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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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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.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Expelled: Fear of Not Flying and the Story of O(vation)

UPDATED: ReligionProf received an e-mail (actually two) about Freedom Friday! When my mouth stopped watering, because I thought that meant French Fries Day, I read his sarcastic wit about being "invited" to rent a theatre in which to show Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Those Gone with the Wind allusions are becoming more appropriate by the second! (If you rent a theatre so that Ben-I-love-credit-cards-Stein can show his movie in it, do you get to bring your own treats - say French Fries - into the theatre, or do you still have to put up with what's at the concession (they named it that for a reason) stand?)

(Photo courtesy of Quidam at AtBC)

So now you know where we got the information about the super-secret, no-atheist-cooties-allowed screening of Expelled. It was Glen Davidson, Expelled debunker extraordinaire, who informed us about the screenings. And where did Glen get his information? It was posted on a Christian blog.

Well, so much for "crashing" the screening. If anything, it was this film that crashed, and burned.

Troy Britain also found another public link to these screenings. He says:

This is followed by miscellaneous links and quoted endorsements. Did you happen to catch the URL in the middle of that? It goes right to one of the RSVP pages. Glen thought people might find this interesting so he promptly posted it on several popular blogs, web pages, and newsgroups, that deal with the CvE debate.

It was found on one of those sites (After the Bar Closes on by Kristine Harley, who then passed it on to Myers, and you know what happened after that.

So there were at least two places on publicly accessible web pages where one could find links to the Expelled RSVP pages and sign up to see the film. And both apparently included the Mall of America showing.

Slap the cuffs on me.

Troy himself found out what happens when you are "invited" to see a screening of the film Expelled: you don't see the film Expelled. You pay $10 see a trailer of the film. Oh, and you see Ben Stein win another incestuous ID award, to which the audience treated him to three Minnesota "we're-too-polite-to-tell-you-to-step-away-from-the-microphone-but-we-have-to-pee" ovations.

Oh, yes, this is exactly how previews for legitimate films meant for a wide audience are screened. Who can forget those merry days when Gone with the Wind was previewed before a hand-picked audience of cave hermits who thought that the Civil War was still going on? And those chivalrous cops dressed in authentic Confederate uniforms "skulking around" [that's really funny, Denyse O'Leary!] the theatre to make sure that no one gave away which side won the war?

Shimmies to Bad at Bad Idea and Troy at Playing Chess with Pigeons (and no, my shimmies do not cost $10, nor do I know specifically where $10 blowjobs can be found. Quit asking me!) :-)

P.S. Gee, come to think of it, we haven't heard from Ben Stein on this. In fact, he's been pretty quiet about this whole incident.

Maybe he's too busy rewriting everything "from Darwin to Hitler!"

(courtesy Quidam from AtBC again. Shimmies, Quidam! I read Mein Kampf. Bleh. More on what Hitler thought was evolution here at AtBC.)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two "Expelled" Reviews

(Image courtesy of midwifetoad)

Josh Timonen's review is up - he let me see the draft and add my two cents. Thanks, Josh! I pulled out two things that Josh discusses that particularly bothered me in the film:

They interview someone else about evolution, who mentions that science doesn't know how life began. So the film shifts to discussing the origin of life on earth. Philosopher Michael Ruse mentions the theory that organic life piggybacked on crystalline structures (Richard writes more about this in his review). Stein takes the opportunity to ridicule the idea: "Crystals!? On the backs of CRYSTALS!?" The film cuts to B&W video of creepy fortunetellers hunching over crystal balls. Stein's only desire is to oversimplify the theory and make fun of it.

The film mentions the Miller-Urey experiments (I'm pretty sure these were the experiments referred to in the film) done on the mixture of elements likely to have been around at the dawn of life. Stein's voiceover merely states that these experiments were done to replicate the origin of life, and that "Nothing happened" (there is more to this story, of course). Boy, those stupid scientists should have known then and there that they were way off track!

Josh does a masterful job of wading through a film that expels insult upon insult on one's intelligence, and this was more work than I wanted to do on this awful film. I'm not getting paid for this. I've gotten paid for reviewing books/films that I thought were hideous that, as it turns out, were all better than this.

Also, Rev. Barking Nonsequitur also reviews the film. It's interesting that Josh mentions the inferior sound of the film (too much "gain"), because during the screening Rev. Barky, also a sound guy, leaned over to me and said, "The sound is terrible." I couldn't tell.

