Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Welcome to my overflowing Inbox...

` Three hundred e-mails, all complaining that I'm not a very responsible Yahoo account holder. This is the result of not cleaning out my Inbox very thoroughly for about a month and a half.
` In this post, I will focus both on bits from the ones concerning the advocacy of rational thought as well as the ones I get from those crazy Lumanians, Art and Artie.
` I have a lot of weird stuff in here, so feel free to browse!

` First up, a random quote from classic 1987 Cecil Adams on subliminal message technology:

Having once participated in a four-year study of the unconscious mind's ability to absorb subliminal messages (in those days it was called "going to college"), I can assure you the technology ain't what it's cracked up to be.

` I believe the same can still be said nowadays. Next:

` The intellectual and spiritual quest to understand the universe and our place in it is at the core of both science and religion. At the beginning of the 20th century social scientists predicted that belief in God would decrease by the end of the century because of the secularization of society.

` In fact, the opposite happened. Never in history have so many, and such a high percentage of the population, believed in God and expressed spirituality. To find out why, science historian and social scientist Dr. Michael Shermer has undertaken a monumental study of science, spirituality, and the search for meaning through his numerous writings, presented here for the first time in workshop format.

` Ah, that zany Shermer. Though I don't agree with him on every last point, I admire his extensive work on things such as trying to make people understand what the (overused) word 'skepticism' really means and why skepticism is important!
` I've written a bit about that myself. After all, it stems from basic human cognitive functioning...
` Then I stumbled across a quote from Voltaire:

` ‘We are all products of frailty, and prone to error. So let us mutually pardon each other’s stupidities. This is the first principle of the law of nature.’

` So true - it's important to know we have to be flawed in some way, because we skeptics really don't like people who would rather be self-centered. They get many eyes rolled at them.

` To completely change the subject, a helpful tip from your pal, Artie (Robert Haimer):

` Don't put hairspray on our new cd's!

` Although Art (Bill Mumy) adds:

` but spuzzle is accepted.

` Uh... yeah. And then... here's a quite disturbing piece of news from Iran:

` The two teenagers, identified only by their initials, A.M. and M.A., admitted to having gay sex but stated that they did not know that homosexuality was a capital offense.
` Press and TV news reports show that these two young boys were hung before crowds of people that cheered the hangmen while their parents pleaded for mercy, to no avail.

` Damn theofanatic homophobes. Oh well, they'll probably learn in... about 300 years.
` Ah, more Voobaha business. I guess sales of their three recently released CDs are going well. Rave reviews are coming from all over Lumania (and Voobaha)...
` Artie said:

I'm surprised that no one has said anything about the "secret" track so far...

` And then The Swill Man was like:

Secret track?!?!?! I didn't see no secret track. *turns feverish* Well, I guess I'll have to listen to all 3 CDs AGAIN....

` And then Art said:

Sometimes we will mix lies with the truth, in order to confuse..... Much
like Satan does....

` Amy added:

Oh, that crazy Satan!

` If only I hadn't accidentally overdrawn my bank account by forty bucks (I really need to do my banking online), I would actually buy one of them. And they'd better be good; CD-buying isn't something I normally do!
` But which one?
` The Swill Man told me to get Sicks, Matt Keeley suggested Kodovoner (which means 'code of honor' in Lumanian), and Art (Mumy) voted for Amazing Adult Fantasy.
` Ignoring even Art Barnes himself, I am relying on a three-sided coin, which has informed me that Sicks (album number six) is what I should buy.

` By the way, I've always wanted to hear Granny and the Kid, if only out of morbid curiosity. Jeff Shippen put two different oggs and mp3s of it on the part of his server containing Barnes and Barnes' Dr. Demento exclusives. (One version has an intro and an outro, the other doesn't.)
` This song is creepy as hell - I like!

` And The Swill Man had this to say:

...but about the song, it's great. Spuzzle percussion still lives on! And it's always nice to hear songs about the elderly raping pizza delivery boys. Good job, guys.

` Sad, but true.
` Onto a completely different subject, I found a bizarre-sounding Nature correspondence by J. M. Craig, R. Dow and M. Aitken called Harry Potter and the Recessive Allele.
` Here's part of it, taken completely out of context for your amusement:

Wizards or witches can be of any race, and may be the offspring of a wizard and a witch, the offspring of two muggles ('muggle-born'), or of mixed ancestry ('half-blood').

This suggests that wizarding ability is inherited in a mendelian fashion, with the wizard allele (W) being recessive to the muggle allele (M). According to this hypothesis, all wizards and witches therefore have two copies of the wizard allele (WW).
` Harry's friends Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom and his arch-enemy Draco Malfoy are 'pure-blood' wizards: WW with WW ancestors for generations back. Harry's friend Hermione is a powerful muggle-born witch (WW with WM parents).
` Their classmate Seamus is a half-blood wizard, the son of a witch and a muggle (WW with one WW and one WM parent). Harry (WW with WW parents) is not considered a pure-blood, as his mother was muggle-born.

