The withdrawing room

It’s a play on The Lounge, geddit?

Never mind.

A derail on another thread made me think maybe we needed a place for general conversation, so that derails can be avoided while still allowing off topic discussion. I doubt it will thrive, because I don’t have PZ’s approximately 10% of the global population commenting on my blog, but I’ll give it a shot.

So – how about that Norway, huh? Got any questions about it you’ve always wanted to ask?

Or characters in Jane Austen novels?

Or pets?

Or gossip?

Travel plans?

This thing you wanted to talk about here but it didn’t seem to fit anywhere and you forgot about it?


  1. Bernard Bumner says

    I always used to laugh at my niece and nephew talking about their drawing room. It was literally a place where they kept their crayons and paper. Sounded posh, though.

  2. Pen says

    I can’t stand Jane Austen. Somebody else brought it up. I’m excited about the local play festival I went to all last week and Loncon which is in about a month. Anyone else going?

  3. chigau (違う) says

    I like Jane Austin.
    Her characters are excruciatingly erudite.

    My kitty is pushing 20 years old.

  4. Pen says

    It was you wasn’t it? It’s Austen, chigau, not Austin. And any female character who made a point of being erudite got taken the mickey out of. 18th C English just sounds erudite in retrospect. Oh well, whatever…

    What’s the venerable cat’s name?

  5. opposablethumbs says

    A withdrawing room is cool, especially as there’s no question of letting the blokes hog all the port (I don’t care for cigars myself, but it’s good to know they won’t get hogged either).

    Jane Austen can be wonderful, but it’s getting increasingly difficult – maybe impossible – to make the massive speed adjustment required to read her. I haven’t felt calm and unhurried/unharried enough in years. It almost feels as if the rotation of the earth would need to slow down before I could cope with more than a paragraph, and the truth is that I may never make that adjustment again in my lifetime.

    I did, however, re-read the whole of Sterne’s Tristam Shandy a few months ago.

    Here, let me pass these around – anyone for a dish of chestnuts?

  6. Pen says

    I like Shakespeare, even though some of his plays are pretty tough in retrospect and quite vulgar. And either deal with misogyny or are misogynistic depending on your point of view.

  7. says

    I don’t comment very often, but read most of everything on this blog for years now. I particularly enjoy reading the commentariat here. Take THAT, PZ.

    Nice idea, this timeout room.

  8. Pen says

    Does anyone know Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It’s an 18thC historical fantasy type thing, with old-fashioned voice and style? I quite liked it. But the one that really blew my mind was the Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano. This is an 18th C black guy, telling you about how he fought with the British Navy, bought his way out of slavery and had numerous other narrow escapes in his long career as a sailor. Only he talks exactly like Jane Austen. Only not about who should marry who and whether Emily is ladylike enough.

  9. Gordon Willis says

    I wrote Austin, too. I do not know why. It might have been the whisky. It is on my conscience. May I be forgiven.

  10. says

    opposable – now that’s interesting because for me it’s the opposite – most modern “literary” novelists – and actually some common-or-garden ones – take way too much time to read for the amount of reward they give, while Austen hands it out with every sentence.

    Well I shouldn’t say most, because I don’t read most – most of the ones I try, is what I mean.

  11. says

    Pen @ 12 – it’s deal with the misogyny, definitely. His contemporaries were misogynist and he dealt with it. The structures are radically opposed. Shxpr is full of women wrongly accused, while all the others are full of women rightly accused. Other playwrights didn’t bother with a Desdemona or Imogen or Hero or Hermione, let alone a Cordelia.

  12. chigau (違う) says

    talk about dodging a bullet
    Wikipedia tells me

    According to Franco Zeffirelli’s autobiography, Paul McCartney was originally asked to play the part of Romeo.

  13. Pen says

    @ 18 – Ophelia. Hmmm, well, what do you make of Taming of the Shrew which is quite infamous now? Or, you know, that joke in Twelth Night with the fake love letter when Malvolio says ‘these are her very Cs, her Us, her Ts and thus makes she her great Ps.’ I remember our English teacher explaining that one to us, anyone who doesn’t get it straight away probably doesn’t need more help than to know it’s there.

    My favourite Shakespearean women are in the Merry Wives of Windsor and in As You Like It where the cousins go off by themselves. When he gets women together, they rock. I wonder what it looked like played by young lads. It’s hard to separate Shakespeare’s original performances from our more familiar traditions of drag.

    @ Gordon and chigau – it was Gordon I was thinking of earlier. Sorry chigau. Nice cat name.

  14. opposablethumbs says

    Austen hands it out with every sentence.

    Oh, I agree! I just always feel that I need to stop, take a deep breath and stop hurrying in order to take it in, and I find it hard to stop hurrying. There’s always a feeling that I don’t have the mental space – and pace – to take it in. You can speed-read a lot of things and still get some of what’s there, or you can read some things a tiny bite at a time; I feel you can’t really do that with Austen. It’s all in the incredibly precise and minute dissections of every word and thought – can’t be rushed, and I feel like I’m always rushing …

    I dunno, anyone else feel like some styles of writing ask to be read at a particular pace?

  15. palmettobug says

    I’m a bit ignorant of much quality literature due to a youth misspent reading awful sci fi, so I have nothing to say about Austen. It’s on my reading list.

    One thing that’s been on my mind is wondering whether Koch/Cato/etc dark money is infiltrating the atheist/skeptic orgs and skewing activities. I have a vague recollection of reading that Shermer got early money from Cato. Anybody have more info? Anybody in favor of more transparency in this area?

  16. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    There’s a sequel to The Taming of the Shrew by John Fletcher: The Woman’s Prize or The Tamer Tamed, where a widowed Petrucchio gets a taste of his own medicine.

  17. sceptinurse says

    I like “the withdrawing room” it has a nice ring to it and it sounds like a nice place to relax and enjoy conversation. Since the men are included and not off hogging the port. The cigars can stay out.

    I like names for open thread hang outs. Libby Anne’s is “the lesbian duplex” which I find hysterical. And one of my cats is using my ankle for a pillow at the moment.

  18. Pen says

    @ 25 – oh shhh…. the MRAs will be down on us! I just read the plot outline of The Tamer Tamed. It’s everything they hate!! Written in the early 1600s too.

  19. Jeff Chamberlain says

    Hank Williams’ 1951 song “Hey Good Lookin'” was an “adaptation” of a Cole Porter song of the same name (and mostly the same tune and similar but cleverer lyrics) from the (now all but forgotten) 1942 musical Something for the Boys. The Williams version has become a standard. The Porter version is almost never performed anymore.


    This has nothing to do with Norway. Or Austen. (Or Austin, for that matter.)

  20. says

    @ opposablethumbs

    I dunno, anyone else feel like some styles of writing ask to be read at a particular pace?

    I know the history of New France. NPR interviews Joseph Boyton about his new book The Orenda, an historic fiction novel set in the New World ca. 1610. I ordered a copy before the interview was over.

    It is so good, I’m reading it a chapter a week. I re-read the previous chapter for continuity, then read the new one. I very seldom read fiction, so this is to savor.

    All the non-fiction sets it’s own reading pace. “Parasites and the Behavior of Animals”, anyone?

  21. says

    I like talking about Mark Twain talking about Jane Austen.

    I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

  22. opposablethumbs says

    Argh I can’t remember the name of the Taming of the Shrew re-written as violent tragedy … it’s called “The M- Shrew”, where M is the surname of the author – something like

    ETA I remember, it’s Charles Marowitz; The Marowitz Shrew

    I don’t know the Fletcher sequel, that sounds interesting. But I see that Katherine is dead, so I guess it’s All About Petrucchio …

  23. says

    Palmettobug: But not all sci fi is bad. If you only read the bad ones, I pity you. No doubt much science fiction is bad, but there is plenty of well written, thought provoking science fiction around. At its best, it takes some contemporary problem (or possible problem-to-be) and examines it in distilled form. A classic of this genre is Nineteen Eighty-Four, of course.

    Not being very verbal myself, I admit to being much too ignorant of the classics, though. I am more inclined towards music. Now listening to Keith Jarrett’s solo concerto in the Royal Festival Hall, London. It’s worth a thousand Shakespeare plays to me. Sorry, Ophelia.

  24. says

    Now at Part VIII (of Keith Jarrett, of course) – a wonderful, romantic piece – it’s twenty minutes before midnight, and it’s light enough outside to read, even though it is overcast. But that’s enough about Norway. I hope it’s not rude to claim two comments in a row, but everyone else is so quiet all of a sudden … PZ, thanks for the Mark Twain. I do enjoy the old rascal. And anat, thanks for the link. At least the problem is getting some attention, so there is hope for progress.

  25. kbplayer says

    Re Shakespeare – the Royal Shakespeare Company does this brilliant event cinema so you can be at your local cinema watching top class Shakespearean actors doing Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, Antony Sher as Falstaff. I love the Henry plays, and the atmospheres of the two are quite different. Henry IV Part 1 is full of youthful energy and battles, Part 2 of ageing, sickness, mortality and disappointment. The rejection of Falstaff by the new Henry V is much harder to take than Cordelia’s death because it is something that we have all suffered in one form.

    Filmed theatre is different from theatre, of course, as you have close ups and your gaze is directed certain ways, and also different from a film like Fiennes’ Coriolanus or Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet with the anxious attempts to make it modern – eg anchormen on the television speaking in blank verse. You can see it’s a spectacle and the language is heightened rhetoric but you can feel the emotion as well. And it costs half as much as a ticket to a theatre in Stratford, not to mention it’s 400 yards from my work.

  26. karmacat says

    I do like Jane Austen but couldn’t stand Jane Eyre by (I forget which sister) Bronte. I was annoyed when Jane ran off to the moors, which I just thought was stupid and whiny of her. I did really like The Wide Sargasso Sea. But I recently have been avoiding books with sad endings.

  27. palmettobug says

    @33: no, not all scifi is terrible, but I do regret that it mostly kept me away from real literature until my 20’s and perhaps stunted my ability to appreciate literature. I’ve read more widely since then, but still haven’t gotten around to Austen.

  28. says


    I read Strange/Norrell a few years ago. Liked it okay. Remember thinking, mostly: very interesting concept, execution varied a bit from mundane to brilliant. Bits that really stuck out: the guard who doesn’t fight too hard for later obvious reasons (avoiding spoiler, here), the spell involving tall ships. One of those things I keep thinking I should go back to; I was very distracted by other things reading it the first time, not sure I gave it its due.

    (For my part: I’m currently in Standish, Maine, around a week. Looking for some tennis courts I can borrow a bit here and there, while I’m here.)

  29. says

    @ 24 anat

    I went and read your link, including comments. Worthwhile reading. It clarified why I seldom comment here; given the subject matter at B&W, I am usually much better qualified to read than to write.

