International hitchhiking robot destroyed after only two weeks in U.S. because Americans are assholes. bit.ly/1IxN07q

Shaped By Today’s Culture

From the Associated Press, via USA Today:

Lutherans move toward more open view on gays

Delegates to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s nationwide assembly in Minneapolis on Wednesday approved a “social statement on human sexuality.” The vote was a prelude to a bigger debate Friday, when delegates will tackle a proposal that would allow individual ELCA congregations to hire people in committed same-sex relationships as clergy.

I was pleasantly surprised by the dialog and open-mindedness that the Lutheran church is welcoming. However, one dissenting opinion in particular caught my attention:

Opponents of the social statement said it ignores clear scriptural direction that homosexuality is a sin. “We are asked to affirm a description of sexuality based on a reality that’s shaped not by Scripture but by today’s culture,” said Curtis Sorbo of Adams, North Dakota, a convention delegate from the ELCA’s Eastern North Dakota Synod.

What a different statement that would be if we replaced one word: “We are asked to affirm a description of slavery based on a reality that’s shaped not by Scripture but by today’s culture.”

Today’s culture does indeed shape the reality of slavery, as opposed to what was shaped by scripture.

There are so many potential examples of how Mr. Sorbo’s statement is indeed true, but not in the way I think he intended. What else could we plug into that sentence? Racism. Apostasy. Diet.

What right have Christians to interpret their most holy scripture like Swiss cheese?

The Psychological Damage Of The Red Pen

This story came up on my radar a few months ago, and I’m only now getting to blogging about it. From the Telegraph:

Australian educators are being urged to correct homework in less aggressive colours like green and blue, in an attempt to improve mental health in the classroom.

The plans are part of a package of measures dismissed as “kooky, loony, loopy lefty” by opposition politicians.

Other tips in the Good Mental Health Rocks kit, which was distributed this month to about 30 schools in Queensland state, including apologising to students when necessary and asking pupils to conduct a “personal skills audit” where they focus on their individual strengths rather than their weaknesses.

On the issue of marking, it advises: “Don’t mark in red pen (which can be seen as aggressive) – use a different color.”

Stephen Robertson, the Queensland health minister, defended the guidelines which were devised by his department, saying that youth suicide was a serious issue.

“If mental health professionals determine that as one of a number of strategies teachers should consider, then I’ll support them every day of the week,” he said. “This is not a matter for ridicule, this is serious.”

Suicide? From too much red pen? I find that hard to swallow. Peer rejection, sure. Bad grades in general, OK. But actual psychological damage from the usage of red pen?

I had teachers who liked to grade with those thick two-toned pencils — orange on one side, green on the other, so it made neat swirly-colored marks on the page. The color didn’t change the fact that I missed an answer on my quiz, and only got a 93%. (Yes, I was one of those.)

Granted, I’m not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV, but this seems a little extreme.

Red marks excessively aggressive? To hell with the color of pen; just make sure you can give me a reasonable explanation as to why you marked my essay off by three points on page two, other than that vague damn question mark you put in the margin.

Commentary on Two Snippets of Pop Culture

#1: Britney Spears’ “comeback” performance at the VMAs. I’m so out of touch that I wouldn’t have even known about this, had I not checked CNN.com yesterday morning. Yesterday evening, I looked up the performance on YouTube (I love the internet!) and saw what everyone had been talking about. She didn’t just look like she was “phoning it in” — she looked like someone who would get absolutely lambasted on American Idol. I wasn’t too keen on the song, either, but that’s just my personal distaste for modern pop music.

I had no problem with her weight. I was pleasantly surprised that she didn’t look anorexic anymore — I guess having two kids would take care of that, though. I agree that she could have been a little more toned, sure. Jiggly rock stars don’t go over too well, especially when the costume leaves so little to the imagination. But her actual size and dimensions? Perfectly fine. Pleasantly curvy.

The performance? Sub-par. Unprofessional. Not MTV calibre. She had to have done better in the dress rehearsal for the show to have gone on as planned. I’m wondering what sorts of chemicals, legal or illicit, may have helped to drag her performance down so far.

#2: Kathy Griffin’s Emmy acceptance speech quotable: “A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. Suck it, Jesus! This award is my god now!”

As an atheist/nontheist, I find everyone’s level of taken-aback-ness to be more amusing than Griffin’s comments. Everybody knows that Kathy Griffin has a crass and irreverent sense of humor — or, at least, everyone *should* know that by now. The reaction of the Catholics and the Christians in general just reinforces the assertion of leading atheists like Richard Dawkins: in our society, religion is held on a pedestal, untouchable, and to poke fun at religion is blasphemous and unacceptable. Virtually any other aspect of life is fair game, but to make light of a person’s faith is grounds for — well, for getting your Emmy speech edited for the rebroadcast.

