Mock the Movie: Only Mostly Dead Edition

A while back, we mocked the 2000 Dungeons & Dragons movie. Literally the only things memorable about the movie were Jeremy Irons’ teethmarks all over the set and the ease with which the superhuman henchfreak was finally dispatched in the end. This means, of course, that we have to watch the sequel, Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God if for no other reason than to find out how Damodar survived.

If? Heh. Who am I kidding. There is no other reason.

This one is available on YouTube. [Read more…]

Empty Rhetoric

It’s been surreal watching people excuse the words of Republican presidential candidates–most prominently but nothing like exclusively Donald Trump–as empty rhetoric we don’t really have to worry about. I wrote this on Facebook yesterday, in the aftermath of the murders at Planned Parenthood. Someone asked for it to be sharable as a blog post as well.

Once upon a time, a politician telling you he (mostly “he” then) was pro-life meant that you knew who contributed to his campaign. He wasn’t going to actually do much of anything about it. He could get elected talking about it, but action risked re-election in most places. Besides, the courts weren’t terribly friendly to the idea. He could point to them if his constituents wanted to know why he wasn’t getting anywhere.

As a country, we got comfortable electing these people. It didn’t do any harm, you see. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Aye, and Gomorrah . . .

Hmm. Looking around, I see I’ve never posted a Samuel Delany story here. That’s quite the oversight. Thanks to Strange Horizons for the prompt.

At which point Kelly noticed what was going on around us, got an ashcan cover, and ran into the pissoir, banging the walls. Five guys scooted out; even a big pissoir only holds four.

A very blond man put his hand on my arm and smiled, “Don’t you think, Spacer, that you . . . people should leave?”

I looked at his hand on my blue uniform. “Est-ce que tu es un frelk?

His eyebrows rose, then he shook his head. “Une frelk,” he corrected. “No. I am not. Sadly for me. You look as though you may once have been a man. But now . . .” He smiled. “You have nothing for me now. The police.” He nodded across the street where I noticed the gendarmerie for the first time. “They don’t bother us. You are strangers, though. . . .”

But Muse was already yelling, “Hey, come on! Let’s get out of here, huh?” And left.

And went up again.

And came down in Houston:

“Goddamn!” Muse said. “Gemini Flight Control—you mean this is where it all started? Let’s get out of here, please!

So took a bus out through Pasadena, then the monoline to Galveston, and were going to take it down the Gulf, but Lou found a couple with a pickup truck—

“Glad to give you a ride, Spacers. You people up there on them planets and things, doing all that good work for the government.”

—who were going south, them and the baby, so we rode in the back for two hundred and fifty miles of sun and wind.

“You think they’re frelks?” Lou asked, elbowing me. “I bet they’re frelks. They’re just waiting for us give ’em the come-on.”

“Cut it out. They’re a nice, stupid pair of country kids.”

“That don’t mean they ain’t frelks!”

“You don’t trust anybody, do you?”


And finally a bus again that rattled us through Brownsville and across the border into Matamoros, where we staggered down the steps into the dust and the scorched evening, with a lot of Mexicans and chickens and Texas Gulf shrimp fishermen—who smelled worst—and we shouted the loudest. Forty-three whores—I counted—had turned out for the shrimp fishermen, and by the time we had broken two of the windows in the bus station they were all laughing. The shrimp fishermen said they wouldn’t buy us no food but would get us drunk if we wanted, ’cause that was the custom with shrimp fishermen. But we yelled, broke another window; then, while I was lying on my back on the telegraph office steps, singing, a woman with dark lips bent over and put her hand on my cheek. “You are very sweet.” Her rough hair fell forward. “But the men, they are standing around and watching you. And that is taking up time. Sadly, their time is our money. Spacer, do you not think you . . . people should leave?”

I grabbed her wrist. “¡Usted!” I whispered. “¿Usted es una frelka?

Frelko en español.” She smiled and patted the sunburst that hung from my belt buckle. “Sorry. But you have nothing that . . . would be useful to me. It is too bad, for you look like you were once a woman, no? And I like women, too. . . .”

I rolled off the porch.

“Is this a drag, or is this a drag!” Muse was shouting. “Come on! Let’s go!

We managed to get back to Houston before dawn, somehow.

And went up.

Keep reading.

