Saturday, February 28, 2009

Evolution and the Obama Chimp

Even though they've issued an apology, people are still simmering over the New York Post's Obama-Chimp cartoon.

It's offensive, we're told, because there's a history of people comparing Africans to apes and monkeys. What people may not realize is that it wasn't just random rednecks making this comparison, but legitimate anthropologists as well.

It started with Darwin's theory of evolution. People theorized that African apes evolved into African humans, who evolved into European humans, making African people more closely related to apes than Europeans.

There's two problems with that theory, both arising from a basic misunderstanding of how evolution works. First, evolution never operated with the development of European humans as an ultimate goal, that's just our own vanity pushing its way into the theory.

Secondly, evolution isn't linear. It starts from a pretty identifiable point, but then grows from that point into an ever expanding sphere of chain-reaction consequence. African apes are further into the sphere than humans, but African and European humans are more-or-less on the same level emanating from that point.

In other words, we're equally related to apes. You could say they are our grandparents, but African and European humans are cousins. Examining the three at a genetic level yields basically the same conclusion.

Stephen Jay Gould's most significant scientific work was probably his theory of punctuated equilibrium, but many will remember him most for his later work deconstructing the history of using race in evolutionary studies.

Most people don't spend much time considering the nuances of the evolutionary model and most white people spend very little time considering the influence of race and racism on it and the consequences.

I suspect this is how Sean Delonas came to draw the Obama-chimp cartoon in the first place. He might have had "comparing black people to monkeys is bad" stored somewhere in his brain, but he didn't consider the thought often enough for it to surface when he drew the cartoon, so he stepped in it big time.

There are going to be lots of land mines like this for people criticizing Obama over the next few years, because the experience of racism is so different for white people than it is for black people. I think we're just going to have to get used to it though, because it's unreasonable to expect people to lay off criticizing the current president, just because he's black. If it's any consolation to black people, it'll take an awful lot of racist comments to balance out the fact that the president himself is black, at the end of the day, he's still president.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Colonel

A lot of times people don't really appreciate the true back story of every day things. Mel Gibson is a guy who's had his share of personal problems, but there's no question that he's a real genius when it comes to the bio-pic.

Gibson's latest project tells the story of a man who lost everything in America's most tragic war, but took that lost and built a life for himself from the ashes of the old and battles the dual demons of vengeance and loss.

Youtube: Link

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What the hell is a "progressive"?

What the hell is a "progressive"?

As best I can tell, it's some sort of modern liberal, only they don't use that word lest anyone confuse them with the kind of liberals Regan made Persona non grata in the 80's, back in the days when opponents of abortion tried to scoop the opposition by labeling themselves "pro-life", only to have the proponents of abortion come back with "pro-choice". Have you ever met anybody who was willing to say they were either "anti-choice" or "anti-life"?

I really hate when people try to jockey for position by labeling and re-labeling themselves and the competition, trying to gain some slight advantage by whatever adjective they currently use as a noun. Sometimes I wish we'd just assign people to either the red team or the blue team with no other euphemisms or labels allowed.

If you're liberal, say you're liberal. To hell with what Reagan thought about liberals. He was wrong about a lot of stuff anyway. Don't try to co-opt a new word just because you want a change of style. Besides the Uni-Bomber, who the hell isn't for progress anyway?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Woman Becomes Mermaid

Reposted from: Constant Monster

Weta workshop, the company who produced such films as King Kong and The Lord of the Rings, have granted a woman's wish and made her a mermaid.

Nadya Vessey lost her legs below the knee due to a childhood illness. She told a child once she had no legs because she was a mermaid and the idea stuck with her so she asked the New Zeland effects studio if they could make her dream a reality.

Working between films, Weta constructed the mermaid suit from plastic molds and wetsuit fabric, Vessey's mermaid tail looks and works much like the real thing.

Story Link:

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Lack of Faith

I'm beginning to worry that we're losing faith in everything, especially ourselves. From politics to the economy to culture and religion, nobody seems willing to trust anyone anymore.

