Monday, October 7, 2013

Sexy Boobs and Cancer!

In the United States, at least, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A few activities carried out during the month have drawn criticism, but the easiest one to agree with in my book is the whole odd sexualization thing. If you don't know what I'm talking about, basically people will drop these tone-deaf notes that are like "Hey, boobs are hot and sexy! Let's stop breast cancer, so it doesn't take away those sexy boobies!"  As a guy, I had tended to think that maybe this was just kinda tasteless/clueless guys, or maybe clueless teen-aged girls that would say this kind of thing. Facebook teaches that this is really equal opportunity. Check it!

Woman I went to High School with:
Her teen-aged daughter and mother like this!

  • Sorry, I must disagree! I do not support breast cancer. Classic!
  • (Yes, always remember to put "Awareness", "Prevention", or "Research" after that thing you are against, or else you will look a lil' dumb...)
  • "Set the tatas free"? Isn't someone's mother wasting away due to cancer here? Not to bring anyone down. I know that is a total bummer. I mean, that is a matching bra and panty set, and, like, I'm sure her fabulous boobs would get me thinking about bending her sexy ass over that chair and everything, but grandma just had her breasts surgically removed and I'm having trouble keeping it up. Also, there is this other gal who feels like she'll never be as sexy as the woman in this picture, and she is feeling kinda bad about it, even though she is happy to still be alive. Hotness!
  • October 13th! No Bra Day! That's cool if you don't want to wear a bra.
  • Wait a minute... is there supposed to be a connection between the fight against breast cancer and not wearing a bra? How's that supposed to work? People notice you not wearing a bra and politely inquire, "I notice you usually don a bra, but not today. I was curious as to why that is." Then you would use that as an opportunity to discuss breast health and the importance of mammograms?
Maybe you can make February your sexy body part celebration month, what with Valentine's Day already in the mix, because this is getting pretty awkward!

Until then, I'll be supporting NASA by playing a little Eve Online. Maybe follow that up by fighting erectile dysfunction via furious masturbation.

Just doing my part to make the world a better place.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Not Even Approaching Stimulating Debate

I write this as the U.S. Government technically goes into a shutdown. Ideally, people would understand why this has come to pass, and have an opinion on it based on facts and a knowledge of what is really happening. Slightly less ideally, if people did not understand what was happening or why, they would refrain from having a strong opinion on it until they educated themselves.

This, however, is the Social Catastrophe.

I can imagine reasons for disliking portions of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as "Obamacare". Let us go to my Facebook feed and see how close family members are weighing the pros and cons of this complicated piece of legislation:

My Brother or (I hope) his Wife shared Rebel Without A Cause's photo.

Ban Obamacare!!!!

The best interpretation of this? "Hey, I'm just joking around". Actually, I find that interpretation fairly likely to an extent. On the other hand, I also know the political leanings of the potential people who could have posted this.  If it is serious, it is embarrassingly ridiculous. If it is jokey, it still kinda sucks.

If you've read the Social Catastrophe, you know the drill. Breakdown time! I am going to break down this obviously stupid picture. In my head, you are a reasonable enough person that you will think that the stupidity in this picture is so obvious and apparent, that picking it apart is completely unnecessary. It would be like the ol' "shooting fish in a barrel". Again, I would love to agree. Still, Facebook is full of this stupidity day in and day out. Not from some isolated crank ideologue, but from many people you went to school with, members of your own family. I so desperately want the bar to be raised, because sometimes it feels like it's laying on the fucking ground, and idiots are tripping over it. Anyway... let's do this:

  • Before I even research any of the shaky claims in this picture, I wish I knew the sources or time frames involved. I'll see what comes up.
  • Umm, that is not how math works! 603% of 323 is 1,947 (and a bit). I am skeptical of the claims from an unsourced e-card on Facebook, even before it demonstrates an inability to differentiate between percentages and multiples. Isn't that, like, 4th grade math?
  • The statement starts by referring to modern sporting rifles, then switches to referring to assault rifles. Why? Is it claiming these are the same thing? If so, why use one term at the beginning and another at the end? I'm guessing it uses "assault rifle" in the end because it has stronger rhetorical effect.
  • 195,000 deaths are attributed to medical malpractice. The next sentence then attributes these deaths to Obamacare. What change introduced in the Affordable Care Act does the poster attribute these deaths to? Does this number of deaths represent an increase or decrease in the rate of medical malpractice deaths?
Time for me to go to the internet and do a bit of research on these claims. What did I get?
  • The Affordable Care Act was passed on March 23, 2010. Not all of the measures included in it are in effect, and they are rolling out over time. Today, for example, is the day that the insurance market place is supposed to open up at . You can find a fairly detailed outline of the provisions and when they went or will go into effect on Wikipedia at 
  • As for this "323 deaths attributed to to modern sports rifles" figure, it appears to come from FBI statistics for 2011, which can be found here: The number appears to refer to rifles, and not to include handguns, shotguns, other guns, or "Firearms, type not stated". Surely there are more rifles in the "type not stated section", but they are unknown. As for the assault rifles referenced in the crappy e-card, assault rifles are not well defined and there is no such category in the FBI statistics.
  • As for the 195,000 deaths due to malpractice claim I saw many sites, including conservative sites comparing malpractice deaths to gun homicides, refer to a particular article located at . It is difficult to get accurate counts on deaths related to medical malpractice, and I was unable to find any articles or pages referring to trends in this area. I will note, however, that this article claiming 195,000 deaths due to medical malpractice was published in August of 2004. This is 9 years ago, before the Obama presidency and of course before the Affordable Care Act. If one wishes to maintain there are still 195,000 deaths due to medical malpractice per year, it would seem to indicate that the Affordable Care Act is not making this problem any worse.

I bothered to look this all up. Say I presented this information to the person who posted the above e-card. Would it matter to them at all? Would they feel bad for posting this shitty e-card? Is there any hope this person actually cares about stimulating, real debate about the Affordable Care Act? This really sucks, but I'm pretty sure the answer is, "No". Facts do not matter. There is no shame in posting logically incoherent garbage. The post wasn't about the person intellectually engaging or believing in anything. It was just group identification, declaring membership in a tribe. "I am a conservative!" was the intended message. For me to pick apart the meanings of the words misses the point. Hell, it was probably just a shitty joke in the first place!

Why so serious?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Reading Rainbow & the Fragility of Civilization

When I was a kid, one of my favorite shows was "Reading Rainbow". LeVar Burton would visit some interesting place where something happened or something was made, and have a conversation with the people who knew about it. This would all be interspersed with book reviews and a story from a book. Like good children's programming, it gave you this sense that you could do anything if you worked to learn about it. Likewise, I think this contributed to me loving Book Fairs in elementary school. I loved to buy Which Way/Choose Your Own Adventure books, and then science books about astronomy, volcanoes, dinosaurs or nuclear power. I was curious about everything.

Children's shows like Reading Rainbow, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Bill Nye the Science Guy (who was after my childhood, but totally fits) painted a great ideal picture of the adult world, where people proudly worked at what ever they did and were respected for the knowledge that work gave them. People had good intentions. I got a very positive, kind-hearted science and humanism vibe from these shows. Eventually you grow up and realize that the world is not like this, which is still a sad realization for me some 30 years after I first saw these shows. For the cynical and world-weary, growing up is all about realizing that the world we portray to kids in these shows is bullshit, always will be, and we should learn to deal with it. For me, they represent an ideal to which we should still aspire.

