Featured on the Escapist

I recognize this guy!


Check out the other cosplay photos from Convergence — in particular, the Skepchicks were impressive in their Orange is the New Black outfits.

I didn’t cosplay at all, I’m afraid. I wore my lab coat. Strangely, when I had to make a run for supplies to the nearby Whole Foods, they were giving out goodie bags to all the Convergence attendees in costume — and they gave me one! I was just in my work clothes!

Maybe I should do something next year. The 2015 Convergence theme is dystopias, and our party theme is “The Deep”, featuring ocean decor and flurries of cephalopods…I could probably come up with something at the intersection of those two.

So confused

I got these pamphlets in the mail yesterday. People send me Bible tracts all the time — who needs to think when you’ve got Jack Chick to give you a Hallmark shortcut? — and I usually just flip through them and toss them. But these were weird. One was about a Ken Ham-like preacher ranting that God wanted you stupid and ignorant and receptive to his message; another was all about the necessarily literal truth of the first book of Genesis, and that the whole rest of the Bible falls apart if you don’t accept it; and the other one is about how Jesus was a failure, since almost everyone goes to Hell, and only the elect few get to join him on his motorcycle to heaven. They were evil Poes.

Apparently, you’re supposed to distribute these at bus stations and truck stops and other places more typically associated with cheap Jesusy crap. I could see how someone might pick these up and confuse them with genuine believer baloney. I’m going to have to keep my eyes open for Christians sincerely spouting the mockery from the True Bible Church.

Because Indians are magic!

So you wish you were an Indian, because they’re so spiritual and noble and one with nature — they’re so magical that having a name like Manny Two Feathers or Vicki Ghost Horse means the crap you sell on e-bay has extra cred and is worth more money.

Now you can be! It’s easy. There are plastic tribes popping up all over the place, and all it takes to become one is money.

The "United Cherokee Nation," which did not respond to Phoenix inquiries, charges a $35 application fee, while the "Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri" has a $60 application fee and a $10 annual roll fee. The "Cherokee of Lawrence County" don’t charge for membership but instead asks its members to "make it a priority to send $10 a month to help with the tribe" and $12 to subscribe to its newsletter.

Membership fees and dues are just two signs a "Cherokee" group isn’t legitimate, task force members said. Other signs include members using Indian-sounding names such as "Two Feathers" and "Wind Caller," acting and dressing like Hollywood-stereotyped Indians or Plains Indians, asking for money to perform DNA tests or genealogical research, requirements to wear regalia to meetings and requirements to go through an Indian-naming ceremony.

Once admitted into the groups, members usually get membership cards, bogus "Certified Degree of Indian Blood" cards and genealogy certificates "proving" they are eligible for membership.

You might notice the Cherokee mystique: most of the fake tribes seem to be some branch of the Cherokee nation. Apparently nobody wants to be a long lost member of the Humptulips tribe, or a Stillaguamish — although you’d think Lakota, with their history as the stereotypical Plains Indian, would be more popular.

They usually dress it up more, of course. The Red Nation of the Cherokee (totally fake) thinks that if you really feel like an Indian in your heart, then you ought to join the tribe.

We do not need to follow the standards of the antiquated BIA regulations/policies of the late 1700’s or after any longer! Which, dices people up into fractions and percentages, we are true human beings and a whole person.

Our beliefs are, if an individual is of multi-Nations, then they should be allowed to honor each of them in their own way, not being forced to choose one over the other.

We of the Red Clay People of all Nations believe, we should not have to prove our heritage’s on the talking leaves paper, but be allowed to prove in the older way, what is truth in our hearts.

The Creator has heard the prayers of the people, and gave vision to start RedNation of the Cherokee. To make a place, for all the people to have a home and family, to come to and to be finally called brother or sister and to be recognized as blood.

The “talking leaves paper”? Jebus. I know a lot of local Indians (UMM offers free tuition to people of real Indian descent, verified by membership on a real tribal roll), and not a one talks like that. They also don’t wear fringed buckskin clothes with feathers in their hair. You will occasionally see them in traditional costume — which is usually jeans and a plaid work shirt, with maybe a decorative bit of bead jewelry, or a feather in their cowboy hat — when artists and cultural representatives show up on campus for our yearly powwow of native music and dancing. But get real, these are human beings who are part of a changing culture — they are not the TV Indians who never left the 18th century.

