Simon Singh is now a folk hero

March 31, 2010

Ariane Sherine’s “The Simon Singh Song” promotrd libel reform in the UK while making a folk hero in the process:

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News From Around The Blogosphere 3.30.10

March 30, 2010

1. Single unvaccinated kid source of 2008 California measles outbreak

The family’s 7-year-old boy, who was intentionally unvaccinated against measles, was exposed to the virus while traveling in Europe. When he returned home to San Diego, he unknowingly exposed a total of 839 people, and an additional 11 unvaccinated children contracted the disease.

Three of those infected were babies, too young to have yet received the measles vaccines, and one of the babies was hospitalized for three days with a 106-degree fever, according to a report to be published in the April issue of Pediatrics.

Wow, that’s one hell of a path of destruction caused by a single anti-vax family. Thanks Jenny McCarthy.

2. Magnets can almost instantly change a person’s moral judgment – This would seem to pretty definitively debunk the notion of dualism and fairly conclusively show that the mind is, contrary to Deepak Chopra’s claims,¬† purely a localized phenomenon. It also further illustrates how absurd the evangelical notion of “objective morality” from “God” is.

3. Critical thinking and skepticism begins at childhood – Here’s a great story of a kid scientifically investigating the Tooth Fairy and successfully debunking it

But not all kids are brought up to be such critical thinkers.

4. New Harris poll confirms most Americans are dummies

The poll involved 2,320 adults responding to true or false questions. Among many other disturbing facts, 14% of respondents said they believed Obama could be the Antichrist.

. . .

When broken into partisan results, it seems 24% of all Republican respondents hold this view, while only 6% of Democrats are that batshit crazy. But taken as a whole, the numbers in this poll are depressing. 32% think Obama is a Muslim. 23% think Obama is a racist. And 20% say Obama is “doing many of the things Hitler did.”

But I’m pretty sure Hitler didn’t hold a Passover seder in the White House…or cut out the middleman in student loans…or sleep with Michelle Obama.

5. Bill Donohue continues shameless campaign defending child rapists – Now he’s taken out an ad in the NY Times defending the man most responsible for ensuring the child rapists could continue to prey on more children, The Pope. Oh, and he’s moved on from blaming the families of the victims to blaming the gays. It won’t be long now before he blames everyone on Earth except for The Pope.

And he’s not the only one defending child rapists. . .

6. The Vatican has selflessly thought up 3 reasons why they feel The Vatican is not liable – The first is that the Pope, as head of state, is immune from prosecution (aka Joey Ratz does whatever Joey Ratz wants and if you get in the way, he’ll whack you or have your children horribly raped). The second excuse is that the American priests were not Vatican employees¬† (This should go over really well with the American Catholics). And the third excuse is that they’ve declared by fiat that the smoking gun evidence that has been confirmed by high ranking church officials is really not smoking gun evidence at all (I call this the Jedi Mind Trick defense – these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Now move along):

McMurry insisted Tuesday that Crimen is a smoking gun.

“The fact is, this document and its predecessors make it an excommunicable offense to reveal any knowledge of allegations that a priest has sexually abused,” he said in an e-mail.

The existence of Crimen did not become publicly known until 2003, when a lawyer noticed a reference to the document while reading a 2001 letter written by Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. McMurry is seeking to subpoena Ratzinger’s letter, which instructed all bishops to send cases of clerical sex abuse to him and to keep the proceedings secret.

As for that first excuse that a head of state can’t be sued, fine, let’s call it an act of war then. I hope the Vatican has a strong military.


More funny videos I couldn’t resist sharing

March 30, 2010
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YouTube’s craziest child preachers

March 30, 2010

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 3.29.10

March 30, 2010

1. Newborn denied health coverage for ‘preexisting condition’

“They kept saying it’s preexisting, it’s preexisting, but I don’t know how it can be preexisting on a baby that was just born,” Doug Tracy said. “If it’s mandated that everyone have health insurance, than how can one be denied?”

Now if this were a libertarian society, this wouldn’t be a problem. The child would just die and that’d be the end of it. Long live the great, benevolent, invisible hand of the free market, right?