Readers of this blog can probably figure out by now that this blog is basically an expression of my continuing disappointment that the world isn't measuring up to these standards. One of the ways that disturbs me the most is when something happens that provokes people to respond in primitive, bloodthirsty way. It reminds me that we have some functioning social institutions, but there is this savage animal tribalism lurking just under the surface that, in a bad situation, could come out and tear everything apart. In my dream world, when someone calls for violence good people look at each other like, "Oh my! This person has said something beyond the pale. We are civilized people. For shame!" If the person persists, someone steps up and lays the smack down (umm... verbally).

Given the nature of the blog, you know what is coming: An example of what I'm talking about! This exchange from my Facebook feed illustrates how people can react to news of crime. People get outraged and want revenge. I think we can all understand that impulse, of disgust and anger and dreaming of violent revenge on someone who has done something awful to another person. To get all Star Wars, to me, relishing, fostering and inflaming that impulse is straight up "Dark Side". Be careful! Anyway... here is the exchange, with commentary:

Sick mutha Effin people in this Damn world! HANG THEM!

These two people have been arrested in South Carolina, accused of raping a 1-year-old girl in Alpine Township.
They await transport back to West Michigan to face charges.
Man 1: We need the damn death penalty.. Sick people
Woman 1: What is wrong with people these days! Ugh! I would love to be the judge and jury on this one.
This woman implies that "these days" are worse than older times. A common response to awful crime stories is to trot out this idea about a mythical past of goodness and degenerate present. As far as crime goes, the present is actually a good time to live. Since I've been born, homicide rates are the lowest they've ever been, for example. Also, while this is an awful situation, her attitude shows she is ill suited to being either a judge or serving on the jury. We all understand this impulse for revenge! Fight to keep your head!
Woman who Posted: Poor baby :( 
Man 2: sick fucks should die
Man 3: No judge no jury just linch mob save state lots of money
This guy's post perfectly illustrates the dangerous savage impulse I'm talking about. I've even heard such nonsense as "He doesn't deserve a fair trial!" in peoples' outrage at events. The way I see it:

  • Have a lynching: Result - An individual is beaten, possibly killed and tortured, regardless of their innocence or guilt.
  • Have a fair trial: Result - Guilty people still get what we as a society believe they deserve, with the side effect of not killing and torturing innocent people to satisfy our bloodlust. I consider this to be a pretty significant advantage...

Woman 2: Just turn them loose, and tell everyone what they did! 
Woman who Posted: I wanna hang him from his nut sack & then hang her from her fricken neck & cut her fingers off one by one & feed them to him one by one & then burn them both alive! They need to be tortured like this poor innocent baby was & the 14 year old, & how ever many more innocent victims of these sick evil f**ks! Thank God the 1 year old wont remember, but the scars will be there for life :( AND WHERE THE HELL WAS THE BABIES PARENTS???? How could they NOT KNOW from changing the diaper?? MY GOD, IT HAPPENED 2 TIMES! SICK & so very SAD :(

Whoa! Holy shit! If you are giving me graphic instructions detailing your torture fantasy in a public forum where everyone can see, you have fucking lost it. Compose yourself! Also, I find it distasteful that in your hysterical outburst you blame the parents for this, who no doubt feel like shit. You don't know the full situation. You should calm down and let the investigators and courts get to the bottom of this. Our outrage is unproductive. It doesn't help anyone or anything.
Man 2: it makes me so sad that I could kill 
Woman 3: A few hours with big old bubba
It is also shocking how often people, both men and women, will seriously or jokingly call for someone to be forcibly anally raped. Here is a moral lesson I have picked up, and maybe you have heard of it: Rape is wrong. Apparently this woman thinks it is appropriate to rape certain people on occasion. Groovy.

Me in response to Man 3: No judge no jury, just lynch mob? That is scary and dangerous. You need to prove that someone has done something before you punish them for it. Otherwise you can accuse people of awful things and bring a bloodthirsty mob down on them, whether they did something or not. Outrage and lust for revenge should never be permitted to win out over an impartial, fair trial.
I had to just call this out.
Man 3 in response to Me: Ben this is what's the matter with today's fucked up people they wrap it up in court long enough there lawyer will find a way to get them out of it wrong paper work something bleeding heart fuckers oh no can't have a death penalty bull shit is what it is people keep getting sicker and sicker start killing them stupid fuckers off then maybe the rest of them would wake the fuck up open your fucking eyes world 
Man 3 again: Sorry but pisses me off I have a lil girl anybody touches her in anyway sexual or physical I will kill ya!! 
Man 4: I agree Ben, but the article clearly states they have video evidence of them doing the crime. 
Man 5: dont hang them take them tovthe center of town and stone them to death 
Me in response to Man 4/all: Yeah, I agree it looks like a pretty open and shut case. When people get very angry and start advocating for justice like in Saudi Arabia or some backwater village in Afghanistan though and it creeps me out. Those countries chopping off body parts and stoning people in the town square hasn't turned them into crime free paradises. I associate that kind of justice with primitive hellholes I don't want to live in. I understand the primal impulse to want to hurt people like this though, because WTF is in their heads?
On one level, some could argue that these people are just blowing off steam, and I'm taking them too seriously. I admit that it very much could be. This little Facebook entry was not at all unusual. If you follow the picture to its source you will also find an endless stream of people calling for torture and for the justice system to be completely bypassed. It is like there was a civics class and everyone decided we should go with the opposite.

Is it silly of me to ask: What would Mr. Rogers think?

Please, let's try not to be ugly people, even if it can be hard.


(Update: Woman who posted, Man 3 and Man 4 have all "liked" my last comment. Maybe there is some hope... "Butterfly in the sky...")

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Snopes Bombing Ineffective Against the Bunker of Predefined Narrative

A large contributor to the Social Catastrophe is how little facts and truth matter to people who are in the process of validating or reinforcing their biases. Everyone is susceptible to accepting stories with less examination when they confirm what they already believe. That doesn't mean we are all equally bad at this, however, as this post is about to illustrate!

Dumb Guy shared Shady Person's photo
"How fast can u repost" almost makes this shared photo seem like a test to see who is most willing to suspend their critical faculties the quickest. It is also some of the worst kind of "Culture Warrior" garbage. Am I only supposed to boycott these particular cans, but not Pepsi as a whole? Given all of the messed up shit in this world, am I honestly supposed to care if a company uses the pre-1954 Pledge? Why is any of this supposed to matter in any way?

These questions all crossed my mind when I read this (among others), but they all presume one thing: That this forwarded chain letter was even true in the first place. Of course, it is not true. Pepsi never produced any such cans. This is a sad phenomenon I call "multiple levels of fucked up and wrong". You post something which is false as if it were true. Furthermore, even if it was true, you would still be a tool for more than one reason. This is a dire place to be. I had to respond!

This is incorrect. The facts show that this is simply not true:

Sure, I am being very straight forward. Maybe I could have been a bit nicer about it. Let us consider some possible responses he might have to my debunking correction post:

1. He simply ignores it, and the whole embarrassing post fades into the history of everyone's Facebook streams. This is the option I expected him to take.
2. Embarrassed by the revelation that he has been taken in by a chain letter, he removes his re-post of this chain letter from the feed. I would be OK with this option, had he taken it.
3. He responds to me aggressively, either disagreeing with the facts or my tone. I wasn't expecting this to happen.
4. He responds positively with something along the lines of, "Oops! My bad!" That is a decent option.

