FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from

Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

My Photo
Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Eight More Facts About Amused Muse

I've been tagged again! Pink Prozac got me this time - check out her great blog. I won't post the rules again, they're below. Also, I'm not going to tag more people unless I need to. (UPDATED: Hermagoras wanted to be tagged. Tagged he is.)

Okay, short and sweet:

1. I love triolobites!
2. I love the beautiful voice of Warda!
3. I love belly dance (Raqs al-Sharki)!
4. No, I'm not freaked out by cross-dressing sockpuppetry. Here's one reason why.
5. I love the beautiful poetry of surrealist Robert Desnos, the atheist in a foxhole, the lover, the fighter, the free spirit. O sentimental balances!
6. Whenever I see them I just mentally walk right into the lovely works of Joan Miro.
7. Before I wrote my first novel I detested André Breton and thought that he was an asshole due to his rigidity, his chokehold on the surrealist movement, banning everyone who questioned his authority (remind you of a certain blog moderator in the present day?), and trying to reshape the movement according to his whim. After I wrote my first novel, I adored André Breton – and I still thought he was an asshole. I was even scared to stand at his grave in Paris, such a looming, and powerful, and sexually charged creature he was and is to me.
8. I think this whole thing happening with religion and creationism in America is due to people needing to withdraw from reality to lick their wounds for whatever reason. Okay, heal yourself, then - do what you have to do - but that's not any place to live out your life. Americans, we are an example to the world, we do have a responsibility to export democracy in the right way, we are the keepers of science for the planet, and that means setting an example and acting like adults, which we have not been.

We have no business buying into this bland, commercialized, Designer cookie-cutter, inner-child, unworldly "don't-know-much-about-history," self-righteous, loveable bumpkin view of ourselves, because that's not who we are. Each person is a tower of strength - former social disaster me is proof of that - and nobody is going to collapse upon facing the truth about ourselves and where we came from. Our only hope for the future is acknowledging the past, which is a noble and poetic past. Jesus is not coming to earth to save us. That is a myth people made up out of fear and hope. We must do for ourselves. That's the American way.

Your world is as small or as large as you make it. But whatever happens, the world is not going away.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Galapagos Diary: Neo-Darwinism Lecture, Part 1

Richard gave his first of two lectures on Neo-Darwinism after our visit to the young island of Fernandina (account of this coming up) on Sunday (Mother's Day). This is where he first introduces the neutral theory (at 41:11) , and I ask a question about that (at 53:50) during the Q&A.

Here are some of my notes on the lecture, which also includes a brief history, that I will not reproduce here, of the evolution (sorry) of Darwin’s ideas through Mendel’s observations, the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis, and Punctuated Equilibrium, up to the present day:

The title of Darwin’s sixth edition of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection should have included and All Sorts of Other Things. The first edition is closer than the sixth and last edition to our modern view of Darwinism. Darwin was pressured into adding the words “breathed by the Creator into,” but the first edition the phrase was just “breathed into.”

Darwin explained both diversity and adaptation. Natural selection is the only theory that can, in principle, explain adaptation. The only “rivals” are design and Lamarckanism.

The neutral theory doesn’t explain adaptation. The premise is that many mutations are neutral – not useless, but equivalent to the original codon. Any amino acid can be coded for by more than one codon, resulting in synonymous mutation.

Synonymous mutation equals zero mutation.

The majority of evolution is neutral. However, phenotypic change is not neutral to a field naturalist (ethologist).

The coding of an amino acid effects a phenotypic change only insomuch as it affects the shape of the protein, which has an enzymatic effect.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Eight Facts about Amused Muse

I got tagged by Rev. Chimpy! I love it when he visits.

*We have to post these rules before we give you the facts. So'okay dokey:
* Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
* People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
* Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

The Awful Truth, with Vermouth:

1. My legal name isn’t “Kristine.” (But it’s close enough, and I’m too lazy to change it.)

2. I almost got voted “shyest” for my senior high school class, except that people could not remember my name! Quite frankly, I shocked people by how I've turned out. Well, good for me! The minute someone tells me they’ve figured me out, I start planning how to rock that person’s world again. Because I enjoy jostling people who insist upon being rigid. **See below for a case in point.

3. Friend or foe, if someone tells me a secret I will take it to the grave. Though I blat my brains out at this blog about myself I do not gossip with the ladies, and I make myself unavailable for it (which means that they often gossip about me, but I don't give a shit). Besides, I’d rather think about me! ;-) And I think other people would be a lot happier if they thought more about themselves, their lives, and their goals. I'm not doing anything that anyone else can't do.

4. Other languages I have learned, with varying degrees of success: German, French, Spanish, Somali, and Arabic.

5. Growing up, I wanted to be: an astronaut, a geologist, a dancer, an actress, a rock star, a missionary (that was when I was very, very young – actually, what attracted me was the idea of foreign travel!), an astronomer, a writer, a guru, a librarian, a hermit living in a library, a translator, one of the Greek gods, an archaeologist, and President of the United States.

6. I was involved with Wicca for a few years, but was an agnostic about the whole faith thing. Wicca is a lot of fun. The people are very cool. I remember all the stuff I learned. I am not embarrassed about it.

