Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Free Speech, Free Response

There is a basic truth that goes with freedom of speech: you can say whatever you want, but others can say anything they want about you. Sometimes, it seems like people want freedom of speech to protect them from criticism, sometimes because that criticism is incredibly vicious.

I’m a big fan of the give-and-take nature of free speech, and maybe that’s why I love the internet so much. I have grown to dislike mediums like TV and radio. No matter how loud I scream at them, they never acknowledge my objections.

But I have limits on what I think an appropriate response should be. I don’t like it when people try to silence someone who has said something they disagree with. It’s a fine line, and I am not qualified to draw it, but there needs to be a point at which one’s actions go too far in response to an expression of free speech.

I don’t think it should be a legal issue, either. I wouldn’t write any law on the matter, I think it’s just a personal matter of morality, in most cases. Clearly, it’s wrong if someone tries to physically harm a person for what they said, but short of that, it’s certainly open to debate.

I’ve never liked “boycotts” in most cases, though I see the merits of it in some instances. For example, I get why people are boycotting Chick-fil-A, and I am personally continuing my several-year policy of not patronizing them, but I see it not as a boycott in my case (which is an organized campaign with a stated goal). I just tend to be very selective in how I spend my money, because I see purchasing as an action that should be considered an ethical choice.

Here is a case where the president of a company is clearly alienating a group of people in word and action, perhaps in an attempt to brand themselves as the fast-food choice of bigots. I guess they want to be to crappy chicken what Ted Nugent is to crappy rock music. That’s their choice, and I think they knew what the consequences would be. I honestly and truly believe it was a calculated decision.

For some reason, though, my skin cringes when I think about people starting campaigns to get broadcasters off the air. It’s certainly within your rights to try to silence someone in the media, I just won’t do it. If your job is to speak or write, I think my duty to “boycott” you ends at me not listening to or watching you.

It’s easiest to see why this is with books. If someone publishes a book I hate, I’m not going to try to buy all the copies and burn them, then protest the publisher to keep it from ever existing again. That’s about the most extreme example I can imagine, but it highlights the basic idea: we should look down on book burners.

[Note: there’s a difference between burning a book in protest and holding public mass book burnings, having the book banned from libraries, having the proofs destroyed, etc.]

If someone in the media bothers you, don’t watch/read/listen to them. It’s that simple in my mind.

I don’t have to talk hypothetically about what it feels like to have someone you like silenced for stupid shit. I’m a huge fan of Bill Maher, and I still think Politically Incorrect was one of the best shows on television in its time. While I certainly enjoy the less censored HBO show he’s on now, I also sort of wish he was available to a larger audience again. The HBO audience is nothing compared to ABC’s.

Because a bunch of touchy assholes couldn’t handle criticism in the wake of 9/11, Bill Maher had to disappear for a while. That’s scary to me to think that our “free press” is so easily censored over emotionally charged issues. It’s especially scary when you consider that Bill Maher was fired for saying something true, though it was a truth that no one wanted to hear at that moment.

The very idea of freedom of speech isn’t just about the government not being allowed to kidnap you in the night for criticizing them (it includes that, but free speech is really bigger than that).

Free speech needs to include being able to work with – or at least around – those you disagree with. When you refuse to allow someone to say something you disagree with without “consequences,” you have doomed the freedom of speech because you have acted in a way that breaks down the lines of communication.

Does anyone actually think that getting Rush Limbaugh off the air (for what will probably only be a few months or a year at most) will result in conservatism disappearing or even taking a hit? Or, do such attempts just make liberals look like douchebag censors who want to take away something conservatives enjoy?

I’ll give you a hint… conservatism will survive Rush Limbaugh’s inevitable heart attack.

Top Ten: Worst Arguments of All Time

10. If you support that, then you must support *insert atrocity here*
9. It’s God’s will
8. Everyone knows that *insert questionable claim here*
7. Blood is thicker than water
6. Don’t worry, it’s all natural
5. How would you feel if you had *insert traumatic experience here*?
4. My parents always taught me that…
3. You should read *insert shitty book here*
2. You’re either with us or against us
1. But I was drunk!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Online Civil War

Within the blogging world, there have always been two types of bloggers: those who allow anything, and those who have rules.

I think everyone starts out open to everything. Then, you get your first determined asshole who won’t leave you alone, you get the insults, the death threats, the rape threats, the threats against your family and pets… and most people buckle.

As a blog gets more traffic, the odds of it picking up some psychos (or wanna-be psychos) increases. This ultimately drives the conversion from openness to restriction, because people generally blog for a reason. They want to share their ideas, to reach out to people, to fight for a cause, to find people they can relate to, to entertain people, to engage in philosophical debate, or to just have fun. I don’t know anyone who blogs to get hate mail.

It seems simple, but here are a few twists to keep in mind…

Through talking with other bloggers about it, I hear you get far more violent hate mail from “Anonymous” sources if you put up restrictions, especially on comments. Many bloggers have the experience of banning someone, and then “mysteriously” getting a lot of angry e-mails about what someone “wishes” would happen to such an evil, evil censor.

Then you also have people who legitimately censor ideas, not just uncivil remarks, all under the guise of “maintaining a *insert lame adjective* environment.” I’ve seen comments deleted that contained no insults, no vulgarity, no sarcasm, no… anything but polite and direct disagreement. This kind of behavior gives those “civility censors” a bad name, because it’s damn near impossible as a partially informed observer to distinguish between the two at times.

If you’re like me, and you oppose any sort of comment moderation or censorship, you have to deal with a few realities. One is that some types of people won’t comment on, or even read, your blog anymore. It’s unfortunate, because my goal isn’t to alienate anyone… which is why I don’t censor anyone.

I don’t understand what is so hard about laughing at an asshole. If someone says something mean to you… who cares? I mean, Jesus Fucking Christ, people… it’s the internet. The odds are the other person is probably twelve years old, mentally handicapped, or a trained chicken. If “Mr. Fartcheese” thinks you should “fuck a cactus,” take it for what it is: hilarious. It’s nice to have a little comic relief when talking about such heavy topics.

While I think it’s pointless to try too hard to have a serious discussion online (it can happen, but there’s no sense in trying to force it…), I don’t think suppressing any opinion – no matter how “offensive” or “rude” – can be part of a serious discussion.

I understand the other side. I get that they want to avoid having the same arguments. No one likes doing laps around the same fallacies week after week after week… but if you’re bored by the opposition, maybe you should make the effort to say something unique. If you keep hearing the same replies, maybe it’s because you need to say something original.

While I would like to think I’m right, I’m not really hurt by what other people censor on their personal web space. If someone wants to be a little Inquisitor, that’s their business. Those who do censor their blogs should know that people like me do still see it as more than simply black and white, though.

I can see the difference banning someone who persistently insults others and banning someone for persistently disagreeing. I can see the difference between banning a person for making death threats and banning a person for being “obtuse” (true story…).

Ultimately, I can also see when rules are selectively applied. If someone you agree with is allowed to call a person “dumb,” but if someone you disagree with calls someone “stupid” and gets banned… I can see the difference, and so can everyone else.

What I have noticed is a strange trend of people who publicly say they’re against “bullies” or “uncivil behavior,” but then their actions indicate that they defend bullies and uncivil behavior, so long as it is in the name of their chosen cause. I’ve seen it from Christians, atheists, people who oppose homosexuality, the LGBT community, gun owners, gun control advocates, liberals, conservatives… it’s really the only thing all these groups have in common.

No matter what you support, there are those who are liable to let their agenda warp their ethics and compel them to apply “principles” in a very selective manner. What’s more, these hypocrites give everyone else a bad name, especially those who restrict speech on their sites in the name of courtesy.

But the worst is a strange phenomenon of people who clearly don’t get what “blogging” is really about. If you want to spit angry vitriol and not allow anyone to say anything in opposition… write a fucking book. Online writing is enriched by the give-and-take dynamic, and treat the internet as your own personal pulpit (as opposed to a soapbox we all share), then I have no respect for you, and I hope you struggle to find readers.

Still, I think it comes down to a simple rule: if you’re going to insult people in your posts or allow your friends to do so in the comments, have the integrity to open up your comment to insults.

God Works For Tips

Like foreskin, circumcision is very sensitive for some people. I’ve managed to piss off both sides with my views, and I suppose it’s because this is one of those cases where I oppose something, but I don’t want to outlaw it. Nothing is more sure to make everyone despise you than to agree that something wrong shouldn’t be illegal.

Circumcision is barbaric, that much is true. There’s really no argument for it. “Because God said so” is not an argument, it’s nonsense. The studies that claim circumcision decreases the spread of HIV are questionable at best, incredibly biased and completely manufactured at worst.

But I’m loathe to oppose circumcision.

Every argument I see against circumcision seems to hinge on a simplistic fallacy: an appeal to nature. I see comments about how men are “supposed” to have a prepuce, how the foreskin “shouldn’t” be removed. It’s almost like people are claiming that men were “designed” to have the foreskin… which is something I can imagine some pagan in the first century arguing during a debate with a Hebrew (and such debates did occur).

Let me say now, I hate nature. Maybe it’s the fact that I have asthma, maybe it’s the fact that I’m allergic to nearly every type of pollen, grass, animal, and dust, or maybe it’s the fact that I hate walking in the woods and I think people who enjoy that sort of thing aren’t right in the head. Or, maybe it’s that I think human beings are capable of overcoming nature.

While I don’t really “get” circumcision (though I did “get” circumcised), I “get” the concept of modification. I wouldn’t outlaw piercings, and I don’t think parents who pierce their children’s ears are monsters. “But that’s reversible.” If you say so… most people I know have scars from closed piercings, but okay. It’s “reversible,” but the real issue here is “bodily sovereignty.”

