Friday, December 30, 2005

29 Kislew 5766/30 December 2005: Hanukkah, day 5


For shame: “Immigration bill outrages activists”.

Here’s something you don’t see every day: A Lubavitcher rabbi takes on psychics.

And now for today’s selection of religious fallacies. The names of Jewish and pseudo-Jewish movements and groups, as well as a corresponding section for Christian movements and groups, are highly likely to get spun off into a separate list. And I do realize a lot of what I claim is “politically incorrect”.

Names of Jewish and pseudo-Jewish movements and groups:
“Conservative Judaism” (Not actually conservative or Judaism.)
Haredhim” (Name means “those who tremble [before God]”, which is presumptive since they have no monopoly on trembling before God.)
Hasidhim” (Name means “pious”, which is presumptive since they have no monopoly on piety.)
“Jewish Revival” (Not really Judaism, and the “revival” is by doping it with Buddhism and Sufism)
“Jewish Science” (Not really Judaism or science.)
Masorti Judaism” (Masorti means “traditional”, but this movement is based on a violation of tradition. Not actually Judaism.)
“Messianic Judaism” (Actually Jewish-rite Christianity.)
Neture Qarta’” (Group of radically pacifist Haredhim. Name means “guardians of the city”, which is inappropriate since they want to give Israel to hostile Arabs, which is the reverse of guarding.)
“Modern Orthodox” (Not actually modern. Having favorable views of general knowledge has a very long tradition in Judaism, at least to the Second Temple Period.)
“Orthodox Judaism” (“Orthodox” means “right-believing”. Orthodox Judaism actually emphasizes correct practice over correct belief.)
“Progressive Judaism” (“Progressive” is a gloss to cover up heresy. Not actually Judaism.)
“Reconstructionist Judaism” (Makes it sound like they are putting something back together, even though they are gutting the religion and leaving nothing but a shell of culture. Not actually Judaism.)
“Reform Judaism” (“Reform” glosses over the fact that the “reforms” are in gross violation of the Jewish meta-rules for changing rules. Not actually Judaism.)
“Traditional Judaism” (Violates tradition by specifically allowing mixed seating in synagogue, despite all legitimate precedent being to the contrary. Not actually Judaism.)

Judaism (including heretical movements that do not properly qualify as such), by Jews:
“A girl becomes a bath miswah at 13.” (Reform Judaism)
“A Jew is anyone who believes in Judaism.”
“All innovation is forbidden.”
“Anything which is discontinued is automatically nullified.” (Zechariah Frankel)
“‘Bar miswah’ and ‘bath miswah’ refer to ceremonies.”
“Being a non-Orthodox or nonobservant Jew is just as good as being an Orthodox Jew.”
“Being lenient is a virtue.” • ESAOF: “Being strict is a virtue.”
“Blaming women for the ills of society is a virtue.”
“Eating something sweet on Ro’sh hashShanah causes one to have a sweet year.”
“Emphasizing one’s femininity is a virtue.”
Hanukkah is the Jewish Christmas.” (Popular American misconception)
Hanukkah primarily celebrates one day’s worth of oil burning for eight days.”
“If you know the reason for a practice, you have no reason to perform it any longer.” (Reconstructionist Judaism)
“Ignorance is a virtue.” (Ignoramuses trying to get out of learning.)
“In the absence of a minyan, there is no point in praying in a synagogue.”
“Incompetence is a virtue.” (Incompetent trying to get out of improving himself.)
“It is OK to drive on Shabbath to go to synagogue.” (Non-Orthodox movements)
“Homosexuality is permissible.”
“It is permissible for a kohen to marry a divorcée.”
“It is permissible for a man and a woman who are not married to each other to dance together.” (Fiddler on the Roof, The Frisco Kid)
“It is permissible for a man and a woman to dance together in public.” (Fiddler on the Roof, The Frisco Kid)
“It is permissible for a woman whose husband died without even a single child to remarry without halisah.”
“Jews believe that Ezra is the Son of God.” (Qur’an 9)
“Judaism refers to any belief or religious practice subscribed to by Jews.”
“Modern Orthodox Judaism is more modern than other forms of Orthodox Judaism.”
“Non-Jews may be called up to read from the Torah.”
“Obliterating differences in practice or obligation between men and women is a virtue.”
“Prayer is a replacement for sacrifice and the synagogue a replacement for the Temple.”
“Praying with a minyan is more important than praying at the proper time.”
“Premarital sex is permissible.”
“Reform Judaism and the denominations descended from it (Conservative, Masorti, Traditional, Neologue, Reconstructionist, Humanistic) are Judaism.”
“Saying the qaddish is the only reason for going to synagogue.”
Shabbath ends at sunset, and it is permissible to ride a horse immediately afterwards.” (The Frisco Kid)
“The Hasidhim are an extremely Orthodox group.”
“The important thing about qiddush is to drink some of the wine/grape juice.”
“The Messiah will never come, and the Temple will never be rebuilt.”
“The order of the sedher is not important.”
“The qaddish is a prayer for the dead.”
“The tallith is a shawl and should be worn thusly.”
“The tefillah shel ro’sh should be worn off-center on the forehead, and the knot of the tefillah shel yadh should never be in contact with the tefillah shel yadh itself.”
“The Torah can be changed in any generation.”
“There is an Orthodox Jewish movement.”
“The Western Wall is Judaism’s holiest site.”
“We can rely on the Documentary Hypothesis.”
“We will never return to Israel.”
Yom Kippur ends at sunset, and it is permissible to eat immediately afterwards.” (Northern Exposure)

