Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Funnies - Fish for Dinner

As someone who has a very long plane ride ahead of him in a few days (more on that in an upcoming post), this funny clip from "Airplane" has special relevance for me. Then again, the last time I flew on Cathay Pacific, I thought the food was pretty good.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Atheist Alliance Convention - September 28-30, 2007

Atheist Alliance is hosting a convention this coming September in Crystal City, Virginia. According to the organization's web site, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and other luminaries of the atheist movement will be in attendance.

I am giving serious consideration to attending, though if I do go, I will only be able to arrive Friday evening. It also depends on whether or not my wife can be off the entire weekend to watch the kids for me. Does anyone else here think they might be able to go?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mike Seaver Wants to Save Your Soul

This link caught my attention the other night while I was on Yahoo. I haven't watched any of the videos on the page yet. One, I don't have the time, and two, I will probably just end up laughing too hard to take it seriously.

I have no problem with people having religious beliefs, but I also cannot take seriously someone like Kirk Cameron who believes that worshipping and serving an imaginary being takes priority over one's own family. And if there is some all-powerful deity watching over us, I can't imagine that it would deem taking care of one's family to be a lesser obligation than taking religious texts literally or going to church every Sunday.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cool Music for a Saturday Night

I have very mixed feelings about David Lynch's film adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel "Dune." The movie is alternately dazzling and visionary and stupid. But I have always loved the music by Toto that accompanies the film's closing credits.

I Lost My Head Over Michelle Goldberg

Here's yours truly with Michelle Goldberg, author of "Kingdom Coming." Unfortunately, due to the fact that I am much taller than her, combined with the inept photography skills of the Barnes & Noble staff person, my head got cut off. There is another picture of the two of us, but Michelle's eyes are closed and I look so bad in it I am embarrassed to show it. At any rate, I got a good laugh from this picture. If any of my readers were fans of the short-lived comedy television series "Police Squad" with Leslie Nielsen, you might remember a minor but recurring character at the police station named Al who was so tall that you never see his head when he is on camera. Below is a clip of the ending of the first episode that shows Al.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Smiles

Because the dining hall was so dimly lit, the pictures I took of Ms. Ali while she gave her luncheon talk did not come out very well. Afterwards, she spent maybe ten minutes in the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria signing books. I snapped a few shots of her and to my pleasant surprise, in this one, the best of the lot, it looks almost as if she was actually smiling for me.

Me and Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It's not every day that one gets to be in the same picture with a woman whose life is threatened by angry Muslim extremists. Owing to the security around Ms. Ali and the inability to get someone to take a picture of us standing next to each other, this was the best I could do. My efforts to get filmed with Ms. Ali made me think of this:

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Funnies - Son of the Invisible Man

This is probably the funniest skit from "Amazon Women on the Moon."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Oh the Incompetence!

I just got back from picking up two rolls of film from CVS. One roll had the Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Michelle Goldberg pictures, the other consisted of family shots. Guess which roll the CVS photography tech screwed up and forgot to indicate that it should be put on disc?

The good news, the shot I attempted of Ayaan and me by my holding my camera up and taking the shot myself actually worked! Of the two shots of Michelle and I, she came out fairly well, but my head was cut off in one, whereas in the other her eyes are closed and I look terrible. Way to go Barnes & Noble staff girl in Park Slope!

To make matters worse, my son fell on the sidewalk on the walk home and scraped his knees really bad, so I can't even go back to CVS now (my wife is at work) to complain. CVS's photo department adopted a stupid policy of not allowing the customers to fill out their own orders. When I dropped the rolls off, I told the girl behind the counter what I wanted. She filled out the first form and I told her that I wanted one set of prints and a CD. She said "I got it," and indicated that she would fill out the second order form based on the information I had given her. If they had allowed me to fill out the order form, this mistake would not have happened.

So, because I work late on Friday nights, I probably won't be able to get to CVS until Saturday and hopefully they can find a way to scan the negatives onto a CD for me so I can post some of the pictures. Talk about an exercise in futility!

Rockin' with Rush

Growing up as a teenager in the 1980's, one of my favorite bands was Rush. And my favorite Rush song of all time, though they have so many great ones, is "Subdivisions." Enjoy!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Proof of Evolution?

Yes, at last, the man behind "Exercise in Futility" is finally revealed, along with my two little "descendants." This picture was taken by my Indonesian friend Sandra at the Museum of Natural History in NYC during her visit with us last fall.

BTW, I am dropping off the roll of film containing the Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Michelle Goldberg photos today and also buying a digital camera. I'm finally entering the 21st century when it comes to picture taking.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Funnies - Taxi Cab Confessions

This one is a real treat. It is a segment (divided into two parts on Youtube) from Jim Jarmusch's "Night on Earth," which features episodes that take place in taxi cabs in five cities around the world. This one, set in Italy, has the cab driver, played by Italian comic actor Roberto Benigni, pick up a priest late one night. Benigni's cab driver feels the need to confess his sexual sins to the priest, despite the latter's protests. What follows is quite hilarious. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

You've Got to be Kidding Me

That was what I thought when I read this article on the BBC website.