    New term for me, “JAQing off”. Certainly an apt description of passive-aggressive commenter “anon” at the link.

  30. says

    opposable @ 22 – ohhhhhhh I see what you mean. Right; exactly. That’s why I’ve read Emma I don’t know how many times but it’s a lot – at least 20, I would think – and find new stuff in it every time.

    PZ – you’re so so so wrong. Wrong.

  31. says

    Harald @ 40 – yes!

    And don’t worry about too much about Norway (I’m happy to see an infinite amount about Norway, actually) or two comments in a row or anything else (apart from the usual “don’t call each other pie-eyed loons” sort of thing) on this thread (which I’ll make a series if people continue to like it). Here Blanche’s questions would have been fine. Randomness is permitted.

  32. says

    I’m not crazy about the post-Lowood Jane Eyre but I do like the first ten chapters, all the more so since learning about the Irish versions of Lowood.

  33. says

    Pooooor Richard Sanderson. It must be so dreary being so obsessed with us while we’re not the slightest bit interested in him. Even when he goes to the trouble of sending me insulting comments and I decide to approve one just to show him up, that’s only a few seconds of my attention. He spends hours every day obsessing over us. Every day. Can you imagine.

  34. Brian E says

    Ah Norway, the North’s answer to New Zealand, what with its Fjords and whatnot…..

    Hi Ophelia, how goes it?

  35. chigau (違う) says

    When I was in high school, They™ thought is was a good idea to make us read Shakespeare’s plays.
    I still hate reading plays. They are meant to be watched.
    And possibly heckled.
    I would have made a good groundling.

  36. A. Noyd says

    My parents got divorced when I was six. My little sister and I stayed in Seattle with our mother and our father moved away. For a good while he worked as an actor at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. He never got any major parts, though. He also didn’t always get vacations when we were down visiting him, so we’d hang out in various parts of the Festival—inside, outside, and over in Lithia Park.

    One of the years we went down over Easter. We were maybe 7 and 10. The Easter Bunny brought us plastic eggs filled with jelly beans. That was one of the days our dad had to go to afternoon rehearsal, so we took the (then empty) plastic eggs to the Festival to play with. It was a nice day, so we were out in the main courtyard and took turns hiding the eggs for one another to find. Midway through one of the searches, we noticed some other kids were picking up the eggs. When we confronted them, their mother came over and started lecturing us how we had to share the egg hunt. She used that horrible, patronizing tone that parents take towards stranger children they think are depriving their own precious brats of something.

    We were like, what the hell is this woman talking about? We don’t have to share our own eggs if we don’t want to. Apparently she thought that there must be some official egg finding event that she and her kids had just happened to stumble upon. It took forever to convince her that there was no such event (which should have been obvious from the lack of other families about and the lack of any sort of signage for such an event) and got her to tell her kids to give back the eggs.

    It wasn’t just about the eggs, though. I think we felt a little possessive of the Festival itself because, unless we went over to the park, we were usually the only kids there and spent a good amount of time behind the scenes. We didn’t give a damn about the cultural significance. It was our place to hang out, and this woman and her kids were interlopers. Rude, thieving interlopers! We felt so proud of ourselves for chasing them off our turf.

  37. says

    Since open questions are being solicited…

    How does one raise awareness of other forms of unearned privilege without derailing bigger and more serious issues like sexism, racism, atheism and the like? There’s one on my mind that few people talk about, but I don’t want to turn it into a stupid “My pain is greater than yours” rant by raising it.

  38. palmettobug says

    PZ@30, OB@41: I suspect PZ is being a scamp, toying with us by providing a link that does not really supporting the quote. The post he linked to paints an intriguing picture that perhaps Twain only pretended to not like Austen (didn’t fit his image), and had some unfinished essays that belie a deeper appreciation of Austen, and that he perhaps based some of his characters on Austen’s.

  39. Bjarte Foshaug says

    If you ever decide to visit Norway, I would recommend the region of Møre & Romsdal for some of the most spectacular landscapes this far from New Zealand. As Brian mentioned, Norway is probably the most similar country to New Zealand. It’s also almost exactly on the opposite side of the Earth.

    One piece of trivia about Norway is that we have two official languages that are more similar than most German dialects. The majority language is called bokmål (~”book-language”) and is essentially Danish. The second language is called Nynorsk (New Norwegian) and is largely based on the western dialects. Both of these languages are mainly used in writing, since most Norwegians speak some kind of dialect. The Eastern dialects can best be described as “Danish with a Swedish pronunciation” (Norway used to belong to Denmark but was given to Sweden after the Napoleonic Wars where Denmark/Norway was on the losing side). As I said bokmål and Danish are virtually identical, but whereas Danish is not very melodic, Norwegian definitely is, closer in this respect to Swedish. Most Norwegians therefor find Danish easier to read and Swedish easier to understand when spoken. Anyway all three languages are similar enough that we usually don’t have any problem understanding each other.

  40. says

    Have you considered putting in a link to the Withdrawing Room in the sidebar?

    He spends hours every day obsessing over us. Every day. Can you imagine.

    Every. Day?! Geez.


    Hmm, Greta does cats. PZ does cephalopod’s. Is there an official B&W animal?

  41. astrolabecat says

    That bit above about Norwegian languages was wonderful, thank you.

    I love Jane Austen. Have recently reread Northanger Abbey and laughed like a drain.
    I have a friend with two daughters, the second called Darcy. Seeing them always triggers my Austen-brain-module and then I want to cal the daughters Miss [surname] and Miss Darcy. But then I think “but Miss Darcy is Miss Georgiana Darcy!” and my head asplodes. Sigh. It’s a tough life.

    Every morning, I read B&W, Pharyngula and *cough* What Kate Wore *cough*. I am too scared even to go into PZ’s lounge, but I’ll hang out in the withdrawing room with great pleasure. like Port but prefer Cointreau.

  42. carlie says

    Pride and Prejudice isn’t my favorite of Austen, but Twain has to answer for Roughing It, in which he spends two whole pages describing the interior of a house. He is not without sin.

  43. MyaR says

    Manfeels Park is the most brilliant thing I’ve seen today. OK, it’s not even 9:00 yet, but it has set the bar for awesome for the day.

    Also, I’m pretty sure Cooper already is the B+W official animal. More specific than most? Yes, but that seems fitting.

  44. opposablethumbs says

    How about Cooper and butterflies?

    I am a complete doofus

    Well I’ll be vehemently contradictory here, Tony!, and venture to say that no you’re definitely not.

    astrolabecat, The Lounge is the friendly place where nobody yells at anybody (and anyone bringing up something seriously contentious and/or that cannot be discussed without yelling is asked to move it to the Thunderdome, which is the place for knock-down arguments as and when). Um, just in case you might have had a mistaken impression.

    Mine’s a whisky, no e, ta.

  45. astrolabecat says

    opposablethumbs 🙂 Thanks, and I *certainly* will keep out of the Thunderdome. Perhaps I’ll go and lurk in the lounge for a bit one day. B&W feels more my home, though. I occasionally send Ms Benson pics of meerkats or other South African animals, to brighten her day, you know, like you do, with family. Um, well, if you’re me.

    On that note, have some meerkats!

  46. says

    Hrmf. As a bokmål user myself, I take exception to the claim that bokmål is virtually identical to Danish. Far from it! Back when Ivar Aasen lived, it was more or less true, but the languages have diverged since then. Quite a lot. Nynorsk has changed a lot too, since Aasen invented it. And technically speaking, bokmål and nynorsk are written languages. Nobody speaks either, with the possible exception of radio and television presenters. Basically, everybody speaks some dialect. Some dialects are closer to bokmål, others to nynorsk. Back around 1948, there was an effort to merge bokmål and nynorsk into one language, called samnorsk. Apparently, it was uniformly hated by everyone on both sides of the language divide, so the project ended in failure. (I shall refrain from trying to explain riksmål, to avoid further confusion. Ask me about it some other time.)
    Oh, but I do enjoy reading well written nynorsk! Jakob Sande‘s poems Etter ein rangel (after a drunken night) and Likfunn (about finding a badly decomposed body) are classics. You should all learn nynorsk just so you can enjoy these poems!

  47. Bjarte Foshaug says

    And technically speaking, bokmål and nynorsk are written languages.

    Exactly, and the written language we call “bokmål” is virtually identical to written Danish since they used to be the same language. Of course those of us who write Bokmål (myself included) don’t speak like the Danes, but, as you said, neither do we speak “bokmål”.

  48. opposablethumbs says

    Thank you, astrolabecat – they certainly do wield some serious, high-magnitude cute.

    I wish I knew any Danish or Swedish or Norwegian at all (confined to Romance family + English, me :-(((((( )

  49. Bjarte Foshaug says

    Norwegian for “Butterflies and Wheels” is “Sommerfugler og hjul”. The word “sommerfugl” (butterfly) is composed of “sommer”=”summer” and “fugl”=”bird”, i.e. “summerbird” 🙂

  50. says

    I have not read any Jane Austin, and my curiosity about Norway has nothing in mind at the moment. What do think is worth discussion with respect to Norway?
    My cats are annoying, but mostly because they are not allowed outside. I’m trying to figure out how to train them better.
    Gossip is everywhere. I would not know how to pick a subject because in a strange way the way I look at social issues feels like gossiping all the time, or being a gadfly at least. Technically everything I post a longer comment about has gossip involved at some level because I’m most interested in things that involve really basic emotional issues and what manipulates them.
    No travel plans in the near future.

    PZ’s comment makes me wonder what could make Twain pause in giving an opinion about anything.

    My present situation is trying to be employed and various brain-science, behavior-science related projects. I saw Ophelia mention Samuel Johnson in a recent thread and that reminds me of my current project. I’m trying to put together information about cognitive advantages of various mental conditions and for Tourette’s Syndrome Samuel Johnson is my role model.

    Samuel Johnson had TS and comparing his achievements with the things that are enhanced in TS is very interesting. Not definitive, but interesting.

  51. says

    Brony – about gossip – exactly; that’s why I mentioned it. I think it’s mostly bizarre that gossip is despised when it’s so central to what humans do. Granted, it can easily be mean and spiteful, but at its core it’s just part of the lifelong job of trying to figure each other out. It’s the discipline of Other Minds.

  52. says

    Cool that we have two Norwegians on this thread. More, more!

    Sig Hansen lives in Seattle, but I doubt he shares many of our interests.

    The B&W animal…hmm…nope I can’t pick just one. There are hummingbirds, and eagles – I see both around here, and talk about one or the other occasionally. There’s Cooper; there are all the neighbor dogs – Callie, Nina, Belle, Lola, Riley; there are all the neighborhood dogs; there are cats; there are elephants; there are gorillas and orangs…No, I can’t pick just one.

