Monday, 16 November 2015

Entertainment stuff from the week 9-15/11/15

Hello readers,

'#ConcernedStudent1950 and Feminists vs the media - DISGRACEFUL!'

'Paris shootings: worst fears realized'

Never mind the hyperbolic title, i think it's clear that religious superstition poses a graver threat to human beings than feminist conspiracy theorising has ever done.

I'm slightly surprised that the shootings didn't take place on Armistice Day itself, given the symbolic significance of the date.

But it doesn't matter whether the mass murder was engineered by rogue ideologues, or Islamic State affiliates, or dictated from IS command, by a kind of Levantine Dr. Strangelove. In all cases, the motive was the same.

Emotions get actions done, but ideas determine which actions get done. And in this case, it's been specifically Islamic ideas that got these 130 killings done.

I'm no going to go into macabre echo-motivating details, but off the back of this event, i'd like to make two general points:

One, concerns Armistice (Remembrance) Day, and the other the go-to defence of false-dichotomist religious apologists.

1) For about a century, and to this present day, Remembrance Day has been purported as a day to remember 'the fallen' and the sacrifices they made for us. Mortal sacrifices made by the 'brave few' military men.

But instead of being a day of sore humanity, it is dominated by (sometimes silent) pomp and circumstance, and lorded over by nationalist militants.

The idea that 19 million people died to make a sacrifice to the survivors, and descendant generations, is bollocks.

WWI was not like WWII, with the Allies fighting a reactionary war, against a Christian Nationalism-motivated German government, that could not be stopped any other way. WWI was a pointless war, fought over mutual nationalistic pride stupidity. No-one had to fight in it. No-one had to die because of it. They died for nothing. NOTHING.

This is exactly what makes WWI such a war worth remembering, and the domination of Remembrance Day by nationalist militants so disturbing.

Instead of the remaining military personnel standing alongside all of the other survivors, thereby demonstrating their humanity, they are separated and treated as different. They are treated as somehow more worthy of this thing called 'honour', and emotionally distanced from the rest of society - as tools of war. They walk on their own, in military uniformity, gongs clinking in the breeze - their sour "thank you" for turning up to the fight.

But most of them were not stoic and dispassionate, when they signed up, when they fought, and especially when they returned home. And if you've ever discussed their experiences with them, they won't have given you the impression that it was all good fun and games, giving the Hun a fine bashing.

Because it wasn't.

They were, after all, often just boys, who thought they were going to be home by Christmas. They experienced terrifying conditions, and saw comrades and close friends just disappear in clouds of smoke and mud, as shells fell onto them, on the battlefield.

This was true for all sides. No belligerent nation's soldiers were spared.

On Remembrance Day, however, there are many people who want you to be sad, but they also want you to respect the imaginary dividing line between you, a member of the public, and them, the war hero, who's more a man than you'll ever be. They want you to subscribe to an irrational and indiscriminate prejudice that those who 'fight for their country' are always doing it worthily.

This is a lie.

There was nothing worthy about WWI, and nothing worthy could come of contributing to it. This is a point that is lost, so often, to the flag-waving, drum-beating and bugle-playing, of nationalist patriots. The same
flag-waving, drum-beating and bugle-playing that convinced them to go, in the first place.
"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons" - Bertrand Russell

The men, and the women and children who died, whether alongside them or far away, died from a futile war that could not have been more trivial. It was completely pointless.

Although the red poppy, that we see so often, and are pressurised into wearing, every year, is intended as commemorative of the deaths on Europe's battlefields (not the civilian ones), it is often intended as a tribute to military personnel, for military action, and certainly not for peaceable campaigning.

Proponents of the white poppy... yes, there is such a thing! ...which is intended as a symbol of pacifism, and introduced just a few years after the red poppy, in 1926, have been derided and slandered by nationalists, who seek to retain control of the Remembrance Day rituals.

The white poppies of the Peace Pledge Union are hard to find, in the redwash, but i assure you that there are people out there who would be willing to wear one, if only they were available to them, and if only the true utility of, and rationale for Remembrance Day were allowed to reach them.

The nationalists want you to be sad, because they want you to be scared, so that they can convince you that their nationalism is the one true road to salvation. It isn't - it's the road to repeating the whole sorry spectacle, again and again and again.

I would want you to be sad, to start you thinking about how wars begin, and which movements in the varied culture of humanity are rendering it more likely, and which are rendering it less likely.

"If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori."

- Wilfred Owen

{'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori' is a line from the Roman lyrical poet Horace's Odes (III.2.13). The line can be roughly translated into English as 'It is sweet and fitting to die for your country'}

Ultimately, if you don't see the importance behind the white poppy, then Remembrance Day has failed, and is not worth the effort people go to, to organise it!