If your parents can alter your body for one reason (namely, for something as frivolous as ornamentation), I don’t see what’s wrong with them modifying it another way if it doesn’t cause harm or loss of basic function.

I don’t know of anyone advocating for female circumcision, for example. If Jewish people were chopping the head of the penis off, I would be the first to step in and say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” The fact is, however, that they’re cutting off non-functional skin, and the outcome is not “damage” to the child… assuming no complications.

Though if you’re going to split hairs over the potential for “complications,” there is a long list of things I wish parents wouldn’t do to their kids before I would have them cease circumcision. Even owning a trampoline is more dangerous than circumcision, and I can’t imagine outlawing them.

Ultimately, it comes down to a simple issue for me: I have my eyes on the future, not the past. I think it’s a foolish precedent to say, “Parents have no right to alter a child’s natural being.” I hope to live to see the day when our children undergo genetic therapy to cure the problems for which we have no other solution. I’d like to see the human race improved, and that will entail modifying what we are at the most basic, fundamental level.

Maybe we’ll realize that having a penis at all isn’t that important, or even beneficial. I know I have wasted countless hours with mine. In this scenario… a world without penises… all this time we spent arguing over circumcision doesn’t seem very important. In fact, even in this world, where we have penises, the whole discussion still seems futile.

Suppose we ban circumcision. What then? It becomes like abortion: even though someone can’t do it in the safe and regulated manner, they find a way to do the procedure in a clandestine fashion. Ultimately, there will be more complications for those boys who are circumcised (because mark my words, banning it won’t stop it from happening in any Jewish community).

Who do we punish if we discover someone is performing circumcisions? Do we fine someone, leaving them to continue doing it? Do we jail the Rabbi? Do we jail the parents? Do we rip the child from its mother’s arms because we don’t like circumcision and clearly her decision to do that to her child indicates she can’t make any of the decisions necessary for raising a child properly?

I don’t like circumcision one bit, but that’s why any sons I have won’t get one. I know… it’s never enough that you and I do the right thing while someone else over there is doing the wrong thing… but again, what are you going to do about it? What is the ultimate outcome of that act being allowed?

What’s so wrong with a future of genetically modified, blonde-haired, blue-eyed children with circumcised penises? I think it’s worth doing just to piss off Hitler’s ghost.

As for me… my children will be blue-haired and blonde-eyed, and if they want to join the Jewish religion, they will have a painful initiation ahead of them.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Religion: So Simple, Only a Scholar Can Understand It?

Religion is full of paradoxes, and one of the most prominent has to be the relationship between religious simplicity and complexity.

All religions claim humble beginnings. Even if your religion is started by a rich Arab merchant or wealthy science fiction writer, there is a tendency to romanticize a simple origin for both the founder and the initial formation of the religion itself.

I’m of the opinion this is because a religion wants to appeal to the lowest common denominator, so having a humble founder makes a faith less threatening. This is why you don’t see any successful religions that are begun by scholars: scholars are smart people, and intelligence seems dangerous to the weak minded.

If smart people start a religion, then everyone can clearly see they’re trying to manipulate us… but since we believe our religions are formed by simple farmers, herders and fishermen, we inherently sense that these people of the land can be trusted.

So you have these religions that are started by simple people, for simple people… but if you want to criticize that religion, you better not be a simple person.

The expectation of most religious people I talk to on the subject seems to be, “If you aren’t an expert on *name of religion*, you shouldn’t comment on it.” I know every atheist has heard this one. I have heard and read it applied to Richard Dawkins alone more times than I can remember.

It’s quite a paradox. Religion is so simple that anyone can accept it, but it’s too complex for anyone but a learned specialist to refute it. To some extent, I suppose this is true… just not true enough for my taste.

It’s amazing, really, how much writing there has been on simple religious matters. This is typically known in fancy-pants circles as “exegesis,” but I like to think of it as “religious fanfiction.” Basically, people read the original and then want to elaborate on it… because apparently thousands of very intelligent people over history have managed to come up with much better ideas than a bunch of uneducated yokels a handful of centuries earlier.

Hard to believe, huh?

It’s funny… religious people have immense respect for a man like Thomas Aquinas, who wrote now celebrated elaborations on the Christian faith. His thirteenth century career as a philosopher is often seen as the most influential in Western thought since Aristotle. Perhaps by no small coincidence, Aquinas was very familiar with the work of Aristotle, which had just been translated into Latin.

Aquinas was an influential thinker, not because he read the Bible, but because he read nearly everything he could get his hands on, and he then related those ideas he liked (and sometimes even those he came up with on his own) to people through the language of Christianity.

Isaac Newton was also renowned for his ability to suggest bold new ideas while still kowtowing to the Church. Really, scientific history in the West is full of great thinkers who either worked with religion to suggest new concepts, or who were persecuted for their inability to appear pious enough for the liking of those in funny hats.

From Copernicus to Darwin, there’s an equally well established tradition of luminaries who, even despite being religious, couldn’t bridge the gap between the truths they discovered and the myths of their faith. It’s not enough to simply believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Fire Tongue Monster, you must also massage the facts through the context of Biblical metaphor in order for religious authorities to not call for your brutal torture.

There was a time when I would say you had to be a very intelligent individual lucky enough to receive a good education and have access to expensive manuscripts and rare tomes in order to come to the conclusion that God was not real. To overcome the seductive deceptions of religion was simply too difficult throughout much of history for any but the most gifted thinkers to even touch upon, let alone grasp with certainty.

This was why “atheism” as a philosophical concept is so relatively new. It took the invention of the printing press before such ideas could be spread far and wide for the masses to access. Atheism was not preached from a pulpit to crowds, but was instead a quiet conclusion made individually in reading rooms across Europe, and later, the whole world.

But those days are long gone. We live in an era where the internet is slowly supplanting the printing press, putting the equivalent of trillions of books worth of information at our fingertips. Sure, half of it is porn, and half of the remaining half is celebrity news… and then I guess you have online pharmacies selling boner pills… okay, so there’s a lot of garbage to wade through, but there’s also a wealth of useful information (assuming you ever get off Facebook).

You don’t need a degree in religious studies to learn more about a religion than the average follower. Hell, thanks to the internet, I’m a level 8 Operating Thetan in Scientology, which would have cost me literally tens of thousands of dollars if I had to buy the books, tapes and auditing to find out that, “Really, the power was always already inside you.”

Personally, I became quite versed in Christianity the old fashioned way: I read the Bible. I still think it’s impossible to actually read the Bible and still believe everything in it. If you can read the Bible and still think it’s true, I have a bridge to Eden I want to sell you.

It just doesn’t take a very sharp mind to cut through the bullshit when it comes to religion. I don’t even think you have to want to disbelieve in order to see the inconsistencies. I think you just need to be determined to find the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Perhaps why most atheists get so upset about the charges that they aren’t experts… besides the fact that many atheists are experts… is because atheists pride themselves on their intelligence, logic, reasoning, and all those other terms for mental acuity. However, the truth is that you don’t have to be smart to be an atheist.

I’ll pause here to allow atheists to open up a new window to send me hate mail…

Despite what any atheist might tell you, any fool can be an atheist. It doesn’t take one ounce of reason to reject religion. No, atheists are not defined by their intelligence. Atheists are defined by their boldness. It is bold to reject ideas that bring one comfort. It is bold to go against the crowd. It is bold to accept that after you die, that’s it. It is bravado, and not intellect, which constitutes the atheist. Maybe atheists may loathe admitting it, but atheism doesn’t take brains, it takes guts.

How’s that for catering to the lowest common denominator?

Saturday Reflection July 28th, 2012

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but insults just arouse me.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Atheism and Islam… It’s Complicated

That’s what I imagine the Facebook relationship status of those two groups would be. Bear in mind, it’s not as though they are in a monogamous relationship with each other… remember, Islam supports plural marriage and atheists are all whores…

It’s a tough situation, for a few simple reasons. The English-speaking online atheist community is primarily focused on Christianity. Most “atheist” blogs are actually “anti-Christianity” blogs, with the occasional Jew going off the derech and then opposing Judaism.

It’s pretty simple, really. Atheists tend to focus on those they feel are a direct threat to them. It’s a natural, selfish drive to focus on those religions which directly affect you. It’s tough to muster the outrage to oppose a religion that doesn’t victimize you or anyone you know, and it’s impossible to complain about something you don’t even understand.

What’s more, anyone can see that there are influential Christian forces in the West which actively victimize Muslims. Just as most atheists don’t rail against Judaism (perhaps to avoid being labeled an anti-Semite), it doesn’t seem to make sense to keep piling more shit on Muslims on behalf of non-believers. This isn’t to say that atheists won’t denounce a Muslim (or a Jew) who does something they disagree with, but Christianity is commonly the default religion when criticizing theism in general.

It sort of reminds me of how we Americans write like everyone on the internet is American and cares about our American bullshit, even though they don’t and shouldn’t have to. How I envy them…

Most atheists are aware of this, even if they aren’t constantly conscious of it. It has caused me to try to be inclusive in my criticism and terminology when addressing issues pertaining to theism as a whole. However, I will still inevitably focus on those issues that affect me personally, and that means targeting the Christian Right and their seemingly constant theocratic assault on our secular government. [Sorry, non-Americans…]

This tendency sure pisses off Christians, but it also upsets atheists who are former Muslims, or worse, living in a Muslim country (which is like a hen in the fox house). The Christo-centric atheist community isn’t fair. The common institutional practice of Muslim is far more restrictive, far more imposing, and far more violent than any but the most extreme Christians.

