I’m supposed to read Huck Finn for my Banned Book Club

July 19, 2014

It’s slow going.

I’m trying to figure out if I like it.

I’m roughly half-way though. At this point Huck and Jim (the slave who’d wanted to run away to a free state instead of being sold again) are making their way through Arkansas and have been hosting a couple professional liars on their raft. One calls himself a duke and the other a king. Huck is something of a liar, too, and sees through them easily but admires their finesse.

One of the best bits of the book has been with those guys. One’s a top con artist and at one particular town they find out a revival meeting is going on in the woods. He marches onto the stage and lays a thick tale of a pirate life. Then he claims he’s been saved thanks to this revival and wants to take the mission to all the other pirates he knows on the Indian ocean. The gullible locals are in tears over his moving story and insist on taking up a collection so he can continue to do God’s work on the sea. Counting it up at the raft later, the guy netted $85 or so.

This novel was published in 1885. I was curious what that kind of haul could buy back then and came across this:

In early 1884 several traveling salesmen walked across the Ozarks. They came up from Arkansas along the train tracks from Mammoth Springs to West Plains. From West Plains they followed the railroad to Willow Springs, then headed west towards Springfield, through Cabool, Mountain Grove, Norwood and Mansfield. One of them kept a journal describing what he called their “peddling.” This journal tells us a little about the land, towns and life of the Ozarks in 1884.

It lists Missouri prices but Arkansas probably would have been comparable at the time:

For those people who wanted to homestead in the area, the federal government still had land available. There was 75,000 acres of homestead land available in Douglas County, 125,000 in Ozark County and 25,000 in Wright County. This land could be had for a $2 filing fee plus $6 for a 40 acre plot. It cost only $14 dollars to homestead 160 acres of land!

(So the thousand or so bucks that Tom and Huck wound up with at the end of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was one hell of a windfall. I’ve never read that book either; there’s reference to the money at the start of this book, though, and it drives part of the plot at the beginning.)

This is an area of history I know nothing about and have yet gotten around to looking into. Being Canadian, we learned of the expansion into what would become the Canadian provinces and even those details are gone from my brain; Social Studies was not my forte. Names and dates and places.. no thanks.

The meeting is at the end of the month so I still have a couple weeks to get through it but damn.. it’s unusual for me to have this hard a time to get into a book and get it read. Maybe some of it has to do with the writing style and slang and necessity to decipher the parts of speech. I just can’t zip from start to finish like so many other books.

I don’t want to resort to reading Wikipedia entries and watching a crappy film version and then go to my meeting pretending I have a clue and valid input. One guy who came to the last couple book meets has done that and it’s an eye-rolling experience. We don’t have a rule that everyone has to finish the book. We let people come that haven’t read it, but there’s just something about this guy.. he seems to be one of those people who puts more stock in his own wacky theories than he does the ideas and knowledge of others. It’s frustrating to listen to him going on and on. But, whatever.

Because there aren’t enough actual issues to be pissed off about?

July 10, 2014


Urban Outfitters had the “audacity” to feature Ganesh on a blanket and now we must be upset about that. Who cares about the starving, the abused, the killed for religion? Ganesh is featured on a kitchy fucking blanket…

Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, has asked Urban Outfitters to take the duvet cover off the market.

“You can put him in a frame and on the wall. That is fine,” Zed said. “But not to be put on the bed, on which you lie and your feet will go on. That is very inappropriate.”

I’ve had some wine, so I’m somewhat nonsensical at the moment, but this still makes even less sense than my alcohol fueled mind can figure…

Tacky Ganeseh blanket

It’s so tacky. Why give it any publicity whatsoever?


Had it been ignored by the faithful, it would have been barely a ripple in the consciousness of the internet consumer. Now, it’s there for the world to see…\

Why do people need to make mountains out of molehills.. tacky molehills…

Atheist Scruples: And Bingo was his name-o

July 10, 2014

Today’s question:

You need one number to win the jackbot at BINGO. A stranger next to you also needs one and it has been called. Do you tell her?

This edition of A Question of Scruples came out in 1986, which was something of a heyday for Bingo obsession, if I recall correctly, and in 1991/92 our school band ran some Bingo nights to raise money for our upcoming trip to Vancouver. We all had to volunteer to work an evening. I was kind of shy at the time (hard to believe now) and stressed out over these women shouting at me for more cards and throwing money at me and barely waiting for me to figure out what I owed them for change. There was little time between rounds for cards and money to change hands. It also stunk like hell with cigarette smoke. I remember that overall. So disgusting. But, I digress.

