People called Romanes, they go the house?

As you might guess from prior posts in my “religion” category, I don’t celebrate Easter with much enthusiasm, at least not of the religious sort. I did, however, watch King of Kings, a 1961 Technicolor™ film about the life of Jesus from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. This is not the best film ever, but good enough to be an Easter classic. Plus, it contains juggling.

While watching it, the acting, sets and flavor immediately reminded me of “a comedy 3000 years in the making”. Mostly, though, I realized I can never watch anything containing Jesus or Romans without thinking of the Life of Brian (from which the title of this post comes). I mean, even the marquees of these two movies are similar:

The casting in King of Kings is a bit more interesting, however. (Maybe it was watching too many episodes of “Rome” back to back, but I kept wondering who in the cast was sleeping with who.) Orson Welles did the voice overs (which were apparently written by Ray Bradbury). Judas is played by a nearly unrecognizable (at least to me) Rip Torn. For some reason, this movie also more or less ended the short career of the surprisingly hot Brigid Bazlen, whose performance as Salome evidently drew an extremely vitriolic response from the critics at the time. (There is a story in there somewhere.) Through most of the film however, I was troubled by the semi-crazed, yet familiar look of the actor playing the white, blue-eyed Jesus. It was a pretty good performance, and something about how they shot it made him look beyond human most of the time, but I couldn’t quite place him until about halfway through. He was Jeffrey Hunter, who played the very first captain of the Enterprise, Christopher Pike. It’s not quite the same:

Hyper MacJesus Pro Gold returns from the dead to save all mankind

Back in the days of Macintosh System 6.0, Lamprey Systems (“software that sucks”) brought us “Your Own Personal Savior on a Floppy Disk”, but then He languished as technology outpaced Him. Now, He’s back, redubbed MacJesusX, promising Mac OS X goodness, “the Insinerator Sin-Removal Tool® and state-of-the-art 80’s programming techniques”.

The latest version, unfortunately, isn’t as fun as the System 7 version. I think one reason might be that it doesn’t use the hypnotic theme song from the earlier one. To restore it to its former glory, I’ve managed (not easily) to extract said theme and translated it into a short MP3. You pretty much have to listen to it on a loop to get the full effect. If you have QuickTime installed, hit play on the control below to see what I mean.

Easter turducken

Most traditional holidays are syncretised perversions of even older traditions, which then get secularized into excuses to eat a whole bunch. Christmas falls, not coincidentally, close to the winter solstice, and borrows heavily from earlier winter festivals, featuring lots of gingerbread, candy canes, traditional hams and large family feasts. Thanksgiving, being largely a continuation of post-harvest feasts in Europe, has always been about eating. We have, of course, taken this to ridiculous extremes with turducken, a Thanksgiving dish prepared by…

…cramming a boneless chicken into a boneless duck, which is stuffed into a boneless turkey. Three kinds of stuffing are layered between the three kinds of meat and the monstrosity is cooked for a very long time. The end result, when cut, is a fantastic food rainbow that must be eaten to be believed.

Easter, which may or may not have been named after a pagan fertility goddess, falls conveniently close to the spring equinox, allowing the syncresis of rabbits, eggs and the rebirth of nature into a ritual about the slaughter and rebirth of God. Easter also now has been subverted into being about eating, though hasn’t yet been taken to the extremes of Thanksgiving turducken.

Until now.

Making Easter turducken is, fortunately, much easier than a traditional turducken, as it abandons all that pesky protein while fully embracing the empty carbohydrates and fat. While technically Easter turducken is a dessert and traditional turducken a main course, they should never be consumed in the same meal. That would be heresy.

As with traditional turducken, Easter turducken starts from the inside out. The core is formed with miniature Cadbury cream eggs:

Take an ordinary peep and make a large slit in the bottom, as deep as possible without going all the way through:

Stuff an egg into the slit, stretch the sides around it, and fold the peep’s tail down. Repeat with a few more peeps.

The outer layer finally makes good use of one of the more odious culinary travesties, the irritating hollow bunny. As a kid, nothing was more annoying that thinking you’d been given a huge block of chocolate, and it turns out to be empty. To get the egg-stuffed peep goodness into this abomination, first you must open the bottom. Anything worth doing is worth doing with power tools, so take a dremel and cut around the perimeter of the bottom:

Once the hole is made, stuff the now egg-bloated peeps into the bunny. Note that some hollow bunnies suck even more than others, and crack and fall apart really easily, so be careful. Once you’re done, put the bottom back on. The really ambitious might try re-melting the seam in the bottom closed with a crème brûlée torch.