  53. shari says

    Dressing the place up with Norwegians and Austen. I like the place 🙂 If you haven’t seen Austenland (starring Keri Russell, and Jennifer Coolidge) it’s full of giggles. Not deep. Not really entrancing, but it has Brett McKenzie from the Flight of the Conchords, and a lot of gentle poking at Austenphiles (which I would be if I had the time available!)

    I’d offer my 40 lbs worth of cats to you, but oddly, short people here would object to losing their beloved Jack and Bella…..

  54. Crimson Clupeidae says

    This is probably not the best place to post this, but my google fu seems particularly weak this morning.

    I have a friend who is a skeptic, and he claims he is ‘maintaining neutrality’ regarding TAM and the whole debacle of harassment, etc., considering it all a bunch of rumor and hearsay. I think someone here had a good post or three with a link roundup regarding much of the back and forth regarding when this started.

    I would like to point my friend to these links, if someone wouldn’t mind helping me out a bit. If you’d rather do it privately, you can send email to fastlane5 at excite dot com (yeah, I have an old excite account. Need to get something a bit better).


  55. opposablethumbs says

    Norwegian for “Butterflies and Wheels” is “Sommerfugler og hjul”

    I’m curious, does it carry the same connotations in Norwegian?

  56. says

    Crimson Clupeidae:
    The idea of “maintaining neutrality” in this case is misleading. By not opposing sexism and sexual harassment, one gives tacit approval for the status quo, which is what so many of us are against.
    I hope your friend is seriously open to changing his mind on this subject.


    I agree with you about gossip. It’s a method of communication that can be used in good or bad ways.

    tangentially related to that-
    I posted a comment a short time ago on FB about an online shopping service for men where clothes are selected and shipped to a guy (for an obvious fee, which I imagine is more expensive than just buying the clothes on your own). My comment said something about ‘even if I was currently employed and had the money for this, I still wouldn’t pay for this’. A friend of mine attempted to call me out for sometimes being judgmental. I found it funny bc I didn’t indicate *why* I wouldn’t use the service, nor did I state that I thought it was bad idea. I simply said I wouldn’t use the service. My friends’ comment was predicated on a few assumptions:
    a-that I was being judgmental
    b-being judgmental is bad

    I found that odd bc we judge things all the time. In everyday life. What music will I listen to? What restaurant will I go to? What movie will I go see? Do I like this person enough to date them? Is this person attractive enough for me to want to have sex with them?
    Being judgmental isn’t a bad thing in at all, yet it’s treated as such, and I suspect it’s one of the ways religious belief has tainted society.

    Incidentally, I later told my friend that I wouldn’t partake of the service bc I like doing my own shopping (and I think the service is a nice idea for people who *don’t* like shopping or don’t have the time).

  57. monad says

    The original word in English was flutterby – which, unlike butterfly, actually makes sense. 🙂

    It sounds good, but it doesn’t seem like it’s true. All the etymologies I could find trace it back to something like Old English buttorflēoge, with varying explanations, but no good references to support flutterby as an influence.

  58. says

    Hmm, and here I thought that the phrase “a butterfy fluttered by” was just a silly pun. And then it should have been “a flutterby flutttered by”, which is sort of … what else would you expect a flutterby to do?

    But wait a moment! I did a terrible, terrible thing and looked up butterfly in the dictionary hidden in my phone. And of the origin of the word it has this to say:

    O.E. buttorfleoge, perhaps based on the old notion that insects (or witches disguised as butterflies) consume butter or milk that is left uncovered. Or, less creatively, simply because the pale yellow color of many species’ wings suggest the color of butter. Another theory connects it to the color of the insect’s excrement, based on Du. cognate botershijte. […]

    And so I am reluctantly forced to doubt the beautiful flutterby hypothesis. But botershijte is just too rude.

  59. says

    Crimson #74: Dressing the place up with Norwegians and Austen? Well, we Norwegians just like to sit around at the bar chanting “spam, spam, spam, spam …” There is not much dressing up value in that, I’m afraid, nor is it very cultural. But if perchance we do provide some rustic ambience to the withdrawing room, we’re glad to be of assistance.

  60. plainenglish says

    Jotting from work so forgive the rush-ed-ness of this but I have a problem with the use of the word kindergarten as used in the Obama in the urinal post. I just don’t understand why kids have to be dumped on in so many fucking ways, as if being in kindergarten is something bad. People in kindergarten do not commit these kinds of acts and it is disrespectful to suggest it. The basis of such a use is not respect for children but disdain. Would it be more appropriate to say, “Will we never graduate from this engineering program (these young people being far more prone to pranking) ? It just bugs me. not the idea that we (kinders) are at the beginning of formal learning but that it is attached to such a prank, something so NOT any kindergarten I have been pleased to visit.

  61. opposablethumbs says

    Harald Hanche-Olsen #80, I was just thinking of the Alexander Pope origin of the phrase; I didn’t know about Midgley’s use of it (oops, I’m embarrassed to admit hadn’t read Ophelia’s explanation!).

  62. A. Noyd says

    Crimson Clupeidae (#74)

    I have a friend who is a skeptic, and he claims he is ‘maintaining neutrality’ regarding TAM and the whole debacle of harassment, etc., considering it all a bunch of rumor and hearsay. I think someone here had a good post or three with a link roundup regarding much of the back and forth regarding when this started.

    How about a few articles on “maintaining neutrality” where sexual abuse and hearsay are concerned? These focus on Dylan Farrow’s accusations against Woody Allen, but make a lot of good general points that work for harassment and TAM, too.

  63. says


    It’s not that being in kindergarten is something bad, it’s that adults shouldn’t act like five-year-olds. Five-year-olds get a lot of slack for acting like what they are, while adults shouldn’t.

    And sorry but I do think it’s a childish brand of humor. Peepee jokes? Come on. Kids love those.

  64. plainenglish says

    Ophelia @ 86, I don’t see the parallel You think this is something like a peepee joke? Childish yes, if childish is used in a derogatory way and childish is not childlike, for instance. Otherwise, I think you conveniently avoid the point I was attempting to make about the broad disdain we have for children. I wonder if you feel the Obama image in a urinal is kind of hiumorous? I don’t. I feel that the religious right use all means they can find to go after the president because he is not enough one of them. And regarding five year olds, our society might be further ahead if we admired the way five year olds live and not look down on it. They live in the moment, for instance. They react spontaneously, for instance. They remind us of priorities in life, for instance. Stupid man jokes, women love… (get the parallel?) Not all women appreciate making fun of men, their foibles and common failings. They do not appreciate othering men. I do not appreciate othering women or children either. I think we other children far too often and far too readily. I appreciate you pointing out that you think the writer was alluding to child-ish behavior… I am suggesting that childish behavior would not be so pointedly disrespectful as the urinal stunt and you are saying, I believe, that they are a parallel. Kids love humor. On this we agree. (What does ‘meh’ mean? Is it a feeling?)

  65. plainenglish says

    “Meh is an interjection used as an expression of indifference or boredom. It may also mean “be it as it may”. It is often regarded as a verbal shrug of the shoulders.”

    Did a post-post of the word and learned that this direction of things is boring and does not meet your needs…. so nevermind all the above, please.

  66. says

    Meanwhile, in Norwegian news: Halal chicken is being sold as ordinary chicken (in Norwegian – brush off your language skills, or throw it at google translate). To which I have this comment:


    Why the hell should I worry if some imam has prayed over the chicken I eat?

    I had reason to order a taco meal for about thirty people recently. There was one muslim present, so we ordered the taco with halal meat. Big deal, no? It seemed the decent thing to do, that’s all.

    But can you get food that’s both halal and kosher at the same time?

  67. sceptinurse says

    Thank you for the comment at 86. I get tired of people equating comparing adults to stages in life that are still in progress to maturity to denigrating children. I feel as if I can no longer say anything that isn’t “sunshine and roses” without someone jumping down my throat. Interestingly enough that makes feel as if I’m back in fundieland where anything other than sweetness and light was jumped on immediately.

  68. astrolabecat says

    Harald #89: I live in South Africa, which has a large Muslim population. All large supermarkets have a Halaal section, some have a Kosher section, and some shops are strictly Halaal (no bacon! 🙁 ). As I understand it, Kosher is stricter than Halaal, so Muslims can eat Kosher food without qualm. Also, as I understand it, there is some criticism of the way in which animals are slaughtered in the Halaal tradition. Some people avoid buying Halaal meat for that reason, preferring to seek out (what they understand to be) ethically killed meat. I would guess that there is a lot of variation amongst both Halaal and other slaughter, though.

  69. A. Noyd says

    Harold Hanche-Olsen (#89)

    But can you get food that’s both halal and kosher at the same time?

    Halal and kosher share some butchering methods and taboos about eating certain land animals, but otherwise they’re quite different. I think kosher is a bit more rule-bound, but it seems like there are more Jews who take a relaxed stance towards it anyway. Although, apparently there are provisions in Islamic scripture to allow for ignoring a lot of the rules if you’re someone’s guest. It’s like, try your best to eat halal, but don’t be an asshole to your hosts. Also, kosher isn’t the only set of Jewish dietary laws—there are other ones for particular occasions like Passover.

    My mother’s rule for hosting people is to ask if they have any dietary restrictions. That can include vegetarianism or veganism, religious taboos, health-based restrictions like allergies or diabetes, adherence to faddish bullshit health food trends, and simple dislikes. If she can accommodate them, she will. If not she’ll let them know they’re welcome to bring something they feel comfortable eating. Then she’ll make some sort of build-your-own modular meal, like tacos or fancy salads or wrap sandwiches.


    astrolabecat (#91)

    As I understand it, Kosher is stricter than Halaal, so Muslims can eat Kosher food without qualm.

    Well…. some Muslims get really picky over that whole dedication of the animal to Allah bit. And then there’s the devil’s secret ingredient that only Muslims have to worry about: alcohol. It pops up in the most unexpected places,¹ and really strict keepers of halal try to avoid anything processed with it even if the alcohol itself is long gone. Like there’s some kind of leftover spiritual contagion—reverse homeopathy.

    If you want to amuse yourself, go try to find a straight answer on whether vinegar is halal or not. Basically, god sucked at unambiguously nailing down his food rules the same as he sucked at nailing down any of his other rules.

    ¹ Or in expected ones, like beer battered fish and chips or marsala steak or tequila lime chicken.

  70. opposablethumbs says

    AFAIK the big (only?) problem with halal meat is the slaughtering method, as astrolabecat said. I think the rule is that the animal has to be conscious while its throat is cut and it bleeds out, so stunning the animal is not allowed. I think this is also the case with kosher slaughter.

