Monday, July 8, 2013

Edo Era Photoplasty What-If? A Steampunk Twist to the Boshin War?

This wasn't particularly well thought out or anything, but I went into this short Photoshop project with the intention of creating an entry for a Cracked magazine photoplasty contest "What if famous personages of history were born in the wrong era?" or something to that effect. When I finished it, I realized that there was no specific single historic personage represented beyond the fact that the original painting used was created by Jules Brunet, famous French combatant on the side of the Bakufu forces in the Boshin War of 1868-9. In my photoplasty, he is the field "photographer" of an out-of-time event that wasn't supposed to happen in Japan (well, arguably, ever!) until 1945.

So, without further ado, here is my photoplasty of Japan's premature atomic solution to the Restoration war. The question remains: who in Japan could have invented the bomb in the mid-19th century? But let's not overthink this.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Open Your Eyes to the Reality, Chick Fil-A. Marriage is a Right for Gay as Well as Straight

Today is August 1, 2012, and I recently learned it is also something called Chick Fil-A Appreciation Day. There isn’t a franchise anywhere near where I’m sitting, but even if there were, I wouldn’t. Since Chick Fil-A as an organization has gone so far as to endorse an exclusionary political stance, i.e., standing against gay marriage rights, I wish to exercise my free rights not to allow any of my money to support such a consciously ignorant and hateful affiliation. I mean, it isn’t like traditional man-woman marriage is a perfect institution or anything. And what about all those studies that have shown homosexuality is genetically predetermined (or a result of particular embryological conditions)? What about all those upstanding test case children of gay parents? I’d say the evidence for your stance against gay marriage is slowly being swept away by the verifiable evidence that gay marriage is not monstrous and it does not warp children or turn otherwise straight people into raving queens or dykes. (Forgive me for not posting links to studies here, but I plead “pain from broken finger” as an excuse to keep this short! Google them; they’re out there!)
My "orange" wig to show support for the gay community. Also notice the purple reflection. That's for empathy. You know, that "Do Unto Others" bit that's so important in interpersonal relationships!

Back to today. Over on Facebook, there is a concurrent observance called Open your Eyes, Minds and Hearts Day, in which everyone is asked to wear purple or orange to show support for the gay community in the face of Chick Fil-A’s  ineffectual attempts at cowardly bitch-slapping. Wear orange if you’re straight and purple if you’re gay, or wear both to show your empathy (or for all y’all pansexuals out there). In honor of this event, I colored my signature green wig orange, and in some pix I also added purple to the reflection in the mirror to show empathy. I may identify as a straight person, but I believe in appreciating beauty in all its forms and presentations. I’d gladly wear Spock’s IDIC and endeavor to personify it. 

Oh yeah, if you want to be really snarky, go to Chick Fil-A and just order water, and be sure to cite Proverbs 25:21 when you do! Voting with your wallets indeed! 

One last though before my finger is totally immobile: if you are married, think of all the perks and benefits you or your spouse enjoy in the legal and financial realms. Think of custody rights, insurance, survivor benefits, all sorts of stuff. Now imagine all those rights are denied to you and/or your spouse arbitrarily. Put yourself in the place of a gay couple and truly understand how they are being discriminated against.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Alien Abduction Terror: A Study in PTSD


Some of you have read about my horrific experience 22 years ago, wherein I shook hands with Death via a violent home invasion and rape. But it might interest you to know that the aftermath included something that seems unrelated but must truly be directly influenced by the trauma. In short, I spent a week hiding out at my grandmother’s house in Florida, sleeping in her guest bedroom where I had slept many times before. Only this time, I was visited with visions of grey aliens every night. I could not sleep for fear of waking up in the grip of several jabbering aliens with needles and restraints. If you think I’m exaggerating, I might, at this late date, be inclined to agree. But at the time, it was a dark obsession; every time the lights went out, I saw aliens. 

