10 Plagues Over Kentucky!

Step right up and buy your tickets,
While you wait for Noah’s flood;
Buckle up and watch your hands now
As the water turns to blood!
It’s the first of ten to visit,
Killing all the little fish;
Take a sniff—the smell’s authentic
Cos we know that’s what you’d wish!

With the fish all dead and dying
In the rivers, lakes, and bogs,
Time to move on to the second—
It’s the plague of raining frogs!
As they splatter all around you,
Watch your children’s pure delight;
Cos the Bible is our blueprint
And we try to do it right.

Now the trolley turns a corner
And you’re thinking “this is nice”
Cos you know what’s coming third in line—
A plague of gnats or lice!
Deeply hidden in your follicles,
The eggs begin to hatch,
And it’s family fun for everyone,
So everybody scratch!

If you haven’t read your Bible
Then the next room’s a surprise
When you’re driven to distraction
By the swarm of beasts and flies!
It’s an accurate portrayal
So your skin will puff and bleed,
But you’re here to see the Bible
And we give you what you need!

In the next room, watch the animals
All stricken with disease!
You want to see the pestilence,
And we just want to please!
Ahead of you, a plaintive moo
Betrays a dying calf—
Your children see its painful sores
And laugh, and laugh, and laugh!

Moving on, we see the dreadful price
Exacted for your sin,
As boils erupt, unhealable,
On every inch of skin;
It’s painful, itching, oozing,
With an odor of decay—
Cos we chose the right bacteria;
You’d want it just that way.

We are sticking to the Bible
To the very last detail
So we use no safety helmets
As you meet the plague of hail
You’ll be battered and bombarded,
You’ll be broken, bleeding, bruised,
But you’ll truly feel the wrath of God
With methods that He used!

For the next, a plague of locusts,
Wreaking havoc on your crops;
Here we focus on your hunger
And the dust that never stops.
It makes every breath an effort
So the kids will think it’s fun,
As it raises their awareness
Of the things that God has done.

Up ahead, a plague of darkness,
As the world dissolves from sight
It’s a darkness that is palpable
Beyond a lack of light
You can feel it like a blanket,
Like a blindfold, or a hood;
It’s a terrifying notice
And it tells you God is good.

But of course, we’ve saved the best for last,
The tenth, the plague of death,
Where the dead, decaying babies
You will smell with every breath.
There are corpses, corpses, everywhere!
It’s every firstborn son!
And so you see, we guarantee
It’s wholesome family fun!

Wait, you say–no sentient being would ever consider making a tourist attraction out of the 10 plagues of Exodus! Well, you are mostly right. No sentient being would do it. But it appears that the creationist don’t-think-tank planning Ken Ham’s biblical theme park are planning it:

So, not so much “Six Flags” (for non-USA–that’s an amusement park) as “Ten Plagues”. Fun.

Cuttlecap tip to PZ, of course.

The God-Shaped Hole

There’s a god-shaped part
That is missing from my heart
And the rivers of hell are running through it
So when god above
Tries to fill it up with love
Then the devil takes my tongue, and I say, “screw it”

There’s a god-shaped hole
In the middle of my soul
Where the devil takes control of my behavior
And I can’t break free
From his power over me
Till I recognize that Jesus is my savior

There’s a god-shaped strain
That’s been nibbling at my brain
And I really can’t explain how it hurts me
Cos my logic fails
Rationality then bails
And my cognitive ability deserts me

There’s a god-shaped wound
That has festered and ballooned
A malignant and metastasizing cancer
Through the whole damned land
And you have to understand
That religion is the cause, not the answer.

Context here.

In Support Of NPR

NPR offends me; that’s the way it ought to be.
It exposes me to views with which I sometimes disagree;
If it served up pap and pablum, then it’s not the place for me;
I can get my fill of that stuff on TV.

It’s accused of being leftist by the listeners on the right;
And of being too conservative, and maybe too uptight,
By the bleeding-hearts and liberals who notice every slight,
Though it’s really not a case of black and white.

