Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Peter Jackson's Honorary Doctorate in Zoology


Rewriting Evolutionary Theory*

I'm sitting down to write this an hour after seeing Peter Jackson's King Kong. I didn't like his Lord of the Rings, but that was because I'm a picky bastard who griped that they weren't exactly like the books.

I didn't like King Kong because it was a cinematic abomination. The car ride home from Corydon, where Benji and I saw the movie, takes about a half-hour. We spent the entire ride talking about how bad the movie was, and had no trouble continuing to find things that infuriated us.

The beginning of the film was dull, the characters flat and uninteresting. I had no reason to care about any of them--the only one to have any sort of depth was the lead woman, Ann Darrow, but absolutely nothing was done with it. This was a theme: they would do actions and scenes that would set the stage for a dramatic scene later, but do nothing with it. The film-maker, Carl Denham, was a two-bit sleaze who constantly swindled everyone in his attempt to strike it rich, but no-one ever really got mad at him for it. At one point the first mate of the ship talks about a cabin boy, Jim I think, saying that he was found as a stowaway on the ship, and was described as having been more savage than the caged lions and tigers on the ship. Nothing was done with that, either.

Other reviews talk about Jackson kicking the action into high gear by the second hour, described as "one of the greatest dizzying sprints in cinema history." It wasn't dizzying, nor exciting. It was boring. King Kong wasn't so much a movie as a two-hour chase scene with a set-up tacked on and cheesy dialogue stuffed in. The attacks from giant CG creatures were endless, obviously attempting to fill the movie with tension and drama, but did nothing but take up time that could have been used to add, say, a plot... interpersonal relationships... characterization.... As Benji said, Peter Jackson's meaning in making this film was, "I like making giant CG monsters."

The CG wasn't even all that good. Kong was impressive, sure, and I noticed several imperfections that made him more realistic: scars, bald spots, mats and crud in his fur, missing teeth, and a mangled ear. However, the other CG monsters weren't all that good. They looked funny and moved awkwardly. And I'm sure Jason could explain to me, in detail, just how badly they did Kong anyways.

But the worst part of this movie was that it made no freaking sense, either from an evolutionary, ecological, psychological, structural, ballistic or logical sense. Every creature on Skull Island was enormous, which leads to the obvious question of how their ecosystem works--what do they eat? Well, actually, Peter Jackson answers that... they eat people. And nothing else. Every animal in the movie is a pack animal, attacking their prey in huge droves--and their prey is always the tiny band of humans that manage to stumble onto the island. A handful of dinosaurs are seen hunting other dinosaurs, but when they catch sight of tasty human morsels, they immediately forget the enormous, already-slain carcass in their mouth to go after a tiny human that would be perhaps a mouthful. In fact, three Tyrannosaurs are so determined to get to Ann that they gang up on Kong, fighting him until they die in order to get this tasty little gum-drop. They're not trying to eat the giant monkey battling them, and they're not trying to survive by running away, they're only trying to get past Kong for that tasty, tasty human.

At one point, an endless swarm of giant things--cave crickets/roaches/arthropods of some sorts--are crawling over a band of humans who managed to survive crashing into a giant chasm that Kong threw them down, and the cabin boy Jim picks up a machine gun and manages to shoot them off without so much as nicking the person they were crawling atop. These creatures are but one species of endless swarming things, including bizarre enormous sea-urchin-like creatures, that crawl from the rock for minutes on end but don't attack each other. And yet an hour later, a single man (who has fallen desperately in love with Ann, a relationship that is never fleshed out) manages to trek through the jungle alone, at night, with neither backpack, nor food, nor weapon, nor light, and find the exact spot where Ann & Kong are sleeping without getting killed. At that point, however, they are attacked by swarms of giant bats that look like someone enlarged a bat's body and pasted the head of the Nosferatu onto them.

Early on, Kong crashes through the jungle with Ann in his paw, and yet miraculously manages neither to accidentally crush her, break her spine as he shakes her about like a rag doll, nor brain her against the endless branches. She doesn't even get cut. Kong gets bitten deeply several times by the Tyrannosaurs, without apparently being injured or even bothered, and is at one point shot by the party of men searching for Ann, and doesn't even notice. Yet a single harpoon gun in the leg that barely gets past his fur sends him howling in pain, and the guns of the planes manage to kill him at the end.

A group of savage natives kill a handful of people at the beginning, and then kidnap Ann and give her to Kong, but are never seen again... even when the crew are leading Kong back through their village. They manage to kidnap Ann by pole-vaulting across stones and onto the ship, steal the woman, and get dragged back to the shore by a rope without being dashed against the rocks. During the "sacrifice" scene, flaming liquid flows down an enormous stone wall built by people who wear bones and live in huts made of bundles of sticks. There is no volcano ever shown on the island, no reason to believe they have access to lava or any other kind of cascading, fiery water.