The disconnect might join up for you if you realize that my mother had given me her copy of Whitley Strieber’s Communion to read shortly before this. Mom was always into paranormal, magical and other weird stuff. She even had a tarot deck and a Ouija board. I don’t think she ever used the Ouija board though; it sits in my garage…somewhere. The infusion of a breathless, emotional account of Strieber’s abduction experiences wormed their way into my ravaged, stressed-out post-trauma brain and lodged in my dreams. As a result, I slept with abduction anxiety for a week or so. If I were more credulous, I would have affixed great significance to the fact that I heard my father’s voice in my head so loudly it caused me to roll violently out of bed, only to see him pulling out of the driveway early one morning during my stay at Grandma’s house. Surely, the sensitivity of the traumatized brain is amazing, or I experienced telepathy .

These and other experiences have led me to believe that humans indeed possess capabilities that might be deemed paranormal, but I would not go as far as calling them supernatural. By definition, anything that happens in the natural world is “natural.” Thus, I keep my mind open to the possibility of paranormal phenomena. But many times, the most obvious explanation is the right one. If you’re ever traumatized like I was, I don’t recommend reading Whitley Strieber books, ok?

Monday, June 11, 2012

You’re HOT, Birthday Girl! Love, Mom.

A pretty watercolor flowery image   
In a few minutes, I’ll be officially a year older than I was a few minutes ago. Happens every year, you know. This year I’ve racked up big number 47, and most of my family has tended to forget my birthday. I don’t particularly mind this, because it is a mixed blessing to turn 47, after all. But I think of the alternative and decide it’s overall a good thing. My mother remembered me, and she sent me a card in the mail. I opened it today, a pretty, decorative card with the Greeting Card Co. sentiment. So I read along, and it slowly gets just a slight bit weird, like maybe she’s lost her mind or closed her eyes and picked a card at random. This particular card begins:

“Ever since we became family,
I’ve been impressed by you.”

OK, I can see that. After all, I came out on the end of forceps looking like a miniature of Frankenstein’s monster. That’d impress anyone, really. The language is a little strange, as if I became family sometime after the Frankenstein delivery. But, to continue, it goes on:

“You know who you are
And you show it proudly.
You follow your dreams and work hard to make them
Come true…”

All this is under the nice, generic, “happy birthday daughter” rubric, so I’m hangin’ with that. After a stanza or two more of this, I turn the page to the greeting card punch line:

“You’re an incredible woman,
And I’m happy to have you in my life.
Happy Birthday
With Love.”

Now I feel like this is a card meant for a lover or a wife or something. Don’t get me wrong; I love my mother, and I’m happy to have her in my life, but I can’t picture the phrase, “You’re an incredible woman” coming out of her mouth. That’s something a lover says to his hot babe or something, or God forbid, something a very drunken suitor says at the bar when it’s nearing 2 a.m. and you’re the only possible pickup target left at last call. 

But hey, Mom sent a $30 check too, so I’m willing to go with the whole “incredible woman” thing. Maybe she’s trying to make me forget I’m middle-aged or something. Thanks, Mom! I love you too!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Carl Sagan's Alien Moon Base and Vintage UFO Sensationalism: Frank Edwards Tells His Tales

As an undirected, wandering student, I used to really enjoy fantastic tales that purported to be real. So, the old, battered 1960’s paperbacks by Frank Edwards, a sort of Art Bell for the 1960’s. His books were collections of short tales of mysterious disappearances, unexplained phenomena, UFO’s…you know, all the stuff that conspiracy theorists think are absolutely true but are being systematically covered up to prevent the people from knowing what’s really going on. 

Oddly, I never really caught the “true believer” bug of the conspiracy theorist, but I always enjoyed the titillation of the breathless narrative that made everything SEEM like it must be a genuine occurrence of the extraordinary. As a child, I wished that aliens would land in my front yard and take me with them. I dreamed of working side-by-side with Mr. Spock as a sort of junior science officer. And somehow, in the misty past of the 1960’s, it seemed that the edge of the unknown was important government business. After all, the whole decade was dedicated to reaching the Moon.

This morning I found a youtube video from those fuzzy-outline days, a series of slides overlaying a radio presentation by that very same Frank Edwards, “Flying Saucers, Serious Business.” I have the paperback here—somewhere. I read it years ago in a fit of bedside dreaminess. 

