Saturday, October 31, 2009


Vintage memories of Halloween. Flammable material and poor visibility made these Halloween costumes just right for trick or treating. They were available at Rogers, a "five-and-dime" my mom called it, where you could also get wax lips, fake mustaches, and various make-up sticks for the full effect. Most of the time we'd make our own costumes--I was a hobo or pirate most years--and then we'd travel for miles and miles on a wet dark night in search of the mythical fun-size sweets.

I love the vintage cards of yesteryear, made at a time witches and black cats still roamed the countryside searching for kids to turn to gingerbread. Speaking of gingerbread, last night I got home late and my girlfriend Wendy had already baked pumpkin pie, cupcakes and spicy ginger cake for Halloween. The whole house smelled warm and spicy like the holidays.

Black cats played a vital role in the day, because they are actually witches who have transformed themselves so they can perform black magic. They can be adorable...but DEADLY!

This old crone knows how to party, and she's decorated her own witchy broom with a donkey's head. Ornamentation of broomsticks is strictly regulated but this old sweeper is still street legal.

Run, run, run, run like the wind! Running played a powerful part of the night's festivities--running from ghouls and ghosts and high school kids with squirt guns filled with Nair.

Sometimes you found Halloween costumes in the Sear's catalog--especially the coveted Christmas edition. Cousins would cluster around and we'd tell scary stories and play "dibs" with the catalog. You had to be fast to win the "dibs" game, and only later did we discover the crass materialism of our childhood shopping spree and become spartan bohemians living quiet reflective lives. Just kidding.

What is going on here? A Victorian matron has enslaved a Jack-o-Lantern and is goading him along by pulling a tiny tray. No, it doesn't make sense, but maybe it would if your head had been hollowed out and your brain replaced with a small tea candle.

Frankenstein--or should I say Herman Munster--helps sell hot rod models in the back of a comic book. They looked so cool, but came as a loose box of plastic with indecipherable instructions and maybe a small tube of highly intoxicating Testers' glue. Huffers beware, that glue will rot your brain.

Finally, my homage to the old Nancy and Sluggo cartoon--Halloween edition--with apologies to Ernie Bushmiller. Click to enlarge this and read it. I drew this for the Monocle, a special little newspaper published on special occasions by our arts collective, The Friends of the Nib. Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009


Halloween is nearly here, and there is no better song to put you in the mood than this one. Recorded in 1956 by Jallacy Hawkins, better known as Screamin' Jay Hawkins, this song rocked the world and became his biggest hit. Growling and howling, Hawkins and the entire band were reportedly rip-roaring drunk at the recording session, and they certainly conjured up some spooky spirits that night. Still a huge favorite, it was one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's500 Songs That Influenced Rock and Roll...but you knew that! Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


The Day of the Dead is nearly here. While Norteamericanos celebrate Halloween, in Latin America people celebrate El Dia de los Muertos on November 1st and 2nd. Sure, it's connected to Catholic holidays of All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day, but the celebration actually can be traced back thousands of years--long before Europeans showed up with their strange religious notions --back to the Aztecs and a goddess named Mictecacihuatl.

The Day of the Dead was celebrated long before Cortez and the Conquistadors showed up with their guns and gods. According to Wikipedia, "The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mexican (or Aztec), Maya, P'urhepecha, and Totonac. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2500–3000 years."

Today, there are parades and graveside vigils, altars covered with offerings of flowers and food and drink, candies and bread shaped liked skulls and skeletons. People remember the deceased, and hold memorials for departed family members and friends. It might seem gruesome and death-obsessed to dainty gringos, but no more than Memorial Day. Instead of sanitizing death, the Mexicans embrace it as part of life and might even share a shot of tequila with an old friend who passed away. Memories are kept alive. In this way, people live on.

