rule under Philip of Macedon in the 4th century BCE, and subsequently while under the rule of Rome beginning in the 1st century BCE, the practice of institutionalized pederasty traveled through the Greek speaking world. This met heavy resistance among the Jews, and Jewish philosophers of this time begin to conflate Sodom with homosexuality (Judaism is, afterall, against homosexuality).

Before this time, writings attributed to Moses and Ezekiel stressed the crimes of Sodom to be inhospitality, greed, gluttony, and general excess… though never a mention of homosexuality.

Hmm… what organized group is openly inhospitable to outsiders, and who encourage greed, gluttony, and general excess in the name of economic consumption…

I guess what I’m trying to say is, Republicans are basically all sodomites.

[Written in response to Pat Robertson’s remarks on gay marriage.]

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Random Thoughts, June 2011

This is a repost of something I put up at Skeptical Eye this past week. I just decided to share it with you guys, for those who only read this blog and not the other… so what I’m saying is, I don’t blame you if you didn’t see it yet, but if you have, you can save yourself the time and eerie feeling of déjà vu.

Sometimes, I think society isn’t very good at finding the root cause of things. For example, people blame TV for kids doing stupid stuff, but dumb stuff has been on TV as long as there’s been TV, and fairy tales are full of ridiculous situations. Wile E. Coyote was strapping rockets to his roller skates in the 50’s, but kids weren’t going out and doing it... until the 90’s. Why? Maybe because that was the generation that grew up being told, “You can do anything.”

What if the light at the end of the tunnel when we are dying is the world on the other side of our next mother’s vagina? More importantly, where can I get more of this weed?

I hate stuck up rich kids who were born on third base and act like they hit a triple. I’m not suggesting they go back to first base (I didn’t), but at least acknowledge reality.

They say love is blind, but maybe it just wears sunglasses to look cool.

Maybe if we had more gays in the military, we would have known how to pull out of a shit hole.

I’m against animal testing, because it encourages researchers to only teach to the exam. Animals need a broader education.

Anthony Weiner essentially resigned for performing actions which I’m pretty sure are a requirement of running for office as a Republican.

I studied philosophy, so I’m looking forward to the collapse of civilization, because I’m uniquely qualified to work in conditions similar to those of ancient Greece.

I often hear people say that America is a land of excess. America practices many things in moderation, like equality, justice, peace, vacation, mercy… in fact, all the best stuff, we ration it out quite modestly.

Some would have you believe education is too expensive, but education is priceless. It is ignorance which is too expensive.

Plenty of atheists waste time talking to religious people about things like evidence and logic. If religious people relied on logic and evidence, they wouldn’t be religious people.

It’s interesting to note that when children hang out in a box, it is considered quaint, but adults hanging out in a box... is just sad.

Suits are a lie, worn.

Scientists have determined that we are always being watched by a duck. They aren’t sure which duck, yet, and are seeking funding for further studies.

Headlines Fox News dreads having to run:
Allah Declared One True God
Rain Forecast for Swearing in of Pres. Rodriguez
Jesus Returns; Buddhists Seen Floating Away
Reagan Was Gay
It’s Official: Whites Are Moving Back to Europe
Poor People Now Have Healthcare
Everything Seems Fine
Obama fixes economy; Boehner: He’s still a nigger

There will never be enough kingdoms for all the kings and queens.

I keep seeing ads for sites claiming to be “The Facebook of Sex.” Isn’t that what the actual Facebook is for?

Advice for finding a date: don’t be ugly.

Did you know that in America, only 1 in 20 people are in the top 5%? If you have an American education, probably not.

I sometimes wonder where all the comments I lost go when Blogger errors out. I like to think the good ones go to a magical place up in the clouds, where they hang out with each other for all of eternity. The bad ones (along with deleted comments) burn forever in lost comment hell. Or maybe they just disappear forever...

I want shoes that can detect when I’m running up stairs and will start playing “Rocky” music.

Whenever I feel bad about downloading music illegally, I watch MTV Cribs.

In California, there are solar powered tanning salons. I’m serious, Google it.

If money can’t buy happiness, poverty definitely can’t afford it.

My favorite Wheel of Fortune “Before and After” puzzles that will never be:
Fucked Over And Out
What the Fuck Off
Dumb As Dog Shit for Brains

Americans have a little something extra, by which I mean… you know how when you’re putting something back together and there are screws left over, but you don’t know where they belong? Yeah, that “something extra.”

I never thought I’d want a gun
‘Til I heard birds at 5:01

Canadian politics makes about as much sense to me as round bacon.

I don’t like the term “pro-life.” You can’t support the death penalty or frivolous wars and then call yourself “pro-life” just because you oppose abortion. And it’s a little suspicious that these same people claim to care about “life,” but they really oppose the idea of poor people being provided healthcare. These people aren’t “pro-life,” they’re “pro-birth,” which makes sense, because in their world of unnecessary death, you need more births to keep up.

I used to wonder why they called it “morbid obesity,” but then I realized it’s because fat people wear so much black.

If anyone has seen Radio Bloger, please contact the authorities. He was last seen throwing a strawman down a slippery slope.

Just for the sake of the pun, I want to write a book about Mongolian literature and leaders called “The Prose and Kahns of Mongolia.”

Banking: never have so few taken so much from so many

As a liberal, I have to say that I’m proud of Fox News for hiring the mentally retarded.

Worst pick-up line ever: If I could rearrange the alphabet, I would rape you.

In Soviet Russia, people rob bank. In Capitalist America, bank robs people.

Headlines from a world that never had religion:
Middle East Celebrates 3000th Year of Peace
New Additions to WTC Complete
More Good News from the Mars Colonies

I wouldn’t want to have offended the elephant man, because you just know he would have never forgotten it.

Religions are like Taco Bell beef: neither is primarily what they claim to be, and the more you know about what’s actually in both of them, the less appealing they are.

Two Dudes: Peacock

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tolerance and Religion

Atheists often talk about religion being intolerant, and I also see the same charges leveled against atheists. It happens from time to time, and it never ceases to make me at least crack a smile.

Don’t get me wrong, atheism could be as bad as religion. The thing is, religion has violence, intolerance, bigotry, discrimination, and arbitrary ethical quirks institutionalized within its very foundations. Atheism… is the lack of belief in gods. Christianity has an over 788,000 word collection of books to pull from. The entirety of atheism could fit on a fortune cookie, with room on the back for lucky numbers.

Throughout the course of my blogging, I get called a lot of things, and I expect it to happen. I’m not blogging about baking cookies, here. I am openly criticizing the most cherished beliefs of millions of people. I never lose sight of that truth. I do not take the privilege for granted. I am geographically lucky to have the luxury to say whatever I want about whatever I want.

And I have said a lot of mean shit. I mean… seriously, vile, repugnant shit. Mel Gibson shit. Stuff that I would say I’m not proud of if I didn’t look back on it and laugh. But I don’t threaten religion, nor do I even make the perfectly acceptable leap of claiming religion should disappear. I see religion as just another group I loathe, like fraternities or political parties.

Just as people have the right to come to my blog and tell me off, I have the right to say what I want about any religion I want. I won’t say anything… I wouldn’t accuse Buddhists of inventing that awful toilet paper in public bathrooms that is so thin you can read through it. I feel I have the right to point out any truthful observation I make.

It’s only fair, because I wasn’t the one making the claims first. I was born in 1983. Before I even got here, thousands of religions rose and fell, and the predominant faiths of the day have been claiming stupid, unfounded, inaccurate bullshit for thousands of years before I even got here. I’m just trying to catch up, frankly. I haven’t written 788,000 words on Christianity, and I feel I am due a rebuttal of at least equal length.

And if you look at what I’m rebutting, it is some pretty harsh stuff: putting people to death for things we as a society have legalized long ago; glorified genocide; child marriage; acceptance of slavery; condemnation of every person on Earth for frivolous shit that happened in a garden with a talking snake…

If I was truly exercising parity and providing my own equal share to the public forum, I’m missing a lot of, “People who wear cross necklaces should be stoned to death” and “burn their cities and give the women to your soldiers, for they have a church.” I am a cruel guy, but that’s a little bit much for me. I can honestly say I draw the line at hurting people or damaging a person’s things. If you don’t respect that, you’re a real jerk.