There is sometimes pushback for those atheists who try to expose the atrocities being openly practiced in many Muslims communities. Many liberals (both religious and not) will demonize anyone who criticizes Muslims, labeling such “bigots” as “Islamophobic.” You may also find yourself agreeing with people on Fox News, which should be enough to cause any intelligent person to at least pause and rethink their position.

You also have Muslims who genuinely are good people who just see any criticism as an attempt to defame Islam as a whole. Honestly, these are the only people I feel bad about when I criticize Islam, but I just remind myself that I’m not criticizing good people, I’m criticizing a religion and the bad people who use it as an excuse to commit atrocities.

Then, there’s the death threats. I’m nobody, I’ve done maybe a dozen posts focusing on Islam, and I’ve gotten a few vague threats over them. Meh, no big whoop. It’s not like I was getting people e-mailing me Google Earth pictures of my home…

To some people, this sort of thing can be disconcerting. Muslims are so violent in their opposition at times that they have actually succeeded in censoring an American treasure like South Park. I have seen bloggers take down posts. An organizer for “Draw Mohammed Day” sought police protection a few years back. It’s gotten very ugly at times, just ask Theo van Gogh… though you might need a Ouija board.

Writing in opposition to Islam is a high risk for a small audience that is liable to make you unpopular with those you identify with in other areas. But ultimately, I’d like to think I criticize Islam because I am treating it equally.

Ultimately, it’s not because I want to be or appear brave, it’s not because I want to offend Muslims, and it’s not even because it’s so easy (and it is). No, the reason to criticize Islam is because we shouldn’t be ready to give up hope on almost a billion people.

I want to give all Muslims the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think I’ll ever convince a Muslim to become an atheist (I still think I will get a Scientologist, though…). However, I think it’s important to give Muslims the opportunity to accept criticism with grace.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Several Adventures of Hugh, Part 10

At the stable, the giant chose a palomino named Chestnut, while the dwarf asked Henry which was the fastest, and it turned out to be a black horse with a white diamond in the middle of his head, the bottom corner of which ended just between his eyes. His name was Thunderclap, and he was a recently retired racing horse with several minor wins under his belt, but not enough prestige to be worth putting out to stud.

This was their first time on horses.

After awkwardly getting mounted up with some help, the twins walked their horses out of the stable. Henry gave them instruction on verbal commands and the use of the reins. They did a few laps around a large fountain, first at a walk, then a trot, then a canter.

“Don’t let your horses gallop. They’ll tire out, and you’re liable to fall off and seriously hurt yourself,” said Henry.

A man in all leather walked briskly into the stable, mounted, and rode out to them. “These two?” he asked.

“Yes,” Henry said. “Kane, Lang, this is your guide, Huntsman Kamali. He’ll get you there and back one piece.”

“What’s the point if there isn’t a little danger?” asked the dwarf.

Kamali smiled and rode off. The giant and dwarf followed him.

Hugh’s lip quivered. It had been a long time since he cried. Henry glanced over at Hugh, then looked away quickly. Henry walked towards the house and after a bit turned his head back. “When you’re ready, there is something inside that you could help me with. Please, take your time.”

Hugh walked over to the fountain and looked in. He cupped his hands and splashed water on his face. He took a deep breath. He knew… he was pretty sure… he hoped they would be fine. Hugh walked slowly towards the house, consciously taking long, deep breaths and trying to calm his mind.

Inside, Henry was talking to a large group of young men. He turned to face Hugh as he entered. “And, here is our secret weapon.” The group gave out some half-hearted cheers.

“Hugh, we’re moving the Chancellor’s necessities to the Chancellery,” said Henry. “This is your moving crew to do as you see fit. You’ll need this in order to be admitted once you arrive.” Henry handed Hugh a necklace. The pendant was a golden five-point star, covered in intricate carvings. “Don’t lose that insignia. It’s a big deal to have to replace those.”

Hugh put it around his neck and looked down at it. Henry walked off down a hallway.

“So…” Hugh began.

“Don’t worry,” said one of men standing before him. “We know what we have to do, what we have to move, and all that. I think your job is just to help us with the heavy stuff.”

Hugh smiled. “I can do that.”

They went upstairs. Everyone busied themselves immediately, and Hugh stood around looking awkwardly at all the bustling activity.

“Over here,” someone shouted to Hugh. Hugh walked over to him and stood in front of a large, long, wooden chest.

“Okay, you pick it up on that end,” said the man, pointing to a handle on one of the sides. Hugh lifted it with one hand, then slid his other hand under the chest and lifted the whole thing, resting it on his shoulder.

“Alright,” said Hugh, “I’ll meet you guys there.” As he left the room, he couldn’t help but notice that everyone was staring at him.

Hugh left the estate, walked eight blocks to the Chancellery, and when he got there, he motioned to the pendant around his neck with his free hand. The guards opened the door for him.

Once inside, Hugh glanced around the room.

Pretty much everything was highly varnished wood, shiny metal, or smooth leather. Hugh realized he didn’t know where he should set down the chest. There was no one else there. Hugh turned back toward the door. The guards were on the other side. Hugh knocked. He knocked again, and one of the guards stuck his head.

“Where am I supposed to put this?” asked Hugh.

“I’m guessing upstairs in the residence,” the guard said.

Hugh walked up the stairs, which were a little cramped for him and the chest. He tried not to, but he bumped the wall a few times. He was pretty sure it didn’t leave any marks.

Upstairs, at the end of a short hallway, a door was ajar. Hugh pushed his way in and saw Walker sitting in a window alcove, writing.

“Hugh, my goodness!” Walker set his work aside and walked over to him. “Those are all my books, they must weigh as much as an ox.”

“Where would you like them?” asked Hugh.

“You can set them down over there,” Walker said, pointing to a nearby corner. “They’ll need to be emptied when the bookshelves arrive.”

“Oh, sorry,” said Hugh. “I’ll run back and get the shelves.”

“No, no, stay and chat, I insist,” said Walker. “You must be tired.”

“Not really,” said Hugh. “More upset than tired. I can’t stop thinking about the twins.”

“They’ll be fine,” said Walker. “It’s like stabbing fish in a barrel. There are professional hunters there, with decades of experiences, the finest tools and weapons, not to mention the best dogs the world has ever seen. They’re safer hunting ligers than they are sitting in the stands at the arena, to be honest.”

“Really?” asked Hugh.

“Yeah, some of those rafters in the arena are so old and rickety, they might go at any minute.”

“Oh,” said Hugh.

“So, have you given any thought to doing a little blacksmithing?”

“I guess,” said Hugh.

“So you mean, ‘No, I haven’t thought about it,’” Walker said, bringing his chin to his chest and looking squarely at Hugh.

“I don’t really like blacksmithing,” said Hugh.

“Don’t like it? So, you have prior experience?”

“Of course. Blacksmithing is something every young cyclops learns. Didn’t you know that?”

“I know there are legends that the cyclopes forged the weapons of the Divas that allowed them to conquer Heaven,” said Walker. “But I also hear stories of cyclopes that eat the livers of trespassers.”

“Only one cyclops did that…” said Hugh.

“Too true,” said Walker. “There are plenty of stories of men committing a host crime I find detestable… and most of them are even true. I am just saying… I did not mean to presume to know anything about you, so I had no idea you were schooled in the art of smithing.”

“Well, I am,” said Hugh.

“What sort of experience do you have?”

“I was working bellows since I was 6, hammering since I was 13,” said Hugh.

“How old are you now?” asked Walker.

“Fifty,” said Hugh.

Walker blinked a few times. “You’re telling me you are essentially a master blacksmith with decades of experience?”

“Well, I can’t make everything, but I’m proficient in swordsmithing, armorsmithing, I can make all manner metal mace, axe, spearhead, arrowhead, buckle, gate… I’m pretty familiar with most metals, though I’ve never worked with Vulcan steel.”

“Where do you get raw materials?” asked Walker.

“We trade for them, mostly,” said Hugh.

“What do you trade for raw metal?”

“Fur and leather, finished weapons,” said Hugh.

“You’re a tanner, as well?” asked Walker.

“Sure, I guess,” said Hugh. “You learn how to do a lot of things when you live on your own and have to depend on yourself.”

“I imagine.” Walker squinted at Hugh. “How would you feel about doing a little forging work for me, just so I can see how good your work is?”

Hugh looked down at his hands. He clenched them shut and closed his eyes. “Alright,” he said. “I need something to take my mind off of things.”

“The twins?” asked Walker.

Hugh nodded.

“Like I said, they’re in good hands.” Walker stepped closer to Hugh and put his hand on his elbow (which was roughly shoulder height for Walker). “It’s so safe, I would have gone myself if I didn’t have so much work to do. So many positions to appoint… so many promises to break…” Walker winked at Hugh.

Hugh stared back at him.

“Well, I want to make use of your services at once, but I have a few things I need to take care of, and if I’m not mistaken, Herbert is probably waiting for me downstairs. The truth is, I’m not ready for him, yet. I’d rather make him sweat it out, anyway. So, you’d be doing me a huge favor if you could go downstairs and distract him. What do you say?”

Hugh shrugged. “Okay, anything to occupy my mind.”

Hugh went down to find Herbet standing with his hands behind his back. He nodded at Hugh as he came down the stairs.

“I’m supposed to –”

“Keep me occupied?” asked Herbert.

“Yeah,” Hugh said, taking a seat on a large leather couch.

“He can be a real cunt,” Herbert said.


“The Chancellor,” Herbert said, sneering through the title.

