My Old Kentucky Homesite

Archive for August, 2010

Laurel County School Board Gets Giddy for Gideons

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 08/18/2010

Good news for all 5th-graders contemplating suicide in Laurel County, Kentucky.

That’s right, boys and girls. The Laurel County School Board has decided to allow Gideons International to set up tables in public schools and distribute copies of the New Testament  to any students who want them.  Not the whole bible, mind you, but just the Jesus-y parts.

However, don’t worry, Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and all of you other cultists. Even you goddamned, confrontational, constantly rude heathens don’t need to get your dander up. The Crucifocracy will not be establishing religion; they will not foist their beliefs on children. As the Gideons’ lawyer, Terry Beckner, pointed out about the bibles: “These are not forced on anyone.”  So your kids are free to say “no,” even in the face of official encouragement and peer pressure. Most youngsters are resistant to those kinds of things anyway, aren’t they? I’ve never heard of any 10- and 11-year-olds who succumbed to the wishes of their principals and the urgings of their friends. Have you?

One school board member wondered why all grades weren’t going to be in on the divine bonanza.  Beckner explained: “We always have done 5th-graders.” (I assume he was quoting from a Roman Catholic priestly document.)

The school board’s attorney, Larry Bryson, said that there was another good reason to limit the freebies to 5th-graders: “That is the age of accountability.”

Really, that should have been obvious, right? Fifth-graders are famous for their accountability. That’s why so many of our elected officials strive to limit themselves to a 4th-grade mentality, so they don’t have to be accountable. Duh!

If you wish, you can read the full story, but I’d urge you not to do so right after you’ve eaten.

By the way, I do have a suggestion to the ACLU and all of those other misguided folks like me who believe in the Constitution: We should apply to the Laurel County School Board to pass out copies of David Adams Leeming’s The World of Myth, , which compares stories from many global mythologies (including the bible) in a number of categories. The excerpts are no more difficult for accountable kids to read than the Jacobean English of the gospels; in fact, the stories in Leeming’s anthology are much easier to understand.

And, obviously, we wouldn’t force any child to take that book. It’s not our fault if they tease one another for stubbornly refusing. Nor should we be blamed if they beat each other up for not believing in the universal Earth goddess. But I do think it’s fair for us to withhold lollipops and approval from any student who doesn’t accept our kind offer. After all, they can’t be accountable if they don’t have manners.

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Posted in First Amendment, Freedom from Faith | 19 Comments »

Am I My Godless Brother’s Keeper?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 08/16/2010

OK, gang. I’m going to throw a few philosophical questions out there into the ether, and I’m hoping that some of you will weigh in.

Please bear with me while I give you the background.

This past Saturday, for the fourth fucking time, our local silly atheist submitted an answer to a “Question of Faith” on the “Life + Faith” page of Lexington’s Daily Rag. His softball drivel appeared along with six responses by “representatives” of various Christian churches hereabouts. The editor’s poser was fraught with Christian assumptions: “Why does our society ignore our day of rest?” In other words: Watch for the Ten Commandments to be appearing soon in a courthouse or public school near you.

The LSA’s printed answer was kinda dumb, but that’s not the point. The fact that he began by saying, ‘As an atheist …” (thereby inplying that atheists had an official position on “the day of rest”) was really infuriating, but that’s not the point either.

The point is: What the fuck is he doing on the “Faith” page?

I wrote him a harsh email suggesting, among other things, that he tell the editor to take her slanted questions and shove them up her ass (although, I recommended that he not use my specific phraseology). I said that he was hurting Lexington’s freethinking community with his responses.

Today, he wrote back, telling me that I had made a “wildly unfounded accusation.” Wasn’t my reaction, he asked, based merely on a “dislike” of what he’d written?

I replied:

[T]o answer your question: The reason I think you’re doing harm to the freethinking community is that you’re inadvertently giving the newspaper an out as being “balanced.” Every time your responses appear on the “Faith” page, you give the editors a further opportunity to claim how “fair” they are to non-theists. Maybe we — all of us atheists, Humanists, skeptics, doubters, secularists, call us what you’d like — ought to make a concerted effort toward being given an occasional opportunity to state our views in a journal that’s heavily weighted toward religion, Christianity in particular. Many of the writers there push a Christian agenda: [I named a few columnists who are frequent cheerleaders for Jesus]. And if there’s any excuse whatsoever to include a church event on the front page as news, some reporter will jump at it. I think we should all get together to lobby for a “Reason” feature once in a while, or, at very least, a chance to appear on the Op/Ed page semi-regularly. Not on the “Faith” page. Maybe the H-L could start a monthly column called “Voices of Reason” (fat chance!) or something that gives a genuine nod to those of us who don’t believe in any gods. Then, you could write about whatever you choose to discuss, rather than answering questions that, essentially, push a religious agenda. That’s my main complaint: When you respond to [the editor’s] highly slanted questions, you appear to be buying into her assumptions. It doesn’t really matter what you write, because her smug “truth” is already contained in the way she couches each topic. It’s a lose-lose situation for an atheist.

