Friday, October 30, 2009

Bulls#!t

Listening to the news the last couple of days reminded me that I hadn't seen the last few seasons of Penn & Teller's series called "Bullshit!" While I didn't always agree with what they said, watching it was part of listening to different sides of the issue. Their take on the Prius, for example, was a bit exaggerated and unnecessarily negatively biased. However, I do believe that the people who worship the Prius (and there are many) are equally misinformed. I like my car, but I know its (many) limitations. It saves me on gas when I take my long drives out into the country, and my hopes are that my purchase helped give the auto manufacturers a market by which they can improve the technology. It isn't a Corvette, and it isn't a pick-up truck, but it gets me around pretty well.

"Bullshit!" is a neat series. It isn't enough to get me to order Showtime on cable, but being able to see it on Netflix was pretty cool.

However, the show "Bullshit!" doesn't come close to two things I heard on the news over the past couple of days. Prepare for another installment of Blatant Stupidity.

The first news story I heard today, but I didn't take careful notes and am too lazy to look it all up, so I'll paraphrase: The gist was that kids need to forego their Halloween trick-or-treat festivities because the chance of getting the "deadly swine flu" is way too risky. The "expert" who was consulted said that the flu could be passed from kid-to-candy-wrapper-to-kid and, "to attempt to sterilize each item would render the product unsatisfactory." That means that killing the flu virus on the wrapper of the candy bar would mean destroying the candy bar in the process. They went on to suggest not to let children take candy from the bowl, but the candy should be handed-out, and that "hand sanitizer is a must." First, any flu virus is potentially deadly. This is flu season. Flu happens. It sucks, but it happens. Most people don't die, they just have a hell of a bad time for a week or two. The swine flu thing is being blown way out of proportion to its risk. That being said, second point is that whether swine flu is around or not, a virus can pass between candy wrappers at any time. It can also pass on doorknobs, faucet handles, the push-button on the hand sanitizer or the container itself, and so on. The world isn't sterile.

The moral of my story is that kids should stop listening to douchebag paranoid germophobes, go out trick-or-treating, and have a great time, unless you're already sick of course. You'll encounter germs and virii wherever you go, and life isn't worth much if you're going to worry about everything you touch.

The second news story comes from the "They should make a law against that" department. Apparently a divorced mother of two kids (8 and 9 years old) in Amarillo, Texas is having a hissy-fit because their father allegedly forced their two kids, while in his custody, to watch a pornographic Internet video. The mother said, "He took away their innocence. I thought, surely, there must be a law against that." Well, in Texas, the law states that sex education is at a parent's discretion, and that showing this material to the children by their parent(s) is not against the law.

I'll refrain from judgement of the father since I don't know what really happened here. Was this some kind of perverted hick who wanted to screw around with his kids' heads? Possibly, but I'm going to say not likely. What probably happened here is that either (1) his kids asked a question about sex and he felt this would be a good way to answer their question, or (2) the kids were exploring some site and he felt it would be better if he could put the visuals in context. Kind of like the kid who is caught smoking is forced to smoke the whole pack in front of Dad so he'll never do it again. I'd say that the father's real crime here is an absence of good judgement, which seems to be epidemic in society today. If he really is a sick pervert, though, then definitely throw him in jail (usually these kind of perverts have a history of abuse).

My "blatant stupidity" award, though, goes to the mother, and to anyone else who's outraged at the law in this case. I'm close to several families where the parents are divorced and there's kids in the mix. The parents use the kids as pawns in their battle with each other, and the kids have "selective memory" about events in order to manipulate their parents. This sounds more like two parents bickering about parenting philosophy and a counselor over-reacting to a certain situation than a perverted father who forces his kids to watch Internet porn. Seriously, does that even make any sense? The problem is that there is no definitive way to raise children, and kids don't come with an instruction manual. The law allowing parents to show this material was specifically enacted so that the parents could show sexually-oriented material to their kids for the purpose of teaching them about sex. How a parent chooses to teach their child makes an excellent topic for debate, but I'm not sure that the legal system is the place to debate that subject. The time to debate that subject is before the parents have intercourse and pop-out the little tykes. Should the mother be concerned? Absolutely. Should the mother or state start pressing charges against the father? That is a very good question. Was this sex education, kids lying to their counselor (maybe because they watched the videos on their own and didn't want to fess-up to it), a sick and perverted father, or something else? The news story didn't say, and we have no right to judge based on that story. As for the kids "losing their innocence" ... I doubt that even if they were forced to watch Internet porn that the kids would be scarred for life. Save that sentiment for children who are really sexually abused. There are really cases of that, and they need to throw the sick bastards who do that in the slammer and throw away the key.

