Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year...Again

Hopefully 2009 will be better than 2008...but I'm pretty sure I said something similar on the last 3 or 4 NYE's, and we all know how that turned out. So instead I'll leave you with a proverb conflated from some biblical sayings, "Let us eat, drink and be merry today, for tomorrow we may die." (Thanks for reminding me of that one Pete!) Enjoy!

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Real Decline of Western Civilization

We are slipping. I have felt it for awhile now. When we look back at these times in the future and ask "Where did it all go wrong?"...I don't think there will be one specific moment. Most people I know look at the economy and think, it's bad now but we can overcome. We're Americans, we can do anything if we put our mind to it. They look at the power and oil problems and think it's just a matter of time before some scientist comes up with a fix or a new form of power. To me, I have never seen any of these problems as isolated. To me they are more like a web...or better yet, a chess board. And like any good chess player, I read ahead the moves. You don't just look at the current predicament your piece is in, you look 5 or 6 or more moves down the line. To me it looks like the board is set for an eventual checkmate...and we are the queen in peril. Finally I have found someone who has put my concerns and feelings on the matters afflicting our world in words. I hope you take the time to read the entire piece called Witnessing the Decay of Western Hegemony and the Role of the Organic Intellectual, below is a selection from the article by Pablo Ouziel. Enjoy.

"For many decades, society has been indoctrinated with the belief that liberal democratic capitalism was the benevolent solution to all world problems. Through this model of society, hunger was going to be eradicated, wars would come to an end, the environment would be saved, and justice would be distributed equally amongst all members of the human species. Entering the new century, western society celebrated the new millennium with the euphoria of success, once and for all..."

"As western society struggles with rising tensions, both within and outside of its borders, as those being colonized begin to throw their shoes in despair, and those who thought they belonged to the empire begin to realize that their dream is no longer sustainable, the organic intellectual is able to grasp the severity of the global crisis. As bankers announce their losses, the banking cartel slowly collapses. First, the major investment banks and hedge funds, then their traditional counterparts, all showing loses which only a year ago had been presented as ground breaking profits, as slowly the deck of cards unfolds and everything crumbles. Soon the job cuts begin, across continents furious workers revel against their enslaving owners, demonstrations, walkouts, sit-ins, failed negotiations between trade unions and shareholders. The sky is falling and the capitalist always strives to win. For a while, dormant workers watch their colleagues being laid-off, at first it seems an unavoidable aspect of capitalism, the dirty side of a casino culture, which rewards some at the expense of others. But then, neighborhoods begin to witness empty houses, people evicted, squatters moving in, the law can do little to prevent it, the numbers are too big to contain. The lobbyists in Washington are eagerly fighting for pieces of the bailout money prepared by a government, which faced with complete anarchy must regain a foothold in the corridors of power. Confidence must never be lost. Hence, a new face in the White House, a new man, a new dream, perpetuated by the chanting of hope. But things will never be the same in America, as young bankers spend their holidays in despair not knowing if their job awaits them in the coming year, the dark thoughts of unemployment begin to creep in. Obama proposes solutions, three million jobs to be created by rebuilding the fallen infrastructures of the great American empire. An empire, which in its boom forgot to cement its foundations and now collapsing, will offer its unemployed bankers the opportunity to go and fix roads."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Best Christmas Moments From The Daily Show

Hopefully this will make your Commercialism Day just a little merrier...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Don't Buy From Bigots - List of Prop 8 Donors By State

Link goes to a site that keeps a list of businesses (by state) that donated to Prop 8, so that you can conveniently avoid doing business with them.

And if you missed it, don't forget to check out my other Prop 8 related post.

A Brief History Of Christmas

Americans tend to not know history very well...or ignore it on purpose. So to celebrate December 25th right (I like to call it Commercialism Day), I had planned on writing up a history of Christmas...but as I started my research it seemed many people have all ready done this for me (and likely more eloquently than I). So I decided to repost a good one. 

