Monday, February 28, 2011

Consequences of gay marriage

I grabbed this from lol god, a site dedicated to blasphemous humor. Hat tip to JesusFetusFajitaFishsticks for sharing the link.

Oscar marathon: The Telecast

The Oscars were really fucking boring. The only thing that kept it the least bit interesting was my friend M reading Norm MacDonald's tweets. He should host next year. Comedians should always host.

And, I won our Oscar pool. Paid for the cab ride home.

Faux News whines that protesters don't like them

Boo hoo. Union workers don't like Faux News, and it hurts their feelings. I wonder if the dislike could come from this type of biased news coverage.

Our concerned parent, Amber Hahn, is worried that teachers are teaching union history, and it might be biased, but she doesn't really know because as a not particularly concerned parent, she is unaware of what is going on in her children's classrooms. Faux News pushes this union propraganda line without bothering to let the viewers know that Hahn is the treasurer of the Republican Party of Columbia County. No bias there?

Perhaps if Faux News actually reported the news, instead of being the propaganda arm of the GOP, people would have a bit more respect for them.

via Joe.My.God. and Media Matters

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oscar Marathon: Roundup and Picks

K and I have seen the ten Best Pisture nominees, and that was too many. The Academy should have kept the number at five. Hollywood can't seem to produce ten movies worthy of nomination, and I would have liked the chance to have seen some of the movies in other catagories, such as Biutiful or Inside Job. I think increasing the field to ten films is just a pathetic attempt to sell more tickets to suckers like me. What annoys me even more is that I fall for it.

OK, my picks. Keep in mind, that I'm not predicting the winners. You'll need to find another website to help with your office pool. I'm picking those that I think should win. I'm also skipping the catagories that I haven't seen enough of the nominees, or that I don't care about.

Original Screenplay: It's between The Fighter and The King's Speech. Both screenplays are well done, but I'm going for The Fighter, just because I like the movie better. It is a film about an underdog after all.

Adapted Screenplay: Winter's Bone. By far the best movie of the year, and that cannot be done without a stellar script.

Supporting Actress: This is the most annoying catagory. It is a tough call between Melissa Leo for The Fighter and Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit. This wouldn't be a tough call if Steinfeld was nominated for Best Actress which she deserved. She was the movie; it revolved around her completely. She deserved top billing, but it went to Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin, who only appeared for less than fifteen minutes. She was the lead, and she deserves credit for it. That said, I'm going with Leo, who gave the performance of her career.

Supporting Actor: No contest. Christian Bale for his performance of the junkie older brother in The Fighter. Simply brilliant.

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence for Winter's Bone. A riveting performance of a young lady fighting to keep her family intact despite her father missing and her mother mentally ill. A breakout performance by a new actress, who hopefully will have a great career ahead of her.

Best Actor: James Franco for his portrayal of a man fighting madness and despair and makes an impossible decision.

Best Director: Debra Granik for Winter's Bone was snubbed in this category, but this is my blog, so we're playing by my rules. I'm going with Granik.

Best Picture: I presume you've guessed my pick by now, but in case you haven't, I'm going with Winter's Bone. A dark, depressing film of a girl fighting for her family's survival. The film is set in the Ozarks, one of the poorest parts of the country. Social norms and customs unknown to those who don't live it are shown in haunting detail. Interestingly, while woman are still considered second class citizens in this part of America, the strongest characters of this film are female. They are obedient to their men until need arises, then they take charge. Also costarring John Hawkes, who gives an outstanding performance. I highly recommend this movie to anyone, but be forewarned, it's really fucking depressing.

Oscar Marathon: The Fighter and 127 hours

The Fighter: Like most sports films this flick is an underdog story, and therefore rather cliche, but it is a well done cliche.  You've seen this story before. Boxer fights. Boxer loses. Boxer trains for comeback. Along the way, boxer meets girl. I bet you can guess the ending.

But, the meat of this story isn't the boxing, but the family dramas and struggles. And, that is where this film shines, telling of the hardscrabble life of a working class Irish family, with their hopes and dreams riding on a "stepping stone" boxer who is taking one last shot at glory. Melissa Leo and Christian Bale give remarkable performances as the manipulative mother and junkie brother. The best performance I've ever seen Bale give. He should be a shoo in for Best Supporting Actor.

If you haven't seen it, do so.

127 Hours: Spoiler Alert I don't know why I say spoiler alert. You know he cuts off his fucking arm.

I get weak at the sight of blood, real blood that is. Movie blood and gore doesn't bother me at all, but this film did. The amputation scene was awfully damn hard to watch. To be honest, I kept my eyes closed during it. It was just too damn real. Perhaps knowing it was based on a true story is what made it so real and painful to watch.

Fuck Firth and Eisenberg. James Franco shines in this film, and he deserves the Oscar. His portrayal of a man's slow descent into near total madness, but with enough sense and strength to survive is superb. Especially good was the scene were he interviews himself. He was alone for most of the film, and carries it with no problem.

The director was faced with the challenge of filming most of the film with only one actor stuck in one claustrophobic spot. He succeeded admirably, but he did use a few too many tricks like weird camera angles and unnecessary split screens. He should have trusted his actor more.

The film succeeds brilliantly were Black Swan fails so miserably; the slow descent of a person into madness. I don't think the movie deserves Best Picture, but it's in the top three.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Perhaps we can learn a lesson from the Japanese

Here in America, teachers have no title. They are called Mr, Mrs, Miss, or Ms. Not until one reaches college or university is the title "Professor" used. In Japan, while the suffix san is used for most people, doctors, scientists, novelists and teachers are addressed with the suffix sensei. The use of this honorific places them on a pedestal, so to speak, showing them that they are respected and revered. With an employer or coworker, one uses san. A preschool teacher is addressed with sensei. In Japan, teachers, like education, are respected and honored.

This honor is also shown on the Japanese currency. Instead of dead politicians or current royalty, Japan uses portraits of sensei to grace their bills.

Hideyo Noguchi was a scientist known for his work with yellow fever and other infectious diseases. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize nine times.

Murasaki Shikibu was a novelist famous for The Tale of Genji, considered by many to be the first novel.

Ichiyō Higuchi was a Meiji Era poet and novelist. She is considered the first professional woman Japanese novelist.

Yukichi Fukuzawa was an author, teacher and founder of Keio University.

Instead of attempting to bust teacher's unions here in the states, perhaps we should start giving teachers the respect and honor that they deserve.

Hey Teabaggers,

Did you miss what your hero said about unions?

via Joe.My.God.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More on the Westboro Baptist Church

The WBC's website is down, and has been for a number of hours now. Some self proclaimed hacktivist by the name of The Jester appears to be taking credit, according to his twitter feed. I'm delighted by this act of vandalism. I'm all for anything that makes it more difficult for the Phelps Clan to preach their hate. Well, I should clarify. I'm all for whatever Anonymous or The Jester does to the WBC. The government should not abridge their free speech rights.

While researching the WBC, I've become rather impressed with their skill, energy, drive and talent. They are experts at publicity, and their organizational skills are top notch. They even manage to use humor to good affect, judging by the video parody below. Well, what they would consider humor.

Now, just imagine what these sick fucks could accomplish if their talent and energy was directed towards the advancement of progressive causes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Examining a meme: Is the Westboro Baptisit Church really a scam?

