Saturday, May 11, 2013

Little Schoolhouse

I have often decried the degeneration of American conspiracy studies. Gone are the lone gunmen; replaced by actors who do anything a foolish TV soundbite or application of crude Photoshop skills can accomplish. Instead of quietly amassing apparently disparate information for years to create a picture of shadow actors today's conspiracy theorists (CT) jump onto YouTube channels to announce their theories before any actual information is even known.

The iconic tool of yesterday's CT was a map with pins and bits of yarn; today's CT must use something akin to the Ouija board. CT has become an exercise in prophesy. A faith-based activity like snake handling. One is often left with some of the same questions after watching modern CT practiced; questions like: “How come they don't get bitten?” or “Do they have some sort of diagnosable psychological illness?”.

It is natural, even healthy, in the aftermath of a traumatic event to produce conjectures about what has lead to the event. The farther away from the event emotionally the healthier it is. However, the communication of these conjectures can be irresponsible if anyone receiving the communications might potentially interpret them as fact. These issues have more to do with actually responding to the event responsibly, and little to do with CT. However, modern CT, by taking to the stage immediately after an event, tries to become part of the response.

Perhaps the problem is that the world has lost the ability to formulate good conspiracy theories. There is no CT center of excellence. The last of the great CT must have finally been rounded up by the Men In Black or converted to Cyber-slaves. Shocking as it is we should have known something like this would eventually happen.

Who will come to the world's rescue to help fix CT studies in America?

I will.

Over the next two weeks I will present some basic lessons into CT, and as a class we will create a viable conspiracy, and use it to suggest the imminent downfall of civilization.

Sharpen your number 2 pencils.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gilligan's Normal

The other day I was watching “The New Normal” with AYD. Watching this program with her is a wonderful exercise in identifying where stereotypes are created through the synergistic interaction of weak direction, scriptwriting, and shoddy acting. We should make it a game with a running point value.

Although no local stations broadcast the show it is readily available on the internet, and we can watch it at our leisure; this usually means we miss a few episodes here and there. It is not like this hit-or-miss approach to watching any show in my home is limited to shows the local Mormon church owned NBC affiliated refuses to broadcast; I’ve not lived in a house that had broadcast TV reception since 1984.I understand there is a UHF channel in Ogden (KUCW - CW30) that has picked up the show since KSL refused to broadcast it. 

I should point out that the “weak direction, scriptwriting, and shoddy acting” I mentioned earlier is no worse than most broadcast TV shows, and –although I don’t watch enough to have a good sample set- actually appears better than most; they should get some Emmys or whatever.

I think we really watch the show to see what the local television stations think is so evil that they dare not speak its name. This hint at things larger than the show makes time spent watching the interaction of barely two dimensional stereotypes appear more wholesome. I actually thought such lack of depth was frowned upon in the era of sitcoms following on the heals of “All In The Family”. Perhaps the idea is that two dimensional stereotypes appear less flat on a 21st century flat-screen TV.

In all fairness the two dimensional sitcom has never been in danger, and I have found them extremely entertaining throughout my life. I had friends who, as soon as retail versions of VCRs became available, recorded every episode of M.A.S.H.; In contrast I kept a complete collection of Gilligan’s Island re-runs neatly stacked in my readily accusable memory.

I’m afraid most of the old episodes are gone from my head now, but images of severe head trauma being used to switch personalities and bad gorilla suits still run through the neatly quaffed underbrush of my mind. Of course images of Tina Louise and Dawn Wells still exist. The delight in asking: “Ginger or Maryann?” would be diminished by any possible answer.

AYD would be mortified if I suggested that watching “The New Normal” conjured questions in her mind like “Brian or David” or perhaps “Rocky or Goldie”.

Trying to be involved in every aspect of your child’s life becomes much more awkward –for everyone- when they become teenagers. Still, I’ve tried to be open. I’ve told her she can date whomever she wants…after her 30th birthday, and as long as they are not too stupid. I’m not ready to dispense with my all my prejudices against the profoundly ignorant today.

So…the other day I was watching “The New Normal” with AYD. It turned out to be the highly anticipated episode with Brian and David’s big wedding. Their over-the-top gay wedding gets preempted by hilarity and babies only to finally take place on a strangely empty LA beach. The apparently Catholic priest shows up and officiates their marriage on the sly by acting simply as a “Child of God”. It was the intimately personal “wedding they always wanted” because their priest showed up. cute.

