Monday, August 31, 2015

A cinematic experiment I'd be curious to see, but we're probably better off if Hollywood doesn't attempt.

Saw White House Down yesterday on TV. Had never heard of it -- nor of its fraternal twin, Olympus Has Fallen -- and only watched out of lazy Sunday afternoon loss of will to channel surf. At the end, was surprised to find it had hooked me, despite being a typical dumb-and-loud actioner, trying to make some scratch off the corpse of Die Hard with maybe a dash of Air Force One thrown in.

Part of the reason I hung in with it was watching the noxious James Woods play the villain. At this stage of his career and celebrity, where his politics are well-known, it's the role he was born to age into. The old saw goes: to be a good villain, the bad guy should think he is the hero. This is what the movie gets exactly right in both the writing and casting of Woods' character -- retiring, terminally ill head of the Secret Service Presidential Detail with extreme right wing politics, forced to serve a black President who is trying to practice diplomacy in the Middle East -- they've given us a villain who could credibly be seen as believing he is right. He believes he, and his fellow conspirators, are going to save the world. It helps that the character's politics, while demented and malevolent, are not hard to find in the real world.

This movie cried out for an alternate version, one that could have been shot at the same time, but where all the cinematic conventions used to identify the hero in this sort of story were used to depict Wood's Martin Walker and Richard Jenkins' House Speaker Eli Raphelson as the heroes, and Channing Tatum's John Cale and Maggie Gyllenhaal's Agent Finnerty as the villains.

To be clear, I'm not saying we need movies with a crypto-fascist heroes. Rather, to have the version we got and my proposed alternate version, both produced with the same budget and rudimentary competence Roland Emmerich achieves with WHD, shown side-by-side would be the perfect object lesson to drive home the point of your Film Studies 101 classes and scores of youtube video essays. Add a few scenes where we get to see Walker's grief over his son's death, remove the scenes where we see Cale with his daughter being a good dad, and you'd be most of the way there. I can pretty much guarantee you the alternate version of this movie would find an adoring audience in the Republican base. They'd probably start forming Martin Walker Societies. (Which is why this should remain a thought experiment.)

You know John McCain (not to mention Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton, and the rest of the #47traitors crowd) would help promote it.

The invisible hand at work, making things efficient. Business as usual ...

H&R Block Lobbied to Make Tax Forms Harder for Low-Income People to Fill Out | Mother Jones
Block lobbying via opensecrets
H&R Block said in a statement last week that "this is not about competitive business interests. It's about reducing fraud and protecting the future of the EITC." 
H&R Block has used the threat of fraud for years in arguing for a more complex tax filing system. In fact, studies have found that the majority of EITC overpayments are the result of unintentional error, not fraud—and research suggests that self-filers are already pretty good at getting it right. As Vox points out, a 2014 IRS study found that EITC claims filed from 2006 to 2008 by paid preparers were more likely to result in overpayments than self-filed claims. 
CBPP's Greenstein also notes that there's a double standard when it comes to tax-preparer companies' advocacy around fraud. The Treasury Department estimates that $16-19 billion was lost in 2014 from EITC overpayments. But the underreporting of business income cost $122 billion in 2006 (the latest year for which data are available) and is the single largest component of uncollected taxes. [emphasis mine]
H&R Block has no interest in protecting the government from fraud. Nor does it have any interest in serving a socially valuable purpose. It is interested is profit, which capitalists will point out is the point of the thing. Block is, not to put to fine a point on it, a predator. A predator that market worshipers will tell you is: (1) serving its natural function, and (2) that function is good for society.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Blogpost of the Week: "How to Disappear Completely" | Fascist Dyke Motors

blogpost of the week

So, while I was lamenting one of the great hardships of my young life -- the broadcast of a shitty Doctor Who story when I was about 13-years-old -- Katy, over at Fascist Dyke Motors, was blogging about how she went from being homeless from the ages 12 to 18, to achieving academic success, and being invited to speak to groups of homeless youth.

*Checking my privilege*

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When it comes to gun control, no more talk is needed. #MMWMMI

Seriously. There's nobody left to convince. We've won the hearts and minds of the public. Polling shows this. [86% support in Virginia for gun control legislation, prior to this morning's on-air shooting] Sure, there are plenty of gun nuts talking shit, but they're a vocal minority. The lunatic fringe.

In the discussion, that lot don't matter. What matters about them is the money they spend on guns and supporting the NRA.

Stop engaging them, it's a waste of time. You won't change their minds and, even if - by some miracle - you did make a breakthrough with one, changing the mind of some rando doesn't change policy. They aren't just talking, they're lining the pockets of guys who profit and set policy.

All that's left for us to do is make our politicians do their fucking jobs. The hearts and minds of their constituents have been won. But, our politicians don't work for us, they work for the money. If we want sensible gun control, we're simply going to have to pay for it. That's how this works.

Rivers of blood and the pleadings of reasonable people aren't enough to bring about change; the lever we need to push is the one labeled "Money and Lobbyists." Therefore, starting with this post, I'm going to flip $10 to the Brady Campaign each time I post or tweet about the need for sensible gun control legislation.

It's no good though unless my money where my mouth is motivates others to do the same. I'm not wealthy, I can't afford to say much. Still, from now on, every time I post something I'm going to remind you that I'm putting my money where my mouth is (#MMWMMI) and, frankly, that you're wasting your time, my time, everybody's time if you're talking about it but aren't putting your money where your mouth is as well.

