"Weird Al" Yankovic - Word Crimes

You may remember that about a year ago Robin Thicke's song "Blurred Lines" created a storm of controversy when many critics complained that it trivialized sexual consent, thereby implicitly (if not explicitly) promoting rape culture ("I know you want it," "I hate these blurred lines," "I'll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two," etc.). Thicke and company defended themselves by citing other parts of their song ("Just let me liberate you," "That man is not your maker," etc.) as endorsements of feminist empowerment and liberation. Make of that what you will.

What no one should be able to disagree about, however, is that 'Weird Al' Yankovic's parody of the song is a comedic tour-de-force and a poignant wake-up call to self-respect in the way we express ourselves (kind of how Stephen Fry did a while back with this incredibly powerful essay):

And just remember,


Slavoj Žižek - On Ideology

One of the more interesting lessons Hegel's dialectical method has contributed to our understanding of ideas is that ideas carry within them the seeds of their own internal contradictions, and that out of this tension of thesis and antithesis grows a continuous (if punctuated) process of conflicts and resolutions that is repeated indefinitely. According to Hegel, the force driving this process, which he saw as teleological, was Geist (mind, spirit). Marx, for his part, adopted Hegel's dialectical method, but took away the teleological and idealist elements, and argued that the driving force is a combination of material and historical conditions.

While Marxist historical analysis has been discredited in many circles, dialectical materialism is still nevertheless a powerful tool to understand historical, political, cultural and social phenomena, and to make explicit the negative space of shared assumptions we tend to take for granted by virtue of the material and cultural conditions that surround us and to which we unwittingly contribute.

In the following fascinating and humorous talk, philosopher Slavoj Žižek performs an exercise in understanding the dialectics of the unsaid, showing in the process how certain ideological presuppositions, especially capitalistic and consumerist ones, lead us to perpetuate the logic of the current hegemony, which ultimately demands that we treat our own selves, and therefore everyone else (though without realizing it), as commodities to be used and discarded. This commodification is not an accident or unforeseen consequence, but a necessary requirement of the internal logic of the prevailing hegemony. If you've ever read Plato's myth of the cave, this is what our modern cave looks like:

And so on, and so on. :)

Sean Carroll vs William Lane Craig - God and Cosmology

Does the universe need an explanation for its existence, or can it be understood as a self-containing system that does not require a transcendent explanation? Naturalists hold that, whatever the cause of the known universe, it is perfectly sensible to try to understand the nature of the universe through scientific models that take nature to be a kind of self-enclosed system: one without need for reference to any transcendent reality beyond the universe itself. Theists, on the other hand, hold that the universe, as a kind of contingent being, requires an explanation for its existence outside of itself.

Although cosmologists don't really include God in their investigatory models (as that would be a violation of the principle of methodological naturalism necessary to conduct scientific research), religious believers and theologians like to raise the question of whether the cosmological evidence we have about the universe points to the plausibility of the existence of some god. Representing this school of thought, philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig argues in the following debate that the scientific evidence we have about the nature and origin of the universe makes it more probable that God exists than not. Embodying an attitude of epistemological humility, on the other hand, Physicist Sean Carroll argues that Craig paints an unrealistic, narrow and self-serving view of how scientific investigation works, and that theism is not a serious contender on these issues, since it is so loosely and vaguely defined that it fails to play by the rules of science: it does not make any specific or meaningful predictions which could be scientifically tested for corroboration or refutation. And as an unfalsifiable view (since it is consistent with any and all possible observations, no matter how disparate), Carroll argues that theism is not a legitimate candidate for serious intellectual consideration, and that it contributes nothing to cosmological inquiry.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on the Media's Bullshit Coverage of Malaysian Flight 370

The recent, and now tragic, disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370, somehow turned into a journalistic embarrassment last week when media outlets like CNN and Fox News, which were supposed to report on actual developments regarding the whereabouts of the plane, turned instead, without a single shred of evidence, to baseless, ideological and political speculation; reading of anonymous tweets; invitations to bullshit experts (including a 'psychic') to ponder the possibility of absolutely ridiculous scenarios, such as black holes, Bermuda-triangle-type phenomena, and alien invasions. These so-called "breaking news" also included, predictably, batshit crazy and paranoid conspiracy theories ranging from government attempts to distract the public from Benghazi or Obamacare (wtf?), to, more predictably from Fox, Muslim Jihadist terrorist plots, etc.

Everything, in other words, except actual news or hard facts... but thankfully Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are shining the spotlight on this display of journalistic mediocrity:

And of course, all of this mental diarrhea wouldn't be complete without a psychic:

Oy vey... this is what passes for journalism nowadays in our society...

Edward Snowden - Here's How We Take Back the Internet

Whatever our feelings about Edward Snowden as a person are, and what his actions say about him (hero, traitor, whistleblower, responsible citizen, opportunist, guy who couldn't figure out how to break up with his girlfriend, cosmopolitan visionary, etc.), the fact is that he started a discussion concerning important issues that are worth exploring, thinking and talking about.

And there's no denying that even the most extreme views have something valuable to say about this issue, even when they're too narrow and single-minded to encompass the full range of complexity and subtleties regarding questions concerning national security, privacy rights, constitutional principles, democracy, free speech, power dynamics, political manipulation, government and corporate abuses of power, due process, etc. So, in an effort to get this conversation going, TED invited Snowden to share some of his views, thoughts and knowledge on the activities conducted by the NSA and what they mean for the future of democracy, national security and the relationship between the government and the people.

