Elisabeth Sladen, actress who played Sarah Jane Smith on “Doctor Who”, passes away.

Well my afternoon just took a major downturn:

Elisabeth Sladen dies, aged 63 – Digital Spy

Elisabeth Sladen has passed away at the age of 63.

The actress is best known for portraying Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures. The cause of death is not yet clear.

Just as Tom Baker was the Doctor that got me started on watching Doctor Who all those years ago, Sarah Jane Smith was the first companion I got to know. When she returned to reprise the role in the new series with David Tennant as The Doctor, it finally made the show feel like a real continuation for me. Not to mention it was great to see her take on the role in the Sarah Jane Adventures spin-off that was developed for her after her new series appearance.

I don’t normally get upset over the death of a celebrity, but I have a lot of fond memories from my childhood of watching The Doctor and Sarah as they traveled through time and space. So I’m feeling this one a bit more than usual.

Thanks for the great memories Sarah Jane.

Sarah Jane Smith and The Doctor

OK, the Charlie Sheen “Winning” meme has officially gone too far.

Driving into work the other day I spotted the following on a billboard along the freeway for a church in Plymouth Michigan:

Pic of NorthRidge Church billboard.

First time I saw it I thought it said "whining", which totally changes the meaning.

I understand the Christian desire to co-opt anything that’s remotely popular into a means of church recruitment is overwhelming for a lot of Christians, but is Charlie Sheen really the sort of person you want to be “borrowing” from?

Thoughts on “rape humor” and “rape culture.”

I’m probably going to stir up a shit storm with this entry, but, what the hell, It’s been awhile since I’ve done that.

I’ve been following the uproar over a Penny Arcade comic strip that appeared back in August with some interest. For those of you who are not fans of both video games and webcomics, Penny Arcade is a webcomic (natch) by and about gamers that is often crass, crude, offensive, and hugely popular with its target audience. In the 13 or so years it has been around it has grown into a new media phenomena that has spawned a twice-a-year video game convention that regularly sells out and a children’s charity that raises millions to provide sick kids in children’s hospitals toys and games.  Love it or hate it, what writer Jerry Holkins and illustrator Mike Krahulik have accomplished is damned impressive when most webcomic creators are lucky just to make a living at it.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Penny Arcade in part because I often don’t understand the joke being made — probably because I’m getting old and crotchety — but with as influential as it is I make a point to follow it just the same. Which means that on August 11th last year I saw the following strip, which I’m reproducing here for convenience:

Penny Arcade comic The Sixth Slave.

Copyright 2010 Penny Arcade, Inc. - Click to embiggen.

Being a big MMORPG player myself I easily “got” the joke in this strip, which is that the quests in many MMORPG games have arbitrary goals when you consider the gravity of the subject at hand. In this case the player has been tasked with freeing five slaves and, having done so, is callously apathetic about the plight of the sixth slave who is pleading for his freedom from what is a truly horrible situation. This is something I’ve actually thought about while playing World of Warcraft as there are a number of “free X number of slaves” type quests spread throughout the game. The practical reason why there are always a ton of slaves left in servitude when you finish such a quest is so that other players can also complete the quest at the same time without having to stand around and wait for the slaves you just freed to respawn, but the knowledge of the practical reason for it doesn’t stop you from recognizing how odd it is that you just saved X slaves while leaving the rest to their fate. As an aside, one of the goblin quests in the new expansion is quite similar, but involves you trying to douse the flames of fellow goblins that have been set ablaze. When you reach your goal there are still lots of goblins running around on fire screaming their little goblin lungs out, which is even more disturbing to ponder. Given that context, I found the above strip to be not only funny, but pretty spot on.

If you’ve not taken the time to read the strip then you may be wondering what the uproar might be about. The catalyst is in the second panel wherein the slave is explaining to the player his horrible situation with the following text: “Every morning, we are roused by savage blows. Every night, we are raped to sleep by Dickwolves.” This caught the attention of self-described feminist Shaker Milli A who proceeded the next day to write a post titled Rape is Hilarious, Part 53 in an Ongoing Series. I suggest reading the whole entry, but here’s a snippet:

When I have a sense of humor, it is a little offbeat. I have liked, for example, Penny Arcade’s comics about the numerous times they’ve killed each other. I have a dark sense of humor, and I’ll admit it.