Ultimately, I think it depends on what kind of jackpot we’re talking about. If this is a fundraising “top prize is a turkey” little thing for a kid’s school, or senior’s centre, then maybe I’d holler Bingo for the woman myself and then point to the spot she nearly missed. I have no room to store a turkey anyway. If this was a night of cutthroat gambling at a real Bingo hall where hundreds of dollars are up for grabs and everybody wants it, screw her. If she can’t see the spot she missed, clearly she’s playing too many cards at once. Greedy cow. (That’s assuming I even notice. I’d probably be too busy watching my own cards like a hawk watches for mice.)

Now a question posed by someone via Yahoo Answers:

Christians: Do you consider Bingo and the Lottery gambling?

The question was posed five years ago. Kerika answered:

Yes. Christians rightly avoid any sweepstakes or drawings that involve buying chances (such as raffle tickets) or putting up money for a chance to win some prize. Simply put, we avoid gambling, which certainly is an expression of greediness.—1 Corinthians 5:11;; 6:10; Ephesians 4:19; 5:3, 5.

She also quoted from some Jehovah’s Witness writings so maybe she’s not typical.

A different response from P?tsie:

I am a Christian. Are they gambling, of course. Are they a sin?… not as easy to answer. Personally, I believe that if you can control your spending and do not over indulge, then it is generally not. There are many who would disagree, but there is no verse that says “don’t play bingo”. What you believe is between you and God, and nobody else.

I bold the last line because that’s exactly the kind of thinking used to rationalize and justify a lot of behaviour including everything that shouldn’t be socially or legally acceptable anymore. And since I’m of the opinion that gods are created by the culture that wants or thinks they’re needed, I don’t think the question is ever really “What would Jesus do?” The question usually seems to be “What do I want to do and how can I interpret the Word to support my way of thinking?” The first way may be contrary to what I want to do, whereas the second way is ultimately win win…

A Quesion of Atheist Scruples – round 8

July 3, 2012

(I missed last Tuesday on account of faulty time management. How do people busier than me keep up on their excellent blogs and still get everything accomplished?)

Same setup as other weeks. I’ll answer three Scruples questions and leave a fourth for readers. Feel free to weigh in on the others, though.

A close friend will be interviewed for a job with your employer. He asks you for a list of the questions in advance. Do you supply it?

I think most employers only interview the ones that qualify based on skills and previous experience (unless it’s seniority-based, then be ready to be passed over when someone more senior yet essentially unskilled applies for the same position). The job I have, I wouldn’t have access to a list like that anyway. All I could do is explain what kind of work it is and what there’s been for turnover. A lot of people get worried about interviews but I don’t know if prep work really can boost a person’s chances of getting the job. Confidence is one thing but overconfidence can look a bit too much like arrogance and that sort of attitude can be pretty off-putting. Don’t come across like a know-it-all and try to stay relaxed. That’s all the advice I’d be able to give. Eat a banana beforehand and smile…

You are advised to invest in a company which does well because of its monopoly but makes a poor product. You are sure to profit. Do you invest?

Sounds like Walmart. I had stock in the company while I worked there. Five years later (this year), I finally got around to telling them I’d like to sell it. I do have an RRSP plan on the go with money going toward that every month. I should be more cognizant of what my money is going toward, actually. Something to do something about down the road here. As far as the question, I think I’d pass on it.

The people who find your beloved cat injured in a ditch pay $150 for veterinary care and adopt it. You discover what happened three months later. Do you let them keep the cat?

I love cats. I grew up with transient farm cats rather than beloved pets for the most part. I’ll tell this story, though. When I was 6 or 7 I had this one called Tiger. He and I spent a lot of time together. The summer my parents invited a professional photographer to take pictures of the family in the yard, Tiger photobombed almost every sitting. Dad finally tossed the cat into the house even though he’d never before been allowed in there. For years I thought that my teasing him with a stuffed dog was the reason he buggered off but I suspect the real reason was that there weren’t any girl cats around and he had wanderlust.