Folks are speculating that the Anonymous v. Phelps battle may simply be a publicity stunt by the Phelps clan. Certainly possible, for they love the attention. Others read further into the church's motivations and suspect that WBC was egging on Anonymous with the hope of suing for damages. Cory Doctorow at boingboing is of this camp. He writes,
I believe it. Close observers of the "Church" have opined that Phelps and his family have no particular strong beliefs, but that rather they are aggressive litigants who use shock tactics to lure private individuals and local police and governments into attacking them or abridging their rights. The family then brings lucrative civil action against all parties. It sounds like a sweet little racket if you're an utter sociopath.
The link he uses to support his claims is one that has been mentioned a lot in the blogosphere, mostly minor blogs by random nobodies like I, but also in popular, respected blogs such as Pharyngula. The link is most often found in the comments section of numerous blogs and news articles, for it seems that some are pushing this meme rather hard.

But, what does the article say? That Fred Phelps is a con man.
It's a business. They travel the country, set up websites telling you exactly when they'll be there, and using the most inflammatory statements all over the place, just to get someone to violate their rights for profit. Then they sue the military, the police force that was to protect them, and everyone that is around them for money. This is a sham, and it is a trap to get people sued. Every member of his family is an attorney. Phelps does not break the law. What he does is try to make you break the law by trying to punch your sensibilities about everything you hold dear, and then sue you and everyone municipality around him to the max.
The writer knows this for a fact because he is a journalist, and has seen the Phelps clan in action.
How do I know that Fred Phelps is suing people? I can tell you I just have too much experience around him. I am a journalist in Nashville, TN, and work at a television station that works the Ft. Campbell area. As a television photographer and journalist, I have been trained in all of the rules of private property, verbal conversation, what is legal and what is not legal, etc. (what you can and cannot say, what you can get away with). Honestly, in the last few months, I have seen waaay too much of Mr. Phelps and his crew. Since the war began, I believe they think this is the moneymaking source of a lifetime.

So how am I sure? After the third run in, and not one slip, not one piece of paperwork out of line, I knew something was fishy. My newsman skepticism left me with the idea later that something was more phishy than fishy.
I will tell you where I got this truth about Phelps. I looked him in the eye. I saw that he was way too calm and collected for what he looked like in the media. I noticed that he never made personal statements against a person, which is verbal assault, and an out against a lawsuit. Also, for a religious fanatic, a group of people who pride themselves on personal attacks, he was running a protest so terribly by the books that I was impressed by it. He will not bait a person, ever. He will not make personal attacks. He will make blanket statements. He will look at a person in the crowd that he thinks is gay, walk over to his stack of signs, pull out the appropriate, well designed, easily read, laminated bright board, and hold it up and loudly proclaim that "gays are going to hell" or some such nonsense, and make eye contact, but he will never cross the line of telling that person that they're going to hell. That would be the part that would screw up the lawsuit. He just wants to get them after him, but wants to appear utterly blameless for damages.
The writer offers zero actual evidence for his claims. I would think that a journalist would be able to cite specific court cases to back up his claims, like a journalist would, but the writer cites none. He offers nothing but suspicions supported by a gut feeling.

The article contains a disclaimer at the very top.
Disclaimer: The following was written by the user El_Camino_SS in this thread on, 02/21/2006.
I do not claim to have written this. This was found while browsing and is being reprinted without the consent of the original author, albeit I don't think this person would mind me having it here, I don't want any mistake made that I claim ownership of these words.

I merely agree with them...
Reading the article was enough for me to decide that it had zero worth, but as it has been cited by others, I decided to attempt to find evidence of any lawsuits that WBC may be involved in. But while researching, I found that Jordan Carr of the Standford Review has already done all of the hard work for me. He and Ruthie Arbeiter wrote a series of pieces in advance of a WBC protest at Stanford, and in one he detailed the legal history of Fred Phelps and the WBC. It is detailed, and instead of giving you a summary, I suggest you read the whole thing. He closes with,
All in all, it seems that the Phelpses use the courts more as a weapon than a means of earning a living–although I frankly have no idea how they can support themselves. Are there family members earning a legitimate living? Do they sustain themselves on donations? One shudders at the thought. I’m not a lawyer, but it does seem that if you should not engage the Phelpses and their affiliates because they will sue you, and that will be annoying, likely resulting in legal bills and a general waste of your time.
So, to sum up, an anonymous writer posts something he found on Fark written by another anonymous writer that makes claims about WBC, but offers zero evidence to support said claims, and this article is being cited as an authoritative source by the likes of PZ Myers and Cory Doctorow, while they fail to mention the piece written by Jordan Carr.

I'm curious why anyone with even just a wee bit of skepticism would take this foolishness at face value.

PS - As a side note, while researching this post, I attempted to check out WBC's website, but it was down. Coincidence, or did Anonymous launch an attack? Curious.

The Muppets do "Bohemian Rhapsody"

A college friend of mine posted on Facebook this link of five great covers of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." The Muppets win, of course, but there's also sign language, violins, slide flutes, and one dude on a ukulele. High art.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Oscar Marathon: Toy Story 3 and The Social Network

Toy Story 3: *yawn* Why was this even nominated?

The Social Network: So, I've been sitting here for a few minutes now trying to find something so say about this film. It did win a bunch of Golden Globes, and it seems to have generated a lot of buzz, but I find it difficult to think of anything to say.

It was a history of the creation of Facebook. Mark Zuckerburg is a dickhead. What else to say? Well made, interesting, soon to be forgotten. Oh, yeah, Timberlake is a pretty good actor.

Trent Reznor was an interesting choice for the music. It worked.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rick Santorum has a Google problem.

Back in 2003, Rick Santorum compared gay sex to bestiality and pedophilia, and pissed off Savage Love writer Dan Savage in the process. One of Dan's readers suggested that Dan hold a contest to name a gay sex act after Santorum. Dan went with it, and the winning definition was "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex." Then Dan created the website "Spreading Santorum," and his readers Google-bombed Santorum so whenever one typed Santorum into Google, the first result is usually "Spreading Santorum." Try it sometime.

So now, Rick Santorum has a problem. He wants to run for President, but he has this Google problem. Many people don't know of him, so the natural reaction is to Google Santorum. And, then they see the "Spreading Santorum" website. Santorum doesn't like being called santorum. It hurts his feelings. It makes him feel like, well, santorum. So, Santorum is complaining about santorum, playing the victim card, trying to gain sympathy and perhaps campaign dollars. Santorum feels like he's being picked on. Poor Santorum. Poor, poor Santorum.

Dan Savage has responded to Santorum's whining with,
All we did was make a dirty joke at his expense. There has been no effort to strip Rick Santorum of his civil rights, no moves to nullify his marriage, no one has suggested that his children be taken out of his home, no one is trying to prevent him from having more children. No one has compared Rick Santorum to a dog fucker or a pedophile. Compared to Rick Santorum, my readers and I have been models of decorum and restraint.
As the campaign moves forward, Santorum will try to fix his problem, probably with a Google-bomb of his own. But, I don't think he can out-bomb Dan Savage and his readers. They will just step up their efforts if necessary.

Instructions for Google-bombing are readily available. And, in case you're wondering, you are allowed to place links in the comments section here. Have fun.

