John Paul Miller: ATTN: Pharynguloids

I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art over the weekend — it was really fantastic, I highly recommend it.  There were a lot of cool things on display, but one thing really caught my eye and made me think of PZ Myers.  There was a special display about a jewelry artist named John Paul Miller (no relation).  I had originally just skipped it because I don’t have any particular interest in jewelry, but my mother went to look and it was actually pretty cool.  There were lots of Cephalopods!

I’ve always cultivated a special love for tentacled beings since seeing The Little Mermaid, and as a regular Pharyngula reader I was super excited to see little jewelry cephalopods because I figured PZ would also think they were pretty cool.

John Paul Miller basically rediscovered a technology of jewelry making that was invented by the Etruscans and had been lost with the fall of the Roman Empire.  He was basically a nerdy historian and an artist:

He began a search for information about this ancient art and found that granulation reached its apex in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C. Over the intervening years, however, the technique was virtually lost.

Miller found little else written about granulation. When he asked goldsmiths about it, only one or two even knew the rudiments.

He researched archeological journals and finally discovered one devoted to granulation. The author speculated that certain alloys could form a eutectic bond (at the lowest possible temperature of solidification) when heated in a reducing atmosphere. This would permit the precision fusion of tiny spheres of metal on to a surface just like Miller had seen. Ordinarily, when solder is used, it tends to fill in corners and blend the shapes. However, in the fusion process, the granules are attached at only very small contact points, giving them the effect of floating above the surface like balloons on a quiet lake.

But enough of all that, pictures:


Those are mine.  These are other ones from around the web:


He did things that were less tentacled as well


John Paul Miller: ATTN: Pharynguloids

Pirates of the Caribbean Ride Promotes Sexual Slavery?

I want you to go read the most absurd thing I’ve ever read in my life.  Here’s a brief glimpse:

So why is Disneyland still asking us to laugh at an overt depiction of sexual slavery in its popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride?

Disney has unparalleled power to shape young hearts and minds. If the Pirates of the Caribbean ride normalizes sexual slavery with humor, it can desensitize viewers to this heinous and very real gendered crime.

When will Disney learn that sexual slavery is no laughing matter?

I’m just going to back you up here a minute, because the PotC ride is supposed to be a scary ride with a bunch of villains doing awful things.  It’s not like, hey here are the moral pillars of our society, it’s more like, these people were really terrible people, look at all the horrible things they did — like sell weeping young women into sexual slavery.

If we’re going to yell at Disney for promoting sexual slavery, I think we also have to yell at them for promoting looting, pillaging, plundering, robbing, ravaging, drinking way too much, kidnapping, marauding, pyromania, extortion, property damage, generalized debauchery, being scary skeletons and really bad eggs.

AND there are still actually pirates in the world doing horrible things — and real pirates did horrible things, how dare they make entertainment out of real people who did horrible things?  When will Disney learn that piracy is no laughing matter?

I find this completely embarrassing, honestly.  It makes me want to run around screaming at people.  Has any young person ever come away from this ride going, gosh, I think it’s a really good idea to set my house on fire, steal my parents money, and buy myself a sexual slave?

Some people obviously never evolved beyond It’s a Small World.

Pirates of the Caribbean Ride Promotes Sexual Slavery?

I’m Excited

This is a list of my Top 10 Films. My Top 10 is not the 10 movies that I think are the best movies ever made, they are the 10 movies I would sit down and watch at any time, anywhere and love as much as the first time I saw them. They aren’t in any particular order.

  1. Dr. Strangelove
  2. The Princess Bride
  3. Die Hard
  4. Silence of the Lambs
  5. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
  6. The Shining
  7. The Labyrinth
  8. Blazing Saddles
  9. Beauty and the Beast
  10. Gone with the Wind

Someone who produced one of the movies in my top ten list is reading something I wrote. Holy Awesome!

I’m Excited

Finding 24-year-olds sexy? Not Pedophilia

I am a huge fan of the show Glee. This is not necessarily because the show is that great, a lot of the episodes fall hugely flat, the plots are occasionally nonsensical, and the characters change to suit whatever the episode is doing. But, it’s a show about loser high school kids and they sing songs I know the words to. Plus, Jane Lynch.