The film was trying to be a Michael Moore documentary about people being persecuted because they chose to mention the word "ID" but with Ben Stein - who is really not very pleasant to look at. He looks like an emotionless basset hound and his eyes seem to be exuding a viscous fluid much of the time. Of course he comes off very smug all through the film which is interspersed with interviews of supposed victims of the elitist Nazi science academia establishment. Of course when they are interviewing the "evil" people like PZ and Dawkins, there were lots of footage of Nazi and Communist rallies, death camp scenes and retarded people making fools of themselves underscored with malevolent or dopey music to set the mood.

I really enjoyed the point that Richard Dawkins made about the film's technique:

Now, to the film itself. What a shoddy, second-rate piece of work. A favourite joke among the film-making community is the 'Lord Privy Seal'. Amateurs and novices in the making of documentaries can't resist illustrating every significant word in the commentary by cutting to a picture of it. The Lord Privy Seal is an antiquated title in Britain's heraldic tradition. The joke imagines a low-grade film director who illustrates it by cutting to a picture of a Lord, then a privy, and then a seal. Mathis' film is positively barking with Lord Privy Seals. We get an otherwise pointless cut to Nikita Krushchev hammering the table (to illustrate something like 'emotional outburst'). There are similarly clunking and artless cuts to a guillotine, fist fights, and above all to the Berlin wall and Nazi gas chambers and concentration camps.

Now you begin to get an idea of how bad this film is, aside from its message. Ben Stein should go to the privy to expel whatever it is that he ate for dinner that is giving him nightmares about Hitler, and go back to bed. Spare us all his personal hang-ups.

UPDATED: I’ve been asking myself why I have not found much to say about the content of Expelled. I guess it is because I am so flummoxed by this film’s request that I laugh at its incredibly puerile use of stock footage “asides” of people hitting each other, Krushchev pounding a table, things blowing up in a lab, etc. Its humor is on or below the level of the Three Stooges, and I never liked them. As I said, take Michael Moore’s worst moments and string them into a full-length film…

But there’s something else. This film is empty. It is devoid of content – everything is chopped up, including the interviews of the intelligent design theorists. Even they get short (very short) shrift.
When I saw how bad this film was, I was relieved – but I’m still stunned at how incredibly artless this film is. What is there for me to say? Perhaps this was how (since Godwin’s Law has been trashed by now) Hitler’s art teachers felt when they saw the future Fuehrer’s talentless art.
UPDATED: More reviews.
And Julia Sweeney weighs in.
Ben Stein and the producers of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed held a press conference. But hardly any questions were allowed.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Most. Hits. Evah!

UPDATED: Courtesy of BWE over at AtBC.
SECOND UPDATE: You may have noticed that I've added Site Meter to this blog, because while Freestats gives me numbers, it hasn't updated its user profiles yet. So far I'm liking Site Meter better. Plus, now this blog has full syndication.

Welcome, and many thanks to all the visitors here. As a result of Expelledgate, I have had over 7100 hits on this site.* I feel like I've taken part in an important moment in history!

Thanks again, Richard, for directing people here and for quoting me.

And thank you, Wesley, for using your scalpel on the producer's pat-the-lady-on-the-head response to me. (Okay, you're all thinking "Lady?" I hear you.)

If you need to cleanse the palate, Wesley has a nice post about Rosalind Franklin and the invisible line between "scientists" and "technicians" that, along with chauvinism and opportunism, deprived this remarkable woman of a Nobel Prize for the co-discovery of DNA.

There are legitimate controversies within evolutionary theory. There are valid questions about and real problems within the process of peer review. There are many unanswered questions in both evolution and abiogenesis, and as Lawrence Krauss [fixed spelling] lectured to a rapt audience at the American Atheist convention, there are many, many unanswered questions about this universe which, as it turns out, is stranger than we have imagined, and perhaps stranger than we can imagine.

(As soon as the video of Lawrence's lecture is up I'll post it here, and I recommend that everyone watch it. If you're not familiar with the concepts you may have to refer to other sources on the subject, and work your way through the video more than once, and think it through more than once. I bore up quite well during his lecture, and it still blew my mind. You will fall in love with cosmology all over again.)