7. I prefered playing with boys to playing with girls, I am more comfortable around men than women, and I’m pretty darn uncomfortable around children – and I don’t like that, but that’s just how it is. And I suck at small talk. I hate empty yammer. I hate most “girlie” things. I hate to shop, unless it’s for books. I hate to talk on the telephone, so I had the same cell phone for five years until I finally got a new one. However, I do enjoy a lot of the things that JanieBelle enjoys. *Wink*

8. If I were God I would mandate one creature, one vote, and that would include plants. Which probably means I would end up being a one-termer, like Jimmy Carter. :-)

**Okay, my taggees are: Dan, Breakerslion, Rev. Barky, JanieBelle, Whore Church, A.J., Scott Hatfield, and... take a guess... guess again... who has been a real pain, with multiple names'n'such... think hard, now... and he's so prolific at commenting, he'd better not break the chain...

Everyone's favorite troll, LEGION! Also known as "Banned in Kansas"/"Grady"/"Ulyanov"/"Christensen"/"J.C."/"Emmanuel Goldstein", etc. YOU HAVE BEEN TAGGED! Now put together a blog and tell us 8 things about yourself. Don't be shy. We haven't been. No more hiding behind your multiple monikers! TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF!

(And no, that does not mean come here and comment while hiding behind your many clever disguises.)

Don't break the chain, now, Legion! Bwahahahahahaha!

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 25, 2007

Our Man Buck, Left Behind

UPDATED: Left Behind can't hold a candle to The Rapture, a daring film about a convert to Christianity who believes in God, but cannot bring herself to love Him. As far as I'm concerned, The Rapture is the ultimate apocalypse film because the end of the world takes place inside the main character, and I would be extremely interested in what believers think of this film.
I just watched the Kirk Cameron version of Left Behind and I have a few questions.

1. I thought "all dogs go to heaven"? ;-) No dogs went to heaven in this film! They were all sitting by their disappeared owners' clothes. I don't get it. Did the dogs do something wrong? (Ditto for the gerbils, but we won't talk about what they may have done.)

2. Why does the guy playing the Antichrist look so much like Kent Hovind? ;-)

3. In how many films do I have to see someone pray in a public restroom?

4. Do Christian Dispensationalists, like Cameron, understand that atheists are people who live without a belief in God, not people who merely ignore God, then start spouting scripture when the plot calls for it as if they completely believed it all along?

5. How can ten people sit in a room with an armed Antichrist without rushing the asshole? Especially since he repeatedly turns his back on people? And why didn't the guards standing right outside the antechamber, who heard the staged shots, hear the real shots fired by the Antichrist?

6. Is there some commandment against having an intelligible plot? Maybe even some action, instead of people yakking the plot for the audience, as if this were a radio play?

7. Does Kirk Cameron honestly believe that anyone at the UN can keep a secret for more than 10 seconds?

8. Next time, could Cameron find a suit that fits him, or is he into Men's Gangsta Warehouse wear?

9. Why doesn't Cameron tell the story of the people who were raptured? Why tell the story of the people who were Left Behind? If the incentive is to get people to believe in Cameron's message, then surely showing how wonderful our reward in heaven is would be a more effective conversion tool than detailing the adventures of a bunch of womanizing, blow-dried, wealthy, selfish, oblivious, and tie-dye wearing (nice touch, that!) atheists, or at least what Cameron thinks is an atheist. (Oh, and the name "Buck," coupled with the repeated exhortations to "follow the money!" Subtle, man. Cameron's a real Checkhov, for sure.)

After all, if God didn't care about these twits, why is the audience supposed to? Why make a movie about them, instead of one about what happens in heaven?

Could it be that such a movie, with such characters, would not be, uh, very interesting? Because it wouldn't have an, um, plot? (Not that this one did. No, I don't care about the car expoding - I saw that coming.) And does that say something about what Sidney J. Harris courageously called the "necessity of evil"?

Labels: , , ,

Just a Closer Walk With Theocracy

The Supreme Court sides with the White House on doling out funds that could have gone to the Boys and Girls Club to faith-based amateurs instead. Ed's take on this.

Okay, let's hear it now from the supposed mainstream churches who aren't fundamentalist and don't want theocratic rule, and wish the atheists would just shut up. Let's hear their voices for legislation against this madness, instead of their attacks on Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris for writing best-selling books about atheism. (How dare they!)

I'm listening.

Shimmies to Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

(P.S. Someone yelled "Thank God for you!" at the Minnesota Atheists contingent during the Pride Parade yesterday. Whatever.) :-)

Labels: , ,

"Doood! Evolution is, like, sooooo bogus!"

Dude, so like, a buncha hipsters totally went to the gangsta Creation "Museum." Fubar. Fubar. Don't even!

My man Wesley, my man Jason, my man Professor Steve Steve, and teh hawt science chica Dr. Tara had a really great time. NOT!

Something that Tara mentions reminds me of that hideous "Shreck" thingie that John and I went to at Universal Studios:

We were told by the employees that it was a satirical look at evolution. All I have to say is, if they think that was satire, they really need to read some Twain or Swift.

The premise was that the angels Michael and Gabriel were talking to a lost and wandering camper--a frustrated soul who was looking for meaning in the world, but didn't want people to "think she's stupid" by believing that science was wrong about evolution. The whole movie, while slick, was like an extended Chick tract (Big Daddy comes to mind, as part of it consisted of "Mike" and "Gabe" harassing a science teacher...."duuuuude, like, evolution is sooooo bogus").

And special effects were out in full force. The chairs vibrated with thunder, or when the angels "whooshed" away, and the chair backs squirted water during the rainstorm. (This was SUPREMELY annoying).

Yes, it is. It also creeps me totally out because it reminds me of those "feelies" in Brave New World.