But unlike Gabe killing Tycho so he doesn’t have to share a video game, a slave being raped is a real thing that happens in the world every day. I don’t find this “joke” funny because, unlike characters cartoonishly killing each other repeatedly and coming back to life, just as in video games, rape isn’t a central feature of (most) games—at least in the actual gameplay, totally aside from the language used by players.

The problem is, I just don’t find rape funny. Because rape survivors exist among us, and after being victimized by rapists, they are revictimized by a society that treats even real rape like a joke, forced to live in a culture that actually has a lot of rape jokes, including those about rape victims being actively denied justice for no other reason than because people don’t take rape seriously. I don’t find rape funny because rape victims are often doubted, mocked, and insulted openly.

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in a family where humor was a big coping mechanism and I can’t recall ever being told that any particular subject was taboo. Which isn’t to say that there weren’t any jokes that ended up being awkward or cringe worthy, just that there wasn’t anything explicitly beyond making an attempt at humor about. If someone’s feelings were hurt by a joke we’d apologize for it as hurting feelings was never the intent. Given that you can probably see why I didn’t have a problem with the PA comic when I read it. That said, I can also understand why someone who has been a victim of rape would find the joke offensive. It is my understanding that many victims suffer from PTSD which can be triggered by being reminded of their ordeal.

The above two events are the beginning of a months-long back-and-forth between Penny Arcade and a number of feminists and rape survivors that is documented with links at Debacle Timeline – The Pratfall of Penny Arcade if you want to read up on all the gory details. In short, the guys at Penny Arcade found themselves being taken to task on Twitter, in emails, and on various blogs and forums over the rape reference in their comic. Their initial reaction was to be defensive and they put out a comic in their usual sarcastic style that apologized if anyone had been turned into a rapist by the previous comic. Needless to say, that didn’t help. Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, where the original complaint was posted, fired back with an entry titled Survivors Are So Sensitive:

Most critics of rape jokes object on one of two bases, neither of which are “your rape joke will directly cause someone to go out and commit a rape.” (That idea is absurd—which is why it’s so appealing to defenders of rape jokes to deliberately misrepresent critics’ arguments in such a fashion.) One criticism is that rape jokes are triggers for survivors of sexual violence (and/or attempted sexual violence). The other is that rape jokes contribute to a rape culture in which rape is normalized.

It’s that second objection that tends to get repackaged as “your rape joke will directly cause someone to go out and commit a rape,” which is, of course, a willful and dishonest simplification of a complex argument. The rape culture is a collection of narratives and beliefs that service the existence of endemic sexual violence in myriad ways, from overt exhortations to commit sexual violence to subtle discouragements against prosecution and conviction for crimes of sexual violence. The rape joke, by virtue of its ubiquity, prominently serves as a tool of normalization and diminishment.

No, one rape joke does not “cause” someone to go out and commit a rape. But a single rape joke does not exist in a void. It exists in a culture rife with jokes that treat as a punchline a heinous, terrifying crime that leaves most of its survivors forever changed in some material way. It exists in a culture in which millions and millions of women, men, and children will be victimized by perpetrators of sexual violence, many of them multiple times. It exists in a culture in which rape not being treated as seriously as it ought means that vanishingly few survivors of sexual violence see real justice, leaving their assaulters free to create even more survivors. It exists in a culture in which rape is not primarily committed by swarthy strangers lurking in dark alleyways and jumping out of bushes, but primarily by people one knows, who nonetheless fail, as a result of some combination of innate corruption and socialization in a culture that disdains consent and autonomy, to view their victims as human beings deserving of basic dignity.

