I want your money: Plan 9 from Outer Space ON STAGE!

In the land of insanely cool things that are happening that I am a part of, there is going to be a live stage production of Plan 9 from Outer Space, one of the best worst movies ever made.  AND YOU CAN HELP!

They are trying to raise funds for it on Kickstarter.  They’ve raised about $1500 so far, but would like to get double that to be able to make it as awesome as possible and pay the people who are participating.

Even more amusing is the fact that I’m going to be in it.  Which is great, considering my theatre experience in its entirety is “I’ve seen some plays”.  See my scene at 28:10!

If you can’t afford to donate, you can upvote the link on Reddit to help other people who might donate find it.  Although, why can’t you donate five dollars, man!

Atheist Karaoke and Ashley Learns the Ukulele

On Wednesday night, I’m hosting a “Godless Karaoke” event in Columbia, SC.  What does being godless have to do with karaoke?  Absolutely nothing.  Except that I know a lot of super awesome people in the skeptic and atheist movements that really love music and karaoke.  I think there’s some sort of connection there, I’m going to figure it out.  Anyway, we definitely need to start some sort of atheist band.

About a month and a half ago, I obtained for Christmas a ukulele with the thought that it would be easier and nerdier to learn than the guitar, something I had failed at a couple of years ago.  I was listening to an old CD I found in my car, which has this wonderful song by the Nerf Herders, “Mr. Spock”, which I adore and I thought to myself, “If I could play this on the ukulele, that is about the most dorky thing in the universe, I love it.”

I have now recorded five songs on the ukulele on YouTube and here they are in reverse chronological order, starting of course with “Mr. Spock”.  If you’re looking for nostalgic, may I recommend the Kermit the Frog number at the bottom.  If you need additional nerdiness, we’ve got Tom Lehrer’s elements set to a possibly recognizable tune.  And if you need more Gaga or Stevie in your lives, there’s a little bit of that as well.

Guest Post: Izzy Woods on de la Barre

I received an e-mail about a month ago from a freelance writer who wanted to contribute a guest post to my blog.  I told her I was happy to post anything that was on topic and she sent me the following article.  I hope you find it interesting, and if you’d like to have something posted here, I am open to it, just contact me.

Jean-François de la Barre – Martyr

In the early 18th Century, the ruling establishment consisted of the monarchy and the church, and they were intolerant of anyone who challenged the status quo. One early victim of the oppression of secularism and free speech was a young boy who died a most appalling death, and who is still celebrated in Paris as a symbol of man’s right to speak freely. His story is a salutary one, but not widely known outside Europe.

The year is 1765. It is August, and in the dead of night someone pulls down and vandalizes a wooden crucifix, which stood on a bridge at Abbeville. The Bishop of Amiens flew into a rage when it was discovered the next morning and demanded the vandal be brought to justice. The town was silent. People either had no idea who had done it or were shielding them. The Bishop threatened to excommunicate anyone withholding information, but still no one came forward. Finally, a local magistrate called Du Maisniel de Belleval used the awkward silence to accuse a young nobleman, a student against whom he had a grudge.

The boy was just nineteen years old and, although history does not record the exact reason for the magistrate’s grudge, we can imagine that he was perhaps just a normal teenager, full of high spirits, and somewhat mischievous. Jean-François de la Barre was arrested and charged with a range of offenses against the church. Jean-François de la Barre was charged with failing to doff his hat as a procession of monks walked past; of tearing down the cross on the bridge; of singing ‘lewd’ songs, and finally of owning seditious literature. These charges are hard for us to think of as criminal offenses, but in the 18th Century they were grossly offensive to the Church, who set about making an example of their black sheep.  Which of these charges, if any, were true is contested. Someone had to pay.

Voltaire took up the boy’s case, since the book he had been found in possession of which so outraged the Bishop was one of Voltaire’s own, the Philosophical Dictionary, first published in 1764. It contained alphabetically arranged articles, some of which disparaged the Catholic Church and other powerful institutions. Not content with simply managing their own business and turning a blind eye to a mere book, the state and church were enraged by the publication of such literature and ownership of it was a personal risk.

