Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Post of the Year: Keep Your Legs Crossed, Gentlemen

With less than two hours to go before the old year’s kaput I’m. . . sitting on the couch trying to think of something to post. My significant other is working this evening; if you want your One True Love to be with you on major holidays don’t fall for a guy who works in television.

So I’m sober and alone on New Year’s Eve. Could be worse, though. I found an article with the redundant headline Woman’s Charges: Malicious Castration.

Is there any other kind? A Google search for “lovey-dovey fuzzy-bunny castration” brought up zero hits, though that will cease to be the case as soon as this post goes up.

Sorry, guys. Got nothin’. I’ll come up with something better next year, I promise.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Just Sold Out To The Lowest Bidder

So I was thinking, “I’m sick of being broke and I don’t have time to take a second job. I wonder if I could maybe make a buck or two off this here blog o’mine?” So I signed up for Google AdSense. The idea is that the Googlebots would notice the content on my site and then put in ads tailored to my readers’ interests: posts about the joys of crocheting might result in ads for crochet patterns, for example, while posts about problems with childrearing will result in ads for parents’ magazines or diaper coupons. Then, if anybody is interested enough to click on an ad, I’ll earn a fraction of a penny.

So on my blog, which talks about topics like atheism and libertarianism and the benefits of reason over faith, what were the first four ads that came up in my sidebar?

Got Gout? Have Faith? See what God has provided for his children to overcome gout

Understanding The Word break through traditional teachings to truth and the word of life

God Is Love See a 60 second video on God’s love for you

Hell Does Not Exist and you can prove it. Get the facts—see for yourself. The big hell lie.

I wish I were making this up.

I’m not gonna make a DIME.

And when the hell did I ever post about gout?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Even If You Answer My Question, A Half-Hour Later I’ll Be Puzzled Again

Confession can supposedly assuage a guilty conscience, so let’s see if that’ll work for me: a couple of weeks before Christmas I found a funky new dollar store on the cusp between the good and bad parts of town. The store sold those crystal-prism “suncatcher” pendants that take even the dullest, most overcast light and break it down into rainbows; I bought a few of the crystals and hung them on my Christmas tree.

Such prisms usually cost ten or fifteen dollars apiece, rather than one dollar (plus six cents tax). Why were they so cheap? Well, that’s why I’m feeling guilty: the crystals came from China. Everything in that store did. I don’t usually buy Chinese products because there are companies in the country which use actual slave labor to man their factories, and there’s no way of knowing which products were made by free people happy to have a job, and which made by slaves forced to toil for no compensation. (With one exception: never buy Chinese Christmas lights. People imprisoned for being either Christians or members of Falun Gong are forced to make them for export.)

That’s why I try not to buy Chinese, and why I feel guilty for buying those dollar crystals. But some people have told me this is the wrong attitude to take: China may use some slave labor but there are also plenty of businessmen in the country whose free workers are happy to have their jobs. And improving the economy of a quarter of the world’s population is a good thing, isn’t it?

There are two ways to view the Chinese situation: to avoid hurting honest businessmen and their employees we buy Chinese even though we risk enriching slaveowners; or, to avoid enriching slaveowners we stop buying Chinese even though this hurts honest businessmen and their employees. Which is the right choice?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Country, Right or Wrong

Here’s a request for hypothetical advice: say I’m giving a backrub to my significant other. It so happens that I love him a great deal (this part is NOT hypothetical) and I’d be devastated if ever I lost him.

Now, while giving him this backrub, let’s say I happen to notice that he has a malignant melanoma on his back. That’s the deadliest form of skin cancer, though it can be cured if treated early enough. It’s also a hideously ugly sight. Certainly not the sort of thing I want to see on his handsome self. What do you think I should do?

A. Say nothing, because I love him too much to admit he could have any imperfection, let alone one as ugly as a melanoma; or

B. Raise hell about it, because I love him too much to let him die from a problem that's easy to treat if caught early enough?

Of course the answer is “B.” Only a lunatic would believe that loving someone means denying the existence of a problem which threatens him, even if that problem is an ugly and vile one. Indeed, the uglier and more vile the problem is, the more upset you'll be about it, if you truly love the one who suffers from it.

So why do so many ostensibly sane patriots take approach A when faced with the problems which threaten our country?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Tis the Season

Though not usually prone to self-censorship I’m feeling extraordinarily mellow right now (what with the holidays and all) and want to spread good cheer without causing offense. Thus, I wish you either a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, joyous Eid, liberated Kwanzaa, brightening solstice or (if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness) a pleasant yet unremarkable day that is absolutely no different from any other.

