Sunday, August 31, 2008

30 ’Av 5768: Ro’sh Ḥodhesh/Love Litigating Lawyers Day


Worthy cause of the day:

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Museum defies pope over crucified frog”: Summary: An art museum in Italy has a sculpture of a crucified frog on exhibit; the Pope wants it gone, and the museum does not care what the Pope thinks. I understand well why the Pope does not like the crucified frog sculpture, since it smacks of trivialization of the crucifixion of Jesus. What I do not understand is how the sculpture is supposed to illustrate “human angst” or why something that stupid is supposedly worthy of being deemed “art”. Also, kudos to the Catholics for their civil behavior in this situation. (As opposed to Muslims, whose response to offensive “art” is to riot and kill a few people.)

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, submitted by Barry, is “Successful Strategies for Completing Unfamiliar Domestic Tasks”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

27 ’Av 5768: Dream Day Quest and Jubilee


Worthy causes of the day: “Tell Dr. Lark to Stop Selling Squalane!” and “Support the PAW Act -- End Alaska's Aerial Hunting Program!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Leviticus traps”: David Benkof correctly notes that it pays to know what one is talking about when attacking someone else’s beliefs or practices. The particular case in question is that some object to the Orthodox Jewish views on homosexuality (prohibited according to Leviticus 18:22), and to attack they ask why Orthodox Jews do not practice various other things in the Torah. The attackers in the process display ignorance of 1) what the Torah actually says, missing context and getting details wrong, and 2) what Orthodox Jews actually believe and practice. An attack based on a false premise is, of course, invalid. Kudos to Benkof for his clear thinking.
  2. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer slaying church attendance among women, study claims”: The title is much funnier than the situation. To quote:
    The report claims more than 50,000 women a year have deserted their congregations over the past two decades because they feel the church is not relevant to their lives.

    It says that instead young women are becoming attracted to the pagan religion Wicca, where females play a central role, which has grown in popularity after being featured positively in films, TV shows and books.
    This is frankly illogical. When choosing a religion, whether deciding to stay with one’s own or to convert to another, the only relevant question is “is it true?” Now, we all live in the same objectively true reality, so whatever is true for one person is true for everyone. (Or if this belief is wrong and we each live in a different reality, my personal reality behaves like this, so I am still right.) Since we all inhabit the same reality, one’s sex is completely irrelevant to what is true. Choosing a religion based on what one gets to do in it is just plain childish, and I hope those abandoning Anglicanism for Wicca are doing it for much better reasons.
  3. “AZERBAIJAN: Threats and deportation 'to stop us talking about God'”: Yes, lots of people find Jehovah’s Witnesses annoying and irrational. That is not an excuse for how the government of Azerbaijan is treating them. Major rule: there is a huge difference between claiming to have freedom of religion and actually practicing it.
  4. “Dead Sea Scrolls go from parchment to the Internet”: Nothing wrong here. Making scholarly useful information easily available is always good.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “The Great Office War”.

Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

26 ’Av 5768: International Kitchen Garden Day/"The Duchness" Who Wasn't Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Protect Access to Health Care” (I do not particularly like or approve of abortion in general, but there are times when it is necessary, and the last thing we need is the government getting in the way at those times. I’m not fond of a lot of birth control either, but again, it is sometimes necessary, not to mention reclassifying it as abortion is an Orwellian distortion of language.)

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. Google Ads recently has produced ads on my blog for a notorious cult. (Their name will not be mentioned here in order to reduce the likelihood of that ad’s recurrence.) In the interest of fairness, I present a famous message by their archenemy, Anonymous.

  2. “No nuns on catwalk as priest stops "beauty contest"”: There goes that unusual idea.
  3. “'Ayurvedic' Medicines May Contain Lead, Mercury or Arsenic”: Major rule: Think twice before using any “complementary” or “alternative” medicines. Not only are they insufficiently tested (if tested at all), but they may also be very, very bad for you.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the Cathode Ray Alarm Clock. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

25 ’Av 5768: National Dog Day/International Dadaism Month


Worthy cause of the day: “Don’t Let the World’s Leaders Forget Their Promises to Darfur”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash"”: Long story made short: A biology teacher has to deal with evolution in the midsts of a highly creationist culture. Unfortunately, I do not have the time at the moment to write a long, anti-creationist essay, so instead I will direct you to some potentially useful resources:
  2. “Judge to review satanic bible in child slaying case”: I have no idea what “satanic bible” is being referred to in this article. The usual book this would refer to, The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey, while containing much truly despicable material, does not advocate directly killing anyone. (Cursing people magically with the intention of thereby causing their downfall is a different matter.)
  3. “CDC measles expert weighs in on vaccinations, so does Amanda Peet”: And I say it again: Failure to take preventative measures in the name of piety is rewarded only with disease. This article gives statistics on deaths due to failure to vaccinate against diseases such as measles. Think about whether you want a dead child on your conscience before not getting your children vaccinated.
  4. “Making Jewish life easier”
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is Authority For Universe Ownership - For The Ultimate Customized Gift!. (No, I am not making this up.) Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Request: Words needed