My brother noted that these distractions occurred frequently when they made a really astounding claim that might make a person think--"let's distract them by spraying water in their face!" An interesting theory...

This theme presented itself throughout the museum. I guess my one main surprise was that despite hailing themselves as an alternative science museum, there really was fairly little science there. Sure, there were videos to watch and many of the exhibits had narration, but just based on the displays, they really half-assed (hell, more like quarter-assed) the "scientific objections to an old universe and evolution" part of the "museum." Instead, the focus was more typically on "why Christianity is good for you" and "why human reason is wrong".

As if! Look, I don't know how to say this nicely - but this shit it not about science at all. It never has been. It's about making people as boring as possible.

(What if you started talking about a particularly exciting football game and I cut you off with, "Do you actually think that those two teams are creating the game through their meaningless struggle, like two amphibians on a beach? Don't you know that IT IS JESUS WHO PLAYS THE GAME? The players aren't sufficient in themselves to make football happen! There has to be a Master Player controlling everything! You tell me who won, and I'll tell you that that's just how God plays with Himself." Would that make me sound like a person interested in sports, and curious at all about the rules, plays, players, and strategies? Well, that's how I feel when people tell me, "You tell me how life evolved, and I'll just say that's how Goddidit." Gee, thanks for your sermon. Now I'll just go find some people to talk to who are curious about what I'm curious about. Bye.)

What this doggerel is about is a running grist mill of mediocrity - making everyone into everyone else. No sparkle, no disobedience, no real curiosity - all reactions, no deep thoughts (though plenty of cherry-picking, emotional arguments, appeals to authority, and other such logical fallacies). I get tired of the Hitler allusions to the right wing but I must tell you, the photos of this sideshow's "exhibits" reminds me of those putrid art exhibitions of banal paintings that Hitler held. And the dire warnings of evilutionism's "corruption" - straight out of Goebbel's exhibition of "Degenerate Art."

And don't get me started on the megachurch - Nuremburg rallies parallels, because Richard Dawkins hit the nail on the head with that one.

Shimmies to Pharyngula, Aetiology, Panda's Thumb, EvolutionBlog, and the NCSE.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Amused Muse at the Pride Parade

Look for me (in case we get on the news) participating with Minnesota Atheists at the Minneapolis GLBT Pride Parade! The t-shirts this year are pink, purple, and black.

I was ecstatic! (And I think I was the only one who was.)

I'm coming out of the closet myself today - new member of Minnesota Atheists, and none of them have seen me in belly dancing regalia. I asked if I could be "creative" as to what I could wear with my t-shirt. We're supposed to project a "nice" image to the broader community, and we are. We are very nice!

And so am I. I'm a very nice person!

I'm just decidedly not suburban nor conservative. Never was. Never will be.

There's nothing "naughty" about belly dance, heels, makeup, and shimmies! Any more than there is about being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Righto?

UPDATED: I forgot to mention the theme for this year: "The Evolution of Equality"!

UPDATED: Photo above.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 22, 2007


What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

How embarrassing. (Well, all I can say is, take that, John A. Davison! Heh, heh.)

I'll try harder.

And so should PZ! Hahaha! A "G" rating! Bwahahaha! ;-)

UPDATED: Okay, now I'm up to an "R" rating, so JanieBelle'nKate and I are even.

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

Obviously it's the boy who's keeping them from an NC-17 rating! Hahaha.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Richard Dawkins: "Responses to Criticisms of The God Delusion"

Richard's website has just posted the video of the first lecture that he gave on our Galapagos trip.

Responses to Criticisms of The God Delusion (preface to new paperback edition).

Question and Answer Session afterward.

(Comment moderation is off again. However, if you are John A. Davison or VMartin, you are still banned. Don't comment here. Bye, now.)

UPDATED: Pharyngula has a take on the "atheists are just as fundamentalist as Christian fanatics" hogwash. How many library programs have atheists shut down?

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stop! In the Name of Love!

Since this thread has been hijacked by the "How can you say that about Dr. Egnor" brigade, here's a link about doctors behaving badly.
UPDATED: If you liked the "granny's revenge" video below, you'll love this oldie: "The world's most patient cop." My hero. (Get a load of what he says at 1:53!)
The Vatican issues a “Ten Commandments” for drivers of motor vehicles.

Actually, I don’t think this is a bad idea (although, once again, I object to the mentality of “commandments” and finger-waving, and their attendant implied shame and perfectionism). Inasmuch as prayer, or meditation, or just plain having a good attitude, causes a chemical and mental/emotional change in a person, it makes a difference. I’ve often thought that religious believers were better off praying before they climb into their cars than before a football game. It’s not supernatural, just good mental exercise.

However, I am disappointed that the Vatican left out rules for how drivers should treat pedestrians! (Not everyone rides a donkey into Jerusalem.)

I would add to drivers: Don’t yell out the window at pedestrians (we can never hear what the hell you’re saying, anyway!).

Don’t honk your horn and make a female pedestrian jump out of her skin for no reason. (What are you trying to prove there, Bub?)

Don’t rev your engine and make impatient faces at pedestrians crossing legally at a crosswalk, and/or with a walk sign. You’ll get to where you’re going. You’ll get there faster than the pedestrian will. You have a vehicle. (And an old lady may bonk you with her bag.)

When the sign says, “No turn on red,” no turn on red.

When the sign says, “Stop,” stop! (Bill Janklow!)

Someone I know uses the time at the stop light to meditate. Just a suggestion. (Not unlike that of the Vatican's, although I'm not sure I want people "praying as they drive." Keep your eyes on the road! Please!)

