Sunday, April 21, 2013

Exxon Hates Your Children

"We do not!" Exxon replies, "And we'll sue you for running an ad that says so."

Leave it to an oil company to give ecological activists a public relations coup.

Seems Exxon went and got it's collective corporate undies all wadded up over a satirical political advertisement an environmental group produced in response to an ugly tar sands oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas.

Veiled threats and spirited retorts are flying like chimpanzee poo in the primate house.  

Exxon might have folded on a bad hand, instead they went all in.  Now everyone has seen this hilarious 31 second spoof.  Oops.

Here's a link to the full-size YouTube. PS If anyone knows how to size YouTube embed html so it auto-sizes for this Blogger format feel free to steer me toward some instructions.  Thanks. 

With Regard To My 2013 Reading List

Reality has diverged from the plan...

I have (had?) a plan for what books I mean (meant?) to read in 2013.  I've been reading a lot more fiction instead of, or along with, the planned reading.

The Black Death by Phillip Zeigler

Modern Man in Search of a Soul by Carl Jung

Downtiming the Night Side by Jack Chalker

The Eye of the Monster by Andre Norton

Calculated Risks: How to Know When Numbers Deceive You by Gerd Gigerenzer 

To the Stars by Harry Harrison

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons

Days of War, Nights of Love: Crimethink For Beginners by Crimethink Workers Collective, Nadia C., Frederick Markatos Dixon and NietzsChe Guevara

Frank Herbert: The Works by Bob R Bogle

The Terror: A Novel by Dan Simmons

The Vanquished Gods: Science, Religion, and the Nature of Belief (Prometheus Lecture Series) by Richard H. Schlagel



Toxophilus by Roger Ascham

Planet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin 

Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate, by Rudolph Bultmann and Five Critics.  Edited by Hans Werner Bartsch and translated by Reginald H. Fuller.   

Bultmann and his peers were deep into a sophisticated and nuanced theology one does not encounter among our current surplus of evangelical apologists or the ascendant wing of Roman Catholics that seem intent on stealing the Religious Right's conservative credentials.  Fascinating stuff.


Time Tunnel by Murray Leinster 

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan

There is little in Zealot not already covered by White, Frederiksen, or even Ehrman, but Aslan has a very engaging story telling style so the The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth feels more accessible.   

Days of War, Nights of Love: Crimethink for Beginners 


The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

Fire in the Lake by Frances Fitzgerald

I regret waiting so long to read this fine history of one the most formative issues of my generation.  

So this is where the plot for "Fern Gully," "Dances With Wolves," and "Avatar" came from. 


The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James

Varieties is both a century-old time capsule and a valuable piece of timeless wisdom. The big questions are not new. 


Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer 

I enjoyed this as much as I did "Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved" by Matt Rossano. Can't believe this has been resting on my bookshelf for three years... 


Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved by Matt Rossano

This is a book I wish both William Lane Craig and Richard Dawkins would read. Religion need not be God-breathed or factual in order to have played an important role in human flourishing, evolution, and progress.  

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham

Before I read Meacham's carefully researched and finely detailed biography I was ambivalent about Jefferson - the author of the Declaration of Independence who bedded a female piece of property and who enslaved his children by her until his death. Thanks to Meacham I still hold that ambivalence, but with more and better reason.  


On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not by Robert A. Burton, MD

An area of deep interest to me is the nature of strongly held belief.  Understanding how we come to know we're right and that others are wrong speaks to some very human impulses.  It may also hold the key to moving beyond our current fixation with red state, blue state, conservative, progressive, abortion, gun control, religion, global warming, and other inflammatory topics playing out on the battle lines of the Culture War.

Robert A. Burton, MD came to my attention by way of Dr. Ginger Campbell's thoughtful Brain Science podcast.  He's been on twice. In Dr. Burton's most recent appearance he discussed his latest book, A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves

After listening to the show I chose to check out Burton's first book, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not, which Dr. Campbell reviewed in BSP #42.  It did not disappoint.  At once philosophical, scientific, well-written and entertaining, On Being Certain informs us (or reminds those who have been studying the topic recently) that most of our mental processes operate at an inaccessible subconscious level, that many of our decision are made before we are consciously aware of them, are then experienced as a "feeling of knowing," and then rationalized as needed.  That is a daunting and somewhat frightening notion; an important idea that calls for careful consideration.