I don’t think of myself as intolerant of religion, but maybe I am. If I am intolerant, I am at least comforted in knowing I am merely intolerant of intolerance. But ultimately, I would argue I do tolerate religion, I just believe that what I tolerate is not above criticism.

Saturday Reflection #35

I think who your hero is says a lot about you. Now, I mean who your actual idol is, who you model yourself off of, which is not always the same as who you tell people is your hero. When you're little, it's your parents and any older siblings or caretakers. As you grow up, you begin to look up to unimportant celebrities like athletes, actors and musicians. Older still, you may mature and take cues from great individuals, people known for their ideas and contributions to the world. But ultimately, those who become idolized by others are those who are their own hero.

Friday, June 24, 2011

On Global Warming

I don’t particularly like the term “global warming.” It doesn’t really capture the scope of what’s going on with the environment. I also don’t particularly like “climate change.” While the former term is too specific, this latter one might be too vague.

We have the term “global warming” because… well… that’s what is happening on the whole. Global temperature averages have gone up. “Climate change” is a label created largely as a reaction to the well understood fact that the change in the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and glaciers is more complex than average temperatures.

Before I continue, I should point out that I won’t address you if you try to say man-made pollution does not affect the environment. There is simply no discussion on this. Plants and animals of every type affect the environment. This is a planet shaped by the life it has spawned.

About 21% of our atmosphere is oxygen. Of that, 98-99% of it was synthesized by a plant (the rest results from photochemical dissociation of ultraviolet light breaking water down into hydrogen and oxygen).

Something to keep in mind: the Earth is a closed chemical system in many ways. Strictly speaking, it isn’t, but for all intents and purposes, it is close enough. We gain more than we lose, as we gain solid mass from meteors while losing nearly insignificant amounts of gas due to atmospheric escape to space. On the whole, though, we are chemically contained and primarily affected by the Sun.

Some would like to point to the Sun as the cause of climate change. The jury is in: the Sun does affect the climate. In fact, I would argue that the Sun has a greater effect than any other single cause. However, saying “The Sun affects climate” has become a strange mantra among some climate-change deniers, as if two things cannot have an effect at the same time.

It’s not as though we just observed the climate statistics and decided to blame oil companies. The effects of greenhouse gas are experimentally proven, and Venus is a clear example where a runaway greenhouse reaction can be observed. Universally accepted fields of study like chemistry and physics confirm the findings of climate scientists.

And yet, thanks to a very successful misinformation blitzkrieg by industries that fear regulation, Americans believe there is doubt about climate change. There is no doubt: 97% of people whose job it is to study weather and climate understand that human-caused climate change is happening.

Some naysayers even have the balls to suggest people support climate change for monetary reasons. Really? Because under-qualified pariahs of the scientific community with a degree and a grudge are taking in millions from industry grants to try to throw doubt on climate change. People who support climate change continue to get grants not because there is some anti-industry conspiracy among those with the purse strings (to what ends, I can only imagine), but because they continue to uncover new information which may be useful in finding ways of curbing our impact on the environment without throwing us technologically back into the stone age.

The last fallacy I’m sick of hearing is the fatalists, who believe we’re doomed. There are some of these on both sides of the debate, and it’s pathetic. If you believe there’s nothing we can do about it, you’re wrong. We can decrease consumption, increase efficiency, fund research of clean fuels, and maintain a general culture of searching for solutions, rather than denying there’s a problem or claiming destruction is inevitable.

I don’t think it’s inevitable that we’ll end up like Venus, but I do think it’s possible. Bio-fuel is the perfect renewable source of greenhouse gas for turning our planet into a pressure cooker. Even when we run out of fossil fuels, we could conceivably keep burning off corn, sugar, or whatever else we come up with and filling the atmosphere with not only carbon dioxide, but a whole host of carcinogens and unpleasant byproducts.

But I suspect that in the end, there will always be those who deny the consensus of experts, because fools are remarkable in their ability to express hostility towards anyone who seems to know more than they do.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Discussion: Designer Babies

Should it be legal for people to choose characteristics for their child through genetic therapy, such as race, gender, eye color, hair color, etc.?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday Word: Aggressocracy

Aggressocracy: rule by those who ruthlessly take hold of power

On Race and Sexuality

I didn’t even need a new post in order to have another response to Heathen Republican. This time, I want to focus on a point he attempted to make in his post regarding race and sexuality, because I think it’s an important idea to address.

First, a quote, to sort of illustrate the issue I’m discussing here:

The left likes to compare the same-sex marriage debate as equivalent to racial discrimination in the past, but that’s a false analogy and an insult to blacks. There are no gay/straight restrooms; no gay/straight drinking fountains; no gay/straight lunch counters; gays are not required to sit in the back of the bus; gays are allowed to vote; gays are not subject to segregation; and gays have never been enslaved.

I’m not sure people “equate” it, so much as people compare the two, finding analogies and connections which may help an individual see something in a different light. There are plenty of people who are openly hostile or uncomfortable with homosexuality, and the black community in particular is notoriously unfriendly to gay people (owing largely to the increased religiosity of black people).

But is there even a comparison? HR thinks not, and lists very specific criteria for prejudice: gay people don’t have special restrooms, drinking fountains, lunch counters, or bus seating. Gay people never had to fight for the right to vote, they were not enslaved, and they were supposedly never segregated (just treated differently in a systematic and legal sense).

Personally, I think prejudice has a larger definition that this.

So, I decided to compile my own list, only in the reverse. Being black was not diagnosed as a disease as recently as 1973. Kids are not sent by their parents to camps in order to have the black prayed (or beaten or electrically shocked) out of them. Black people aren’t kicked out of the Boy Scouts. Being black won’t disqualify you from adopting children with many agencies.

But wait, there’s more. There has been a black president. And black people could legally have sex before a 2003 Supreme Court ruling, which finally struck down sodomy laws which are still on the books in several US states. But most importantly, gay people aren’t born to gay parents in a gay community that makes them feel like they belong.

You really cannot quantify what it must be like to be born different in that way. While gay and black people also suffer from a lack of public role models, gay people are at a decided disadvantage in the personal realm. Even church, the one social network that supposedly takes in the victimized (and the one which many minorities fall back on), will endlessly judge the gay individual.

Black people also enjoy legal protection gay people do not. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not cover sexual orientation, and this is part of why is has remained legal to discriminate against gay individuals, most notably in the US military. Still, any business can choose to fire an individual solely for being gay without fear of violating that individual’s constitutionally protected rights, because sexual orientation is not constitutionally protected.

But ultimately, it’s not a dick measuring contest between black people and gay people (picture that image…).

I have no interest in proving black people have it worse than gay people, or vice versa. There is no need for an equivalency. Each is in a unique situation, though they share the characteristic of being in unenviable positions, both historically and under the current status quo. It’s not about discussing which I would rather be or which has it worse, because those who are simply are, and they can’t change it.

They do share similar experiences. Both black people and gay people have been banned from getting legally married (though we rectified that for black people), both have had the Bible used to justify ill treatment, and both get blamed for AIDS. And both black people and gay people are known for dancing well.

I don’t know how to close, but I have one more thing I want to say to HR and people like HR, who feel there’s hostility from the left. When you actively oppose people being treated equally… it pisses people off. I see so much whining about how mean the left is while reading right-leaning blogs, as if words carry any sort of real consequences outside of the delicate psyches of our poor, thin-skinned right-wing friends.

If you want to legally complicate the lives of others, don’t act surprised and appalled when you get criticized. You’re certainly entitled to complain about being criticized for being a bigot, but it makes you appear to be a whiney, privileged bigot. “Oh poor me, some fags who can’t get married and start a family because of people like me are saying rude things. The nerve!” What a victim…

I mean, talk about a false equivalency. If you think gay people don’t have it as bad as black people, then I have news for you: us white males definitely don’t have it as bad as gay people or black people, and yet we complain just as much. At least I complain on behalf of other people, because I can plainly see I’m doing fine.

And yet, nothing elicits a loud response from a right-winger like seeing other people happy (or possibly made happy). I’m fairly certain these right-wingers only experience joy when seeing other people miserable. Is it just me, or are conservatives not content with their own accomplishments, but instead require schadenfreude from witnessing the struggles of others?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top Ten: Worst Presidents

10. William Harrison
9. George W. Bush
8. Zachary Taylor
7. John Tyler
6. Ulysses S. Grant
5. Millard Fillmore
4. Franklin Pierce
3. Andrew Johnson
2. James Buchanan
1. Warren G. Harding

Writing and Voices

Whenever I talk to someone about writing or read someone’s opinion on writing, I get the impression I don’t write the same as most people. I’m sure plenty of people write not only in a similar style or using a similar method, but I don’t seem to see people talking or writing about it.