Update: Yesterday, The Colbert Report covered this with some delight.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Anonymous declares war on the Westboro Baptist Church

Well, some of them do anyways. From AnonNews:
February 16, 2011


    We, the collective super-consciousness known as ANONYMOUS - the Voice of Free Speech & the Advocate of the People - have long heard you issue your venomous statements of hatred, and we have witnessed your flagrant and absurd displays of inimitable bigotry and intolerant fanaticism. We have always regarded you and your ilk as an assembly of graceless sociopaths and maniacal chauvinists & religious zealots, however benign, who act out for the sake of attention & in the name of religion.
    Being such aggressive proponents for the Freedom of Speech & Freedom of Information as we are, we have hitherto allowed you to continue preaching your benighted gospel of hatred and your theatrical exhibitions of, not only your fascist views, but your utter lack of Christ-like attributes. You have condemned the men and women who serve, fight, and perish in the armed forces of your nation; you have prayed for and celebrated the deaths of young children, who are without fault; you have stood outside the United States National Holocaust Museum, condemning the men, women, and children who, despite their innocence, were annihilated by a tyrannical embodiment of fascism and unsubstantiated repugnance. Rather than allowing the deceased some degree of peace and respect, you instead choose to torment, harass, and assault those who grieve.
    Your demonstrations and your unrelenting cascade of disparaging slurs, unfounded judgments, and prejudicial innuendos, which apparently apply to every individual numbered amongst the race of Man - except for yourselves - has frequently crossed the line which separates Freedom of Speech from deliberately utilizing the same tactics and methods of intimidation and mental & emotional abuse that have been previously exploited and employed by tyrants and dictators, fascists and terrorist organizations throughout history.

    ANONYMOUS cannot abide this behavior any longer. The time for us to be idle spectators in your inhumane treatment of fellow Man has reached its apex, and we shall now be moved to action. Thus, we give you a warning: Cease & desist your protest campaign in the year 2011, return to your homes in Kansas, & close your public Web sites.
    Should you ignore this warning, you will meet with the vicious retaliatory arm of ANONYMOUS: We will target your public Websites, and the propaganda & detestable doctrine that you promote will be eradicated; the damage incurred will be irreversible, and neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover. It is in your best interest to comply now, while the option to do so is still being offered, because we will not relent until you cease the conduction & promotion of all your bigoted operations & doctrines.

    The warning has been given. What happens from here shall be determined by you.

This is the same group that attacked PayPal and MasterCard after those companies stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks. They have also been going after Scientology for years. They are a strong supporter of free speech, as am I. On first reading this, I was surprised that they would attack a hate group that is practicing their free speech rights. On reading the comments to the letter, I found that there is considerable disagreement among Anonymous whether this would be a justifiable attack.

But, I hope they go for it. If nothing else because of the lulz. If they can take down PayPal for hours, imagine what they can do to a small group like WBC. And, if anybody deserves harassment, it's Fred Phelps and his gang of hate mongers.

Go for it, Anonymous.

Update: Westboro responds

Update II: Anonymous replies to the reply.

I must confess to being somewhat disappointed. I was getting the popcorn ready in anticipation of a delightful battle. Bummer.

via Joe.My.God. and Atheist Experience

Video killed the radio, but then someone killed the video.

Pertinent to this whole Femalegate drama (I prefer to call it horseshit), is the video of the panel discussion. It provided proof that Sharon's and Lyz's original post was full of exaggerations, halftruths, and outright lies. But, lo and behold, it had been edited. Or, as I call it, censored.

Now, being a cabdriver, I've found some weird shit in the back of my cab. Umbrellas, cellphones and gloves are pretty common. I've also found ganja and works of art. I once even had a drunk guy leave his passed out girlfriend behind. But, tonight I had a well dressed businesswoman leave a VHS tape sitting in my back seat. I pop it into my VCR, and what do I find? The unedited video. Life is strange. Enjoy.*

* That story is a total fucking lie. I came about the video in another manner.

I have a horse. It is dead. I shall beat it some more.

If you have no idea what this post is about, check here, here, and here first.

A couple of days ago, Jen published another post by Sharon and Lyz "clarifying" their infamous Pear post. It did not clarify much except for the level of their dishonesty. Basically, it was a bunch of backpedaling and political spin, just enough to appease (most of) the offended, but not enough for them to lose face. Pride is terribly important, especially to the young.

They start out by saying how wonderful an event SERAM was and how they didn't want to disparage it or American Atheists in any way.
We did NOT mean to make it sound as though any one person, organization, event or organizer was at fault or the focus of this article. Here's where our intentions were blocked by our inexperience in blogging - despite our best intentions, it did come across as though we were attacking the SERAM, American Atheists, the organizers, Sean Faircloth, and others. That was *never* our intent, and we want to apologize for not making that clear. We still think that the SERAM was a great event - in fact, we want to see more events like it! (Sold out, 200 attendees from all over, over a third women and almost half at their first event - awesome!) Likewise, American Atheists not only has a history and continuing practice of women in leadership positions, it is doing great work to improve our movement's diversity (have doubts? check out the speaker lineup for their national convention!), focusing on its niche as an activist organization, and providing support for local groups. While the issue we're discussing affects the entire freethought movement, we don't want anyone to come away thinking of AA, SERAM or Sean Faircloth as the bad guys. 
I checked their original post. It had two positive things to say about the convention and AA.
When David Silverman polled the audience on Sunday afternoon, for about half of those in attendance, this was their first atheist conference of any kind. Clearly, American Atheists is on to something.
American Atheists created a real opportunity for members of local groups to come together, share ideas, get leadership training, and go home ready to take over the world. For many issues-- activism, law, supporting campus groups, the future of the atheist movement-- they were incredibly successful.
And, for just a bit of the negative,
In fact, almost the entire conference had a bizarre quality to it when it came to gender issues.
I haven't enough room to quote all of the negative. If you have the time, read their original post. It is almost entirely negative. With their clarification, they try to make nice. Hell, they try to make so nice, they put in three exclamation points in the section describing how much they like everyone, including an "awesome!" By the way, do check out the speaker lineup of the national convention, and try to find another organization that works as hard at diversity.

From here, they move onto parsing and spin that would make Weeper-of-the-House Boehner proud. Concerning Sharon going after the woman who left the panel discussion, they originally said,
I - a member of the audience, not one of the event organizers - went after her.
And the spin,
We realize that our article made it sound like Sharon was the only person to follow the young woman - she wasn't the only one, but she was the first (and she couldn't very well see that others behind her also moved to help). The point we wanted to make was that she wasn't an event organizer but still wanted to help; not that the event organizers didn't help or didn't want to.
From reading the original article, anyone can tell at the very beginning that Sharon was not one of the event organizers. There was no need to remind her readers at this point in her narrative. I think it is clear that she is claiming that she meant that she wasn't one of the organizers, but she originally meant that she was the only one to help this woman. I don't buy the spin.

And, yada yada yada, they get the the crux of the matter,
You might be asking why we chose to focus on the SERAM so specifically if it wasn't itself the problem. Well, we chose to focus on these instances, at this event, for two reasons. First, they were recent and relevant - they were specific examples of specific behaviors that we have observed, time after time, that can and often do make women uncomfortable. Second, because we had to focus on something. If we had just posted an article about how “sometimes there's some stuff that makes women feel uncomfortable in our movement,” our post would have been ignored, or readers would have demanded to see the evidence. So we provided recent, relevant, specific examples that illustrated our main point: that we should work to make women in our movement feel more comfortable. If nothing else, we have succeeded in making enough noise that lots of people are talking about the issue - and that is our goal.
That kind of gets to the point of it all. They needed evidence, so they created some. I posted a comment to this post saying,
I'm wagering that this really means that they needed a good story to hook in their readers, so they exaggerated, misrepresented, twisted and invented the facts so they would have a shocking story demonstrating the horrid sexism that permeates the atheist community.