The Encyclopédie
The Church were feeling particularly bruised at the time, since the Encyclopédie, (1751-1772), one of the earliest encyclopedias, was in the process of being written, by Enlightenment thinkers such as Diderot, Rousseau, and Voltaire himself. Diderot’s stated aim was “change the way people think”, and the Encyclopédie championed rational thought over superstition. The book is credited as being one of the drivers behind the French Revolution, which was to follow, in which the religious powerbase was totally destroyed. In the an article in the Encyclopédie, Dumarsais writes:

Reason is to the philosopher what grace is to the Christian… Other men walk in darkness; the philosopher, who has the same passions, acts only after reflection; he walks through the night, but it is preceded by a torch. The philosopher forms his principles on an infinity of particular observations. He does not confuse truth with plausibility; he takes for truth what is true, for forgery what is false, for doubtful what is doubtful, and probable what is probable. The philosophical spirit is thus a spirit of observation and accuracy.

The topic of theology was ordered under ‘Philosophy’ since the writers argued that it was subject to human reason and not a source of knowledge. This was a scandalous assertion at the time. It was this uneasy relationship between reason and faith that formed the backdrop to the fate of Jean-François de la Barre.

Martyred
It was the fury felt among Catholic leaders about attacks on their power base that may account for the hideous treatment of poor young Jean-François. Owning Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary sealed his fate. On July 1, 1766, he was brutally tortured. His hands were chopped off and his tongue torn out. Finally, he was decapitated and his body burned on a pyre in the square at Abbeville, along with the offending literature.

Jean-François de la Barre’s case was championed by Voltaire, who wrote two accounts of it – Relation de la Mort du Chevalier de la Barre (1766) and Le Cri du Sang Innocent (1775), in which he attacked the complicity of the Catholic Church in what was in fact a prosecution raised by the State. A number of offences against religion, such as sacrilege and blasphemy, survived from the edicts of the old regime.

Memorial
The National Convention eventually pardoned De la Barre in 1794. Today a statue of the boy stands in a quiet park at the top of the hill of Montmartre. Its unveiling was heralded by a celebration by rationalists and free thinkers, who held a ceremony in his honor. He was a victim of that age’s savage religious intolerance and remains a symbol for those committed to free speech today. Chevalier de la Barre Day, every July 1st, is a day that can be celebrated by anyone who opposes religious oppression.

