Monday, August 31, 2009

Oh dear...

I just don't know what to say anymore. The Edward Cullen wall cling was a terrible thing.

But this... I just do not even have the words. I'll just let the picture do the talking:
I just... No. NO. GAH!

[via Gizmodo]

Friday, August 28, 2009


So, Glenn Beck is an idiot. This fact is not in dispute... But I find him strangely entertaining to watch.

I went through a brief period when I stopped finding Glenn Beck funny, and started to find him scary... But no, it's back to funny.. The man has no sense of self-awareness: he cautions right-wingers against getting violent, then puts on a skit about murdering a senator...

Now, I hope I'm right in only finding him funny, and that some crazy person doesn't get inspired by his words and, you know, murder a senator.

But this... THIS is just hilarious.

Yep! It was missing a letter all right... But the letter was C! Hahah. It looks like he'd been leading up to this moment all week, with his foreboding chalkboard of liberal doom... AND HE MISSED A DAMN LETTER! Hahahaha

Irreligiosophy, featuring ME!

So, I am on the latest episode of the Irreligiosophy podcast along with another Salt City Skeptics member to discuss the group, my religious background, and what it's like living here in Salt Lake City...

Additionally, it was finally determined which of the two hosts, Leighton or Charley, is the most grating -- and why. (This all goes back to my blog post mentioning that, although I liked the show, I could find the hosts grating).

I gotta say, it wasn't nearly as weird hearing my voice on this show as I had anticipated. :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sigh... This is what we're up against, people...

Okay, so in my last post, I mentioned Andrew Schlafly and Conservapedia. If you're not familiar with Conservapedia, it's basically like Wikipedia, except that as the "trustworthy encyclopedia," it is not beholden to, you know, facts.

Just on a lark, I decided check out the current state of the Barack Obama article. What I found was not encouraging. Ugh.


So, for decades -- nay, over a century now -- there has been a constant tug-of-war waged by the religious right against including evolution in public school classrooms. To anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of biology, this is absolutely ludicrous. Trying to teach modern biology without evolution would be like trying to teach modern medicine without any discussion of germ theory. Evolutionary theory is modern biology.

The last few years of this war have not gone well for those who wage it. The Dover trial exposed the Intelligent Design movement as little more than a rebranding of creationism, and struck down its includion in public schools. Attempts to insert creationism into biology textbooks have failed, or have succeeded briefly before being overturned by voters or by courts.

Despite huge battles in this war being waged in Florida, Kansas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere; no single state is as important in this war as Texas.

Texas has a state-wide curriculum set by the state Board of Education. This means that rather than each district choosing its own textbooks, the state purchases vast numbers of only those textbooks that have been approved for the curriculum. As a result, Texas holds enormous sway over what is included in your public schools, whether you live in Texas or not. Textbook publishers tailor their content to fit the Texas curriculum. In a very real way, the Texas curriculum is the nation's curriculum.

Which makes what is going on there right now all the more troubling.

Religious conservatives, facing defeat after defeat on the creationism front, have taken an entirely new tack. Not content to simply rewrite science to fit a religious narrative, the Texas school board is now attempting to rewrite American history to reflect a religious, explicitly conservative narrative that is a grotesque distortion of reality:
The first draft for proposed standards in United States History Studies Since Reconstruction says students should be expected “to identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority.”
This is outrageous. Amanda at Pandagon has an indepth take on this absolute insanity. As Amanda says, including people like Schlafly (who, of course, is a horrible monster) in the history books is not, in and of itself, nefarious. But it should be included in context of what it was she actually fought for, which was to deny equal rights to women. [Side note: Andrew Schlafly, Phyllis' son and founder of Conservapedia among other things], is also a piece of work Portraying her as some sort of hero is beyond ludicrous. It is outrageous.

Go read Amanda's post. She says everything better than I can say it, becuase all I want to say right now is "Mnablargablaniklobomablagrrrrrraflimaginlsdofidun!"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Oh dear god, NO.

This is quite possibly the creepiest piece of movie tie-in merchandise -=EVER=-:
Yep. It's a sillhouette of Edward Cullen that you can slap on your wall to spy on you from the shadows as you sleep. That's right. It's almost as good as having an actual stalker. I don't believe it's an officially licensed item, but seems to be offered without the merest HINT of irony.

Please, PLEASE just put me out of my misery now. I'm not sure I can go on.