I was interested to find, right around the 34 minute mark, a reference to Carl Sagan, who Edwards claimed was the “advisor on extraterrestrial life to the military.” Well, I didn’t see that on his other online biographies!  Here, Edwards notes Sagan’s speculation that we have probably already been visited by beings from other worlds. But wait! He also says these aliens (the imagined probable ones that are out there somewhere) could have bases on the dark side of the Moon. It seems there was a common belief in the early 1960’s that we might have already been beaten to the Moon by space aliens, and that we might have to be prepared to fight for our lunar territory. How fascinating to see such popular rumor and how it arises! Edwarrds tells it all in that matter-of-fact vintage reporter style. 

Of course, now that we’ve seen the other side of the Moon, that speculation has to be thrown out. Only the woo types who believe we have never set foot on the Moon can hold on to it now. That’s why it’s “woo.” For those of you out there who want to see the dark side of the Moon, here’s footage!   So far, no alien moonbase.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Presuppositional Apologetics Can Eat My Shorts

My graphic depiction of the disconnect between Bible literalists and the scientific worldview. Images from Wikimedia Commons, public domain license.

I admit I have not been very regular in writing on this blog. I made the cardinal mistake of assuming I should have something real to talk about, with real substance behind it, before I delved into the business of putting the idea into words. Lately, I decided that, if I wait for that kind of inspiration, I probably wouldn’t write another word for months. So I took a bit of advice from this helpful article  and decided to just pick something that irritates me. Unfortunately, it still took me 2 days to put together the whole post (mainly because of visiting relatives and annoying constant interruptions-yeah, I’m making excuses!)

If you’ve seen my Twitter profile, you’ll read that I identify myself as an “apathetic agnostic,” which is lazy-speak for “I’m not religious, and I don’t really care about the fine points of religion.” Somehow that doesn’t ring completely true though, when I decide my favorite podcast of the week is Seth Andrews’ The Thinking Atheist , which explores the human side and the social realities of being atheist in a predominantly Christian society (middle America). The fine points of the atheist vs. Christian worldview often escape me, but I found my interest growing when I realized how intrusive religious dogma was becoming, extending now to children’s classrooms here in Tennessee, where the so-called “Monkey Bill” has opened the door to allowing degreed scientists (who should know better) to spread misinformation and lies to the open minds who will lead the next generation. That way lies the new Dark Ages, and that is what really scares me. But on to Presuppositional Apologetics, which I consider to be somewhat of a dishonest parlor game, rather than an honest attempt to prove God’s existence.

Few things irritate me more than blatantly ignorant assertions that refuse to allow dissension or even a peep outside the narrow world of the proponent. The field of Presuppositional Apologetics has got to be the single most annoying and closed-minded mind trick that literalist Christians have come up with thus far to redefine reality. Proponents Eric Hovind (son of “Maximum Security Kent” Hovind) and his bulldog Sye ten Bruggencate have been making the rounds of atheist talk shows online lately, spreading the massive headache that cuts off all possibility of rational communication.

I blame tenBruggencate in particular for ruining my enjoyment of DPR Jones’ The Magic Sandwich Show and Seth Andrews’ The Thinking Atheist podcasts with his willful refusal to allow arguments based on fact and reason. In fact, I think the succinct and peremptory response of the folks at the Fundamentally Flawed podcast had the right idea. I don’t even think Sye got 30 seconds in, because he refused at the outset to abandon his insistence that the Bible must be taken as the basis of all knowledge before he would even begin to allow an exchange. No neutral ground here…

That’s the real problem with this dishonest philosophical framework known as Presuppositional Apologetics. The very premise it dictates, that the Bible is the source of all knowledge and nothing can be known without “presupposing” its integral part in reality, then anyone attempting to argue for a reality without reliance on literal Biblical inerrancy cannot even begin to set forth an argument. It is basically “ Bible Blinkers ,” disallowing any worldviews that do not take the Bible as canonical reality at the outset. Who can argue with someone who will not listen even to your first utterance?