Case in point, I read a great article referred from Mock Ramblings about comparing writing to singing. In the article, a singer’s range is compared to a writer’s range.

Now, I know people go to schools for singing and writing, and that they develop an almost supernatural self-awareness for one’s abilities in the process, ending up categorized and pigeon-holed for perhaps their entire career. That’s fine that people choose to do that, but I think if one takes the time to look and listen, most of the greatest artists were not technically trained. Some of the best singers may not even understand what “range” means, let alone “tessitura.”

Ultimately, some of these discussions boil down to a sort of over-analysis, which is encouraged in formalized art instruction. I think the idea of talking about “finding your voice,” whether it’s in singing or writing, is a futile effort. It would be as useful, in my estimation, as debating about how to dance.

In my view, you simply do or you don’t, and in the process of doing, you will find your way or be shown someone else’s. It will usually be those who find their own way who come up with something that doesn’t resemble a pre-fabricated plastic pile of mass-produced crap.

I remember having a creative writing class where my always well-meaning professor was trying to tell me she didn’t like a character’s voice. I sat there trying to figure out what she meant. Eventually, I rewrote it while I was in an entirely different mood than when I wrote it the first time, and sure enough, she liked it.

What it came down to, quite frankly, was that the first “voice” was boring, while the second “voice” was whimsical and playful. The first sounded like it had been read from an encyclopedia of facts, while the second was like a conversation with a stranger in a bar. To me, it had nothing to do with “voice” or how I said anything, it had to do with how I felt when I wrote.

If I write something when I’m not in the mood to write, it shows. The sentences read with the same effort I put into them. Nothing flows, ideas become disjointed as I take breaks and come back with a completely tangential thought. And yet, sometimes when I write like this, it’s good. So I do it.

Other times, I am in an almost manic mood, overcome with an idea that I have either polished into a near perfect gem and want to get on paper, or which just needs a little spit and a rag to make presentable. Some of these are my favorite pieces, but others come out sounding frantic, disorganized and incomplete.

Ultimately, I don’t have some success formula. I can’t say I found my voice, certainly not in the singular sense, but I also must admit I feel completely comfortable writing. I feel so comfortable, I believe I could use the toilet in front of you guys. Pass me another roll of TP, will ya?

For me, writing is more like… I don’t want to say it, but it sort of is… writing is kind of like throwing darts at a dart board, only I’m not very good and maybe a little drunk. When I hit send on a blog post, I literally have no idea if I’m even going to hit the board, let alone if I’ll get a bull’s eye.

Personally, I don’t want to think about “voices.” The idea that I would sit down and purposely try to write something funny makes me want to die inside. I don’t think I’m particularly humorous, but anything I do write which is funny comes without effort. There is no blood, sweat or tears in any of my jokes, and maybe they would be funnier if I put more effort into them, but I wonder how motivated I would be to keep thinking of funny things if it was so much work.

As it is, I write what I find amusing, and I write about what interests me. I think I do care what other people think of it, I would just do it even if people hate what I wrote. Really, it’s not that I don’t care what anyone thinks, it just wouldn’t affect my decision to say what I say. I think that was really what I got from writing, a sense that I have an interest in what other people think, both in general and in regards to my work. However, I don’t let this interest distract me from my own ideas. I crave approval, but I won’t play to the crowd.

In fact, there is one lesson I have gotten from both writing in general and from blogging which I find quite useful: sometimes what I write just isn’t very good. Sometimes it’s horrible. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes what I write is so embarrassingly dumb that I feel the need to call my family and professors and apologize for squandering their admirable example and years of wise instruction. And despite this, it’s okay to sit back down and try again tomorrow.

I don’t truly grasp the concept of a writer’s “voice,” but I do have a writer’s voice in my head, repeating over and over, “Try again.” To me, that’s more important than being able to classify what category I fit into. I’m sure I fit into one, because everyone does, but I might not fit that category tomorrow, and tomorrow just might be the day I write something amazing.

Probably not, but maybe. And if not, I’ll just try again. Hell, even if I manage to, I’ll still try again the next day.

The Political Bargain of the Millenium

Reading a post by Heathen Republican got me thinking (as it so often does). After fantasizing about choking Glenn Beck for a few minutes, I moved on to the concept of the political bargain.

What if gay people were willing to give up some stuff in order to gain gay marriage? So, I came up with a list of demands from the right in exchange for demands from the left, starting with gay marriage.

Gay marriage is a big one, and it’s been a sticking point for years. Republicans aren’t going to give this up easy. First things first: no more gay pride parades. Never again will thousands of rhinestone studded thongs go wagging through American streets (exception: San Francisco). Also, straight people can keep calling things they don’t like “gay,” and “faggot” is the new acceptable term for someone who’s being a pussy (pussy will be phased out; women got promoted).

Speaking of women, the Supreme Court rejected a group of women’s right to a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart. In the end, I think women would be treated equally at Wal-Mart, being paid and promoted the same as men, if only men could smack female employees on the rump and say “Lookin’ sharp, toots.” It works on Mad Men; those women are so empowered.

No discussion about rights would be possible without mentioning black people. No seriously, it’s not possible. If I don’t mention them, I get sued by the NAACP for discrimination discrimination. It’s a tough game being a liberal blogger…

Black people are always going on and on about reparations, or at least I hear they do, according to Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Lew Rockwell, Bill O’Reilly, and all of my other favorite white men who are scholars in African-American affairs. I don’t know a lot of black people myself, but I trust their judgment. They seem pretty on the level, for yuppies.

So I’m thinking, what would be worth 40 acres and a mule to every black person in the country?

Well the first one is obvious: I should be able to say nigger. And not just me, any white person (not Asian people, they deserve nothing). I’m sick and tired of not being able to say nigger without getting angry stares in the grocery store. Black people have been lording it over me since I was born, and damnit… I deserve the right to stand proudly in public and say, “Niggers, niggers, niggers!” without security dragging me away as I foam at the mouth.

However, I think I’m alone in this desire, so we may need something to sweeten the pot for all of my fellow honkies, and I think I know just the thing. First, no more “black guys have huge dicks” stuff. Saying black guys have enormous penises is the new “nigger.” Saying so will get you fired from your television program. When we see old clips of people making jokes about it, we’ll shake our heads and mutter, “Those were different times…”

But let’s not forget about the women. From now on, if black people get reparations, white women will no longer find black men scary. Spotting a black man approaching you in a deserted parking garage will no longer make white women’s blood run cold, because black men are no longer poverty-stricken criminals. They may still rape you, but at least you know they’re not just some thug, they’re landed gentry.

Let’s see, who else can I offend this morning…

I’m focusing on the left, which is so selfish of me. I shouldn’t forget about my poor, oppressed friends on the right. As with all right-wing policy, we begin at the top, with the mega-wealthy.

The rich are always complaining about taxes, and I have a solution. Those who make over $100 million a year no longer pay one dime in taxes. In return, we’ll do the rich one more small favor. Since the wealthy will be able to buy so much stuff with all that money, they couldn’t possibly use it all. So, to help our million- and billionaire friends out, everything owned by the mega-wealthy will be public property.

All those homes, boats, pools, house boats with pools… all open for public use. This way, all those nice things don’t just collect dust. We’ll be doing the wealthy a favor, since they no longer have to pay for a caretaker to keep all of their expensive doodads in working order.

While Republicans are content to only do things for the rich, I don’t want to leave out the little people on the right, the ones who actually get those cronies elected. And I think I have just the thing.

All of these changes… I think this is what would upset the rank and file on the right. They don’t have any complaints like those above, because they’re happy with the status quo, that’s why they vote Republican. But all of this change… it just might make their little heads explode under their foam-fronted mesh hats. Never fear, I have an idea… [That rhymes if you read it aloud in their voice.]

Now stay with me on this, because I have to use Republican logic in order to formulate the solution, but if you hang in there, it will almost make sense if you squint really hard. Okay, who is to blame for all of this change? That’s right, Hollywood. So, Hollywood has to fix it, and it’s not even that difficult.