Maybe if the mother and father of these children had better parenting and sex education themselves, then they would have known better about choosing a mate and what happens nine months after intercourse. I feel bad for these children - not because they saw Internet porn, but because their parents are initiating a legal battle that is taking away from real parenting, and sending a message to the kids that sex is horrible and dirty and bad. I think that this will do far more harm than the Internet porn...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's...Sayaka...who??

Every once in a while (not nearly enough lately) someone stands out to me as being special. When that happens, it only seems fitting that I make mention of that on here, because it's no fun having only depressing commentary all the time...

A few months ago while I was browsing YouTube videos with my TiVo, I came upon Sayaka Alessandra, known on YouTube (and elsewhere) as "sayalessandra," performing an Elvis Presley song. The video was Sayaka singing and playing acoustic guitar. So, intrigued, I decided to look at more of her performances. I was absolutely amazed at her vocal range and the expression she gave to the songs she sung. It was obvious that she truly performs from the heart with the voice that is absolutely angelic.

The first song I heard was a cover of Elvis Presley's, "Baby Let's Play House" (linked here). Following that, a stage performance of "Whatever Lola Wants" that is truly a testament to just Sayaka's vocal range - a range I have not heard since Mandy Barnett (country performer popular in the late 1990s). Finally, as I heard her sing Sam Cooke's "Cupid," I sat thinking to myself, "This is definitely someone who doesn't need any help from Cupid!" Anyone who embraces those old songs is wonderful in my book.

As if these weren't enough good things to say - Sayaka is absolutely gorgeous. I mean, if she lived in the United States and I was about 20 years younger, I'd be ...well... I'd probably be waiting in line behind a thousand other admirers. Unlike all of you, who's first contact with Sayaka was probably her web site that I linked above (with the professional photos), my first contact was on YouTube, with her singing at what looks like her home. Yeah, I'll admit, if I had to describe how the woman of my dreams would look, this is it. No exaggeration.

So, check out "sayalessandra" and let me know what you think. I really think she has potential to do great things, and is well on her way to realizing those possibilities.

Related footnote:
okay, okay....yes, I know Mandy Barnett is also "my type" appearance-wise as well, and I'm sure some of you will accuse me of having some kind of audio filter controlled by my eyes. That's really just a coincidence. Both are really wonderful performers, in addition to being beautiful. Hey, it happens sometimes!! :-)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ancient History

My latest Netflix viewing was the documentary The God Who Wasn't There (written and directed by Brian Flemming). The movie was primarily an examination of the history of Christianity, coming to the conclusion that Christianity and related religions are more likely fictional stories and are full of contradiction. He also emphasizes the dangers of fundamentalist Christianity (and other extremist religious leanings as well). The movie is done very much in the style that Morgan Spurlock and Michael Moore have made popular recently. For the most part, I did enjoy the movie -- it had a lot of excellent insight and information. The only thing I didn't like was the "music" throughout.

One thing I do think is getting old in these documentaries is the parts where the opposition is interviewed and put on the spot when asked to defend their positions. Yes, we all knew that Dr. Ronald Sipus (superintendent of Village Christian Schools) was going to flip out when asked to allow students to critically question the beliefs that were being taught in the school. I think there are other ways to get the point across without embarrassing people in the process. This kind of interviewing technique is sometimes effective, but more often than not it tends to make me sympathetic to the interviewee, regardless of how much I disagree with them.