There may even be examples of incomplete penetrance (Neville has poor wizarding skills) and possible mutations or questionable paternity: Filch, the caretaker, is a 'squib', someone born into a wizarding family but with no wizarding powers of their own.

` Of course, the entire letter is actually about the fact that the public generally has a great deal of trouble trying to figure out what various genetic discoveries actually mean. How can we avoid this problem in the future?
` If there was only some way to teach basic Mendelian inheritance to children, it might pave the way for more detailed knowledge in the future: As these kids get older, explaining how all this relates to DNA and whatnot would be easier; and as adults, it would therefore be more simple to relate their previous knowledge to the latest discoveries.
` I think this is because lots of laymen look at the complexity of science and say; "Ah, it's too complicated," and the entertainment industry is not helping very much. Actually, I think they could start by having shows that might be entitled; What is science?
` This would be extremely useful, since about 95% percent of non-scientists actually do not seem to know, which would explain all the false 'scientific controversies' going around and further distorting people's view of science. Unfortunately, I think an accurate portrayal of science might confuse people when they see 'science' shows on Discovery, TLC, etc, because those can be pretty shaky.

` Bla, bla, bla. Moving on... apparently, Brian Flemming (author of Bat Boy: The Musical) has already shown and discussed his critical documentary in places I don't even live anyway. (Previews: hi-res, lo-res)
` I'd actually like to know more about it, but if I had to guess, I'd say it's not so much an attack on Christianity, as it is a close examination of just why the gospel was written.
` Apparently, it wasn't even meant to be historical at all! In other words, it is a gospel - i.e. the written body of teachings of a religious group that are generally accepted by that group. That's what the word means - it doesn't mean 'real historical facts'.

` And yet, some Christians will do good (which is fine!!) for a god-man they believe existed named Jesus (actually, Yeshua). At the same time, we have scary weirdos who will even advocate killing for him (this includes our 'Nucular' War-head for a president).
` And please don't tell me that this Jesus character was entirely against killing people. I remember reading in the New Testament stuff like this part where Jesus would rather some people be brought in front of him and killed because they were bad or didn't believe in him or something.
` I was like; "WHAT THE...?"
` What are people meant to think about this Jesus guy, anyway? It's especially confusing to me since I'm not very familiar with his culture, though I'm sure some morons actually take his words way out of context (it's so easy!) as an excuse for killing [insert something here] people, etc.

` I guess the whole point of the documentary is that the first Christians actually taught that Jesus didn't exist at all - it was part of the doctrine of their cult! - but after it became a full-fledged religion, so much of its meaning had been lost to adherents.
` In other words, Jesus was not meant to be real, however most Christians don't bother to learn that part - they don't ever think of it!
` It's not that I'm against Christianity. Probably the point of Flemming's documentary is to show that people just go believing in things that weren't even meant to be believed, which I think is moronic-but-very-easy-to-do. (I've seen it actually happen!)
` I don't know that, though, but that's what I would do. I'll have to rent the DVD. Which is a problem... do I ever rent DVDs?

` Oh, I found something strange in another Classic Straight Dope from 1984 called "Can I mail a brick back to a junk-mail firm using the business reply envelope?" At the end of it, Cecil says:

Incidentally, Win, of the 161,000 people who wrote to the DMA last year, 116,000 wanted more junk mail. They were sent a booklet entitled "How To Get More Interesting Mail" (as God is my witness, I am not making this up), which tells you various key catalogs that you can send for to guarantee you'll be deluged with stuff. Just in case you have a change of heart.

` SCARY! Aww... something sad. There now two fewer awesome skeptics in the world: Phillip Klass and Robert Baker.

* Klass was known for explaining UFO sightings with pragmatic explanations. Although his detractors styled him a "debunker," in fact, debunking was the consequence, not the purpose, of his efforts. He sought to investigate "flying-saucer" reports and thus convert UFOs (unidentified flying objects) to IFOs (identified flying objects) such as celestial bodies, research balloons, advertising planes, and even secret aircraft.
...He wrote several books, including UFOs -- Identified (1968), The Real Roswell Crashed-saucer Coverup (1997), and UFO Abductions: A Dangerous Game (1989).

* An expert in the workings of the human mind, Dr. Baker explained apparitions as mental experiences (such as hypnosis and hypnopompic hallucinations) and viewed "hypnosis" skeptically as a product of imagination and fantasy (as in so-called past-life regressions and alien-abduction "memories"). A true investigator, he believed paranormal claims should neither be accepted nor dismissed, but carefully investigated and solved.
...The author of more than a hundred professional journal articles, Baker also wrote fifteen books, including They Call It Hypnosis (1990), Hidden Memories: Voices and Visions from Within (1992), Mind Games (1996), Child Sexual Abuse and False Memory Syndrome (1998), and (with Joe Nickell) Missing Pieces: How to Investigate Ghosts, UFOs, Psychics, and Other Mysteries (1992).

