This one is for my co-religionists, so here’s a cute animated gif of a bouncing cube of red jello for the non-Christians.
I’ll see the rest of you after the jump.
The personal blog of writer Buzz Dixon. "His manner is frivolous because he is an Italian; but he means what he says."
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This one is for my co-religionists, so here’s a cute animated gif of a bouncing cube of red jello for the non-Christians.
I’ll see the rest of you after the jump.
Justin P McBrayer recently posted an op-ed piece with the NYTimes called “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts”  where he relates the following:
“First, the definition of a fact waffles between truth and proof — two obviously different features. Things can be true even if no one can prove them. For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it. Conversely, many of the things we once “proved” turned out to be false. For example, many people once thought that the earth was flat. It’s a mistake to confuse truth (a feature of the world) with proof (a feature of our mental lives). Furthermore, if proof is required for facts, then facts become person-relative. Something might be a fact for me if I can prove it but not a fact for you if you can’t. In that case, E=MC2 is a fact for a physicist but not for me.
“But second, and worse, students are taught that claims are either facts or opinions. They are given quizzes in which they must sort claims into one camp or the other but not both. But if a fact is something that is true and an opinion is something that is believed, then many claims will obviously be both. For example, I asked my son about this distinction after his open house. He confidently explained that facts were things that were true whereas opinions are things that are believed. We then had this conversation:
To quote one of the great rhetoricians of our era:
“Facts,” “truth,” “evidence,” and “opinion” are not the same thing. They may overlap when referring to concrete examples, but that’s a function of language, not reality.
Facts, so to speak, are the atoms of reality: They is what they is. They carry no moral weight of judgment, no meaning in and of themselves. A fact either is or it is not.
Truth is the summation of several facts in conjunction or juxtaposition against one another. The “truth” of water, for example, is a summation of several facts about it: Its molecular formula, the pressure and temperature points where it freezes or vaporizes, the way it interacts with other molecules, etc., etc., and of course, etc.
Evidence are facts assembled to produce a truth, either in whole or in part.
Opinion is a belief, preferably based on informed knowledge about the facts and evidence before one, that makes a presumption about what truth is.
Fact: I was born
Opinion A: I was born within the borders of the United States at that time
Opinion B: I was not born within the borders of the United States at that time
Without fact based evidence to prove either Opinion A or Opinion B, they are both equally valid assumptions.
I’m the flippin’ Schroedinger’s Cat of procreation, and lacking facts in evidence my birth within / without the borders of the US are equally valid assumptions.
Only one of those opinions is true, of course.
And all the logic, rhetoric, assembled supporting evidence, sincerity of believe, and numbers of believers does not alter the factual truth one iota.
There are no moral “facts”,
but there are moral “truths”.
Unlike facts which can be fixed in time and space, truth does not need observable concrete evidence to be true or not.
There was no cup of coffee on my desk an hour ago, there is a cup of coffee on my desk now, there will be an empty cup on my desk in an hour are all valid statements of fact even though they do not represent the same exact thing. They can be assembled to form a truth about my having a cup of coffee while working.
Or more precisely, they can be assembled to produce an opinion about the truth; for all you know I’m just shining you on about the coffee, the desk, and me working. Or more precisely still, the truth is that it’s possible for me to drink coffee, and that truth remains unalterable regardless of the facts of my coffee drinking / non-drinking.
McBrayer wants to have his imaginary cake and make you eat it. George Washington’s status as the first president of the US stands independent of McBrayer’s belief, no matter how much evidence he assembles to prove it. He is right in his opinion — this time.
But he could just as sincerely believe even more and better evidence of other facts and assemble them into a conclusion that is not the truth.
It drives hard line moralists nuts to live in a universe where their opinions are not automatically revered and treated as fact, but to quote another great rhetorician:
 Yeah, I know: “Who?” Bear with me, I gotta fill a quota on this blog and this one’s an easy pop fly.
 Probably for the same reason they don’t think there’s any dry water, either; McBrayer is using mutually contradictory terms.
 Congratulations, Justin, for opening a can of pseudo-intellectual whup-ass on your seven year old…
This is Barronelle Stutzman. She is a Christian being persecuted for staying true to her beliefs.
This is Lester Maddox. He was another Christian who was persecuted for staying true to his beliefs.
No, that’s not Lester on the left; Lester is the guy with the gun threatening an American citizen for demanding his Constitutional rights (the guy with the axe handle is Lester’s son, IIRC).