Basically, you have two sets of TV channels. One for reality, the other for Republicans. The news and programming on the Republican channels make it appear as if none of the above changes ever happened. And let’s be honest, these inbred mouth-breathers couldn’t handle saying “nigger” or smacking a gal’s ass, anyway. This sort of ties the whole thing together, because it corrects any possible problems caused by the above.

Everyone gets their change, and those afraid of change never find out it happened. I have solved America. You’re welcome.

[The views expressed herein forthwith hitherto do not necessarily reflect well upon the author or his family. Raised by wolves in the upper reaches of Montana is not even a worthy excuse for the writer of this particular post.]

Monday, June 20, 2011

Music Monday: Cat Power

I usually write a little blurb here, but I was busy all Monday and I didn’t even get this out in time, so I’ll just say: Chan Marshall is an amazing singer and songwriter, and I hope you check out her work.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Reflection #34

In the future, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will all merge to form one site where everyone wastes hours each day sharing every little thing that happens to them. It will be called: YouTwitFace.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Modernity and Fetishes

I sometimes wonder how there are sexual fetishes for things that didn’t even exist a century or two ago. There are people who get off on balloons or being wrapped in latex. The development of plastic surgery and synthetic hormones have opened the door to transexuality. There are even people who get off on cars; I don’t mean they have sex on or in cars (who doesn’t), I mean they have sex with their cars.

What did those people do before cars were invented? Did they have sex with stage coaches, or maybe horses? Is it merely the idea of it being a mode of transportation, or it is about the construction and appearance of cars? Are some cars hotter than others? These are all questions I don’t even want the answers to.

It’s been going on since the beginning of time. The very idea of sexy clothing is completely artificial and unnatural. There are those who are aroused by primitive inventions like fire, or even domesticated animals. It seems that as our technology expands, so do our sexual appetites. Whenever something new comes along, someone somewhere will end up fucking it.

It’s weird, really. Every major modern invention ends up being used sexually. Electricity is used by shock fetishists. I don’t even have to go into detail when it comes to publishing, photography, film or the internet. Even within a few years of texting and social media, we have sexting and political porn tweets.

It makes me wonder, what will we be fucking next? Jet packs? Flying cars? Hover boards from Back to the Future II (by 2015, so they claim)? Teleporters? How about a microwave that cooks food evenly?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

WTF Moment of the Month

It’s been a while, and I thought I had been doing so much better. I had kept my shit together during a lot of news. I didn’t even WTF when Osama bin Laden was killed. I certainly didn’t WTF over the Weiner scandal, but this…

Anthony Weiner, you are the biggest fool I have ever seen. You’re one of the few liberal pit bulls that actually stand up for the Democrats, and you let picture exchanges force you to resign. It’s not even a sex scandal, it’s a Twitter mishap.

Larry Craig tried to have sex with an undercover cop in a public restroom, and that guy marched through his full term, pushing his bullshit agenda along the way. Now, Democrats lack another voice who might actually stand up to Republican lunacy rather than shrivel and shrink back whenever there is confrontation.

For demonstrating the pettiness and foolishness of the Democratic Party, for arguably rising to a new level of frivolous irrelevance, and for publicly denouncing a man for sending images of himself to consenting adults while Democrats openly take bribes (aka “contributions”) from the industries and unions they were elected to regulate and correct… for all that, I have to say: what the fuck, Democrats, what the fuck?

Me, My Wife, and Gender

My wife and I are technically an nontraditional couple, though in many ways we are also strictly traditional. One of us goes to work while the other takes care of the house, our two dogs, and our three cats while looking for part-time work to supplement our savings. The only thing is, she’s the one who has a career and I’m the homemaker. *Cue the horror music*

And frankly, I don’t know how ladies do it. You don’t have to be tough to sit in an office or teach, but I question a woman’s ability to do housework. Honestly, that is real work. Vacuuming alone is harder than anything I ever did in the white-collar world. Laundry is basically just heavy-lifting. And with all the errands I run, I would never trust a female driver to do them all.

I kid, I kid. True to our newly assumed gender roles, my wife has never been in an accident since she got her license, while I’ve been in more than I can recall off-hand (some weren’t even my fault). She’s too weak to do laundry, though, and I think her technical expertise is a little lacking. My wife has not even used the washer or dryer in our house since we moved in last July.

She tried, but I had to do it because she was futilely attempting to run the washer using the dryer settings (it’s a stack setup, so they’re right next to each other… she’s not completely clueless).

I also can’t picture her doing the other thing I do quite often: cleaning shit. Five animals produce a lot of feces. I’m combing either three litter boxes or the backyard every day. I’m literally neck deep in excrement. I don’t think that’s a job for the fairer sex.

I have a lot of the familiar female complaints, too. Would it kill you to rinse your dishes off when you put them in the sink so it doesn’t fossilize and fuse with the plate? My wife doesn’t even put anything in the sink anymore because of this; I just bus everything, because if I want it done my way, I have to do it myself.

And she’s always leaving the toilet seat up. No, the top one, the actual seat, not the c-shaped one. We need the lid on our toilets down so the dogs don’t drink from them and then lick our faces two minutes later. She’s always leaving the one in the back up. I’m fairly certain one of our cats fell in once, because his back legs were wet and he’s always climbing up to the toilet tank.

My daily routine is this: wake up, let out the dogs, take my wife to work, feed the dogs, do chores such as cleaning up the little things my wife leaves around (wrappers, glasses, plates, silverware, bras, etc.). Which reminds me: my wife does her equivalent of what most men do when they come home. Guy comes home, pants come off. My wife comes home, bra comes off. Then I make her dinner, we hang out, and the whole thing repeats.

During the day, there’s some other stuff, too. There’s chores to do, especially the last few weeks when we’ve had company. We have guests coming tomorrow, so the front bathroom is getting a total scrub down, the guest linens are in the washer as I write this, and tonight or tomorrow morning I’ll vacuum the whole house. The longer I wait on that, the better, because with five shedding animals, there will be tumbling tumbleweeds of hair rolling through the halls within hours of vacuuming.

It’s not too bad, really, because I’m actually allergic to both cats and dogs, so I’ll be breathing well tomorrow. I just don’t let anyone tell me what to do, least of all of my body. I’m allergic to dogs and cats, but I love them anyway. And while I was born a man, I’m not allergic to elbow grease, so I don’t mind my primary household role.

On Epistemology and Religion

Epistemology is a fancy college word for “the study of knowledge.” To any who feel intimidated by the word, I assure you it’s very simple. Perhaps the most important concept in the study of epistemology is a simple question:

How do we know anything?

Some people simplify this and claim we cannot know anything. Socrates and post-modernism proclaim this to be the case. However, epistemology wouldn’t be a field of study if our ideas on knowledge had stopped there.

Personally, I am an empiricist, which means I believe that I can know things by interpreting my senses and verifying the results with others. If I see something so crazy I question my sanity, I can ask someone else if they see it too, thereby confirming my mind is sound (or that at least my vision functions properly).

While vision is the primary mode of taking in data, it is a blatant fallacy to suggest I have to physically see something in front of me in order to “believe” in it. In fact, I believe in nothing; I simply go about my day with a basic, simple understanding of my surroundings.

I know that when I flick a light switch, a light will come on, and if it doesn’t, I may have to change the bulb or check the fuse. I don’t need a degree in electrical engineering in order to turn on a light or fix a simple problem. I don’t question the electricity, because it clearly functions.

Religion has a strange epistemology. The overwhelming majority of religions rely upon a form of epistemology described as “revelation.” There is nothing wrong with revelation, actually. Every school across the country engages in this form of epistemology. If I tell you “I was born in 1983,” you acquired that knowledge through revelation. Whenever someone tells you something, that piece of information is “revealed” until confirmed. Unless you observed and witnessed it yourself, someone telling you about something will always be revelation.

To be quite honest, my view on electricity might be considered revelation, especially if I had not taken physics lab courses where we worked with electricity so much. But labs aside, I believe the bulk of my scientific understanding comes from revelation. I did not study the raw data myself in most cases, so most of my education has been undemonstrated theory rattled off to me in classrooms (though it is important to note it can be, and has been, demonstrated by others).

