Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I would so play this.



You can read more about the effort here but it's pretty bloody cool.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Color me not surprised in the slightest...

So I ran across this helpful article earlier today, that basically tells us what we should already know:

Yet another panel of scientists has found no evidence that a popular vaccine causes autism. But despite the scientists’ best efforts, their report is unlikely to have any impact on the frustrating debate about the safety of these crucial medicines.

“The M.M.R. vaccine doesn’t cause autism, and the evidence is overwhelming that it doesn’t,” Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton, the chairwoman of the panel, assembled by the Institute of Medicine, said in an interview. She was referring to a combination against measles, mumps and rubella that has long been a focus of concern from some parents’ groups.

The panel did conclude, however, that there are risks to getting the chickenpox vaccine that can arise years after vaccination. People who have had the vaccine can develop pneumonia, meningitis or hepatitis years later if the virus used in the vaccine reawakens because an unrelated health problem, like cancer, has compromised their immune systems.

The same problems are far more likely in patients who are infected naturally at some point in their lives with chickenpox, since varicella zoster, the virus that causes chickenpox, can live dormant in nerve cells for decades. Shingles, a painful eruption of skin blisters that usually affects the aged, is generally caused by this Lazarus-like ability of varicella zoster.


Needless to say, the fact that every major investigation of this issue has come to the same conclusion- that vaccines are incredibly safe and effective methods of preventing* disease- won't prevent certain parties from continuing to claim that vaccines are bad:

Sallie Bernard, president of SafeMinds, a group that contends there is a link between vaccines and autism, said the latest report from the Institute of Medicine excluded important research and found in many cases that not enough research had been done to answer important questions.

“I think this report says that the science is inadequate, and yet we’re giving more and more vaccines to our kids, and we really don’t know what their safety profile is,” Ms. Bernard said. “I think that’s alarming.”


Which is a pretty fascinating statement of position, when you think about it. If the science, and results, to date don't convince Bernard, what the hell will? Maybe this helpful graphic about the HPV vaccine?

Ah, well, at least we have effective vaccines, even if some of us aren't smart enough to make use of them.


* That's what always amazes me about this debate. We can actually PREVENT diseases before they happen, not just treat them once they do happen. That is so freaking cool! Sadly, however, it's also why so many people don't realize how important vaccines are- it's hard to get across that the reason why we don't have goddamn polio all over the place is because vaccines block it.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 29

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that makes librarians weep. Last time Noah regained consciousness and discovered that the authors didn't need him for a few chapters Molly had drugged him. What happens this week? Honestly, who really gives a shit? We're back with Danny and Stu who, between them, don't have the law enforcement expertise to issue a parking ticket.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for taking us to a bad place:

"Noah expelling waste" is almost the entirety of this book. It could be the title. So why would they leave out how Molly has him attached ass-to-mouth to Hollis in a terrible Human Centipede experiment?!


Honestly, even I don't think Noah deserves that, and I hate him with a passion. The authors, on the other hand, are a different story. Thanks for the image, Sass, and keep at it folks- the "best" is yet to come!

And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Hold your nose, it'll all be over soon!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by rodents in a maze.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's Mom.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther. Likes bacon. Considers himself to be good at word games.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old.

Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.

***********************************

Chapter 29: In which we have "literary" product placement, Danny sends an e-mail, and we discuss proper pet care.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 194, Line 5:
"What time zone is Nevada?" Danny called out toward the trailer's kitchenette. His watch was a Rolex knockoff and it wasn't easy to reset, so whenever he was traveling he always put off messing with it for as long as possible. This, however, was shaping up to be a day when he'd need to know the time.


Was that... was that supposed to be ominous? I mean, what the f-ing crap am I supposed to make of that? He's resetting his damn watch. There is nothing exciting about that. I've reset watches before, I know there's nothing exciting about it. I just goddamn hate this book so VERY much. Okay, whatever. Turns out, these morons overslept and now are in a hurry to get out the door, but they received an e-mail from the would-be terrorists during he night.


Page 194, Line 12:

The message had been from the missing man, the one named Elmer.