The flagging economy and the falling stock market has a basis in tangible matters, but most of it is just a massive lack of faith in the system and its ability to correct itself. Recently on another blog, people were discussing a possible local criminal case and someone commented "forget about it: it's Mississippi", as if it were a forgone conclusion that justice can't be done here.

They say it started with the Kennedy assignation, then the Johnson era credibility gap and finally Watergate just blew everything out of the water. Whatever "innocent" trust we ever had in ourselves is just gone now. I think this might fuel a lot of the anger and inflexibility between the parties. Nobody is willing to trust the "other guys" to be anything but corrupt.

If I could do one thing for this country, it would be to get people to believe in each other again. "The other guy" acts an awful lot like you would in the same situation, and that's really all you need to know to understand him. Yes, there are people who abuse the system, but most of them get caught and the system always works to correct itself. Eventually, the system flushed out even "untouchables" like Scruggs and Abramoff and corrected itself.

Life's never been simple or easy, but even though the system breaks down from time to time, it always pulls itself back together because it's our nature to make things work and do the right thing. Things have been tough for a while now and they're liable to be tough for a while longer, but we will right ourselves again and we will do it because, in the end, we can trust each other: we have to.

You don't have to believe in God to understand what Jesus meant when he said "consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin...yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these..."

Things will fall into their right place because they are meant to; that's how the system works. Certainly we have to be vigilant and mindful of what we are doing, but we can do that, we do it every day.

Have faith in God, but have faith in each other too because we are all just lilies of the field.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hung Jury For Melton?

It's looking more and more like Frank Melton's second trial may end in a hung jury.

I really thought both juries would find his actions more disturbing than they did. His defense seems to be that it was OK to tear down the house because it was a public nuisance. I guess if that's all there is to it, heck, tear them all down. Forget about due process, just let the mayor decide what should be done.

The thing people don't understand is that sometimes there's nothing more dangerous than a person trying to do the right thing. That's why our constitution was written to try and protect us from our own government.

I understand Melton's desire to tear down all the crack houses in Jackson, but I don't trust anyone with the power to actually go out and do it based just on their own judgment. Vigilantes are dangerous because it's difficult enough to ensure justice with our full court system, there's no way we can trust any single man to dispense justice on his own.

Certainly I don't want a mayor who's soft on crime, but jeeze louise fellas, can't we get somebody in there who has the same respect for the law he wants the criminals to have?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Odd Man Out

I can't really tell where the republicans are coming from anymore. They used to be very pro-business, but their fight against the economic stimulus bill makes me think there must be something else motivating them.

It can't be that they're motivated by a desire to balance the budget, because for the last seven years they let military spending throw the budget as far out of balance as it's ever been. It can't be that they desire a smaller government either because the patriot act certainly grew government in some unusual ways.

I think they're just against domestic spending. They think it's bad for us if anyone gets aid from the government. I can't tell if there's anything to that philosophy or not. Certainly there are scenarios where people take advantage of government aid or get used to relying on it to get by rather than their own initiative, but there are also times when people use it as a stepping stone toward moving themselves into the working or middle class.

Another issue might be that after suffering such a huge electoral defeat, the republicans might feel they lack identity and are doing whatever they can to distinguish themselves from Obama's new democrats. The republicans left in Washington come from very solidly republican districts and might fear how any cooperation with the democrats plays to their home constituency.

As the economy improves, the republican point of view might gain relevance, but for the time being they're just going to have to get used to being the odd man out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Danish Boy Learns the Truth About Women

This is a really funny short film about a young boy who sets out to write an essay on the truth about women. This video doesn't embed so you'll have to follow the link below.

Even though it's a film about sex there's only very brief partial nudity. I can't decide if it's cynical or sweet. Maybe some of both, but it's more than worth the twelve minutes it takes to watch.

Lille mand / Little Man
Directed by: Esben Tønnesen, 2006
Mathias, age 8 years old, is writing an essay for school entitled "How to Understand Women". Obviously, his fieldwork turns out to be quite difficult.
English Subtitles

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Paul Minor Back in the News

I hate to use a phrase like "liberal media" because it's so cliche', but some folks don't mind the label and some of them have recently published articles about Paul Minor. (see links below) Nominally these stories focus on Karl Rove, but they spend much more ink in an effort to exonerate Minor.