However, there is a fundamental difference between most religious revelation and the kind taught in schools. Sure, both have the possibility of being true or false, but each is coming from a different source. If someone reveals to me an empirically verified idea, and another reveals to me a story someone else told them which has no proof one way or the other, I am more inclined to consider the former before the latter.

Judgment comes into play, of course. If the claims of the empirically supported idea go against everything I know now, while the second-hand tale is mundane, I would clearly be more likely to put stock in the retold story. There may even be a factor of who is speaking to me influencing my opinion. If the person making the empirically backed claim has a tinfoil hat on, while the other person is an old friend I trust, the choice is clear.

Religion as a whole is too broad, so I will rely upon the lazy decision of selecting the Bible and Christianity as the example to be used. In the Bible, stories are told through all kinds of perspectives, and the mere construction of some make them impossible to believe.

For example, the first four books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) are held in Jewish tradition to be written by Moses. This is very odd… because Moses dies in Exodus. Whoever wrote these should have taken a creative writing class, because one of the first things they’ll tell you is you can’t kill off the storyteller until the end. The narrator can die, but if it’s supposed to be non-fiction, it should just sort of cut off like “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Job is written from an omniscient perspective, attesting actual dialogue between God and Satan, as well as between many different people. It is supposedly written by Job himself, Elihiu (one of the story’s characters), Moses, or someone alive around the time of Judges. It is not explained how the author attains the necessary information for writing all the different conversational exchanges.

It is implied, then, that the missing information (like Moses’ knowledge of the beginning of the universe) is “revealed” by God, an angel, or through some other supernatural means. In fact, during this time, we know the Greeks even conceived of art as being “inspired” by Muses and gods. The very word “inspire” derives from the same root as “spirit” (both are of Latin, not Greek, origin) and it implies that one is filled or possessed with the spirit of some other being (a process commonly referred to in ancient religion as “ecstasy”).

This is a problem, then, because we cannot really verify information of this nature. The basic premise behind empiricism is that all knowledge can be attained through repeatable observation. Unless you can get a god, angel, or some other spirit to return for verification (and not just once, but any time you call them), revelation is ultimately a one-time deal.

This is the basic flaw in revealed knowledge, and it leads to several other problems. Have you ever taken notes in class, studied them, took the test, and gotten a question wrong… even though you put the same answer that was in your notes? Either the teacher made an error during the lesson, you made an error in listening, or you made an error in copying it down. The bottom line: revelation is a method of data transfer that is likely to be wrought with error.

Revelation is not only a low-fidelity method of data transfer, it relies on the speaker. Besides losing information in the exchange itself, there is also the small matter of deception. If you believe revealed information, you are at the mercy of the revealer’s honesty. And even if the one conveying an idea is completely honest, you must be careful to consider how knowledgeable the speaker is. The speaker just might be wrong.

Revelation relies heavily upon the speaker and the listener. If the listener fails to process the message properly, or if the speaker is incorrect for some reason, then the resulting information is not knowledge, but error.

I don’t verify everything that I hold to be true, but I only hold those things to be true which can be verified. Ultimately, the claims of religion cannot be checked. There is no method of proving –or disproving– religion. It is this characteristic, that of being unverifiable, that makes religion so utterly unbelievable.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Top Ten: Things White Guys Don’t Say

10. It’s Caucasian-American, please.
9. No sun block for me, thanks.
8. Let’s stop and ask for directions.
7. No thanks, I don’t eat meat.
6. I wish I weren’t a guy.
5. I wish I weren’t white.
4. I’m racist.
3. Asian girls don’t do it for me.
2. I’m sick of watching the Big Lebowski.
1. I don’t know.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Music Monday: The Decemberists

I first became aware of the Decemberists in 2005, when they released the music video for their song “16 Military Wives” on BitTorrent. This is still the software I use to get my music (off of the site isohunt… wink wink).

This is one of the few bands these days who produce their albums as complete, contiguous works of art. In fact, I think 2009’s “The Hazards of Love” is one of the most well executed concept albums I’ve ever heard, being on par with Dark Side of the Moon or David Bowie’s Ziggy years.

And how often do I get to feature a band that utilizes the accordion?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Reflection #33

Every time I read from the Quran, I get the impression it is directing believers to be violent towards unbelievers. But perhaps I have misinterpreted what is written, and indeed, Arabic is read right to left. So actually, the Quran is full of non-believers threatening Muslims.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Advice to Teenagers

After reading a post with advice for 18-year-olds today, I decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a crack at such a post myself. My primary motivation is that I found the above listed post to be at times preachy, unrealistic, and largely out of touch with some of the problems kids today face as they enter the adult world.

For one thing, I am aiming this at teenagers of all ages, because 18 is not a good time to begin thinking of becoming an adult; it’s too early to expect certain things and far too late for others. I can’t pretend to know the schedule one ought to follow to attain the maturity expected in adults today, but I can tell you what will be expected of 18-year-olds and what you ought to be thinking about as early as 14 or 15.

The post I linked to above is very accurate on certain things, and even where I disagree, I think there are redeeming aspects which can be utilized by anyone. I’ll be using its format as a guide.


First off, debt is your enemy. I have very little experience in this area, because I never used credit cards to buy things I didn’t have the money for, but I know it’s a horrible situation to be in. The interest rates on credit cards are downright criminal, and trust me when I say I know people still paying off a trip to the grocery store in 2004.

I don’t find that credit card debt comes from large splurge purchases (as the other post suggests). You will probably find yourself in trouble from everyday purchases piling up, groceries especially, rather than doing something dumb like buying an Xbox or taking a ski vacation when you can’t afford it. Sudden medical bills will probably be your biggest catastrophic expense.

And while it goes without saying, I recommend a part-time job if you aren’t lucky enough to have parents who shower you with money. Save as much of your cash as humanly possible during high school, especially while living at home. The more money you can save while not incurring expenses like rent, utilities, and food, the better.

If you’re hurting for money while on your own or in college, I recommend reading “Steal This Book,” by Abbie Hoffman. It has some unconventional ways of keeping yourself fed and clothed for little or no money. It’s old and a little outdated, but a little searching online will yield updated information of a similar nature, and the overall message of the book is still sound today (and you won’t get bored reading it… trust me). Avoid breaking the law, whenever possible.


I’m not sure I like this heading, but in the interest of adhering to (not plagiarizing… of course) the other post, I’ll stick to it.

I’m not so opposed to the use of drugs. For one thing, selling drugs is a great way of financing yourself. You point me to another job where you can earn a couple hundred dollars in less than an hour of real work (tax free, mind you) and I’ll point out that prostitution is also illegal. Selling drugs is a great way to network and gain skills you’ll use in sales.

Just know that you might have trouble finding a job if you can’t pass a piss test. There are ways around it, but you can avoid all the hassle by not doing drugs. You also avoid the possibility of jail time if you keep the drug use to a minimum (you’ll probably still take Adderall during finals). Honestly, if you’re white, you can pretty much get away with anything short of running naked down Market Street. And if you’re reading this online, let’s be honest… you’re probably white.

You’re better off sleeping in your car than driving home after you’ve been drinking (taxis are expensive). Park outside of the lot within walking distance if you drive there. This can all be avoided by getting an apartment near where you drink (or just drinking at home). I really recommend against bars (the cost is exorbitant on the kind of budget you should be on), so being near a frat house or a friend’s place or even a pizza joint that sells booze is the way to go.

As for picking a roommate, here’s my advice: never room with a friend. All of my best roommates were vague acquaintances, while the worst were friends and ex-girlfriends. I think the best roommates are those you don’t feel comfortable wearing only underwear around, unless you’re openly planning to marry that person.

I’m a big proponent of cohabitation before marriage. My wife and I lived together in my apartment for months before slowly moving my stuff into her better apartment, and our cohabitation period was a good indicator of the fact that we were going to work as a married couple. Don’t get married until after you’re 22, preferably after 25. If you’ve been with someone over 10 years, just marry them or learn to live with the fact that everyone is going to bug you about it.

Regarding other sexual and relationship milestones: aim for loss of virginity at 15 (don’t be shocked if it takes until college if you’re poor or are not very attractive or funny). Don’t get married before 25. The first person you date for two years probably won’t be who you end up with. Whatever else you do, use a condom for all penetration (not after a few thrusts or right before he’s going to cum).