The boat that they take to the island is a small, dirty thing that doesn't seem to have enough room in it for many people. And yet they keep bringing extras (and even named characters!) onto the island to be killed by giant CG monstrosities. I was amazed that they had as many people on the boat as they managed to kill, and yet still had enough of a crew left to: fix a broken ship; rig it to be able to hold an enormous monkey (perhaps Kong didn't really weigh all that much, since he managed to leap on rooftops and walk across frozen ponds without breaking either); drag said enormous monkey onto the boat; and sail the boat back to New York. How they got the boat away from a place filled with fog and in which compasses go haywire is never explained, nor is it explained how they keep Kong docile and caged (and fed)--after they knock Kong out, they simply skip to the Broadway show where he breaks free.

And the (human) love interest for Ann, the play-write Jack Driscoll, was for some reason a super-writer. He was apparently a great athlete, a great shot, could drive a car backwards, quickly, through rush-hour traffic while evading Kong. This was done, by the way, to lure Kong away from the evacuated theater... and into other portions of the city that he probably wouldn't have been destroying otherwise. After they took Kong back to New York and everyone went their separate ways, Jack was regretting not telling Ann how he felt when he had the chance. What changed his mind was a play that he was watching... a play that he wrote. Normally one doesn't get epiphanies from things that one writes.

A complete lack of logic aside, the movie is claimed to be "jaw-dropping, eye-popping, heart-stopping"... and it's not. Oh, it attempts to be, but it fails. The end tries to be endearing, compassionate, heart-breaking, dramatic, and yet ends up trite. The final line, "It was Beauty that killed the Beast", is not the philosophical, inspiring quip that it aspires to be. The romance (both between Ann and Kong as well as between Ann and Jack) is handled in typical Hollywood fashion--two characters meet and both fall in love with each other for no reason at all. I'm sure we're supposed to feel bad for the ape's death, to feel that they're murdering a gentle giant who's been mistaken for a savage beast, but he is a savage beast. The movie makes it quite clear that he is a rampaging, murderous creature who kills everything around him except, for whatever reason, Ann herself (they state that seventeen people died trying to get him, which frankly seems like a very low estimation, and doesn't include the three Tyrannosaurs he messily killed).

I mentioned above that they simply skip the part where they load Kong onto the boat, returning to New York immediately. This skips what could have been the most dramatic and personal part of the movie--the betrayal Ann feels at Kong's treatment, how she leaves the crew, how Preston (Carl's assistant) finally gets fed up and abandons him, etc. But Peter Jackson wouldn't hear of giving his characters depth, not when he can have giant CG monsters attacking them for no reason!

This was the first time a movie was so bad that I seriously considered walking out in the middle of it. But then I would've missed the only good part of the movie: when Kong is rampaging through New York, chasing Jack's car, he finally smashes the car enough to knock Jack out and stop him. The front of the car is torn open, letting Kong see the unconscious Jack, and the beast is ready to kill him... and then he stops. The music changes, and Kong looks into the camera dolefully, apparently thinking: "Wait. If I kill him now... am I any better than they?"

*Thanks to Benji for the title

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Link dump!

GOP Investigated Pres. Clinton’s Cat But Only Plans ‘Oversight’ on Pres. Bush’s Admitted Illegal Spying

Welcome To ScAlito World: Abortion
Welp, I've managed to successfully hook parental units on Veronica Mars.

Next phase of the spell involves them buying me $200 worth of D&D stuff!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Science and the private life of teaspoons

LONDON (Reuters) - Australian scientists have proved what is common knowledge to most people -- that teaspoons appear to have minds of their own.

In a study at their own facility, a group of scientists from the Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health in Melbourne secretly numbered 70 teaspoons and tracked their movements over five months.

Supporting their expectations, 80 percent of the spoons vanished during the period -- although those in private areas of the institute lasted nearly twice as long as those in communal sections.

"At this rate, an estimated 250 teaspoons would need to be purchased annually to maintain a workable population of 70 teaspoons," they wrote in Friday's festive edition of the British Medical Journal.

They said their research proved that teaspoons were an essential part of office life and the rapid rate of disappearance proved that this was under relentless assault.

Regretting that scientific literature was "strangely bereft" of teaspoon-related research, the scientists offered a few theories to explain the phenomenon.

Taking a tip from Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy books, they suggested that the teaspoons were quietly migrating to a planet uniquely populated by "spoonoid" life forms living in a spoonish state of Nirvana.

They also offered the phenomenon of "resistentialism" in which inanimate objects like teaspoons have a natural aversion to humans.

On the other hand, they suggested, people might simply be taking them.