There are other issues where advocacy may be enough, where we can change minds and policy with ideas and by effective communication of those ideas. Gun control has proven not to be one of those issues. To keep trying without funding the groups that our trying to change policy is to resign yourself to an unending parade of mass shootings, murder-suicides, and accidental death and injury.

Best as I can tell, there are two main lobbying organizations that have done significant work on this front: Everytown for Gun Safety and Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. They need our support. The NRA has our craven political system held at figurative gunpoint to do its will. There is no crime so heinous it will move them off their psychopathic commitment to ensuring we are awash in guns. The Supreme Court has subscribed to the delusions that money is speech and that only the words "shall not be infringed" have any meaning in the 2nd Amendment -- a pair of terrible ideas that are having disastrous effects on our Republic. 

Even if this post accomplishes nothing, I hope what I saw below does.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Announcing: Bigger on the Inside, The World's Smallest #DoctorWho Fanzine (Allegedly)

Tonight, cryptonaut-in-exile is proud (well proud-ish) to announce the launch of a new Doctor Who 'zine, the World's Smallest* Fanzine: Bigger on the Inside!

Like your regular size fanzines, it's got original fiction, useful information, original art and photography, and an essay, of sorts.

So there it is. Digital and paper copies of Issue #1 are free while supplies last!

In fact, if you're interested in contributing to a fanzine, but want to start small. Literally. Reach out to me through the comments, or on twitter, and I'll send you a template/guidelines you can use to create a piece of content that will fit. If your material meets our stringent editorial guidelines, you could be a featured contributor in Issue #2**

Honestly though, it's so small, if you wanted to monkey around and make one of your own, just let me know and I'll send you the template I created and the folding instructions so you can print and make your own.

Got a child that's a fan of Adventure Time or Gravity Falls and wants to start a fanzine with their friends? Use my template and *bam* your little one could be publishing their own 'zine (and burning through all your printer ink) in no time flat! They'll either be publishing magnates, or in trouble for littering, by the end of the week.

* "World's Smallest" claim not verified. 
** Editorial guidelines to be determined. Chances of there being an Issue #2 ... slim.

New ☆ Tweet from @Rachel_Ordway

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Twin Dilemma - "Our genius has been abused."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Twin Dilemma - Details

Season 21, Story 7 (Overall Series Story #137) | Previous - Next | Index

via Flight Through Eternity
What did we do to deserve this, any of us?

Memories are tricky. What we remember isn't the event, but the last time we remembered the event. Our memories are far less reliable than any of us are generally able to admit.

Here's what I remember. Young me, what? 13- or 14-years-old? Finally seeing the first episode of our new Doctor on the night of the highly anticipated debut broadcast on Public TV. We haven't been reading good things. Back then, nobody we knew had seen it, we could only read about reactions on the bulletin boards and in the magazines. It didn't sound promising, but it was still exciting. Youth's optimism.

Saturday after dinner, my grandmother and I watched together, every week. It was our time; nobody else in the family was into it. My grandfather and I shared a love of classic and outlaw country music that he imbued in me, and spent hours together listening in his music room. Hundreds of hours from the time I was a toddler until he passed, that was our time to bond one-on-one. Doctor Who was that for me and my grandma. She passed away more than twenty-five years ago and I still hold our Doctor Who time together dear.

Part of our ritual was that I had my own glass, a nifty little iridescent one that I've kept, and will keep, that I always had a Coke in while we watched. After my grandparents had both passed, it was the one physical object I wanted as an inheritance. It may be the one single physical object in my experience that has an almost magical property: every time I pick it up, it takes me back ... it makes time travel, from now to then, possible.

So, there we were, in our traditional spots, with our traditional beverages. (Hers was a stiff highball.) We were struggling with the opening of "The Twin Dilemma," not comfortable with how it was starting out ... and then the Doctor lost his shit and started to choke Peri. What I remember is that we looked at one another with pained frowns. It was a look that said, "this isn't going to be fun anymore. This ritual, it's going to end." It was heart-breaking. What our show had become, and what it meant for our ritual.

I don't remember how or when it actually ended. We watched more after that, and the timing of the American broadcasts may have meant we got to start over with the Pertwee stories and work through all those classic third and fourth Doctor stories again (we'd already been through them twice, I think) before it we finally stopped. But eventually we did, in any event, I don't remember watching any Sylvester McCoy stories with her. Whenever it was we stopped watching together, the moment we both knew it was to end was the night of that first broadcast of this story. It could never be the same after that night. We were on borrowed time.

That's sort of how growing up happens, right? Something changes, either in us, or in what we had perceived as the rhythm events, changes and we suffer a disconnect from a belief we used to have about how the world works and how we relate to the people and things in it. A new reality overwrites the old reality, but can never fully displace it. We're haunted by loss before loss adapting to new modes of thought that allow us to reconcile what we were and what we did with what we are and what we're doing. We keep inventing new selves, but have an internal narrative that tells us we're still our old self, a story that holds us together. A chapter in that story, the one about a grandson and his grandmother in a story together watching another story -- that chapter ended.

Damn, I hate this one.

Re-watching it for this post, much of it doesn't feel objectively any worse than several of the Davison, or even some of the Tom Baker, stories that dragged due to poor scripting, dismal performances, and dire production values. This domestic violence undertone (if we can even call it an undertone, it's so right there) makes it grimmer than most, but Colin and Nicola play the scene so broad, the choking doesn't really look very brutal, it's got a Punch & Judy staginess that relieves some of the tension. Still, there's no getting away from what it is.