Naturally I’ve spent a small fortune on presents this season but at least I didn’t have to buy any cards, because each year my significant other makes his own — writing a holiday-themed story and then illustrating it. The online version of this year’s card, telling the story of a fantasy warrior trapped in our own mundane world one December, is here. (The female character is supposedly based on me. Naturally, I vigorously deny this.)

(He’s also self-published an entire book of previous year’s holiday cards, and links to some of the stories and pictures can be found here.)

Whatever it is you’re celebrating, I hope you have a blast. Talk to y’all later.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

And I Thought Smurf Jones Was Bad

I’m sure you’ve heard already that the Libertarian Party has given a leadership position to Bob Barr, drug warrior extraordinaire who pays lip service to the cause of liberty yet believes Granny should go to jail if she smokes a joint to make her chemotherapy-induced nausea go away. There are two reasons a libertarian should oppose the war on drugs: it's a perfidious assault on personal freedom and an enormous waste of money. Barr fails on both counts.

Fun fact about human biology: often, when a person is dying but not yet dead, the muscles of the anus and rectum will go completely slack and any fecal matter inside the intestines of the soon-to-be-corpse makes its way out to freedom.

I suspect Barr’s appointment is merely the pants-shitting phase of the Libertarian Party’s death throes. But "appoint Bob Barr" would be a marvelous euphemism for the process of expelling solid waste from the body, don't you think? "I just ate three pounds of fermented cabbage and refried beans. Please give me a match so I can light it after I appoint Bob Barr."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Whosoever Believeth In Me

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way unto the Father is through Me.
—Jesus of Nazareth

“I can’t be dead!” she thought, and then
she felt a twinge of sharp surprise
when her soul tore from her body
and began to slowly rise.

The world around her disappeared
into a brilliant misty glow
and when it dissipated she
was in a place she didn’t know:

a featureless and formless void
through which she wandered all alone
until out of the blur ahead
she saw a man upon a throne

who called to her, “Come forth, my child.
The time has come: your judgment day.
Your sins and virtues, measured out,
determine where your soul will stay.

So now will I begin to judge
and after a short time will tell
whether you will go to heaven
or spend the rest of time in hell.”

She looked at his long hair and beard
and robes, and looked into his eyes,
and then knew who he was and gasped,
“It’s you! The savior, Jesus Christ!”

He nodded with a smile and said
“It’s very good that you know Me.
Now let me have your name so I
can read about your life to see

exactly what the Book of Life
records that you have done with yours.
Oh, my! Look here! It says that you
once owned a little chain of stores

and took most of the profits and
bought food and clothing for the poor,
scholarships for struggling students,
homeless shelters, and what’s more

you’d donate blood six times a year,
always helped your friends and neighbors,
spent your whole life serving others,
and to reward you for your labors

I’ll let you live in Paradise.
Go on and step through yonder door!
through its threshold you’ll find Heaven
and be happy forevermore.”

As she began to walk on through
she turned to him and, with a smile,
replied “I will say this much, Lord—
you do seem like a real nice guy!

Back when I lived upon the earth
I wish that I had known of this!
That way, I could have worshiped you.”
She smiled, ‘til her eyes met his

and then she took a small step back
to see the fury brewing there
as Jesus, lower lip a-trembling,
rose out of his golden chair

and hissed “Am I to understand
that you have never worshipped me?
Then I say damn you! Go to hell!
Yes, I mean that literally.”

Then through a door she didn’t see
an evil imp pulled her away
to one of Hell’s scorched prison suites
where still she burns unto this day.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Reason, Religion and the Man in the Moon

The man in the moon doesn’t really look like a man, but we see him anyway because human brains are pre-wired to see patterns and pictures that aren’t really there. Seeing things that aren’t there is a symptom of insanity, except for when it’s not. So when I say “I look up in the sky and see a face looking back at me” you have to wait for the context to determine whether I’m crazy, or merely prone to poetic clichés when describing the moon.

More ambiguously sane comments: that face in the sky watches everything I do. He can read my thoughts. He knows me better than I know myself, and can probably foretell my future as well.

Is this a lunatic describing his delusions, or a religious man talking about his faith in God? It could be either one. Believing in things that can’t be measured or seen is another sign of insanity, except for when it’s not. Is religion branded into our brains like pattern recognition? Maybe it’s just another bit of faulty wiring, an insane process that's perfectly normal in humanity, another reminder that our intellects evolved in an animal context.

