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An Open Letter To PBS Kids

April 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Dear PBS Kids,

Since my three year old daughter and I have been curling up on the couch and watching television we’ve only really watched two different channels: yours and Nick Jr. Along with the occasional entertainment shows such as The Simpsons, Futurama, and the Ponies; we primarily focus on letting our daughter watch television that is educational in nature. This, I feel, is responsible parenting. In lieu of sitting her down for three to five hours a day we watch one or two shows then do something else, then before bed time perhaps one or two more. All in all it’s only two hours a day of which one hour is educational. I find the television shows on PBS Kids to be better, because they are educational in focus.

The two that we watch almost daily are Curious George and Dinosaur Train. The latter of the two is hosted by an actual Paleontologist who has discovered some dinosaurs on its own. I have admiration for a show aimed toward children that will call out things like a “rain dance” as a silly superstition, really stress the scientific definitions of both “hypothesis” and “theory,” and not shy away from portraying scientifically accepted theories like Evolution as being scientifically accepted theories–something ratings based shows might have to do.

In much the same way, we enjoy Curious George. While a bit more on the entertainment side of the fence Curious George focuses less on science and more on things we might encounter in daily life–such as problem solving and socialization. That being said, I have problems with two segments that I have seen in the interlude portions of the Curious George show. The way the show works is that we have an animated sequence that runs about twelve minutes long and then a 1-2 minute long post script that is live action involving kids at a school or at someone’s house. Most of the time they go through making something that was featured in the animated show. There are two incidences of these post script segments that run counter to the idea of educational television in particular and education in general. I am, unfortunately, lacking in the specific episode numbers.

The first, and less objectionable one, was the visit to the organic farm to help plant sugar pea pods. While I am not opposed to organic foods in general making false claims that organic food is “better tasting” is a generalization that cannot be supported by fact. I do, in the interest of honesty, sometimes buy organic food the representation that it is generall superior is false. It fails to consider that buying organic is in fact a luxury, and that for every pesticide taken away something must be done to compensate in order to further protect the fruits and vegetables. This one segment, was a matter of complete opinion that overlooks a certain number of actual facts that all in all is rather harmless. I merely object to the presentation of this opinion to those too young to understand critical thinking.

The second segment I object toward much more. In it a bunch of children are taken to a holistic healer–which ultimately means that they were subjected to the rantings of pseudoscientific bullshit artist who claimed that certain smells can cure illness. This is an undisputed false hood. At no point has any holisitic or homeopathic treatment measured up to scientific scrutiny or performed better than the placebo effect. Unlike making an opinionated claim like that of organic versus non-organic, having a person make a statement that this type of treatment is effective is not only scientifically invalid but also dangerous. If you want to tie in an episode about health with one of the lesson segments, have them go to a pharmacy or an actual doctor’s office. Holistic and Homeopathic medicine are junk science that should not ever be used in place of real treatment. Any effect they have is purely coincidental and never repeatable.

Sincerely,

Dave Hahn

Categories: Uncategorized

The Road To Atheism: Part III After Life

April 8, 2012 Leave a comment

I thought and thought about whether or not to do one of these posts on the Saturday before Easter. The objection was that why crap on someone’s weekend? Two religions have big holidays this time of year, the Jewish people have yesterday’s pass over while the Christian’s–my former religion have Easter. The temptation on this day is to trash the holidays by analyzing them to show that their absurdity. I’m sure that the Egyptian Army’s chariot engineer didn’t deserve to have his first born son murdered by a vengeful god nor is it reasonable to assume the whole resurrection story is true when the four principle sources for that story do not agree on a solid majority of the details. (So, I succumbed a little). I don’t want to get into those small details.

Instead I want to fast forward from the last two posts’ general time of grade school toward highschool. I, again, attended a religious school, which was again run by Franciscans only this time they were men. There were two nuns, one was the librarian who had Narcolepsy while the other was an English teacher who was a bit quirky. If the teachers were “of the cloth” that meant they were either priests or friars. Yet aside from a head on collision with the morality classes (later post on that) most of the religion classes were rehashings of what I had learned in grade school. I don’t know how it worked in the past, but you didn’t have to be Catholic to get into the school. Being in the school meant that you had to take religion classes. Again, I’m not going to bash them for this, it’s their school they can do what they want.

Freshman year was a course called “Religion I.” The course text book was a red hard bound copy of the bible–I still have it. I want to say it’s the King James but it could also be the New International, it doesn’t matter really I have both on my Nook. Since most of the class covered things I already knew I just kind of flipped through the book. The teacher wasn’t offering anything interesting as far as an in depth study, but I read from different sections seemingly at random, but my mind always drifted toward the book of John the Revelator, Revelations.