That is the environment into which a rape joke is unleashed—and one cannot argue “it isn’t my rape joke that facilitates rape” any more than a single raindrop in an ocean could claim never to have drowned anyone.

I apologize for the length of that quote, but I thought it was important to provide as much context as I could. At this point I think it’s clear to see why this blew up into such a firestorm. The folks at Penny Arcade don’t consider the comic to be a rape joke because rape was never the point of the strip, it was just something horrible they tossed in to highlight the absurdity of the arbitrary goal of freeing only 5 slaves. Meanwhile, the other side — and this is entirely my impression here — seem to feel that any joke that has the word rape in it is a “rape joke” regardless of what the point of the joke happens to be.

As someone who has been guilty of being insensitive and offensive himself, my initial reaction is to come down on the side of the guys from Penny Arcade. While I can see how their reaction to the complaints was probably not in their best interests, I can also understand their defensiveness over it as I’ve been there myself. But I will also admit that this is the first time I’ve come across the concept of “rape culture” so I took the time to read what Melissa McEwan had to say about what rape culture is. It’s a long entry that appears to implicate pretty much every aspect of popular culture as being part of Rape Culture, but the part that’s most applicable to the discussion at hand is this:

Rape culture is rape jokes. Rape culture is rape jokes on t-shirts, rape jokes in college newspapers, rape jokes in soldiers’ home videos, rape jokes on the radio, rape jokes on news broadcasts, rape jokes in magazines, rape jokes in viral videos, rape jokes in promotions for children’s movies, rape jokes on Page Six (and again!), rape jokes on the funny pages, rape jokes on TV shows, rape jokes on the campaign trail, rape jokes on Halloween, rape jokes in online content by famous people, rape jokes in online content by non-famous people, rape jokes in headlines, rape jokes onstage at clubs, rape jokes in politics, rape jokes in one-woman shows, rape jokes in print campaigns, rape jokes in movies, rape jokes in cartoons, rape jokes in nightclubs, rape jokes on MTV, rape jokes on late-night chat shows, rape jokes in tattoos, rape jokes in stand-up comedy, rape jokes on websites, rape jokes at awards shows, rape jokes in online contests, rape jokes in movie trailers, rape jokes on the sides of buses, rape jokes on cultural institutions

Rape culture is people objecting to the detritus of the rape culture being called oversensitive, rather than people who perpetuate the rape culture being regarded as not sensitive enough.

In short, if you try to be funny about rape you’re a rape apologist. As far as Melissa is concerned, it is a taboo topic for joviality.

Now the reason this got me to thinking is because, as I said previously, I didn’t have a problem with the PA comic when I read it. It never occurred to me that the slave saying he’s “raped to sleep by Dickwolves” was meant to poke fun at being raped, and I still don’t think it was meant in that manner. I am painfully aware, on this issue as well as many other sensitive topics, that I am very much the “privileged norm” in terms of being a Middle Aged White Heterosexual Male which instantly makes my opinion on any of those topics subject to dismissal by default by some factions. I am also not a rape victim and even though I have people very close to me who are, that doesn’t mean I understand what it’s like to live through.

I find myself pausing to consider: Am I a rape apologist because I didn’t have a problem with the PA comic? I consider rape to be vile and repulsive. An act I have trouble fathoming how someone could commit on another human being. I believe rapists should be treated as the predators they are and punished accordingly. I have similar beliefs and feelings in regards to torture, murder, and any of a number of other heinous acts. Does the fact that I sometimes find amusement in jokes about torture or murder make me an apologist for those terrible crimes? If I am to accept the reasoning of Mellisa then it must be so.

So what, then, should I think of this bit by The Daily Show on the Republican attempt to redefine rape to eliminate taxpayer funded abortions:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Rape Victim Abortion Funding
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

Unlike the Penny Arcade comic, the folks at The Daily Show are clearly joking about rape in an effort to highlight the absurdity of the Republican legislation. You can clearly hear that more than one of the jokes makes the audience uneasy and they’re not sure if they should laugh or not.  Quite a few of the statements made by Kristen Schaal are easily way more offensive than the Penny Arcade comic, but does anyone really think she’s seriously advocating the position she’s parodying?