Judaism, by non-Jews:
“Food is kasher if a rabbi blesses it.” (Someone in Middleton High School between 1990-1994)
“Essene texts are binding on modern Jews.” (Idiot vegetarian)
“Jews have horns and tails.” (Christian anti-Semites)
“Jews kill gentile children and use their blood to make unleavened bread for Passover.” (Christian anti-Semites)
“The Holocaust never happened or was not as bad as claimed.” (Anti-Semites)
“The Jews are conspiring against the entire planet.” (Anti-Semites)
“The Jews are the cause of everything going wrong on the planet.” (Anti-Semites)
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are real.” (Anti-Semites)

Enjoy, and happy Hanukkah, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

28 Kislew 5766/29 December 2005: Hanukkah, day 4/Kwanzaa


Extreme menorah-lighting was off yesterday. Due to threats of thunderstorms, I lit inside. ☹

Rupert and the gang wish me to note the article “Kenya's Hippo, Tortoise Mark Year Together” and commend Mzee the Tortoise for his friendship with Owen the Hippopotamus.

And now for today’s selection of religious fallacies. I suspect many of those dealing with prayer are extremely widespread since lots of people complain about them.

Categorization of behavior:
Note: Some items in this section are overridden in specific religions.
“Absolute pacifism is good.”
“Animal sacrifice is bad.”
“Anything natural is good.” AKA “Anything artificial is bad.”
“Circumcision is wrong since God made the human body perfect just the way it is.”
“Conformity is a virtue.” • ESAOF: “Disconformity is a virtue.”
“Drinking alcohol is bad.”
“Eating meat is bad.” AKA “Vegetarianism is good.”
“Love is the same thing as sex.”
“Love is the same thing as submission.”
“Pleasure is bad.” • ESOAF: “Pleasure is good.”
“Self-deprivation is good.”
“Sex is evil.” • ESOAF: “Sex is good.”
“Spirituality in all its forms is good.”
“Support is the same thing as submission.”
“Tolerance is the same thing as acceptance.”

“It is a virtue to rush through prayers as fast at humanly possible (or even faster).” (Ignoramuses in synagogue)
“It is a virtue to say the beginning and ending of a prayer and to skip the middle.” (Ignoramuses in synagogue)
“It is acceptable behavior to chat during prayers or a sermon in a house of worship.” (Ignoramuses in synagogue)
“No one can hear me chatting during prayers or a sermon in a house of worship, or if they can, they are not disturbed by it.” (Ignoramuses in synagogue)
“Prayer itself causes things to happen.” (Popular American misconception)
“The point of prayer is to make things happen.” (Popular American misconception)
“When one prays, one really prays to oneself.”

“Being against abortion and for the death penalty is inconsistent since the first item is pro-life and the second is pro-death.” (Popular American misconception)
“The relevant question with regard to abortion is ‘When does life begin?’” (Popular American misconception)

Sexual preference:
“David and Jonathan were homosexual lovers.” (Cited in the name of a heretical synagogue)
“Having homosexual desires is determined purely by genetics.” (Militant homosexuals) • ESAOF: “Having homosexual desires is determined purely by choice.” (Militant haters of homosexuals)
“Love justifies homosexuality in all religions.” (Militant homosexuals)
“Prohibitions allegedly against homosexuality are really prohibitions against something else.” (Homosexual Christian preacher on the news in December 2005)
“Sexual preference is unchangeable.” (Militant homosexuals) • ESAOF: “Sexual preference is changeable at will.” (Militant haters of homosexuals)
“Since one has a particular sexual preference (heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, etc.), one has no choice but to practice it.” (Militant homosexuals)

Enjoy, and happy Hanukkah.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

27 Kislew 5766/28 December 2005: Hanukkah, day 3/Card Playing Day/Kwanzaa


The extreme menorah-lighting is going well. No problems with the oil thingies or anything like that. (Thank God!) The only thing thing wrong is that it’s rather cold around here at menorah-lighting time. I suspect that in future years I may end up having a bonfire going during the menorah-lighting, which would make it more practical as a group activity, possibly involving singing and roasting things. If anyone has any idea how to practically cook a latke on a stick, please let me know.

And now for today’s section of my list of religious fallacies. I suspect I am going to have to spin-off errors in logic and errors in facts into different lists.

