Amoeblog

HAPPY ASCENSION DAY!!!

Posted by Job O Brother, June 2, 2011 12:42pm | Post a Comment




Happy Ascension Day, Mortals!

Today is the perfect day to fire up the barbeque, emulsify marshmallows in their own, meaty juices, make necklaces out of macaroni and firecrackers and teeth, roast corn on the cobweb, take pictures of your auntie, run through the sprinklers praising God in His infinite wisdom for creating a world and people that would one day invent sprinklers which must therefore be a part of His Divine Plan for the Glory of All, post pictures of your auntie online, bob for apples without safety pins hidden inside them by your heathen neighbors next door, pop popcorn, scream for ice cream, sing hymns, taunt your auntie by telling her the pictures of her have gone viral and now her privacy will be compromised, her bank accounts plundered, and her likeness will be used by terrorists to bring down the American Government, jump on a trampoline and pretend you're ascending yourself, make peace with zombies, fly a kite, cut some ribbon, pick up litter, drink the salty/sweet tears from your auntie's quivering cheek-beds.

And enjoy these Ascension Day tunes!












(In which we learn the true story of St. Patrick.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 14, 2010 06:52pm | Post a Comment

Rad.

I’ve only just returned from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) where I spent the morning with my pal, Señor Danger. I was eager to visit one of their current exhibits, American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765–1915, because it showcases one of my favorite works, Watson and the Shark, by hunky bad boy John Singleton Copley.

I’ll be honest: there was a moment when Señor Danger and I silently tried to work out a plan where we could sneak the painting out under my jacket or something, but my jacket isn’t 35 feet wide, so we opted to just stand there and marvel at it a bit.

The exhibit is fantastic, and anyone who can should check it out. I realize that most people don’t live in Los Angeles, but still, make an effort. As an added incentive, anyone who travels to the LACMA from more than 100 miles away gets a free Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army revolver autographed by Mary Pickford!*

This Wednesday is Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s also the birthday of Nat “King” Cole, John Wayne Gacy, Seneca St. James, Emperor Shijō, and Nalii DeLap. What do all these people have in common? Uh, their birthdays are all on St. Patrick’s Day – are you paying attention or what?


For many of us, St. Patrick’s Day is a mildly amusing 24 hours, most commonly marked by drinking beer the color of anti-freeze and getting to pinch and touch fellow co-workers without being sued for sexual harassment. But this day means more – so much more. So very much more. More. Much.

Much.

The history behind St. Patrick’s Day is rich, and vital to understanding the psyche of the Irish, for whom March 17 is a national holiday. (I don't have anything to substantiate this claim of Irish psychology, but that's okay because... of... um... OH WOW LOOK!!!)


(Taken from his Grindr profile)

Almost nothing factual is known about St. Patrick. Thankfully, this has never stopped the Catholic Church from deifying, believing and creating rules and tradition based upon someone. What we do know is that he was born into a wealthy, Romano-British family whose pottery collection was the envy of every patrician across the Isles.

One day, while dressing up like corned beef & cabbage, he was kidnapped by a gang of hungry Irishmen who shipped him to Mayo, Ireland. While working part-time as a slave, Patrick had a dream in which God told him he should escape his imprisonment. (It’s interesting to note that Patrick didn’t  come up with this idea on his own. I mean, really – you needed Divine Intervention for that? Do you think Jesus also descended from Heaven and advised Patrick to eat food using his mouth and not his elbows? Or to never stick harpoons into his eyes? There’s certain common sense concepts for which we shouldn’t have to rely on mystic visions to comprehend. But I digress…)

Patrick followed God’s suggestion and escaped back to Britain. He eventually got a job being a bishop (which was good – provided full health and dental) and spent his time saving souls from an eternal damnation of hellfire and collecting thimbles.


"God appeared to me and said I should never try to kiss these."

In 432 AD (the same year that saw the death of everyone’s favorite emperor, 赫連定 - boo hoo!) Bishop Patrick returned to Ireland to convert its people to Christianity and maybe grab a tour of the Guinness Brewery. While he wasn’t the most successful of all the early Missionaries, he was the only one that could crack his knuckles two different ways.


Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, assigning one leaf each to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (This is the origin of our association with shamrocks and St. Patrick’s.) One day, when teaching this very lesson, he unwittingly used a rare, four-leaf clover, which resulted in their being one leaf extra. When the crowd of pagans listening to him asked what the extra leaf represented, Patrick, on the spot, blurted out that it represented his Aunt Gina.

“How is she an equal to God?” the crowd asked.

“Well,” Patrick fumbled, “She’s sweet and... just... she makes real good scones.”

The crowd was displeased with this answer and insisted that their local baker, Dáirine Cétchathach, made the best scones ever – they even had a bit of jelly in the middle “which ye wouldst find most yummy” – prompting those gathered to begin worshipping at the bakery, where the Eucharist was administered on disposable paper doilies with a sprinkling of powdered sugar meant to symbolize the suffering of Our Lord on the Cross, and cappuccinos were sipped to represent His Blood (sugar cubes Transubstantiated into Jesus’ body were optional).

