Monday, June 4, 2012

Russell Crow and the Flood

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was looking forward to the upcoming Noah movie with Russell Crow. This got me thinking.  In that story, Noah is portrayed as a virtues man but in reality who is the hero there? Who is saved? Not the best of humanity, surely. If I was writing the movie this is a scene I might include:
Imagine as the flood water begin to rise. The town’s people start realizing their mistake and many decide to make a run towards the ark. You can imagine a young mother with her child trudging through the mud, getting to the Ark and finding the gangplank has already been raised. In desperation she holds up her child toward the upper deck. “Please,” she cries, “I have sinned, I am not worthy. but at least save my baby.” As the rising waters begin to make the massive ship shift, Noah, standing at the rail, spots the young woman.  The water is now at her waist. My inspirational addition to the bible story would have Noah call out to his sons, “Quick fetch a rope and a basket.” As Noah secures the rope to the basket his oldest son protest, “But father this might be interpreted by the Almighty as going against Gods will.”
“if that is true, then let my soul be damned. Today, I will save a child.” He throws the basic to the mother. The woman places the child in the basket just before she is enveloped by the wave, and in the pounding rain, the child is hauled to safety.

What we get instead is Noah at the railing turning his back on the people below, making his way to the lower decks. As the black waters rise, he and his family sit at a table eating there first dinner in silence. The muffled screams of people and animals are heard outside. Hooves of horrified innocent beasts throw themselves at the hull. Humans claw at the wood. Slowly the noises drop away, as one by one, man and animal alike is suffocated by the waves.  Noah and his family ignore it all, and continue to eat their dinner thus securing their place in heaven. These are not honorable people. This is a family of psychopaths. Maybe it would have been better that all humanity parish that day and allow God to try again with a new species rather then allow those few to be our forefather.

I understand that I am not going to heaven. That’s fine. But I assume that most of the religious believe they are going there. As they are there sipping margaritas and being fanned by beautiful woman (or man) how will they enjoy themselves knowing that billions of there fellow humans are at that moment, suffering unimaginable torture below. How can one truly be happy with the knowledge that billions are having their flesh ripped from their body for all eternity for what can only be described as finite sins. I get it, we all need to be punished for the bad things we do. But if by some miracle I made it to heaven (and believe me it would take a miracle) I personally could never be happy knowing others (people I personally know) were suffering horribly for eternity (let me repeat “for eternity”) for sins they did while they were alive. You have to ask yourself, how is that margarita going to taste?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Saving The World - One New Podcast At A Time

The Rational Crank has been away for a while, but I have something new, a PODCAST.  Every few weeks or so, a few of my friends and I will get together over a late night dinner and chat about stuff - some overlooked news, some strange  ideas and some bad jokes.  We start with a conspiracy game and end by solving all the world's problems.  If you like this, let me know and tell a friend.  You can also leave a review on iTunes, Digg or your portal of choice. 

Alright, honestly, I don't even know how to put this on iTunes, Digg or my portal of choice yet.  I don't even know what to call it.  One step at a time, ok.   Anyone know what an RSS feed is?   

I would like to give a big thanks to all of my friends on the show.  I would also like to thank the podcasts that inspired me: the Skeptics Guide To the Universe, The Amateur Scientist, The Conspiracy Skeptic, The Dumbasses Guide to Knowledge, and Potter and Pals.  I freely admit stealing a little something from all of these great podcasts.      

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Greatest Speech Ever Charlie Chaplin

In the movie The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin plays a poor Jewish shop keeper who just happens to resemble a ruthless dictator of a powerful fascist state.  Through a series of odd circumstances, Chaplin’s "Little Tramp" finds himself addressing a massive war rally, dressed as the tyrant.  This is one of Chaplin’s rare speaking roles.  In fact, in this entire movie, this is the only time Chaplin speaks at all.  Here is what he said: 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