[via Topless Robot, who has another piece of Twilight merch that is NSFW, unless you work at Good Vibrations.]


Update: Walking up to a stalker staring at you not enough? Why not have him stare at you in the shower, too!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Translation Party

Hahaha... Okay, after that longwinded and rather serious post, here's something much more fun:

Translation Party
takes whatever phrase you enter into it, translates it to Japanese, then back into English, then does it again and again until it's reached equilibrium (that is, until after two consecutive translations are identical). For instance, here's some text you've probably read before:
Human rights law, divinity, politics, the band's declaration of independence for a connection to the ground station for this event, the decision to establish the same rights, and meet the needs of the natural aging process.
This is the first paragraph to the Declaration of Independence. Strangely, the phrase "declaration of independence" does not appear in the source text at all. lol.

ur nation, in order to establish justice, peaceful, and form a more perfect Union, Japan, and certainly I, we provide a general benefit to the descendants of the Statue of Liberty in the United States Establishing a Constitution to improve the welfare for the common defense of its own.Go check out Translation Party.

[Skepchick me through an interpreter, and found the party.]

What groups like Humanists of Utah can do to thrive

[Cross-posted from Salt City Skeptics]

Note, though I'm talking about a particular group here in Utah, my thoughts apply to any similar organization...

Last week, I attended a picnic for the Humanists of Utah. HoU is a great organization. Their events and guest speakers are always insightful, and the people are warm, welcoming, positive and just generally awesome.

I've been to two or three HoU events over the years. Each time, one issue has been very apparent. And it's an issue they readily admit: they're aging out. Other than myself, a few members of SHIFT (which was invited to attend), and a few children of long-time members, I don't believe there was anyone under fifty in attendance. And most were older than that. Nearly everyone I spoke with was ecstatic that there were just a few younger people there.

I had a discussion with one member of the HoU who wondered why humanism didn't appeal to younger people, whether it even applied to our lives at all.

My answer: an unequivocal yes. The ideals of humanism are very much the ideals of vast, vast numbers of younger people openly embrace.

So, what's going on then? Why are there so few 20- and 30-somethings attending HoU events?

One piece of the puzzle is shifting labels. The ideals of humanism and the ideals of organized skepticism are very similar and entirely compatible. Yet organized skepticism has grown tremendously over the past few years. Events like The Amaz!ng Meeting have grown from a sort of boutique conference for a few people to become huge social events for skeptics of all stripes. And in the case of TAM, it's been getting younger and more diverse every year.

The "New Atheist" phenomenon has also had a huge impact in the last few years, particularly on younger people. Whether they consider themselves atheists or not, the nonreligious have been emboldened to more readily -- and proudly -- embrace their identity openly.

Not ervey last person who labels themselves a skeptic or an atheist is going to have ideals that line up perfectly with humanism, but for the vast majority of them (including myself), it's the Enlightenment ideals that these labels stand for that are important, not the labels themselves.

But what has changed to make it seem like groups like Humanists of Utah are no longer applicable?

Quite simply, the internet.

The internet has enabled people to form communities with like-minded individuals in ways that weren't possible twenty years ago, or even ten.

Each week, I download vast amount of content to my iPod. Podcasts like Little Atoms (<3), Point of Inquiry, SGU, Irreligiosophy (on which I will be a guest on an upcoming episode!), and Skeptically Speaking keep thoughtful insight into secularism, rationalism, non-theism and other Enlightenment ideals in my ears all week long.

I subscribe to countless blogs in my RSS reader. I've become friends -- both online and IRL -- with some of those bloggers, I keep up with people both locally and far-flung through social media. The people on these blogs and podcasts are real people, and I can get to know them, in some small way, through Twitter or Facebook. I mean, I know more about Rebecca Watson's stuffed animals than I do my neighbors two houses down. Never has it been easier to find a group of like-minded people, regardless of the topic.

This is awesome. I get to be a part of a community of like-minded people all around the world. Whether you love drinking beet root juice or want to find others who love to go bowling in full animal costumes, chances are there's a Facebook or Meetup group for you.

Does it come at a cost? Maybe. The fact is that I don't know much about my neighbor two houses down. My "neighborhood" is definitely more the place I live than a community of which I'm a part. But the internet allows me to find community locally as well. It's precisely because of the internet that I was able to form Salt City Skeptics, and indeed is how I know of Humanists of Utah.

