Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Song: 'Setting Out'

'Setting Out'
By Joé McKen

Don't forget to view in High Quality!

This is a piece I created to try and fit to a little "story": a guy is preparing to leave on some long voyage or something (maybe a fishing trip that would last weeks or something of the sort); it's dawn, he's preparing to leave with his boat from the misty harbor, when his girlfriend/wife/whatever arrives for one last goodbye. He then departs to the open seas with hopes and expectations for what lies ahead.

I actually had some problems with this theme: the instrument volumes never seemed to really harmonize like I wanted them to, they always seemed to glare against each other. This is my best attempt for now.

The music is mine.
The image used for this video isn't mine and I claim no ownership over it. I just found it somewhere with Google.

Music composed & recorded with Sibelius 5.

Rate, comment and enjoy! =)

Continued ...»

The end of an era

Well, sort of. Millvina Dean, the last remaining living survivor of the RMS Titanic disaster, has passed away today in her nursing home. She was 97.

LONDON — Millvina Dean, who as a baby was wrapped in a sack and lowered into a lifeboat in the frigid North Atlantic, died Sunday, having been the last survivor of 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic.

She was 97 years old, and she died where she had lived — in Southampton, England, the city her family had tried to leave behind when it took the ship's ill-fated maiden voyage, bound for America.

She died in her sleep early Sunday, her friend Gunter Babler told the Associated Press. It was the 98th anniversary of the launch of the ship that was billed as "practically unsinkable."

Babler said Dean's longtime companion, Bruno Nordmanis, called him in Switzerland to say staff at Woodlands Ridge Nursing Home in Southampton discovered Dean in her room Sunday morning. He said she had been hospitalized with pneumonia last week but she had recovered and returned to the home.

A staff nurse at the nursing home said late Sunday that no one would comment until administrators came on duty Monday morning.

Dean just over 2 months old when the Titanic hit an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912. The ship sank in less than three hours.

Dean was one of 706 people — mostly women and children — who survived. Her father was among the 1,517 who died.[1]

Millvina was one of the survivors who actively took part in the Titanic phenomenon, always reportedly happy to meet with sufferers of the Titanic fever, take part in gatherings and events, and the likes.

It's finally happened: the last living reminder of the most famous seafaring disaster in history has left us. All that's left is the rusting, rotting and slowly collapsing wreck itself, some two-and-a-half miles down on the seabed of the North Atlantic.

[1] Nitpicker's Corner: I do wish people, and especially the media, would stop placing exact casualty and survivor counts on the Titanic disaster. The exact number of the dead, and those who were on board, is simply not known as it was never properly documented anywhere with the myriad of contradictory reports. The death toll is at about 1,500, and there were about 2,200 people on board. The only number we do know for certain, is that there were exactly 705 survivors – not 706 as this report erroneously states.

Continued ...»

New Song: 'A Morning by the Sea'

'A Morning by the Sea'
By Joé McKen

Don't forget to view in High Quality!

A soft little theme about "someone who stares at the sea, lost in thought".

The music is mine.
The images used for this video are not mine and I claim no ownership over them. I just found them via a few simple Google searches revolving around ocean horizons and coastlines.

Music composed & recorded with Sibelius 5.

Rate, comment and enjoy! =)

Continued ...»

Another second-rate celebrity gets a pointless reality TV show

In the television industry's ever-going quest to find the least interesting random "celebrities" possible and plaster their annoying mugs on television, we've now got the "Octomom", Nadya Suleman, that idiot who decided to raise far more kids than she can handle while living at her mother's without employment, who's accepted to be filmed by a British film company for an announced reality show based on her and her kids' mundane lives. Because people just can't get enough of her, apparently. Which makes me wonder what the hell they could be interested in, in the first place.

LOS ANGELES -- The Southern California woman who gave birth to the world's longest-surviving set of octuplets has reportedly signed a deal to star in a reality television series.

People magazine reported Sunday on its Web site that Nadya Suleman has agreed to be filmed by a British production company. Suleman gave birth to the six boys and two girls in January and also has six other children.

Suleman lawyer Jeff Czech (CHEK') says production company Eyeworks hasn't yet sold the proposed show to any American television network and plans to air the series on British TV.

He says film crews will not follow Suleman and her children 24 hours a day, but will document birthdays and special family events.

I'll be sure to tune in every day ...

... when the last remaining show on television goes off the air. But only to laugh at it.

Continued ...»

Anti-abortionists have done it again

In a coup that I expect will warm the shriveled hearts of "pro-lifers" everywhere in the abortion debate, Dr. George Tiller, arguably the most prominent late-term abortion enabler in the U.S., a man I've already covered on this blog as anti-aborts were fighting to strip away his medical license because he happened to offend their overzealous self-righteous beliefs and values, was just shot dead on his way to the Sunday service outside a Wichita, Kansas church.

Authorities were called to the shooting at the Reformation Lutheran Church shortly after 10 a.m., where Tiller is a congregant, according to KAKE. Tiller was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after emergency crews arrived.

Tiller, who ran the Women's Health Care Services clinic, a high-profile abortion clinic in Wichita, was one of the few doctors in the country that still performed late-term abortions. Just this month, Tiller's clinic was vandalized, according to KAKE.

Dr. Tiller wasn't exactly appreciated by anti-aborts, and my did they like to show it. His clinic has been vandalized a number of times, and was even bombed once; another time, some deranged kook shot him in both arms. He certainly had experience in dealing with these wackjobs.

And now they've finally murdered him.

Well, congratulations, anti-abortionists. You've finally done it: you've assassinated the "head of the snake" in late-term abortion lingo, not only reaffirming your stance against abortion, but also confirming your reputation as being a murderous bunch of lunatic fucktards. Dr. Tiller is only the most prominent of all the other abortion-enabling doctors who've been murdered by your vile lot over the years. But, at least his murder will have prevented the deaths of innocent little babies, right?

Because apparently, dealing with your issues with violence and hatred is the only language you speak.

Continued ...»

New Song: 'The Epic Scenery'

'The Epic Scenery'
By Joé McKen

Remember to view in High Quality!

A nice soft theme depicting someone boating amongst the magnificent and hauntingly beautiful expanses of mountains, fjords and glaciers in Alaska (or anywhere that has such beauties).

The music is mine.
The images used for this video are not mine and I claim no ownership over them. I just found them via a few simple Google searches revolving around Alaskan landscapes and scenery.

Music composed & recorded with Sibelius 5.

Rate, comment and enjoy! =)

Continued ...»

How I spent my Saturday night

It has been several days now since my mother first let slip that my godfather, Gilbert, who acts as my "agent" of sorts regarding my music and other works and who is an administrator at a renown dance school, was organizing a sort of "very special surprise" for me, over a restaurant breakfast during one of our oh-so-rare mornings spent together. Of course this got me a little excited, as well as a little nervous – especially when she let slip a clue as to it having "something to do with my music". What the heck could Gilbert be planning for me?

Well, safe to say that tonight, I found out. It was definitely one of those events you don't hastily forget, and below is a summarized account in which I will try to keep as brief as I can while still leaving in the juicy details of one of the more unique experiences I've ever lived.

Well anyway, I grew in nervous anticipation until this afternoon at roughly 6:30 when my mother came by to pick me up. It turns out that whatever was to be happening, was to take place at a nearby gigantic college, Lionel-Groulx, which is mostly known for its auditorium/theater hall which is often used to house some of the larger shows around, from amateur dance recitals to professional stand-up comedy shows and everything in between. (Just two years ago I was there attending a comedy show from local insane legend Réal Béland.) You'd think that the clues of the "surprise" being "about my music" and taking place in a school known particularly well across the region for its Performing Arts division, particularly in dancing, would cue me on or something, but apparently, in my nervous-wreck state, it didn't.

And so, we finally met up with Gilbert, who obviously couldn't wait to finally unleash his big "surprise" on me and my mother (all she knew was that it was a surprise revolving my music, and some dancing; she didn't know any more than that, so I suppose my continually pestering her with questions about the nature of the "surprise" during the ride there – and afterwards – truly was rather pointless). It's only then I realized that the dance school Gilbert worked at was this colossus of an institution. Oh, my.