Please go ahead and turn or cross the intersection if I wave at you to do so. In some situations it’s better for a pedestrian to let one car go ahead out of turn so as not to disrupt the larger flow of traffic. (And thank you for being so considerate.)

Don’t get so impatient when you cannot go as fast as it pleases you. You share this world with other people. Their lives are not an inconvenience to you. Take a deep breath. You’ll get there. You have a vehicle, after all! It will be fine if you’re late. And if it’s not fine, maybe you should think about reorganizing your time and your life so that you’re not rushed.

I can help with that. I used to drive. I quit cold turkey but you don’t have to. All it takes is remembering not to use the car to “snack” (running to the bank, grocery store, etc. when you could walk). Use the car for “meals” and, gradually, cut those down, too. You’ll feel better. You will.

It’s all about gradually accumulating small change! (C’mon, you knew I was going to sneak that in there, didn’t you?)

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 17, 2007

William Dembski and Barbarella!

Where do I begin? To tell the story of how great a link can be?

The Dembski story of a link that's hawt ID - The simple story that shows up this dumb theory?

Where do I start?

To top it off - as if anything could be more funny than William Dembski linking to a man who uses intelligent design in a, ahem, highly creative fashion - I just saw "Barbarella," the Ballet of the Dolls version - frigging awesome! - and John A. Davison just told me that he luvs me. [Update: we're off again. Whew. Just in time before I went to bed and cheated on him with my own boyfiend. *Wink!*] It's just a summer of love!

Oh, my stars. Dembski links to a site by a man who also claims to use intelligent design for Pleasurianism - "a mixture of intelligent design and Hefnerian Playboy philosophy":

ID Pleasurian philosophy is a non-religious amalgam of ID science and Hefnerian Playboy philosophy. It serves as a strategically unified and archetypal counter proposal to orthodox ascetic religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam. It is also somewhat resonant with Wiccan and “mother nature”- based pagan cults (in the west) and Tantric Buddhism (in the east). Pleasurian-ism is an earthy, sensuous and physically celebratory form of “monistic idealism” or infocognitive monism.” Pleasurian science is naturally driven by the "pleasure of finding things out."

COWABUNGA! Count me in! Count me iiiiiiinnnnnnn! I can get behind that (or, er, any other place).

I believe in intelligent design! Hallelujah!

I'm a believer!

(Somewhere, in all of this, starting with the rise of intelligent design, through the Dover trial, Dembski's fart animation, and this, there is a sci fi space opera musical just waiting to be written. Complete with bacterial flagella costumes and a blood-clotting cascade dance sequence.)

(Starring a snarky belly dancer and surrealist poet enthusiast-librarian-pirate-secret agent-scribe. I'll get right on it, Mr. President!)

Shimmies to Duae Quartuncia, Stranger Fruit, Red State Rabble, After the Bar Closes, Afarensis, Clever Beyond Measure, Paralepsis, Bill Brookfield and Penny (did you get lucky, Bill?), William Dembski (feeling lucky, Bill?), and to Jane Fonda, Ballet of the Dolls, the stars, the bars, the barmen, and to the whole lovin' galaxy out there!

UPDATED: Remember all that guff about "It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve in the Garden, blah, blah"? Well, according to Ken Ham's creationist sideshow it was Adam and Steve!

Between this, William Dembski becoming an unwitting porn star, and Sal Cordova thinking that he's Han Solo, I might not stop laughing for days! (And I mean "laugh" in the Inuit way, as in, "together in bed." *Wink!* )

Shimmies to Ed at Dispatches. Rhymes with...

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Learning to Say, "I Don't Know"

The Washington Post reports that much of what fathers (and mothers) tell their children is wrong:

Doug Hardy was barely inside the door of the National Air and Space Museum when he made up his first "fact."

On a sunny morning a few days before Father's Day, Hardy and his son Andrei were huddled under the Mercury capsule. Like countless dads before him, he was explaining rocket science to his boy, in this case how the mottled heat shield protected John Glenn from a fiery death as the craft plunged through the atmosphere.

Then Andrei, 12, asked: What are these dark disks made of?

Again, like countless dads before him, Hardy answered confidently -- even though he didn't have a clue.

"Steel," he said.

(The shield is actually made from a plastic-fiberglass composite, said Michael Neufeld, chairman of the museum's space history division. The disks are plugs left over from post-flight analysis.)

If it didn't occur to Hardy to say, "I don't know," he's not alone. The phenomenon of the "know-it-all dad" is a familiar one to the docents, curators and keepers of America's museums and zoos.

"Just about every time I'm on the floor, I hear a father say something incorrect to his kids," said Bobbe Dyke, who has been a docent and tour guide at Air and Space for 31 years. "You can't butt in and correct them in front of the kids. You just have to cringe."

Oh, yeah, I've cringed, too.

I've heard a man reading the Macy's window display placards to his kids and he said the word "scuzzy" for "scullery" maid.

I've heard a father tell his kids that all sharks were dangerous and that they mostly liked to eat people.

I've confronted a father who told his son that the woman who was giving the presentation on the space shuttle at Cape Canaveral was "Just making things up to pretend that she was smart."

"I'm just kidding," he sneered at me after I confronted him (I was around seventeen years old, folks. Because I'm an angry young woman).

I wish that I had had a retort to that. If I had been more on the ball, I would have said, "Oh, you mean, you're 'just making things up to pretend that you're smart?'"

Why didn't I think of that then?