  • The twins playing that "futuristic" board game, that's so obviously a backgammon board that makes no imaginable sense for whatever it is they're doing pushing those pieces around. Indicative of how they're not using the challenge of a low budget to up their creativity, instead just going through the motions of making a show because that's what they're paid to do and screw it if looks like garbage.
  • Colin Baker does as well as you could hope with what he's given. But the way they've dressed him, the lines he's given, everything around him really, it's all impossible to overcome.
  • After attempting to strangle Peri, the Doctor decides to make her his disciple. To take her to some shithole and force her to be his servant. It's even worse than light violence we just saw -- it's the opposite of regret for what he'd done, it's doubling down on destroying her life. We don't just dislike the Doctor in this moment, we're not even worried about this mental stability at this point. We loathe him and want Peri to run for her life.
  • Whoops, I think in the post for "Resurrection of the Daleks" I said something about how we'd heard, "Brave heart, Tegan," for the last time. But, Six says it to Peri here in his confusion. 
  • Asmael is a Time Lord? Wow, I'd forgotten that completely. This is similar to the experience of meeting Drax back in "The Armageddon Factor." Any rando you encounter doing henchman work could be a slumming Time Lord. 

Additional Resources:

Wikipedia transcript
Sandifer post
The Doctor attempts to choke his heavily sexualized female companion. He physically and violently assaults her in a manner that is chillingly familiar as a real-world phenomenon that happens to women at the hands of their male partners. Then he drags her against her will to what he says could be an entire life in which “it shall be your humble privilege to minister unto my needs.” She readily forgives him and grins stupidly at his charms. It’s not Nicola Bryant’s fault - she plays the material as well as it can be played. Nor is it Baker’s fault. They try to make the scenes watchable, but nobody could possibly make this work. Peri is violently assaulted by a man who overtly sees her only purpose as being to serve him, and chooses happily to stay with him. The show treats this man as its hero and expects the audience to tune in nine months later to watch his continuing adventures. 
Of course they declined to. Baker’s Doctor is completely poisoned here. There’s nothing whatsoever that can be done to make this character watchable to anyone who has seen this. And I speak from experience here. This is the story that killed my parents’ interest in Doctor Who. To this day my mother refuses to accept the possibility that Baker might be good on the audios simply because of how much this story made her hate him. That’s how bad this played to people. That’s how you kill Doctor Who in under a hundred minutes. You make it about a battered woman idolizing her abuser.
Wife in Space post
Sue: Is there a competition to see who can wear the stupidest clothes? That is insane. Even if he was taking part in the World Disco Dancing Championships, that would be insane. It’s much worse than Colin’s costume. Jesus.
AV Club review
Plot developments routinely drag things out needlessly—my favorite example is Hugo, alone in the TARDIS, deciding for no reason to change his shirt, and then later being puzzled by how to open the doors to the outside. There's no story purpose to any of that; Hugo could simply have gone with the Doctor instead. That's "The Twin Dilemma" in a nutshell: It wastes time on an entire scene about someone who can't find the doorknob.
TV Tropes page

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Resurrection of the Daleks - "I can't stand the confusion in my mind!"

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Resurrection of the Daleks - Details

Season 21, Story 4 (Overall Series Story #134) | Previous - Next | Index

Made of Explodium
It's the fifth Doctor's Dalek story and the one where Tegan actually, finally, leaves. I guess we can also call it the first Lytton story, but, like Sabalom Glitz and Sil later, he's a recurring (non-companion) character that I think the producers thought we liked more than we did. That these minor baddies were deemed worthy of returns is, unfortunately, more an indication of how having any sort of how easy it was to seem remarkable in the context of how much of the time the show had become tedious. There's a little something to each of those recurring characters ... just not as much we probably thought at the time.

So, look, about Tegan ... Janet Fielding is lovely, but she was playing a character who was designed to be a complainer, and a source of conflict in the TARDIS. Was the desire to introduce some conflict understandable? Sure, but there was already Adric, andTurlough, so we really had quite enough difficult-to-like characters; Tegan worked with Nyssa, but not with any of the other companions.

Tegan's departing comments, as is frequently remarked, are rather too easy to hear as the voice of the fans. "It's stopped being fun, Doctor. Goodbye." It's worth asking, who is the show fun for, at this point, and going forward. Who's meant to enjoy it? And who actually does?  There are certain moments, some new ideas, the occasional performance by Colin or Sylvester in this scene or that, which give us something to cling to, to say, yes, maybe this can be "my Doctor Who" again. But that feeling never lasts, not for me. It's battered by abysmal writing and shoddy production. Or, put another way: questionable ends, and usually the wrong means to achieve any end.

It's several weeks since I watched this one. This has happened a few times in the course of this blogging project: I've watched a ton of stories in the space of a couple days, then, work and family life get busy, it's hard to motivate myself to spend the little time I have writing about a story I'm not particularly inclined to make a case for, but don't want merely rant against either, so it gets back-burnered. Something else catches my eye and when I've got a few hours, I find myself trying to catch up on another show -- Mr. Robot, this time -- and before you know it a month's passed, and the DVD that came from Netflix is fucking "Timelash."

But, we're doing this. Can mix in some of the older stories still not written about, and jump ahead to nu-Who so it's not an unrelenting slog through the stories of seasons 22 to 26 that I haven't covered yet.


  • One way to make a game of this one is to tally the onscreen deaths. Just don't try to make a drinking game out of it. You'll be wrecked.
  • Was the world really crying out for a Dalek story that picked up the thread from "Destiny of the Daleks"?
  • There are times it's really hard to tell if we're watching action set aboard a spaceship or in someone's home office they furnished with desks and chairs picked up on the cheap from various scratch-and-dent sales.
  • Rodney Bewes as Stien is ... a puzzle. Is that a stutter he's attempting? Still, he delivers the line of the story, for better or worse.
  • The opening sequence is actually rather professionally done. If the rest of thing had lived up to it, we might remember this one more fondly.
  • For what it's worth, there's at least some diversity in the casting. It's always good to see evidence that we shouldn't have to expect, as a baseline, that all humanoids that aren't some day-glo color will be white by default. 