What really matters:
“Being part of some elite group is all that really matters.” • ESAOF: “Being outside the elite group is all that really matters.” (ESAOF suggested by Another Nitpicker.)
“Belief is the only thing that matters.”
“Comfort is all that really matters.”
“Going to church/synagogue/mosque/etc. or performing some other specific ritual or moral activity at some regular interval is the only thing that matters.”
“Happiness is the only thing that matters.”
“Morality and good works are the only things that matter.”
“Religion is something priests/ministers/rabbis/imans/etc. do for me.” AKA “Religion is a spectator sport.”
“Rituals are the only things that matter.”
“Spirituality is the only thing that matters.”
“Supporting one’s house of worship, especially financially, is the only thing that matters.”
“When one is not at church/synagogue/mosque/etc. one can do anything one wants.”

Good and evil:
“Doing the wrong thing can be the right thing.”
“God does not want us to keep the rules he gave us to live by.”
“Polytheism is inherently more tolerant/moral/relevant/superior/etc. than monotheism.” (People who have an axe to grind with Christiantity, Judaism, or Islam) • ESAOF: “Monotheism inherently is more tolerant/moral/relevant/superior/etc. than polytheism.” (Monotheists with axes to grind; either of these views can be supported by selective examples of the goodness of one and the wickedness of the other. Both variants suggested by Another Nitpicker.)
“There is such a thing as objective good and evil.”

The human condition:
“A human being can be perfect.”
“I am perfect just the way I am.”
“I cannot possibly get any better.”

Theodicy (divine justice issues), real or alleged:
“If something bad happens to someone, obviously he/she has done something wrong. If something good happens to someone, obviously he/she has done something right.”
“The alleged victims in any dispute are always good and the alleged oppressors are always evil.” • “ESAOF: The alleged victims in any dispute must be evil and the alleged oppressers must really be good. (Otherwise, why would evil be allowed to win out over good?)” (ESAOF suggested by Another Nitpicker)

Categorization of people:
Given that “superiority” involves being inherently smarter, more knowledgeable, more intellectually honest, more right, better, more moral, wiser, correct, saner, or God-fearing; and that “inferiority” is the opposite, possibly including collaboration with or worship of one or more evil beings:
“Insiders are superior to outsiders.”
“It is moral to judge people in the absence of objective information.”
“Non-human animals are superior to humans.” (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)
“Non-prophets can know who is going to Heaven and Hell based on their actions.”
“One class or caste is superior to another.”
“One race is superior to another.”
“One sex is superior to another.”
“Outsiders know the truth, only they are too stubborn or evil to admit it.”
“People in ancient times were superior to the people living today.” • ESAOF: “People today are superior to the people living in ancient times.”
“People of one sexual preference are superior to another.”
“People with sexually transmitted diseases are superior” • ESAOF “People with sexually transmitted diseases are inferior.”
“Religious people are superior to secularists.” • ESAOF: “Secularists are superior to religious people.”
“Technologically primitive people are superior to technologically advanced people.” • ESAOF: “Technologically advanced people are superior to technologically primitive people.”

Enjoy, and happy Hanukkah.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

26 Kislew 5766/27 December 2005: Hanukkah, day 2/National Fruitcake Day/Kawanzaa


And now the next section of my list of religious fallacies:

“One can be a special, foretold person (Messiah, Mahdi, etc.) without fulfilling all the requirements for being that special, foretold person.”
“The claims of one person to prophecy or godhood, without any corroborating evidence, can be relied upon.”
“Visions without corroboration are reliable.”

“Anything with the trappings of science is obviously correct.” • ESAOF: “Anything without the trappings of science is obviously correct.”
“Belief in evolution is tantamount to atheism.” (Creationists)
“Belief in science is purely a matter of faith.” (Creationists)
“Creationism/intellegent design is a scientifically valid theory.” (Creationists)
“Science is a religion.” (Creationists)
“The truth of scientific propositions may be judged according to their religious or moral implications.” (Creationists)

“God can violate logic and mathematics.”
“God is a social construct.”
“God is an abstraction.”
“God is the sum of all good.”
“God is the universe or the soul of the universe.” (Pantheism, panentheism)
“God’s purpose is to make things go fine for us.” (Popular American misconception)
“I am God.” (Pantheism)

Enjoy, and happy Hanukkah.


Monday, December 26, 2005

25 Kislew 5766/26 December 2005: Hanukkah, day 1/Boxing Day/Kawanzaa


Hanukkah celebrates primarily a victory of Judaism over assimilation into the Greek paganism prevalent in area during the Second Temple Period. Today, we are faced with the ironic attempt of many to assimilate Hanukkah into Christmas in the form of a “holiday season” and by adding features of Christmas (giving presents, home decoration, decorated trees, and even variations on Santa Claus) to Hanukkah. Since this syncretism is based on severe religious fallacies, I have decided that the weird things for Hanukkah will be sections from a growing list of religious fallacies I have started collecting. I suspect the entire list will eventually evolve into a book.

WARNING: This work makes no pretenses of being ecumenical, “politically correct”, or (in some cases) polite. Many of these fallacies reflect things that people do but no one says aloud because they would sound stupid doing so. If you recognize one of your own beliefs listed here, please protest only if you can back up why said belief is not fallacious with a rational argument.

NOTE: I have not written out yet why anything on my list is a fallacy, that being on my “to-do” list. If you want explanation of any fallacy sooner than “whenever”, please ask.