Patrick flew into a rage and threw the four-leaf clover to the ground.

“This turn of events is most unlucky!” he cried to his secretary, a hearing impaired man who quickly made note of this.

Years later, everything that’s happened so far in history took place and that’s how we came to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day now.


And that's the true history behind St. Patrick's Day (except for the untrue parts). Yippee.


*Offer not valid to children under 4 years of age, the sight impaired, pregnant women, or anyone else at all.

(Wherein winter records receive writings.)

Posted by Job O Brother, December 16, 2008 11:32am | Post a Comment

It’s finally chilly in Hollywood. I mean, I still have my French windows open wide, but it’s about as cold as it ever gets, with breezes blowing from my hometown in the north, Nevada City, where loved ones are covered in white blankets of snow. (That’s a metaphor – probably very few of them have bed-sheets constructed of crystalline water ice.)

My friends in Nevada City, Jaime, Alison and Dan made a snowman. I don’t get that pleasure here. I suppose I could make a clumps-of-dying-grass-cigarette-butts-and-dog-feces man, but who has that kind of time? I have a blog to write!


Here's a picture of the snowman my friends made.
The best part will be watching him slowly melt over the next couple weeks.

My choices in music are always influenced by weather. When it’s hot city in the summertime, I’ll gravitate towards artists such as Stephen Malkmus, Thin Lizzy, or Sly & The Family Stone. If it’s a rainy day, you can bet some Siouxsie & The Banshees will be trilling from my stereo. I look out the window and see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trampling the Hills with all the fury of Heaven and Hell as they take the stage for a final battle in which every human soul will come to greet its eternal home in either the awesome glory of the Almighty God or the foul depths of Hell as lorded over by the king of wickedness, Satan, and more often than not I’ll play a little Burt Bacharach. Because it’s always a good time for a little Burt.


Don't make me over.

What do I play when it’s cold outside? Of course holiday music would be appropriate, but I never, never, ever listen to Christmas music when I’m alone. I’ve haven't asked myself why; it’s just something I noticed. There’s something somehow… lonely and… I don’t know. I guess I feel like people who listen to Christmas music alone are the same people who don’t get married – just get more cats. Am I wrong? I’m open to the possibility. And if you’re someone who does listen to Christmas music alone and I’ve offended you, you should write and set me straight. You owe it to your future kittens.

One thing I like to hear in winter are precious, 1960’s folk/pop lasses from Great Britain. An obvious choice is Marianne Faithfull, who, before descending into a (brief and thankfully conquered) foray into heroin, made some fabulous recordings in what was at first a somehow smoldering soprano (her voice, like Joni Mitchell’s, would eventually become lower and lower thanks to devoted smoking habits).


Another artist I fancy is Barbara Ruskin, who recorded perky songs about cats roaming streets and postal workers drinking tea and isn’t it lovely how horses and flowers and dreams and look a red balloon God Save the Queen. I’m paraphrasing here. She actually wrote much of her own music, which was unique in her time. Unfortunately, I’m unable to find any video clips of her music, or even some sound research on her. Why? Well, here’s a link to a song, anyway.


"Someone's stolen my guitar! I shall write a very cross song about it, indeed!"
Barbara Ruskin in her hey-day

Mary Hopkin I like for a little while. One side of one album is about all I ever want from her. Paul McCartney produced her debut album, which was one of the first releases from Beatles-founded Apple Records, and it included one hit which you may recognize from its constant play in most cafés which utilize cable radio:


Sandie Shaw is good fun. Her choices of songs are often grin-inducing, as she lends her feminine coolness to such records as “Lay Lady Lay” and “Sympathy for the Devil.”


She would enjoy a new generation of fans when Morrissey and Johnny Marr of The Smiths encouraged her to perform with them and cover their material.

Petula Clark is undoubtedly more square than the above artists, but I would be remiss not to include her here. The 1970’s would see a more polished, pop sound from this English superstar, but in the 1960’s she could smartly warble a folksy ditty. Of particular note are her French language recordings. They tend to be more produced and money than any Yé-yé contemporaries, but still hold some delight for me.


Lastly, there’s Burt Bacharach. While he was mostly never a British woman singing folk/pop, you’ll recall (if you were paying attention) that it’s always a good time for a little Burt…


Music like this makes me crave cocoa. No small feat, considering I don’t like cocoa. Odd, I know, but true. It’s too much like soup to me, and I don’t like soup. Soup spelled backwards is “puos.” Gross! I don’t eat puos. That’s just disgusting.

FAVOURITE SUMMER MOVIE SO FAR

Posted by Charles Reece, June 8, 2008 11:07pm | Post a Comment
What's the difference between North Korea and Heaven? You can at least die and escape North Korea.  A friend directed me to this debate from April 7th between Christopher Hitchens and his younger brother, Peter. I had a good time with the Hitchens family (as I always do), so I figured I'd pass the video along.