I don't know.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More Stupidity about Atheists from Newsweek

Yeah, we've never built anything. Right.

How about the Enlightenment?

How about evolutionary theory? (Now evolution's predicted "demise" is the year 2025. Naturally, I have my own ideas about that.)

How about women's rights?

Bad atheists, bad, bad! You don't believe in something that doesn't exist - it's an outrage! I'd rather vote for Paris Hilton or the JFK terrorist plotters than you. They should take your citizenship away!

And we can see by watching this video the kind of company that atheists keep!
Isaac Asimov
Carl Sagan
Richard Dawkins
Francis Crick
Marie Curie
Katherine Hepburn
Marlon Brando
Noam Chomsky
Susan B. Anthony
etc., etc., etc...

UPDATED: Yeah, it's not like this nation has its hands full with religious fanatics or anything...
SECOND UPDATE: Rev. Barking Nonsequitor takes on Chuck Norris! Rev. Barky is my hero! And did I mention that Rev. Barky is teh sexeh...? :-) (Sorry, Barky, is that okay?)

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Galapagos Diary: End of Day Two - Star-Gazing and Stumbling

That evening after dinner we were all invited up to the sun deck to view the stars with the naturalists.

There was no moon, so the stars stood out brilliantly, more luminous than I had ever seen them before, even at Upper Pine Lake in northern Minnesota, even at our villa in Jamaica. The first night, a pelican had swum next to the ship off the port side, keeping up with it; tonight, a sea lion was doing the same in the very place where the pelican had swum. Someone told me that two frigate birds had been sitting on the back of the ship that morning, riding along with us.

At the equator, when the sun sets, it seems to drop to the horizon like a bowling ball. The sky was pitch black apart from the stars. It took me some time to recognize the constellations, for I'm not as familiar with the Southern Cross or the constellations of the zodiac. The Big Dipper was upside-down at this hour and Polaris was nowhere to be seen, of course. I could not locate Cassiopeia or many of my favorites, but the Milky Way was spectacular, truly a sight to behold.

However, I do not have my sea legs at this point. (In fact, I never quite gained them.) Being that we are on an open deck in the dark on a swaying ship I felt quite uncertain of myself, and many spots along the railing were taken. To cover my fear and clumsiness I made jokes with Sue and Erik about needing to hang on to someone, and suddenly Richard, who is sitting in a lounge chair, grasps me by my backpack and asks if I'm all right.

Me: "Oh yes, I'm fine. Thank you."

Internal me, unspoken: "Of course I'm not all right! OMG, the ship is swaying like an incense censer! What the hell? I'm going to fall and humiliate myself in front of everyone like the miserable landlubber I am (scared of water and all that), and maybe break my leg, that is if I don't tumble right off this deck and into the water where I'll drown. It's dark. Oh crap, why are the stars spinning? [The ship was turning in a circle at this point to give everyone all views of the sky.] You know, I think that if I were a captain and I tried to use an astrolabe right now, I'd put out my eye! No wonder pirates wore patches!" Holy Toledo. I've tripped on sidewalks while walking with my face craned to the stars before, but this is ridiculous. Get a hold of yourself.

Sue: "Here Kristine, some of the railing has been freed up."
Me: "Oh! Great. Thanks, Sue." Fighting down my embarrassment, I grab on and point to a star. "Is that Antares?"
Marcela: "No, that's Alpha Centauri."
Me: "No, wait." [Ship sways back to previous position while I hold my arm out straight.] "Okay, that star."
Marcela: "Yes, Antares, very good!"
Me: "Alpha Centauri is the closest star to ours, right?"
Richard: "Yes."
Me: "Bootes is upside-down."
Diego: "You know your stars."
Hey-hey! I'm back on solid (well, not really) ground, sounding intelligent, and not making a landlubber never-before-snorkeled fool of myself. Yet.

[Edit: Robert has correctly informed me that Proxima Centauri is the closest star to us. However, it's within the Alpha Centauri group, and I think I may have said "one of the closest stars" or something like that. Anyway, good catch, Robert.]

Later, I manage to gingerly make it across the deck and back several times without clinging to anyone or anything. In Crux, we see the Coal Sack nebula. It looks much darker than the sky around it where there are no stars, and Richard asks why this is. Diego and Marcela, two of our naturalists, don't have an answer. I speculate that the places in the sky where we don't see stars actually do have some imperceptible to the naked eye, and so must contain some risidual light from the stars that are nevertheless there, and that is why the nebula appears darker (although you'll see from the link that you can see stars through the nebula. Well, we couldn't. If anyone has an answer to this, feel free to give it).

I see three falling stars. Veronica, another of the naturalists, tells me to make a wish. The first wish that I make is to see a supernova - our galaxy is due for one - in the sky during our trip. I save the other two wishes for later.

After we leave the sun deck, I settle in the salon with my glass of wine and my book on the Galapagos, and a few people ask me about my first experience snorkeling. Some people have already turned in, but my jaccuzi partners start a game of Scrabble, while a few others join Richard in the ship's library, where he is tap-tapping on his Mac, and glance at the books or check their e-mail on those interminably slow satellite connections. The group in the salon and in the library dwindles finally, and soon I look up from the diagram of the tectonic plates in the Pacific in which I was absorbed. It has been a perfect day and evening, but now the salon is almost deserted.

I drain my glass of wine and carry it up to the bar. It's only a few steps, but just then the ship sways again - one of those long, slow motions that feels like we're all sliding downhill - and I pause, having placed my glass safely onto the wood of the bar, and brace myself for the arrest of the movement and the pendulum swing back. The bartender, Luis, leans forward with a smile as I struggle not to stumble. "Another glass of wine, Miss?"

