Monday, December 29, 2008
Well, yes, Kwanzaa is a made-up holiday. It was created by African-American scholar and social activist Ron Karenga in 1966. No one disputes that. What people seem to forget, though, is that ALL holidays are made-up. ALL holidays are invented by someone at some point and much of what Christians hold dear about their December celebration are actually pre-Christian pagan practices condemned by the Bible they claim to follow.
In celebrating Christmas and assuming it is a far-reaching and universal holiday, you forget that December 25th was certainly not the birthday of Jesus but rather was co-opted by the Christian church to bring in all the pagans and heathens daring to celebrate other holidays at that time. You forget that the Christmas Tree is a pagan symbol and that Santa Claus as we know him is basically a creation of the Coca Cola company. Certainly the celebration of the birth of Jesus is a couple thousand years old but the holiday we know as Christmas is much younger. The Jewish Festival of Lights is a slightly older celebration, but certainly not one that has been celebrated since the dawn of time. Pagan celebrations are far older, and their roots can be found throughout most modern-day holidays. All holidays were made up by someone at some point or another and the only reason Christmas gets more respect than Kwanzaa or National Talk Like A Pirate Day is because it's a federal holiday -leading people to assume that the day takes on a federally accepted Christian meaning, which is simply not true. As soon as a day becomes a federal holiday, it automatically becomes secular because the Constitution of our country declares that the government shall not make laws impose religion onto their citizens.
Heck, most people -Christians included- don't realize that the Twelve Days of Christmas do not end with Christmas but rather begin with Christmas and the Twelfth Day is January 6th, also known as (surprise!) Twelfth Night.
As you may have read in my previous blog entry, Jesus is certainly not the first son-of-god-and-a-virgin born on December 25th. If anything, the Jesus myth is a story made up to match myths already in existence for other deities from Mithra to Buddha to Dionysus to Adonis. Christmas is as made-up as any other holiday, it's just that it's been made up for longer.
Kwanzaa is a made-up holiday that consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift giving. It is a celebration honoring African heritage. All bad so far, right? Nothing remotely normal or common place there, certainly nothing you might find in any other December holiday.
Now, keep in mind that each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. (For more information, please see the Official Kwanzaa Web Site). Again, nothing good here. Nothing worth lauding and contemplating incorporation of in ones’ own holiday celebration, right? No, community building and unity and responsibility and creativity are definitely things we should avoid at all costs. And we should definitely mock people who celebrate Kwanzaa for actually putting into practice many of the themes and principles which Christians claim as their own and yet so rarely espouse.
So before you start mocking anyone for their religion or their holiday or their customs, take a look at your own religion and holiday and customs and see if maybe yours aren't just as nutty as theirs. Or maybe theirs are simply more honest than yours. This is something I had to keep in mind during the election this year because sure, Mitt Romney believes in a nutjob wacko religion -but it's no more nutjob wacko than Scientology or Christianity or Flying Spaghetti Monsterists (though, to be fair, that's kind of the point of FSM) or Spiritualists. In my opinion, anyone who believes based on faith rather than evidence is equally in nutjob wacko territory so until we have out atheists running for office, I can't really make a voting decision based on the candidates’ belief system when none of them are really any more rational than the rest, in my view. Whew.
To steal from Tim Minchin, "Science adjusts its views based on what's observed. Faith is the denial of observation, so that belief can be preserved."
And stop judging others, lest ye want me to judge you. And smite you.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
On the tenth day of Newton,
My true love gave to me,
Ten drops of genius,
Nine silver co-oins,
Eight circling planets,
Seven shades of li-ight,
Three Laws of Motion,
Two awful feuds,
And the discovery of gravity!
Happy birthday, Sir Isaac Newton. And Cab Calloway, Humphrey Bogart, Clara Barton and certainly Louis-Joseph Chevrolet.
Also, according to varied myths and legends involving mangers, miracles, virgins and disciples, happy birthday to Horus, Osiris, Attis, Krishna, Zoroaster, Mithra, Buddha, Heracles, Dionysus, Tammuz, Adonis, Hermes, Bacchus, Prometheus, and Jesus.
May you never trample a fellow being for a DVD player, may you never beat up a Santa Claus, may your holly-days be food- and family-filled, and may the new year find you thankful for your fortunes and mindful of those less fortunate, and may you remember to do unto others as you would like to be done unto.
Here’s wishing you discovery and rational thinking, science and skepticism, a never-ending urge for wisdom and knowledge, and a space of calm contemplation in an otherwise mad, mad world.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Diverse, noisy and opinionated. I guess that’s supposed to be a good thing -though “opinionated” generally has a negative overtone. “Holds strong opinions” doesn’t seem as cunty as “opinionated.” Kind of like “childless” vs. “childfree.” But anyway, diverse is supposed to be good, right? (though in college all it really meant was that we had to shell out a buttload of money for X-to-the-Z-ibit, leaving us with only enough left over for Sponge on the “undiverse” side of the aisle). But “noisy”? Is that supposed to be a compliment?
Obama was, of course, defending his decision to have the douchebag evangelist asshat Rick Warren give the opening prayer at his inauguration.
Yes, Rick Warren of the Biggest Honking Church In The Galaxy (because you know you can’t pray to your god unless your altar is at least a hundred feet wide). Anti-gay anti-abortion anti-the-ability-to-understand-how-people-could-possibly-live-without-religion-infiltrating-and-controlling-every-aspect-of-their-lives Rick Warren. Rick Warren of the indigestible “A Purpose Driven Life,” which is one of only three books that I have thrown down with great force upon being unable to finish. Ah yes, just the sort of man to pray over the beginning of a (hopefully) new era for our country.
Fuck Rick Warren. Yes, he’s done a lot of good, from a certain point of view. Yes, he speaks lefty-like about things that evangelicals normally shun (global warming, genocide), but he still compares gay marriage to incest and child abuse, and still values the potential life of a fetus over the current and actual life of me. And as for choosing him to pray over our country? Well, Mr. Obama, I am not disappointed. I am mad.