When it comes to promoting a deeply human understanding of the New Testament there are few writers I like better than Elaine Pagels. In "Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation" she uses the Revelation of John, the last and most controversial book of the New Testament, as a starting point for an examination of the many other apocryphal revelations and apocalypses circulating in the pre-Nicene Church as the pious and the powerful wrestled with what it meant to be Christian, Catholic, and heretic. 

The Greatest Raid of All by C. E. Lucas Phillips


A common argument offered by Christian apologists is, "Why would the apostles and other early Christians have died for something they didn't believe in?"  In The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom, author Candida Moss, a skilled story teller and a thorough academic, has answered that question with great thoughtfulness and in deep detail.  While intended for a popular audience, The Myth of Persecution is rigorously methodical and carefully referenced.  Unlike like many other overly earnest volumes on such topics, it is also emotionally engaging in its presentation.  After carefully laying a historical foundation in the first five chapters, Moss builds an imposing edifice in the last three, explaining how the largely inaccurate myth of persecution has been put to poor use by the Church, Christians, and Western political leaders since the 4th century. The Myth of Persecution is as entertaining as it is erudite, as important as it is troubling.  The Myth of Persecution is an important book for anyone interested in history of Christianity.  If attempting to understand religion is your thing this book is worth your time.

The Qur'an: Arabic Text and English Translation, by M.H. Shakir (translator). I’ve been picking away at this mostly using the M.M. Pickthall translation on my iPhone.

UPDATE: Better yet, I am now using an iPhone app titled Listen The Holy Quran (Koran) - Arabic Recitation of All Suras and their English Translation by  Perhaps now I can make some progress in drive time...



I've long been a fan of the controversial 1988 film adaptation by Martin Scorsese, but I have only just now read Nikos Kazantzakis' 1953 novel.  I still prefer Scorcese's deft departure from the text, casting a 12 year old Juliette Caton as Satan; otherwise the novel offered no disappointments.  The Last Temptation of Christ is at once fine literature, subversive theology, pious heresy, beautiful art, and a page turner.  What a rush.  Amazing stuff.

Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss

The story is as old as I am and may be the grand-daddy of all generation ship stories. Many since have borrowed heavily from it. Great fun!


From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith, by L. Michael White

I enjoyed L. Michael White's "Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite" so this seemed a good bet. I was not disappointed. While there is some overlap between this and White's other book, they are complimentary rather than repetitive. If you're interested in pre-Nicene Christianity this book belongs in your library.  


A densely plotted story about a very alien world fully realized, but not my favorite Vinge. 

When's the last time you were actually scared by a ghost story? If you're ready to risk that dread enjoyment again it is my privilege to encourage you to sample the work of Soren Narnia. I first encountered The Complete Knifepoint Horror when I entered a Goodreads Giveaway drawing for a copy. The cover art alone is the stuff of nightmares. I didn't win, but every time I saw the image on the cover - something horrible recoiling from something even more horrible - I was drawn back to it. I did a little digging and learned that it's available in all the usual places in all the formats one expects these days. If you visit his website the author will even give you a copy, just so there is no rational reason not to come to where he is. Still, the best - or worst - way to encounter Soren Narnia's stories is to have them read to you. Me, I listen to Knifepoint Horror at night, in the dark, with my bedsheets pulled up to my chin, just the way I enjoyed such stories as a child. My fitful sleep, and my night terrors, have not been the same since. Soren Narnia has written many other stories, but first I must survive my exposure to this anthology. There is no turning back. These stories will leave little indelible burn marks on your soul like the afterimage that floats on your retina after you look at the sun a little too long. Your decision. 


Humans (Neanderthal Parallax #2) by