In the process, they went about willy-nilly slandering a lot of good people.

And, after they received a shitload of flack from the people they harmed, as well as those of us who care about honesty and decency, they post this joke of a clarification, which is filled with obstructifications, backpedaling, and more outright lies.
Someone responded, accusing me of assigning some kind of "Machiavellian Evil" to the writers' intentions. I don't. I think that they are young kids, passionate about a cause, and they exaggerated a little, and in the process they also lied, in order to give them a decent story to make their readers think that the atheist community has some kind of serious problem. I don't think them evil, but I do think them careless, callous, and cruel.

If nothing else, we have succeeded in making enough noise that lots of people are talking about the issue - and that is our goal.
Well, fuck you, you silly little cunts*. You hurt an awful lot of good, decent people just so you can get everyone talking about your pet issue. Are you happy now that everyone from PZ Myers to Dawkins** are talking about this? Bullshit like this little drama that you created is not the way to make our group more inclusive. It is a damn good way to drive a wedge between people, though. To quote you one last time,
We are trying to make the point that if you're making fellow supporters of our movement that uncomfortable, then you're doing something wrong. 
Try to understand that yourselves. By creating all of this drama, you are making your fellow supporters uncomfortable. You are doing something wrong. You should apologize. OK, got it?

* I know that that was sexist. I don't care. Consider it irony or satire or something.
** I know they are both men. I'm being sexist again. Sue me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What Folks are Saying about Femalegate

I've been perusing the interwebs looking for people's thoughts on Femalegate (not sure I like that moniker, but it's been coined and seen in the Twitterverse), and I've found a few interesting posts. These are the only posts that I can find that are critical of Sharon's and Lyz's reporting. If anyone knows of others, let me know and I'll add them in an update.

My favorite by far is Richard Dawkins, the Dark Lord of Atheism, calling the original Blag Hag post "hysterical twaddle." He goes on to say about the Million Dollar Challenge,
When the Million Dollar Challenge was offered at the American Atheists meeting, it deeply offended some feminists, as can be seen from the article cited, and by the comments that follow. Why? Isn't the sex difference in availability simply a fact, demonstrated by experiment and dramatised as folk wisdom by the Million Dollar Challenge? Why does the recounting of a fact give offence, if it is true? Part of the reason seems to be the old fallacy that if something is 'biological' it is inescapable and can be used to justify bad behaviour. Needless to say, that is nonsense. Paradoxically, one objection to the Million Dollar Challenge is precisely that it doesn't tell us anything we didn't know already.
A hat tip to JesusFetusFajitaFishsticks (try saying that five times fast) for providing the link. She was the "lone vag" on the panel and wrote a post regarding the event. It's kinda not quite PC and funny as hell.
This woman stood up and made a self-righteous quip about how we shouldn't have been using the word "female" because we're not animals. #1, Yes we are. #2, Quit wasting everyone's time. If THIS is the most important thing you could think of to mention regarding sexism in the atheist movement then I'd say we're doing pretty damn good as a movement. You get the mic and THIS is what you choose to bring to everyone's attention?
Also, JFFF provides an excellent screen shot showing Jen's hypocrisy. Go check it out.

Angel of Harlots was also an attendee of the panel discussion and provides a point by point breakdown comparing her recollections with the Blag Hag post. The differences are telling. She sums up with:
There are many people, men and women alike, who were present at the conference and, like me, feel that Sharon's post misrepresents the events and attitude at SERAM. It worries me that the uproar regarding our opinions seems to always come back to the fact that we "didn't respect the offended woman." As a freethinker, I'm quite offended that fellow freethinkers expect me to mindlessly respect someone's actions and emotions when they are directly inverse to my observations and experience.
Interestingly, upon watching the video, she realized that she made an error in one small detail and published a second post explaining her error and apologizing. Note to Jen: apologizing for errors in reporting, whether small or large, is just good ethics.

The Mind of Nicole, yet another female attendee writes:
From the outrage discussed on this blog post about SERAM by Sharon Moss and Lyz Liddell you would think that as FEMALES were walking in to SERAM, the males were telling them tits or get the fuck out. As a female, I feel incredibly pissed, offended, cheapened, and annoyed by reading this post. I was at the SERAM, and I can't remember feeling objectified or put down as a female at any point during the weekend. SERAM was an amazing event, and to me it seems as if Sharon and Liz made the unorganized, mendacity of a blog post to bitch for the sake of bitching.
There Are Four Lights
When I first read the post I was shocked that such a poorly run panel took place. However, since viewing the actual footage of the event, I found that the appalling behaviour and outrageous comments from the horribly moderated panel I had imagined didn’t actually exist. I kept waiting for the wildly inappropriate male panelists and audience members to begin their ridiculing. I kept waiting for the shocked faces of the offended women in the audience. Blag Hag guest blogger, Sharon, left me thinking a horrible incident had occurred, but the spectacle I had imagined never came. In fact, the account of the incident wasn’t entirely accurate.
 shethought wrote a two part post. The second part contained one paragraph that I would never dare say around a femmenist, for fear of losing my balls. But, she's right. That is not an excuse to act like dicks, of course, but she's right.
 As much as nobody has the right to shut down women’s sexual behavior, nobody has the right to try to shut down men’s sexual behavior. Courting rituals are a part of the sexual behavior of men and women. As long as these men are not forcing themselves on to women, it is not our place to stifle it. Yes, it is overwhelming to someone when they are outnumbered, at a conference, 2 to 1 by the opposite sex, so you will encounter a higher frequency of men hitting on you. But what they are doing is not hurting you. If you feel uncomfortable by it, it is not because they are doing something to bring you down or to be malicious. They wouldn’t be hitting on you if they thought you were not something of value. The appropriate response to a situation where you’re getting unwanted attention is to point out for the guy that it is unwanted attention. It is completely socially acceptable, though it may harm someone’s ego, to tell the random peacock, fanning his feathers at you at a convention, that their beak is inadequate to help you build your nest. Then, you just walk away.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Oscar Marathon: Winter's Bone & The Kids Are All Right

Winter's Bone: Easily the best movie I've seen so far this year. It's the tale of a young woman searching for her missing father so she can save the family home. The movie takes place in a very poor area of the Ozarks. I feel it does a great job of showing the difficulties of poverty without being in your face about it. The story is told, and the poverty is visible in the background, always there.

The lead is played by Jennifer Lawrence, who should beat Natalie Portman for Best Actress, but probably won't. The Oscars do have a habit of rewarding those with a longer career. John Hawkes does a stellar job as the uncle, and he's my favorite for Best Supporting Actor.

A word of warning, while excellent, the film is pretty damn depressing.

The Kids Are All Right:  This film has made news for being a lesbian movie, as if such things don't exist. But, it's not. It's a family drama/comedy in which the parents happen to be a lesbian couple. They could easily be a hetero couple with only a few minor tweaks to the script. In fact, the family seems to be just so damn normal, which is why I like the movie. Hollywood needs to realize that LGBT folks are normal, and they can be the central characters in a film without it being a "gay" movie.

Other than that, there's nothing particularly great about the film. It's OK, but most people will probably forget about it entirely in a few years.