Both articles I list and half a dozen blog posts from around the country paint Minor as an innocent man who became the victim of Karl Rove's shenanigans. Now that a Democrat is president, I'm assuming all of this is in preparation of some effort to get Minor at least out of prison, if not exonerated.

Minor bribed that judge. There's no question of that. They may call it a loan or a contribution or any number of other things, but it was a bribe and everybody involved knows it. So, he is guilty, but he may not have broken any laws.

The state cleaned up these laws a lot over the past forty years, but there are still many ways an interested person can bribe an official from any of the three branches of Mississippi government and not break any laws. Minor's defense, both in court and before the public, admits he threw great bags of money at judges, but insists he did it legally.

So what? If Minor found enough loop-holes in the law to conduct his bribery without breaking the law does that mean he gets a "get out of jail free" card?

Yeah, I guess it does. We live by the rule of law, and even if somebody does something really, really wrong, they still get to walk if they didn't break the law. It's our responsibility as citizens to elect people who will close up these loop-holes before someone exploits them, not afterwards.

I'm deeply concerned about the sheer bulk of money Minor and others gave judges over the years. Our law-makers simply must take the necessary steps to make sure nobody ever manipulates the system like Minor and Scrugs and others did ever again.

How's this for starters? Nobody admitted to the Mississippi bar has any business making loan guarantees to any judge, appointed or elected, under any circumstances. That's just begging for trouble.

Judges and lawyers are far too chummy in Mississippi. Many people would be shocked if they knew just how close they sometimes are. It's time for that to end. They shouldn't socialize and they especially shouldn't pass money back and forth. There should be an imaginary, but impenetrable wall between Mississippi judges and anyone who might practice before their bar.


Pro Minor:
Harpers Magazine
Jackson Free Press
Anti Minor:
Ya'll Politics Blog

There's a lot more about this in the Blogosphere. If I left anybody out, I apologize.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Getting The News Online in 1981

I'm a news junkie, and I get most of my news online.

For the moment, you can access just about any newspaper, magazine, television or radio station in the world through the web. Using RSS feeds I aggregate the news I read most often and access it through a program called a news reader. (I use Google's version, but there are many others.)

So what, Boyd? The whole world gets their news that way now. This is true, but I've been getting much of my news online for almost thirty years now.

It all started in the 1980's when I joined Compuserve. Compuserve wasn't the first online service I'd used, but it was the first to offer and AP news feed. They also experimented with including other online news services.

Below is a 1981 television report on the early stages of Compuserve's news services

The services available on Compuserve expanded quickly as modem and PC technology evolved. Below is a 1991 TV ad for Compuserve

So for those of you who are just now learning all you can do online, welcome to the party! We've been around for almost 30 years now.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Really Upsetting Video

In case you've been living under a rock, the latest in viral videos features Aston Kutcher and Demi Moore and about two-dozen other celebrities talking about things they promise to do to help the Obama administration achieve their goals.

Most of the stuff they pledge to do is fairly innocuous, but useful stuff, like pledging to buy a more fuel efficient car, but at the end of the video, the tone changes to something really chilling. At the end of the video they pledge "to be a servant to our president."

The entire point of the American presidency is that he is not a king we serve, but a man who serves us. Inverting that relationship is very, very dangerous.

For all the really crazy and really stupid things the Republicans did over the years, they never did anything like this. Can you imagine anyone pledging to be "a servant" to George Bush or Ronald Reagan?

I don't see any indication that the president himself was involved in the making of this video, but you know who was? Oprah Winfrey. At the end of the video you see that her company Harpo Productions owns the copyright to it.

Who the hell puts their name on a thing like this to say she owns it? Is Oprah bucking to be the power behind the throne by making Obama king?

As her popularity grows, Oprah becomes more and more the victim of common hubris. Let's hope our new president has the presence of mind to avoid this for himself.

There's enough going on right now that threatens to move us into fascism, we do not need a Fuhrer as well.

