Old news: God’s memoir faces censorship

January 10, 2012

David Javerbaum, the former executive producer for a program I’ve never watched, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, wrote a satirical memoir of God’s life and has run into a bit of trouble selling it. I know. Inconceivable. The Last Testament: a Memoir by God is the title. New York Magazine interviewed Javerbaum back in November and I’ll quote a few responses he had to their questions:

The Last Testament will not be on sale at Walmart, Target, or any of the other “big box” chains. My editor at Simon & Schuster and Jon Karp, the publisher, were surprised, but I suspected that if they wouldn’t stock America: The Book, they wouldn’t stock this one, either. Although these stores seem to have no qualms about selling piles of God’s two previous works.

I’m not sure what the definition of blasphemy is, but I know I’m guilty of it. There’s nothing in there that isn’t a joke or not based on something that’s true. God ran the manuscript by Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, and he worked with them before handing it in to make sure all three felt equally offended.

I did spend a fair amount of prep time reading the Old and New Testaments and the Koran. As someone not of that faith, I found the Koran’s style to be very repetitive. The New Testament is pretty good reading, and the main character is a very likable figure. And as a Jew, having grown up with the Old Testament — that’s just comedy gold.

Toronto’s paper, The Star, ran a piece about this book not long after, which is the article I’d run across first.

The satirical tome, written in God’s voice, is structured as chapter and verse. It presents a God that is by turns ironic, petulant, omniscient, playful, vengeful, boastful, bumbling, omnipotent and, more often than not, recklessly hilarious.

“The biggest joke is just that God would bother to do this,” says Javerbaum. “That God would use his last testament to make really cheap, ad hominem jokes about people like Andy Dick and Kate Gosselin.”

He also remarks on the fact that Simon & Schuster UK flat-out refused to publish it.

“The entire country of England is not carrying the book because Simon & Shuster UK refuses to publish it on the grounds that it is too inflammatory,” says Javerbaum. “I’m trying to make a bigger stink of this. It’s a stink that I think ought to be made.”

Argue on the grounds of age-appropriate content to keep certain books out of the hands of young children (the original bible comes to mind here) but when it comes to grown-ups pitching a hissy: nobody’s going to make you read it. Be offended because it exists if you want but remember that other people who recognize a joke when they see one should be allowed to enjoy it at leisure.

Javerbaum readily admits that he didn’t pick on Islam very much while writing. There was a doctored photo he’d planned to put in but agreed to omit it when his publisher asked. He’d planned to mock some architecture in what sounds like a very funny way – funny to anyone not Muslim, that is.

The section on Islam (the “Koranicles”) points out, more than once, the absence of any “Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad” in the book. God also indemnifies Simon & Schuster from all possible “outrage, fatwa, or all-out jihad.” But compared to what is written elsewhere about Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, this section seemed relatively safe.

“That’s partly because I don’t want to get killed,” says Javerbaum. “And it’s partly because I have to write about things that my projected audience will know about. My projected audience doesn’t know much about Islam, they really don’t.”

Javerbaum has at least read the Koran. As quoted above, he found it “repetitive.”

It’s a pity it’s a religion that can’t be mocked as vocally as the rest but the believers who take it seriously are willing to dole out serious retribution for any slight or slur, sometimes to the point of attacking those who have little or no connection to the original offender. It does make it difficult for anyone who wants to point out what seems ludicrous or behind the times.

It’s a pity stores would try to keep the book out of the hands of the people, and it’s weird to me that S&S UK would try to avoid publishing it completely fearing some future criticism – lots of which they are getting now anyway. At least the lot of us now live in a culture steeped in the notion of a global community. This ultimately renders such tactics moot. Those who want it can have it. Now that I know the book exists, I want to have it. At least, I want my library to have it, which is why I’ve put in a request. They don’t have to buy everything people ask for, but they don’t tend to turn requests down very often. Not sure when I’ll have it in my eager little hands but hopefully I’ll get the thing read and feel like writing about it. I know I’ve been bad about not reporting on the books getting read over here. I’d promise to do better on this end but I wouldn’t want to set up too many high expectations…


I may have to see Green Lantern after all

June 16, 2011

I don’t know why I go to comic-themed movies when I never read the comics in the first place but action is action and they tend to be fun. Now, I’m intrigued on a completely different level, though; I found an article by a known satirist (known to his fans, at least. Not me, personally) where he complains about Green Lantern’s pledge getting rewritten for the movie to take God out of it. First I had to look up the pledge; like I said, I don’t read comics. Assuming Scribd has it right:

In Brightest Day
In Blackest Night
No Evil Shall Escape My Sight
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware My Power
Green Lantern’s Light

I don’t see God in there. Do you? Maybe that’s the satire waving? I’ve always had trouble with satire. You can’t see the joke when you don’t have any idea what they’re mocking. In this case I knew without his help that he’s mocking arguments regarding the addition of “Under God” into America’s Pledge of Allegiance and requests made lately to pull it the hell out again. Now I’ll quote some of what Jef With One F wrote about this as a letter to DC Comics and Warner Brothers, claiming he was originally taught the GL pledge complete with God part:

I, for one, refuse to believe that the Central Power Battery on the Lantern Corps’ homeworld of Oa that each Lantern uses to recharge their power rings while reciting the oath can possibly be powered by anything other than the will of God. And how else would a man be able to overcome the being of ultimate fear, Parallax? Through simple humanity and willpower? I doubt that.

