Paranoia Suits Him Anyway

Bill Donohue doesn’t like, well, much of anything, and now it’s driven him paranoid:

Catholic League President Bill Donohue presented a paranoid side of his personality to Fox News Monday morning, declaring that “militant, dogmatic” atheists are “out to get” Catholics and dismantle American society.

“I’m talking about the extremists within [liberal] ranks who have become very, very vocal,” Donohue said. “And over the last several decades what we’ve seen is an all-out assault. This kind of new atheism. This militant dogmatic fundamentalist atheism out there to get us.”

The latest pimple on Bill’s Donohue’s ass is a show by Penn & Teller, those noted teetotaler magicians. Scary I know. (Though to be fair, Penn is kinda tall). It seems P&T did an episode of their show, Bullshit on the Catholic Church and it’s rather, let’s call it checkered, past. So, now talking about stuff that actually happened is an assault on Catholicism and the wholesomeness of the Virgin. We atheists are nothing if not subtle. (I’m doing my part to get Catholics by marrying one!) Though notice that an “assault” by “extremist atheists” consist of publishing books, talking about history and refusing to shut up when blowhards like Bill Donohue tell us too. Unlike an assault by extremist true believers, which consists of suicide bombers, hijacked airplanes and a massive coordinated ground invasion and air strike. One gets you killed, the other involves listening to Penn Jillette or Richard Dawkins talk about something they are informed on and passionate about.

“This was the most Nazi-like assault,” Donohue said. “The most unrelenting half an hour of bashing I’ve ever seen.”

The Nazi comparison appears to be Donohue’s theme for his publicity battle with Penn & Teller, which he blames on CBS, as it owns Showtime, the network that airs Penn & Teller’s show.

“The Nazis couldn’t have done better,” Donohue said in a statement. “Having been in this job for over 16 years, I have never seen a more defamatory, obscene and vicious show on TV.”

Though it’s kind of ironic that Donohue referred to Penn & Teller as Nazis for talking smack about the Pope, a former Hitler Youth member. also, Hitler was Catholic. So, yeah, maybe Bill should choose a different boogy man to describe atheists, one that doesn’t come from his own closet.

As If a Thousand Voices Cried Out, Saying “WTF?”

The big news today was that Disney is buying Marvel. On the one hand this is good for Marvel, as they’ll be able to take advantage of Disney’s distribution and marketing apparatus, which are pretty much universal (quick, sing me the Mickey Mouse Club theme song! I bet you can, even though the show hasn’t been on the air in decades). On the other hand, it’s further degredation of our culture by putting more of it in fewer hands. Not that Marvel is the greatest. I mean, they were still a corporation and out to make money above everything else. But now, they’re part of a really big corporation that now owns a vast majority of our cultural iconography. Disney now has, not just their own stable of characters, but also owns Pixar’s back catalog, the Muppets and now the Marvel Universe.* Basically, everything Time Warner doesn’t own (which is pretty much DC comics and Hanna Barbara). The vast majority of American pop culture is now owned by two corporations.

I’m not so much worried about the dilution of Marvel into a kid-friendly commodity. Jokes about a Disneyfied young Wolverine movie are somewhat exaggerated, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Spider Man swinging around the fairy tale castle next time I visit Disney Land. Which strikes me as silly and sad in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s not like Marvel isn’t chock full of crap I couldn’t care less about. I’m not even as enamored of their classic lineup of super heroes as I once was and part of me would like to see some editorial shaping of the Marvel Universe into something coherent and less bonkers. Maybe Disney’s Imaginears can manage that. But should they? There’s something intangible that is being lost here and I don’t know what it is.

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* They also lay claim to Studio Ghibli’s films, at least the US distribution rights, which means they put their little castle logo in fornt of every Miyazaki film, further linking their brand with even independent artists in the minds of less-discerning children everywhere.

Data Vs. The Eames Brothers

Over at AMC, John Scalzi points out some of the design flaws inherent in the Star Trek Universe. Allow me to add a few more:

Starfleet ship design
Yes, flying saucers are cool. Flying saucers with rockets attached? Bad Ass! If your seven and it’s 1953. Having a military ship with its propulsion system dangling off the rear is dumb in so many ways. But not as dumb as putting the bridge in the dead center of the top of the saucer section, on a raised platform, with a blinking light on top. Might as well paint it red, because it’s a flying target.