In compiling this list, I have discovered so far two meta-rules of religious fallacies:

Meta-rule of infinite diversity in infinite combinations: There is no proposition so imbecilic that absolutely no one will believe it, as it is written, “A simpleton will believe anything” (Proverbs 14:15).

Meta-rule of balanced stupidity: For many fallacies there is an equally stupid and opposite fallacy (ESAOF).

And now on to today’s section:

General religious epistemology:
“A proposition about reality can be true for one person and false for another.”
“A religion of which a critical tenet has been disproved can still be true.”
“Beliefs known to be invented and without rational justification can be assumed to be true.”
“Believing is the same thing as knowing.” AKA “Speculation is as reliable as evidence-based fact.”
“Blind faith is a virtue.”
“Contradictory propositions can be true.”
“Critical thinking should not be applied to religion.”
“What is commonly accepted/popular is obviously correct.” AKA “One billion people can’t be wrong.” • ESAOF: “What is commonly rejected/unpopular is obviously correct.”
“Whatever the authorities say is true is true.” • ESAOF: “Whatever the authorities say is false is true.”

“All religions are equally true.” (Bahá’ís, popular American misconception)
“All religions are the same.” AKA “It doesn’t matter which religion one believes in or practices.” AKA “Different religions are just different ways of worshipping the same god.” (Popular American misconception)
“All religions have the same values.”
“I belong to all religions.”
“It is OK to mix and match things from different religions without justification.”

“A law or select group of laws taken in isolation faithfully reflect that religion’s position on a relevant issue.” (People commenting on Judaism badly.)
“Inconvenient texts can be simply ignored.” (Idiot vegetarian)
“It is reasonable to cite part of a verse while ignoring the rest of it.” (Idiot vegetarian)
“It is reasonable to ignore the context of a verse.”
“Literal interpretation of scripture/tradition is a virtue.” (Creationists) • ESAOF: “Allegorical/metaphorical interpretation of scripture/tradition is a virtue.”
“Rules of one’s religion can be changed or dropped arbitrarily.” (Reform Judaism)
“Scholarship, especially intellectually honest scholarship, is unimportant for good religion.”
“Texts can be interpreted any way one wishes to.” (Idiot vegetarian)
“Texts can be interpreted correctly while ignoring the historical contexts in which they were composed or received.”
“The Hebrew Bible/New Testament/Qur’an/etc. can be honestly used to support any position.”
“Translations are as good as the original text.” (Christians who hold by the King James Bible only)

Enjoy, and happy Hanukkah.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

24 Kislew 5766/25 December 2005: National Pumpkin Pie Day/Christmas


Notice: Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, and I get to try out my brand-new windproof menorah outside.

Reminder: Enter The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week. All entries must be submitted before sundown (5:19 PM EST) to count!

Special bonus: A while back I heard about a song called “I'm Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek” (lyrics here). This made me think about how it would be possible for a Dalek to be Christmassy in any way, shape, or form, since, as many of know, Daleks are war-mongering cyborgs from the famous British science-fiction show Doctor Who. This is the solution I reached:


The room is decorated for Christmas. Two boys and a girl, all in pajamas, are hiding behind a sofa, waiting for someone. Suddenly, a black box the size of a telephone booth materializes.

(abandoning their hiding place)
He's here! He's here!

The black box opens up, and out come a Dalek and a Cyberman. The Dalek is painted green, has silvery hemispheres on his skirt, and is wearing a Santa Claus hat. The Cyberman is wearing a rubber clown nose and a Santa Claus hat, and he is carrying a big sack filled with something.

Hello, children! I am Santa Dalek, and this is my assistant, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Cyberman.

Merry Christmas!


We have come bearing gifts for all the good human children on the planet Earth. Beverly, you have been very good this year, and thus you get—

(producing a doll from his sack)
A dolly!

(taking the doll from Rudolph)
Thank you, Santa Dalek and Rudolph.

You're welcome.

And you, Gilbert, have also been very good this year. Therefore you get—

(producing a toy truck from his sack)
A truck!

BOY #1
(taking the truck)
Thanks, guys!

You're welcome.

Troy, you have been bad this year; very, very bad. Therefore you will be—
(starts shooting laser beams)

The children start running away, screaming.


Today’s weird thing is what some consider the worst movie of all time, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I have seen part of it being attacked on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I can testify that it is ludicrously bad. Strangely enough, this monstrosity is public domain and available at the Internet Archive. This may be due to the people who made it disowning it completely. Enjoy.


Friday, December 23, 2005

22 Kislew 5766/23 December 2005: Festivus


Reminder: Enter The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

In honor of Festivus, today’s weird things are the Festivus article at Wikipedia and the Festivus Info Center. No doubt someone will send me a list of grievances. Enjoy.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

21 Kislew 5766/22 December: Winter Solstice


Stuff accumulating on my desktop:Reminder: Enter The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is the Bay Area Segway Enthusiasts Group, which plays Segway polo. (Go figure.) Enjoy.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

19 Kislew 5766/20 December 2005: Games Day


News cluttering up my desktop:Reminder: Enter The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is Animated Singing Santa Hack. (I cannot make something like this up.) Enjoy.