I just found myself in need of terms for the state being able to reason and its opposite, something analogous to “literacy” and “illiteracy” or “numeracy” and “innumeracy”. Does anyone know of any such terms? I cannot think of any in English. If I were to coin something appropriate, I would probably use “rationacy” and “irrationacy” or “logacy” and “illogacy”, but I would rather not take this route. A search in Google turned up isolated use of “rationacy” in the way I described; “logacy” seems to be repeatedly used as a misspelling of “legacy”. “Irrationacy” turned up no results, while “illogacy” showed up twice seemingly as a synonym for “illogic”. Does anybody know of better terms? Thanks in advance


24 ’Av 5768: Soy Bean Day/Kiss and Make-Up Day


Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Italian priest organizes beauty contest for nuns”.  To quote:
    An Italian priest and theologian said Sunday he is organizing an online beauty pageant for nuns to give them more visibility within the Catholic Church and to fight the stereotype that they are all old and dour.
    I am not clear whether this is actually wrong within the system of Catholicism or just simply unusual. I can see the possible problem of nuns nominating themselves; it might be less problematic if other people did the nomination.
  2. “Mission accomplished?”: ’Olmerṭ and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) seem to think that there are no more Jews left in Ethiopia to bring to Israel. Considering the Falash Mura, Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors at one point accepted Christianity but latter returned to Judaism, are rabbinically accepted as Jews and the definition of who is a Jew is fundamentally religious and the Falash Mura still in Ethiopia want to come to Israel, ’Olmerṭ and the JAFI are missing the point of the State of Israel, which was intended to be a state for the Jewish people. Shame on them for ignoring their kinspeople!
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Dimensions”. Enjoy the mathematical movies and share the weirdness, though if you are feeling very sensitive you may become a bit queasy.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

23 ’Av 5768: Vesuvius Day/International Kitchen Garden Day (maybe)


Worthy cause of the day:

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. I just attended a lecture given by our synagogue by Michael S. Kogan on his book, Opening the Covenant: A Jewish Theology of Christianity. This lecture was a severe disappointment theologically, and here is why: Kogan correctly noted that since the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican in 1965, Christianity has increasingly recognized that Judaism is a valid religion.  Kogan proposes that Judaism reciprocate and view Christianity as valid.  This frankly makes no sense.  Christianity intrinsically tries to root itself in Judaism, claiming Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.  For Christianity to admit some legitimacy to Judaism is thus natural; refusing to admit it, on the other hand, casts doubts on the legitimacy of Christianity itself.  But the situation is not symmetrical.   The only place Christianity has in Judaism is in some individuals’ Messianic speculations; at the root (and all the way to the top of the tree, as well), Judaism stands on its own, without claiming any legitimacy in any other religion.  Thus Judaism is under no intrinsic obligation to recognize any validity to Christianity.  The burden of proof is therefore upon Christianity to prove its validity to Judaism.  The rational way to go about this would be to give proof that Jesus was a true prophet and that the Christian movement founded in his name actually followed what he preached; this Kogan did not even try to do.  What he did instead was launch into how he viewed both Judaism and Christianity mythologically, extensively and quite irrelevantly.  When he eventually got to truth, he disavowed the notion that religious truth is supposed to correspond with physical reality and embraced a “performance definition of truth”, which essentially boils down to “if it feels good, it’s true”.  He also saw all major world religions as being “true” according to his (mis)definition.  To this I say, “Balderdash!”  His redefinition is completely illegitimate and an attempt to avoid the possibility of “false”.  Kogan correctly noted that “God is one” and “God is three in one” are not statements amenable to direct observation.  On the other hand, religions do make claims about our physical reality, and it is by these claims that religions—all religions, including Judaism and Christianity—can be evaluated.  People who doubt this should start reading Biblical Archaeology Review.  And what, pray tell, is the problem with the idea of “wrong”?  “Wrong” is not the same as evil, so it is not a moral fault.  It is not even necessarily an intellectual fault.  The history of science is filled with ideas which turned out to be wrong; that does not make those who believed in those ideas any worse for it.  The only time “wrong” becomes a problem is when people are aware they might be wrong and ignore the problem rather than facing it, making it an intellectual fault, or they do not consider that information they have may be wrong and act on it anyway and thus do something improper, thus making it a moral fault.  But for someone who does what he/she can to seek the truth and still turns out to be wrong, what fair god could fault him/her for simply for not reaching the truth?  If I am wrong about everything I put in my book, then so be it, for I will at least be wrong while trying to find the truth!  Needless to say, I was rather disgusted, and the only good thing about Kogan’s thinking is that he is not popular (measured by his not having a Wikipedia page for himself or his book), thus limiting its spread.
  2. Further pieces of the pyrite spouted by Kogan:  He acknowledges that non-Jews have a place within the system of Judaism, complete with the Seven Noaḥide Laws and the possibility of an afterlife even without believing in Judaism, but somehow this is not enough for him.  He also mangles statements in the Gospels that the only way is through Jesus (e.g., Matthew 11:27, John 3:35-36) into somehow saying that non-belief in and ignoring Jesus is OK.  His notion of Judaism, even without muddy notions of truth, is blatantly heretical.  He sees nothing wrong with the violation of the festival of Pesaḥ (Passover) by turning off the lights during the Sedher, and he uses the emendation of the excommunicated Mordecai Kaplan (may his bones be ground up) to the prayer “‘Alenu” to remove any reference to thanking YHWH for not making us like the nations. (As opposed to me, who uses the original version prayer by adding back in the censored phrase “that they prostrate themselves to vanity and emptiness and pray to a god who does not save”.)  Kogan also seems to have some idea of morality independent of Divine command, but he did not elaborate on this.  Also:  People wishing to get some ideas of what Jews who know what they are talking about find wrong with the basis of Christianity may find what they are looking for at Jews for Judaism.
  3. Unrelated to the above:  “Measles is back, and it's because your kids aren't vaccinated”: For the zillionth time, piety does not exempt people from the natural order! Thank YHWH for showing us mercy by allowing us to develop the vaccines to prevent horrible diseases!
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Magic Cube 4D”, just for those of you who thought the ordinary 3D Rubik’s Cube was too easy. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, August 22, 2008