My godfather, who taught dancing at Lionel-Groulx, had prepared a surprise for me that was to be viewed in the auditorium, where dance recitals are routinely held, and which had something to do with my music. And no, ladies and gents, even this plethora of anvil-sized clues didn't hit me over the head hard enough to clue me in as to what was going on.

Upon entering the crowded auditorium (a jam-packed, thousand-strong audience, waiting for a show that had something to do with me and my music? My head started spinning at this point), I snatched one of those timetable pamphlets and rifled through the description of the evening's planned entertainment – and my involvement in it.

It turned out to be a long dance recital with 31 different parts (minus the overture and finale) with different crews dancing to different songs and such. I finally found where I came in all this: act #27, near the end of the show, was to be a duet of professional dancers dancing to one of my best songs, the 'Main Theme' from my The Path to War Soundtrack[1].

A professional duet of dancers, dancing to my song? ... I can't deny I was about as flabbergasted as I was touched.

More specifically: they were to dance as James and Liliane[2], using the "incredible emotion" in the song to incarnate the characters and symbolize their love through dancing to the song.

I'll let you guess my reactions to all this.

And so, the show began. Most of it was okay; some parts (namely the hip-hop routines) I enjoyed less than others (such as some beautiful and sensual romantic or lyrical dancing, and even one particularly hilarious act concerning a rather unruly crew of dancing nuns), and the talents seen ranged from the decidedly amateur (making you wonder if they were even trying) to the refreshingly skilled and talented.

Anyway; more than two hours and four-fifths of the show later, we finally arrived at act #27 – entitled "Pour Joé McKen, jeune compositeur" (ie. "For Joé McKen, young composer). The flute overture softly rang out through the speakers, and what happened next is simultaneously one of most entrancing, and annoying (especially in retrospect), moments I've ever experienced, lasting through the entire song from the flute intro, to the sweeping climax, to the soft and melancholic piano outro.

The applause the song and its accompanying dancing performance raised was nothing short of tumultuous. Much more enthusiastic than even the best of the previous acts; I say this without the slightest bias in my favor, as was also confirmed by my uncle (whose hand I held in a daze during the performance, and who was standing, applauding and yelling in cheering at "his" dancers) and my mother (who once again had been moved to tears by my works, with the help of the two incredibly talented dancers and their reportedly uncommonly soulful dancing).

Unfortunately, getting to what I previously called "unfair-in-retrospect" about the performance, I'll have to wait until sometime in mid-August for the dance recital DVD to be released for me to actually know just how good the dancers are, because to be honest, I saw absolutely none of it. This is one of those cases where the phrase "looking without seeing" can truly be applied with perfection. I was looking towards the stage and had a clear view, but I never saw the dancers or their undoubtedly stellar and resounding performance; I was so lost in the moment, finally hearing my crappy computer-generated music blared out through high-quality speakers in such a huge room with surround sound, loud enough for the floor to resonate somewhat yet clear enough to hear each and every note and tone, that I'd quite simply gotten lost in thought and couldn't see what was going on around me. I was listening to my song ...

I am, of course, seriously kicking myself right now though, especially considering all the praise the dancers got for their brilliant dance routine that had been crafted specifically for me and my song, on my night – and I didn't see a moment of it.

I find it hard to express my frustration. Though that may be because it's getting seriously late and I'm finding it hard to express just about anything with any sort of a varied vocabulary.

Anyway. Mom was getting dehydrated from all the crying, Gilbert was glowing, and I was lost in a reverie until the end of the show. When the dancers finally disappeared off-stage and the crowds finally departed until we were the last ones left on the auditorium floor, Gilbert took us backstage to meet with some of the show's organizers, and the two marvelous dancers who decided that my song was so beautiful, it just had to be danced to. I naturally couldn't admit that I hadn't even seen their performance (which was killing me even then), so I simply smiled, shook their hands and took a group picture with them and Gilbert. Not that my overwhelming shyness allowed me to do much else, anyway.

We also briefly spoke to the Performing Arts division director – you know, the one who greenlit the whole affair after hearing my song and seemingly "falling in love" with it – and while she didn't prove to be the talkative type, she did let slip something about it being "nowhere near over", which I assume she meant regarding my song, the show and the performance, and me. Which did leave us all wondering what she was referring to. So I may have even bigger developments awaiting me down the road?


Anyway, that's pretty much it for the show. We left and snatched a quick bite at Scores (excellent chicken strips), where we talked about the show the whole time; about how Mom was moved by the dancers for their idea to create an entire choreography to my song; about Gilbert being so proud of it all, and giving me a few tips and tricks regarding my music-writing – and about keeping my author's rights; and about how I really didn't know what to say, think or do for a while, so lost in surprise and so touched I was by it all. My godfather had spent over a year secretly working his ass off to pull together a dance routine to my song ... which really is alot more complicated and laborious than that simple sentence makes it sound like, I swear to you.

And then ... I returned home and started blogging again. While planning to write a bit more music before long, of course.

And that is the story of the most exciting night I've had in ... well, probably over two years, easily.

I don't get out much.

[1] The Path to War is a trilogy of novels I've been planning for almost 5 years now. So far I've only got about two-thirds of the first novel planned out – nothing's actually "written" yet. I actually had written a full draft of it a few years back, but started over when I realized it really did show that it had been written by a 14-year-old with no authoring experience.

The "Soundtrack" aspect is simply a "soundtrack" of sorts I'm composing to try and "frame" the novel musically, if that makes any sense to anyone other than me. Ie. if the story were made into a movie, then the score in the Soundtrack would be the score that played during the film. It's really just a hobby project of mine.

* * * * *
[2] James Hania is the main character and protagonist in my novels, a rebel-turned-warrior who devotes his life to fighting the evil Empire, simplistically put. Liliane Duruisseau is, at her simplest definition, his romantic interest.

Continued ...»

Seriously ... how do these kooks come up with these sorts of questions?

Creationists, as a general rule, have always had the amazing knack for attacking evolution and us nasty "darwinists" with some of the most lop-sided, nonsensical, or just plain weird questions ever heard. And now, as further evidence to demonstrate that there are indeed such a thing as "stupid questions", here's a creationist who asks, basically: why do animal mothers bother to protect their young instead of leaving them alone, or eating them?

You really just can't make this stuff up.

So moms are everywhere in nature. Females often go to great lengths to feed, save, and protect their young. Many construct homes and shelters...(all without knowing/understanding she's even pregnant) and do so with great care and attention to detail.

So I've got two questions about this:

1) What is the evolutionary advantage of mothers doing everything they can to feed/protect their young? And remember, mothers often give food to their young that they might otherwise eat. And going out into the world to look for food is often dangerous -- she could be killed looking for food. Wouldn't there be an advantage to her personally just to forget about the kid and go about her own business of eating and finding a mate? Why the unnecessary risk? Why go to the trouble of building a nest to protect the young? Wouldn't it be easier just to skip all that? I thought evolution was all about being why do so many animals put others' needs before themselves? What's the advantage to that?

2) Why wouldn't it be an evolutionary advantage for mothers to eat their young? I know it sometimes happens in nature.....but not as a general rule. As a general rule, mothers and fathers very rarely eat their young...even when they're hungry. But wouldn't an animal be more likely to breed if it didn't starve? Mothers should be consuming their offspring everywhere in nature -- afterall, it would advantageous getting that extra nourishment.

How do the evolutionists here get around this? Where does this "love" or devotion for child come from? Got a gene you can show me? What's the evolutionary advantage for all this? And remember -- evolution cannot plan ahead.


and now, two more bonus questions:

1) Evos say humans are more intelligent than chimps because of our big brains. Well if that is true, then why aren't Labrador retrievers twice as smart as chihuahuas?

2) Wouldn't it be "advantageous" for all animals to be intelligent like humans are? So why aren't they?

Oh, dear God. The mental gymnastics needed to warp your average mind into the dysfunctionality and insanity needed to ask these sorts of questions with a straight (or even smug) face ... This stuff is like torture à la Abu Ghraib to my poor brain. Creationists do seem to have a knack of answering their own stupid questions, don't they?

What's the evolutionary advantage to mothers taking care of their young and protecting them from harm instead of just spending their energy finding mates? I would guess it would be advantageous because, in that scenario, the young can actually ... you know ... survive. To grow. And mate. And so on.