The film had one moment which kind of pissed me off. In one scene, the daughter criticized another character for being a "slut." This scene was just a toss-in for a bit of comedy, and wasn't necessary for the plot. I find slut-shaming to be rather rude and offensive and, unfortunately, rather pervasive in our society. Women have the right to their sexuality just as men do. I was surprised that this film, written and directed by a woman, would stoop to such a low.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jen McCreight Needs to Apologize

Regarding the atheist blogosphere kerfuffle I mentioned the other day, the video is out.

[EDIT: For some reason unbeknownst to me, the above video has been edited, and the pertinent information flushed down an Orwellian memory hole. Fortunately, I managed to come across an unedited version, shown below.]

Now we have proof. I will compare the video with the authors' account of the discussion. First they said:
First, the panelists grabbed a theme that had been floating around all weekend: that men hitting on women is just biological (therefore excusable), making it sound like a woman in that kind of situation should just STFU and get over it.
 Actually, the first comment was a funny joke ("Same thing happens on XBox Live.") followed by one panelist saying that men hitting on women happens at any group, but he said, "...just don't be an asshole." (0:50-1:17) He did not say, or imply, that asshole behavior was excusable, and he certainly didn't say "just STFU and get over it." I am at a lost to see how the writers can honestly make that leap.

Then another panelist mention that this problem has been brought to his attention at his student group. He wondered why there are so many more male out atheists than female. He went on to mention that for people looking for a relationship, an atheist group is where one can find someone who will "...accept you the way you are." this is an important point for many atheists. They want to date like-minded people. (1:17-2:45)

One panelist mentioned that his group had more women than men, followed by another panelist saying that his group was mostly married couples, so they don't have such a problem. (2:45-4:06)
Then the moderator asked the women in the audience, as if it were a rewording of the same question, whether they would feel harassed or flattered if they showed up to an event and a few guys started flirting with them. We women in the audience, pressured to respond to the question at hand but feeling duped because we knew it wasn’t the same thing, gave an honest response. Sure, a few guys flirting with us is sexy. BUT!!! (we all screamed in our heads, even though the panel never let us say it out loud) 20 guys our father’s age blatantly staring at and talking to our cleavage is a totally different situation! It’s not sexy, it’s gross and creepy.
The writers skipped three minutes of discussion before they hit their next point. But, they changed the moderator's words. He asked by a show of hands how many thought being hit on would think "sexism" (two hands) versus how many thought it was "everyday penis activity" (a lot of hands and a good deal of laughter). (4:06-4:44)
BUT!!! (we all screamed in our heads, even though the panel never let us say it out loud)
Horseshit. If you look at the women in the video, I do not see any screaming in their heads. Maybe the writers were, but they are being awfully fucking presumptuous if they claim that all women were. Furthermore, as you will see later in the video, if someone would stand and speak to the panel, they would listen.
20 guys our father’s age blatantly staring at and talking to our cleavage is a totally different situation! It’s not sexy, it’s gross and creepy.
The authors are clear here. Hot guys hitting on us is sexy. Ugly, old guys hitting on us is sexist. Of course, it is hard for a guy to tell if a woman considers him hot or creepy. They do not usually let us know, at least not in ways men can figure out. Admittedly, we are dense at times. If you look at the video, you will see plenty of older women. The writers are speaking of all women as if they are all college age, ignoring a good part of the audience.
It’s not sexy, it’s gross and creepy.
You may find it creepy, but others may find it sexy. Many young people prefer dating someone much older. My first serious girlfriend was eighteen years older than I. I liked it, not creepy or gross at all. Once again, the writers are projecting their personal preferences onto all women. They should stop being so stereotypical.
It was extremely frustrating.
This was a panel discussing how to combat sexism in atheist communities. How this can be considered frustrating, I do not know. If men are trying to understand, and attempting to deal with sexism, shouldn't they be given some credit?

The moderator then went on to speak about a survey that was done earlier. He claimed that the was no complaints of sexism, he was surprised that some of the most sexist responses were from women. This point was discussed for a bit. (4:44-5:58)

A panelist went on to say that forbidding flirting and hitting on people cannot be forbidden at atheist groups, but warned that "...don't be a dick." "Especially if you have one," the moderator cut in. Laughter. (5:58-6:46)

General discussion of the hitting on issue, with one panelist announcing a marriage in his group soon, and another panelist stating that while rules against flirting are unworkable, inappropriate behavior is unacceptable and must be dealt with. (5:58-7:59)

A panelist then asked how many single females were in the audience. Despite another saying that single women might want to remain anonymous, a few women raised their hands. The moderator counted three. He was interrupted before he could continue.(7:59-8:09)
So I wasn’t surprised when the young woman who finally stood up and started challenging the panel snapped. First, despite her having her hand raised for most of the discussion, the panel never even acknowledged her or invited her opinion (despite soliciting the opinion of several guys both on and off the panel. Finally, she just stood up and started shouting to make her voice heard. Her question focused on the language the panel had been using - “female” instead of “woman,” and pointed out that it made us sound like livestock rather than people.
Several lies here. The woman in question did not snap. She stood and asked her question in a reasonable tone. I did not see the moderator once soliciting the opinion of "guys" or anyone else from off the panel, besides a show of hands. Perhaps I missed it, but I believe the discussion was between the moderator and the panel only. The woman did not start shouting at all. She stood up, got the attention of the panel, and asked her question, again, in a reasonable tone and very calmly. She never once said livestock, but instead mention that female seemed to imply animal. (8:09-8:38)
But did the panel address the question, perhaps looking for the point at which the discussion took on the word “female” so universally? Did they take the opportunity to discuss how things like language can make a group uncomfortable for women, and what we could do to make it better? No! The woman asking the question was viciously torn apart and ridiculed for even bringing it up. First, a combination of panelists and audience members tried to defend themselves by saying that feminists won’t let men use the word “women” off-limits because it has “men” in it.
Again, horseshit. In response to a question from her, a male panelist mentioned that he was not offended by the term "male," because he was one. The only female panelist mentioned that she thought the words were interchangeable. At this, the woman said quite calmly, "Alright." The woman was never viciously torn apart or ridiculed. There was some laughter from the audience, but it was obviously nervous laughter, coming from both men and women. I heard no mention of "...feminists won’t let men use the word “women” off-limits because it has “men” in it."  (8:38-8:53)
Then a commotion of everyone talking at once, which was cut off by one panelist’s definitive comment:“What do you want us to say, ‘the weaker sex?”
Actually, he said, "From now on, we'll use 'the weaker sex,'" to laughter and applause from the audience, again, from both male and female. A case can certainly be made that this comment was unnecessary and rude. But, as any public speaker or actor would tell you, it helps to end any awkward moment with humor. Maybe the panelist could have used better humor, but the audience liked the joke, and I see no real harm in it. (8:53-9:02)
She got upset (and who wouldn’t be?) and left the room. I - a member of the audience, not one of the event organizers - went after her.
She did get upset, but the writers assertion of "who wouldn't be?' is again projecting their own opinion onto every woman present. That is presumptuous. The claim that no event organizer went after the woman was a bald face lie. It is not apparent on the video, but Christie Swords, one of the organizers, also went after the woman. She claimed so in the comments, and other commenters and bloggers backed up her claim. (9:02-9:05)
While there were a few odd calls from the audience for the panelist to apologize, the moderator sort of awkwardly pushed the discussion on to a new topic, with an embarrassed air of “Sorry for the disturbance.” No apology, no discussing a better way it could have been handled. Not even a joking “This is how *not* to be welcoming” comment. Just “nothing to see here, move along.”
I do not know if there were any calls for the panelist to apologize, for the audio is somewhat unintelligible. He did make another joke, but I could not figure it out. The moderator did not push the discussion onto a new topic. They stayed on the same topic they were discussing, and the moderator did not even speak next. A woman called out from the audience, "Don't overlook the fact that sometimes women are going there to find men." Shocking, women want to meet people, also. The writers missed this somehow. (9:05-9:33)

The panel continued the discussion until the next topic, which was the possibility of atheist dating theists. (9:33-15:50)

The writers then go on to discuss a speech given by Sean Faircloth. The video hasn't been posted yet, but video from an earlier speech he gave in Boston is available, which event organizers and Faircloth say is basically the same.

