Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Insectarium

New Orleans goes bug-eyed over new Insectarium

I could not have said it better:

"...Without insects, nature doesn't exist," said Forman, chief executive of the new Audubon Insectarium, the first major tourist attraction to open in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Witches support Obama--NO!

Using a Pagan to smear Obama

I was wondering when the right-wing Dominionist loons were going to warn their flocks that the Wiccans and Pagans support the AntiChrist/Beast, Senator Obama. Well, nothing escapes the radar of Jason Pitzl-Waters over at Wild Hunt. He points to a rather dishonest smear campaign by Cliff Kincaid, waged against a decent piece of legislation. Seems a local Pagan spoke up for the legislation, and that got Kincaid's panties all in a twist:

...If a Witch supports Obama's proposed legislation, it must be bad. Right? I'm surprised he didn't try to dig up a Muslim supporter to really get some right-wing frothing action going. Oh wait, he did...Muslims! And Witches! How could anyone support this bill! This horrid bill that would ... work to eliminate extreme global poverty, a bill that is supported by such dangerous extremist groups as ... Bread for the World, the Daughters of Charity, and the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco. How brave of Kincaid to sound the alarm..!

By all means check out Jason's excellent post.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We are tolerant, dammit!

Survey Shows U.S. Religious Tolerance

I posted just the other day about misconceptions about Americans' beliefs. Here's another survey showing that Americans are not the religious dogmatists we are often portrayed as by the traditional media. Pew just came out with a survey contradicting many long held beliefs regarding religions and spiritual attitudes. From the NYTimes article:

"...The report, the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, reveals a broad trend toward tolerance and an ability among many Americans to hold beliefs that might contradict the doctrines of their professed faiths..."

So people have a healthy attitude when confronting contradictions in their one faiths. But it gets better:

...70 percent of Americans affiliated with a religion or denomination said they agreed that “many religions can lead to eternal life,” including majorities among Protestants and Catholics...

Now wait a second! Next they're going to claim that vast majority of us are not breathers of fire and brimstone...

...The findings seem to undercut the conventional wisdom that the more religiously committed people are, the more intolerant they are, scholars who reviewed the survey said...

I wonder who is responsible for shoving that 'conventional wisdom' down our throats for the last couple of decades? Could it be...the traditional media!

“...It’s not that Americans don’t believe in anything,” said Michael Lindsay, assistant director of the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life at Rice University. “It’s that we believe in everything. We aren’t religious purists or dogmatists...”

Wow, that's a truly refreshing factoid. It's hard for me to believe that this is something new. I know that the last George Bush presidency has been a hard lesson in proving the titanic mistake of letting theo-cons run this country. Yet, changes in religious attitudes tend to morph slowly. I just have the strong suspicion, that whenever the traditional media has claimed to be surveying our religious and spiritual attitudes--everything from Creationism to 'separation of church-state' issues--what they have really been doing is 'push polling'. No! The traditional media pushing a dominionist right-wing agenda! Who'd a thunk?

Now here's a part that might have some bearing on all us Wiccans, Pagans, Atheists, and Scientists out there:

...According to that report, more than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion. The survey indicated that the group that had the greatest net gain was the unaffiliated, accounting for 16 percent of American adults...Like the overwhelming majority of Americans, 70 percent of the unaffiliated said they believed in God, including one of every five people who identified themselves as atheist and more than half of those who identified as agnostic.

So, 1 in 5 people who call themselves 'Atheist' believes in God! OK, now I'm confused! Maybe I need a refresher course in what being an Atheist means:

“..What does atheist mean? It may mean they don’t believe in God, or it could be that they are hostile to organized religion,” Mr. Green said. “A lot of these unaffiliated people, by some measures, are fairly religious, and then there are those who are affiliated with a religion but don’t believe in God and identify instead with history or holidays or communities...”

It's fascinating how Atheism is evolving. It may not necessarily imply (or require) a disbelief in God. A healthy "hostility to organized religion" is all it takes. I think that's something that many Wiccan's and Pagans can get behind.

Here's the direct Pew link: US Religious Landscape Survey.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin dies...

George Carlin Dies at 71

One of the greatest comedians of all times has left us. George Carlin was a major influence on my life when growing up. Through his comedy, major truths were laid bare. I really don't know what pearl of shining clear wisdom I could pick to post here, as he uttered thousands of them. But from the above article, in reference to his iconic "Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on Television" routine:

"...The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things _ bad language and whatever _ it's all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition," Carlin told the AP in a 2004 interview. "There's an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed. Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. ... It's reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have..."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Good news

Evolution and Its Discontents: A Role for Scientists in Science Education
Rare good news:

...Studies show that the vast majority of Americans has a strong appreciation for the role of science in health, education, and competitiveness, and they especially value the contribution that scientific research makes to eliminating diseases...