“The Myths that Stole Christmas”, David Kyle Johnson on Atheists Talk

From Humanist Press:

We all secretly know that Christmas isn’t wholly good cheer, but David Kyle Johnson is brave enough to say it. The Myths that Stole Christmas debunks the biggest misconceptions about America’s most popular holiday and dares readers to take it back and make the season their own!

In a tone that is both analytical and conversational, Johnson’s The Myths that Stole Christmas critiques the frivolous consumerism, religious extremism and the “Santa Claus lie” that characterize Christmas today. But far from being a holiday Grinch, Johnson also presents his readers with a way to reclaim Christmas so that it can again be a time of joy and community, not an expensive and divisive obligation.

Johnson begins his book with a bold assertion: Many of us just don’t like Christmas. Or, we like it, but we wish it weren’t such a burdensome obligation. The Myths That Stole Christmasunpacks the cultural baggage that Christmas has accumulated, from the $12 billion of “deadweight loss” gifts purchased that recipients do not even want to the way in which the Religious Right has hijacked the season to erode the wall of separation between church and state.

Along the way, Johnson’s meticulous research enlightens his readers about the history of Christmas and Santa Claus and their pagan roots, and explains how the Christmas traditions we take for granted, such as decorated trees and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, were invented. Johnson systematically debunks the myth that “The Santa Claus Lie is Harmless,” while suggesting a workable, positive approach for parents in a Santa-obsessed season. But in the book’s final chapter, Johnson addresses the most pervasive Christmas myth of all—that our current Yuletide habits are inevitable and we cannot change them. Instead of letting Christmas control us, it’s high time we took control of Christmas!

[Read more…]

So Stay Wrong

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been following the news about Skepticon on Twitter. Yesterday, a link to a recap on Damion Reinhardt’s blog came up. So I read it. Then I laughed.

Then I tweeted, “TIL: A presentation on psych research on a cognitive bias stops being about skepticism when you mention social justice. Who knew?”

You see, the post isn’t a recap. It’s a rehash of the question that popped up, back when Skepticon started getting big enough to rival TAM, of whether it was entitled to use “skeptic” in its name. You’re excited by this question, right? We should get the Skeptics Council right on that?

It’s funnier than that, because there aren’t even broad operational definitions being applied here. So humanism–historically an outgrowth of the fading belief in an interventionist god–doesn’t count as atheism. A presentation on what free speech means and doesn’t mean historically doesn’t count as skepticism, presumably because only science makes appeals to reality over bias. (Those people fighting Holocaust denial? Not real skeptics.)

It was yet more hilarious to find my presentation on a common belief that warps our perceptions to the point that it’s often called a fallacy described as “other”. I mean really? Be better at this.

Or, apparently, not. [Read more…]

Announcing the Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index

Here it is, the Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index. This is the project I’ve been working to make come to pass for the last few months. It is here. It is ready to go. In fact, it’s already underway.

It needs help, however. It needs visibility, volunteers, and a moderate amount of funding. Read on to find out what the project is and what you can do to support it if you want to see it succeed. And once you understand it, I think you’ll want to see it succeed.

Line graphic of an open magazine with a magnifying glass with "AHSHI" in the lens. Text below: Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index

What is the AHS History Index?

What is the AHS History Index? The Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index is a project to make the information contained in the publications of these movements easily discoverable by historians and anyone else with an interest in the history of these movements. Several organizations have done a good job of collecting this information and making it accessible to people who ask to see it, but it’s difficult to ask for things you don’t know exist. This project aims to fix that problem. [Read more…]

Not About the Ability to Harass

It’s not about wanting to harass, they say. Of course harassment is bad, to the extent it exists, they say. Our stake in this is objective and civil minded, they say. We object to your authoritarian attitudes, they say. It’s definitely not about protecting our ability to harass, they say.

Then you follow Skepticon news on Twitter and this comes up.

But it’s not about the ability to harass, they say.

Saturday Storytime: Bloodless

This story by Cory Skerry continues F&SF’s long and honored tradition of making us think hard about who the monsters are and what makes them monsters.

Fresh snowfall had softened the world that afternoon, and as dusk fell, the sky cleared enough to release a bright moon. Kamalija leaned against the wall’s stones, rough and pitted with centuries of weather, and watched the shadows of the woods. She wanted to kill something, wanted to feel the hum of her knives in the chill air. They were carved from her grandfather’s bones, etched with sigils of silver and set with garnets. He’d been a gate guardian, like her, and she imagined she could feel his ghost’s approval when she set the blades to their task.

