Archive for November, 2009

30
Nov
09

Balanced, Not Superstitous

I’m sure this post will earn some guffaws and maybe some blow-back from my loyal readers who happen to be atheists or semi-militant agnostics, but here goes…

My belief in God, and Jesus for that matter, is not a sign of any of the following:

  • Fear of death
  • Insecurity
  • Superstition
  • Desire to belong to a group
  • An aching emptiness inside that I wanted to fill
  • Delusion
  • Idiocy
  • Lack of scientific awareness
  • Immaturity

In fact, I see a lot of maturity and balance in my worldview. And that is because I deny neither the scientific nor the spiritual. I’m not saying I have all the answers in life, but what I do have is a lot of internal security and well-being.

I don’t understand when entirely secular folks insist that to be fully mature, I must deny my belief in, and search for, spiritual meaning. Just as I don’t understand religious people who insist on ignoring science and reason.

Humans have sought spiritual discernment for a long time, and for quite a number of centuries (in fact, a couple millennia at least), it hasn’t been about explaining why it rains or how the sun moves across the sky or anything like that. It’s been about a deeper kind of meaning. People who dismiss religion as an artifact of ignorant ancient goat herders is doing a disservice to goat herders (many of whom, I am sure, had deeper thoughts than screwing their herd-stock and picking at their asses) and a disservice to spiritual seekers.

Yes, there was a time when religion was all about explaining worldly things. But as people have advanced, so has the depth and maturity of spiritual seeking. Sure, there are plenty of idiots in the world who follow religion and religious leaders blindly and skim only the surface of religious precepts, but most people seem to prefer following someone than thinking for themselves.

Funny thing is, spiritual seeking, while it cannot follow the scientific method, does still follow the same general progression as science. That is, as humans have advanced, so has the study. Science was once a pretty pathetically ignorant, simplistic and sketchy affair, just like religion.

The problem is that the more we figure out about the world, the more full of ourselves and our intelligence we become, and the more we think we don’t need God. We are not slowly disproving God, but simply pushing him aside unnecessarily.

If more believers would be mature about their spiritual seeking, and more non-believers would stop ridiculing those who are trying to find spiritual meaning, maybe religion wouldn’t be the mess it has become these days. Now, both sides, secular and religious, essentially call the other side a bunch of heretics, which solves nothing.

I can already see one retort coming.

But science is rational. Science doesn’t lead to oppression or wars!

Wrong.

Maybe it doesn’t have the same track record right now, but religion had a hell of a head start. People can blindly follow a scientific theory or finding as much as a biblical principle. Science and research can be twisted, skewed and misrepresented.

Hmmmm. Just like religion.

The Nazis based their genocidal campaign in World War II based on “science” that showed Aryans were superior. Noted intellects justified slavery by “proving” that Blacks weren’t as evolved or even as human as Whites. Medical science can downplay the horrors of abortion, even as it can also be used to overplay them. Research shows us that it isn’t cost-effective or “useful” to pay for certain types of medical screening or healthcare, and so insurance companies and hospital executives can oppress us to sickness or even death. Religious groups can call homosexuals deviant because they can point to a  lack of scientific proof that same-sex desires are inherited rather than learned or chosen. Need I go on?

Science is on pace to do everything that religion did and more. It can bring us together in understanding and truth and good guidance. And it can tear us apart.

Science is not the be-all and end-all of human experience, and it never will be. Nor shall religion or any kind of spiritual pursuit. I maintain that both are entirely necessary to being mature humans.

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29
Nov
09

Food for Thought

While I continue to procrastinate on getting the next installment of my novel out (once again, it’s been more than two weeks and I didn’t even notice…I’m bad lately on the novel writing), here is a nice little nugget of sage advice I ran across today to hold you over until tomorrow night:

Knowledge is realizing that the street is one-way, wisdom is looking both directions anyway.

26
Nov
09

Breast Intentions

So, I try to tread carefully these days on healthcare topics, given that I write on medical and healthcare topics. But as my work in this area is currently limited to pharmaceutical research and pharma business dealings, I think that saying a bit about the recent changes in recommendations to breast cancer screening are pretty safe. Because, I’m not writing about insurance payers and health coverage.