Secondly, I can address his entire second point with my answer to this single quote:

But wouldn't an animal be more likely to breed if it didn't starve?

Um ... It would kinda defeat the point of breeding if the animal kept eating all its young. Like, you know.

The wacko then asks, "Where does this "love" or devotion for child come from?". Well, I – and anyone else who had more than two or three firing neurons in their brains – would say that's probably due to life's need of preservation. You know, like, if you help a baby live, it will grow up to make new babies. And such.

And because I feel like it, the two "bonus questions" (and thank God there aren't any more for my SIWOTI Syndrome to salivate over):

1) It apparently takes a fool like this guy – or perhaps just a creationist in general – to miscomprehend a simple joke about size. Or a simple joke, period.

Or anything else that's simple.

I digress.

And finally, 2) if it's advantageous for animals to be intelligent, why aren't they all as smart or smarter than humans? First, because we still have no exact idea what happened to accelerate human intelligence growth like it did. It's more than likely we're simply a freak accident, the result of random mixtures and coincidences that somehow added up into providing the perfect sort of framework to allow for an "extreme" intelligence over other creatures.

And second, why doesn't Nature "elevate" other animals' intelligences to meet our own? Because Nature isn't self-aware, quite simply. It doesn't "know" that humans are ultra-smart and rule over (most of) everything. Nature would have to think along the lines of "Hey, if humans are so smart, well I'll make other animals that smart, too! It's only fair", and seeing as Nature a) doesn't "think" and b) doesn't give the slightest shit about being "fair", it cannot happen that way.

(via Pharyngula)

Continued ...»

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Up Fails to Lift Animation Up and Out of the Sandbox

Perhaps more clichéd and predictable than a Wilhelm scream in an old B-movie, Pixar has ‘done it again’, and has produced a film that has triumphed amongst critics, strikingly, with an almost universe reception that almost never greets live action films of all genres. Sure, critics fall for certain films, but for every film that is hailed, there are individuals in which that film just didn’t resonate with them. But Pixar appears to be the only company who can consistently enlist the passionate applause of most critics and audiences. There is one little catch, however. Their films are under represented at one ‘important’ award show, the Oscars, in which the awards they receive are not congruent with the praise they receive. It is however, a minor speed bump. With plenty of box office offset by the devoted audiences’ expectation of quality and the miraculous, often magical, amount of praise they receive by critics (and thusly, opinions held in the contrary ignite flame wars by Pixar lovers who haven’t even seen the movie), it’s undeniable that Pixar’s presence is a force.

A force that will ‘corrupt’ American animation. Or at least, sanitize it to the point of hair-pulling padded, cookie cutter and conceptualized formula built to send hands in the air and for smiles to spread among the adults in the audiences like weeds in a field. Pixar’s films rarely diverge from nudging and cutesy ‘cornball’ humor; delving into the cleanliness and safety of old style charm. The films often feel like they were created by a graduate of Hollywood film appreciation 101; they often emote with rousing scores and pacing humor that reminds me of films from cherished screwball comedies of film history’s past. And of course, some of the emotion is real; it is the same that exists in most American families. The same emotion that can be seen being exploited in peanut butter commercials. The type of emotion that has become the staple in what audiences expect from any film that’s animated in this country. Animated equates to a heart-warming story with characters we love to quote, right? Which isn’t to say that this isn’t a valid aspect of expression in film. Yet, the lack of critical fore-thought regarding Pixar’s latest release, Up, is rather disheartening.

While the film is certainly something worth watching, and you can admire the heart within, the film is still weighted down by flaws even more apparent than in last year’s WALL·E, as the story archetypes and much of the filling elements come off as just there to progress the story, or perhaps, to have one. At least WALL·E had the incredibly detailed and superficially accessible imagery and the contrast of vast reality played to affectionate cuteness to engage audiences into thinking it was a sci-fi masterpiece.

Up, for me, seemed more promising, due to lack of an outright appealing environment as opposed to WALL·E, but toward the middle I found myself shaking my head at the forced villain-ary and the right on schedule story patters typical of the ‘cgi animated family genre’. The film again becomes a journey of emotional discovery, where annoying fun characters hop on along the way, and eventually help develop our protagonist. I don’t think I can adequately express how sad it is that animation is simply just a medium, yet our animation almost NEVER breaks these typical molds. Think of all the live action genres, and then contemplate what has been done in cgi. Yet, as Pixar continues to remain ‘cream of the crop’, with claims their films are ‘the best of the year’, why would Pixar do something different (like Coraline or Monster House) when they can be safe and praised? And in effect, why would any other animation studio want to do so?

I’m not exactly keen on the elements that make Pixar stand out, aside from their use of a medium that commonly is starved of artistic intent outside of the animation. Although I imagine their success hails from that their films are patterned and decorated with the element of fantasy fable, like an enjoyable story book for the whole family. That, with cgi still being relatively new, creates the feel of freshness and sincerity. The simplicity emotes like film’s first start, and any added thematic intricacies just add to the wide-eyed wonder.

Yet, I can’t say I’m too pleased that Pixar remains the constant force of Hollywood films. Although part of me respects Up, despite it's constructed emotion and some stilted sentiment, for at least lacking the flash of WALL·E, which is quickly becoming my least favorite Pixar film (and the most manipulative). At least within Up, there is a sense of genuine in portions that comes off less cynically aimed toward critical approval (glossing up the same trite childishness) and I didn’t feel like I was being belittled emotionally. And the story is more inventive, I think, in a whimsy sort of way. My favorite Pixar film remains Toy Story, and I do hope to see at least, more films by Pixar that use their sentiment to create more of a uniform balance between the cute and the style, since this is the distinction of directing at Pixar.

Continued ...»

Overall a good promise, but with some snivelling compromising

New Hampshire has a gay marriage bill in the works, and though Governor John Lynch is all for signing it, he specifically stated he would only do so if it was reworded in a way as to exempt any and all religious organizations from any obligations to have anything to do with gays, pretty much, from marrying them to endorsing them or servicing them in any way. While originally the revisions were fine, some of the extra added language to the bill isn't quite as agreeable – in fact, it's plain disruptive to the whole point.

The new version, which is expected to come up for a vote Wednesday, adds a sentence specifying that all religious organizations, associations or societies have exclusive control over their religious doctrines, policies, teachings and beliefs on marriage. It also clarifies that church-related organizations that serve charitable or educational purposes are exempt from having to provide insurance and other benefits to same sex spouses of employees.

The first part of that paragraph, I can't disagree with. Again, I have no problems with religious organizations or folks denying weddings or support to gays. They can be as intolerant and close-minded as they want to be, and I couldn't care less (though I won't stop from laughing at them, of course). It's when they extend this intolerance and heartlessness around them, such as to the government, that problems arise. After all, gays can wed without the Church, but hardly so without both the Church, and the government/legal system.

However, the second part of the paragraph leads a large amount to be desired. Basically, any group or organization that has ties to churches, are able to screw off the gay spouses of their employees without fear of being brought to justice. That, methinks, is definitely taking things too far. "Insurance and other benefits" are supposed to be required to be given to an employee and their spouse and/or family, not just to whomever they desire. That's cheating – and vile.

(via Pharyngula)

Continued ...»


'Cause PZ Myers simply can't have put it better than that, and nor can I. I'm not a fanatic of jellies in particular, but you can't deny they do look amazingly alien, especially in the right context. And when you add entrancing music with beautiful and subtle shots of them, like in the video below, the effect is simply ... hypnotic.

*Drools absent-mindedly*

(via Pharyngula)

Continued ...»

We're taking over! ... Barnes & Noble, for now

From the bookstore outlet in Chandler, Arizona, you need not look further than this aisle. What more needs to be said that the photo doesn't give away by itself?

Epic WIN.

Made even better in that I don't see a single New-Agey or Oprah-condoned bit of tripe anywhere near it. *Purrs*

(via Pharyngula)

Continued ...»

Okay, now they're just getting weird

Not that they haven't been for a long time (how can you not be "weird" to believe that the world is only 6,000 years old?), but now, some creationist over at Bibleland Studios has come up with arguably the strangest argument against evolution and pro-creationism that I've ever seen, seriously. What it basically boils down to: if you wipe your drool away, God exists.