2. Christian militia group threatens U.S. for Jesus – Obviously along with the Moscow subway suicide bombings, this was the other big news story today so I’ve got nothing really to add that hasn’t already been said…except to question what these people would have been doing if they didn’t believe in an imaginary friend in the sky.

3. Westboro Baptist Church spoofs Lady Gaga – As you might have guessed, their version’s lyrics can be summed up as God hates fags, you specifically, and everyone else on Earth. It seems they’re now doing covers of their own work. You know, I liked their early stuff but now they’re still doing the same thing. I just think they need to evolve and grow as artists.


Chicago Tribune is death to comedy

March 30, 2010

The Chicago Tribune published a piece promising to instruct people in the ways of comedy…or at least how to fake being funny. The problem is that as one Skepchick pointed out, their suggestions suck. The author, Josh Noel’s advice is poor. I hate to be the one to tell him this but they’re not funny and if people are laughing at what Josh Noel is saying, they’re just being polite or are laughing at him for trying too hard.

So I figured I’d try to construct a short list of my own tips on not just faking funny but really being funny:

1. The three most important rules of comedy: delivery, delivery, delivery. Good delivery can make anything funny and poor delivery can make anything unfunny.

2. Misdirection. Any punchline you can see coming a mile away is not funny. The key is to cleverly surprise or trick your audience. This can be accomplished in numerous ways, one of the more unique of which is the famous Aristocrats joke where everything is thrown into the set-up, preparing the audience for a huge pay-off only to deliberately deliver a completely underwhelming punchline. The real joke is on the audience whose expectations were deceptively built up for the very purpose of ultimately tricking them by going the other way. The key is in misdirection and subverting expectations. Another brilliant example of misdirection is “The Battle of Wits” scene in The Princess Bride. While the set-up in the scene is very funny what puts it over the top as one of the funniest scenes in film history, if not the funniest scene, is the surprising end, which completely turns the expectations created in the set-up on its head. It’s like a well designed magic trick.

3. The Rule of 3 – Going along with the misdirection idea, set up a pattern with two items in succession and then make the third item comically out of step w/ the first 2. The classic example is the guy standing on a fragile frozen lake where objects keep falling on the ice, First maybe it’s a bowling ball. Then a grand piano. Still the ice doesn’t break. Then a feather falls onto the ice and it breaks.

4. Don’t go big with your humor. Big is cheap and might get a quick chuckle, but it’s definitely not funny.

5. Rule 4 can be broken if you’ve laid in the groundwork of establishing a funny character who can get away with it. (See: Austin Powers, Ace Ventura, Zoolander, etc.)

6. Putting either larger than life characters in ordinary settings or ordinary characters in larger than life settings. For example, imagine almost any Star Wars character at the laundry mat or imagine that annoying guy at the office working on the Death Star (See: Robot Chicken Star Wars parodies). Dr. Horrible is also a great example of the former, being an evil mad scientist in a very mundane setting, as is Dr. Evil in group therapy, or Darth Vader’s less successful and identical relative Chad Vader working as the night manager of a supermarket. And in the internet shorts God Inc., heaven is depicted as a giant corporation where all important decisions in the universe are decided by middle management. Historical characters can also work. For instance, imagining Hitler in almost any mundane situation is funny.

7. Random weirdness can be very funny. While South Park did a great job of spoofing Family Guy‘s common device of cut-to jokes involving completely random allusions, one of the reasons Family Guy is successful is random humor works. And let’s face it, lately Family Guy has been much funnier and more spot-on in his satire than South Park.

8. PANTS!

Sorry, that was just an extension of #7. But almost any sentence with the word “pants” in it is funny. It just is.

8. Callback humor is very funny. That is when you establish a funny idea and then keep calling it back at different, even sometimes random times as to turn it into a running joke. This is also very effective in creating rapport with people as it allows you to build inside jokes that are only funny to those in the loop.

