Friday night at the chick flick

I usually watch movies alone. I like to go, and we have a very nice old theater here in town, but my wife isn’t really into them. There’s usually a conversation something like this at my house on the weekend…

“Would you like to go to the movie tonight?”

“No, thanks.”

I get shot down more often in my requests for dates now than I ever did in high school. It’s OK, though, it’s usually because the movie playing isn’t to her taste, and I can respect that. It has to be some kind of chick flick to get her interested.

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Obama does something right

I think this is exactly what the federal government ought to be doing: building the national infrastructure and setting priorities. So I’m completely behind Obama’s proposal to make community college free for everybody for the first two years, a project that will lead to an expansion of our educational system, more employment for educators, and more opportunities for young people. It’s estimated to cost $34 billion — scrap a few defense contracts, we can cover that.

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I do enjoy a good haunted house

It’s really a shame I just now found out about the Haunted Basement in Minneapolis. And I had to find out about it in the New Yorker!

Housed directly beneath the Soap Factory galleries, in the building’s grimy, raw underground space, the Haunted Basement consists of a series of rooms, or scenes, each created by an emerging artist. Despite (or perhaps because of) its highbrow origins, it’s generally agreed to be the freakiest haunted house in town—only adults are allowed in, dressed in closed-toe shoes and a protective face mask, and armed with a safe word (“uncle”), just in case. Visitors enter in groups but often get separated as they move through the twelve-thousand-square-foot space; they can expect to crawl, climb, and run, to get covered in gore, and, in 2013, to be stuffed into a coffin by a toothless man in an orange jumpsuit. The entire experience lasts a brief but intense twenty minutes, though nearly a hundred people bailed out early this year by crying uncle.

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Did you know teaching is a skill?

It really is. I will readily confess that the professoriate doesn’t give it much appreciation either — we’re all just tossed straight into the classroom with negligible preparation — but at least we’ve got a kind of Darwinian mode going on to weed out the worst. Jonnny Scaramanga has a guest post from someone who was subjected to Christian fundamentalist education. It’s ugly.

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Robin Williams brings joy to the hearts of journalists and politicians once again

I’m sorry to report that comedian Robin Williams has committed suicide, an event of great import and grief to his family. But his sacrifice has been a great boon to the the news cycle and the electoral machinery — thank God that we have a tragedy involving a wealthy white man to drag us away from the depressing news about brown people. I mean, really: young 18 year old black man gunned down for walking in the street vs. 63 year old white comedian killing himself? Which of those two stories gives you an excuse to play heart-warming and funny video clips non-stop on your 24 hour news channel? Besides, the real story in Missouri is that businesses have been damaged by angry black people — no one is going to trash the Family Dollar in rage over the death of a popular comedian. Mike Brown’s death is confusing — the police say he was a shoplifter struggling to get a gun, while no stores reported a shoplifting event, and Brown was unarmed and shot while raising his hands in surrender. Where’s the moral clarity? We’re supposed to want to believe the police, you know, yet all the evidence points to their status as a gang of militarized thugs. That’s very uncomfortable.

Boy, I hate to say it, but it sure was nice of Robin Williams to create such a spectacular distraction. No one wants to think the police might be untrustworthy.

And think of the politicians! Midterm elections are coming up. Those are important! So people like Barack Obama need to be able to show their human side and connect with the real concerns of the American people by immediately issuing a safe, kind statement about Robin Williams, while navigating the dangerous shoals of police brutality and black oppression by avoiding them. Wouldn’t want to antagonize those lovely law-and-order folks before an election, you see.

Lovely folks like this white lady:

nardi

She seems nice. She looks like the kind of person who would have laughed at “nanu-nanu” and cried at What Dreams May Come. She is a Real American whose opinions deserve the attention of the powers that be.

AtheistTV gets a thumbs up

I was home for a late lunch, so I flipped on the Roku and installed the AtheistTV channel. It was easy, but then you Roku owners know that part already.

The channel is well organized into various categories, but right now content is a little thin — the comedy category, for instance, contains one video, and the movie category…well, there are a few entries there, but it’s a stretch to call them ‘movies’. I guess atheists are a bit light on providing entertainment.

But I consider the sparse content on the day of the launch to be a good thing. My dread was that they’d take a shortcut to filling up the channel by importing youtube videos wholesale, and then it would be an exercise in wading through garbage to find the gems. That’s not the case at all — they’ve exercised restraint and quality control.

So what you’ll find there is a lot of material relevant to American Atheists: recordings of talks at the last few national conferences and the Reason Rally, and AA’s official talk show, the Atheist Viewpoint. There’s a lot of stuff transferred from the RDF. The Atheist Community of Austin is featured with a collection of videos from the Atheist Experience. When I say it’s thin, I’m talking relatively, compared to a movie channel — you could still veg out for many weeks nonstop trying to watch everything on it. It’s still important that they are being selective about putting up videos with thoughtful commentary about atheism.

It also looks ready for expansion, and I’m sure even more will be added. It’s a good strategy for introducing the content of the conferences to a wider audience, and that’s a natural procedure for generating new material.

Some suggestions I’d make: it really is American Atheist-centered, understandably, but it would be nice to see partnering with CFI or American Humanists or British Humanists, for instance, to fold in some of their content. It would also be cool to adopt more science content — HHMI, for example, has lots of free science videos that aren’t at all explicitly atheistic but would fit in well with a theme of scientific naturalism (whether they’d be willing to have them shown on an atheist channel is an open question). Not just science, but also history and philosophy categories would be a nice addition.

Check it out. I think it’s going to be useful. If you have a Roku, it’s definitely worth getting the channel (it’s free, so I’m not saying much there), but it’s also yet another reason to get a Roku if you don’t have one.