Monday, December 19, 2005

18 Kislew 5766/19 December 2005: Suess gone political


Reminder: Enter The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is Suess gone political. Enjoy.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

17 Kislew 5766/18 December 2005: Bake Cookies Day


Reminder: Enter The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is a movie review which was generously submitted to me by someone trying to save me effort, included below. Enjoy.


Many of you, no doubt, have seen the latest remake of King Kong, this time by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. This version, which is more closely based on the original than the last one, has gotten considerable praise from critics. In certain respects, the new film is an improvement over the old, with much better special effects and further development of the characters of Kong and Ann Darrow and the relationship between them. It also has some flaws which critics have pointed out, such as the extreme run time (over three hours), adding too much material before Skull Island is reached and too much extreme, ridiculous action once on Skull Island, not to mention the large number of redshirt deaths.

One problem the critics have not mentioned is the treatment of the Skull Islanders. In the original version, Skull Island was inhabited by people who were largely constituted of stereotypes of “primitive” people current at the time. Despite this, the depiction was not entirely negative. They were not initially hostile to Carl Denham’s party and were quite willing to negotiate a trade for Ann Darrow. This is not to say they were correct in regularly giving young women to Kong, but we must remember their situation. This was not a pointless ritual as in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” They had, after all, built a giant wall and still did not feel safe from the giant gorilla on the other side, quite likely with good reason. Faced with either giving the lonely ape the occasional companionship or likely gruesome death, under these circumstances many of us would opt to compromise our morals.

This is not the case with the new film. Instead of humans, Jackson imported a number of orcs from Lord of the Rings to inhabit Skull Island, and the effect was quite different. The orcs were disagreeable from the start, immediately killing a few redshirts and kidnapping Ann Darrow without offering even one, let alone six, women in trade. They were rude, nasty, dirty, had unattractive facial piercings, and the only one to talk was a wrinkled old woman who apparently lead the ceremony for giving her to Kong, and then it was only an untranslated monologue. Unlike the inhabitants in the original version, the orcs in the new version are a completely negative and unsympathetic portrayal. Rather than expand on the events in the original film and show human beings acting desparately to appease a force with which they are constantly threatened, Jackson instead turns them into even greater monsters. This was cruel and unwarranted.

Among the many references to the original film was in the Broadway presentation of Kong. In this version, a number of people dressed in constumes come out and dance in a purported reenactment of the sacrifice of Ann Darrow to Kong. The appearance of these dancers is like the Skull Islanders in the original, and the ceremony from the original is turned into a farce. The undercurrent here is that Jackson does not take their plight seriously and treats them as a joke. He has made us sympathize with a twenty-five-foot gorilla, but when it comes to his fellow human beings, the magic is mysteriously lacking.

K. K.

Friday, December 16, 2005

15 Kislew 5766/16 December 2005: National Chocolate Covered Anything Day


Epidemiologico-political update: “Cancer fears over sweetener in food” (Guess who is responsible for aspartame being on the market in the first place.)

Reminder: Enter The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is an unusual story, “Man catches baby flung from burning NY building”. Enjoy, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

14 Kislew 5766/15 December 2005: National Lemon Cupcake Day/Esperanto Day


Reminder: Enter The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird things are a bunch of things which are cluttering up my desktop.Enjoy.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Worthy cause of the day: Stop the Patriot Act


For today’s worthy cause, I present a petition: “ Stop the Patriot Act”. Please sign ASAP and tell Congress not to permit Bush and company to violate our constitutional rights under the false pretense of fighting terrorism. Thank you.


13 Kislew 5766/14 December 2005: Barry criticizes the new Narnia movie


Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is a critical review of the new The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie written by Barry, included below. Barry brings a rather unique (and probably unintended) perspective to what the producers may have had in mind. Enjoy.


I know that the movie version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe just released is being highly touted by right-wing Christians and was even underwritten by a major campaign supporter of George W. Bush. However, I do feel it compelled to point out that under this allegedly wholesome and proper movie, there are some rather unsettling elements:

1) Lucy is an idiot. After going to Narnia the first time and it being made very clear that her presence there has put Tumnus in grave danger, she instead goes back and visits him again, as if Narnia was just a playground and it was no big deal. At the very least, Mr. Tumnus should suffer a nasty and irreversible death rather than the happy ending portrayed to properly drive home the point that stupidity like this kills, rather than sending such a mixed message as the movie does that somehow one can make up for revealing someone as a traitor to a repressive government.

2) The use of the name “Edmund” is lame. See the use of it in “King Lear”, from which others have also drawn for traitorous characters (e.g., Guiding Light). “Peter” is also obvious and lame in this context.

3) Edmund’s motivation at times seems strained. Why does he wait so long to do anything about the White Witch when it is clear to him that she’s the bad guy very early? And why would he run away to her if he clearly hasn’t delivered his siblings and she’s clearly the bad guy?