9. Committing to a joke for a long time is funny. The Simpsons used to do this all the time such as the bit when Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on the rakes or when Homer’s brain tries to recall the significance of having a dental plan, or when Bart wastes several minutes of real time dialing Australia on the phone. Family Guy does this all the time too such as the various times in which Peter fights with the giant chicken. These sequences go on needlessly long, taking up three or four minutes of the 21-minute-long show on a single joke. What’s particularly interesting about these jokes is that they tend to create a roller coaster of emotions. At first it’s funny. Then it goes on so long you start to get tired of it and are just waiting to get back to the story. Then you start to think it’s got to end any second now and anticipation builds. Then you realize that it’s a whole minute later and they’re still playing out the same joke,. You start getting annoyed. Then after another thirty seconds or so it becomes funny again because they’ve really committed to it and have tricked you into watching one stupid joke for that long. And then it finally ends and the joke becomes so popular that they bring it back and some people regard it as genius.

Andy Kaufman was also a master of this sort of thing:¬† simulating the look of a broken television, committing to reading The Great Gatsby in its entirety instead of performing jokes, the long-running wrestling stunt. In fact, Kaufman was so good at this sort of thing that the Tony Clifton joke is STILL being continued decades after Kaufman’s death as people continue to inhabit the role. Kaufman’s dream was to have a Tony Clifton in at least every U.S. state. It’s literally a joke that never ends.

10. Jokes involving stupid people will always be funny.

Well that’s ten right there. I’d love to hear comments about them or other people’s additions to the list.


Another devastating week for Scientology…and it’s only Monday

March 29, 2010

Tonight Anderson Cooper began his week-long expose on $cientology, Scientology: A history of violence. Last year saw a series of exposes on the cult from the local California news on KESQ-TV but those were only about 10 minutes each night. And of course the St. Petersburg Times in Florida has been running a long series of reports for the last several months. But now we’re talking about CNN! And not only that but each installment of Cooper’s series will be hours long.

Additionally, Cooper’s savvy enough to put the focus in the right place, less on all the Xenu stuff and more on the actual reported abuses. The reason this is important is that many people have already heard at least a little bit about the Xenu stuff and a lot of religious moderates and liberals have started to be turned off by the mockery of $cientologists’ “beliefs,” naively thinking the issue is just about a weird, goofy religion. It’s not. $cientology is not a religion and bares virtually no resemblance to one. Alleged $cientology churches look remarkably like office buildings inside and out and no actual prayer or meditation takes place in their “churches. ” $cientology is more of a multi-level marketing scheme that figured out long ago that they can get away with a lot more by wearing the costume of religion. But whenever being a religion is inconvenient such as when religious people accuse them of being anti-Christian or whatever, then they conveniently switch their tactics and insist that it’s all just a self-help program and that members are free to be both $cientologists AND Christians, etc.

But the real story about $cientology is not a religion gone wild (I know. It’s redundant). No, the real story is the slave labor and child labor that goes on in the Sea Org, the psychology denialism, the bogus medical treatments, the disconnection policies, the mind control tactics, the nearly forced abortions, the cruel and unusual punishments to enforce discipline, the whole Orwellian nature of the cult.

And not only will all this including interviews with former members be seen in living rooms across the country (and by tomorrow around the world via the internet) but as I’ve reported before an anti-$cientologist film is getting big press in Germany, where the cult is officially regarded as a criminal organization. In response, $cientology has rather amusingly announced their plans to make a rival film.

But something tells me they won’t be hiring J.D. Shapiro to write the script. Shapiro was the unfortunate individual responsible for writing the origin screenplay for Battlefield Earth. Shapiro, possibly the only non-$cientologist involved in the film, now apologizes for the film and humorously recounts how he got involved in the project, his weird experiences with members of the cult, how he got fired from the project, and how he had little to do with the most objectionable parts of the film. Also included is the transcript of the speech he gave when he bravely accepted the Razzie award for the film.

Oh yeah, and the AP has picked up the story about Marc and Claire Headley’s lawsuit against against $cientology over the treatment they received in the Sea Org.

All this pretty much guarantees that this will be in the hall of fame of worst weeks in the cult’s history.