It seems most Americans actually prefer the teaching of evolution in the classroom, as apposed to Creationism. The survey raises some interesting questions. Is it possible the wording of previous polls--that indicated a broader range of support for Creationism--skewed the numbers to make Creationist attitudes appear more prevalent? If so, why would agents of the 'traditional media' be so quick to hawk the dubious news (from past polls) that the majority of us are bible thumping assholes?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Global Warming for Dummies

Resource: How to talk to a Global Warming Skeptic

Huffington has an article very useful tool at Grist. The direct link is here. This will be very helpful when countering anti-global warming talking points parroted from right-wing media blowhards.

About the only thing I can find wrong with any of this is referring to such people as 'skeptics'. Being a 'skeptic' implies some sort of critical thinking. Being a skeptic is healthy! But most of these people fall into the knee-jerk 'denier' crowd, not the skeptical one. You know, the same folks who deny evolution, deny the Holocaust, deny the germ theory of disease, and have their feet planted firmly in a geocentric universe.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Goodnight, Pumpkinhead

Stan Winston, 62, Special-Effects Artist, Dies

The special effects genius Stan Winston has passed into SummerIsle. Winston is responsible for many memorable film monsters, such as the dinosaurs in "Jurassic Park" the alien in "Predator", and the egg-laying 'queen' in "Aliens". His first big break came when he designed the reptilian makeup for the TV movie "Gargoyles", now a cult classic. He directed--and designed the creature in--one of my favorite films, "Pumpkinhead".

I really loved Winston's creations. Like the stop motion creatures of Ray Harryhausen, Winston's creations seem to have personalities or souls--qualities lacking in todays CGI dominated films.

According to Winston, the film "Pumpkinhead" was inspired by a poem by Ed Justin:

Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you're tired of living,
His enemies are mostly dead,
He's mean and unforgiving,
Laugh at him and you're undone,
But in some dreadful fashion,
Vengeance, he considers fun,
And plans it with a passion,
Time will not erase or blot,
A plot that he has brewing,
It's when you think that he's forgot,
He'll conjure your undoing,
Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard,
Won't protect you in your bed,
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead.

(Note: Over at the IMDB, there's some interesting posts about this film from people with roots in Appalachia, who heard legends of such a creature.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Atheism, the Virus

Christopher Hitchens On Obama and Rev. Wright: When All Else Fails Blame Women

Recently, the increasingly deranged Christopher Hitchens published a hit piece attacking Michelle Obama, wife of Presidential hopeful Barack Obama. An article by Ta-Nehisi Coates does an excellent job shredding Hitchens' screed. The conclusion is precious:

...This is what happens when you don't much care about what you do or who you're doing it for, when you mistake your ability to be really smart about a few things, for the ability to be really smart about anything. You end up confusing speculation that shouldn't make it past morning conversation with your wife, for studied insight. And, perhaps most tellingly, you end up concluding articles by humorlessly mocking the diction of blacks. "Don't be giving me any grief about asking this," he chides us in reference to Michelle. Fair enough, say I. But don't be transcribing your lastest cocktail party ramblings and passing it off as half-intelligent commentary. That it ain't. Good sir.

I've posted about Hitchens odd-ball rantings before, as they're easy to make fun of. But I won't link to the Hitchens piece so properly addressed above, as it's nothing but the ravings of a misogynistic racist bully, picking on the writings of a 22 year old college student.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Real Unicorn steps out of the forest

'Unicorn' deer is found in Italian preserve

A deer with a single horn grown straight out of its head has been observed and photographed in Italy:

"...This is fantasy becoming reality," Gilberto Tozzi, director of the Center of Natural Sciences in Prato, told The Associated Press. "The unicorn has always been a mythological animal..."

I've blogged before about mythical animals or cultures turning out to have a basis in reality (here,and here). It's always foolish to ridicule myth.

We are not tokens!

After 100 Years, Tribe’s Ancestors Head Home

An amazing cultural event at the American Museum of Natural History. Seems some pot hunter of the past had desecrated and pilfered the graves of Tseycum Indians, selling the ill-gotten artifacts and remains to museums and collectors:

...With the museum’s full consent, the Tseycum tribe will be repatriating the remains of 55 of their ancestors to Canada this week. On Monday morning, in a quiet first-floor auditorium away from the museum’s crowds, tribe members performed an emotionally charged private ceremony over the 15 sturdy plastic boxes that contained the remains. The ceremony lasted two and a half hours, and the tribe members and elders from related tribes prayed, spoke, wept and sang, saying they wanted to soothe their ancestors’ spirits and prepare them for a return trip from a journey that, the tribe leaders say, should never have happened at all...

Tribal leader Chief Vern Jacks said it best:

“Our people are humans; we aren’t tokens,”

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm back...

Sorry I've been gone so long folks. I've been up to my ears working on my house, which is in need of repairs. Also, a short while ago I had my First Degree Initiation as HP of my coven! (I'll have more to say about that, later).