But I’m also mad for an entirely different reason. Can you tell me why we have an opening prayer and benediction at the inauguration at all?? Despite what the e-mail forwards try to convince you of, we are still technically a secular nation (and Christmas is actually a secular federal holiday, not a federally-approved religious one), and the government really isn’t supposed to pimp one religion over another, or any religion over none at all. “Wall of separation” and all that. Should atheists and pagans and Muslims and Buddhists and Taoists (et. al) really be forced to sit through an opening prayer by Warren and a benediction by Reverend Lowry? How inclusive and welcoming is that?
Not even a little.
...If you want something a bit more eloquent, though, here's what I wrote to the Obama campaign through Change.gov: The Obama-Biden Transition Team:
I was very disheartened to hear of Mr. Obama’s choice of Reverend Rick Warren to read the opening invocation at the inauguration. As a non-theist, I regularly feel slighted by the common acceptance of pre-event prayers and religiously motivated speeches at public occasions. I am confused by the need for an invocation and benediction at a government function such as the inauguration, regardless of conventionally accepted habits, as I was under the impression that it was not government’s job to push one religion or another upon the American people.
I find the regular mixing of government and religion inappropriate -whether it is public prayer, nativities and ten commandment displays in government buildings, the Bible being used for swearing in ceremonies, the pledge, our currency- and I find the choice of a man such as Rick Warren to perform a religious ceremony at a government event even more inappropriate.
Mr. Warren is undoubtedly a man devoted to his religion and his cause, and certainly his celebrity has enabled him to address serious concerns such as climate change, AIDS and genocide. However, he has regularly compared gay marriage to incest and child abuse, and he values the potential life of a fetus over my current and actual life and well being as a woman.
I realize that Mr. Obama is seeking to be inclusive, to foster a culture of tolerance and acceptance, to “reach across the aisle,” but perhaps choosing someone who disagrees so vehemently with many of his supporters on such matters as homosexuality and women’s health is not the best ambassador of civility for the inauguration.
I strongly urge Mr. Obama to reconsider this invitation, and hope that he will consider the rights and hopes of secular Americans, as well as those of the more religious, at this historic time in our country’s history.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Purpose: to advance sexual and reproductive health through an interrelated program of social science research, policy analysis and public education, designed to generate new ideas, encourage enlightened public debate, promote sound policy and program development, and, ultimately, inform individual decision-making.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Purpose: to provide comprehensive reproductive and complementary health care services in settings which preserve and protect the essential privacy and rights of each individual; to advocate public policies which guarantee these rights and ensure access to such services; to provide educational programs which enhance understanding of individual and societal implications of human sexuality; to promote research and the advancement of technology in reproductive health care and encourage understanding of their inherent bioethical, behavioral, and social implications.
The National Organization for Women
Purpose: NOW works to eliminate discrimination and harassment in the workplace, schools, the justice system, and all other sectors of society; secure abortion, birth control and reproductive rights for all women; end all forms of violence against women; eradicate racism, sexism and homophobia; and promote equality and justice in our society.
Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Efforts
Purpose: a secular alternative to faith-based relief efforts; a program of the Council for Secular Humanism; working with Americares (purpose: to provide immediate response to emergency medical needs and support long-term humanitarian assistance programs for all people around the world, irrespective of race, creed or political persuasion)
Human Rights Campaign
Purpose: America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.
The Humane Society of the United States
Purpose: The HSUS seeks a humane and sustainable world for all animals—a world that will also benefit people. We are America's mainstream force against cruelty, exploitation and neglect, as well as the most trusted voice extolling the human-animal bond.
Public Broadcasting Service
Purpose: is a non-profit public broadcasting television service with 354 member TV stations in the United States, with some member stations available in Canada.
Purpose: to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth; providing gifts of livestock and plants, as well as education in sustainable agriculture, to financially-disadvantaged families around the world
Victory Junction Gang Camp
Purpose: to enrich the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun, and empowering, in a safe and medically-sound environment.
Also, seeing as how it’s December 8th and everything, check out the Dimebag Darrell Memorial Fund and VH1's Save The Music Foundation and RIP Dimebag and Mayhem.
A final entry: check out Techskeptic's Data Daily Atheist Charities List, if you're tired of "charity" having such a condescendingly Christian overtone.
Added 12/15/08: Plan USA
Our vision is of a world in which all children realize their full potential in societies that respect people's rights and dignity. If James "The Amaz!ng" Randi thinks this is a worthy cause, it must have something going for it.
Added 7/06/09: SkeptiLove, a website devoted to reporting on the generous acts of non-believers, and to bringing skeptics, critical thinkers, agnostics, atheists, humanists, and secularists together to participate in charitable projects.
Remember, these organizations need support, donations and volunteers year round and not just during the holidays, but if you can give anything, even a little, it helps a lot. Send an anonymous check or request not to receive solicitations if you are worried about getting on a mailing list, but do send something. Perhaps in lieu of dinner out some night you could buy dinner for a less well-off family. Perhaps in lieu of buying a new DVD you could help others. Perhaps in lieu of another new pair of sneakers, you could help supply warm shoes for a needy person. We all likely have more than we need, especially if we have the time to wile away on a blog, so we should take a few moments this season and see what we can share with others.
As always, check out the Charity Navigator to see how your chosen charities are rated.
Besides, 'tis the season for giving, after all, and 'do unto others' applies to secular folk, too.
Monday, December 1, 2008
At this time of year, as greed runs rampant and hapless Wal-Mart employees are trampled by grown men and women who should know better, as we demand bigger TVs and more expensive jewelry from our spouses, or cars and vacations from our parents, as we turn Yuletide into a red tide of joyless rushing madness, I wonder what your children are learning from you.
We like to think the Christmas season is one of goodwill and charity, but we all know it’s about want and greed and disappointment. Our worst selves come out just when we should be our nicest, and the next generation sees it all. Why should they be good and patient and kind and forgiving when we’re not? Why should they believe us about anything when we lie to them about so many things?