But HoU has yet to jump in to these newer internet media. I've no idea whether this is by choice or just because it hasn't yet been done, but the fact of the matter is that younger people today just do not respond as readily to a static website or monthly physical newsletters. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying there is anything wrong with these things or that they should go away. Maintaining a blog or podcast takes a lot a time and effort. And to some people, a printed newsletter may be totally indispensable.But the fact of the matter is that most people under 35 and a huge number of those over are likely to use (and I hate this term, but it here goes...) Web 2.0 media like blogs, podcasts and social networking sites.

Let's look at my group, Salt City Skeptics. I started the group a little under a year ago, more or less on a whim, and between the presences on Facebook, Meetup and subscribers to the SCS blog, we have nearly 250 unique "members."

Now, very few of those members are as devoted to the group as members of HoU are to theirs.
SCS has a rotating group of ten to twenty people who actively attend our events, plus occasionally more people at special events. For most, Salt City Skeptics "membership" mostly consists of adding it to one's Facebook profile in a list right next to "Fans of Lady GaGa" and "People who don't enjoy being on fire." Most "members" have never come to an event.

HoU members, conversely, have thirty or forty devoted members who come to every event (and probably countless more who don't) and are likely much more invested in the group, viewing it more as a unique community.

The Humanists of Utah certainly have more to offer in terms of content than SCS. I'm just one person and have to balance my time with the group with all the other stuff that comes up in life. HoU is, you know, and actual incorporated nonprofit group with clout and a board and a chair and a budget in excess of $70 a year. The programing schedule put together by HoU is impressive and insightful. SCS mostly gets together to share a few drinks and gripe about pseudoscience and the excesses of religion. I always promise to have more guest speakers, etc., but it takes work getting the ball rolling on these things.

So, what's my point here.

I, for one, want to see HoU continue. But that means they need to invest now in social media and a next-gen web presence. I'd like to help the group survive. I'm going to start posting HoU events here, and I'm going to make my best effort to attend them. I'd hope that HoU can start getting a presence on these newer platforms. A Twitter feed or Facebook group takes just a few minutes to set up, and it instantly allows people to discover these groups and their events. Let's all help this phenomenal group with 20 years of history survive.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Do Not Want

So, Ron Moore's take on Battlestar Galactica, the only TV show I've reliably watched in the last five years (though, after finally watching a few episodes of Mad Men, I may have another), has been off the air now for less than five months. Many, including myself, are still processing the finale (some in, um, great depth).

What's more, it's not even over: There's a spin-off series, Caprica, on the way; and a TV movie, The Plan, set for release in two months.

Ron Moore's vision of BSG has a throng of die-hard fans who have loved the series' realistic(ish) take on the science behind the fiction; the difficult ethical, moral and political questions explored; the complex characters that fail to fit into simple black and white categories; the strong female characters; it's occasional wry references to Mormon theology and on and on and on.

So what does Universal decide is a good idea? Have Bryan Singer direct a reboot movie. Not a sequel, not a film set in the same universe, but a reboot... supposedly holding closer to the campy 1970's original series, which was little more than a Star Wars ripoff. While I thought this summer's return to a candy-colored Star Trek was fun, I do not - DO NOT - want a candy-colored BSG. This is the worst idea since they decided to reboot Buffy without Joss Whedon's involvement. Ugh.

Who is the target audience for this? People who don't know BSG won't want to see it, and people who do won't want to see it.

Okay, sorry about that. Now back to what is swiftly becoming a favorite passtime: Snarky comments about Glenn Beck... Glenn Beck is a horrible, horrible person. I will laugh at him all the way to my death panel.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Importance of Standing Firm

[via Skepchick]
Boston Skeptics has a great post about the overlap of skepticism, feminism, activism, and the importance of standing up for what is right and what is true -- specifically in regards to the abortion issue. The comments on this post are worth a read too. Check it out.

Want. Now.

Looks like Terry Gilliam is back in prime form with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. His last two movies left me wanting (Tideland was okay, but I absolutely ABHORED The Brothers Grimm).