So Bush has been spying on Muslims, gays, and anyone who speaks to people outside our own country.

So what else is new?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

According to an MSNBC live poll, as of this afternoon, 86% of the 90,582 responses were in favor of impeaching Bush.

This of course doesn't really mean anything. But it makes me happy to think about it.
Why the hell is Ann Coulter allowed to publish anything?

Which brings me to this week's scandal about No Such Agency [NSA] spying on "Americans." I have difficulty ginning up much interest in this story inasmuch as I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo.

So y'all know by now that Bush has been spying on Americans. You probably have heard many of the excuses he's offered: it was actually legal, or we need to give up our freedoms or else the terrorists win, or we were only spying on people who were talking to foreigners.

But the best it this:

"The whole key here is agility," he said at a White House briefing before Bush's news conference. According to Hayden, most warrantless surveillance conducted under Bush's authorization lasts just days or weeks, and requires only the approval of a shift supervisor. Hayden said getting retroactive court approval is inefficient because it "involves marshaling arguments" and "looping paperwork around."

Right. "We didn't get approval because then we'd have to explain why this was necessary." Brilliant reasoning.


Purdue just got in a newspaper volume I'd requested via Interlibrary Loan several weeks ago.

I specified in the request that after December 10, I wouldn't want it.

Because they lock up the dorms and kick us all out over winter break. So there's no way I can get it now.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In your face! In your face!

Judge Bars 'Intelligent Design' From Pa. Classes:

A federal judge ruled today that it is unconstitutional for a Pennsylvania school district to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in high school biology courses because intelligent design is a religious viewpoint that advances "a particular version of Christianity."


The judge also excoriated members of the school board in Dover, Pa., who he said lied to cover up their religious motives, made a decision of "breathtaking inanity" and "dragged" their community into "this legal maelstrom with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."


In his opinion, the judge traced the history of the intelligent design movement back to what he said were its roots in Christian fundamentalism. He seemed especially persuaded by the testimony of Barbara Forrest, a historian of science, that the authors of the "Pandas" textbook had removed the word "creationism" from an earlier edition and substituted it with "intelligent design" after the Supreme Court's ruling in 1987.

"We conclude that the religious nature of intelligent design would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child," he said. "The writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity."

And the response of the vapid imbeciles trying to force their narrow-minded evangelical dreck on us?

"A thousand opinions by a court that a particular scientific theory is invalid will not make that scientific theory invalid," said Mr. Thompson, the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest firm in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says it promotes Christian values. "It is going to be up to the scientists who are going to continue to do research in their labs that will ultimately determine that."

It sure would.

If you idiots ever bothered doing lab research instead of going on talk shows and bitching to schools and politicians. the by, it turns out that Judge Jones is a Republican who was appointed by Bush, Jr., and one of whose political sponsors is Rick Santorum. So normally one would refrain from bitching about liberal activist judges.

But the Discovery Institute shan't be swayed from its talking points.

Not only did Judge Jones refer to this specific complaint in his opinion, but I find also this:

[The ruling] has no precedential value at all, and binds nobody who wasn't a party to this case. (Even in the same judicial district, another school board could do the same thing Dover did and a different judge -- or even the same judge -- could rule the opposite way.)

Damn those activist judges!

And Michael Behe, the man who pulled the idea of irreducible complexity out of his ass, was a witness at the trial. He chortled with confidence typical of one who lives in an opiate delusion, foreseeing victory and vindication.

Judge Jones had a somewhat different perspective on his testimony.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Department of Homeland Security agents investigate a college student for checking out a book by Mao Tse-Tung and spending time in other countries

Sunday, December 18, 2005

President says eavesdropping policy is 'vital'

At least he's consistently contemptuous of any "right to privacy".

Saturday, December 17, 2005

There are no words

But wait, there's more!
Viggo Mortensen blasts President Bush

Viggo Mortensen isn’t backing off his stinging critique of George Bush.

The “Lord of the Rings” hottie took some heat for criticizing the president’s policies lately, and in a recent interview, Mortensen is unrepentant.

“I’m not anti-Bush; I’m anti-Bush behavior,” Mortensen told Progressive magazine. “In other words, I’m against cheating, greed, cruelty, racism, imperialism, religious fundamentalism, treason, and the seemingly limitless capacity for hypocrisy shown by Bush and his administration.”

Mortensen also blasted the administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and discussed why he supported anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who has protested the war in Iraq since her son was killed there. “Cindy Sheehan and how badly Katrina was bungled are two shots to the heart,” he said. “I hope the beast does fall down soon."

As mom commented, "Makes the Dixie Chicks seem downright pleasant."
Report: Bush Had More Prewar Intelligence Than Congress

No shit.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

This is nothing new.