21 ’Av 5768: “Jabberwocky”


Worthy causes of the day: “No more tax breaks for big oil companies” and “Tell the Bush Administration to protect endangered wildlife!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “U.S. regulation stops short of defining abortion”: Major rule: Do not needlessly redefine terms. People will object.
  2. “Poll: Most want church out of politics”: Considering that politics is liable to corrupt politicians, there is wisdom in this. It also needs to be kept in mind that there is an important difference between what politicians claim to believe and how they actually behave; it matters very little for a politician to claim to be devout when his/her behavior—especially behavior in office—is anything but pious.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is a Muppet interpretation of “Jabberwocky”.

Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

20 ’Av 5768: Poet’s Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Tell Congress: Stand firm on energy” and “Tell the Candidates: America is Going Broke!”.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Warcarting: the low-cost alternative to wardriving”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Oh, yeah...


I can’t believe I forgot to mention it, but you will notice my new poll on whether this blog should have a poll, currently occupying a prominent position right under the AdSense ad. (This may escape people reading this blog via E-mail.) Feel free to vote early and often.

Come to think of it, feel free to poke fun at the AdSense ad, while you’re at it. I’m puzzled over why it bothers to advertise for LASIK eye surgery, a topic never discussed on this blog. Maybe I’ll just insert some otherwise irrelevant text to see if I can get it to produce something a little less icky...

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

(Thank you, Lewis Carroll.)


17 ’Av 5768: Bad Poetry Day


Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “China confiscates Bibles from American Christians” and “UZBEKISTAN: Religious freedom survey, August 2008”: So much for freedom of religion in China and Uzbekistan. I really, really wish that governments pulling such repressive stunts would not bother claiming to support freedom of religion. Only people as stupid as toadstools are capable of believing the obvious lies these governments are using.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing, which I think Barry is responsible for, is “Necessity of a Meeting”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

16 ’Av 5768: Sandcastle Day/National Thriftshop Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Make Aid Even Better”, “Stop the Bush/Cheney Assault on Endangered Species”, and “Take Action to Protect America's Endangered Species!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Green light from mullahs for killing of Shirin Ebadi?”: Considering killing someone on the suspicion that they have committed a capital crime accidental homicide, the penalty being a fine if proven wrong, is a dangerous idea. This promotes killing first and deciding guilt second, thus resulting in innocent people being needlessly killed. This rather misses the point of a justice system.
  3. “Obama, McCain differ on abortion rights”: McCain lays out a clear position on abortion, that “human rights” begin at conception. Unfortunately he can be criticized on the same grounds I used Wednesday in my commentary on an article by Pat Buchanan, that Exodus 21:22 indicates that the unborn have a lower moral status than those who have been born.
  4. “The West's Islamist Infiltrators”: The US government has a hard time collectively getting through their head that Islam is not an religion of peace.
Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Seat Belt Irony”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Friday, August 15, 2008

14 ’Av 5768: National Relaxation Day/Assumption Day


Worthy causes of the day: “How to Stop the Smears Against Obama”, “Tell Walmart and Sam's Club: Post Mercury Warning Signs!”, and “Protect the women of Darfur”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Some Olympians Dissatisfied With Religious Center” and “Beijing Curbs Religious Rights”. The Chinese government is doing a truly bad job covering up its interference with the free practice of religion, which is hypocritical since they are trying to portray China as religiously free. Furthermore, it is absurd for anyone other than a supreme deity to make themselves the ultimate arbiter of truth. As much as it would like to, the Chinese Communist Party does not have the power to change the past, the laws of physics, or any supernatural world that may exist. As religions are rooted in these, the correctness or incorrectness of any religion or doctrine is not legitimately under the purview of the Chinese Communist Party. Considering that a sizable fraction of the Chinese are worshipping against the rules of the government, trying to dictate to people what they believe clearly is not working.