I also found this bit to be both funny and strong denunciation of the attempt to change the law regarding abortions for rape victims, but if I am to accept the logic being made against the folks at Penny Arcade then Jon Stewart is easily deserving of the same condemnation. More so, in fact, as rape was the punchline to many of the jokes whereas it was not in the PA strip. Yet there isn’t any word about the bit over at Shakesville. I suppose it’s possible it just hasn’t come to their attention yet.

In the end I will say that I think the guys at Penny Arcade did dig themselves a hole with their responses to their critics. While I understand their initial defensiveness,  they did move into the realm of complete assholeness by putting Go Team Dickwolves t-shirts and sports pennants in their store. It’s probably not the move I would have made, but then I’m not them. They have a lot they’ve built up over the years that could be affected negatively by such tactics, but that’s a price they appear willing to pay. That said, I did find the t-shirts funny.

As for the folks that are upset over the comic, while I can sympathize that it’s probably very painful to be reminded of what they’ve been through, I still come down on the side that no topic is taboo for attempts at humor. Perhaps that does make me a Rape Apologist, but given how expansive their definition of Rape Culture is, I don’t see how it’s possible not to be. That said, they have every right to be heard and their opinions considered. They have some valid points and I think we would all do well to stop and consider the topic. It would probably have helped their cause, however, if their initial reaction hadn’t been so hostile. I understand it’s a highly emotional topic, but that approach is just going to result in the targets being defensive as they were in this case. Clearly the PA guys were not advocating for rape and to insist otherwise does nothing to win them over to your side of the argument.

What popular movies do you just don’t get?

Pic of Big Lebowski movie poster.

The Big Wha???

And when I say “just don’t get” I mean you don’t understand what the big fucking deal is? You know the sort I’m talking about: Everyone you know has seen it and thinks it’s the most incredible/deeply philosophical/emotionally moving/amazingly subtle story they’ve ever seen. Then you watch it and all you can manage at the end of it is a great big “meh.” Or worse, a “what the fuck was THAT supposed to be about?”

I’m asking because I have a number of movies that fall into that category and I was reminded of it by a tweet from Godless Girl about The Big Lebowski in which she announced that she’s watching it for the first time ever. I saw it quite some time ago. Hell, I’ve watched it more than once because every time I do I still don’t get it. Apparently I’m not entirely alone as the movie flopped domestically when it was released, but since then it has become a cult classic spawning Lebowski Fests in various cities starting back in 2002. We all know someone who thinks it’s the most amazing movie ever and quoting The Dude is practically a compulsion among those sorts of people. I don’t think my inability to grasp it’s supposed wonderfulness is because it’s a Coen Brothers film as I loved Fargo which they also did. It’s also not an issue of not being able to follow the plot as multiple viewings have made it quite clear. I just don’t understand its appeal.

Another movie that I just don’t get is Pulp Fiction. In part I think that’s because the first time I saw the trailer for it it confused me and I thought the movie had two versions of John Travolta in it. The scene where they confront the young adults who had the briefcase had a guy in it that, in the quick edits of the trailer, I thought was a younger John Travolta who appeared to be being threatened by an older John Travolta and it confused the shit out of me. I mean it didn’t look like a science fiction movie so where’d the time travel come from? Of course it wasn’t a younger Travolta I was seeing, but that misconception didn’t help when I finally did see it. Then the non-linear nature of the story telling didn’t help with the comprehension either. I still can’t tell you what the hell it was supposed to be about.

Unlike TBL, Pulp Fiction was critically acclaimed and every time I tell someone that I don’t get it they look at me like I just said I don’t understand how to tie my own shoes. Again there are plenty of other films by Tarantino that I’ve enjoyed immensely and had no problem understanding the appeal, but PF just leaves me scratching my head. The one issue of endless speculation among fans is what was the glowing thing in the brief case. Personally, I couldn’t care less what the hell it was supposed to be and, according to Tarantino, it was simply a plot device and wasn’t ever meant to be anything in particular.