“He’s always been kind to me,” said Hugh.

“Wait until the day you’re of no use to him, or you owe him something,” said Herbert.

Hugh shrugged.

“I suppose he has you sold with his ‘humble farmer’ routine,” said Herbert. “That man hasn’t worked a day in his life.”

“I’ve known farmers,” said Hugh. “A true humble farmer doesn’t own the land he works or truly profit from what he reaps. Humble farmers never get rich, only those they work for do.”

“How very true,” said Herbert. “I wish someone had told me that when I worked on his farm.”

“You worked on his farm?” asked Hugh.

“For five years, I toiled over the land, eking out a modest existence while he travelled the world, burning through his inheritance like a drunken gambler.”

“So how did he get to be where he is today?”

“He’s had everything handed to him,” said Herbert. “His land, the people who worked it, his social connections, his education, even what little he actually learned while he was fucking of every whore on the continent… all of it was by virtue of his birth, not sweat or intellect.”

“Didn’t he have some idea for using roses during a festival?” asked Hugh.

Herbert laughed. “Our people have spread flower petals in the streets for centuries. It was his idea to bribe the city treasurer to only purchase roses and to get them exclusively from him at an inflated rate.”

Hugh thought for a bit. “That doesn’t seem ethical.”

“You’re most certainly right,” said Herbert. “It’s not ethical at all, especially when the city can’t afford to pay its soldiers or repair public works like the docks and roads.”

“Why don’t you expose him?” asked Hugh.

Herbert pursed his lips and swallowed. He looked down “He’s my brother.”

Hugh shook his head. “How is it that everyone I meet is related?”

To be continued…

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dysquotia #1

If you believe it, it must be true…

Top Ten: Olympic Events I Made Up

10. The 100m Sleepwalk
9. Synchronized Lawn Mowing
8. The Twirl, Pull and Slap
7. Centatholon (race with 100 different 100m legs, including pogo, crab walking, cartwheeling, unicycling, tricycling, somersaulting, skipping, moonwalking, the downhill scooter slalom…)
6. Crowd Surfing
5. Partners Figure Kayaking
4. Water Polo (with horses)
3. Cross-Country Eating
2. Freestyle Sexing
1. Jet Ski Jousting

Monday, July 23, 2012

Annoying Crap I See On Facebook #1

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” – Albert Einstein
This quote is all over the place, and I even cringed when I once heard it uttered by Bill Maher on TV. Let’s get one thing straight: Einstein was not an entomologist. He didn’t study any form of biology, for that matter. Even if he said this (which he didn’t), he lacked expertise in the fields of biology necessary to make an informed comment. This one irks me because it’s another example of fools just repeating something without verifying it. Or, as Abraham Lincoln said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

Infographics about pants sagging

I have seen many graphics of people criticizing those who sag their pants. This annoys me for many reasons. For one, it is often erroneously claimed that pants sagging originated in jail as an invitation for gay sex… so basically, some asshole is trying to harness homophobia to criticize this fashion trend (never mind that the only people I know who get upset over what people wear are actually gay). What’s more, it’s hardly a “trend,” because people have now been doing it for over a decade. The final straw is that this clearly targets black people (9 times out of 10, the person depicted in the picture is black) and white people who want to be a part of black culture. Consequently, when I see people with pants pulled up to their nipples, I assume they’re racists.

No atheist ever stoned someone to death…

I guess this one is probably more popular among atheists. It’s bullshit, though. The implication here is that atheists would never hurt or kill someone over religion… which is a claim that simply has no basis in reality. I doubt the millions of people who were killed for their religion in Soviet Russia and Communist China cared that they were starved in gulags or shot in the head rather than stoned to death. And if you try to point this out to anyone posting this, suddenly any atheist who does hurt someone isn’t really an atheist… clearly it’s the fault of the religion they were raised in or it was “political,” not religiously motivated. Bitch, please.

The Batman Shooter is a Terrorist

This one is really popular now. I have made my case on this matter with many of my facebook friends, and they almost universally agree with me: the problem is not that the Batman shooter is not being called a terrorist for being white, the problem is that anyone is ever being called a terrorist. The term “terrorist” isn’t meaningful in any real way. It is a label that tyrants apply to those people whose basic human rights they want to ignore. The answer isn’t to include white criminals under the “terrorist” umbrella for equal mistreatment, the answer is to do away completely with the emotionally charged and culturally ambiguous label of “terrorist.”

Hate is taught

What utter bullshit. I am sick and tired of people pretending that children are born good and moral. Get over it: people are born racist. We have to learn to accept others, because it is not programmed in our DNA to trust people who don’t look like us. Studies on children as young as infants have shown a marked preference for the faces of people of the same race as the child. In fact, there is actually a disorder associated with damage to genes that results in children who show no fear for different looking strangers: William’s Syndrome. People with this disorder find themselves quite often taken advantage of, because they are too trusting in a world that is actually out to exploit each and every one of us.

I’m Back

I’ll be spending this week making the final decision on whether to continue this blog or whether I will migrate completely to Down With Decorum. I won’t be bringing this blog down, ever, so don’t worry about that, but I may continue to only make my new posts at Down With Decorum.

Your thoughts and input are welcome.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Three Remarks It’s Too Soon to Make in Good Taste

Not that good taste would ever stop me...

1. As if we needed another reason to watch pirated movies at home rather than pay to see them in a theater.

2. What kind of parent brings their 6-month-old to a midnight showing of a movie like “The Dark Knight Rises?”

3. One of the actors may have died from making “The Dark Knight,” but a dozen people died just to see “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The Batman Slayings: First Impressions

What do we know? A man went to a midnight showing of the “The Dark Knight Rises,” left through the front emergency exit door once in the theater, left the door propped open, armed himself with an assault rifle, shotgun, two handguns, and tear gas, and donned a bullet proof vest, gas mask, and riot helmet.

He re-entered, gassed the room, and he shot 12 people dead and wounded many others. Accounts I see say “59 injured,” but there is no indication yet if some of these are only for gas inhalation or other injuries (like trampling). Many are noted to be in critical condition. He also rigged his apartment with what appear to be explosives.

What we know about the man (who I have chosen not to name) is that he was a Ph.D student who had recently dropped out, apparently as a pre-emptive move from being kicked out of the program. We also know his mother didn’t seem too surprised for some reason. Then there’s the typical, “He was an odd guy,” comments from neighbors.

This isn’t really a good time for me to comment. There’s no way of knowing some things yet, and even as I write this, I am Googling and re-Googling the story looking for updates. I tend to write on matters of politics and religion, and I don’t think this attack had much of anything to do with politics or religion (at least, there’s nothing to indicate that yet). However, there’s still speculation, which I’ll address.

Already you have ABC finding a possible link with the shooter to the Denver Tea Party (but emphasis should be put on the fact that this is not confirmed), which was followed by a highly dubious claim at a conservative blog (which I also won’t name… for similar reasons that I won’t name the shooter) claiming that the shooter was a “registered Democrat.” Never mind that Republicans are always asking their people to register as Democrat to mess with primary races, because there’s already emerging evidence showing the shooter was not registered to vote at all (but again, this could change).

The real issue in these crimes is almost always the same: gun control. But don’t even expect a discussion on gun control, since Americans have been bombarded with decades of misinformation regarding guns. Most Americans can’t even avoid having a knee-jerk emotional response to the words “gun control.”

From how they react, you’d think I was recommending universal castration. “Gun control” is immediately interpreted as “banning all guns,” and I would like nothing more than to stab the next person who makes me sit through some bullshit, unoriginal, uninspired lecture about how the second-amendment protects me from the government… you know, the government which is armed with stealth bombers, pilotless killer drones, and nuclear weapons.

So now, we wait. We wait as we learn more about what happened (though this will largely be to satisfy our sick curiosity than to actually “learn” from it). We also wait as our politicians tip-toe around the real issue here, afraid to upset America’s gun fanatics and powerful firearms lobby during an election year. We wait, and more people die, not only in movie theaters, but also in homes, in streets and alleys, behind store counters… we wait, as over 12,000 people per year are gunned down, many of the victims being gun owners themselves who found out owning a gun doesn’t make you a hero.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Several Adventures of Hugh, Part 9

[Continued from the eight parts.]

Walker walked out onto the balcony before a cheering crowd. A magistrate in flowing purple robes stood holding a large metal rod.

As the crowd noise died down, Hugh struggled to understand everything that was said through the haze of last night’s festivities. He only heard bits and pieces, as the magistrate seemed to mumble through the ceremony.

“With this… for all… you swear to…”

Walker put his hand on the rod, and looked out over the crowd, shouting clearly, “On this scepter, I swear to uphold the law of the city, to defend her from all dangers, both within and without, and to be ever mindful of the city’s wellbeing in all of my decisions.”

The magistrate let go of the rod, and proclaimed in a loud voice, “I present to you: Chancellor Edward.”

The crowd roared, and Hugh winced. He looked over at the twins. The giant was cheering loudly. The dwarf was holding his stomach with one hand, breathing laboriously. Hugh turned to him and put his hand on his shoulder. The dwarf looked up for the briefest moment, then vomited on the feet of all three of them.

Hugh just kept patting the dwarf on the back as the giant looked down in disgust.

Walker set down the scepter and approached the railing. He leaned forward on it with one hand and waved his other. After his gaze had panned across the crowd a few times, he motioned to the crowd with his palms downward. Everyone quieted.

“Only in Polity,” said Walker. A huge roar rose in the audience. Walker smiled and turned to someone behind him to say something. He faced the crowd again, smiling and laughing. “Only in Polity could a humble farmer ever hope to one day rise to the highest position in the city he has lived in and loved his whole life.”