2011 Book List and Stats


Number Title Author G
1 How to Train Your Dragon Cressida Cowell A
2 How to Be a Pirate Cressida Cowell B-
3 How to Speak Dragonese Cressida Cowell B
4 How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse Cressida Cowell A
5 How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale Cressida Cowell B
6 Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen A
7 Emma Jane Austen A+
8 Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen B-
9 Biblical Nonsense: A Review of the Bible for Doubting Christians Jason Long A-
10 I Love You, Phillip Morris Steve McVicker A
11 God Hates You, Hate Him Back CJ Werleman C
12 The Vile Village Lemony Snicket A
13 The Hostile Hospital Lemony Snicket B+
14 The Carnivorous Carnival Lemony Snicket A
15 The Slippery Slope Lemony Snicket A
16 The Grim Grotto Lemony Snicket B
17 The Penultimate Peril Lemony Snicket B
18 The End Lemony Snicket B
19 Moab is My Washpot Stephen Fry A
20 The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins A
21 Catching Fire Suzanne Collins A-
22 Mockingjay Suzanne Collins B
23 Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond A
24 The Blind Side Michael Lewis A-
25 Catch Me If You Can Frank Abignale, Jr. B
26 The Lost Gospel of Judas Bart Ehrman B
27 Forged Bart Ehrman A
28 Monarchy Christopher Hitchens B-
29 Griftopia Matt Taibbi A+
30 The King’s Speech Mark Logue and Peter Conradi A
31 Bossy Pants Tina Fey B
32 Doubt Jennifer Michael Hecht A-
33 The Next Ancient World Jennifer Michael Hecht A
34 Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality Jack Rogers B-
35 Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin Frank Bailey B+
36 The Tudors GJ Meyer B-
37 The Princess of the Midnight Ball Jessica Day George B+
38 The Family Jeff Sharlet B
39 The Invisible Gorilla Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons A
40 Goblin Quest Jim C Hines A-
41 Dragon Slippers Jessica Day George A
42 Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Douglas Adams A
43 Goblin Hero Jim C Hines B
44 Dragon Flight Jessica Day George B
45 The Pluto Files Neal deGrasse Tyson A-
46 Goblin Tales Jim C Hines B+
47 The Men Who Stare at Goats Jon Ronson B
48 Princess of Glass Jessica Day George B+
49 Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte A-
50 Goblin War Jim C Hines B
51 The Rise and Fall of the Bible Timothy K Beal C+
52 The Stepsister Scheme Jim C Hines B+
53 Breaking Their Will Janet Heimlich A
54 Them, Adventures with Extremists Jon Ronson A
55 Rabbit-Proof Fence Doris Pilkington A
56 Dragon Spear Jessica Day George B
57 The Selfish Gene Richard Dawkins A
58 The Ancestors Tale Richard Dawkins A
59 Towards a Rhetoric of Insult Thomas Conley A
60 Artemis Fowl Eoin Colfer A+
61 Internet, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys Don A Dillman A
62 Artemis Fowl 2: The Arctic Incident Eoin Colfer A-
63 The God Delusion Richard Dawkins A-
64 Artemis Fowl 3: The Eternity Code Eoin Colfer B
65 Artemis Fowl 4: The Opal Deception Eoin Colfer B+
66 Artemis Fowl 5: The Lost Colony Eoin Colfer A
67 The Rogue Joe McGinniss A+
68 Artemis Fowl 6: The Time Paradox Eoin Colfer B-
69 The Humanist Approach to Happiness Jen Hancock D
70 God, No! Penn Jillette A-
71 Percy Jackson 1: The Lightning Thief Rick Riordan A
72 Percy Jackson 2: Sea of Monsters Rick Riordan B
73 Percy Jackson 3: Titan’s Curse Rick Riordan A
74 Percy Jackson 4: Battle of the Labyrinth Rick Riordan A-
75 Percy Jackson 5: The Last Olympian Rick Riordan B
76 Heroes of Olympus 1: The Lost Hero Rick Riordan A-
77 I Shall Wear Midnight Terry Pratchett A+
78 Snuff Terry Pratchett A
79 Bromeliad 1: Truckers Terry Pratchett B+
80 Bromeliad 2: Diggers Terry Pratchett B+
81 Bromeliad 3: Wings Terry Pratchett B+
82 Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture Susan Murray and Lauren Ouellete A-
83 Heroes of Olympus 2: Son of Neptune Rick Riordan B+
84 Carpet People Terry Pratchett B
85 The Blind Watchmaker Richard Dawkins A-
86 Bad Science Ben Goldacre A
87 Matilda Roald Dahl A+
88 The Witches Roald Dahl A
89 The Twits Roald Dahl B+
90 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl A-
91 Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator Roald Dahl B
92 The Fantastic Mr. Fox Roald Dahl B
93 Freak Show James St. James A+
94 Aunts Are Not Gentlemen PG Wodehouse A
95 Flatland Edwin A Abbott B
96 Charlotte’s Web EB White A
97 Fleetwood Mac: The Definitive History Mike Evans A
98 Happy Accidents Jane Lynch B+
99 Jeeves in the Offing PG Wodehouse A
100 Thank You, Jeeves PG Wodehouse A