Despite that rule, you’ll inevitably stop using condoms with someone you’re dating for a while, so be sure she is on birth control, that she’s pro-choice, and that you have $350 dollars saved away for a “rainy day” (contact your local abortion clinic for an exact cost, since prices may have gone up since 2005, especially after the government defunded Planned Parenthood). Men should pay for it.

Whatever you do, don’t have a kid until you’re ready. Your future you will thank you.

Regarding tattoos and piercings, I think piercings are a better way to go than tattoos, though you should know that piercings will probably leave scars. I have none myself, and it’s largely because I’m afraid of needles, but I see piercings as pointless and tattoos as stupid. I don’t care what your tattoo is, you have no way of knowing if you will regret it.

Suppose you have a snake, and some horrible political movement rises in America, imprisoning innocent people of particular demographics and torturing opponents in a fascist manner, and their symbol is a snake. It’s an extreme example, but you have no way of knowing how a symbol will be interpreted in the future. Imagine if a Tea Partier, very early in their movement, had gotten a tattoo that read “Proud to be a Tea Bagger.”

Tattoos are something to be laughed at on other people, not collected by you. Tattoos are expensive, anyway, and you could seriously feed yourself for weeks on what a tattoo costs.

Regarding education, I couldn’t recommend it more. I recommend finding the cheapest school that will allow you to study what you are most interested in (taking into account scholarships, of course), and don’t be afraid to change your mind on your chosen career path if you hate it. Don’t feel like you are stuck doing something, because the longer you wait to alter course, the worse off you will be.

I also recommend going to college out of the state you grew up in, especially if you have lived in the same state your whole life. If you live in the middle of the country, go to college on the coast, and vice-versa. It will do you some good to see what other people are like on a day-to-day basis. You should research which states you can apply for residency in immediately, as this may allow you to become a citizen of that state and only pay in-state tuition.

If money is tight (and it most likely will be), it’s better to go to school in-state than not at all.

When it comes to informal education, I can’t speak highly enough of reading non-fiction. Reading the “Harry Potter” or “Twilight” series after high school is just sad, and I wonder if books like these are intellectually retarding adult readers. At any rate, it’s certainly a waste of time. Biographies, histories, books of quotes, even encyclopedias can be quite entertaining to read, and they’re real.

However, if something is boring you, don’t be afraid to put it down and pick up something else. If reading feels like a chore, you won’t do it in your free time, so whatever you read, read what you love. It’s better to read garbage now and cultivate an overall love of reading than to get out of the habit and struggle when you do mature and your interests do include that which can only be found in worthwhile literature.

I am fairly sure that a distaste for reading molds one into a fool more than anything else.


I’m too young and too inexperienced to comment on advice for work. What I can tell you is that it’s tough finding a decent job when you have little experience and no social connections. Most jobs are found through social connections, whether close or distant. If you are looking for a job, don’t forget to tell friends and friends of friends about your search, in case they can get you inside where a cold-contact application can’t.

Outside of those facts which were told to me, I have nothing constructive to say on jobs from my own experience.

Odds and Ends

There’s a big difference between believing you will act a certain way in a certain situation and actually doing it. You can think something out a thousand times in your head, and you can even practice obsessively, but ultimately the best experience you can have is in a truly competitive format where there are negative consequences for failure and tangible benefits upon success.

Never back down from an opportunity to fail. The prize for people who only compete when they can win is a lifetime of mediocrity.

I say this because I know if you’re growing up now, you’ve probably been conditioned to dislike competition and you probably have little experience with failure. You may have even played a sport where they played games and didn’t keep score. If so, you’ve probably already been crippled, though rehab isn’t impossible.

Make the most of your time and hobbies, and be the best you can be in everything, from school to whatever you do in your free time.

If you play chess, join the chess club and strive to be the best player there. If you play video games, join a guild/clan/whatever and learn the inter-personal skills you need when interacting with a large group of people cooperatively against others. If you play sports, practice and workout more than anyone else. If you play an instrument, practice it alone, with others, and perform publicly as often as possible. If you sit around doing nothing at all, at least be a blogger.

Be politically active and knowledgeable. Be your own person. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will. Life isn’t fair, and you shouldn’t be concerned with playing fair. Abuse every loophole, take advantage of everything that is given to you, and take all that you can get away with. In return, be generous, return the respect of others, and tip well.

If you have legal trouble for any reason, the price of a good lawyer is almost always worth it. While some laws are made to be bent, traffic laws are not. Honestly, I would rather you be a heroin addict than a dangerous driver. More people die on the road in a month than die from heroin in a decade, and heroin addicts don’t kill innocent people when they OD. You don’t need to drive fast; leave the house sooner or deal with being late.

Okay, lightning round. I will tell you whether the following are worth their price:

Health insurance: Yes
Name brand medication: No
Any Apple product: No
New DVDs: No
DVDs from Blockbuster going out of business: Yes
Textbooks: Yes on Amazon; no to bookstore
Haircuts: Yes for girls; guys, do it yourself (works for Bill Gates)
Porn: You pay for porn?
Alcohol: Yes, after expenses and savings are accounted for
Drugs: See above
Gifts: Yes
Loans to friends: No
Designer clothes: No (exception: Goodwill)
Boat: No, never

If you managed to read all of this, let’s be honest: you aren’t 18 or younger. So I say to you, my fellow adults, take it easy on kids. They’re going to make mistakes, especially in this world today that pounces on weakness and naiveté like a polar bear on a baby seal. My advice to adults is to exercise patience, especially with the young, for they don’t know any better. And often, neither do we.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Uncreated God

One of the more persistent comments on atheism I see floating around is the “atheists believe the universe came from nothing” or “atheist believe nothing created everything” fallacy. This is a fallacy on two levels, because it is a fallacy within another fallacy.

For one thing, and while it might go without saying for some folks, I must reiterate again and again: you cannot attribute any idea to atheism besides the rejection of the idea of gods. An atheist need not believe in science, the Big Bang, or any other idea.

I would not be surprised in the least if one were able to find individual atheists who would feel comfortable making such statements about nothing creating everything. However, you would be hard pressed to find any educated individual who has ever studied the origins of the universe scientifically who would adhere to the notion that the universe derives from “nothing.” This is certainly not the view of science, and science is not atheism.

However, the reality is that most atheists have allowed science to answer the big questions that are handled by religion, so addressing views on the scientific theories surrounding cosmology is worth doing for most atheists.

Regarding the “everything from nothing” claim, nothing in science even so much as suggests this idea. The closest one may come is when discussing the concept physicists call the “singularity,” the single point from which the big bang originated and from which all mass and energy in our observable universe comes from.

Singularities are not a mere hypothetical theory; they are an observed reality. As defined in physics, a singularity is a point in spacetime where the force of gravity causes matter to have an infinite density and zero volume. It is the same phenomena which is observed at the center of a black hole.

The concept is easier to understand if one bears in mind Einstein’s equation of mass-energy equivalence, E=mc^2. What this equation means (for us, in this scenario) is that energy and mass are one in the same. For me at least, it is much easier to imagine the early universe as an explosion of concentrated energy, with mass being a by-product, rather than to imagine every planet around every star in every galaxy being smooshed into a tiny point.

The idea of “everything from nothing” does not apply, because there is something before the big bang, and it is precisely everything, though in a different form (namely pure energy, rather than mass and energy).

And that’s more or less what we understand about the origin of the universe. We don’t know what caused the universe to expand from its concentrated state, nor do we know the origin of the singularity. However, it seems ridiculous and counter-productive to me to attribute either one to gods.

Suppose there was a being who created the singularity and caused its expansion. I don’t know why one would suppose this, as we have not observed this being in any other capacity. However, let’s assume that you find some old book in a desert and that is says it was written by this being, that this being created the universe, and that this being loves you very much (even though the book is riddled with factual inaccuracies and seems to have a human author).

Personally, I would have some questions, namely: if everything derives from this being, where did this being come from? What created this being? Why won’t this being answer my questions? Why does this being love me, even though they haven’t gotten to know me or even bothered to meet me?

Ignoring the love non sequitur, proposing that a conscious being created the inanimate universe only raises more questions than it answers. I have heard the universe described as being like a clock, and that there must be a master craftsman behind its construction, because something so ordered and perfect could never just come together without intelligent deliberation.