Ok, I have an Evolution Challenge for you. Make your mouth produce a bunch of spit, let it dribble down your face and time how long it is before you simply have to wipe it off. Go ahead; try it! I promise you it won't be very long. It's extremely uncomfortable to have it sit there.

Think about the babies in your life. Have you ever thought about the fact that they stop drooling after the first couple years of life? Have you ever imagined what life would be like if we didn't stop? Some, sadly, know what this is like. Children with cerebral palsy that don't stop drooling or those that begin drooling due to loss of facial muscle control know the horrors of this. Have you had to endure watching people stare at your parent or child as they experience this humiliating social embarrassment? Have you tried to alleviate the irritating sores that develop from skin being constantly wet? Have you tried to keep them in presentable clothing when saliva keeps staining their clothes?

What evolutionary advantage is there to developing the oral neuromuscular control at age 18-24 months? What if drooling, the default condition at birth, was the way our lives always are? How would you like to date, make love, run a business meeting, ride horses, grocery shop and take care of kids while drooling? How cool would you feel driving your fancy car down the road with sunglasses and drool? How would your wedding go with everyone trying to be discrete with their designer drool cloths or bibs?

The human body is designed to give us dignity. These specific designs and abilities point to a Creator who cares about even whether we are embarrassed or not. There's no evolutionary advantage to not drooling. It's the gift of dignity.

So ... the fact that drool is uncomfortable, which leads to you wiping it off as a natural reflex (or simply not to look like a retard) ... disproves evolution and confirms that God created us and gave us the "gift of dignity"?

Nevermind, of course, that the boob even disproved his own meandering nonsense by first describing how drooling is uncomfortable, is viewed as inappropriate, can even develop annoying skin problems such as sores – not to mention that it would also facilitate dehydration, though to a lesser extent – and then follows up by asserting that none of that really matters anyway, as there's "no evolutionary advantage to not drooling"? Isn't it fun how creationists always seem to counter their own claims in such a delightful illustration of cognitive dissonance?

(via Pharyngula)

Continued ...»

Maybe he should learn to dodge bullet trains, too

Here's yet another case of cops eschewing their liabilities and covering their asses at the expense of an innocent. An officer in Clark County, Nevada, who apparently had a serious need to use a restroom, was driving at a staggering 109 miles an hour – with his lights and sirens off, effectively turning him into an invisible wheeled speeding torpedo. Sadly, someone was in the way, in the form of a pickup truck. The cop never had a chance, and died on impact. The pickup's driver, though rattled, lived – though he doesn't have much to cheer about still, considering HE's now the one those stupid cops are blaming for the entire incident.

In the moments before officer James Manor plowed into a pickup attempting a left turn, he was driving his patrol car 109 mph without flashing lights or siren, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said Wednesday.

The speed was the equivalent of traveling the length of a football field in about two seconds. It gave Manor little time to avoid hitting Calvin Darling's truck May 7. At the time of impact, after braking and trying to steer out of the way, Manor was still driving 90 mph.

Gillespie called Manor's speed in the 45-mph zone on Flamingo Road "excessive and unsafe," even if his lights and siren had been on. The facts of the accident probably will alter the charges Darling faces, the sheriff said.

While it's certainly expected that the "original charges" be put under investigation, it's worth noting just how desperate this police department is to lay the blame in the innocent Darling's lap instead of taking responsibility. Just luck at the charges:

Darling, 45, was arrested for driving under the influence and failing to yield to an emergency vehicle. Gillespie said he couldn't see Darling facing the latter charge because Manor's lights and siren were off.

Failing to yield to an emergency vehicle? Well, perhaps – if the fucking moron hadn't been driving his car like a damned rocket at almost 110 mph, WITH his lights and sirens deactivated! How the hell could anyone see that reckless fool coming, much less get out of the way in time?

And then, of course, saying that Darling was "driving under the influence" (DUI). That's a complete and utter lie, as a subsequent blood test taken a little over an hour after the crash showed Darling had less than half the legal blood alcohol level limits, at 0.035 (the limit in the area being 0.08). There's no way he would've been anywhere near that limit of 0.08 only one hour previously. Blood alcohol doesn't rise or lower that fast unless you pump it in or out through a needle or something.

And yet, the asshat sheriff is adamant in assuring that Calvin was indeed driving drunk and had neglected to concede the way to the speeding officer Manor. Figures.

And a final coup-de-grâce: officer Manor wasn't even wearing any seatbelt. Yes, that's some fine police example-setting right there.

I'm starting to wonder if this poor fool should be nominated for a Darwin Award.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

Continued ...»

Equality rights for gay diplomats

Once again showing off my relative ignorance to certain political stuff: I had no idea gay diplomats, representing the United States around the world, were denied certain legal rights and privileges that their heterosexual counterparts fully enjoyed. While normally I'd get fairly indignant from this, the news is actually good: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (still the next-best-thing to becoming President, I'd say) has announced that America will finally grant the same legal rights and benefits to legal representatives and their families, in the name of equality and fairness – yet also for efficiency and practicality.

In a notice to be sent soon to State Department employees, Clinton says regulations that denied same-sex couples and their families the same rights and privileges that straight diplomats enjoyed are "unfair and must end," as they harm U.S. diplomacy.

"Providing training, medical care and other benefits to domestic partners promote the cohesiveness, safety and effectiveness of our posts abroad," she says in the message, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

"It will also help the department attract and retain personnel in a competitive environment where domestic partner benefits and allowances are increasingly the norm for world-class employers," she says.

"At bottom, the department will provide these benefits for both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners because it is the right thing to do," Clinton says.

Among the benefits that will now be granted gay diplomats: the right of domestic partners to hold diplomatic passports, government-paid travel for their partners and families to and from foreign posts, and the use of U.S. medical facilities abroad.

In addition, gay diplomats' families will now be eligible for U.S. government emergency evacuations and training courses at the Foreign Service Institute, the message says.

These seemingly simple and basic rights were previously denied from the families of gay diplomats, usually in citing that stupid Defense of Marriage Law. By far Clinton's worst legacy, really. How depriving gay diplomats' families basic rights that would ensure efficiency and security has anything to do with gay marriage, is as of yet beyond me. (But then, never underestimate the irrationality of bigotry.)

These revisions aren't only the right thing to do on a basic moral level; they also have appreciable pragmatic results in allowing homosexual diplomats the same sorts of legal liberties and freedoms their straight counterparts already possess, allowing for a rather more equal playing field.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

Continued ...»

Lessons in hypocrisy

John Yoo, one of the heartless legal counsels who twisted and evaded the law so unhesitatingly to allow Bush & co. to submit Guantanamo Bay detainees to torture such as waterboarding, still doesn't get it as far as realizing what the hell he's saying goes.

Conservatives should defend the Supreme Court as a place where cases are decided by a faithful application of the Constitution, not personal politics, backgrounds, and feelings. Republican senators will have to conduct thorough questioning in the confirmation hearings to make sure that she will not be a results-oriented voter, voting her emotions and politics rather than the law.

Yes. The very man who assured the Bush administration that it would be fine & legal to torture detainees merely by pussyfooting around the law with weasel words and twisting definitions, now presumes to lecture us in saying we need to prevent acting in a "results-oriented" manner. You know, like he did.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

Continued ...»

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Canine: It's been a long day ...

A beautiful wolf hybrid yawning in the snow.

Original source: Wolf Park

Continued ...»

Intelligent Design is a renamed Creationism, says Thunderf00t

And of course he's absolutely right. Only, he chooses to establish this by exposing Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute as a liar and hypocrite, and it's a beautiful thing.

View Thunderf00t's YouTube channel here for the rest of his fantastic and brutally-accurate and honest videos debunking the bullcrap that is Creationism/Intelligent Design.

(via Pharyngula)

Continued ...»

Kissing the ass of the vile

Ellis Washington, one of the treasures at WorldNutDaily (so you know he's gotta be simply insane), unleashes some hefty material in just a few short sentences.

Why have virtually the entire conservative and liberal media so hardened their hearts and closed their bowels of compassion against this magnificent conservative intellectual, Michael Savage?

... "Bowels of compassion"? What the ...?