You and I are part of a small community of reason here. Whether we like it or not, we do speak, somewhat, for one another. Since we’re vastly outnumbered, each of us has some responsibility to all the others. The majority tends to view a minority — particularly one it fears — as an entirety, judged through the words and actions of any member of that group. When you write for the “Faith” page, not only do we as a community gain nothing, but we are all genuinely hurt by appearing to sanction the Herald-Leader’s constant clarion call to espouse religion. That’s not your fault, because you’re only one person, as you do point out. But you’ve been thrown a poisoned bone by [the editor]. You don’t get to have any input in the topics under discussion; you’re always forced to react to her set of nonsensical “givens”. And you’ve been placed in the unenviable position of speaking for all of us.

Because there’s no other public atheist writing at that newspaper, you’ re its personification of Lexington atheism. And, as such, you’re giving a thumb’s-up to the perpetuation of the “Faith” page and, indirectly, the rest of the Herald-Leader’s superstition-soaked reporting.

Please don’t take this personally, because I’d write exactly the same note to any self-identified atheist who chose to write for a “Faith” page. Atheism isn’t a faith. It’s freedom from faith. Let’s not put ourselves into the position of seeming to agree that faith should be given any credence, whatsoever.

After I sent and reread (yeah, I did them in that order) what I’d written, I wondered if my opinions were really indicative of any godless consensus. So, I’d like to find out. Since you readers are clearly representatives of the best and the brightest among heathens, I’d like toask you:

1. Is there any circumstance under which it would be a good idea for an atheist to respond to a tendentious question on a newspaper’s “Faith” page? If so, what might that circumstance be?


2. Do you agree or disagree that the vast majority of religionists generally judge all atheists by the words and actions of any publicly recognized atheist? If you agree: Do we have some kind of responsibility to one another not to say or do things that make us look like idiots? Or is that too much of a burden for us individualists to place on ourselves?

3. In an area dominated by crypto-Christian newspapers, radio stations, and television channels, how can we atheists get ourselves a booth in the marketplace of ideas? Do we have to wait for the freethinkers’ equivalent of the Stonewall raids before we’re given an opportunity to state our case in the mainstream media, or is there some more reasonable way to coax news publishers and broadcasters into granting coverage to our ideas?

Posted in Freedom from Faith | 29 Comments »

Sing Along with Auntie Diluvian

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 08/15/2010

This isn’t intended to be an earworm post. But if you do happen to find yourself humming the tune involuntarily, just be thankful it’s not “Kumbaya.”

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Music | 11 Comments »

Homesite Puzzler #6: Who Says My Readers Are Backwards?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 08/11/2010

Ugh! I hate the dog days of summer. All that heat and humidity addles my mind.

Maybe that’s why I’ve mixed up the names of the authors of these great quotes. Not only have I written them backwards, but I’ve separated each last name from the rest of the name. And to make matters even worse, neither the last name nor the rest of the name are attached to the right saying.

There’s also something very strange about each quote, although the weirdness fits a single pattern.

My challenge to you readers is to find the full name of the correct author of each of the gems below. Most of the names will be familiar; perhaps one or two will not. (Hint: One was a Polish satirist; another, a French playwright). Extra credit for those of you who can explain the odd quirk about the quotes in general. Please don’t ruin the puzzle for others by posting your solutions as comments; send your answers to elwallberg at gmail.com. (As usual, those who get anything right will be thrown a bone at the bottom of the post.)

Obviously, you can feel free — and are even encouraged — to leave other comments, like, for instances, UOY KCUF or Llubtip damn you, Yrral Grebllaw.

Kcul doog!

1. [T]hese Christians believe they are acting in the name of Eldoop, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them. — Yebba Ydoow

2. Reliewttor is a sound people make when they’re too tired to think anymore. — Mahguam C.W.

3. I cannot believe in a Dnuohdoolb that has neither honor nor common sense. — Cel Ohcuorg

4. I distrust those people who know so well what Teppihw wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. — Retawdlog Naej

5. Good Ffitsam, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in his divine system of creation? — Nilrac EessenneT

6. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy Ztipshsinnif in vain. Unless you’ve used up all the other four-letter words. — Nekcnem Yrrab

7. Sometimes the devil tempts me to believe in Enadtaerg. — Nella Kram

8. I noticed that all the prayers I used to offer to Auhauhihc, and all the prayers I now offer to Joe Pesci, are being answered at about the same fifty percent rate. — Xram   L.H.