    The fact that they don’t stun is a good reason to prohibit halal/kosher slaughter; religion does not trump increased animal suffering. Profit doesn’t either, which is why I would be very happy for a lot of intensive meat “production” processes to be banned. I won’t deny that I’d miss eating meat – I’d miss it very much – but I can’t justify the cruelty of many intensive farming practices.

    I sometimes wonder if synthetic meat manufacturing techniques will ever get to the point where we could increase world food production (given that you get more food-per-acre from crops than from livestock), reduce animal cruelty (by going to extensive-only farming) and still eat meat.

  71. says

    Apparently, according to the news article I referred to, muslims in Norway are OK with stunning the animal before slaughtering. They read the Koran is merely requiring the animal to be alive when the throat is slit, but stunned is fine. Perhaps “our” muslims are just more liberal than “your” muslims?

    On a side note, the news item I referred to seems like a typical case of an agurknyhet, meaning cucumber news. This is a phenomenon often seen in Norwegian newspaper during the summer months, when politicians are on vacation so there is not a lot of domestic news to report on. And then, an oddly shaped cucumber can become a news item, just so they have something to fill up the newspaper with. (I think this was more common before, when there was less coverage of international news. And they have other sorts of filler material nowadays, such as magazine style stories that they imagine people want to read while on vacation.)

  72. opposablethumbs says

    muslims in Norway are OK with stunning the animal before slaughtering. They read the Koran is merely requiring the animal to be alive when the throat is slit, but stunned is fine.

    That is wonderful, on several levels – for the animals in question, obviously, for social relations in Norway and not least as a salutary reminder that the harshest and most restrictive interpretation doesn’t have to be the dominant one, the only one or the only legitimate one – something that I for one often don’t give enough weight to. I don’t know if this tends to go differently in the UK and UK muslims really are more illiberal on average, or if my ignorance is just a reflection of the fact that UK media are too ready to assume that the most illiberal voices are the “true” ones – thus lending them ever-greater weight.

    an oddly shaped cucumber can become a news item,

    In the Ankh-Morpork Times too, of course 🙂

  73. says

    @ Ophelia Benson 71

    Brony – about gossip – exactly; that’s why I mentioned it. I think it’s mostly bizarre that gossip is despised when it’s so central to what humans do. Granted, it can easily be mean and spiteful, but at its core it’s just part of the lifelong job of trying to figure each other out. It’s the discipline of Other Minds.

    Agreed. Gossip and judging like others have mentioned is a neutral thing on its own. Talking about the behavior of a person or group is a fine thing. Reasons for rejecting or accepting a piece of gossip or a judgment is where things are interesting. We tend to focused on the negative more than the positive by nature because a negative might be a risk or threat. In people that are not personally familiar with the things being gossiped and judged about “It’s just gossip”, “Who are we to judge?” in relation to people/groups one likes, or a willingness to accept gossip and judgments about groups we don’t is a very interesting set of behaviors. I’m actually amazed at how much we tend to be willing to accept or reject information based on group alone.

    @ Crimson Clupeidae 74

    I have a friend who is a skeptic, and he claims he is ‘maintaining neutrality’ regarding TAM and the whole debacle of harassment, etc., considering it all a bunch of rumor and hearsay.

    The appropriateness of maintaining neutrality depends on how one is viewing the “sides”. One only remains neutral if they fear a reprisal by one of the sides, or if they believe that the results of the options will be equal somehow. So your friend either fears a negative response from someone, or somehow thinks that the effects of having a harassment policy is as bad as not having one. How to proceed depends on the details. Good luck.

  74. says

    @ plainenglish 83, 87. sceptinurse 90

    I have a problem with the use of the word kindergarten as used in the Obama in the urinal post. I just don’t understand why kids have to be dumped on in so many fucking ways, as if being in kindergarten is something bad. People in kindergarten do not commit these kinds of acts and it is disrespectful to suggest it.

    I would be surprised if you never encountered scatological humor among kindergarteners. The development of an interest in things scatological with age in children is an accepted observation in developmental psychology and appears at around 6, but there are variations in this so at least some will at 5. It’s known that children become interested in things that are taboos, and develop humor and curiosity associated with them.

    The basis of such a use is not respect for children but disdain. Would it be more appropriate to say, “Will we never graduate from this engineering program (these young people being far more prone to pranking) ? It just bugs me. not the idea that we (kinders) are at the beginning of formal learning but that it is attached to such a prank, something so NOT any kindergarten I have been pleased to visit.

    I can’t agree that it’s disdainful. It’s an acknowledgement that there are more and less mature ways of dealing with social disagreements. It’s analogizing with real developmental observations that children do certain things that need education and role-modeling in order to create knowledge of context and appropriateness for socially sensitive things. Yes children are spontaneous but not every childish act is worth celebrating. Childhood is also a time of learning when some behavior is too much or too far. Their priorities are not all good ones as well. We have all seen the kid that throws a tantrum in the supermarket because they wanted a toy. Admitting these things an using them in analogizing does not say all children are like this, but acknowledges the fact of children that do develop bad behaviors as they develop and don’t have good parents and role-models to provide guidance in expressing themselves without
    (The article mentions boys with respect to this, but I’m inclined to think that this is culture. When I tried being a teacher for a bit I saw this in girls too.)

    Some people don’t get this education and role-modeling and it is useful to make this connection that reflects things that are real parts of childhood development, and don’t inherently characterize all children as being willing to do such things. It’s referencing the children that actually do these things. The ones that do these things don’t go away, and grow up to put Obama figures in urinals. #NotAllChildren takes attention off of children with bad behavior, their parents and role-models, and adults that continue such behavior.

  75. says

    Why aren’t there any home birth/natural child birth themed blogs around FTB? Dr Amy’s blog is the only game in town and its not exactly friendly to gays, lesbians, trauma survivors, etc. There is so much material to work with and it is vitally important. The skepchick parenting site failed really hard at interpreting MANA’s numbers from this year so I don’t have a lot of faith in them.

  76. says

    Hmm. It seems like a rather specialized subject.

    You mean blogs about what’s wrong with home birth/natural child birth? Or blogs promoting it?

  77. John Morales says

    @80, 81, 84, from Wikipedia:

    The philosopher Mary Midgley used a variation on the phrase in an article in the journal Philosophy written to counter a review praising The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, where she cuttingly said that she had “not attended to Dawkins, thinking it unnecessary to break a butterfly upon a wheel.”

  78. says

    Oh I’d forgotten that I explained the title on the About page at the ur-B&W. (I think I’m going to shut that down pretty soon, by the way. I don’t update it any more, so I might as well move the articles archive over here and just let the rest of it go.)

    Because Mary Midgley borrowed Alexander Pope’s witticism about breaking a butterfly upon a wheel, only she did it wrong.

    Amusing (to me) but not quite complete. J Stangroom named it after an essay he wrote about a piece Midgley wrote, about Dawkins and “the selfish gene,” in which she used Pope’s phrase.

  79. says

    plainenglish @ 87 –

    I wasn’t ignoring your point but I really don’t agree with it. Sure, children live in the moment and that’s great. The fact remains that they mostly for instance have corny senses of humor. I don’t consider it othering them to say that – not least because we all started out as children ourselves. Also very few children read this blog, I guarantee you.

  80. plainenglish says

    k, I think I get it. Thank-you for explaining. But I did not see the Obama in the urinal as corny. I felt a malevolence in it, a “piss on you” image that happened at a conference of God’s Right Wing….. Kids don’t carry that kind of hatred in them at the age of five unless they have been immersed in it for five years already, and even then I have to challenge any parallel with adults. I just don’t get the corny comparison, you know? And you do not agree. I hear you and I won’t speak of it further. As for your comment about them not reading your blog, is that humor? Did you think I was suggesting they did? I was thinking of your influence on parents, to be sure.
    @brony97. Regarding scatological humor among five year olds, see the above….
    And regarding: “We have all seen the kid that throws a tantrum in the supermarket because they wanted a toy.”
    I beg to suggest that the child enduring a tantrum in a grocery store has challenges far beyond the toy you suggest is at the basis of the outburst. You reduce the child to a kid having a tantrum because no toy. You are quite shallow in your view. And sceptinurse@ 90. I am not blaming you! It is not your fault that some kid has a fit and you complain! I would be delighted to hear more about how difficult you find it to be negative about the kids, especially since I too have survived a fundy upbringing and have struggled with negative feelings, the expression of them. But but but to make broad comments about children as I feel Ophelia did, is the same as making them about men or women. I suggest care in this matter. I would not have chosen kinders for this Obama urinal post and I am trying to say that they would be last on my list as a parallel here. I try to respect my kids and have been learning over the years (I’m in my sixties now) that there is such widespread contempt for young people in our culture. Don’t you think it odd, ever so odd that a man could hear a voice from heaven telling him to tie his son to a stone and gut him with a knife? And that it could become scripture that folks dress up to attend church and listen to this Sunday as if it was halfway sensible? This is our culture, or a significant part of it. And God told the fuckwit, take your knife and the fuckwit took his knife to sacrifice his son. What faith! I see this scene from the child’s eyes no matter how hard I try to see it the way Abe did….How about you?

  81. says

    Oh, don’t get me wrong, plainenglish – I’ve read quite a bit about the horrors perpetrated on children by for instance fans of the Pearls, and I’m utterly outraged by them. I’ve written a lot about the abuse of children in Irish industrial “schools.” I’m not indifferent to the abuse of children.

    But I just don’t think that calling certain kinds of lack of inhibition, or silly jokes, or pointless stubbornness “childish” is an insult to children, or harmful to them. Children know they won’t be children forever.

  82. opposablethumbs says

    I’ll cop to not getting how/why Midgley was mistaken and misused “butterfly upon the wheel”. I thought Pope was referring to his own relative insignificance, saying that the powerful would not bother to notice him; isn’t Midgley suggesting that Dawkins seemed too insignificant to bother with, which would be a fairly close parallel? Though of course she was not a powerful despot prone to crushing nuisances, unlike the figures Pope satirised and to whom he referred.

    This is a vanishingly minor question, obviously, and I appreciate that you have more important things to do (understatement!) so this is only if you happen to feel like it in an idle moment.

    Nice, this withdrawing room! I left some cake on the sideboard for everyone, beside the coffee things.

  83. plainenglish says

    Ophelia @ 106. “I just don’t think that calling certain kinds of lack of inhibition, or silly jokes, or pointless stubbornness “childish” is an insult to children, or harmful to them.”
    Though there is a part of me that wants to chomp away at this statement, I would rather sit in a general agreement with it and nibble some cake with morning coffee, compliments of opposablethumbs @ 107.
    Thank-you for Butterflies and Wheels.

