Today’s Found on Facebook – the princess effect

June 28, 2016

Lots of articles about it now but I’ll use the Time one I saw first:

A new study from Brigham Young University found that engaging with Disney princess culture could make young children more susceptible to gender stereotypes.

The small study, by family-life professor Sarah M. Coyne, looked at how much 198 preschoolers interacted with Disney princesses—through movies, toys and merchandise—and then assessed their behavior through reports from parents and teachers and a task in which the children were asked to rank their favorite toys among stereotypical “girl” options such as dolls, stereotypical “boy” options such as tool sets and gender-neutral options such as puzzles.

Now, from The Mic, people are pissed over the stereotypical portrayal of Maui in the new Disney movie Moana:

While Disney’s upcoming animated film Moana — in which Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson voices the boisterous Polynesian demigod Maui, who helps guide the young protagonist Moana to completing her coming-of-age quest — has been heralded for its diversity, it’s also now come under fire for what some people feel is a racist depiction of Polynesians.

Critics said Maui’s larger physique is misrepresentative to real Polynesian culture, and instead reinforces harmful stereotypes of Polynesians being obese.

Point being, it’s not just the ladies, ladies and gents. Think of Gaston. Think of Arial’s dad. Giant men, intended to be thought of as heroic and brave, if not the actual heroes of the films. Think of Belle’s dad. Think of Jasmine’s dad. Short, squat, prone to flights of fancy and silly behaviour. Adored by their only daughters, but hard to imagine they were ever sensible enough to get the bills paid or run a country.

Back to the princess study –

The researches found that 96% of girls and 87% of boys had viewed Disney princess media, and more than 61% of girls played with princess toys at least once a week, compared to 4% of boys. For both boys and girls, engagement with Disney princesses was associated with more female gender-stereotypical behavior a year later.

A New York Times blogger goes into more detail. Part of the concern is the future effect of princess mentality affecting girls in what could be considered negative ways, versus boys benefiting from a push toward traits and abilities long thought to be best suited to women. It’s useful for a boy to know how to care for a baby or cook meals or clean house, as it were.

The overall takeaway from this study has more to do with encouraging parents and guardians to be less passive about what kids are interested in. If a girl likes Belle, perhaps emphasize the intelligence and love of learning she has and the bravery and family love she shows. She’s not just a pretty face with a pretty dress on.

Which reminds me of this picture:

hotdog princess

Maybe the family is a fan of Adventure Time?


Swiss tunnel opening ceremony deemed “satanic”: features guy dressed as goat

June 13, 2016

You should be listening to No Such Thing as a Fish and watching No Such Such Thing as the News, the QI Elves’ foray into television. I just learned a very interesting fact in a recent episode. Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland ran a very unique opening ceremony.

I don’t know what’s going on here.

Breitbart attempts to explain:

The ceremony was intended to represent various aspects of Swiss culture. But, men in masks, others in costumes made of long brown grass, weird angels descending from the ceiling, even a man in a goat mask that others seem to be worshiping are all said by some to be from the pits of hell…

The part that has most galvanized the worldwide web is when a goat man emerges and appears to be worshiped by the dancers, some dressed in grass costumes, others wearing horrifying masks.

It is all a mishmash that is odd and confusing to any casual observer, modern dance that is likely not the taste of the men who built the tunnel, some of whom lost their lives…

Google “Demons of the Alps” and you will see the most troubling part of the show, the men in grass consumes and others in scary masks and even the goat man, are part of Swiss Christmas tradition.

Every year on the December 6th Feast of St. Nicholas of Bari (a Catholic saint who provided the dowries of poor girls so they could get married rather than end up in prostitution and upon whom Santa Claus is based), St. Nicholas wanders around town giving out gifts and money. He is followed by Krampus (Demons of the Alps) who try to scare the children, not unlike what happens at Halloween.

So if you come across anyone claiming it’s demonic, it’s not. It’s just a different culture showing off how they celebrate notable things. Weird as hell, but think about what other cultures must be thinking of yours around Turducken time…

Atheist scruples 2014 – hey “old man”

October 5, 2014

This was in my list of search terms for some random reason.

should i permit my 12 yr. old granddaughter to call me “old man” instead of grandpa?

I see many possibly answers here and they all depend on how much people want words to matter.

If this kid wants to call him “old man”, perhaps he should start calling her Princess Fartface or something equally stupid. She’ll either find it hilarious, or she’ll start getting annoyed.

This can be used as a jumping off point to a lesson in respect, remind her that “old man” isn’t a respectful way to address a grandparent, even when it’s true.

The other option is to just be cool and roll with it. Maybe it’s just a phase and she’ll grow out of it. If not, I guess you also have to ask yourself if it’s truly something to get bothered over. Maybe it’s meant as a gesture of respect, albeit one that might not make a bunch of sense as the old man in the scenario, but so it goes.