2) On the go-to defence of false-dichotomist religious apoligists.

There is no such thing as 'moderates'. But then, there's no such thing as 'fundamentalists' either.

One of the most favoured tactics of religionists, in my awareness, is the fallacious use of the "I'm not one of them, so i'm alright Jack" gambit.

Religionists say "oh, but they're not a Xtian, so it's nothing to do with me", feminists say "yeah well, TERFs and SJWs are just crazy", and geocentrist charlatans say "the fake astrologers are giving the real ones a bad reputation".

In each of these cases, the 'believer' is trying to impose another of those imaginary dotted lines, to pseudo-justify their own prejudices, by shirking the moral responsibility of reconciling their own with the 'others'.

Because all of these ideologies are superstitious - they exist without, or despite evidence - then any incarnation of them is just as valid as any other. By which i mean that none of them are valid.

In reality, the presence of any superstition, or any science, is continuous and classical (non-quantised) by number of ideas believed, and the amount of confidence that is had in them; but when these superstitionists realise that a fellow superstitionist has become unpopular for something resulting from their superstitious beliefs, they have few choices. If you were one of them, these are the choices you'd have:

1: You can defend your co-superstitionist, and defend their beliefs and acts. -- This is risky, as it can result in their reputation being tarnished too. On the other hand, the greater the number of believers a superstition has, the more veracity it is perceived to have (technically known as the 'ad populem' fallacy) and so defending co-believers can retain most power (freedom) to act superstitious-belief-wise.

2: You can defend your co-superstitionist, but attack their beliefs and acts. -- This option bears the same hazard as option 1 - loss of own reputation - but is more likely to generate sympathy, as it causes people to associate your position with a moral condition. The technical term for this is 'poisoning the well' when it's a negative association. An additional hazard, is that it can cause a schizm, with their cohorts forming a separate faction to your own.

3: You can attack your co-superstitionist, but defend their beliefs and acts. -- This one seems most deranged, but is actually very common. Its technical term is the 'ad hominem' fallacy. Essentially, you're saying that the horrible things that happened weren't a result of any superstitious belief - they're a result of that person being inately evil - they're a sinner, a skeptic, a criminal, a psychopath, etc.

4: You can attack your co-superstitionist, and attack their beliefs and acts. -- This is a full disownment, and is the option that has been chosen when people start throwing the words 'moderate' and 'fundamentalist' around. They're erecting a psychological barrier, to deny any similarity between the co-superstitionist and themself, and thereby seem to have the moral high ground, while condemning someone rightly.

Often, when this happens, people go too far. They try too hard, to make themselves look as innocent as pie, and end up committing crimes themselves - specific acts that only draw attention to how wrong they were, to distance themselves from the original miscreants!

Unsurprisingly, Rationalists are exactly the kinds of people to jump on this, and will readily do so, due to the outrageous nature of it. For example, when thunderf00t effectively destroyed PZ Myers' influence in the Skeptic/Rationalist movement, a few years ago.

The go-to term is 'intellectual somersaults' as believers have found themselves in a situation where they have to struggle and squirm, to convince themselves both that their co-superstitionists are wrong, and that they themselves are right, without using an argument that eviscerates both positions.

'Hypocritical Christian Critics of Islam'

It's very common for Islamists in Europe to label themselves as 'moderates' and all their friends as 'moderates' and all the interviewees are 'moderates', and.... well, it's almost as if the Islamists who do horrible things appear out of nothing, isn't it!

{Aside: if they genuinely were appearing out of nothing, surely that would make them deities who, by religious definition, are always right}

If being a 'moderate' religionist makes you a nice religionist - a 'good' religionist - then where the hell are the fundamentalists coming from?! It's almost as if everyone's calling themselves a 'moderate' to make themselves seem pleasant, while condemning arbitrarily and equally valid superstitious positions as 'fundamentalist' just to deceive themselves and other people into thinking that the lies themselves aren't the problem!

I like Faisal Saeed Al Mutar's metaphor for belief - the one of a coffee shop. But i disagree that the discontinuous notions of 'moderates' and 'fundamentalists' really applies to anyone who goes in it.

The stereotype of a 'moderate' is someone who goes into the coffee shop, and has a coffee and a cake, and that's it. They're done. A few prayers, a few bows and scrapes, and they're not bothered about much more than that.

And the stereotype of a 'fundamentalist' is someone who goes into the coffee shop, and demands one or more of everything they've got - they really get stuck in. They pray, they preach, they flagellate, they're really committed.