  84. says

    @ plainenglish 108
    Bringing up an example of a behavior is not reducing a child unless I mention a specific child and actually ignore specific factors, unless you want to claim that literally every single child that throws a tantrum is doing so for justified reasons? Every child that misbehaves thinks they are justified. Childhood psychology is a mix of positive and negative reinforcement and punishment. Sometimes kids go too far and bad behavior or more constructive alternate behavior needs to be discouraged or reinforced. I understand that you disagree with me and are offended by this use of childhood psychology, but you are not giving me any good reasons to be convinced here.
    Some broad comments are quite fine when they do speak of universal behavior applicable to all humans. Acknowledging and analogizing/metaphors related to maturity and development are fine when they actually have a real basis in childhood psychology. I’m not convinced that pointing at awkward, difficult periods of our lives (we were all children) in a more complex way is contempt. As I saw it the contempt was directed at the people at the Faith And Freedom Coalition Conference. Can you show me where the contempt was directed at the children?

  85. says

    thumbs @ 107 – no, the reference was to Lord Hervey, “Sporus,” in the Epistle to Arbuthnot:

    Satire or sense, alas! can Sporus feel?
    Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?

    He’s telling Arbuthnot that Hervey is not worth his (A’s) attention.

    But yes, Midgley was saying Dawkins was Sporus/Hervey, and by implication that her powerful analysis was like breaking him on a wheel. Since her analysis got his claim fundamentally wrong…you get the idea.

    More charitably, she may have just been saying “why waste all these words on” Dawkins/butterfly.

  86. opposablethumbs says

    Ah, now I get it – thank you Ophelia!

    And I had managed to wholly or partly misunderstand both instances, too :-\

  87. opposablethumbs says

    So Midgley is the inventor of “scientism” and a railer against”evolution as a religion”? (after a quick google) Now I’m beginning to appreciate the magnitude of her error in claiming to have a hand on the “wheel” in this case. I didn’t know enough about her to realise how far off target she was. (note to self: try reading for at least 30 seconds before havering on next time!)

  88. A. Noyd says

    Last night I had a dream I went to a BYOK party at Ophelia’s house. K is for kitten. But there weren’t enough kittens because people didn’t think Ophelia was serious about the bringing your own kitten part, so my kitten was especially popular. We put it in a woven basket bowl on top of the piano, and all the arriving guests wanted to take it out and cuddle it.

    The party was in Ophelia’s really extensive basement, which my brain invented for the dream because I’ve never actually been to Ophelia’s house. It was beautifully renovated, if somewhat lacking in windows. She also had lots of nice antique or antique replica furniture. No Cooper, though. But if you’re throwing a BYOK party, you probably want to leave the dog with someone else for the day.

  89. says

    HAhahaha that’s a great dream. I should have a party like that. In my employers’ really extensive, very expensively (albeit not beautifully) renovated basement, which is somewhat lacking in windows. The antique furniture is upstairs though.

  90. says

    If I had a blog I would call it “A Demon Speaks” as a play on the historical correlations between TS and demon possession.

    It would be a useful title because there are many cultural memes and tropes about demons that I could play on where the meaning can go more than one way depending on the meaning and the reality. Demons are supposed to “whisper in the crowds” and spread dissension, which could be some people spreading unrest for false reasons, or it could be an excuse used by people supporting the status quo to excuse suppressing a group of people as “demon possessed”.

    I’m thinking about collecting the various usages of demons in different cultural contexts for fun.

  91. says

    Ophelia- I meant blogs critical of natural child birth. They present VBAC, breech birth, and twins as “variaitons of normal” instead of high risk pregnancies. I blog at ex home birthers on wordpress if you need some source material about how dangerous the NCB movement is.

  92. says

    The latest page of Strong Female Protagonist deals with victim blaming. God I love this webcomic.

    For anyone who doesn’t know about SFP, it’s a free webcomic that deals with the intersection of superheroes and social justice as seen from the perspective of, well, a strong female protagonist:

    Brennan Lee Mulligan (@BrennanLM) is a screenwriter and house improviser at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theatre. Molly Ostertag (@MollyOstertag)is a cartoonist, illustrator, and recent SVA graduate. We met at a LARP camp when we were teenagers and have been creatively collaborating ever since. We started Strong Female Protagonist because we both wanted to make a story that portrayed a female protagonist in a way we felt was missing from mainstream comics.

    Alison Green used to be a superhero. With her seemingly unlimited strength and invulnerability, she was one of the most powerful around, fighting crime with other teenagers under the alter ego of Mega Girl. All that changed after an encounter with Menace, her mind reading arch enemy, who showed her evidence of a much more sinister and mysterious conspiracy that made battling giant robots seem suddenly unimportant.

    The outpouring of support for this webcomic has been astonishing. I only learned about it a few weeks ago (and read every installment of the webcomic in one was that interesting and refreshing)

  93. opposablethumbs says

    Tony! I did the same – thanks to you! And sent the link to my DaughterSpawn. It’s my favourite comic of all now! So thank you for that 🙂

  94. says

    skeptifem – oh, right, we’ve talked about this before. Have you talked to the people at Science-based Medicine? I don’t know if they do guest posts or not but you could always ask.

  95. says

    Even if this particular case is a hoax (which would be surprising), the fact remains that many companies employ workers who are kept in sweatshop conditions. When libertarians talk about having their philosophy fully implemented in a country, many say that companies will act in the best interests of their employees (since there wouldn’t be regulations). This is another example to refute that BS.

  96. says

    chigau (違う) (#52) –

    This might be just the place to bring it up.

    I’ve been hesitating on whether to post this because some will see it as overreaching. It’s hard to ask for people’s time and ears when no one is being raped, jailed, mutilated or murdered for being part of a minority.

    Being left handed in a mostly right handed world is a minor inconvenience for adults, that’s not who I worry about. Adults have the education, experience and knowledge to deal with annoyances, which are mostly ergonomic ones. But for kids who can’t defend themselves, it is a serious problem, especially in socially conservative and heavily religious countries. Unlike North America and Europe which no longer try, it’s still common in many countries to force, coerce and beat kids into changing hands. They call it “correction” when in actuality it’s emotionally damaging.

    In the Asian countries I’ve worked in (or where other foreigners have), it’s still common to hit kids for using their left hands, even though “corporal punishment” is illegal. A few students I’ve had say teachers mark their work as wrong, or that some simply refuse to teach them. I had a 12 year old who says he was never taught how to hold a pen and write by his public school teachers, that I’m the first who did. These kids are getting a second class education. A fair number of my kids who write right handed are natural lefties but were forced to change by parents and teachers.

    It’s worse in islamic, south Asian and many African countries where the left hand is deemed the “dirty hand” (i.e. used for the toilet). Doing things lefthanded is perceived as “disrespectful” or “unclean” (e.g. handling food) and has a strong social stigma, very much like being atheist or LGBTQ. And as with kids who are atheist and LGBTQ, family and school are the biggest problem when they should be a child’s greatest source of support.

  97. says

    Another Dawkins Twitter storm – set off by this tweet:

    Sun will engulf Earth. If we launch DVD as #CosmicTombstone, what would you put on it? Shakespeare Schubert Darwin Einstein for me. You?

    The storm was about the…oh you know what it was, it’s too tedious to spell out.

    This isn’t a hill I would choose to die on. I don’t even see it as a hill, frankly. It’s four people. It’s his personal favorites. I really don’t care that they’re all male and all white and all fromYurrup. I care even less that they’re all “old” especially since a full half of them weren’t old – our Will died at 53 and Schubert was all of 31 ffs.

    It’s not an issue. Making it an issue just looks silly.

    Having said that…I could equally well do without his followup tweet of today:

    Learned a useful new phrase this week: Social Justice Warrior. SJWs can’t forgive Shakespeare for having the temerity to be white and male.

    Yeah…just don’t, Richard. The people feeding you that are not the people you want to link arms with.

  98. Gordon Willis says

    @left0ver1under #123

    I’ve been hesitating on whether to post this because some will see it as overreaching. It’s hard to ask for people’s time and ears when no one is being raped, jailed, mutilated or murdered for being part of a minority.

    You know, lleft0ver1under, this is a shocking indictment. To think that all this time we’ve been going on and on and on about rape and mutilation and murder and haven’t even stopped to consider left-handed people. Well, if I can attempt to reassure you, anyone who has real problems is welcome to come here and complain. I’m sure Ophelia won’t mind, and won’t mind my saying so.

    What you say is obviously serious. I wasn’t aware till I read your post that left-handedness was still a problem. I remember my parents and grandmother worrying about my elder brother in this respect, about 60 years ago, and I recall various worried statements of the problem (his writing would slope the wrong way, his arm would drag across his writing and smudge it — as always happened before biros were allowed) and all sorts of really serious problems that are so very serious that one’s little mind cannot encompass their true seriousness or even that they are serious at all. You have to go a long way beyond making smudges into a serious problem in order to bring in — well, I don’t know — wrongness, because wrongness is just so wrong that it’s really wrong, know what I mean?

    We hate hearing about these things, but we must, so tell us.

  99. Gordon Willis says

    I don’t know why I am quoting myself. Perhaps I am a thespian or true histrionic, and never knew it. But anyway paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 at #125 are the real me, and the blockquote is an insidious lie.

  100. says

    Gordon Willis:

    I don’t know why I am quoting myself. Perhaps I am a thespian or true histrionic, and never knew it. But anyway paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 at #125 are the real me, and the blockquote is an insidious lie.

    Wow. I do not understand how you reached this conclusion.
    Leftover1under is simply stating that there is a perception by some people in this world that there’s something wrong with being left handed. This perception has led to mistreating people who are left handed. Leftover1under says that xe is hesitant to bring this subject up bc the perception (held by some) that it’s not that big a deal. And you call hir a liar.

    Your response is exactly *why* xe was hesitant to bring the subject up. You’ve completely dismissed the problem.
    I’m dismayed by your response.

    How you can dismiss this:

    Being left handed in a mostly right handed world is a minor inconvenience for adults, that’s not who I worry about. Adults have the education, experience and knowledge to deal with annoyances, which are mostly ergonomic ones. But for kids who can’t defend themselves, it is a serious problem, especially in socially conservative and heavily religious countries. Unlike North America and Europe which no longer try, it’s still common in many countries to force, coerce and beat kids into changing hands. They call it “correction” when in actuality it’s emotionally damaging.

    is beyond me. Being beaten bc you’re left handed may not be as big a problem to you as being beaten for being lesbian, but it’s still a problem. Your response is Dear Muslima all over again.

  101. says

    Eh?!! Gordon, that ain’t nice, and I don’t think it’s like you!