Lester’s religious belief was that African-Americans were subhumans who were being punished by God for their great-great-great-great-great-times-howmany-grandfather Ham’s sin against their great-great-great-great-great-times-howmany-grandfather + 1 Noah.
And because of that, Ham’s descendants were cursed with black skin and condemned to be slaves to white skinned people for all eternity.
Sez so right in the Bible…
Bad enough the US government went and changed the Constitution to get rid of slavery — which, after all, had been ordained by God — but then they went and let those uppity so-and-sos have equal rights with white people, and that just ain’t right!
Still, Lester and his buddies were willing to live and let live…just so long as the uppity so-and-sos were willing to live in the colored part of town and stepped out of the way when a white person passed by and not vote or go to public schools or run for election or expect fire or ambulance service.
And they sure as hell weren’t supposed to come into a fine white person’s establishment and demand to be treated just the same way as a white customer was treated.
Why, that was violating God’s holy law! That was a sinful abomination! If God had wanted people to treat each other the way they wanted to be treated, with kindness and compassion and mercy, well then, wouldn’t God have said that in His holy scripture?
Barronelle believes it’s her religious right to deny her fellow citizens their Constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Recently a couple of African-Americans…no, wait…a couple of Jews…no, wait, a couple of gay guys came into her florist shop to order flowers for their wedding.
Now, the thing a non-bigoted Christian American would have done would be to sell them the flowers. See, a non-bigoted Christian American might not approve of what another person’s religious beliefs are, but they will acknowledge they are supposed to treat them the same way they treat someone whose beliefs they agree with.
And that’s what same sex marriage is all about:
Their religious belief is that it is not a sin for two people of the same sex to marry.
Same as two divorcees re-marrying have a religious belief that it’s okay for two divorcees to re-marry.
Same as two people with different ethnic backgrounds have a religious belief that it’s okay for different ethnic groups to marry.
All of which had been outlawed at one time
but finally allowed when laws were changed.
Now, if your religious beliefs preclude that, no one is demanding you marry someone of the same sex, or who was previously divorced, or of a different ethnic background.
It would be wrong to force you to do that.
But just as it would be wrong to force you to do it, it is equally wrong for you to attempt to deny others their rights.
And that’s what Barronelle Stutzman is doing by refusing service to them.
Same as Lester Maddox.
The only people objecting to same sex marriage today are doing so from a conservative religious background.
They were taught it was wrong and nothing will change their mind.
Not even Jesus himself (God incarnate to Christians), who taught “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
Who quoted Rabbi Hillel, a Jewish heavy hitter of a century earlier, when he taught “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
And who taught “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you”
And “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
I’m sure Barronelle Stutzman and her allies think of her as a good, decent, kind, loving, generous, righteous Christian being persecuted for her faith; if they didn’t, why do they keep running pictures of like this when they try to gin up support for her?
Funny thing is, I look at that photo and am reminded of this:
For Superman as he exists now to be the character that he is, he has to grow up in a relatively sheltered environment. He and the family that has adopted him can not be subject to persecution or victimization; he has to be able to empathize closely enough with dominant culture that he adopts their values & morality as a given, and he must never encounter anything as a child that would challenge that.
The occasional burglar / out of town gangster / dam bursting / forest fire / alien invasion not withstanding, Superman while growing up can not be either subject to or a witness to systematic persecution, much less systematic persecution based on racial or religious discrimination.
And historically, discrimination is what happened to people who fell outside the white Christian camp in North America, particularly rural North America.
Now, it’s entirely logical & plausible that by either the grace of God or miraculous good fortune, Kal-El was adopted by the Kents, who being white Christians in a predominantly white Christian culture did not get persecuted by their neighbors yet who at the same time were good enough as Americans and/or Christians to instill in Clark the importance of liberty, justice, and equality for all people of all beliefs.
When Superman finally makes his presence known to the world at large (we’ll presume that outside the immediate community, his exploits as Superboy were written off as the equivalent of UFO or Bigfoot stories), he has a fully formed set of ethical & moral values that could only come from a person who believes the system is intrinsically fair, that everybody who plays by the rules has a shot of success & happiness, and that discrimination is not the norm nor should it ever be tolerated.
That would not be his POV if he grew up as an African-American child in rural America. To this day African-Americans are discriminated against and treated unjustly on the basis of their skin color; if you don’t believe me, go find some African-Americans on FB and ask them to give you their POV re Ferguson & the shooting of Michael Brown.
An African-American Superman — raised as an infant in rural America — would not see the dominant culture as A Really Swell Thing but rather an obstacle that must be overcome. The fact that Superman as he exists today is lauded and praised by the dominant culture is proof he is no threat to them; if he was black & beating the snot out of racists, the reaction would be far, far different.