And why do we feel the need to lie to our children, to scare them into being good? Why don’t we just tell them to be good for goodness sake? Not out of fear of punishment or desire for reward, but simply because this is the right thing to do? There need be no Santa Claus to fear, no Easter Bunny to expect, no Tooth Fairy to bribe. And certainly no God to lord fearsomely over you. Rather, be good simply because you should. Teach your children to do unto others -a timeless rule that need not be Christian-based. You wouldn’t want Johnny to steal your toys or pee on your cat or make fun of your haircut, so don’t do those things to him!
Besides, children who are wretched throughout the year nearly always get rewarded at Christmas and so have no concept of going without as a result of their behavior. How many kids have ever really gotten coal in their stocking?
Tom Flynn has an excellent list of reasons to “just say no” to Santa Claus in his book “The Trouble with Christmas” and I think they express quite well what I’ve been trying to say about this damn myth all these years.
Ten Reasons Why Thoughtful People Should “Just Say No” to Santa
Reason #1: To teach and perpetrate the Santa Claus myth, parents must lie to their children.
Reason #2: The Santa Claus myth exploits characteristic weakness in young children’s thinking, perhaps obstructing their passage to later stages of cognitive development.
Reason #3: To buoy belief, adults stage elaborate deceptions, laying traps for the child’s developing intellect
Reason #4: The myth encourages lazy parenting and promotes unhealthy fear.
Reason #5: The number of characteristics that Santa Claus shares with God and Jesus verges on the blasphemous.
Reason #6: The Santa myth harms children’s cognitive and emotional development and damages family dynamics.
Reason #7: The Santa myth stunts moral development because it encourages children to judge themselves globally, as good or bad persons, rather than to judge positive or negative behavior.
Reason #8: The myth promotes selfish and acquisitive attitudes among children.
Reason #9: Children may not enjoy the Santa Claus drama as much as parental nostalgia suggests.
Reason #10: Contemporary authorities who defend the Santa myth on psychotherapeutic grounds fail to make a convincing case.
-Tom Flynn, The Trouble with Christmas
Before surrendering to another year of madness and mendacity, think for a moment about what your actions are teaching your children (or someone else’s children). If you are greedy and selfish, of course they will be, too. If you put all your emphasis on the gifts instead of good behavior, is it any wonder children grow up unable to manage credit or balance a checkbook? When everything is handed out without condition, when there is no mundane punishment for bad behavior, when the season is about showing off and dressing up and give me give me give me, is it any wonder kids grow up unappreciative and resentful?
Besides, don’t you want your kids to thank you for all the good that is in their lives, instead of some mythical elusive invisible being?
Saturday, November 15, 2008
- Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
- Avoid foods containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar, B) unpronounceable, C) more than five in number, or that include D) high fructose corn syrup.
- Avoid food products that make health claims.
- Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
- Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.
- Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
- You are what what you eat eats too.
- If you have the space, buy a freezer.
- Eat like an omnivore.
- Eat well-grown food from healthy soils.
- Eat wild foods when you can.
- Be the kind of person who takes supplements.
- Eat more like the French. Or the Italians. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks.
- Regard non-traditional foods with skepticism.
- Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.
- Have a glass of wine with dinner.
Not Too Much.
- Pay more, eat less.
- Eat meals.
- Do all your eating at a table.
- Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
- Try not to eat alone.
- Consult your gut.
- Eat slowly.
- Cook and, if you can, plant a garden.
(content is probably copywrit so I'm sorry but I think it's awesome and you should totally read the whole book anyway)
Blah blah blah compact florescent bulbs, blah blah blah drive less, blah blah blah turn your thermostat up in the summer and down in the winter, blah blah blah, conserve water, conserve electricity, save the polar bears, read this book, read that book, believe this politician, believe this actor…
It’s enough to drive you crazy, right? It would be enough for me, if I weren’t already a little nutso. So, here’s what I decided: only do what you can and don’t freak out about the rest. A little is more than a lot of other people are doing (thanks, Andy), so do your best and sleep better for it.
So let’s cut through all the nonsense and the b.s. and check out some simple things you can do (many of which I do, and which you may already do) to make the world a better place.
1) While you’re on the internet anyway (and I know you are), visit The Animal Rescue Site (http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com) and click through the tabs at the top to help animals, the rain forest, improve literacy, improve child health, fight breast cancer, and fight hunger. You can sign up for e-mailed reminders (daily, week-daily, whatever-ly) from the left column. The site makes money from the sponsors and advertisers that pay per click so all you have to do is click. Also visit http://freerice.com/ and play the game. Not only does it improve your vocabulary and brain function, but for each word you get right, they donate 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program to help end hunger.
2) If you live within drop-off distance of me, save the aluminum tabs and bottle caps from your cans and bottles. I know that the internet says no one is collecting these, but my friend who works for the Kidney Foundation says differently, so I give them to her and they either pile up in her basement to keep the ghosts and spiders at bay or they help pay for dialysis, so either way we’re doing some good.
3) Don’t buy bottled water. Often, municipal water actually has stricter standards and is cleaner than bottled water, and can be helped along by a pitcher or tap filter. If your local water is really gross or you must buy bottled for some other reason, try to reuse the bottles for at least a week and recycle them when you’re done. Also try to find bottled water that didn’t travel halfway around the world to get to you. Wegmans bottled water comes from Forestport, NY. If you can, buy a reusable bottle, but try to find recycled aluminum or nonpolycarbonate plastic if you choose this option (http://www.nalgene-outdoor.com/,http://www.sigg.ch/, http://www.camelbak.com/).
4) Take your own bags to the store, the library, your mother’s house, everywhere (keep them in your trunk so they are there when you need them). Save your clean plastic bags and return them to grocery stores that accept them. Wegmans accepts all kinds of plastic bags, saran wraps, plastic wrapping, bread bags, newspaper bags, pretty much anything you can think of. See here https://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10052&productId=563786&catalogId=10002&krypto=QJrbAudPd0vzXUGByeatog%3D%3D&ddkey=http:ProductListView or contact your local store for more information.
5) Donate, donate, donate.
6) Recycle, recycle, recycle.