Despite what you probably have seen on the “History” Channel, the book of Revelations is not a literal prophecy. Despite what La Haye and Jenkins, and their pile of money, would have you believe there isn’t going to be an “anti-Christ” who stalks the earth. As a side note: those who read the Book of Daniel in the same way are missing that little thing called context.

If Revelations is about the end of the world, and not about the fall of the Roman Empire, it led me to several questions. I understood the metaphor angle that the book was working toward, that made sense. But I knew that people took it literally. What I wanted to know is what a person did after the world ended.

To borrow from the PBS show “Dinosaur Train” point of fact: the concept of Rapture never appears in the bible.

The book ends with the coming of a new heaven and a new earth. A third (fourth?) temple is built with walls made of gold that are clear as glass, etc. Then, however, the people just kind of mill around? I never understood this. What was heaven, at the time I was sure as any Catholic that I was going there, so what I was I going to do?

Initially the answer from family/clergy was that you would be in the presence of god. The same God whose presence was in church, so that meant that I was going to spend eternity in church? That’s not heaven, that’s hell. Remember two posts ago that I was devout, but that didn’t mean that I liked going to church. Church was that thing I did once a week (in high school we had service in school once a month so on those occassions it was twice a week) that I was thankful only lasted an hour. An eternity listening to some guy tell me about doctrine that at the point of being in heaven really didn’t matter anymore? No thanks, I’ll hang out in Purgatory for a bit.

What was heaven? No major religion really gets into the details…except our stereotypical Muslim brothers they get sex. Which, to a teenage boy in highschool, would have been good enough. Remember though it’s not every Muslim that gets it, only the martyrs. And even then, only the men (I assume, virginity means something different to men than it does to women). Even that, though isn’t a good description of heaven. It’s a promise of sex, which is really base and it’s also why I don’t buy into the story at all. I mean c’mon, why would a religion that allows its males to engage in polygamy punish them in heaven by giving them more wives (Zing!!!).

In all seriousness, only the Eastern religions have this really thought out. They simply dissolve the notion of the self into the divine, then demonize the ego while in life which actually makes worrying about the afterlife sinful in itself. It’s, at least an answer.

Still I can remember sitting in those classes reading the end of the Bible wondering what was after it. Wouldn’t it get boring after awhile? Wouldn’t I long to get back to earth? It’s the only home I know after all. The other thing is that the heaven at the end of the bible has specific measurements what if there isn’t enough room for everyone I want to hang out with? These were all questions that would go unanswered of course. At this point I would be able to predict which were answered and which weren’t. I knew though that the concept of the afterlife wasn’t sufficient for me in Christianity. It needed to be spelled out or maybe something could have been tossed my way.

In the “Bible According to Mark Twain” Satan laments for man that for all his imagination it seems to be only confined to hell. The writing of all of the religions offer us detailed punishments in both the how and the why of the punishemnt. Yet for heaven we are just left to hang with god. Yes the punishment is more interesting, Dante’s Inferno is much more engaging than Paradiso, but isn’t the latter more important than the former?

Eternity is a long time. In fact it’s so long that the word “time” doesn’t apply to it. Our entire existence is predicated on the fact that at one time in the future there has to be a shift. For me, it’s the end, for others it’s a new story. Yet for those others they only answer I ever get for what happens when you die is, “you get to be with god.” I’ll take Twain’s Deism over that anyday.

Which brings me to the final point. As an atheist I get asked two questions: the first is a moral one (later post) the second regards the after life. It’s usually framed like this, “Oh, so what do you think happens after we die?” but sometimes it’s this, “So you’d rather there be no afterlife?”

I prefer being asked the second question because that person is an idiot who needs the trouncing that he’s going to get (it’s usually a male). No of course I would rather there was an after life with a wine river and 72 virgins, but the thing about reality is that it doesn’t change based on wishful thinking. Which is what the latter person is doing. They are asking me the question in that manner because they want to force me to share their beliefs based on an undesirable consequence. That’s not faith, that’s fear.

To the first person I just answer honestly, “I don’t know.” Maybe something, maybe nothing, we will all find out eventually. That much is certain. Unless I’m right, and we won’t find out because there is nothing. All we can do then is stare into the abyss of time and say “goodbye and thanks for all the oxygen.”

Categories: philosophy, religion

Vote (New Moon Chapter 24)–for real this time

April 6, 2012 Leave a comment

I hope everyone enjoyed the April Fool’s Joke the other day, part of the reason I wrote that is because this chapter is bad. Not just bad in general, but bad for this book. It’s full of concepts that are so bad they are embarrassing to read. I should say that the writing is coherent. It’s just that it doesn’t make sense, any of it.

Bella wants to put the issue of her turning into a vampire to a vote. So after somehow getting to the ground she hops on Edward’s back and he begins running. This is problem number one and I’m not even at the bottom of the first page of the chapter: “Even after all this time, it felt very routine. Easy. Evidently this was something you never forgot, like riding a bicycle.

