September 01, 2015

September means back down to earth

Welcome to September, everyone!

If you've kept up reading this blog for more than a few years, you know what September means: it's time for my 12th annual Science Fiction Free September. Back in September 2004, I decided that I spent too much of my reading time with science fiction, so I declared a month-long moratorium on the genre, and instead used the time for something I might not read otherwise: classic literature, nonfiction, maybe just even a bunch of books I had started but never got around to finishing. (This year to date I've read three SF novels—about half what I've read in nonfiction. As the years go by the SFFS has either outlived or fulfilled its purpose, but I keep it up anyway, just for fun!)

This year, my big September reading project will be themed around the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. My primary objective is to complete a very long book that I have had for a number of years, but never gotten farther in than, perhaps, one-tenth. This book is the blockbuster history of Nazi Germany, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by CBS war correspondent William L. Shirer. This is a popular history rather than an academic one. Shirer was present in Berlin from the Nazis' coming to power to the first year of WWII, when he left after he heard that the Gestapo was trumping up espionage charges against him.

I actually started two days ago, since my last book finished up conveniently on Saturday night (Dolores Claiborne, the latest in my read-all-the-way-through-Stephen-King project). By page count, I am now 2% of the way in, and if I can figure out how to HTML-ize a progress bar, I'll add it to the sidebar.

At ths time I have no secondary objectives, but there's no shortage of unread books in my collection, so I'm sure I'll work something out.

August 05, 2015

Nothing to see here

Today on the Crusty Curmudgeon, we juxtapose, courtesy of Mollie Hemingway:

President Barack Obama told a group of young African leaders on Monday that harvesting organs from humans that are killed as part of an African ritual was "craziness" and a "cruel" tradition that needed to stop. He warned of dehumanizing marginal groups of humans and of the problems that arise when "you are not able to see someone else as a human being."

Meanwhile, back in the States . . .

On the topic of human organ harvesting, President Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest has said that President Obama has chosen not to watch the video footage of Planned Parenthood officials dissecting human fetuses for parts. Nevertheless, President Obama has vehemently defended the abortion group.

[Full Story]

Some humans are more human than others.

July 20, 2015


The idea that the entire society is supposed to frontally lobotomize itself with regard to basic facts, like what constitutes sex, it's demonstrative of the fact that a victim-run society is unworkable. A society in which we suggest that people who are victims get to redefine reality for everyone, that's not workable. Now notice what I'm saying—I'm not saying that you can't make social changes having nothing to do with the nature of reality, all I'm saying is that you can't redefine reality itself. You can't redefine man-man as as valuable as man-woman in terms of sexual relationships producing children, you can't redefine man as woman, there are certain things in life that you just can't paper over, you can't just gloss over. And the attempts to do so are bound to fail.

Ben Shapiro, The Ben Shapiro Show, podcast audio, July 17, 2015,

July 15, 2015

To vamp out or not to vamp out, that is the question

Today on the Crusty Curmudgeon, we juxtapose:

Sociology researchers are now insisting that we as a society start accepting people who choose to "identify as real vampires"—so that they can be open about the fact that they're vampires without having to worry about facing discrimination from people who might think that that's weird. . . .

"Unlike lifestyle vampires, real vampires believe that they do not choose their vampiric condition; they are born with it, somewhat akin to sexual orientation,' it continues. . . .

[Lead researcher D. J.] Williams explained that no one should be bothered by a person wanting to drink another person's blood because "it is generally expected within the community that vampires should act ethically and responsibly in feeding practices," and it's not their blood-drinking that's the real problem here—it's the fact that they have to worry that other people will judge them for their blood-drinking.

[University Researchers: We Have to Accept People Who "Identify as Real Vampires"]

But meanwhile, in Florida . . .

A Florida man arrested for dancing atop the hood of a patrol car parked in the driveway of a police sergeant told cops that he was seeking the aid of the "Sheriff of Nottingham" to help combat a "woman with fangs" and vampires preparing a human sacrifice, according to court records. . . .

Radecki, a Cape Coral resident, can be seen pulling his 2000 Lincoln Town Car up to the rear bumper of the police SUV. With his car radio blaring, Radecki then climbs atop the vehicle and gyrates to "Rich Girl" by Hall & Oates and Supertramp's "Goodbye Stranger." However, by the time the Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta duet "You're The One That I Want" played, Radecki was in custody. . . .