Today’s news and commentary:Tomorrow, 15 ’Av, is a traditional day for matchmaking in Judaism, so I though it appropriate that today’s weird thing should be the somewhat relevant “After Oz”.

Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

13 ’Av 5768: Assistance Dog Day


Worthy causes of the day: RED CARD FOR MUGABE!, Reform American Health Care, Tell McCain: No Offshore Drilling, Tell Obama: No Offshore Drilling, and “Birth control is NOT abortion.”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Prayer video that sought a Barack Obama drenching gets yanked”. Evangelical Stuart Shepard asked if it would be so wrong for people to pray to God to make it Barack Obama at a particular event. As far as prayers go, it is rather immature. The whole idea is something embarrassing to Obama, something those who do not agree with Obama’s views would find funny. The Deity has the job of running the entire Universe. Considering how much He has to keep track of and deal with, don’t you think He has more important things to do than pulling pranks?

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Save The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus”. Enjoy and share the weirdness with the octopus you love.


UPDATE:  Regarding the passwords article:  I apologize for forgetting to include my method of making it harder to guess passwords, security questions, and security answers.  I take all these from text that happens to be around me at the time I need them.  E.g., I am listening to the Mahabharata right now, so if I needed to create a new password or other security information right now, I might use the next few words I hear, such as “misunderstands the line completely” (actually from commentary on the Mahabharata).  Since I deal with a vast amount of text even in the space of a single day, the exact text of any password or other security information is difficult, if not impossible to guess.  This method can also be trivially adapted to “mine” passwords and security information from television, radio, or any medium where words are used.  The downside of my method is that it requires writing down such information somewhere, but that is true of practically any password unless one has an infallible memory.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

12 ’Av 5768: Left Handers Day/Vinyl Record Day


Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Tisha Be'av, the aftermath”: Interesting perspective. Jewish law, as it has come down to us, holds that the Temple has to be on Mount Moriyyah (Moriah)/Ṣiyyon (Zion) in Jerusalem. Despite this, the idea of a Temple in Babylonia is precedented. Even while the Second Temple stood, there was another, illegitimate Temple in Alexandria as well.
  2. “A Catholic Case Against Barack”
    • Pat Buchanan fails to source any of his statements in Catholic source material, authoritative or otherwise; this introduces some doubt as to whether what he has to say reflects Catholicism at all.
    • Buchanan claims that Barack Obama is “pro-abortion”, a position that your author has never heard any politician take and probably never will. Someone who is pro-abortion would advocate abortions, whereas the position that real non-anti-abortionists take is to be pro-choice, i.e., they advocate the right of women to choose whether or not they have an abortion. The difference is akin to the difference between advocating pornography and advocating governmental non-interference in people’s choice of reading materials. 
    • Buchanan talks about “partial-birth abortion” (a political term, not a medical term) as being somehow extremely offensive and nauseating without the least mention of alternate methods of abortion.  It is difficult to imagine any form of surgery not being nauseating to anyone unused to seeing surgery performed.
    • Buchanan wisely avoids the clichéd, misleading debate over “when life begins”.  He is also correct that they are human, though this is irrelevant; cells rubbed off the inside of my cheek with a cotton swab are human, too, but destroying them is not murder.  More relevant is that Buchanan assumes without explicitly stating the anti-abortionist answer to what that debate should really be about, that the unborn have the status of people, without giving any reason why we should accept this.  Given that Buchanan is a Catholic, he proves himself ignorant of his own scriptures.  No mention of deliberate abortion is made in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament, but the penalty for feticide is a fine (Exodus 21:22), as opposed to killing the mother, which can merit the death penalty (Exodus 21:23).  If the fetuses in the case cited had the same status as a person as the mother, the penalty for killing them should be the same; as such, the status of a fetus is therefore something less than that of a person.  QED.  Notably, these inconvenient verses tend to be ignored by anyone claiming on alleged scriptural authority that abortion is murder.
Today’s news and commentary:In reaction to yesterday’s weird thing, I was asked to post yet another open letter, which I have included below.  Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Another open letter to Christopher Nolan