Additional Resources:

Wikipedia transcript
Sandifer post
Saward is writing a critique of violent storytelling, but he has a very muddy sense of where the line is. To constantly push the line as setup to a big about face and moral point requires a meticulous sense of what that line is. And Saward doesn’t have it. He enjoys giggling like a schoolboy at the violence of it all too much. The dead giveaway is the opening, with its “evil cops” routine that’s a blatant homage to the Terror of the Autons scene with the Auton police officers that proved controversial. He’s got a critique of violence going here, but he can’t keep from, in places, engaging in exactly what he’s trying to critique. 
Still, it’s easy to like this story - considerably easier than people would have you believe, in fact. In context it’s far from, as Miles would have it, cheap and lightweight. It’s an attempt at a great story, and while it falls short, that’s worth something. In an era where the program has had trouble when striving for mediocrity at times, in fact, it’s worth a great deal.
Shabogan Graffiti
Resurrection of the Daleks
A gauche, gallumphing orgy of wrongness. Painful, wannabe-butch (i.e. camp) dialogue. Several different plots fight each other mindlessly for supremacy, slaughtering each other's protagonists... until nothing is left but a mess, with fragments of aborted narratives and the torn bits and pieces of lots of cardboard characters littering the floor.
Sue: I like the Dalek hats. It’s a good way for the Daleks to maintain strong brand awareness when they are out conquering the universe.
AV Club review
... I have a kinder opinion of “Resurrection Of The Daleks” than Saward himself does: He once called it “the worst Doctor Who story ever written.” To my mind, it’s not even the second-worst of its season, considering that it shared the year with “Warriors Of The Deep” and “The Twin Dilemma,” two terrible stories that each did real damage to the viability of Doctor Who as an ongoing series. The flaws here are not so mortal, not that it makes it any easier to watch.
TV Tropes page
The Locations Guide

Blogpost of the Week: "' antiquity its due reverence': Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" | Vaka Rangi

Navigate to Vaka Rangi

I haven't exactly kept up on my intended schedule (weekly) of posting these so, in case you don't recall, my stated aim is to highlight the best post I've read on a proper blog in a given week. (Give or take.) What you won't find honored with the shiny new canva graphic are: essays in the New Yorker, or posts on a site like Vox or Medium. This honor is for the internet's red-headed stepchild only: posts written by a blogger on that humble relic, the oft-eulogized but not-dead-yet labor of love, the independent blog. (Whenever possible, it will be one on such a tight budget that it's still got the '' in the URL.)

Last time, Shabogan Graffiti got the nod. (Told you, I'm behind schedule!) This time around, I wanted to draw attention to another fantastic Vaka Rangi post, this time on one of the Star Trek film franchise's lesser-loved entries. If you're a fan of any Star Trek and aren't already reading Vaka Rangi, do yourself a favor and go catch up. If you're only a fan of thoughtfulness, insight, and lovely writing, you'll still be well-rewarded for taking the time to check Josh's blog.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Now that I'm current on Mr. Robot ...

Following up on my earlier post, feels like a good time to assess where I'm at with Mr. Robot.

The meta-commentary stings.
My track record for anticipating resolution of TV show arcs is ... not good. Basically, I'm never right. That said, it's been clear from the start Mr. Robot is either re-making, or deeply in love with Fight Club. In addition to politely saying, "f-ck society," it's a not a stretch to see that hacker cell name as directly referencing the term "fight club." (When I talk about Fight Club, by the way, I'm only referring to the film. Haven't read the novel. Moreover, haven't watched the film since the DVD was new. A long time ago. If I were paid to do this, I'd take the time to watch it again before rattling off my thoughts. But I've got maybe fifteen minutes before I have to start dinner and it's now or never ...)

There was no surprise in the graveyard scene; that Elliot and Mr. Robot were a Jack/Tyler Durden pair was fairly obvious. There was, perhaps, room for the show to have it over on us and play with that expectation, but it's settled now -- or as settled as any story with Elliot as narrator can be -- so let's accept that as the show's reality and consider where the story might go next and what it all means based on what we've seen to date.

Apart from Elliot/Mr. Robot, it's not as easy, I think to determine the in-show reality of all the other characters. Angela's dad, for instance, doesn't appear to really be there. Angela is, I suspect, also Darlene. Angela/Darlene though does seem to exist outside of Elliot's mind. Gideon, too. Ollie? Tyrell and Joann seem to also exist outside Elliot's mind, although I've seen speculation that Tyrell may be another aspect of Elliot -- I don't recall a specific instance of anything we've seen onscreen that would violate the narrative logic if it turned out to be the case, but it feels unlikely. Terry Colby also seems to be a real character, though his offer to Angela at the end of "eps1.8_m1rr0r1ng.qt" strikes an odd chord.

Everything about this scene, from its place in the plot, to how it's filmed, to the costuming, works to persuade me this Darlene and Angela are the same character, and we're in a version of Fight Club where Marla also has a Tyler Durden.
The whole reality though, has to be questioned. All the characters refer to Evil Corp. with that name, whether Elliot/Mr. Robot is there or not. Though, the scenes he's in could be nothing more than a story he's telling, unreliable as a description of actual events in the show's world. It's not unreasonable for Allsafe to be named as such, but our two main corporate presences to be named Evil and Allsafe seems as likely to be the work of a fevered mind imagining both as actual names. If they're not real though, then I guess this isn't Fight Club as much as it is The Singing Detective, or maybe St. Elswhere.