So how about you? What popular or cult movies do you just not get? I can’t be the only one who has a few head scratchers in his past.

Anne Rice declares she’s not a Christian. Still believes in Christ, just isn’t a Christian.

Yeah, I’m still trying to wrap my head around how that works if the central definition of being a Christian is believing in Christ. Of course you can start all manner of arguments among the believers by trying to nail down a definition of what a Christian is. It can be endlessly amusing if you’re bored.

Rice apparently made the announcement on her Facebook page:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

As I said [above], I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

[…] My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.

I stumbled across this over at Alan Colmes’ Liberaland and, while I’m not an Anne Rice fan by any stretch of the imagination, thought it was interesting in terms of another thread we have going here on SEB titled: A Christian asks; “I’m the bad guy?  How did that happen?” Clearly she feels that associating with Christianity makes her look bad and so she’s decided to quit the religion itself while keeping the faith in the mythical deity at its heart. I tried to do a couple of Google searches to see if there’s a growing trend of people who believe in Christ but don’t consider themselves to be Christian, but I wasn’t able to find anything with the search terms I tried.

According to her Wikipedia entry Rice was raised as a Roman Catholic and she left the church when she was 18 only to return to the fold after the death of her husband, who was apparently a passionate atheist.  However she disagreed with the Church on a number of issues including gay marriage, abortion, birth control, and priestly celibacy and allowing women to become priests. One might assume that the cognitive dissonance involved in being Roman Catholic while at the same time holding these beliefs that run counter to Church teachings may have played a rolled in her decision to declare herself an un-Christian.

I am particularly intrigued by her statement that she refuses “to be anti-secular humanism” as secular humanism is, by definition, nonreligious espousing no belief in a realm or beings imagined to transcend ordinary experience. How you can be a secular humanist believer in Christ is beyond me, but apparently she considers herself to be just that.

I tried doing a Google search to see if there’s a trend of people believing in Christ but refusing to call themselves Christian, but I was unable to come up with anything based on the search terms I tried. Based on the number of commenters on Rice’s FB page who expressed similar feelings, however, I’d suspect that it is indeed a growing trend. One person even said: “I think we should start a non-Christians for Christ group.”

It’ll be interesting to see where she goes next with this. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she once again ends up as an atheist. Some people cycle back and forth throughout their lives as they struggle to figure out what they believe.

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart does Chatroulette.

If you’ve never heard of Chatroulette then this will be a pretty good primer, as well as uproariously funny:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Tech-Talch – Chatroulette
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Reform

I’m actually quite surprised at all the attention Chatroulette is receiving. As soon as I heard of it I knew there’d be tons of guys broadcasting their dicks to the world — a phenomena I’ve never really understood — because it happens on just about every other video chat network out there as well. For awhile Microsoft’s Netmeeting was a fairly popular avenue for dick broadcasting and that was years ago. I suppose the one big difference here is that you can surprise random people with your schlong for the lulz of seeing their reactions. (I find myself amused that I don’t have to link to a definition of “schlong” but felt the need to link to one for “lulz”.)

I often wonder if there are females out there who do anything similar. On those rare occasions that I’ve ventured into a video chat room of one kind or another I came across lots of guys proudly displaying their wangs for all the world to see, but I can’t recall ever coming across some random female broadcasting her hoo-ha to whomever happened along. Occasionally I’d happen upon boobs, yes, but never a fun basket. Is it just too scary looking at the low-bandwidth resolutions afforded by a webcam or is there some line that most women have decided they won’t cross that most men have long ago left behind in the dust? A question for the ages, I’m sure.

All that said, there are some folks doing some interesting and amusing things with Chatroulette out on the net. Like the guy who dresses up as Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe and tries to find a Valentine:

Then there’s the woman who decided to see what would happen if she fed the incoming video feed from Chatroulette back into itself so when you connected with her it looked like you had connected with yourself. She condensed some five hours of amused, surprised, and confused reactions down into this video:

For those wondering, it took a couple seconds for the feed to cycle back which is why the reactions are a tad delayed.