It's also Heath Ledger's final film, and Depp/Farrel/Law stepped in to fill his shoes. Also, it's got Tom Waits as the god-damned (literally!) devil, so it must be good.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

OMG I hope Rick Santorum runs for president

[via Shakesville]

Word on the street is that Rick "man/goat marriage" Santorum will be throwing his proverbial hat into the proverbial ring for the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination. Please make this happen. Please help push the Republican party further into obsolescence by bringing in a homophobic, anti-progressive religious zealot and bigot of the highest order who will easily get over 15% of the vote and who is so egregious that his name is now synonymous with a byproduct of anal sex.

Of course, my face will be red if he wins.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Irreligiosopy: The Battle for Grating Supremacy

Last week, I wrote a post that included a recommendation to a podcast called Irreligiosophy. I'll second that review now. The topics covered on the show are always great and well-covered, and the occasional interview sections are always insightful... But I also noted that the hosts can sometimes be "grating."

Well, Charlie and Leighton, the hosts of Irrreligiwhatever saw my post and even read my "review" on the latest episode! Now I'm famous among all four-and-a-half of their listeners! (they do refer to me as "she" throughout the segment, but there aren't a lot of explicit references to my gender here, so no biggie.)

What's more, I've been invited to come on the show and settle once-and-for-all the burning question of whether it's Charlie or Leighton that is more grating, and why. Still working out the details, so when/if it happens, I'll let you know!

If you weren't already planning on coming to Drinking Skeptically at Piper Down this Wednesday, you plan on it. There's a chance -- emphasis on the CHANCE -- that the Irreligiosophy crew may be coming along and recording for the show.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Take this fun video quiz!

Hehehe... Oh I love Edward Current. Here's his latest, in the form of an awesome video quiz. I scored a zero. See if you can beat my score!

"If you thanked God that hilarious comedian Dane Cook wasn't aborted, you are correct."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mississippi spends public money on sectarian abstinence-only conference

From Feministing:
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is going up against the Mississippi Department of Health and Human Services for an Abstinence Summit that was held using government funding.

Seriously: Ugh. Point the first: Abstinence-only sex education does not work. The ideas behind it -- viz. that if you keep secrets about sex from teens, they won't do it -- do a massive, massive disservice to the next generation. Not does AOSE not have any effect on the rates of teen sex, but it also ensures that, when they do have sex (which, since teens love sex, they will), they will not have the knowledge, forsight, and/or mindset to do so safely, with protection from pregnacy and STIs. Period.

And what's more, this event is Mississippi is clearly sectarian in nature. This is why it is so important that we keep religion out of government and out of civics. If all the churches in Mississippi wanted to get together and hold this pro-ignorance conference, then fine. But don't use public money. And it's nonsense like this that shows why organizations like the ACLU are so important. I heart the ACLU... See the video.

God and Abstinence from Stuart Productions on Vimeo.

Living in Utah

A coupe of links to here and Overheard in SLC from Main Street Plaza, which I just discovered is not in my blogroll... Ahh, there. That's better. I've been enjoying Main Street Plaza (the blog, that is -- I'm less enamored with the actual Main Street Plaza of late) for the last few months. Check it out if you have an interest in the intersection between culture, politics and religion here in Utah...

So, I love Salt Lake City. I really like living here. But it's a misunderstood place. Salt Lake City is one of the most liberal, progressive cities in the nation in a vast sea of red in every direction. Everyone I know who visits here is astounded that the city is so unlike what they expected. I never get tired of exploring new crevices of our (admittedly small) downtown or the gorgeous mountains just to my east. There are layers here. Layers to be pulled back and marveled at. I mean, I live within walking distance of a Sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith and just a quick drive from the haunted dancehall from Carnival of Souls. Can you say that, Bostonians? Chicagoans? I didn't think so. And is Chicagoans a word?

But it's undeniable that living in Utah -- even in the liberal bastion of SLC -- brings with it some challenges, and outsiders may not be familiar with some of the cultural references. Main Street Plaza is a great blog discussing the overlap between the culture, politics and religion here in Utah. Most of the contributors are "post-Mormon" (I like that term. I may appropriate it), but it's not an "anti-Mormon" blog, though it is certainly -- and rightfully -- critical of many of the the LDS church's policies.

Oooh, and another thing: my good friend RebelGrrrl recently introduced me to the Irrligiosophy podcast. It's a pretty decent podcast on atheism and religion, with an emphasis on archaeology, Middle Eastern history and Mormonism (both of the hosts are former Mormons). I'll be honest, sometimes the hosts can be a bit grating, but on the whole it's a very solid podcast with lots of good info. Check it out. :)