It has been two months since my last post. Forgive me. My mother just had open heart surgery and I am sure you will understand when I say my thoughts were not on this blog but elsewhere. She is in rehabilitation now and is progressing, albeit, slowly. I often say I do not want this blog to constantly be about religion, but this seems to be one of those moments when I feel my comments on the subject, carry some extra weight. As an Atheist, I must admit that it is moments like this, that I do believe religious people are more fortunate than nonbelievers (in at least one respect). It is hard being an Atheist and not having anyone to beg to. I can do nothing. Praying (or not praying) will not change the outcome of any surgery. I am left with nothing to do but sit outside the operating room and wait. I can call relatives up North, and keep them informed of my mother’s progress. I can console my nieces. I can (of course) try to take care of my father. I can make sure he is eating - try to get him to go home and get some sleep. That is all. I can’t beg to anyone to ensure the operation will go any better than it is destined to. I am helpless. It is at moments like this that I can see the compelling allure of religion. How nice it would be to think that as long as I pray, I will somehow affect the results of the surgery. How comforting it would be to convince myself, that there is an all powerful being taking care of my mother, looking out for her, a Sky Daddy or Santa Clause to make it all better. It would be so easy to numb the mind with those soothing thoughts. But Atheists get none of that. I know the reality that, religion or no religion, major surgery on an eighty year old woman is not good. It will not be easy, either during the procedure, nor the recovery afterward. That is the hard truth of the situation.

There is a famous Carl Sagan quote. “It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is, then to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” Sagan is the closest thing I have to a hero but I must admit that at this moment, even that quote does not comfort me. But to those of you who think this admission is some subconscious cry to be converted, I assure you it most definitely is not. To clarify my position, let me offer you this quote from Bernard Shaw. “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.”

So what does an Atheist do? I do not want to do nothing. I do not pray, because in my eyes that is the same as doing nothing. I WILL NOT do nothing. So I do what I can. I call relatives up North. I console my nieces. I try to take care of my father. I make sure he is eating - try to get him to go home and get some sleep. That is all we Atheists can do. It does not sound like much, but I suppose it is important to the people around us, my relatives, my father. Maybe that’s what makes it important. I try to support the people around me and they try to support me. Still it’s not enough, but sometimes that’s all you get.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The News You Hear as Background Noise as You Get on With Your Real Life

Here are the Top Ten GENERIC News Stories for 2011. Although this is a repost from 2010, for some reason, it continues to work.

1) A drunk (and/or high) celebrity had a meltdown, this year, outside his home (in a nightclub, on an airplane). Onlookers were shocked (not at all surprised) to hear the beloved movie star (TV actor, reality show contestant, presidential candidate), screaming curses and tossing racial slurs (shoes, angry birds) at his wife (girl friend, a male prostitute). Spokesperson for the celebrity said that the cause of the incident stemmed from a dosage problems the star was having with his medication. The celebrity has since checked into a rehab center and is in the processes of a complete lifestyle overhaul.

2) A Washington think-tank estimated that countless hours of productivity were lost this year, as millions tuned in to observe the sporting event (trial, political demonstrations, presidential debate) of the century. Many watched at their offices but even more merely stayed home from work, as the playoffs (jury selection, police response) dragged on for weeks. The victory (verdict, presidential primary, coup d’etat) turned out to be unprecedented. Cities experienced rioting for months afterwards.

3) The country was riveted as a boy (miners, dog, squirrel) was successfully rescued from a well (frozen lake, mineshaft, hot air balloon). Rescuers toiled with shovels (ropes, skyhooks, miniature surgical equipment) around the clock, as time was quickly running out. Everyone cheered as the boy (miners, small animal) was pulled up (lowered down) to safety. He (she, they, it) thanked God for being rescued.

4) A terrible natural disaster in Japan, (the Philippines, Haiti, New Orleans) forced emergency response teams to rethink their disaster preparedness plans. This well-meaning concern quickly passes though, as the 24 hour news cycle redirected our attention to the newest movie (presidential primary, celebrity meltdown, shiny object).

5) As the war in Afghanistan (Iraqi, Vietnam, Korea) drags on, president Obama (Nixon, Kennedy) vowed to bring all the troops home in about 18 months. Critics of the President complained that announcing a time tables for withdrawal merely emboldens our enemies, while supporters of the President complained that the withdrawal is not soon enough.

6) Scientist announce a breakthrough in genetics (nanotechnology, super conductors) giving us new insights into how the universe (magnets) work. Although scientists caution that any practical application of this technology is still months (years, decades) away, news media reports this new technology could eventually lead to a cancer cure (free energy, invisibility cloak).

