Monthly Archives: December 2012

General

Fahoo fores, dahoo dores

grinch - who hash‘Tis the season to put up festive decorations, share time and gifts and food with friends and family, and apparently for some Christians to get riled up against atheists over the specter of persecution.

Every year around this time, in spite of my efforts to avoid watching Fox News, I invariably hear about the supposed “War on Christmas” in which I am unwittingly a foot soldier, seeking and destroying all mention of the C-word in the public square. On occasion, Christians who know I’m an atheist wish me a Merry Christmas with a tone of rebellion in their voices, as though they’re brazenly defying some unjust law by doing so, just daring me to call the Secular Spetsnaz on them. I like to respond by thanking them and wishing them a “Happy _____”, inserting a random late December holiday to throw them off.

All this divisive talk of who owns the reason for the season can make the holidays a stressful time to be an atheist, a time when all I want to do is don my gay apparel, look at the pretty lights, sip on a peppermint mocha, brave the pandemonium at the mall to find thoughtful (and/or practical) presents for the people I care about, and then snuggle on the couch with my wife and the dogs. It just so happens that the only December 25th birthday I’ll be giving a nod to will be that of Sir Isaac Newton.

I’m not out to take away anyone’s Nativity scene or last can of Who Hash. I couldn’t care less about who in my vicinity is celebrating the birthday of which mythological/religious figure, so long as they aren’t forcing their beliefs on anyone else or using taxpayers’ money to promote their faith. I don’t think those are unreasonable requests, and I don’t see why we can’t all have a pleasant December while following those guidelines.

So, fellow humans: be ye faithful or godless, whatever the reason you’re celebrating, let’s all have a good night and a merry day tomorrow.

Comedy

Sophomore Slump

“Get your second project done as quickly as possible so you can move on to your third”
– Ed Chigliak*

I’m a firm believer in getting my ‘rebound’ out of the way as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, I usually don’t. However, due to the goading of the Skeptoid, I managed to bust out this little ditty:

 

She may not be much to look at, but she’s kind of cute, fun(ny), and gave me a good old nostalgic feeling about my early days of filmmaking. The days when I avoided using ‘cuts’ because I wasn’t sure if my “Windows Movie Maker” would be willing/able to process the fucker. Days when we had no lighting. Days when we had no rehearsal, and didn’t bother memorizing our scripts. I didn’t think I would miss those days, but I seriously do.
Here’s what you have to understand: filmmaking is a pain in the ass. Even a 2 minute scene usually takes a couple hours of prep time, several crew members, thousands of dollars of equipment, etc. On top of this you usually have to worry about people actually showing up. Sometimes I write in ancillary characters just in case we are missing an actor or crew member (entirely interchangeable on my set).
Now take all this effort, and add the fact that we are all self-involved artistic egomaniacs who, for some reason, decided to work in an industry that can only function through teamwork. Now double–No, TRIPLE your efforts, and realize that you’ve only improved the quality of your movies by a slight margin. A “margin” that none of your non-industry friends will ever notice.
Anyways, it was fun just kind of ‘winging’ it for a night.**

Thanks, Mr. Dunning!

ps. If anyone reading this was in the background of the video and wants to be credited, let me know.

 

*I went through 8 discs and ‘scrubbed’ over 40 episodes of Northern Exposure to find that fucking quote.
**Though I was still shooting with a 28mm prime on a Canon t3i, and using a Rode mic attached to a Zoom H4n. All of which was mounted on my new P&C Gearbox. That still counts as “winging” it in my book/on my set… whichever sounds better.

 

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Comedy

Sophomore Slump

“Get your second project done as quickly as possible so you can move on to your third”
– Ed Chigliak*

I’m a firm believer in getting my ‘rebound’ out of the way as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, I usually don’t. However, due to the goading of the Skeptoid, I managed to bust out this little ditty:

 

She may not be much to look at, but she’s kind of cute, fun(ny), and gave me a good old nostalgic feeling about my early days of filmmaking. The days when I avoided using ‘cuts’ because I wasn’t sure if my “Windows Movie Maker” would be willing/able to process the fucker. Days when we had no lighting. Days when we had no rehearsal, and didn’t bother memorizing our scripts. I didn’t think I would miss those days, but I seriously do.
Here’s what you have to understand: filmmaking is a pain in the ass. Even a 2 minute scene usually takes a couple hours of prep time, several crew members, thousands of dollars of equipment, etc. On top of this you usually have to worry about people actually showing up. Sometimes I write in ancillary characters just in case we are missing an actor or crew member (entirely interchangeable on my set).
Now take all this effort, and add the fact that we are all self-involved artistic egomaniacs who, for some reason, decided to work in an industry that can only function through teamwork. Now double–No, TRIPLE your efforts, and realize that you’ve only improved the quality of your movies by a slight margin. A “margin” that none of your non-industry friends will ever notice.
Anyways, it was fun just kind of ‘winging’ it for a night.**

Thanks, Mr. Dunning!

ps. If anyone reading this was in the background of the video and wants to be credited, let me know.