We really enjoy watching Community around here and in many of the commentaries the actors, writers and directors talk about Chevy Chase, who played Pierce on the show, and his consistent lack of understanding elements of the plot, jokes, and random lines he’d be set to deliver. Pierce was also a character frequently confused and out of touch with everyone. Chevy left the show due to artistic differences (to be polite about it).

“[Chevy is] a befuddled old man, but he’s also the guy who calls you to his trailer and shakes the script in the air and says: ‘I’m not a befuddled old man! I’m sexy! I could be the star of this show! I’m not gay. You’re writing me as if I’m gay,’ ” says Harmon, noting that he’d use Chase’s outbursts as story fodder. “I’d say to him, ‘Do you understand that what you’re saying is funny and it makes an interesting character?’ He would kind of blink and stare at me and go, ‘Whatever, I just don’t think it’s funny.’ “

And Pierce’s lack of tact and understanding would be a running joke between characters, which probably served more to annoy Chase rather than pacify him, too. But the “old white man says” Twitter feed is still pretty funny.

So, to finish up, times change fast and etiquette is having a hard time keeping up. Sayings and types of behaviour we find funny these days may baffle, alarm, or irritate our elders in ways that seem baffling, alarming or irritating to the one trying to make the joke.


The most important question ever asked: How long was Jesus’ hair?

September 1, 2014

I wave my hands up in the air
How long was Jesus’ hair?
I wave my hands up in the air
and wonder just who would care!

How long was Jesus’ hair?
Could he braid it down his back?
How long was Jesus’ hair?
Was it blond or was it black?

I wave my hands up in the air
How long was Jesus’ hair…

I could go on, but I’m laughing too much as it is. Does it look like I have a future as a rapper? I think so. Maybe the Man can throw some music onto that and we can record it for release on this blog. I’ll ask him. Oh dear, that’s some funny.. I throw my hands up.. Oh my. I’d want video, but we’re not equipped here.

Until then, watch this one (I can’t find a better sound quality version):

(The library does not have the film version of Hair. Damn it all to Hades!)

Anywho, this article:

The apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians offers an insightful commentary into the Jewish attitude of men’s hair. It notes, “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him?” Paul’s argument is that men were not to be known for hair that looked like that of women. While this does not indicate the length of Jesus’ hair, it does reveal that He likely had hair shorter than Jewish females of the time. Though some exceptions are found in the Bible of men with long hair (such as Samson and John the Baptist), most Jewish men kept shorter hair to distinguish themselves from women as well as for practical purposes.

Samson’s story is one I can say I’m slightly familiar with. His hair gave him strength for some reason. God magic, essentially. He falls in love with Delilah and all would have been well but the leader of the Philistines wanted to know his secret and insisted Delilah find out so they could defeat him. They bribed her with what sounds, even now, like a hell of a lot of money. Samson outwits all of them repeatedly but then at Judges 16:15,

Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.

Damn, chick! Three different nights you set the man up to be attacked by Philistines in the bedroom and you’re pissed off because he got the better of you every time? Alas, this love bribery works on him and he confesses:

17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”

So, she tells the Philistines this and they slice his braids off with a razor, defeat him, and pay her all they agreed to give.


At that point, I don’t know who we’re supposed to root for in this story, or for what outcome specifically.

Samson get tortured, his eyes get cut out, and the Philistines put him in prison sentenced to hard labour. They promptly forget about his magic hair power and let the stuff grow, however. They continue to worship and rally around their god, Dagon, and one day call for Samson the loser to be put on display to entertain the priests and three thousand other people at the temple.

28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

All’s well that ends dead? Revenge is a dish best served flattened and crushed? It’s the bible. What more do you expect?

Moving forward to the new testament and John the Baptist — a writer at calling himself WisdomOfSolomon notes that John was probably a Nazerite like Samson and therefore would have had long hair at the time. Details out of Luke seem to suggest that was his culture and lifestyle based on the verses indicating what he would and wouldn’t drink or eat.

Unrelated to the hair thing, but a good example of what makes bible translation so hard to do let alone get “right”:

John the Baptist’s diet has been the centre of much discussion. For many years it was traditional to interpret locust as referring to not the insect, but rather the seed pods of the carob tree. The two words are very similar, but most scholars today feel this passage is referring to the insects. Locusts are mentioned 22 other times in the Bible and all other mentions are quite clearly referring to the insect. Locusts are still commonly eaten in Arabia. Eaten either raw or roasted they are quite nutritious and a source of many vitamins. While most insects were considered unclean under Mosaic law, Leviticus 11:22 specifically states that locusts are permitted. Albright and Mann believe the attempt to portray John the Baptist as eating seed pods was concern for having such a revered figure eating insects and also a belief that a true ascetic should be completely vegetarian.[5] What is meant by honey is also disputed. While bee honey was a common food in the area at the time, Jones believes that it refers to the tree gum from that tamarisk tree, a tasteless but nutritious liquid, rather than the honey made by bees.[

Short of inventing a time machine to go back and find out if any of these people ever lived at all, the debate will rage on in the circles of those who care. Not me, overmuch, but I’m a fan of fact as much as any other skeptic. Aim to be as accurate as possible, even in terms of biblical storytelling.