If I’d found out later on that a neighbour had found him and paid for his vet visit, I might have begged Mom or Dad to have a word and see about getting him back but I think my folks would have said no. And, unless we’re talking about an expensive pedigree cat I saved up to buy and had as my companion for several years before the loss, the answer would probably still be no. By this point, the new family will have bonded with the cat and it wouldn’t feel right to barge in and ask for it back, even if I offered to pay back the money for the vet bills.

You are a politician. The people who elected you demand that you take a position on abortion which is against your personal convictions. Do you?

Sexual assault scandal hits religion TV – again

June 28, 2012

The Trinity Broadcasting Network is under fire at the moment on account of a lawsuit going on. It involves a granddaughter of the network’s founders. Carra Crouch, age 19, is claiming she was raped by a 30 year male employee when she was thirteen and that TBN executives hushed it up rather than report it to the authorities.

“Jan (Crouch) became furious and began screaming at Ms. Crouch, a thirteen year old girl, and began telling her ‘it is your fault,’” according to the suit.

Carra Crouch then told John Casoria, TBN’s in-house counsel and her second cousin; he became agitated and told her that he didn’t believe her, it says. “He elaborated by stating he further believed she was already sexually active ‘so it did not really matter’ and he ‘believed she may have propositioned him,’ ” the suit alleges.

Unfortunately, that’s often the way rape reports are received. A fine upstanding man.. he must have been coerced by that Lolita!

“Ms. Crouch, a thirteen year old girl, had not been sexually active and was absolutely devastated about what happened and about how John and Jan responded to her.”

Both Jan Crouch and John Casoria are ordained ministers, and as such, are legally required to report suspected child abuse to authorities under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, the suit says. No report was made, and TBN “deliberately covered up the incident to protect Trinity Broadcasting from negative publicity,” it alleges.

I knew about this station, I think, but being Canadian and without cable or satellite (by choice), no surprise it never occurred to me to look into news about them. Apparently I missed a money scandal back in February. Brittany Koper, Carra’s sister, accused the TBN board of diverting millions of dollars away from their charity work. TBN, on the other hand, filed suit against Koper and her husband the month before, accusing them of siphoning the money while they were on TBN’s board. That suit was dismissed in January, unsettled.

Redemption Strategies Inc. — a corporation formed by Loe on Oct. 17 — sued the Koperts on Oct. 18, charging embezzlement, fraud, intentional misrepresentation and other misdeeds. At the time, Davert & Loe were still representing Koper, MacLeod said.

“It’s kind of a sordid affair,” said MacLeod, Koper’s attorney. “Many layers. But at the heart is the wrongful termination. She was terminated for insider whistleblowing.”

MacLeod is getting to be something of an old hand at suing TBN: He represented Brian Dugger, a gay broadcast engineer who sued Trinity in 2009, claiming he was harassed and discriminated against by employees of the world’s largest Christian broadcasting empire. Paul Crouch Jr. allegedly taunted Dugger with pornography, said TBN was no place for fairies and declared that ‘Brian has a man-gina!’ ”


A bit more hunting got me a story from 2004 involving President and founder, Paul Crouch, and an accusation that he had a brief affair with a man by the name of Lonnie Ford back in 1996. That article reminds readers of other televangelist scandals, namely Jim Bakker (affair with and attempted pay off of a former Playboy playmate employed by him) and Jimmy Swaggart (admitted porn and prostitute addict).

The Crouches also have a singular line in defensiveness when it comes to criticism of the station – criticism that has spanned many lawsuits and included accusations from rival Christian organisations that TBN is spreading blasphemy.

“God, we proclaim death to anything or anyone that will lift a hand against this network and this ministry that belongs to you, God,” Crouch said in 1997.

A few years earlier, he reacted even more vehemently to critics he characterised as “heresy hunters.” “To hell with you!” he ranted during a praise-a-thon in 1991. “Quit blocking God’s bridges or God’s going to shoot you – if I don’t.”

The Crouches are positively tame compared with Benny Hinn, the network’s star performer, who has preached that Adam was a superman who flew to the moon and expressed his belief that one day the dead will be raised by watching TBN from inside their coffins.

I admit to a bit of a cackle over that one. I’ve heard of Benny Hinn somehow..or am I thinking of Benny Hill? Who’s funnier?

