My Old Kentucky Homesite

Archive for June, 2010

Half-Open Thread

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/08/2010

What should I write about today? Sometimes, there’s too much material floating around out there in the ether. At my advanced age, I find it difficult to multi-vent.

Still, each of the following videos pisses me off for more than one reason. If I started writing a post about all of them combined, I’m afraid that I’d never be able to stop.

That’s where you readers come in. I suspect that at least some of these demonstrations of idiocy will get you angry, too.

So in this open — sorta — thread, I invite you to comment on any or all of these infuriating examples of horse-droppings. Have fun snarking, and rest assured that I’ll join you.

Video #1.

Video #2.

Video #3.

Video #4.

Video #5.

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Posted in Random Rants | 36 Comments »

Interview with Myself

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/07/2010

When I told my wife that PZ Myers had worked his heathen magic on the Readers’ Choice ballot, she immediately said, “If you win, I hope you’re not going to let the paper interview you.”

Her concern is not just vague, out-of-the-blue nervousness. She knows a little something about writers. During the many years we’ve been together, I’ve spent untold hours interviewing folks for stories in both newspapers and magazines.

Usually, I’m respectful of my subjects. But believe me, if I choose to do so, I know how to make anyone sound like a jerk.

The truth is: all humans sound like jerks when we’re having normal conversations. We stammer, we add empty interjections, and we repeat ourselves. We stop to collect our thoughts and helplessly watch them leaving on a train that chugs out of our head and gets lost. We make odd gestures and ridiculous faces. We mispronounce words, misuse phrases, and accidentally say one thing when we mean something else entirely. We scratch our nose, our ear, our armpit. We fart or belch or sneeze or hiccup or snicker inappropriately.

Normally, when we talk to one another, those kinds of unimportant tics of communication become essentially invisible and inaudible. We don’t notice them in our relatives, friends, and acquaintances unless the idiosyncracies are really, really, really annoying.

A good print interviewer who wants to be fair to his subject leaves all that garbage off the page. Often, in fact, a writer will correct the interviewee’s most egregious gaffes in grammar or syntax. A particularly kind journalist might even phone a subject after the fact, and give the person a chance to correct an error that was clearly just an oral typo: “Did you actually mean to say that Charles Dickens wrote The Voyage of the Beagle?”

On the other hand, if an interviewer wants to present his source in a bad light, he can always find a way to do it.

For example: Let’s say that I’m a reporter interviewing some guy we’ll call Larry Wallberg. At the beginning of the interview, I ask him a few “softball” questions, trivial things about his everyday likes and dislikes. Maybe I feel that he needs to be warmed up, or set at ease. I might want to get to know him a little before I turn to the meaty questions, to see how he expresses himself, to listen to his speech patterns. If I’m fair and unbiased, the paragraph I write about this interchange might look like:

Wallberg always starts his day with packaged cereal. “I’ve been doing that since I was a boy,” he says. He loves the new Chocolate Cheerios because “they’re like a cross between cereal and, frankly, cookies.” On the other hand, he adds with a chuckle, “I avoid Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries because it’s a little too sweet even for me.”

Pretty innocuous, right? But what if I take an instant dislike to my source, and I feel like being a prick? There are sooooo many ways I could make that poor guy look like a complete asshole. Shall I paint him as an undecided semi-literate? Or shall I hint that he’s probably lying? How about making him look like an automaton prig? Or a grown-up child? Or a pretentious fool who’s capable of thinking only about the most mundane subjects?

Wallberg says he always starts his day with “um … packaged … y’know … cereal. I’ve been doing that since … I dunno … since I was … what? … let’s just say, since I was a kid.” He mentions that he loves the new chocolate “Cheetos … no, I mean Cheerios,” which remind him of “a cross between cereal and … Christ, what? … let’s just say, between cereal and … I guess they’re kind of like cookies, really.” He says he avoids “Cap’n Crunch with … what the hell do they call those things? … dingleberries? … I’m kidding … oh, yeah, crunchberries. Crunchberries, that’s them. It’s a little too f**king sweet … even for … hey, even for me. No sh*t.”

When asked how he starts a typical day, Wallberg pauses to collect his thoughts, shifts uncomfortably in his seat, and looks at the selection of boxes marching in helter-skelter formation on top of his refrigerator. Beads of perspiration collect on his brow. Finally, he blurts out, “I always start my day with packaged cereal.” Staring longingly at the front box, which is clearly marked “Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries,” Wallberg claims, “I love the new Chocolate Cheerios.” So why is he caught stealing yet another glance at the cereal that seemingly has pride of place in the parade? As if anticipating the question, the obese Wallberg adds, “I avoid Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries because they’re too fricken sweet.” Even for him? “No lie,” he says, nodding a bit too vociferously.