But what if the coffee and the cake that the 'moderate' picked happens to involve mutilating a girl's or boy's genitals? What if it involves executing people for doing particular cartoons?

You have no say over the arbitrary preferences for perishables, of other people.

You can argue with someone over their peculiar superstitious beliefs, but you can't ward them away from any superstition-caused crime, without accepting that all superstitions are problematic.

An infinity flirting near the Pierian Spring is less than useless, if you can't be persuaded to drink wholeheartedly.

No-one has to apologise for the actions of others. But common problems produce common results, so everyone should expect to have to reconcile their beliefs. If not to other people, then at least to themselves. This simply isn't possible with superstitions.

As i said, this time last year, after the attacks on Charlie Hebo, the key is consistency. Either you say "if your opinion is unsubstantiated by evidence, we mustn't respect it" or you commit cultural suicide. It's that simple.

Muslims don't have a leg to stand on, in a world where they want Islam-branded bigotry respected, if the house rules are 'No Religion Gets Respected'. We're not oppressing you - it's the same for everyone - leave your umbrella at the door, wipe your feet, and sneeze into a tissue. If yo don't have evidence, you don't get your way, whether your Islamist or Christianist or Scientologist or Raelianist or an atheist Wiccan or Pagan.

The statute should say it clearly: No Bullshit.


The 12th of November was the 1st anniversary of Philae's landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. This time next year is expected to be the time Rosetta is safely landed onto the comet, when its work has been done, instead of losing control as the comet becomes more distant from the Sun and power is lost.

In other news:

When the wind blows, the earth rises. Could it be that the Earth is breathing... backwards?? A video entitled 'breathing earth' has gone viral in the last two weeks, as its title suggests a comic narrative - the Earth breathing in and out. But when have you ever seen someone's chest rise, when breathing out? What's really happening, is the wind is blowing the two trees in the mid-ground, and their root system is lifting the forest floor, in the near-ground. This is how trees can be felled, even if they're not sick.

What lengths would you go to, to preserve a rock? And would you reappraise your decision, if i told you that this particular rock looks a little like a woman's head and neck, and that erosion will cause the head to fall off, in your lifetime? Taiwan's ancient 'Queen's Head' rock formation is the real rock in question, and is deemed responsible for a large part of tourist income in Yehliu, where it is situated."I would be heartbroken if it breaks off, we cannot do without it." says local 73-year-old Liu Pi-lan. It's just a rock, but if the only cost is a big glass box, then maybe it's worth it. Discuss [3 marks] :-D

What colour is the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko? We know that it's very dark (all of the pictures are massively brightened, to make features visible) but black isn't a colour - it's an absence of it. So if we were to turn the colours up, on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (and yes, i am writing its name out by hand, every time) what colours would we see? Akin to other primitive bodies and cometary nuclei in the outer solar system, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has a faint red hue, in this case identified by Rosetta's OSIRIS experiment. Only three regions - Hapi, Hathor, and parts of Seth - are reduced in red light, which suggests an abundance of frozen water, in these locations.

Why do all of this week's newses begin with questions? And what's that, in the vomit? Fossilized anything is fascinating, and fossilized vomit especially so. Traces of disease in fossilized bones are wonderful, and coprolites (fossilized dung) are great to put in people's hands and say "guess what this is" but vomit is very rarely fossilized. This 220 million-year-old case, reveals the (former) contents of the stomach of a predator, exhibiting more detail than a coprolite would, because it's undergone less digestion. Technically, it's more akin to an owl's pellet than a drunkard's tactical chunder, but it definitely contains the fragile bones of a small reptile or lizard, maybe a protosaur. What's least known, is the species that ate it, in the first place!

In July, 'Shark Week' returned - a pseudoscientific lie-fest on the Discovery Channel - and this week, the similarly-erroneously-named History Channel broadcasted 'Breaking History: Bigfoot Captured' which did away with the idea that the History channel had anything to do with real events, historic or present, for good. Two hours of deception! Quote-mined interviews, C-list actors, and hammy staging, all to slander scientists, and present the mythical Bigfoot as a real thing. As Jim vorel found, writing in Paste Magazine, people genuinely believed it! But of course, it's all OK, because "that's entertainment".

VW catch-up: Brazil's equivalent of the EPA has fined them $13 million for their emissions 'scheme' and that that is the maximum amount they are allowed to. The vehicles are 17,000 'Amarok' branded trucks, from 2011 and 2012. The Head of the California Air Resources Board has revealed that the industrial cover-up of VW's deception started way back in 2011, when industrial commissioners lied to the European Commission, causing them not to act on the case. It turns out that Greenpeace doesn't get all the credit for causing the EPA to conduct better tests, then, as The International Council on Clean Transportation has been pleading with organisations in the USA, years ago. Whichever claimants are due the credit for whisteblowing, however, it's clear that VW Group persisted with the deceptive scheme, despite opposition.