This, however, is a new one on me.

[Edit] And surprise, surprise, I get a "Breaking News" e-mail from AP telling me that "WASHINGTON (AP) After months of resistance, President Bush has accepted Sen. John McCain's measure to bar cruel and inhumane treatment of foreign suspects in the war against terror."

Well of course he's accepted it, now that he's completely undermined it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I think this beats your Fantastic Four story, Jason....

Superman's Penis Is Too Big For The Cinema

The new Superman film is turning out to be a bigger challenge then anticipated.

The problem is the size of the new Superman’s manhood…that is, his bulge is too big for cinema audiences.

Producers are worried that Brandon Routh’s packet in the new film may put audiences off as it is massive.

Bosses on the film are considering using digital technology to cover up the lunchbox in the new film ‘Superman Returns’.

Speaking to The Sun, a source said: "It's a major issue for the studio. Brandon is extremely well endowed and they don't want it up on the big screen.

"We may be forced to erase his package with digital effects."

I think they should definitely leave it in…who is with me????


Sunday, December 11, 2005

I was planning on making a post asking if anyone could help me find a copy of Noch etwas über die Menschenrassen (Still More About the Human Races) by Georg Forster.

I was even going to say that, at this point, it wouldn't matter much whether it was in German or English.

Then I found a German copy.

So... anybody got any leads on an English copy?

Bill O'Reilly Speaks Out of Both Sides of His Mouth


It's a day that ends in 'day'

On Friday's Radio Factor, O'Reilly got a caller who was in complete agreement with the "war on Christmas" meme. Recall some of what O'Reilly has said regarding this:

NULMAN: No, no, I don't think it's insane. I think that it's good business practice, actually. And many organizations are trying desperately to be inclusionary. They feel that the use of "Merry Christmas" in their packaging, their bags, their messages, their environment is just the opposite. It's exclusionary to the 15 or 20 percent of the customer base that is not Christian.

O'REILLY: And you agree with that?

NULMAN: I do, from a marketing standpoint.

O'REILLY: See, I think you're, I think you're crazy.


NULMAN: "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays," Bill, does not offend Christians.

O'REILLY: Yes, it does. It absolutely does. And I know that for a fact.

So when this caller explains that when he went to an Olive Garden and the waitress told him "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", he wanted to hit her and did not leave a tip, O'Reilly sang his encomia, right?

Not exactly.

O'REILLY: Kevin, Los Angeles. What's going on, Kevin?

KEVIN: Yeah, Mr. O'Reilly, merry Christmas.

O'REILLY: Merry Christmas.

KEVIN: And, uh, wanted to say "dittoes" from the great state--blue state--of Los Angeles. Uh, wanted to let you know I went to a, uh, Olive Garden restaurant recently. And I thought this was a good, red company and what not, and, uh, had a very good meal, and the service was very good and et cetera, and then the waitress came up, at the end, and she said--she gave me the check, and she says "happy holidays". And I swear to God I-I, y'know, I thought, "Wh-Wh-What kind of American is this? And I gave her no tip, and I don't think any American should give a tip, and--

O'REILLY: But why though? Why? I mean, she's--whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. Hold on, hold on, hold on. The little waitress comes up to you and says "happy holidays"--she doesn't know whether you're Jewish, whether you're a Muslim, whether you're... a Buddhist, or anything. So why would you be... why would you be offended by that?

KEVIN: Well I wanted to... I mean, I mean, I tell ya, I wanted to punch her in the face.


KEVIN: It was the same thing as going to the stores, y'know, where they don't say, uh... y'know, they--they don't know either whether you're Jewish or not or anything else....

O'REILLY: Well, wait a minute Kevin, I think you're outta line, man. I think you're outta line. I think you're outta line. And you wanna punch her in the face--that's ridiculous. Okay, don't... don't... I don't know whether you... y'know, you're being serious or not, y'might be one of these loons who calls up and tries to do this kinda stuff, but it... I'm gonna... err on the side of giving Kevin the benefit of the doubt--you're wrong. If some person says "happy holidays" to you, there's no reason to get offended, and there's no reason to not leave her a tip. You're a jerk. All right? Because that person doesn't know who you are. When we step in is when there's a company that says 'We ban any mention of Christmas.' That's when we step in. And we say, 'That's disrespectful. That ban across the board doesn't cut it.' And then we don't tell you not to buy, we don't tell you to--not to boycott, y'know, like a lotta the press has reported, they've all retracted that now, but... we don't tell you that. We just say, 'Here's what's going on. That's wrong.' But individually? Somebody gives you a nice greeting, you just say--if you wanna say "Merry Christmas" back, say "Merry Christmas" back!


An update!