These questions are so much fun that I want everyone to explore them, debate them, or at least know about them - instead of creating false controversies about conspiracies that don't exist (and creating conspiracies that do exist, like throwing an interviewee out of a theatre where the film he was interviewed for was being screened.) Can we return to the real questions now? Can Americans learn the real questions through real science in our science classes? Thank you!

*As of late Friday, that is. My blogometer has not updated over the weekend. I'm waiting for my blogometer to be resurrected. So, it would appear that my stats are even higher.

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Expelled: PZ, Darwin, and Now, Jackson Pollock

UPDATED: Richard and Greg weigh in. Richard mentions me *shimmy!* and Greg has the equivalent of the Encyclopaedia Britannica of links about Expelledgate (including my characteristically ladylike and demure THOSE FASCIST FUCKS THREW PZ OUT OF THE THEATRE RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! rant.)

I'd like to take this moment to thank those intelligent design theorists who have given me what turned out to be a shitting-bricks-but-ultimately-awesome roller coster ride.
Well, now Mark Mathis has backed off of the “PZ Myers was being disruptive” lie and has confessed to Denyse O’Leary – the biggest information leaker since Robert Philip Hanssen – that the real reason that he expelled PZ from Expelled was money, and his own pettiness.

You should know that I invited Michael shermer to a screening at NRB in Nashville. He came and is writing a review for scientific American. I banned pz because I want him to pay to see it. Nothing more.

Mark Mathis, did you think that this nitwit Denyse could keep a secret? No, Denyse goes and posts this admission on her blog for us to see. Thank you, Denyse. That is precisely how she ruined the screening of the creationist film “The Privileged Planet” at the Smithsonian, by not staying mum about how this is a stealth “documentary” for the intelligent design camp.

*We pause here for a fit of laughter*

But that’s not all, folks. The story just gets better and better. The writer of the film has weighed in at After the Bar Closes.

As I said on my blog, as a documentary filmmaker, I'm under no obligation to be objective.

*We pause here to run to the ladies' room to laugh and, er, expel at the same time!*

But that's not all. It looks like Mark Mathis is padding his audiences with his own staff.

The film was just silly, with virtually zero scientific content, which, of course, is not surprising coming from Ben Stein - a comedian, speech writer and game show host . . . but not a scientist.

I'm hopeful that anyone with the least bit of intelligence (no pun intended) will see straight through the film's hokey attempts to distract viewers from the lack of scientific credibility with appeals to their emotions - like the dark lighting, foreboding music and harsh camera angles that set the scene for Stein's interview with - dun dun dun - biologist Richard Dawkins, an avowed atheist.

Or worse, the countless images and references to Nazis that culminate in Stein dopily wandering through the Dachau concentration camp pondering the ways in which the "Darwinian gospel" was a "necessary but not sufficient condition" for the atrocities that took place there.

But the real silliness came after the credits rolled, when the audience had a chance to pose questions to Mark Mathis, the film's producer.

One woman said it was morally reprehensible to equate the death of six million Jews with Darwin. I clapped, and was astounded when nearly everyone else remained silent.

I shot my hand up to ask a question. "The intelligent design movement has gone to great lengths to argue that intelligent design is not religion, that it's science. And you made a whole film arguing that it is religious. How do they react to that?"

"Well," Mathis said, "I guess it makes them a little uncomfortable."

Some arguing ensued concerning the scientific merits of ID, and someone asked, "Where's the evidence? Where are the peer reviewed papers?" to which Mathis proudly proclaimed, "Actually, there are ten peer reviewed papers."

A guy in the front row scoffed. "Ten papers?" he asked sarcastically.

Mathis told the guy not to interrupt, and then mockingly called him "Mr Darwinist." Zing!

He began calling on others in the crowd, who asked friendlier questions. But Maggie and I quickly realised that we'd seen some of these people before - earlier that evening, in fact, working at the movie's registration table. These friendly audience members worked for the film? Had Mathis planted questioners?

People asked what they could do to help the film succeed, and a young woman in the front row inquired: "How can I pray for you and for the movie?" Mathis grew excited. "We need to start a grass roots movement!" he said, encouraging people to tell their "networks" about the movie and to get as many people as they could to go on opening weekend.

Another man in the front row wondered about the film's premise that supporters of ID are being silenced. He pointed out that a recent trial about the teaching of intelligent design held in Dover, Pennsylvania, gave supporters of intelligent design all the time in the world to make their case, but most of the 'leading lights' of ID didn't even show up.