So, Dianna Agron and Lea Michele, who are both 24, posed along with Corey Monteith, 28, in GQ and the Parents Television Council has said it “borders on pedophilia”. You know, I’m just going to let Classically Liberal do the talking because it’s less expletive laden than my response:

Pedophilia is a persistent sexual attraction to prepubescent children. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV also says the adult partner must be at least 16 years of age and at least 5 years older than the child. Non-sexual photos of adults, even of adults who play teenagers on television, is not even on the borderline of pedophilia.

In fact, by definition, even if the photo shoot were of actual teenagers this would not be pedophilia. Notice what pedophilia is NOT. It is not the violation of age of consent laws. Age of consent is a legal definition for a status crime, it is not something that falls under the clinical definition of pedophilia.

Nor is pedophilia a sexual relationship with significant age differences, unless one of the individuals is a prepubescent child. A man of 50 who dates an 18 year old is not a pedophile since the 18 year old is not a prepubescent child.

Pedophilia is a sexual attraction to sexually immature children.

Go read the entire article. Really, this is meant to just be a link saying how well-written and thoughtful that article is, but I’m too irritated by the entire thing to leave it at that.

Because I do actually have a problem with the photoshoot — why isn’t Corey Monteith nearly naked too? Mary McNamara at The LATimes got this right:

But the problem isn’t so much the sex as the sexism. And the disappointing banality of it all.

One assumes that Michele, whose poses are much more aggressively suggestive than Agron’s, also wants a payoff for the hours she has clearly spent in the gym since the show premiered, or at least a bigger payoff than her recent Britney Spears number. And no one can blame a young actress for wanting to make it very clear that, the Broadway cred notwithstanding, she isn’t a theater geek but a sexually attractive young woman who shouldn’t be shoeboxed into Rachel roles.

But honestly, does a woman still have to strip down to panties and thigh-highs and straddle a bench to accomplish this? That’s not titillating or provocative or even retro. That’s just sad.

This is GQ we’re talking about, so the fact that anyone is at all surprised that there are women wearing little in the way of clothes while the men are fully dressed should come as absolutely no surprise whatsoever. I think GQ is pretty damn trashy, but if that’s what people want to do, it’s not like I can stop them. These are things this magazine has had in the past:

I included Borat because it’s the only nearly naked man I could find in the magazine, played for laughs, of course. Obviously the right-wing PTC doesn’t care about feminism or equality, but does care about Glee being too demented for children’s fragile little minds.  Now, why it thinks children should otherwise be allowed to read GQ to see the pictures in the first place remains a mystery.

Finding 24-year-olds sexy? Not Pedophilia

African American Freethinking

As a relatively rare woman in the humanist/atheist/freethinker etc. movement, I have an interest in the demographics of said movement.  There are many, many thoughts as to why there are so few women and so few people of color and I always find it fascinating to hear the stories of difficulties coming to terms with being different.

Mercedes Diane Griffin Forbes at Unscripted has written a very interesting post on her transition from Christian to humanist, the particular challenges and benefits of humanism to African Americans, and how the complete integration of Black Life and Religious Life is a contributing factor to the difficulties African Americans face.

I asked myself, “Why were people so hell bent on worshipping a god that justified their enslavement?….in worshipping a god that justified the stealing of their land and the displacement of their people?” “Why could so many I encountered not even conceive of a morality not based on religion?” Racism affects the very reality upon which one values him or herself within the given societal paradigm. Living in America, it is easy to become consumed with self-hate and defeat. So many of Black and Brown people give up on their lives before they really ever begin! Because of this, the promise of life ever-lasting can be extremely appealing and religion continues as a most effective mechanism for perpetual bondage, keeping the masses intellectually and emotionally enslaved.

Culture can be broken down into three main concepts. The cultural seed, which is the determinative and explanatory aspect of a culture that puts into perspective the cultural manifestations of a people in reference to their historical and cultural evolution; the way a people must think in order to manifest its cultural seed; and the will of the culture, purpose, and collective behavior of a people.

I believe humanism can be the new cultural seed, upon which we build a stronger sense of our humanity, a deeper understanding of our connection to each other and to the world in which we live. The more I learned and the more I observed, it became obvious that the very seed from which African American culture had been shaped was fertilized by Christianity. And as is always the problem with toxic fertilizers, it cannot simply be washed away because it now a part of the fruit itself. Black life and church life have become synonymous, and the only way to adjust for this is by planting a new cultural seed, one fertilized with concepts of freethought!