And, for some balance, TED also invited a representative from the NSA to respond:

Lucretius - De Rerum Natura - Death Is Nothing to Us

According to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, one of the greatest impediments to human flourishing is religious superstition. He thought that the idea of an afterlife is a pernicious tool wielded by those in power in order to manipulate, control, frighten and subdue the masses; not to mention the fact that religious faith requires the rejection of your critical thinking skills and an objective understanding of reality.

Epicurus' materialist ontology (his catalog of the kinds of things that exist) explicitly rejected the existence of supernatural and nonphysical entities. Accordingly, he found the idea of a disembodied afterlife to be pure nonsense, a contradiction in terms. To him, the mind is an aspect of life, rooted in the biology and the physics of the body: when the body dies, so does the mind.

You may think this means that death must be bad for you, since on this view death means nonexistence. But Epicurus thought such a conclusion is irrational: how can death be bad for you when there is no longer a "you" to be affected by death? You did not suffer before you came into existence, and to Epicurus (as interpreted by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius in the following reading by Charlton Griffin), the time before your birth presents you with a mirror image of what the time after your death will mean for you: absolute nothingness, and how can you possibly be afraid of nothing?

Why would you be afraid of death? Greater men than you have died with dignity before. Besides, if you're already wasting your life as it is (and you most likely are wasting your life...), it seems inconsistent to be afraid of losing something that you're already letting go to waste, no?

A Message from Your Kids' Teachers: You Suck!

Somehow we've gotten embedded in our collective mind the idea that educating our children is something that teachers do. I would actually want to claim that besides teaching academic subjects that foster our kids' intellectual capacities, teachers should also instill in them civic and social virtues that will help with their emotional, social and moral development. But of course, that is something that we can realistically expect of teachers only if they are given the necessary resources, but if we overload them with ever-increasing requirements and class sizes while consigning them to live in virtual poverty, we can hardly hold them responsible for the stunted moral fiber kids display nowadays.

Apart from all of that, however, we also should not forget that education begins at home, and that parents don't get to abdicate their responsibility just because their official title isn't "teacher." If your kids suck, there's a good chance that's because, as a parent, you suck too :p

Fox News' Sexist Remarks on Hillary Clinton's Age

We all know that since Republican presidential candidates have an uncanny ability to get caught in embarrassing scandals and to trip over themselves left and right, Fox News will do whatever it can to try to discredit Hillary Clinton, their most feared opponent, before the next election. They exaggerated the whole Benghazi thing way out of proportion, and they dragged it out way longer than the evidence actually allowed, and since that couldn't work anymore, they have predictably turned to the desperate and misogynistic tactics we all knew they would eventually resort to, 'wondering' if maybe she's too old to run the country. Of course, they have never brought up the question of men's advancing age as a requisite or condition to be able to perform their professional functions and obligations: John McCain, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and even their demi-god Ronald Reagan are/were all older than Hillary...

Now, I'm no fan of Hillary. I think she has sold out to corporate, Wall Street and banking interests, and has probably lost sight of some of the most important liberal ideals and principles she ought to stand up and fight for. I would much rather see Elizabeth Warren run for president on the Democratic side. But whatever reservations one may have with Hillary, none of them ought to have anything to do with the fact that she's a woman, and we certainly should not subject her to standards that we don't equally expect from every other candidate, despite their race, sex shape, color, etc.

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

And of course, instead of backing down when it's so clear the intentions here are misogynistic, Bill O'Reilly just doubles down and pretends not to be a chauvinist pig, demonstrating in the process what a chauvinist pig he really is...

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

Thanks, Colbert!

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Why The Cosmos Shouldn't Make You Feel Small

As you probably know, Carl Sagan's famous documentary series Cosmos is getting what I hope will be an impressive update/extension this year. Obviously, Sagan won't be narrating the documentary, so astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was actually a sort of protégé of Sagan's, has taken over the baton.

You already know how awesome he is. Have a listen to him discussing how science inspired him and how it can inspire all of us, some of the things the film Gravity got wrong in terms of the science, why Plato got demoted from its former planet status, some open mysteries in our scientific understanding, the importance of science education for innovation, how to think of ourselves with relationship to the cosmos and how he briefly toyed with the idea of becoming an exotic dancer. Yeah, you read that right :)

Conservatives to Poor, Hungry People: Fuck You!

Sometimes I wonder if this is all just some twisted dream, of a society run by psychopathic, corrupt, greedy and heartless corporate overlords who finance Fox News and the political campaigns of conservative underlings whose sole job is to drop their pants to their ankles, bend over, and take it with a smile, all while reciting their heads-we-win/tails-you-lose catch-22 mantras and headache-inducing Orwellian doublespeak against the poor, minorities, the disenfranchised in general, and those currently unemployed (most likely because they lost their jobs when the corporate overlords threw the world's economy into disarray after they gambled with their investors' money and then got bailed out by the same people who lost their jobs because of them): if the poor use their food stamps to buy cheap food (because they can't afford anything else), then their subsequent obesity and health problems are their own fault; and if those who can afford a little more buy healthier and pesticide-free food, they're free-riding moochers exploiting the system... I try not to be too partisan on this blog (though I constantly fail at that), but there's no other way to put it: these people are assholes.

Oh, but it gets worse...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Embed this blog on your site