 

*I went through 8 discs and ‘scrubbed’ over 40 episodes of Northern Exposure to find that fucking quote.
**Though I was still shooting with a 28mm prime on a Canon t3i, and using a Rode mic attached to a Zoom H4n. All of which was mounted on my new P&C Gearbox. That still counts as “winging” it in my book/on my set… whichever sounds better.

 

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Statistics

The Odds Must Be Crazy: Two Blokes Broke Spokes

highlight_oddsmustbecrazy

If you haven’t checked out the Odds Must Be Crazy (http://www.theoddsmustbecrazy.com/) and submitted a crazy story of your own, do so… NOW!

 

A few weeks ago, I was heading to my local bicycle shop to get my bike
repaired. Just as I was about to enter I heard “hey, John.”
It was my friend and coworker Leeman Parker. “hey Leeman Parker,
what’s up, man?”

Though it was a nice surprise, I wasn’t too shocked to see Leeman. We live
in a similar area. We both frequent this bike shop. And, having the
same job, we have a similar schedule.

Then Leeman explained, “just need a fix; one of my spokes fell out.”

“Oh snap! One of my spokes fell out, too.”

“On your back tire?” Now even Leeman was surprised; no small feat
for a man who is usually described as a comedic robot.

Yep, we both had a single missing spoke in our back tires. I think it’s
important to note here that we have very similar tires: street tires
or what the kids call ‘slick tires’, I believe. Though Leeman’s bike
is a one gear bike, whereas mine is a full road bike. That is, he has
a “fixie”, and I’ve got a badass racing bike. He’s got
something usually associated with emasculated hipsters, and my bike
might be what Lance Armstrong uses to go to the store. I’m just
explaining that I’m awesome so Barbara Dresher doesn’t have to waste
any of her analysis time going over that point. Though I do
appreciate the thought, Barbara, thank you. So we have very similar
tires, we ride on the same streets, during the same hours, for almost
the same distance. It’s only likely that we will experience similar
damage on our bikes. However, neither Leeman nor I have ever had a
spoke break on us. Not on these tires, not on these bikes, not on any
other bike in any other city we’ve ridden… In our lives… EVER!…
BAM!… The Odds Must Be Crazy!

Science Statistics

The Odds Must Be Crazy: Two Blokes Broke Spokes

highlight_oddsmustbecrazy

If you haven’t checked out the Odds Must Be Crazy (http://www.theoddsmustbecrazy.com/) and submitted a crazy story of your own, do so… NOW!

 

A few weeks ago, I was heading to my local bicycle shop to get my bike
repaired. Just as I was about to enter I heard “hey, John.”
It was my friend and coworker Leeman Parker. “hey Leeman Parker,
what’s up, man?”

Though it was a nice surprise, I wasn’t too shocked to see Leeman. We live
in a similar area. We both frequent this bike shop. And, having the
same job, we have a similar schedule.

Then Leeman explained, “just need a fix; one of my spokes fell out.”

“Oh snap! One of my spokes fell out, too.”

“On your back tire?” Now even Leeman was surprised; no small feat
for a man who is usually described as a comedic robot.

Yep, we both had a single missing spoke in our back tires. I think it’s
important to note here that we have very similar tires: street tires
or what the kids call ‘slick tires’, I believe. Though Leeman’s bike
is a one gear bike, whereas mine is a full road bike. That is, he has
a “fixie”, and I’ve got a badass racing bike. He’s got
something usually associated with emasculated hipsters, and my bike
might be what Lance Armstrong uses to go to the store. I’m just
explaining that I’m awesome so Barbara Dresher doesn’t have to waste
any of her analysis time going over that point. Though I do
appreciate the thought, Barbara, thank you. So we have very similar
tires, we ride on the same streets, during the same hours, for almost
the same distance. It’s only likely that we will experience similar
damage on our bikes. However, neither Leeman nor I have ever had a
spoke break on us. Not on these tires, not on these bikes, not on any
other bike in any other city we’ve ridden… In our lives… EVER!…
BAM!… The Odds Must Be Crazy!

