Monday, March 19, 2012


So I write reviews of stuff for this other site, and that site is giving away some awards to its contributors. This is called the Dark Matter Awards. It's publicly voted upon, so you decide who wins. And I want you to make me win the four categories I am nominated in.

The first award you'll see me nominated for is "Best Text Review". I wrote a review for one of the greatest films of all time, a glorious testament to the greatness of humanity called Conan the Barbarian. It is a glowing review, and a well deserved one. There are two articles competing against my glowing monument to the awesomeness of the movie that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star. This review, a negative review of Highlander 2:The Quickening by the site owner, meaning it's low hanging fruit and, if Bill wins the award, it'll look bad. The other article that could win "Best Text Review" is Shadow's review of the Orphanage. Shadow is a skilled wordsmith, but he never shows his face. To paraphrase J Jonah Jameson, what's he hiding? He's a menace! Thus, you should vote for me to win this award.

The second award that I was nominated for was the "Best Music Review". The one that got the nomination was the Most "2011" Songs of 2011, which was first posted on this very blog. This is a somewhat experimental review of society itself, using the music we listen to. It's also a review of five songs. The other two are this "worst of 2011" article and this one about the band Los Campesinos. You may notice that both of these are written by the same guy, the Re-Animator. In other words, I'm the underdog here. Vote for the underdog! Make this award show the feel-good story of the year!

I'm also nominated for the "Best Fantasy Review". I was nominated for my review of Demon Knights issues 1-3, which also was first posted here. My competition includes a video of Highlander: Endgame by Daniel Pizarro. Not only is it unfair to have a video against text, Mr. Pizarro doesn't like the movie, meaning that he's wrong. The other nominee is a review of a TV pilot by the Re-Animator. I reviewed three issues of a comic series, and he reviewed a single TV episode. You could say quantity is not as important as quality, but that's just, like, your opinion, eh? So, uh, vote for me.

The other award I'm nominated for is "Best International Reviewer" or "Best Reviewer From Outside the USA." I'm pretty sure the three blokes I'm up against are Americans who are putting on accents, so I should win by default. So, vote for me, just in case Daniel Pizarro, Shock Suspect and Eschbaal aren't disqualified for their obvious cheating.

Also, you should probably vote in the categories I'm not nominated in too. I definitely think that all of my colleagues on that site are awesome and talented and pretty people. You can vote for the Dark Matter Awards by clicking this link and e-mailing the e-mail address near the top. You can vote up until March 31, so make sure to do so to help a brother out, eh? Read more!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

James Jordan: Wrong On Everything

This is not the first time I've addressed James Jordan, and it probably won't be the last. He recently made a blog post about Sandra Fluke, which I promised to demolish. He then made another post, wherein he figured that my post about right wing sexism vs left wing sexism was actually a response to him (I guess he figured I'd delay my John Carter review for him?) An astute reader may find that my post went up March 7, and his was up March 9, making this an impossibility. Anyway, I shall now respond to both articles from James. This'll be long, so click the link.

The first thing to clear up is from the second post. He's not my friend, at least not now. Why?

You do NOT get to say I'm supporting child rape and call yourself my friend. I even asked for an apology (and for proof that I supported this heinous thing) and was denied on both counts. So, fuck you, buddy. By filling this post with anything other than the most heinous of insults towards your character, repeatedly, I am showing you more respect than you deserve. Showing you any respect is showing you more than you deserve. You are a horrible, horrible person.

Now, to the actual claims. In the "Analysis of Sandra Fluke's Testimony" post, James essentially started with this:

First, it is clear that Ms. Fluke is demanding coverage for contraception as part of health insurance. Liberals keep turning out the bait-and-switch notion that, in some cases, birth control pills are needed to address concerns that are not contraception. Contraception is still contraception. If a doctor prescribes birth control pill for some other reason is not contraception. Per Wikipedia, these are called non-contraceptive uses.

What a strange line of argument. It is explicitly called the "combined oral contraceptive pill". It is a pill that is designed to be a contraceptive, and it also has other properties. If I use a knife to pick my teeth, is it a toothpick? If I use it to tighten a screw, is it a screwdriver? No, it's still a knife. Regardless of the use, it's still a knife. OK?