7) When you recycle, save your plastic screw-on caps (peanut butter, soda bottles, nail polish remover, salad dressing, etc.) in a separate location and the beauty products company Aveda will recycle and reuse them (http://aveda.aveda.com/aboutaveda/caps.asp). Most garbage collection companies do not recycle this kind of plastic, so Aveda will be collecting them at their stores and salons in order to repurpose them into new Aveda packaging. Find an Aveda location near you: https://www.aveda.com/templates/door/locator.tmpl (when I contacted them, they said that local -Rochester- salons will start collecting caps in September, so call before you go).
8) Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. -Michael Pollan. Check out more advice from his book, “In Defense of Food” here: http://internettime.com/2008/07/09/eat-food-not-too-much-mostly-plants/
9) Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Avoid packaged and processed foods as much as possible.
10) Buy locally and/or organically, and buy what’s in season. Visit http://www.localharvest.org/ to find community supported agriculture, farmers markets, grocery stores and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, or you may even feel called to grow some food of your own. You’d be surprised what you can grow in a 3’ x 6’ plot or a few containers on your front steps.
11) If you buy nothing else organic, buy these five things: milk, potatoes, peanut butter, ketchup, and apples (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/22/five-easy-ways-to-go-organic/). Also check out http://www.foodnews.org/ for a list of the most and least pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables, to help you decide what you feel you should buy organically. I keep a list in my coupon box, along with a list of what’s in season locally (http://www.nrdc.org/health/foodmiles/; http://www.nyfarms.info/whatsinseason.html).
12) Try to avoid meat and dairy products that were not humanely treated during their time on this planet. Hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free-range, pasture-raised, grass-fed animals are far happier and far healthier, and the products are far better for you than their factory-raised counterparts. For me, this means buying all my meats and eggs from Heiden Valley Farms (Rick Austin is at the public market every Saturday and takes orders by e-mail), or from Applegate Farms (http://www.applegatefarms.com) (sold at Lori’s and the Abundance Co-op and sometimes Wegmans), and buying organic milk. It also means that if I want to eat meat in public it can only be poultry, as they are the least horribly treated by conventional methods, and I end up bringing my own meat products to family gatherings -but I try to do it in a non-judgmental way.
13) The Monterey Bay Aquarium has designed the Seafood Watch program to raise consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources. When you buy seafood or select it from the menu, have this helpful guide handy to determine what to avoid: http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/SeafoodWatch.asp.
14) Visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (http://www.safecosmetics.org/) and Skin Deep (http://www.cosmeticdatabase.com/) to find out about the ingredients in your beauty products. Remember, though, there are no governmental standards regarding “organic” cosmetics, and no final determination of how safe or unsafe phthalates and parabens etc. really are. You have to be the judge and decide whether you really want to put something you can’t pronounce onto your face and into your body. Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, Badger, Kiss My Face, Jason, Avalon Organics, Nature’s Gate, etc. are all available at many grocery stores.
15) Use more environmentally friendly cleaning, household and laundry products. Seventh Generation, Ecover and Method products are available at many places, and you would be surprised how much you can clean with just baking soda and vinegar. Bathroom tissue, paper towels, toothbrushes, baby wipes, garbage bags, all have “green” alternatives. Hang your clothes out on the line as weather permits -it’s greener, and sunlight kills dust mites! If your towels and jeans end up a little stiff, fluff them in the dryer on an air-only cycle for five minutes or so.
16) Do use compact fluorescents when appropriate (most varieties cannot be used in recessed or enclosed fixtures or on fixtures with dimmer switches). All Home Depot stores will accept CFL’s for recycling at the end of their useful life (http://www6.homedepot.com/ecooptions/).
17) Do drive less and walk more when you can. If it’s impractical to bike or bus or carpool to work, at least try to save gas when you do drive (http://www.mpgplus.com/) and combine errands to take less trips. Check out http://www.walkscore.com/ to see what’s within walking distance of your home or place of business.
18) Do conserve when you can, do more with less, use less, reuse more, buy used when possible.
18) Visit your local library to borrow books instead of buying them new, and donate books that you have back to the library when you are done with them.
20) Remember that you can’t do it all, but whatever you can do, helps.
Further Reading, if you’re interested:
- It's Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living, Crissy Trask
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan
- In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michael Pollan
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver
- Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating, Jane Goodall
- This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader, Joan Dye Gussow
- All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!, Mel Bartholomew
- How to Grow More Vegetables: and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops than you Ever Thought Possible on Less Land than you can Imagine: A Primer on the Life-Giving Grow Biointensive Method of Sustainable Horticulture, by John Jeavons
- The World Without Us, Alan Weisman
- Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun and Frugal Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Of, Vicki Lansky
- Vinegar: Over 400 Various, Versatile, and Very Good Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Of, Vicki Lansky
- Grist Environmental New and Commentary: http://www.grist.org/
- Center for Food Safety: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/
- Organic Consumers Association: http://www.organicconsumers.org/
- Mother Earth News, the original guide to living wisely: http://www.motherearthnews.com/
- Kitchen Gardeners International: http://www.kitchengardeners.org/
- Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac: http://www.almanac.com/
- Seventh Generation (http://www.seventhgeneration.com), Method (http://www.methodhome.com/), Ecover (http://www.ecover.com/)
- Gaiam green living and organic products: http://www.gaiam.com/
- Planet Green from the Discovery Channel: http://planetgreen.discovery.com/
- Kraft Foods simple recipes for busy lives: http://kraftfoods.com/kf
And remember, I only nag because I care.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
So. We finally got our asses in gear and our heads out of said asses and figured out that the best option for this country is a man who is a member or the reality-based community, one who does not call his wife a trollop and a slut (at least, not within hearing of a recording news camera), one who is not eighty billion years old, one who didn't show his complete contempt for the women of America with his vice presidential pick, one who understands the value of science and technology and of scientific inquiry, one whose vision for America does not rely on derisive air quote and shoulder hunched cackling.
