Monday, November 29, 2004

In Every Stranger's Eyes

Those of you who know me and have followed my postings around the web are well aware that I never argue with creationists. I never dispute their belief in the truthfulness of the Bible or their interpretation of their religion. I’m not inclined to regard a person as a fool because I don’t understand them or because I don’t accept their version of truth.
I do argue with evolutionists because they presume to represent science. They adopt the mantle of science, which I care greatly about, to give themselves legitimacy in their own eyes and (they hope), in the eyes of others.
I hold to the view that we can understand ourselves better by identifying those traits and characteristics in others that most antagonize us. We meet ourselves every day in department stores, at school, in restaurants and in the pages of books (especially history books), magazines and on television. Each stranger that we meet is a reflection of ourselves, a portal to better self-understanding.
Both evolutionists and creationists would be better served by not torturing those with whom they disagree, for certainly it is the tortured who soon enough turn into torturers. How quickly the worm can turn.

Personally, I always defend science, because it informs us about the physical world better than any other method and it increases our store of knowledge more accurately than the use of pure reason alone.
But a view that assumes that scientific understanding is the *only* kind of understanding that there is obscures and dilutes our insight and our harmony with the world. Science is a tool of the western mind, not all of mankind.
Now I certainly can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, nor can I prove that he does. But I am sure of the fact that the *impression* of God (the archetype?) exists in *every* person. Whether God actually exists is mostly irrelevant. What is important is that large numbers of people believe it.
I also believe that there is a huge advantage available to those who can locate this power, whatever its source, in their own individual self and use it for their benefit. Why should I deprive those who may have found this transforming energy in religion? What purpose does it serve me or them, to ridicule and condemn their beliefs as silly and unscientific as I might think they are?
This doesn’t mean, of course, that I will allow others to impose their beliefs on me. The teaching of religion, while acceptable in church schools, is wholly unacceptable in public schools. Likewise, ideologies of any kind, especially those ostensibly validated by the mantle of science, are likewise unacceptable in public education.
However, since religion is obviously an important part of my fellow citizens’ lives, I have no fear of sharing with them the joy and pleasure that they get from their mythologies, even though I’m a non-believer. I have no problem with a Christmas tree or a menorah in the town square or Christmas carols in the school concert or a moment of silence in a school day. These things do not threaten me, as they apparently threaten others. There’s little enough to feel good about in this uncaring and often cruel world; it seems a bit silly to deny people what comfort they may find, wherever they may find it.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Horned Fishbird

Amazing what you can do with Photoshop!