Err, nevermind. Poo jokes gone awry and all that. That certainly is some mighty fuzzy phrasing, even by conservative wackjob standards. But he does ask a question: why is everyone constantly ignoring or belittling Michael Savage? The answer is simply to anyone who doesn't spend their time with their tongue burrowed up Savage's ass: he's simply the epitome of vileness, racism, sexism, bigotry and overall disgusting amorality on the airwaves. It's not for nothing that he's one of only 16 esteemed individuals, alongside the likes of Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church, to be on the exclusive "Banned from Entering the U.K." government list of The Unwanted.

He whines on and on about how the "conservative and liberal media" (though focusing on the "conservative" aspect primarily) chooses to ignore Savage because of – well, read his perception of their reasons for yourself:

These conservative commentators realize that Savage is head and shoulders above them intellectually, philosophically and spiritually.

By which he's referring to the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, O'Reilly, and etc. Lemme tell you one thing: however vile, pathetic, stupid or ignorant these twits usually display themselves as being, they usually have some restraint or morality in there somewhere. Savage doesn't, and he's more vile than all of them put together. After all, Savage is the kind who, just as an example, believes Autism is a huge scam on the government and that autistic kids should be slapped around a bit to "snap them out of it". How lovely.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

Continued ...»

Mark Levin: intelligent and pleasant

Below is a transcript from Levin's show from last week, where he just casually conversed with a woman caller-in. We begin with this:

CALLER: I just wanna say, Obama is a lot smarter than you folks give him credit for. You guys were on a roll, I have to admit, with all those tea parties. Everything was rolling along, the Republicans were gaining momentum. And he managed to change your entire conversational focus. And you let those three hundred thousand people --

HOST: My God. He's so smart. His own party voted against him on Guantanamo Bay. How stupid was that, Cindy? His own party refused to fund the closing of Guantanamo Bay.

CALLER. Yeah but you know he can just move those people over here anyway. He's already doing it with the one guy.

Alright, a bit of anti-Obama bias with some mingled pretentiousness, but overall still fair game. But then he rapidly degenerates into the foamy-mouthed raving idiot we all know him to be:

HOST: Yeah, sure, he can do whatever he wants. Let me ask you a question. Why do you hate this country?

CALLER: No, I love this country.


You just said it. He can blow off Congress. He can do whatever he wants, right?

CALLER: Well, he seems to, he just moved (inaudible).

It's always so nice and fun when a radio commentator – or any public celebrity, really – gets their nerves picked, even if via totally trivial triggers, and let flow their true thoughts and beliefs and sentiments publicly, thus revealing their true natures. Not so nice and fun for the people who have to bear such vitriol, perhaps, such as that poor caller, but for the myriads of commentators such as bloggers like I who are thus fed ammunition to take these blowhards and pompous jerks down in searing flames like we do so well. (Or delude ourselves into believing that we do, at least.)

Not only is it fun to laugh at his vile nature, but we can also prod his overwhelming hypocrisy as well. You see, Levin is the kind who rabidly condoned and supported the Bush administration's policies regarding locking up "enemy combatants", many of which were never even formally confirmed as being terrorists or enemy soldiers, and throwing them in Guantanamo Bay forever and ever, throwing away the key and forgetting all about them, even neglecting to ever charge them for their supposed "crimes" that (supposedly) led to them being locked up in the first place. He was always a full supporter of the President's power and authority when it came to the President acting upon what Levin himself wanted to see happen, denying the Gitmo detainees even the more basic of humane rights under the Bush administration's watch.

And yet, now that a new President has stepped in and is refuting all those cherished Bush policies and practices, suddenly his Presidential powers and authority aren't valid or good enough for Levin, who flies into self-righteous indignation and sputtering rage at the mere idea of the man in power actually giving human beings, humane treatment and rights. According to Levin: "only support the Presidents who agree with your views". It truly takes a hefty case of cognitive dissonance to warp your mind into that sort of hypocrisy. But then, that's the sort of stuff conservative wingnut commentators like Levin are quite used to doing, I believe.

But that's not even all of it. He has one last thing to say to the caller, and it's by far the most revealing of all – concerning Levin himself, at least.

HOST: Answer me this, are you a married woman? Yes or no?


HOST: Well I don't know why your husband doesn't put a gun to his temple. Get the hell out of here.

Fucking degenerate. What sort of man fit to be a political commentator says such things on the air to a married woman? I know I'm always going on about the stupidity and self-righteous ignorance of conservatives, but most conservatives do hold such things as familial values and courtesy towards women close to heart. Levin finally flings his covers right off and shows himself for what he really is: a disgusting scoundrel with less intelligence and respect than your average scorpion.

I do have an answer for that caller, though, to his searing question, "WHY DO YOU HATE MY COUNTRY!". Perhaps she should've answered, "I don't, but if I did, it would be because it contains people like you".

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

Continued ...»

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New member on the marriage equality legal team: Ted Olson!

That's right. In one of the more delightfully-surprising double-takes we've seen, the former Bush Administration Solicitor General has just joined the legal team fighting in federal courts to overturn all gay-marriage bans and instill marriage equality for homosexuals.

Former Bush administration solicitor general Theodore Olson is part of a team that has filed suit in federal court in California seeking to overturn Proposition 8 and re-establish the right of same-sex couples to marry.

The suit argues that the state's marriage ban, upheld Tuesday by the California Supreme Court, violates the federal constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. The complaint was filed Friday, and Olson and co-counsel David Boies -- who argued against Olson in the Bush v. Gore case -- will hold a news conference in Los Angeles Wednesday to explain the case. The conference will feature the two same-sex couples on whose behalf Olson filed suit.

The suit also asks the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to issue an injunction that would stop enforcement of Proposition 8 and allow same-sex couples to marry while the case is being decided.

While this definitely does sound like excellent news – always fun to have another high-ranking official on the side of reason and compassion – some will undoubtedly argue this is just a lawyer defending his client. Lawyers aren't generally known to be scrupulous and to stick to what they personally believe in in order to do their jobs in court, after all, routinely persecuting the innocent or defending the devils. So, here's what Olson has to say about it all. It's definitely gotten me convinced.

I asked Olson about the objections of conservatives who will argue that he is asking a court to overturn the legitimately-expressed will of the people of California. "It is our position in this case that Proposition 8, as upheld by the California Supreme Court, denies federal constitutional rights under the equal protection and due process clauses of the constitution," Olson said. "The constitution protects individuals' basic rights that cannot be taken away by a vote. If the people of California had voted to ban interracial marriage, it would have been the responsibility of the courts to say that they cannot do that under the constitution. We believe that denying individuals in this category the right to lasting, loving relationships through marriage is a denial to them, on an impermissible basis, of the rights that the rest of us enjoy…I also personally believe that it is wrong for us to continue to deny rights to individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation."

*Raises glass in honor*

He was a little broad in saying that it's wrong to deny anyone marriage rights based on their sexual orientations, but I think he meant it strictly for genders (male-male, male-female, female-female), rather than sexualities (-philias). Which, of course, is nothing any rational person can honestly dispute.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

Continued ...»

We all just like Obama 'cuz he's Black

Which is exactly what Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, known for saying profoundly idiotic things, is saying about Obama's media coverage.

The problem that we have with this president is that we don't know him," he said. "He was not vetted, folks. ... He was not vetted, because the press fell in love with the black man running for the office. 'Oh gee, wouldn't it be neat to do that? Gee, wouldn't it make all of our liberal guilt just go away? We can continue to ride around in our limousines and feel so lucky to live in an America with a black president.' Okay that's wonderful, great scenario, nice backdrop. But what does he stand for? What does he believe? ... So we don't know. We just don't know.

So basically, what the even-more-Black-than-Obama Steele is saying, is that we've elected Obama based on hype that was generated thanks to reverse racism ... or something.

Owch. Poor brain.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

Continued ...»

Daniel Hauser finally back on chemotherapy

The brainwashed chemotherapy ex-refusenik's battle against science-based treatment and judge rulings is finally over: the 13-year-old boy is officially undertaking chemotherapy once again. It gets better (hopefully): it's been declared that he and his mother (and father) will no longer obstruct his healthcare and will finally stop using religion as a pretext to avoid chemotherapy in favor of unfounded woo.