Fucking Elmer!



We meet again!


Page 194, Line 13-18:
There was to be another meeting this afternoon, the real meeting this time, at which the weapon would be exchanged for the money, and some final brainstorming would take place on the eve of tomorrow's planned bombing in downtown Las Vegas. The rendezvous was set for 5 P.M., out somewhere in the desert so far from civilization that only a latitude and longitude were provided as a guide to get there.


Oooooh! Scary! I'm picturing Danny showing up in a coat made from the skin of a white tiger. Maybe they can arrive by helicopter? Then again, Stu lives in a freaking trailer, so I'm guessing they'll pull up in a used Chevy vega or something. I'm not sure what to make of that "real meeting" bit, either. What was the meeting the night before, then? A fake meeting meant to throw off... nobody at all? What? And what kind of brainstorming do they need to do? The plan, such as it is, seems to be pretty straightforward:

(1) Buy nuclear weapon
(2) Drive nuclear weapon into downtown Las Vegas
(3) Detonate nuclear weapon
(4) ???
(5) Profit!

So, hey, what's to discuss?


Page 195, Line 1-3:
Between the two of them Danny was more capable on the computer, so it had been entrusted to him to plan the route to this remote location through a visit to MapQuest.


Okay, let's start with the most obvious thing first: mapquest? For reals? Seriously, who the hell uses MapQuest anymore? I mean, yes, it still exists so I guess google maps hasn't put it completely out of business yet, but Jesus! Did MapQuest pay to be in this book? If so, what the hell were they thinking? Second, just to make sure none of you missed it: Stuart has been impersonating a disgruntled ex-FBI agent online for years now, he has a website with the domain name "www.stuartkearns.com" (Page 125, Line 1-8), and yet somehow he's convinced that Danny is the only one competent enough to use freaking MapQuest. I don't know what's worse- that the authors are this freaking stupid/lazy or that they think we're even more stupid/lazy than they are. And finally, given the outright idiocy of this entire situation, is there any explanation for Stuart's eagerness to give Danny unfettered and unsupervised access to the internet than that he's actually trying to set Danny up? I mean, seriously, is there? Either Stuart is being duplicitous or just a plain old freaking moron and, sadly, I think we can all guess which is more likely given the authorial performance thus far. Danny, predictably, misses the potential implications of this and just carries on like he's a super-secret agent man or something.


Page 195, Line 3-6:
While Kearns was in the bathroom Danny had logged onto his favorite anonymous e-mailing site and fired off a quick text update to his staff in Chicago, with a copy to Molly and a short list of other trusted compatriots.


Yep, that's why you don't allow your untrustworthy helper to e-mail the rest of his conspiracy theory nutjobs. So what did Danny write? Oh, don't worry- you're going to love it.


Page 195, Line 7-15:
* FYI ONLY DO NOT FORWARD DELETE AFTER READING *
Big mtg today, Monday PM, southern
Nevada. If you don't hear from me by
Wednesday I'm probably dead*, and this is
where to hunt for the body:
Lat 37[degrees]39'54.34"N Long 116[degrees]56'31.48"W
> S T A Y A W A Y from Nevada TFN <
db

* I wish I was kidding [formatting original. Yes, really. And yes, I am too lazy to look up how to make the symbol for "degrees"]


Right, so, apparently Danny writes e-mails like a deranged cross between a text message, a telegram, a teletype, and an utter moron. My bet is almost all of his "trusted compatriots" have their inboxes set up to dump Danny's missives into the junk folder right along with the Nigerian prince looking for a place to hide his money and the pills that will make your schlong and/or breasts double in girth overnight. I'm also forced to laugh more than a little at that "delete after reading" shit. I mean, seriously? Is that supposed to do anything to thwart the gov't at all? Worst conspiracy ever. As for the location, if you really want to see it you can go here and enter the coordinates. Just remember that you need to enter it as -116 56 31.48 to get the right spot. The positive version puts you in China, which isn't right at all.


Page 195, Line 16-18:
The message was safely gone, the browser history deleted, and the map to the meeting location printed out and ready by the time Kearns returned to the room.