Boston Skeptics in the Pub - Sean Faircloth - Oct 4th, 2010 from Maggie McFee on Vimeo.

This talk began well enough: a strong feminist position, an excoriation of Victorian moralist Anthony Comstock, mention of several areas in which the law imposes on women’s rights. 
This is accurate, but then:
But then it got weirdly uncomfortable. First, came the proposal of a new motto: “What Would Don Draper Do?” (Don Draper is your role model, seriously?) 
Faircloth was making the point that Draper is a libertine, while American law and society attempts to regulate people's sexual desires. Draper just goes for it, not minding society's rules.

Then came the discussion of the "Million Dollar Challenge," which Jen redacted.
[Jen's note: I've temporarily removed the section on the "Million Dollar Challenge" since there seems to be a lot of debate over whether it was depicted fairly. The Alabama Atheists are uploading the video of Sean's talk to make this situation clear. While I wouldn't let Sharon and Lyz do a guest post unless I trusted their judgement, I also don't want to misrepresent Sean Faircloth, so I'm waiting until I've seen the video.]
I don't understand this at all. If this portion of the article becomes suspect to Jen, why does she consider the rest appropriate? Things get weirder.
From there, the conversation wandered into a weird discussion about how men’s biology drives them to frequently (if not constantly) pursue sex, and since it’s biology, no one should get upset at, judge, or think less of men for any skirt-chasing they might engage in. (Because we never intellectually overcome our animal instincts in other areas of our biology, right?) The attitude in the room shifted: suddenly women were the bad guys for saying no to men’s propositions because it denies the men’s innate biology. Most of the guys in the room loved it, but as a woman in the audience - it was really uncomfortable. It was demeaning, frustrating, and not what you want to say to attract more women into this movement. 
Once again, horseshit. Complete and utter horseshit. Faircloth spent the entire talk telling women and men that we have the freedom to do what we want in the bedroom, and that it is our right to pursue pleasure if we so chose. He listed two rules to live by. "Consenting adults," and "mind your own business." That's it, that was his speech. Watch the damn thing, it's only thirty-nine minutes, and it's entertaining.

The writers comments are ludicrous. I am at a loss to figure out how they can even misinterpreted his speech to mean what they say it does.

The rest of the article is a bit more bitching, um, I mean whining, er, perhaps complaining about horrid sexism before they list a few ways to make atheist groups more appealing to women. And, by women, I think they mean sex-phobic, easily offended women.
But there’s an even bigger problem here. Situations like this drive wedges between otherwise natural allies in our movement. 
This is the crux of the matter, but not in the way they mean. Situations like this post, and Jen's behavior to the reactions to it, are the problem. Jen has been acting in a divisive manner, loudly complaining about nonexistent sexism, but blithely publishing an article that defames an entire convention and several good people who organized it and spoke there.

The panel they complain so bitterly about was addressing sexism, and methods to deal with it, yet Sharon and Lyz falsely accuse the panel of sexism.

In a new post yesterday, Jen defends the original post, [EDIT: I originally placed the wrong link here. It has been corrected.] saying:
Sharon and Lyz felt uncomfortable and unwelcome thanks to certain things that happened at the conference. That was how they personally felt. While I understand concerns that purposeful misrepresentation happened - something I do not support - I know Sharon and Lyz had nothing of the sort in mind. Others may just have been personally fine with the comments, and thus saw it as a misrepresentation.
Personally felt!?! It is one thing to have opinions, that is expected and encouraged. But, they made statements of fact that are demonstrably false. Maybe Jen feels that there was no "purposeful misrepresentation," but the video clearly disputes what they reported.

Furthermore, Jen goes on to insult the commenters who cried foul by stating:
To the conference organizers and (unfortunately) few commenters who actually managed to behave tactfully in this whole situation, thank you and keep up the good work. Your concerns are going to make this movement more accepting in the years to come. To everyone else? While I don't agree with it 100%, it would still help if you watched (or re-watched) Phil Plait's Don't Be A Dick talk. Just sayin'.
Don't be a dick? Jen published a post by two guest writers that was grossly inaccurate and defamatory, became angry and defensive when the defamed rightly protested, refused to apologize or retract the offensive post, and then has the gall to say "Don't be a dick."

Jen is a leader in the atheist movement. With her blog, she has a large following, and a bit of influence. It is incumbent upon her, if she wants to be taken seriously, to behave in a professional manner.
But if we want to make groups more welcoming, we have to worry about the people we're upsetting, not the people who already agree with us.
If she truly believes that statement, she needs to worry about the people she upset with this irresponsible post, and her bratty behavior afterwards. But, Jen seems to care only about the offense she feels, and not a bit about the offense she's caused.

Jen's father has a blog of his own called "If I Were King." It is apparent that dreams of royalty runs in the family, since she is acting like a fucking princess.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Oscar marathon: The King's Speech

K and I saw this the other day. It was pretty good, but not great. I have no idea why it was nominated. Colin Firth's performance was OK, but not particularly convincing. I had a severe stutter as a child, and it still comes out every now and then, so I have a pretty good understanding of stutterers and how they feel. Colin Firth didn't do it for me.

OK, that's all. Maybe the next films will be more interesting.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Latest Atheist Blogosphere Kerfuffle

Update: I've posted the video of the panel discussion with a minute-by-minute breakdown comparing it to the offending post.

Sharon Moss and Lyz Liddell wrote a guest post yesterday for Jen McCreight's Blag Hag. In it, they discuss some examples of sexism they witnessed recently at an atheist convention. They described a panel discussion on making atheist groups more welcoming to women. The problem of men hitting on women was bought up, which does happen. The severity of the problem is something I know nothing about.

The authors go on to tell the story of one woman who complained that she didn't like the use of the word "female" to describe women. She felt it was dehumanizing.
But did the panel address the question, perhaps looking for the point at which the discussion took on the word “female” so universally? Did they take the opportunity to discuss how things like language can make a group uncomfortable for women, and what we could do to make it better? No! The woman asking the question was viciously torn apart and ridiculed for even bringing it up. First, a combination of panelists and audience members tried to defend themselves by saying that feminists won’t let men use the word “women” off-limits because it has “men” in it. Then a commotion of everyone talking at once, which was cut off by one panelist’s definitive comment: “What do you want us to say, ‘the weaker sex?” 
She got upset (and who wouldn’t be?) and left the room. I - a member of the audience, not one of the event organizers - went after her. While there were a few odd calls from the audience for the panelist to apologize, the moderator sort of awkwardly pushed the discussion on to a new topic, with an embarrassed air of “Sorry for the disturbance.” No apology, no discussing a better way it could have been handled. Not even a joking “This is how *not* to be welcoming” comment. Just “nothing to see here, move along.”
The authors go on to describe a speech which they felt was particularly sexist and offensive. But, the middle of their complaint was replaced with:
[Jen's note: I've temporarily removed the section on the "Million Dollar Challenge" since there seems to be a lot of debate over whether it was depicted fairly. The Alabama Atheists are uploading the video of Sean's talk to make this situation clear. While I wouldn't let Sharon and Lyz do a guest post unless I trusted their judgement, I also don't want to misrepresent Sean Faircloth, so I'm waiting until I've seen the video.]
 Apparently, I read the post after a number of people complained about its accuracy. Which made me doubt the accuracy of the whole post. But, more on that later. For what it's worth, I am curious what was originally written.