We, the Batman characters mentioned below, decry our omission from yesterday’s open letter to Christopher Nolan. We charge that Mr. Edward Nygma, otherwise known as the Riddler, has an overly narrow view of what constitutes a character worthwhile depicting in a film and is too hasty to judge his fellow characters. All of us display a depth well worth exploring.
  • Arnold Wesker symbolizes the hypocrisy of the entertainment industry, promoting bad behavior in the media but disavowing it in real life. Wesker is unable to handle this in any way other than splitting his personality in two: the mild-mannered human Ventriloquist and his psychopathic gangster dummy, Scarface. This split results such awkward situations as the Ventriloquist being in love with Aunt Harriet, while Scarface wants her executed for sending the Ventriloquist annoyingly sugary love poems.
  • Aunt Harriet Cooper does things behind the scenes to help Batman and Robin, such as clubbing escaping villains into submission with her purse and making sure the Batmobile always has plenty of plutonium in its fuel tank. But do they ever notice? No! As such, she is caught between the need to make sure evil does not win and grounding Bruce and Dick.
  • Bane and Rhino are caught in the plight of all people typecast by society as “thugs” on account of their physical prowess. They are torn between connecting with other people in a brutally dehumanizing manner or suffering in isolation. All they truly yearn for is for people to recognize them as the sensitive souls they really are. Bane’s blues singing and Rhino’s self-expression through flower arrangement would feature prominently.
  • Barbara Gordon, Jr., having survived her (and her whole family’s) ordeal with the Joker, becomes obsessively interested in the martial arts, not wishing to go through anything like that ever again. A few years later, she takes on the guise of Batgirl to fight crime. While she proves adept at her new avocation, she comes to realize that her violent tendencies actually have nothing to do with the Joker but rather that stupid twerp Dick Grayson who keeps annoying her.
  • Batmite feels extreme pain due to being rejected by his hero, Batman, whom he wishes to join in the fight for truth, justice, and the American way. Ostracized and virtually drowning in torment, he is torn between using his magical powers for good and wreaking havoc for cheap laughs.
  • Chief O’Hara is secretly haunted by the fact that despite his years of hard work, superheroes are getting all the glory in the crime-fighting business. Compounding his unspoken shame is that he can never join their ranks, as he would look terrible in spandex.
  • Clayface is a victim of the fashion industry in general and the cosmetics industry in particular. In his quest for consumerism-driven physical perfection, he has become a monster. He seeks justice, and, like Batman, he has to walk a fine ethical line, violation of which will render him a monster not just in form but in behavior as well. Little does anyone realize the ultimate cause of his original desire for physical perfection is his unfulfilled dream of becoming Miss America.
  • Dr. Hugo Strange is an experimental psychologist.  He is persecuted by animal rights terrorists, and when they steal his rats and pigeons and blow up his lab, thereby ruining years of work, he kidnaps the terrorists and experiments on them, turning them into cannibal zombies.  His inner torment is exquisite and compounded by his unrequited love for Commissioner Gordon.
  • Egghead is haunted by the rejection many intelligent people feel in our frequently anti-intellectual society. This is made all the worse due to a poor research funding and a bad economy. Finding it too hard to deal with all this hostility, he lashes out criminally, all the while having to deal with a guilty conscience and high cholesterol.
  • Josiah Wormwood is offended by rules of etiquette, claiming that they are used as excuses for indecency. As such, he makes it a point to be extremely open and honest about his being indecent.
  • Shame sees the unfairness in modern society. Unable to do nothing, he dons a cowboy outfit and becomes a modern-day Robin Hood, trying to shrug aside the constant foreboding feeling that the cops are going to leave a parking ticket on his horse.
  • Sweet Tooth cries out against the extremes of the “nanny state”, insisting that everyone be free to choose what to do with his or her own body. The government will not listen, so he engages in civil disobedience and encourages others to do so as well. So effective is Sweet Tooth that he is sponsored by the American Junk Food Association.
  • The Man-Bat highlights the dangers of failing to submit experimental protocols to scrutiny by an internal review board and of drinking tequila while planning an experiment.
  • The Siren seeks vengeance against the rejection of opera in our society by annoying people into submission with her singing.
  • Waylon Jones, otherwise known as Killer Croc, highlights the alarming disappearance of the world’s wetlands. Few people pay attention to the loss of his favorite species’ natural habitat, and so he makes the difficult decision to become a terrorist to fight for the right of crocodilians to take over people’s swimming pools and eat pets.
As anyone with at least half a brain can see, we are all quite worthy of being depicted on the big screen. We hope that you will take us under consideration when making your next Batman film. We thank you for listening.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

11 ’Av 5768: International Youth Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Georgia: Ceasefire and Withdrawal Now!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:

  1. “The ‘next Satanic Verses’ shelved for fear of stirring up Islamic extremists”: Shame on Random House for crumbling for fear that Muslims may become violent! This is a society in which we have freedom of speech, not freedom from perceived insult. If the rest of us have no right to be never offended, then neither do the Muslims. Let them protest if they want, but if they get violent, the violence is their fault, not anyone else’s.
  2. “Italy’s black cats disappear in record numbers as Satanic rituals increase”: There is plenty of offensive material in Anton Szandor LaVey’s books, but nothing advocating sacrificing black cats.
  3. “Arizona: Court Allows Fake Snow Opposed by Tribes”: Exactly how is putting fake snow made from waste water on a sacred mountain not supposed to be religiously offensive? Legal or not, this idea is in extremely bad taste.
  4. “Bush Stresses Religion in China”: Nice for Bush to talk about the need for religious freedom in China. Now let’s see him actually do something about it.
  5. “Eritrea: Christian Students Shut Into Shipping Containers”: China is not the only country with hypocritical attitudes on religion, claiming religious freedom while being religiously oppressive. I find the excuse of Christianity being not patriotic particularly pathetic.