See 50 more critters HERE

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Christmas Dinner

Sometimes you just have to wonder when the individual paths of mortals come together in such a way as to make one believe that it had all been laid out in some kind of elaborate scheme that was designed to make things right in an often senseless world.
It was December 23, 1998, graduation day at the Marine Corps recruit depot at Parris Island, South Carolina. Like most every Friday, the members of Platoon 1104, 1st Battalion, "D" company were to cease being sub-human life forms and were about to become Marines. The ceremonies would be over by 1800 hours and six of them from the New York area would pile into a car and begin the long trip home. With any luck, they'd be home by Christmas eve, to be with their families. But these were not just any sons any more, they were Marines. They had endured the 13 weeks of relentless pain and suffering that had molded them into the fiercest, meanest most aggressive fighting men that ever lived. They were ready, willing and able to kick some serious butt, should the need arise.
Mavis Jackson lived a little ways off I-95, just south of the North Carolina border on a tiny farm that she and Walter had bought with her mother's insurance . During the summer of '93, Walter was killed when his plow overturned on a hill. Little Walter was only one year old at the time. Mavis tried to keep up the farming, but even in the best of circumstances, it only allowed a meager existence for her and the boy. In '96, Mavis opened a little lunch room on the side of her house and cooked food for the local field hands. Some days, no one at all would come, and Mavis would sadly put the food away for another day.
It was Friday, December 23, 1998, and Mavis Jackson was down by the side of the road putting up a little sign that she had painted on white cardboard- "Christmas Dinner, All You Can Eat! $5.99" Shortly before 7:00 p.m. a car drove by. It slowed down a little way down the road and then turned around and came back, parking in front of Mavis' house. Out of the car piled six hungry Marines.
Now Mavis had prepared one turkey and one ham and some sweet potatoes and collard greens and had baked a pecan pie. Hopefully, it would be sufficient for these boys. After only a little while, it became obvious that she had offered more than she could deliver. The turkey and ham were completely demolished and so were the vegetables and potatoes. Yet these boys still demanded more. Mavis went back to her kitchen in search of more food. Her heart began to sink lower and lower as she emptied her pantry to satisfy the hungry Marines.
By 9:00 O'clock, it appeared that the rampage was finally subsiding. They sat around talking for another half hour while Mavis sat quietly in the front room, contemplating the situation. If nothing else, Mavis Jackson was a woman of her word. She had made a terrible blunder, and now she would pay the price. Perhaps God was punishing her for some unknown transgression. But she had promised "all you can eat" and she had no intention of asking for any extra compensation. As the first Marine approached her, she quietly said to him "that'll by $5.99 sir, just like the sign says." He paid with a ten dollar bill and she gave him back his change- four dollars and a penny. It took a little doing to negotiate the exchange of money, since she didn't have much change, but the boys managed to collect it among themselves and pay her the grand total of $35.94.
The boys left and she heard the car pull away down the road. Mavis pulled the shade down and turned off the porch light. The world had dealt her a cruel blow. But she had no one to blame but herself. She thought about little Walter and her beloved husband and she wept. She had planned on going to the midnight service at church, as she had every past Christmas. But tonight she just didn't think she could. But she must go on. Despair is not becoming of a Christian woman, she thought and she stepped over to the table and began to clear away the dishes. She picked up the first dish, and there under the plate was a hundred dollar bill. She didn't know what to make of it. And then she found another...and another...and another...and another...and another. And there in the middle of the table, handwritten on a piece of paper, a note. And it said....
Merry Christmas, U.S.M.C
And Mavis Jackson put on her hat and went to church and the preacher was speaking these words:
"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The $500 Dollar Fence

When I was a teenager, I asked my mother if we could get a dog. After the usual begging and pleading, followed by sworn pledges to take care of it, walk it and feed it, my mother finally agreed.
We went down to the Bide-A-Wee Home for Friendless Animals in Wantagh and adopted a dog. There was no charge except for a $5 license fee. When we got the dog home, problems soon developed and the dog kept running away. I'm not clear on all the details, but my mother ended up getting a chain link fence put around the front yard. It cost somewhere around $500.
Now my father was not involved in these goings on and when he found out about it, he was plenty annoyed. I remember him shouting "you paid $5 for the god damned dog and $500 for a god damned fence to keep him from running away?"
I was thinking about that today as I loaded my new aquarium into the back of Tom's pickup truck. You see, I decided to dabble in the aquarium world and I got this little 20 gallon tank and set it up in my room. I read what I thought I had to know and went down to the fish store to obtain some inhabitants. I picked a regal tang, a clownfish, and a perfectly adorable dog faced puffer.

They seemed to be flourishing and so I went out and got another clown fish and a yellow tang. I figured that was enough. Turns out, it was more than enough. The first clown fish promptly killed the newbie clown. Pretty annoying considering it was a $30 fish. Then a few days later, I woke up and found the puffer swimming on top of the yellow tang. I don't know what happened, but the tang was dead. Another $30 fish.
Then came the topper. It turns out dog faced puffers grow to a pretty large size, and require an aquarium of 75-100 gallons. Mine was only 20. So I figured I would have to get rid of doggie and stick with smaller fish.
But he was so darned cute, and Gail liked him, so here I was, at the aquarium store. Yep, you guessed it. Buying a $500 aquarium for my little $20 puffer fish.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Ignorance Played A Role

Bob Herbert in the New York Times:

I think a case could be made that ignorance played at least as big a role in the election's outcome as values. A recent survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that nearly 70 percent of President Bush's supporters believe the U.S. has come up with "clear evidence" that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda. A third of the president's supporters believe weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And more than a third believe that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion.

This is scary. How do you make a rational political pitch to people who have put that part of their brain on hold? No wonder Bush won.