Below is some excerpts from a Capitalist Magazine article by Leonard Peikoff, follow the link for the full article. Enjoy!

...Christmas as we celebrate it today is a 19th-century American invention... 

Historically, people have always celebrated the winter solstice...Ancient Romans feasted and reveled during the festival of Saturnalia. Early Christians condemned these Roman celebrations -- they were waiting for the end of the world and had only scorn for earthly pleasures. By the fourth century, the pagans were worshipping the god of the sun on December 25, and the Christians came to a decision: if you can't stop 'em, join 'em. They claimed (contrary to known fact) that the date was Jesus' birthday, and usurped the solstice holiday for their Church.

Then came the major developments of 19th-century capitalism: industrialization, urbanization, the triumph of science -- all of it leading to easy transportation, efficient mail delivery, the widespread publishing of books and magazines, new inventions making life comfortable and exciting, and the rise of entrepreneurs who understood that the way to make a profit was to produce something good and sell it to a mass market.

...Early Christians denounced gift-giving as a Roman practice, and Puritans called it diabolical. But Americans were not to be deterred. Thanks to capitalism, there was enough wealth to make gifts possible, a great productive apparatus to advertise them and make them available cheaply...The whole country took with glee to giving gifts on an unprecedented scale.

Santa Claus is a thoroughly American invention. There was a St. Nicholas long ago and a feeble holiday connected with him (on December 5). In 1822, an American named Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem about a visit from St. Nick. It was Moore (and a few other New Yorkers) who invented St. Nick's physical appearance and personality, came up with the idea that Santa travels on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, comes down the chimney, stuffs toys in the kids' stockings, then goes back to the North Pole.

...Santa implicitly rejected the whole Christian ethics. He did not denounce the rich and demand that they give everything to the poor; on the contrary, he gave gifts to rich and poor children alike. Nor is Santa a champion of Christian mercy or unconditional love. On the contrary, he is for justice -- Santa gives only to good children, not to bad ones.

All the best customs of Christmas, from carols to trees to spectacular decorations, have their root in pagan ideas and practices. These customs were greatly amplified by American culture, as the product of reason, science, business, worldliness, and egoism, i.e., the pursuit of happiness.

America's tragedy is that its intellectual leaders have typically tried to replace happiness with guilt by insisting that the spiritual meaning of Christmas is religion and self-sacrifice...but the spiritual must start with recognizing reality. Life requires reason, selfishness, capitalism; that is what Christmas should celebrate -- and really, underneath all the pretense, that is what it does celebrate. It is time to take the Christ out of Christmas, and turn the holiday into a guiltlessly egoistic, pro-reason, this-worldly, commercial celebration.

Here are some links for more info about Christmas and the birth of Jesus (or lack there of):

When was Jesus really born?

The Chronology of Jesus

Christmas History

and don't forget my own winterly posts!

Santa vs God and 'Tis The Season

New Tim Burton Film 9 Looks Absolutely Gorgeous

9 is an upcoming 2009 post-apocalyptic animated film being produced by Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, Sweeney Todd, etc...).  It looks nothing short of breath taking; using the sort of near photo-realistic animation we got a taste of in such features as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, The Animatrix - Final Flight of the Osiris & FFVII: Advent Children. The trailer is below. Enjoy!

'Tis The Season...

...for lots of GOW2!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Santa vs. God

In the spirit of the holidays, I thought I would post this neat chart for everyone to enjoy. I found it on a blog called: Unreasonable Faith - A Former Christian's Thoughts on Faith, Science, and Skepticism. Enjoy.

And Just for fun, a classic (might want to have those headphones on if you're at work):

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ok. I Was Wrong. Santa Does Exist!

An Iraqi journalist calls out "This is a farewell kiss, you dog!" and proceeds to throw his shoes at Mr. Bush. This is the highest of insults in Iraqi culture; throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. Iraqis struck the statue of Saddam with their shoes after it was toppled it to the ground during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.