Instead he took the saddest option of all:

5. He deletes my post containing the debunking of this false letter, while keeping his post up like nothing happened. 

When facts interfered with his narrative, he made the conscious decision to ignore the facts. That is some immature "The Dog Ate My Homework" level shit right there! Still, just because my post disappeared... I don't want to embarrass myself by accusing him when it may have been a computer glitch. Also, maybe I'll deliver it with a better tone. So, yes! I replied again!

Hey, it looks like this might be a myth:

See! I'm using more informal and softer language. It "might" be a myth, but hey, maybe its true? I've got to make that pill easy to swallow. At this point, I think any of my previous options could be his response again. Additionally, I feel there is a chance he would... "unfriend" me. That would make me sad, because he provides so much good material. He follows up with #5, deleting my post a second time.

Two times is no accident. Oh no! My animal man-brain has been activated! I am filled with a feeling of righteous anger! I'm going to escalate the confrontation! Fortunately, I was not packing a gun:

The fact that you deleted my debunking link twice is intellectually dishonest and shameful. We should strive to spread truth and not perpetuate myths contained in chain letters. If you believe I am wrong, I am open to the evidence. The chain letter you are re-posting is both false and over 10 years old. 
If you had let my comment stand, replied to it, or even removed your re-post, that's all fine. Deleting my posts while letting yours stand seems to say that you think building or maintaining a predefined narrative is more important than the truth, and that is not cool. 
I realize that I am being impolite in continuing to post. Normally I would take the hint from a post deletion and move on. I just think that perpetuating false stories that reinforce our biases is toxic to the national dialogue. We end up arguing over false things rather than real things, which leads to a lot of unproductive noise.
I have no idea if that was a good or bad thing for me to have done. I think that people passing phony BS around makes the world a shittier place. People start making decisions and shaping their politics around this creaking edifice of lies and false information. It seems that the default suggestion is "Just forget about it. People are stupid, and you aren't going to change that." Well, that is just too depressing. It reminds me of a time in my early 20s I told my parents about a guy who thought dinosaurs were a hoax. They responded with, "Of course he does. He's a preacher." 


There is never a situation where I should assume that someone believes dinosaurs are a hoax. I would rather act as if people were not idiots and be disappointed. On the internet, an atheist who assumes preachers think dinosaurs are a hoax gets called out for arguing against a caricature of Christianity that isn't true. So, savvy internet debating will have you treat the issues separately even if they are sometimes connected. No need to confuse the culturally Christian Deist "Prime Mover" guy with the guy thrashing around on the ground, handling snakes and going on about Obama, the Mark of the Beast and the UN Helicopters.

Speaking of...


So, after the previous events this individual left my final comments up without response, interestingly. Maybe he had learned his lesson and would do a little basic research before blindly posting things that are embarrassingly false. That would be awesome.

Uh oh... wait.  This isn't good!

Dumb Guy shared The Australian Tea Party's photo. 
Yeah right in your own state

My first response to this post was, "There is an Australian Tea Party?" My next response was, "You know what? I'll bet this didn't even happen in Dearborn. Let me check." For those of you reading who don't know me personally, I live in Michigan and Dearborn is down by Detroit and is somewhat known for its immigrant community. It turns out my suspicion was correct. This picture is not from Dearborn at all. Time to correct this guy again:

This picture is from Afghanistan, not Dearborn Michigan. This is from a rally held in Kabul on October 25th, 2009. Whoever captioned this picture was misinformed or is lying:
Imagine being a Muslim who fled Iran to escape the Ayatollah's oppression, then being falsely accused of spreading "terrorist ideas" by strangers using pictures of Afghans in Kabul, lying and presenting them as images of people in your neighborhood in Dearborn. That's gotta be pretty depressing. Bleh.

Dumb Guy sadly responds exactly as he did before, by deleting my correction post and leaving his up as if nothing were amiss. He has shown a failure to learn both that a lot of shit on Facebook is unreliable, and that I am capable of noticing that he deleted my post and have shown a willingness to be persistent. He is resistant to engaging in any dialog, yet also resistant to "unfriending" me. Anyway, after noticing his deletion of my post, I post again:

Again, you have deleted a comment correcting a falsehood you are perpetrating. This picture is false. It says, "Hello! This is Dearbornistan, Michigan." It is not. It is in fact Kabul, Afghanistan, as described in this Reuters article:
Pictures like this mischaracterize and further inflame hatred. In fact, commenters on this picture call for Muslims to be rounded up and bombed and call for other acts of genocide. This is clearly repulsive. They tell them to "go home" when the Muslims in the picture are actually at home... in Afghanistan! The fact that their comments are being triggered by a picture which is itself a lie makes this kind of primitive, bloodthirsty, tribalistic and otherwise awful behavior even more frustrating. Again... bleh... just, why?

We've all seen these people, the kind I am describing who left comments on the photo from the originating "Australian Tea Party" site. The kind of angry, conspiratorial people who unfairly and ignorantly stereotype a billion people as terrorist and go on about how they need their guns, and how all of these members of the out group need to be stopped or perhaps even completely killed and wiped out. They are walking next to us everyday in our communities, they are in our families.

When someone mentions rounding up and bombing entire populations, I find that kind of talk to be alarming. It is sadly common, however. "Oh, you know Uncle Bob, he's just a little conservative"  No, Uncle Bob is one of a million little piss-ant Hitlers, oiling up his gun and dreaming of genocide, who sees nothing wrong with saying it publicly at a family function. Maybe he's all talk. At the very least, he is all asshole. This isn't even hypothetical, I have personally had extended family members call for "glassing" an entire country, 3 dudes amicably chatting it over as if they were having a reasonable discussion on current affairs. Horrifying.

So, there is me raging a bit about those kinds of folks. What actually came of any of this? Well, finally, this person has disappeared from my Facebook feed. He both "unfriended" and blocked me. He never once said a word to me. I have no doubt that his behavior of posting factually inaccurate posts will continue, and his response to those pointing out those inaccuracies will be for him to continue to stick his head in the sand, weeding out those who bother him so he can maintain his comfortable world-view unchallenged.

This is the Social Catastrophe.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Imaginary Old Days

Adults these days!

Today I would like to discuss another social networking cliche: Saying some tired bullshit to make yourself sound like a cranky old man/woman. It comes with a heaping helping of false bravado and lying to kids!

Exhibit 1:



and on and on...

On some level, I think there are people who legitimately think this is hilarious. For me, this pretty closely ties to "cliche gender humor" which I've said my piece on. Fathers pretend like they are actually all hard-ass, and it is all just a bunch of disappointing bullshit. I understand being nervous about your children growing up and hopefully avoiding mistakes, but..  It is this whole retrograde story about protecting your innocent, sexless women from primitive male fuck animals. How about you raise your daughter with enough wiles to avoid douchey bros, and raise your sons to not be douchey bros themselves? Then maybe we can move beyond this "I'm just a normal middle-aged jagoff who has to pretend he's hillbilly Rambo so the boys aren't feeding my daughter drugs and impregnating her after midnight" situation we are apparently in now.

