Blogging is Going to Change the World!!!!!1!!!!!

The power of bloggers to change the world appears to be the theme of the almost comically-pretentious documentary American Blogger (h/t Julie).

The trailer tells us this ‘beautiful’ and ‘cinematic’ movie follows some documentarian you never heard of as he travels America in an Airstream interviewing bloggers… who with only one (briefly shown) exception are gorgeous white women who appear to be fairly wealthy.

This is the face of blogging: blond MILFs lounging about in hammocks on their porches. As a blogger this pretty well reflects my life.

Everything about this trailer – from the premise to the awful fucking music – is hilarious. Please hate-watch this.

I can’t add much to that, except to note that if blogging does change the world, the blogs probably won’t originate in suburban middle America. (If someone wants to make Egyptian Blogger, there might be more to it.)

Also, has anyone actually touted the ability of blogs to “change the world” since Twitter and Facebook first caught on? There’s always a new killer app that’s going to change the world until the next world-changing killer app comes along…..

Anyway, you can hate-watch the trailer here:

American Blogger Official Trailer from Chris Wiegand on Vimeo.

 


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What I’m Reading, April 15, 2014

"Dragons famili" by mapazhe [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)], via deviantARTHow We Won the War on Dungeons & Dragons, Annalee Newitz, io9, March 26, 2014

[U]nlike my fantasy of being a hot half-elf, the Christians actually had some control over our lives. My best friend got kicked out of Catholic school for playing D&D, which we counted as a win because it meant she could come to our shitty public school and play D&D with us. Outside our southern California town, however, D&D players weren’t getting off so easily. They were ostracized by their peers, kicked out of public schools, and sent to glorified reeducation camps by parents who feared their children were about to start sacrificing babies to Lolth the spider demon.

It sounds crazy in our world today, where there are Dungeons & Dragons movies and a rich game industry full of titles inspired by those old paper-and-dice games we played back in the twentieth century. One of the most popular shows on television, Game of Thrones, features plots that my friends and I might have cooked up back on that playground at lunch. Somehow, the popularity of epic fantasy and role playing overcame America’s fear of young people making up stories about monsters and gods.

The Cost Of Permission Culture: Or Why Netflix Streaming Library Sucks Compared To Its DVD Library, Parker Higgins, TechDirt, April 9, 2014

The problem is that, unlike earlier movie-rental options, streaming rights fall fundamentally within a permission culture. Netflix is a great illustration of what’s gone wrong here. It’s gone from having a nearly unrivaled catalog of films available to rent to being the butt of Onion jokes. What happened: It shifted from a system where nobody had a veto power over its operations, to one where it had to get permission and make deals with Hollywood. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the concrete costs of living in a permission culture, but the decline of Netflix’s selection is an important cautionary tale.

Physicist surprised to see himself in ‘documentary’ claiming the sun revolves around the earth, Robyn Pennacchia, Death and Taxes, April 8, 2014

Like any other Christian pseudoscience theory, geocentrism is built upon the premise that humans are special and earth is special and God made them special, so any science conflicting with that must be wrong. Like, probably Satan somehow made it look like the earth is really old and revolves around the sun just to destroy our self-esteem. The film makes this premise clear, with its suggested hashtag, #areyousignificant.

How Hatred of Islam Creates Strange Bedfellows of Christians and Atheists, CJ Werleman, AlterNet, April 11, 2014

Despite claims by David Silverman, president of the 501(c4) political lobby group American Atheists, atheism does not earn an atheist the title of freethinker. With very few exceptions, movement atheists are not. They’re parrots. Don’t believe me? Ask an atheist to opine on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and he or she will invariably wax lyrical about religious motivated violence, Islamic extremism and suicide bombers. In other words, expect a recital from atheist luminaries Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens.

***

Atheists, myself included, enjoy mocking religious fundamentalists for their inability to question authority or dogma. But very few atheists sound dissimilar to the aforementioned atheist heavyweights when it comes to assessing the roots of Islamic terrorism. In the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, American Atheists president Silverman tweeted, “Dear Peaceful Muslims: Sorry, but yet, that IS your Islam and your Prophet’s followers.” Silverman included the hashtag #IslamIsBarbaric. If you were told neo-con firebrand Ann Coulter had posted this careless tweet, you would have believed it.