I am sadly amused that so many people are genuinely scared, that so many people are so ignorant and ill-informed that they are certain some demon/ Muslim/ socialist/ communist/ black/ vegetarian/ baby mama/ terrorist fist bump agenda has taken the helm of America and will drive us straight to hell in a pack of nabs. To you I say, don't worry! He doesn't take office until January 20th! That's plenty of time for your esteemed and well-spoken George W. Bush to slide through a bunch of last minute appointments and rulings and enactments that are sure to make women beholden to men (because, after all, it is 1806, right?) and suck the environment further down the carbon-lined tubes of doom.
Of course, I (and my ilk) was so terrified of the prospect of a McCain/Palin administration that I literally made myself sick and was forced to watch the election results come in through a blur of generic menthol cold medicine, with a generic allergy medicine chaser. Yes, this election was about fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of staying the same, fear of a charismatic black man who has dared to be open and honest about his past, fear of a "Washington outsider" painfully proud of her ignorance, fear of a creaky old man who will decide who gets to marry whom and will make all of your child-birthing decisions the business of the government and will ensure that your children receive a sound Christian "education" in public secular schools -but he'll let you keep your guns, so who cares, right?
I am cautiously optimistic. I wonder how many people voted for Obama because of who he is vs. people who voted for him because of who he is not (John McCain/ George Bush). I wonder how many of his supporters truly understand his platforms and his stance on the issues. Of course, the majority of his opponents don't know them either -they only know what they were forwarded in an e-mail. And if it's got big block letters and three different fonts, it must be true, right? Extra points if you can use "socialist," "terrorist," "Muslim," and "inexperienced" in the same e-mail, and if you can misspell Obama's name, all the better!
I can't imagine being more disappointed in Obama than I have been for the past eight years, so I'm of the mind that anything has got to be better than the Bush administration's disasterous anti-science anti-women anti-sense policies.
I want to include here a segment of an e-mail I got from the editors of Free Inquiry Magazine, because I think it's well-worded and has excellent points:
In order that the ideals of democracy may be extended further, we offer some basic, humanistic ethical principles and goals that we hope the nation can achieve in the coming years. Even as they confront an economic crisis of massive proportions, we call on President Obama and the new Congress to base their actions on the following principles:
* Renewal of regulation for the protection of the public. The unlimited free market has been discredited. Virtually every other democratic society displays a mixed economy with robust public and private sectors. America needs to learn from this example.
* Universal health care. We view health care as a human right. Every major democracy except the United States has universal health care. While preserving a significant private component, it is time to enact legislation that ensures that every American is covered.
* The right to privacy. Every person should have the personal freedom to pursue his or her values and style of life, so long as he or she does not prohibit others from exercising like rights
* Equal access. Every person, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or class, should have the opportunity to realize his or her goals without being hampered by discrimination.
* Equality of concern. All individuals should (a) be considered as equal before the law; (b) have the same right to education, whether poor or rich; and (c) enjoy the opportunity to pursue gainful employment.
* Civil liberties. In a free and open democratic society, any effort to censor or restrict free expression must be impermissible. This encompasses the right of each individual to believe in and practice a chosen religion—but also the right of dissent and nonbelief.
* Separation of church and state. The United States needs to adhere to the First Amendment. We call upon President Obama to rise above his campaign rhetoric on this issue and end public support for faith-based charities as a violation of the First Amendment.
* Commitment to developing alternative energy sources. We need to refocus national policy based on an energy mantra that exhorts us to go green, green, green! in place of drill, drill, drill.
* Restoring respect for U.S. leadership in world affairs. The war in Iraq needs to be resolved by the new administration as soon as possible. Ideally, this should include some form of truth commission that would investigate key members of the previous administration for their roles in taking the nation to war on false pretenses, establishing an illegal doctrine of preemptive warfare, and instituting such repellent practices as torture and indefinite detention. America should refocus its foreign policy and commit to using first diplomacy rather than military force as it seeks to resolve conflicts peacefully in cooperation with others in the world.
—Paul Kurtz and Tom Flynn, editors of FREE INQUIRY MAGAZINE, Center for Inquiry
Yes, I'm happy. Yes, I'm optimistic. Yes, I look to the future with a sense of hope. Yes, the phrase “President Obama” sends a friendly shiver down my spine. Yes, I have a dance that ends with a "terrorist fist bump" and I will perform it upon request. Feel free to join in as you are inspired. Because, as you know, yes we can. And we so fucking did.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
You may have already made your decision for the election, heck you may even have voted already, but even if you have I think this is really worth the time. You can hear, in his own words, what Barack Obama would like to do for America, where he stands on a couple of key issues that are facing our country. It is a good summary, and a refreshing change from all of the attack ads and blatant lies and derisive air quotes with which we’ve been blasted.
This year’s election is very important, for a variety of issues. I feel very strongly that Barack Obama has the better plans in regards to the economy, health care, taxes, and foreign policy. He understands that medical decisions should be left between patients and doctors. He understands that science and technology are important to our future and worth funding, including stem cell research and a comprehensive energy strategy. Barack Obama has a clear vision for this nation and I like what I see when I look at his plans and what I hear when I listen to him.
Please, take a bit of time and watch what Mr. Obama has to say about our country and his ideas. It doesn’t cost you anything, just a little bit of your time, and you just might learn something and see the candidate in a different light.
This is our moment. Make it count.
Barack Obama on the issues, The New York Times' endorsement, and a Wikipedia list of other endorsements.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Instead of rambling on and on about how much I disagree with John McCain's platform, and how much of a monster Sarah Palin is, I thought I'd just point to a couple of particularly good things I've read lately (surely more will be added over time) and hope that you take comfort from the smart that's still out there... somewhere... on this pale blue dot...
Sarah Palin's Shotgun Politics, The Nation
ARRRGH, FINE!! I’LL WRITE AN ESSAY ABOUT SARAH PALIN!!, The 1585
Alaska's biggest political rally
Point/Counterpoint, The Onion
Also, for more humor: some strongly worded sarcasm from The Beast.