Phasers
Again, laser guns are the very definition of sci-fi cool. But they are super impracticable. Ensign Jones, in his short six month stint on the Enterprise, has gone up against the Borg, Klingons and some freaky octopus who sucks salt out of your body. He’s got a raging case of PTSD. So naturally we’ll equip him with a death ray that looks like a remote control. “I just wanted to watch Sports Center! Now my ship mate is a molten smudge on the bulkhead!”

Replicators
Voice activated computers that will make you anything you want to eat, so long as you are really, really specific. It’s “tea, earl gray, hot” for breakfast and “tea, earl gray, hot” for lunch and “tea, earl gray, hot” for dinner and “tea, earl gray, hot” every other hour. Have they forgotten how to do shortcut keys in the future? Macros? You have a voice activated computer that knows your name, you’ve pretty much licked AI, but you still have to place your order like you’re talking to a semi retarded, half-deaf waiter who only speaks Croatian. “No, I did not order cold Darjeeling, I ordered TEA! EARL GRAY! HOT!”

Holodecks
Scalzi covered them pretty well but it bares repeating for emphasis: you have the technology to make anything from porn to monsters from the Id come to life and your bright idea is to stick this on a space ship? Why exactly? And did no one do any quality control testing before they decided to make this a standard piece of shipboard equipment? “Hay lets include a big holographic generator that malfunctions one out of ten times you use it, that’ll be good for a laugh, right?” Yeah, until the blind guy and the robot accidentally bring a super villain to life. Oops. They were just lucky that Data was a fan of 19th century mysteries and not 20th century manga. “Sorry Captain, I seem to have unleashed the Overfiend. All crew members on the lower decks are currently being tentacle-raped to death. Luckily the sex ninjas and giant atomic powered robots should have it subdued before we reach Starbase twelve.”

We could get into the obvious stuff, like a complete lack of seatbelts or the sudden, inexplicable disappearance of fuse technology sometime in the 22nd century, but that’s low hanging fruit. The big bad design flaw of Star Trek has always been their unimaginative writers. A bit of rubber on your forehead does not make you an alien. Long words with technical sounding prefixes cannot spackle over the plot holes. The Transporter cannot fix the fact that your week Aesop is just a reactionary bludgeon to a world that has gone boring through poor application of imagination and a creator whose own restrictions and obsessions have gotten in the way of good writing. Luckily, in the years since Star Trek, we’ve had a lot of improvement. Farscape, BSG, Star Gate — evn Doctor Who– have adapted. They took these flawed tropes, plus all the stuff that worked from Star Trek and built on it, making it bigger and better and more science-tastic, while at the same time, delivering fine drama and brilliant stories, well told. So yeah, some of the odds and ends creak a little now and again but it’s still good fun.

The Lives of Perfect Creatures

At long last and after much delay, my second movel, The Lives of Perfect Creatures, is available!

It’s taken two and a half years of hard work to put this together and I couldn’t be prouder of how the book turned out. But, you ask, what’s it all about? Glad you asked!

Sophie didn’t intend to steal The Man With The Mustache‘s umbrella, but she did it anyway. In her search to find him and make amends, she meets the ghost of Yuri Gagarin, philosophical hobos and an astronomer hounded by a priest, a rabbi and a minister who think the comet he discovered is a harbinger of Jesus’ return to Earth. Her best friend, Astrid suspects that what Sophie is really looking for is a truth more permanent than apparent. But Astrid has other things to worry about (like finding out the real name of the Little Red-Haired Girl who comes into the library every afternoon). Meanwhile, the Chinese are planning to land on the Moon and the city of Portland is slowly drowning due to ice caps being melted by the heat death of the universe. How all of this is related to the umbrella is hard to say in a way that makes sense, but Sophie is sure it does, somehow.

This is a big departure form my previous book. It’s a bit more personal, about the search for meaning in a world that has none, with umbrellas and mustaches and Phantom Cosmonauts. And if you still aren’t sure that this is your kind of book, you can always download it and read it for free.

‘Scuse me While I Whip This Out

This has gotten way out of hand. The Birther nonsense was amusing at first, in a surrealist, after dinner game sort of a way. “The president is a secret Muslim from Kenya!” has Andre Breton’s fingerprints all over it. That he’s been dead for decades only makes it sweeter. The banal repetition though, that’s all late stage Dali, where he’s just scribbling his name on sheets of paper for future prints of future masterworks. Still in the vein, but it’s tapped out and clearly a gimmick done for the money.