I could just sit and watch this over and over for hours on end, with a big frickin' smile on my face. I guess there really is a Santa Claus...and he came early this year. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Now you can play the home game!

Footage of New BioWare Star Wars MMO - The Old Republic

BioWare's Knights of the Old Republic 1 and it's sequel were award winning and fantastically fun action-RPG games. And the BioWare version of the Star Wars universe just begs for more stories to be told within it. Thus, below is the long awaited sneak peek at footage from BioWare's first MMO: Star Wars - The Old Republic. Don't forget to wipe off your drool. Enjoy!

UPDATE: BIOWARE has an HD version of this on their site, but it autoplays, so I had to post using the lower quality version from YouTube.

Friday, December 12, 2008

R.I.P. Bettie Page

Bettie Page died yesterday at age 85.  I can't think of a better way to remember her but through photos.  Although if you're interested the film about her The Notorious Bettie Page, was quite good (trailer below).

Gotta Love Religion

Nothing makes me happier than finding the silver lining to sad situations. For example: when religious zealots refuse modern medicine and their children perish prematurely. Sure, we are all shocked and horrified that this could happen to some innocent kid in this day and age. But look at it this way; that is one less indoctrinated kid who will grow up to be a religious douchebag like their folks were. Sounds to me like Darwin's theory at work. And don't forget the added bonus of the parents being dragged through the media as poster-children for bad parenting...we can only hope that some other ultra-religious family will see the result and maybe take their poor kid in for a doctor visit.

And just for fun I decided to add this wonderful advertisement I found. Don't ya just love religion? Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go pray to FSM to bring an end to all religious belief. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Now THIS Is Real Hip-Hop!

The artist is Murs, newly signed to Warner Records. The album is "Murs For President". Every song just gets better than the last. There is a little bit of talking between Murs and the shows' host before he starts singing; you can fast-forward if you like. I suggest just leaving it play in the background while you are surfing. It's simply excellent. Enjoy.

The album is available through Amazon here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Pacific Garbage Patch - Plastic Soup of the Sea

Some of you may have heard about the giant garbage island the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii. I don't really like that analogy because it brings to mind a garbage heap on land...something tangible that could be picked up. Better imagery would be this: Take a plastic coke bottle and put it into a blender; blend until the pieces are teeny tiny. Now pour those coke bottle fragments and particles into a glass of water. No imagine this plastic particle soup covering the surface of the ocean. This can never be cleaned up. Never. Fish and other ocean life eat these particles and the accumulate them (bioaccumulates) in fat tissues, then we eat these animals as consumers. We are all consuming these pollutants on a daily basis. Now drink the glass of water.

Truth is, my analogy doesn't do justice to what these filmmakers found during their trip into the North Pacific Gyre. While I highly recommend watching the entire documentary from the beginning (as it is much more potent and powerful as a whole), I realize that most people suffer from short attention spans, so below is the most effective & informative clip. Enjoy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Most Elaborate Lego Design Ever - Huge and Complex!

The theme is a terraforming space ship that would land on a planet, workers would assemble prefabricated modular pieces into living quarters, parts of the ship would be left behind to attach to the living quarters, and the rest of the ship would depart for home. There is nothing more I can say here except, do yourself a favor and look through all 6 photo albums on the site (containing 74 pics in all), or you will never see the intricacies involved in this mammoth project. This was built by a father & son team and they really did try to build it as realistically as possible; they thought of everything a real space going vessel would need and built it to scale. Enjoy.