Green Lantern’s power ring makes the imagination of the wearer into reality in the form of solid light constructs. Such a power cannot remain in the hands of humanity without acknowledging the rule of God. Failing to do so within the Lantern’s solemn oath risks our children forgetting God’s place in comic books.

It’s a good thing that he notes in the beginning about being a satirist or else I might have been completely taken in by this loony spiel. I can see people truly believing that last line is an argument worth making, however. After all, the library has manga bibles kicking around, and child-friendly comic bible stories, Bibleman videos

a Christian superhero, if that really needed to be explained, but it helps to see that this man is the inspiration for the maker of this freakish looking cake:

Devour it before it devours your soul...

and they likely purchased some of Zonderkidz’ revamped Christian Berenstain Bears books when those were published, too. There’s always interest in Christian themed entertainment.

IE) Kentucky recently got a crapload of tax rebates for their proposed Noah’s Ark Park. Private, unnamed investors are picking up the rest of the millions necessary to make this monstrosity float.

The latest project would will include a replica of the Tower of Babel, a first century village, theatres, lecture halls, retail shops, restaurants, a petting zoo and live animal shows featuring giraffes and elephants.

Zovath said he expects groundbreaking in August.

Rob Hunden, a consultant who reviewed the proposal for the Tourism Development and Finance Authority, said the project is expected to draw nearly 1.4 million visitors a year.

Gov. Steve Beshear has said he favours tax incentives for the ark park that is projected to create 600 to 700 full-time jobs and have an economic impact of more than US$250 million in its first year of operation.

The mission of the project, Zovath said, is to lend credence to the biblical account of a catastrophic flood and to dispel doubts that Noah could have fit two of every kind of animal in an ark.

Could they have found a better waste of money? Sure. They could have bought everyone in the country a copy of the Leather Gold and Silver Monopoly (retail $7570) or a Crystal Ergoripado Vaccuum ($18993) or anything else on this list instead of throwing money into that park idea, but that is where all this money’s going. Never mind that it will cater to ignorance and lack scientific credibility; it’s necessary job creation, dammit. We’re smack dab in the middle of an economic downturn, dontcha know! Gawd!

Yeah, so anyway, I might throw a little money toward DC Comics and Warner Brothers this weekend. Every once in a while a person craves extraordinary heroics. Especially when the future looks a little bleak…

Edit: 2:48PM Of course, reviews are coming in now that seem to indicate this is the latest turd to be delivered to weekend movie goers so it’s probably just as well I keep my $10 for another season of downloadable IT Crowd

It’s drafty in here (humour and offense)

March 24, 2011

I recently posted about a kid who was using her t-shirt at school to promote her faith and got in trouble over it. She got in trouble, not me. Just clarifying that.

In the National Post at the end of December last year, there was an article titled The death of humour and I’d fully intended to check out the rest of their “Year in Ideas” series when I saw it but then forgot. Big surprise there.

How are these things related, you might wonder? Personally, her shirt reminded me of a joke: How do you make holy water? You boil the hell out of it. Wearing a shirt that says, “Jesus, he scares the HELL out of you” should be equally funny (if dumb jokes are your thing) but it wasn’t. The school opted to call foul on the use of HELL on school property and a news story resulted.

Not long after the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, Twitter was a-fluttering with tweets on the topic, some of which were entirely tasteless. Gilbert Gottfried got a tsunami of bad press after his series of tweets and that cost him his job with Alfac Inc. He’s since apologized.

It makes a person wonder, though: has crass taken the place of comedy, or are we just becoming too thin skinned and perceiving offense where none was meant? Onto the NP article:

In the war between literalism and irony, the first casualty is jokes.

The trend is global, and Canada is not the worst affected. Just as the American obesity epidemic is sometimes described as 10 years ahead of Canada’s, so does Britain — where the tourist attraction of Speaker’s Corner is the only place you are truly allowed to speak freely — offer a glimpse of what might be in store.

One of its most celebrated and blackest comics, Rowan Atkinson (who, for the literalists out there, is not actually black) advocates against laws that aim to ban speech that could be considered offensive to certain groups, and which are lethal to comedy.

This puts in mind the blasphemy laws Ireland set up. Michael Nugent, of Atheist Ireland said at the time,

“We believe in the golden rule: that we have a right to be treated justly, and that we have a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised society, people have a right to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.”