In short, I think the recommendations are questionable at best. In case you’ve missed the news, here’s a rundown:

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) made recommendations on Nov. 16, 2009 that routine screening mammograms start at age 50 (rather than age 40, which had been the standard) and be done less frequently (every 2 years, not annually as before). Also, the task force advised that physicians no longer teach women how to do breast self-examinations.

I realize that these recommendations are, in large part, based on scientific research. For example, it seems that later mammograms may not really increase rates of mortality or morbidity, and there is concern that when women have suspicious (but ultimately benign) findings, they undergo undue stress as a result.

None of this changes my opinion that the recommendations are totally wrongheaded.

The fact is that even with the chance of finding suspicious things that turn out to be harmless, we should aggressively go for prevention and early detection, particularly with diseases that are high on the list of killers. Breast cancer is a major killer of women. And even though breast self-exams may not be the most reliable thing in the world, it boggles my mind that someone would advise against teaching women to be more aware of their body and to check it.

Furthermore, the recommendations don’t really take into account things like higher rates of breast cancer in certain groups (like black women) and earlier onset of the disease in those same groups.

But, you may say, these are simply guidelines.

I would say, don’t be naive.

You see, guidelines have a nasty habit of becoming policy with regard to insurance companies. And if insurance companies use these guidelines to change their policies and save money (and they likely will…or most of them, anyway), that means physicians will not be doing the exams for many women, unless those women can pay out of their own pocket. They couldn’t afford to absorb the cost to their offices.

And let’s face it. If you support these guidelines as a way to reduce waste and spending, without considering the lives saved in the process, I would ask you: How would you feel if your wife, or sister, or mother, were to die of breast cancer because it wasn’t caught early.

Because some guidelines said it wasn’t worth it.

22
Nov
09

Deacon’s DVDs: Spoiling It For You

If you haven’t seen the 2008 remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and for some reason you still want to, leave now. I’m going to ruin this sonofabitch for you if you continue.

Of course, it deserves to be ruined. Spoiling the ending is all too necessary for the good of movie-renting humankind, because this movie had no ending.

OK, technically, it has an ending. But it’s such a jaw-droppingly stupid one. Such a “what the hell just happened?” one. A complete, “That’s it?” kind of experience.

We spend a couple hours seeing special effects that are, to be honest, pretty damn good.

We see Keanu Reeves in his usual, expressionless mode, but it works perfect here, because he’s an alien in a body constructed to be human…so he is not used to being a human or feeling like a human. So, Keanu’s typical acting weakness, his lack of ability to emote, is actually a strength here.

Jennifer Connelly does a fantastic job of emoting just perfectly and being expressive in all the right ways.

John Cleese is fantastic in his cameo.

Kathy Bates isn’t given nearly enough to do with her role, but she does it well.

But what we end up with is a movie about a collection of alien races who send Klaatu (played by Reeves) to Earth to make the final decision about us. And that decision is…

…remember, I’m going to spoil this for you…

…last chance…

…I mean it…

OK, you’re still here. He is here to push the button on the human race. To save Earth, the aliens figure humans have to go, so that the planet can heal and other life can go on. The notion is that only a tiny fraction of planets in the universe can support complex life, and so they are not willing to spare one species…that is, us…and lose the planet. Essentially, we are seen as a cancer that needs to be removed so that the patient, the Earth, can live.

Actually, as far as concepts go, that ain’t bad. It’s a decent update for our time, since the original version of the film dealt with aliens being mad that we were pursuing nuclear science, and were too immature for it. That’s probably true, but it would be  a little late for them to complain about that now, so the environmental theme works better now.

Predictably, after making it clear that he thinks we’re unredeemable as a species, and must be wiped out, he decides after starting a nanotech “plague of high tech locusts” end of the world that hey, because one little kid cries and his stepmom hugs him, we must be OK. So then the rush to reverse Armageddon so that we won’t be wiped out, with some queer comment about, “It will come at a cost. You will have to change” or something like that.

And what changes?