Now republicans will do their best to knock it off the air
Or at least remove the funding that’s the governmental share,
As they try to take advantage of a hidden camera snare
And to do it while the public’s unaware.

I like NPR. A lot. Partly, I like it because it goes places I wish I could, and allows me to expand my world by proxy. Partly, I like it because it exposes me to things I wouldn’t have chosen to expose myself to. It is altogether too easy to find a news source that agrees with the position you already hold; what with cable news and entertainment, satellite radio, and the internet, you could live your days in an echo chamber of your own choice.

NPR doesn’t allow that. Along with having a little something for everyone to enjoy (P.T. Barnum’s recipe for success), NPR offers a little something to offend everyone. Just look at the website comments on their stories. The accusations of bias come from all directions, with each listener an oasis of rationality in a desert of unthinking idiots. Now, I appreciate being offended, and even I am occasionally gob-smacked by their choices. For instance, last week’s piece on Ken Ham’s creationist theme park proposal was presented as straightforward news, when by rights it should have been accompanied by the mother of all laugh tracks. But as I said, I don’t need radio to tell me what I already believe; I need it to expand my world, not bunker it. This is too important to leave up to the market that gives us all the echo chambers. Tell your congressweasel, and tell them Cuttlefish sent you.

So NPR offends me. Good for them. I try to have a little something on this blog to offend everyone, too. If you find yourself agreeing with me on every issue, let me know and I’ll try harder.

Limerick/Haiku Contest

No, not mine.

The Smithsonian Human Origins Program (that link is to their facebook page; here is their web page) is sponsoring a limerick/haiku contest (topic–human evolution)! And there is a prize! A signed copy of “What does it mean to be human?” by Potts and Sloan.

The bad news is, you have less than 24 hours, as of this posting. So get busy!

My entries (so far):

A young Mitochondrial Eve
Was the mother to all, we believe;
Her mtDNA
Is still with us today
A remarkable feat to achieve!

He’s muscular, thick-browed, and hairy
His demeanor is savage and scary
A Neanderthal, or
Is it just Jersey Shore?
Sure, we’re different, but really, not very.

As we look at our similar shape
A conclusion that few can escape
(Save a few who still try
To believe in a lie):
It is clear, now, that man is an ape


One difference between a fly and a man
They used to say, was attention span.
He may or may not, but at least he can
Pay attention for more than a second.
The world has changed; it seems, today,
We live our lives a different way—
A major shift? Too soon to say,
But that’s how some have reckoned.

We used to sit and read a book,
Though days or weeks (or months) it took
But now, we wouldn’t waste a look
On something of that length;
We’ll look, perhaps, for something short,
Condensed into a brief report,
Or gut the classics for our sport
If we can find the strength

Our lives, now lived in snippets brief
Each written on a single leaf,
And when some day we come to grief
An epitaph bizarre:
Beneath this stone, a person’s head;
So many tales he could have read
But chose a different path, instead—

From NPR today, an interesting essay on the increasingly fractured informational landscape we live in. Books have gone, or are going, the way of the slow-cooked meal; who has time for a roast, or a novel? Give me a burger and a blog, to go! By the time information has made its way to a book, it is obsolete! (Interestingly, the notion that a portion of that “obsolete” knowledge is what was reported in shorter form along the way, and thus did not have to stand the test of time, is not explored. There are advantages to both the shorter, quicker and the longer, slower forms.)

For my thinking, the perfect compromise is a book, say some 300 pages in length, but which contains briefer bits that one could finish in just a few minutes, perfect for bedside or *cough* water closet. Overarching themes may well develop, and lessons may be learned, but such a book would take advantage of the new, shorter attention span. Indeed, the condensation of information into such brief forms might well require specific mnemonic and other cognitive devices–say, meter and rhyme, for instance, as a means of facilitating the acquisition of information. And it would be easy to obtain, just the click of a button away, like this:
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.
It should not be free, though–studies have shown that information too easily obtained is valued more cheaply, and may be too quickly discarded. No, this perfect book should be priced realistically, reflecting its value, and yet inexpensive enough to be the perfect gift for a loved one, or to ask that loved one to buy for you.