Voilà, the loathsome hollow bunny is transformed into several thousand calories, as God intended. Many children wonder around Easter how it is that bunnies lay eggs. As a side benefit, Easter turducken illustrates clearly that this “theory” is wrong. Obviously bunnies lay chickens, which then lay the eggs. Mystery solved.

Now fully prepared, the Easter turducken can be eaten. There is probably some kind of psychological test about what part of the bunny you eat first. I always go for the neck. Since it is held together only by a cheap-ass hollow bunny, once you start eating your turducken, it will collapse rapidly. Be prepared for a mess.

Yummy. A guess at the nutrition information for a three peep turducken:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size:
  1 Easter turducken • 98g

Amount Per Serving
Calories  456 Calories from Fat  158
% DV*
Total Fat  18g 27%
    Saturated Fat  11g 44%
    Trans Fat  0g  
Cholesterol < 15mg 4%
Sodium  74mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate  70g 24%
    Dietary Fiber  0g 0%
    Sugars  65g  
Protein  6g 11%

Enjoy your Easter turducken. And bring lots of paper towels. And maybe a bib. Let me know how your own turn out.

The Fightin’ Multiculturalist

The world “multiculturalism” means different things to different people. Critics of multiculturalism, like the Ayn Rand Institute, tend to define it like so:

In brief, multiculturalism is the view that all cultures, from that of a spirits-worshiping tribe to that of an advanced industrial civilization, are equal in value.

They then proceed to refute, often logically and convincingly, that such a view is foolish, saying things like:

Multiculturalism seeks to obliterate the value of a free, industrialized civilization (which today exists in the West and elsewhere), by declaring that such a civilization is no better than primitive tribalism. … The ideas and values that animate a particular culture can and should be judged objectively. A culture that values freedom, progress, reason and science, for instance, is good; one that values oppression, stagnation, mysticism, and ignorance is not.

This critique seems to the one voiced most often in recent popular (as opposed to academic) debate, particularly in discussions about the Islamic world.

The problem with this argument is that its initial definition of what multiculturalism means is completely wrong. Granted, one of the largest difficulties with multiculturalism is that it is not well defined, a point made evident by the entry on it in the Wikipedia, where at least four different definitions are mentioned. Even so, it seems that the only credible groups who use the definition above are the ones who oppose it. The impact and meaning of multiculturalism has been debated significantly in academic circles for quite some time. Though I was trained at one of the primary institutions that could be accused of “pushing a multiculturalist agenda”, I’m not an academic, so I confess ignorance of much of this debate. My interest here is more in the popular use of the term and, in particular, how a multicultural society can consistently deal with one that is not.

In saying that people like the Ayn Rand Institute have the definition of multiculturalism “completely wrong” it is incumbent on me to provide a correct one. Sadly, the best definition I can provide is by way of an example of multicultural behavior: fans of the National Football League.

Your average NFL fan (or any other fan of a professional domestic sport team) favors one team above others. When attending the temple of their team, they will dress in appropriate religious regalia, usually a set mix of colors, maybe with a large number on the front, or representations of dairy products on their head. Some will be disgusted and/or amused at the zealotry of those of their number who get tattoos of team iconography or paint their body bright orange or wear big foam hands. Many even do this watching on television at home. Most will talk about their team with anyone who will listen. Every one of these fans, however, knows somebody that roots for another team, maybe even someone even more impassioned about their own team than they themselves are about theirs.

Ayn Rand, no doubt, would be thrilled to know that each particular team “can be judged objectively” and it is usually (though not always) possible to empirically determine which team is “better”. No fan anywhere would ever claim that all teams in the league “are equal in value”. Clearly his own team is worth far more to him than the others are, even though it may simultaneously be worth far less in terms of monetary value, turnover ratio or victory percentage.

While a fan of a losing team may have to endure barbs of fans of other teams (or even his own fellow fans), it’s rare that his choice of team puts him in any real danger. By the same token, a fan on the championship team, while he might not understand why someone would root for any other team and may, in fact, consider anyone that does so inferior or even express hatred for them, he never seriously opposes, or even questions, the right of those other fans to root for whoever they like. It’s not like a large group of them get together and scream through loudspeakers “all others must renounce their own loyalty and support our team, or face righteous wrath,” then send out the “Shining Row 12 of Section J” to hack up non-believers with machetes. (Well, at least not outside of Oakland.)