When Mathis was responding, the guy asked another question, and the producer shot back, "How about you let me finish talking?" Then, a security guard for the film approached the calmly seated man and told him, "I may have to ask you to leave."

"Does anyone else see how ironic this is?" the guy asked.

"Shut up!" someone shouted from the back.

Now that’s what I call honesty and integrity – filling a theatre with plants who yell "Shut up!" and "Darwinist!" at anyone who asks real questions (as opposed to “How should we pray for this film’s success?”) at a film that purports to be about "free academic inquiry."

(Now, I thought it was bad when someone screamed, "Read Mein Kampf!" at me during the Q&A. "I have!" I yelled back. And I have. Whom do I sue to get that part of my life back? By the way - do you want me to name a little kampfing film that broadcasts the "news" of its "struggle" in the same manner as Hitler's ponderous, whining book? Do you? Can you guess?)

I saw this film, Expelled. The reviews are out there at Expelled Exposed, and despite my background as a movie critic myself I don’t have much to add to what has already been insightfully articulated about this astonishingly inarticulate film.

Just let me just add this comment: If the intent of Expelled was to draw a line between Darwin and Hitler, the effect was to make a film that was as banal and inartful as Hitler’s attempts to be a portrait artist. (Did you know that Hitler was a frustrated artist?) If you believe in this film and in prayer, you’d better start praying, because its specious message aside, its construction blows goats.

If the intent was for Stein to be the right-wing Michael Moore, the effect is a right-wing version of whatever ends up (mercifully) on Michael Moore’s cutting room floor. Moore is a blowhard but at least someone is keeping his ego (somewhat) in check. Not so with Stein. Expelled is a mess!

Ironically enough, on Sunday I caught the tail end of a debate between atheist Frank Zindler and conservative Jew Dennis Prager. I don’t care for these debates, but I had no idea who Prager was, and wanted to learn about him. Well, at the end he stood up and, like an old time fire-and-brimstone preacher started railing against little girls who play with trucks (moi?) and the “secularist, nihilist, Nazi-Communistist crap, like Jackson Pollock, that passes for art today – go to any gallery and see the effects of secular atheists on our culture! See the crap that passes for art today!” etc.

Well, I wasn't thrown out this time, either. I walked out. I stomped right out of there. I work in a museum dedicated to education, and the art world doesn’t deserve to be insulted by yet another cultural ignoramus who is scandalized by Haydn. (Apparently this dork who refers to evolutionary theory as a nineteenth century throwback thinks that music reached its nadir in the eighteenth century with Mozart!)

If you don’t like Pollock, or Georgia O’Keeffe, or Klimt or whoever, fine. But don’t deign to make global, purportedly “objective” statements on behalf of humanity about how this stuff is “bad” or “nihilistic” or “destructive to our youth” because you won’t take the time to at least understand it.

Don’t tell me that “atheists can’t be artists.” I am an artist. Just watch me, Bub. I’m writing a poem about what you said yesterday, Dennis Prager.

Remember, Adolph Hitler also wanted to be an artist, but wasn’t one – and his vision of National Socialist art was the kind of thing that conservative Christians would like to see: banal, safe, repetitive, derivative. Does anyone besides me see the irony of conservative Jews (Ben Stein, Dennis Prager, et al) echoing the statements of Joseph Goebbels in his speeches against "degenerate art" also known as "modern art?" Anyone? Anyone?

Um, Bueller?

This is the Alexander Calder Flamingo sculpture at the Federal Plaza as seen in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (while Ferris sings in the parade). Ferris run! Run away from the atheist, nihilistic Calder! Think of your salvation!

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

New York Times: "No Admission for Evolutionary Biologist at Creationist Film"

Scott Hatfield, mmmmmwah! The latest dirt, and on my birthday, too!

They are removing screenings of the film now! *gasp* Well, it's their choice. I cannot see how this ongoing tyrannical behavior helps their persecuted stance one bit.

They may as well release this thing on Torrent and be done with it. It hasn't even been transferred to 35mm anyway.

UPDATED: I can't keep up! According to Pharyngula ("Still Straining to Find an Excuse"), the story is also at Salon and at Richard Dawkins' website. And Skatje has written a review of the film.

The New York Times article is up (requires login). Guess what - they interviewed Mark Mathis.

Two evolutionary biologists — P. Z. Myers of the University of Minnesota, Morris, and Richard Dawkins of Oxford — tried to go to the movies at the Mall of America in Minneapolis Thursday evening. Dr. Dawkins got in. Dr. Myers did not.