Below are Penn Jilette's sometimes rambling comments on this issue from his Video Blog:

I include this video because Penn sums up the situation so precisely when he says "Fuck! To be a servant to our president? Somebody explain it to me, please."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

World's Largest Snake

Scientists have uncovered the fossilized remains of the largest snake that ever lived.

In life Titanoboa cerrejonensis was some forty-three feet long and possibly weighed as much as 2,500 lbs. (that's a big snake)

It lived in South America some sixty million years ago and probably lived mostly in the water.

Artist's Conception of Titanoboa

Read more at Live Science and Popular Science

Mexican 300 Parody

I love the movie 300. (Who doesn't?)

Success breeds imitators, both in the form of parody and rip-offs. There are dozens of 300 Parodies, but my favorite by far is the Latino Comedy Project's version of the 300 trailer.

Never Work With Children Or Animals, Especially Turkeys

There's an old showbiz adage: never work with children or animals. The reason you never work with children or animals is because, no matter what you do, they're always going to upstage you.

Penn & Teller are two of the most seasoned performers in the business. They've done television, movies, live traveling shows, and they're one of the hottest acts in Vegas. They perform at Harrah's Casino (not far from The Mirage, where Siegfried & Roy also learned it was a bad idea to work with animals for a completely different reason.)

They also have a pretty popular program on showtime called Bullshit.

While filming a recent episode on the bullshit of insomnia cures, Penn & Teller discover yet another reason why you should never work with children or animals: in this instance, Turkeys.

There's pretty much nothing a performer can do that tops copulating turkeys.

Order Bullshit! On DVD at
Penn & Teller - Bullshit! - The First Season
Penn & Teller - Bullshit! The Complete Second Season
Penn & Teller - Bullshit - The Complete Third Season
Penn & Teller - Bullshit - The Complete Fourth Season
Penn & Teller - Bullshit! - The Complete Fifth Season

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to get high...

The Journal of Psychiatric Research last month published a study suggesting that chronic use of marijuana among teens can lead to "abnormalities in areas of the brain that interconnect brain regions involved in memory, attention, decision-making, language and executive functioning skills."

I've long supported the legalization of marijuana use in the United States, but I've never been naive enough to believe the claims that its use is benign. Nothing that has as significant an effect on brain activity as marijuana's "high" will just go away and not leave a mark.

Read more about the study on The Live Science Blog or read the entire study by Manzar Ashtari at the Archives of General Psychiatry website.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Death of Atheism

You would think that atheism was simply the lack of religion, but it's not, atheism has become just another religion, and that trend is increasing. Does real atheism cease to exist if it becomes just another faith?

If you search for atheism on youtube, or the blogosphere, or any other part of the web, one thing becomes very clear: the most vocal atheists aren't just pro-atheism, they're very, very anti-religious.

Atheistic evangelism has become a very active part of life on the web. I'll probably get a few hits and emails just for mentioning it. The problem is that if atheism becomes just another religion then it ceases to have any use as an alternative to religion.

When religious groups start tearing down other religious groups (as can be their nature) red flags immediately go up. They're labeled a hate group or worse and become targets of groups like the southern poverty law center or, but the same standard doesn't apply to atheist groups. When atheists attack other beliefs, it's called enlightened and reasonable.

I completely get that part of this is payback for all the crap religious groups have pulled over the years, but are we really improved when atheist groups start adopting the tactics of the Westboro Baptist Church? What's next? Will they adopt the tactics of Al Quaeda?

Perhaps these patterns of behavior are so ingrained into the human condition that atheists had no choice but to fall into them. Atheists have given up on the search for their own ways of being and bought property on church row.

Go to a college campus. At the beginning of each new school year religious groups set up tables in public places so new students can find their own denomination to join up, and right in among them, the atheists have their own table advertising their own spaghetti suppers and bowling nights.

There was a time when atheism was a legitimate alternative to religion, but it has long since become a matter of them playing the same game as the religious, just with different jerseys. Don't be surprised if the next time there's a knock on your door, it's an atheist wanting you to give you a copy of his atheist watchtower pamphlet.