Next, he says that "if contraception is healthcare then that means children are a disease." Based on that logic, and that logic alone, one can, and should say:
  1. Contraception should be outlawed, completely.
  2. If amputation is healthcare then that means limbs are a disease.
  3. Amputation should be outlawed, completely.

Think about it. Amputation might have some medical benefits, like removing cancer, diabetic infection or gangrene, (which is, of course, a non-amputative use of the procedure) but what we're really saying is that arms and legs are disease. Of course, if you have an ounce of intelligence, you'll realize this is a ludicrous proposition. Well, so is what you're saying. Perhaps you read something from that wikipedia page aside from the fact that there are non-contraceptive uses of contraception? Just two sections up from that, it shows the great preventative power of the Pill. Simply using the Pill, at all, reduces the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. Prolonged use of the pill can reduce the risk of both types of cancer by 80%. I have a friend dying of ovarian cancer, and had she not been so radically christian and radically anti-birth control, she could have prevented this. Your ideology is killing women. But of course, there are other myriad benefits of the Pill, including decreasing mortality rates (essentially, allowing women to live longer). But yeah, it's all about killing babies 'cause they're a disease.

Then, he comes out with this gem:

Identity politics appeal. Fluke's comment "I see the faces of the women" also insults our intelligence. Let's see. If these women are having sex with women, they don't need contraception because a woman is not a man and can't conceive a child with another woman. If these women are having sex with men, they might need contraception. So I'm supposing that Ms. Fluke is talking about the faces of women who have sex with men. This raises the question, where's the man? Maybe the women of Georgetown University are said because they only sleep with losers who refuse to pay for condoms and birth control? Just a thought, although I don't see any other conclusion.(Emphasis mine-Ben)

Do you not fucking listen? At all? I just listed reasons why anyone with a vagina (which, I should remind you, James, is what women have) would benefit from contraception and you still can't see any other possibility besides sleeping with men who don't pay for condoms or birth control? Are you purposely dense? Hell, you just admitted there are reasons to use contraception that have nothing to do with children, and now you conveniently forget this fact. Your sexism must truly know no bounds. Also, I'm pretty sure you meant that they're "sad" rather than that they're "said".

Then, James goes on to compare this to men being forced to dip into their "beer and football cash" to purchase condoms. And he doesn't get it. Contraception for men consists of condoms (cheap) vasectomies (one-time cost, short and mostly painless procedure) and horrendous groin trauma (painful but funny, permanent). There are no medical benefits to vasectomies, and there aren't any associated with condoms unless your partner has an STD or STI. Contraception for women consists of the Pill (expensive, with some side effects, many of which are beneficial) female condoms (more expensive than male condoms, painful to insert, has to remain in there for a few days to be truly effective), diaphragms (ditto), spermicide (with a myriad of possible very painful side effects) and tubal ligation (very invasive, intense surgery). There is no comparison. Female contraception is much more expensive, and has benefits aside from preventing pregnancy, which I might add is a huge medical benefit.

There isn't anything else from the first article worth mentioning, except that the left shows a "totalitarian streak" for trying to shut Rush Limbaugh down. Uh, no. "The Left" is not trying to shut him down, they're telling his sponsors they will not support their products if they support Rush Limbaugh. Rush can still speak freely on his radio show, and if he loses that, he can still air his views online, in books (assuming someone will publish him), on television (assuming someone will host him) or maybe even with documentary movies. Limbaugh has the right to speak freely (OK, not true, since if he swears on TV or radio he will be fined, something that doesn't happen in Canada) but he doesn't have the right to make money from it or the right to have a nationally broadcast radio show, or any radio show. Those are called "privileges". He also doesn't have the right to not suffer the consequences for his speech. Am I violating your free speech by not being your friend after you said I support child rape?