Proceeding with assumption that Elliot is not imagining everything, I think we're left with Elliot and Tyrell working together to advance the hack that's going to destroy the records of everyone's debt. So we're marching towards the Fight Club final scene. Which doesn't bode well for Elliot's future.

But it's going to be tricky, especially for me and my memory, to map these characters onto Fight Club. Darlene-to-Marla is complicated by Angela, among other things. Gideon doesn't map to Jack's boss, and there's no certainty, I think, about Elliot dying during the hack, though he may not survive the outcome. (Previews for the finale also show Elliot cowering the chaos he's unleashed. Maybe.)

Where this excels over Fight Club though, even if it is marching to the same resolution, for the same reasons, is in not being hung up on examining the dilemma of Elliot's identity through the lens of masculinity. One, for instance, could easily imagine a Season Two where Angela/Darlene is the main character, working for/against Evil Corp. in the aftermath of the hack. Mr. Robot could still be a presence in that hypothetical, he's Darla's dad, too, after all. Fight Club reeked of testosterone, a hyper-macho response to the emasculating effects of ... consumerism, I guess. Imagining FC being FC with Marla as the main character doesn't cohere. (Again, forgive me my dim recollections, if Marla was a fantastically complex character and I'm getting this all wrong, I'm happy, eager even, to be corrected.)

After the finale, will try to assess whether I was correct to be skeptical of the show's anti-capitalist label. There's a degree to which having your anti-capitalist protagonist suffer from some kind of dissociative disorder could be seen as implying strong anti-capitalist sentiment is a characteristic of mental illness, even while associating the cause of the mental illness with suffering under the consumerist mentality fostered by the capitalist system.

However, there's an intriguing line we can follow that allows our hero to be properly heroic despite being uncertain of his own identity, even motives. The human will to live free, even when all else is broken, constructing just enough agency from the tatters of multiple identities to overcome society's conditioning and engage in a revolutionary act with real results: that's something we can slot into the role of hero we'd normally only let a "healthy" personality occupy. The hero is then understood as an aspect of our nature, manifested in an individual acting from fractured desire, through a sense of self as shattered as Elliot's bathroom mirror, but in the reflection, never fully obscured. If I come out of the final episode with something like that understanding intact, I'll feel like I saw one of the best series of television since The Wire. (Which, for me, was just a couple months ago, so I'll be riding a hot streak into Doctor Who's tenth since the revival.)

Or, the finale will rub all my bad guesses, misunderstandings, and commentary BS in my face and I'll have to  re-evaluate the whole thing.

Either way ... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

[Update: fixed several incidences of referring to Darlene as Darla. Which, I probably could've left and played off as a sly reference to Marla. Except they were purely me being good confused.] 

Collected tweets about Mr. Robot, through the penultimate episode of S1.

Streaming now: Yo La Tengo, 'Stuff Like That There' full album

First Listen: Yo La Tengo, 'Stuff Like That There' : NPR

Their hearts are still in it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @ABC11_WTVD

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

So, college “p.c. culture” stifles comedy? Ever hear a comedian sh*t on the American Dream at a Wal-Mart shareholders meeting? -

So, college “p.c. culture” stifles comedy? Ever hear a comedian sh*t on the American Dream at a Wal-Mart shareholders meeting? -

You want some "disruption"? I didn't think so.
Actual political correctness doesn’t get perceived as political correctness. If it’s really “politically correct” to believe something then that belief isn’t perceived at all–any more than fish perceive water. “Political correctness” is the label we put on any attempt to change what’s politically correct — “political correctness gone mad” is what we call it when that change happens too fast for our tastes.
via ric squidborn

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @AntiProLife

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Who's that on the cover the of The Smiths' debut album, and the rest for that matter?

The Smiths - The Stories Behind All 27 Of Their Provocative Album And Single Sleeves | NME.COM

Went from having "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" in my head to "One Night in Bangkok."


About those 100 "best" again ...

We deserve better as fans of the genre. We deserve to be challenged by radical visions of the future like those who first picked up Jules Verne. We also deserve to see ourselves reflected in the characters so we in turn can be inspired to help create that future.
NPR's 2011 list was based on listener nominations and voting, but also had a panel of experts weed out the unqualified. This weeding was apparently done in terms of not fitting genre requirements, not on any sort of critical consideration since Ender's Game is #3. Lutgendorff's appraisal -- misogynistic, rape-y, and heteronormative to, what ought to be, a shocking degree -- is a bit of a wake-up call.

The Thomas Covenant books by Stephen R. Donaldson are on there, and they're on my bookshelf. Haven't read them in decades, but I remember then as sort of mature, dark fantasy that impressed me at the time. Did I remember the protagonist was a rapist? Nope. But, had you asked me to rattle off some fantasy series I enjoyed as a kid and might recommend to a youngster today who had just finished LOTR and was looking for something else, I'd almost certainly have mentioned the Covenant books, the first thee Shannara books by Brooks, & Silverberg's Valentine books. (Eddings is on there, and I read a ton of his stuff, but don't remember it well, I almost don't dare revisit it ... ) For younger readers, would probably recommend the Susan Cooper Dark is Rising series.

I'd really better make sure I can recall, or do my homework, before work off my 15-year-old self's critical judgment. That kid ... dang.