Exhibit 2:

Yeah, all of the sudden everyone my age is like a completely unfunny Bill Cosby with a childhood from the 50s. We respected our elders and were subjected to an endless string of ass whoopin! Seriously, it is like everyone my age took all of the shit our parents told us and just repeated it. Parents definitely did more physical discipline in my time vs. "kids these days", but I also know we got a lot less of it than, say, my Dad. I was spanked less than 10 times for sure, maybe even 5. None of this would have occurred after age 9 or 10 that I can recall. My parents nor I celebrate it or are big fans of it today.

Maybe all of the ass whooping is why you had an abortion at age 16, a brother getting into fights who spent 5 years in prison, and another brother that smashed his hip up and totaled his car because he was drunk driving, person I know in real life. I'm not saying this because "for shame!", but "for hypocrisy!" Don't worry, I won't tell your kids.

It is important we maintain the illusion that we lived like the Walton family, but with hard discipline and good morals, unlike kids today. The way to raise these kids right is with a big load of bullshit and lies.

Kids: Most adults are fuck-ups. Don't let them fool you. Good luck. You'll need it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Aspect of the Social Catastrophe: People Are Dumb

I'll try to keep this one short. I could do a whole sweeping post about the clearly false things that people post as if they were real, urban legends, and all of that. The best are those times in the past that people have passed them around to everyone at work with a huge broadcast e-mail out to everyone. That is entertainment!

I'm totally a dick and very judgmental when it comes to people posting or e-mailing these kinds of false, forwarded to a million people kinds of alerts or pleas. Each time I feel the need to point someone to , my evaluation of that person's mental capacity takes a deep hit. Needing Snopes dropped on you is one of the biggest reputation killers on my scale (after, like, you know, killing people and stuff).  The impulse that goes from emotion ("I'm pissed!" "That's touching!" "Oh, neat!" "This needs to stop!" "That's scary!") straight to reposting/forwarding without a brain at any point stepping in to do even the most basic fact checking... is a real part of the Social Catastrophe.

So, which one set me off today? We'll see if you can work out just what might be false about this one. It is a real head-scratcher!

Reposted by Friend July 23, 2013. Originally posted on July 15, 2013
"Ok...never believe this stuff but......i posted this on the is the 15th when I came home the mail was a refund check for $374.00 from my old electric company I used over 8 yrs ago....CREEPY BUT TOTALLY COOL!!! And yes...I did say COOL!! Lol!!"

I love that this person seems to be embarrassed that they said the word "COOL". What I also love about this one is that nearly every sentence in it is false. It really packs it in! Let's break it down line by line, because this deserves the most in depth analysis possible.


Fuck you.

"This year December has 5 Mondays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays."

Really? Is that true? How could I ever be sure? Oh wait... everyone is reading this on a device that has a calendar built in. Hmm... let's see:

A picture in which Saturday has clearly become Tuesday!

If I had to guess, I'd say this silly thing must have started last year, in 2012 when the "5 Mondays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays" in December was actually true. The other possibility is that the originator of this message is a malevolent force spreading lies, thriving and relishing in the vast stupidity it has unleashed upon the world. I'll just have to mull that over as we proceed.

"This Happens once every 823 years."

Hmm, now that this message has proven itself to be unreliable... I don't know if I can blindly trust this one... This message wouldn't lie to me again, would it? I have a calender I use to schedule things on my computer, so I said to myself, "Just how rare is this? No way is it a once in an 823 year event! I'm going to guess it happens... 1/7th of the time, possibly screwed up a bit by leap years or something" (Witness the elite mathematics and Sherlock Holmes-like cunning I bring to bear upon the problem!) So, I decided to take a 100 year span, from 2000 to 2100, and see just how often this occurs. Here is what we get:

2001, 2007, 2012, 2018, 2029, 2035, 2040, 2046, 2057, 2063, 2068, 2074, 2085, 2091, 2096

15 times in 100 years is quite a bit more often than 1 time in 823 years... if I have my math right! Just a minute while I divide 15 by 100, and 1 by 823 so I know which is larger!

1/823 = 0.0012
15/100 = 0.15
Oh, and...
1/7 = 0.1429

Yes, Decembers with 5 Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays happen slightly more that 1/7th of the time in this sample. From this time span, it seems that these magical Decembers are over 123 times more common than this message states. Wow!

"This is called money bags."

Come on, now. You're not even trying!

"So share it and money will arrive within 4 days."

I'm going to need to see the peer reviewed study on this! Surely you have some evidence?

"Based on Chinese Feng Shui."

Oh! Well, then... Can I just stop and say that Chinese Feng Shui is my favorite Feng Shui? To get back to business though... let's see, this Money Bags magical December concept is based on Feng Shui, eh? The one that is about arranging your house and furniture correctly so that the winds of chi flow properly? Of course, I'm just a silly westerner. Turns out that Wikipedia tells me Feng Shui is about a little more than arranging furniture (but not much). I'm not seeing anything about auspicious Decembers, and the ancient Chinese tradition of chain letters, e-mail forwardings, and social media reposting, but I'm an amateur. It looks like there may even be evidence that Feng Shui has existed in some form for at least 3500 years, perhaps even as early as 4000 B.C.! But wait a minute!

Gregorian Calendar: The calendaring system we use now. It is a solar calendar which was created as an alteration to the Julian Calendar in 1582 A.D.
Chinese Calendar: A lunisolar calendaring system that has seen its fair share of alterations since it was 1st known to appear somewhere around 1300 B.C.

It is not looking like those are going to line up so well. Maybe the mysterious masters of Feng Shui have been using the Gregorian Calendar or an exact equivalent since the time of fucking Ramesses the Great who was out kicking ass and building shit in Ancient Egypt at the time.

Color me skeptical.

"The one who does not share, will be without money."

Is that what they say in the Feng Shui? Excuse me, I have unanswered questions here!

"Share within 11 minutes of reading."

If I want to look like a big dummy!

"Can't hurt so I did it."

The biggest lie of all. It did hurt. It hurts bad. You never should have posted this where others would see. You even used to have a reputation for being good at math in High School. Now we all know.

Fuck, dude.

(Update: I chatted with him later and he realized the error of this all unprompted by me. He's also consistently been on the right side of some later Social Catastrophes. Rock on! Also, yay!)


* Promised fun not actually included.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stock Humor

Today we talk about Stock Humor! This is when you take something someone thought was funny once and that we've all heard a million times before, and decide the world would be a better place if we heard it a million and one times instead. Now, humor is subjective and we aren't all going to agree on this, but... that isn't going to stop me!

Consider this cutting edge observation from my Facebook feed:

OMG, that is hilarious! So, true! It reminds me of that time my grandfather took care of my grandmother after she lost both of her legs to blood clots and diabetes.

OK, maybe that was a little dark... (and true, and not as dark as the whole story, actually...), but I thought it would be more fun to go this route rather than just say "Fuck you, get a better husband!"

Gender humor is one of the worst offenders when it comes to played-out bullshit I never need to hear again. Sometimes this garbage resides somewhere between bad humor and bad wisdom, where some old dude is like, "Hey Sonny, a broad can never have too many pairs of shoes!" or "When she asks you 'Do I look fat in this?' you (fill in the fucking blank)". Thanks Pops! "My girlfriend just got back from shopping and wants to talk about our relationship. Men don't want to talk about their feelings! Especially when we're watching the big game, havin' a Bud!" Cool Bro!

On an arguably immature level, bad gender humor is part of the reason I'm not watching the big game, havin' a Bud, because fuck all of that.

I ain't gonna be part of your system! Welcome to the real world, jackass!