Klaatu turns off our power.

Yeah. That’s the end of the movie. Klaatu returns to his vessel, turns of the nanotech bug swarm, and shuts off every powered device in the world, including wristwatches.

And leaves without a single word.

That’s right. Everything’s shut off (including, presumably, life support machines for patients, heat in places where people will die of hypothermia without it, and so on).

Nobody tells the world why. Nobody says, “OK, this is your last chance. Start from scratch.” Nobody tells the people of the world one damn word about why the power was shut off and what step we need to take…or goals we need to meet…to prevent a return to destroy us.

All that work with the special effects, some pretty good acting overall, an interesting take on the robot Gort this time around, a story that had promise for maybe most of the first 2/3 or 3/4 of the affair…all to get a contrived “I understand you humans now” change of personality from Klaatu, and a head-scratching ending that just left me pissed off more than any other crappy movie ending I’ve ever seen.

I mean, I said to my computer screen: “What kind of useless shitting ending is that?”

I never talk to the screen when I watch a movie.

The 1951 movie shouldn’t have been remade to begin with. But if you’re going to remake it, can’t you at least give us an ending that makes at least some small fraction of sense?

(If there are typos galore in this, I’m not surprised. It’s almost 2 a.m. and I’m headed to bed, and I have no plans to go back and edit this.)

19
Nov
09

(Snack) Chip On My Shoulder

So, I’m in kind of an uninspired period right now. No spiritual topics are really eating at me right now. My novel will continue again soon but I need another day or two on that to sort out what needs to happen next. I haven’t been able to coax the Hummus Idol out of the transdimensional chasm he’s hidden himself in to keep from posting. Miz Pink is off trying to have Jon Stewart’s baby (while still nursing one).

So, I’ve kind of decided that I’m in an “anything goes” mode right now. Just whatever the hell comes to mind, and however long or short it needs to be, even if it’s just a Twitter-sized kind of post.

And right now, I’m just feeling irritated about Cheetos.

Yeah, the orange cheesy snack food.

Today, I noticed in the store bags of BBQ Cheddar Cheetos.

Look, I’m a snack food fan. I love new flavors of chips and such. Exotic ones, even. But certain things do not seem, to me, to go together.

BBQ flavor in a Cheetos bag is one of them. Also, pizza or buffalo wing flavors in Doritos. And I remember some test mystery flavor Doritos had recently that clearly was intended to be a Big Mac flavor or something like it. For pity’s sake, they’re tortilla chips. At least pretend to be following some kind of latino food theme when you pick the flavors.

While I love creativity, there is limited room on the shelves. If you want to clog them up, at least bring back the damn Cajun Spice Ruffles that I’ve been missing for 15 years or more since they were discontinued.

(And no, I don’t have the slightest idea who the woman in the photo is, nor where the photo came from originally. But it does make the mind reel, doesn’t it?)

16
Nov
09

Random Babble

I’ll have more installments of the novel coming up soon. May write them short to keep a flow going, so that maybe the rule will be only one or two scenes per installment, instead of three or four like I’ve been shooting for a lot of times.

Also have some announcements of a few additions/changes around here to make in the coming days. Nothing drastic; more of an addition to the mix.

Now, with that out of the way, do I have anything to say today? Yeah. I do, and it’s about how the behavior and attitudes of churches (both in their leadership and within their congregations) is so often used these days to decry how broken Christianity is. How messed up it is. How it must not be true, because if it were, then why is there so much hypocrisy? Why don’t people all agree? Why have things strayed so far from the kind of stuff that Jesus focused on (lifting up the poor, healing people, helping people, teaching people and exposing hypocrites)?

I would ask: Why reject Christianity and say it’s bogus, simply because the institutions have messed things up in many cases?

I mean, did Jesus say, “Set up institutions with lots of rules and make people go through hoops?”

No.

In fact, the early apostolic church leaders didn’t do that either. Yes, they had to talk about rules and doctrine, and they had to stamp out heresy that went counter to Jesus’ gospel, but they weren’t trying to make some rigid institution. The early church was small groups, meeting and praying and talking. When there were problems and divisions, people came together and sometimes called in church leaders to sort things out.