Anyways, the list isn't all bad, there's some great stuff on there: Kim Stanley Robinson, China Mieville, and Ursula K. LeGuin, to spot a few, but guys (like me) really need interrogate our nostalgia for Robert A. Heinlein.

[Updated 8/19/2015: Tom Hawking takes up a (tepid) defense of Donaldson and Lord Foul's Bane at Flavorwire.]

 Here's the list:
1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis
Giving 15-yr.-old self grief above, I should be giving my 40-yr.-old self from 2011 shit as well for still exhibiting blind spots when it came to discussing the nominations. When will I learn?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @PhilSandifer

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"The first step to dehumanizing a person is to believe that you have nothing to learn from that person ... in bed."

Examined Worlds: Fortune Cookie Philosophy

So here is my attempt at fortune cookie philosophy, arranged loosely according to topic, starting with science fiction and going into other topics: critical thinking, politics, philosophy, life, the universe, and everything.

The best dystopian science fiction is covertly utopian.

Whether tomorrow will be a utopia or a dystopia depends in large part on our attitude today; hence, the importance of science fiction.

Let’s hope that people in the future will think people today are living in a barbaric dystopia.

What if the human race decided that poverty, war, exploitation, and bigotry were just bad ideas?

If science fiction is the “literature of cognitive estrangement” (Darko Suvin), then philosophy is the cultivation of thought’s cognitive estrangement from itself.

Don’t tell me what you believe. Tell me what you think.

Everyone has a right to her or his own opinion, but this doesn’t mean that all opinions are right.

The first step to dehumanizing a person is to believe that you have nothing to learn from that person ...
Future people: what we got here, in the past, is a barbaric dystopia! You heard? Good. You'd better have solved the worldwide refugee crisis, instituted a global wealth tax and universal basic income, and gotten this climate mess we barbarians are leaving you sorted.

New ☆ Tweet from @2noame

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Sanders will do well emulate his political hero

Something to Offer | Jacobin

Image via Independent Political Report
Taking a single passage out of context and interpreting it as the Achilles’ heel of American radicalism, scholars have distorted Debs’s complex and still poignant critique of white supremacy. That process began soon after the essay was published by the International Socialist Review, which commissioned Debs to respond to a platform adopted by the Socialist Party of Louisiana calling for “separation of the black and white races into separate communities, each race to have charge of its own affairs.” 
 Debs happened to be campaigning for president in Louisiana and Texas at the time, and he took the opportunity to criticize not only local bigots but the international culture of white supremacy that Rudyard Kipling celebrated four years earlier in his poem “The White Man’s Burden.” Drawing on works by African-American contemporaries including W.E.B. Du Bois, he insisted that the Socialist Party would be untrue to its mission unless it welcomed “the Negro and all other races upon absolutely equal terms.”

Wait, was "F*ck Tha Police" by NWA or the NRA?

More Police Killed in States With Higher Levels of Gun Ownership | Mother Jones

"If we're interested in protecting police officers, we need to look at what’s killing them, and what's killing them is guns,” the study's lead author David Swedler of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health noted in an academic news release.

A firearm present in a domestic violence situation also increases the likelihood of an officer being killed.
Go figure.

Our apparent insufferability when it comes to Sanders/Corbyn

It starts with: I genuinely dislike being mocked for a political position that is considered and, in my estimation, more that simply not without merit, but righteous. (Virtuous? Correct? The best available under the circumstances?)
(Not that I'm enraged, I just happened to see that conversation and thought Woolf's passage dovetailed with my dilemma.)

Then, I keep bumping into tweets from clever people, whose opinions I respect, mocking liberals (esp. white liberals) for being enthusiastic about Sanders. (Corbyn, if  they're talking about Labour instead Democrats.)
So, having the natural desire not to be considered a boob, I re-interrogate my support and advocacy of Sanders and continue to find it reasonable on the following grounds:
  • His progressive positions on matters of domestic and foreign policy are evident, long-held, and objectively better than those of his Democratic competitors.
  • Likewise, his positions on social and racial justice. Starting from our most vulnerable, underserved, impoverished, and disadvantaged citizens, and working from that population with the greatest need to encompass the working poor, to what's left of the working and middle classes, to the well-off, his policies give us the best shot of addressing our greatest needs as a society and promoting the general welfare. In my judgment, however we identify and align with any group having endured ongoing discrimination, whether as  minorities, women, undocumented workers, LGBT, prisoners, what have you, there's no candidate among the major or mid-major (so here I'll put the Greens & Libertarians, if you want to count the Constitution Party, um, feel free, I guess) parties that could reasonably be expected to work in the context of our current political framework to accomplish some degree of their platform. If you want to make a case for Dr. Jill Stein, I'm listening. Before Sanders entered the race, that was the way I was leaning. But Sanders has, I think all of Stein's positives, and has practical experience that makes him a more viable candidate.  
  • I find no evidence he's compromising his principles to pursue higher office. Rather, he's making a strong case for this principles and helping them enter the mainstream, or at least the idea of them not being considered hopelessly outside mainstream thinking forever.
  • He's a political professional who could reasonably be expected to be effective in, not overwhelmed by, the office he's running for. 
Entirely supportive of #BlackLivesMatter, and not at all bothered by protestors disrupting a Sanders campaign event, I agree whole-heartedly that the movement has legitimate concerns which they are appropriately insisting be heard and addressed. If you want to say, "Sanders needs to do more to address our concerns," I'm with you. I understand the Secret Service isn't going to let you do the same to Hillary, and that GOP candidates probably aren't even going to let you in the door. 