In addition to Germany, Italy, and England all saying that Bush's pre-war intelligence was wrong, we now have France:

More than a year before President Bush declared in his State of the Union speech that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear weapons material in Africa, the French spy service began repeatedly warning the CIA in secret communications that there was no evidence to support the allegation.

The previously undisclosed exchanges between the U.S. and the French, described by the retired chief of the French counter-intelligence service and a former CIA official during interviews last week, came on separate occasions in 2001 and 2002.

The French conclusions were reached after extensive on-the-ground investigations in Niger and other former French colonies, where the uranium mines are controlled by French companies, the official said. He said the French investigated at the CIA's request.


However, the essence of Chouet's account — that the French repeatedly investigated the Niger claim, found no evidence to support it and warned the CIA — was extensively corroborated by a former CIA official and a French government official.

One more country that didn't think Iraq had WMDs.

But, of course, France is our enemy. So we can't trust them.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Aslan? HA! You'll excuse me if I'm not intimidated by a MAGIC LION who leaves the dirty work to a bunch of British TEN-YEAR OLDS!


What could possess someone to leave an enormous battle to a bunch of schoolkids with nothing even remotely resembling combat experience?
And what could possess a writer to make them win?

Friday, December 9, 2005

Shorter Skemono: Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat, Idiot

So Rush Limbaugh seems to believe that McCain "admitted torture worked on him". Originally, this was reported by, who cited two things McCain said: one in which he eventually gave to the Vietnamese true information that was of no use (his ship's name and squadron number), or else lied to them, as recounted in his autobiography:

Once we were instructed to write summaries of our military histories. We invented all the details. Mine contained references to service in Antarctica and as a naval attaché in Oslo, two places, I am sorry to say, I had never visited. [Page 203]


Once I was instructed to draw a diagram of an aircraft carrier. I decided to comply with the order, but took considerable artistic license in the process. I drew a picture of a ship's deck with a large swimming pool on the fantail, the captain's quarters in a chain locker, and various other imagined embellishments.

Vietnamese propaganda about the soft, luxurious life that upper-class Westerners (a social class to which military officers were naturally thought to belong) made the interrogators easy marks for a lot of the b.s. we devised to avoid giving them any useful information. [Page 222]

The second example NewsMax cites is when McCain was beaten until he eventually signed a confession:

McCain was taken to an interrogation room and ordered to sign a document confessing to war crimes. "I signed it," he recalled. "It was in their language, and spoke about black crimes, and other generalities."

Those "other generalities" involve crimes that he never committed:

An interrogator had edited my last draft and decided to rewrite most of it himself. He then handed it to me and told me to copy it out in my own hand. I started to print in block letters, and he ordered me to write in script. He demanded that I add an admission that I had bombed a school. I refused, and we argued back and forth about the confession's contents for a time before I gave in to his demand. Finally, they had me sign the document. [Pages 243-244]

So there you have it. The right wing believes that torture gets good intelligence because it can be used to make people admit to things they didn't do, or couldn't possibly know.

After all, it worked to get Bush his pet war.
According to the Bible, happiness is smashing little children against the rocks.

So tempting to convert now....
Bush did NOT know there was difference between Sunni & Shiite Muslims until Jan '03

Thursday, December 8, 2005

From last night's Colbert Report, interviewing Craig Crawford, author of Attack the Messenger : How Politicians Turn You Against the Media:

Colbert: Has anyone done it as well as the--Bush and his people?

Crawford: Actually, the best was Abraham Lincoln. When a New York newspaper was publishing a document that had been forged, he hand-wrote an executive order and ordered his general to close the newspaper, and arrest all of the reporters and editors, even the newspaper boys who were delivering the papers.

Colbert: And he was the first Republican president.

So apparently there's a war being waged on Christmas. But by whom? What secret cabal is running the show? The ACLU? The liberal media?

No, as with most secret cabals, it's the Jews:

I am getting the idea that too many Jews won't be happy until they pull off their own version of the Spanish Inquisition, forcing Christians to either deny their faith and convert to agnosticism or suffer the consequences.

Interestingly, he seems to think the Spanish Inquisition converted Jews by changing all mention of "Happy Chanukah!" to "Happy Holidays!" in Spain.

But what really gets me is that he says in the same post "anti-Semitism is no longer a problem in society". What would you call this, then?

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

I'm not sure what the enema is for.
Well, I've been doing this multiple times to get a letter that really amused me... I kept giving people porn, which for some reason counted against me. I don't get that--isn't gift-giving a good thing? Same thing with Dutch ovens.
Stupid Santa.

But I finally got a good letter:

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

This year I've been busy!