African American Freethinking

Economic Incentive

Today’s XKCD is making the rounds — it’s not only hilarious, but an incredibly devastating way to look skeptically at the world.

A lot of things obviously cannot be debunked using economic incentive, but looking at who is making the money from something and how they are doing so is an interesting way to see through problems.

For example, when you look at homeopathy, who actually is profiting from it? Companies that don’t have to bear the onerous financial burden of proving anything to the FDA. This is potentially going to cost them in the UK, where their nationalized health service is no longer going to cover homeopathic medicine, but the companies are still allowed to sell what is essentially water as honest to goodness medical cures right alongside real, actual medicine.

Would they make more money if homeopathy actually worked? Of course they would, governments and insurance companies would make a killing. They’d just go to their local tap water and add a molecule of arsenic, and bam, millions of lives saved.

Then, there are individuals who make money from various made-up powers: psychics, tarot readers, and religions. How do they make their money? From gullible believers who give it to them. Would a psychic make more money if they were genuinely psychic than if they were tricking gullible people? Yes, they’d constantly be winning lotteries or finding buried treasure or controlling people’s minds to get into their Last Will and Testament. “I, the Queen of England, leave all of my money and property to David Blaine.”

Would religions make more money if they were selling a God that was real and as advertised? If prayer actually worked, everyone would be religious. If God really did smile on the faithful, the faithful would be rich as hell. And if he really smote the non-believers, Norway would have burned to the ground by now and secular Europe would have found God. How much money would the Vatican make if they could sell limb regrowing and cancer cures?

Can you imagine a world where there was no dissembling and these things could just point us to an actual track record of recorded miracles? Miracles that actually mattered, too, not just Grilled Cheesus or Bleeding Statues.

Economic incentive is complicated, of course. One of the anti-vaccine arguments is that Big Pharma is selling vaccines to make a big profit and that doctors push them on patients to get bonuses. But, there’s an even bigger profit motive from the government and insurance companies to keep people from getting sick. Blue Cross is more likely to get insurance payments from someone who lives past the age of 5, Kaiser is going to pay a lot less for a kid who doesn’t get paralyzed by Polio, and the government is going to get a lot more productive work hours out of kids who haven’t been permanently damaged or killed by preventable diseases.

And then there’s Andrew Wakefield, who started the anti-vax movement. He had a profit motive — he wanted to sell his own vaccine instead of the one that was popular at the moment. If that doesn’t discredit a movement, I don’t know what could.

So economics is a powerful tool in debunking, but you definitely need the whole picture — it’s easy to twist one incentive into the only incentive. Of course, most of the people who believe aren’t going to be dissuaded by the economic argument, but it’s certainly one that people innately understand. Money, as they say, talks.

(x-posted from

Economic Incentive

Nicholl: Congratulations Micah Ranum

One of my FSU Film School classmates, Micah Ranum, won the Nicholl Fellowship this year! I’m super happy for him. The spec is called “A Good Hunter” and the logline is:

In an unforgiving wilderness, a reformed hunter tracks a vicious killer who may have kidnapped his daughter years ago.

There was only one other logline that looked like it might be something other than a Heartfelt Drama about Important Issues, so I’m doubly happy for him to win with a Thriller. Admittedly, I’m a bit jealous, but I fully intend to throw out the I knew him when card as often as possible. And you know that thing where people say “it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy”? That’s actually accurate.

Nicholl: Congratulations Micah Ranum

NaNoWriMo Character Brainstorm Vomit

Sometimes, when I have a hard time or am rushing through trying to establish characters in my mind in a sort of Fixed way, I do a big image search and try to set tonally what I want a character to feel like.

The Anti-Hero:

1.      Sex Male
2.      Age 30ish
3.      Height Tall Weight Thin
4.      Color of hair: brown; eyes: brown; skin: tan
5.      Posture: Catlike
6.      Appearance: Calculatedly disheveled
7.      Defects: Catlike

Class:  Upper
Occupation: Evil Overlord; Enchanted Forest, INC.
Education: Boarding School
Home life: Non-existant
Religion: Worships self
Race, nationality: Claims to be from nowhere
Place in community: Evil overlord/business owner
Political Affiliations: Big business
Amusements, hobbies: Being slightly malicious, bothering other people, magic tricks, grooming, stealing things