The crowd cheered again. Walker drank it all in for awhile.

“I’m not one for long speeches. I’m like you: simple. So, I will give you simply the greatest spectacle you have ever seen.” More cheers. “I am pronouncing a celebration, complete with free public access to the arenas, race tracks, and theaters, which will be entertaining you from dusk ’til dawn for three days straight.”

As the crowd cheered, women carrying baskets circulated through the crowd, handing out small cakes wrapped in rice paper, tied shut at the top with a little red ribbon bow.

Hugh was handed one. He opened it and popped the moist, white cake into his mouth whole. It was softer than anything he had ever eaten, like how he imagined a cloud would feel in his mouth. There was a hint of citrus over the savory-sweetness. It was enough to make him forget about his head pounding rhythmically amid the din of the ceremony.

A little girl walked up to Hugh and pointed to the ribbon in his hand. He gave it to her and she smiled before running off. Hugh noticed many of the girls in the crowd were tying the ribbons into their hair.

The giant looked to Hugh with her eyes wide open as she took a bite of her cake. She smiled while chewing.

“I’ll save mine for later,” the dwarf said, blinking erratically and wiping bile from his beard.

Walker outlined some things he planned to do, and before long he was leaving the balcony to deafening fanfare.

As the crowd began to disperse, the three of them looked at each other.

“Now what?” the dwarf finally asked.

“We need to plan a burial,” said Hugh.

“Okay… and how do we do that exactly?” asked the dwarf.

“Walker promised us he would help us if he won,” said the giant.

“Right,” said the dwarf. “So… I guess we just go ask him?”

“I suppose so,” said Hugh.

They looked at the balcony where Walker had been standing. They walked up to the building and around it to the front. Outside two large double doors were two guards.

“Hello,” said Hugh. The guards stood silently. “We need to talk to Walker for a moment, it won’t take long.”

One of the guards snickered, then he said, “No one sees Chancellor Edward without an appointment.”

“Here’s the thing,” said the giant. “We’re guests in his house. He has the dead body of our friend in his basement. I was wondering when we could expect him to get a sea burial.”

The guard who spoke before looked at the other, who doesn’t move, before saying, “The Chancellor is not to be disturbed. He is still finalizing the plans for his victory celebration, he has council positions to appoint, and… he’s more than a little hung over. We were instructed to let no one enter the Chancellery.”

“You talk too much,” said the other guard without turning to look at him.

The chatty guard turns to the other. “Come on, don’t you recognize them? Do you think it’s some other cyclops with two huge companions?”

“You’re over-thinking the job,” said the other guard. “Just keep your mouth shut and do as you’re told. Don’t look for exceptions, just obey.”

“You’ve been doing this too long,” said the first.

“And you, not long enough,” said the other.

The first guard hangs his head and sighs. “Look, guys. I suggest you go catch a play or gladiator match. Just have a good time. It’ll be a while before the Chancellor will be able to attend to you. Your best bet is to wait for him as his home tonight. He has not yet made arrangements to sleep here, so I know you can catch them this evening.”

“You see, right there,” said the other guard, “If they were trying to kill the Chancellor, you just gave them a roadmap.”

“Oh shut it,” said the first guard. “I know for a fact the Chancellor wants to talk to them. They’re part of the entertainment.”

“What?” asked the giant.

“Rumor has it you’re going to be the first woman to fight a man in the arena.”

“She will be,” shouted a distant voice from high above them. Walker leaned out a window a few stories up. “Though not today. Today, I will need to employ your services as hunters. It seems we’re a liger short for the grand finale on the third day. I already sent a courier to Hank, so head back to my house and tell them you’ll be leading the expedition. I’d hurry if I were you.”

The three of them ran to Walker’s estate. They found Henry sitting in the garden writing.

“Walker wants us to get the liger,” said the dwarf.

Henry looked up. “Very well.” He immediately looked back down and crossed a few things out.

“What about the body?” asked Hugh.

“He is currently in the mausoleum covered in fire-dried sand. It will preserve his body from rot and decay for weeks.”

“Weeks?” asked Hugh.

“Don’t worry, we’ll make arrangements for longer storage soon,” Henry said, still looking down and writing. “Hopefully it won’t take longer than a few months.”

“Well, I would hate for our liger hunt to take a few months,” said the giant.

Henry smiled, wrote for a few more seconds, looked up, and said, “My dear, you will do well here. But I assure you, the Chancellor is very busy at this point. The burial of your friend is low on his list of priorities.”

“It’s such a small request,” said Hugh.

“Is it?” asked Henry. “Sea burials can only occur on the day before a new moon, so there can only be one per month. The next one is in eleven days, and it has been reserved by that person for twenty-six years. He was a member of the High Council, and he died three months ago. Is that a small request?”

“But here’s the thing,” said the dwarf. “It could be on the night of a full moon for all I care, I just want him buried at sea.”

Henry squinted at him. “Is this a joke?”

All three said no.

“You don’t care what day he’s buried at sea, or what time?”

Again, all three said no.

Henry stared at them, mouth slightly ajar.

“Is this insulting?” asked Hugh.

“Not to me,” said Henry, “It’s insulting to your friend.”

“How so?” asked the giant.

“If you’re buried during a full moon, there’s basically no chance you will ever become a star.”

“What?” asked the giant.

“Do you have any idea what a sea burial is?” asked Henry.

The three of them looked at each other.

“We thought it would make it easier for him to get to his mansion under the sea,” said Hugh.

Henry blinked a few times, then laughed, and he laughed in that awkward, uncontrolled way that people who don’t often laugh in public tend to do. It was kind of embarrassing, really.

“It’s the desire of everyone to be given a sea burial, because you are put onto a ship that is set out to sea, then lit aflame, and it will sail you into the heavens to become a star, but you must avoid the Moon, for she is jealous and will swallow up those who try to get too close, thereby drawing attention away from her.”

“But wait,” said Hugh, “If you set a ship in the water on fire, it will sink to the bottom of the sea.”

“I suppose, yes,” said Henry, “That is what happens. But you should see it. It looks like the ship is sailing over the horizon and into the sky itself.”

“Since I don’t think he’s aiming for the stars, I don’t think he has to look out for the moon,” said the giant.

“Well, if you just want his body to be at the bottom, why don’t we just have a boat take you out, and you can dump him over?” asked Henry.

“I want to see the boat thing,” said the dwarf.

“It will save you the cost of a boat,” Henry said.

“How about this,” said the giant, “We’ll dump the old man’s body at sea so he can get to his mansion. Then, we’ll stick around for the sea burial that we don’t have to pay for.”

“Works for me,” said the dwarf.

Hugh nodded.

“Alright,” Henry said, “This will be much easier than I thought.” Henry got up and motioned for them to follow him. He moved into the house and handed his writing tablet to a man just inside the door, who took it and ran off. Henry turned to the three of them. “Let’s get you on some so you can set out to meet the hunting party.”

“They’re already out there?” asked the giant.

“If all is going as planned, they’ve already located an assembly of ligers.”

“An assembly?” the dwarf asked.

“That’s what a group of ligers is called,” said Henry. “There are semi-permanent hunting camps on the outskirts of the savannah, which is a full day’s ride from here. We’re going to have to get you mounted up and on the road with a guide to direct you, and you should arrive early tonight. The next morning you’ll rendezvous with the group that is tracking the nearest assembly.”

“Which is a pack of ligers,” said the dwarf.

“Thanks…” the giant said.

Henry looked at Hugh. “I don’t think you can go.”

“Why not?” asked Hugh.

“You need to ride on horseback to get there, and we don’t have any horses that could carry you. Maybe a few could bear your weight, but none of them could carry you at the speed you must travel over the terrain you will need to cover. There may be horses in the north that can carry you, and we’ll be on the look-out for one to add to our stable, but for now I’m afraid you’re bound to the city.”

Hugh looked at the twins. They had never in their lives slept out of his sight. Hugh felt uneasy. The giant looked back to Hugh, smiling with only half her mouth. Her eyes looked sad.

“How are we going to trap a live liger?” asked the dwarf.

“I’m not an expert on that,” said Henry. “I imagine some sort of net, as you can’t hurt the animal at all. It has to be healthy for its appearance in the arena. Come, we’ll get you saddled up.”

To be continued…

God, Hallucinogens, and Disillusionment

One the strangest paradoxes of religion is that believers say religion must be based on faith, but they also have all sorts of “evidence” that always amounts to nothing more than tired old fallacies. It’s an easily solved paradox, though… since there is no evidence, so religion is undeniably a faith.

The fact that religions claim evidence for their beliefs creates the situation where people try out a religion and become disillusioned with it. Given the outrageous claims made by religion, who wouldn’t? Ranging from promises of happiness and inner peace to assurances of spiritual healing and magical wealth, there’s really a broad range of things for a believer to become disappointed with when it comes to evaluating a religion in reality in comparison to the religious sales pitch.

I kind of liken it to something else I have experience with: hard drug use. Hallucinogens in particular have a reputation for doing all kinds of mystical things. They supposedly “open” and “expand” your mind, or “alter your consciousness.” We hear about famous people doing them, like Steve Jobs and every musician in the 60s and early 70s. And Hunter Thompson is a very compelling Pope figure…

But here’s the thing… while I don’t regret doing hallucinogens, I’m only glad I did them because I had a good time doing them. I don’t think acid or mushrooms changed the way I think. I’m fairly certain I thought differently before I took drugs, and that’s probably why I did them in the first place. Maybe you just have to be a little weird to want to see space elves dancing on the walls.

