Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Our Wacky World—6/7/2011

Mystery solved
I just can't get enough of the Sarah Palin freak show:
"Effective immediately, there is zero tolerance for on-screen errors," the memo said. "Mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the 'mistake chain,' and those who supervise them.
Crooks & Liars

Here are some hi-res photos of the above. Meanwhile:
"Palin’s two-SUV caravan traveled at 52 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone as it peeled away from the hosts’ neighborhood. Both cars blew through a stop sign about a mile later. They did 70 mph in a 55 mph zone on I-95 — and then, after they got off, without signaling, flew right past a flashing sign informing them they were going 45 mph in a 35 mph zone."

"It is popular in Japan today to drink water immediately after waking up every morning. Furthermore, scientific tests have proven its value... the water treatment had been found successful by a Japanese medical society as a 100% cure for the following diseases:
Headache, body ache, heart system, arthritis, fast heart beat, epilepsy, excess fatness, bronchitis asthma, TB, meningitis, kidney and urine diseases, vomiting, gastritis, diarrhea, piles, diabetes, constipation, all eye diseases, womb, cancer and menstrual disorders, ear nose and throat diseases."
Tamil Brahmins

"For the last three years the man had been held captive in a brick-and-tin shed... The marks on his arms weren’t the tell-tale signs of heroin addiction; they came from where his captor, a ruthless modern-day vampire...named Papu Yadhav, punctured his skin with a hollow syringe. He had kept the man captive so he could drain his blood and sell it to blood banks."

'At home, the punishment for feminine behavior would become more severe. The therapists instructed Kirk's parents to use poker chips as a system of rewards and punishments... red chips, given for effeminate behavior, resulted in "physical punishment by spanking from the father."
...the spankings were severe. Maris remembers "lots of belt incidents." She escaped the screaming by going to her bed to "lay in the room with my pillow on my head." Later, she would go to Kirk's bedroom and "lay down and hug him and we would just lay there, and the thing that I remember is that he never even showed anger. He was just numb."'

"The five-year-old daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes has $150,000 worth of footwear in her closet, according to news reports published today. But $150,000 on shoes is small fry compared with the rest of the youngster's wardrobe, which is believed to have a value of $3.2million."
If this sounds familiar it's because I've posted about the Cruise family's child-rearing practices before. I can't wait until she hits puberty. (Mail Online)

Here's a handy list of false quotations from the Bible that Bill O'Reilly should read. Too bad the author screwed up on this part:
"The scripture never says a whale swallowed Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, nor did any New Testament passages say that three wise men visited baby Jesus, scholars say."
Amateur. I'm not a "scholar" but I know the Bible better:
"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh."
It takes a while to travel to Bethlehem, especially when you stop by Herod's palace along the way. The part about the camels is pretty dodgy, too. (Matthew 2:11)

You don't have to be a "Christian" to join Alcoholics Anonymous—except in Toronto:
"On Tuesday, Toronto’s two secular AA groups, known as Beyond Belief and We Agnostics, were removed or “delisted” from the roster of local meetings. They’ve disappeared from the Toronto AA website and will not be in the next printed edition of the Toronto directory."

"Buscetto said since water started flowing in the whale fountain last month, police and fire officials have been called for people urinating, defecating and washing themselves off in the fountain water. He said some people who have cut themselves have also used the fountain to rinse off blood."

"The couple both face charges of scrubbing two boys' bodies and teeth with a wire brush, force-feeding them after shoving their faces into plates of food, chaining two boys together with a metal chain and making them sleep outside at night."

Hate 3D movies? Wear 2D specs. Half the murkiness with only 2/3 of the dimensions.

Almost exponential

Monday, June 6, 2011

RatCave Book Club—6/5/2011

Sorry for the delay. I've been so busy recently that I haven't been able to focus on book reports.

Over the last several months I've acquired several tomes of interest. Here they are in no particular order...

A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural (1964 edition)—Maurice Bessy

This coffee table book contains almost a thousand images encompassing the entire human experience of magic, religion, superstition and the occult from ancient times to the mid-20th Century. I gave the book a quick leafing and didn't see a single image that was familiar. Unfortunately, most of them are too small to be of much use for this blog but nevertheless it's interesting to browse. The book follows a meandering path as it touches on one sub-topic after another. It is encyclopedic in scope but not execution. The peculiar text accompanying the pictures is terse and ambigious as to the point of view of the author, who is an editor of a variety of similar books about such things as silent movie stars and boxing.

Note that I got my copy (with a rumpled and defaced but intact dust jacket) for a lot less than that Amazon price. It pays to look.

Doomsday 1999 A.D. (1981)—Charles Berlitz

A breathless "new" set of prognostications by one the co-exploiters of the Bermuda Triangle "mystery". Berlitz mustered as many nuggets of pseudo-history and pseudo-fact as he could find or if necessary imagine. After learning that Edgar Cayce had "a remarkable record of verification," the reader can rest assured that the maelstrom of unassociated and often mutually exclusive bits of already-discredited paranormal chestnuts as well as cherry-picked factoids which Berlitz adroitly mixes into a blend guaranteed to overwhelm the hapless, poorly-informed masses is at best a subject for sarcastic amusement and at worst yet another example of the sheer CRAP that has passed for "knowledge" since the New Age™ began. And this was before the Internet. Definitely a top-of-the-toilet-tank volume.