Here's a spooky song by Los Lobos to help us get into the mood.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Oh my God, it's nearly Halloween. At the most, we'll see six or eight trick or treaters at our door. This justifies buying a five kilo sack of assorted candy at Costco two weeks in advance. Hopefully, we'll have a couple pieces left to give the kids, but they'd better hurry up and ring our bell or I'm making no promises.

Halloween is the kick-off of the holiday season--or what we should call the eating season. We eat all year, but for the next three months we'll be eating like Bangladeshis at Grandma's Table. We'll deal with the weight later. After New Years. That's resolution time. Our friends hold an annual pie party New Year's Day. It's a brilliant idea. Everyone brings pies and puts them on the table and someone rings a bell. It's like a 1970s swingers party only you wear stretch pants and you don't swap wives you swap pies, but with any luck you might go home with a wedge of coconut cream or that saucy little key lime you've had your eye on all night.

Anyway, food and guilt, food and guilt. Get over it. Unless you're some gym rat or really no fun at all, you'll probably gain a few pounds this season. Big whoop. We'll deal with the weight later. New Years.

John Pinette is a riot. He deals with the weight. And he doesn't do ups.


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"From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms." In her book, "The End of America," author Naomi Wolf argues that George Bush and his administration followed every step. This film is based on her findings.

"As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are 'at war' in a 'long war' - a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president - without US citizens realizing it yet - the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone."

For the rest of the essay Naomi Wolf wrote for The Guardian, please click here.

Naomi Wolf

Saturday, October 24, 2009


This is an amazing clip. Billie Holiday is reunited with lifelong friend, tenor sax legend Lester Young. Filmed in 1957, the two will be gone in less than two years, but listen: Billie's voice may be worn but it's still beautiful--sweet and grainy and magnificent. Lester plays a brilliant solo, and Billie responds. The rest of the band is great, too, with Lady Day and Prez joined by Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan, Vic Dickenson and Roy Eldridge. What a crazy line-up!

"Prez" Lester Young

These old friends had hard times. They both died too young, but more import--they LIVED. We complain about a toothache or a bit of bad luck like it's the end of the world, but Billie shows you can be down but not out. Her story may end in tragedy, but it remains a triumph of the human spirit. Listen...can you feel that?

Old Friends: Billie Holiday and Lester Young, 1957

Friday, October 23, 2009


Getting up early, sloshing back hot coffee, leaving home before it's light out. You need that money to pay the rent and put food on the table. It's called work, and whether you're swinging a nine pound hammer or teaching a class, healing a patient or laying down shingles, hauling boxes in a factory or paving a highway, writing a book or hustling on the street, painting a picture or guarding one, you're working, baby. Don't you know it.

Early punk rock with an attitude--Tennessee Ernie Ford performs "16 Tons."

You're lucky to be working in this economy, where one out of ten is unemployed. At the same time, some CEOs are making a fortune in wages and bonuses in many corporations that still owe money to the public. These "Bail-out Bonuses" are in the millions, sometime more, but if you raise the issue you might be accused of waging a class war. I'll take that risk. It's highway robbery!

Sorting mail at the postal annex.

Merle Haggard plays "Workingman's Blues"

I'm heading to work for a twelve-hour day, and at the same time I'm finishing up artwork for two shows. I'm not complaining, just don't mention the concept of "free time" unless you want an earful. Give these songs a listen.

Bob Dylan, who has toured with his friend Merle Haggard, wrote this beautiful tune called "Workingman's Blues #2." (Push button to play)

Are you working? Are you one of the lucky ones? Do you get enough breaks and time to eat lunch? Do you get some respect on the job?

Ry Cooder and Bobby King perform the Sam Cooke classic "Chain Gang." This clip is from Les Blanks film "Ry Cooder & The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces: Let's Have A Ball", and filmed at The Catalyst, in Santa Cruz.

Keep the faith. Don't believe the bail-out billionaires who say they NEED all that money while you have to tighten your belt and do without. Remember, they need YOU. And if you get a little attitude now and then, that's okay--it's a healthy response to fighting for every inch you get in the American workplace. Go ahead, wage a little class war. To me, it's just common sense. As an old friend once said, "A working class hero is something to be."