Man, what is it with these books and the compulsive need to brag about doing mundane things with computers? When we were reading Left Behind we were treated to an insane description of Buck's mad computer skills (Page 36, Line 15-19) and now we get this nonsense in The Overton Window? Are conservatives just, you know, really impressed by technology or something? I mean everyday kinds of technology, too. Just... what? And how impressed are we supposed to be? I mean, given what all Danny did, I guess Stuart went number two,* but did he hang around to read a magazine or something? Anyway, shortly thereafter Danny is waiting in the van with the faux bomb while Stuart locks up.


Page 195, Line 26-29:
He [Stuart] turned back and hurried to the front door of the trailer, unlocked it and held it open, called inside, and gestured for half a minute until that moth-eaten cat appeared and scampered past him out into the barren yard.


Oh, right, the cat again. I'd forgotten about it. I really have to wonder about that "moth-eaten" description, though. Is this an undead cat, or something? Because as a general rule, cats are not the usual food preferred by moths. Based on my experience with my own cats, it's rather the other way around. Anyway, Stuart fills a dish with water for said cat, which presents the narrator with an opportunity to... you know... narrate.


Page 196, Line 4-8:
This was a thing any person might do if they owned a pet and knew they'd be away on a trip until late tomorrow. But, and it was hard just then to put his finger on precisely why, it certainly seemed to Danny like this man thought he might be going away for an awful lot longer than that.


Oooooh! Scary foreshadowing! Or it might be scary, anyway, if anything at all ever happened in this book. But, alas, nothing does, and that isn't changing this week because we're at the end of the chapter.

Come back next time when we return to Noah in a long-ish chapter and find out what his dad has to say to him. I'm guessing it won't be pretty, but probably also won't be smart. Which when you think about it is also a perfect summation of Noah.

See you then!


* And yes, that is way more information than anyone really needs, but how else do you explain it?

Labels:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jimmy Valiant?

I'm guessing this is what happens when you let guys who thought that Left Behind was a good read produce a television pilot:



I don't think that people who live according to the bible need to be rehabilitated* but it sure would be nice if they stopped trying to throttle the life out of every entertainment genre imaginable.


* Whatever the hell that would even mean in this context.

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 28

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that makes Penthouse Letters look plausible by comparison. Last time Danny went to a strip club but, somehow, was more interested in the strippers' cell phones. What happens this week? We return to Noah, who miraculously still lives.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jay for proposing an Overton Window total conversion project:

When I saw that "some other video" link, I was expecting a Rickroll. Now I can't stop imagining that "Danny Bailey" is a cover identity of Rick Astley.

I'm seeing Vanilla Ice as "Stuart", Debbie Gibson as "Molly", Dolly Parton as "Mrs. Ross", and for "Noah", a young Kasey Kasem.

Could Jimi have faked his death to become "Hollis"?


You know, honestly, I don't even know what to say to that. I'm too busy snickering uncontrollably. Great work, Jay, and keep it up folks. This crap ain't gonna make itself funny.

And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Up, up and away!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by roulette wheel.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's Mom.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther. Likes bacon. Considers himself to be good at word games.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old.

Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.

***********************************

Chapter 28: In which Noah wakes up and the authors forget about biology.

Recommended Mood Music:*




Page 191, Line 1-4:
A small fragment of his awareness saw everything clearly from a mute corner of his mind, but that part had given up trying to rouse the rest of him. Noah still lay where Molly had left him, not exactly asleep but a long way from consciousness.


So he's unconscious, then? Would that have been so hard to write? "Noah was unconscious." See, it's easy. As opposed to, say, the weird description of the confederated states of Noah's brain that we get at the opening of this chapter. In any case, Noah hears some banging noises, but they don't make much impression on him.


Page 191, Line 9-17:
His nightmares had grown infrequent as he'd gotten older, but they'd always been the same. No slow-motion chases, shambling zombies, or yellow eyes peering from an open closet door; the running theme of his nocturnal terrors was nothing so elaborate. In every one he was simply trapped, always held by something crushing and inescapable as his life slowly drained away. Buried alive in a tight pine coffin, pinned and smothering beneath a pillow pressed to his face by powerful hands, caught under the crush of an avalanche, terrified and helpless and knowing he'd already begun to die.