    The whole point of this thread is that it’s for any subject, for one thing. And left0ver was shy about bringing it up anyway, for another. And it is indeed just another Dear Muslima, for a third other.

  102. Gordon Willis says

    @Tony 127

    I was only commenting on my misapplication of the blockquote tag. I understand what Leftover1under is saying and am not dismissing it in any way. I was mocking myself. The bit from”You know, Left0ver1under…” originally posted as a blockquote. It seems not to be doing that now. I mean what I said, however, and I don’t see how it is in any way wrong.


    I thought I was being encouraging. Please understand me literally. I was not being ironic. I hope that Leftover1under has not received the message that you have.

    Yes, reading my comment, I can see how you might read it. It’s a fine line between the wry and the serious, but I still mean the substance of what I said and I did not mean to belittle Leftover1under in any way.

  103. says

    Sorry to be changing the subject yet again, but this is the withdrawing lounge. We can talk about whatever engages us, right?

    So I just finished watching Brian Knappenberger’s documentary on Aaron SwartzThe Internet’s own boy. Driven to suicide by overly aggressive prosecutors seeking to making an example of him for wanting to make knowledge available to everybody, Aaron was likely one of the brightest minds of his generation and a tragic loss to all. Have a look at Lawrence Lessig’s TED talk on The unstoppable walk to political reform to learn about just one important aspect of Aaron’s life.

    The documentary is well worth watching. I believe it is screening in US movie theaters starting today. I got a copy because I backed the movie financially albeit very modestly. But at least if you are in the US, you can rent or buy the movie on vimeo. I should warn you that it is emotionally wrenching, but that is as it should be.

  104. says

    Well, I’d feel honoured if you make it a guest post. In which case, leaving out the first paragraph (and the first word of the second one) seems appropriate. I think I see some errors of punctuation in there too; feel free to fix them if you wish.

  105. says

    Thanks to those who responded. There are many issues that are far more severe and pressing, problems that affect many more people and make this seem trivial by comparison. But if nobody thinks about it, nothing changes.

    The last I’ll say about it is that August 13th is International Left Handers Day. The school year starts in September and kids start learning to write, so this is a good time to correct attitudes instead of “correcting” kids.

    And shy? No, I was worried about sounding like the “what about the men?” types. That’s the last thing I want to be accused of.

  106. Tony! The Queer Shoop says

    This is heartbreaking:

    KADUNA, Nigeria (AP) — By the time she ran away, Maimuna bore the scars of a short but brutal marriage.

    Her battered face swelled so much that doctors feared her husband had dislocated her jaw. Her back and arms bristled with angry welts from the whipping her father gave her for fleeing to him. She was gaunt from hunger, dressed in filthy rags. And barely a year after her wedding, she was divorced.

    It would be a tragic story for a woman of any age. But for Maimuna Abdullahi, it all happened by the time she was 14.

    “I’m too scared to go back home,” she whispers, a frown crinkling her brow as she fiddles nervously with her hands. “I know they will force me to go back to my husband.”

    That’s horrifying. She should be able to turn to her parents for protection, but her father beat her. She was beaten by her-god I don’t even want to use the term here-husband. She basically has nowhere to turn. Fucking misogyny ::spits::

    “She had too much ABCD,” he says. “Too much ABCD.”

    That was her husbands’ reason for beating her (which he admits to).
    Here, I have some more spit.

  107. Tony! The Queer Shoop says

    And here’s this.

    A young couple in Pakistan were tied up and had their throats slit with scythes after they married for love, police said Saturday.

    The 17-year-old girl and 31-year-old man married on June 18 without the consent of their families in eastern Pakistan’s Punjabi village of Satrah, police said.

    The girl’s mother and father lured the couple home late on Thursday with the promise that their marriage would receive a family blessing, said local police official Rana Zashid.

    They didn’t have permission. What…were they property?
    And they killed their own daughter because of this fucked up “honor killing” nonsense. Oh, and they forgave the husband. Because men are of greater value than women.


    Incidentally, stories like this are reasons I hate-with a fiery passion of a dozen stars-the trite phrases like “love wins out in the end” or “it will all work out”. No, it fucking doesn’t. That’s wishful thinking. That’s not how it works out in reality. For one, there’s no stopping point where you’re still alive and things have reached this magical level of perfection. For another, in the end, we all die.

  108. says


    Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

    Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was quite fun.

  109. says

    Tony #136, 137: Quite so. I have nothing to add, really.

    But I came here for something way more trivial: In a recent post, Ophelia wrote You’ve seen the infamous June 24 tweet, right?.

    Er, no. You see, I not only suffer from Facebook phobia – I don’t do Twitter either. Now I have no intention of seeking a cure for Facebook phobia – it serves me well, thank you very much for asking. But I do wonder if I should dip my toes into the world of tweets. Except, I need another time suck the way I need a hole in my head, and it seems that whenever I see someone quoting a tweet, it does not look all that attractive to me. So let me ask anyone who’s willing to come forward: What value do you see in Twitter? And if you have been on Twitter for a while, would you start using it, knowing what you now know? (And if not, why are you still on Twitter? Is it addictive?) I thought maybe it’s age related, this being mostly attractive to young ones who need to feel connected and all. But Ophelia is even older than I am, and she’s on twitter. Perhaps writers/bloggers need to be, professionally. I don’t know.

  110. says

    I’m even older than anyone in the whole world.

    I see some value in Twitter, but not nearly as much as its most regular users do. It can kick off interesting conversations; that’s my main reason for seeing some value in it. It is also useful for writers/bloggers.

    I don’t find it addictive though. That would be Facebook…

  111. says

    Apropos of nothing (no, that’s a lie), if corporations are people, why can’t they be sent to jail?

    Oh, I can think of one reason: It would be unfair to employees who would find themselves out of a job through no fault of their own. So we should invent a different sort of jail for corporations. Say, for the duration of their sentence, they are to be put under administration, and all their profits confiscated. That might be unfair to shareholders, but it would give them an incentive to elect honest, law abiding board members.

    There would be a lot of detail to work out, but if corporations are going to have all the rights of actual persons, I don’t see why they shouldn’t share the downsides as well.

  112. says

    @ left0ver1under 123

    I’ve been hesitating on whether to post this because some will see it as overreaching. It’s hard to ask for people’s time and ears when no one is being raped, jailed, mutilated or murdered for being part of a minority.

    Post away. With so many other problems based on one group forcing another to do something that should not be their business I can’t see how this one could be left out. The historical obsession with handedness is crappy, but it’s also interesting in a way that might have some explanations. I like natural explanations for social phenomena even though they are hard to come to without social BS. They can give a reason for why some people might have become obsessed with something at some point in history which helps in conceptualizing the problem, though just like the naturalness of murder we can still tell nature to fuck off as a group.

    They are still working on the neurobiology of handedness, but there are some interesting associations. It turns out that lateralization* (the way that our brains seem to shift processing functions to one side or the other) plays a role in setting up at least some cognitive divisions. I can imagine that someone somewhere might have recognised some behavioral differences between right-handers and left-handers. Here are a couple of interesting papers**.

    “The neural basis of optimism and pessimism.”
    On persistence…
    When faced with obstacles on the way toward a desired goal, the pessimist will usually give-up quite fast. An optimist, on the other hand, tends to be more determined and persistent in his/her efforts to achieve a goal [3]. Volunteers in an experiment squeezed a rubber ball either with their right or left hand. This physical exercise, which its purpose was hidden from the participants, was aimed to selectively activate the contralateral hemisphere that executed the muscle activations. Then, participants received a cognitive challenge; to trace some figure drawings without backtracking or removing the pencil from the paper. Two of these puzzles were easily soluble but the other two were insoluble. Measuring how many attempts participant made to solve the
    insoluble puzzles revealed that the group which previously stimulated the LH, by activating their right-hand muscles, made about 60% more attempts to solve the problems as compared with the RH-stimulated group [96]. In another study, the hemispheres were unilaterally stimulated by a passive sensory stimulation – tactile vibrations applied to the contralateral hand – instead of active ball squeezing. Similar results were obtained; the LH stimulated group showed greater persistence in trying to solve the (insoluble) puzzles [97].

    The paper cites similar observations for:
    *Risk taking seems associated with the left hemisphere (and the right hand).
    *Mania seems related to a hyperfunctioning right hemisphere and left handed motor impairments.
    *The right hand, and left hemisphere seem more involved with the parasympathetic nervous system which dampens the “fight/flight/freeze” created by the sympathetic nervous system (sort of a “back to normal operations”).

    The paper ends with an interesting picture of how various cognitive categories might get tied to the right or left side through experience such as the right getting associated with “offense” as a weapon hand, and the left for “defense” through blocking (which might be flipped in a left handed person). It’s possible that we shape our minds though a interesting system of analogies and metaphors that may be present at the level of how we use our bodies in experience.

    The second paper I just found and am going to read. Since social issues have been important lately I thought it might be interesting.
    “Cerebral lateralization of pro- and anti-social tendencies.”
    Mounting evidence suggest that the right-hemisphere (RH) has a relative advantage, over the left-hemisphere (LH), in mediating social intelligence – identifying social stimuli, understanding the intentions of other people, awareness of the dynamics in social relationships, and successful handling of social interactions. Furthermore, a review and synthesis of the literature suggest that pro-social attitudes and behaviors are associated with physiological activity in the RH, whereas unsocial and anti-social tendencies are mediated primarily by the LH.

    *It should be pointed out that this picture is complicated by the fact that in any particular example of lateralization there are people with the lateralization patterns flipped from one side to the other, and you can also
    find people who seem to use both sides for the bit of programming in questions. So there are likely people with more optimistic cognition in the right side, and pessimism in the left.
    Like everywhere else general patterns help us to learn more about what might be going on, but that the system does not seem to be bound to one balance or the other in a similar way to the fact that sexual attraction and gender identity seem to have broad patterns, and other assortment in a smaller proportion of individuals. I’m of the opinion that cognitive diversity is important for humans on some fundamental level we are still piecing together.
    **For those of you not as well read in brain science an important point is that your right side is predominantly connected to and controlled by the left side of your brain and vice versa. This is why you see all the testing looking as right eyes, ears, hands and more associated with the left hemisphere and vice versa.

  113. screechymonkey says

    Apropos of recent discussions here about stand-up comedy and racism/sexism/privilege, I was pleasantly surprised to hear this interchange between comedians Todd Glass and Norm Macdonald

    The bulk of it is covered from 1:40 to about 6:40, though they return to the topic throughout. Glass makes some great points about looking to older comedy and seeing what has stood the test of time, and what hasn’t — and that jokes about using people’s identities as a disparaging adjective fall into the latter category. He asks what’s so brave about making jokes that the majority of the audience is happy to laugh at: if you want to be brave, don’t make jokes at the expense of transsexuals (e.g.), make jokes at the expense of people who bully transsexuals.