After Daniel and his mother returned to Minnesota this week, both his parents told a judge they will let Daniel undergo chemotherapy because they now understand it is necessary to save his life. They said they were setting aside their religious objection to it, and the judge allowed them to keep custody of Daniel.

This is, of course, the best possible outcome we could've ever hoped for. They've finally dropped their stupid (and lethal) pretexts and Daniel is finally under the proper treatment he deserves in order to live. He still has a roughly 90% survival rate by now (though maybe a little lower after all this fooling around evading the law and running away like cowards), and I'm feeling highly optimistic as to his eventual complete recovery.

Let's just hope he doesn't attribute his more-than-likely survival from cancer to the short bouts of shitty woo he did undergo before this actual treatment. After all, they're already placing forth a fundraiser for CAM ... which indicates that perhaps they haven't learned their damned lesson after all.

(via Respectful Insolence)

Continued ...»

One of the stranger medications I've heard of in a long time ...

Tim Browne isn't the luckiest of folks: the poor bastard's been landed with terminal colon cancer, which effectively tends to put a bit of a damper on things. However, he'd determined to get on with it and be as healthy as he can be despite the ticking time-bomb in his gut – but not via conventional treatment. He's not outright refusing chemotherapy, which he has indeed been undergoing; he's just decided to use something additional ... in the form of his daughter's own breast milk.

Queasy eyes, avert.

When Tim Browne sits down to a bowl of corn flakes in the morning, he slurps up one unusual, and controversial, extra ingredient: his own daughter's breast milk.

He doesn't do it for the taste -- Browne initally said his daughter Georgia's breast millk tasted "not unpleasant, but slightly pungent" -- but for his health.

Nearly two years ago, the retired teacher and musician from Wiltshire, England, was diagnosed with colon cancer. He went into surgery a week before his daughter's wedding, but a month later, doctors told him the cancer had spread to his liver and lymph nodes and was terminal.

The realms of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) holds a vast array of unorthodox, odd, and downright disturbing treatments, but this, I think, is a unique category in itself. I've definitely never heard anything like it before.

However, turns out the daughter had heard of it previously – which was exactly what gave her the idea to suggest it in the first place.

Surgery was ruled out this time, so Browne began a course of chemotherapy. Desperate to help, his daughter Georgia came up with the idea while watching a show about breast milk.

[It was] a man in America. It was prostate cancer this man had and he'd been drinking breast milk every day," she said. "Anyway, this guy really swore by the breast milk and said that it had reduced his tumors."

Georgia was nursing her 8-month-old son Monty and offered to set aside a few ounces of milk every day for Browne. Browne started calling Monty his "milk brother."

"If I have a lactating daughter, why not take advantage of her? As long as Monty didn't mind," Browne said.

"Milk brothers"? ... Well, whatever type of fraternity suits you, I guess.

There are of course many benefits to breast milk (despite perhaps its taste – not that I would know ...), which is one of fairly few bodily substances we aren't yet able to artificially replicate in a lab. If it can keep a newborn alive for weeks before actual food is needed, it obviously can't do harm to consume it, and it has been shown to have health-boosting effects, but really ... I don't think I'd be drinking the breast milk from any of my hypothetical daughters any time soon. Or any other ladies, really.

However, breast milk may have substantive health benefits, but those unfortunately do not include treating or curing cancer. And yet still, Browne's cancer has been seen to be varying in size – yet that's typical of colo-rectal forms of cancer, and doesn't indicate any type of remission or being influenced by treatment.

As it turns out, my hunch is/was correct when I first thought that this was more-than-likely simply the product of "mind over matter":

ABC News medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard said that even though breast milk is known to have benefits and it's make up can't be reproduced, "there's no research to say those same proteins in human breast milk will benefit this man."

Savard said the placebo effect in this case, though, is very real.

Exactly. It's a long-known and convoluted sort of truth that treatments don't actually need to work, to work, at times: the mind controls the body very effectively, being able to both spawn and eliminate a very wide range of illnesses and problems (though I wonder if curing cancer is among its repertoire of abilities). Browne simply believes very firmly in the efficiency of this weird treatment, so in that little way, it does reduce the cancer's impact ... though don't expect his terminal cancer to disappear entirely. That's not gonna happen.

(via Respectful Insolence)

Continued ...»

Best ... video ... EVAR

I knew roaming random forums wasn't a total waste of time. For example, it allows me to come across videos like this one. You know, the kind that YouTube was arguably made for.

These guys win teh Internetz.

Continued ...»

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Excluding both religion and non-religion from South Carolina school classrooms

A new bill has been proposed for the southern end of Carolina, and it's ... well, odd. It seems to be a mixture of good ideas and warped illogic. Full text below.


Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. Article 1, Chapter 29 of Title 59 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

"Section 59-29-15. (A) The General Assembly finds:

(1) that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution makes wholly applicable to the states the First Amendment's mandate that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of or prohibiting the free expression of religion;

(2) that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all;

(3) a proper respect for the First Amendment compels the State to pursue a course of neutrality toward religion, favoring neither one religion over other religions, nor religion over non-religion or the inverse;

(4) that atheism is a school of thought that takes a position on religion and the existence and importance of a Supreme Being;

(5) that the United State Supreme Court recognizes atheism as equivalent to a religion for the purposes of the First Amendment; and

(6) that teaching atheism or any of its principals, including, but not limited to, the denial of the existence of a Supreme Being, as a philosophical system of beliefs or in a manner that affirmatively opposes or shows hostility to religion, thus exhibiting a preference for those who believe in no religion over those who hold religious beliefs, violates the First Amendment.

(B) The State Board of Education shall examine all curriculum in use in this State that purports to teach students about the origins of mankind to determine whether the curriculum maintains neutrality toward religion, favoring neither one religion over other religions, nor religion over non-religion, including atheism. Related to non-religion, the examination must include a review as to whether the curriculum contains a sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus preferring those who believe in no religion over those who hold religious beliefs. The duty to review curriculum imposed by this section is continuing and must reoccur periodically after the initial review in order to assure compliance with this section.

(C) If the board's examination determines that any curriculum fails to maintain the neutrality required by subsection (B), the offending curriculum must be revised or replaced as soon as practicable, but no later than the beginning of the next academic year.

(D) This section does not prevent classes being taught pursuant to Section 59-29-230."

Seeing as reading this sort of droning legal mumbo-jumbo is probably giving you all nosebleeds by now, it basically simplifies into the following points:

• That the government will neither promote nor denigrate religion, nor will it advise religion over non-religion (such as atheism);

• That atheism, being a school of thought, is therefore basically a religion, and is considered as such in light of the First Amendment;

• That school curriculum shall be reviewed, and that no instances where either religion or non-religion are promoted are to be allowed in classrooms; and

• That Christian Bible classes are to be exempt from governmental intervention as they're courses specifically for learning about the Christian Bible.

The basis of the bill, which is that the government is to remain neutral on religion (and non-religion) and that neither shall be enforced in school classrooms, is of course perfectly acceptable – it's exactly what we're hoping for. The bill does however get muddied-up a bit, particularly when it describes atheism (aka. the specific rejection of deities and corresponding religions) as a religion itself. Is it so hard to understand that religions aren't just sets of beliefs; that they require doctrine, someone to guide and act as a spiritual leader, and one or more deities to worship? Atheism is explicitly the rejection of all that hoowah. It's simply a belief that there is no God(s). There are no atheist temples or churches, no rituals or prayers or sermons, nothing to worship and no-one to bow down to. Categorizing it as a religion simply because it is a school of thought on the (in)existence of God is just ignorant.

Overall, I do agree with this bill. It doesn't try to introduce religion or creationism in public classrooms (not that I can tell at least, in my limited capacity of not being a legal expert or analyst), and actually expressedly forbids the government from taking part in either pushing religion or removing it, which can only be good.

Biggest surprise yet: it's a bill being introduced by a Republican insurance agent. A Republican who isn't trying to screw up education by flooding kids' minds with piousness and dogma and superstitious silliness ... Now that's something you don't see every day.

(via Pharyngula)

Continued ...»