This requires us to forget that the two times she did ride his back she felt nauseous and dizzy afterward. It was never easy for her. There is another problem as well, where did Edward go and who is this whipped tool carrying her? Pre-breakup Edward was a sociopathic control freak, post-breakup Edward is one of those doormat types apparently. If he’s so against her becoming a vampire then why is he aiding her? Why not just, I don’t know, do nothing and tell the rest of the Cullens no to entertain this absurdity?

Two problems one page: let’s not keep track because it gets worse.

Does this mean you’ve decided you’re awake?” At this point they’re beating a dead horse that’s long decayed into oil. It wasn’t funny or clever the second time they did this, nor was it handled well the first time in Italy. It’s also getting fairly annoying, everyone knows that she’s awake, the reader, Edward, even Bella. If they were playing this off as a joke it would be one thing (dumb but at least understandable), but they’re not. It’s dead serious…and that’s dumb but also insulting.

We are let in on a couple of secrets. First off, that Edward still loves her…which we already knew from last chapter. Also that he never really intended to leave her entirely. All the stuff they had: the cds, the pictures, the notes, etc. that Edward took when they broke up? It was under her floor boards the whole time. Bella guesses that she knew this the whole time, although that doesn’t fit at all with the story. Unless she mulled over that possibility in the four months of blank pages we were treated to in the beginning of the book. What’s worse is that there’s a better story here as well, what if, they didn’t get back together and fifty years down the line Bella was an old spinster or something and in the process of remodeling the house she discovers the hidden stash? That causes Alice to come back for a legitimate reason this time, and then the Cullens have to deal with a sixty year old Bella who is infuriated at their abandoning her to the cold ravages of time. That seems like a better book right there.

Anyway, as they are running along the road Bella lets the voice thing slip. Apparently she never told Alice about it, and Alice never saw it because we are retroactively making Bella immune to the vampiric powers. She goes through the possibilities that the voices present: 1: she’s crazy 2: wish fulfillment 3: Edward still loved her and they have some psychic bond.

The first two can’t work within the confines of the story. This is because of what I said awhile back regarding those voices: they gave her new information regarding the werewolves. The third can’t work because her mind is shielded from Edward. The only logical explanation for the voices is that we are supposed to forget the werewolf incident and just remember that it happened with a rose colored glasses. This way it looks romantic, but a person with any kind of decent memory can’t swallow this. Screw this I’m reading the Hunger Games, it can’t be this bad. Can’t it?

Finally at the Cullens house they have the discussion about whether or not Bella needs to get vampired. The family is presented with two options: one is to turn her the other is a bit more complicated and stupid so of course it comes from Edward. Apparently Edward was thinking ahead the whole time he was in Italy that’s why he refused to shake Aro’s hand. His plan is that when the Volturri send Demetri to find Bella, Alice will know and they will just hide Bella! It’s so simple, it’s plain stupid.

Edward thinks that he can fight off Demetri, which we know he can’t from everything they’ve said about the Volturri. The shining light of this chapter comes from Alice after Emmett and Edward fist bump (seriously) over this plan, “Idiots.”

I’m sure in their history no one has ever thought of hiding from them. It’s like trying to return a cell phone you clumsily (re: drunkenly) dropped in the toilet, “I just stopped working I don’t know what happened.” That’s why they have that sticker, and I’m sure that a society of three thousand years old have dealt with someone in their history who just decided to not do what they say. Then again, if the Cullens are the smart vampires…maybe they haven’t.

So it’s voting time, in which a bunch of strangers get to decide Bella’s fate. Sure, why not, Bella basically ditched her dad on her birthday to be with these people so why not let them make the decision for her. Everyone but Rosalie and Edward vote yes. Rosalie’s reason doesn’t make sense but it’s telling of how real vampires work. She didn’t have a choice in the matter. Bella is asking so it doesn’t make sense that Rosalie’s reasoning is based around her own experience being supernaturally violated.

Carlisle votes yes but for the reason that if Edward wants to be with her it’s the only proper course of reasoning. I wish someone would bring up the fact that curing the blood lust is going to be an issue, but no one does because this book isn’t that thought out.

After everyone but two people vote yes, the duty falls to Alice to turn her. Shouldn’t Edward be the one to do it? Alice balks at her new responsibility and it turns into the familiar innuendo between them: “Alice…Where do you want to do this?”

Alice responds, “I don’t think I’m ready for that. I’ll need to prepare…”

Ok, that aside Alice isn’t ready? Ready for what? “I know, but…Seriously, Bella! I don’t have any idea how to not kill you.”