4) The costume designer has issues with breasts. Although the White Witch showed skin on her neck and shoulders, other parts that might have been seen were not. This alone was not terrily suspicious (it is, after all, a movie obstensibly aimed at children), but for much of the movie she wore an outfit that was shaped and padded to specifically hide the shape of her breasts. The only shot of them was a bit of cleavage viewed from above, and given the rest of the film, one gets the impression it was an accident. That women have breasts is generally obvious even with clothing, which usually provides some hint at the shape of the underlying structure. Going to great lengths to hide breasts, however, is pathological. This problem with adult femininity would be consistent with C. S. Lewis’ own mistreatment of Susan in later books over her maturing, and with the problem below it becomes extremely creepy.

5) Mr. Tumnus, a “faun” (satyr), runs around the whole movie with neither shirt nor pants. Not only does this expose the characters to experiences of questionable value (I am sure Lucy would have gotten a great view of his goat genitalia), but he also provides eye candy for heterosexual females and homosexual males. Thus he may be seen as contributing to the delinquency of these groups (and how shameful it is to lure these people to see allegedly wholesome entertainment and potential remption through Christ, only to inflame their lusts and lead them to sin in their hearts and possibly elsewhere when they leave the theater), but it also suggests that, given men largely made the film, and they deliberately hid female breasts while flaunting a naked male body around onscreen, these men might be doing one heck of a lot of sublimating of desires contrary to their beliefs.

6) Aslan (pronounced as AHZ-lahn rather than the more suggestive ASS-lahn) has been absent from Narnia for one hundred years. If he is so good, why was he gone and why did he allow such awful things to happen in his absence? Overall, Aslan’s presence in the story is relatively small, his motivations are largely unclear, and compared to the children (or even the beavers) he is bland and boring. What is really so great about this lion?

7) There is no way that Peter could ever stand a chance against anyone in a swordfight who has had a hundred years more to practice.

8) Why are all the other creatures so powerless against the White Witch? Must everyone sit on their haunches and twiddle their paws until the prophecy says the time is right to correct injustice?

9) The sacrifice and resurrection of Aslan depends solely on circumstances peculiar to the story to occur; had Lewis not specically arranged for Edmund to betray the good guys and need to be sacrificed, for Aslan to allow himself to be exchanged for Edmund, and for the deep magic arranged in a specific, peculiar way, this sequence of events would not have been able to occur. In real life, someone trying to do what Aslan did would be suicide (cf. A Tale of Two Cities). Are children supposed to get the message that they must throw their lives away?

10) The story has some sexist elements. Susan and Lucy get treated relatively second-class compared to Aslan and Peter, and even screw-up Edmund gets a second chance he clearly does not deserve. The White Witch, of course, is quite evil (and, oddly, gives probably the best performance in the movie) though her motivations are never explained. Would anyone give the White Witch a chance to reform? Perhaps if we knew her better? Of course, if we truly were given a chance to understand her, would we necessarily view her as so evil?

11) There are arguably quasiracist elements in the story as well, with allegiances being divided up along species lines.

12) The story was extremely violent in parts and as nearly as graphic as The Lord of the Rings. In some cases the images were disturbing, such as one scene where a griffin is petrified by the White Witch in midair and, crashing, shatters. The sacrifice of Aslan was also pretty disturbing. One wonders what the parents hyping this movie would say about a video game with similar violent scenes but without the crypto-Christian content? Is killing okay so long as it is infidels who die? Whatever happened to the injunction to turn the other cheek?

13) If the animals in Narnia all talk and are intelligent beings like humans, what do the carnivores eat? If they eat other intelligent beings, wouldn’t that make them akin to murderers and cannibals?

14) Why does the professor side with Lucy? Lucy, after all, makes a fantastic claim which is contrary to experience and cannot provide evidence otherwise. Are we to accept ridiculous claims merely because they are made by family members?

15) Since when did Father Christmas/Santa Claus hand out weapons?

16) Short of Edmund’s ambivalence (necessary for Aslan to sacrifice himself), the characters are either all good or all evil, with no shades of gray. Needless to say, the world does not work this way, and it a poor model for anyone trying to understand people if they must shove them into only two categories. Edmund’s ambivalence at least in part depends on conflicting motivations, which makes him more interesting than his siblings, who are all largely dull characters.

Summary: Since when did simplistic pigeonholings of people, sexism, reckless endangerment of people’s lives, graphic violence, abandonment of people by a leader to suffer needlessly, fatalism, encouraging suicide, and repressed homosexuality make for wholesome family entertainment?

My commentary on the commentary: Concerning the possible paranoia in the Witch’s wardrobe and obliviousness with regard to the faun’s complete lack of a wardrobe: Perhaps the Witch, “knowing good and evil”, is uncomfortable with her sexuality and thus goes to great lengths to hide her body. Mr. Tumnus, however, is still in that state of innocence which Adam and Eve enjoyed before the Fall; as such, he finds nothing wrong with walking around naked, even though it makes clear to everyone (or at least ought to) he is a sexual being. Considering that Aslan, who is essentially Jesus, also walks around naked, C. S. Lewis is telling us that true holiness involves being completely comfortable with our sexuality and thus that public nudity is not only acceptable, but also ideal.

