Sunday, April 24, 2011

Let the products sell themselves, Round 2 - Idiot Businessman of Zombie Week

This week's award has to go to Dr. Rick Jackson of Gentle Dentistry of Oak Grove, bearing this mind-blowing and philosophically unassailable mantra on his marquee:

"Jesus Did It / The Bible Tells It / I Believe It / That Settles It"

(Insert Keanu Reeves reaction here)

I especially like how such Truthiness(tm) is supposed to be more convincing if it rhymes or has some kind of juvenile parallelism to it.  I wonder what he could have posted for Passover... "Rub-a-dub-dub / Thanks for the grub / Yay god", perhaps?  Maybe someday we'll see, "C is for Cookie / That's good enough for me"...then again, advertising cookies is probably worse for business than advertising your crazy personal beliefs.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

No, Mr. Durant - no, he didn't.

A quick note to Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder - your "lord and savior" did not, in fact, put you in place to win Game 1 of your playoff series.  To say nothing of all the other people who did actually contribute to the team being where it is (fans, ownership, employees, coaches, teammates, the people in Seattle who bailed on the Zombie Sonics), it's awfully crass and solipsistic - that means self-absorbed, O King of the One-and-Done - to think the universe's creator cares so dearly about your heroics at the expense of, say, people on Denver's sideline who likely believe a similar version of the same nonsense you spouted.  And besides, you know, there's no better way to show how great the Sky Daddy is than to throw a bit of leather through a metal ring.  

I hoped this crap would be mitigated by the NFL's league-wide ban on the sort of ridiculousness Tim Tebow displayed in college, but no, it just migrated west.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Must-see TV that isn't mere hype

AKA, House comes through, just when I felt certain it should have been canceled at the end of last season...

For fans of Hugh Laurie and fans of House in general, the last couple of seasons have been frustrating.  They pulled the trigger on the House/Cuddy relationship that never needed to happen.  House is back on Vicodin, surprise surprise.  Certain members of the cast - Jesse Spencer and Robert Sean Leonard in particular - seem M.I.A. in terms of real character development as Amber Tamblyn's newbie hogs the attention (though more deservedly so in the last few episodes).  And meanwhile, the writing has, for quite some time, seemed phoned-in and flaccid - not the sort of thing one needs to hear about what is possibly the most formulaic show currently being aired.  When the episode structure is straight from a Screenwriting for Dummies book, the actual dialogue and plot cannot be.  A little part of me has longed for a mercy-kill for a while; euthanize House, please, FOX.

And then what do they do?  They bring back Olivia Wilde, who seems like she's a much better actress than when she left the show to do Cowboys and Aliens (or perhaps she had this built up, knowing how they'd bring her back), they ratchet up the funny with House's side plot, and they write a show about euthanasia.  The Kuttner episode ("Simple Explanation") was, until now, one of the episodes you could show people to say that television, for all its screwed-up tendencies, can say something significant (in that case, regarding an unexplained suicide).  But, "The Dig" probably has that one beat.

It's been a long time in coming, though, and the payoff here was somewhat unexpected: that 13 is still relatively healthy was probably not predicted by many when the character vanished in the season premiere.  But it's a solid payoff, given how carefully the character has been handled all along, and the moments of honesty and truth and difficulty that we see out of House & 13 as they come to terms with what's happened and what they have faced (and will face, apparently), are moments that send an important message to the viewer: that death with dignity is of utmost concern to the dying person, and, compared to that, the wishes and qualms and morals of anyone else are, at best, a lot of selfish bluster.  

There are few marks against this nation and this society that are more shameful, more hideous, and more cancerous than our continued allergy to choice, not just in this realm but in so many others.  One would sincerely hope that the greatly enjoyable efforts of House's cast and crew will not go to waste, that the cause of choice in dying will be advanced by this brave and genuine effort.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Let the products sell themselves - without Jesus, preferably.

One of the more absurd local trends is the need for branding, of a sort: the self-identification of business owners as Christians, whether by putting those idiotic fishies on their storefronts or just as often by tossing a verse number onto their marquees.  Or there are stories like this one, where some mouth-breather wonders how his own foot tastes and reveals what sort of person and businessman he really is.

Thing is, we get it.  It's bloody South Carolina.  We know you're there.  It's like telling people you inhale and exhale...only what you're really saying is that you'd prefer not to breathe the same air as those of us who disagree with your crazy bullshit.  So, good on ya, I guess: sure, you scoop up the business of your fellow god-botherers, but it also turns off others.  Intentionally so...but there is a statistical confluence between belief and education level, and the more educated *do* tend to make -- and therefore have the potential to spend -- more money.  So, there's that.