On those facts, everybody agrees. After that, things break down.

The movie the two scientists wanted to see was “Expelled,” whose online trailer asserts that people in academia who see evidence of supernatural intelligence in biological processes — an idea called “intelligent design” — have unfairly lost their jobs, been denied tenure or suffered other penalties as part of a scientific conspiracy to keep God out of the nation’s laboratories and classrooms.

Dr. Myers asserts that he was unfairly barred from the film, in which both he and Dr. Dawkins appear, and that Dr. Dawkins would have been, too, if people running the screening had realized who he was — a world leader in the field of evolutionary biology. But Walt Ruloff, a partner in Premise Media, the film’s producer, said the screening was one of a series the producers have organized for the film, which opens April 18, in hopes of building favorable word-of-mouth among people likely to be sympathetic to its message. People like Dr. Myers and Dr. Dawkins would not have been invited, he said.

Mark Mathis, a producer of the film who attended the screening, said that “of course” he had recognized Dr. Dawkins, but allowed him to attend because “he has handled himself fairly honorably, he is a guest in our country and I had to presume he had flown a long way to see the film.”

Actually, Dr. Myers and Dr. Dawkins said in interviews that they had long planned to be in Minneapolis this week to attend a convention of atheists. Dr. Dawkins, an vocal critic of religion, is on the convention program.

Yeah, nice going, Mr. Mathis. Maybe if you ever stuck your nose into the real world long enough to figure out what's going on with all of these "enemies" whose coattails you hope to ride to fame with this clumsy, inartful "documentary," you'd have figured out why Dawkins was here. Great research skills, man, for someone purportedly informing the public about "science."

I repeat that the cop, and the staff member named "Jared," confronted PZ right in front of me, folks. They said nothing about "creating a disturbance" - PZ wasn't invited and he didn't have a ticket, they said. I did not have a ticket to this screening - my e-mail confirmation stated that no tickets were required - nor did I have a ticket to any other movie in the theatre. I was not invited, other than to sign up via the aforementioned website advertisement. PZ followed the same procedure I did. This was the most ham-handed example of "damage control" after the most unfortunate scheduling of an apparently top-secret "private screening" that I have ever seen!

Mr. Mathis, good luck in April. Maybe the fate of Expelled is at a "Crossroads"? Anyone? Anyone? Ben?

(Photo courtesy of midwifetoad at AtBC, where, ahem, they have another announcement...)

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

EXPELLED from "Expelled"!

UPDATED: It would appear that Expelled's producer Mark Mathis was not being truthful when he told me tonight that "Crossroads" was a "working title" for the film Expelled. As Wesley Elsberry points out, the domain for Expelled was purchased before most, if not all, of the interviews were conducted - and yet Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott, PZ Myers, and others were told they were being interviewed for a film called "Crossroads."

Mr. Mark Mathis, do you want to come here and explain yourself?

SECOND UPDATE: Well, now you can read the story at the Pioneer Press.

The beefy cop patroling the audience at the screening of Ben Stein's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed threw PZ Myers out of the theatre right in front of me!

For a second, Rev. Barky and I thought we'd be thrown out too just because we were talking to him. PZ Myers is interviewed in the film, but in order to see it, according to producer Mark Mathis, he'll have to fork over $10 on April 18. God, you can get a blowjob for less than that. (Not that I would know anything about that.)

"Jared," an employee at the theatre, said that it was because "The producer said that he doesn't want you here. You don't have a ticket, and this is a private screening." Excuse me, this was a private screening that threw itself at you via a link from a website begging "please come and support this film, fill the theatres, wah, wah, we're victims, please come to our party, you'll love it, we're rebels, we're going to be very naughty!" This was a private screening that was asking for it! Having a showing during an atheist convention? Hello, producer Mark Mathis? Any intelligence allowed?

I wasn't invited! I didn't have to have a ticket! I received an e-mail that stated, "No ticket required." They were glad to have me, because I'm going to a Catholic grad school, and I have a little Catholic grad school pink notebook in which I took copious notes. Glad to have me, that is, until I started asking about a little film named "Crossroads" (the original title of "Expelled). (Actually, I am willing to accept that Crossroads was a working title. Yes, I do know something about how films are made, Mr. Mathis. I also know something about how they are marketed. CLASSIC FAIL tonight.)