No doubt, Harris (neuroscience) and Dawkins (evolutionary biology) are leaders in their respective fields. What they’re not is experts on terrorism and the Middle East. So movement atheism needs to stop pretending like they are, because the words of Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens serve only to make movement atheists sound like neo-conservatives, Zionists and the Christian Right, which ultimately makes seeking peace even harder to attain.

[Ed. note: The URL slug for the above article is "how-atheists-are-complicit-atrocities-and-oppression-palestinian-people." Just thought that was worth noting.]

Photo credit: “Dragons famili” by mapazhe [CC BY 3.0], via deviantART.


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Conservatives Aren’t Funny

By this, I mean that conservatives are not funny when they are trying to be conservative. There are probably enough reasons for this to fill a book, but the fact is that comedy, i.e. the art of making people laugh, strongly tends towards ideas labeled as “liberal” in today’s society. I have argued here before that comedy works best when it is pointed upward, as when someone with less power uses humor on someone with more power. As someone else put it, there is a very good reason why employees of a company might roast their CEO, but the CEO does not roast the janitor.

Some conservatives seem to think that CBS is conspiring against them by giving the Late Show gig to Stephen Colbert. I’ll be said to see The Colbert Report go, but it’s hard to argue, from purely talent- and career-based standpoints, that Colbert hasn’t earned this. And that’s really the key: The Late Show is a comedy show, and Colbert is funny. Limbaugh, et al, are trying to pull more appropriation of progressive language regarding power and oppression, but no one who isn’t already steeped in Limbaugh’s worldview is buying it.

Rush Limbaugh can call his hate speech comedy, but Stephen Colbert’s parody character of conservative hosts is an act of war. One suspects that Colbert’s parody cuts a little too close to the bone for Limbaugh. Conservatives are always looking for a reason to go to war.

In this case, Limbaugh is expertly playing into the Republican victimization complex by claiming that CBS is somehow attacking them by hiring Stephen Colbert. The character that Colbert has played is a funhouse mirror look at how hosts like Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly really behave.

Maybe Rush thinks that he should have been given the gig? The problem with conservatives doing comedy is that they aren’t funny. Glenn Beck thinks he is funny. Rush Limbaugh thinks he is funny, but they aren’t funny. Their humor is usually mean-spirited. Conservative humor tends to enjoy laughing at the misfortune of others.

If conservatives want a spot on a show like The Late Show, they need to put humor over ideology. If conservative ideology just plain isn’t funny, that’s a problem with conservative ideology, not comedy.


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There Is Apparently No Animal on Earth that Mankind Won’t Find a Way to Fight for Sport

By Kirt L. Onthank.Taollan82 at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Octopi are smart. They know pro wrestling is fake.

I’m not usually one to seek out things to provoke my own outrage, and it was only by happenstance that I came across the phenomenon of octopus wrestling. (This involved people wrestling the octopi, not octopi wrestling each other.) Fortunately, this doesn’t appear to be much of a thing anymore, but it had a following 50-60 years ago.

A report from the November 24, 1957 edition of the Toledo Blade details a gathering of 200 people to watch an octopus wrestling event in the Puget Sound near Tacoma, Washington.

Teams of three unarmed skin divers competed to garner points based on the use of snorkels versus breathing tanks and the final weight of octopi wrestled to the surface. A team from Portland, Oregon, won the contest, hauling in an eighty-pound octopus in the process. Let it be noted that Giant Pacific Octopi (Octopus dofleini) are rather timid and not at all aggressive unless provoked, with most cases of provocation ending with the octopus fleeing.

I’m not sure what stones we’ve left unturned in our quest to dominate nature whilst being entertained. I can’t find any instances of people making whales race one another, but then again, I don’t want to give anyone any ideas.

Photo credit: By Kirt L. Onthank.Taollan82 at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons.


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What I’m Reading, April 14, 2014

Not credited. May be work of U.S. Public Health Service (1918 ad) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsDear Parents, You are Being Lied to By Living Whole, Avicenna, A Million Gods, April 11, 2014

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to make the same mistakes. I predicted that an anti-vax backlash would occur when the anti-vax got so successful that they destroyed the herd immunity of a western nation to the point that common diseases could return. If you won’t learn by the carrot then unfortunately it is the stick. The price of Andrew Wakefield and the likes of Sherri Tenpenny, Mercola, Adams was increased disease. We are seeing record increases in common diseases that we were on the verge of eliminating.