Today’s news and commentary:

Today’s weird thing is a guest commentary, included below. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


An open letter to Christopher Nolan

Dear Mr. Nolan,

Congratulations on the making of The Dark Knight. With all the reviews out, I don’t need to add any more praise on top of the heaps already out there. Heath Ledger (who played the Joker) will undoubtedly win a posthumous Oscar and the movie will make a vast amount of money. Obviously a sequel will be in the works and I am eagerly looking forward to it.

So where to go from here?

With The Dark Knight being such an artistic as well as financial achievement, the fans will be expecting something much better than the average superhero movie. I think everyone is in agreement that we want something good. One of the great strengths of the rebooted franchise so far has been its grounding in reality, how it takes the fantastic world of comic books and makes it almost credible, particularly as far as psychology goes. What follows are some suggestions along these lines. There are offered freely, with no claim of ownership. My only concern is that the next movie continue with the franchise keeping its high quality, being something worth the wait.

At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman is left particularly isolated. He has gone from being loved to hated, from befriended by the police to being hunted by them. He has chosen this in part for the greater good, but he is still human. Additionally, the love of his life Rachel is gone, murdered by the Joker, so his only real human connections left are Alfred and Lucius Fox. The character being particularly lonely sets up a situation that could be used to introduce two other characters:

  • Catwoman: Catwoman in many ways is a lot like Batman, skirting the edges of moral and ethical behavior. Indeed, depending on which version you choose to base her off her, she could be quite confusing for Batman, robbing people one moment as a burglar, then the next beating up a would-be rapist. Being quite physically and socially drawn to her, he could be drawn into a nasty conflict of interest on top of deciding whether the good she does outweighs her crimes. She herself might face similar dilemmas as they try to work out their complicated relationship. It could get quite ugly, which means possibly quite awesome drama. (Should be played by someone more like Sean Young than Michelle Pfeiffer.)
  • Robin: When you think about this, the relationship between Batman and Robin is quite inappropriate. (No, not that way.) Yes, it is one thing for Batman to go out on his own and fight bad guys, but this to put a child in danger doing the same thing? Why would anyone do such a thing? Robin’s eagerness to avenge his parents’ killer undoubtedly plays into it, but shouldn’t Batman know better? Perhaps his need to reach out to others is so strong that he will willing to let Robin into his world against his better judgment. With Commissioner Gordon and the police no longer there to support him as they once did, how far is Batman willing to take this kid just to have someone at his side?

The situation could be exacerbated by Alfred, who could encourage Batman to get some friends or work on making little Waynes for his own good. Putting Batman in ethical binds about how to deal with the Joker and Two-Face made for awesome drama; the torture he could face figuring out how to deal with his conflicted relationships with Robin and Catwoman could be fantastic.

Similar themes could be found in other villains as well:

  • The Penguin, cut off from his family’s fortune, seeks reconnection by stealing the lost wealth, and by opening the Iceberg Lounge for camaraderie with fellow sufferers. (Philip Seymour Hoffman really would be a great casting choice.)
  • Mr. Freeze’s wife is in suspended animation and he feels lost and alone without her. (Should be played by Patrick Stewart.)
  • The Mad Hatter is in love with his “Alice” and misuses his mind-control techniques to forge some kind of relationship. (Jim Broadbent, perhaps?)
  • Harley Quinn flips out over the Joker being thrown into Arkham’s maximum security wing and causes massive amounts of damage. (Somehow it might be interesting if she was played by Mary-Kate Olsen.) The Clock King might act out similarly when the order of is world is shattered.
  • The Riddler, who is isolated due to obsessive-compulsive disorder, seeks to commune with someone worthy of his attention, even if that means feeding into his own compulsions in the most self-destructive way possible. (Jim Carrey might be able to reprise the role he had in Batman Forever and top it if given decent material to draw on.)
  • King Tut, his own personal life in ruins, falls into a fantasy delusion acted out in crime. Zeus might suffer similarly.
  • Poison Ivy is abandoned by her boyfriend and isolated by her advanced academic background, leading to a strange relationship with plants. Asperger syndrome is a real possibility. She struggles to full the social gap in truly dysfunctional ways, which may be the only way she can get a reaction out of anyone, a tendency which degrades into outright criminal behavior.

And so forth. All these are completely in keeping with the realistic tendencies of the first two movies (note the conspicuous absence of more fantastic characters such as Clayface, Killer Croc, or Batmite) and are quite believable and sympathetic. The fortunes of Batman could parallel those of Robin or whichever villains are chosen, all alone, angry, and frustrated together, variations on each others’ pain. Batman ultimately has to make (more or less) the right decision about how to deal with his issues, but for everyone else there’s no limits.

As a certain chairman might say, allez cinema!

—E. Nygma

Monday, August 11, 2008

Job application stupidity of the day


I am unemployed, and I am going to kvech about it.  This is my blog.