General

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Opinion

School prayer doesn’t stop bullets

No doubt many of you have seen this chain letter in the recent days. It’s popped up at times in my Facebook feed, shared by a few of my devoutly Christian friends and acquaintances.

godschools

COLUMBINE STUDENT’S FATHER 12 YEARS LATER!!

Guess our national leaders didn’t expect this. On Thursday, Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, was invited to address the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee. What he said to our national leaders during this special session of Congress was painfully truthful.

They were not prepared for what he was to say, nor was it received well. It needs to be heard by every parent, every teacher, every politician, every sociologist, every psychologist, and every so-called expert! These courageous words spoken by Darrell Scott are powerful, penetrating, and deeply personal. There is no doubt that God sent this man as a voice crying in the wilderness. The following is a portion of the transcript:
“Since the dawn of creation there has been both good &evil in the hearts of men and women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence. The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher, and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.

“The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used.. Neither was it the NCA, the National Club Association. The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain’s heart.

“In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA – because I don’t believe that they are responsible for my daughter’s death. Therefore I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel’s murder I would be their strongest opponent.

I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy — it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies! Much of the blame lies here in this room. Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves. I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best. 

Your laws ignore our deepest needs,
Your words are empty air.
You’ve stripped away our heritage,
You’ve outlawed simple prayer.

Now gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question “Why?”

You regulate restrictive laws,
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand,
That God is what we need!

“Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, mind, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc. Spiritual presences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation’s history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. 

What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence. And when something as terrible as Columbine’s tragedy occurs — politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties. We do not need more restrictive laws. 

Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre. The real villain lies within our own hearts. 

“As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes, he did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right! I challenge every young person in America , and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain. Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him. 

To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA — I give to you a sincere challenge.. Dare to examine your own heart before casting the first stone! 

My daughter’s death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!”
- Darrell Scott

Do what the media did not – – let the nation hear this man’s speech. Please share this with your FB friends!

 

Being a Good Skeptic™, I of course Snopes‘d it to make sure this is what he actually said. Then I typed out this lengthy response, which I was about to leave as a comment on a colleague’s Facebook post until I decided it would make a great blog post instead.

I get rather upset when people post this (and I’ve been seeing it a lot this week). I’m sorry for Mr. Scott’s loss on that terrible day, and for everyone else who lost loved ones in all the mass shootings since, but there are some major problems with what this chain letter says.

schoolprayerviolence

First off, there are no laws in this country preventing students from praying on their own in schools – only preventing teachers and principals from telling them to pray. It’s frustrating that so many Christians in this country can’t seem to tell the difference.

Secondly, what you’re insinuating here is that such tragedies wouldn’t happen if only more students were praying in the classroom. Is this because you believe that your God would have protected them if they’d prayed, or is it because you believe that the killers would never have pulled the trigger if they had more Jesus in their lives? If it’s the former, you’re essentially saying that your God punishes people for not praying enough by slaughtering their children. If it’s the latter, you’re ignoring the twisted individuals who kill in the name of their faith.

And finally, while you’re correct that it’s wrong to simply pin the blame on the NRA, you’re only shifting the blame to another group: secularists. That isn’t any less wrong, and it’s intellectually dishonest to try to boil the tragedy’s causes down to a single factor.

I do not have the answers as to how to prevent these tragedies either, but as an atheist I feel personally insulted when people blame them on a lack of religion. The fact that I don’t go out committing horrible acts of violence isn’t because of faith in a higher power – it’s because I have empathy for my fellow human beings. Perhaps that’s what is lacking in our culture.

A few seconds of Google research turned up a campaign launched in Rachel Scott’s memory that does exactly that: a call for compassion and an end to bullying.  The campaign, called Rachel’s Challenge, is “a non-profit, non-political, non-religious organization based in Littleton, Colorado” according to its website.

Let’s honor the innocent victims of these tragedies by working to end hatred and violence, not by the divisive tactic of scapegoating the godless.

Activism Current Events Ethics Opinion

Against Kate Middleton et al

from: http://pandawhale.com/post/10555/my-penis-works-celebrate-peasants

Kate Middleton’s predictable but nonetheless depressing rise to fame only adds insult to the great injury that is pseudo-monarchy. Almost as inexplicable as the stupidity of the American two-party system, but surely stupider, is the United Kingdom’s love affair with a particular rich family who is openly paid to be rich. She mocks us with her trivial celebrations, and we proles relish the opportunity to worship her. Now, she has gone and done the most typical possible thing a human can do: she has reproduced. And to continue this most excellent resistance to millions of years of evolution her face again is exploding all through the intertubes. As if the pretentious, superfluous, and ostentatious display of unearned wealth that was her wedding wasn’t enough.