In fact, I have someone in my department at work who is engaged. Today I was stuck in my cubicle and was forced to endure an excruciatingly long "Yes, dear!" style "Remember that she's always right." "A happy wife is a happy life" type conversation, and the subsequent... apparently sincere laughter. I actually was saying out loud to myself, "Oh, Jesus". Unfortunately it was the second completely stock conversation I had to endure that day. The other was the "This person has a swollen eye-lid. That's worth 20 minutes of stock bullshit we'll ask, say and laugh about!" conversation. I'm sure you know how it goes. We all do.

I think my problem is that I am reading this all wrong. It is not meant to be true humor, but some kind of fake humor that is meant to function the same as small talk. Instead of joining in with the group I instead have this voice in my head that is screaming something kinda of along the lines of "Fucking die!" This incessant voice is interfering with my ability to properly socialize with other human beings.

Still, I say this, but real stand up comedians pop out this same drivel endlessly. I expect a comedian to... be creative. Much like I do not go to live concerts to see a recital of "Hot Cross Buns" I do not listen to comedians to hear "Guys get off and fall asleep right afterwards!"

Also, is there some way we can deal with these "Oh, he's French? I'm surprised he didn't surrender when you rang the doorbell!" assholes? It is my secret hope that Charles de Gaulle trained a cadre of assassins to track down and maim these folks. I know this paragraph is... out of the blue, but I just had to say it. Anyway...

I guess what bothers me the most about stock humor is the flat mundanity. Supposedly funny things should not make me feel dead inside. Idiot man-children and insecure nags, with their stock interests. A public conversation where people fall in line and play along with these shitty roles.

It is the opposite of magical.

It is the opposite of fun.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Holy Carrots, Holy Sticks!

I'm back for yet another sadly typical entry into the Social Catastrophe! This entry has no larger theme really, but if you read it you just might meet the cute boy/girl of your dreams tomorrow! Unfortunately, that Carrot is unlikely to work, as I know all of my readers are in nice comfortable relationships.  Meanwhile, I am blasted by the hell-scape of modern American discourse alone, with no loving arms to retreat to. It is like this 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' scenario where I fear I'll wake up one morning and be "one of them". I can only hold on to the distant memory of my Kindergarten girlfriend giving me a peck on the cheek, before we were forever torn apart by her parents' divorce, all before 1st grade. Scant fuel to keep hope alive, I tell you.

I'm mostly over her. Her name was Susie Wheelock. I remember after her birthday party we played in the frozen swamp behind her house. A frozen swamp can be romantic when the fluffy snow drifts down in just the right way...

... Anyway, yeah, this whole blog is about that effect. Facebook, and the way that if left untrimmed, you are exposed to enough crazy that you start to question yourself. I need my views validated. I need someone to lie to me and tell me it's going to be alright.

Mike Muir lets me know... I'm not crazy. He's no Susie Wheelock (she was very mature for her age), but he'll do for now.

So, where on the doll did Facebook touch me today? Well, let's just comment on this one as we go along. It was a woman I had gone to High School with, and her post started with this photo:

Oh my, that is honestly completely awful! Why the hell is this woman posting a picture showing a bunch of bloody corpses lying in the street in the aftermath of a horrible auto accident?!?! Is this breaking news about some kind of awful attack or something? I don't think this woman is into "Faces of Death" style gore porn... (I mean, that would be totally crazy, those people keep these pics to themselves and friends they know share that kind of interest, right?) Maybe this will be about the dangers of Drunk Driving or something? Oh... there is some text!  Let us see what it says:

A man of 32 years, was smoking, while smoking his cigarette, he puffed out some smoke into the air and said:'God, that's for you.'
He died at the age of 32 of LUNG CANCER in a horrible manner.
The man who built the Titanic
After the construction of Titanic, a reporter asked him how safe the Titanic would be. With an ironic tone he said: 'Not even God can sink it'
The result: I think you all know what happened to the Titanic
Marilyn Monroe (Actress)
She was visited by Billy Graham during a presentation of a show. He said the Spirit of God had sent him to preach to her. After hearing what the Preacher had to say, she
said: 'I don't need your Jesus'.
A week later, she was found dead in her apartment
Bon Scott (Singer)
The ex-vocalist of the AC/DC. On one of his 1979 songs he sang: 'Don't stop me; I'm going down all the way, down the highway to hell'.
On the 19th of February 1980, Bon Scott was found dead, he had been choked by his own vomit.
Campinas (IN 2005)
In Campinas , Brazil a group of friends, drunk, went to pick up a friend..... The mother accompanied her to the car and was so worried about the drunkenness of her friends and she said to the daughter holding her hand, who was already seated in the car: 'My Daughter, Go With God And May He Protect You.' She responded: 'Only If He (God) Travels In The
Trunk, Cause Inside Here.....It's Already Full '
Hours later, news came by that they had been involved in a fatal accident, everyone had died, the car could not be recognized what type of car it had been, but surprisingly, the trunk was intact. The police said there was no way the trunk could have remained intact. To their surprise, inside the trunk was a crate of eggs, none was broken
Christine Hewitt (Jamaican Journalist & entertainer)
Said the Bible (Word of God) was the worst book ever written.
In June 2006 she was found burnt beyond recognition in her motor vehicle.
Many more important people have forgotten that there is no other name that was given so much authority as the name of Jesus. Many have died, but only Jesus died and rise again, and he is still alive....'Jesus' I have done my part by sharing this with you, Jesus said 'If you are embarrassed about me, I will also be embarrassed about you before my father.'
You are my 8 in 8 seconds. I am not breaking this.. No way!
Bishop T..D. Jakes '8 Second Prayer.'
Just repeat this prayer and see how God moves!!
'Lord, I love you and I need you, come into my heart, and bless me, my family, my home, and my friends, in Jesus' name. Amen.'
As you pass this message You will receive a miracle tomorrow. I Hope that you don't ignore.
God bless you as you share this divine message



That is what she wanted to tell me and everyone who was her Facebook friend.

She wanted to show me bloody corpses in the street. Tell me about a woman burned alive in a vehicle, body charred beyond recognition, who had said critical things about the Bible. About a God who apparently allows young women to die in an awful wreckage but saves a crate of eggs in the trunk just to make a point.

This woman believes that God exists, and intervenes to save those who have been nice to him, and allows (or actively inflicts) horror, torture and death on those that have displeased him.

This woman believes in the power of Chain Letters. "I'M TOLD THIS WORKS!!!!!" is enough to convince her of the power of "Bishop T..D. Jakes '8 Second Prayer'".  Who is "Bishop T..D. Jakes"?

"As you pass this message You will receive a miracle tomorrow. I Hope that you don't ignore." Oh... that is quite a carrot (God grants you a miracle) and stick (God burns you alive in your car, leaving an unrecognizably charred corpse) situation going on. Oh man, why is it like this? Why are people like this?


I want to hold Susie Wheelock for a very long time.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Doggone It, People Like Me!

Back on February 9th, 1991, the first "Daily Affirmation with Stewart Smalley" skit aired on Saturday Night Live. Future Senator Al Franken played an unlicensed self-help guru with questionable self-esteem who's catch phrase involved him staring into the mirror and saying, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"

It was a fun skit that led to a book and even an SNL movie. Even though Stewart Smalley's self-affirmations are no longer with us, many people have taken his advice to heart. Self-affirmations blossom far and wide across e-mail chain letters and Facebook, proudly proclaiming who people are and why they and others like them should be proud.