"Heh. No, I'm good. Thank you very much."


Monday, June 11, 2007

Outlaw Sharia!

UPDATED: Stanley Fish of the New York Times condemns atheists as "illiterate" about religion.

Can Stanley Fish, on the top of his head, answer this "illiterate" atheist's questions about religion?

As you can see by my answers, though I am not a believer I understand not only the facts about these religions, but the thoughts behind them. And that's my real rebuke to Fish: not that I can rattle off more trivia than he can, but that I learned all of these ideas from people, not from books. Because I took the time to get to know believers. Who practice their religion.

Religion is human, not divine, in origin; I know about religion because I want to know about human beings. Were religion really all about God, I wouldn't give two shakes about it.
There's no excuse for this. (Or this.)

Why should any woman be subject to hijabs, arranged marriages, beatings, and murder simply because of the coincidence of being born in a fundamentalist Muslim family? And why can't she change her mind about her religion?

Don't women have rights? Don't children? Do their rights depend upon some random circumstance of birth? Was this woman a British subject, or her father's chattel? Doesn't Britain's Constitution apply to her, or is the Queen too busy riding her horse? Tony Blair, still think than religious schools teaching contradictory "facts" is a good idea?

What does a nation's laws mean when a foreign law can be imposed upon a woman and the police ignore her pleas? Is that supposed to be tolerance? Give me a break. I'm the one who learned about Islam on my own when I was fourteen (after the Iran Hostage crisis); I'm the one who learned some Arabic and Somali; I'm the one who has supported peace between the Palestinians and Israelis since I was a child (and opposed the U.S. ever funding Saddam Hussein); I'm the one who wrote letters to the editor against racial and religious hatred aimed at Muslims after September 11.

Americans, would you still rather not vote for an atheist for public office? Because I don't know what "fighting them over there so that we don't have to fight them over here" means, then. Who are we fighting in Iraq - atheists? Who committed the atrocities of September 11? Atheists?

Considering that two of this poor woman's so-called relatives have fled Great Britain, the time has come for the U.S., Great Britain, and Europe to shake off their confusion and become an example by banning any and all practices of sharia within our boundaries. Cracking down on this will get rid of all of those fundamentalist Islamists who are already "over here." This should not be a controversial idea to anyone.

Labels: , , ,

Galapagos Diary: Day Two - Floreana

Before lunch that same day we enjoyed a lecture by Richard Dawkins, "Responses to The God Delusion," then one after lunch by Eddie Tabash, "The Present Threat of the Religious Right to Our Modern Freedoms." (I will summarize these in another post.) Then we landed at Punta Cormorant on the island of Floreana.
I remember that the island had three large volcanoes that reminded me of the pyramids of Gizeh. We were promised dozens of pink flamingoes on the nature hike, but I skipped the walk to snorkel for my very first time. My partners were my roommate, Jo Ann (below in the white hat) and Sue (in the green).

Did I mention that I've been afraid of water since I managed to barely pass Advanced Beginners swim class when I was ten years old or so?

Well. I'd never stayed more than a few hours on a boat before. So far so good - no seasickness - and to my surprise, I took to breathing through my mouth underwater pretty quickly. Immediately, in fact.

Almost as if I really wasn't afraid of water anymore - or in fact had not been for quite some time.

And I realized that I didn't need the floatation device at all - because I'm a pretty good swimmer. Hello, Kristine! Been hanging onto a useless fear long enough?

Among many kinds of fish, as well as sea urchins, I saw the beautiful King Angelfish. Following others' advice, I took out my contacts and didn't wear my glasses, and frankly, the water magnifies everything, anyway. What you cannot see you swim close enough until you can see it. The fish did not mind.
Snorkeling is fun! I'll have to do this again. (Note to self: Bikini bottom can hold half a pound of sand. Next time, head right upstairs to the shower next to the jacuzzi on the sun deck.)
Yes! The jacuzzi on the sun deck! So conveniently close to the bar!


Friday, June 08, 2007

How to Get Away with Murder

Preacher's wife gets less than one year for killing her husband.


This is one of those cases that you think about as you lie awake at night.

I don't know if she was abused or not. He's not here to tell us. But I wonder why, as he lay dying and asking her, "Why?" she merely said, "I'm sorry," then took her kids to the beach.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Human Self-Transformation, Part 2

"Everybody knows that fairy tales begin with the line, 'Once upon a time.' But a trucker's tale begins like this: 'You ain't gonna believe this shit!'"

Thus begins the real-life fairy tale of diminuative trucker, hard-drinkin' and hard-cussin' grandma, and all-around poet and personality Teri Horton, who discovers what she thinks is an original Jackson Pollock in a thrift store and begins a crusade to get the art world to acknowledge her find in the documentary, "Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?"

(The British, love them, list the unabridged title, "Who the Fuck Is Jackson Pollock?")

As Teri's quest moves from honest persuasion (which is arrogantly dismissed by the infuriatingly conceited former curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art), to her attempts to create a provenance, or history, of the painting ("That's just shameless, Teri! Shameless!" gasps the director in obvious admiration as Teri giggles, quite pleased with her creativity - man, the story she comes up with is itself worth seeing this film for), to forensic science, you realize that these two worlds, Teri's hardscrabble, blue-collar, bohemian life, versus the pretentiousness and claustrophobia that has come to dominate the upper echelons of the art world, comprise a false dichotomy that is long overdue for a good smashing.