The epistles weren’t meant in most cases to set down ironclad rules but to keep things from breaking down into petty divisions and squabbling and incorrect (or even blasephemous) teachings.

Where we got rigidity, and lots of bureaucracy, and tons of rules and levels of access to the sources of knowledge was largely when Christianity turned into Rome’s state religion. When an emperor turned it from Christians churches forming a body of Christ, into A CHURCH, of which each person was going to be a cog. It went from something organic to being a machine.

And machines are known for being soulless.

If people spent more time meditating on the gospels and on Jesus’ words, and seeing how they tie into the Old Testament and how they simplify and elevate those “old time” laws and rules into something more precious and God-connecting, we’d be better off. Instead, we have many church leaders who want to make, spout and enforce rules, and many churchgoers who are all too happy to just nod and say, “OK.”

Jesus railed about following the letter of the law instead of the spirit of it. And yet we go and bind outselves right up in it again. And bind ourselves tighter and tighter. The epistles have a lot to offer in terms of guidance and clarification, but it is to Jesus whom we should look first, as Christians.

Christianity is alive and well, in those who will study the Word and try to be open to the Holy spirit. Among those who simply want to lead or to be led, there is a sickness, but that is a sickness of people, NOT of the gospel of Christ.

12
Nov
09

The Idiocy of Hannity by Miz Pink

I sooooo want to have Jon Stewart’s baby, and this video is just one more reason why:

Click here

10
Nov
09

Cleansed by Fire, Part 62

For the previous installment of this story, click here.

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 10, Strange Days

“Is Stavin a total void? Wiped trail? No twittering about him anywhere?” Kylie asked the man in her office, who was serving as liaison between her and the other Secular Genesis cell leaders this week.

Kylie“None, Domis. Not via linkpad nor Grid messaging nor any of the usual drop-points,” the man responded. “And he missed three critical salon appointments with Paradigm, Witta and Thomas. Three hours ago, per protocols, we shoutcalled his priv-trans and got nothing but vapor. We can’t even confirm if he’s alive, so either his priv-trans was cripped, he’s in custody under heavy shielding or he’s off-planet.”

“Are you linked up with the other cell leaders, and what are their opinions?” They were all trying to keep their locations and identities secure, and no one even wanted a virtual salon meeting right now since Stavin vanished. The man before her, whose name she didn’t know and didn’t want to know, and the sliptrans-equipped hindbrain attached to his cervical spine, were all the contact she was likely to have with her comrades for days, and she was the ranking coordinator now with Stavin gone.

“All of them but Coulter. Consensus of all but Gloria is that the Vatican has Stavin in custody and is interrogating him.”

“Harass Coulter’s devices and tell him that if he isn’t linked up with you in one minute, I will assume he is behind Stavin’s disappearance and have him killed on sight.”

Kylie waited, drumming her bony fingers on her hard-desk, counting off the seconds in her head.

“Coulter is online, Domis,” the man told her as she silently reached the 37-second mark. “He dissents with the consensus.”

“As well he should. And good fortune that Gloria is thinking clearly, too, right now. No one should be thinking that the Vatican has Stavin. After the hellpod attack, they would be broad-shrilling the news to the entire Catholic Union if they had one of us. Especially on the heels of the ‘miraculous’ survival of the Black Pope and naming of a new Red Pope soon.”

“The others wish to know what the minority opinion is, then.”

“Maree Deschaine almost certainly found him,” Kylie said. She was uncertain if Gloria and Coulter agreed with that, but they would line up behind her out of reflex. “I can understand the Vatican being too drone-witted to realize how resourceful she is, but there’s no excuse for us to be. Stavin underestimated her, too. At his peril, it would seem.”

“How does that explain the situation with his priv-trans?” the man asked.

“She snared him and burned him to ash like he did to her cousins, or she took him off-planet so she could well and truly enjoy her time with him without interruption. It isn’t beyond conception that she has access to a private craft dressed up to get past Aerial Control, or some deal with a third-tier Ishmaeli or Isaacian to give her orbital passage out of the Union.”

