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Jun 18 2014

Repeat After Me:

So you’ve got a new ambition—it’s to write a gospel song—
They will play it on the radio, and maybe sing along
But your knowledge of the bible isn’t really all that strong
If you’re thinking that’s a problem, I can tell you that you’re wrong!
You can write it with a single verse—not even one that rhymes,
Cos the trick is, you’ll repeat it several times!
You can write it with a single verse—not even one that rhymes,
Cos the trick is, you’ll repeat it several times!

Yes, you’ll write it with a single verse—not even one that rhymes,
Add some power chords and cymbals, and the feigned excitement climbs—
With your keyboard synthesizer you can make-believe it’s chimes
And repeat it, and repeat it, and repeat it many times
If it all gets too depressing, pick your chin up off the floor
And repeat the line you’ve written six times more!
If it all gets too depressing, pick your chin up off the floor
And repeat the line you’ve written six times more!

When you’re out of ammunition, take this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Yes you’re out of ammunition, so this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!

You can throw in “hallelujah!”; you can throw in “blessed be!”
(Hey, with just those words, you’ve got a verse—or maybe two or three!)
And for extra points, be sure to use a random “thou” or “thee”
And you’re ready for the radio, as far as I can see.
You’ll be ready for the big time—Christian love and Christian fame
No one cares if all your verses are the same!
You’ll be ready for the big time—Christian love and Christian fame
No one cares if all your verses are the same!

When you’re out of ammunition, take this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Yes you’re out of ammunition, so this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!

When you’re out of ammunition, take this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Yes you’re out of ammunition, so this little tip from me:
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!
Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition
Repetition, repetition is the key!

As I said, I’ve been listening to Christian radio. I found it offensive–not because of my atheism, but because of my aesthetic commitment to proper rhyming verse. Again and again, song after song, lazy songwriting! Maybe one song in a dozen would start off with a passable verse, but as if the effort had exhausted the songwriter, the remainder of the song would be the repetition of one phrase (say, “he is mighty” or “blessed be” or “certum est, quia impossibile“–ok, that last one is my own, I cheated), and perhaps a repetition of the first (and thus, only) verse. The rest of the songs were repetitious pablum dressed up in power chords and saccharine synthesizer riffs.

See, and I’m even a moderate fan of old-time gospel music and older, more serious, hymns. Done well, there can be beautiful music there. But, I suppose, done poorly takes much less time, and has to be that much more profitable.

Jun 18 2014

I’m Back, Mostly

What a lovely returning gift–81 comments, most in verse!

I will likely be scarce for a little bit–my back is threatening to secede from the rest of my body. Driving is not natural for invertebrates, and I have done much driving and much sleeping on couches since you last heard from me, and I have not yet found the combination of heat, ice, narcotics, massage, or amputation to alleviate the pain.

I did find the perfect radio strategy for staying awake, though–I listen to Christian radio! I found out, from the Catholic Radio Network, that Protestants have chosen to ignore part of God’s word, and (from another network) that Catholics are not true believers. I heard a guy who spent several days sitting in Jesus’s lap, communing with God himself (he learned much more than he could tell us, but if we want to buy his book and CDs…); he prayed for us both in English and in spirit language, and healed a bunch of people over the radio. Not my back, though. It is very clear that there is no such thing as “Christianity” as a unitary category; the false front united against atheists is only visible a few times a year, during the War Against Christmas and whenever Michael Newdow goes to court. Other than that, it would appear that Christian sects fight like cats in a sack.

Oh, and Christian praise music has got to be the easiest way to earn a paycheck.

So there I am, listening to Christian radio, and I am kept fully awake by the steam coming out of my ears. Even better than political radio.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to walk the dogs, mow the grass, weed the garden, wash the car, prep my fall courses, and have my right shoulder surgically removed.

Jun 06 2014

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?

Jun 04 2014

“I promise that your eyes will keep on watching…”

We gather together on Sundays
With people who share our belief
Our community spans generations
In collective elation or grief
We’re transformed in ecstatic communion
There are times we—as one—hold our breath
We have given our hearts to our passion
In a way that defies even death

This is bigger by far than religion
Even bigger than God, it would seem
“Greater love hath no man”, goes the saying,
“Than the love of a fan for a team”
And the stands now are packed with our family
We’re committed—till death do us part
And beyond—if I die a bit early
Someone else can take over my heart

And my eyes will keep watching, for someone
And my lungs, for another, can shout
I’ll be scattered all over the stadium
It’s the best of what fandom’s about
Sure, the love for a team may be foolish
But it’s true the community thrives
So it’s root, root, root for a new thing:
In the name of your team—saving lives

Via the Beeb, a really cool story about the very real communities built up among the fans of sport teams–in particular, Brazil’s Sport Club Recife, which has used the power of the fanbase to promote organ donation:

“I promise that your eyes will keep on watching Sport Club Recife,” says one man waiting for a cornea transplant in the television ad made to publicise the campaign.