9. If we assume that man actually does resemble Ijnesab, then we are forced into the impossible theory that Ijnesab is a coward, an idiot, and a bounder. — Smailliw Tesremos Mailliw

10. With Gup what is terrible is that one never knows whether it’s not just a trick of the devil. — Niawt B. NasuS

11. If you want to know where Wohc Wohc is, ask a drunk. — Ynohtna Yzrej Walsinats

12. I do not believe in Esetlam because I do not believe in Mother Goose. — Sdleif  Egroeg

13. All your Western theologies, the whole mythology of them, are based on the concept of Rezuanhcstniag as a senile delinquent. —
Hliuona Ecneralc

14. In the first place, Yksuhnaksala made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards. — Relleh Drawde

15. If only Reveirterrodarbal would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank. — Worrad Hpesoj

Top dogs:
Chappy (15 + extra credit)
Srsny (15 + extra credit)
[If you’d like to see all the answers, drop me an email and I’ll send them to you.]

Posted in Freedom from Faith, Puzzles and Games | 11 Comments »

Earworm Saturday #7

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 08/07/2010

When my friend visited me from New York, one of the things she really wanted to do was to go to Shaker Village. Having been there once, I had no desire to hear the history of the silly religious sect again. The only thing I remember about them is that they were hot for celibacy, so they didn’t tend to breed much. Soon — big surprise! — they went extinct. Who says Darwin is inapplicable to Christianity?

In any case, on the morning of the day my we’d planned to head to Pleasant Hill (how pleasant could it be without sex?), we heard that the temperature was going to be 91 degrees. Even my friend had no interest in braving the sweltering heat just to watch people make chairs.

So we stayed home, and, to mollify her, I found a decent rendition of that ubiquitous Shaker tune. (Note: The tune is ubiquitous; the Shakers, as previously noted, not so much.) By the way, if you’re wondering what to get me for my next birthday, the jewel in the video is a simple gift I’d enjoy.

If you know me, you can probably guess the rest. I wound up with an earworm. And so did my friend. We spent a lot of the rest of the day asking one another to stop whistling.

The weirdest thing about “Simple Gifts,” however, is that it’s hardly ever performed simply. This sweet potato is trying to make her interpretation look easy, but she’s not fooling anyone, is she?

Here are a couple of Presbyterians, clearly working hard. Once or twice they get so close to one another that it’s a good question whether they’ll be able to remain celibate for long.

But nobody makes the song seem more difficult than this guy. How does he do that? [Note: Here’s an Addendum for the Curious.]

Some music directors are entirely wrong-headed. Is there anything simple about this version?

Occasionally, even a rendition that has aural simplicity still manages to look impossible. How did these siblings get their pianos on the sand?

A new set of lyrics was written in 1963 by Sydney Carter, who managed to combine Christ and dancing. Screw all those fundies who think that doing the jig is a sin. (In case you’re in too much of a religious rapture to notice, I should warn you that the input file has no video stream.)

Given Carter’s lyrics, you should have guessed that I’d include this unsimple performance, with its many encores. What says “simple” more than a fireworks display? In fact, the only thing remotely simple about this video, is the fact that the guy forgot to put on his shirt.

Are you bored of the dance yet?

If there is an afterlife, the ghosts of 19th-century Shakers are definitely shaking at their no longer recognizable song.

The moral of this post is: Keep it simple, stupid!

Posted in Earworms | 22 Comments »

I Blame Kevin Costner

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 08/04/2010

Most of my readers take a dim view of blind faith. However, you may not have thought about this: It doesn’t always manifest itself as religious expression. There’s that whole Field of Pipedreams business about “if you build it, they will come.”

Yesterday, I was thinking about how stupid that phrase is when I was reading this article in the local rag. Let me give you the background.

In a little bit more than a month, Lexington will play host to the World Equestrian Games. The city is going nuts with excitement. For more than a year, hoteliers and restauranteurs and souvenir vendors have been counting their soon-to-be-made money.

If you have no idea what the WEG is (are?), you’re probably not alone. I’d never heard of it (them?) until I moved here last October. To put it simply: they’re a kind of Olympics for horses, a series of effete competitions that only equino-manes can enjoy: jumping and vaulting (fuck knows what the difference is), reining (horses, not cats and dogs), eventing (huh?), and endurance (although mostly of P.R. pros). And of course, there’s everyone’s favorite, dressage (playing with paper-doll ponies) and para dressage (playing with paper-doll parasites). If you’re really interested — but why would you be unless your name is Flicka? —you can find all the relevant information on Google; I’m not paid to advertise here.