Here is the link routed through Babelfish for translation (it's a german site)

The direct link takes you to

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What's Bush Done To You Lately

The Huffington Post has an article outlining the final evils that "still president" Bush has pushed through in the eleventh hour of his dictatorship...err presidency. After the jump is more info behind what has happened and what hopefully can be done to rectify it, but here is a list of some of the atrocities:
• EPA would not regulate a contaminant in drinking water
• Mining permits near Grand Canyon and other national parks
• Gut the Endangered Species Act
• Power plants could be exempted from installing pollution controls, allowing an added 70 million tons to be released into our air
• EPA narrows the definition of solid waste
• Less reporting on animal pollution proposed
• Rules for dumping mine debris erased
• EPA lowers air quality standards for lead
• Fisheries rule calls for less public input
• Loaded guns possible in National Parks
• Public lands may be leased for the development of oil shale (public, not to be confused with proprietary)
• Interior Department rules could limit public environmental comments
• EPA lets factory farms decide if they need a permit to discharge animal waste into waterways

UPDATE: Here is an even more in depth and specific article about the Bush "midnight regulations".

Happy Holidays from Mr. Bush!

Post-Apocalyptic Downtown Detroit

On the eve of a bailout for American auto makers, Time magazine online has released some chilling photographs of some of the abandoned buildings in downtown Detroit, Michigan. After the jump, there is a short explanation and background attached to each photo. Enjoy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Disney Plots Not So Ridiculous Anymore

Traffic camera video of a dog rescuing another dog from the middle of a busy highway. WARNING: although it is a distant shot, this video actually shows the first dog getting injured by traffic. However the ending is so moving, it's worth watching.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Upset Over Atheist Sign at State Capitol

A couple years back someone sued for the right to place a religious display at the Washington State capitol building, claiming freedom of speech. And since most politicians and law makers are religious minded themselves, the fools let it pass. Now ever winter holiday season we have this bickering over what should be allowed and what shouldn't. This year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation decided to place a sign next to these religious displays; it reads as follows:

"At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail. There
are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our
natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens
hearts and enslaves minds."

Yesterday Bill-O decide to chime in in his usual way and during his rant tried to claim with impunity, that the reason Christmas is a Federal law is because President Grant (and presumably many Americans) believed Jesus was a great philosopher and needed to be recognized in the same way we recognize Martin Luther King. He also threw in there that the Supreme Court ruled that a Christmas tree is secular and not a religious display. There are, as usual, so many things wrong with what Bill-O says here that I almost don't know where to start.

EDIT: FOX had the full report taken down from YouTube...all that is left up is the talking points memo from Bill-O's show. The rest can be seen at Crooks & Liars website.

First of all, lets address Bill-O's comments, then I'll get to the main topic at hand. Jesus is not celebrated in this country because he was a philosopher and our constitution was not based on Christianity. For all those folks who think "In God We Trust" has been around for our as long as out country has:

"In 1861, the Reverend M.R. Watkinson persuaded the secretary of the Treasury to try to introduce 'In God We Trust' as a motto on the coins of the land, arguing on the theological premise that in a Judeo-Christian nation, 'There is but one God.' Congress, then beginning to be responsive to the religious community and the votes that it was presumed to control, passed the Coinage Act of April 22, 1864, which designated that 'In God We Trust' be put on coins 'when and where sufficient space in the balance of the design' would permit it." - Madalyn O'Hair; "Freedom Under Siege"

And to those who seek to further the myth that our Founding Fathers based this nation on Judeo-Christian here for a reality check and try to remember this line: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

Christmas is and will continue to be recognized as a Federal holiday for one reason; it's good for the economy. Back as early as the 1930's people were becoming concerned with the commercialization of Christmas when President Roosevelt tried to move Thanksgiving earlier to make the holiday shopping season longer, in hopes of boosting the economy. Are there a lot of Christians in this nation? Unfortunately yes. But face it; that is not the reason why this seeming Federal endorsement of a religious holiday stays on the books. And it's definitely preposterous to suggest for even a moment that there is any kind of parallel to be found between why we Federally recognize MLK Day and Christmas Day. As a matter of fact, I think Bill-O just insulted millions of Black Americans by making that association.

