Road Trip–Open Thread

Just a quick note to say, don’t expect me around for the next week to 10 days; I have no idea whether I will even have internet access at all.

I expect this comment thread to be full of wonderful stuff when I get back. That’s a reasonable expectation for an internet comment thread, isn’t it?

The Latest Word On Mabus–A Second Guilty Plea

From the Montreal Gazette:

A St-Laurent man who continued posting threats on social networks like Facebook and Twitter even though he was under a court order not to do so has pleaded guilty to criminal harassment and to threatening the police officer who arrested him.

Dennis Markuze, 43, a man who often uses the alias David Mabus when he makes threats, appeared before Quebec Court Judge Jean-Claude Boyer at the Montreal courthouse on Thursday where he entered a plea to three charges in all, including a breach of his probation.

There is much more there if you want to read it, but the gist is, he couldn’t keep from making threats. Having been on the receiving end of some (well, hundreds, but a fraction of what PZ got) of those threats (only a couple since his first arrest), this story is important to me, but really because I agree with Tim Farley (who is one of the recent victims of Mabus’s attacks, leading to today’s ruling):

I sincerely hope that investigation will finally result in Markuze getting the treatment he clearly needs.

Sentencing is set for November 21.

As Read By The Author…

So, yeah… April is (US) National Poetry Month. And I have a potential project, which may or may not see fruition this month or ever (simply because grading has to take a higher priority at this point), for which I could really use your input.

No promises–I try very hard not to make promises I can’t keep–but… which of my silly verses might you want to hear read by the author? Long-time readers may have their choices–I would ask new readers to feel free to speak as well, but also to feel free to look over to the left side of this page where there is an “archives” tab, and have fun exploring the early Cuttlefish offerings.

Now, I’ll say right up front that there are verses I have outgrown–there are some I would not recite even if they were the favorite of every other reader here–and there are some that I would decline because they need to be sung (others, I might actually sing), or require two-part harmony (for one, at least) or four-part harmony (for another).

But if you ever wondered what a particular verse sounded like to me… this would be your chance to point that out. Cos it’s part of my master plan for taking over FtB, and eventually the world. Or maybe I just want to show people how the verses sound to me. And I can’t very well just do them all.

No hurry–take your time. Look through the archives; try reciting them yourselves. The one thing about rhymed and metered verse is, it is intended to be read and heard aloud. There are hidden treasures there that will never be appreciated by those who read them silently, I promise you.

Anyway… I have grading to do. Dive deep, look around, and let me know. (New readers, you can start from the very first months if you like–the archives go back to 2007, and it astonishes me how many of my own favorites are among the earliest!)

ok, back to the salt mines… later…

PZ Gets Demoted

You should make a major issue
Of incinerating tissue
If you don’t, we’ll make you wissue
Had a different point of view!
Cos abortion can’t be easy
And the doctors must be sleazy
So the comments made by PZ
Are a special sort of woo!

If his scientific training
Contradicts what we’re maintaining
Does it really need explaining?
Why, the scientist is wrong!
When the issue is abortion
Then we must preserve proportion—
Give his title some distortion
Just a “blogger” all along

That’s right–PZ Myers got demoted from “Atheist scientist” to “blogger”. By a bunch of people who disagree with him but can’t actually argue with what he says.

Demoted? Yes! See, my aggregator alerted me to this post, but when I clicked, it told me there was no such file! This is what it used to look like…
Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 5.55.48 PM

See? “Atheist Scientist”. But if you look at the comments (protip: NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!!!), you’ll see that they quickly start with ad hom attacks on PZ. And at some point, the post itself changes. Now, if you look, PZ’s description has changed:

~ Blogger P.Z. Myers at Pharyngula, March 26, responding to news that the bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated at UK hospitals, some to provide heat –

Now, I’m not saying the description changed to minimize PZ’s credentials and to hype the actual story (despite the actual information in PZ’s post that exposed the hype as a lie)… ok, actually, I *am* saying that. Because, intentionally or not, that’s exactly what happened.