Middleton’s new royal estate is publicly funded, and worse yet, publicly honored. The royal family serves no real purpose for the United Kingdom’s government, and certainly not one proportional to the honors “Her Majesties’” government bestows upon it. I am in no way the first to have pointed this out either. It’s perfectly obvious to anyone standing beyond the fool’s haze of tradition that the best possible government does not include a facade of tyranny.

Marx called religion the opiate of the people. And we, as skeptics, have already stepped back from tradition and recognized faith’s grim role. I suggest that we again make use of this capability when considering the royal family, however pretty and polite they may appear. Giving the people their opiates in the form of a skeuomorphic government has numerous consequences; not the least of which is glorifying a decrepit regime of servility. What bothers me most is, every moment that the international conversation is about these useless figureheads is a moment the meaningful conversations are neglected for the sake of inane babble.

For example, the title of this article by Jane Hamilton is Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton boosts UK’s economy.* What Hamilton of course means, as is more clear in the article, as that demand for specific fashion items has risen dramatically because of our obsession with the young Duchess. That is not at all the same thing as boosting an economy. The world’s resources were redistributed to imitate Middleton, she did not create new resources, the economy was not “boosted”, except for the savings she doubtlessly annihilated.

The only rational response, then, is to not only endeavor to truly end the reign, regardless of how ineffectual it is, of the English tyrants. Doing this in the state is not enough, but removing them from the discussions of the interesting is necessary as well. Why should we waste any more of humanities’ precious and scarce resources on the pompous symbols of a darker time?

 *Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton boosts UK’s economy by Jane Hamilton, (1/10/2012, The Sun) <http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4049338/.html>

Uncategorized

2012 Gets Kicked in the Nuts!

 

Written & Directed by
JOHN RAEL

Director of Photography
MATTHEW DAVID

Animation and Special Effects by
JEN BROWN

Edited by
JOHN RAEL

Cast:
True Believer JARRETT LENNON KAUFMAN
Wise Man BRIAN KEITH DALTON
Girlfriend JEN BROWN
Photographer and EMT #1 WILL HUSE
Himself D.J. GROTHE
EMT #2 MATTHEW DAVID
Witness RACHEL BLOOM
Skeptic JOHN RAEL
Himself ADAM SAVAGE

Sound Operator
GABRIEL CHACON
Makeup
PENELOPE CHAN
Key Grip (San Francisco)
CHRIS PARKER
Key Grip (Los Angeles)
SHAWN HOWARD
Grips
CHRISTINA HOLLERAN
PENELOPE CHAN

ALL Music used with written permission:

“Soliloquy for the End of the World”
Written and performed by ANDRU AESTHETIK

“Everything You Believe is a Lie”
Written and Performed by THE BURNING HELL

“Lilting Waltz”
Written and Performed by DROPSHOT

“Monster” and “Night Walk”
Written and Performed by PEACH STEALING MONKEYS

“Scheming Weasel”
Written and Performed by KEVIN MACLEOD

Special Thanks
to BOBA BEAR in Korea Town for letting us use their Hookah Lounge
to BRIAN DALTON for lending his equipment

Uncategorized

2012 Gets Kicked in the Nuts!

 

Written & Directed by
JOHN RAEL

Director of Photography
MATTHEW DAVID

Animation and Special Effects by
JEN BROWN

Edited by
JOHN RAEL

Cast:
True Believer JARRETT LENNON KAUFMAN
Wise Man BRIAN KEITH DALTON
Girlfriend JEN BROWN
Photographer and EMT #1 WILL HUSE
Himself D.J. GROTHE
EMT #2 MATTHEW DAVID
Witness RACHEL BLOOM
Skeptic JOHN RAEL
Himself ADAM SAVAGE

Sound Operator
GABRIEL CHACON
Makeup
PENELOPE CHAN
Key Grip (San Francisco)
CHRIS PARKER
Key Grip (Los Angeles)
SHAWN HOWARD
Grips
CHRISTINA HOLLERAN
PENELOPE CHAN

ALL Music used with written permission:

“Soliloquy for the End of the World”
Written and performed by ANDRU AESTHETIK

“Everything You Believe is a Lie”
Written and Performed by THE BURNING HELL

“Lilting Waltz”
Written and Performed by DROPSHOT

“Monster” and “Night Walk”
Written and Performed by PEACH STEALING MONKEYS

“Scheming Weasel”
Written and Performed by KEVIN MACLEOD

Special Thanks
to BOBA BEAR in Korea Town for letting us use their Hookah Lounge
to BRIAN DALTON for lending his equipment