Sarah Palin is a strong, successful woman. She is an example of how women can rise to the top, certainly. But her womanhood and her motherhood are the last reasons that you should vote for her. If you agree with her, if you really think that the earth is only 6000 years old and that personal medical decisions are the business of everyone except for you and that children who receive so-called abstinence only "sex education" won't have sex before marriage and that your gay friends can totally "fix" themselves through prayer and if you hate polar bears, then by all means vote for the McCain/Palin ticket.
However, if you think that science is kind of neat and you think it's important to recognize that cavemen and dinosaurs did not exist concurrently and if you like deciding for yourself whether and when you have children and if you're kind of partial to a variety of books in your library and if you think that vindictive inexperienced "irresponsible and flat-out dangerous leadership" is not exactly what we should have for America, then you know what to do.
And actually, it's even simpler than that: cast your vote for the candidate whose vice presidential pick can correctly pronounce the word "nuclear."
Beauty and the Beast, by Joann Wypijewski
Lipstick on a Wing Nut, by Katha Pollitt
Palin Problem, byy Kathleen Parker
Palin Is Ready? Please., by Fareed Zakaria
And something a little more lighthearted: Let Me Get This Straight (sarcastic internet comparison, no sources listed)
Check it out: Google 2001. Search the Google archives from 2001 and see if you had an internet presence at the beginning of the century! Me, all I have is Charger Bulletin stuff and when I click on the link, the pages have been deleted from the UNH site. Guess who else has no internet presence in 2001? Sarah Palin. To be fair, though, "hockey mom" gets a bunch of hits, but "pitbull with lipstick" gets only one.
When Sisterhood Is Suicide and Other Late Night Thoughts by Robin Morgan (long, but worth the read)
Actually about McCain, but the point is the same: Make-Believe Maverick, by Tim Dickinson
Sarah’s Pompom Palaver, by Maureen Dowd
The choice is clear. Vote Bigfoot/Nessie in '08!!
summary of debates so far
all together now!!
Nice Peter's Ode to Sarah Palin
Lynda Carter says Palin is the anti-Wonder Woman
Gina Gershon is HOT!
Palin as President (point and click)
Why Sarah Palin is Bad for American Women
What’s the difference between Sarah Palin's mouth and her vagina? ...Only some of the things that come out of her vagina are retarded.
Palin is “Hardcore Pro-Life” (duh, but this is very well written, especially the part about Palin and Dobson being raging fucking hypocrites)
Sarah Palin's War on Science, by Christopher Hitchens
Monday, October 20, 2008
The next time you get an e-mail or see a MySpace bulletin or someone shares a story with you, just stop and think for a second. And then check it out. What with the internet and all these days, it’s pretty easy to check the veracity of all kinds of claims, from cancer-causing deodorants and Koran-swearing-in Senators to telephone scams, deadly light bulbs and dog poisonings. Don’t assume that an e-mail you receive is real -in fact, assume the opposite and nine times out of ten, you’ll be right.
When you get a forwarded e-mail, especially one that claims “I saw this on Good Morning America” or “This could save your life” or “This is real, I checked it” but doesn’t have a link, just check it out. There are plenty of sites to do this, specifically:
And you can even just Google something and find out pretty quickly whether it’s real or not. Heck, I’m sure the MythBusters have a show about half of them.
So, if you get something in the mail, check it out before just sending it on and spreading more garbage on the internet. When you discover it is crap, please ask whomever sent it to you not to spread this kinds of false assertions around, regardless of the subject.
And if you do choose to send something without checking it out, DON’T SEND IT TO ME. I already know it’s not true and you’re wasting your time and it will make me want to kill you a little.
This is especially important now, during an election year, when rumors and bullshit are running rampant on the internet, in the news media, and by word of mouth from people who should know better. So, knock it off. Stop believing garbage and nonsense just because someone sends it to you or tells you they read it somewhere. Make them give you a source, and then make them feel stupid for spreading around ignorance when you discover they are wrong. The time for patience and coddling is long past. We are too close to the election and the issues are too serious to take lightly. Don’t let people get away with spreading lies: check things out and make sure you correct people when they are wrong. Don’t be the asshole, too.
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one things of changing himself. - Leo Tolstoy
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
No, I’m sorry, my marriage is not defined by anyone else’s and it is certainly not endangered by other loving couples pledging to devote themselves to one another, regardless of the sex of those other couples. And neither is yours.
Andy’s always telling people not to get married. Mostly for humor’s sake, and mostly because he doesn’t want to lose friends to marriage and children and all that nonsense, but he’s also partially serious. Not because our marriage is particularly horrible (this is my hope, anyway!), but I think he does it out of concern that too many people get married for all the wrong reasons and never stop to think about whether they really want to or whether they should.
As a matter of fact, the idea of marriage is far more threatened when a man and woman are forced to marry because they have found themselves pregnant (especially when they were denied the means or understanding of how to protect themselves from just such an occurrence and then forced into a union they do not want, not to mention quite possibly a lifetime of unhappiness and regret).
My marriage is insulted by a man who allows himself to be badgered into proposing to and marrying his girlfriend simply because that is what society (and her friends and their coworkers) expects of him, regardless of the fact that he doesn’t want to marry anyone and probably doesn’t even really like her that much, let alone love her.
My marriage is undermined by people who get married for the sake of getting married, expecting a fairy tale, expecting everything to suddenly be miraculously magically perfect even though it wasn’t before, because they don’t understand what a marriage is about.
My marriage is slighted by people who demand to get married and throw a ridiculous wedding they cannot afford because it’s been their dream since childhood, and find themselves suddenly further in debt when they couldn’t pay their bills to begin with.
My marriage is affronted by such phrases as “bridezilla” and “diamonds are forever” and “postnuptial depression.”
My marriage is mocked by those who think having a baby or getting a pet will somehow make their relationship better, by couples who can’t communicate their needs and wants to each other in anything other than sarcasm and screaming, by people who have to take medication just to be decent to each other, by people who honestly believe their partner is a fool and yet feel obligated to stay with them because it’s “the right thing” or “the expected thing.”