Let’s look at the
other side of the
Thanx to progress that has been made in America, today the possibility of the child of an African-American billionaire deciding to avenge his parents — killed in a non-race related crime — is as plausible as a white kid doing the same. Operating in an urban environment, Batman would encounter a variety of people, good and bad, from all races / classes / religious backgrounds.
Batman as a concept is also comfortable with the idea that the system — if not inherently corrupt — has been subjected to corruption that must be addressed through extra-legal means. He is not the cockeyed optimist that Superman is.
Billy Batson, altho white in previous incarnations, has also grown up in a lower class urban environment; his worldview is not as far from a lower class urban kid of any other ethnicity / religion. Captain Marvel (whom Billy exchanges places with; he does not transform into the big red cheese) is a supernatural being from a spiritual realm; he is literally above and beyond ethnic identity as practiced in North America. He could be any color — including green — and still fill his function as Captain Marvel, and Billy could be any color so long as he was from a lower class background and understands what it means to be the underdog.
If Clark Kent was not raised by wise / protective parents in the background of a dominant culture that he was presumed to be part of, he would not be Superman. An African-American Bruce Wayne or Billy Batson would still produce a Batman or a Captain Marvel.
If you’re keeping up with current events / pop culture in America you’ll know there’s a men’s rights movement that has been started in counter-point to feminism.
Now, insofar as all people of good will would agree that everyone should be treated with equal respect in the eyes of the law, the idea of treating males as no better or worse than females in legal and governmental proceedings is a fair and just one.
Civil and criminal cases should be decided on the basis of facts, not stereotypes that help or hinder anyone.
That, of course, is what feminism is all about — the recognition that everyone is equal under the law regardless of gender or orientation — and so one would think a separate rights movement for males would be somewhat superfluous.
Not to tar everyone associated with the men’s rights movement with the same brush, but there are an awful lot of people who flock to that banner under false pretenses.
They have no desire to be treated equally under the law, but are seeking excuses for bad behavior that they enjoy at the expense of others — particularly women.
They have, in fact, bought into the same-old / same-old that got us here in the first place, and their attempts at a counter rights movement is just the frustration of the privileged as they realize that privilege is slipping from them.
Would that they were conscious of this.
What makes their torment so frustrating to them and others outside their circle is that they fail to acknowledge the position of privilege they enjoy not because they lack the intellectual capacity or curiosity to uncover such a truth, but that they are culturally incapable of recognizing the truth even when it smacks them repeatedly between the eyes.
Any questioning of the status quo is interpreted as a deliberate personal attack on them as males and as individuals.
And at the same time, they present themselves as helpless victims persecuted by a changing culture.
You can’t have it both ways, guys.
You can’t be a Gulliver tied down by Lilliputians while at the same time bemoaning the awful spell females have cast on you.
“Gulliver & The Lilliputians” by Jean Goerges Vibert
As with most movements, there is no one single leader at the head but rather a vast undulating can of worms with each separate thread or movement within the movement briefly enjoying its heyday at the top of the can before slithering down again.
However, it would be fair to say that few if any have been more instrumental to the men’s rights movement than Warren Farrell.
Farrell is best known for his books The Myth Of Male Power and Why Men Earn More.
Farrell is not without insight and a brief perusal of his books indicates some creative thinking about the various conundrums facing all genders in today’s society.
The fatal flaw in his logic, indeed the vein of poison running through not only the bulk of the men’s rights movement but also the hearts of far too many critics of the masculine gender as well, is that males have a built in “boys will be boys / get out of jail FREE” card when it comes to their interactions with the opposite sex.
The cover of a recent edition of The Myth Of Male Power is an attractive feminine posterior in semi-silhouette.
Farrell could more accurately refer to it as The Myth About The Myth Of Male Power because:
“’I felt that it was a tasteful message that had not been communicated effectively to women about how powerless men feel around the beautiful woman’s body,’ Farrell told me. Cupping a hand over his crotch, he added, ‘Our upper brains stop working and the lower brain starts working.’”
That’s a pretty pathetic excuse for anyone to make, that somebody else is just so gosh darn alluring that they magically sway one from acting with common sense or common decency.
It’s the excuse used to justify all sorts of denigrating behavior towards females and males outside the preferred alpha group.
The magic of the feminine mystique (to allude to another book on the dynamics of male-female relationships within our culture) overpowers all real males, according to this philosophy, and as such excuses them for bad behavior on their part.