Mr. Wallberg never varies his rigid morning routine, which — according to him — he has been performing since he was a child. “I always start my day with a bowl of cereal,” he intones, as if the very thought of doing otherwise would upset the cosmos. These days, the cross (his word) he has to bear is the new Chocolate Cheerios. “Frankly, they’re like cookies,” he says, making a face of self-disappointment. Mr. Wallberg may not enjoy his current daily regimen, but he’s unyielding in keeping to it.  So he scrupulously avoids other dry breakfasts like Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries, the very idea of which elicits an expletive from him.

Larry always starts his day just as every young kid would, with a heaping bowl of highly processed cereal. His current favorite he says, grinning goofily but endearingly from ear to ear as he scratches them with abandon, is the new Chocolate Cheerios. It reminds him partly of [big smile here] “cookies.” But even Larry has limits when it comes to his obvious sugarmania. Making a mock-nauseated face that wouldn’t look out of place on Beaver Cleaver, he says that he avoids Cap’n Crunch “with those things” [Note: Larry means Crunchberries], because that particular breakfast treat is “a little too [schoolyard term] sweet” — even for him [if his giddy hiccups are any indication]!

Mmmm. “Chalk. Lit.” A small dribble of saliva helps carry those two syllables out of the mouth of Mr. Larry Wallberg, and down the side of his chin. Listen carefully as you watch the flow, because Mr. Larry Wallberg is speaking about his creed, the cult of the sweetened breakfast, a religion he has practiced since he was a boy. Rhymes with “oy.” Chalk. Lit. Cheeeeeee. Ree-ohs. Kinda like cereal, kinda like Christ, kinda like cookies. No Crunchberries for him, no way! They don’t hit exactly the right spot on his tongue. No, it’s gotta be Chalk. Lit. Cheeeeeee. Ree-ohs.

Shit, I hope I’m not the interviewer.

Posted in Dangling Conversations, Language & Meaning, Seriously Silly | 20 Comments »

That Godless Yankee … (Etc.) … Bastard, Me

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/05/2010

OK, here’s a wacky idea I had. I’m hoping that at least some of you will take part, and also ask your friends to join in.

Apparently, our local rag, the Lexington Herald-Leader, runs a kind of contest each year: The Readers’ Choice (Awards). You’ve probably seen this kind of dumb thing in your own hometown paper, although some of the questions here in Lexington seem unusually stupid.

What or who is your favorite:
bank?
horse farm?
local bourbon?
dentist?
place to have a baby?
area vineyard?
place to buy UK apparel/merchandise?
cosmetic surgeon?
consignment shop?
place to buy a Derby hat?
local rising star (any career)?
place of worship?

Now, it so happens that one of the categories on the 2010 ballot is:

Who’s your favorite local media personality (newspaper, TV, radio, blogger)?

I think it would be a hoot if it turned out to be that godless Yankee commie homo-supporting baby-killing bastard, me. So I’m asking all my readers to click on this link, scour down the page until you come to “local media personality … etc.” and enter my name: Larry Wallberg. No explanation. Just Larry Wallberg.

Obviously, I don’t expect to win, or even come close. But if I could garner even, let’s say, fifty votes, that ought to give the yokels at the paper pause — because, aside from the idiot at the Life + Stupidity section to whom I complained about a month ago, they won’t have a clue who I am.

If, by some fluke, I do happen to win, I promise that I’ll say or write something outrageous in response. I doubt that I’ll be able to find a New Yawk atheist version of Sacheen Littlefeather to collect my prize, but whatever I do, it will be appropriately hilarious and heathenly.

Thanks. (Just for the record, I also hate what Kentucky did to its Native Americans.)

[Update on 06/05/10 at 4:15 p.m.: PZ Myers, over at Pharyngula, is kindly helping to skew the poll. Hmmm. I’d better start thinking of a sufficiently atheistic acceptance speech.]

Posted in Idiots, New to Kentucky | 60 Comments »

Oh, Susannah, Go Ahead and Cry for Me. Yourself, Too.

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 06/03/2010

Last Saturday, I had an email from reader Susannah Roitman. She’s another transplanted New York atheist, now surrounded by Lexingtonian Jesus-jumpers, so we commiserate with one another electronically from time to time.  Susannah said she was sure I’d read the local rag that morning, and she was looking forward to my response.

As it happened, I’d been preparing for out-of-town guests who were scheduled to arrive later that weekend. So, being in kind of a rush to slurp down my Chocolate Cheerios and get to the wine, cheese, and cookie store, I had skipped my daily dose of dumbth. Besides, I already had planned to write a crucially important blog entry about a vocabulary contest. (See previous post.)