7) The economy was one of the top stories of the year, as the recession (recovery) was slower (faster) than expected. As Liberals called for more spending in new industries, Conservatives called for lower taxes and increased military spending, as the only way to speed the recovery (slow the overheated economy, compete in a new global economy, fight worldwide tooth decay).

8) Something horrible happened in the Middle East. Many people died.

9) The nation split down party lines as newest controversy involving immigration (gay rights, daylight savings time). Conservatives balked at the new ideas, which they consider to be blatantly anti- family (anti-Christian, anti-free market, anti-hunting,). Liberals failed to clearly present their side of the issue, choosing instead to label conservatives as reactionaries. Both sides failed to realize that ten years from now. everyone will whole hardily accept the new idea as one of the key foundations of American values.

10) We killed Osama Bin Laden. Wow, that one really was unexpected!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Hitchslap to Bill Bennett in Honor of Christopher Hitchens

While accidently watching the CBS Early Show this morning (because God knows I would never watch crap like that intentionally) conservative commentator, Bill Bennett, had this to say about the death of Christopher Hitchens “I hope, as the big Atheist he was, he is in for a big surprise.” Here is where I have a problem with some supposed “Christians” like Bennett. People like that might be able to produce a thought on occasion but their brains are incapable of following through on those thought. They are too unimaginative to realize that thoughts, if true, lead to conclusions and those conclusions should lead to consequences. Let me continue Bennett’s thought for him, since he seems too dim witted to do so himself. I hope as the Atheist that Hitchens was, that he is in for a big surprise… and that there is a god, because wouldn’t it be great if Hitchens (of whom just seconds before I said I enjoyed drinking and debating with) wouldn’t it be great if he burns in hell for all eternity.

This comment and its unspoken conclusion is followed by the host of the Early Show, Erica Hill, laughing out loud. Because, I guess, there is nothing like a man dying of cancer, to give a girl the giggles.

Here is what I think a good Christian should have said. “I hope I’m wrong. I hope there is no hell for people who don’t believe in God. Because, to imagine a man such as Hitchens, with such a keen mind, suffering for all eternity just because he had strong convictions would pain me, to no end. And I would oppose with all my strength, the hateful and uncaring being that might allow such a place to exist.” That’s the kind of quote I would expect from a real Christian. Bill Bennett you’re an ass. So consider this my Hitchslap in honor of Chritopher Hitchens. He will be missed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Verses the Real Enemy

If this blog accomplishes nothing in its existence, I feel it my duty to at least help make sure everyone sees this video. This is the police response to a demonstration at Northern California’s UC Davis, Friday.

In a reaction to the college’s leadership in the run up to this action, UCD’s faculty association asked the University’s Chancellor, Linda Katehi, to resign. In an eerie show of solidarity with protesters, students linked arms and lined the road for three blocks, outside the building in which the Chancellor was speaking. This was the Chancellors walk to her car.

On the few occasions that I make predictions, I usually get it wrong. So to increase my odds, this time, I’m predicting something that has already happened. I’m predicting that the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has already won. How? Let me borrow the people’s microphone for a moment.

News editors love to deliver stories that fit what they believe their audiences want to hear. Unfortunately, nothing of the OWS story fits into the old narratives that the media has been pumping out lately. Fox News tries to make the protesters out to be criminals - hard to do with videos like the ones above (or this). Rachel Maddow tries to make the protesters out to be a branch of the young democrats but I’m pretty sure the students unable to get jobs are as unhappy with Obama as they are with banks.

Correspondents can’t do an exposé on the protesters list of demands because as of this writing, the leaders of this movement haven’t issued any. This oversight has been identified as a tactical error by critics, but I believe, this lack of goals is intentional and, at the moment, one of the movements strengths. The end game for the occupiers is not to get some bit of legislation passed, or to get some slick candidate elected. Instead, I think, the goal is to change the entire national debate, for months maybe even for years to come. And so far it’s working. In September the news was full of stories about which politician was willing to cut the most to balance the budget. These last couples of months have been packed with stories debating the economic inequalities that are occurring throughout the world.