One of the most important things I walked away thinking after watching the movie was how justifying an action "because it's my faith" essentially ends the conversation. If you say that I will be destined for a life in hell because I don't believe there is a holy spirit, or that homosexuals should be put to death, and I question the morality of those statements on scientific or secular principles, and you say that I'm wrong "because God said so, and that's who I believe," there is nothing I can say to respond. Clearly facts, scientific principles, common sense, and considerate behavior will not convince someone who believes that an omnipotent being, only supported through faith, indicates otherwise.

There are days I take pause to think about why I don't believe in some "higher power" or "holy spirit," and wonder whether believing would fix things that are wrong in my life. On the days when I feel like my life is pointless, I wonder if dedicating my life to serve "God" would give my life meaning. When all is said and done, the scientist in me realizes that turning to religion to find meaning in my life is nothing more than a crutch, at best, and at worst I am depriving the world and myself from doing something truly constructive. Every one of us has the potential to contribute something positive to the world around us, including those who are religious. However, I still assert that if there were a higher power, that being would not want us to waste the resources we have been blessed with sitting around worshiping it (and working to convince others to do the same). My morals and values are based on the principle that I try to treat others as I would like to be treated, in ways similar to Buddhist belief.

What we currently view as organized religion had its place in a time in history where less was known and understood about the physical world where we live. It could be argued, and very well argued as well, that while these concepts did lay the foundation for ethical behavior where perhaps none existed, some of the teachings of the Judeo-Christian religions and their offshoots were (and still are) barbaric and downright violent. Furthermore, it really is my belief that supernatural explanations for how the world works just makes little sense in light of what we have learned over the past 2,000 years.

I know I've said a lot of this before, but sometimes I find myself being able to say it better, and now is one of those times. Since I've been pondering the lack of point in living a lot lately, and because that thought scares me at times, I've had to do some serious thinking about life in general. While I don't consider myself a martyr or that my thoughts are terribly original, I do realize that throughout my entire life I have tended to be a non-conformist and an independent thinker. By definition, independent thought and non-conformity will always leave one very alone at times. That's not to say I am always striving to "buck the system," but I do question the motives and the reason behind why the system is as it is. There are times that I have rallied behind conventional thought, some times when I reluctantly went along with convention (because I had no choice), and times when my principles lead me far from convention. While this isn't an easy life, my personality, for better or worse, won't let me behave otherwise, and my mistakes are unfortunately permanently etched into my mind. Also unfortunately, some of the right choices haven't been etched as permanently...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Bloody Mess

Sometimes something so strangely funny happens, you just have to share it on here...

I saw the season premere of South Park tonight. This is the episode where Kyle's brother Ike sees dead celebrities. One of them is Billy Mays.

{brief topic change}
I had Chipotle for lunch on Tuesday (yesterday). I haven't had lunch there for a while because the quality of the food at that particular Chipotle just hadn't been too good. Since I went to get my hair cut at lunch, and because Chipotle was right around the corner, and I was running a bit late, I figured, "Why not?" So I had Chipotle. It was actually pretty tasty.

{about three hours before I started writing this and a couple of hours before South Park}
I had to go to the bathroom and, argh, the friggin' rectal bleeding started again. I was hoping I had that under control, but I guess a little too little water and a little too much food was the recipe for that problem again. Hopefully not for too long, I'll need to soften the stool a bit for the next few days. I know this is gross, and I'm serious about it happening, but stay with me...there really is something funny about it.

{back to South Park}
So I'm watching South Park, and one of the celebrities that Ike sees is Billy Mays, who does a commercial for Chipotlaway. "Do you like to eat Chipotle but can't get the blood stains out of your underwear?" WTF?! How did the comedy geniuses who do South Park know that I had Chipotle and that I was having problems with rectal bleeding? And is it well-known that eating Chipotle really causes rectal bleeding? Why can't I have a golden rectum like Stan?

The bigger question though is, "Now that I know that eating Chipotle causes rectal bleeding, will I still continue to eat it, or buy Chipotlaway?"

If any of this seems obtuse, please, I beg you to watch the latest episode of South Park.

Oh, and if either Matt or Trey are here reading this, no, it wasn't too soon... Touche. Very well done. If the rest of the season is as well-done as this episode, I'll be looking forward to it!