Movie Friday: Hari Kondabolu

I got sick this week, and was thus robbed of the motivation to write something. I’ve got a bunch of ideas clogging up the ol’ brain-bin, which SUCKS because I also have a lot of stuff to get done this month. Here’s where you can catch me over the next week:

Thursday, January 10th

Playing a solo gig at the Sunset Grill (Yew @ York st. in Kitsilano)

Friday, January 11th

My first gig of 2013 with Even Handed Odds at the Coppertank (Broadway @ Balaclava in Kitsilano). We’re celebrating our anniversary as their house band, and our first time playing together since mid-December.

Saturday, January 12th

I’ll be in Kamloops, BC, giving a talk about the HPV Vaccine and confronting some of the info and misinfo that’s out there. It’s pitched for a general audience, and will reference the scientific literature without diving into it too heavily.

There is a FB event page here, and an event webpage here.

Sunday, January 13th

I’ll be in Kelowna, BC, giving an extended version of my talk looking at racism in the zombie apocalypse. I felt really rushed trying to cram all that information into 30 minutes, so this longer format (I have two hours, I am planning on talking for the heavy side of 45 minutes, with a Q&A afterward) will be a lot more comfortable for me.

There is a FB event page here, but it doesn’t say that the event will be at the Kelowna Pride Centre on Water st..

And now for the movie! [Read more...]

Movie Friday: Act of God

One of the single dumbest things ever birthed by the insurance industry is the phrase “Act of God”. It basically describes any natural disaster, but does so in the most face-palming language ever. Ricky Gervais takes it on:

I watched a Billy Connolly movie not too long ago called “The Man Who Sued God”, in which a lawyer-turned-fisherman sues the Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian and Jewish churches in Australia, as representatives of God on earth. It was a pretty funny jibe at how much those churches really believe in God – either they deny that He exists (and commit fraud) or they admit He does (making them legally liable as representatives of a pseduo-corporate entity). While the ending of the movie was complete garbage, the first 4/5 is pretty good.

It seems to me (and to Billy Connolly’s character) that since the whole point that we buy insurance is to protect ourselves against unforseeable circumstances, the “Act of God” clause is just a filthy cheat. Then again, if you were expecting fairness and justice from insurance companies, maybe someone needs to sit you down and explain a few things.

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Movie Friday: What REALLY happened to the dinosaurs?

Sometimes you can defeat an opponent through superior tactics – predicting her/his strategy and countering it out of the gate. Sometimes you defeat an opponent through brute force, having the sheer numbers to overpower her/him. Other times it’s just dumb luck, then the cards happen to fall in your favour and you end up the victor.

Other times your opponent defeats her/himself:

This is my issue with biblical literalism – that book wasn’t published by someone wishing to lampoon religion; on the contrary, it was written by religious people to demonstrate a system of belief. The fact that this system of belief is unbelievably stupid means that any attempt to build a factual narrative from it will also come out unbelievably stupid. Ron Babcock (the comedian) doesn’t have to do anything aside from just reading the book – the humour is already there.

My favourite line comes at the end:

I grew up Catholic, but I didn’t grow up fucking retarded

This is how I came by my atheism – not out of some kind of spiteful rejection of a God that I knew was there but I didn’t like – but out of using my (God-given) intellect to evaluate what seemed to make the most sense. Either I had to reject the idea that a completely incoherent, non-predictable, non-observable, fundamentally unknowable entity had specific designs for me based on a book that was both internally and externally inconsistent, or I had to essentially lobotomize myself and believe the crazy shit that would be a direct result of that book being accurate.

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N.B. A reader pointed out to me that it’s fairly hypocritical of me to talk about the use of language and privilege and all that other stuff, and then to turn around and use the word ‘retarded’. He makes a fair point, and I apologize for using it here without any sort of disclaimer. ‘Retarded’ is an ableist phrase that is extremely derogatory toward people with developmental disabilities. While I try not to use it in my day-to-day language, I shouldn’t have quoted it here without pointing that fact out.

Movie Friday – postitive thinking

Psst… do you want to hear something amazing? There’s an unbelievably simple trick you can use to get everything you’ve ever wanted, without having to work for it, put any effort at all into bettering yourself or your life, or kill off your rich uncle.