“Consensus is willing to cede that your theory is sound, but not a lock. What is the coordinator’s course, then?”

“Stavin was right that we can terrorize the Catholic Union even without being able to arm our remaining hellpods,” Kylie responded. “Take one of them to a a storage facility that looks like a hundred or two other storage facilities in heavily populated areas. Make sure its the kind of place that is distinct enough that they’ll know its somewhere in the Union, but with few enough identifiers that they’ll go crazy trying to find it.”

“Make some demands and attach them to a vid of our staged hellpod placement,” she continued. “Sell off one of our hellpods and buy eight or nine small thermos. If we don’t get what we want in a week or two, set off three of those thermonuclears in the middle of a storage area like the one we vid and tell them we have a dozen more hellpods where that one came from.”

After a few minutes of letting that sink in with the other cell leaders, the man came back with the majority response, “Dramatic, certainly, but hitting them with fissionables isn’t going to look like a hellpod attack.”

“Hellpods set to explode from a ground position don’t have the same character as those launched from orbit, and all the tests done with ground detonation were done off-Earth. No one will know what to expect, and it will still kill thousands, maybe tens of thousands. Enough of the populace will think the Vatican is covering up and that the radiation is something they released as a cover to keep the public from panicking about more hellpods. There’s enough fear brewing already to fuel paranoia aplenty.”

After a few moments: “Consensus agreement.”

“One more thing,” Kylie added. “I had a priv-trans put in Tobin Deschaine when he was still a templar, and I want it trilled so that we can get him in for some questions. I just wish he would have put one in Maree. Maree is a cracked reactor right now and she needs to be dealt with. He may know where to find her and, besides, I’m tired of my grandson’s ‘retirement.’ It’s time for Tobin to get back to work with Secular Genesis.”

05
Nov
09

A Blow for Marriage Equality

I had been watching for the outcome of the referendum to repeal the Maine state legislature’s enactment of a law which would allow gays and lesbians to marry, with all the rights that go along with heterosexual marriage (aside from federal tax breaks), and with a provision that made it clear that no clergyperson could be compelled to perform a same-sex marriage.

I was pleased when the legislature made that law, because it ensured equal rights for consenting adults on the marriage field, but also protected the religion beliefs of churches, most of which, I am guessing, would not want to perform such ceremonies. Not that they need to, of course. There’s always the Unitarian-Universalist church, a justice of the peace, or a priest or reverend who’s probably in line with your beliefs who doesn’t mind going to a different beat than the other folks in his or her denomination.

I was not pleased when voters overturned that law.

But what really got me was the comment from someone my wife is acquainted with, who tried to make like she didn’t really feel one way or the other about it (though she’s a pretty fundamental Christian, and she’s pretty clearly against it), but voted against it because the legislature acted against the will of the people.

This floors me on two levels.

First, legislatures often make laws without much consulting the people. This is nothing new, and does make for laws people hate sometimes. But it would be rather inefficient to consult the masses on everything beforehand. Besides, the legislature snuck in some nasty snack and beverage taxes recently too, and no one got up on their high horses with religious diatribes and “slippery slope” theories to get that overturned.

Second, how could this woman have voted for the will of the people, when the will of the people cannot be known until after the vote? She claims she was upholding the will of her fellow Mainers, but when she went into the voting booth, she had no clue which way the tide was running. She is simply too cowardly to admit that she voted for her will, which was to marginalize a sizable group of productive, consenting adults.

I call total bullshit on this. Have some cajones and just admit that you can’t stand the idea, and be done with it. Don’t make up stupid lies.

03
Nov
09

Back Soon

Sorry for the few days off here. I do plan more commentary and more installments of the novel, but have had several intersecting deadlines. Plus, I took Little Girl Blue out for several hours today to enjoy the thrill (for a child) that is 100 tokens and endless lemonade refills at Chuck E. Cheese.

Should be back in action by Thursday at the latest.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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Jeff Bouley

To find out more about me professionally, click here. To find out more about me generally, click here.

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You can reach Deacon Blue/Jeff Bouley at deaconbluemail@gmail.com.

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