Bert Case Kicks Dogs Ass

Many people remember the now infamous incident where former governor Kirk Fordice threatened to kick the ass of Jackson reporter, Bert Case for revealing the home Fordice bought for his girlfriend. (Why the heck can't I find video of this?)
Link: Weekly

It turns out Fordice might have made a mistake threatening Case, because Bert's a bad-ass.

Below is video of Bert getting attacked by a pair of Pitt bull terriers while investigating another story. Looks like the pit-bulls picked on the wrong dude and Bert emerges victorious.

My favorite part is that Bert ends the scuffle with the command "You GO!" gesturing with is free hand, and the dog does!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

January's Most Read Posts:

Google provides webmasters with some really useful tools on how people use their website. Here's what it said about Boyd's Life for the month of January 2009

Most Popular In Order:
  1. The Impotence of of Proofreading
  2. Jackson's Horrible Movie
  3. Is there a God Delusion
  4. What do Teacher's Make?
  5. Obama Chia Pet
  6. Print is dead and I don't Feel So Good Myself
  7. The Cruel God
  8. Miss-Matched Presidential Hands
  9. Oops CNN Does it Again
  10. The Rational Flea
Unusual Search Engine Phrases that Found my Blog:
Search engines turn words into math to try and match up what someone is searching for with websites that might possibly be what they want. It's really fascinating to see the phrases people used that Google linked to my site. Sometimes it'll show some real lu-lu's that make me wonder what the searcher was really up to. For January 2009, the most unusual were:
  • "articles that are considered strange for people suing companies for monies"
  • "blue whale reincarnation"
Site traffic is not quite double what it was six months ago

Banned PETA Commercial

The great criticism of PETA has always been that it's just a money making machine that doesn't really accomplish much other than making nut-jobs feel better about themselves.

Here is a video of the commercial PETA wanted to place during the superbowl. I'm not going to embed it because it is in questionable taste and it was rejected for being too sexual.

The thing is, however much PETA spent making this ad, it was going to cost them three million bucks to place it. If PETA has that kind of money to throw away on that kind of ad, then I'm really wondering why they're not using it to actually do anybody some good, like feed the hungry or clothe the naked.

Keep this commercial in mind if you're ever tempted to give PETA a dime and give it a second thought. If that doesn't work, consider the video below from Pen & Teller's Bullshit:

If the crazy PETA protest lady sounds familiar, it's because she's Pamelyn Ferdin who did the voice for pretty much every animated little girl in the 1970's.

Shoes of Power

Women's high-heel shoes make a lot of noise. I was downtown tonight and a woman three buildings away came out the door of her building. She was at least two-hundred feet away from me, but the sound of her footsteps were as clear as if she were six feet away.

It's a ubiquitous sound, that tok-tok-tok-tok of women's high heels. We almost cease to acknowledge it, but when the normal sounds of the city die down, it becomes much more noticeable.

It cant be comfortable wearing these shoes, with gravity pushing your toes into a point like that. High heels add considerably to one's height and they say it's sexy in the way they make legs look longer and force the body into a boobs and butt out posture, but I have to wonder if that sound isn't part of the appeal.

There has to be a sense of power when just the sound of your footsteps on a hard surface carries as far, if not farther than your voice could. They announce a woman's arrival, like a herald with trumpet. "Lady with heels, commin' through!"

Men's shoes don't normally make nearly that much noise, but that doesn't mean men haven't noticed the power of audible footsteps. Germany's Goose-Steppers were some of the most famous soldiers in history. Their marching was completely useless in modern warfare, but in a parade before the citizens, the sound of their marching must have been both thrilling and terrifying.

You never see a woman in sweat-pants and a knit-cap wearing heels. She has to have the whole package, hair, makeup, outfit, nails and jewelry in place before adding the pièce de résistance, the stiletto heels!

The woman I heard tonight, when I actually could see her, was actually very petite, maybe five feet tall and not much more than a hundred pounds. In normal clothes and normal shoes you probably wouldn't even notice her, but wearing the shoes of power and a business suit, she was something to behold.

Official Ted Lasso