"Meanwhile, in a narrative where this type of detail would not seem out of place..." Seriously, though, I appreciate that the authors are- for once- trying here but, unfortunately, absolutely nothing that you just read will ever be relevant. I mean, not even once. Unless it's intended to allude to something that we'll get to a little bit later.


Page 192, Line 7-8:
This was the part where he knew he had to wake up, because if he didn't he was sure the dream would kill him.


You know, I've died in a dream before. By which I mean, my dream self expired. It's rather unpleasant, but thoroughly survivable. Then again, about 90% of the time if I remember dreaming at all, it's nightmares, so perhaps I'm just more used to coping with scary dreams than Noah "Hold me, Molly" Gardner. Anyway, some people appear, start tearing tape off of him and one of them- a woman- tells him he might feel a little pinch.


Page 192, Line 29-32:
He looked down and watched the gradual pierce of a hypodermic needle, but felt only a distant pressure and then a chill trickling up the vessel as the plunger was pushed to its stop. The room had begun a slow spin with him at its center.


"Woah, man! That was some awesome shit. Hey- do any of you have some funyuns? Man, I could go for some funyuns right now. OH! Or bacon! Man, I f-ing love bacon!"* Leaving all that aside, I'm forced to wonder whether someone was nice enough to leave a description of whatever it was that Noah got dosed with in plain sight since, really, you don't want to inject shit into a guy who has been drugged with an unknown substance. I'm also wondering whether or not he still has both kidneys. Hey, a terror cell has to get funding from somewhere.


Page 193, Line 1-7:
The doctor snapped her fingers in front of his face. "Noah? Can you tell me what year it is?"

"Where am I?"

"You're safe. What's your mother's maiden name, do you know that?" She had a stethescope to his chest, and her attention was on the face of her wristwatch.

"Wilson. Jaime Wilson." He felt his head beginning to clear.


Sadly, the name of Noah's mother will never, ever become relevant to the plot. So, as characterization goes, that sucks. The doc follows up by asking Noah what day it is.


Page 193, Line 13-16:
"I got here on Saturday night." A few others had gathered around and he noticed them exchanging a look when they heard this answer. "What happened? How long have I been out?"

"It's Monday, about noon," the woman said.


Ah. So, Molly drugged Noah with something, and then put him under some sort of anesthesia to keep him out for around two full days. First and foremost, that's pretty dangerous unless he was monitored by someone with proper training. Given that Molly left Hollis in charge of Noah, I'm betting he wasn't. More importantly, however, even if they gave Noah I.V. feeding- also requiring training- he should be dehydrated by this point and, regardless, will be ravenously hungry.** He should also be sitting/lying in a pool of his own filth since getting drugged unconscious doesn't cancel your need to expel waste. Needless to say, none of this appears to be the case. Basically, Noah seems to have been just shoved in some kind of suspended animation while the authors were dealing with Stuart and Danny, which makes sense because that authors really just wanted to sideline Noah while they dealt with Stuart and Danny. Still, one likes to see a little more craftsmanship. Or competence. One of those c-words.


Page 193, Line 20:
Monday, about noon; he'd been dead to the world for forty hours.


Well, in Molly's defense, Noah was hardly vibrantly alive to begin with. No, he's really more like an ambulatory piece of furniture, albeit not as pimp. Also, you've got to hand it to these authors: when they need a character out of the way so they can advance another "plot" thread, they really get him out of the way. In any case, the doc tells Noah to come along, he asks where they're going, and she turns for the ominous response.


Page 193, Line 28:
"Your father wants to see you," she said.


Bum, bum- oh, wait, it's just his dad. Whatever. I guess he might be pissed that Noah broke into secured files and shared them with his new bipolar psycho terrorist girlfriend,*** but that's just crazy. Nevertheless, if you want to find out the terrible truth, you'll have to come back next time because this is- absurdly enough- the end of the chapter, and I'm feeling just lazy enough to stop here.****

You're welcome.