Stats:
Fiction: 62
-YA/Kids: 38
-Classics: 5

Non-Fiction: 38
-Religion: 12

GPA: 3.5

Worst Book:
Jen Hancock’s The Humanist Approach to Happiness D

A+ Books:
Emma – Jane Austen
Griftopia – Matt Taibbi
Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer
The Rogue – Joe McGinniss
I Shall Wear Midnight – Terry Pratchett
Matilda – Roald Dahl
Freak Show – James St. James

2011

Hits: 137,640

Biggest Month: December with 50,568

Biggest Day: January 8 with 20,225

Top 5 Posts:
1. Sarah Palin’s Target List and the Assassination of Gabrielle Giffords – 35,052
2. Why does anyone like Ron Paul? – 33,900
3. Why “In God We Trust” is a Problem – 6,956
4. My Vagina is Destroying America or Love from Ron Paulians – 5,150
5. Columbia Coalition of Reason Hate Mail: Part I – 2,648

Books Read: 100 (posts coming!)

Top 11 Referrers
Facebook 24,960
Reddit 11,985
freethoughtblogs.com 9,758
fark.com 2,625
godlesspaladin.com 2,243
associatedcontent.com 1,350
Twitter 1,261
lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com 1,079
voxday.blogspot.com 1,048
patheos.com 795
npr.org 449

I am most excited about Associated Content and NPR… there was also a Slovenian site I got a lot of referrals from, which is cool.

Some Selected Search Terms
gay hippo 27
big nose women 15
beauty dicks 8
ashley miller porn 8
13 year old tits 5
fat girl with red hair 5
ashley adams tron ass 4
how does the character of ronnie experience prejudice even he is white?why is he discriminted against 2
fat but pretty girls 2
girls are retarded 2
very fat girls with red hair 2

Where I sent people
addictinginfo.org/2011/09/07/10-quotes-that-make-ron-paul-sound-racist 2,444
ashleyfmiller.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/sarahpac_0.jpg 2,114
gravatar.com/0d262906b009644fcd4e3e268c6bf5cd 501
ashleyfmiller.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/p7w.png 484
newsone.com/nation/casey-gane-mccalla/why-ron-pauls-racist-newsletters-matter 480
youtube.com/watch?v=nHoaZaLbqB4 375
ashleyfmiller.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/sp.png 362
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assassinated_American_politicians 342
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect 258
ronpaul2012.com/the-issues/statement-of-faith 231
wrongpaul.tumblr.com/post/14067691055/why-i-hate-ron-paul-supporters-they-lie-deny-and 195
ashleyfmiller.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/ch090204.gif 178
prisonplanet.com/articles/january2008/011308_not_racist.htm 146

Imagine: Not an Atheist Song

How could you ever be angry at that?

Cee Lo Green changed a line in Imagine from “no religion too” to “all religions true” and the atheists and BeatlesFreaks are pissed. The sacred line about “no religion” was changed in a song about everybody getting along to be about everyone getting along in a slightly different way, and so people naturally are not going to get along about it…

What Cee Lo did is way more respectful and less cowardly than the way most people just cut the line entirely.  And the way Cee Lo changed the line is actually completely in sync with Lennon’s intentions.  He wasn’t trying to say there shouldn’t be anything religious, he was saying that all religions should get along.  Lennon, on the lyrics, “If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion, but without this ‘my God is bigger than your God’ thing—then it can be true.

Compare MLK’s dedication to the worldview expressed in “Imagine.” The song doesn’t advocate any action, it doesn’t detail any specific problems or solutions it just sort of drifts along and says, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if things were great?” Not every song needs to be a treatise on geopolitics but shouldn’t a “meaningful” song actually mean something?

We’re talking about a guy who was unbelievably wealthy who brought the nonsense of eastern mysticism to millions of people singing about no religion and no possessions. I call bullshit.

I agree that the sentiment of the line is stupid, but the fact of the matter is that it is exactly what Lennon was trying to say, because Lennon was a namby pamby, non-committal, everyone is equally good sort of person, apparently just like Cee Lo Green.