` Now those were skeptics!! Well, there's plenty left, but I'm just saying...
` And now... Voobaha again, starting with The Swill Man (a.k.a. Crazy Joey - his new profile pic also contains his pet Dreamcast)...

I'm starting to get into the bonus tracks on the new rereleases. One of the songs, Walk My Dog, sounds really cool, and I've been listening to it all day. But who's Sarah Taylor? Can you guys tell us about her, and where to find her music?

Also, I just noticed that Granny and the Kid is in 3/4 time! Gee...I wonder how many other B&B songs are non-4/4...

` Mr. Mumy-Lennier-Man replies:


Thanks for listening Crazy Joey.

Sarah Taylor is a great singer who has been a part of "our scene" for over 25 years. In fact, Sarah introduced me to my wife Eileen, they lived in the same apartment building waaay back when. Sarah also sings lead on "I've Got Some Presents For Santa", which if you DON'T have you definitely should! That's mandatory for Barnes fans in my book!
She also sang on some America songs we co-wrote, "You Girl" for sure, on their "View From The Ground" CD. She still occasionally gigs around LA, I played with her recently. A very talented gal.

Granny and the Kid is 6/8 time, which of course reduces to 3/4. Lots of odd times in our catalogue.

Try counting Suburban Obscurity someday!


` And The Swill Man replies:

Hmm...Suburban Obscurity seems to be in 14/5 time. Yes, I know I suck at counting song measures. Was I close, at least?

` Was he?... We'll never know!! ...I distinctly remember reading and deleting the e-mail with Art's response a long time ago!!
` Hmmm... and what did Michael Shermer write in
last week's eSkeptic? About how 'Intelligent Design' advocates think that Bush supports them, even though he doesn't. What happened was this:

On Monday, August 1, Bush gave an interview at the White House to a group of Texas newspaper reporters in which he said that when he was governor of Texas “I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.” When a reporter asked for his position today on whether ID should be taught alongside the theory of evolution, Bush replied that he did “so people can understand what the debate is about.” But when pressed as to his opinion on whether ID is a legitimate scientific alternative to the theory of evolution, Bush wisely equivocated:

I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.

Well of course, but that’s a different question.

So, the claim by IDers and several Christian groups, along with complaints by liberals that President Bush endorses ID, is exaggerated. In fact, Bush’s science adviser, John H. Marburger 3rd, said in a telephone interview with the New York Times that “evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology” and “intelligent design is not a scientific concept.” He added that the president’s comments should be interpreted to mean that ID be discussed not as science but as part of the “social context” in science classes, and that it would be “over-interpreting” Bush’s remarks to conclude that the president believes that ID and the theory of evolution should be given equal treatment in public school science courses.

` Then he goes on and on about the way faith and science coexist, bla bla, same-old.
` And then... a flurry of Barnes and Barnes stuff. Evidently, everyone's been forgoing wearing socks, etc, in order to buy the new CDs.
` The Swill Man thought that the price was a bit steep, and Mr. Mumy was all like...

Does anyone else besides crazyjoey really think 16 bucks for cd's over 80 minutes long with over twenty songs, extensive liner notes and rare photos is a lot to spend? I think it's a totally fair price. Whatever. Can't please everyone...

` And then, Joey's like...

Okay, okay, okay...(why do you hate me so much, Art??) I'm not saying I was robbed, I'm just saying that the earlier rereleases were cheaper, had just as much material on them, and in my opinion, the packaging was of higher quality. I was more than happy to part with the $50, but I was just wondering why the price went up...I'll blame it on inflation.

` And then Art sez:

Joey, joey, joey, joey, joey,


(that'll be 20 dollars, please)

` Isn't it sad how much I like watching them direct irritation at one another like that?
And last but not least... Gary Posner writes the next eSkeptic article on Phillip Klass:

` My relationship with Phil began in 1977, during my metamorphosis from “believer” to “skeptic,” when I received a copy of UFOs Explained in the mail — free of charge — in response to a letter I had written to him. At about the same time, I had also written to Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the country’s #1 pro-UFOlogist. Hynek was also gracious in replying, but his letter’s references to Phil’s book were so demonstrably false that, armed with my new present, I proceeded to write Hynek four pages, including a point-by-point rebuttal.
` Upon reading a copy of that letter, Klass replied in part, “What you have dared to say to the “Galileo of UFOlogy” [as Hynek had recently been dubbed in Newsweek] has long needed to be said … You are the first, to my knowledge, to brazenly comment that the Emperor is NAKED!”

` Neat, huh? And now... my Inbox is empty! I guess you can call this stuff 'compacted trash.' And yet, at the same time, it is a pure slice of our strange, strange culture - the part of it that dares to invade my e-mail account!


Joey M. said...

"Ignoring even Art Barnes himself, I am relying on a three-sided coin, which has informed me that Sicks (album number six) is what I should buy."

[surreptitious wink]

S E E Quine said...