* Yeah, you're right, I've never been high, unless you count the drugs they gave me for the various surgeries I've experienced and those aren't what I would have called fun.

** I've been on I.V. feeding only before for an extended period. You do still get hungry. So very, very hungry.

*** Wasn't that an episode of Family Ties, or something?

**** Yeah, I also have a plane to catch.

Labels:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What happens in Vegas...

So, for those of you who don't know, tomorrow afternoon I'll be departing for the American Sociological Association annual meeting in Las Vegas. This is a whirlwind few days of conference panels, hanging out in lobbies, and having silly arguments. Also some science might happen. If you're going to be at the conference, be sure to pick up your bingo card. There are many fabulous prizes this year* so don't be afraid to shout out bingo right in your panel.** Make sure you also have your conference-English phrase book handy.

Whether you're going to the conference or not, if you'd like to meet some of your favorite sociology bloggers, you should swing by the blogger's party, which will start at 4:30 on Sunday in the Seahorse Lounge in Caesar's Palace. I may or may not be there, depending on my schedule, but there are usually way more interesting people than me there, anyway.

See you in Vegas!


* That's a lie. There are no prizes whatsoever.

** Actually, while I'd be considerably amused by that, you probably shouldn't.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Godwin moment...

So I happened to be poking around over on Conservapedia and I ran into this:



Or, in plain text:

Did Adolf Hitler rewrite the Bible?

Did Adolf Hitler rewrite the Bible?


You really have to love it when the heading and sub-heading are exactly the same. Nice job, guys. Now, generally speaking, any time that Conservapedia mentions Hitler you should pretty much just walk the other way. This is because those guys are basically a walking Godwin's Law enforcement squad. I guarantee that if they don't like you, they either have already, or very soon will (and more than likely the former), compare you to Hitler. For example, they currently assert that Hitler was an evolutionist, a liberal (see also this), and quite possibly a homosexual. You really need to read that last one to get a sense of the epic scale of the crazy. Anyway, yeah, you generally should ignore all references to Hitler on Conservapedia. But this one fascinates me. Really!

If you follow the link, you end up at Creation Ministries International* which has an entire article on just this subject. This article reads, in part:

Elimination of the Jews in Nazi Germany was not confined to the Holocaust. It also took the form of rewriting the New Testament to ‘dejudaize’ it, i.e. to remove references to Judaism and to recast Jesus as an Aryan, generating what has been called the ‘Nazi Bible’. This has been the subject of some sensational and substantially erroneous claims, including that the project was Hitler’s brainchild.


Now, let's ignore for a moment that the first paragraph of the article Conservapedia links to basically says, "No, Hitler didn't rewrite the bible, although some Nazis may have", thereby answering Conservapedia's question in the negative. That isn't what fascinates me, although it is good for a chuckle. The article goes on to make a convoluted argument that if you attempt to reconcile evolution with religion, you're basically like Hitler. No, really, it does:

When what God has said in His inspired Word, the Bible, is disregarded by those who claim to be Christians, there is no logical limit to the errors or indeed the blasphemy to which this opens the door.

Today many pastors and theologians think they are doing the church a favour by substituting theistic evolution for recent Creation in Genesis, and by denying that the biblical accounts of the Flood and Babel are part of Earth’s true history. However, such persons have no authority to censor the Word of God in this way, any more than the liberal German Christians had to dejudaize it.

Without exception, all attempts to marry Christianity to the worldview of unbelievers contravenes biblical authority, and subverts the faith of Christians. At the same time, it cuts no ice with atheists and agnostics. Just as the Nazis whom Grundmann was trying to impress treated him with disdain, many anti-theists have nothing but contempt for Christians who do not believe their own Holy Book.


But that's not what I find so damned funny about all this. No, what I find funny is that- as we've previously discussed- Conservapedia itself has tried to rewrite the bible in their Conservative Bible Project. And when we run the logic forward we reach the inevitable conclusion that Conservapedia is touting the fact that Creation Ministries International just compared them to the Nazis.