The other article, "Responding to my friend Ben - Fluke fan" had a few things worth talking about. I'll hit the smaller ones in point form.
  • Non-contraceptive uses of contraception are the same as contraceptive uses of it.
  • I didn't talk about two subjects, in fact, I talked about one: sexism from the left and right sides of the political spectrum. I don't even really believe in "left and right", it's more complex than that. No one is purely left or right except a few pundits (who may not be fully human) and many positions can be endorsed by both sides for different reasons (example: Conservatives may not want a war because they don't want to spend the money and risk soldiers lives, Liberals wouldn't want it because they don't approve of killing or wars motivated by greed).
  • I don't want everyone to think like me in all ways. I do, however, think some positions are detrimental to society and must be eradicated (yes, I know that as a stupid and evil asshole you will take that the wrong way. I would never endorse killing a person, only an idea). You think the same thing.

The "big" argument is religious freedom. Your constitution and mine both grant it. This is in no way a religious freedom issue. Now, you might be wondering why. Well, here's the reason why, in point form.

  • Not all employees of organizations run by the Catholic church are Catholic, and forcing them to conform to Catholic religious practices violates their religious freedom.
  • Not all students of Catholic and/or Jesuit schools are Catholic, and forcing them to conform to Catholic religious practices violates their religious freedom.
  • Not all Catholics are opposed to birth control or abortion.
  • Even if most Catholics (or indeed, most christians) opposed this, it's not a religious freedom that's being trampled upon. You don't have to take contraception, and employer medical benefit plans only cover contraception if the employee actually gets it. No one is forcing anyone to violate their principles, and these principles are not part of the core tenets of that religion, at least not in reality.
  • If this was a group of non-christians trying to get special treatment using religious freedom, we know you'd be first in line to condemn them. So, why is this religious organization trying to get special treatment fine?
  • This is an attempt to get special treatment. There's already an exemption for religious organizations (churches and explicitly religious schools) but they're trying to get that exemption extended to non-religious businesses owned by religious people.
  • Lastly, we already disallow religious freedoms if said "freedoms" are deemed harmful to society. Polygamy is no longer allowed because of the institution's inherent inequality and its subjugation of women. Animal sacrifice is not allowed because it's cruel to animals. Human sacrifice is not allowed because it's murder. Executing apostates is also disallowed for the same reason. This "freedom" to deny contraception to people who need it, which harms women, is harmful to society.

In conclusion, fuck you you misogynist twat.

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John Carter Review

I just watched the film John Carter (of Mars). I've been rooting for this film for a while, partly because I love the pulp style sci-fi/fantasy genre, partly because I'm rooting for semi-local boy Taylor Kitsch (John Carter) and partly because if the source material is half as good as people who've read it say it is, it needs to be seen. So how was it? There may be spoilers ahead, so click the "read more" link to find out.

Let's hit the positives first. Good god DAMN, this movie is beautiful to look at. The special effects work is quite excellent, and I'd be surprised if it didn't get nominated for something in a technical category when the Oscars or the Golden Globes comes around. This is the only movie I've seen in 3D where the 3D actually enhanced the film experience, perhaps because it was shot in 3D (at least I think) but more likely because it was almost always well-lit. Movies that are mostly in the dark (like 2011's Conan the Barbarian) just don't work in 3D. I did eventually become fully immersed in the world of Barsoom, largely because the effects made even the most alien of things seem so real. And the fight scenes, with one exception, were all pretty awesome.

Everyone played their part well, but special consideration should go to Taylor Kitsch. His performance might be slammed for being too "generic", but that, in fact, is a strength: this is wish fulfillment fantasy at its purest. When you're trying to make a character young men can project themselves onto, it helps to tone down the personality, or at least make sure it doesn't stray too far from the action hero archetype. Despite the occasional allusion to a dead wife and child, Carter's personality is "rebellious", "badass" and "rebellious badass". Luckily, the other characters mostly make up for it. Princess Dejah, Tar Tharkas, Sola and the dog-thing were all quite charming, and the real villains (the Tharns) had an actual element of threat to them.