In that vein, I also agree with those who say, "Look, nobody is doing more in the context of running for office than Sanders." That doesn't mean we don't continue to hold his feet to the fire, but it does mean ... and this is where I get trepidatious, but am going to shoot my white liberal mouth off anyways ... eventually all y'all who think Bernie and his supporters are not doing enough are going to need to put up or shut up. *ducks*

What I mean by that is: we're in the nascent stages of the 2016 election season, and protest without platform, without a candidate, is not a demerit. Not yet. Eventually though, we're going to have names on ballots from which to choose our next President. If Sanders isn't your candidate, and you want change, you'd better have one. (Is this it? Is this presentiment, and the way it informs my attitudes now, the root of my insufferability?) Yes, be against all bad policy all the time. But there's going to be a new President, and knee-capping the best hope for society moving forward, is going to become counter-productive for all of us. It's not yet. And I'm not saying "shut up," now. I hope I never do. That hope though depends on there being action beyond protest at some point in the not-too-distant future.

But, I've drifted. This was supposed to be about me, dammit!, and trying to figure out what I'm missing, what the valid point about is that makes supporting Bernie Sanders now a mockable offense. Me, I'm not mocking anyone because they don't support Sanders. I'm not mocking Hillary supporters, or the idea of supporting Hillary. I'm not mocking supporters of Jill Stein -- heck, I may find myself casting that vote. (I am mocking supporters of all the GOP candidates though, because that crowd, holy fuck, what a bunch of malevolent clown shoes.)

My position is this: it's possible to support both #BlackLivesMatter and #FeelTheBern, and to do so even when factions of the two camps butt heads. If I'm suffering from Ageing, White Lefty Dude Hippie Stink, or something, I want to know. (And I want to not!)

But, apparently, you're going to have to explain it to me like I'm five. Because I don't get it.

I'm listening though. We're months away from me telling anyone (who doesn't plan to vote Republican, Libertarian, or Constitution) to shut up. Maybe though, this discomfort is just something there's no answer for? By virtue of who I am, and what I think about policy, and how intend to vote, and how I advocate ... do I just need to get over myself and let the gibes roll off? That's not so hard, I guess. In the end, we all carry a sign that says something when we march, and we all march into a voting booth at some point, and what we do behind the curtain is only one of many steps.

Just don't expect me to take being kidded without giving it back. You feel me?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @jljacobson | Carson campaign deathwatch starts now ...

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Update: 3:40pm

Let me be clear, in case it's not obvious, that I don't think there's a problem with scientists using fetal tissue for research. It's the hypocrisy of using fetal tissue for research, then running as a Republican, with all the anti-choice, anti-science baggage that entails. What I'm curious to see is whether the base turns against Carson, or rallies around him.

Expecting it will be the former, but won't be surprised if I'm wrong.

Main reason to suspect they'll turn on Carson, the way they didn't on the Duggars, is they could care less about pedophilia because it's happening to something other than a fetus. (Zygotes, remember, are magical soul angels that musn't be prevented from being born.)  Carson, apparently did some science with fetal tissue and that's pretty much go to make him a monster their eyes. Doesn't it?

Also, Carson is black. It must have been killing them to have to pretend they weren't scared as shit of him this long.

I haven't checked whether the #tcot crowd has weighed in yet, so off-the-cuff with these remarks. Not sure if Fox/Breitbart/Drudge has even broken the news to them yet?

First stop on the RW Nutters response to the news: Drudge Report. Hmm... They have Carson "news" on the front page, but it's not what I thought it would be. (Well, in retrospect ... )

Fox News? I went to the Politics page and found 1 reference to Carson leading polling in Iowa.

Well, I'm sure the twitterers will be all over it, even if their gatekeepers are trying to tamp down any controversy...

I scrolled to find a lot of obvious lefty tweeters using #tcot to share the news, but a curious lack of reaction. Top conservatives seem to be more interested in celebrating Jimmy Carter's cancer and imagining elaborate email conspiracies around Hillary Clinton. Go figure.

But, I did see something from Breitbart in there, so let's hop over to that raging dumpster fire. Yep, a link on the front page. The article hasn't got much comment or activity on it yet, surprising for news that broke hours ago?:

What little there is for comments is, at least at this early stage, about what I predicted. EOD's head must hurt, because he can only discuss it for an instant before veering off on the usual ACORN / Planned Parenthood vilification. Glorious Cause though, he's speaking troof to power.

Anyways, some of these GOP candidates are bound to start dropping soon. Carson, I think, just took the lead over floundering Rick Perry in the campaign death pool.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Deep Blue

Video Footage May Reveal the Largest Great White Shark Ever Caught on Camera - ABC News

Yep, that's a big ass shark.

New ☆ Tweet from @JoyceCarolOates

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Nefertititi's tomb hidden behind Tut's?

Hidden doorways in the ancient Egyptian tomb of King Tutankhamun may lead to the long-lost resting place of Queen Nefertiti, a scientist has claimed. 
British-born archaeologist Dr Nicholas Reeves, based at the University of Arizona, made the claim after studying high-resolution scans of the walls of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor. 
The scans are said to reveal two hidden entrances behind the painted plaster.

Monday, August 10, 2015

New ☆ Tweet from @monicabyrne13

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A Carolinian in Australia comments on this bloody weekend past ...