And if that isn't funny, you don't have a sense of humor.**


* By sheer coincidence my wife and I heard a story on the radio about a project in Kentucky to build a "life-size" replica of Noah's Ark. In response to my wife's moan of shock and horror, I remarked- and this is a direct quote: "Any time you hear about something that's unbelievably stupid and related to the bible, it's a sure bet that Answers in Genesis or Creation Ministries International is behind it." I stand by that, too.

** Or, you know, you have some class, which I manifestly do not.

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 27

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that would make your high school English teacher froth at the mouth. Last time we had an intermission, because I'm a lazy git. The time before that, however, we had an extremely boring meeting with some absurdly dull terrorists and then went for a drive. What happens this week? Basically nothing, but there are strippers.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Mister Troll for finding the silver lining:

"It's a long story." "It's a long drive."

Hey, the authors took pity on us by closing the chapter!

Imagine if they'd kept going: the long story told to us in detail by the narrator (because the authors certainly wouldn't bother using dialog). Shudder.

But would it be worse to have Left-Behind-esque narration of the long drive? "Stuart adjusted the lighting on the dashboard, then glanced at the speedometer. He eased off the gas slightly, then checked the rear-view mirror." etc etc

These people should have a mindless-drivel-off.


Ah, yes, a contest between these authors are those of Left Behind would no doubt result in the production of "literature" or such horrific boredom as to fracture spacetime. Then again, the Left Behind guys would probably win because, let's face it, they would write about a guy talking on the phone about someone else driving down a road. I mean, we wouldn't want to excite the audience too much, right? Well done, Mister Troll, and keep at it everyone. We're gradually whittling this nightmare down.

And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Foom!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by the angry bird in my backyard.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's Mom.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther. Likes bacon. Considers himself to be good at word games.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old.

Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.

***********************************

Chapter 27: In which we get some uninspired narration, Danny visits a strip club, and Danny sends Molly a terse text message.

Recommended Mood Music:*




Page 187, Line 1-2:
Stuart Kearns, it turned out, had been in quite a different position a decade before.


You mean... the reverse cowgirl?


Page 187, Line 2-5:
He'd [Stu] worked in the top levels of counterterrorism with a man named John O'Neill (1), the agent who'd been one of the most persistent voices of concern over the grave danger posed by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda throughout the 1990s.


Okay, that's all fine. We now know that Stuart was some sort of counterterrorist bigshot. The weird thing, however, is that while we're supposed to be hearing about Stu's history here- his "long story" from the last chapter- we instead spend the rest of the page hearing about O'Neill, how hard he worked, how often he tried to convince people to be afraid of terrorists, how he likes long walks on the beach and men with big hands, eventually ending with...


Page 187, Line 16-18:
That's when he'd [O'Neill] taken his new position as head of security at the World Trade Center in New York City. His first day on the job was about three weeks before the day he died a hero: September 11, 2001.


You know, competent authors could have made that bit work, but coming from these authors it sounds trite and cheap. So, hey, way to go, guys! You made a 9/11 victim sound like a b-movie protagonist. At this point the authors finally remember who's the featured character of this chapter and get back to the long story.


Page 188, Line 1-3:
Stuart Kearns' FBI career had likewise been derailed by his outspokenness and his association with O'Neill, but he'd stubbornly chosen to try to ride out the storm rather than quitting.


From there the authors use all of 4 more lines to explain that the bureau never did forgive Stu for... something... and that he was gradually shoved more and more out the door until the present day when he doesn't even know if anyone remembers him. So, Stuart's "long story" gets told by the narrator in about a paragraph. Even worse, it's told by analogy: "So, you know that guy O'Neill? Yeah, Stuart is like him, but dumber". The only way these authors excel is in sheer failure. Anyway, then we're back with Danny who suddenly tells Stu to take the current exit off the interstate. Forgetting, if only momentarily, who is supposed to be in charge of this little outing, Stu obeys.