There are exceptions, of course, but when American sports fans hear of planned soccer riots, fans grouping together to fight fans of other teams, fans murdering their own goalie after a loss, governments torturing their athletes for losing or even when players leave the field to deck some smart ass, the vast majority of them wonder “what the hell is wrong with these people?”. Sure, American fans react badly to victory and turn over police cars with the best of them, but this almost never involves clashes with opposing fans. While they think their own team superior, they don’t assume that this means that fans of other teams should have less of a right to root for whoever they want. In short, they have a “multicultural” view when it comes to team loyalty.

You might define multiculturalism as “the tolerance to allow others to believe stupid things”. Or maybe it’s as simple as “live and let live”.

However, practicing multiculturalism has a lot in common with laws surrounding free speech. In principle, it’s fine to say “people are free to say what they want”. In practice, there are sticky implementation problems. How do you deal with someone yelling “fire” in a crowded room? How do you deal with someone who invokes their free speech rights to broadcast the secrets of people, corporations or governments or make false accusations against them? Is it permissible for someone to claim their right to free speech is more important than someone else’s? Suppose someone openly encourages others to kill someone?

Similarly, encoding a principle like “people are free to believe in what they want and live the way they want to” has implementation problems of its own. Suppose a prisoner believes he must be provided steak as part of his religion. What about a culture that allows its children to die from preventable ailments? How about a religion that considers its practitioners justified—in fact expected—to kill members of other cultures?

The guiding principle in rationalizing these kinds of difficulties tends to be “your right to swing your fist ends at my face”. In other words, I consider myself a multiculturalist, but I also have no problem at all with killing someone who is trying to kill me because he is not.

Seeking source

In the comments of a recent Fark article, someone posted a list of questionable “lessons” one could learn from the Bible. Google indicates the same list is posted in a few other forums, but I can’t find any reference to the original source. Anyone know where it might be from? This is the list:

