The greatest break-up story ever told

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Long timers here may recall that I mentioned this cool video by Nina Paley called Sita Sings the Blues several years ago. At that time, all that was available were some short but very pretty clips.

Good news! Sita Sings the Blues is done, and available on the web. It’s Saturday evening — go ahead, set aside an hour and a half to watch it. How often do you run across Hindu myths animated and set to the 1920’s jazz?

Speaking of Hindu myths, have you ever read any of their creation stories? Here’s one version:

Before time began there was no heaven, no earth and no space between. A vast dark ocean washed upon the shores of nothingness and licked the edges of night. A giant cobra floated on the waters. Asleep within its endless coils lay the Lord Vishnu. He was watched over by the mighty serpent. Everything was so peaceful and silent that Vishnu slept undisturbed by dreams or motion.
From the depths a humming sound began to tremble, Om. It grew and spread, filling the emptiness and throbbing with energy. The night had ended. Vishnu awoke. As the dawn began to break, from Vishnu’s navel grew a magnificent lotus flower. In the middle of the blossom sat Vishnu’s servant, Brahma. He awaited the Lord’s command.

Vishnu spoke to his servant: ‘It is time to begin.’ Brahma bowed. Vishnu commanded: ‘Create the world.’

It’s silly and magical, but it’s also beautiful. We hear that awful tinny poetry of Genesis so often that I think it’s worth looking around at other cultures just to see how petty and third-rate the Western bible is. Not that I want anyone believing in Vishnu and the lotus growing out of his navel, but at least it’s much more lovely and imaginative than the repetitive nonsense we’re used to.

Atheists now rule most of the world

Who knew that all you had to do is change the definition of “atheist”? Put on your sunglasses and visit this site—the color scheme is classic fluorescent kook—and you will discover that atheists are people who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. Period. Which means…

  • James van Praagh, loopy psychic medium and newager, is an atheist!
  • All Jews…atheists!
  • Muslims…atheists!
  • Martin Luther King…atheist! (Wait, what?)

I like this game. Atheists also deny the divinity of Thor, which means…Christians are atheists!

There. Now that we’ve taken over the world, I think I deserve to go have some ice cream.

Hey, is the blog still here?

Tap, tap. Can you hear me?

You sure? I heard that International Authorities were going to disappear me.

If you hadn’t heard that, you missed one of the most hilarious comment threads ever. After we made light of a pointless poll about the afterlife, various fans of that site were so horrified that many complaints were launched…and of course, the owner was so deeply committed to free speech that he simply deleted our contribution. One fellow was so indignant that he charged off to the Richard Dawkins forums to complain. He lists his grievances, and, boy, are you readers wicked people. You use rude language, you aren’t sufficiently respectful of loony ideas, and when people come here to tell you to shut up if you can’t say anything nice, you insult them.

I think I love you guys.

I am also very evil, because I link to sites with which I disagree, and then you loud, rude, skeptical hooligans go off and laugh at them. This was too much for Jonny-Boy, who wants us silenced.

Having failed to get this man to accept a single shred of responsibility for dragging his offensive website in the direction of other people who haven’t in any way requested its presence, and also for allowing deliberately offensive personal attacks to both appear and remain online in concern of me, I’m now wondering who I should start complaining to?

I’ve taken snapshots of all the content I’ve mentioned–including PZ’s remarks here–and I’m going to start emailing this stuff out to any relevant ISP’s, internet watchdog groups and scientific bodies in the States and Europe. Let’s see what other people make of it.

I also think it’s intellectually dishonest and harms the atheist cause–both points which I happen to care about.

I had hoped he’d be nice enough to cc this damning letter to me, since I’m sure it would put me in a very jolly mood, but I haven’t heard anything yet. The Western Civilization Internet Police haven’t dropped in on me yet, either. I’m facing a long afternoon of lab maintenance, the really dreary stuff that isn’t exciting at all, so being hauled off to the Hague for fomenting rowdiness on the internet would be an exciting and welcome relief.

How often have you heard the phrase, “harms the cause”? It’s getting a bit old; the only time it comes up seems to be when some over-cautious WATB gets worked up over someone who is trying to change the status quo, and especially when anyone actually dares to criticize bourgeois convention in the pursuit of a goal. It’s not a phrase I use, but it’s as good as donning a uniform for recognizing those timid souls who intend to stand in our way.

The “intellectually dishonest” accusation is a peculiar one. He’s applying it to me because I won’t go into your comments and edit them to remove profanity, harsh accusations, or worst of all, insults directed at Jonny-Boy. I’m not making this up — he actually suggests that I remove all the comments that offend him.

So that aside, please attend to those offensive comments aimed at me on your site (perhaps do it only as a one-off courtesy if you like) and feel free to replace those unwarranted, derogatory posts with animated pictures of little bunnies skipping around and eating grass–if it makes you feel better. That way you can still kind of rub my nose in the content when it’s gone and have another chuckle, only this time fully on me.

Poor fellow. He doesn’t understand that free speech means you let people say things which you find disagreeable, and that intellectual honesty doesn’t involve censoring everyone who disagrees with you. He also doesn’t seem to understand me at all — why would I feel good about shredding other people’s comments and replacing them with fluffy bunnies? Why do I need to censor other people’s ideas to laugh at him? Why do I owe him any courtesy at all?