Last week I ruled Iran as a cruel and heartless dictator (-700 points). In April droug and I donated clothes to the needy (11 points). Last Monday I gave deborajoy a Dutch Oven (-10 points). In January I gave wildaugust a kidney (1000 points). Last Sunday I helped kangrado hide a body (-173 points).

Overall, I've been nice (128 points). For Christmas I deserve an Easy-Bake Oven!


Write your letter to Santa! Enter your LJ username:

Apparently giving one person a kidney is better than oppressing an entire country for a week.
They never say that it was my kidney that I gave up, after all... cause last I checked, I still had all my organs.

Except a toenail. But that's not an organ.

And Europe thinks we're fucked up....

"Dirty negro" insult not always racist?

ROME (Reuters) - Calling a foreigner a "dirty negro" in Italian is not necessarily a racist insult, Italy's highest court has ruled.

The verdict, relating to a case where a group of Italian men punched and insulted some women from Colombia, caused deep unease at a time when Italy is struggling to contain racism.

The court on Monday ruled in favor of one of the men, who argued he was not being racist when he launched the assault with the words: "Sporche negre -- cosa ci fanno queste negre qua?" ("Dirty negroes -- what are these negroes doing here?")

Most Italians would have no doubt that calling someone a "dirty negro" was a racist insult. The term is seldom heard and is considered no more acceptable in Italy than it would be in Britain or the United States.

However, an insult should be judged racist "only if it is motivated by real hatred," or is likely to cause racial hatred in others or lead to "discriminatory behavior for reasons of race, ethnicity, nationality or religion," the court ruled.

On the other hand, the crime of racism is not constituted by expressions of "generic dislike, intolerance or rejection based on race, ethnicity or religion," which appeared to fit the case in question, the court said.

Politicians across the political spectrum criticized the ruling and said it could not have come at a worse time.


Soccer matches around Italy began late on Sunday as players unfurled banners saying "No To Racism" in response to an episode on November 27 when Marc Zoro, Ivory Coast defender for Messina in Serie A, the top division, threatened to walk off the pitch because of racist chants from Inter Milan fans.

"This judicial interpretation is astonishing," said Green Party lawmaker Paolo Cento.

Luigi Bobbio, of the conservative National Alliance party, said the verdict was the result of "a subtle poison (that) has seeped into our jurisprudence: originality at all costs."

The supreme court is no stranger to controversial judgments.

In recent years it has ruled that "an isolated and impulsive" pat on a woman's bottom at work did not constitute sexual harassment, and returned a verdict that a woman could not have been raped because she was wearing skin-tight jeans.

Carlo Fucci, the vice president of Italy's national association of magistrates, warned that the court's ruling "could blunt the weapons that can be used against racism."

As part of the campaign against racism, all but one of the parties on Milan's city council this week appealed to the mayor to grant Zoro Milan's most prestigious award, a golden statue of its patron saint, Ambrogio.

The populist Northern League party, which is often accused of racism, dissociated itself from the appeal.


Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Huh. An Australian MP apparently said in parliament... about a week ago, I guess... that the Bible is bloodier than the Koran:

"Those who refer to Muslim fundamentalists may choose to quote from the Holy Koran and there are passages that might be taken to show a vengeful God," Ms Irwin told federal parliament.

"But when it comes to good old-fashioned violence, the Judaeo-Christian God is hard to beat.

"If I was to take those verses as written, I could easily associate any Christian fundamentalist with a dangerous and extreme mindset. But we are more likely to associate the term Christian fundamentalist with psalm singers and happy clappers."

Quoting from the Old Testament in the Bible, she drew attention to passages from referring to murders, massacres and God ordering Moses to "loot from their houses all their silver and clothing".

"And if that is not enough, the story continues as Moses ... is urged to hack women and children to death, rip unborn babies from their mother's womb and level the cities," she told parliament. "The virgins are taken at God's command for the pleasure of his holy warriors."

Which lead someone to do a very rough quantitative comparison of violence in each. And in that vein is the Whose God is More Vicious? quiz.

Which is basically what I've been saying all along. I mean, the Qu'ran is rather contradictory, naturally, but all I've read leads me to believe it's far more tolerant of other religions (at least Christianity and Judaism) than either of the other two major Abrahamic religions. Even if you believe the Qu'ran commands you to kill all non-believers, that's hardly worse than this: if there's a town in which people worship another religion, you have to kill not only them, but everyone in the town and all their cattle, then gather up all their belongings, set it on fire, and abandon the land forever.
I've heard of The God Who Wasn't There, and recently ran across its website. As far as I understand, it basically attempts to prove that there was no historical Jesus, and that the biblical Jesus was just a pastiche of other religions. Having not seen it, I can't comment, but the clips available on its website aren't terribly encouraging.