So, like Jim, Alex and Kat at Fundamentally Flawed, it seems wise to say “Bye-bye Sye” and simply focus on using reason and testable evidence to prove the existence of reality that makes a literalist Biblical approach less and less probable simply by accretion of proof that contradicts Young Earth Creationism and other small-minded outgrowths of the unfortunate phenomenon of Christian literalism. What ever happened to an acceptance of Bible stories as allegorical tales? The literalists are shooting themselves in the foot when they assert that a thousands-year-old book can tell us scientific truths about our modern world. It is backward-thinking and poses a danger to the younger generations who will carry the human race into the future.

I am no debater, nor am I a theologian or philosopher, so I cannot speak to the finer points of this doctrine of presuppositional apologetics, but I’ve seen it play out in conversation, and it is not pretty. My scientific training causes me to cry out in disgust of the blatant disregard for the testable nature of reality as it is observed in the natural world.  It is the very worst of closed minds championing a lost cause, hanging on to a crumbling world view simply on the power of wishful thinking. If you want the best ammunition against a presuppositionalist, I highly recommend this counter-apologetic from C0nc0rdance, another of the regulars on the biweekly Magic Sandwich Show.  In a way, this clear-thinking answer to the frustrating deafness of Sye ten Bruggencate vindicates the efforts of DPR Jones and the rest of the MSS crew, who were obviously massively put off and somewhat taken by surprise by Sye’s refusal to engage in adult discussion from a neutral ground. Now that the beast of Presuppositional Apologetics has lost its shock value, we can see that it has no real substance, and it can now join the ranks of dishonest arguments that only hurt the cause of Christianity.

I mean, really. Why don’t mainstream Christians denounce these nutcases? Their aggressive, bullying tactics only make the whole of Christendom look bad. At least Richard Dawkins and the Archbishop of Canterbury had a civil, polite and decorous conversation, each retaining respect for the other through polite disagreement. Even William Lane Craig’s “I win because I say so” arguments follow the rules of debate. Eric and Sye belong in time-out on the kindergarten playground. Their methods are evasive and dishonest. Is this sort of con game what Christians want to represent their world view?

Some frustrating and/or amusing encounters between atheists and presuppositionalists Hovind and tenBruggencate, along with some postgame analysis :

The Magic Sandwich Show (Sye, Eric Hovind , Thunderf00t , DPRJones , AronRa , C0nc0rdance ) 
The Thinking Atheist podcast w/DPR Jones and Sye
Grappling Ignorance (with lots of links to other videos dealing with Presuppositional idiocy) 
PZ Myers Talks to Sye as if to a 6-year-old child

Saturday, March 31, 2012

News Flash: Creationism Proven Correct! Richard Dawkins Discovered to Be God (from the AFN* News Service: 4/1/2012)

In a shocking new discovery, researchers at the Human Genome Project discovered an unusual artifact hidden deep within a recently parsed set of genetic data. Unlikely as it seems, we have to consider the possibility that a particular coded sequence of base pairs in a sample taken from a Mrs. Fiona Lostmyhandbag of the tiny Scottish village of Nothindhuin may have a pointed message. We must also consider that this may be undeniable evidence of an intelligent creator. The only catch is that the intelligent designer is none other than Oxford evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins.

The transformed data sequence here shows an unmistakable imprimatur: (apologies to for hijacking its chromosome closeup graphic)

The chances of such a complex coded message appearing by natural selection and random mutation are infinitesimal; so scientists have had no choice but to declare that Richard Dawkins is most likely God, the long-sought intelligent designer of the human race. When asked for comment, Dr. William Lane Craig said, “See, I told you so,” before promptly calling Professor Dawkins to congratulate him on his promotion.

Dr. Dawkins was asked to comment on his newfound status as Creator and Ultimate Deity. His reply was simply, “That’s bullshit.”

 Critics of the “Dawkins is God” movement have countered with a claim that Dawkins may only be the creator of Mrs. Fiona Lostmyhandbag and no one else. Mrs. Lostmyhandbag was sequestered with the officials of the British Railways Lost and Found and could not be reached for comment, although her dog, a Chihuahua named Charles Darwin, had much to say on the matter.

*AFN: April Fool’s Network :D