I hope you see this. You might not. Jonny-Boy has big dreams of deleting the whole site.

Anyway we’ll see how this turns out. Don’t be surprised if you end-up wondering where Pharyngula went.

Because that would be intellectually honest and would help the atheist cause.


Amusing:

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Greg, the host of the Daily Grail, speaks, and confirms that he is an idiot. Why was he unhappy that I linked to a poll on his site?

My take is that you intentionally vandalised my site.

Take away his license to use the interwebs — I am gobsmacked that someone that stupid is actually contributing to it. (Oh, well, that’s hyperbole: I’ve read youtube comments and myspace pages, and I’m actually aware of how stupid you can be and get away with putting stuff on the web.)

Blood in the water

The blogs have talked about Bobby Jindal’s credentials as an exorcist for some time, and now, finally, after Jindal’s comical performance on national TV the other night, the mainstream media is taking notice. His dalliance with exorcism gets a write-up in the NY Times, where one of the more depressing questions I’ve run across is asked.

“That’s incredible. But is it politically problematic?”

It’s discouraging that we even need to ask this. A potential presidential candidate believes that a woman grappling with cancer and depression might have been literally possessed by a demon, and that chanting magical incantations cast the demon out. This is absolutely insane stuff. But of course, in this country it’s the people who question such ludicrous claims who are regarded as ‘close-minded’ and ‘weird’.

Discouraging as the fact that that question can even be asked might be, even worse is the answer. “Probably not”.

Check the poll results at that link. 40% of Americans in the 21st century believe that the devil sometimes possesses people. We hoped for flying cars, and all we got was voodoo and speaking in tongues. I feel a little bit cheated.

At least we can hope that maybe newspapers and television will begin to eye these claims a bit more skeptically. But don’t count on it.

Aww, how sweet

I got a package in the mail today! It was from the Catholic League! It included a personal, signed note from Bill Donohue! It also said “SWAK” and all the ‘i’s were dotted with hearts! (Oh, OK, I made up that last bit. A boy can dream, you know.)

It was their 2008 Report on Anti-Catholicism, a 74-page exercise in institutional paranoia, and I am featured on pages 26-30! Oh, joy! You know what that means: I can expect another uptick in sad letters from nuns and pious little old ladies in Waukegan.

One curious thing about those letters: they are all the same, and they all come in neatly lettered envelopes with printed return addresses in the top left corner, and they all come from Mrs. John Smith or Mrs. George Jones or some variant thereof. I don’t know any of the names of these women, but I do know their husband’s names. It’s very, very weird — it’s the formalism of patriarchy.

Who is buying all that porn?

An analysis of the consumption of internet pornography found that there are only small differences between states, but that there are some patterns. The patterns will not surprise anyone.

The biggest consumer, Utah, averaged 5.47 adult content subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users; Montana bought the least with 1.92 per 1000. “The differences here are not so stark,” Edelman says.

Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.

So Republican states gobbled up more nekkid pitchers than Democratic states… but of course, one could argue that it was just the few Democrats in Utah who were slavering most obsessively over porn, while the Republican Mormons were being upright (no, wait, maybe that’s the wrong word…) Montana is a conservative state, too, but maybe the ready availability of all those cows helps slake their forbidden lusts.*

What about those good Christians?

States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage,” bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. A similar difference emerged for the statement “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behaviour.”

Heh. Now we all know what “values” is a code word for.

*Uh-oh. Here comes all the hate mail from Montanans.

Say what?

Speaking of incessant, grating whines…here’s another Minnesota pest, Michele Bachmann. She spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (by invitation…how deranged have the Republicans become, anyway?) and offered this jewel of logic:

I just wondered that if our founders thought taxation without representation was bad, what would they think of representation WITH taxation?

Don’t even try to comprehend the strange thoughts that flit through that tiny brain.

Tickets to Dawkins!

All you Minnesotans should know by now that Richard Dawkins will be speaking at UMTC, in Northrup Auditorium, at 7pm on Wednesday, 4 March…next week! If you haven’t got your tickets yet, you can join Minnesota Atheists and get one for free — so act fast.

As an additional inducement, guess who is going to introduce Dawkins at the lecture? Me! Now you might be saying, “Bleh, who wants to listen to Myers babble?”, but you’d be missing the important point: I’m only going to talk for 30 seconds to a minute, and then get out of the way. More Dawkins, less annoying functionary!

In fact, if we can get a full house at the Northrup, I’ll go one better — I’ll just say “Heeeeeeere’s Richard Dawkins!” and get off the stage. So buy more tickets, and shut me up (watch for the rush on the Northrup box office now).

Oh, and there will be a semi-secret pub night afterwards. I’m not advertising it too widely, to keep the riff-raff away…but you can email me and ask for directions.

The best article title this week goes to…

I had to read it just for the title alone: “Harmonic Convergence in the Love Songs of the Dengue Vector Mosquito”. It’s got romance, it’s got harmony, it’s got singing, and best of all, it has that delicious dramatic tension of being all about biting insects known to carry a nasty disease. Even in the lowliest, most obnoxious creatures, biologists find beauty.

I’d tell you all about it — in short, courting mosquitos synchronize their wingbeats to sing in harmony — but Neurotopia beat me to it. When summer comes to Minnesota, I’ll have to remember that the incessant whines are actually tiny little liebeslieder.