So obviously there’s more you can do with Chatroulette than just prove to the world that you have a cock and it’s these other experiments that I find much more interesting. Any douchebag can drop his pants in front of his webcam. These folks are being creative.

Big Plans for Gen Con Indy 2010

Akusai from Action Skeptics here, folks. Well, ladies and gentlemen, plans for a symposium of reality-based programming at Gen Con Indy 2010 are coming together faster than I could have imagined. Some of you may remember that back in September Les was kind enough to allow me to post A Call to Skeptical Action, wherein I detailed my preliminary hopes and plans for Gen Con (i.e. trying to get a Dragon*Con style Skeptic Track going), and I’m back to beg your indulgence again for an update on those plans.

First off, we have a dedicated blog: Gen Con Skeptics. Everything I’m about to tell you here is covered in greater detail there, so it’s worth stopping by. I’m constantly adding new material, so click early and often.

Our plans, as of now, include half a dozen presentations covering various skeptical topics and delivered by a bunch of different people. We’ll be educating the Gen Con population on archaeology, evolution, and cargo cults, and we’re staging two different iterations of a four-man panel called “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture,” for which we’re prepping basic information on almost twenty different woo-woo and pseudoscientific topics and letting the audience decide what we talk about.

Perhaps the biggest deal of all, however, is the fundraiser we’ll be running to benefit the Indiana Immunization Coalition. I spoke last week with the director of the IIC, and she’s very excited that we’re offering to raise money for them. They plan to put all proceeds toward new educational and informational programs in an effort to counter misinformation about vaccines spread by the antivaccination movement.

I don’t have the details finalized with Gen Con yet, but I have a scheduled phone call to make tomorrow afternoon with their Marketing Director to do just that. She, too, loves the idea, and it looks like we’re going to have a table situated in the Kids and Family section of the exhibit hall, which is almost perfect for our plans. What we’re going to do is trade our amateur magician skills (there are two of us with those skills) for donations based on a “menu” of card tricks, simple close-up magic, and amazing feats of mentalism and cold reading. While we’re doing that, we’re going to distribute information about vaccines and about the Indiana Immunization Coalition, basically what they do and why it’s important. We’re going to back up the fundraiser with a couple of pro-vax presentations that will combine good immunization information, counters to common antivax claims, and PR for the IIC and their mission.

We don’t have any so-called “Big Name” skeptics coming to the event, but hopefully with a good showing this year, we can attract people in the future. I do have a proposal into the fine ladies at Skepchick, but I’m not promising anything. I also have an e-mail out to Mike Stackpole, bestselling sci-fi author and founder of the Phoenix Skeptics, who was kind enough to meet with us last year and offer advice. Who knows? He might want to give a talk, too.

All in all, this year’s Gen Con Indy is shaping up to be a big win for grassroots skepticism. We have educational outreach, audience involvement, and a fantastic opportunity to help raise vaccine awareness and bolster Indiana’s pathetic immunization rates. If anybody is going to be in the Indianapolis area on August 5-8, we’d love to have you drop by. If anyone’s interested in joining our little dog-and-pony show, we’d love to have you. Event submission for Gen Con doesn’t end until mid-March, so we have until then to add programming to our schedule.

If you don’t want to talk or run an event, we still do need volunteers to help out with the fundraiser. The rest of us can’t man the table all day and still do our own presentations, and we’d like to enjoy the con at some point, too. If we get a decent rotating roster of people haranguing the masses for donations while supplying them with accurate information about vaccines, we can all take part in what I’ve just now decided to call “Vaccination Win 2010” and have a good time at the con, too.

And, though I did note his (perhaps conspicuous) silence on this note when last I posted here, I still think that Mine Host Mr. Les Jenkins hisownself should come down to Gen Con for the festivities. Join me in bothering him until he says yes, would you kindly?