Let's get down to the point. There is a difference between endorsing religions and respecting the peoples right to celebrate their religions appropriately. The Supreme Court has ruled that a holiday tree is not necessarily a religious display. Some reindeer and candy canes can be placed and still considered secular celebration of the "holiday season". However, it's when you get into crosses, songs about Christ, nativity scenes and such that it becomes an endorsement. Put up a tree, decorate it with lights, ornaments, tinsel, candy and presents and you can place it on public property. On that same tree add some angels, some Santa's, a nativity scene, a cross on top and a banner that says "Christ is our saviour" and you are now breaking the Establishment Clause (Amendment 1 of the United States Constitution).

So here is what should be done. The nativity scene should be removed. The menorah should be removed. The Atheist sign should be removed. Then a plaque should be permanently placed in every federal, state and local office in this country that reads something to the tune of:

"During all seasons and in all locales of this, our natural world, may reason prevail. Let never the religious myths and superstitions that harden hearts and enslave minds, encroach on the decision making within these revered halls."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prop 8 The Musical (Gay Marriages Will Save The Economy)

From the website Funny or Die; Prop 8 - The Musical. Starring Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Margaret Cho, Andy Richter, Neil Patrick Harris and so many more...

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

I decided I had to throw the credits up from the website, cause this is just too awesome:

Credits: Conceived and Written (six weeks later than he shoulda) by-Marc Shaiman Directed and Staged by: Adam Shankman Produced by Adam Shankman, Marc Shaiman and Mike Farah Edited by Bradly Schulz and Drew Antzis Cast (in order of appearance) California Gays and The People That Love Them Jordan Ballard, Margaret Cho, Barrett Foa, J.B. Ghuman, John Hill, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph, Rashad Naylor, Nicole Parker Proposition 8'ers and The People That Follow Them Prop 8 Leader- John C. Reilly Prop 8 Leader's #1 Wife- Allison Janney Prop 8 Leader's #2 Wife- Kathy Najimy Riffing Prop 8'er-Jenifer Lewis A Preacher- Craig Robinson Scary Catholic School Girls From Hell-Rashida Jones, Lake Bell, Sarah Chalke The Frightened Villagers Katharine "Kooks" Leonard, Seth Morris, Denise "Esi!" Piane, Lucian Piane, Richard Read, Seth Redford, Quinton Strack, Tate Taylor Jesus Christ Jack Black A Very Smart Fellow Neil Patrick Harris Piano Player Marc "Marc" Shaiman ---- Co-Choreographer: Anne "Mama" Fletcher Recorded and Mixed by Frank Wolfe & Greg Hayes Director of Photography: Michael Barrett Camera Operators: Jake Szymanski, Bradly Schulz and Drew Antzis Production designer: Nelson Coates Costume designer: Shanna Knecht Costume assistants: Leslie Schilling, Annalisa Adams, Elizabeth Abate Hair: Laura Sanchez Make-up: Shauna O'Toole, Atticuss Sharp Production sound: Bradford Craig Music editor: Lisa Jaime Music assistant: Brian Naguit Snacky: "Snacky" Special Thanks to Adam McKay for the nudge

How to End Terrorism; By the Numbers

Seth Jones knows how to correctly end terrorism. Who is he and why is no one in government paying attention?

From the article:
Through his work as an analyst for the Rand Corporation, he has found that 40 percent of terrorist groups are defeated by police and intelligence operations. Forty-three percent end because they give up violence and join the political process. Only 7 percent end as a result of military force.

For a new book called How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa'ida, Jones studied 648 terrorist groups and accumulated overwhelming evidence that the United States may be about to make the same mistakes in Afghanistan that were made in Iraq.

Military force is often just too blunt an instrument, Jones says. History proves that the clearest path to success is using local police and intelligence agencies that have deep local knowledge.

More info here: U.S. Should Rethink "War On Terrorism" Strategy to Deal with Resurgent Al Qaida

Moon, Jupiter & Venus over L.A.

Click on image for original source.

