Thursday, December 23, 2010

Season's Greetings!

‎"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

--Jacob Marley, from "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens

Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 6, 2010

Spirit of Christmas from an Atheist Point of View

Ironic how Christmas is thought of by many as a Christian holiday (and that it's under "attack" by those godless pagans), even though most of the traditions associated with the holiday (gift giving, Santa Claus, decorated trees, etc.) are pre-Christian and pagan in origin. More ironic still, is that celebrating birthdays and decorating with trees is considered idolatry in some Christian traditions--i.e. celebrating Jesus' birthday with trees is breaking a commandment. The fact of the matter is that Christmas as a holiday is "Christian" in name only (it really has always been just a mixed up jumble of cultural influences).

Similarly the "holiest" of "Christian" holidays- Easter, is named after the ancient Germanic goddess of fertility, Eostre-- and to this day the symbols associated with Easter (Spring, eggs, rabbits) are all about fertility. Again, a mishmash of cultural traditions.

Halloween's wearing of masks and costumes and emphasis on the dead is also pagan in origin.

I don't believe in deities or spirits, Christian or otherwise, although I find the old traditions associated with Christmas and Halloween enjoyable and fun. I even enjoy much of the old traditional Christmas music, even with all it's Jesus-y themes in it.

The "Christian" aspect of the holidays doesn't weigh in any more or less to me than any of the ancient pagan stuff does, although the many of the entitlement claims by many modern Christians really does get up my ass sometimes.

--Anson Jew

Friday, October 8, 2010

What Happened to the Middle Class?

Elizabeth Warren:

Another good talk:

Robert Reich:
An interview on NPR.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Who are the Teabaggers?

You always hear the teabaggers or "9/12ers" talking about the "original intent" of the constitution. This country already had that argument. It was called The Civil War. If you look at the Confederate Constitution, it would be a teabagger's paradise: almost identical to the US Constitution, except it removed the part about "promoting the general welfare" and replaced it with "invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God." It also diminished federal powers relative to state's rights, and restricted the vote only to native born citizens. In spirit, the teabaggers are really just a bunch of Confederate sympathizing sore losers.

Here's a real Confederate flag waving nut at a tea party:

I would never try to characterize all tea partiers as extreme as the people in the above video, but if you look at a lot of what the tea party movement espouses (or even just the right in general) it's reallly not much different from what the Confederacy stood for.

Here's a funny video of Sam Seder interviewing some people at Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally that took place on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech:

-Anson Jew

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Last Whitewasher

In August of 2009, a story surfaced about a Microsoft advertisement in which a photo of businesspeople of various ethnicities and genders was altered. The head of a black man was replaced with that of a white man. Microsoft later apologized for the incident.

* * * *

In August of 2009, a story came to light about Larry Whitten, a hotel owner in Taos, New Mexico, who ordered his Hispanic employees to Anglicize their first names. The name Marcos, for example, had to be changed to Mark. The employees were also forbidden from speaking Spanish in his presence.

* * * *

In June of 2010, a Prescott, Arizona principal decided to lighten the skin of black and hispanic students depicted on a mural at Miller Valley Elementary School following prodding by Prescott city councilman Steve Blair. Blair stated on his radio show that showing people of color on a mural in Prescott constituted some kind of "agenda." Some of the residents of Prescott drove by and screamed racial slurs at the mural. Fortunately the decision was reversed following an outpouring of criticism from people across the country.

* * * *

Even before filming began of his live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan was informed of the racial insensitivity of casting Caucasian actors for all the lead roles, even though the source material--a popular American anime style cartoon-- clearly takes place in a fictional version of ancient Asia (everyone eats with chopsticks, the writing, costumes and architecture are authentically ancient Asian in style). Unfortunately, Shyamalan failed to rethink his his whitewashed casting (other than making one of the antagonists in the story an Indian when the originally cast white actor dropped out). On July 1, 2010, Shyamalan's The Last Airbender opened in theaters across the US. In Los Angeles and Seattle people of all ethnic backgrounds came out to protest Shyamalan's poor casting decisions.

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This type of thing follows a long tradition of whitewashed casting in Hollywood in which roles that were clearly most appropriate for actors of color are given to white actors or are changed to accommodate white actors. John Wayne played Genghis Khan in 1956. Brian Dennehy played Kublai Khan in 2007. Mickey Rourke will play Genghis Khan in John Millius' upcoming film. No live action film depiction of Charlie Chan has ever featured an Asian actor in the many incarnations of the role throughout it's history. The same is true of Fu Manchu. The list for this type of thing goes on throughout film history and lasts even to this day.

Ask any actor of color or his or her agent: go for a role written for a white actor in a substantial role and more often than not, the result will be "No, thanks" but there's a role for you--"third tourist from the left."

It is sad, that in Los Angeles, a town that is about 10.4% Asian, less than 2% of roles go to Asians. In fact, Hollywood's record with people of color is pretty dismal. Paramount, for example, the studio making Airbender, is giving 89% of it's lead roles in the next decade to white actors, 94% of which will be males.

Now it's not hard to find people who will sympathize with you about the lack of good roles in Hollywood for Asians and other people of color.

The problem is, it's not true. There are plenty of good roles for people of color in this town.

Hollywood has just given those roles to white people.

Please don't allow your money to support these kind of bigoted hiring practices.

More on this topic:

My brother Benton makes some very solid arguments on this subject.

And if none of this is enough to stop you from seeing the movie, watch this.

--Anson Jew

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Intelligent Design Throughout History

This is one of my favorite talks by Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium. It's from the 2006 Beyond Belief Conference, an annual gathering of scientists and philosophers and academics talking about matters of secular humanism and science and society.

In this funny, entertaining talk, Tyson talks about how Intelligent Design has been invoked throughout history--even by some of the greatest minds in science: Sir Isaac Newton, Ptolomy...and how that kind of thinking has historically had consequences for mankind's progress.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Robert Frank: Economic Naturalism

Darwinism as it applies to economics. But probably not in the way you'd think.