Not that you’ll probably see that. I have to say… if tripping was a movie, I would not be impressed with the visual effects. This is one area where Hollywood’s unrealistic interpretation is just much better than the real thing, kind of like sword fights or road trips.

The most visuals I ever got occurred while taking too many mushrooms. I felt nauseous about 45 minute after eating them, so I grabbed a wastebasket. I looked into it and the bottom sunk out of it. The bag took on the appearance of burning rock, and I swore I was staring down into Hell. Then, I puked, and it was just a vomit filled wastebasket again. I started walking around the room like a velociraptor, followed by rolling on the floor while giggling, until I crawled up to a mirror. I smiled, and the corners of my lips curled into a spiral for eternity, and it reminded me a bit of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland, because all I could see was my exaggerated grin.

That was about it, though. Nothing major, or even that interesting, really. There was nothing to take from it, no deep meaning or introspective insight. Out of about 125-200 trips, those were the most tangible visuals I ever got. Nearly everything else was wavy patterns, the appearance of surfaces breathing, or color distortions (in particular, I see a sort of shiny hue on the outskirts of my vision that I term “incantransdulescent”).

I never saw or thought anything amazing while tripping. That was my goal for a long time when taking hallucinogens. I would keep a journal near me so I could write down all the amazing ideas I would have. Honestly… just writing that now makes me laugh. It’s downright adorable. Oh, younger me… you stupid, stupid fool…

I don’t oppose hallucinogens, by any means, but people should know that a) they won’t make you a smarter, better, or more creative person, and b) you should take precautions that your use of them doesn’t hurt other people. Your fellow users would probably also appreciate it if you didn’t hurt yourself while on drugs, either, because every user is sick of stories about some person doing acid and jumping off a roof.

Read this carefully: if you were able to fly, you should be able to do it from ground level. Trust me.

This is sort of why I think hallucinogen use is so similar to religion. This isn’t a particularly novel concept, by any means. I’m not claiming this observation as my own. As many as a quarter or more of the people I know who trip (especially on a regular basis) actually consider this type of drug use to be their religion. I don’t know if this is a sincere opinion, or if it’s an attempt to exploit the concept of religious freedom.

I guess it doesn’t matter, because I think people should be allowed to do their drug of choice, which is also why I wouldn’t try to take a person’s religion away from them. This isn’t so much out of respect for them as it is about my own safety. If there’s one thing I learned from being around users, it’s “never get between an addict and their fix.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tolerance is Bullshit

I don’t believe in tolerance. I believe in liking some people, disliking others, and making no secret of either. I think it’s a simple philosophy, and it’s much more honest stance than “tolerance.”

I also don’t like the implied conditions in the “pro-tolerance” view of the world. For example, I will never tolerate gay people. How can I? I don’t hate gay people, so there’s nothing to tolerate. Toleration always implies that the other person is doing something I should be annoyed about, but by tolerating it and holding in these negative feelings, I’m somehow nobler than the person who voices their opinions honestly.

That’s a load of bullshit. It’s incorrect twice over. It’s wrong in that no one has any legitimate reason to hate gay people, and it’s wrong in that it’s dishonest for someone to hide their true feelings. People should express what they really believe, not self-censor themselves into appearing to be a better person than they actually are. What’s more, if we encourage people to hide their bigotry, we’re inviting a whole host of other problems, primarily focused on the breakdown of dialogue between opposing views.

Then you have the now-famous trope that tolerance of intolerance is not a good thing. But it doesn’t end with intolerance, as many things should not be tolerated. Liberals, then, should not be pushing “tolerance,” especially when they don’t have the common courtesy to give us a tangible list of what should and should not be tolerated… as if such a thing were even possible.

Tolerance is a worthless concept, especially in light of how intolerant these tolerance-purveyors actually are. Groups like feminists and the LGBT community are full of individuals who are mind-bendingly intolerant. There aren’t enough egregious incidents of it to make me hate those groups like I do most conservatives, but an element of short-sighted wrathful vengeance is certainly present in many liberal circles.

If you think this applies to you, then please: don’t change.

Many of the things liberal groups are intolerant of are things I also can’t tolerate. The problem is, it’s more than a little hypocritical for someone to go around preaching tolerance and to then bombard someone with violent vitriol. It’s not difficult for me to still have respect for someone who is mean to others, but when the next day they are entreating people to have a more patient understanding when dealing with people who are different… I have to call bullshit.

There’s probably no clearer example of this than the “anti-bully” movement. It’s like slowly watching liberalism repeatedly stab itself in the eye to watch liberals ruin the lives of folks that are often guilty of no crime besides bad taste. Strangely enough, it’s my own liberal predilection for siding with the victim that has me pissed off at anti-bullying advocates. If you turn assholes into victims, I’m going to feel bad for the assholes. For some odd reason, I can relate to assholes who say things that piss people off.

What’s more, I know liberals love some bullies. What is Jon Stewart, if not a bully? Sure, he mocks people liberals don’t like, but if he was mocking gay people and women instead of rich people and racists, it would be more obvious. The crux of the “anti-bully” argument is empty. Liberals don’t give a shit if you’re mean or not, they care if you’re mean to specific types of people.

I don’t think the world needs more intolerance, all I’m asking for is a little intellectual honesty.

Wednesday Word: Religionista

Religionista: someone who wears their religious affiliation with too much pride

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rape Jokes Are Still Funny

When I was watching the Daily Show last night and Louis C.K. talked about the Daniel Tosh rape joke incident, I had a few epiphanies.

The first is that he was dead-on about one thing: some people think that how they feel is somehow important, and the rest of the world should have to accommodate their feelings (he chose to say “women,” but I have seen men do this too) . This observation is all too true for too many people.

Some think that the rest of the world cares how they feel. I assure you: no one gives a shit how you feel, except you. Anyone you talk to about your feelings is only listening to be polite and internally wishes you would shut the fuck up. Those who listen patiently to you probably want something from you, either sex or for you to return the favor and sit through their boring bullshit, but they may just want money or a promotion. This is why you have to pay therapists: no one cares about you or what you think or feel.

None of us are interesting, no matter how many boring people we manage to get to read our blog posts. Trust me.

The other thing I got from the Louis C.K. interview, and perhaps the most important part, is that I thought about the discussions I had with people on Facebook about this. They tended to all go the same way:

Me: Get over it, people can say whatever they want.
Them: Don’t tell me to “get over it!” I’m not saying Tosh can’t say something, just that I am going to complain publicly while demanding action against him for what he said and/or for everyone to agree with me.
Me: Okay… well, you’re stupid.
Them: Oh, so now people who oppose rape are stupid?

You see what happened there? They were stupid, and I presented an argument that was completely beside the point. It’s no wonder nothing was gained in these exchanges. Granted, even if I made a good point, trying to change the mind of a stupid person is literally a fool’s errand.

I don’t think “freedom” plays much into it, as I initially argued with others. Many people have pointed out Tosh did in fact have the freedom to say what he wanted. Those who are indignant over this insist that it’s important in a system that allows freedom for people to be able to demonize others for what they say publicly. Apparently this only works in one direction, because if I criticize what they are saying… look out.

For those who don’t know, Tosh supposedly said it would be funny if a heckler got raped. At one point, I was conversing with someone who was convinced that what Tosh said was wrong, wrong, wrong. When I persisted in disagreeing, they proceeded to tell me what they hoped a large man would do to my rectum while he held me down. This was after some normal, polite discussion where neither of us insulted the other. It kind of took me off-guard how stupid the comment was.

As you might expect, I wasn’t insulted… I laughed, and it was the best rape joke I had heard in a while.

How can I take seriously a person who is so blatantly hypocritical? I’m meant to believe that joking about someone being raped is totally wrong for comedy purposes, but it’s okay for someone to tell me that I should be raped in order to make some sort of point. That almost makes sense… if you subscribe to the “do as I say, not as I do” school of ethics.

I think it's healthy that people make jokes about everything. The holocaust, rape, date rape, prison rape, pedophilia, child molestation, birth defects, 9/11, dead soldiers, dead celebrities, dead babies, having sex with the bodies of dead babies, kidnapping, mothers, sex with mothers, dead mothers, sex with dead mothers… really, there’s no end to what can be joked about. It’s all hilarious if you have the right timing and enough weed. I don't trust someone if they think there is a topic that is off-limits to humor. That person lacks basic control over their own emotions, and I find that to be far more dangerous than off-color jokes.

No comedian should be crucified just because they make a bad joke. Sometimes a joke isn’t funny. It happens. No comedian sets out to tell a joke that won’t make people laugh (except maybe Andy Kaufman, though he is recognized as a genius for it). If a failed joke’s topic is semi-controversial, that person is not an uncaring monster. I mean… you’re free to believe that, but only because you’re free to be stupid.

If someone tells a joke about rape that isn’t funny, that doesn’t make them a monster. It makes that joke not funny. It doesn’t even mean that person isn’t funny, because one bad joke does not define a person’s sense of humor. Thinking otherwise makes you… well… stupid… which you are free to be.

Since this whole thing started, I’ve read about four extended metaphors or pity stories about rape. I even read a horribly strained scenario urging me to imagine I lived in a world where men got castrated and female comics joked about it.

Never mind that we live in a real world where men are raped by the millions in prison, yet we all laugh about it without people getting butthurt, figuratively speaking. I am sure some people will claim it bothers them, but where are the people walking out of comedy clubs and blogging about the evils of prison rape jokes? I’m not saying I want such nonsense to start, I’m saying that there’s clearly a double standard here.