That said, this is not a movie for everyone. You need patience. The first scene is a confusing mess of an opening. It starts with opening narration, that properly establishes the warring cities, then a cool fight happens. Then, bald dudes in robes kill everyone except the sort-of main villain of the movie, then shoot a blue web up the dude's arm and it gives him magic powers. Then, it turns to Carter in post-Civil War USA, which was pretty cool. Then, right to Mars, and a scene where Carter bounces around in a somewhat amusing way, before getting into the main story. Even then, a lot of the terminology is prohibitive to people like me, who haven't read the books. It's worst in the first scene with Dejah, which had the added detriment of them going on about techno-babble. What is the ninth ray? I can't tell what it is aside from "science-y magic that can do whatever you want". It is mentioned that it's a way to harness unlimited energy, but that's it. Even then, this is a pretty predictable story. Part of it is that most sci-fi movies have been inspired by this franchise, but part of it is that it's transparently obvious wish fulfillment fantasy for boys.

The characters do interact well for the most part, but Dejah and John's love story is perhaps the worst I've ever seen. Yes, it is pretty clear that they're into each other, and I can see why (they're both super sexy and powerful, and Dejah is also a brilliant scientist and a princess, which is unbelievable now that I think about it) but they shouldn't have gotten married at the end. It just didn't make sense for those characters.

Also, one fight scene has John tearing through a bunch of Martians (apparently rivals of the Tharn) with scenes of his dead wife and kid flashing in and out occasionally. It wasn't a bad fight (in that the outnumbered hero with a sword beats the other hundred dudes without getting a scratch) but it was ruined by the constant shifts. Why would one even do that? I don't get it.

All told, I do recommend this movie, conditionally. If you love sci-fi and fantasy, you should enjoy this. If you're cool with paying a lot of attention, you should see it. Despite its flaws, it is a charming movie, and I was engaged enough to want to read the books afterwards. I do recommend that if you see it, you should see it in 3D as it makes the effects look that much better.

Final score: 6/10

Afterthought: They picked a pretty bad name for this movie. "John Carter" is a boring movie name. Princess of Mars was out, thanks to the Asylum, but "John Carter of Mars" sounds cool, as would "Warlord of Mars" or anything other than a common English name that's easy to lose in the mix. They may as well have titled the "we actually don't want you to see this."
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Calling Out Left-Wing Sexism [UPDATED]

Perhaps you're aware that Rush Limbaugh, an awful human being, has gotten into some trouble for his recent hate-filled tirade directed at a young law student. She wants employers to be forced to provide benefits, including covering the cost of contraceptives, arguing that those pills provide multiple medical benefits to women. Rush said she was a slut, a prostitute, and that if he's paying for her to have sex (which he wouldn't be-this is about employers providing medical benefits) then she should post sex-tapes of her sexual escapades for him to watch. It resulted in a boycott that probably won't hurt Mr. Limbaugh in the long run, but only time will tell. The conservative reaction, at least the one I saw on social media, was to point out that liberals do the same thing. I asked plenty of times for examples, and it took liberal Tim Wise posting this article on his twitter for me to see that there was some actual misogyny from pundits on my side.

I wholeheartedly denounce all misogyny regardless of where it comes from.

However, we really do have to look more in depth at the misogyny of the Left vs. the misogyny of the Right.

Most of the comments Kirsten Powers points to in her Daily Beast article are either arguably non-misogynistic, clearly non-misogynistic or very mildly misogynistic. Calling Sarah Palin an idiot is not only fair game, it's completely true. Simply criticizing or insulting a woman is not sexism. When Keith Olbermann said someone should take Hilary Clinton into a room "and only he comes out" when advocating her dropping out of the 2008 Democratic Primary race. It was clearly a metaphor for a mafia assassination, not spousal abuse, though it was improperly worded. Calling someone a "twat" or a "cunt" is no more sexist than calling them a "dick" or a "prick", in reality. They're all insults using genitals that can just as easily be used on people of either gender. "Bimbo", the most common insult used by the left-wing media personalities singled out in this piece, is a sexist insult, but it's a fairly mild one, just like calling a Canadian a "hoser" is mildly insulting. Mocking Hilary Clinton's "flabby arms" is childish, but it's not sexist, unless "flabby arms" is somehow a symbol of femininity. However, calling Laura Ingraham a right-wing slut is wrong (regardless of my agreement of the point Ed Schultz made around that insult) and some of the things Bill Maher said are over the line.