Journalists must hate this movement. Editors dislike any story where the headline includes the word “still,” as in “the protesters still occupy the park.” This does not make a good narrative because there is no change. If there is no change, there is no story to tell. The difficult thing for these old reporters to understand, is that “the story” IS that “there is no change.” Every day protesters remain in the parks, the true story (the one the media doesn’t have the ability to tell) actually gets more remarkable. Every day that passes, illustrates the resolve of the protesters. Every day that passes, illustrates that the inequalities in our society, still have not been corrected. Every day that passes, the nation is reminded that innocent people are still suffering in this economy. But there is nothing more a reporter can write about this, because nothing has changed. The protesters are still there. The problems are still there. The true story is still there. This breaking news, just in, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

Now here is my narrative. Here is the spin I’ll put on OWS. The occupiers have won. They have beaten the enemy - No, not Wall Street. The Occupy Movement isn’t really protesting Wall Street. The enemy that the occupiers are fighting is - the media. The occupy movement is really protesting the news media’s coverage of Wall Street (or more correctly the news media’s lack of coverage of how corrupt Wall Street is. And OWS has won hands down. They have won by forcing the media to change the narrative. The international mega world media is not an easy entity to manipulate but tragic and compelling images like these are changing the balance of power every day, one seemingly uneventful day at a time.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stephen Fry and F. Scott Fitzgerald

"In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgements, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores." - F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I have just finished The Great Gatsby.  Fitzgerald's crisp precise writing brought, trotting into my consciousness, like a fawn treading lightly over virgin fallen leaves, the memory of this witty and whimsical Stephen Fry video. Some day, me talk pretty like them, too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Zombie Propaganda Posters

In film school, I was taught that the mindless zombies in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, were a metaphor for the unthinking fear mongers that arose during the McCarthy era. The insatiable hordes in Dawn of the Dead represented the unrestrained consumerism of western society. Zombies can be Communists, Capitalists or post colonialists. Even the choice made by the common working man, to lead a monotonous and uninspired life, can be brain food for a zombie movie (or is Shawn of the Dead just a harmless parody?) I think zombies are all things, to all people.  So to continue the tradition, here are some zombie propaganda posters I put together for you.  Happy Halloween.

to see more click

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Are Republicans More Anti-Science Then Democrats?

News organizations across the globe should count themselves lucky that I am basically a lazy slob. For if I were otherwise, mega media conglomerates would shutter at the sheer number of snarky letters my angry fingers would produce. I would drive them to their knees with the frequency by which they would be forced to casually hit the delete button of their inbox. Many editorial rooms would be driven to block my emails altogether, requiring me to take my limitless aggression out on innocent questioners posting on Ask Google. Thank whatever god you pray too, that we do not live in such a hellish dystopia.

Mostly, I just write to NPR, and only occasionally. It’s because, all and all, I think they are doing an OK job and I want to make sure they continue to do so. I think the rest of the media are a lost cause. Nowadays news is nothing more than scheduled press releases and infomercials disguised as stories. Pick up the book, It’s Not News, It’s Fark, by Drew Curtis. He does a great job of categorizing fake news into its many ugly manifestations.

One ugly manifestation that I think the media is guilty of all too frequently these days, is that of creating a false equivalent. This is the act of inflating one side of an argument in a false attempt to cover both sides equally. The news media often do this in a lazy attempt appear balanced. Unfortunately, when they do this in a situation in which there really is a right and wrong position, they elevate positions in the social consciousness, that really do not deserve to be given consideration.

This leads me to point my angry finger at NPR. In a recent article, they asked the question,”Are Republicans More Anti-Science Then Democrats?” They could have conducted a poll and asked Republicans and Democrats how old they thought the Earth was. Or they could have asked all sitting US Senators if they accept the theory of evolution as true. They don’t even have to call the Representatives’ offices. Most Senators have already addressed this question on their websites or in old interviews. Instead NPR asks its readers what they think.

Shame on NPR. This is not opinion. This is a question with a factual answer. This should not be NPR’s way of constructing a false equivalent, without being accused of doing so. I challenge NPR to answer their own question. Simply pick a subject such as evolution (which according to everyone in the field is settled science) and see where politicians and pundits stand on the subject.

Face it, we all know what the answer will be, but NPR is too cowardly to report it. They should not avoid the issue by asking its audience’s opinion. They should do their job. Do the research and then report the facts.

Hey NPR, I’ll start it for you. Gallup poll - 60% of Republicans think the world was created 10,000 years ago versus 38% for Democrats. Let’s stop this false equivalency crap now.