The survey, and an accompanying report, showed that there's a fair amount of cluelessness in the ranks of the values crowd. The report said, "It is clear that supporters of the president are more likely to have misperceptions than those who oppose him."

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Wilderness by Carl Sandburg

THERE is a wolf in me ... fangs pointed for tearing gashes ...
a red tongue for raw meat ... and the hot lapping of blood--
I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the
wilderness will not let it go.
There is a fox in me ... a silver-gray fox ... I sniff and guess ...
I pick things out of the wind and air ... I nose in the dark night
and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers ...
I circle and loop and double-cross.
There is a hog in me ... a snout and a belly ...
a machinery for eating and grunting ... a machinery for
sleeping satisfied in the sun--I got this too from the wilderness
and the wilderness will not let it go.
There is a fish in me ... I know I came from saltblue
water-gates ... I scurried with shoals of herring ...
I blew waterspouts with porpoises ... before land was ...
before the water went down ... before Noah ...
before the first chapter of Genesis.
There is a baboon in me ... clambering-clawed ... dog-faced ...
yawping a galoot's hunger ... hairy under the armpits ...
here are the hawk-eyed hankering men ... here are the blond
and blue-eyed women ... here they hide curled asleep waiting ...
ready to snarl and kill ... ready to sing and give milk ... waiting--
I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.
There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird ...
and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams
and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want ...
and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the
dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas
of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes--
And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.
O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under
my bony head, under my red-valve heart--
and I got something else: it is a man-child heart,
a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover:
it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where--
For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and
kill and work: I am a pal of the world:
I came from the wilderness.

Friday, November 05, 2004

But I'll try....

A while ago, when they were building the Shoreham nuclear power plant on Long Island, there was much controversy and rancor. I asked this guy who lived in nearby Miller Place whether he was for or against the plant. His reply surprised me. He said "if my electric bill goes up, I'm against it. If my electric bill goes down, I'm for it."

Just like Phil Ochs said in "Love Me, I'm a Liberal". Ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right when it affects you personally.

Stuart Kauffman once said "A free society that allows each individual to seek his or her own selfish ends without deliberately trying to harm anyone else will produce a state in which everyone's interest is optimized without any individual knowing in advance what that state might be." I'm not sure whether I fully accept that, but right now, I'm moving in that direction.

Basically, I'm immune from George W. Bush and his henchmen.

I feel bad for the rest of you, but you have to cope on your own. I'm not going to Iraq to die and neither is anyone else that I care about. Let them have their war, if they want it. I'm not writing any books that will be banned or making any speeches that will be censored. They can't make me go to church, or worship their god, and they can't get inside my head and control what I think. I have a nice house, with plenty of equity, a pension that serves me just fine and a family that fills my idle hours.
I still have the mountains, and the rivers, the lakes and the beach, the flowers and the music. I don't need George W. Bush for anything. And there's nothing that I have that he can take away from me. Even in the Soviet Union, where atheism was the government policy, religious people continued to worship and keep their beliefs alive. People survive under a wide range of unpleasant conditions. When it gets too cold, or too hot, or too dry, bacteria form spores that insulate and protect them until the conditions are right again for growth and reproduction.
So that's what I'm doing. Until the time is right to emerge from the darkness. I'd like to help you all to try and make a better world, but I've already been there and done that. And this is the result. Nothing changes. It's the cycle of life, just as the Dark Ages followed the glory of Greece and Rome and just like the Renaissance followed the Dark Ages. We're not making progress, we're not moving foward at all. It's just an illusion. We are, in fact, going round and round in one huge circle. Crest followed by trough, followed by crest.

I'd like to help you all out, but I've done my part. I'm old and tired. I'm sporulating....

I Couldn't Have Said It Better....

From "Fanatical Apathy" -Adam Felbers

Concession Speech

[Former candidate Felber, flanked by his family and supporters, steps up to the podium in the bright autumn sunlight. Cheers and applause are heard.]

My fellow Americans, the people of this nation have spoken, and spoken with a clear voice. So I am here to offer my concession. [Boos, groans, rending of garments]

I concede that I overestimated the intelligence of the American people. Though the people disagree with the President on almost every issue, you saw fit to vote for him. I never saw that coming. That's really special. And I mean "special" in the sense that we use it to describe those kids who ride the short school bus and find ways to injure themselves while eating pudding with rubber spoons. That kind of special.