The Earth & The Sun is from the beginning of the film, and simply says "Christianity was wrong when it said that the Sun revolved around the Earth; what if they're wrong about their entire religion, too?" I don't think I have to explain what's stupid about that.

The Rapture doesn't even have anything to do with the question of whether Jesus was real. It's just talking about how many people believe the world will end in their lifetime, saying "Isn't it scary that people believe this? Believing the world will end in twenty years doesn't make good incentive for good long-term planning." Which is true, but hardly has anything to do with the supposed thesis of the movie.

Did Jesus Begin as a Myth? questions the accuracy of what we 'know' of the historical Jesus. A member of the Jesus Seminar cites things that make him skeptical--a council of Jews meeting on Passover Eve, Pontius Pilate releasing a known killer instead of a man he'd tried to get off the hook. Being a mathematician, I prefer more concrete things--perhaps if he'd said "There's no record of a Josh being executed by Pontius Pilate" (did Romans keep records like that? I'd imagine so). He did say something interesting, though, about contemporary contradictory beliefs regarding Josh's death:

And then when you realize, "Well, y'know, there were other ancient Jews and Jewish Christians that believed Jesus had been killed a century before, under King Alexander Genias [?]... o-or in the Gospel of Peter it says that Herod had Jesus killed." Well, what--how could this be, uh, a matter of-of such diversity if it was a recent event that people remembered? I-It just begins to make you wonder, "Is this man really part of the historical timestream, or does it--doesn't it begin to look like someone has tried to put, uh, a-a figure, originally mythical, into a historical framework, and made various stabs at it?"

Unfortunately, since he doesn't cite any of these other "ancient Jews and Jewish Christians", and I don't even know who this Alexander is, I'm not really sure what to say.

The Christs Before Christ is the most interesting, as it takes a brief look at the figures that predated Josh but might have been inspiration for some of the legends surrounding him:

The early Church fathers understood this was a problem because they were already getting the same objections from pagans. They said, "What you say about Jesus we've been saying about Dionysus and Hercules all the time, what's the big deal?" And they didn't believe in them either anymore. And so the Christian apologists, the defenders of the faith, would say "Well, yeah, but this one is true. And, uh, y'see, Satan counterfeited it in advance cause he knew this day would come.

At this point, instead of bad animation or the guy talking the screen shows the words:

"For when they say that Dionysus arose again and ascended to heaven, is it not evident the devil has imitated the prophecy?"
-Justin Martyr, church father

He continues talking:

Boy, I tell ya... that tells you two right there: that even they didn't deny that these other Jesus-like characters were before Jesus, or they never would have resorted to something like that--'Satan knew it would happen and counterfeited it in advance'?"

Finally the person who made the DVD (I assume) has his voice-over:

In case you're wondering... yes, this remains the explanation to this day.

And then it goes on to mock the ignorance of random Christians in the street by ambushing them with "Do you know about Osiris or Dionysus or Mithras?"

Well, I thought some of that was fairly interesting, but on the whole not terribly substantial.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Well, according to C.S. Lewis's stepson, the Narnia books aren't Christian:

He has just flown in from Hollywood, where he is co-producer of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He has just seen the finished cut, which he says left him feeling "that no time has passed and suddenly it's two hours later - like Narnia-time in reverse".

The film is a triumph for Gresham, who charmed the movie industry into filming Lewis's first Narnia book; the other six will follow if the audience figures are good. But then he has enormous reserves of charm - though liberals and feminists who encounter the gale force of his born-again Christianity may disagree.

Paradoxically, Gresham has not joined the Christian bandwagon gearing up around the film. Won't it at least impart a subliminal Christian message to young audiences, I ask?

"I sincerely hope not," he snorts. "Because - and this is what people always get wrong - it's not a Christian film and the Narnia books aren't Christian novels."

This will come as news to the thousands of churches across Britain and America that are endorsing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because of its Christian message - and to the Disney organisation which, to the fury of liberal commentators, has appointed a Christian "outreach" organisation to promote the movie to British congregations (see breakout).

"Jack didn't intend the Narnia books to be an evangelistic fantasy," explains Gresham. "The myths of Narnia are partly those of the great man-made religions - Norse mythology, Hindu mythology, as well as the true myth of Christ. Exposure to man's myths will make young viewers ask questions about themselves - and only later will the seed of faith take root."

This is a man who knows he speaks with a special authority. He was responsible for ensuring the script stayed faithful to Lewis's vision - "and that meant resisting the temptation to insert my own Christianity into it".

Maybe he's wrong. But since people can distort anything to try and prove it espouses their faith (like my step-brother does, or those blockheads with The March of the Penguins) I'm rather more willing to believe him than not.
Just sent this letter to the Purdue Exponent:

Mr. Skaggs' idea of ridding ourselves of Purdue Pete is commendable. But to replace him with a squirrel? That's so pedestrian. No, my friends, what we require as a mascot is this:

The Purdue Pudu.