Everyone’s marriage is diminished by multi-million dollar celebrity weddings and by the split-second Hollywood nuptials of people like Britney Spears and Nicholas Cage, the multiple marriages of people like Mickey Rooney and Zsa Zsa Gabor and Billy Bob Thornton -not to mention Jessica Simpson and Shanna Barker and Carmen Electra (note to self: never agree to a reality television show starring my marriage).
Now, these are the things that and the people who shame and disgrace marriage. This is what shows marriage in a bad light. This is what will be the "downfall of society," as they anti-gay-marriagers like to claim about getting gay married. Well, maybe we should spend a little more time looking inward and deciding what is wrong with our own lives and our own relationships that makes them so fragile as to be threatened by two consensual adults professing their love for one another in a way that is recognized by the state.
Monday, September 29, 2008
So yeah, I’ve decided, if I ever do come to regret my decision and find that I want a child of my very own, Ghost Boy it is!
...That said, I have really got to stop watching Ghost Hunters. Somebody save me from myself!
Friday, September 26, 2008
I highly recommend Project Vote Smart, where you can read candidate platforms, decisions, backgrounds, speeches, endorsements, issue positions and voting records, as well as those of their running mates, as available.
Also, VA Joe Candidate Calculator and Vote Help Candidate Calculator are invaluable resources for help determining which candidate most closely matches your positions.
Granted, I am highly biased and firmly entrenched in my decision for this year's election, but I still think it's essential for everyone to look at the information and come to his or her own conclusions.
When I hear that people are voting for McCain based only on the sex of his VP nominee, that "she's a mother and I'm a mother so she must understand me," that "I like Alaska so I like her," etc. that, to me, is missing the point. Whether or not a person is suited for public office is not based on their ability to conceive (or over-conceive) or the color of their skin. It is their background and experience, their platform, their values, their stance on the issues, their ability to comprehend science, their ability to separate their religion from their politics.
This is a very important election at a very important time in our country and I cannot fathom that there are people who do not feel strongly one way or another about the outcome. While I do not understand people who are on the "other side of the aisle," I can respect their decision if they are voting based on their understanding of the issues involved and they truly feel that the other candidate is really the better choice. However, I cannot respect the decision, while people certainly do have this choice, not to vote. How can you not be outraged, one way or the other? What has our system of politics in this country come to when there are people now, today, in this climate, who are actually ambivalent about the candidates? How can you not be completely appalled?
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
There is something steadying and comforting about ritual. A group of like-minded people coming together to perform an action designed to send good things out into the universe, an individual going through familiar motions on a regular basis to commune with nature or deity… I understand all of this, and I have attended many an open circle and sabbat ritual in my day. I am interested in the history of different cultures and have read books from many religions, but mostly I’ve focused on the pagan traditions because their beliefs most closely align with mine (do no harm, respect for self, respect for nature, respect for others, no baby-eating…). For a long time I considered myself a pagan witch, because the pagan belief system made sense to me and I was comfortable with it. As I get on in years, though, I haven’t been as drawn to the ritual and ceremony as I once was. I am also not comfortable pretending to believe in deity, including deity in my rituals and attending rituals where deities are summoned or addressed. Perhaps the emphasis on god(s) and goddess(es) overwhelms what comfort I might draw from the familiarity of ritual (unless, of course, we are worshipping the god/desses Godiva, Ghirardelli and Sara Lee).
Maybe the real turning point came when I took a class about “Ancient Languages and the 2012 Prophecies” (possibly the last class I didn’t quit after one session). I was just interested to see what the different cultures say about the supposed 2012 doomsday, but the class was more focused on showing us a lot of different ancient languages and telling us why the prophecies can’t really be understood anyway because we look at them from the wrong perspective. The teacher did impress upon us the importance of critical thinking, which I thought was good, and that we shouldn’t take prophecies on face value (especially supposed Native American prophecies where the earliest know teller is a white Christian preacher man -hmmm…) without doing more research about them -which is true of just about anything, of course. But I didn’t want to do the research, I just wanted to be taught about them, that’s why I took the class.
However, the point is: we watched a History Channel program (“Doomsday: 2012” was the name, I’m pretty sure) which featured, among other people, Dr. Michael Shermer (Executive Director of the Skeptics Society). As soon as he appeared on the screen, the other women in my group immediately sucked in their breath and rolled their eyes and pretty much shut down, refusing to listen until he was no longer talking.
Wait a minute! Wasn’t the class supposed to be about objective viewpoints and getting all of the information before making snap judgments? Who better to provide an example of critical thinking than Dr. Shermer? And aren’t pagans as a whole supposed to be an understanding, accepting and tolerant sort? When we close our minds to others’ points of view, especially if they diverge from the way we want to see the world, we are being just the same as those we purport to differ from!
I was attracted to paganism because I liked the tolerance that pagans (usually) have for one another and for the world. I like the caring and the feeling of community. I like that pagans are nice and generous and compassionate. Sadly, I don’t see much of that from other religions, and increasingly I find that just beneath the surface of many pagans lies the snarky holier-than-thou attitude I find rampant throughout religious belief.
I remain interested in nature, environmentally and ecologically, and am still in agreement with the sound morals and principles held by most pagans, but I find it difficult to mesh my logical scientific side with a faith path that is so influenced by deity. More and more I am drawn to the rational science put out by people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Phil Plait and P.Z. Myers, and the ethical principals espoused by Paul Kurtz’s secular humanism -all the good and happy and realism that I liked about paganism, but without the deity.
Too many people go blindly into the night, following the belief path they think they should without ever stopping to determine whether it is right for them. Too many people open their mouths and let unsubstantiated nonsense spew out (or, often worse, forward it via the internet) without stopping to think that maybe what they’re saying and posting isn’t completely true and that maybe they ought to do some of their own research on the matter to get a better understanding of the real situation.
I went along for a time seeing deity as a metaphor, using terms like “Great Cosmic Universe” and “Cosmic Feminine” and “Masculine Principle” to refer to aspects generally covered by one god or goddess or another, but more and more I realize that I just can’t pretend to understand what people mean when they think there is a literal Goddess looking out for them and caring for them. I don’t believe in the Christian God, don’t believe that He directs or influences anything or even exists, why would I suspend rational thought for the pagan deities?
