Les Misery

Oh, yay, someone thinks the same way I do. I saw Les Miserables this week, and let me just say…it was the worse movie experience I’ve had since The Expendables (but for completely different reasons, of course). And just to put it in perspective, I watched Warning From Space with the @MockTM gang last week. It didn’t make me moan in pain as much as this movie did.

Anyway, the review is spot on.

At 158 minutes, this is a long musical film (it’s was a long book, and I’m talking about Victor Hugo’s, not the libretto) but I was shocked to find that it has only one song, and that’s the "Dream-de-Dream-de-Weem-de-Weem" song. The other musical numbers seem to draw their melodic inspiration from the recitatives, the kinds of tuneless tunes you might absent-mindedly whisper under your breath while you vacuum — only here, of course, they’re belted out at the tops of the actors’ lungs.

Yeah, they made a ‘musical’ with only one song, and they slugged it out early in the movie so we could spend the next two hours wondering when there was going to be some more music.

Here’s a deeply flawed parody of that one song.

It’s missing a few key pieces, like being in really intense closeup so you can see every pore and the hideous blotchy mottling of poorly applied excessive makeup splattered on a 19th century French prostitute. Also, she’s not emotional enough: you need to be able to see the watery mucus pooling in her nostrils, so you can sit on the edge of your seat through half the number wondering when it was going to flood onto her lip.

One star. In extreme closeup. With swarms of sunspots like rot corrupting the surface.

Maybe we should dress up Science in a pink dress and heels

I groan every time I see another well-meant attempt to inspire women to pursue science by dressing it up in stereotypical femininity. There’s nothing wrong with pink, and if you want to wear high heels, OK, your choice…but we don’t improve science literacy and appeal by associating it with gender stereotypes. Kate Clancy has an excellent response to some of these errors: “Pseudoscience and stereotyping won’t solve gender inequality in science.”

I get email

This letter was so out of character with all the other stuff in my mailbox, and so unexpected, that I was taken aback. I’m so used to threats and hatred and ranty angry petty bullshit pouring in that I was left confused and wondering how to reply.

Dear PZ Myers,

I read your blog. The place from which I love and appreciate your blog is deep, deep within this 59 year old woman’s self. I started reading your blog because of my interest in science. I am an amateur follower of anthropology news and started out reading John Hawks’ blog, then somehow ended up at Panda’s Thumb and then at your blog; and those 3 blogs still remain a core reading set for me.

But your blog has held me captive more intensely than any other and I return to it “religiously” in ways I don’t with the others. The reason being–you publicly stand as an ally of women and feminism. That is a new thing to see happen in the world and was not around when I was growing up and attending schools. It was deeply longed for, though.

Thank you.

I do not comment on internet sites but I wanted to let you know in a private setting how much I appreciate your fierce defense of women and feminism. I have sent your link to many friends.

BTW–I love this idea of Atheism+! I love the strong women I read about within this new push for social justice in atheist/skeptic movements. I was so let down by Dawkins’ reaction to Rebecca Watson. It was your defense of her that gained my trust and secured me as a repeat visitor to your blog. And your continued tough support has kept me reading you. I find it so healing to see a man choose to lend his influence in public support of women/feminism under attack. Girlhood in the catholic church, in a catholic family, in the world at large, leaves many patriarchal wounds that would like to be healed, even the ones we have blown off as we stomp our way through survival. For that is what we mostly do–we survive and find the ways we can best thrive by creating the love and nurturing we always wanted, despite the awfulness.

Wait, wait…there’s something. Something from a long, long time ago. My mother might have told me how I was supposed to respond when someone says something nice, but man, that’s been ages and I’m struggling to remember it. Something complicated? Something really tricky and difficult?

Oh, yeah.

Thank you.

Anil Potti likes to keep his name in the internet spotlight

Anil Potti is the dodgy researcher who, after being found guilty of scientific fraud, hired an online reputation manager to fluff up his name. Then the guy who made stuff up in 18 papers and padded his CV fled to North Dakota, where he’s working in a cancer center…now that’s chilling, isn’t it?

His latest exploit is to get posts critical of him yanked from Retraction Watch, the site that monitors journals’ behavior when fraud is exposed.

It’s a familiar strategy.

  1. A site says something rude (like the truth) about Potti.

  2. Fake site posts a copy of the rude article.

  3. Fake site files a DMCA claiming that the original article was a copyright violation.

  4. Rude article disappears! Anil Potti triumphs! He has successfully scrubbed criticism from the internet!

Oh, wait. Didn’t I just mention his name multiple times? He may have to rethink his grand plan, because it’s just going to make the situation worse for him.

Creationists will be poisoning children’s brains tomorrow

Once again, I’m going to have to miss the sad, sorry Creation Science Fair that takes place every year in Minneapolis. It’s taking place tomorrow, at the Northwestern College Totino Fine Arts Center in Roseville.