“I promise that your heart will keep on beating for Sport Club Recife,” says a potential recipient of a transplanted heart.

The video is screened at every match in the club’s Ilha do Retiro stadium, a venue that seats 35,000 but could be filled almost twice over with the number of people who have signed up for a donor card – 66,000 so far.

The waiting list for organ transplants in the city of Recife was reduced to zero in the first year, Peixoto says, and the impact has also been felt throughout the surrounding state of Pernambuco.

“We used to perform from five to seven heart transplants a year, but last year we achieved 28… it was an incredible increase,” says Fernando Figueira, director of heart transplants at Pernambuco’s Institute of Integrated Medicine

First off, the campaign is beautiful; it seamlessly integrates organ donation with fandom in a way that really resonates. Secondly… wow! What an impact!

My own team, as both my readers know, is the Cleveland Browns–and the Browns Backers have been active for years, organizing blood donations, community cleanups, and (just today) launched the First and Ten project.

This is why I don’t particularly care for the atheist “Sunday Assembly” stuff. Hey, for those who enjoy it, I support you, but it seems a lot of “what is it that religion does that is worth copying?”… and frankly, the communities built around sports teams already have that covered–and not by copying a church, but by the organic growth of the fan community, the mutual caring for one’s fellow human beings.

And it is “human beings” rather than just one’s own fan community:

It’s not just about club loyalty though. Daniele Dias Pessoa, 32, supports one of Recife’s other clubs, Santa Cruz, but also decided to lend her face to her bitter rivals’ campaign.

Pessoa’s mother died of a stroke two years ago and she fulfilled her wishes, donating five of her organs.

“It was a very hard decision but it’s an act of love. Thanks to her, five people could finally leave the waiting list for a transplant,” she says.

Her mother was also a Santa Cruz supporter, but, says Pessoa, “I’m sure she wouldn’t have cared if her organs went to a Sport Recife fan.”

I love it.

Jun 04 2014

An Ode To Open Carry

I carry my gun to the toilet, and boy, let
Me tell you, it’s difficult wiping my ass
But guns are important! For freedom, you need ‘em
In every location—a critical mass!
I carry while changing my baby, cos maybe
A diaper goes rogue, and I need to defend!
My AK goes with me while shopping—no stopping—
The good guy who carries is everyone’s friend!

At church, while receiving my wafer, I’m safer
Cos slung on my back are my rifle and scope
In tactical gear, wearing camo, with ammo
I’m here for the sermon, a message of hope!
I’m eating left-handed at Chili’s—it’s silly;
I can’t eat a Whopper, cos that takes two hands
The NRA finds open carry too scary—
I’m not giving in to their leftist demands!

May 30 2014

Utah Girls Have No Right To Bare Arms

The photos they saw
Though they’d broken no law
Still were setting off major alarms
See, the dresses they chose
Left their shoulders exposed!
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

They were sleeveless—just straps,
And they’d worn them, perhaps
Many times, and encountered no harms
But for yearbooks, their school
Had a Mormon-based rule:
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

If their views are expressed
By the way they are dressed
In their cities, or suburbs, or farms,
At their school, then, the church
Leaves the girls in the lurch:
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

One girl was amazed
That her neckline was raised—
Her tattoo was a part of her charms!
But a bit of bare skin
Is a terrible sin!
Utah girls have no right to bare arms!

Wasatch High School in Utah has a thing for modesty. They have made news, for altering yearbook photos–raising necklines, adding sleeves to cover bare shoulders, hiding a tattoo… and the first students learned of it was when the yearbook came out. They feel, understandably, like the school has disapproved of their expression, has tried to shame them, has determined that they don’t measure up.

“I feel like they’re shaming you, like you’re not enough, you’re not perfect,” sophomore Shelby Baum told the Associated Press on Thursday. Baum’s collarbone tattoo reading “I am enough the way I am” was removed from her photo. She also discovered a high, square neckline drawn onto her black V-neck T-shirt. Baum said she wants a refund or a new book with an unaltered photo.