If praying mantises ever get around to inventing religion, it will be a holy sacrament when the female eats her mate after sex.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Evil Clowns: What Happened to the Baby Boomers

My parents belonged to the Baby Boomer generation, which means I was born into a family of annoying hippies who eventually became annoying former hippies. But I try to be charitable: if you grow up being told that the way to survive a nuclear war is to hide under a wooden desk, it sort of makes sense to think you can end war and usher in utopia by not bathing for awhile. And when you abandon your goal of bettering the world, of course you'll develop a fondness for disco. It couldn't happen any other way.

That’s what I used to think, anyway: duck-and-cover self defense is why my parents and their friends were all nuts. But I know now I was wrong. Here’s the real culprit: the first television appearance of a terrifying Ronald McDonald with a paper cup for a nose. How can any child grow up normal after that?

(The video is pretty low-res; does that McDonald’s sign actually say “over one million served?” Oh, how quaint.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Green Foods of Death

Once again terrorists have somehow managed to cross our national borders, drop their pants and shit on our vegetables, thus contaminating the American food supply with e. coli. A few Americans died this summer from infected spinach, then it was lettuce making people sick for awhile, and now it’s green onions from Taco Bell.

In all cases, some of the contaminated vegetables were consumed right here in my own state of Connecticut, though I was never in any danger since the only green food I eat is Granny Smith apples. Those are less likely to be shat upon since they grow on trees rather than the ground.

I’m kidding about the terrorist poop, of course. At least I think I am. The story last time blamed the e. coli on contaminated water used to irrigate the crops; I figure it’ll be something similar this time around, too. But here's what I can't figure out: is e. coli more common these days than it used to be, or is it just that the media reports it more often?

Monday, December 04, 2006

People More Productive Than Me, Volume MMXII

Like many bloggers-slash-English majors, I plan to write a book one of these days, though things like the Internet protect me from the danger of being that productive. My significant other, however, actually managed to write and publish a book, an illustrated collection of sci-fi and fantasy short stories with holiday themes.

The book itself can be found here, and a preview of some of the stories and pictures here. (The second of the preview stories is my favorite: a curmudgeonly professor travels to parallel universes in hopes of finding one where everybody is sensible and levelheaded, and nobody wastes time in foolishness like holidays.)

I’m going to do something equally productive someday. Really. But first I have to make a very important post in this heated online debate I'm having about the role of the Cylons in the new "Battlestar Galactica."

Welcome to the Machine!

There’s this new VISA commercial showing a lunchtime hell where hundreds of hungry people are mere cogs in a cafeteria machine. The cartoon assembly line music playing in the background emphasizes the frenzied inhumanity of the scene, and by the end of the lunch line each customer/cog swipes a VISA card through a machine (all in time to the music). Then the assembly line crashes to a discordant halt when one of the cogs pulls out his wallet and pays in cash.

Here’s why I can’t work in advertising: VISA paid for this commercial on the theory that it would make people want to be credit-bearing cogs in an efficient machine rather than some cash-handling jackhole human, pardon my French. But I‘m thinking the commercial works better as promotional fodder for a pro-cash organization with a name like The Society for the Promotion of Responsible Consumer Spending. Fight the machine! Stick it to the man! Pay in cash!

Does this commercial actually sell credit cards to the mainstream? Ignoring the possibility of a comical mix-up at an ad agency doing work for both the SPRCS and the VISA corporation, either I am completely out of touch with mainstream America or the commercial writer is. Here’s the link again. What do you think?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Well, Well, What a Surprise

A few months ago I mentioned the failure of my determination to make this the year I'd finally bite the bullet and throw my vote away on a libertarian; turns out the Connecticut Libertarian Party had almost nobody on my local ballots. But that’s okay, because 2008 is the election that really matters; why throw away my vote for a seat in the state legislature when I can throw it away for the United States Presidency instead?

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is officially Thinking About running for president, according to this CNN story that won't surprise a soul.

It's embarrassing to admit this now but I actually kind of liked Hillary back in the 90s, in part because she was hated by such putrid people. Jerry Falwell used to run infomercials for a video claiming that Bill and Hillary used the Arkansas state police as a personal hit squad; pretty much every suspicious death in Arkansas during Clinton’s governorship was either his fault or Hillary’s. The video sold for 75 dollars; two years ago I saw a copy in a thrift-store bin for 50 cents and I still kick myself for not buying it.

I have no idea where I’m going with this, except that I’m glad I’ve already made the decision to give up trying to vote for a winner in 2008. Nobody knows yet who the Democratic or Republican candidates will be, but I'm expecting the first presidential election of my adult life where I have no idea which of two evils is the lesser.

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