I say sad not because the participating kids do a bad job — some of the posters are fine, others definitely are not — but because these kids are having a healthy interest in science warped to support an absurd dogma. The science is subverted to support a ridiculous ideology.

Each exhibit MUST include a Scripture reference. Some ideas are not specifically mentioned in the Bible, but there are verses that develop principles that can be related to your project. The intent is to relate all areas of science to the Creator of the universe.

If you’re doing science, you’re examining a real world phenomenon objectively and testing it against a reasonable hypothesis; this activity is in conflict with the unreasonable hypothesis that phenomena are the product of an unobservable space ghost’s omnipotent whims. Imagine a secular science fair that demanded that all the results be supported by quotes from an atheist — it simply doesn’t happen, and even adamant atheists like me would consider that utterly weird. But creationists have no problem demanding that their ‘science’ bow down before an imaginary being.

A quick desert bobcat-related note

A few days back my neighbor Teddy Quinn asked me if I’d be willing to provide a minute or so of audio on the whole “bobcat trapping in Joshua Tree” issue I mentioned this week. Said audio would be aired on his new project, Radio Free Joshua Tree, a community podcast.

He asked me for a minute and I gave him five, but he played the whole thing anyway. It’s at minute 17 of hour 2 of his variety show for February 3, the whole thing of which you should check out. My neighborhood is replete with good musicians, and Teddy is kind of a local impresario curating their work and boosting their careers.

But if you don’t have time for that, or if you hate music, I’ve posted just my audio at Coyote Crossing as well.

I was reminded, doing this, of how easy and fun audio work is. I’ve decided I want to do more. Probably mostly ruminations on life in the desert, that kind of thing. If you want to be kept in the loop, my Twitter account is probably where I’ll announce new recordings more reliably. Follow me there to be part of the in-crowd.

“Peace process”? “Cease fire”? WTF?

This is utterly bizarre. We’ve got a bunch of people whining for a “cease fire” in the atheist community. It makes no sense at all.

“54°40′ or Fight” required negotiations. Rockets being fired across the border might need a cease fire. A displaced ethnic minority might have grounds for asking for reconciliation in a peace agreement. All these sorts of things involve two parties coming together with specific and conflicting demands on each side, with the goal of resolving them in some sort of compromise.

Specific demands. Get that? It’s important. There’s nothing to discuss if we aren’t bring some specifics to the table.

And that’s the thing: I am making no demands of the other side in these arguments. None at all. They can complain all they want. So what are we supposed to compromise on? I don’t give a damn what they do. Nothing we can argue over is going to compel me to like those assholes — that’s not something you can do in a “peace process” — and it’s quite clear that the feeling is mutual.

And the converse is also true: they have not said what I’m supposed to stop doing or change…well, other than stop being an evil feminist or whatever, which we know isn’t going to happen. It also doesn’t matter what they want, I’m not planning to change anything.

This is a reasonably diverse blog; I write about what interests me, against what I dislike, for causes I care about; no one is going to be able to tell me to stop writing about X. I’m also going to disagree with people, and say so. And yes, the blog content will continue to reflect my concerns about science, liberal politics, feminism, the environment, developmental biology, random weird observations, and whatever the hell strikes my fancy. These aren’t negotiable items.

This blog is not fixated on my hatred of some other person on the net; contrast that with our opponents, who have built an entire forum dedicated to their hatred of all things associated with Skepchick, Freethoughtblogs, and feminism. I do not troll other people’s sites. I do not create anonymous accounts for email or twitter which I use to express my secret contempt for anyone. I do not create sockpuppet accounts or fake accounts purporting to represent my enemies for the purpose of sowing confusion and lies. I do not address women by slang names for their genitals. I do not stoop to making photoshop collages of my opponents’ faces pasted onto pornography or clowns or animals (it would be hard to do, given that most of my opponents are anonymous cowards.) I do not court hate sites like AVoiceForMen for their endorsement or approval.

I do not tell the people on the other side of this argument to stop doing that. In fact, I am quite happy with the fact that they are the kind of corrupt and demented ignoramuses who would continue to indulge in such nonsense. So what is there to negotiate here?

Let’s get right down to the obvious fact: those yahoos hate us because we use our voices to speak out for feminism, social justice for all, and a willingness to advocate for all that as a natural extension of rational thought. That’s the real difference, and the only difference that counts here; and no, I’m not going to change that under any circumstances. It is not something I can compromise on. My silence on issues I care about will not be a bargaining chip.