I believe Teri - I am convinced that she's got her hands on a genuine Pollock - but that's hardly the point of this film. She and Pollock are so alike in personality and in their private pain that it belies her supposed disdain for this "ugly" painting that she found. Despite what she says she saw something in that canvas that made her buy it and lug it around in her truck - and moreover, Teri is an artist herself, a dumpster-diver and bargain hunter, a storyteller and spontaneous comedian, a poet in the tradition of Andre Breton and Henry Miller, people who have really lived, whereas the art world, as with the writing world, has been invaded by cloistered, self-protective snobs.

But even so, it doesn't matter if the painting is a Pollock, for it's beautiful in its own right - as is Teri and her dream. Gauche, wise-cracking, foul-mouthed, and stubborn as a mule - sometimes to her own detriment - this beauty and her beast are on an adventure that raises questions about who owns art, who decides what art is, and who interprets art for whom. Art is supposed to be a process, after all; and after one sits through the tedious arguments by self-appointed "experts" harping on why all the Pollocks have been found, that there are no new Pollocks to be found, certainly not in (horrors!) thrift stories (oh goodness, no, the man simply shrugged off paintings, threw them in dumpsters, and handed them out like Halloween candy when his wife wasn't misplacing them!), and all of this filmed just weeks before a Pollock was found on the back of a sign advertising cars for sale, one is struck by how little these wheezebags embody the curiosity and passion that characterize an artist. It is Teri who is the masterpiece - a funny, eccentric, self-made, hard-boiled old character constantly growing and changing, and dancing in her dream of which those stuffed-shirt old art scholars maintain but a dim memory. Are they jealous of her? Afraid of her? Would it kill them to enter her world, as she has theirs, knock back a beer and let out an oath or two, and learn to live as, well, as artists do?

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, June 04, 2007

Thank You for the Self-Esteem, Guys

UPDATED: You know, I learned a lot from all this. Really. Even thought I knew these statements are nonsense I learned about the power of words to make someone’s self-confidence crash and burn despite all the pleadings from the rational part of my brain.

If there’s one thing I got out of Christianity it was “love thine enemy.” What a pity no one preaches it anymore.

Anway, I’m over it.
Kristine is ugly! (Scroll down to "Emanuel Goldstein's" comment - yeah, that's a hoot. I didn't wear makeup on the islands. Shocker. All the photos that I've ever posted that I stated were of me, were of me. When I wasn't taking the form of a toad.)

Kristine is fat! ;-) (OMnG, that's a hoot, that is. Even black magic won't make that true.)

Oh dear, somebody at Uncommon Descent broke our "don't-post-about-me-personally-and-I-won't-post-about-you-personally" rule. Search AtBC all you want, I never made any comment about a certain somebody's appearance or efforts to lose weight. (I did talk about all the global warming conspiracy theories.)

"The bone is for the dog." Har-de-har, is the dog supposed to be me? Isn't he afraid of fleas? (I've had six months to "reflect.")

Man, that's class. Real class. Care to come to Minneapolis, or should I visit Austin sometime?

And WAD, the wacko in Waco?

For tea and cookies? How about some rice cakes?

Better bring rice cakes. ;-)

(I guess I was giving somebody a little too much credit for maturity, because I really thought the peaceful coexistence would last. Well, that's what happens when you have faith, I guess. I won't make that mistake again.)

But these gentlemen left out one thing, one essential thing. It begins with a "w." W-I-T-C...
(I'm totally serious.)

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Our Human Capacity for Self-Transformation

SECOND UPDATE: Reverend Barking Nonsequitor explains it all for you.
UPDATED: Well, this is exactly what I’m talking about, folks!

"Like the Geico Insurance slogan -- so easy a caveman can do it. Letting Jesus take care of our sin problem is so easy a child can do it," said Spaulding.

Religion is television. You read it here first. “So easy a caveman could do it.” And this anti-intellectual crap from a valedictorian!

However, there were some in the audience who said they were uncomfortable during the speech and felt the comments were inappropriate.

Yeah. I’ll bet there were.

There must be something wrong with them! Of course.
The exchange that didn't make it into “Root of All Evil?" - Richard Dawkins interviews Alister McGrath.

At about 28:42 into the interview, Alister McGrath says something that really set me off: “The point I’d want to make would be this, that what Christianity is saying is that there seems to be something wrong with human nature, that we just don’t posses the capacity to transform ourselves, that in some way in order to experience and enter into the redeemed life, something has to be done for us. It’s a question of not having the adequate resources to actually transform ourselves to be saved.”

Well, certainly I don't believe in the necessity of being “saved,” but this answer by McGrath gets to, I think, the crux of the religious mind and to my nonreligious one. I was surprised at my feelings upon hearing McGrath say this. I literally felt pain, and then a great deal of anger. This kind of attitude is a highly personal issue for me, and it brings up a deep-seated resentment which I shall attempt to explain here.

I perceive that all my life I have received similar messages, from many sources, that there was something “wrong” with me: You are not capable. This goal is beyond you, that adventure is too hard for you, you’re just a small town girl from North St. Paul and you will never be one of those people on television or high up in academia (and they’re pointy-headed intellectuals anyway; you don’t want to be like that!). You’re a nice girl. Don’t get too big for your britches. The world is dangerous; it’s no place for you. You’ll get hurt. You can’t handle the big, bad world out there.