How to Talk to Vaccine-Hesitant Parents, Keith Kloor, Discover, April 8, 2014

The smart folks at ThinkProgress seem to have missed all the media coverage of this recent study, which found that, for those already suspicious or concerned about vaccines, images of sick children and dramatic, cautionary narratives “actually increased beliefs in serious vaccine side effects.” This is a known as the “backfire effect,” a phenomena defined concisely here:

When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.

Jenny McCarthy, Who Still Promotes Misinformation About Vaccines, Now Says “I Am Not ‘Anti-Vaccine,’” Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist, April 13, 2014

McCarthy rejects the science — and thinks she deserves credit for just asking questions. Even though those questions were answered a long time ago and she just wasn’t happy with the responses. If Jenny McCarthy is not “anti-vaccine,” then Ken Ham must be the greatest advocate of evolution we’ve ever seen. In the meantime, the Jenny McCarthy Body Count will continue to rise until she comes to her senses and rejects the harmful beliefs that she still holds.

GOP Lawmaker Compares Abortion To Buying A Car, Laura Bassett, Huffington Post, April 9, 2014

A Republican state lawmaker in Missouri defended his controversial bill forcing women to have ultrasounds before abortions by comparing abortion to purchasing a new vehicle. “In making a decision to buy a car, I put research in there to find out what to do,” state Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger (R) told colleagues at a hearing on the bill Tuesday. *** The major problem with Gatschenberger’s analogy, of course, is that people are not required by state law to do research before buying a car. State Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Gatschenberger that his car analogy was “extremely offensive to every single woman sitting in here.”

Photo credit: Not credited. May be work of U.S. Public Health Service (1918 ad via [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


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Texas Sucks at Sex Ed

Texas, my beloved home state, has some pretty wacky ideas about sex. Specifically, about how we should and should not talk about sex in front of the kids—and, to be clear, I used the word “should” there for demonstrative purposes only, because a huge part of the state seems to think that we should not talk to kids about sex, ever. Especially not in school.

Huffington Post created maps showing which states have less-than-progressive policies regarding sex education in five areas (h/t Lynn), and of course Texas appears in all five:

  1. No requirement for sex education;
  2. No requirement for HIV education;
  3. No requirement that the sex and HIV education that is provided is medically accurate;
  4. Requirement that any sex ed that is provided include abstinence information, with no requirement for contraception information; and
  5. Requirement that any sex ed that is provided, and that includes any information on same-sex relationships, only include negative information.

In that last category, we only find three states: Texas, Alabama, and South Carolina.


Yes, Texas has one of those “no promo homo” laws. Specifically, § 85.007(b) of the Texas Health & Safety Code, which deals with HIV education and prevention programs for minors, states that: Continue reading


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Mother Gaia Doesn’t Give a F*#k

Nature will always find a way. It just might not find a way that includes us.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 9.18.11 PM

Click for whole comic.

Comic by humon on deviantART (via IFLS, h/t Jason).


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Joffrey, the Out-of-Context Motivational Speaker

Context truly is everything. (Spoilers, should you explore this any further.)

Out-of-context Motivational Joffrey


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Monday Morning Cute: Animal Massaginists

If I don’t use the word I made up*, who will?

Here’s a dog who’s noticing an awful lot of tension in your back:

"noodle massage" by m anima [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)], via Flickr

Even bunnies need to help each other loosen tight muscles:

"Massage time!" by Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)], via Flickr

It’s not just non-human animals that need to get the kinks worked out. Furries need some therapeutic touch now and then, too: Continue reading


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Westerosi Geology (or, Someone Else Is a Bigger Game of Thrones Geek Than You)

Gabridelca [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This isn’t really the Vale of Arryn, but it plays it on TV.

At times, I feel like I have a better handle on the history of Westeros and Essos (which I obviously need to follow the Game of Thrones storyline), than the history of our actually-existing world. It never even occurred to me, though, to wonder if the Narrow Sea is a geologically-recent development, resulting from the separation of the two continents about 25 million years ago.

A group of (mostly) Stanford geologists, however, have been wondering about that, and their ideas are collecting in the form of a geological history of Westeros at their blog, Generation Anthropocene.

I have been out-geeked, and I yield.

Photo credit: Gabridelca [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.


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