"It's Not My Place (in the 9 to 5 World)" by the Ramones

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Every town had one, some local announcer who introduced horror movies late Saturday night. In our neighborhood, we watched "Sinister Cinema" with Victor Ives, a cheap Dracula knock-off in a room of fake cobwebs and rubber rats. Midnight movies were generally shoddy old monster movies from the 1950s that were probably in the public domain--meaning, the local affiliate station didn't have to pay fees to air them. As kids we didn't care. Anything scary was a thrill, and we had very little concern about acting ability or production value of a specific film as long as there were monsters, spacemen, vampires, werewolves, blobs from outer space or a good old-fashioned psycho killer on the loose. We'd gorge on barbecued potato chips and clam dip and root beer in the back room while the folks entertained their friends in the living room. Occasionally, an inebriated guest would peek in on us, but generally we were left alone in a world of fright and thrills. Years later I'd read the Greeks on catharsis--how the vicarious experience of fear and exhilaration was actually good for you--but back then the only Greeks I knew were Jason and the Argonauts. To this day, the scene where Jason battles the skeleton warriors is one of my favorites.

An old favorite. In the film clip above, SCTV does a spoof of local "Creature Features" with the fangy Count Floyd. Enjoy!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Sports? We generally don't cover it. Most of the time, the subject bores the hell out of us--and besides, in this game-obsessed culture it gets ample coverage elsewhere. Don't get me wrong, some of my best friend are sportsfans. I'll admit it's fun sometimes and strangely comforting to watch steroid-fueled action figures battling in a world where the rules are very, very clear--unlike our own. Go, team!

Growing up in Portland, there was one crazy cat you'd see at Grateful Dead concerts with a red ponytail and an old jacket he must have picked up at Sgt. Pepper's garage sale--and that was Bill Walton. Nowadays you may know this Deadhead as a blowhard jock sportscaster , but back then--as the celebrated center for the Portland Trail Blazers and crazy hippie--he was amazing. Red Hot and Rolling!

The Big Redhead came out of UCLA, where he won three straight College Player of the Year Awards, and was drafted number one overall by the Blazers, where he had an outstanding run (after a couple years marred by injury). He wore his hair long and got psyched for games listening to the Dead, and of course got razzed and bated with every patchouli-scented, granola-flavored, hippie stereotype known to square jockdom--but he delivered the goods and saved the franchise--especially in the 76/77 season under new coach Jack Ramsey. The Blazers were the Cinderella team. Walton was NBA Champion twice, MVP, NBA Finals MVP...The rest of his, la, la..we'll skip over and jump to 1993, when he was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame and the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.

I'm a terrible sportsfan. Sure, I rooted for the Blazers back then--and defended Walton's non-conformist attitudes to the reactionaries in my extended family--but only became an avid Blazer fan when that miraculous Drexler/Porter/Buck/Duck/Kersey team took on the world. That was something. Still, kudos to long-haired hippie freak Bill Walton.

"Throw it down, big man! Throw it down!"

When giants ruled the Earth: 1977 NBA Finals Game 6: The Blazers, led by Walton, upset the heavily favored Dr. J and the Philadelphia 76ers

Read a funny interview with Walton on Oregon Sports Live.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Joan Baez made her debut appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1959. That's fifty years ago, but who's counting? I stumbled upon an "American Masters" documentary on PBS a few nights ago. I'm more of a rocker than a folkie, but I got hooked on this story and it's a good one. My earliest memories of Baez are listening to my mom's records when I was a kid. Since then, I've seen Baez perform a few times, including a spectacular set with Bob Dylan during the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975. Here's a clip of them from that tour.

Check out the documentary below. "In the first comprehensive documentary to chronicle the private life and public career of Joan Baez, American Masters examines her history as a recording artist and performer as well as her remarkable journey as the conscience of a generation in Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound."