The post went on to describe ways to make atheist groups more welcoming to women.

The comments, though, were interesting. At first, most people supported the authors and decried the rank sexism. But, then people who actually attended the event started commenting and disputing much of the reporting. One Christie Swords wrote:
If the description of the SERAM and Sean Faircloth's speech were accurate, I would be disgusted, too. The truth is that this blog is very slanted and untruthful.

I am a woman. I was present at the SERAM. Sean got a standing ovation from everyone including the women. I have had many conversations with other women about the SERAM and Sean's talk. I have heard no one else say anything about either being sexist.

I met both Sharon and Lyz. They seem like intelligent, nice people, but the assertions here are unfounded. Please take that into consideration before diving right into the oh-so-handy bucket of despair. I am not saying that they did not feel they way they felt. I am saying that it is wrong to rake people over the coals if you weren't there.

Evidence-based folks should ask for more than one blog before gathering the torches and pitchforks. Watch the video when it comes out and make up your own minds.
I found that interesting. Things got even more so when I read the post at JesusFetusFajitaFishsticks written by the woman on the panel. She writes:
This woman stood up and made a self-righteous quip about how we shouldn't have been using the word "female" because we're not animals. #1, Yes we are. #2, Quit wasting everyone's time. If THIS is the most important thing you could think of to mention regarding sexism in the atheist movement then I'd say we're doing pretty damn good as a movement. You get the mic and THIS is what you choose to bring to everyone's attention? I was hoping to get some input from the single females on how they felt when they first joined a group... did they feel harassed? Was it over the top, or just typical flirtation you encounter anywhere else that went away once you showed no interest? Is it any different from walking in to any room full of dicks (ohhh shit... come on guys... one of you stand up to lil' ole me and tell me how you don't like being called "dicks" I'm sure you're all fuming...).
The rest of her post can be summed up with, "Stop whining." This post also generated some comments, a few of which annoyed Jen enough that she wrote another post whining about them. Some of the comments were written by Blair Scott of the American Atheists. They were mild, non-offensive, but disagreed with Jen. She didn't like it.

Scott replied:
So you just posted a guest blog that trashed American Atheists without actually checking into the validity of it. And we know that to be the case because you had to delete the comments about Sean Faircloth's speech, but you just assumed that the rest was accurate?

And now you're upset that I dare call you on it?

Good grief...
And, Jen snapped back:
"Trashed American Atheists"? It criticized one aspect of one panel, and one speech, while saying how successful AA has become. What's really tarnishing American Atheists' image isn't that guest post, but your completely unprofessional comments as a board member disregarding the concerns of two female attendees (hint: argument from popularity is a logical fallacy), not to mention the rude, hateful, and sexist comments from people who also attended the conference. I would have happily attended an AA conference after reading Sharon and Lyz's posts. Now that I've seen the reactions? Count me out.
So, there are two stories for me to comment on, but first I'll sum up.

At some convention, a female complained about something, and hardly any one agreed with her. One guy even made a joke in slightly poor taste. She stormed out of the room and hid in the bathroom, like a crybaby.

If a man did that, he would be ridiculed for his crybaby behavior. His concerns would go unnoticed and uncared for, because he acted like a child.

But, this was a woman, and two other women at this same event wrote an article which Jen McCreight published on her blog. This article was poorly written, inaccurate, and possibly libelous. When others started complaining about the lousy article and criticizing her, Jen stormed out of the room and hid in the bathroom, like a crybaby.

Such behavior does not help the atheist movement. A kerfuffle such as this is silly and embarrassing.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"I'll Tell You a Funny Joke For a Cigarette."

I quit smoking about four years ago after I was rushed to the hospital via ambulance with a bout of pneumonia. Well, I mostly quit. I started chewing Nicorette gum, which helps a lot. I can't seem to quit the gum; if I try, I start smoking again. And, every now and then I cheat and have a cigarette, which makes it tough to quit the gum. But I don't really care. Chewing gum for the rest of my life is a hell of a lot better than smoking.

Tonight I stopped for my dinner break, and I checked the back seat of my cab, as always. You never know, I might find cash or a Rolex or a cell phone or a bag of weed. Every now and then I find something interesting that was left behind by a careless passenger. Tonight I found a pack of Maralboro Lights. Not the best brand, not even close. But, good enough to make me tempted. I grabbed the pack and check to see how full it was. About three quarters. Far too much temptation for me to deal with. I considered saving one for after dinner and tossing the rest, but tossing so many smokes is such a waste. What to do?

I was standing there on the sidewalk, facing temptation and losing, when a homeless guy came up to me. He said, "I'll tell you a funny joke for a cigarette." I said, "Sure."

He said, "If Iraq attacked Turkey in the rear, would Greece help?"

I laughed and gave him the whole pack. Dilemma solved.

He studied his windfall and said, "Damn, I didn't think it was that funny."

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I've picked up a few celebrities over the years. I'm not really sure how many, for I probably didn't recognize all of them. But, some I noticed.

A doorman hailed me on Waverly Place near 6th Ave. As the fare walked from the door to my cab, a distance of about six feet, he was stopped three times by passerbies with words of awe.  I couldn't see him from my angle, but when he got in, I was excited to see that he was Michael Moore. I'm a big fan his and admire him greatly. I asked if I could shake his hand, and he replied that he would be honored.

Now, a month or so before this, he was a guest on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, where they discussed politics. Moore said something about how the right wing always claim that the opposite of capitalism was communism, but he felt the opposite was actually democracy. Bewildered, Lehrer said that capitalism was an economic system, not a political one. Moore replied that capitalism was both economic and political, as was democracy. He went on to say that with capitalism as we currently practice it, we cannot have a true democracy.

I thought that that was brilliant (and still do), and I wanted to discuss it with him. But, as I started heading to his destination, I saw him frowning at his Blackberry, and I didn't want to disturb him. I didn't want to be one of those fawning fans that never give one a break. Besides, I generally do not bother my customers. If they want to talk, I'll talk. Otherwise, I leave them alone. Also, I'm shy.

So, I took him to his destination in silence, and on arrival, he thanked me and gave a generous tip. I finally worked up the courage to mention what I heard him say on the radio, and how it really made me think. He ended up spending ten or fifteen minutes just sitting in my cab and talking politics. The man is passionate about his beliefs, and apparently is always ready for conversation. To think, I probably could have chatted with him during the whole ride. Definitely one of the highlights of my career.

Nathan Lane was my first celebrity. We didn't talk at all. Like I said, I'm shy. He tipped well.

Sammy Hagar was just plain silly. I didn't recognize him when he got in, but I had heard him just the night before on the radio discussing his new album. I only recognized him because of his laugh, which is very distinctive and jovial. He was laughing because I passed a few other vehicles very closely with inches to spare, and he was making jokes to his friends about New York cabbies. It was in good jest, so I pushed the envelope a little to give him something to remember. At one point, he said, " Oh, Jesus, he almost hit the hot dog cart. Can you imagine hot dogs all over the street."