    If you watch the whole thing, I’ll warn you that Norm Macdonald is doing his usual deadpan shtick at times. (Like the running gag about his co-host being a Holocaust denier.) But even Norm agrees that there are things that bother him in comedy.

  114. says

    @ Tony
    I can’t stand media that tries to maintain a pretense to present things in a fair and balanced way. That’s just an opinion piece in the end because the writer just describes what the situation looks like, what the different parties are saying, and ends it with an opinion about what they feel about the situation with no real analysis of underlying legal issues.

    From the article.

    To some extent, this is like any other issue that gets split into two false sides: All the links above are statements from groups with a vested interest in making their particular viewpoints seem like facts. That’s to be expected: It’s the job of PR people to spin issues to their advantage.
    But in this case, PR mirrors real life—or at least the rhetoric of the Supreme Court.

    The division on the court matches the division in society.

    But after framing the court battle this way (not an inaccurate frame), they frame farther by pointing out what the majority used to make their ruling.

    But as John J. Dilulio Jr., the first director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, writes over at Brookings, “Love it or loathe it, the Hobby Lobby decision is limited in scope.” It’s about how the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to this particular objection from Hobby Lobby and other “closely held” companies, or businesses that are mostly owned by a small group of people who also happen to run them. And the Court went out of its way to clarify that their ruling does not apply to other possible medical objections, like blood transfusions and vaccinations.

    At no point does the author actually try to answer the obvious question of if this ruling is consistent with the constitution. That is what the supreme court is supposed to do. They seemed to just appeal to law passed after the constitution without asking if this application of that law is consistent with constitutional principles. It does not matter if this ruling does not prevent women from obtaining birth control through insurance at all, it matters if this decision itself and the religious imposition on healthcare is appropriate. It’s rather cowardly.

    They then offer the opinion that justice Kennedy offers the best “balance”.

    Among the reasons the United States is so open, so tolerant, and so free is that no person may be restricted or demeaned by government in exercising his or her religion. Yet neither may that same exercise unduly restrict other persons, such as employees, in protecting their own interests, interests the law deems compelling.

    The reporter does not defend this. They just offer this empty observation that religious beliefs can’t trample health needs, and closely held private companies can be forced to violate religious principles. This solves nothing! There are a tremendous amount of legal decisions that effectively involve finding a balance between claims of rights. We limit the rights of others all the time and that is why they speak of “compelling government interest”. They completely dodged the question of if companies even have religious principles that can be seen as a conflict of rights, the last time I checked only individuals have rights and corporations are in the same category as rocks when it comes to rights.
    It’s at least possible for a person to defend themselves in a legal setting. If someone wants to show that a company has rights to defend is it even possible in principle for a company to defend them without anyone else?

  115. says

    Damn typos.

    In the second to last paragraph it should say,
    “They just offer this empty observation that religious beliefs can’t trample health needs, and closely held private companies can’t be forced to violate religious principles.”

  116. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Tony @ 149

    The striking thing about the image at that link is that the gun fondlers are actually creating the world they imagine they already live in. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    I want off this planet please.

  117. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    O hi. I thought I’d just sashay in here with my wet galoshes like I owned the place and pull up a chair. What’s on tap?

  118. chigau (違う) says

    I’ll have a ‘pint’ of whatever local lager you have on tap.
    Also a shot of Lemon Hart rum, neat, water back.
    and put Josh’s next on my tab.

  119. says

    I’m just a regular ol’ patron here. Someone else has to run the bar. But if I’m ever up and someone needs something, I’ll be happy to grab it on the way back.
    (looks at Ophelia’s #155) Or is that too nice?

    I’ve never seen these images of the early years of Pride marches. My respect goes out to all these people who helped pave the way for the all the advances in equality we’ve seen. We stand on their shoulders.

  120. says

    Related to the above Pride images:

    Holding signs like “Jesus Christ is Lord” and “Repent,” the protesters tried to ruin the fun at the festival. But Mama Tits formed a wall with other drag queens and then told the conservatives to open their minds and drop the hate (she also told them they were sinners for wearing cotton-poly blends). “Not today Satan,” Mama Queen screamed, quoting RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Bianca Del Rio.


  121. says

    Heh – in the left margin Physioproffe has such an extended exclamation of rage that it wanders out into the middle of the page. I wonder if he’s raging at the same thing I am. (#ragebloggers)

  122. says

    Has anybody read Dave Eggers’s novel The Circle? I just did, and it’s pretty good, although it could stand to lose the last one or two hundred pages.

  123. sceptinurse says

    At Ophelia 161–

    Yes, I read it a couple of weeks ago. I was very creeped out by it. I wouldn’t want to live in a world with total transparency. Imagine never being being able to be grouchy or ever really alone.

    He did a really good job at the start of the book selling the whole knowing who everyone is will make interaction more civil trope. But by the end the slippery slope was a greased slide. “Privacy is theft” is what really gave me the creeps. At the end I was hoping she would wake up and see the manipulation but not surprised that she didn’t even though she hated her life by then.

    And yes it could have been considerably shorter.

  124. says

    Think Progress had an article about the Missouri Governor who vetoed the 72 hours waiting period for abortion.

    I left the following comment in response to that article:

    While I’m glad he vetoed the waiting period, the Governor can do better. Much better. Start by championing women’s rights. Actually, start by listening to women. I did that, and found that many women do not wrestle with the decision to get an abortion. Many of them are very happy to have one. Like so many people, he ought to base his opinions on facts and verifiable information, rather than his gut.

    Earlier in the day, I had a woman tell me that women are not happy to have abortions and that I my words were giving strength to anti-abortion advocates. After a few women spoke up to say they were happy to have abortions (and I linked to a specific entry at , she withdrew her objections and apologized.

    Over the course of the day, several commenters expressed support and I wound up writing about my support for full abortion access and women’s rights in general. I thought that might be the end of it.

    Apparently I was wrong. I just got a notice on FB about another commenter echoing the first woman:

    Tony Thompson , I doubt very much those women were happy. Among other women, sorry, but, they’re not going to tell you how long it took them to make the decision. The pain they endured, how long it took to recover, the cold, sterile, impersonal environment. Gay or not, those are details most of the women I know will never tell a man.

    Oh brother.
    So in response, I wrote:

    So [redacted; I’m not sure if I need to do this, as it’s a public thread and her name was listed, but I don’t know, so I’m erring on the side of caution], you’re telling me that you think you know how all other women are going to discuss abortion? Are you discounting the women at Are you discounting the women IN THIS THREAD, who have spoken up and said they were either happy themselves or know women that were happy? Your experiences are your own, but you don’t get to speak for other women. I don’t know why you have a hard time believing that a woman could enjoy an abortion, but it does happen, and treating me as a liar doesn’t change that. Worse still, you’re telling me that my friends have lied to me. You don’t know them. You don’t know their experiences. You don’t get to project your thoughts, wishes, or desires on them. You don’t get to deny their experiences because they don’t match your expectations of reality. Also, I won’t disrespect you by claiming that most of the women you know would not reveal aspects of their abortion.
    But do you honestly think you can speak for the billions of women on the planet?
    Do you honestly think that all women on the planet react to having an abortion in similar way?
    Do you honestly deny that women would experience a range of emotions regarding abortion?
    Women are not a monolith. They don’t all respond to the same things in the same manner. That means that yes, in the case of abortion, some women will agonize over the decision, some will not. Some will experience something between. Some will be happy, indifferent, or sad having an abortion. I recognize that. I honor that.

    You deny that.

    I don’t have any intention of following up with anything, as there were enough women who spoke up about being happy after their abortions (plus my link) that I hope if this woman reads the thread she’ll see how wrong she is.

    But my question is this: what’s with the denial? Why is it hard for some people to conceive of women being happy to have an abortion?

  125. says

    I saw the exchange. That was pretty well done.

    I don’t have any intention of following up with anything, as there were enough women who spoke up about being happy after their abortions (plus my link) that I hope if this woman reads the thread she’ll see how wrong she is.

    That’s a good way to do it. Think of it as providing defense and taking advantage of your unique group affiliations to get some audience members to pay more attention. Once you provide a good platform stand back and let the women speak for themselves.

    But my question is this: what’s with the denial? Why is it hard for some people to conceive of women being happy to have an abortion?

    It probably depends on the person and I can speak to my experiences with my relatives that I argue with on Facebook.

    Some of it is likely due to the need to create a narrative within the political group. Every political group needs a story that creates a shared worldview that can be used for communication, organizing, and other emotional purposes. The anti-choice crowd is the side less consistent with reality so there are less external signs to include in the narrative. To give more emotional boost to the group the messages have to be black and white because simple and polarized is most efficient even if it does lose perspective and subtlety more often.

    Among the polarized views is that women never find abortion a positive and that it always is a negative. Most of the time when I point out women that do find happiness because of abortion I either get anti-choicers pointing out women that were not happy (a distraction from the point, easy enough to point out), or no response at all because I violated their script and the political emotions can’t let them acknowledge the point (a retreat, also easy to point out).

    As for that particular woman you had the exchange with I don’t get the impression that she was secretly a anti-choicer or anything like that, rather I sense a defensiveness about men speaking for women that set off one of her filters. It’s understandable but motivated reasoning is a thing to be aware of in enemies and allies. When I accidentally set off someones filters around here I try to be very accommodating to that because on issues where many here have to be combative some will be defensive and as general examples like Schrodinger’s rapist show, there are rational reasons to be on guard and those of us that have been mistaken can choose to deescalate.
    Also I do have a fucked up social filter and have to take that into account when I see that I’ve confused or disturbed someone.

  126. says


    I saw the exchange. That was pretty well done.

    Thanks. Shitty start to the day I’m having, little things like the above are appreciated.

    I did wind up responding, bc it seems like the woman misinterpreted me and I wanted to clarify. But unless my mood improves, it’s probably best to not say anything else, bc I might accidentally say something stupid.

  127. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Tony! @ 166

    But my question is this: what’s with the denial? Why is it hard for some people to conceive of women being happy to have an abortion?

    I suspect it comes from the cultural idea that having children is what everyone ultimately aspires to. I think a lot of people simply see it as self evident that the decision to abort is always heart-wrenching.

  128. says

    sceptinurse @ 165 – same here pretty much.

    It became clear where he was going with the presentation of the “tiny hidden cameras everywhere” technology…which lost a good deal of credibility by not having anyone have the slightest reservations when surely if they were paying attention at all the problems would JUMP OUT AT THEM. The whole bit with secretly planting cameras all over his mother’s house after she’d refused to let him set up cameras with her consent – well you’d think that would lead to the obvious thought “oh gee somebody could do that to me” and then to thoughts about government and cops and on and on.