So I don’t. My beliefs are more tangible and rational and easier to meld without a deity of any sort (Christian or pagan, literal or metaphorical) involved. Unless there is some sort of atheistic pagan path out there (and if there isn’t a Facebook Group for it, it can’t exist, right?), then I’m going to have to start correcting people from now on when they call me a witch [I’m not a witch, I’m your wife! But after what you just said, I’m not even sure I want to be that anymore! -sorry, couldn’t be helped]. Sorry, guys, I’m just not feeling it anymore.
Not sure what label fits me best (atheist? secular humanist? critical thinker? bright? non-religious? irreligious? faith-free? rationalist? planetary ethicist? reality-based?) at the moment (though apparently I’ve been dubbed an “Avon wife” without my knowledge or consent), so I’ll have to get back to you on that and in the meantime leave you to question why we really need faith/unfaith labels anyway -can’t we all just be nice to each other?
Monday, September 22, 2008
Well, this is me, taken directly from my Facebook page because I don't feel like being inventive right now:
What is there to talk about? I should write more than I do, drink less than I do, eat differently than I do, talk nicelier and more eloquently than I do, watch TV less than I do, be more politically active than I do, commune with nature more often than I do, believe in myself more than I do, try harder than I do, sit on the couch less than I do, grow more in my garden than I do... About me? I am far less and far more and far meaner and far lazier than I should be. Blessed be.
I'm child-free, pet-free, pro-choice, bleeding-heart liberal, atheist-ish, college educated, incredibly opinionated, passionate... I subscribe to the theory of evolution (much as I subscribe to the theory of gravity) and equality and kindness and patience and sex ed and science and free choice ...I'm also hateful and spiteful and ridiculous. But it's part of my charm.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Why is it that parents feel the need to DRIVE their children to the BUS STOP?? I can understand accompanying a small child to the bus stop, especially for the first few days, to ensure they actually make it to the stop and get on the bus without falling in a storm grate of something and heck, some schools even require a parental wave before letting the kids off the bus after school, but there is a difference between accompanying your child, and BEING SUCH A LAZY ASS THAT YOU ACTUALLY START THE CAR AND DRIVE HALF A BLOCK TO THE BUS STOP, and then you have the nerve to sit there in the car with the WINDOWS CLOSED AND THE ENGINE RUNNING talking on your cell phone and probably wearing Crocs or flip flops or some hideous mutant combination of the two while you wait for the bus in the sixty degree weather!!! I mean, come on, it’s NICE out! Walk the little urchin down to the bus stop of it can’t get there by itself. I can understand the car thing if it’s, like, twenty below, but in that case maybe if you have all this time to sit around at the bus stop anyway with your car running, you might as well just drive the damn kid all the way to school!
Seriously, child-rearing requires patience and dedication and determination and hard work (or, at least, it should), but it shouldn’t require coddling and stifling your child in a closed-up van because you’re just too damn lazy to walk your dumb ass down to the corner, thereby setting a good example, burning a calorie or two and diminishing your carbon footprint.
So, like, knock it off.
Okay, fine. I give up. I give in. Whatever. Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t I? And if everyone else jumped off a bridge, Lauren, would you do that, too? Probably. It’d be damn lonely on this planet without anyone else about (or, abuut, as our neighbors to the north so charmingly say). So yeah, I’d jump off the bridge. But I’d read all the books first. And eat all the chocolate. And then I’d jump.
And so, I jump. Headlong, footloose, fancy-free (insert cute descriptor here) into the dreaded and long-avoided world of blogging.
Weeks ago, post-pointless rant about the stupids on the internet, Andy says to me (he says), “maybe you should just write a blog.” And you know what? He was right. I should just. And then yesterday Sarah said I would “do well with a blog,” and that I was the right about of smart and angry for it. Well, thanks. More angry than smart, no doubt, but we have Ross for the smart. And I’m not running for office so I don’t so much need smarts. Or maybe smarts aren’t actually a prerequisite? Ah, more on (moron?) that later.
I am an angry person. I don’t deny that. Stupid people make me angry -and there are a lot stupid people out there these days. (What keeps me going, really, is the hope that for every stupid person rattling off about nonsense they don’t actually understand, there are two or three smart people with sense enough to stay quiet.)
I consider myself a smart person. Sort of smart, anyway. But not smart enough to stay quiet, I guess. And when I find myself posting witty diatribes about how the educated voter is a good voter and that maybe two men getting married to each other doesn’t actually threaten you or your relationship or your little insular world in any way, I am personally attacked and derided for daring to have an opinion. Well, screw that. I need a place to spew my anger, where I can pretend I’m having an impact, but where no one can contradict me.
Even though I consider myself a writer (majored in it, creatively, in high school; worked for the newspaper in college; still eek out the occasional sorry excuse for a poem now and then -have you seen my Good Reads page?), I have long avoided the world of the blog (blogosphere? is that it?). Maybe because I didn’t figure anyone would be interested in what I have to say. But then, probably 90% of the bloggers out there have nothing to say and yet they keep saying it. Maybe because my first blog experience was from a ‘friend’ who pretty much posted her diary on-line for the world to see, and I’m just not comfortable sharing that sort of information. Who wants to know what I had for breakfast (although this morning I had Chocolate Underground yogurt and I have to repeat in case you haven’t heard: it’s 220 calories of AWESOME!!!!) or that I forgot to put in earrings or that I’m having a deeply personal issue that I really shouldn’t share publicly or that we’re out of bacon or that I’m sad because my sandwich is soggy? No one, that’s who.
Was it Mark Twain or Abraham Lincoln who said the thing about keeping silent and being thought a fool rather than speak and remove all doubt? Well, I like to think I’m not a fool but there are so many other fools speaking, I might as well add my voice to the clatter. Especially since I know the difference between “bread” and “breed.” Besides, “Who can protest and does not, is an accomplice in the act.” So this lady is going to protest. Maybe too much, but so it goes.
And so here it is: Lauren’s belated entrance to blogging.