Sex life, moral standards: A big fan of sex, but easily bored by partners (who are generally princesses, so can you blame him?)  Moral, in a sort of chaotic neutral self-interested way.  Like a cat.  Willing to be heroic for things he cares about, like his secretary.
Personal premise, ambition: Originally, to take over the magical world through creating corporations and unions.  Now, to hold it together and not let his own inability to focus on non-active things destroy it.
Frustrations, chief disappointments: Secretary will not sleep with him.  Easily bored.  Currently, witches strike.
Temperament: Catlike
Attitude towards life: Alternately bored, malicious, and giddy with hate
Complexes: Narcissist
Extrovert, introvert, ambivert: Parasitically extroverted
Abilities: Magic, being really attractive, being entertaining assuming one’s entertainment isn’t lessened by moral qualms
Qualities: Arrogant, talented, impulsive, emotional, difficult to get to sit still
I. Q. Astronomical

The Heroine:

1.      Sex Female
2.      Age Very nearly 17
3.      Height: A bit short Weight: Solid
4.      Color of hair: A boring sort of reddish eyes: pale skin: freckled
5.      Posture: Depends on mood
6.      Appearance: Desperate attempt at sheveled despite peasant background and being outdoors a lot
7.      Defects: Stubborn, naive, is a teenage girl, snobby
8.      Heredity: Mother was maybe a witch, father is a farmer

Class:  Peasant
Occupation: Farmer
Education: Self, lots of books
Home life: Father is sick, field hand is old, she does most of the farm work
Religion: Nominally whatever the local thing is, but not religious
Race, nationality: Plains
Place in community: Bit of an outcast
Political Affiliations: Doesn’t know what politics is
Amusements, hobbies: reading, trying unsuccessfully to do magic

Sex life, moral standards: None, very high
Personal premise, ambition: Wants to become a witch to save her father and incidentally punish the idiots in her village who are total assholes to her. Later, to punish the witches and make them cure her dad. Also, to avoid marriage.
Frustrations, chief disappointments: Couldn’t leave to get an education because her father was sick, lost her mother at a young age, the stupidity of boys.
Temperament: Matter of fact, bossy, and easily irritated
Attitude towards life: Attempting to subdue it to her will
Complexes: A perhaps not totally merited sense of self-worth
Extrovert, introvert, ambivert: ambivert
Abilities: lifting heavy things, sticktoitiveness, fairly clever
I. Q. High, but not absurdly so

Additional: Touchy about her weight. She’s solid in the way of hardworking farm girls, which is to say not fat, but nothing like a waif.

The Princess:
1.      Sex Female
2.      Age 20ish
3.      Height medium Weight slender
4.      Color of hair blondeish eyes blueish skin fairish
5.      Posture rigid
6.      Appearance: easily mistaken for a beautiful princess from long distances or when wearing a veil
7.      Defects: Big nose, horsey face, bad teeth, acne, terrible makeup
8.      Heredity: Kings and Queens (inbred, no doubt)

Class:  Princess
Occupation: Princess
Education: Princess
Home life: Princess
Religion: Princess
Race, nationality: Regno di Fiore
Place in community: Princess
Political Affiliations: Princess (pro-monarchy)
Amusements, hobbies: Annoying yappy dog, makeup, pining, vanity, opining on things she doesn’t understand

Sex life, moral standards: Not til marriage, whatever her father/future husband says
Personal premise, ambition: To get married
Frustrations, chief disappointments: She’s not married for some reason
Temperament: Ditzy but sweet
Attitude towards life: Positive
Complexes: Seemingly unaware of her looks
Extrovert, introvert, ambivert: Extrovert
Abilities: None yet discovered
I. Q. Not very high…

The Secretary:
1.      Sex Female
2.      Age 20s
3.      Height medium Weight slender
4.      Color of hair regularly changes in a rainbow assortment/bald eyes black skin fairish
5.      Posture rigid
6.      Appearance: Bad ass bitch in a bright colors on black sort of way
7.      Defects: Pretty hardcore
8.      Heredity: Secretly a princess

Class:  Servant
Occupation: Secretary
Education: Private tutors
Home life: Involves drinking, partying and dragons
Religion: HAHahahahano
Race, nationality: Amalfia
Place in community: Secretary, scary person, badass
Political Affiliations: Pro-union
Amusements, hobbies: drinking, hitting people, getting tattoos, getting piercings, drawing, impeccable manners, embroidery (seriously)