After being taken into custody, cops reported, Radecki explained that he went to Janke's residence because "when he opened his front door, a woman with fangs was threatening him, and that a human sacrifice was about to occur involving vampires." Investigators added that Radecki claimed that he "made the conscious decision to get the Sheriff of Nottingham to help him stop the slaughter of small children."

[Police Release Video of Man's Cop Car Dance]

Now here is a man who didn't get the memo. I wonder if anyone has contacted Supertramp out of concern that their music has been used as an instrument of vampirophobic hate speech?

July 09, 2015

And now . . . this - Jul. 9/15

Meh. It's been done. It's called American light beer.

Nothing is worse than having to use a porta-a-potty at a crowded festival. But a Danish agricultural group wants to put all that urine to good use—by turning it into beer.

[Full Story]

Which does raise an interesting question: Beer looks like urine. So how come the more beer you drink, the less your urine looks like beer?

July 06, 2015

And now . . . this - Jul. 6/15

Remember yesterday's story about the nitwit who killed himself trying to launch a firework off his head?

The mother of a man who tried to launch a firework off the top of his head for July Fourth and was killed instantly said Monday she's advocating for stricter controls about who can use the explosives.

Devon Staples, 22, and his friends had been drinking and setting off fireworks Saturday night in a backyard in Staples' eastern Maine hometown, Calais, when the accident happened with a reloadable fireworks mortar tube, police have said.

[Full Story]

First, it wasn't an "accident." It was reckless behaviour done on purpose, but with an unintended consequence.

Second, you can't regulate stupidity.

Third, as a corollary, if we could regulate stupidity, then banning stupid drunkies from playing with pyrotechnics ought to pretty much solve the problem.

I'm really, really trying to work up some sympathetic feelings, but it's not working. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

July 05, 2015

And now . . . this - Jul 5/15

Hold muh beer an' watch this, part 6.022×1023

Staples placed a fireworks mortar tube on his head and set it off, injuring his head. He died instantly. . . .

[Full Story]

Dear friends, we are gathered here today to mourn the death not only of our friend Devon Staples, but of common sense and sound judgment.

Police say the friends had been drinking.

You don't say.

Meanwhile, in Texas . . .

"Only he didn't say 'Blank' . . ."

A man who apparently mocked alligators, then jumped in the water—despite warning signs—is dead after being attacked in Texas. . . .

"He removed his shirt, removed his billfold . . . someone shouted a warning and he said 'blank the alligators' and jumped in to the water and almost immediately yelled for help," Price said.

[Full Story]

Do not mock the alligators. They will blank you over but good.

July 03, 2015

This week in moral panic

Ever since Dylann Storm Roof allegedly killed nine people in a black church in Charleston on June 17, the United States has been in the grip of mass hysteria. Somehow, the court of public opinion has tried and convicted not merely Roof, but also the Confederate flag, as morally culpable for the shootings, and ever since, everyone has been piling on the bandwagon.

First came the calls to remove Confederate flags from the flagpoles of Southern state capitols. Then, retailers such as Amazon and the Apple App Store banned paraphernalia displaying the flag—the latter going so far as to (temporarily) ban even Civil war-themed computer games. Then, the retro-themed TV Land network halted all broadcasts of The Dukes of Hazzard. Of course, Bo and Luke never did or said anything slightly racist in seven years on the air, though I'm sure the Flag of Evil on their car must have tried more than once to tempt them into a lynching, or something.

And now, golfer Bubba Watson is getting on the bandwagon. He owns LEE 1, one of the original three General Lee cars used for shooting Dukes. He paid $110,000 for it in 2012. Yesterday, he announced on Twitter:

Congratulations, Mr. Watson. I haven't awarded one of these in quite a while, but for a) ignoring the context of the way the Confederate flag is used, and b) converting a valuable and sought-after collectible vehicle into a cheap used car, you are hereby awarded the DIM BULB du jour. Wear it with pride.