The Fuller boys. 2nd Amendmented to death by their father, an open carry advocate.
This Sunday's news stories from the tar heel state would give any caring person pause.
  • A Statesboro father guns down his two preschool sons and tries, but fails, to gun down himself.
  • A teenager in Raleigh is randomly and inexplicably gunned down
  • A retired law officer in Gastonia is gunned down, another Gastonia resident wounded, and other law officers and an innocent bystander are subsequently wounded in a gun battle.
  • A Winston-Salem man is gunned down and another man is wounded at a party.
During this awful, gory, bloody weekend, the state of North Carolina with its population of 9.9 million people--and its millions of guns--murdered more people with those guns than the nation of Australia with its population of 23.1 million people murders with guns, knives, hands, pipes, pills, and whatever in a typical week (source).
 The Statesboro man who shot his boys after a night of drinking was an open carry advocate who put garbage like the below on his facebook profile:

This is a warning sign.
Look, I'm not saying everybody who proudly displays images like that is a dangerous lunatic ...

But ...

It's a warning sign. Guys like that need help. They don't need guns. Someone close to them, who cares about them, needs to be telling them the hard truth that they are showing signs of exactly the sort of mental state that leads to acts of violence that end in terrible tragedy.

The article in his local paper says there was "no way to know" what tragedy lay ahead. Wrong. The signs were there. Anyone who carries a firearm into a shopping mall to make an open carry political statement is exactly the sort of person we should be getting counseling to, and taking access to firearms away from, because that is a troubled person. A troubled person with a gun.

Glad to see you blogging at Applied Rationality again, Dave. Sorry it was a surplus of tragedy that brought you back.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Anti-Capitalist TV Show We’ve Been Waiting For?

USA’s 'Mr. Robot' Is the Anti-Capitalist TV Show We’ve Been Waiting For | Alternet

Mr. Robot via USA
Mr. Robot has become a critical darling, and it’s easy to see why. For starters, it’s built around the performance of Malek, which is phenomenal, an unusual combination of intelligence, deadpan affect and charisma. It’s also one of the better-looking shows on television, with a visual aesthetic that alternates shots of perfect symmetry with ones framed from slightly off or tilted angles, creating an unnerving beauty. (This was especially the case for the first and fourth episodes, directed by Niels Arden Oplev and Nisha Gantara, respectively.) And the writing is generally excellent: witty dialogue that’s rarely cloying, genuinely surprising plot twists, and realistic characterization. There’s also a pretty great musical score by Mac Quayle, borrowing heavily from the playbook of rattling snare taps and spooky synths that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have employed in David Fincher’s most recent films. 
But what truly makes the show different—which most critics have either ignored or glossed over—is what provides both its animating spirit and its primary narrative engine: a deep, visceral hatred of modern-day capitalism.
"A deep, visceral hatred of capitalism," you say? OK, I was planning to check out Sense8 next, but Mr. Robot just cut the line.

The nagging doubt, of course, is it's hard to imagine a genuinely anti-capitalist show being made for the USA network, a brand of NBCUniversal, itself a property of Comcast (and GE). Comcast CEO, Brian L. Roberts is worth something north of $1B and has total annual compensation in the vicinity of $25M, so it's probably safe to say he's comfortable this particular cultural production doesn't threaten his economic power. (Roberts, by the way, enjoys a 370:1 ratio of CEO pay to median employee pay, according to Not the highest in the Fortune 100, but near the top.)

What kind of monster sees a women's health crisis and goes after Planned Parenthood?

The Economist explains: Why are so many American women dying from childbirth? | The Economist
via The Economist

The most compelling explanation is that more women are in poorer health when they get pregnant, and then failing to get proper care. Chronic health problems, such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, are increasingly common among pregnant American women, and each of them makes delivery more dangerous. Indeed the traditional causes of pregnancy-related deaths, such as haemorrhage, venous thromboembolism and hypertensive disorders, have been declining in recent years, whereas deaths from cardiovascular conditions and other chronic problems have been on the rise. These conditions are more common among African-American women, which partly explains why they are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. Poverty is also closely correlated with worse health outcomes, as poor women are less likely to have access to proper health care, including contraception and prenatal care. (Women who become pregnant accidentally are less likely to seek timely prenatal care, which raises the risks of death.)
Simply in terms of being attack on the ability of women to get safe, legal abortions, the current attempts to destroy Planned Parenthood are reprehensible. Considering what Planned Parenthood does to prevent abortions, the current sting video hoax is misguided and irrational. On top of that, Planned Parenthood provides health services millions of women aren't getting elsewhere. Needed services. Services that will bend the rate of maternal mortality downwards, in line with other wealthy nations, away from the rates of failed states like South Sudan -- the apparent model governance favored by our Republican party.

There's a real problem and it's not abortion. Once again, our national discourse is being driven a group of morally retarded fanatics who are trying to make the situation worse.

We, all of us, have a responsibility to push back against the mendacious bullshit that distracts from addressing the real problem. Politely, but firmly, we need to standing up for Planned Parenthood and insisting our elected officials do the same.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Openly Secular in the NFL

Houston Texans' Arian Foster goes public about not believing in God:

Arian Foster, photo: Josh Goleman /
"Everybody always says the same thing: You have to have faith," he says. "That's my whole thing: Faith isn't enough for me. For people who are struggling with that, they're nervous about telling their families or afraid of the backlash ... man, don't be afraid to be you. I was, for years." 
 He has tossed out sly hints in the past, just enough to give himself wink-and-a-nod deniability, but he recently decided to become a public face of the nonreligious. Moved by the testimonials of celebrity atheists like comedian Bill Maher and magicians Penn and Teller, Foster has joined a national campaign by the nonprofit group Openly Secular, which plans to use his story to increase awareness and acceptance of nonbelievers, especially in sports.

Recently reminded of a forgotten treasure: The Devil’s Dictionary (2.0)

The Devil’s Dictionary (2.0)

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