I’d say the same extends to comedy but I don’t think that translates into a free pass to be an asshole. Joan Rivers defended Gottfried, her argument being that comedy helps people deal with tragedy. While I agree with her to some extent, it’s so easy to go too far with it. I think Gottfried did, for which he Gottfired.

Anyone who’d mock a tragedy as it happens deserves a fair amount of derision, especially when it’s done so publicly. I think there’s still a need for some sense of personal responsibility in terms of what we say and give to the world. I think it’s even more important now given how far across the world an idea can get, and how fast it happens. Gottfried showed no compassion at all. He wasn’t mocking an ideology or belief system or drawing Mohammad. He was cracking jokes at the expense of people dying through no fault of their own. That’s nothing anyone should laugh at or applaud. What kind of human beings are we if we do that?

Typical ones, I suppose. Satire like it is, even The Onion gets it:

According to Perkins, the exceedingly rare occurrence of the human race simultaneously feeling a moment of tenderness and selfless concern for others only has a handful of modern precedents: Similar behavior occurred for 22 minutes following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, for six minutes following the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, and for slightly under four seconds after news first broke of the trapped Chilean miners last year.

Experts calculated that in order for everyone on Earth to act like a good person for 30 minutes, 1,000,000 human beings would have to die in a volcanic eruption or flood. For an hour of worldwide charity and altruism to take place, statistics suggested that an entire ethnic group would have to be genocidally murdered in a single afternoon on live television.

In order for people to be decent and caring for an entire day, there reportedly would have to be only 12 survivors left on the planet, though by the next morning they would likely begin arguing, slandering, and killing each other for resources.

I’d really hate for them to be right…

Quotable Onion (and because everyone else is doing it)

December 18, 2009

I usually don’t enjoy satire as I am often not in on the joke, but for this recent article about perplexed Sumerians and God’s creation, I’m glad I can laugh with everyone else:

“The Sumerian people must have found God’s making of heaven and earth in the middle of their well-established society to be more of an annoyance than anything else,” said Paul Helund, ancient history professor at Cornell University. “If what the pictographs indicate are true, His loud voice interrupted their ancient prayer rituals for an entire week.”

According to the cuneiform tablets, Sumerians found God’s most puzzling act to be the creation from dust of the first two human beings.

“These two people made in his image do not know how to communicate, lack skills in both mathematics and farming, and have the intellectual capacity of an infant,” one Sumerian philosopher wrote. “They must be the creation of a complete idiot.”

ChristWire writer wants to buy a Canadian?

November 12, 2009

First, quoting from Amber in all her (hopefully) satirical glory. First there’s a bit of a tirade about Mexicans and then:

Thinking about this, one thing popped into my mind. Why can’t I own a Canadian?

Think about it. Racism is ugly and trusting one’s neighbors is Christlike, so we should also let people from ALL the lesser Americas to come visit us to work as well. Canada is a country full of snow-bound savages who are good at chopping wood and light industrial tasks.

Pause for LOLS.

Reminds me of those hilarious questions the tourist industry shares about ignorant Americans (and others) about this great land that’s really big.

But I digress.

TBear offers a sensible comment to counteract all the asshattery:

It may be a joke, but how do you feel when you read “jokes” told at the expense of American values and stereotypes or about the enslavement of a fellow human being. Nobody anywhere should use slavery as a joke. It is a disgusting part of North America past that sane minded individuals are happy has ended. Using slavery as a punch line undermines severe oppression slaves endured.

Additionally, I am a Canadian, but I have lived in many countries. What this article promotes is found around the world. Canada is a thriving country with an excellent economy and an amazing democratic system. Yet these “jokes” are pervasive on the internet and in other forms of media, and they restrict Canada from gaining the respect it deserves.

Jokes may be intended to be light hearted, but when you are the subject you are never happy about it. I acknowledge that this article must be written in jest, but I still reserve my right to be grossly offended at the content and the intended or unintended propagation of negative stereotypes.

I agree.

I don’t think ignorance and stupidity need to be tolerated, not this kind anyway. People need to be taught, not humoured. It’s beyond inappropriate to encourage this kind of thinking, even in jest.

Quotable Redhead

November 1, 2009

I know I should be original, but hell. I read this and thought this was fantastic. Why provide a mediocre post when I can pass this on:

# More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread users.
# Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score below average on standardized tests.
# In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever, and influenza ravaged whole nations.
# More than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of eating bread.
# Bread is made from a substance called “dough.” It has been proven that as little as one pound of dough can be used to suffocate a mouse. The average American eats more bread than that in one month!

You know Jean Valjean was a bread stealer too…

I’m a bread user. I’m addicted to bread. These stats are truly terrifying…

I thought we had until 2012…

September 20, 2009

P.Z. Myers is spreading the word. Tomorrow is apparently it for us. It’s something to do with sine waves and jubilee eras and crazy ass math.

The rapture approaches! Will your pets be okay when you’re gone to those pearly heavenly gates? Be sure, and click one of these links now! No time to waste!

Britain’s Post Rapture Pet Care

America’s Eternal Earthbound Pets