With that said… there is a time and a place for crass humor. An Emmy acceptance speech may not necessarily be that time or place. Were she to have included that excerpt in her stand-up routine, I’d find it hilarious and totally in line. This is why I don’t consider myself a militant New Atheist: I play the game. At the risk of exaggerating, I’ll say that I can empathize with the dilemmas faced by gays as to how “out” to be. Especially here in the Midwest, where the majority of my co-workers are Christian and strongly so, I would be asking for trouble if I told everyone that I don’t believe in God. If it comes up, I judge whether I’m safe to expose myself as an atheist, but I certainly don’t volunteer the information.

Funny, isn’t it? I’ll tell the entire internet, but not the Catholic woman who sits in the next cube.

Goodbye, Saddlemire

Courtesy of the BG News: University says farewell to Saddlemire

This was the building where I bought my books every semester. This was the building where I sold those same books back every semester. This was the building that was supposedly shaped like a slide projector.

Apparently, the Saddlemire Student Services Building is being demolished, in preparation for an addition to the theater department. I’ll grant the theater department that they could use some more space, that’s for sure. An additional 500-seat theater, among other facilities, will definitely be a welcome addition to campus.

Still, though… it’s weird, watching my university change over time. Granted, it’s all for the better, but it’s still unsettling.

Un-American

Al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi is dead.

I’m not sure how to react to my reaction. Yes, I understand that he killed innocent people. And I do realize that he was an important ringleader in terrorist activities in Iraq.

But I just can’t make myself happy about someone’s death, no matter how many people they themselves have killed.

I felt the same way when Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed by the military. I just can’t be jubilant about another human being’s death. Maybe this makes me un-American. Maybe this makes me a goddamn hippie, or a left-wing nutjob, or something worse. I just can’t make myself say about anyone, “I’m glad they’re dead.”

Of course, none of my friends or family were victims of Al-Zarqawi. Were I in that situation, I’ll grant that my reaction may have been different. I honestly can’t say for sure.

Even if I hadn’t had an initial reaction of not-happiness, I would have been made even more not-happy — no, make that “disgusted” — when the media began showing images of Al-Zarqawi’s bloated corpse. Honestly, that was unnecessary. The one main identification image was bad enough, with his eyes closed and his face all slack in death. But then I saw another, worse image, even more disturbing, showing his swollen lips and protruding tongue… that just took the cake for me.

There’s a line of decency to be observed here. I’ve seen too many REAL CORPSES on the news lately, without any advance warning of graphic content. I doubt that the media would be so casual about showing the corpses of American soldiers on national television.

I could go into a full-blown rant, but I think it’s probably best if I just end here and go to bed.

Group seeks halt to latest Sky acquisition

by Mary-Beth McLaughlin
Toledo Blade Business Writer

A New York City consumer advocacy group wants the Federal Reserve Board to deny the latest acquisition request by Sky Financial Group Inc., alleging the Bowling Green company does not make enough loans to minorities or issues them at higher rates than those for whites.

read more »

Despite the fact that I work for Sky (and am a caucasian to boot), they turned me down for a car loan in 2003 and a mortgage in 2004. Guess I’m in good company, anyway.

Fort Worth is OK = Mom is OK

I was worried about Mom and Gary for a while there, being that they live in Texas and were potentially in the path of Hurrican Rita, albeit several hundred miles inland. After all, a crazy-ass thunderstorm can be just as bad as an all-out hurricane. After checking weather.com this morning, though, I figured they’d be OK:

I added Fort Worth on the map, for all of us non-Texans who have no effing clue where anything is down there.

So, Mom, Gary, I’m glad y’all’re OK. Sorry I haven’t called to check on you, but I figured I’d better not call during a thunderstorm. 😉

All The News That’s Fit To Blog

A lot has happened in the world in the past week or so, and I’ve been pretty slow on the uptake. Strangely enough, a lot of the newsworthy items lately have been ones on which I have an opinion—which, honestly, is kind of strange. Sure, the ABC Evening News at my house can seem like MST3K, even though I watch it alone… but most of it isn’t worth blogging about, IMO.

So, in this marathon blog post, I plan to address , , and . Perhaps some other things as they occur to me. Feel free to ignore this post if you’re sick of hearing about any or all of these topics; I won’t know any different, so I won’t be offended.
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High School Teacher Goes Ballistic

Holy shit. I never had a teacher go off like this in high school, thank goodness. When Mr. Mantel wants you to stand up for the National Anthem, you’re damn well gonna stand up, or you’ll get your chair pulled out from underneath you.

Teacher freaks out about National Anthem, with Video

Edit: If you’d like to download the video, there’s a torrent here. Apparently all the sites hosting the video are starting to get bogged down. (Go figure.)