Alfre Woodward spent the entire ride on the phone discussing a movie offer she had recently received. She had been offered the role of the mother on a remake of Look Who's Coming to Dinner. She told her friend that if it was to be a serious movie, she would want to be a part of it. But, it was a Bernie Mac film, so she was worried that it would become a cheap comedy.

When the movie came out, I checked. She wasn't in it, and, according to the reviews, it was a cheap comedy.

Christian Bale was polite to a fault. I picked him up in the Village, and he wanted to go to Williamsburg. He apologized for taking me to Brooklyn, and then apologized for knowing the address, but not the cross street. I looked it up on the phone, and took him there. While paying, he thank me profusely, and apologized again for taking me to Brooklyn. I told him no problem. He tipped well.

Getting in with two guys, the first thing Paris Hilton said was, "Can we have sex back here?" I said, "Sure." They didn't actually have sex, but she did show the boys her breasts. At one point, she said, "I'm famous. I have a TV show." This was years ago during the first season of The Simple Life.

Arriving at her destination, the fare was $4.60. She paid with a hundred dollar bill, and I gave her $95 in change. We cabbies often round up, most people don't want the coins anyways. She took her change and said, "Sorry, we don't have any more money." She left me with a forty cent tip. Heirhead. I should have called Page Six.

I picked a guy up in Soho and brought him elsewhere in Soho. The fare was five dollars, and that's exactly what he gave me. As he was getting out, a lady was getting in, and she recognized him. She told him how much she enjoyed his work and how cool it was meeting him. He thanked her and held the door open for her.

After she told me where she was going, I asked who the guy was. She said he was John Singleton. I told her that he didn't tip, and she said that he probably forgot and that he's a really great director and a nice guy. I didn't think so. I thought he was just a cheap ass.

Recently, K and I were at our favorite bar having dinner and a few drinks. We struck up a conversation with a lady sitting nearby. The course of the talk turned towards New York in the eighties and how much seedier it was then. She told this story of a time she was on the subway late at night, and she noticed that the man sitting across from her was staring at her and masturbating. She was horrified and then shocked when she realized that it was John Singleton. She swore it was him, and that she was completely creeped out.

Now, I probably should be a decent guy and not repeat salacious gossip that I hear from a random woman in some bar. I have no way of verifying the story, and she had been drinking. For all I know, she could have been making it up, or just confused, or on drugs or something.

Then again, the cheap ass should have given me a tip.

And, Now For Something Completely Different

My sister posted this on Facebook. Too cute not to share.

TBX, or The Black Experience

AJ, who blogs at a site called (undermyfitted), was recently asked what life was like as a black man. In response, he has started a series he calls TBX.
You step out of your crib into one of "those neighborhoods" in a large urban area. It doesn't really matter which one, people spend a lot of time differentiating between big cities but really, the only differences lie in the city centers where they keep the monuments and politicians and stadiums and other shit they want to put on TV and show as the Faces of the City. Most hoods are the same or at least first cousins. (If you've never actually seen a hood in person but have seen "The Wire", I'll wager the hoods of Baltimore are a great stand-in for any in America for imagery's sake.) It's winter, and a snowstorm just passed a few days ago. You can still tell because the city has made no effort to plow the streets around where you live...their trucks and efforts are better used near the Faces.

Go read the whole thing.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Our Annual Oscar Marathon: Inception, Black Swan, and True Grit

I used to ignore the Oscars. Ever since Shakespeare in Love beat out Saving Private Ryan, I've boycotted them. I felt that the voters were just too wrong in making that decision. Don't get me wrong, Shakespeare was a good movie, but best picture? I don't think so.

But, since being with K, we have had an annual Oscar tradition. Every year, we watch all of the Best Picture nominees and a few of the movies in other categories. Then we join our friends M&R to watch the telecast. We eat, drink, and talk about, debate, and argue over our favorites. And, of course, we run a little betting pool.

This year, I've decided to share my thoughts on the various films. Since I hate jackasses who spoil the ending for me, I'll be sure to write SPOILER ALERT in big letters for any movie that I might discuss the ending or any surprises.

I loved Christopher Nolan's Memento, so I had high hopes for this one. I was very disappointed. It was so bad, that K and I actually considered leaving the theater fifteen minutes in. But, we paid our money, so we stuck it out. It was just too convoluted, weird, confusing and pointless. I got the feeling that they thought of all of the cool special effects first, and then wrote a movie around them. If you haven't seen it, don't waste your time. If you have, my sympathies. If you saw it and enjoyed it, you must have been on some good drugs.

Black Swan
Great concept and good story with a terrific performance from Natalie Portman, but it falls short. The direction fails miserably. The look of the film kept changing throughout. It's as if the director couldn't decide on a style, so he tried many. Darren Aronwhateverthefuckhisnameis had a bad habit of following Natalie Portman around with a jiggling hand held camera. This technique worked to great effect in The Wrestler. Here, it's just annoying. the acting of the mother was OK, but besides her and Natalie, most of the characters were frightfully two dimensional. Everybody seems to be talking about the lesbian sex scene, but it wasn't real interesting. The follow up to it was great though. All in all, the movie fails. If you must see it, watch it for a stellar performance from Natalie Portman. She is all it has going for it.

Once again, a great film from the Coen brothers. I love westerns and this is the best I've seen in a while. The ending is a bit lame, but the Coen brothers have a bad habit of fucking up a great movie by saddling (western pun) it with a shitty ending. In what I think would have been a better ending, Rooster should have climbed back up the hill and started rolling a cigarette. Mattie should have taken it from him, rolled it herself, but instead of giving it to him, she should have smoked it herself. After all, she has just become an adult.

But, the ending is a minor quibble. My biggest complaint with the film, is the fact that Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin are given star billing, but the true star of the film is Haillee Steinfeld. She is in every damn scene, yet she is mention fifth in the credits. I suppose this is because she is a newcomer to Hollywood and has yet to pay her dues. Or, maybe it's because she's a 14 year old girl, and it's the men who get star billing. The film revolves around her, for christsakes. Even more irksome, is the fact that while Jeff Bridges has been nominated for best actor, she has been nominated for best supporting actress. Sorry, she is the film, and she deserves credit for that.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Change of Comment System

Often annoyed by the lameness of Blogger, I've decided to change to DISQUS system of commenting. It has a few advantages, namely threaded comments, a better look and better moderation. They do take a little longer to load, but that is a minor trade off.

For those of you who might be considering changing also, I have a few words of advice. First, Internet Explorer 8 did not work for me.  DISQUS needs to write to your blog page, and IE8's safety features blocked it for me. I suppose that there is a way around this, but I just used Chrome instead. It worked with no trouble.

Second, importing comments from your Blogger blog takes a long time. So long that you might think that something has gone wrong. But, it worked for me; it just took about half a day. Don't panic. It's working.

The biggest flaw with DISQUS that I've noticed so far is that one cannot login with Blogger accounts. One can login in with Facebook, Twitter, OpenID, Yahoo, or DISQUS, but no Blogger. Stupid, I know, but you can deal with it.

So, I hope you like the new comments. It has a few more features, that Blogger just doesn't have.  BTW, why  isn't Blogger a little more cooler? Google does own it, so I'd think it would be a better system  by now.