Sex life, moral standards: Unknown, but won’t sleep with her boss
Personal premise, ambition: To turn Amalfia into a democracy when her father dies, to avoid getting pregnant until that point
Frustrations, chief disappointments: Her family is awful, her boss is usually an idiot, she could run the company better than him
Temperament: Stern
Attitude towards life: Stern
Complexes: Self-loathing, family loathing, sort of loathing in general
Extrovert, introvert, ambivert: Introvert who drinks to become an extrovert
Abilities: Change hair colors, doesn’t seem to notice pain, can ignore brutally stupid things, apparently never bored, excellent needlepoint
I. Q. Pretty high

NaNoWriMo Character Brainstorm Vomit

50 Book Challenge: 51-55

Working in an office, doing paperwork, so lots of time to listen to audiobooks. I dunno what I’m going to listen to when I’m done with Terry Pratchett. (It’s week 41)

51. The Wee Free Men – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
This is the first of the Tiffany Aching books, which are theoretically young adult books, but are really great reads no matter how old you are. They are related to the witches but about the 9 year old Tiffany Aching, who is good at making cheese. I quite like these. Also, they have the Nac Mac Feegles who are just awesome… their swords glow blue in the presence of lawyers.

52. Monstrous Regiment – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
This is a stand alone book that reminds me a lot of Equal Rites, in terms of the them. Basically it’s a group of women fighters and they’re all pretending to be men because they want to fight for their own reasons. I enjoyed it, though it was more serious than a lot of the books.

53. A Hat Full of Sky – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
This is the second Tiffany Aching book. I didn’t like it as much as the first one. The plot was just less interesting. But it was still a great book.

54. Going Postal – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
I started reading this series because someone I know posts a lot of drawings and thoughts about this book. I felt like I couldn’t just read it without knowing the Discworld first, so I got through 33 books so I could get to this one. It was worth it, great book.

55. Thud! – Terry Pratchett, read by Stephen Briggs
I must say that Terry Pratchett does seem to be getting better with age, his books are just cleverly plotted and funny and fun and great. This one was fantastic.

50 Book Challenge: 51-55

The Adult Bullies

I haven’t written anything on the many suicides of bullied teens.  Partially because it’s so awful I have a hard time willing myself to actually sit down and think about it for any length of time.  Dan Savage has been at the front of this, starting the “It Gets Better” video series and generally being willing to speak out for the kids who aren’t being treated right.

One thing he’s done that has pissed some people off is to accuse religion, particularly Christianity, particularly Fundamentalist Christianity, of being complicit at best in the bullying, harassment, and assaults that led to these children taking their own lives.

The dehumanizing bigotries that fall from lips of “faithful Christians,” and the lies that spew forth from the pulpit of the churches “faithful Christians” drag their kids to on Sundays, give your straight children a license to verbally abuse, humiliate and condemn the gay children they encounter at school. And many of your straight children—having listened to mom and dad talk about how gay marriage is a threat to the family and how gay sex makes their magic sky friend Jesus cry himself to sleep—feel justified in physically attacking the gay and lesbian children they encounter in their schools. You don’t have to explicitly “encourage [your] children to mock, hurt, or intimidate” gay kids. Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit. It’s here, it’s clear, and we can see the fruits of it.

I think Dan has a hard time choosing between most Christians are gay bashers and most gay bashers are Christian. The second is definitely true, in the US at least. The more religious you are, the more likely you are to teach your kids that homosexuality is evil or, as someone told me the other day in an attempt to really sell me on the idea that he was a liberal Christian and ok with LGBT, “gays are no worse than murderers”.

I agree with Dan, Christianity and the religious right in this country are absolutely complicit in making it OK for kids to say horrible things about homosexuals. I think he’s also responding to things like the Prop 8 campaign, which made a point of never explicitly saying that gays will fuck your children, but heavily implied it and was funded by the Mormon and Catholic churches. As long as Christians think that it’s OK for their faith to allow them to treat homosexuals as less than human (and yes, refusing to support gay marriage is treating them as less than human) they are supporting bullying. They ARE bullying, just in a less personal way.

I’m not sure how people are missing that, so I’ll say it again: if you don’t support the right to gay marriage you are a monstrous bully.  If you think you’re morally superior to the kids who drove these children to suicide, you are not.  You are worse, because you’re old enough to know better.  If your religion tells you to treat other people as subhuman, then your faith is evil.

I will stop accusing Fundamentalist Christians of being bigots when they stop acting like them.

The Adult Bullies