    And then from the other angle there’s a whole strain in it that seems to be about things like Google Earth, which annoys me, because I think Google Earth is fabulous. He lets us know it’s not the same as going to all the places. No of course it’s not, but nobody can go to all the places! Most people can go to very very few of the places. I have a hard time seeing anything bad about being able to get a sense of what places look like from your desk.

    But still. Pretty damn good over all. (I did skip through a lot of the final 200 pages though, because it got to be just more of the same.)

  129. chigau (違う) says

    How is the cynicism and outrage today?

    In addition to the usual, there is always something fresh.

  130. says

    @ Tony

    Thanks. Shitty start to the day I’m having, little things like the above are appreciated.

    I did wind up responding, bc it seems like the woman misinterpreted me and I wanted to clarify. But unless my mood improves, it’s probably best to not say anything else, bc I might accidentally say something stupid.

    I know that feeling. Good luck, I hope things get better.

    In a bit of good I have seen more than one self described MRA give unqualified acknowledgement of issues women were bringing up in some comment sections around the web. It’s not a lot, but I hope it keeps up. It will take some work to get them to see how bad the asshats among them make them look as a whole.

  131. says

    Latest response is from an anti-abortion fool:

    Tony Thompson if you are gay then why are you commentting . you are scared of the pussy

    It was fun disabusing him of that ridiculous notion.

  132. screechymonkey says

    So apparently serial killer Paul Bernardo has got an admirer who wants to marry him.

    Is she bothered by him having raped a dozen women, and killed two? Nah, you see,

    “He is a kind man, a Christian, a very nice man,”

    Oh, well, if he’s a Christian….

    But don’t worry, she went to her pastor and got some great moral wisdom that no atheist could have provided:

    The woman described asking her pastor about forgiveness, referring to Bernardo without naming him.

    She quoted the pastor as saying, “It is not for another person to judge his brother.

    “And I said, ‘But what about the worst thing ever, could that be forgiven?’ ” she recalled.

    “He said, ‘As soon as that person committed the act, God has already forgiven him,’ ” she said in an interview.

  133. says

    Bad moments in parenting from this week:

    (1) Sarah Anne Markham is the woman whose child was taken away from her because she endangered the child’s life. Markham refused to feed formula to the child and would not give the child medicine prescribed by a pediatrician because the formula and medicine were “not vegan”.

    What’s not being mentioned in most of the corporate media (it’s as if they’re avoiding the subject) is that she is a fervent seventh day adventist and openly stated that religion was her motivation for endangering her child.

    (2) Justin Harris, the scumbag facing murder charges for leaving his kid in a hot car all day, reportedly refused to call 911 when others arrived at his car, and police arrested him because he refused to get off the phone. He was “sexting” several women – and teenage girls – on the day he killed his kid.

    It has been widely reported that Harris and his wife researched how long it takes animals to die in hot cars. He reportedly also researched how to survive in prison, so he clearly knew what he was doing and that he faced consequences if caught.

    What is also being reported is that he was visiting childfree websites, and some childfree groups and forums are now facing a backlash. Childfree means choosing never to have kids, it does not mean killing off the ones you have. Unfortunately, a few people only hearing the word because of Harris can’t grasp or bother to learn that there’s a difference.

  134. says

    Here’s another story about horrible parenting:

    Police in Carbondale, Colorado arrested a 32-year-old woman for allegedly trying to poison herself and her two daughters with rat poison out of fear the children’s father would take them to Mexico, KUSA-TV reported on Thursday.

    Maria Alvarado-Gomez was charged with two counts of first-degree attempted murder on Wednesday after allegedly stating her intentions during a doctor’s appointment. Her children, an 8-year-old girl and an 11-year-old girl, were treated at a local hospital and later released into the custody of their father, identified as 46-year-old Martin Luciano-Gonzalez.

    Court documents stated that Alvarado-Gomez mixed the poison into smoothies for herself and the children on June 30, telling police through an interpreter that she “would rather the children be dead than alive in Mexico,” believing that Luciano-Gonzalez planned to take them away from her. She also allegedly said that “she did not want to suffer anymore and she did not want her children to suffer anymore.”

    When the girls complained about how the taste of their beverages, the suspect reportedly told them she had mixed vitamins into their drinks. She later allegedly refused to take action when one of the girls started vomiting.

    I think she should lose all parental rights, along with spend a long time in jail.

    Related to that…if efforts were made to rehabilitate Ms Alvarado-Gomez, what would that consist of? How do you go about convincing her that her efforts to kill her children were wrong?

  135. says

    Crossposting from my Facebook page:
    I have hope.
    Artist Emily Partridge (of Cartoon Networks show Adventure Time) recently came out with allegations of sexual assault by Skyler Page (creator of ‘Clarence’, another CN show).
    Guest what Cartoon Network wasted no time doing–terminating Skler Page. He no longer works for Cartoon Network. I applaud the actions of Cartoon Network in supporting Emily Page. This sends a message to their female employees, that they will treat allegations of sexual assault with the seriousness they are due. It also sends a message to the public that sexual assault is a problem and it warrants support for the victim and action, rather than sweeping the problem under the rug. I don’t watch either show, but these actions by Cartoon Network make me want to show them support.
    Thanks for doing the right thing.

    I sent a letter to Cartoon Network showing my appreciation for their handling of this situation.

  136. chigau (違う) says

    I had a conversation with some Japanese people who are learning new words.
    They work in a Japanese restaurant where they offer their customers saakee to drink, so they won’t be misunderstood.
    And we also talked about kerryohkeee.
    krahdee was also mentioned.

  137. chigau (違う) says

    The way my Ipad, I get crowded tab titles on the drop-down menu.
    I just saw:
    No smoking, no drinking
    No thank you, no ….

  138. says

    I really don’t know. I have tried a few times to rein her in but she seems to pay no attention at all. It’s possible she just comments and doesn’t read other comments.

  139. says

    It does, which makes it very hard to rein in. I don’t much want to have to email people to tell them how to carry on a reasonable discussion!

  140. soogeeoh says

    Why does the post “This? This is just a very heavy lunch box.” have that title? Is it a (pop culture) reference?

    I think I get the idea of feigning ignorance/playing obtuse from the comments under the quotes, but the lunch box seems the odd one out, so … I wonder, is it from a cartoon? TV show? a book?

  141. James O'Day says


    The separatists in Ukraine are doing everything to hide the fact, known to everyone, that they shot down the airliner. The BUK missile launcher has “disappeared”. The title is a play on words for that disappearance.

  142. sceptinurse says

    Sorry to be pedantic here but… If the bottom of your knee hurts it’s probably your tibia. If the top of your femur hurts the pain would be in your hip.*

    *Anatomy was one of my favorite classes and my O.R. Specialty was orthopedics.

  143. screechymonkey says


    Couldn’t find a better place for this, but I thought you might be interested in looking at the About Us page at American Atheists. Apparently they’re proud of their origins as something more than a dictionary-definition “folks who don’t believe in god”:

    Since 1963, American Atheists has been the premier organization fighting for the civil liberties of atheists and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. American Atheists was born out of a court case begun in 1959 by the Murray family which challenged prayer recitation in the public schools.

    That case, Murray v. Curlett, was a landmark in American jurisprudence on behalf of our First Amendment rights. It began:

    “Your petitioners are atheists, and they define their lifestyle as follows. An atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An atheist accepts that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth – for all men together to enjoy. An atheist accepts that he can get no help through prayer, but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and to enjoy it. An atheist accepts that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help lead to a life of fulfillment.”

    Now in its 50th year, American Atheists is dedicated to working for the civil rights of atheists, promoting separation of state and church, and providing information about atheism.

  144. John Morales says

    screechymonkey @198, it strikes me that the employment of the masculine as nominative (both noun and pronoun) belongs to another era.

  145. screechymonkey says


    Oh, agreed — that’s just how judges wrote fifty years ago. I was just pointing out that right from the beginning, AA wasn’t merely advocating the non-existence of god, or even that plus separation of church and state, but including such “dogma” as “heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth – for all [people] together to enjoy.”

  146. John Morales says

    I had to manually access the wordpress login because the new code seems to require me to provide my blog, which is non-existent.

    If someone else has that problem, the URL is:

    PS chigau, check wikipedia’s article on trackback.

  147. John Morales says

    The new layout currently has the recent comments showing all comments, including those which won’t actually show in a post’s comments because they haven’t passed moderation.

    (I kinda like that)

  148. chigau (違う) says

    John Morales
    re: trackback
    I read the article.
    I still don’t grok what they are on about.
    But I think that is due to my lack of current tech-savvyness.
    I don’t think it actually matters to me.

    Dawkins seems to not understand that the knife-threat part is not rape, it’s assault.
    Slipping someone a roofie is also assault.
    Beating someone to unconsciousness is assault, possibly attempted murder.

  149. John Morales says

    chigau, consider two internet sites A and B using trackback-enabled software.

    If site A posts something (call it C) and then site B posts something with a link to C, the supporting software notifies site A that site B has posted a link to C.

  150. chigau (違う) says

    John Morales
    So what?
    Should I care?
    or is this more of concern for the blog owner?

  151. says

    I think the point of showing trackbacks is in case the reader is interested in seeing another take on the same subject. That’s how I’ve always understood them when I see them on other blogs. Sometimes I am interested, and I do click on one or more of the links.

    It’s the usual reason for links. Here’s this other thing in case you’re interested.

  152. chigau (違う) says

    Currently, trackbacks are showing up in the Recent Comments sidebar.
    Mostly to 2- and 3-year-old threads.

  153. John Morales says

    Internal trackbacking, chigau. Site A is notifying site A.

    It so happens that the code running here displays those notifications under comments in the sidebar but under the comments within a post, but that could easily be changed.

  154. chigau (違う) says

    and the 先生 is ‘sensei’ meaning ‘teacher’ or
    ‘someone who is much smarter than me’

  155. says

    Something is not right with the new FtB. I read the blogs via newsfeed, and it has happened more than once that the feed picks up not the main post, but a comment instead. Usually (always?) the first one. Today, this happened with the post “To the closeted atheists, you are not alone”. This is hugely confusing!

    Ophelia, will you forward this to whoever is in charge of the technical side of FtB?

    PS. Would it be a good idea to close this instance of the Withdrawing Room and open a new one? It smells a bit musty here … no, that’s not it, but it gets tiresome to scroll down a list of 200+ comments to see if anything new and worthwhile is being said. (It was; I now know how to spell sensei.) Also, it could help to renew readers’ awareness of the place.


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