But, in deference to my new friend, I did take a quick look at the front page of the Herald-Leader, which immediately revealed what I thought she was talking about. A brightly colored banner boldly proclaimed that the Annual Guide to Vacation Bible School was being featured in the Life + Drivel Section.

However, it turned out that she had something else entirely in mind. On that day’s Opinion Page, every single one of the “Readers’ Views” had been mailed in response to a month-old letter written by an atheist. That letter’s title, obviously assigned by the Editor, reveals its contents: “God Exists? Prove It!”

To tell the truth: I don’t think I’d read that specific letter. If I had, it certainly wasn’t memorable. I tried to find it online, but unfortunately it was no longer available – even though the Op/Ed Powers-That-Be had chosen to run nine refutations, taking up half a page of prime newshole. Still, I can guess, with a high degree of certainty, the kinds of arguments the original letter-writer would have used in his time-wasting effort. (Since his name wasn’t mentioned, let’s just call him Mr. Heathen.)

Obviously, Mr. Heathen had had a terrific idea when he tossed off his note to the newspaper. By dint of his sharp reasoning, his never-heard-before points, and his oh-so-probing questions, he was going to show up the area’s religious nuts for what they were. Hell, his logical debating abilities would probably cause a mass deconversion.

Um, not quite. The responses, in summary, were:

Letter 1: I can’t touch air, either. But it’s there, right?
Letter 2: How can the universe have been created without a creator?
Letter 3: John Wesley once said [a paraphrase of Pascal’s Wager]. He was right. Mr. Heathen stubbornly refuses to consider the evidence, which is why he doesn’t know the “joy of hope for the future.” But there must be a god, because otherwise life is “sterile and meaningless.”
Letter 4: Mr. Heathen has not looked deeply enough inside himself.
Letter 5: Can Mr. Heathen prove that he exists?
Letter 6: Mr. Heathen has to have faith. He’ll remain ignorant of the truth unless he reads the bible.
Letter 7: You can’t see air. But it’s there, right?
Letter 8: You can’t hear, see, or smell gravity. But it’s there, right?
Letter 9: Mr. Heathen is obviously going through “a very tough time” — or he has disdain for all religion. But I kinda agree with his point. Maybe. Sorta.

Brilliant!

Without doubt, most of those responders were graduates of Vacation Bible School. So I turned back to the god-shilling on the Life + Propaganda page, and I learned that: “With its games, songs, snacks, crafts and Bible stories, vacation Bible school is a hallmark of summer for many Kentucky kids.” Good times, eh?

There then followed a listing of approximately eighty brainwashing opportunities. Apparently, quite a few of the programs are offered by more than one church. In case a recalcitrant child fails to be fully immunized from secularism the first time through a “course,” the parents can send him or her back elsewhere for a second mental dunking.

Anyway, here are a few of the interesting subjects available. Unlike the Life + Inanity section, which just listed these in date order (how useless for true believers who know that god is timeless), I’ve organized these by theme. For the most part, I’ve resisted the urge to add humorous comments because — let’s face it — I can’t get any funnier than the names of these classes.

Bible Crap You Need to Know About Egypt

  • Egypt: Joseph’s Journey from Prison to Palace
  • The Egypt File: Decoding the Mysteries of Life
  • Mighty Moses
  • Spend a While on the Nile
    [Note: Your mummy will be proud!]

Adventures in Exotic Christian Lands

  • Baobab Blast: God’s Great Get-Together
  • High Seas Expedition
  • Jungle Journey: Exploring the Nature of God
  • Soul Survivors on Danger Island
  • Lava Lava Island
    [Note: Usually known by its shortened form, La-La Land]

Adventures in Exotic Christian Lands: Kentucky Equine Division

  • Off to the Races: Learning about One of God’s Creatures (and Kentucky’s Favorite) Through Art, Music and Science.
    [Note: This one is full of horseshit. Literally.]

Hey, Guess Who Made Outer Space?

  • Galactic Blast
  • Planet Zoom
    [Note: No need to beam me up, Scottie. Jesus will take care of that in the Rapture.]

Get Up, You Young Lazy Christian Bastards.  There’s Work to Do!

  • Rise and Shine for Jesus
  • Hero Headquarters: Where Kids Join Forces With God
  • Step Up and Go Green for Jesus
    [Note: Children will be taught how to make lime Jell-O molds for church picnics.]

Kickin’ Back With the Big Guy

  • Praise Party
    [Note: Festive hats and horns will be provided, but BYOB. (The last “B” stands for “bible,” of course.)]

Let’s Not Forget to Pander to Minorities

  • Hip-hop Hands of Praise
    [Note: Formerly known, in God’s Glory Days of the Grand Tradition of the South, as “Happy Darkies’ Hands of Praise.”]

Got any more questions, Mr. Heathen?

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Idiots, New to Kentucky | 5 Comments »