Watch the Joan Baez documentary here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Purple Haze was in my brain, lately things don't seem the same...

Jimi Hendrix brought the thrills and spills of the LSD experience into shag-carpeted rec rooms across America, playing a brand new, wildly improvisational electric music some enterprising cub reporter labeled "acid rock." Like it or not, acid played a huge role in the counterculture, and eventually undermined the dominant mainstream culture. Or did it? Here's Jimi playing "Purple Haze" at Woodstock.

'Scuse me while I kiss the sky...

She's a witch of trouble in electric blue, in her own mad mind she's in love with you...Psychedelia from the Cream. The surrealist lyrics and lurid, luminous album cover clearly reflected the acid experience. Eric Clapton's guitar glimmered with a lysergic light, and many an innocent lad learned the glorious riff of "Sunshine of Your Love" without the slightest clue about Albert Hoffman's remarkable discovery in a Swiss lab back in 1938. The trickle down had begun, and illuminated artists and musicians of the counterculture were ambassadors of a strange new country that filtered through the tiny transistor radios of Rapid City and Buffalo, of Long Beach and Beaverton, a viral contagion of earth-shaking import. Were they heroes, Argonauts of the Shining Realm, or were they just Pied Pipers leading the country's youth astray? To a lot of us, the choice seemed simple at the time: the music and fun of the Beatles, or the drag-ass rules and regulations of crew-cut Chamber of Commerce jarheads offering fear and guilt and one-way tickets to Nam. Forget it. Many kids in shag-carpeted rec rooms or poster-festooned bedrooms across the USA opted for the hippie freak show, as advertised in pop and rock music, and said goodbye to all that. Chuck you, Farley. What role did this chemical play? What role did this tasteless, odorless compound play in shifting the zeitgeist or causing it to burst into a riot of flowers? Even those that didn't drop acid--or smoke dope, or eat magic mushrooms--were affected by the new lifestyles and attitudes that were somehow linked to the stuff.

The Pink Panther must have dropped acid in this cartoon. At the very least, the psychedelic artwork associated with the LSD experience influenced the animators. Acid had a widespread impact on the mainstream culture, and affected not only art but music, advertising, hairstyles, and social and sexual mores.

In the interest of keeping things weird, we've decided to explore the psychedelic phenomenon that unites this drug-addled panther with such luminaries as Ken Kesey, Jimi Hendrix, and The Beatles--not to mention Cary Grant and Groucho Marx. In this puritanical age, with the no-fun fundamentalists trying to control everyone's private lives, and with so many unfortunate druggies and failed seekers crashing and burning like vehicles on the road out of Baghdad, it might seem strange--or even irresponsible--to look into the strongest mind-altering drug known to man, Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD.

This next clip explores the "acid tests" put on by Ken Kesey and his merry band, The Merry Pranksters. Kesey, the celebrated author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," the quintessential 1960s novel of man against heartless authority, was a student at Stanford when he signed up for psych experiments conducted by the US government. Among other hallucinogens, Kesey was administered LSD. Soon afterward, he secured some of the drug and turned on his friends. Before long, the party spilled out of the Stanford enclave of Perry Lane and into the streets, fueled by acid and an almost missionary zeal. The acid tests were conducted in the Bay Area, and participants were given "electric Kool Aid" dosed with LSD in a highly psychedelic environment with colored light shows and music provided by the house band, The Grateful Dead.

Without any more government acid to fuel their hi-jinks, the early explorers used acid synthesized by a number of hippie chemists, the most famous being a genius level scientist named Augustus Stanley Owsley, or simply Owsley. He was legendary for the purity and strength of his product, which included the holy grail of early LSD, Orange Sunshine. Owsley was honored in this song by the rock band Steely Dan, "Kid Charlemagne."