There they were, able to finally announce their love before god. No longer did they have to be apparent atheists because the barriers between them and their entry into real society were knocked down by a selfless servant of god who was willing to go against his church’s antiquated teaching.

Isn’t that just great. I’ve taught my kids a secular view of social interaction that leads to a meritocratic view of a utopian future. Things are done because they have figured out that they are the right things to do. People are cared for because they have intrinsic value, and appreciated more because of the way they enrich life. I teach them that being an atheist is a choice worth making. Sure prejudices are bad, but what can create prejudice can be even worse. They are simple lessons that I usually make up on the fly, and often they are quite poorly executed.

What can I say to the idea that some atheists are that way because the religion they desperately desire to be a part of will not have them? I would think that to a very social teenage girl the lessons of responsible morality can sound like excuses to justify an unacceptably low social status.

Looking at the pictures of some of the episodes of “The New Normal” that I’ve missed it appears as if David generated some hilarity by attempting to be a Boy Scout leader. This must have been a nod to current events as the Boy Scouts of America are considering some level of allowing gay members. I bet the issue of the BSA ban on Atheist members never came up.

If AYD or AOD were boys I could not officially be a Scoutmaster, and they could not officially join without denouncing what I held to be true.

I know that both AOD, and AYD to some extent want to leave the house, and “be free” of my dictatorial rule. That is “Old Normal” for teenagers, and it is actually a good thing in my opinion. Are they also looking forward to running off to join some cult so they can experience the “Real Normal” of theistic indoctrination?

The well meaning parenting advice I’ve gotten to deal with theistic pressures on my family has overwhelmingly been of the “just pretend” type. You know:”don’t make waves” or “they are entitled to their beliefs (when the assumption is that those beliefs should be that being an atheist is an immoral less than fully human condition)”.

I really don’t like it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Women with the Dog's Eyes" is also a great name for a band

"As I lay dying, the woman with the dog's eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades." - “The Odyssey book XI” Homer

I’ve checked out the band called “As I Lay Dying” since they took their name from Faulkner’s novel; I was disappointed to find out that they were a Christian METALCORE band, and not a Faulknerian metal band. Just imagine how awesome William Faulkner’s work would be if interpreted through the medium of heavy metal music. “Awesome” is the correct adjective in this case as the band also hails from San Diego.

The band’s lyrics talk a whole bunch about death and pain and slavery. Here is a sampler:

If this is what it takes
To bring me to my knees
Then feed me pain until
I realize I am but a slave
Remind me of my need for You
Remind me of who I am
-- “Forced to Die” As I lay Dying from the 2001 album "Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes"

The on the knees and slave stuff is apparently a subtle homage to their dysfunctional relationship with Jesus. However, the band made a decision to “stay silent on the spiritual topic” (Tim Lambesis 2013) around the same time they were nominated for a Grammy (2008 for Best Metal Performance for the song "Nothing Left"). Gone were the knees, and salvation, and preaching at concerts, but the dysfunction was still there. Really ... what is METALCORE without dysfunction?

I'm caught between the feeling
Of being pulled apart or stuffed into a cell
And if these are the only options
This will always be Hell
Never ending
Though I still may be breathing
There is no quality of life
So I choose to risk it all for you
For you to be by my side
-- “Cauterize” As I lay Dying from the 2012 album "Awakened"

Apparently Tim let his dysfunction seep out of his music and messy-up his real life. In September of last year he separated from his wife, and yesterday he was arrested for allegedly trying to hire someone to kill her.

I wonder if Tim’s estranged wife has “Dog’s Eyes”?

Unfortunately they were not able to name their band "The Sound and the Fury" as that name had been taken by a Canadian Hip-Hop band about the same time that Tim started "As I Lay Dying".

"A Light in August" is a "post-hardcore" band from Lodi, California.

Apparently both "Absalom" and "Absalom Absalom" are band names.

Bands are not only using Faulkner's novels.  His short stories are also being used to name bands.  "A Rose for Emily" is the name of another Christian heavy METAL band. 

Who would have thought that the titles from William Faulkner's works would be so popular as rock band titles?