(On the other hand, perhaps on this point C. S. Lewis and the people who made this movie simply did not think things through...)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

12 Kislew 5766/13 December 2005


Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird things are a bunch of items that have accumulated on my desktop.Enjoy.


Monday, December 12, 2005

11 Kislew 5766/12 December 2005: Nessie on the Net


Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is Nessie on the Net! The Ultimate Loch Ness Monster Live Cam, Scotland. Yes, even a mythical lake monster can have a Web-site these days. Next thing you know, Bigfoot will be demanding equal Internet exposure. Enjoy.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

10 Kislew 5766/11 December 2005


Interesting things I ran across over Shabbath:
  • Ezekiel 18:23, ad-hoc translation: “‘Do I really desire the death of someone wicked?’ says ’Adhonay-YHWH. ‘Is it not in his repenting from his ways he will live?’” (It sounds better and less awkward in the original Hebrew.) The chapter is about the notion that children who do not follow the ways of their parents are not to be punished for their parents’ sins and that God prefers that sinners repent rather face divine punishment.
  • It is popularly noted that the Rambam (Maimonides) held that a man who is obligated to divorce his wife yet refuses to do so should be beaten by a court until he acquiesces. I finally ran across a citation of that ruling: Mishneh Torah, Hilkhoth Gerushin 2:16.
Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is “Tape recording”, a puzzling article on red tape. Enjoy.


Friday, December 9, 2005

8 Kislew 5766/9 December 2005


My windproof menorah and oil thingies came yesterday! As long as it does not rain (please, God, let that not happen), I should be able to light outside this Hanukkah without worrying about the oil thingies going out and thus be better able to perform the miswah of publicizing the miracle.

Notable news: “Study links bake sales, weight problems”, “US unprepared for disaster, study finds”, and “Study Flunks State Science Standards”.

Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is two somethings from Emily’s collection that were bundled together in one file, included below. Enjoy.


Art thou hungry?

God greets Mother Teresa at the Pearly Gates. "Art thou hungry, Mother Teresa?" asks God. "I could eat," Mother Teresa replies. So God opens a can of tuna and reaches for a chunk of rye bread, and they share it.

While eating this humble meal, Mother Teresa looks down into Hell and sees the inhabitants devouring huge steaks, lobsters, pheasants, pastries and fine wines. Curious, but deeply trusting, Mother Teresa remains quiet.

The next day God again invites Mother Teresa to join him for a meal. Again, it is tuna and rye bread. Once again looking down, Mother Teresa can see the denizens of Hell enjoying caviar, champagne, lamb, truffles and chocolates. Still Mother Teresa says nothing.

The following day, mealtime arrives, and another can of tuna is opened.

Mother Teresa can contain herself no longer. Meekly, she says: "God, I am grateful to be in heaven with you as a reward for the pious, obedient life I led. But here in Heaven all I get to eat is tuna and a piece of rye bread and in the Other Place they eat like emperors and kings! Forgive me, O God, but I just don't understand..."

God sighs. "Oy, let's be honest, Mother Teresa," God says. "For just two people, does it pay to cook?"

Gas Prices-Expensive?
You Think A Gallon Of Gas Is Expensive?

Makes one think, and puts things in perspective.

Diet Snapple 16 oz $1.29 $10.32 per gallon

Lipton Ice Tea 16 oz $1.19 $9.52 per gallon

Gatorade 20 oz $1.59 $10.17 per gallon

Ocean Spray 16 oz $1.25 $10.00 per gallon

Brake Fluid 12 oz $3.15 $33.60 per gallon

Vick's Nyquil 6 oz $8.35 $178.13 per gallon

Pepto Bismol 4 oz $3.85 $123.20 per gallon

Whiteout 7 oz $1.39 $25.42 per gallon

Scope 1.5 oz $0.99 $84.48 per gallon

And this is the REAL KICKER......

Evian water 9 oz for $1.49 $21.19 per gallon

$21.19 FOR WATER!....and the buyers don't even know the source.

So, the next time you're at the pump, be glad your car doesn't run on Nyquil, or Scope, or Whiteout.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

7 Kislew 5766/8 December 2005


Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Weird contest tie-in: Dune Fanfic Generator

Today’s weird thing is “NameVoyager”, which is an interesting way to show statistics on names. Enjoy.


Wednesday, December 7, 2005

6 Kislew 5766/7 December 2005: Pearl Harbour Remembrance Day


Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

You may want to see something weird tangentially relevant to the contest.

Today’s weird thing is something sarcastic from Emily’s collection, included below. Enjoy.


New Element


The heaviest element known to science was recently discovered by U.S. Government chemists. The element, tentatively named "ADMINISTRATIUM", has no protons or electrons and thus has an atomic number of 0. However, it does have 1 neutron, 125 assistant neutrons, 75 vice neutrons, and 111 assistant viceneutrons. This gives it an atomic mass of 312. These particles are held together by a force that involves the continuous exchange of meson-like particles called morons. Since it has no electrons Administratium is inert. However, it can be detected chemically as it impedes every reaction it comes in contact with.