While the music played you worked by candlelight
Those San Francisco nights
You were the best in town
Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl
You turned it on the world
Thats when you turned the world around
Did you feel like jesus?
Did you realize
That you were a champion in their eyes?
On the hill the stuff was laced with kerosene
But yours was kitchen clean
Everyone stopped to stare at your technicolor motor home...

A shot of the Kesey bus

Here is a segment of the BBC documentary, "Beyond Within." It's a good solid background on the subject, and well worth checking out. Resourceful readers will have no problem finding part two.

from "Power and Control: LSD in the Sixties," by Aron Ranen. A little more irreverent, but an interesting doc nonetheless. Reminds us that the drug was first explored not as an agent of consciousness expansion at all, but as a weapon by the CIA.

Disclaimer: As much as we adhere to the principals of a free society in which adults direct their own lives, LSD is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, and as such is illegal. Personally, we don't recommend LSD anymore than we recommend Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey or cigarettes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


There was a time when I thought a great deal about the axolotls. I went to see them in the aquarium at the Jardin des Plantes and stayed for hours watching them, observing their immobility, their faint movements. Now I am an axolotl.

So begins a fantastic short story by Julio Cortázar, the Argentine surrealist writer and member of the Boom literary movement, Boom Latinoamericano. An Axolotl is a Mexican neotenic mole salamander. (Cute, huh?) Cortázar readers will never forget this strange creature and the lonely man who visits it in the aquarium. Needless to say, strange things happen.

Cortázar in Paris

Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) influenced countless writers throughout Latin America--and eventually the world--with his playful toying with reality, his stylistic invention, his sense of irony and willingness to spit in the eye of convention. Cortázar, an Argentine, was a fan of Balzac, Verne, Hugo, Mallarmé and Baudelaire, so it was only natural he would leave for Paris, where he did most of his writing. He felt an affinity with Existentialsm and Surrealism even before he left for Paris, and his perspective reflected the position put forth by André Breton in the first Surrealist manifesto. Surrealism, he said, was much more than a "literary movement": it was an attitude towards "reality."

Cortázar was apolitical at first--the most apolitical of the "Boom" writers, a group that included Fuentes of Mexico, Varga Llosa of Peru, and Garcia Márquez of Colombia. The Boom (Boom Latinoamericano) was a literary movement of young writers in the 1960s and 70s who swept the world with challenging work that--like so many movements of the sixties--shook up the status quo and questioned the conventions of the time. The Boom wasn't afraid to write avant garde work, or work that swiped at the military regimes of Latin America, or the US involvement in Vietnam. Cortázar was politicized by the Cuban Revolution in 1959, which he viewed from Paris.

According to Eugenia Demuro, in Julio Cortázar: the Poetic of Exile, "Cortázar became a political figure, openly supporting and defending that revolution, along with the struggles faced in Nicaragua, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. However, even as Cortázar became more committed to the political and social struggles of Latin America he maintained that his political inclinations were never ‘directly’ translated into his literature: he was not a didactic writer."

Shot from the film "Blow Up!"

“When I do politics, I do politics," he said, "and when I make literature, I make literature." This sometimes infuriated the Left, but Cortázar--while remaining a political person--remained a rebellious writer who challenged realist conventions of literature, and the "rational" view of reality they represented. He refused to be pigeonholed.

"I’m now a writer who is tormented," he said in an interview, "very preoccupied by the situation in Latin America; consequently that often slips into my writing, in a conscious or in an unconscious way. But despite the stories with very precise references to ideological and political questions, my stories, in essence, haven’t changed. They’re still stories of the fantastic."

from "Blow Up!"

Most Americans first encountered his stylish, fantastic world through Michelangelo Antonioni's film "Blowup," maybe the quintessential film from swinging sixties, which was inspired by the story, "Las Babas del Diablo" (which translates as "Drool of the Devil"). Cool.

The trailer for Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow Up," based on a Cortázar short story.