However, I’ve studied the universe, and I find it far more random and flawed than any watch I have ever seen. What’s more, I am no more contented by the idea that a watchmaker appeared out of thin air than I am to believe a watch had no craftsman. Explaining the origins of the watch only opens the door to questions about the one who crafted it.

And in marches absurdity, with all its illogical fanfare and diversion. Ultimately, one is expected to be satisfied with the idea that this being who created the universe is “uncreated.” We are told this means that logically, this being has no beginning and therefore no end, and a whole host of over nonsense that derives solely from the imagination of fools.

“Uncreated” is an interesting characteristic attributed to God. It’s arguably my favorite, as well, because getting a believer to say “God is uncreated” is the closest I will ever come to getting most believers to be an atheist.

Why? Because the primary definition of “uncreated” is not that something existed forever and is uncaused. No, the primary definition of “uncreated” is “not having been created; not yet in existence.”

But hold on there… sometimes Christians have been well coached, and they don’t use the word “uncreated.” Some Christians have been taught to say that God is “uncaused.” When you probe deeper, they will awkwardly stutter on about how there doesn’t need to be a cause for God, that God existed forever and will exist forever, yadda yadda yadda.

At this point, I have to shake my head and wonder what they would say to me if I had made such a defense regarding the singularity (and by extension, the universe itself). “The universe is uncaused. It has existed forever in one form or another.” Would this appease any Christian?

In point of fact, it doesn’t even appease me. I don’t believe in an intelligent designer, but I know there is more to the whole of existence than our observable universe. What if the singularity of every black hole in our universe is the creation of a new universe, a sort of inversion of a singularity here which opens as a new sub-universal singularity into its own universe? What if we ourselves budded off of another universe in this way?

How one determines the chain of regression to the origin of existence is limited only by human creativity, but borrowing the idea of God and leaving it at that is the surest way to stop questioning, to stop probing for answers, and to stop discovering new information.

Sometimes I get the impression that believers see science as pretending to have all the answers. In point of fact, science is a process, one which is ongoing and continuously changing. Science thrives on what religion suppresses: curiosity and debate. Though when it comes to the notion of gods creating the universe, the debate has been over for some time now, though it is repeated at intervals by the religious, like some pathetic ritual attempt to bring God back.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wednesday Word: Factitious

Factitious: a statement with just enough real-sounding information to be believed by fools

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Top Ten: Words That Are Only Offensive When Used Together

10. Porch Monkey
9. Hide the Salami
8. Tar Baby
7. Finger Bang
6. Smoke My Sausage
5. Jack Off
4. Beef Curtains
3. Cleveland Steamer
2. Blue Waffle
1. Hitler Was Right

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Jewish Identity

While I’m by no means an authority or expert on the subject of Jewish identity, I have talked about the matter with my Jewish wife quite a bit. I have also formed my own opinions, and they aren’t the accepted view among most Jews, but I will do my best to present each in their context and not attribute any of my own views to those of actual Jews.

First, what I am certain of: Jewish identity is complicated by the fact that many views on it do in fact exist in the Jewish community. It’s clearly a religion, but there is much debate about whether non-practicing Jews are “culturally/ethnically Jewish.”

I would simplify the whole thing by making the ethnicity “Hebrew,” while the religion would be “Judaism.” At the very least, the ethnic label should be “Judean,” because the “–ism” implies the practice of the religion, not just a genetic link. I don’t think this will ever happen, given that “Hebrew” caries some negative connotations and “Judean” is eerily similar to the German epithet “Juden.”

But that is also an oversimplification. There are Eastern and Western European Jews, the Ashkenazi and Sephardic, respectively. As is the case with most “races,” there is no real purity, as Jews in the East likely mingled genetically with Turks, while Western Sephardic Jews on the Iberian peninsula have Spanish and Arabic in their bloodlines.

But what makes an ethnicity is arguably culture more than genetics. If this is the case, people who are “genetically Jewish” who were not raised in a Jewish household are not culturally Jewish, and therefore not Jewish. However, there is the small matter of Judaism, the religion, and Israel.

Israel offers a free trip to Israel to all those with Jewish ancestry. In this instance, it is a matter of proving that one has ancestors who are at least partially of “the chosen people.” The criteria is similar if one chose to apply for citizenship in Israel. Also, from the perspective of Jewish proselytizing, there are active efforts taken to get non-practicing Jews to adopt a religious lifestyle, especially on college campuses.

So when someone asks if Judaism is a religion or a race or an ethnicity or whatever, I guess the answer depends on the situation, or more importantly, on the person. I think it’s important to address people by any (serious) label they choose to self-apply, though I find it rarely even comes up. If someone calls themselves Jewish, and they’ve never set foot in a shul, that’s their prerogative.

Music Monday: How To Destroy Angels

Usually, new bands don’t get a good reaction from Music Monday readers/listeners. I am going to go out on a limb and say this one might be different. How To Destroy Angels features Mariqueen Maandig on vocals, Atticus Ross, and some guy named Trent Reznor, who I’m assuming is only in the band because he’s married to Mariqueen.

With echoes of Reznor’s former projects like Nine Inch Nails always in the background, HDA (as all the hipsters are calling them) pressed into new territory with a female vocalist and a more pop-friendly sound. I expect to hear more of the short 6 song initial release from last year appearing in films, and I eagerly anticipate the release of the next EP, which is slated for release as early as the end of this summer.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Liberal Love/Hate Relationship with Corporations

Liberalism has a strange relationship with corporations. The earliest incarnations of liberalism predate corporations, though classical liberalism is such that it endorses free markets and industry. It might be safe to assume that classical liberals would support the concept of corporations, though I’ll come back to the possibility of why they may not later.

The liberalism of the American forefathers was not particularly friendly to industry. They favored agrarian economic models, seeing the source of wealth being the production of raw materials, not the production of finished goods. The government closely regulated corporate charters and limited the creation of corporations.

This view shifted with time, as a natural function of Northern industry far out-pacing Southern agriculture in terms of wealth creation. Corporations lend themselves to large-scale production, and it is arguable that rail would have been impossible without either corporations or government undertaking the project.

Liberalism shifted towards favoring industry in the 19th century in America, and government recognition and protection of corporations began slowly at first, but snowballed quickly out of control. Liberalism began to once again shift against corporations when Republicans began legislating against monopolies and trusts, as with the signing of the Sherman Act in 1890.

Still, mergers had become all the rage in the business world, and the trend of consolidation continued into the 20th century. While I have a clear picture of how Liberalism swayed up to this point, I’m sort of in the dark regarding the 20th century.

In most respects, it’s hard to analyze what Liberalism was doing in the 20th century in general. It’s largely a lost century for liberals in America, because it’s hard to point to what was liberal and was wasn’t, who was liberal and who wasn’t, what polices were liberal and which weren’t.

There is certainly some confusion based on the fact that many liberals held conflicted views, supporting some corporations and not others. Not many people were calling for Xerox or IBM to be shut down, but people who support those companies might have a problem with oil companies or cigarette manufacturers.

It’s safe to say liberals took a largely pick-and-choose stance when it came to demonizing corporations, and liberal politicians have protected corporate interests on many occasions (and I’m sure the corporate donations they received had nothing to do with it…). The whole century is a little muddled regarding corporations, perhaps because a huge gap between liberal voters and liberal politicians opened on this very issue.

Most liberals I know have a sort of intangible dislike for corporations, though I question how much they really hate them. Do you really hate corporations if you Tweeted that sentiment on your iPad while driving your Prius to Starbucks?

Personally, I don’t think it’s very wise to demonize corporations as a whole. Instead of trying to erroneously prove that all corporations are inherently “evil,” it would be better to fight abusive corporations and practices, and we can generally all agree these do exist, and leave other companies alone to do business.

Some of my favorite things come from corporations. There’s a comfort in this big world in knowing if I go to a chain in another state, I can get something familiar that I know I’ll like. It’s nice to try new things when you’re someplace new, but sometimes the stress of travel is enough to make you crave food you know.

And while I don’t drink coffee or go to Starbucks, nor do I own an iAnything, I have plenty of brand name stuff that I do enjoy. I’m writing this on a Dell computer while sitting in a La-Z-boy recliner in an Eddie Bauer shirt and Tar Heel blue Nike basketball shorts while my LG flat screen TV plays Adult Swim cartoons (American Dad at the moment). Some or most of these are bound to be corporations (or associated with them), but I don’t care enough to see, because it’s not important.