Pride is a funny thing. Publicly proclaimed pride even more so. I personally read public proclamations of pride the same as I would read public self-affirmations, as signs of insecurity of some kind. Sometimes people rightfully feel oppressed by society and are declaring their pride in that aspect of themselves that society at large does not respect. Other times, or sometimes even simultaneously, that pride can take on this stubborn "my way is the right way" tone that lashes out at against others in ways that may be questionable.

Seriously, I hope these people are able to achieve a decent self-esteem, but... here is the part where we take a look at some examples!

Thus begins what is a huge category of these Facebook self-affirmations: People who need me to give a shit about their tattoos. Somewhere around 60% of the people I see socially have tattoos. They are not, as a rule, any more or less interesting than anyone else. This particular picture is nothing egregious, but just getting warmed up...

Here is a sad "Hey, we're special!" self-affirmation if I ever saw one. Does anyone really believe this kind of shit? I mean, let's think about this... Who is this person that is not good enough for tattoos? Am I good enough to get a swastika tattooed on my forehead, tear under the eye? Are we forgetting about the legit white supremacist covered in Nazi tatts here? There are all sorts of awful people who have tattoos. Presumably whoever would post this kind of trite garbage just isn't thinking about it at all. Some brainless self-affirming bullshit. My message to you, self-affirming tattoo person: I am totally not judging you for your tattoos. That's not to say I'm not judgmental...

Here we have the combo affirmation. The good ol' "You're awesome because you have tattoos" (sorry, possession of a tattoo is in itself a neutral factor in your awesomeness :-( bummer!). Then we have another large category of affirmations: Those intended to make women feel good about themselves. A large trend in those is to rip on skinny, non-curvy, or athletic women, so we can all celebrate "real women with real bodies". Again, your body type is a pretty neutral factor in how awesome I consider you, so sorry. Athletic women are kinda awesome, just like athletic men are kinda awesome, but the athletic look doesn't always capture all of the people who actually are athletic though...

When you get into these self-affirming posts for women, it really is a minefield of fucked up. Some of them are made by women and shared with other women, and others are made by men in some kind of support for women. This one was shared by a woman. It feels like there is this tension between "I'm beautiful and sexy!" and "Women shouldn't be judged so exclusively on their sexual attractiveness to men." I'm all on board with that second point in particular. It is annoying as fuck to hang out with dudes (and on some occasions women) who feel the need to comment on how fucking hot or not some woman is when she's a fucking virtuoso astronaut MMA fighter scientist. Some guys seem to think it is mandatory to pass their judgement, and as these self-affirmations seem to show, there are a lot of women who can't help but care.

As for the picture itself... yeah, it is self-affirming garbage. You are showing me your insecurity. The words, taken at face value, make no sense at all.

This contains all of the hallmarks of a shitty self-affirmation post. The classic "Most of you won't re-post this" is the ultimate sign that you are about to read some garbage on the internet. It also contains a huge blinking warning sign that for me says "Hey, remember that public drama post you made a few days ago? Here's your goddamned perpetrator!" There are a million variations on this one. This is the Sheryl Crow "Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man" of self-affirming social media trash. At root, my question is, "Why are you telling me this?" Why? You are so goddamned lazy you didn't even write this yourself! You just took someone else's words and posted them to your wall as if they were your own. You are trying to tell me how special you are by putting someone else's (a person who you've likely never met's) words in your feed. It's like feeling a personal connection to your horoscope in the paper. Ultimately, your self-affirmation failed, because the number of people who think you suck has increased by one.  Congratulations.

P.S. You're worthless.

I could go on with these forever. They infest the internet like locusts, you know, like, when there is a plague of them. Try reading the Bible sometime.
Anyway, yeah... umm, my point is, there is no limit to just how vague and unremarkable a feature you can possess and make a self-affirming post about. For example:

I do have brown eyes! OMG you guys! This is so true!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A God-Awful Situation

Last week I had another local person send me a Facebook friend request. I recognized his last name, he's local, a couple years younger than me... nothing else to go on. Now, as you are about to see, the first post I see from this Einstein is indeed... disappointing. I had such high hopes for this guy... Facebook was going to connect me with another human being. I could have formed a real human connection thanks to the power of the social web!  That would be really awesome, actually... I feel that Facebook has let me down in this regard. In fact, I'm starting to suspect these guys are just in it for the money.


Anyway, this guy's post is only the initial madness which illustrates a deeper problem. Before we get to all of that, let me tell you about the Anti-Christ:

must see

Obama Mocks And Attacks Jesus Christ And The Bible/Video/Obama Is Not A Christian
I just thought everyone should know about this because it is so alarming. President Obama is a pretty twitchy guy in this video, but he's clearly taking Leviticus and Deuteronomy out of context. Fortunately the person responsible for this video was careful to take Obama's comments in their full context. "Fair and Balanced" I believe would be the words.

OK, so yeah, I'm an atheist. Let's see what we have here. I think my favorite part is the "Crime Stoppers"/"Unsolved Mysteries" 80s/90s soundtrack. A soundtrack that feels about 20 years out of date is a sure sign you are dealing with either an industrial or corporate training video or some shitty amateur scare-mongering bullshit. Not that this video makes these claims, but another fun religious conservative thing to watch is the whole... Muslim/Atheist/Radical Reverend Wright Christian mystery. I think that is the real Unsolved Mystery here, and I would like to see some hard hitting investigative journalist get to the bottom of it! Also, if you go to this video on YouTube, I would direct your attention to the related videos linked on the right...

Yeah baby! All of the Anti-Christ, Illuminati, and Prophecy information you need! Also, the Truth about Oprah Winfrey, as if you didn't already know. (Hint: Think 'Press Secretary for Satan')

Honestly, I would guess Obama is a liberal Christian, though I don't think it is impossible that he is basically a secular person. It would be kinda crazy to drag your children to attend Christian services regularly if you were really a big anti-christian, but hey, politician?  Also, yeah, writing laws based off the specific injunctions of Leviticus, etc., would be absolutely insane and most people on some level realize this.

I will have to ask my historian friend if, "Most historians agree that the Sermon on the Mount contains the most spiritually inspiring words ever uttered by Jesus Christ or any other religious figure". I've heard that historians have been doing a lot of work trying to determine if this is actually true.

So, sure. That Facebook post from this new "Friend" didn't particularly raise the level of national dialogue, but not everybody can be expected to. I wonder what this guy does for a living?

"Ministry Leader at Mount Hope Church"

A quick check of the rest of his feed shows me he is keenly interested in keeping his guns, bad things that happen to people who defy God (seriously scary "They defied God and died horrible deaths" stuff!), bringing children to God, supporting families, honoring policemen.

Here we have it. This is where it gets really depressing. I'm sure this guy is actually doing some good things for people. As a Ministry Leader... I'm sure there is a community of people who look to him for advice. In some sense, he is a leader... that people come to when they need guidance in their life.

That is so absolutely fucked.

Have you ever seen this scenario?: You know someone who could either be really cool, or he could just be a dumb-ass fuck-up. Whichever way he is, he's doing something in his life that is messing it all up, be it partying too hard with the drugs and all of that shit, or crazy relationship dramas. Eventually, he just drops out of contact, then when he returns he has been saved by some back woods, primitive old-timey authoritarian, xenophobic "God, Guns and Soldiers" bullshit? 