I just applied for two jobs at one place, and the form was apparently designed by a moron.
  1. The form requested information already in my curriculum vitae.  This is always a bad idea, since it gives the message that the employers do not care about all the time and effort prospective employees put into résumés and curricula vitae.  The last people anyone wants to work for is someone who does not care about their employees.
  2. The form requested information that is irrelevant.  Anyone applying for a job which requires a college degree or higher should never be asked for information on high school.
  3. The form requested information on previous salary.  This is none of their business.
  4. Many forms mark items that must be filled in with an asterisk.  If an item is not marked as obligatory, it should never be treated as such.
Recommendation:  Someone should hire me to critique their job application forms.  The ideal form is one which does nothing other than allow submission of a résumé or curriculum vitae.  Anything else in the form should be request information that is relevant that would not otherwise be submitted.


10 ’Av 5768: Even more H. P. Lovecraft stuff


Note: The fast on the 9th of ’Av used to last two whole days, but it was reduced to just one for health reasons. Still, some of the sadness of the Three Weeks and the Nine Days lingers today. And I would like to urge people, again, to consider doing something to confront real-life horrors that still haunt our world rather than merely cease moping as if everything bad that has happened to the Jewish people in particular and humanity in general were over. One person may only be able to do so much to change the World, but lots of people trying to change the World can have a huge impact. That is why, for instance, I have worthy causes of the day. One signature on a petition means very little, but many signatures are something that politicians ignore at their own peril.

Worthy cause of the day: “Bring Justice to Victims of Rape in California”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. “Border guards turn away church group aiming to picket bus victim's funeral”: To review: The Westboro Baptist Church is a group which is infamous for picketing funerals of soldiers (until now only American), claiming “the deaths are… God's punishment for the country's tolerance for homosexuality”, a connection for which they have no solid theological proof. In this case, the Westboro Baptist Church intended “to picket the funeral of 22-year-old Tim McLean to tell Canadians his slaying on July 30 was God's response to Canadian policies enabling abortion, homosexuality and adultery.” This is also theologically unproven and is likely wrong. Now, I am all for freedom of speech, but keep in mind that freedom of speech is not the freedom to make others listen or force others to accept one’s views, nor is it the freedom to force others to aid and abet one’s speech. I applaud Canada for refusing to aid and abet such theologically dubious hate speech, and I applaud everyone who planned to take part in a counter-protest and exercise their own freedom of speech to decry attacking the innocent.
  2. “W.Va. offers licenses for those who fear 'beast'”: If anyone has any information on how digital photographs are supposed to be “the mark of the Beast”, please let me know. I really hate it that news articles usually skip actual scriptural proofs that might be enlightening.
Today’s news and commentary:Due to the nature of today, I will conclude my Lovecraft series with two sites where one can find plenty of other stories of his which I have not covered:  “An H. P. Lovecraft Anthology” and the more complete “The Works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft”. If you seek horror, forget Lovecraft; horror movies have desensitized many of us to his work. However, his work is cited in some of the core literature of LaVeyan Satanism (The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Ritual), there is a Lovecraftian occultism movement which sees these stories as not mere fiction, and there is some evidence of influence on the theology of the Buffyverse; as such, these stories may be of some interest to students of religious history and epistemology.

Up for tomorrow: Something non-Lovecraftian.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

9 ’Av 5768: Fast of ’Av

Before anything else, I would like to emphasize that this is the most serious fast day of the Jewish calendar, commemorating the destruction of both Temples and numerous other tragedies. Let us not simply spend the day moaning and then this evening get back on with our lives as if nothing happened. There is a lot that is wrong with the World these days. We are still wresting with war, disease, oppression, famine, environmental disasters, terrorism, injustice, ignorance, pain, poverty, and stupidity. Let each one of us try to find something, anything to make this world a little better, because if we make no effort to improve this world, we have no reason to expect it to get better.

Worthy cause of the day: “Urge Moratorium on Everglades Development”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Millions Who Had Abortions Don't Know It”. The article deals with an attempt to redefine what an abortion is. Arbitrary redefinition is a cheap rhetorical trick and should never be tolerated. Shame on the Bush administration for trying to pander to their constituency in this manner!

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s Lovecraft story, in lieu of a weird thing due to the Nine Days and the Three Weeks is “The Book”.


Theological review of “The Book”:

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) this short story was never finished. It is the story of someone who gets his hands on a magic text and things go horribly wrong for him. There is not not enough material for theological evaluation.

Theological rating: I (for incompleteness).

Scariness rating: My pants noticed nothing.

Note: This series is not quite over. It ends tomorrow.


Friday, August 8, 2008

7 ’Av 5768: The Nine Days/Happiness Happens Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Tell President Bush: China's abuses must end”, “Tell Congress to Rein in DHS Travel Abuses”, and “Take Action: Protect your right to have a voice when it comes to our oceans!”

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s H. P. Lovecraft story, in lieu of a weird thing due to the Nine Days, is “The Shunned House”.