Monday, September 26, 2011

(Reuters News) – A team of Vatican scholars said Thursday they had discovered early church manuscripts that REQUIRE priests, cardinals and even the Pope himself to be married -- a finding that could overturn a long-accepted fundamental canon of the Catholic Church.

No, just kidding. Here’s the real story:

(Reuters News) - An international team of scientists said on Thursday they had recorded sub-atomic particles traveling faster than light -- a finding that could overturn one of Einstein's long-accepted fundamental laws of the universe.

That’s the difference between religion and science. If science finds something new they go out of their way to talk about it. Now this new finding hasn’t been substantiated. They certainly haven’t gotten past the first rule of science (according to the movie Altered States) repeat the experiment. They need to get into the sensory deprivation tank a second time and see if they turn all sparkly AGAIN. This might end up being nothing. The math might be wrong and the speed of light might be safe. Or, there might be some other explanation to this phenomenon. This all took place in Italy, so it’s no surprise these super fast neutrinos might have found some illicit way to break the laws of nature. I suspect mafia connections.

But beyond that, if you following this story you’re witnessing without question the single finest characteristic of science. You are seeing why it is lightyears ahead of any other human endeavor and why religion fails every time. Like Copernicus or Galileo - when scientists are presented with new information (no matter how cherished their old beliefs are) scientists change their minds. Or at least the Italian ones do.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Evidence Based News 2

Another letter to NPR:

When confronted with past interviews (that were dead wrong) it would be great, one day, to hear a guest say, “Wow, what was I was thinking?”

On March 14, you had two guests on discussing President Obama’s actions in Libya. Tom Malinowski thought the president’s actions were too-little-too late, while General Wesley Clark thought Obama was drawing us into another war. I wonder if you could have these two gentlemen on again and ask both “experts” how they got it so completely wrong.

It seems to me that there is a serious flaw in news commentary which allows guests with opposing views, to each give their opinion without forcing them to engage and challenge one another. In a format such as this, there is no consequence for either person if he or she is incorrect. It assumes that we, the general public, will simply forget that particular moment in history. In reality, by giving opinions that were basically wrong, these people were greatly complicating an already difficult situation.

When there is a specific controversy that will have a specific outcome in the future, NPR should look at moments such as these as an opportunity. Get guests to agree to come back on the show one year after their predictions to explain themselves. If they are not willing to do so, then NPR should not allow them to broadcast their message to a national audience. A policy such as this would go a long way in helping the field of so called experts shed itself of the overabundance of news analysts who are bad at analyzing the news.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Savannah – America’s Most Haunted City

The old historic structure was built as a hospital on the outskirts of town, to house the victims of the yellow fever epidemic. Afterwards it was turned into as asylum to hold the criminally insane. It became so crowded that they had to build a tall addition to the original structure. After the institution was closed down, passerbys started catching glimpses of a figure in the windows cloaked in a white dress or gown - the spirit of a dead patient perhaps, or a nurse still trapped in the crumbling building?

I just got back from a mini-vacation in Savannah Georgia, voted the most haunted city by the Sy Fy Channel’s Ghost Hunters. Now normally, I would put a lot of stock in a TV channel that dares to spell it’s name in such an avant garde manner, but this time I’m going to have to call shenanigans. Savannah is an enchanting town. And yes, my wife and I spent the first day flying (literally) through the historic district. Standing upright, we floated above the cobblestone roads hovering one foot off the ground, our feet never touching the earth the entire time. But that was only because we spent the extra couple of bucks for the Segway tour.

We also did an evening ghost tour, which was excellent. The tour guide had created an interesting and quite believable Oscar Wilde-like character. He wore a patterned scarf tied around his neck and used a thin umbrella as a walking stick. This character started the night happy, with many glib remarks. But with each story of a ghostly child or a chopped up wife, our guide became more somber. As the tour progressed, he started realizing how horrific the stories, he was telling, really were. By the end, the guide was filled with anxiety and self doubt. He achieved a character arc in an architectural walking tour…very talented.

And what about the haunted hospital? The later addition of the hospital was recently converted into low income housing. “Last year,” said our tour guide,” there were fourteen suicides in that building alone - all by hanging, and all, only occurring on the side that overlooked the original structure.”