As much as this person sucks now, you are forced to admit to yourself, "Hey, I mean... I guess he isn't throwing up in an alley every Saturday night". If you remember times when he was cool before, you start to question the authenticity of all of your conversations. You look at them and it gives you an unsettled feeling like that part at the end of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".

Likewise, if you personally have your shit together, there are people that will assume it is because you've taken that step up the ladder from "Ridiculous youth with no impulse control" to this particular vision of a "Responsible, firm church going man/woman". They are wary of whatever the hell it is you actually are, and have a pretty strong suspicion that whatever it is... must be a more sophisticated version of "Ridiculous youth with no impulse control". I feel like I'm about to bullshit about some kind of moral/social development theory here, so I'll stop!

"I think you are a good influence on my son/husband".
"He is over 30 years old, for fuck's sake!"

Friday, April 26, 2013

Double Damage: Poor Reasoning and False Attributions

This next example of the Social Catastrophe strikes even closer to home than the previous one. Due to a shared Facebook account (which I think is a terrible idea, wives and husbands sharing the same account) I don't know exactly who is responsible, but... it's not good, folks!

Have you ever seen these invented dialogues, and then at the end they ask "And do you know who said it?" Depending on if you are supposed to love or hate the contents of this made up dialogue, they'll say it was Hitler, Abraham Lincoln, Jesus Christ, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Mother Theresa, Gandhi, a particular politician or... you get the idea.

The awful dialogue I am about to post today also has some other hallmarks of the style. It is a pro-Christian, conservative writing that uses the foil of the Imaginary Obnoxious Atheist Professor. As we all know, academia is full of Obnoxious Atheist Professors who hold students hostage in their classrooms, berating students for their belief in God during whatever the hell it is they teach, often spending significant parts of their classroom time on the subject. Before we get to the main show, let me post a classic example of the genre:

A United States Marine was attending some college courses between assignments. He had completed missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the courses had a professor who was an avowed atheist and a member of the ACLU.
One day the professor shocked the class when he came in, looked to the ceiling, and flatly stated, “God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I’ll give you exactly 15 minutes.”
The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop.
Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, ‘”Here I am God. I’m still waiting.” It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him, knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold.
The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked, stunned, and sat there looking on in silence.
The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, “What the heck is the matter with you? Why did you do that?”
The Marine calmly replied, “God was too busy today protecting American soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff and act like an idiot. So, He sent me.”
So yeah... many of us have already seen that one. Sadly, I think my own father received it and keeps it somewhere in his "funny stories" file. I'm an atheist myself, so naturally I find peoples' smug satisfaction with this invented story creepy as hell and completely alienating. Its glorification of violence against atheists. All of the logical wrongness about God being too busy protecting righteous American soldiers, and the creepy in-group vs. out-group tribal nature of the whole thing. The idea that the ACLU and their defense of civil rights is somehow... anti-American. That people are so genuinely taken in by this comically caricatured image of the atheist liberal "villain", some people actually believing it is a true story and not just a convenient straw man.

When it is just vaguely "people out there" passing this stuff around and enjoying it, it sucks, but isn't so bad. When the people reading and enjoying this are members of your own family... that sucks pretty hard. It destroys something. Another Social Catastrophe. On to the next example, taken from Facebook only 1 day ago:

Professor : You are a Christian, aren’t you, son ?
Student : Yes, sir.
Professor: So, you believe in GOD ?
Student : Absolutely, sir.
Professor : Is GOD good ?
Student : Sure.
Professor: Is GOD all powerful ?
Student : Yes.
Professor: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to GOD to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But GOD didn’t. How is this GOD good then? Hmm?
(Student was silent.)
Professor: You can’t answer, can you ? Let’s start again, young fella. Is GOD good?
Student : Yes.
Professor: Is satan good ?
Student : No.
Professor: Where does satan come from ?
Student : From … GOD …
Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Student : Yes.
Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it ? And GOD did make everything. Correct?
Student : Yes.
Professor: So who created evil ?
(Student did not answer.)
Professor: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?
Student : Yes, sir.
Professor: So, who created them ?
(Student had no answer.)
Professor: Science says you have 5 Senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son, have you ever seen GOD?
Student : No, sir.
Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard your GOD?
Student : No , sir.
Professor: Have you ever felt your GOD, tasted your GOD, smelt your GOD? Have you ever had any sensory perception of GOD for that matter?
Student : No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.
Professor: Yet you still believe in Him?
Student : Yes.
Professor : According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says your GOD doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student : Nothing. I only have my faith.
Professor: Yes, faith. And that is the problem Science has.
Student : Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Professor: Yes.
Student : And is there such a thing as cold?
Professor: Yes.
Student : No, sir. There isn’t.
(The lecture theater became very quiet with this turn of events.)
Student : Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.
(There was pin-drop silence in the lecture theater.)
Student : What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Professor: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?
Student : You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and its called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it is, well you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?
Professor: So what is the point you are making, young man ?
Student : Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Professor: Flawed ? Can you explain how?
Student : Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good GOD and a bad GOD. You are viewing the concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing.
Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?
Professor: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.
Student : Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?
(The Professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument was going.)
Student : Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor. Are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?
(The class was in uproar.)
Student : Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?
(The class broke out into laughter. )
Student : Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?
(The room was silent. The Professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable.)
Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.
Student : That is it sir … Exactly ! The link between man & GOD is FAITH. That is all that keeps things alive and moving.
I believe you have enjoyed the conversation. And if so, you’ll probably want your friends / colleagues to enjoy the same, won’t you?
Forward this to increase their knowledge … or FAITH.
By the way, that student was EINSTEIN.
Just fucking kill me. The level of discourse in this one reminds me of a young child pretending to play house, except a child usually has a more accurate view of how a household runs than the author of this has of philosophical debate. Aside from the fact there is a 50/50 chance this is my sibling posting this... I mean... The tragedy about this level of dialogue is that, on one level it is insulting to our collective intelligence to even spend the time going over each part and how wrong it is. On the other hand, the fact that these keep popping up, from people we know and fucking love, proves that it is not obvious to people very important in our lives that this is such bullshit. The easy response is to think this is funny, and to fall back into mocking these people while huddled with your sane pack of friends. All of that is a coping mechanism.

You are my family. I want to respect your brains. I don't want to cringe at this foolishness you are stating in public. Maybe I've crossed the line in even talking about it. Fortunately, I found something on the internet to put my mind at ease.
It's okay, man. Everything is gonna be just fine. -- EINSTEIN
Thanks, Al. That helps a lot.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Public Drama: Aspect of the Social Catastophe

In today's entry to the Social Catastrophe we discuss Public Drama! The kind of drama I am discussing is the variety we all encountered in High School, or perhaps at a drunken party, or a mother/father dealing poorly with an unruly child. Sometimes people think their drama is private on the internet... but you can never rely too much on that, as this hilarious recent example shows:

Michael Shannon Reads the Insane Delta Gamma Sorority Letter

We all have emotional difficulties in our lives, but how you react in public is going to affect your reputation. Social media has the power to change what may have been an ill-advised outburst witnessed by few into one noticed by everyone you know, on to the internet at large.

With that in mind... let's see what my next door neighbor is posting!