This is reaching all right. If you've ever bothered to read anything by Martin Gardner or James Randi you've heard the names Puthoff & Targ before. Their "research" into various forms of ESP is a classic example of how intelligent, educated scientists can be duped by others and themselves, and deserves the howls of derisive laughter drawn from the Skeptical camp. In this timeless volume we are treated to all of their photographs, diagrams and faith-based machinery which document their "successful" forays into the investigation of psi. This 2004 reprint is part of the "Studies In Consciousness" series which includes a number of other classics of the genre.

There is no point in my attempting to critique their work here as it has already been expertly demolished by Randi, Gardner and others. See the book list in my article "How's it going, Skeptic?" for required reading. The program of "research" they started at SRI ultimately cost American taxpayers $25M thanks to the CIA (the Stargate Project) and other government agencies and gave Uri Geller's career a nice boost, too. BTW, before he quit Scientology Puthoff was an OT VII.

Also of interest is a five-star "review" posted by Targ on Amazon which consists solely of the testimonial text from the inside flaps of the book. Please go there and vote it down.

Secret Societies... And How They Affect Our Lives Today (2007, first edition)—Sylvia Browne

Oh boy. Where the fuck do I start? There are chapters on all the usual suspects: the CFR, Bildebergers, the Illuminati, Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, etc., all written with the inside track possessed by Sylvia's "spirit guide" Francine. Sylvia is a self-styled gnostic Christian so what really caught my eye, though, is that she buys into much of the pseudo-history surrounding Holy Blood, Holy Grail. (The "documentation" that Holy Blood, Holy Grail is based on turned out to be a clever forgery and the entire book was completely debunked. Later, Dan Brown used this pseudo-history in his fictional account entitled The DaVinci Code.) She doesn't seem to believe that Le Prieuré de Sion still exists today but she's squarely in the "they faked Jesus' death but he's still divine" camp. As the late Dr. Gene Scott pointed out repeatedly in his own lengthy critique of Holy Blood, Holy Grail (on live, late-night television in 1985), this makes no fucking sense at all. But if Francine says it's true...

All in all some facts mixed up with a lot of speculation, what she wants to believe and pure moonshine. It would appear that Sylvia actually does believe what she says in this book. But who cares? Her latest title, published just before her unanticipated heart attack, is Afterlives of the Rich and Famous. Now that's a book! Let's find out how Heath Ledger feels about winning the Oscar!!

BTW, I snagged this gem for $1.10 at the local Mennonite thrift store. She isn't making a dime off of me.

The Big Con: The Story Of The Confidence Man (1940, reprinted in 1999)—David Maurer

Maurer was a Professor of linguistics who specialized in underworld argot. In this book he tells, Thirties style, the story of the big cons like "the pay-off", "the rag" and "the wire" (the latter was depicted in the movie The Sting) and the top grifters who ran them. The beauty is in the details and there's plenty of it. Some marks get so into the game that they don't really believe they've been ripped off and come back for more once they'd scraped up some more cash. The ropers live lives of constant anxiety and blow all their money as fast as they can make it. And if there was one thing the fixer couldn't fix it was a fed. Local judges and state politicians were no problem.

The book is a bit long and repetitious by contemporary standards but in its day it must have held readers spellbound. A truly bygone era. No doubt the master grifters of old would shudder at the clumsy Nigerian 419s so prevalent today.

There's a list of all my books reviews here.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sarah Palin stands by her new version of American history

From Fox News Sunday:
"You realized you messed up about Paul Revere?" Fox News host Chris Wallace noted in an interview with Palin Sunday.
"You know what, I didn't mess up about Paul Revere. Here is what Paul Revere did. He warned the Americans that the British were coming, the British were coming and they were going to try to take our arms and we have to make sure we were protecting ourselves and shoring up all of our ammunitions and our firearms so they couldn't take it."
Kind of reminds you of a Creationist, doesn't it? In one statement she's taken the aims of today's gun fanatics and changed over two hundreds years of American history into a struggle for that alone. (Crooks & Liars)

Earlier she spouted these gems at her Ellis Island photo-op:
Look closely
“This Statue of Liberty was gifted to us by foreign leaders, really as a warning to us, it was a warning to us to stay unique and to stay exceptional from other countries. Certainly not to go down the path of other countries that adopted socialist policies”
"Lady Liberty is the symbol of unity and friendship we have with other freedom-loving nations. It's also a "warning" of sorts, as France encouraged us to keep democracy alive as the recipient of this gift... basically telling us not to blow it. Thank you for this reminder, France!"
To complete idiots all this makes perfect sense. (Divine Irony)

And she's still writing on her hand.