Anyway, this whole group seems like one I should do more research on. I’m really wondering what else I might have missed.

A Question of Atheist Scruples – round 7

June 19, 2012

I really enjoy these thought exercises. Here’s today’s selection.

Your mate has been unfaithful. Do you leave him/her?

Monogamy is a rarity in the animal world. Even in the more specific realm of primates (which we are) there are only a few species that mate that way. In the even more narrow realm of human cultural history, there are ample examples of societies that organized mating and relationships along other, equally satisfying lines. Monogamy, as practiced now, may be more a product of a culture that treated women as property (“Do you take this woman?”) and it was expected that any children produced by her would be from the seed of the man she married. Property often transferred down the father’s line of the family. That’s why adultery has been considered a sin. Temptation, too. Even the briefest thought of entertaining another person is supposedly enough to send a soul to hell.

If two people have agreed that their relationship, however long they expect to have it, will be a monogamous one, then discovering one person has strayed… well, it’s a severe breach of trust to say the least. Some reaction may have to do with how long the relationship has lasted. If it’s only been a couple weeks and the guy is already plowing another field, then I made a mistake in picking him. I’d feel like an idiot but be glad I hadn’t really gotten too serious with him. If it’s been months and I’ve really cared about that person and discover secret trysts have been going on, it’d be a lot more devastating. But, if my interest in that person has been waning as well, I think I’d use the betrayal as the open door out of what clearly isn’t a relationship to be in anymore.

If it was someone I felt like I couldn’t live without, maybe I’d put up with the nights he didn’t come home, so long as there were still some nights he did.. but I can’t actually see myself wanting to be in that situation either. If I didn’t sign up for an “open” relationship, I don’t want to find out by accident that I’ve been in one all along.

During a discussion with a seatmate on a plane, you promise to send a relevant magazine article. Do you actually do it.?

The version of game I take these questions from came from the mid 1980s before the internet made information gathering so much easier. In the days of mailing, maybe I would have taken their address and gotten around to sending it eventually, but probably not. I tend to procrastinate with that kind of thing. With email, it’s a lot easier. I probably wouldn’t even have to send the article; I could just pass along what site I found it on and he or she could get it at the airport upon landing.

A neighbour’s kid finds $30 on your driveway and gives it to you. No one claims it. Do you give the money to the kid?

I’d be totally surprised the kid gave me the money in the first place. What a morally sound kid. If I found $30 on someone’s driveway, I don’t know if I’d go to the door and deliver it. Depends on whether or not anyone saw me pick it up, I suppose. If I later heard my neighbour griping over the loss of cash, I’d probably recall what I picked up and pass it over, though. Money is one of those weird things. If I found a whole wallet with ID and cash in, I’d deliver the wallet to the authorities untouched but bills flying around apparently ownerless? I refer the courts to the case of Finders vs. Keepers… I’d let the kid keep the money.

Last question for readers.

You reserve seats at a local theatre by phone (without paying). A few hours before curtain, you decide not to go. Do you bother to cancel?

A Question of Atheist Scruples – round 6

June 12, 2012

Time for another round of Q and A:

You are a high school principal. Will you hire a gay teacher?

I will hire the most qualified applicant. If that applicant turns out to be gay, I wouldn’t see that as an issue, although maybe some parents might. Maybe my boss would, too. I’d still want to support my pick for the job, though. In this day and age, this is something that shouldn’t even be mattering anymore.

A friend has forgotten about a book he loaned you. You want the book and can’t get another copy. Do you keep it?

Maybe I’d feel tempted to remind said friend about the book but if friend hasn’t made mention of it in the weeks or months or perhaps years (it happens) then maybe the book means far less to that person and won’t care if it’s not returned. I have stuff I’d loan out and probably forget about. Other books do have more sentimental value and wouldn’t be offered up on loan, no matter how much a friend may want to read it.

You come across your mate’s personal address book. Do you glance through it?

I just did. Aside from one page, it’s blank. All that’s in it is family and likely added by his mom or sister, judging by the tidy penmanship. If I needed an address, I’d just ask him anyway. I don’t poke around on his Blackberry to see who or what he’s got listed in there, either. We don’t have many friends in common and I’m not one to pry.

Fourth for readers:

You lose an expensive gold watch and are reimbursed by your insurance company. Shortly afterward you find the watch. Do you return the money?


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