Germany's Federal Motor Transport Authority has said that it is testing 23 brands for emissions, following the revelations of VW Group's activities. Those brands include: Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Ford, Chevrolet, Fiat, Jeep, Honda, Toyota, Land Rover, Renault and Volvo. It has also announced that 540,000 vehicles will need hardware changes, as well as removal of the software.

The Deputy Attorney General of the Pakistani government, has declared speciocide of the houbara bustard to be "a tool for preservation so it should be allowed". The bloodsport is legal in Saudi Arabia, from where animal abusers like to travel to Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, to kill the wildlife. A provincial High Court in Baluchistan in November last year cancelled all permits for hunting in the province, but the federal government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — a close ally of Saudi Arabia — has continued to issue licenses. We wouldn't have that kind of barbarism in the UK now, would we. <s>

Hurrah! The Finnish government have become the first to keep the hot potato of nuclear waste, instead of continuing the seemingly-permanent game of 'let's all dodge responsibility for an already-extant hazard together'. The frustrating physics of the scenario, is that the fissile/fertile stuff comes out of the ground in the first place, and decays there on its own if we don't. The obvious solution is to put it back in the ground. The only problems come from putting it back in high concentrations. I know there are huge overheads for building mines and tunnels, but if more places accepted nuclear waste, then it would be spread thinner, and the hazard of leakage would be lessened toward the ambient hazard of background radiation. That, however, would require a dampening of nucleo-phobia in more than one community around the world - a much bigger problem than the money.

------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff

'Quicksilver - Mercury REALLY cool in slow motion!'

'A red phosphorus sun'

'How To Go To Space (with XKCD!)'

'Top 5 BIGGEST Constellations [Astro Top 5s]'

'Meet London's Last Gas Lamp Lighters'

'AIDS Denialism...... Yep That's a Thing (Australian Skeptics National Convention 2015)'

'Qingdao and its surroundings viewed from orbit'

'Layers and fractures in Ophir Chasma, Mars'

'Understanding the atmosphere of Venus'

'Cassini finds monstrous ice cloud in Titan's south polar region'

'Fermi satellite detects first gamma-ray pulsar in another galaxy'

'Why is Murder Wrong?'

'Halestorm - "I Am The Fire" [Official Video]'

------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks

Word Of The Week: consigiliere -- an advisor or counselor; from Italian meaning the same, used to refer to members of city councils in modern Italy and Switzerland, and popularised by The Godfather where, in the books, it's corrupted to 'consigliori'. The word comes from latin 'consiliarius' meaning 'advisor', and so shares its etymology with the English word 'council' of the same meaning as the latin 'concilium'

Quote Of The Week: “It is often argued that religion is valuable because it makes men good, but even if this were true it would not be a proof that religion is true. That would be an extension of pragmatism beyond endurance. Santa Claus makes children good in precisely the same way, and yet no one would argue seriously that the fact proves his existence. The defense of religion is full of such logical imbecilities. The theologians, taking one with another, are adept logicians, but every now and then they have to resort to sophistries so obvious that their whole case takes on an air of the ridiculous. Even the most logical religion starts out with patently false assumptions. It is often argued in support of this or that one that men are so devoted to it that they are willing to die for it. That, of course, is as silly as the Santa Claus proof. Other men are just as devoted to manifestly false religions, and just as willing to die for them. Every theologian spends a large part of his time and energy trying to prove that religionsfor which multitudes of honest men have fought and died are false, wicked, and against God.” - H.L. Mencken, Minority Report

------------------------------------------------------ non-contemporary stuff

'Ark Survival Evolved Mods - TITAN DILO! Alpha Carno, Dodo, Raptor! - Dino Overhaul Mod 1080pHD'

'The Darkness Live in NYC - One Way Ticket @ Irving Plaza'

'The Darkness Live in Asbury Park - Roaring Waters @ Stone Pony'

'The Darkness Live in NYC - Friday Night @ Irving Plaza'

'The Darkness Live in Philadelphia - Open Fire @ TLA'

'The Darkness Live in Asbury Park - Growing on Me @ Stone Pony'

'The Darkness Live in Silver Spring - I Believe in a Thing Called Love @ Fillmore'

'The Darkness Live in Huntington - English Country Garden @ Paramount'

'The Darkness Live in Silver Spring - Love is Only a Feeling @ Fillmore'

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