I did find this fake tribe’s rationale amusing.

Another group asking for federal recognition is the Cherokee of Lawrence County, Tenn. The tribe’s principal chief, Joe "Sitting Owl" White, said he eventually expects his tribe to be federally recognized because he and his 800 fellow members are Cherokee, and he cites photography as proof.

We’ve been called every name in the book, but we are Cherokee, he said. We can take photos of our members and hold them up and see the Cherokee in us.

He also said his tribe has scientifically proven with DNA evidence that the Cherokee people are Jewish.

You know, I actually wouldn’t be at all surprised if some members of the Cherokee of Lawrence County were certifiably and demonstrably of Jewish descent, so he might not be wrong about that. I should apply and join — they could test me and prove that Indians were also Celts who drifted over on a coracle, and Vikings who colonized the entire continent.

My zombie story

The zombie plague was a dud. When the first cases emerged, scattered around the globe, everyone knew exactly how to put them down: destroy the brain. The world had been so saturated with zombie comic books, zombie TV shows, zombie novels, and zombie movies in the greatest, if unplanned, public health information program ever, that the responses to the outbreaks was always swift and thorough. In fact, most civilian casualties were caused not by the zombies themselves, but by the way everyone had been conditioned by the media to respond to lumbering, moaning, disheveled humanoid forms with instant and brutal violence.

The death of a few homeless or mentally ill people, or others who just weren’t perky morning people, was considered a small price to pay for the ruthless efficiency with which the zombie problem was eradicated. There was talk of giving George Romero a Nobel peace prize; Time Magazine ran an issue with “Heroic Humanity” featured on the cover; the public acquired a cocky attitude and brain-smashing weapons of destruction became the hot new fashion accessory. The horror of the worst catastrophe we could imagine, the emergence of an evil twin of our species, corrupt and mindlessly destructive, had been met and dismissed with arrogant ease.

An important lesson was not learned. Zombies were our mirror image, big animals that were short-sighted and heedlessly destructive, and we had easily wiped them out…because big animals are delicate, fragile things with a limited population size, requiring immense amounts of cooperation to survive. Our pride was undeserved. We had discovered how easy it was to kill small groups of bipedal primates. Nature laughed at our trivial accomplishment.

The same plague had been burning through rat populations. Every city, every small town garbage dump, every ship, had been boiling with upheaval in the darkness as the zombie rats spread the infection everywhere. The rats were numerous, and it took three months for the disease to consume them…and then the undead rodents slithered upwards, looking for a new food source. They were ubiquitous and silent and sneaky, and found ways into bedrooms at night, where the smug humans lay with shotguns and pistols and hammers for demolishing large-skulled stupid targets, their doors safely (they thought) barred against 70 kilogram intruders. The little, mindless zombie rats scurried forward, and gnawed.

Homo sapiens was extinct within a year.

(I had this idea for a great and accurate zombie novel that would reveal the true message of the zombie fad — come on, look at yourselves, it’s all about rapacious humans with no restraint — and would also make me millions of dollars. I got up this morning all excited and rushed to start writing it, and then I discovered that I could tell the whole story in five paragraphs. Oops. Is there much of a market for one-page novels? With a totally depressing conclusion?)

I’d hate to have to get that one past the IRB

In which we learn that kings get to define their own protocols, and that coffee might be good for you.

“Coffee drinking was compared with tea drinking in monozygotic twins in 18th century,” Lars Breimer, BMJ, vol. 312, June 15, 1996, p. 1539. The author, at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London, explains:

“One of the more peculiar attempts to throw light on the question of whether drinking coffee is bad for one’s health’ was carried out in the 18th century by King Gustaf III of Sweden…. A pair of monozygotic twins had been sentenced to death for murder. Gustaf III commuted their death sentences to life imprisonment on the condition that one twin drank a large bowl of tea three times a day and that the other twin drank coffee. The twin who drank tea died first, aged 83-a remarkable age for the time. Thus the case was settled: coffee was the less dangerous of the two beverages. The king, on the other hand, was murdered at a masked ball in 1792 at the age of 45 and became the subject of an opera by Verdi.”

Although, I have to say, the n is really small, and the controls are inadequate.