Monday, May 25, 2009

Daniel Hauser back in Minnesota

The 13-year-old chemotherapy refusenik who prefers to waste his body on "herbs and vitamins" to treat his lethal Hodgkin's lymphoma rather than take actual treatment that would save his life, all under the pretext of "Freedom of Religion", and who was ordered by a court judge recently to undergo science-based medical therapy that would more-than-likely save his life – which caused him and his mother to flee to avoid the chemo – has finally been located, having returned to Minnesota.

A sheriff's office in Minnesota says a 13-year-old cancer patient and his mother who fled the state to avoid chemotherapy have returned.

The Brown County sheriff's office did not provide any details Monday but said a news conference would be held at the county seat of New Ulm.

We'll see what happens next. Details are still scarce, but at least now there's a chance the stubborn little refusenik will actually ... you know ... live. Assuming the doctors strap the brat down and force him through the treatment he so desperately needs.

It won't be easy, or pleasant, for anyone. Daniel will be in pain, he'll be nauseous, he'll be sick and weak, he'll look like death warmed over, and he'll be thoroughly miserable and angry for a long time, most likely.

You know why he'll be in such a pitiful state?

Because he'll be alive to be so. And he'll be long enough to recover and get over it, too. Who knows – he might just laugh at his childhood stupidity and stubbornness one day.

Continued ...»

Someone at the Irish Catholic Church actually has a conscience

... And it's the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, as he comes forth and writes the very things that any good members of the Church should have said concerning the developing scandal involving the beatings and rapes of young children at the hands of wretched priests in religious reform schools and workhouses. Better late than never, I guess.

WHERE DOES the church go from here? The church has failed people. The church has failed children. There is no denying that. This can only be regretted and it must be regretted. Yet “sorry” can be an easy word to say. When it has to be said so often, then “sorry” is no longer enough.

But “sorry” must always be the first word.

See? All it took was for someone to step forth and show a little humility, a little remorse and shame for what happened. For someone to recognize that, yes, the Church has failed at the very thing it was supposed to be a vanguard for: protecting the moral decency of the world. But then again, this is only one example out of so many others that have yet to see the light ...

He does exactly the opposite of what Jackass Donahue did when he wrote his disgustingly ass-covering response to the scandal: he hammers home the importance of these crimes instead of trying to swipe them under the rug and blame the poor victims of decades of abuse and molestation as "miscreants".

The first thing the church has to do is to move out of any mode of denial. That was the position for far too long and it is still there.

Yes, there was abuse in other quarters. Yes, childcare policy in Ireland at the time was totally inadequate. But the church presented itself as different to others and as better than others and as more moral than others. Its record should have shown that and it did not. Ryan reveals church institutions where children were placed in the care of people with practically no morals.

I certainly don't say this often, but I do have to agree with just about everything Archbishop Martin writes. Well, almost. Of course I don't believe that the Catholic Church – or any Church, or any religion, even – are truly the guiding light of human morality on Earth; millenia of corruption, warring, bloodshed, massacres and acts of vile inhumanity and depravity have forever shattered that illusion in me, and countless others. Nowadays, really, the very least the Church can do to try and salvage what little credibility it has left is to recognize when it has failed – such as with the Irish Catholic Church.

(via Pharyngula)

Continued ...»

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another fine example of religious tolerance, acceptance and love

I've always been interested by so-called newspaper "agony aunts", those newspaper columnists who give personal advice to ailing souls who write in seeking guidance with whatever problems afflict their lives. It's not often-pathetically trivial problems that interest me; it's rather, why people bother to write in to newspaper columnists as though seeking professional advice from actual guidance counselors as though they were in any position to truly help you without knowing anything about you. I just read these columns for the occasional dry chuckle.

Well, anyway. One of these agony aunts is Margo Howard at, and she's just replied to some decidedly ... interesting bit of mail from religious lunatics regarding their poor daughter. And by "interesting", I mean downright disturbing. Once again reinforcing my ever-so-prevalent belief that no child should be brought up in a family dominated by religion ...

Dear Margo: Our daughter started college a year ago, and we’ve noticed during her visits home that she’s not the sweet, innocent girl we sent away for higher learning. We raised her with strong Christian beliefs, but lately she’s saying that she’s joined an atheist club on campus and is questioning everything we taught her. Now my husband refuses to let her in the house and is threatening to turn her in to the FBI. I’ve tried to cure our daughter and reconcile with her, but nothing seems to work. I’ve prayed over her at night while she sleeps, enlisted friends in a phone prayer tree and even spoken to my priest about the possibility of an exorcism. I’m at my wits’ end. How can I recover my daughter and keep her from hell? — God-fearing

Holy shit.

It's hard to decide where to begin here. So they've sent their pristine religiously-indoctrinated daughter off to college, which of course is where new ideas are formed and students are encouraged to question everything until they come up with their own worldview, and contrary to what they were evidently hoping, she seems to be slipping away from their faith, joining atheist clubs and questioning what she'd been told. Which, y'know, is good and all if it helps her mold her own opinions and beliefs.

So her parents respond by ... locking her out of the house? Trying to "cure" her of the atheistic disease, considering exorcism, and even threatening to throw her into the clutches of the FBI!? (What, do they think the FBI has a Religious Disbelief Task Force or something?)

Truly, the only way people ever make good parents is by encouraging their children to expand their minds – regardless of which direction said expansion takes. I may be a complete atheist, but if my hypothetical kid(s) decided to lean towards religion or any faith of their choosing, I would be disappointed, perhaps, but I would certainly accept that it's their friggin' choice and that I just don't have a say in it – and that I ESPECIALLY don't have a right to try and prevent them from believing what they choose to believe in.

Thankfully, Margo's reply to them, while diplomatic and restrained due to rules and guidelines of the website, is cutting and realistic.

Dear God: Whoa, dear. While I am sympathetic to anyone’s devotion to their religion, you need to realize that your daughter is a sentient being with the right to reject your religious views if she so chooses. Your husband is pathetically misguided if he thinks he can call the FBI to report the "crime" of your daughter joining an atheists club. Ditto for the exorcism. This young woman is not possessed, demonic or doing weird things; she is merely thinking and questioning the religion she grew up with. I would encourage you to understand that all people, your daughter included, have the right to think for themselves, particularly about something as meaningful as religion. As for hell, well, she appears willing to take her chances. — Margo, contemplatively

Well (and politely) said. Too bad she presumably isn't allowed to mention just how batshit insane these religious kooks that pass for parents are. For Christ's sake; threatening to throw your daughter to the freakin' FBI for being an atheist?

Note: actually, the more I read this letter and the reaction revolving around it, the more I'm actually beginning to doubt its honesty. I mean, seriously; turning her in to the FBI? I've seen some insane amounts of crazy even during my relatively short romp around the atheism-vs.-religion corner of the Net, and even then this still seems too unbelievable to be ... well, believable. I'm starting to wonder if I should just call "poe" on this one.

(via Pharyngula)

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Few little changes, take 800

I've once again changed and tweaked a few little things here and there. I've changed the format of the Blog Archives for better convenience; I've added a "Websites of Note" section in the right-hand sidebar for a rundown of the websites I personally cherish and visit quite often, ranging from Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw's insane videogame reviews to a complete database of Frasier transcripts; I've finally linked to me and Melissa's separate user profiles, at IMDb and YouTube (for her AMV-making channel – check it out, they're excellent).

And now it's 5:13 AM. (But don't tell Melissa. She'd murder me. Gruesomely, too.)

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

How to make money from the credulous and the religious

Joshua Ritter is a clever fellow. While he may not be religious himself, he nonetheless set up The Post-Rapture Post, the object of which was to satirize the eventual End of Days because ... well, it's admittedly silly. The goal of the site was to have others sign up to his service and pay him to send letters on behalf of anyone who got zapped into Heaven to their evil, still-on-Earth relatives because they were godless or had sex with squirrels.

You've gotta admit, he does have a great way of putting the word out there:

Do you know someone who is in danger of being "left behind" because of a sinful life? Imagine if you could write a letter to a friend or loved one after the Great Day of Reckoning. Maybe a message to your family telling them to trust in God, and that everything will be okay. Perhaps you would leave instructions to care for your pets after your departure. It could be that your message is the light that opens a sinner's eyes to the Glory of God and allows them entrance to Heaven during the trials before the Second Coming. This is where the Post-Rapture Post comes in.