Not kill her? What the hell are you talking about? All James had to do in the last book was bite Bella on the finger. Alice herself explained in the last book that taking in the saliva was all it took. Isn’t that why Bella and Edward haven’t made out yet? What exactly is the process that she is avoiding? We are really supposed to forget everything we’ve been told up until now.

They then settle on turning Bella after she moves out of Charlie’s house. Someone finally remembered that he existed. First though, Edward decides to propose to Bella. Seriously this happens, but they’re going to wait two years for this to happen.

There’s an abrupt argument with Charlie back at his house where Bella explains that her and Edward are going to be together and that if he doesn’t like it she will leave. What a nice girl we have here. I seriously can’t explain how much I loathe this character right now. Charlie ought to explain things to her and she ought to listen, but somehow being a brat who basically thinks everyone owes her something is supposed to be laudable. What does anyone see in her?

Redemption (The New Moon Walkthrough Ch. 24)

April 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Late again, as usual. What’s not so usual is the why this time. I know I’ve blamed being late on everything from losing the book, to school work, to some kind of vacation, but this time is truly different. This time someone sacrificed a goat to the Muses because in once chapter everything kind of worked itself out. The first thing we have to do is pay attention to the date and time. Because it’s not day still.

Edward has done his not so creepy at all, stare at Bella while she sleeps and then they had a fight. A real fight, wherein Bella leaves the room saying that she is going to put it to a vote whether or not she gets turned into a vampire. Who is going to vote? Apparently the Cullens. That’s where the previous chapter ended.

Here’s where it gets weird: as absurd as that situation is, it somehow transitions into this chapter that actually is some decent writing. And no, it’s not decent writing for this book, it’s decent writing for any book. It’s almost like the person who discovered Meyer was only given this chapter and then green lit the whole series…actually that would make a lot of sense. It would explain a hell of a lot that has been wrong with the previous story thus far. I’m sure she (I’m not looking her name up) just said to herself, “I’m sure if this is an example of the writing I don’t even need to do my job, Ka Ching, im gonna be Oprah rich.”

Bella sneaks out of the window of the house, apparently not giving much forethought to how she’s going to actually get to the Cullens’ place, and not really being clear on where they are staying (unless they’ve decided to kick out the meth addicts that for sure moved into their mansion). Edward follows her, and what’s weird is that we’re actually presented with Edward as not being described as being some sort of god-like epitome of beauty. He’s just a guy, as far as the description is concerned.

He grabs her by the wrist, “Bella wait, I don’t want you to do this.”

He goes on for a long monologue here, strangely enough–it’s good, but too long to quote. The whole thing is almost like our author became self aware of the numerous problems in the story and the relationship. Edward explains that Bella needs to wait (I admit that I did roll my eyes at the obvious sexual metaphor being presented) because she doesn’t really understand what she wants. His explanation is exactly what I had been saying almost point for point: that Bella doesn’t really grasp the blood lust, that the Cullens are unique and that those monsters she saw in Italy are the norm, that she’ll miss dreaming and sleep. Finally and most surprisingly he even brings up the notion of death, and, “Think about it Bella, everything you know will all pass away. The forest may win or the forest may fail but if you get attached to any of it your life will be full of sadness. Think about what those Italian vampires have seen, the rise and fall of Rome, the rise and fall of the Vikings, the Arab conquests, WWI, WWII. Their lives are full of death, they will live until the age of Chthulu’s return, their lives are full of death, as is mine. For selfish reasons, I can’t doom you to this.

The last sentence is a little clunky but if I understand it right, he’s saying that he can’t turn her simply because he’ll miss her. Huh!? That’s actually…sweet. It’s true as well, she doesn’t get it–but I didn’t think he did either. All of the talk used to center on souls and other metaphysically un-proven principles. Alright, I know what you are thinking, and it probably centers around some broken clock analogy. But then it gets weirder: “You’re right.”

Bella, gets it? Miss too cool for school, gets it. You may be thinking, well she’s just listening to Edward like a good little subservient, but that’s not it, and this time it’s worth quoting in full, “You’re absolutely right,’ I paused and looked at him for once seeing not some marble statue but a person. Someone that I cared about…or did I? Before him, my life was bleak I hadn’t any real friends or much of a social life. But ever since I got here it was almost like I was seeking the same thing. Maybe it was the familiarity with being an outsider that led me to seek something that I thought was too good for me. But now I didn’t need that. Perhaps it was the near death experience that pierced the veil of ignorance that I had been living underneath, but now I didn’t think I needed him, I was sure that I didn’t even want him anymore. He had broken up with me to protect me!? It didn’t make sense anymore, nothing about him made sense. I didn’t love him, that’s the true verdict–it was just infatuation.
-“I’m going back. Don’t follow me, I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Did she just dump him? I mean, I get why, it makes sense almost too much sense for this character. I can’t wait for the next chapter.

hee hee hee