Page 188, Line 11-13:
At the top of the off-ramp there was little indication of anything of interest beyond advertisements for nearby food, gas, and lodging. Oh, and an eye-catching billboard for the Pussycat Ranch. [emphasis added]


I actually really love that last sentence. It's not because it's witty- it is, in fact, horrendously bad writing- but because it makes it sound like even the narrator is so bored he's** having a hard time paying attention. It is as though the narrator is reading a different, more interesting book*** and only just barely manages to remember to slip in important details over here in this one. And in case you're curious, yeah, it exists. Anyway, Stuart protests, Danny states that he wants a beer, Stu comments that he has beer in his trailer, and Danny responds with some brilliant rhetoric.


Page 188, Line 17-22:
"A beer in a can in a house trailer with another dude and a beer in a Nevada brothel are two totally different things, and right now I need the second one."

Surprisingly enough, Kearns didn't put up a fight. He followed the signs along the circuitous route to the place without complaining, and pulled up into a parking spot near the end of the lot in front.


So, just to recap, the tough, hard-as-nails FBI agent is taking his coerced helper to a strip joint on what amounts to a whim. Sounds perfectly normal to me. And Danny does have a point, although I'd probably argue that one of the two options he presents is probably not going to give you herpes or leave you feeling dirty the next morning.


Page 188, Line 24-26:
"Aren't you coming in?" [Danny asked]

"No, I don't think so. Fake or not, I'm not going to leave an atomic bomb unattended in the parking lot of a roadhouse."


What... the... fuck? Did I just read that right? Stuart is going to stay in the van to guard the fake bomb while he lets his real very untrustworthy coerced helper go into an unsecured, dark location alone? Is this a goddamn joke? Good god. Did Stuart sleep his way to the top side, or what? Believe it or not, Danny asks Stu to spot him a $100. You might expect Stu to refuse and, as it happens, you'd be right, but only because Stu in actuality only spots him a $20 bill. Christ Jesus does this book suck. Speaking of sucking, however, Danny then proceeds into the brothel and takes a seat at the bar. Soon one of the "...more fetching young ladies of the evening..." (Page 189, Line 9) approaches.


Page 189, Line 11-14:
"What can I do for you?" she asked.

"That's a loaded question in a place like this, isn't it?"

She frowned a bit and looked at him a little closer. "Do I know you, mister?"


I'll readily admit I've never patronized a brothel. That said, it seems to me that the women who work at one have probably heard every variation on, "Hyuk, hyuk! You're a whore, ain't ya'? Hyuk, hyuk!" that can possibly exist. I don't think she would have frowned and looked closer, probably more like, rolled her eyes and walked away. If nothing else, though, this really shows us what a cockbite Danny is.


Page 189, Line 18-20:
"What's your name?" he asked.

"My name's Tiffany." Her eyes lit up suddenly. "You're that guy," she whispered, "on the Internet, in that video."


I know the authors, and Danny, think she means one of Danny Bailey's hit YouTube videos decrying the government, but I think it's quite likely that Tiffany means some other video. Anyway, Danny asks her for a favor, not realizing that's a loaded request in a place like this. Fortunately, Tiffany doesn't seem to realize either.


Page 189, Line 23-24:
In her room in back he gave his new friend an autograph and his last ten dollars, and that bought him five minutes alone with her cell phone.


Weirdest. Fetish. Ever.


Page 189, Line 25-26:
As he composed the text message to Molly Ross he began to realize how little intelligence he actually had to pass along.


Yeah, better keep it all for yourself, Danny- I suspect you'll need whatever intelligence you can muster to survive the next 16 or so chapters.


Page 189, Line 26-30:
He knew the code name of this operation he'd become involved in; he'd seen it on the paperwork they'd made him sign upon his release from jail. He knew when it was going down, and where. And he knew something was going wrong, and that the downward slide might be just beginning.


And you know? The thing I find most interesting about all of this is until this passage I'd almost forgotten that Danny and Molly knew each other. Ah, well. He finally sends his damn message, which the authors helpfully supply for us.


Page 190, Line 7-12:
molly-
spread the word --- stay away from las vegas monday
FBI sting op --> *exigent*
be safe
xoxo
db


Well, how exciting is that? If you answered, "Not exciting at all," you're absolutely right! Again, I'm forced to wonder: when does the thrilling start? I was promised thrilling and have not been thrilled yet. At all. Sadly, the short answer is, "not in this chapter," because we've reached the end.