The Evolution of "God" and how Religion is a Meme

I actually had to look up the definition of meme today. It's one of those words that I know what it's associated with, but never new where it came from or it's exact definition. The definition of meme, (pronounced like the word jem) via wikipedia:

A meme comprises any idea or behavior that can pass from one person to another by learning or imitation. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, gestures, practices, fashions, habits, songs, and dances. Memes propagate themselves and can move through the cultural sociosphere in a manner similar to the contagious behavior of a virus.

Richard Dawkins coined the word "meme" as a neologism in his book The Selfish Gene (1976) to describe how one might extend evolutionary principles to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. He gave as examples melodies, catch-phrases, beliefs (notably religious belief), clothing or fashion, and technology such as the arch.

Meme-theorists contend that memes evolve by natural selection (in a manner similar to that of Darwinian biological evolution) through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance influencing an individual entity's reproductive success. Thus one can expect that some memes will propagate less successfully and become extinct, while others will survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. "Memeticists argue that the memes most beneficial to their hosts will not necessarily survive; rather, those memes that replicate the most effectively spread best, which allows for the possibility that successful memes may prove detrimental to their hosts."

Why do I bring this up?

I stumbled upon an article today with the explicit title "How One Catholic Priest Destroyed the Entire Mayan Written Language". It is a fascinating read about the intolerance of religions, in particular the Intolerance Meme of Christianity. That being the "idea that evolved in the Jewish religion a few centuries before the birth of Jesus, and was taken up with a vengeance by Christians in the third and fourth centuries AD" that "declares that not only is Yahweh the only god, but in addition, anyone who worships other gods is committing a sin. The Intolerance Meme justifies all sorts of atrocities in Yahweh's name: Murder, slavery, forced conversion, suppression and destruction of other religions, racism, and many other immoral acts". In this case the atrocities and immoral acts amounted to an inquisition that "resulted in torture and death across the Yucatan region" and the wiping out of "all knowledge of the Mayan religion" via destruction of the Mayan language and hieroglyphs.

This article was written by Craig A. James, who has written a book called The Religion Virus. The entire book isn't yet available (coming 2009) but the first few chapters are available to read online through his website. Here is a couple excerpts:

The loving God you know today is the result of the longest and best “marketing makeover” in history – four thousand years of changes and improvements to Yahweh's image, from Abraham's time to yours. Yahweh has evolved into the Almighty God, the God of everything, the loving, forgiving God, the only God. The Yahweh makeover is so complete that we just call him “God” now, with a capital “G”. We don't have to distinguish God from the other gods, because most Westerners are monotheists. Yahweh completely dominates Western religions. The other gods that Abraham and Moses worshipped – the gods of your spiritual ancestors, the Israelites – are either forgotten, or are grouped together under the dismissive title “mythology.”

This is the story about how humans created God, and shaped God's image, not the other way around. The God you know today is the result of an evolutionary process, the powerful and inexorable forces known as "survival of the fittest." But it was cultural evolution, not biological evolution, that was at work, changing and improving Yahweh's image over the millenia. And it wasn't just Yahweh who was shaped by cultural evolution; these same forces created and refined all of our religious beliefs. Evolution created religion, just as it created Yahweh.

Dawkins realized that it was the replication of information that was the underlying principle common to genes and ideas (memes). A century earlier, Charles Darwin had spelled out the principles of natural selection, which in spite of the staggering amount that has been written, boil down to three simple ideas: reproduction, mutation, and natural selection (survival of the fittest). If we rephrase these three ideas in information-theory terms, we would call it transcription (copying), transcription errors (mutation), and filtering (natural selection). And these concepts apply to both genes and memes. With this "grand unification" of the two disciplines, Dawkins laid the foundation for the study of memetics, which uses Darwin's evolution science to predict and explain the very foundations of human culture and knowledge.

And finally, on a side note, in his book James quotes the Greek philosopher Epicurus. If you have never read about this man and his teachings, I highly recommend it.

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
– Epicurus