Concord Hymn

The Granite State, New Hampshire, could
Remember her, or else forget:
Here once Michele Bachmann stood
And spoke the gaffe heard round the net

Republicans and students there
Had gathered, for to hear her speak,
But Bachmann, blithely unaware,
Displayed a knowledge far too weak:

The shot was fired, but one state south,
She did not know, or else forgot
But still she opened up her mouth—
So now New Hampshire gets the shot

She would not, could not take the blame,
Admit mistake and let it pass:
Instead she played a little game
Of “always kiss New Hampshire’s ass”

I don’t know which one amuses me more in this story–Michele Bachmann, or New Hampshire. Of course, the story isn’t funny without both of them contributing. Bachmann, of course, is a self-important tea party hotshot, whose rhetoric is full of reference to the founding fathers, revolution, the flag, mom’s apple pie, truth, justice and the american way. Her rhetoric far outstrips her actual understanding, but that happens. New Hampshire, likewise, is the self-important “first in the nation primary” state, where the sense of entitlement breeds individuals who will not vote for a candidate unless they have personally sat down with them and discussed the issues over a meal (or at the very least, pie).

Bachmann first tries kissing up to New Hampshire by sweet-talking about Lexington and Concord (yes, with a teabag in her hand). When she is corrected (by granite staters who take themselves so seriously that they see this as a “major gaffe”), she chooses not to admit mistake, but to take the NH ass-kissing to a whole new level (tea-bagging is so 2010–this is the Bachmann slip of the tongue) and post on her facebook wall “So I misplaced the battles Concord and Lexington by saying they were in New Hampshire. It was my mistake, Massachusetts is where they happened. New Hampshire is where they are still proud of it!”

Prediction: New Hampshire, rather than being appreciative of the Bachmann Slurpp, will take offense at the suggestion they could ever be proud of something that happened in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts.

Cuttlecap tip to Ralph Waldo Emerson, for the original Concord Hymn.

False Equivalence Dance

On the one side were the scientists, and Ph. D.’s, and such,
With a vast amount of data for their model
On the other side, celebrities who didn’t know so much
But were passionately supporting utter twaddle

In the middle were the media, delivering the news
With a lot of time to fill, from six to eight
Since it takes a bit of work to find the better side to choose,
They give evidence and piffle equal weight

You can dedicate your life to understanding a disease
And can truly make the world a better place
But the channel six reporter with a sponsor to appease
Gives the other side, with someone’s famous face

It’s a dance of false equivalence that actively distorts,
Giving idiots and experts equal say
And the audience grows dumber just from watching these reports
Couldn’t someone, somewhere, find a better way?

I was going to have separate verses for different example of this dance in the news, from climate change to vaccines to torture to whether a lobotomy is required, or just customary, for republican front-runners, but I have grading to do, so the briefer version is here and done. Of course, I’m looking for someone to give the opposing view equal time, so feel free to give a rebuttal in the comments, along with evidence that you are rich, famous, powerful, or attractive (preferably some combination of these factors) so that we know how much to pay attention to your point of view.

Inspired by the comment thread here, but not directly.


When reality assaults us,
Giving more than we can take
Like the utter devastation
Of tsunami and of quake
When admitting in the horror
Opens up the very heart
I suspect that, just to save itself,
The brain shuts down a part.

When the death and the destruction
Overwhelms your every sense,
Then your frontal lobe may run and hide
In simple self-defense;
It’s a manner of escape—
A means of slipping terror’s yoke—
Then, brainless, daft, and frightened,
You see cruelty as a joke.

If disaster breeds heroics,
As we see it sometimes can
When we put aside our differences
And help our fellow man,
It may show reserves of courage
When we feel our hearts may burst
Or it may peel back civility
And show us at our worst.