Don’t think certain ideas – you’ll get all confused. Don’t ask those questions. We just aren’t supposed to understand some things. Women’s Lib is over with (this was the 1970s) and we’ve got all the rights we’ll ever get – don’t talk about a woman running for President or going into space. That’s just not possible. Don’t talk about science or evolution. What are you, in love with Carl Sagan? (Yes, I was fifteen years old and I was in love with Carl Sagan. Thanks, like any other fifteen-year-old I was horribly embarrassed about it, and even wondered if it was wrong after being teased about it.) What kind of young lady runs around and yelling with the boys after church? Getting all dirty, screaming and yelling? Why can’t you pretend to be a girl for a change? You’ll waste your life talking about outer space all of the time – learn to get interested in normal things. Besides, this isn’t you – we know who you are, and you’re just a little twit from a small town – who do you think you are? You seem to think that you’re some kind of star! Well, you’re just you, so be realistic, and quit being such a dreamer.

It makes me angry. Here I am, doing all these things that nobody taught or even showed me how to do – nobody taught me how to negotiate grad school or how to handle a foreign culture, to go on a trip by myself, or to walk in academic circles, or to work a highly stressful job in a museum – and I’m doing it! I’m not only doing it, but I doing pretty damned well at it. With very few role models, or with none in some cases.

I did transform myself! Goddamnit, I did! I had to. I had a lot of problems in that small town, and I made myself change! And not only that, I am transforming myself all the time. I don’t know how to go to grad school. I had never given a presentation before in my life. Yet the second I walked into class I was expected to become a young professional, and you know what, I did become one – and I’m good at it. Maybe my success so far has had something to do with the fact that I was expected to succeed, that my professors saw no reason for me not to succeed?

If the world had listened exclusively to the warnings of fearful people like Alister McGrath and to the mediocre minds in American small towns, we would never have invented fire, let alone traveled the planet (and into space), made art, or discovered science at all! We do have the capacity to transform ourselves! We are nothing if not capable of self-transformation. And there is nothing “wrong” with me. There is nothing inherently “wrong” with you or me or with human nature. What is up with Alister McGrath? What is up with the people in small town America? Why do they have such a degraded sense of themselves that they need to tell people not to try to improve themselves?

If I saw religion as it is presented to me actually helping people to achieve the kinds of things that I want to achieve, I would change my mind about it. But I don’t see that. I don’t see it solving people’s problems or freeing them of their fears and anxieties. Blue-collar people get blue-collar religious messages to make them stay blue-collar, and upper-class people (like Alister McGrath) get upper-class religious messages to justify their superior status. And increasingly in America, there is less movement between social classes (unless it's people's houses being foreclosed on).

Moreover, people in America are so paranoid and scared of their own shadows that increasingly we are a nation that doesn’t walk anywhere—lock yourself in your car, lock yourself in the office, lock yourself in your house with the television on. Not since people believed in werewolves has a nation become so insular.

I see religion teaching people to sit around and be passive. Great, yet more sitting – just what our obesity-plagued civilization needs. Just more television after all. I’ve worked alongside a lot of African-American women in low-paying jobs and from what I saw religion didn’t do diddly squat for them moving up in the world. They’re exhausted at work. They go to church for hours – several times a week – and then, bleary-eyed and exhausted at work with a mother or sister watching their sick or injured children (because of personal problems with men), they’re practically falling over at work yet talk about how God is “teaching me a lesson” because they can’t pay their electric bill or put enough food on the table. They think they're supposed to be joyful every single second. Well, all I can say is, God never “punished” me that way. Funny that God’s Will toes the line with a racist society (and a classist, sexist, and homophobic one).

Sit in church and listen to stories (or in the big megachurches, watch videos) of other people living their lives, and doing things it’s just assumed that you’ll never do. Because you’re you, but they are them. They are special - prophets and angels. You are sinners – nothing in yourselves. If you’re special, it’s only because Somebody Special made you. All you get to do is vote yea or nay. (But really, with the fear of hell thrown in, it’s not a true choice, is it?)

Do you begin to see my point about how religion was the first form of television? God was the world’s first celebrity.

No wonder Americans don’t believe in evolution! No wonder! When you have been brainwashed to believe that you “lack the capacity for self-transformation,” how in hell can you believe that an amphibian or an ape has great potential? How can you believe that nature itself does? Is it a coincidence that this idea of our personal inability and insufficiency has taken hold at a time in our nation’s history when more people mistakenly believe that IQ is static and strictly inherited, that one’s status in life is determined by one’s parents? (We still give lip-service to the bootstrap idea but surveys show that increasingly, Americans believe status in society is genetically determined.)

And so people invoke God, and show more interest in His supposed hijinks than in living their own lives. I have no problem with what people believe but holy Toledo, today it's walk your dog with Jesus, take a shower with Jesus, go to a megachurch and be surrounded by thousands of people (yeah, that's real personal) all doing the same thing like they belong to some kind of cult. Don't be an individual; don't be yourself. Nature must be acted upon from the outside, right? Just like you, you miserable sinner. Because nature is artificial and so are you. You’re a product, a thing, which suddenly appeared out of thin air like a rabbit out of a hat. “It takes more faith” to believe in the ongoing self-transformation of nature than to blurt out Goddidit, right? Just like it takes more faith to believe that a little girl from a redneck town in Minnesota could associate with “those people” and even be interesting to them, than to believe that she’ll get into some horrible kind of trouble and need to be rescued from her folly.

Well, I think it is evil to tell people that they lack this capacity. What kind of a faith is that? What kind of spirituality is that?

Labels: , ,