So much confusion is sown by misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Aim to get it right. Do whatever research into the history of those ancient peoples might be required in order to do that. Don’t just quote the text and smile because you remembered the verse verbatim. Aim to understand the culture and history that led up to that verse getting written down anywhere at all.

Even an atheist can respect that level of commitment to a faith. I certainly do.

Atheist Scruples 2014: women and boobs

August 31, 2014

A couple different issues trigger this one. First, should women be allowed to go topless like men can? I think the answer should be yes but that doesn’t mean I’ll want to be one of them. I’m pro-choice in many ways.

In Saskatoon last August a woman got charged for going topless on the sandbars by the river.

Danielle Forget was tanning at the sand bar near Spadina Crescent Thursday when she decided to go topless. The move offended at least one other beach comber, and the police showed up at the beach.

“It’s a public place, a kid and a family friendly place. We don’t need that here,” said Jenelyn Ong, who called the police about Forget’s topless tanning.

“My nephew is 13, going into high school. He’s never been exposed to anything like that,” she said.

Oh, you sweet, ignorant woman. Of course he has. And if he hasn’t, he may as well see it now so he’s not surprised later. Women look like that with their tops off, kid.. Use it as a learning experience and be the cool aunt, not the crochety old bag he’ll complain about spending a summer with later on in life.

John Gormley is a local talk radio host I don’t listen to, but I found a facebook page where this news story was getting discussed. Most of the comments leaned toward, “They’re boobs; get over it.” It’s natural. It’s not unseemly. It’s not wrong. It’s natural.

The strange UFO cult called the Raelians recently picketed in Montreal for the right of women to go topless.

There were about two dozen women at the protest, along with several shirtless men showing support by wearing bras.

Onlookers taking cellphone pictures of the topless women outnumbered protesters.

Go Topless Day was founded in 2007 by Rael, the spiritual leader of the Raelians, and Sunday’s event was the second Go Topless rally in Montreal.

Clearly I don’t keep up with topless news on a regular basis. Never heard of this.

Also recently, also Montreal: Read the rest of this entry »

Young adult author: robots help youth think about ethics

August 11, 2014

I’d say Jack Heath is correct to say so. I’ve never heard of him but his new book Replica sounds like something I’d enjoy reading. He doesn’t just promote his book in the piece, though:

The meaningful distinctions between human and android are fading. But while science class won’t prepare us for the resulting moral questions, English class can. Particularly if students study books like Lain Tanner’s Ice Breaker, a new book about a boatload of mechanical refugees hiding from the humans who wish to wipe them out. Or Brian Falkner’s ingenious thriller Brainjack, in which a self-aware computer virus uses neuro-headsets to infect human brains.

I haven’t heard of either of those. I’m trying to think of robot related books I read in my youth but at the moment all I can think of are movies based on stories. A.I. also known as Supertoys Last all Summer Long by Brian Aldiss and I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. And Kryten, from Red Dwarf. The series was eventually serialized into four books by the creators, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, all of which I own.

Kryten and Dave discuss Silicon Heaven: The afterlife of all electronic appliances when they die. The concept is used to keep robots, many of which are stronger and more intelligent than their masters, from rebelling. A belief chip is installed in robots to ensure that they will believe they will go to Silicon Heaven after a life of servitude to humans.

There’s some ethics right there. Is it fair to create a myth just to keep the underclass happy and accepting of their eventual fate? In this particular episode Kryten has learned that an improved android replacement is coming and he’s to be shut down. Lister helps him understand how unfair that is. Kryten succeeds in wrecking the replacement by telling it there is no silicon heaven. It’s Kryten’s first big lie as he still believes the place exists and won’t be swayed by Lister’s logic.

The next season, Lister gives Kryten some pointers on how to become a better liar and thus more like a human, something Kryten craves. There’s also an episode in the series where Kryten gets exactly what he wishes for – a human body – and has to deal with how that feels and changes who he is, and not for the better. Some of the show winds up pretty dated by this point but the writing was top notch and the topics explored by the characters could be pretty deep sometimes. I still pull out the first six in the series to watch on a regular basis.