So where are we? Well, stuck in a bordello in Nevada for one, but for another I'm forced to wonder if Danny is getting set up. I'd like to think so, since there's no other way to account for the absurd sequence of events we've just witnessed but, sadly, I don't think that's exactly the case. This book really is as dumb as it appears. And with that ringing endorsement, come back next time when we finally return to Noah Gardner who, to our mutual disappointment, isn't dead.

Because that would have been too easy.


* Or, if you prefer, the Christopher Walken version.

** I have no particular reason to assume the narrator is male, but when I read narration the voice in my head is male. Make of that what you will.

*** Like stereo instructions, for example.

Labels:

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Breaking News! Evangelicals MIGHT become less crazy!

So, this is apparently news:

Let's go back to the beginning — all the way to Adam and Eve, and to the question: Did they exist, and did all of humanity descend from that single pair?

According to the Bible (Genesis 2:7), this is how humanity began: "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." God then called the man Adam, and later created Eve from Adam's rib.

Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe this account. It's a central tenet for much of conservative Christianity, from evangelicals to confessional churches such as the Christian Reformed Church.

But now some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account. Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: "That would be against all the genomic evidence that we've assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all."


All I can really find to say here is, "Well, DUH!" And the "Well, DUH"-ing just continues as you keep reading:

Several other well known theologians at Christian universities have been forced out; some see a parallel to a previous time when science conflicted with religious doctrine.

"The evolution controversy today is, I think, a Galileo moment," says Karl Giberson, who authored several books trying to reconcile Christianity and evolution, including The Language of Science and Faith, with Francis Collins.

Giberson — who taught physics at Eastern Nazarene College until his views became too uncomfortable in Christian academia — says Protestants who question Adam and Eve are akin to Galileo in the 1600s, who defied Catholic Church doctrine by stating that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa. Galileo was condemned by the church, and it took more than three centuries for the Vatican to express regret at its error.

"When you ignore science, you end up with egg on your face," Giberson says. "The Catholic Church has had an awful lot of egg on its face for centuries because of Galileo. And Protestants would do very well to look at that and to learn from it."


I guess I should just be glad there's a chance that evangelicals might join the rest of us in the twenty-first- hell, even just the late nineteenth- century.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Overton Window: Intermission

Yeah, so, I'm a bit scattered right now because of the move and trying to get everything set up with the new job before classes start. As such, we're just going to take a breather this week. Don't worry, though, because I have some Overtonian "goodness" for you nonetheless. And by that I mean, an absolute fucking nightmare:



Yep, that's right- he hasn't finished killing brain cells, so he's going to write another of these disasters.

Yikes!

See you next week!

Labels:

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

What's really amazing is that the guy from Fox News walks on his hind legs, like a man.

Back in college I TAed for an astronomy course.* This was a fun gig since it mostly meant playing with telescopes and explaining really, really cool stuff to the students when they had questions. It also meant having to handle the logistics of picking up and dropping off vans to transport said students but, hey, I was getting paid so no problem. One day, though, I was talking to these two students (who I think may possibly have been stoned. More to the point, I hope they were stoned for reasons that will shortly become self-evident) and one of them asked a question. That question was, and this is a direct quote: "Is that when the constellations enter the Earth's atmosphere?" Not being Wolfgang Pauli I lacked a suitably pithy response and had to settle for the first thing that popped into my head: "Guys, you're going to have to give me just a minute here. Just to ask that question, there has to be so much you don't understand, I don't know where to even begin." Less than diplomatic, but true. Now, if you replace me with Bill Nye, my students with a Fox News interviewer, and put the whole thing on television, the result would pretty much look like this:



I can only assume that by "My side of things" Bill Nye means, "Actual reality", which is of course a strange and unfamiliar place for Fox News.

If you're curious, the actual stuff Nye is trying to talk about is described here.


* Yes, really. What can I say? Sociology was not my first love.

Labels: , , , ,

Site Meter