“I couldn’t help myself, she made me do it” is the excuse of the bully, the rapist, the abuser, the old school patriarch.
It dismisses bad behavior because “boys will be boys” and as such are blameless for their reactions to alluring females.
I worked briefly as a pornographer back in the 1990s, but it was long enough to recognize the stereotypical straight male response to highly sexualized surroundings was a fiction deliberately crafted to assuage weak willed males as we picked their pockets.
When you deal with sexualized images on a daily basis, they lose their allure PDQ.
It doesn’t matter what a woman looks like, how she is dressed, or whatever physical activity she is engaged in: If you cannot put aside any visceral sexual reaction to deal with her as an individual in an asexual context, you are surrendering control of your life not to her feminine charms but to your own desire to maintain your status at the expense of others.
For all the good the men’s rights movement does in pointing out inequality under the law that should be addressed, they cause far more harm.
Like all protectors of privilege, they attempt to deny they enjoy such privilege by disguising it as victimhood.
 And if you’re not, WTF is wrong with you?!?!? WAKE UP!!!
 One could argue he perhaps doesn’t go far enough to linking the various frustrations most people feel regardless of gender or orientation to the overpowering consumer culture we inhabit, but that’s another book for another day, I guess…
 Yes, there are certain general trends commonly — but not exclusively — found in one gender or the other in our culture. While there is doubtlessly a biological root to much of it, it is also shaped by the very culture we inhabit, which for its own utilitarian purposes seeks to have us fit easily codified roles so as to be more easily exploited.
 To that subset of the patriarchy found among conservative Christian denominations, the ones that are obsessed with pornography and view it as a terrible addiction that is as bad as actual adultery and as such a destroyer of marriages, I say if you want to keep your young teenage sons from fantasizing about naked women, get them a job with any purveyor of porn for straight males. Like repeating the same word over and over and over until the syllables lose all meaning, so does prolonged exposure to stylized depictions of sexuality. It’s the same reason candy shops encourage new employees to eat their fill on the first day; you soon get sick of it then settle down to the business of moving product.
 Not having a same sex orientation, I don’t know if this applies to gays and lesbians in similar situations; I suspect it does but can’t speak authoritatively on that.
So artist Scott Teplin spent the better part of a decade developing a distinctive font.
And love it or hate it or like it or dislike it or just say “meh” to it, you can’t deny it’s a unique expression of an idea and as such is entitled to copyright protection.
Fonts are cool, and I love playing with them,
but when I’ve used them professionally
I’ve either made sure they were free
for commercial use or paid for them.
Enter one Jamian Julian-Villani, another NYC based artist. Ms Villani saw Teplin’s font, liked it, Instagrammed it without attribution, then in the sincerest form of flattery
stole appropriated it for use in her painting, Animal Proverb.
When Teplin pointed out the
theft appropriation, Villani doubled-down:
“It’s a fucking John Lennon lyric,” she said several times. When we pointed out that Teplin, for his part, is claiming ownership of his lettering, not the lyric, Juliano-Villani repeated, “But it’s a fucking John Lennon lyric.”
Basically, Ms Villani is ripping off a live New Yorker in order to rip off a dead New Yorker for her personal profit, and without paying royalties to either.
Ignoring the question of whether she was involved in Christian publishing, I was puzzled by something else in her painting. To paraphrase Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction:
“You know what’s on my mind right now? It AIN’T the coffee in my kitchen, it’s the
[pink elephant][blue sphinx] in my garage.”
Yes, the nimble fingered Ms Villani has =ahem= appropriated yet another artist’s work, in this case an illustration by the late great pulp sci-fi artist Virgil Finlay for H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
Now, fair is fair, and folks would be right to ask:
For one thing, I’m not making money off the use of another creator’s art or words. What I post may be freely accessed by anyone.
My Fictoids are typically commentaries on the underlying art, and as such fall under the fair usage provision of copyright law.
I try really hard to use only those images which have entered into the public domain, and / or like Banksy am appropriating advertising art to make a cultural comment.
I strive whenever possible to identify and properly credit the artist, and have gone back and added artist information when I’ve learned it.
Likewise the Words Of The Prophets series of posts are quotes from public persons and as such fall under fair usage, or are otherwise in the public domain. Any meme I use that I don’t generate, I leave any identifying URL on the image.
Ms Villani is probably in the clear re Virgil Finlay’s art; I haven’t been able to track down a specific date but I’m guessing it’s probably some time in the 1950s or 60s, perhaps even as early as the late 1940s. Unless the copyright was specifically renewed in the 1970s or early 80s, I’m guessing the image is public domain by now.