As we walking away from the site, I overheard another tour guest say to her boyfriend, “oh, that was probably just coincidence.” It never occurred to this lady that what our escapee from the Garden of Good and Evil was saying was all complete bunk. No, a ghost tour guide would never fabricate a story. After all he was wearing an ascot for God’s sake. People with ascots don’t lie! Boy, that’s good theater.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Problem with the Planet of the Apes Trailer

Ok, let’s say, as a result of a scientific experiment gone array, some monkey becomes super intelligent, (monkeys are apt to do that). And let’s say this particular monkey decides to raise an army of super ape warriors to conquer the human race. That’s fine, happens all the time. I’ll even give you that he probably could get his grubby little hands on some guns. Sure, you can’t buy a gun without a background check but a smart gorilla could probably go to a gun show. As long as he disguises himself wearing jeans and a trucker’s cap and he promises that the guns are only for his personal home collection. The dealers there would give him all the machine guns he wants…no background checks or cooling off period.

My real problem with this trailer is this. Where did all the monkeys come from? If the laboratory was in, say, the heart of New York and an intelligent chimp was able to free every great ape in the tri-state area, what would that be - like seven monkeys?

The other problem I have with this movie is that this story about how the apes take over the world completely kills the message of the original movie. The original Planet of the Apes was one of the films that I chose for my list of Ten Great Humanist Movies. That article appears in the July/August issue of the Humanist. The article was supposed to be positive, so all the reasons I give for choosing that movie are all sunshine and puppy dog tails. The reasons I didn’t include in the article, were all the negative things the original movie said about the human race. Sure, we are rooting for Charlton Heston as he runs from Dr Zaius, but consider the beginning of the film and the many rants Chuck does about how horrible the Human race is. And consider one of the verses from Dr Zaius sacred scrolls,

Beware the beast man, for he is the devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport, or lust, or greed. Yeah, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert out of his home, and yours.

I’m a Humanist, but being a Humanist doesn’t just mean you’re a cheerleader for the human race. It’s not “Up With People.” Humanists are also realists. We know that people are capable of great evil as well as good. At the end of the original Planet of the Apes I didn’t think that the apes had anything to do with the downfall of man. Unlike this new movie, I didn’t think it was “us against them.” I felt that we had done it to ourselves. The apes had just come along afterwards and filled the void left by our own self-destruction. The original movie wasn’t another horror story about make believe Frankenstein monsters that looked like monkeys. The original movie’s power was in its precautionary message about us - human beings. The tagline of the movie poster was a reminder. “Somewhere in the universe, there must be something better than man.” It’s not about what we do to the monkeys. It’s about what we do to each other.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Robot Nick talks about the Space Shuttle

It just so happens that the Space Shuttle’s return trajectory takes it directly over my home, here in Orlando.  Each time, it passes overhead, early in the morning, I am suddenly jolted awake by two loud bangs.  The sonic booms rattle the windows of my old house and scare the cat.  On every one of those occasions I smile briefly, roll over in bed and fall back to sleep, content.  I am content not only in knowing that a group of fellow human beings is now once again safe  on mother earth but also content in the knowledge that there is another group of brave people still in space.  Like most Americans, I find immense inspiration in manned space flight.  I believe that the trip to the moon was, hands down, humanities greatest achievement.  I am sorry to see the Shuttle program come to an end, which is why it is hard for me to admit that I also believe that the decision to end the shuttle program was the right thing to do.  Because of this emotional conflict, I will let my robot counterpart, Crank-o-Matic 3000 explain my reasons.  See Crank-o-matic 3000 is just like me, only it lacks sentiment circuits. 

Crank-o-Matic, why do you believe the ending of the Shuttle program is a good thing?

Crank-o-Matic : “BEEP, BEEP*, The United States Space Transportation System (STS) primary mission was to transport and assemble components of the International Space Station in earth orbit. This goal has been achieved. The Shuttle’s nearly 40 year old technology (it was designed in the 60’s) is now highly inefficient for just transporting humans, to and from space, BLURP.

Following WW1 the US government offered a number of financial incentives to private companies to nurture growth in civilian air flight technology. This included awarding private companies contracts for transporting airmail and sponsoring design competitions to fill niche markets. Companies were encouraged to design planes that could fly in freezing weather or land on water. This led directly to today’s modern aviation industry, BING, WHIZZ. The US is now employing this same strategy to spur the space industry and help develop the next generation of space transportation vehicles. History suggests that this is the most effectual way to move unworthy humans beings into space, VERRRR, CLICK*.