It’s called THE SECRET

Anyone’s who’s taken any type of eastern philosophy course knows about the law of attraction. Basically, the theory is that if you put positive energy out into the world, you will reap the benefits of that energy. Hindus call it karma, Taoists call it the Tao, and skeptics call it a heaping pile of steamy bullshit.

Like prayer, or ‘remote viewing’, or psychics, mediums, Tarot and horoscopes, the law of attraction (karma) relies on some fundamental cognitive heuristics our brains use. The first and most important is called confirmation bias – our brains selectively attend to those events that fit assumptions we’ve already made. The second is a logical fallacy called ‘post hoc, ergo propter hoc‘ or, ‘after it, therefore because of it’ – we see two events and infer that the first causes the second.

For an example of this, think of what happens when you’re waiting for a bus. How many times have you waited for a bus, got fed up and decided to walk, only to have the bus show up a minute after you leave? Have you ever said “of course, as soon as I leave, the bus arrives.” Your leaving has nothing to do with the bus arriving – the two events are independent, but after it happens 2 or 3 times, your mammal brain puts them together.

So when you send out positive vibes and something good happens, the two aren’t necessarily causally related – indeed, there’s no mechanism by which they could be related. The “Secret” is just an appeal to your mammalian brain and the cognitive shortcuts we all use to get by.

“So what?” you might be saying. “It doesn’t hurt anyone to think positively.” Despite evidence that it absolutely CAN hurt people to have unrealistically positive outlooks, it also leads to victim blaming. People assume that if you can think your way to happiness and wealth, then anyone who is poor just has a bad attitude.

Let’s let Dave Chappelle have the last word here…

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Movie Friday: Billy Connolly

Today’s movie Friday features someone who can literally claim credentials to the title of greatest stand-up comedian of all time. I can’t say he’s my favourite, but I am not the grand arbiter of all things funny. Billy Connolly is a Scottish comedian who may be most recognizable for those of us not into stand-up as “Il Duce” from the dynamite movie Boondock Saints. When he’s not instructing his sons on methods of death-dealing, he’s a wildly funny comedian and actor.

This whole week’s been about race, so I figure I’m okay to let Billy beat up on religion a bit:

The thing about 53 virgins is spot-on. I’ve been with virgins – they’re much less fun than someone who knows what she (or he) knows what she’s doing and is into it big time.

And while we’re at it, let’s rip on “alternative medicine” too:

Interestingly, Billy was in a movie called The Man Who Sued God which is a great indictment of the role that religious superstition plays in secular society. Well, it is until about 4/5th of the way in, at which point it becomes weak dithering pablum. Despite its lackluster ending, I liked the movie and think it’s worth watching. Anyway, enjoy the videos!

Movie Friday: Louis CK

More standup for you today. This time it’s from perhaps my all-time favourite comedian, Louis CK. He’s been on Parks and Recreation, and was in The Invention of Lying as well (movie with a great concept but poor execution). Listening to him is like hearing my own brain talk to me, but it’s way funnier than I am.

Here’s Louis on white privilege:

On the difference between girls and women:

And one of his perhaps best-known bits, on why everything is amazing, but nobody is happy:

I’m pumped that he’s finally getting another shot at getting his own show on FX. He had one on HBO, which was amazing, but got canceled because HBO doesn’t really like laugh-track comedies. If you ever want to know what I think about something, but you want it to be much funnier than I could ever make it, ask Louis.

Movie Friday: Eddie Izzard – Whales ‘n’ God

Today’s movie features one of my all-time favourite comedians: Eddie Izzard. Sometimes remembered as the “Lost Python” from Monty Python, you might recognize him from Ocean’s 13. At any rate, he’s a wildly funny comedian who often riffs on religion as part of his routines. It’s hard to pick just one bit to exhibit, so I picked one at random.

There’s no lesson on this one, he’s just really funny.

Movie Friday! – Dara O’Briain

It’s Friday. I like Fridays. Do you like Fridays?

In honour of this auspicious day, I’m going to do something different. Instead of my usual old-cranky-man ranting about this and that, I’m going to post movies that I find interesting or funny.

Today’s movie is making the rounds as a skeptic’s classic. The comedian is Dana O’Briain, who is one of the best standups I’ve heard in a while. He’s talking about a lot of the same issues I’ve been bringing up, but he’s a lot funnier than I am.

Happy Friday!