But demanding to see the Presidential schlong? To verify that our President is cut like a good Christian? Except that Jews and Muslims like to take a little off the top as well, which would pretty much defeat the stated purpose of the Birther contingent. Unless their true purpose all along has been just naked, hot longing to see a Democrat’s penis. It’s been almost 12 years since they saw one last. Long enough for it to wander off into the mists of legend. Leave it to Republicans to get the scientific method when a black man’s tumescent member is involved. But the real question is, does Obama and Clinton share one mythical member? Is it stuffed and mounted, like Epicene Wildeblood‘s, passed down from one Democrat to another? Inquiring minds want to know! (Then they want to suck off a pistol).

This loops around on itself into Dadist territory, which is fine for the advanced connoisseurs of artistic lunacy like myself, but may scare some of the squares a bit. Freepers will turn heads among their own kind if they show up at a town hall with signs demanding to see Obama’s great throbbing penis in all it’s glory. You cannot look directly at the gods — not even their cocks — and survive. Especially their cocks. Aren’t you the ones lamenting the loss of the classics in our schools? Leida and the Swan, people! Leida and the fucking swan!

But go ahead. Show up to the next public forum and start shrieking about the President’s dingaling. carry a gun. Why the hell not? Wear a rubber pig mask and paint your chest green. That’s what a REAL American would do. But when the crowds wander off, shaking their heads in dismay and confusion, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

True art is not meant to be understood.

I Called It! I’m So Sad…

This makes sense and that is the problem:

Incredibly, President George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse.

Honest. This isn’t a joke. The president of the United States, in a top-secret phone call to a major European ally, asked for French troops to join American soldiers in attacking Iraq as a mission from God.

Now out of office, Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

This bizarre episode occurred while the White House was assembling its “coalition of the willing” to unleash the Iraq invasion. Chirac says he was boggled by Bush’s call and “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.”

Next time someone asks me why I’m an atheist, I’m just going to point them to this story. Atheists don’t start wars because of fairy tales.

Once we figured out that all the bogus excuses for the war were so much bullshit, it became pretty obvious that President Kill Again was an empty suit, listening ot the voices in his head. “No! Sadam’s gonna send the model planes of death to kill us all!” we were told by the wingnuts. Yeah. So, there you go. It was all about the Jeebus.

Can we leave now?

The Year the 80s Died

We lost Michael Jackson a month ago* and yesterday, we lost John Hughes. Hughes is a much bigger loss for me. I had only a passing interest in MJ’s music during the 80s. I was exposed to Thriller and Bad only because they were like icebergs in the North Atlantic. You couldn’t drive a cruise ship through there without hitting at least one.

But Hughes spoke for my generation. He made the films that managed to both give a voice to the angst and loneliness that teenagers have always felt, and to show us a model for how to not take ourselves too seriously and find a way to make a connection, any connection to others who were in the same boat. Whether its escapist fantasies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Weird Science, or the farcical melodrama of Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, he gave us movies that made all us sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies and dickheads feel like we belonged.

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* As the Onion pointed out, we actually lost MJ quite some time ago But that’s ancient history now.

The Underwater Library

Via friend of the blog and typo hunter, Leigh, I learned today that the Louisville Free Public Library was recently flooded and is in pretty dire straights:

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – It’ll be sometime Wednesday before the full extent of the damage to the main branch of Louisville’s Free Public Library is known.

Water poured into the basement Tuesday, damaging everything there. Among the items lost, tens of thousands of books, the HVAC system, the branch’s computers and all of the computers set to go to Newburg’s soon to open high-tech library.

Library Director Craig Buthod says computers and “tens of thousands of books” have been lost to the water damage. He says three bookmobiles, staff vehicles and even his car were under water in the underground parking garage.

Buthod estimates in some spots the water was as high as 12 feet. Louisville Fire and Rescue was still on the scene Tuesday night, pumping water out of the building.

Mayor Jerry Abramson says the damage will likely exceed $1 million in the downtown library.

This is a major tragedy, especially when many people are turning to libraries now as a way to not just find entertainment, but search for work. If you can, please donate to help them clean up the library and replace their collection.