Although, an unemotional analysis shows that sending humans into space is highly inefficient for gathering information, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. Compare the scientific achievements of the manned Apollo Program with that of the sexier Voyager probes, REEEERRRRR, CLICK*. While Apollo helped solidify theories concerning the composition, and evolution of earth’s moon, the sweet little Voyager twins racked up countless more discoveries, PING, PING, PING! Those hot little robots gave the first glimpse of Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere with giant hurricane-like storm systems. The probes discovered erupting volcanoes on Lo. They photographed evidence of a liquid ocean beneath the cracked icy crust of Europa and gave us a clear view of the fine structures of Saturn's rings. They photographed geysers erupting from the polar cap of Triton and let’s not forget that Pale Blue Dot photo, YEAH BABY.

All from a mission that was a fraction of the cost of Apollo, with its precious little human cargo, with their pathetic squishy bodies. Zero gravity makes my bones brittle. I can’t breathe in a vacuum. Oh, Gama radiation burns. What a bunch of crybabies! At least now the money that the Shuttle was sucking up will go to some real science, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. WHIRRRRR, KILL ALL HUMANS!”

Ok, I had to turn off Crank-o-Matic 3000. It got a little crazy there. Getting back to my original train of thought, I’m going to miss the Shuttle. Not for its many achievements (The ISS and Hubble alone testify to that) but because of the inspiration which that elegant vehicle generated in each of us. Without the human experience, knowledge alone (as fascinating as it is) is not worth much.

This morning I heard that double boom once again. This time though, instead of a feeling of happiness and contentment, I felt a little pang of sorrow. I know there are still people in space but something is missing. An old friend was saying its last goodbyes. Forgetting all the reason and all the logic, I truly am sorry to see the shuttle go. I’ll miss it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter and the Missed Point

I just saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part deuce. Loved it. It was much better than the last movie, Harry Potter and the Wandering Aimlessly for Two Hours. I’m going to talk specifics about the movie, so if you haven’t seen it yet put your fingers in your ears and sing “La, la la,” for a few minutes.

I just want to make a quick statement about a minor controversy going around concerning Potter and religion. No, I’m not going to address the fear some Christians express that J.K. Rollins books are bad because they contain magic. I’m going to brush that aside as quickly as if I had a flying broom. CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia is full of magic and Christians don’t have a problem with that. So I’m calling poppycock on that controversy.

I’m talking about the other popular opinion going around: that Harry Potter himself is a Christ figure because he is willing to sacrifice himself for humanity (or at least for all of Wizard-dum.) On that observation, I’m going to have to say movie analysts are missing the point.

People sacrifice themselves in movies all the time. Consider this scene:

Hero: I’m going in there.

Commander: Are you crazy? Don’t you know it’s suicide!

Hero: Don’t you think I know that? But, I’m the only one with enough muscle attached to my arms to do it. Tell my wife I love her.

It’s not the fact that a character is willing to sacrifice himself or herself, that is important, in a story. It is the person whom the hero is willing to sacrifice himself too. I propose that it is the Sacrificee not the Sacrifer, that is important. In all those movies, Potter included, the hero is willing to die at the hands of the bad guy. You could almost say, that the villain is defined as the villain, because he requires the hero to die before him.

Bond: Do you expect me to talk?

Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.

Boo, hissss. The fable of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is unique in storytelling, in that, the hero sacrifices himself to the supposed good guy , the almighty – God himself (WTF). I think this says a lot about the Abrahamc religions, and why I do not support them. Doesn’t this odd fact cast God squarely as the guy wearing the black hat, wringing his hands and twirling his mustache, while giving out an evil “Wha, ha, ha” laugh? Am I the only one who thinks this is weird?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ten Great Humanist Films

Check out the the magazine The Humanist for July/August.  They were kind enough to publish two, count them TWO, of my articles.  I wrote Real to Reel, which is a list of my favorite Humanist films.  I also interviewed Andrea Steele, Founder and Executive Director of the Freethought Film Festival, held last month in Tampa.  I hope you enjoy the read.