Oh my! Someone's teenage daughter is very angry. Well, emotions run high when you are an adolescent and we all had our share of embarrassing emotional outbursts. Luckily for us older folks, we didn't have the internet there so everyone could witness us losing our shit publicly like this! Wait a minute though...  My neighbor is a grown woman in her mid-30s. She has a 16 year old daughter of her own?!?! Jerry Springer reality. Now, admittedly, this Facebook post was from quite a while ago. Let's check in and see how she is doing this week. With age comes wisdom, they say:

RUMOR IS: I got my A$$ beat Sat.......... Sorry, but when someone Cracks a bar glass over the back of your head unexpectedly that is a COWARD move. Never saw it coming. Then the B**** tells people she cut her hands on the dishes, PLEASE. You want the truth, i have it!!! Stop Talking smack!!! To the B**** who was on a "date" at the bar when you have a husband and kids at home!!! KARMA KARMA KARMA

Clearly we have some improvement here! Let us count the ways:

  1. This post is not in all caps. I think we can say that represents an increased sophistication, and an expressive dynamic range that was lacking in the first example.
  2. There is some effort to self-censor the swear words in this post. That adds a touch of class and maturity.
  3. Has she found Hinduism or Buddhism? We find a trend of increased interest in the concept of karma. Perhaps she has taken up a meditative process, and that is responsible for her dramatic gains in self control? Interesting hypothesis!
This is another member of my community. She lives within easy walking distance of my house. Each person I find like this in my community contributes to the Social Catastrophe. The Social Catastrophe is that I want out. An increased sense of alienation, alleviated only by retreating to an oasis of sanity for a few hours, maybe 1 or 2 days a week. I would love to feel like I lived in a sane world, in a community I was proud of nearly every day.

That would be awesome.

Gun Rights and Wrongs

Earlier this week I got a friend request from someone who shared 7 mutual friends with me on Facebook. I'm sure I could find her in an old high school yearbook if I was so inclined. I wonder what change her presence will bring to my Facebook feed? It could be anything! It could be beautiful and amazing! Is this that long lost person from High School who has gone on to greatness? Maybe they are witty and make quirky observations. I'm always up for a bit more of that in my life.

Oh, wait...
Oh no...

"Your new friend shared Patriots 4 Gun Rights's Photo"

Oh my... I... I... No. I... umm...

This inaugural case so perfectly captures the Social Catastrophe. Before the prevalence of social media it was easy to tell myself little lies. Something like this isn't normal. This is the kind of thing that is freakish and would show up on the ol' Jerry Springer show. The rest of society has its quirks, but hey, we're all somewhere in the ballpark of rational, right? I'm going to presume that is the case, and that way we can all respect each other and our differences of opinion, knowing we are each grappling with the world the best we can. Now I feel differently. Jerry Springer wasn't a freak show. We live in a Jerry Springer reality.

So, not everyone reading this may necessarily know my views. Let us proceed to Break Down Time!

I have opinions on Gun Control, but they barely factor into the horror that is this picture. If you must know, there are gun control measures I think are silly and for show, yet others I think could reasonably help. I would love for the U.S. to have a non-crazy rate of homicide compared to other countries, and if that can be done with programs addressing underlying issues and we don't need any gun control at all, great! Also, my default inclination is towards maximum personal liberty if at all reasonably possible.

That out of the way, some basic facts...

  • The Native Americans suffered a massive genocide, at least this picture isn't denying that. This is perhaps the only positive thing to be said.
  • Given the date and number of casualties mentioned, this seems to be referencing the Wounded Knee Massacre. This massacre did not occur in a school.
  • The government ordered their weapons relinquished and burned. Most but not all complied.
And now... why is this completely nuts?
  • I'm just going to say, co-opting the genocide of a race for your pet political issue is... well, I don't like to say "offensive", especially as I am not Native American and don't need to take offense on someone else's behalf, but I think I can at least say it is tacky as fuck! I could probably come up with an equally offensive analogy in an attempt to show you just how tasteless this maneuver is, but: a.) I am not convinced you would find it offensive and b.) The mental exercise would be damaging to my sanity.
  • The idea that the reason the Native Americans suffered genocide, and were victims of the Wounded Knee Massacre was because they gave up their guns is in itself completely bat-shit insane. The Native Americans were decimated by disease and faced a technologically superior opponent. By the time of this massacre, they had been herded from one reservation to the next. They did not have a war machine where they were manufacturing arms and ammo to resist the U.S. Government. The fact that I'm even having to say this to an adult with a functioning brain is a devastating commentary on the sorry state of our society. North America was once 100% Native American.  It is now less that 1% so.  There were Native Americans that tried to fight. It wasn't even close. 290 Native American men, women and children vs. 500 cavalry in the U.S. Army in 1890 was never going to change that.
  • The other implication of this image is that, if we give up any right or agree to any compromise on the use or ownership of guns, we too could suffer just like the Native Americans did. I'm sure there is a reasonable point someone could make that is somewhere near the universe of this implication... but no reasonable person is going to be able to unravel the fucked up logic, odd-ball conspiracy theory, confused cluster of wrong that riddles this awful, awful analogy.  You might as well be talking about the Tibetans vs. the god damned Illuminati you fucking fruit-cake!
And so... I could go on and on about how wrong this all is, but sometimes there are so many level of wrong it is hard not to be shocked into silence. Total "Oh my God, What the Fuck?" silence.  I believe that rational debate about the Gun Control issue is possible. Posts like this are so credibility destroying, however, that it just deals staggering damage to your side of the debate.

Also, on a personal level, I can only think "These are the kinds of people living in my community." Honestly, that shit scares the fuck out of me. Please, someone, make it better.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Welcome to the Social Catastrophe

I remember 1994. It was the year of my High School graduation. My senior year began with the "September that never ended". While my father had connected to a couple BBSs in his time, this was really the beginning of the internet for so many of us. I've loved the internet ever since.

The promise of the internet... to connect you with people who share your interests around the world, to house the world's knowledge, to let you track down and buy almost anything your heart desires regardless of how niche it is. Wikipedia, Google Maps, Amazon, YouTube,, Massively Multi-player Online Gaming, On Demand streaming of all of the music and movies you could ever want... it's all been pretty amazing and great. Then, individuals with their great opportunities to express themselves thanks to Blogs, and then later... Social Media sites such as the old MySpace and Facebook.

Your enjoyment of Social Media is in large part determined by how well you curate your list of "Friends" on these sites. Also, just the format and structure of these sites has a pretty strong influence on the types of dialog you'll find people engaged in. I currently have GPlus, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and on two of them I have been pretty selective in who I've added as a contact/friend. The other one is Facebook. On Facebook I accept friend requests from anyone that can in any way be traced to me through people I may know. This gives my feed a local flavor, as it consists of a variety of people who went to my High School and branches out from there, and I still live in the same town.

Before the internet, depending on how social you were, you tended to know a certain selection of mostly local people and had a feel for their opinions, but generally people apply a filter in face to face interactions that moderated this effect. On the internet people are often more open with their opinions, but you are free to select what sources you are getting your news and opinions from. This can put you in a cocoon where you are shielded from the absolute insanity that is "normal, everyday people". My Facebook feed has taught me a harsh lesson:

People: We are fucked.

I know I am far from alone.  Daily, we put faces to palms and despair. This blog is my therapy. Sometimes I feel buried and alone among a sea of wrong and pitchforks, trapped in a nightmarish Twilight Zone reality until I get the opportunity to let go with friends on the weekend.  Here I analyze, vent and wonder just what the hell people are thinking.  How did we get here?

Welcome to the Social Catastrophe.