Now… just a thought… I’ve seen a handful of different numbers cited as the “average times a journal article is read”. I honestly have no idea which is correct (which is why I’m linking to none, rather than to a dozen that differ). I do know that every single one of them is shockingly smaller than I would have hoped (not smaller than I realize after thinking about it–many of these articles are of such hair-splitting particularity that I really can’t expect more than a handful or two of people to really care–but those are the people who should and do read them!). PZ’s blog gets more hits daily than the vast majority of academic journal articles. If we limit PZ only to the times he blogs on scientific topics, I suspect his blog is at least an order of magnitude greater exposure than the average paper he writes about. Different audience, certainly–different function. Still terribly important. (and yeah, thus far none of the commenters on that piece seem remotely willing to put their own publication records up against his.)

So, yeah, the commenters are wrong on that… and still, it doesn’t matter. They don’t address what he actually says. Their comments make that clear. But when you don’t have a good argument… rule of thumb… attack the presenter. That is, Atheist Scientist blogger PZ Myers.

Someone Is… On The Internet

An article on politics—
No if, no ands, no buts—
Will bring out Libertarians
Who’ll demonstrate they’re nuts
But also arch-conservatives
And liberals by the score
Who’ll engage in verbal fisticuffs
And all return for more.

An essay on religion—
Any angle you might choose—
An opinionated blog post
Or the fair and balanced news
Will find arguments aplenty
By extremists on both sides
(Oh, and everyone’s extremist)
As predictable as tides

A feminist perspective—
On whatever thing you want—
Will, like maggots on a rotting corpse,
Erupt in shouts of “cunt!”
Any argument transmogrified,
Distorted, shouted down;
The important thing is showing
Who’s the big dog in this town

A report about the climate,
Evolution, or vaccines,
Gun control, or education,
GM foods, or gay Marines—
In the comments, it’s a certainty,
As daytime follows night,
That opposing sides will gather there
And then begin to fight.

A picture of a kitten—
Or a puppy, or some ducks—
The comments start with “ooh!” and “squee!”
And then—“Obama sucks!”
Or a photo of a fetus
Or “nice pussy!” or some threat…
It’s depressing; it’s disturbing;
It’s annoying… it’s the ‘net.

I was going to link the article that inspired this particular verse, but it frankly doesn’t deserve singling out. And I don’t mean that in a positive way–it does deserve being seen as shameful… but so do countless others that could just as easily have inspired today’s verse… and, to some extent, did, I guess. I am sure you’ve had the experience (unless you have taken the very good advice of NEVER READ THE COMMENTS!!!!) of reading some innocuous piece of reporting, or some blog post (whether a report on breaking news, new science, or what the writer did last night or found in their shoes this morning), and there in the comments, a non-sequitor (or at best, tangential) comment linking the writing to the commenter’s particular grudge–Obama, usually, or atheists or christians or muslims or libertarians or gays or blacks or trans or women or mentally ill or republican or democrat or jews or nazis or activists of all sorts… it will depend on who are the naturally occurring flora and fauna at that particular site. If your experience is with completely different accusations, all that means is that you read different sites than I do.

It almost doesn’t matter what the original writing was about; the real action is in the comments. People who say this is a post-racial society… don’t read the comments. People who say this is a post-feminist society… don’t read the comments. People who say the real victims today are conservative white Christian males… don’t read the comments. Reading the comments is like turning on the lights in a filthy room–you see things you really wish you had not.

I think I’ll go shower now.

I suppose this is related.

Sale!

I’d have given you warning, but I only just heard, myself.

The Lulu people are having a 20% off sale on everything. That’s the best deal I’ve seen so far, so I thought I’d let you know. This means 1/5 off on any of my books, seeing as they are self-published through Lulu–so, 20% off on Ink, and 20% off on the Omnibus… and if you really want to be a collector, 20% off of everything else, too. I’ve linked to the dead-tree versions, but it ought to work for the e-versions as well.

At the checkout, the code is SUPER20 –the offer ends March 10, 11:59 PM.

To The Person Who Cut & Pasted My Entire Post On Your Site…

Not cool.

