November 18th, 2009


The Curse of the Rhino King - A brief technical delay

I have to offer apologies for not having a new chapter of The Curse of the Rhino King up yesterday. My computer was – and to some extent still is – suffering from one of the most cunning and aggravating viruses I’ve ever seen. Among its various and dreadful effects, it made it impossible to make use of any of my computer’s sound equipment and also made it impossible for any of my programs to access the internet. While I’ve dealt with the bulk of the problems (save for the niggling little detail that I still haven’t managed to get that computer online), I didn’t manage to do so until late last night, and as such, it wasn’t possible to get anything ready. I promise to have one ready early on Saturday, on-schedule, though, even if I have to post it from my crappy emergency backup computer (from which I’m posting right now).

Share the Wealth Wednesday #4

It is once again Wednesday, and with this turning of the week, we once again find ourselves in line for that most exciting and fruitful of occasions; Share the Wealth Wednesday!

For those who do not yet know, and for those who have forgotten, allow me to elucidate in brief: Every Wednesday, we share some Neat Thing we have discovered on the net which others can share in and enjoy with no more than a few mouse clicks. A YouTube video, a video game, a webcomic, or whatever. While things which are new are always to be preferred, since things which have not existed for long are more likely to be new and novel to a larger number of people, the fact remains that even the very oldest of websites are as new as the day’s sunrise to someone who’s never seen them. Therefore, each Wednesday, we Share the Wealth, posting about these Neat Things here, for the benefit and enjoyment of all.

For my own contribution this week, I put truth to my own words by presenting something which has existed for the better part of a decade but which I only became aware of a month or so ago. There exists in the city of Austin, Texas, a public access television show entitled “The Atheist Experience”, which exists as a sort of outreach program for a group called the Atheist Community of Austin (or ACA, if you prefer), serving not only to discuss a wide range of topics – though predominantly religious and philosophical by nature - from an atheistic standpoint, both to educate the larger, largely christian community of Texas, as to who and what atheists are, and to show that they’re not the monstrous devil-worshippers that their preachers would have them believe they are.

In this, they are only partially successful.

Because, you see, this is Texas. And Texans are ORNERY. They’re aggressive, brash and loud. This applies to both the atheists on the show and their largely-christian callers. For you see, this is a call-in show, and their calls are always awesome, being, as they are, dialogues between two equally abrasive and loud groups with wildly differing world-views. I absolutely love watching this show. Doing so is possible because they not only also stream their show online – giving it a global audience – they also have an impressive archive of past shows going back some four years or so, which are freely downloadable and/or viewable online. I have lately been going through them at a rate of two or three episodes per week, and absolutely loving them. Give ‘er a look, eh wot?

Here's one of my favourite episodes, in which the hosts discuss in some depth the prevelant and ongoing meme of "Those angry atheists".

So! What about you folks? Share the Wealth!

On the Manufacture of Outrage

The other day, US president Barack Obama, in his good-will tour of the far east, committed the
insufferable social gaffe of spreading good will. Specifically, while meeting Japan’s emperor, he
bowed at the waist in an approximation of the traditional Japanese gesture of greeting for a respected
figure. I say an approximation because, traditionally, one does not also shake hands while doing so,
which Obama did in this instance, but neither he nor the meaningless figurehead monarch seemed to
mind the fact that Obama bowed any more than the Emperor minded shaking hands. It was very much
a meet-you-half-way sort of gesture of politeness which no reasonable or rational human being could
honestly find fault with.


It should therefore come as no surprise, then, to learn that former US vice president and current
professional whiner, Dick Cheney, found fault with this, saying that America’s enemies would see in
this simple gesture of politeness a weakness which they could exploit. How demeaning and belittling
the sitting US president in this way is supposed to have weakened America less than seeing him act in
a polite manner is a little bit vague, as is the question of why, if Cheney is so concerned with
America’s president appearing strong, Cheney does everything in his power to weaken him a little bit
more each day. How, also, these un-named but presumably dark-skinned enemies might go about
exploiting this weakness is not a detail which he saw fit to elabourate upon; perhaps he envisions them
sending a group of Japanese emperors into the battlefield, and then, when American forces, emulating
their Commander In Chief, bowed before them, the enemy forces could take advantage of the
momentary distraction by opening fire upon them.

The more realistic* scenario is that Cheney woke up in the morning, rose from his coffin, ate his
traditional breakfast of freshly-plucked baby hearts boiled in a broth of virgins’ tears, and then
searched “Obama” on Google News to see what specific act there was in the news that day which
Cheney could publicly criticize. Finding Obama bent at the waist in one of the photographs, he grunted
“Guess that’ll have to do”, and had his bug-eating manservant call around to the usual media outlets to
see who would give him a platform for the criticisms he was even then formulating.

Indeed, I envision a parallel universe which is in all way identical to our own, save that at that moment,
Obama chose not to bow, but rather simply to shake hands. I envision, in that universe, Cheney having
words somewhat along these lines:

“President Obama’s failure to observe something as simple but as important as this culturally-
significant gesture indicates precisely what myself and others have been saying about him for some
time now. It shows his ignorance, his arrogance and his elitism. I think that America’s enemies will see
this failure on his part as a sign of weakness, if you will, and one which they can exploit. A president
which cannot be bothered to understand foreign cultures, as President Obama has shown himself to be
today, is one which will also be unable to understand the threats posed by certain radical elements
within foreign cultures. It is precisely this sort of inexperience that should have precluded him from
holding an office he is plainly unqualified and unprepared to hold, and this sort of hubris and self-
importance which keeps him so out of touch with the world around him.”

In two other, somewhat more distant parallel realities, in both of which John McCain won the 2008
presidential election, wherein McCain met with the emperor of Japan and, in one, bowed before him,
and in the other did not, the Dick Cheneys of these worlds had nothing whatsoever to say on the topic,
recognizing it as so trivial as to be unworthy of comment.

*It's all relative, really.