As before, you can visit the planning forum, leave a comment at the blog, use the contact form, or just drop me an e-mail at causticbox[at]gmail[dot]com. Hope to see some people there!

Frontline looks at the “Digital Nation.”

I like to consider myself to be a wired individual, but even though I grew up alongside the technology that is now commonplace these days I am nowhere near as wired as some of the kids who have never known anything other than the highly digital world we have today.

I’m not even that good at multitasking. If I’m doing something I’m usually doing that one thing to the exclusion of anything else. Be it writing a blog post, chatting in IM, playing a game, or talking on the phone. I think I’ve sent a total of a dozen texts on my phone in my entire life. I don’t own a smartphone. Occasionally I’ll talk on the phone while driving or do a little IM chat while working on a blog post, but I usually end those conversations quickly so I can get back to concentrating on the primary task at hand. I’ve never had a lengthy, pointless conversation on my cell while driving. It’s too distracting. About the best I can do is listen to the radio while driving or talking to a passenger.

Compared to some of the kids I know today that makes me a total Luddite. Every time a break come around at work the kiosk computers are filled instantly with people checking their Facebook pages while chatting on IM and eating a snack. They’d have their cellphones out if it were for the fact that they’re banned from the building and some of them go out to their cars to get around that restriction.

This is why I found the following episode of Frontline so interesting. In it they take a look at how all these highly wired and constantly multitasking people are affected by the technology they’ve so immersed themselves in. How is it affecting them socially and physically? What’s it doing to their brains? How’s it affect their relationships? How will it all change the way the world works?

As per usual with Frontline, this is a very balanced bit of journalism that points out the pros and cons. In the end they don’t draw any conclusions one way or the other, but simply look at where things are headed and what it might mean. We’re going to lose some things along the way, but we will gain others.

The episode airs tonight on your local PBS station, or you can watch it here as I’ve embedded all nine chapters in this entry. The first is below and the rest are after the jump. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on it if you take the time to watch it.

Continue reading

Feel the True Believer love!

Hoo boy, it’s amazing the kind of uproar that new-fangled Twitter thingy can cause. It seems earlier today the words “No God” became what the Twitterettes call a “Trending Topic” and all hell broke loose. Theists were confused, upset, outraged, and horrified that the phrase “No God” could be the number one trending topic. Meanwhile us atheists were quite amused at the ruckus it was causing and some of the stunning tweets it was generating from the True Believers™.

The common assumption among the theists was that this was all due to us nasty atheists out on a God bashing spree, but the truth is it all got started when someone posted that cloying cliche: “No God, No Peace, Know God, Know Peace.” Apparently Twitter has a funky way of determining what the relevant words in a tweet are and, as the phrase was repeatedly retweeeted by the faithful, it made “No God” a trending topic. Which then led to what is the other amusing aspect of this thread: The numerous clueless TBs who kept posting tweets such as this one:

@TechNoteDaGreat How did no god become a tt

I can answer that. In part it happened because a lot of clueless Twats Twits Tweeters kept asking how it became a Trending Topic. Every time one of these morons used the words “No God” in their tweets asking how it became a trending topic they helped to bolster that trend. Many of the outraged felt they should do something to knock it from the top spot yet they kept using the words “No God” in their tweets thus helping to ensure it stayed number one. You’d think the logic of this would be self-evident, but it left many TBers confused and angry.

Personally I had a great time watching the thread grow and taking potshots at some of the more stupid arguments being tossed into the fray. Pascal’s wager, which I saw stated in hip-hop terms for the first time ever, was a popular one as was the “without God there’s no purpose, no love, no blah blah blah” line of reasoning. Which isn’t to say they didn’t have anything new that I hadn’t heard before. For example. did you know that God is the reason you wake up in the morning? It’s true! According to many TBers who say it ain’t the alarm clock that wakes your sorry ass up, but God. ***Dave asked if that meant he could blame God if he overslept and was late to work. Sounds logical to me. A comment that probably would’ve gotten him lumped in with us Godless heathens had he not sent it straight to me.