A link to
Julio Cortázar's short story, "The Axolotl."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Madison Square Garden, 1969. On the heels of Brian Jones' death, The Rolling Stones launched a major tour, the first with guitar player Mick Taylor, still arguably the best guitar player they ever had, no offense Keith. They crossed America in a violent year of assassinations and riots, and ended with the doomed free festival at the Altamont Speedway--the very name now synonymous with a bad trip--the anti-Woodstock where the Hell's Angels provided security (maybe not such a good idea) and a concert goer was beaten with pool sticks and another murdered in clear view of the stage.

Altamont, 1969

The tour--including the Altamont show--was documented by the Maysles brothers for the film Gimme Shelter (that's where these film clips came from) and was a backstage pass to all the wheeling and dealing that went into the major tour--and its murderous aftermath.

Between shows, a beggar's banquet, 1969

Before Altamont, the Stones played two nights at the Garden, and from these recordings came "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!" perhaps the greatest live rock album ever, especially prized by Stones' fans (probably headed by my sister Bekki). This was the Stones at the ragged end of their 1960s incarnation, with Mick still aping and clowning in an Uncle Sam hat, still flirting with the devil before it finally trounced them at the speedway. Here they played menacing blues and Chuck Berry rock and roll and a few old hits, and, in the parlance of the time, it was a "heavy" album.

Now, finally, the show is getting the treatment it deserves: a three disc, remastered box set, complete with outtakes, an acoustic set, and a disc of "warm-up acts" B.B. King, and Ike and Tina Turner. The deluxe box set will be released November 3rd (with a "super deluxe edition" released November 17th) just in time for your Christmas list. Check out the track listing here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


This iconic segment of Michelangelo's wondrous Sistine Chapel ceiling at the Vatican depicts God giving life to Man. Art historians note that Michelangelo, in strict violation of the Church, exhumed and dissected corpses to study the human body scientifically, and that the drapery surrounding God closely resembles a side view of the human brain. Thus, this image may contain a message from Michelangelo painted directly under the nose of the pope, hidden in plain sight--the spark of an original thought. Can you see the brain in the image above? Compare it with the diagram below.

Human Brain, side view

The War between religion and science--between blind faith and a knowledge-based collection of empirical data or prescriptive practice capable of resulting in a predictable type of outcome--goes way back. The Church attacked Copernicus, and found Galileo "vehemently suspect of heresy" for inventing the telescope and daring to suggest that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Giordano Bruno was beheaded for saying the same thing. Religions are based on faith, and the devout often fear science because it can contradict faith, as they see it. Of course, this concern doesn't stop them from enjoying the fruits of science (using a telephone, say, or getting a flue shot, or watching television) but it makes them downright cranky at times. Traditionally, that's when they start gathering kindling for a heretic bonfire. Fortunately--in most modern, secular societies, anyway--they no longer burn heretics at the stake, though they may attempt to roast them on Fox TV. Once again, we're reminded why society must insist upon the separation of Church and State, and why we must keep the fundamentalists out of the science classroom.

Bill O'Reilly interviews Oxford fellow Richard Dawkins on Atheism and Science in the Classroom - 10/9/2009. Dr. Dawkins is an ethnologist, zoologist, Neo-Darwinian evolutionary biologist, scientific theorist, intellectual and popular author. O'Reilly is...well, a talk show host, a "Christian," and all around conservative assclown. (Unlike Dawkins, we don't claim to be objective)

"Imagine that you are a teacher of Roman history and the Latin language, anxious to impart your enthusiasm for the ancient world — for the elegiacs of Ovid and the odes of Horace, the sinewy economy of Latin grammar as exhibited in the oratory of Cicero, the strategic niceties of the Punic Wars, the generalship of Julius Caesar and the voluptuous excesses of the later emperors. That’s a big undertaking and it takes time, concentration, dedication. Yet you find your precious time continually preyed upon, and your class’s attention distracted, by a baying pack of ignoramuses (as a Latin scholar you would know better than to say ignorami) who, with strong political and especially financial support, scurry about tirelessly attempting to persuade your unfortunate pupils that the Romans never existed. There never was a Roman Empire. The entire world came into existence only just beyond living memory. Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Catalan, Occitan, Romansh: all these languages and their constituent dialects sprang spontaneously and separately into being, and owe nothing to any predecessor such as Latin."