I don’t care whether it’s an overt opponent or someone pretending to be a neutral party; I don’t give a good goddamn for anyone trying to dictate my causes. I’m also going to roll my eyes at anyone claiming to be disinterested and just trying to heal a Deep Rift, because every time someone protests that they “just want a dialogue”, they’re stalling to preserve the status quo. There is no compromise on equal rights for women and minorities, because any compromises are always seeking to settle on inequality.

There’s not one thing I would change about what I do. And I’m going to laugh in the face of anyone who tries to tell me otherwise.

SICB opposes “drill baby drill”

It’s always gratifying to see a scientific organization step up and use their collective expertise to make a clear statement on a political and economic issue. The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) has published an open letter to President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline is a ghastly stopgap that hinders the promotion of better, cleaner alternative energy sources by encouraging ever more desperate and destructive efforts to harvest marginal energy sources…efforts to keep us on our petroleum addiction until the last drop of oil is wrung out of the earth, at any cost.

How about taking the billions that would be squandered building a big ugly pipe and instead invest it in research and conservation?

6 February 2013

From the Presidents of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

An open letter to President Barack Obama,

Members of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology are biologists from throughout the U.S. with the broadest possible perspectives—from microbes to whales, from molecules to ecosystems. The undersigned current and past presidents of the Society have watched with increasing dismay the deterioration of the life support system of our planet, threatening all life as we know it. It has long been known that one product of burning fossil fuel, carbon dioxide, is a powerful greenhouse gas, and more recently that this gas has been associated with drastic climate variations in Earth’s past. Consequently, it is no surprise that prodigious worldwide burning of fossil fuel is creating large-scale climate change with increasing disruption of life on the planet. While many in the western developed nations still enjoy relative prosperity – despite the horrific storms experienced in the U.S. in recent years – it is in poor nations around the world that the impacts of climate change are currently most destructive. Pacific Island nations are disappearing beneath the tides as sea level rises. Desertification is destroying agriculture in northern Africa and massive floods have devastated Pakistan, Bangladesh and Thailand in the last two years.

It is too late to avoid substantial disruption, but further damage can be reduced if we act immediately to keep remaining fossil fuel deposits in the ground, out of the air and sea. A most immediate decision is yours: whether or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. More important than the fact that the pipeline itself will endanger aquifers and life along its length, the pipe will deliver the dirtiest, most CO2-producing petroleum source known to the refineries of the Gulf Coast. Additionally, the Athabasca tar-sands mine is destroying vast regions of northern Alberta that have been home and hunting and fishing grounds for First Nations peoples for thousands of years.

Even before fossil fuels are burned, releasing climate-altering greenhouse gases, the extraction phase itself produces environmental disasters, including toxins in water supplies due to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, degradation of watersheds by mountain-top coal mining, and the loss of marine life from offshore drilling. Permits for all of these activities lie in the hands of agencies of your administration.

Alternative sources of energy are at hand. We do have the individual and collective intelligence and technology to see the urgently needed transition through to better times. What we require is sufficient political will on a global scale to meet the challenge. The U.S., for the last three federal administrations, has been a major impediment to ratification of international climate treaties. Clearly, the future demands that we – through your administration – reverse this pattern and join with leaders of other nations to ratify agreements that will quickly and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. President: you are arguably the most powerful person in the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the globe. To be clear: change will come, one way or another. Your task is no less than to steer the course of history away from its current devastating trajectory toward a sustainable existence for humankind.

Signed by:
Billie Swalla, University of Washington* President, 2013-2014
Peter Wainwright, University of California, Davis*
President-elect, 2013-2014
Ken Sebens, University of Washington* Past President, 2010-2012
Rich Satterlie, University of North Carolina, Wilmington*
Past President, 2009-2010
John Pearse, University of California, Santa Cruz*
Past President, 2007-2008
Sally Woodin, University of South Carolina* Past President, 2005-2006
Marvalee Wake, University of California, Berkeley*
Past President, 2001-2002
Alan Kohn, University of Washington* Past President, 1997-1998
Mike Hadfield, University of Hawaii* Past President, 1995-1996
David Wake, University of California, Berkeley*
Past President, 1992
* Affiliations for identification only and do not represent endorsement by the organization”.
Lynn Riddiford, University of Washington* Past President, 1991
Albert Bennett, University of California, Irvine*
Past President, 1990
Stephen Wainwright, Duke University* Past President, 1988
William Dawson, University of Michigan* Past President, 1986
Patricia Morse, University of Washington* Past President, 1985
Edwin L. Cooper, University of California, Los Angeles*
Past President, 1983
F. John Vernberg, University of South Carolina*
Past President, 1982
Mary E. Rice
Past President, 1979

Approved by the Executive Committee of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, 5 February 2013, as was the Society’s Resolution on Climate Change and Ocean Acidification, which was approved on 1 March 2012: http://www.sicb.org/resources/resolutions.php3#climate