According to the discoverers, Dr. Wayne Hershey and Dr. Sparkle Wier, a minute amount of Administratium caused one reaction to take over four days to complete when it would have normally occurred in less than a second. Administratium has a normal half-life of approximately three years, after which it does not actually decay but instead undergoes a reorganization in which assistant neutrons, vice neutrons, and assistant viceneutrons exchange places. Some studies have shown that the atomic mass actually increases after each reorganization.

Research at other laboratories indicates that Administratium occurs naturally in the atmosphere. It tends to concentrate at certain points such as government agencies, large corporations, universities, and public school districts, and can usually be found in the newest, best appointed, and best maintained buildings. Scientists point out that Administratium is known to be toxic at any level of concentration and can easily destroy any productive reaction where it is allowed to accumulate. Attempts are being made to determine how Administratium can be controlled to prevent irreversible damage, but results to date are not promising.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

5 Kislew 5766/6 December 2005: National Gazpacho Day/Mitten Tree Day


Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

In honor of National Gazpacho Day, today’s weird thing is “Me2, an episode of the weird science-fiction show Red Dwarf. Enjoy.


Monday, December 5, 2005

4 Kislew 5766/5 December 2005: “Hacking Billy Mouth Bass in Linux”


Political news: “Rationale for Vietnam faked in 1964, NSA historian wrote”, or “Gee, doesn’t that sound familiar?’

Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is “Hacking Billy Mouth Bass in Linux”. (Go figure.) Enjoy.


Sunday, December 4, 2005

3 Kislew 5766/4 December 2005: Wear Brown Shoes Day


I am defying today’s holiday by wearing black shoes! Then again, I don't have any brown shoes...

Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is “Glowing Flowers Touted As Floral 'Bling'”, which just happens to be sitting on my desktop. Enjoy.


Friday, December 2, 2005

1 Kislew 5766/2 December 2005: Ro'sh Hodhesh


Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is something potentially useful from Emily’s collection. Enjoy, and Shabbath shalom.


Do you get lots of annoying calls from telemarketers?
Don't get upset about it! Use the opportunity to get a laugh!

1. If they want to loan you money, tell them you just filed for bankruptcy and you could sure use some money.

2. If they start out with, "How are you today?" say, "Why do you want to know?" Alternately, you can tell them, "I'm so glad you asked, because no one these days seems to care, and I have all these problems; my arthritis is acting up, my eyelashes are sore, my dog just died..." When they try to get to the sell, just keep talking about your problems.

3. If they say they're John Doe from XYZ Company, ask them to spell their name. Then ask them to spell the company name. Then ask them where it is located. Continue asking them personal questions or questions about their company for as long as necessary.

4. If they are selling a lawn service to make your grass grow better, tell them it grows to fast now and green is not your favorite color anyway.

5. Cry out in surprise, "Judy! Is that you? Oh my! Judy, how have you been?" Hopefully, this will give Judy a few brief moments of terror as she tries to figure out where she could know you from.

6. Say "No" over and over. Be sure to vary the sound of each one and keep a rhythmic tempo, even as they are trying to speak. This is most fun if you can do it until they hang up.

7. If MCI calls trying to get you to sign up for the Family and Friends Plan, reply, in as SINISTER a voice as you can, "I don't have any friends...would you be my friend?"

8. If the company cleans rugs, respond: "Can you get out blood? Can you get out GOAT blood? How about HUMAN blood?

9. After the telemarketer gives their spiel, ask him/her to marry you. When they get all flustered, tell them that you could not just give your credit card number to a complete stranger.

10. Tell the telemarketer that you work for the same company, they often can't sell to employees.

11. Answer the phone. As soon as you realize it is a telemarketer, set the receiver down, shout or scream "Oh No!" and then hang up.

12. Ask them to repeat everything they say, several times.

13. Tell them it is dinnertime, BUT ask if they would please hold. Put them on your speakerphone while you continue to eat at your leisure. Smack your food loudly and continue with your dinner conversation.

14. Tell the telemarketer you are on "home incarceration" and ask if they could bring you some food.

15. Ask them to fax the information to you, and make up a number.

16. Ask the telemarketer if they use the product they are trying to sell. If they do, ask for a complete report. If they don't, ask them why not since it is such a great product.

17. Insist that the caller is really your buddy Leon, playing a joke. "Come on Leon, cut it out! Seriously, Leon, how's your momma?" 

18. Tell them you are hard of hearing and that they need to speak up...louder...louder...louder...

19. Tell them to talk VERY SLOWLY, because you want to write EVERY WORD down. 

20. Tell them that you are busy and ask for their phone number so you can call them back. If they say that they don't give out their phone number or they don't take calls, then ask for the caller's personal phone number at home. If then they say that they don't like being called at home, quickly say "Bingo!" and hang up.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

29 Marheshwan 5766/1 December 2005: Rosa Parks Day


Worthy cause of the day: Congress Must Insist on a Plan to Get Out of Iraq in 2006.

Medical news: “The nose cells that may help the paralysed walk again” and “Should sinners be made to pay?”

Reminder: Enter the The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is Willy Puchner, which seems to deal a lot with fake penguins on tour. Enjoy.