So begins chapter one of Richard Dawkin's most recent book, "The Greatest Show on Earth: Evidence for Evolution."

Dawkins on the CBC television show, "The Show," in 2007

In The Greatest Show on Earth, according to Dawkins website (link below), Dawkins "takes on creationists, including followers of 'Intelligent Design' and all those who question the fact of evolution through natural selection. Like a detective arriving on the scene of a crime, he sifts through fascinating layers of scientific facts and disciplines to build a cast-iron case: from the living examples of natural selection in birds and insects; the 'time clocks' of trees and radioactive dating that calibrate a timescale for evolution; the fossil record and the traces of our earliest ancestors; to confirmation from molecular biology and genetics. All of this, and much more, bears witness to the truth of evolution."

A documentary based on Dawkins' The God Delusion

Dawkins' previous book, the bestselling The God Delusion, argued that a supernatural creator does not exist and that belief in a personal god qualifies as a delusion. How does he define delusion? "A persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence."

Dr. Richard Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and the author of many bestselling books;

Read more at: The Greatest Show on Earth, and The God Delusion, other books by Dawkins include The God Delusion, The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene.
besides the two we mentioned, others include The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker and The Ancestor’s Tale.

Visit Dawkins' website

Friday, October 9, 2009


President Barack Obama just won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. Congratulations, Mr. President!

According to the Associated Press, "Some around the world objected to the choice of Obama, who still oversees wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has launched deadly counter-terror strikes in Pakistan and Somalia." In all fairness, we should mention that those wars were inherited from George W. Bush, along with the worst economy since the Great Depression. Obama has his work cut out for him trying to fix the colossal mess Bush left, as well as trying to move beyond damage control to bring the country forward on health care and environmental issues and human rights.

The Nobel Committee noted the change in global mood wrought by Obama's calls for peace and cooperation, and praised his pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen the U.S. role in combating climate change.

All the usual suspects on Fox are railing about what a terrible event this is. "The damage is done," said Hannity. O'Reilly scowled and fumed. Rush blew a gasket, too, along with that cranky cowboy with the HUGE cowboy hat, Don Imus. Needless to say, they didn't have a horse in the race.

When Cranky cowpoke Don Imus heard the news, he looked like he sat on a cactus with assless chaps.

Conservatives freak out!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Check out Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell's new campaign commercial. In the ad, McConnell uses every "Eye-talian" stereotype he can dig up to scare these good, God-fearin' White Anglo Saxon Protestants! To look at the ad, you'd think that stereotype New York "dagos" are going to come down to Ol' Virginny and steal their handguns! Jesus, first they took away the slaves...and now the guns?

What an assclown. Bob McDonnell is exactly what you would expect, a so-called "family values" Republibumpkin who violently opposes women's choice and supports the right wing agenda. Here's some information about what he believes in--besides ethnic stereotypes:

  • Bob McDonnell opposed equal pay resolution for women in the legislature. [Washington Post, 9-17-09; HJ 800, 2001]
  • He repeatedly voted to limit access to birth control. [Washington Post, 9-24-09; HB 1233, 1997; HB563, 2002; HB 1741, 2003]
  • He sponsored 35 bills to restrict a woman's right to choose. And he opposes a woman's right to choose even in cases of rape and incest. [Washington Post, 08/17/09; 1999 National Political Awareness Test]

McDonnell's masters thesis for an evangelical college leaked. In it, he said working women and feminists were detrimental to the family, that he opposed a Supreme Court ruling legalizing contraceptives for unmarried couples, and "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators" should not be guaranteed equal rights.