What is a pudu, you ask? Only the cutest animal on earth! Compare Pete ( to pudu ( The choice is obvious.

"But," I hear the protest on some lips, "what does a miniature deer, terminably cute though it be, have to do with our reputation as an engineering school?" A meritless complaint. Not all at Purdue major in Engineering. But to the point, how does Pete relate to chemical, nuclear, biomedical and biological engineering? The pudu has as much to do with modern engineering as the macrocephalic man he would replace. We have yet the Boilermaker Special to tie us to the Industrial Revolution.

Enough, though, of Pete. There are clear benefits to the Purdue Pudu. To begin, it rolls off the tongue smoothly, containing assonance, consonance, alliteration, and rhyming. "Purdue Pete", on the other hand, sports only alliteration.

Further, the pudu would be a unique mascot. Too many college mascots are disfigured men. But how many are deer? A scant number indeed.

Some may point out that all these arguments hold, to greater or lesser degree, also for Earl the Squirrel. True enough. Yet there are benefits the pudu brings that the squirrel cannot.

The pudu is an endangered species. Therefore by adopting it as our mascot, Purdue can appear concerned for threatened animals, and perhaps make it policy to remedy such endangerment. If so, Purdue would accomplish good and benefit from a humanitarian reputation.

Some may think I jest. Not so! I am serious enough to set up an on-line petition, available at

Spread the word of the Purdue Pudu!


Theological ponderings

Jesus's real name was, if I am not mistaken, Yehoshua bar Yosef.

If one were to skip the translation into Greek, then Roman, and finally English, one would usually translate this as Joshua, son of Joseph.

So the Christian messiah is Josh, son of Joe.

Armed with this, the next time somebody slurs "I was just joshing you" or some derivative thereof, I believe that I will angrily berate them for using the Lord's name in vain. I doubt I will bother explaining why.

And speaking of Christian linguistics, which I wasn't, it appears that, as an analogue to the dim-wittedness of Intelligent Design (whose SETI-analogy was dismissed by SETI researchers), fundamentalists have also tried forcing the theory of Wrathful Dispersion into schools.

Well, not really. This man was only joking.

This man, however, is not. Lord, he even bills it as "Intelligent Design in Language".

And speaking of what the Bible says about abortion (what? I don't want to make a lot of separate posts, gimme a break), I came across this today. So God only noticed people after they were a month old, eh? Hmm.

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Enslave your friends. Destroy your enemies.

The disclaimers in that commercial:

  • Cthulu cannot be possessed. You can.

  • Actual toy does not shoot lightning.

  • Overly Expressive Child Not Included.

This wouldn't be so odd if they didn't keep yelling at him to get out of his office.
Oh, Japan, what wonderful drugs you must have.
Right-handed people are better at screwing than lefties.

No wonder I'm so lonely.
Shorter Americablog: We're Ford, and we've got a tradition of bigotry to maintain.
The latest in the meme that liberals, led by the ACLU, want to destroy Christmas is the idea that the post office has stopped selling religious stamps.

Of course, it's not true. No big surprise there.

But this information is fairly interesting:

"We had an overabundance of religiously based stamps from last year," she said. The Postal Service needed to sell its overstock of Madonna stamps and didn't want a fresh crop of outdated stamps sitting in the drawers for next year.

This year's cookie stamps were printed because last year's non-religiously themed stamps -- the service tries to keep each kind on hand for patrons -- sold out.

So people are more interested in buying 'secular' stamps rather than 'religious' ones. I wonder how this'll be blamed on the ACLU. Have they been intimidating letter-writers, now? Trying to shut up anyone they dislike, like they did with the Nazis in Skokie?

Friday, December 2, 2005

South Africa's Top Court Blesses Gay Marriage:

South Africa's highest court on Thursday recognized the marriage of two Pretoria women and gave Parliament a year to extend legal marital rights to all same-sex couples.


The court's judges unanimously agreed that South Africa's 1996 constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, guarantees the right of gay men and lesbians to marry. One justice, in a limited dissent, argued that the law should be overturned immediately rather than within a year.

That delay upset some activists, but both supporters and opponents of the ruling agreed there would be no way for Parliament to avoid approving the required amendments to the law.

South Africa has just recognized gay marriage before the U.S. will. Weren't we supposed to be leading those other, backwards nations in freedom and tolerance? Wasn't that one of the talking points Bush finally settled on to brainwash people into supporting the Iraq war?


At least they included this amusing quote:

"The church respects that people have certain sexual orientations, but we will never accept speaking in the same breath of same-sex unions and heterosexual marriage," Tresoldi said.