Even oil companies are not something I oppose as a matter of principle. No, I see no point in opposing oil companies, just the bad things they do. We still need oil, I just support the notion of getting it as safely as we can, and I don’t like the favorable treatment oil companies get from the government. Oil companies can exist without government corruption, and they can take responsibility for the damage they do to the environment. This shouldn’t be difficult, either, we just have to make a few changes.

For one thing, we can’t classify bribery as “free speech,” as the Supreme Court did recently when it ruled that corporate donations to politicians are protected free speech. There also need to be more restrictions on the activities of government workers after they leave public service, because far too many deregulate industries to make them more lucrative, and then retire to cushy jobs in those industries.

Earlier, I mentioned that classical liberals may be said to be pro-corporation, but there is actually some debate on the matter. While there is no doubt classical liberals support the free market, there is some reason to believe corporations are not within the working model of the free market. From government protections to the separation of ownership and management, corporations break many of the basic rules set out by classical liberals like Adam Smith.

Personally, I think economics has progressed far beyond Smith, so I don’t put much credence in his opinion (especially since we cannot know with complete certainty how he explicitly felt on the matter). I see corporations as an advancement, like a technology. To abandon or outlaw the corporation is, in my view, a radical step backwards.

I anticipate that if corporations were somehow abolished, they would be reinvented, perhaps under a new name, and that all the same mistakes will be repeated unless they are directly addressed. It would be best to take what we have now and work to fix the problems that have arisen.

In closing, I ask anyone who opposes corporations entirely, and believes they should somehow be done away with, what you would do? Should the government take over ownership of all corporations? Should they be broken up into smaller companies? I know there is hostility out there, but I rarely see a workable solution to the “problem,” or even a clearly defined problem. Corporation haters, enlighten me.

A Naturally Bad Argument

I have found that the more fallacious an argument is, the more easily it can be applied to all possible sides of an issue.

Case in point, the old “it’s [not] natural” argument. This rhetorical gem has been used with great effect as long ago as Aristotle, who went to great lengths to define “the nature” of things and saw the ultimate architect, Nature, as flawless. Doing things as they naturally ought to be done was a religion for the ancients.

Vestiges of this archaic ideology persist, and it’s not uncommon for simple folks to rely on the notion that something is okay because it is “natural.” This is no more prevalent than in matters of homosexuality, an area where our views are largely stuck in the ancient world. It’s strange, really, because both sides of the argument rely on the argument of “nature” in making their public arguments, and yet neither side has a leg in nature to stand on.

Those opposed to homosexuality say it is unnatural, despite nearly every species of animal on Earth engaging in homosexual behaviors at roughly the same rate as human beings. The claim that homosexuality is unnatural is ludicrous and absurd.

Which leads us to the argument that homosexuality is natural, and therefore acceptable. Cannibalism is natural, pedophilia is natural, infanticide is natural, the physical mutilation of your competition is natural… nature isn’t the best guide when it comes to morality. Just because something is natural does not make it acceptable behavior, and the mere presence of an urge is not justification for acting upon it.

What’s more, homosexual marriage is decidedly unnatural… as is heterosexual marriage. If one were so concerned with what nature dictates, one would not support gay marriage or straight marriage, because no animals in the world get married. The closest to monogamy that appears in nature is with angler fish or flatworms, where the two sexes fuse together. Outside of examples like that, there is infidelity among some couples in every single species (even species that are renowned for their faithfulness).

For those interested, very few primates are monogamous (even the gay ones).

Nature simply has no true bearing on how we as human beings ought to decide to artificially construct our lives and societies. Nature should not be ignored, as it is something that every culture must contend with, but there is no use in glorifying the idea that nature is a moral guide. Homosexuality is morally acceptable, not because it is natural, but because it is harmless (or as harmless as any matter regarding love can be).

Morality should not be based on arbitrary laws revealed to prophets by gods anymore than it should be based on the natural order of other life forms. You may base your philosophy on the animals, but do not be surprised when you accomplish as little as they have. There is so much more to existence than the beasts will ever comprehend, and it’s all there because we put it there.

Science, medicine, technology, art… the animals have none of these things. Some of the best things in the world are unnatural. For once, human beings should refrain from damning ourselves with how evil, corrupt and selfish we are and come to terms with the fact that we have done a lot to make the world a more interesting place. In a way, nature is lucky to have us to spruce things up.

If aliens come to visit, they’re not going to be upset if they can’t find a panda or tiger. I doubt they’ll care one iota for any life forms on this planet besides us. Say what you want about all the trees, flowers and furry little critters, we’re the only thing on this planet worth travelling the stars to see.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Procreationism

I remember being introduced to this concept in college by my classics professor, Dr. Boughner. It was eye opening on two levels, because the concept itself is worthy of discussing at length, and also because it opened my eyes to the notion that phenomena exist around us which we are superficially aware of, but which we don’t really focus on, simply because they lack a name.

Dr. Boughner was a philologist, which is a fancy way of saying he studied language. Not foreign languages, exactly, but the very philosophical nature of language, how our use of words actually has an effect on how we think. I remember having a very long discussion with him about procreationism in his office.

It was here that I learned of how young atheism is. There had been a fundamental shift in the definition of the word “atheist” during the 19th century, and Dr. Boughner insisted that no one before this time was an atheist in the way we think of it today. And indeed, there is not a single piece of written evidence that suggests anyone denied the very existence of gods before this time.

Atheist meant “against the gods” before it meant “lack of belief in gods.” An atheist was labeled such for their impiety, blasphemy, or simple immorality. The forerunner for atheist in the modern sense was “deist,” which implied the gods were unimportant, because all they did was get the ball rolling on the universe while it ran unattended under the laws discovered by science.

Atheism was the next logical step, because it finds no need to refer to gods in instances where knowledge is unsure. Atheism was the child of Deism and Agnosticism, an understanding that the world was governed by laws, not a personal deity, and that the creation of the universe need not be explained using the primitive notion of gods simply because we don’t know for certain what the real answer is.

But deep down… don’t you just know there had to be some individuals who didn’t believe, well before any of this? We have no proof, since they left no written record of the idea, nor did they talk with anyone about it long enough to create the vocabulary necessary. There is no evidence in the scientific sense…

However, I believe that some individuals somewhere, at sometime, maybe not even particularly intelligent or wise individuals, managed to come up with at least the slightest inkling of the notion that the gods are a bunch of hooey. Someone had to have been the little child who pointed out the emperor had no clothes, and maybe they were quickly “corrected,” but still, someone at some point before the 19th century must have doubted the very existence of the gods.

While everyone has heard of creationism, not many people have heard of procreationism. It’s a term slowly making the rounds in academic circles and which occasionally leaks out in literature or perhaps in an editorial or two. But it’s not particularly mysterious or difficult, so if you’re in the dark, fear not.

Procreationism is the belief that the sole purpose of sex is for procreation. While the two are not really related, it has some similar qualities as creationism. For one thing, most people who believe in either of them are religious fanatics. Also, both are mind-rapingly wrong.

I guess you don’t have to be religious to believe in procreationism, but I think it helps. Just to be clear, procreationism means that any sort of sexual activity that is not between a married couple for the purposes of having children is wrong. This means premarital sex, masturbation, hand jobs, blow jobs, anal, homosexuality, post-menopausal intercourse, or any acts done with someone who is sterile are expressly immoral. I’m sure there is a spectrum in there where some of the less Biblically-attested examples above are waived, but for the most part, sex is not seen as something that should be for anything but making babies in the eyes of a procreationist.

I should also point out that the overwhelmingly vast majority of people, whether or not they are religious, do not hold strict procreationist views. However, I think the idea is there, and people implicitly acknowledge the line exists, even if they had never thought to think about it before.

And while most people don’t adhere to it strictly, parts of it have become part of our culture, and even public policy. Our numerous hang-ups on sex are largely traced to the artificial shame imposed by what is essentially procreationist dogma that exists in Christianity. Schools teach unrealistic abstinence education courses in lieu of real sexual education, and our schools now have some of the most disease ridden pregnant teens in the industrialized world because of it.

The Religious Right had their chance, and they proved once again that Theocracy fails. We should start taxing churches the way we tax any business, that might pick up some of the slack. Why do they get a free pass just because they’re selling bullshit?
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