Theological review of “The Shunned House”:

This is another low-relevance wonder, with no real theological aspect either. It’s also pretty dull, so don’t waste your time reading it.

Theological rating: I (for irrelevancy).

Scariness rating: The Stuff does what this story hopes to do much better, despite being silly. My pants weren’t aware this story was supposed to make them budge.

Coming up Sunday: “The Book”.

Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

6 ’Av 5768: The Nine Days/Sea Serpent Day/Hamburger Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Stop the War on Women in Congo”.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s tale of Lovecraftian horror (which translates to something that only claims to be scary), in place of a weird thing due to the Three Weeks and the Nine Days, is “The Lurking Fear”.


Theological review of “The Lurking Fear”:

I have no clue why this story was included in a list of Cthulhu Mythos stories, featuring neither the Necronomicon or the Lovecraftian pseudo-gods. It is also particularly lacking a theological aspect. Mostly it displays racist notions on H. P. Lovecraft’s part, and the sort of “degeneration” depicted is one not attested in any real human group. Do not bother reading this story.

Theological rating: I (for irrelevancy).

Scariness rating: I have seen dust bunnies scarier than this story. My pants remain unmoved.

Tomorrow’s allegedly scary story: “The Shunned House”.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

5 ’Av 5768: The Nine Days/National Fresh Breath Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Tell The FEC to Investigate Walmart's Mandatory Political Meetings”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:Today’s news and commentary, some of which Barry may be responsible for:Today’s H. P. Lovecraft story, in lieu of a weird thing due to the Nine Days and the Three Weeks, is “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”.


Theological review of “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”:

This story is exceedingly boring. New theologically is the idea of alchemical resurrection of the dead from their ashes, which is worrisome since it throws into doubt what death is supposed to be in the first place. Normally death (real death, not clinical death) is the point from which one never comes back, but this story has the idea that a person reduced to ashes can be resurrected—something only a deity is supposed to be able to do. No real mechanism for how a human is supposed to be able to do this is given.

H. P. Lovecraft also shows horrendous choice in magic words, paradoxically by making use of words actually used in magic. Many of the terms used, e.g., Adonai, Eloim, Jehova, Sabaoth, Metatron are Greco-Latinized names of YHWH and angels, in this case ’Adhonay, ’Elohim, YHWH, Ṣeva’oth, and Miṭṭaṭron. That such holy names are used for blatantly unholy purposes is sacrilegious. It is fantastic to believe that a morality-intensive, immortal creator (and unthreatenable) deity, such as YHWH, would be willing or could be compelled to grant the wishes of anyone bent of evil, and if one does not believe in YHWH, then it makes no sense that calling upon Him should have any effect at all.

Theological rating: F.

Scariness rating: I was too bored to be scared. My pants were too bored to move. I sent my pet Shoggoth to dissolve all the characters in the story in acid so that no one may ever resurrect them.

Tomorrow’s Lovecraftian disaster: “The Lurking Fear”


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

5 ’Av 5768: The Nine Days/National Night Out/National Mustard Day


Worthy causes of the day: “Fire-Safe Communities Act” and “Take Action: Save The Internet”.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions: “Tyson Foods Muslim Holiday”. I know someone is likely to bug me about this if I do not say anything about it. In this case, in a single Tyson plant with many Muslim employees (Somali refugees, specifically) , they are making Id ul-Fitr a paid holiday. Big deal. If a lot of employees are going to be absent for religious reasons anyway, it only makes sense to ask whether it makes sense to be open that day. Panic over Labor Day no longer being a paid holiday is ridiculous; Labor Day is still considered a holiday there, and since the number of paid holidays is not changing, it really makes as much sense to talk of Labor Day being a paid holiday and Id ul-Fitr being unpaid as vice versa.  I find it bizarre that people are trying to drag “patriotism” into this, as no one is asking anyone to do anything unpatriotic.  Some people are talking about how immigrants should “adapt” to life in America, implying that following one’s religion is wrong when that religion is not the religion of the majority, completely forgetting that 1) conformity is not a virtue, 2) the majority is not automatically right, and 3) the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, an thus accommodating employees who want to practice their own religion is perfectly American.  Now, if they start pushing for non-Muslims to violate their own religion or for Muslims to be privileged over other religious groups, then it makes sense to complain.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s H. P. Lovecraft tale of “horror”, in lieu of a weird thing due to the Nine Days/the Three Weeks, is “The Thing on the Doorstep”.


Theological review of “The Thing on the Doorstep”:

There is little new theologically in this story. Reused are ideas such as mind-swapping, a corpse which continues to act in this world, and the cult of Dagon. The only thing new is the idea that male brains are better suited for working magic than female brains. Where this idea came from, I have no clue whatsoever, considering the traditional association between women and witchcraft.

Theological rating: D.

Scariness rating: My eyes are rolling too much to be scared, and my pants remain on. And my pet Shoggoth in the backyard ate the thing on the doorstep.

Coming up tomorrow: “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward ”.