You may have been motivated by the best of intentions… you may have intended to flatter me… you may have intended to reap the ad revenue from your site without doing the actual work.

I have no idea what your intentions were. I just know that you posted my entire post on your site. Under someone else’s name.

Let me know where to send the bill; I’m sure you intended to ask up front, but since you didn’t, I can only conclude that money is no object, and will charge accordingly.

Happy Darwin Day!

I am A) exhausted from a long day, and B) sick as a dog. Or maybe two dogs. I can’t breathe, I can’t think, I can’t … something.

But it’s Darwin Day today, to I get to link to two earlier bits, both of which deserve it. One is a song addressed to Darwin himself, letting him know how things turned out.

Excerpt:

Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin, take a look around today—
You might recognize the path we took, cos you showed us the way.
We will celebrate your influence with unabashed delight;
Happy Birthday Charles Darwin, you were right!

The other was my report of a Darwin Day talk (by Daniel Dennett), which turned into the single best comment thread in the history of the interwebs. Seriously. I’d give you a sample, but I’d rather you approach it like the first people to see the Grand Canyon, walking up on foot and finding an astonishing landscape, rather than passing judgment based on a postcard. But yeah, the single greatest comment thread ever.

Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin! (of course, by now, it is the day after his birth in the country of his birth. Oh, well.)

This Machine

Roots are neat things–they can intertwine in odd ways sometimes. I mentioned a couple of days ago that were it not for Pete Seeger, there would be no Digital Cuttlefish. Seeger’s influence, though, does not take just one direct path–Seeger influenced lots of people who (unintentionally, I assure you) shaped me in turn–Dylan, for instance, and Mojo Nixon, and Tom Waits, and Bruce Springsteen… sometimes you can see direct influences of these people in a verse I write (in such cases I usually try to apologize to Bob Dylan, for instance), and sometimes it is more subtle.

One such intermediate influence is Roy Zimmerman. He doesn’t know it, but we’ve met, a couple of times, and I have quite a few of his CD’s autographed by him (the others, not yet signed). His facility with wordplay is as inspiring as the ideas thus presented, which is saying something. Anyway, the video below was just sent out via his newsletter–if you aren’t already receiving it, click through to youtube and follow the link to subscribe (I’d link here, but I’m assuming he gets revenues through youtube as well, so give an artist some clicks)–and it is inspired by and dedicated to Pete Seeger. I’d explain the “this machine” reference, but Zimmerman does, and I don’t want to steal his thunder.

My own machine has no strings at all, but (I am reliably told) it is mightier than a sword.

It should be against the law to offend me

We don’t, normally, see swooning
Over atheist cartooning
But the problem is ballooning
Or, that’s what they’d have us know

One cartoon, they think, might seize us
(They assume it cannot please us)
Cos it shows the face of Jesus
And his little buddy, Mo.

There’s an Author whose creation
Shows a cruel imagination
And whose acts deserve damnation
Or, again, that’s what they say

But the audience intended
Finds the humour simply splendid
It comes highly recommended
By the atheists today!

You all, I am sure, know Jesus and Mo, and the manufactroversy surrounding the cartoon.

Jesus and Mo is offensive. To some people. In very nearly the exact same sense as the bible and the qur’an are offensive, to other people. (and in very nearly the exact same sense as the failure to capitalize the words “bible” and “qur’an” is to still more people.)

I like being offended every once in a while–keeps me from boring myself to death, and surprises me every once in a while with something I thought would offend me, but does not (I’m looking at you, brussels sprouts). I think I’d rather have a variable world that sometimes colors outside the lines of my preferences, than one that always stays safely within the realms of any and all offense. The price I pay to discover new favorites, is the occasional discovery of something offensive. This happens with art, with literature, with food…

I am reminded (true story) of a friend who claimed that “anyone who only ever does it in one position…. that’s a fetish.” She would be (indeed, was) offended by the very conservatism in sex that took offense at her views.

Hmmm… I guess we can’t aim at “no offense” without dooming ourselves to extinction, then.

Maybe we can settle for the government not taking sides.