I suppose it goes without saying that every one of the altered photos was of a female student. Completely coincidentally, I am sure.

May 29 2014

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.

May 28 2014

On Blame

There’s something gone wrong—why, he’s clearly insane;
There’s a chemical problem that’s hurting his brain,
Some organic dysfunction that helps to explain
Why he hasn’t been acting quite right
It’s clearly these deep neurological flaws
That are making him act in defiance of laws;
It has to be something! It can’t be because
He is young, and he’s male, and he’s white.

We’ll break it all down in the usual way
Is he poor? Is he black? Is he godless, or gay?
There must be a reason he’s drifted astray
Any label at all is fair game.
There has to be something (the experts discuss,
And for experts to notice and make such a fuss
There’s a reason) that means “he is not one of us!”
Cos we don’t want to share in the blame!

The misogynist message he posted online?
The authorities saw it, and called it benign!
Why, it’s only in hindsight we call it a sign—
We see worse things than that every day!
Why, if all of society ground to a halt
When some internet loner claimed plans of assault
We’d be doomed—with the innocent loners at fault
When it’s only a game that they play!

See, freedom of speech is a blessing and curse
You can say what you want—you can bully, or worse—
(And they can’t even force you to say it in verse)
Save specific and credible threat
But legitimate threats don’t stand out from the noise
And the language a dangerous asshole employs
Since it can’t be distinguished from “one of the boys”
Are the claims #YesAllWomen will get

It is a common claim: if you blame society, you are letting the perpetrator off the hook! But remember the flip side–when you blame the perp, you are letting society off the hook.

I am not a fan of “justice”; it’s a concept that, near as I can tell, was invented to let us blame individual criminals after the fact, instead of doing the hard work of changing the environment to actually prevent crimes before they occur, in cases where there are known variables we can control.

We have heard, and will continue to hear, reasons why a particular individual should shoulder all the blame. We will be told that we are weak on crime if we even entertain the notion that anything other than that individual is to blame.

Bullshit.

I would much rather prevent a crime than punish a criminal after a crime has been committed. And yes, I know that paints me as someone opposed to freedom–the freedom to swing my fist up to the point where someone else’s nose begins. If it is right to intervene after a crime is committed, it is right to intervene. If moral responsibility exists, then knowing that an element of our culture contributes to crime, and doing nothing about that element, makes us as culpable for our inaction as we wish others to be for their action.

The difference is whether we wait for people to be hurt before recognizing our ability to make a difference.

May 20 2014

The Pennsylvania Decision

These rulings are just so much fun to read; I have enjoyed the care with which each judge has carefully and deliberately addressed every argument, no matter how stupid… and then read the comment threads, where ignorant yahoos bring up those same arguments as if it were the first time.

Here is the Pennsylvania decision from minutes ago.

Today, certain citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are not guaranteed the right to marry the person they love. Nor does Pennsylvania recognize the marriages of other couples who have wed elsewhere. Hoping to end this injustice, eleven courageous lesbian and gay couples, one widow, and two teenage children of one of the aforesaid couples have come together as plaintiffs and asked this Court to declare that all Pennsylvanians have the right to marry the person of their choice and consequently, that the Commonwealth’s laws to the contrary are unconstitutional. We now join the twelve federal district courts across the country which, when confronted with these inequities in their own states, have concluded that all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage

Now, excuse me while I go read the rest of it. Enjoy!

****
Wow. Having read section 1–the background of the plaintiffs–this is yet another powerful piece of writing.

FWIW, I have heard that this judge is a GWB appointee. Damned liberal activist bastard.

May 19 2014

Unexpected Good News On The Cuttlefish Front

I have written before with bad news from Point Lowly, Spencer Gulf, in South Australia. That was from 2011; in 2012 the news was even worse, and last year things looked grim indeed.

Unexpectedly, this year, the numbers are up again!

Hundreds of giant Australian cuttlefish have swum into breeding grounds at the top of Spencer Gulf in South Australia, reversing a worrying decline of recent years.

It’s not a return to previously normal levels, but it’s the right direction. There has been federal support for cuttlefish research in the area over the past couple of years; I hope people were looking at the right variables to learn from this. These are beautiful creatures, and an amazing gathering. I still hope to visit some day… and I would hate to be the only cuttlefish showing up for the party.

Cuttlecap tip to Kylie, of course!

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