But really, the point here is to build up a little compendium of all the businesses who take this quietly cynical tack of flaunting their religion to make a quick buck.  The one I keep encountering of late is Certified Cars on Highway 378, who spits Psalm 103 & Matthew 1:20 at the rest of us.  The funny thing is that their ignorance appears to be of Biblical proportions as well. Matthew 1:21 is the "thou shalt call his name JESUS~!", which is probably the intended quote they wanted to share, and yet they screwed it up, instead selecting a verse that seems to insinuate it's OK to marry a woman who's already got kids.  Not that I disagree with that message on any level, per se, but I doubt it was Certified's intent.  Good job!

Psalm 103 is a real juicy bugger, too.  My favorite - and possibly Christopher Hitchens' as well, if reminded of it - is in verse 11:
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
It points out what I'd argue is the most crucial aspect of religious thinking: the child-like need to simultaneously love and fear an imaginary friend.  You could go on all day about what's fucked in the head about that: the re-imagining of the parent/child relationship on a cosmic scale; the "perpetual North Korea" aspect that Hitchens has outlined in many of his debates; and the desperate quest for willing servility to any number of things, whether they be demagogues on a pulpit, social mores that are decidedly immoral, or, most perversely, a slew of outmoded mindsets that deliberately excise rationality from the human mind.  That's probably more than Certified wants anyone to dwell on; they just want them to think that you should buy a Jesus Car.  What clowns.

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's the end of the government as we know it, and I feel fine.

Let the government shut down for a bit.

Really.  Let it grind to a halt and see how it falls out for a while.  It ought to serve as a nice empirical test for the Tea Party's absurd notion that public workers are overpaid fat cats; let's find out what happens when 800,000 people are furloughed.  Let's find out what that does to state and local economies.  Let's see how well it works out for consumer spending and the service industry.  The same goes for all those entitled folks nursing at the teat of Social Security, and those slackers siphoning off federal unemployment funds.  The elderly should have planned better, and the lazy should work harder; they could use a little impetus right now, to get out there and really contribute, couldn't they?

This country is getting the government it deserves.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Loony Church Billboard of the Week

From Pineview Baptist Church in West Columbia, SC:

"Jesus Christ is the only hope for humanity"

This seems rather straightforward and predictable on the surface, but, much like yesterday's post, it belies so much that it's worth mentioning.  

From the perspective of the believer, it's all quite sensible: the rules laid out state that belief in all that silliness - everything surrounding divinity, crucifixion, and resurrection - is absolutely necessary to achieve everlasting life.  But let's not even dwell on whether everlasting life is worth having.  Let's not even broach the topic of whether or not Jesus was a real person; you can fish around the Why Evolution Is True blog for Ben Goren's posts, and you'll find he routinely rolls out evidence against that particular bit of crazy.  Instead, let's look at what they're saying to everyone else by putting this out there.

If some long-dead rabble-rouser is "humanity's only hope", then what does that say for all the things we do to improve our lives?  Striving to improve our health?  Waste of time.  Cleaning up environmental messes and trying to find cleaner energy sources?  Bah, run on Jesus Juice!  Scientific research and advancement?  God did it anyway!

But what's truly astounding is the underlying cynicism of such a message, the negativity inherent in telling total strangers that their lives have so little value as to be hopeless without some ancient book, a book that can't even have the decency to be internally consistent.  It takes quite a large disconnect to say something so profoundly rude to someone else and yet believe that it's done for a good cause; it's Lying for Jesus 101, maybe even 001. It's more fear-mongering from a faith that fellates love and peace; it's another bit of emotional blackmail intended to warp the minds of the fearful, the weak, and the marginalized.  And it's absolutely necessary for those who believe such bilge to say such cynical things, as it's nigh impossible to mold some poor sap into the nice, quaint, unquestioning little Jesus Juicer you want unless you first break their spirit and resolve.  When selling snake oil, you must first convince the buyers of that awful, otherwise-intractable disease they're carrying around all the time.

Believers will drive right by this billboard and grin.  I think I'd rather vomit, and it routinely receives a good-luck salute.  And frankly, this is tame for the kind of stuff the church typically posts; I'm sure they'll have some return appearances to this section.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A few intended projects in the coming weeks

For those interested (right now, that being me), I'll be reading through chapters of the King James Bible as well as the Qu'ran, taking a red pen to these allegedly infallible texts.  I've already got a set of notes written up for the ludicrous book known as Genesis, and I may bounce back and forth between suras and parts of the Bible.  Perhaps one each month is a good plan, since it'll keep me from getting so annoyed that I delete either one from my HDD before I finish the project.  The least I can do is finish them both, since I haven't done so yet, and it's good to know what the other side of an argument is.

The posts will probably be titled, "The Literary Critic versus" whichever book/sura is upcoming, so keep an eye out.


There may be aspects of this blog you find offensive - and I am not referring to the content. I strongly urge you to use Firefox to view any content herein, so you may take advantage of its functionality.

And there may be aspects of this blog you find offensive within the content. Well, too bad. Anyone who insists on behaving like a child in response to what I say will find their personal information posted. Expect to be treated precisely as well as you deserve.