The difference between this, however, and what conservatives do is threefold. Firstly, the victim of Limbaugh's insults was a university student. Yes, she was also an activist, but she was hardly a "public figure", while all the women these liberals attacked are either politicians or pundits (or in Sarah Palin's case, both). Secondly, while the liberal pundits mentioned by Powers are out of line, they're only attacking one woman, explicitly. Rush Limbaugh, and the awful people who supported him (Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Bill O'Reilly, etc.) didn't just call Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute, they called every woman who uses any contraceptive, even for medical purposes, a slut and a prostitute. A lot of the many, many awful things Limbaugh has said about women are applicable to most or all women, while it's pretty hard to apply "Laura Ingraham, that right-wing slut" to anyone other than Laura Ingraham without a lot of stretching. Finally, liberals may, on rare occasion, say bad things about women. Conservatives do things that hurt women, including the various "personhood amendments" that would outlaw abortion and several forms of contraceptives, and they're trying to do everything listed in this link. What does more damage: a pundit calling someone a slut or a politician trying to allow hospitals to let women die rather than giving life saving abortions?

So, yeah, I'm willing to call other left-wingers on their sexism. It's wrong, and they should know better. But I'm glad people are more focused on the bigotry of the right-wing, because they're just plain worse in every conceivable way.

UPDATE: Keith Olbermann has replied to the article by Powers, or at least two of the comments she called out. Please watch this to the end.

I had no idea that Powers deliberately misquoted Olbermann, that she wasn't a conservative, or that she works on Fox. That really makes me lose a lot of respect for Powers. I also had no idea that the "mashed up bag of meat with lipstick" thing was a reference to anything. That one confused me. I do think the "with lipstick" part is mildly sexist, but he did apologize in that clip. Unlike Limbaugh's apology, I believe Olbermann. I also admire his conviction to raise the bar by suspending his negative (but popular and entertaining) "Worst Person" segment. Let's hope it works. Read more!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why skepticism is more important than atheism

A few days back, I got into a long, drawn out battle with a now-former Twitter follower over, of all things, aliens. It all started when I mocked that ancient aliens guy with the bad hair, and he responded. I got a torrent of hate, as is customary when celebrities publicly respond to their critics. Amongst the remarks pointing out I'm Canadian (as if that's an insult) and misspelled insults directed at my intelligence was one of my own followers. She claimed that atheism led her to believe in aliens because evolution was so unlikely. When I pointed out that there was no compelling evidence of extraterrestrial life forms existing, despite the high likelihood of there being life elsewhere in the universe. This is actually called the Fermi Paradox, and I even shared the Wikipedia link to it with her. She called it "skeptic bullshit" or something along those lines, and then said it wasn't worth it to talk to me.

The fact of the matter is, critical thinking is a much more important thing to promote than atheism. Yes, critical thinking, when applied to religion, should lead to atheism, but not all atheists come to atheism by thinking critically. In fact, far too often, those who claim to think critically are anything but critical thinkers. I've been told that, as a skeptic, I should reject the "official story" on 9/11, the Holocaust and other such things. This is, of course, because people mistake "critical thinking" with "cynicism". That is not the case by a long shot. Critical, or skeptical thinking simply means evaluating all information in a systematic, purposeful and efficient manner. It's the best way to find the truth, something you religious people should care about. After all, truth is the only god there is, the only thing worth worshiping. It's the only remedy for bullshit.

Now, not everyone who doesn't think critically will fall prey to such lunacy as conspiracy theories. What it does do is make you easy prey for scam artists. This includes religions, political parties on the left and the right, and practitioners of "alternative medicine" (who come in two flavours: the deludedwho are spreading their delusion and straight up con artists) as well as operators of pyramid schemes/multi-level marketing and other such scams. Not that anyone's perfect, of course. For example, noted skeptic Michael Shermer has fallen for the political cult known as American libertarianism, which isn't really that far from anarchism. However, it does make you more able to avoid such mental traps.

The bottom line is, if you read this blog or follow me on Twitter because of my atheism, do not be offended if I disagree with your other views. If you hold any views that cannot hold up to scrutiny, it's best to abandon them. If you're not quite sure how to properly think critically, and even if you are, you should click here to read an excellent guide to critical thinking.
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