As a staunch supporter of reproductive rights, I believe it is just as wrong to force a pregnant woman who wants to have the baby to have to undergo an abortion as it is to prevent a pregnant woman who does not want to have a baby from having an abortion.

But the abortion the poor woman was forced to undergo happened in 1980! That's 27 years ago. I was in the 6th grade at the time. If she was actually pregnant when she sought asylum, I would agree with the decision of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to admit her in order to be able to give birth to her baby.

Given the tremendous amount of time that has elapsed since the forced abortion, it hardly seems fair to allow the woman in question, Li Zhen, to be eligible to apply for asylum when there are so many people around the world who are being persecuted at this very moment. Take Lina Joy for instance, the Malaysian woman I blogged about several days ago. Her own government refuses to grant her request to remove Islam from her identity card so that she can be free to marry a Christian man. Because of the publicity surrounding her case, she could be in grave danger from Muslim extremists.

Granting Li Zhen asylum because she was forced to have an abortion 27 years ago is like granting asylum to a black South African man because he was persecuted by the white minority government during the years of apartheid. The apartheid government is long gone, and Li Zhen is no longer of child bearing age. Asylum should be for people who really deserve it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Return of the Evangelical Atheist

Just for the hell of it, I clicked on the Evangelical Atheist site to see if there had been any new posts since the last one in December of 2006. And lo and behold there was a new post up dated June 1, 2007 discussing the new Pew survey of Muslim-Americans. Go check it out and say hi.

And to think I removed the site from my blogroll several weeks ago!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

My E-mail to the Malaysian Embassy Regarding Lina Joy

H.E. Dr. Rajmah Hussain
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Malaysia to the United States

Dear Dr. Hussein,

I am writing to express my tremendous disappointment at the High Court of Malaysia's denial of Lina Joy's request to remove "Islam" from her identity card. According to the High Court, only the Sharia, or Muslim Religious court, could grant Ms. Joy the permission she seeks. It goes without saying the Sharia court will never grant her request.

With all due respect Your Excellency, that is like saying that an innocent person who has been framed by the police and wrongfully imprisoned can only be granted his freedom with the permission of the very same police officers who framed him for the crime he did not commit.

From what I have read, Ms. Joy has been attending a Christian church since 1990 and was baptized in 1998. It is quite evident, based on this, that her conversion has been neither whimsical nor fanciful, as alleged by a demonstrator quoted in a BBC article.

As an atheist, I have no personal preference as to whether Ms. Joy wishes to be a Muslim, a Christian, or a member of any other religion that is recognized under Malaysian law. But what is important to me about this particular case is what I consider to be one of the most important freedoms of all, the right to freedom of belief.

The United States, as you know from being your country's ambassador here, is a majority Christian nation. But our nation's constitution protects the free exercise of religion and respects the rights of all of its citizens to practice the faith of their choice, or in my case, to not practice any religion at all.

Just as important, the laws of my country take no position with respect to a person's decision to abandon one religion and adopt another. There are a number of examples of American citizens who were raised as Christians but who later converted to Islam. Two prominent Americans who became converts to Islam are Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. There was no law that said that these two wellknown public figures could not convert to Islam and they were able to practice their new religion freely.

Having been at one time a devout Roman Catholic, I contend that one's religious faith is a deeply personal belief that links the believer to the Divine as he or she understands it. It is not for the state or any self appointed body of individuals, such as a Sharia Court, to tell the believer whether he or she can convert to a new religion from the one he or she had been raised in since childhood. Otherwise, why can't that same court dictate to a person over whom it claims jurisdiction what kind of music or what flavor of ice cream that person can choose?

I would argue that when a religious body seeks to prevent a person who formerly adhered to that religion from legally identifying with a new religion, that religious body is admitting that it is morally bankrupt. It essentially amounts to saying, "Well, if our God is incapable of touching the heart of this person so that she remains within our faith, then we will use the coercive apparatus of the state to prevent her from legally leaving that faith." In other words, when faith and devotion fail, terror and oppression must take its place.

Since I understand that Lina Joy has exhausted her appeals under the law, I would respectfully request that the laws of Malaysia be amended to deny the Sharia Courts the jurisdiction to decide on the right of Malaysian citizens to change their religion from Islam to another religion recognized under Malaysian law. This is a fundamental right that all citizens throughout the world should have.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to your reply.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday Funnies - Spoof of Tom Cruise on Oprah

Here is another funny scene from "Scary Movie 4," which comes at the end of the movie.

Blogging will be light this weekend as my son's birthday party is tomorrow and I have a scuba diving class on Sunday. However, I intend to e-mail the Malaysian Embassy about Lina Joy and I will post the letter later tonight or over the weekend.