  1. In Genesis 3:16 god punishes all women, innocent or not, with painful childbirth and subjugation to men.
  2. In Genesis 7:4 god has a bad day at the office, thus decides to drown innocent babies, and animals both wild and domestic.
  3. In Exodus 4:11 god boasts about making people handicapped.
  4. In Exodus 4:23 god resorts to hostage taking and terrorism in order to get his own way. He does this via threatening a baby. Soon, he is slaughtering little babies all across Egypt.
  5. In Exodus 9:19-20 god slaughters Egyptian cattle. Sometimes, cow tipping just isn’t enough.
  6. In Exodus 9:29-30 god kills off innocent babies, and whatever cows he missed earlier.
  7. In Exodus 20:17 god tells us not to free another’s slaves. Abolitionists beware!!
  8. In Exodus 32:27-28 god tells the sons to slaughter their neighbors: 3,000 men are slain.
  9. In Leviticus 19:20-22 god demands that raping a slave woman is punishable by scourging the victim. The rapist is to be forgiven.
  10. In Leviticus 25:44-46 god tells his followers to make slaves of their neighbors.
  11. In Leviticus 27:3-7 god helpfully provides a pricing guide. According to this guide, as a male between the ages of 20 and 60 years (the most expensive category), I am worth approximately US$25. How much are you worth to god?
  12. In Numbers 14:18 god’s idea of justice is explained: little children are to be punished for their great-great grandparents transgressions.
  13. In Numbers 31:1-54 god tells his followers to commit genocide, “sparing” only the virgin girls, who are to be raped. Even god gets some “unspared” virgins.
  14. In Numbers 33:4 god kills of another batch of Egyptian babies. Abortion is a sin because…?
  15. In Deuteronomy 2:33-36 god demands genocide again. No mention of virgin girls this time, unless these children are raped to death…
  16. In Deuteronomy 7:2 god demands more genocide from his followers.
  17. In Deuteronomy 13:12-16 god demands new and improved genocide, now including cattle. Oh, wait, we’ve had that before. Damn cows.
  18. In Deuteronomy 32:21-26 god glories in being a psychotic terrorist. Don’t miss the atrocities of Deuteronomy 28, either!
  19. In Joshua 6:18-19 the omnipotent creator is short of cash, again.
  20. In Joshua 8:22-26 god demands more genocide, plus some more slavery as detailed in Joshua 9:21-27, but this time, in Joshua 10:10-11, we get slaughter and a chase scene!! Go, god!!
  21. In Joshua 10:28-32 god demands still more genocide.
  22. In Joshua 11:6-17 god still demands more genocide. There are more exceptions to “Thou shalt not kill” than there are to a rich man’s tax code.
  23. In Judges 1:2-7. god’s takes a break from genocide, has his followers kill “only” 10,000 people, but at least they get to torture and mutilate somebody by cutting off both thumbs and big toes!
  24. In Judges 1:12-13 Caleb offers his daughter as prize to anyone who conquers the City of Debir. The girl’s cousin wins the contest, thus the prize.
  25. In Judges 1:17-19 god gets back to good, ol’ regular genocide. Killing innocent people is serious work!!
  26. In Judges 2:14 god has a temper-tantrum and sells Israel into slavery.
  27. In Judges 3:28-29 & 4:15-16 god reverts to, you guessed it, genocide.
  28. In Judges 5:30 god hands out a damsel or two to each of his rapist soldiers. Booty Call!!
  29. In Judges 10:17 god gets angry at Israel, again, and sells them into slavery, again.
  30. In Judges 12:6 god slays 42,000 innocent people because someone with a speech impediment mispronounces the word “shibboleth”. I’ll bet you thought the word “lisp” was cruel jest.
  31. In Judges 15:4-8 a “righteous” Samson captures 300 foxes, ties their tails together, and sets them on fire. Abusing animals is almost as righteous as killing babies, apparently.
  32. In Judges 19:22-30, after taking in a traveling Levite, the host offers his virgin daughter and his guest’s concubine to a mob of perverts (who want to have sex with his guest). The mob refuses the daughter, but accepts the concubine and they “abuse her all night.” The next morning she crawls back to the doorstep and dies. The Levite mounts her dead body on an ass and takes her home. Then he chops her body up into twelve pieces and sends them to each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
  33. In Judges 21:7-23 in order to find wives for the Benjamites, who were unwilling to use their own daughters, the other tribes attacked and killed all occupants of a city except for the young virgins. These virgins were then given to the Benjamites as “wives”.
  34. In 1 Samuel 2:10 if god doesn’t like you he will send a thunderstorm to break your body into little pieces. In 1 Samuel 2:31-34, if god really doesn’t like you, he will cut off your arm, consume your eyes, grieve your heart, and slay your sons and grandfathers. In 1 Samuel 5:6, 9, and 12 we learn that if god really, really doesn’t like you, he will give you hemorrhoids in your “secret parts”.
  35. In 1 Samuel 5:11 god wipes out another city.
  36. In 1 Samuel 15:2-3 god demands more genocide, this time as punishment for some no doubt petty transgression committed hundreds of years previously by the forefathers of these innocent people.
  37. In 1 Samuel 15:7-34 god goads Saul into torturing and slaying his prisoner, a King.
  38. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus strongly approves of the law and the prophets. He hasn’t the slightest objection to the cruelties of the Old Testament.
  39. In Matthew 8:21 Jesus shows no compassion for the bereaved, saying to a man who had just lost his father: “Let the dead bury the dead.”
  40. In Matthew 8:32 Jesus abuses animals by sending some devils into a herd of pigs, causing the pigs to run off a cliff and drown in the sea below. The acorn does not fall far from the tree. Was there a local shortage of Egyptian cows? Moo!
  41. In Matthew 10:15 Jesus becomes a terrorist, and threatens genocide against cities.
  42. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus tries to scare people by telling them that his dad can beat up their dad.
  43. In Matthew 11:20-24 Jesus threatens more cities.
  44. In Matthew 12:47-49 “Mister Family Values” himself (Jesus) is disrespectful to his mother and rude to his brothers.
  45. In Matthew 13:41-42 Jesus threatens to send his angels against any who offend him, and send them straight to hell. Love, peace, tolerance, and forgiveness are beneath him, apparently.
  46. In Matthew 15:4-7 Jesus commits hypocrisy by demanding all others to honor their parents. “Sorry about being rude back in Matthew 12, Mom.”
  47. In Matthew 18:8-9 Jesus advocates self-mutilation, but for others, not him. He’s perfect, thank you.
  48. In Matthew 18:25 Jesus advocates slavery.
  49. In Matthew 25:29 Jesus proposes a system of economy where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
  50. In Mark 5:12-13 Jesus spooks 2,000 pigs, causing them to jump of a cliff and drown in the sea. Is this evidence of more animal abuse, or is the story from Matthew 8:32 getting better with each telling?
  51. In Mark 6:11 Jesus resorts to threatening cities again. Die, innocent babies, Die!!
  52. In Mark 7:9-13 Jesus criticizes people for not killing their children, as they should have, according to Old Testament law. The same law Jesus broke when he was disrespectful to his Mother in Matthew 12:47-49.
  53. In Mark 10:29-30 Jesus will reward men who abandon their wives and children.
  54. In Mark 11:13-14 Jesus kills a fig tree for not bearing fruit, even though it was out of season. Apparently, “Mister Perfect” wasn’t much of an agronomist, or ethicist.
  55. In Luke 8:20-21 Jesus is disrespectful to his mother and rude to his brothers, again. Or still?
  56. In Luke 8:27-37 Jesus heals a naked man who was possessed by many devils by sending the devils into a herd of pigs, causing them to run off a cliff and drown in the sea. This messy, cruel, and expensive (for the owners of the pigs) treatment did not favorably impress the local residents, and Jesus was asked to leave. This story does get better with each telling!!
  57. In Luke 10:10-15 Jesus terrorizes entire cities, claiming they will be violently destroyed and the inhabitants “thrust down to hell” for not “receiving” his disciples. No doubt these people preferred their pigs.
  58. In Luke 12:46-47 Jesus likens god to a sadistic, diabolical slave-owner, who will beat you “with many stripes”.
  59. In Luke 14:26 Jesus decides that it is not enough for men to abandon their families; they must actively hate them, too. Where is the love??
  60. In Luke 16:17 Jesus declares that all the vicious, irrational laws of the Old Testament are binding forever.
  61. In Luke 17:27 Jesus talks about Noah, neatly demonstrating his own ignorance of science, history, and justice.
  62. In John 2:4 Jesus is, again, rude to his mother. She seemed so nice, too.
  63. In John 5:14 Jesus stupidly announces that god handicaps people as just punishment for their sins.
  64. In John 7:8-10 Jesus lies to his family about attending a feast.
  65. In Acts 5:1-10 Peter, with god’s help, kills a man who sold his possessions, but did not fork over all of the earnings. Why is the omnipotent creator always short of cash?
  66. In Acts 13:48 we learn that only pre-ordained people would be allowed in heaven. So much for freewill…