Of course, this mini-police state, like most police states, couldn't sweep its trash into a coherent pile and thus didn't recognize the other guest, also an interviewee in this "film" - Richard Dawkins.

Mark Mathis, the producer, didn't recognize Richard until Richard stood up after being called on in the Q&A (I think that's what they called it) after the (so-called) film.

More on the so-called film later. An account of the so-called Q&A, and being ogled during the film by that beefy cop (after everyone was exhorted to spy on his or her neighbors - completely unlike the Nazis, of course) here. (AtBC, of course, where I go to unwind.)

Here we are afterward - Richard, Josh Timonen, Josh's friend, and Rev. Barky. (No, I didn't record the film, Mark, if you're reading this, you paranoid piece of work.) At this point, I must say that I'm really confused. Are we Nazis, or Communists? The film kind of ran the two together - along with a shot of Stalin while John Lennon's "Imagine" played. Did Josef Stalin write "Imagine"?

(Rev. Barky's comment: "Ben Stein is one ugly motherfucker, that's for sure." I'm, of course, hip to that.)

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In Memoriam: Arthur C. Clarke

My favorite science fiction writer has just died.

He has stipulated that a secular funeral be held at his home in Sri Lanka.

He was a far-seer and while the veracity of his predictions enjoy a mixed success, I will always remember him for being the first science fiction writer I read.

My favorites:
"Trouble with the Natives"

"The Wind from the Sun" (the short story; also a book of collected short stories)


"The Food of the Gods"

and many others, including, of course, the story and the screenplay 2001: A Space Odyssey. I shall miss him. Eulogy at The Marquee Blog.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Did George Hodel Kill the Black Dahlia?

On Friday, before I got off work, I saw a strange book in the museum shop and knew that I had to have it:

Even if I didn't buy the premise - surrealism, and the Black Dahlia! I had to have it.

Heretofore I've been blasé about the George Hodel hypothesis - a surgeon with friends in the movies and with surrealist connections (notably his friend Man Ray) whose son has become convinced that his father murdered and bisected Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia. I have always leaned toward John Gilmore's assertion - that an itinerant, creepy loner named Jack Anderson Wilson killed the aspiring actress, as well as an heiress named Georgette Bauerdorf. Always leaned toward that assertion, that is, until now.

Certainly I do not think that surrealist art, which I admit is full of distorted and bisected "muses," is the cause of Elizabeth's death - surrealism is about the unconscious, what intrigues and frightens us, and certainly would have many parallels with a notorious crime that also intrigues and frightens us. However, the facts about Hodel are fascinating - and unsettling. Enough so to allow me to change my mind.

I have not read the book Black Dahlia Avenger by his son Steve Hodel, and I must say that the two photographs allegedly of Liz Short that Hodel found in his father's possession, do not resemble her at all. But there are many other details - too many to recount here - that have piqued my curiosity - and my alarm. I think there's something to this.

Certainly Hodel's book is more plausible that the trash written by Janice Knowlton, who only has "repressed memories" [remember that fad?] on her side, and who behaved rather disgracefully toward the person who has maintained what I consider to be the authoritative online resource on this crime.

So at this point I am in a holding pattern as to the merits of this new hypothesis. I must add that none of these books have supplied enough information for the LAPD to officially reopen the case.

Another resource I've found is this haunting film, a visual timeline of the crime and its aftermath, put together by a filmmaker named Larry Harnish. Masterful work, Larry! Larry also has his own hypothesis as to the murderer's identity. I think his is quite plausible, too.

Of course the last thing I could want would be a deep connection between surrealism and this murder, but in the final analysis this crime is surreal: from Elizabeth's father having faked his own death, to her tragic loss of Matt Gordon, to the incarceration of cleared murder suspect Red Manley in an insane asylum, to the false confessions and the mystery of her whereabouts in those final days.

Some feminists have accused surrealism of being anti-woman, of bisecting and fragmenting the female form out of hatred, but I am with with Dorothea Tanning (wife of Max Ernst) when she asserts:

Intellectually, they [the surrealists] flew close to the flame. Instinctively they were far from knowing the perverse appetites they so admire and glorified. As for emulating the fantasies of Sade's personae, they didn't even try...

As for these fragmented images of women, she add:

They were disguised hymns to her mystery. I don't believe that even in the most romantic moments of literary history have writing men so adored the idea of woman.