The Lennon quote is kinda iffy, but let’s attribute that one to ignorance, not ill will.
I’ll even go so far as to say appropriating Teplin’s font, specifically in the format he used and with the message he painted, might also be a case of plain ol’ vanilla misunderstanding.
But refusing to acknowledge, much less compensate or thank Teplin when it was pointed out to her?
Not cool, Ms Villani.
Not cool at all.
Ms Villani and Mr Teplin
have apparently come to
an understanding and
made peace on the issue
 With a name like that, it’s almost as if she couldn’t help but be an antagonist in a story.
 We’re going to skip the whole issue of what and how much of a work is considered fair use. Song lyrics are notoriously tricky items under copyright law, and while one can reference the title of a song with impunity in a literary work, including any quotation of verses, no matter how trivial, invites a letter from a lawyer with ample precedence in her briefcase, so unless you secure permission first, don’t quote a song lyric, even tho people post whole lyrics all the time and make online memes from them.
 And, yes, Finlay was also an NYC based artist for much of his career, so Ms Villani wins the trifecta!
 You want to use my words for profit, please contact me at the e-mail address below; I lay no claim on any artwork I do not specifically own the rights to.
I’ve got a lock on this,
First thing we do is build a time machine and go back and tell ourselves not to condone torture and degradation at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, but to treat our prisoners humanely according to the Geneva convention, the Bible, and our own Constitution instead of stripping them naked, smearing their bodies with feces, threatening them with dogs, wiring their genitals with electrodes, and taking pictures of them with our smirking soldiers and thus giving ISIS the most perfect anti-Christian/West/America recruiting tool it could hope to have.
Then we could take the time machine and go back to 9/12 and tell ourselves not to treat a bunch of loosely affiliated thugs as the second comings of Nazism and the Iron Curtain, but rather consider them to be just what they are: Criminals who need to be tracked down, arrested, brought to trial, convicted, and imprisoned instead of being elevated to the status of a nation-state by declaring war on them.
In fact, we ought to take the time machine back to when we were supplying them in the mountains of Afghanistan because we wanted to give payback to the Rooskis for helping the North Vietnamese, and instead get our spies and arms dealers to stop doing that.
While we’re at it, we can go back to the day after the fall of Dien Bein Phu and instead of being all pissy and splitting their country in middle and importing outsiders to run our half, we can be good sports and shake Ho Chi Minh’s hand and congratulate him on winning independence for the united nation of Vietnam.
No, wait! Better still, we can go back to that moment when we broke our promise to Uncle Ho, who after fighting by our side against the Japanese in WWII was rewarded with betrayal and treachery when we handed French Indo-China — ‘scuse me, Vietnam — back to Charles DeGaulle, and instead tell ol’ Chuck to go oui-oui up a rope; America honors her promises.
Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to go back to 1918 and not invade Russia in order to support counter-revolutionaries in their civil war; after all, Europe sat back and let us duke it out during our civil war, so maybe we would have been better off saying, “Not our circus, not our monkeys” and just letting them hash it out amongst themselves instead of throwing our lot in with the losers and souring relations with the winners.
And maybe getting involved in WWI wasn’t such a hot idea, either; Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were already collapsing before we joined in. Yes, we sped things up, but maybe if we hadn’t thrown our weight behind England and France they wouldn’t have been so draconian in negotiating peace, maybe even allowing the Kaiser to stay on the throne and keep Germany stable the way the Emperor kept Japan stable after WWII and then maybe a certain corporal would have ended up going to art school after all.
I volunteer with a food program here in town. It was started by a black man, run by a black church, operates in a mostly black neighborhood.
Funny thing: after I had been helping for a few months, they asked me to join their board (I had to decline due to work). I asked why they wanted me, since I was just a guy volunteering to serve mashed potatoes one night a week, not important or particularly influential in any way, and prone to insulting prominent people. The founder told me plainly that because I’m a middle-aged white dude, I could go places and say things that the other board members couldn’t.
The other board members are pastors and retired businessmen and known in the community, but random white guy me has access that they don’t have. Seriously. As obnoxious, cranky and undiplomatic as I am, I’m more respected than people who have worked and served the city for decades, simply because my ancestors were from Europe.
That’s white privilege. When somebody uses the term, they aren’t calling you a racist, or playing the race card, or making excuses for their own condition. They are stating a fact. A white jerk who never graduated college and can’t behave politely in public is more respectable than a successful retired black businessman.