I concede that I misjudged the power of hate. That's pretty powerful stuff, and I didn't see it. So let me take a moment to congratulate the President's strategists: Putting the gay marriage amendments on the ballot in various swing states like Ohio... well, that was just genius. Genius. It got people, a certain kind of people, to the polls. The unprecedented number of folks who showed up and cited "moral values" as their biggest issue, those people changed history. The folks who consider same sex marriage a more important issue than war, or terrorism, or the economy... Who'd have thought the election would belong to them? Well, Karl Rove did. Gotta give it up to him for that. [Boos.] Now, now. Credit where it's due.

I concede that I put too much faith in America's youth. With 8 out of 10 of you opposing the President, with your friends and classmates dying daily in a war you disapprove of, with your future being mortgaged to pay for rich old peoples' tax breaks, you somehow managed to sit on your asses and watch the Cartoon Network while aging homophobic hillbillies carried the day. You voted with the exact same anemic percentage that you did in 2000. You suck. Seriously, y'do. [Cheers, applause] Thank you. Thank you very much.

There are some who would say that I sound bitter, that now is the time for healing, to bring the nation together. Let me tell you a little story. Last night, I watched the returns come in with some friends here in Los Angeles. As the night progressed, people began to talk half-seriously about secession, a red state / blue state split. The reasoning was this: We in blue states produce the vast majority of the wealth in this country and pay the most taxes, and you in the red states receive the majority of the money from those taxes while complaining about 'em. We in the blue states are the only ones who've been attacked by foreign terrorists, yet you in the red states are gung ho to fight a war in our name. We in the blue states produce the entertainment that you consume so greedily each day, while you in the red states show open disdain for us and our values. Blue state civilians are the actual victims and targets of the war on terror, while red state civilians are the ones standing behind us and yelling "Oh, yeah!? Bring it on!"

More than 40% of you Bush voters still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. I'm impressed by that, truly I am. Your sons and daughters who might die in this war know it's not true, the people in the urban centers where al Qaeda wants to attack know it's not true, but those of you who are at practically no risk believe this easy lie because you can. As part of my concession speech, let me say that I really envy that luxury. I concede that.

Healing? We, the people at risk from terrorists, the people who subsidize you, the people who speak in glowing and respectful terms about the heartland of America while that heartland insults and excoriates us... we wanted some healing. We spoke loud and clear. And you refused to give it to us, largely because of your high moral values. You knew better: America doesn't need its allies, doesn't need to share the burden, doesn't need to unite the world, doesn't need to provide for its future. Hell no. Not when it's got a human shield of pointy-headed, atheistic, unconfrontational breadwinners who are willing to pay the bills and play nice in the vain hope of winning a vote that we can never have. Because we're "morally inferior," I suppose, we are supposed to respect your values while you insult ours. And the big joke here is that for 20 years, we've done just that.

It's not a "ha-ha" funny joke, I realize, but it's a joke all the same.

Being an independent candidate gives me one luxury - as well as conceding the election today, I am also announcing my candidacy for President in 2008. [Wild applause, screams, chants of "Fel-ber! Fel-ber!] Thank you.

And I make this pledge to you today: THIS time, next time, there will be no pandering. This time I will run with all the open and joking contempt for my opponents that our President demonstrated towards the cradle of liberty, the Ivy League intellectuals, the "media elite," and the "white-wine sippers." This time I will not pretend that the simple folk of America know just as much as the people who devote their lives to serving and studying the nation and the world. They don't.

So that's why I'm asking for your vote in 2008, America. I'm talking to you, you ignorant, slack-jawed yokels, you bible-thumping, inbred drones, you redneck, racist, chest-thumping, perennially duped grade-school grads. Vote for me, because I know better, and I truly believe that I can help your smug, sorry asses. Vote Felber in '08! Thank you, and may God, if he does in fact exist, bless each and every one of you.

[Tumultuous cheers, applause, and foot-stomping. PULL BACK to reveal the rest of the stage, the row of cameras, hundreds of unoccupied chairs, and the empty field beyond.]
Posted by Adam Felber