In light of racially motivated crimes like the massacre in Charleston, of course it is completely appropriate to start a conversation about the meaning of symbols and their power, for good or ill, to convey a message. However, arbitrarily banning all Confederate flags from public view is not that conversation. Instead, it is emotionalism. Corporations and celebrities are climbing on the bandwagon because they want to be seen as someone who Cares. In their moral panic, they stampede over even the context of the flag and ignore that a Civil War re-enactment (of which a Civil War video game is the electronic equivalent) is precisely the appropriate place for a Confederate flag, or that the General Lee without it is just another old Dodge Charger. They fail to see that with or without the Confederate flag, Dylann Roof would still have committed his crimes. Flag-banning is an empty gesture that saves people from examining the true root of his atrocity: the evil that runs through every person's heart.

Instead, we get an emotional response instead of a rational one. Robert E. Lee's body lies a-mouldering in the grave, but hysteria is marching on.

July 01, 2015

Canada: Home of the beaver

It is, once again, Canada Day: the 148th anniversary of Confederation in 1867. We're definitely on the homestretch to our sesquicentennial in 2017.

As I write this—true to form—it's raining. So far, it looks like it's shaping up to be the rainy, drizzly kind of Canada Day rather than the bright warm kind that is punctuated during the day by a brief but heavy downpour. (I've never known a July 1 where it didn't rain in Ottawa at some time.) Either Way, of course, it won't affect the spirits of the massive block party happening on or near Parliament Hill.

Pauline Johnson (1861-1913) was a Canadian poet of English and Mohawk descent. She was born on the Six Nations reserve near Brantford, Ontario. As an adult she had a profitable stage and literary career; however, as much of her fame rested on her performances, her reputation declined considerably after her death, although in recent years her significance has been re-evaluated.

Today, Johnson's claim to fame arguably rests on one poem in particular, although in a different form that should be nonetheless recognizable to many Canadians, particularly those who spent time in the Scouting movement. The Canadian folk song, "Land of the Silver Birch" has, after all, been sung in the round by many a Cub, Scout, or Girl Guide around a late-night campfire.

The lyrics are perhaps more romantic than nationalistic, as they idealize living in the wild at harmony with nature. (As Johnson loved canoeing and the outdoors, however, it may betrue to her own experience.) Also, the repeated refrain of "Boom diddy-ah da" tends to rob the lyrics of some of their dignity. Nonetheless, "Land of the Silver Birch" also serves as a gentle reminder that the Canadian notion of two founding peoples—English and French—is really a myth. There were peoples here before us, and all of us are equally Canadians: as another of Pauline Johnson's verses put it, "one common Brotherhood / In peace and love, with purpose understood."

June 29, 2015

Dear church: Get your deep and sincerely held beliefs in line

From U.S. President Obama's speech in the Rose Garden on the occasion of the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex "marriage" in all 50 states:

I know change for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters must have seemed so slow for so long. But compared to so many issues, America's shift has been so quick. I know that Americans of good will continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today's news should be mindful of that fact, recognize different viewpoints, revere our deep commitment to religious freedom. But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shifts in hearts and minds is possible. And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them. Because for all our differences, we are one people, stronger together than we could ever be alone.

Talk about speaking out of both sides of your mouth. For all the talk about "separation of church and state" that you hear from the illiberal Left, it's actually a one-way street. On the one hand, those of religious conviction have no business trying to "impose" their values on society.

On the other hand, it's apparently quite fine for the President to call for those same religious people to amend their "sincere and deeply held beliefs" if they conflict with the values of the current Zeitgeist, and for those same secular Leftists to make a call "to abolish, or greatly diminish, [churches'] tax-exempt statuses" if they won't pile on the gay-rights bandwagon.

These people want a comfortable, inoffensive church that won't rock the boat or tell them that what they are doing might be wrong. The majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges says, "The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths." But the First Amendment doesn't ensure the right merely to "teach" one's religious principles; it ensures the right to exercise them. A conviction held is nothing, if it is not a conviction lived out. That means that all those beleaguered Christian bakers, photographers and florists actually have a constitutional right to act on their convictions and to opt out of taking business that would require them to participate in a ceremony they believe is wrong.

Charles Colson once wrote, "[The church] does not settle into a comfortable niche, taking its place alongside the Rotary, the Elks, and the country club. Rather, the church is to make society uncomfortable."[1] The present animus toward the Christian faith is evidence that, however halfheartedly, we are making society uncomfortable. And the principalities and powers don't like that, one bit.

1. Charles Colson, Loving God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 176.