Anyway, the point I wanted to get to is this: I’m sometimes accused of being overly harsh or rude to the True Believers™ when they come around. I’m told I am disrespectful and intolerant and that I should be more like the even-handed Christians I’m accused of bashing. I always find that amusing when I come across tweets like the following which I’ve placed after the jump to tidy things up.

These are presented here in all their original glory with no alterations from me save a couple of spaces here and there for legibility.

@TeamJuliony FYI, if there was no God, I wouldnt of met Julian 3 times, or all the other celebs I did & i would of killed myself yrs ago

@TeamJuliony: (in reply to) @lesjenkins Have a nice time burning in hell. And for the record, MIND YOUR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS, SATAN.

@KymberlyReneeJ If there is No God WOW you athiest have gone 2 an all time high of disrespect Y don’t yall go play russian roulette with a fully loaded GUN

@prettii_black RT @BigSDot That no God topic is pissing me off #yesgod #yesgod #yesgod #yesgod, damn atheist! < -TELL EM!

@cantdoitlikemee RT @betty_newmoon May God’ve mercy on those hu r sayin No God <

< I concur. People are fucking stupid these days!!! >

:/

@itsqianajones I am truely disappointed that No God is a Trending Topic. It’s Sad. Dumbass Athiests.

@Blackanesebbyy i’m assuming all the ppl who say there is No God are white supremacist as well. smh.

@melmerbay Wow the trending topic about no god makes me want to cry, hope all the non believers burn in hell, I say that with love.

no god….NO gOD.. you disgust me you non believers! to hell with all of you (via @AJK92) No god? what is this fuckery? o_0(via @klssothl89)

You can find more examples of True Believer love here.

Truth is I’ve been spoiled by the folks who visit SEB. We don’t tend to get too many of these sorts of True Believers™ by the site much these days—which is probably for the best as it’d be like shooting fish in a barrel—so when I encounter them elsewhere I’m always amazed at the simplicity of their arguments. Of course Twitter is hardly conducive to a decent debate given its 140 character limit on messages, but still you’d hope that the level of discourse would have some thought behind it.

Ultimately Twitter ended up yanking “No God” from the trending topics list because the thread was killing their servers, the Twitter Fail Whale showed up several times, and the service was quickly accused by many of censorship. I doubt that was the reason it was pulled as opposed to simply trying to stay sane in the face of crushing server utilization. It quickly popped back up and they then turned around and merged it with “Know God” which is how it appears in the TT now much to the delight of the Theists who wanted it gone.  One went as far as to claim God, and not Twitter, was responsible for removing “No God” from the Trending Topics list.

Which is another thing that amazes me about Twitter. It’s a great way to remind yourself of the crushing stupidity and gullibility that exists in this country. In my day-to-day life I don’t come across too many True Believers™ and the few I do are usually in a setting where it would be inappropriate to discuss such topics (e.g. at work). Given that my peers are generally of similar point of view it can be easy at times to forget that a lot of people are just plain old idiots. Watching the news will give you a taste, but stepping into a Trending Topic on Twitter will hit you full force with it and really bring the point home. It’s probably good for my sanity that I don’t dip my toes into that end of the gene pool too often.

Because that amount of stupid can leave you with severe burns.

Brad Pitt is one of us! (#Blogathon)

In a recent interview Brad Pitt admitted to being Godless:

Brad Pitt was raised as a Southern Baptist, but apparently, his faith didn’t stick.

The 45-year-old actor doesn’t believe in God, he told Bild.com.

“No, no, no!,” he declared, when asked if he believes in a higher power, or if he was spiritual. “I’m probably 20 percent atheist and 80 percent agnostic. I don’t think anyone really knows. You’ll either find out or not when you get there, until then there’s no point thinking about it.”

Which is just wishy-washy way of him saying he’s an atheist. Not that this proves anything at all beyond Pitt being an atheist, but I like his movies and so it’s cool that he’s a heathen.