Just write your letter and it will be hand-delivered immediately following the exodus of the pure from the Earth. But you must be thinking to yourself, "How can the letters be delivered after the Rapture?" The answer is simple. The creators of this site are Atheists. That's right, we don't believe in God. How else would we be able to deliver your correspondence after the Rapture?

That certainly does prove they'll be around after the Rapture, at least – either for being atheists, or for publicly denying God. But, would they actually deliver the letters should the worst happen?

Why Should We Trust You to Deliver Our Messages?
Although we are not religious, we believe that a man's word is his bond. We consider ourselves to have an obligation to each and every customer, to deliver their mail in a timely and respectful manner. During the Great Tribulation, during which sinners left on Earth will have one last chance to accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior, our very souls will depend on our following through with the deliveries. Surely God would not accept a betrayer into his Home.

Now that's reliability of service.

The thing, though – which Ritter may or may not have originally expected to happen – is that credulous tools actually started signing up for real and paying actual money.

At least some people think so -- those willing to pay Witter to be their post-apocalyptic postman, delivering cards and letters to their non-believing friends, relatives and neighbors who will be left behind when the Day of Reckoning arrives.

About 70 people have paid the Orlando man about $5 apiece to get their messages to those doomed to face the plagues, pestilence and darkness of Armageddon.

But – why is Ritter doing this, anyway? You can't fault his honesty, at least.

You may be wondering why I created a website offering services based upon an event that I believe will never happen. The answer is that, while I don't personally believe, I feel that others may need my services in the event that the impossible happens. Also I need money to support my sinful lifestyle.

Well, as they say – if laughing at them isn't enough, milk 'em for their money's worth.

(Oh, wait – that's what I say.)

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

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Republicans are like scary music: they screw up Democrats

They do according to this hilarious Rachel Maddow clip concerning the sudden deficit in support towards Obama's plan to close down Guantanamo Bay once and for all.

Good thing I'm immune to OFII, though – this is one liberal those pathetic and dishonest Republican anti-Gitmo-closing ads won't influence. Perhaps because of my inherent disdain towards Republicans, I suppose.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

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Friday, May 22, 2009

The Hype that Broke Darwinius' Back

I've been following this story as it's been developing – considerably quickly – over the last couple of days, with a troubled heart. You may very (very) likely have heard of the recent discovery of the 47 million-year-old ancient primate named Darwinius Masillae (nicknamed "Ida"). It certainly is a spectacular and exciting find that does provide us with a wealth of new information about the very (very) distant roots of primates (including what would eventually segment into humanity), yet I didn't comment on it because frankly, I'm not exactly an expert in the field here. o_o

However, there's a large problem: the find has since been in the center of an ever-growing media frenzy, and the hype is unbelievable. It's being reported as "THE missing link", as "groundbreaking", that it answers all Darwin's questions regarding fossils, and overall that it's "a revolutionary scientific find that will change everything". However I may be pleased that an exciting paleontological find finally gets the recognition it deserves, it really isn't THAT big of a deal. Yes, it's a thrilling discovery, but fact is, it doesn't really stand out from all the other treasures and surprises regularly discovered all over the world, nearly every single day. I do have to wonder what is it about Darwinius that's attracted so much fame in such a short amount of time. She's a beautiful fossil, certainly ... but it's not like others don't have their charm, either.

While it's always fun to watch Creationists as they totally freak out at a new scientific discovery that further blasts apart the tenuous grasp on their beloved myth of how Gawd created the Heavens and the Earth, the issue here is that all this hype is undoubtedly going to damage Darwinius as well. This amount of overhype can simply not be good. Not only does it tell Creationists that there indeed never was any "proof" for evolution until now, which is certainly not gonna help matters in defeating the notion of Creationism altogether, but it cheapens the previous and following fossil discoveries, which are easily just as exciting, revealing and interesting as Darwinius is. And that's a damn shame.

For example: below is a History Channel ad for a "Global Event" on May 25th. Which, as the video cryptically allures to, is to be named ... Darwinius Day.

Jesus Christ.

Dear God. "The most important find in 47 million years"? "This changes everything"? You've got to be kidding me. It's just one fossil. Yes, Darwinius answers several questions that had been bugging scientists for a while, but it certainly is no groundbreaking, revolution-type discovery the likes of which it's being presented as.

Even better: the following is the actual trailer for the show.

Whoa ... Talk about blowing something out of proportion with a nuclear bomb.

PZ Myers also covers an interview with Jørn Hurum, the scientist who single-handedly has spawned all this incredible and harmful hype. Basically: he just wanted his moment in the limelight. A fair desire, I think, but problem is he conducted it all in a way that turned the whole thing into a media circus without any dignity or respect left for the find itself.

Overall, the lesson to be learned from this, assuming this hype will end soon (and hopefully it will), is that Darwinius Masillae is indeed a fantastic find. It is highly useful in the realms of developmental biology and the likes. It's just not the godsend, the miracle answer-all that it's being proclaimed as, and the man behind it all, Dr. Hurum, has driven the whole thing into an unabated media circus. The sloppy reporting surrounding the whole affair is shameful, to say the least, when reporters are more interested seeing their names on the front page rather than getting the facts straight – and viewed from an objective viewpoint.

But hopefully, one good thing can be drawn out from this debacle – this amount of press and publicity for Darwinian evolution, while not good in all its ways, can only further deteriorate Creationism and Creationists' reputation in the eyes of the general public, drawing us that much closer to a world lead by logic and knowledge rather than by silly superstitions and dogmatic beliefs systems.

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Don't Ask, Don't Tell ain't repealed yet

The Pentagon assures that while the ban on gays in the militry will eventually be repealed as per President Obama's orders, they're gonna wait for now. Why? They aren't telling. Not honestly, at least. (Because we already know why, anyway.)

A senior military official says that while President Barack Obama has been clear that he wants to repeal the ban, there is no specific timeline to do it. The official says that leaves room that the military wants to use to make sure the eventual change goes well.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the Pentagon has not begun formal planning for the repeal. The official says there is a concern the repeal could set off a polarizing debate. And that, the official says, runs the risk of placing an overstretched fighting force in the middle of a divisive policy fight.

Oh, blah, blah, blah. Shut up with the lame excuses already and just repeal the damn rule. Sniveling bigots.

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Aaand it's more anti-hate-crime-bill stupidity

This steamin' bowl o' wackaloonery comes from Judith Reisman, the crank known solely for her inane criticism of the dominant sexual expert Alfred Kinsey and whom the WorldNutDaily likes to refer to as a "renowned expert" rather than "complete lunatic". This time, the WND quotes the loon in detailing how the notorious hate-crimes bill would lead to men merrily marrying and sleeping with a group of little girls, and any protesting religious folks would be thrown in jail. At least, that's one possible interpretation of it.

A renowned expert on the life and work of sex scientist Alfred Kinsey, widely considered the "father of the sexual revolution," says the "hate crimes" bill pending in Congress would be just another step in the conversion of the United States into a nation without sexual limits, where polygamy, incest and worse are common practice.

Judith Reisman says it would be a nation in which those who hold religious views that do not approve of homosexual behavior and the myriad other sexual lifestyles would be censored and arrested.

........... Ow. My brain.

I can't even begin to imagine what sort of hilariously screwed-up logic she used to arrive at this conclusion, simply from a bill that would make it illegal to physically attack a person solely based on their status as a minority.

But then, she's the loon who came up with the idea of "erototoxins", an imaginary chemical released during the viewing of porn that rots the brain.

(*Resists urge to crack about a potential obsession with porn on Reisman's part, as that would explain alot.*)

But of course, it wouldn't be WND without a nice helping of lying to go along with teh stoopid:

Essentially the plan would apply additional federal criminal penalties on people who either attack those in the specially protected sexual classes, say something that offends them or are accused of saying something that offends.

Totally fucking false. There is a colossal difference between Hate Crimes, which the bill concerns, and Hate Speech, which is what is allured to above. A hate-crimes bill does not touch the subject of hate speech. This bill is only targeted towards the intolerant assholes who decide to knock on someone only because they happen to be gay, or black, or whatever. They can certainly scream their bigoted hatred as high and mighty as they like, and no-one's gonna stop them.

Legally, at least.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

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