As an Italian American, I find it insulting that this Republican mouth-breather resorts to ethnic slurs in his campaign--but that doesn't surprise me. He's an ignorant rube. What surprises me is that this type of fear-mongering might work! At least Ol' Bob thinks it might, anyway. Can Virginia be an entire state of ignorant rubes?

Sure, I can take the simplifications of the mainstream mindset. Most of the time, we Italian Americans are portrayed as happy-go-lucky Lotharios in a world of checkered tablecloth kitsch, singing opera at the Olive Garden--or we're whacking mafiosi in the mean streets of New York, or Jersey, as portrayed by the Sopranos. (The Sopranos was actually a great show--which happened to be made by Italians--but I wonder what was communicated to the masses other than soap opera, shoot--em-ups, and prosciutto.) It's the 21st Century, for godsakes. Grow up, America. White bread is boring.

What does it take to teach these dumb Anglos? A horse's head?

Check out Republican assclown Bob McDonnell's website here. Write him a letter. Or better yet, give a donation to his opponent, Creigh Deeds, whose website is here.

Props to the Slog for bringing this to my attention.


from "Night of the Hunter." Nothing like insane religious fundamentalist killers to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

We're thinking ahead to Halloween and our annual tradition of watching a scary movie--not some goopy gorefest, and not some cheesy teen slasher flick, but well-made scary. Some past favorites: The Exorcist, Repulsion, Dead Ringers, The Shining, Blue Velvet, The Thing ('82), Alien, 28 Days Later, The Night of the Living Dead, Erasorhead, The Silence of the Lambs, and Night of the Hunter. The Good stuff. As far back as the Greeks, dramatists knew that a well-told tale could flush out the petty fears and worries from our daily lives through our vicarious identification with the travails of a hero. Aristotle, in the Poetics, called this catharsis, or "an emotional cleansing." In other words, it's good to scare the hell out of yourself from time to time. These movies ought to do the trick.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Too liberal? Jesus might make the cut with a nice haircut, a three-piece suit, and a job as a CEO preaching "every man for himself!" They might have to change the phrase "cast the first stone" to "preemptive strike."

Some conservatives think the Bible is too liberal, and they want to change it. The Conservative Bible Project seeks to return the Bible to its so-called right-wing roots, and has initiated a plan, and while some of the changes may bring the text closer to the original Aramaic (or so they say) other changes are political in nature and aimed at stripping the more "progressive" bent from the book.

According to Time, the conservatives aren't crazy about the story of the adulteress whom Jesus saved from being stoned with the famous line: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." The group complains that liberals have used this story to argue against the death penalty. Jesus sounds like a radical humanist, they complain, or at the very least a moral relativist. Not to mention a long-haired hippie.

According to Time magazine's Swampland blog, the project seeks to "replace liberal words like 'labor' with preferred conservative terms; use concise language instead of 'liberal wordiness'; and--my favorite--'explain the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning.'" "Labor" obviously has a left-wing, even "communist" connotation. Scotch that!

They'll have a hard time scrubbing the "liberal" out of the Bible, and my suggestion is they remove the Jesus character altogether. Why not? Some of his humanity and concern for the poor, some of his preaching of peace and justice, would be extremely difficult to spin, so just delete him. Or make him into a short-haired CEO who preaches every man for himself, crass materialism, and looking out for Numero Uno.

"Go ahead, cast the first stone! Look out for numero uno! Screw the meek! Blessed are the rich, the greedy, and the warmongers! Love thy neighbor--only in the right neighborhood! Blessed are the wealthy, for they shall get health care! Now get out of my face!"

According to The Huffington Post, the group has proposed a Wikipedia-like group editing project, Conservapedia. "Some of the ideas would only bring the translation closer to the original. But others would fundamentally change the text."

They propose the following changes:

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias 2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity 3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]

4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[4] defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots";[5] using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."

Conservative Bible Project

The final word...