So, imagine this:

Imagine a crazy, hypothetical world where people have been kidnapped, tortured, and killed simply because they said something that pissed off the wrong person. I know… it’s hard to imagine such an impossible scenario. I’ll call this hypothetical phenomenon “censorship.”

Imagine how someone who has been “censored” feels watching some entitled asshole complaining about what some entertainer said. Imagine the memories of suppression, loss of control, pain, and feelings of helplessness that will be dredged up in the victim, just because some thoughtless jerk-off wanted to declare a fatwa on rape jokes.

Plenty of people who have been censored might tell you to shut up, but they’re no better than the anti-rape-wisher who wished rape upon me (which I want to emphasize again, I found amusingly hypocritical and stupid, not evil). If someone really opposes censorship, there is really only one thing they can say to a person who is trying to censor others, “You are a stupid censor.”

And don’t try to give me this “it’s only censorship when the government does it” crap. That’s like being opposed to capital punishment but being okay with murder. You can go on and on about what can or cannot be done, but “can” isn’t the issue.

You’re free to be a stupid censor… I just find it odd that someone would exercise that freedom when they keep going on and on and on about how “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.” Censorship has actually killed people, whereas no rape joke has so much as accidentally bumped another person at the grocery store with their cart.

It’s pretty simple: rape is worse than censorship, and censorship is worse than rape jokes. If you can’t agree with that… well, you probably already know what I think you are.

Top Ten: Weird Search Terms That Have Led People To My [Old] Blog

10. gay loincloth
9. fuck the military!!! I want out
8. the virgin mary idol is a whore
7. yuppie welfare done best
6. show us ya willie and tits
5. big dick white men
4. sex addict quotes
3. how can someone be conservative
2. anything but gay prayer
1. mitt the clit romney

Monday, July 16, 2012

Marrying a Dog

I would never marry either of my dogs. It’s not that I’m against a person marrying their dog, it’s just that the two dogs I have are not my type. They’re cool to hang out with, but I just don’t think of them in that way.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m pretty sure I would never marry a dog, but I can see the appeal. Monogamy won’t be that difficult, since even a breed known for longevity, like the Australian cattle dog, won’t generally live beyond their teens. And there are plenty of benefits to marrying your dog.

Let’s face it: millions of people in America are single. Many of them don’t want to be married, and in my experience, those people tend to be pet owners. So, if you know you don’t want to get married, why not marry your dog?

Dogs are loyal, have a good sense of humor, are up for pretty much anything, and no dog ever told you the TV shows you watch are dumb. Honestly… what more do you want in a spouse?

To be honest, it all sounds good to me until you get to the sex part. Though technically, if you don’t want to have sex, it’s probably best you get married rather than just be a live-in couple. Weddings pretty much signal the end of sex in a relationship. So really… if you oppose bestiality, I think you ought to encourage human-canine marriage.

The financial benefits are also readily apparent. All those single people working hard at their job are getting only a fraction of their actual work’s value because they aren’t receiving insurance benefits for a spouse. But, if you marry your dog, your work’s insurance will cover your vet bills. You can even have your dog by your side if you are ever hospitalized. Really, the legal and financial benefits of marriage just speak for themselves.

So, I urge you: support human-canine marriage. Why? Because crossing the line would be letting you marry your cat.

My two gay dogs. I don’t think they were born gay…
I think they’re “all boy’s school” gay.

Clearing Up Some Misunderstandings About Romney

Mitt Romney won’t release his tax forms, not because he’s afraid it will prevent him from getting elected, but because it might mean he gets jail time.

Mitt Romney only invested in aborted fetus removal so he could give them a proper burial... and to posthumously baptize them as Mormons.

Mitt Romney keeps his big donors anonymous, because the least he can do for someone who gave him millions is to not sully their name by associating it with “Mitt Romney.”

Mitt Romney puts his money in off-shore bank accounts because even his wealth can afford beach-front property.

Mitt Romney kept money in a Swiss bank account because he respects the fact that Switzerland doesn’t take a hard stance on anything.

Mitt Romney was only responsible for earning profits at Bain Capital, not the company’s criminal activity or outsourcing.

Mitt Romney brought the Winter Olympics to America instead of the Summer Olympics because he only likes competitions that are primarily won by white people.

Ann Romney has said she doesn’t think of herself as rich. I bet she’s half right: she just doesn’t think.

Monday Rule: War

No nation should ever start a war, and a nation should only enter one in order to end it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Getting to Know Romney

The Republican primary race has produced a rare outcome: a major party presidential candidate has not been properly vetted.

We’ll be learning a lot about Mitt Romney in the coming months, because frankly… nobody knows much of anything about him. We know he’s rich, we know he’s a Mormon, and that’s where most people’s knowledge of the guy ends.

And it’s no wonder this happened, given the 2012 primary campaign and the news coverage leading up to it throughout the second half of 2011.

There was a never-ending clown-car of “front-runners” popping out of nowhere, all the way up to Romney’s presumptive nomination. About the three people in America that the media didn’t list as a Republican front-runner in that campaign were Charles Manson, Kim Kardashian, and Ron Paul. What’s more, when Romney’s opponents started coming up with effective strategies to actually attack him (like calling him a “vulture capitalist”), the Republican establishment made sure the attacks were reined in.

Romney never had any real competition, he just sat quietly on the sidelines and let the other candidates make a never-ending series of gaffes. None of his Republican opponents and no one in the media really challenged his past, only his current political leanings. While the primaries were full of barbs directed at him, he never really answered for his own record, merely falling in line with the extremist right-wing sideshow.

Now, questions are finally being raised about Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts (and his desperate attempts to shred any record of his time in office), his time at Bain (including their criminal activities and perjury claims stemming from lying on official forms about when he truly severed ties with them), and even his time in college and high school (where it turns out he was an abusive asshole).

The more we learn about what Romney has actually done, the more it becomes apparent that Romney is unelectable and an embarrassing choice for the Republicans.

It’s an amazing development, because after nearly four years of the right undergoing spastic fits of rage over the election of Barack Obama, it’s looking more and more like he will get re-elected. It won’t be enough in November for people to hate Obama; they have to actually vote for Romney.

Romney can expect little help from the center. Even those who are fed up with Obama would never dream of voting for Mitt Romney. Why? One of the main things so unappealing about Obama is his close connection to the corrupt financial industry. Voting for Mitt Romney is like taking out the middle man in regards to corporate cronyism.

Mitt Romney is just not a candidate with any appeal outside of a very narrow, insignificant slice of America, and the more we get to know him, the clearer this will become.

Saturday Reflection 7/14/12

Isn’t it a strange coincidence that those who believe in ghosts see ghosts, those who believe in leprechauns see leprechauns, those who believe in dragons see dragons, those who believe in demons see demons, those who believe in angels see angels, those who believe in aliens see aliens, those who believe in Bigfoot see Bigfoot, and those who believe in God see God. Personally, I believe everything is funny, and I have found this to be true. It’s almost like we only find what it is we’re looking for in the world.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Republican Platform for 2112

No gays on Mars
No funds for cities “under water” due to “Global Warming”
Repeal the national grenade/land mine/missile ban
Outlaw clone-on-clone sex
Cut funding for search for extraterrestrial life
Increase anti-alien weapons funding
Ban the teaching of science from public schools
Keep Guantanamo Bay open
Affirm that the National Religion is Mormonism

The Return of a Classic

[This, and the next 18 posts, were originally made at Down With Decorum, a bog I set up while I was prevented from posted at ABT due to a now-resolved account problem.]

Long story short… I started on a blog titled “Down With Decorum.” Very early on, I changed the name to “Anything But Theist.” Why? It’s listed higher alphabetically, and in those days, many blog rolls were alphabetical. Now, my old blog account has been locked for some reason, the cell phone I had associated with it was cancelled when I got a new number with a local area code… and it may take a while before I can even access Anything But Theist.

But the thing is… I don’t know if I want to be on that blog. I have no attachment to the title and I feel completely comfortable moving along to the next thing. It would also be nice if my blog didn’t focus solely on the atheist aspect, and I won’t miss having “butt heist” in the URL. I had planned to make a move at some point to a site with a www.*namehere*.com URL anyway. While these are not the circumstances I would have liked to have done it under and I don’t have a real URL ready… I need some creative outlet for the next few days [or if I’m unlucky, weeks] while I won’t be able to access Anything But Theist.

The move may be temporary… or it may be like the job market now, and it will be temp-to-perm. We’ll see.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Ethical System

Do not harm, and try to do good. “Life” is figuring out what harms and what is good. “Law” is the collective attempt of those before us to share their life experience. “Morals” are those silly lessons at the end of fables. “Ethics” are those lofty goals we aspire to, but never reach. “Justice” is getting it right.

What more do you need?

The Several Adventures of Hugh, Part 8

After the meal and dessert was finished, the men retired to another room and the women went home. The giant followed the men and sat in a couch with Hugh.

“You know,” said Herbert, “It would be a scandal if it was discovered that we drank with a woman.”

Walker moved to the middle of the room to dilute the wine with water. “Who don’t you trust, your people, or mine?”

Herbert shook his head.

“What should be the topic of discussion?” asked Walker, as he took a seat and motioned to servants to begin pouring cups for everyone.

One of Walker’s advisors coughed. “Sir, might I suggest we determine names for our two anonymous guests?”

Walker reached over and slapped him on the shoulder. “Perfect, and what luck? We are in the presence of a great poet. If anyone knows a lot of names, and what they mean, it’s Mercurius.”

Mercurius looked into his wine cup and swirled it around. “I suppose I am an expert… after all, women are always asking me to give their child a name, but this time they don’t want my name.”