A leather wineskin slapped into the powdery snow at her feet, emanating heat and the reek of fresh death. It contained a well-fitted wooden stopper carved in the shape of a wolf’s head.

Now that he’d given his presence away, Lafiik sauntered out of the blackness between the firs. “I noticed your heirs forgot to feed you tonight,” he said.

Kamalija didn’t move. “Life should never be stolen.”

“You’d take mine, wouldn’t you?”

“If you come so close, you offer it to me.”

Lafiik chuckled. “It was a deer, O Exalted Guardian. Drink with a clear conscience, but drink now, before it cools.”

“We wouldn’t feed a gift from you to even the most ill-behaved of our dogs, joskri,” she said.

His smile faded, but he walked closer. Closer. Her fingers tensed on the handles of her knives.

“Do you think we’re so different, that what you name joskri is a beast, like a wolf or lion?”

“I’d sooner sup with a wolf or sleep beside a lion.”

“Neither you nor I sleep,” Lafiik said, amused. He stopped just outside her circle—he must have been watching her for days or weeks before he’d shown himself, because he knew exactly how far she could reach. Kamalija’s witch star burned its righteous warmth in her chest, a gift for the bloodless warrior against the bloodless anathema. He’d been stalking her.

“They told me everything they told you,” he said. “They’re lying.”

Lafiik gripped the hem of his tunic and peeled up his shirt.

And then he stepped into her circle, as vulnerable as she ever could have wanted. Kamalija knew it must be a trick; she darted forward, knives out, but fell to a crouch three steps short. Snow piled in furrows in front of her boots.

Lafiik waited, his silver-brown skin so like hers, his nipples and navel dark against that expanse of cold flesh. Purple scars, like hers, ragged down the center of his chest. Was that supposed to prove something? All the bloodless she’d killed had those scars—the demons could propagate in an honorless parody of the sacred ritual.

“I mean it,” he said. “Feel my star.”

“You don’t have a star.”

“A landslide destroyed my city’s wall, and my blood circle along with it. When your circle is broken, you are freed—not dead. Feel my star,” he repeated.

He was so still he might as well have been truly dead. They would be there all night, she supposed, waiting to fight. She couldn’t understand what ruse this was, and after so many years of nothing, she found peculiarity, and the curiosity that came with it, intoxicating.

Before she could talk sense to herself, she tucked one blade into the sheath in her sleeve, and still holding the other, she placed a palm against his chest.

The heat struck her hand a half of a second before she even touched his skin. The contact didn’t burn—it was pleasant, just like her star, the only heat in an otherwise dry and cold existence—but the act burned something else, some part of her she didn’t have a name for.


The voice came from behind her, from the gate.

Keep reading.

I Am Afraid

I’ve spent much of my life afraid, but I’ve only been afraid like this once before. The fear I feel today is twin to the fear I felt after the terrorist attacks of September 11. This will surprise no one. The parallels are too many. The city has changed. The name used to organize the terrorists was different. Still, so much is the same.

But I am not afraid of the terrorists. I mourn their victims. I have mourned them in all the attacks between then and now. I feel the weight of the knowledge that there will be more. There were more today, in Mali. I grieve for the interrupted lives, dead and survivors alike. But I am not afraid of the terrorists.

I am afraid of us. [Read more…]

“The Fear Babe”, Kavin Senapathy on Atheists Talk

Being concerned for our health is big business these days, and marketing that business relies on making us just as concerned. Unfortunately, much of that marketing involves spreading bad information, making us afraid of the things that will drive business, not the things that threaten our health. When our world is made out of chemicals, making us indiscriminately afraid of chemicals does nothing but add to our stress. Unfortunately, stress is also bad for our health.

This week’s guest, science writer Kavin Senapathy, is working to defeat this fear-based marketing through a number of initiatives. From the book she co-wrote with Marc Draco and Mark Alsip, The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari’s Glass House, to using the tactics of the fear industry against them, she is working hard to replace sensationalism with good information. Tune in this Sunday to hear more about her work and why it’s so important.

Related Links:

[Read more…]