Nor do I. It follows therefore that the death of Elizabeth Short is surreal because life is surreal. Whether surrealism contributed to her death or not, via the misguided "artistic" expression of a violent wannabee, remains to be seen. But it does not surprise me that she could have become a sort of surrealist heroine to the artists in George Hodel's circle, including Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, and if this is the case, then it illustrates Tanning's comments above.

It is a sad fact that bourgeois society, while pretending to be so righteous, tends to glorify the criminal (Charles Manson, the Zodiac Killer, PTK, etc.) rather than the victim of a famous crime, whose name is all too often unknown to the public - but Elizabeth Short is an exception.

This crime is named after her - not her murderer. It is she who walks in the minds of those like me who are fascinated with her story. It is her charm and her beauty that stares out of photographs and into the hearts of people like me who want to solve this crime. Whoever her murderer is, he could never be as interesting as she was.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I just got back.

This is what it looks like:

(Yes, it's a program in Microsoft. Ninth ring! Be ye warned!)

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Have Atheists "Won the Intellectual War"?

The president of Minnesota Atheist writes:

Every time I speak at a Christian college, I become more convinced of several things:

1) The vast majority of these students, while dedicated Christians, are open to hearing and discussing other points of view in a thoughtful manner.

2) They respect our right to be atheists and to not be discriminated against or have religion forced on us.

3) They value the American ideals of separation and state and church and have a "live and let live" attitude that almost always extends to atheists and gays. (We must admit that there are some atheists who do not have a "live and let live" attitude toward religious people.)

4) They are as genuinely concerned about the welfare of the poor and our environment as any of the rest of us flaming liberals.

5) That the percentage of Christians who are good and decent is about the same as the percentage [of] atheists who are good and decent. There are bad apples in both groups, but they are by far the minority.

6) That the Minnesota Atheists' attitude of non-ridiculing, positive, friendly neighborhood atheism works. We need to continue to tear down walls, rather than put up barriers. My attitude is that we have already won the intellectual war, now we just have to spread the good news.

I submit this without comment - I just want to solicit your opinions. Believe me, I have an opinion on this.

UPDATED: Hemant Mehta, "Friendly Atheist," starts off his post soliciting positive atheist stereotypes with a joke about "baby eating." Attaboy! ;-)

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Expelled Exposed

Welcome to the blogroll: Expelled Exposed, a response to the "documentary," now tentatively scheduled to come out on April 11 -- nine days after the anniversary of another anti-evolutionist's prediction.

To William Dembski, all the debate in this country over evolution won't matter in a decade.

By then, he says, the theory of evolution put forth by Charles Darwin 150 years ago will be dead.

The mathematician turned Darwin critic says there is much to be learned about how life evolved on this planet. And he thinks the model of evolution accepted by the scientific community won't be able to supply the answers.

"I see this all disintegrating very quickly," he said.

This appeared in a Kentucky newspaper on April 2, 2006, one day after National Atheist Day. *Snigger* (Not gullible, are you?)

UPDATED: I needed a laugh. Thank you, Leonard Pierce:

(For pure delusional self-pity, it's hard to beat the Expelled movie blog; their latest entry claims that, since those meddlesome Washington bureaucrats combined Lincoln and Washington's birthdays into President's Day, "Darwin Day has now supplanted Lincoln's birthday in the public imagination"! Yes, who can forget those long Darwin Day weekends, when the family gathers around a copy of Origin of Species and makes a little wooden model of the Galapagos Islands before setting out for a big trip to the mall for one of the many Darwin Day sales?)

Me, I always got a new dress for Darwin Day, and enjoyed the hunt for new mutated eggs!

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Star Wars: A New Pope

A parody that made a Christian laugh and an atheist snigger guiltily, "Am I a bad person if I find this funny?"

Gee, imagine. Art and humor uniting people (if even momentarily). Can we risk that?

I'm gonna send fellow librarian Claw of the Conciliator some shimmies and check out his sci-fi posts. I mean, he liked Donnie Darko.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Saturday Night Movie Pick

One of my favorites, a classic - the atmospheric, creepy, suspensful, and heart-wrenching film by Alfred Hitchcock: Rebecca.

Part One: We can never go back to Manderley again...

Part Two: "They say he simply adored her..."

Part Three: "Have you been doing anything you shouldn't?"

The entire film is posted at You Tube, in thirteen parts.

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