By now, you have likely seen the shameful comments on facebook, the callous, stupid references to Pearl Harbor, karma, and the ongoing disaster in Japan. Tragedy of this scale is overwhelming; perhaps stupidity is these people’s way of distancing themselves from it.

Of course, the same process goes on all the time. I followed a twitter link from GrrlScientist to this story, of a 92-yr-old state representative who advocates eugenics. His (final?) solution to his state’s financial problems is to wish they could send a portion of the population (“You know the mentally ill, the retarded, people with physical disabilities and drug addictions – the defective people society would be better off without.”) to Siberia to freeze.

Apparently, the nonagenarian freshman lawmaker is past his prime (according to accounts by his fellow representatives), which does not excuse but which may explain his statement. What is inexcusable, though, is the defense of his statements by members of his party (care to guess?). The comments at GrrlScientist’s link are shameful, but unsurprising. Someone says something utterly indefensible, and what do we do? Admit it, condemn it, and work together? No, of course not! Circle the wagons, bring up the worst of the other side, even take the current idiocy and claim it is more characteristic of one’s opponents!

I suspect that some things are just too far beyond the pale to contemplate. But rather than face it, some portion of the population (and I cannot help but wonder, could it be any of us, given the right situation? I hope not.) takes flight to fantasy. To some alternate reality where disasters are deserved, where contemplation of eugenics is justified, where the appropriate response to every crisis is to blame one’s political opponents or the victims.

Sorry, this is a rambling rant. Fortunately, being utterly incoherent seems to be in fashion these days.

A Low Moral Bar

When a thinking person quarrels
Over Abrahamic morals
And they look at evolution to compare
Though the legions of the godly
May decide I’m thinking oddly
There’s a little observation I can share:

If a God, in His discretion
Wants to punish a transgression
With an everlasting punishment in Hell,
Any ethical solution
That’s derived from evolution
Could address the problem every bit as well!

Any god, or gods, or trinity
That tortures to infinity
Is acting in a manner most unjust!
You may think there’s nothing greater
Than your fictional creator
But as moral creatures go, your god’s a bust.

Inspired by the insipidity here. Astonishing, how mere animals are immoral, when compared to god. I get the feeling the real problem is, animals are not as efficient in their cruelty.


I read it first from a random man
It was on my Twitter feed
He couldn’t believe what had just gone down
That they’d really done the deed
The Wisconsin House went around the rules
Though the people were opposed
They couldn’t come up with a quorum,
But their minds were still closed
They split the bill, and voted,
Against the spirit of the law
I looked around for coverage,
But the only thing I saw, on my TV screen
Was fucking Charlie Sheen

I see the pics on the internet
The assembly hall is packed
With people seeing the Governor’s blame
For a spineless coward’s act
The crowd has come together
And they’re vowing they will fight
The obstacles are many,
But they know they’re in the right
They say Scott Walker’s only
Just a walking piece of shit
But the networks have decided
That the only thing that’s fit, to be seen,
Is fucking Charlie Sheen

The stories now accumulate,
About the GOP
And how they fight for billionaires
And against you and me
A peaceful people’s protest
A demonstration of their power
Without the need to fire a shot,
Growing stronger by the hour
But looking at the networks
Leaves me tangled up in blues
They throw some shit together
And they dare to call it news? It’s obscene!
It’s fucking Charlie Sheen

I should go on, but I will leave further verses to my talented and impassioned readers. I was reading twitter feeds tonight, and one (if memory serves, a retweet by @drskyskull, but the feed has been fast and furious, and if I take the time to look for it now, I’ll post this tomorrow) mentioned that CNN was airing a special on Charlie Sheen. (I feel like saying *another* special on Sheen, but I am probably mixing up CNN with every other network on television, which seems to have been nonstop Sheenathon for the past week. I’m glad I’m not a conspiracy theorist, or I’d suspect the Koch brothers of buying hookers and blow for Charlie, just to grab the news cycle.

And yes, it’s Dylan, if you don’t recognize the melody from context.