Back to Heath:

The point of fiction is to wrap a philosophical problem in a story – to breathe life into it with quirky characters and spooky settings and, ideally, flash grenades. The point is not just to make the reader understand, but the make them feel. And just like with the robots, it’s feeling that makes you worth something.

And if you can empathize with the characters in a story and feel what they’re feeling, that same connectedness can also be applied toward real people and probably should be done more thoughtfully by everyone. Apathy may be a little easier than empathy and bullying doesn’t require the same commitments that caring does. But if you can cry because your favourite character met a bad end in the book, there’s probably hope for you.

First off, don’t equate gay marriage with tsunamis

August 11, 2014

I’ve never heard of John Stonestreet but he has an article up on to advertise his new book titled Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage.

Like a tsunami, so-called gay marriage has swept aside just about every obstacle in its path, creating a very different cultural landscape than even seemed possible a few decades ago—or even a few years ago! According to David Von Drehle in Time magazine, the swift embrace of same-sex marriage is nothing short of a “seismic shift” of American culture, one “as rapid and unpredictable as any turn in public opinion.”

And that, folks, might still be an understatement.

No, no… I think what that is is hyperbole: “the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech.” (via)

The Bolton Council of Mosques quoted some statistics from the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition for the tsunami that swept over the Indian ocean on Boxing day, 2004. I’ll pick out a few.

275,000 people were killed in fourteen countries across two continents, with the last two fatalities being swept out to sea in South Africa, more than twelve hours after the earthquake.

40,000 to 45,000 more women than men were killed in the tsunami.

141,000 houses were destroyed, which accounts for 47.9 percent of the total damage (BRR & World Bank, 2005)

A 1,200km section of the earth’s crust shifted beneath the Indian ocean and the earthquake released stored energy equivalent to over more than 23,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Until thousands of people lose their lives and the planet itself is irrevocably altered by the sheer power of two men or two women in love, you can’t really equate gay marriage with tsunamis or earthquakes.

Back to Stonestreet:

It was the eminent sociologist David Popenoe who said that no civilization ever survived after its family life deteriorated. But if you don’t believe him, listen to G.K. Chesterton, and I quote: “This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.”

Popenoe wrote a piece called “The Decline of Fatherhood” which appeared in the Wilson Quarterly. The Sept/Oct 1996 issue of Utne Reader picked it up, which is where I found it. He makes some good points about parenting and stability for children. There are stats galore around to illustrate how single mothers fare financially and how that affects everything in terms of the well being, education and futures of kids who are most likely living in poverty and aren’t expected to get out from under that in any easy way. It’s really long but worth the read.

In terms of G. K. Chesterton,

this was the man who wrote a book called The Everlasting Man, which led a young atheist named C.S. Lewis to become a Christian. This was the man who wrote a novel called The Napoleon of Notting Hill, which inspired Michael Collins to lead a movement for Irish Independence. This was the man who wrote an essay in the Illustrated London News that inspired Mohandas Gandhi to lead a movement to end British colonial rule in India.

Suffice it to say, he was instrumental in a lot of major changes in society as we know it. His quoted opinion doesn’t prove our civilization will definitely fall just because homosexuals want to marry each other, though. There are so many factors that keep a civilization prospering and so many factors with the potential to wipe it out. It’s very unlike that roadside bombs or Ebola, for example, give a damn who’s married with kids.

Back to Stonestreet:

Sean and I also look at the issue culturally. Same-sex marriage isn’t the start of the problem; it’s the fruit of a long-going sexual revolution.

The ground that has shifted is not just moral ground; it’s worldview ground. We’re not just seeing a moral slide toward more and more sexual immorality; we’ve undergone a complete shift in the way we understand the human person.

Gay marriage is a major change. No doubt about that. But watch out for the notion of moral and immoral behaviour. The more we learn about ourselves and other species on this planet, we soon learn that life-long monogamy is very rare everywhere. Morality is on a sliding scale depending on the culture and the practices of a society at any particular time. Slavery often gets brought up at this point; it’s been considered a moral right of people to own other people in America’s past and there are still places in the world thinking this way. It’s morally right in Uganda to kill gays. It’s morally right to stone and rape women in some countries. It all comes down to culture and all comes down to how people are willing to judge certain behaviours, often based on whatever holy writ or charasmatic leader currently holds sway.

Same-sex relationships can be found in parts of the animal kingdom as well. A National Geographic article goes into some detail about that and how same-sex bonding can be very beneficial within a group anyway, even though the pairing isn’t leading directly to offspring. Scientific American has also explored the issue.

So long as enough babies are born to offset the effects of same-sex pairs, it’s a non-issue, frankly. And many same sex couples want to and are willing to raise children. These children would be getting all the benefits of double income and home stability. They’d be getting the positive attention, love and education that will make them profitable members of society down the road.

I think I’ve gone on long enough. Any thoughts you wish to share?