“What about a strong name for her, like Hippolyta, Athena, or Artemis?” asked Herbert.

“I don’t like those,” said the giant.

“What about Minerva or Selena?” asked someone sitting near Herbert.

“Selena isn’t bad,” said the giant.

“It means moon,” said Mercurius. “And as you all know, the moon is a cunning warrior. She can shine bright or she can disappear from sight into complete darkness. She has many strong qualities, yet as the moon, she is the very symbol of the female fertility cycle.”

“On second thought,” said the giant, “While it’s a pretty name, I don’t think I want my name to remind me of… my cycle.”

“What about a name that means tall?” asked Walker.

“A female name that means tall…” Mercuius trailed off. He took a big gulp of wine and strained his face in thought. “Well, I suppose… the people up north, where everyone is much taller, have a name that means tall and is gender neutral: Lang.”

“Hmm…” hummed the giant.

Walker clapped his hands. “You,” he said and pointed at the dwarf. “How do you feel about ‘Kane?’”

The dwarf shrugged. Some around the circle laughed.

“What?” asked the dwarf.

“There are stories about a pair named ‘Kane and Lang,’ and it would be amusing if the two of you shared their names,” said Mercurius.

“What was Kane like?” asked the dwarf.

“Oh, he was a brave warrior,” said Mercurius, smiling. “He killed a dragon with just a stick. A twig, even.” A few people stifled chuckles.

“What about Lang?” asked the giant.

“Well, Lang was a male hill giant, but the name Lang is gender neutral,” said Mercurius. “The Sun fell in love with a tall woman named Lang, and she hid from his advances, finally being turned into the Lang tree, which is known for being extremely tall and flowering only at night.”

The giant looked to the dwarf. “What do you think?”

The dwarf cocked his head a bit, took a drink, and said, “I guess it’s fine.”

Walker nodded to his advisor, who promptly left the room.

“Don’t worry too much about it,” said Walker. “It’s just for administrative purposes. You can always add names later. Some people have five or six names. How many are you up to, Herbert?”

“Five,” said Herbert. “Six after tomorrow, if the Fates are willing.”

“It’s quite a shame you have such bad luck with fate,” said Walker.

Hebert turned to Walker and set his cup down. “I find if I work hard enough, I can make my own fate.”

“Drink up,” said Walker. “Stop treading water for just one night and drown your sorrows.”

“One of us should be sober to make sure we all get home safe tonight.”

“Suit yourself,” said Walker, finishing his cup and holding it up to be refilled.

The night ended after several more rounds and some songs. At one point, servants came out and played reed pipes and lutes. A few drinkers remained passed out in the couches. Hugh carried the dwarf in his arms on the walk home with the giant and a stumbling drunk Walker.

The next morning, they were awoken early. The dwarf and giant were each handed silver engraved tablets. Hugh turned over his bronze tablet in his hands, feeling the weight of it.

Walker approached them with Hank in tow. “Hank here will escort you two to the polls,” said Walker. “After that, you’ll help us buy some more votes.” Walker threw a bag at Hugh’s chest, which he caught by holding it against himself with the table. He lowered the tablet to look at the bag, which had small coins inside.

“Silver, and it’s your job to hand them out to people, I’ll show you how.” Walker walked up to Hugh, and mimes handing Hugh a coin. “Vote for Walker, he’s the choice of prosperity. Now you try, only say something else inspirational and persuasive.”

Hugh digs a coin out of the bag and hands it to Walker, then stands for a second before saying, “Vote for Walker, he’s a generous guy.”

Walker laughed. “I like it, only don’t let go of the coin until you’re done talking. I find that usually has the most effect. I like the generosity angle. It’s refreshingly honest.”

“If you’ll follow me,” said Hank. The giant and dwarf left, but as Hugh started to follow them, Walker held him back.

“I want to talk to you first, it won’t take long,” said Walker, motioning Hugh to his room. Walker picked up the bent nail and squinted at it.

“I’m so sorry about that,” said Hugh.

“So you did do this?” asked Walker.

“I’ll pay for it,” said Hugh.

“I doubt you could afford it, but I don’t care about that. I’m more interested in how you did it.”

“What do you mean?” asked Hugh.

“You didn’t use any tools? No pliers or anything to pry it?”

“No,” said Hugh. “Just my bare hands.”

“Prove it,” said Walker, handing him the other bent nail. “If you can bend that nail nearly straight, I’ll give you… you know what, Hugh? I don’t have any clue what it is you want. Most people, I can just tell within minutes, if not seconds, what they desire, but you… I imagine you could take just about anything you wanted, and yet you have so little. So tell me, what is it you want?”

Hugh thought for a moment. No one had ever asked him anything like that before.

“I thought that melon soup was really good last night,” said Hugh.

Walker smiled and shook his head. “I’ll tell you what, then. If you can bend that nail completely straight, I’ll not only get you the recipe, I’ll make sure someone will make it for you for every meal as long as you’re here. And they’ll make anything else for you to eat, as well, just in case you get tired of melon soup, though perhaps you never will.”

Hugh looked down at the nail, and with great effort managed to bend it like the other, then after struggling to get a grip on both ends, he managed to slowly work the tear drop shape into a U, then nearly a right angle, and before long it was getting close to straightened out. Hugh panted with effort, and Walker stopped him.

“That’s good enough, Hugh. That’s really good. Have you ever given much thought to becoming a blacksmith?” Walker asked.

“Not really, no,” said Hugh. “I know it’s a common profession for my race, though.”

“With strength like that, you could forge metals that human smiths can’t even work with. That would really give our armies an edge. You’d not only be helping me, you’d be helping the whole city, if not the whole empire.”

“Okay, I guess,” said Hugh.

“Gee, don’t be too enthusiastic,” said Walker, smirking. “Don’t worry, if you hate it, I’m sure there’s no shortage of other ways we can utilize your strength. It would just be a shame to let it go to waste, though. You could be a major asset to us all, and we’d be forever grateful for your efforts.”

“I’ll try my best,” Hugh said.

“And I’m about to try my best to win an election, so come on. I’ll take you to the corner I want you to stand at. Oh, and remember only to give a coin to adults, and only one per person, so get a good look at their face.”

Walker continued to talk to Hugh as he walked with him. As they exited the property, a few cheers were heard by those in the street, and Walker turned to wave to them. Walker continued to advise Hugh.

“And don’t be afraid to tell them what they want to hear. You just represent me, you aren’t me. Anything you promise is not something I’m bound to, so feel free to promise anything. If they demand the sun and moon for their vote, tell them I’ll give them the stars, as well. And go for the wealthy while avoiding the poor, because slaves and most laborers can’t vote…”

They moved briskly through a small market and came to a four-way intersection. “This will be the perfect place to showcase your size and simple eloquence. I’ll have someone sent to you with some breakfast in a bit, and we’ll reconvene for lunch before making the final push this afternoon. Good luck, and if you run out of coins, feel free to start dancing or something.”

Hugh looked around. He was surrounded by people moving quickly around him. He looked for a set of eyes to look his way. For the first time in his life, Hugh was in a crowd that he felt was not looking at him. Hugh dug into the coin purse he had put into his pocket, pulled out a small silver piece, and he scanned the crowd again.

He saw a face look up to him, a young man bent over carrying a large basket. “Here you go, vote for Walker,” said Hugh, trying to hand him a coin.

“Can’t you see my hands are full?” said the man.

Hugh lifted the basket with one hand and the man’s eyes went wide. He dropped the coin into the man’s now empty hands. “Do you need some help carrying this?” asked Hugh.

“Sure, I’m going two blocks this way,” said the man. Hugh followed him, carrying the basket in one hand above his shoulder, resting it slightly against his head.

They arrived at a small home, and Hugh set the basket down. “Be sure to vote for Walker, he’s a helpful guy.”

“I can’t vote, unfortunately, but I’ll be sure to tell all I know about the help you gave me,” said the man.

“We appreciate it,” said Hugh. He walked back to the corner.

He looked around again, hoping to make eye contact with someone. While looking around, he saw a man talking to a statue. Hugh walked toward him and saw that it was a poor man, clad in a tattered cloak, holding a bowl up to the statue. As he got closer, Hugh could hear the man pleading with the statue for some food.

The man would ask, “Can you spare something to eat?” then wait a few seconds, as if he expected a reply, before asking again. Hugh approached him and put a coin in the man’s bowl.

“Vote for Walker, he’ll feed the poor,” said Hugh.

The man looked in his bowl, took out the coin and put it in a satchel under his cloak. “Tell me,” asked the beggar, “Why would becoming an elected official make Walker more likely to part with his money?”

Hugh blinked a few times, unsure of what to say. The man sighed and went back to begging from the statue. Hugh walked back to the corner and continued handing coins to those he could. A short while later, a man came up to him with a large piece of bread and a bowl with soup in it. Hugh sat down next to a water fountain as he ate, then continued handing out coins until lunch.

Lunch was a rushed affair, with people darting in and out of the property. Food was set up just inside the entrance, and most people stood as they ate bread, cheese, dried fish and cut fruit. Hugh arrived just in time to see the dwarf depart, who said he had seen the giant head back out moments before Hugh got there.

After he was done eating, Hugh’s purse was refilled and he went back out, with instructions to return just before sunset. At one point, he held a crying baby for a woman as she purchased fish and spices, but otherwise his afternoon was largely uneventful. As he walked back into the property, there was celebrating going on all around him. He saw the heads of the giant and dwarf popping out above everyone else, and he hurried to them.

“Hey guys,” said Hugh.

“He won,” said the giant. “Unless the impossible happens, Walker’s so far ahead that he’s already won.”
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...