OPENING ARGUMENTS ON THE IRAQ WAR

Peter:


Christopher:


OPENING ARGUMENTS ON THE GOD PROPOSITION

Christopher:


Peter:


Those were, in order, parts 2, 3, 5 and 6. You can find the other parts here.

Christmas: My Wish Is For 'Less' Instead of 'More'

Posted by Charles Reece, December 25, 2007 06:31pm | Post a Comment
When he wasn’t drinking in pubs and shooting billiards, the greatest Scotsman who ever lived, David Hume, took apart human reasoning, piece by piece.  Of particular relevance to the holiday season, in his essay, "Of Miracles," he critiqued one the foundational chestnuts of the Christian tradition.  In order for something to be a miracle, it must be supernatural.  If it's truly supernatural, then it's beyond natural laws.  If it's beyond natural laws, then it's a violation of anything we humans have the capability of understanding or reasoning about -- is, in other words, beyond rationality.  A Christianity without miracles isn't much of a religion, since all of it's basic beliefs become, at best, metaphors for natural phenomena (virgin birth, resurrection, et al. would be just strange ways of talking about more pedestrian subjects that we all know occur under natural laws).  Thus, Christianity isn't rational. At best, it's nonrational (as opposed to merely irrational), the belief being what's called fideistic, which is the act of accepting a proposition (like 'there is a god') without sufficient evidence, or, really, any evidence at all, because of the supposed value in faith itself.  Many Christians don't like this approach, but it's hard to see any other viable alternative.  Of those who bite the bullet and continue to believe, the most famous are:

Blaise Pascal, who argued that one should believe in a god because if there is a god, the possible reward for being right outweighs the possible punishment for being wrong and you don't get jackshit if you're right about there not being one.












William James, who argued in absence of definitive evidence one way or the other, one shouldn't just be skeptical of both propositions (there is or isn't a god) for doing so misses out on any good that might obtain from either being true (although he seems to focus more on the good of the affirmative).  One can't wait until definitive proof to trust every person one meets without having an incredibly impoverished existence, and the question of a god places a similar demand on an individual.   The noncommittal agnostic will burn in hell just like the determined atheist after all, so suck it up and be a man.








Søren Kierkegaard, who argued, as best I can tell, that the qualitative difference in the act of becoming a Christian was for him, at least, enough of a reason to have faith in a god.  Justification comes from the Christian acting good because of his faith, rather than any foundational assumption about the necessity of Christianity.  (Ludwig Wittgenstein had a similar approach to the majority of human activities, so there is a group of fideistic Christians out there calling themselves Wittgensteinian, even though it's doubtful Wittgenstein was one himself.)






I don't much find this approach very convincing as it's more an argument that some practical advantage might come your way if you do believe than any sort of reason for believing.  You're better off in a theocracy pretending to believe in the mandated god, but pretense isn't the same as actual belief (minus CLOCKWORK ORANGE-styled brainwashing).  Who gives a shit if religious belief leads to a longer life, as has been reported in some scientific research?  You can’t just turn on belief for a life extension.  Hell,  it might be the religious context in which the nonreligious have to live which contributes to their early grave (cf., the Inquisition).  Honesty isn't very pragmatic for achieving power.  Morality isn't likely to get you rich.  Perspicacity rarely leads to bliss.  So in the spirit of giving, here are some intellectuals who have taken a stand:


Bertrand Russell, who doesn't sound like he was the nicest of fellows, but he gave good argument, nonetheless.  His classic anti-Christian tract is Why I Am Not a Christian, wherein he takes to task all of the famous theological arguments for God (as in the one who used to not have any true vowels to his name, not some aberration with multiple arms or a big dumb guy with a hammer).












Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in an interview about his atheism and his general scientistic belief that not much else other than science gives us a truth worth considering.















Another scientistic thinker, bearing a striking resemblance to Saint Nick, is Daniel C. Dennett, who uses philosophy as the little yapping dog to Dawkin's big dog of science, Spike.  In the link he talks about faith and its role in a democracy.








The late, great paleontologist Stephen J. Gould referred to the former two's camp as pan-adaptationist, because they (along with other popular scientists like Steven Pinker) attempt to explain all human behavior as a function of natural selection.  That's neither here nor there for this blog entry (except to explain why I keep using 'scientistic' in the place of 'scientific'), but a particularly eloquent opponent to their camp who's no more Christian than they, but far less scientistic is H. Allen Orr, so here are some of his takes on science, religion, Dennett and Dawkins, plus an exhange with Dennett.



And, finally, all-around curmudgeon, Christopher Hitchens gives us some yule-tide warmth and season's greetings.














Also, coming out on Jan. 7th, a conversation between Dennett, Dawkins, Hitchens and Sam Harris:





















Merry Tuesday.
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