Felines coming out of the closet

Perhaps predictably, some atypical venues, such as NPR, editorial departments and various Christian sects are devoting mindspace to the film release of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, based on the novel by C.S. Lewis. Lost in all this undeservedly grandiose commentary about the mix of religion and cinema is one of Lewis’ much better works: The Screwtape Letters.

The book contains a series of letters from an senior demon, Screwtape, to his happless nephew demon Wormwood, offering advice on how to successfully corrupt his target human, a Christian. Naturally, this work features religion far more overtly than the Narnia books. The audiobook version of this work is blessed by perfect casting, featuring John Cleese as Screwtape. Having listened to dozens of audiobooks, I’d place this perfect match between reader and material at the top of the list but, unfortunately, the sound mix on the cassette version is dreadful. It may be that the audible.com version is better.

Lewis followed up this book 17 years later with an essay entitled Screwtape Proposes a Toast.

Four letters, starts with a C

I’m certainly not the only one to notice that a good portion of the media has been having a tough time using the word “Muslim” lately. It used to be that you’d hear the media use the phrase “Islamic fundamentalist”, but this seems like it has given way to the unqualified “terrorist” or the even more abstract “terrorism”, where only the act of, say, a car bombing is important, not the fact that it might have some sort of religious motivation.

I suppose the reason for this is that much of the media wants to avoid looking like they are tarnishing an entire faith it calling attention to a “bad element’s” connection to it. I can understand, and even sympathize, with this desire. After all, in its more peaceful forms, Islam is no dumber or dangerous than any other religion. I think, however, that the media are going about it all wrong and have a suggestion to help them out, first made four years ago in a drunken rant I wrote a few days prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. At the time, the suggestion was made as a strategy the government should adopt. I’m now thinking that I had the right idea but the wrong target back then.

The idea is fairly simple. Media outlets should start calling any Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group what it is: a cult. This instantly separates these groups from the types of Muslims the media is anxious to avoid offending. Plus, a “cult” is a physical group with a finite number of members and, therefore, is significantly easier to defeat than an abstract concept like “terrorism”.

I encourage everyone reading this to start using the c-word in reference to these fanatics.