Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

  • A blog called Suicide Food examines advertisers’ use of cute cartoon animals that cheerfully urge you to eat them. (Saturday Night Live lampooned this kind of thing with their decapitated Clucky the Chicken, but Suicide Food takes it to a whole new level.) Far from being a modern marketing trend, however, “suicide food” has always been with us in one form or another. As Margaret Atwood described in The Robber Bride, French serving dishes are often fashioned in the shape of the foods they’re meant to contain (fish-shaped fish platters, chicken-shaped egg cups, etc.). Then there’s Charlie Tuna, the truly disturbing McNugget Buddies, the ham-eating pigs in the Boost Mobile commercial, etc. It is kinda creepy, especially when you consider that self-sacrifice and suicide are virtually unheard of in the animal kingdom (Disney invented that stuff about lemmings).
  • CGI is a Zionist tool used for sorcery and brainwashing! Well, if you actually believe anything you see on Iranian TV. A very confused guy tries to explain that ancient Egyptian rabbis (???) passed on kabbalistic “witchcraft” to the Knights Templar, and it ended up in the Harry Potter movies. Another guy declares there’s a cultural war going on between Zionist-controlled Hollywood and the Middle Eastern nations. If that’s true, Iran is clearly not even trying to win…
  • The 27 Club “theory” rides again. It’s weaker than usual this time, because most people (myself included) had never even heard of Big Brother contestant Jade Goody.
  • The ludicrous Smiley Face Killer(s) theory is still alive and kicking, too. IMHO, when you combine drunk college students with fast-moving bodies of water or moderately heavy traffic, theories usually aren’t necessary to explain the results. That said, The Foil Beneath My Hat has the best theory-within-a-theory so far.

I couldn’t resist sharing…

This has been popping up on a lot of blogs, but I couldn’t resist sharing…
A Stephen Colbert-puppet rant on Jenny McCarthy, from The Rant Puppets.
This is not meant as a slam of Ms. McCarthy herself – just the pseudoscientific, fear-based campaign of which she is the most prominent member. For more info, see stopjenny.com.

Movie Review: Religulous

Director: Larry Charles
I did NOT want to see this movie. But Changeling wasn’t out yet, and I certainly didn’t want to see Eagle Eye or Roadside Romeo.

Frankly, I expected Religulous to be a shallow and disrespectful examination of complex religious issues, focused on the fringiest of the Christian fundies in an effort to further discredit the Bush regime (as if that even needs to be done). There is a definite anti-Christian backlash going on, exemplified by the popularity of Zeitgeist, and I’d rather not be a part of it. I respect religious freedoms and I try to see the positive in every religion. For instance, many of the relief services in my city are funded and run primarily by churches.

I was in for a pleasant surprise. In Religulous, Bill Maher sets aside a good deal of the smarminess that I found so grating back when I watched Politically Incorrect, asks some surprisingly thoughtful questions, and gives us lots of laughs…not always at religion’s expense. Here are a few of the film’s hit and miss highlights:

Miss that turned out to be a hit: The filmmakers liken Muslim-turned-Christian preacher “Dr.” Jeremiah Cummings to a pimp because of his bling and his nice suit, and insert subtitles claiming that Cummings isn’t really a doctor. Cheap. But Cummings is taking his cheap shots as well; he claims that the director altered the footage to make it sound like he said, “Call me doctor”, even though he uses the title “Dr.” on his website.

Hit: Maher uses believers’ own logic to expose flaws in it. By exploring the notion that “everything happens according to God’s plan”, he gets an actor who portrays Jesus at the Holy Land Experience to say that the Holocaust was probably part of God’s plan for…something.

Miss: Creationist Ken Ham and his goofity-ass Creation Museum (in which exhibits show humans and dinosaurs hanging out together) don’t get much screen time, meaning Ham isn’t fully exposed as the intellectually dishonest fool he is. In one of his anti-evolution videos, Ham declared that all of the scientific evidence presented by the defense at the Scopes trial has since been debunked. Anything wrong with that statement….?

Hit: Maher interviews people of faith who have embraced science, technology, and rationalism, like Vatican astronomer George Coyne, giving lie to the popular notion that all religionists are superstitious dunderheads.

Hit: The film was not as anti-Christian as I expected it to be. It surveyed most of the major religions, and the only visible annoyance Maher showed came not when he was talking to Christian fundamentalists, but when he was frequently interrupted by anti-Zionist rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss. We see footage of the rabbi hugging President Ahmadinejad at the Holocaust denial conference held in Tehran in 2006, just before Maher cuts off the interview in disgust. Can’t say I blame him. Though some people are still insisting the conference was an anti-Zionism gathering rather than a holocaust denial conference, Ahmadinejad made it painfully clear in interviews and in his opening address that the conference was designed to give Holocaust revisionists a forum for their pseudohistorical views. Attendees like David Duke and Gerald Fredrick Toben made it clear that Jews are lying about the Holocaust and exploiting their “lies” for political benefit, hence cannot be trusted. The thought of any Jew supporting this conference, for any reason, is sickening.

Miss: The filmmakers never really get to the root of religious belief, yet they put forward the idea that it’s time to scrap religion entirely because of the division and irrationalism it creates. They imply that without religion, folks will become saner, more peaceful, and generally better. I respectfully disagree with this conclusion. Spirituality could be an innate part of our humanity, a common bond. Perhaps what we need is not the end of religion, but the start of a more humble and enlightened form of it, free of exploitation and aggression.

Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide Now!

I’ve talked about bogus bottled water before. Penta Water is supposed to be more hydrating than plain old water. Jana Skinny Water contains extracts of an herb called Garcinia cambogia that will supposedly make you feel full, hence it is “diet water”. Kabbalah water had some of the spiritual properties of Catholic holy water, only you could drink it. And let’s not forget the happy water of Masuro Emoto, unfortunately made famous by What the Bleep Do We Know?.
But Penn & Teller took it to a whole new level on their Showtime show Bulls***, by having an actor pose as a “water steward” in an upscale restaurant. Patrons were given a fancy menu listing numerous varieties of bottled water, ranging in price from $4 to $7, and asked to sample the selection. Sniffing, sloshing, and sipping like hardcore enophiles, the diners noted variations in taste, color, even “texture”. But every single bottle had been filled from the same garden hose.

On another program, they had a woman circulate among the tie-dyed crowd at an environmental protest in D.C., asking people to sign a petition calling for a ban on one of the world’s most dangerous substances. She rattled off lists of all its hazards, its uses by the defense industry, and its ubiquity (“It’s everywhere these days.”) Scads of earnest enviromentalists signed. Including one of the protest organizers.
Now there’s a website that tells you everything you need to know about the children- and puppy-killing scourge that is dihydrogen monoxide, answering such questions as “Why haven’t I heard about dihydrogen monoxide before?” and “What can I do to minimize the risks?”