Lexington is one of the horse capitals of the world, and hosting the WEG seemed like a good fit. The expectation around these parts was that the area would be overrun with furriners just dying to toss their funny-looking cash around. Downtown streets have been torn up, and are being rebuilt in preparation for the expected influx of alien tender, legal or illegal. Concerts have been arranged, because as everyone knows, Europeans and Asians need to experience our native culture: country music and Christian rock. High school bands will march and play (but not necessarily both at the same time), Kentucky’s Junior Leaguers will hold meet-‘n’-greets, and local eateries will offer special horsemeat buffets. Just kidding. (They’ll be serving the same plain ol’ horsemeat and grits that they always do.)

Unfortunately, the horses have been preceded by the horseshitters. Greedy hotel owners were fed plenty of fodder by the hucksters who swore that Lexington would be teeming with international currency just dying to be spent — literally jumping out of the sissy wallets carried by those crazy-talking strangers. But the story in yesterday’s Herald-Leader reveals that nearly one-third of all the hotel rooms in town, some of which have been marked up to nearly four times their regular price, are still unspoken for. As the saying goes: Foals rush in, but wise men save their bread. The town’s hotel-owners were clearly eager to make hay while the sun shines, but the globe’s horsey set hasn’t saddled up for the ride. So there’s plenty of hay, but not enough hayseeds.

As it turns out, The WEG buzz is just a variant on “if you build it, they will come.” Like all offshoots of that “plucky” but dumb saying, it’s as American as applesauce. It springs from the same mindless sensibility in which a 13-year-old appearing as a contestant on a televised talent competition can say, with perfect seriousness, “It’s always been my dream to play Vegas.” It’s a product of the same empty-headedness that gives celebrities the idea that they’re political pundits. “If you build it …” goes hand in hand with those bumper stickers in which parents express their irrational pride in their backward children.

Here in Lexington, the myth has taken a familiar form: “If you hype it, they will come.” But maybe not, particularly if you try to gouge visitors by charging inexcusably high prices during a worldwide financial slump.

I must admit that as a skeptic, I’m amused by the if-you-build-it mentality. Because, really: it makes no more sense than putting one’s faith in the existence of Mr. Ed. Only horses’ asses believe that kind of stuff.

Posted in Freedom from Faith, New to Kentucky | 29 Comments »

Please Pass the Sour Grapes, Henry

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 08/01/2010

I’d rather be right than be president.
Kentucky Senator Henry Clay

OK, the winners of the Lexington Herald-Leader  “The Best of Everything”  Readers’ Choice 2010 poll have been announced, and apparently I am not the most popular Local Media Personality (newspaper, TV. radio, blogger).  Nor am I the city’s most popular Pet Groomer, Cosmetic Surgeon, or Place to Worship.

No specific numbers were published, so, lacking evidence, we have to take the results on faith. The most popular media personality in Lexington is Leland Conway, who is — you’ll never believe this — a conservative radio commentator. The runners-up are a TV weatherman, and an early morning guy who claims he gets “to meet the greatest people on the earth: Kentuckians!”  (FYI: The exclamation point is his.)  Unfortunately, those people weren’t great enough to spell his last name correctly. It’s Cruse, not (as the newspaper editors wrote) Cruise. No relation to Tom or Carnival.

The poll is disappointing in other areas, too. Lexington is, happily, home to a number of decent all-day breakfast joints, but the readers’ favorite Place to Eat Breakfast/Brunch is that uniquely Bluegrass entity, the chain-restaurant Cracker Barrel (yuck). I guess the greatest people on the earth don’t necessarily enjoy gorging on one another’s pancakes.

There are dozens of local hamburger eateries here, too, some pretty good. But the second favorite Burger Joint is a national one, Wendy’s (also yuck).  Have you given up lite beer for low-end wine? You’ll probably be pleased to know that the second favorite Place to Buy Wine and Spirits is Kroger, an Ohio-based grocery chain.

I don’t really get it. Lexington is overrun with local boosters. Everywhere you go, you’ll hear about our basketball team, our horses, our bourbon, our coal, our god. Yet, when asked to choose their favorites in food, they ignore the local talent, and settle for bland national chains. Perhaps Lexingtonians don’t eat out because they’re too busy staying at home listening to right-wing radio and watching the latest news about rain.

That would seem to be the case, because the name of one of the finalists in Place for Patio Dining has a parenthetical next to it: “(NOW CLOSED).” I guess all the genteel Southern love , even from the greatest people on the earth, wasn’t sufficient to keep it from being affected by the recession. I’m pretty sure that our popular weatherman would blame the closure on meteorological phenomena. But I wonder how Leland Conway could conceivably turn it into Nancy Pelosi fault’s.

Posted in New to Kentucky, Random Rants, Useless Lists | 19 Comments »