I wish I could say tat this is a parody, but it’s not. The folks behind the “Day of Purity” have released an unsettling video in which a creepy bear tells a kid “She may be cuddly, but look at me! I’m cuddly too!” to get him to say “no” to going in the house with his girlfriend.
Will the day ever come when these folks realize that preaching abstinence doesn’t work? How high do the rates of teen pregnancy have to get in the Bible Belt before folks figure this out?
Personally, I’m waiting for the inevitable: a newspaper runs a story involving Purity Bear being caught on videotape doing the nasty with PedoBear in some seedy Detroit motel bathroom.
This is actually the second time I’ve received a cease and desist demand in regards to a Web site that I run. And boy, is it a strange one.
So some of the readers of this blog may be aware that I run a Web site called Fine Tuned Mac, which is a Macintosh technical troubleshooting forum. It was born when C-Net bought the largest Mac forum site, MacFixIt, so that they could shut it down and direct traffic to their own rival Mac site.
Anyway, this evening, the following gem of an email appeared in my inbox, which I reproduce in all its glory for your entertainment:
Subject: finetunedmac.com – Notice of Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights of Rosetta Stone Ltd. [Case #70995]
Date: December 1, 2011 9:37:35 AM PST
To: Franklin Veaux
To whom it may concern:
This is to inform you that a website you manage, finetunedmac.com, has come to the attention of Rosetta Stone Ltd. (“Rosetta Stone”).
Rosetta Stone’s automated monitoring software continually monitors, collects and stores instances of unauthorized use, sales or other violations of Rosetta Stone’s intellectual property rights on the Internet. Our records indicate that your site, finetunedmac.com, has employed an advertising or sales campaign that may have incorporated Rosetta Stone products and/or trademarks or terms confusingly similar thereto.
In order to ensure your compliance with our request, you should (i) delete “Rosetta”, “Rosetta Stone” and any variations thereof, from your search engine keyword list, and (ii) add “-Rosetta” and “-Rosetta Stone” as negative keywords (negative matching) to your search engine keyword list. If you have questions, the search engine websites explain how this is done.
We believe that there is no legitimate reason or basis for you to rely on any Rosetta Stone trademark, image or product in your marketing or sales campaigns, and encourage you to review all of your advertising campaigns and sites to avoid such practices in the future.
Rosetta Stone Ltd.
Now, there are a number of things about this email that jump out at me, the first and perhaps most relevant being that Fine Tuned Mac doesn’t have a marketing or advertising budget, and the second being that if we did have a marketing or advertising budget, advertising the site using Rosetta Stone’s logo or trademarks wouldn’t do fuckall for us, since our target demographic is Mac geeks rather than hipsters who think they can get laid if they learn Italian.
So I wrote them this reply. What do you think, too formal?
To whom it may concern:
Your IP department appears to have gone mad.
I can’t tell if it’s too much time spent listening to crappy language tutorials on CD or too much time spent shooting moodily lit photographs of said CDs to appear in Skymall magazine, but Fine Tuned Mac does not, and never has, used any Rosetta Stone image, product, brand name, trademark, or any other intellectual property for any reason.
In fact, I am quite baffled (German: verdutzt; French: déconcerté; Italian: sconcertato; Finnish: hämmentynyt) by your email. Try as I might, I can not make head nor tail of what you’re talking about. Fine Tuned Mac is a free forum-based Macintosh technical troubleshooting site. We have no marketing campaigns, and the only Google ads we’ve ever run have focused solely on Macintosh troubleshooting terms.
Now, I can perhaps, if I squint REALLY hard, perhaps see where you might have run off the rails, insofar as there are troubleshooting threads on the Fine Tuned Mac Web site that talk about Rosetta. However, what you may not know is that Rosetta is Apple’s trade name for their proprietary real-time interpreter that permits machine code written for PowerPC processors to run on Intel-based computers. If you’re unfamiliar with any of those terms, you might find a Google search enlightening.
Should you have a problem with Apple’s use of the word “Rosetta,” I respectfully (well, as respectfully as I can manage, anyway) suggest you take this up with Apple’s intellectual property lawyers.
I trust this concludes your interest in Fine Tuned Mac.
Culture is a funny thing.
It seems that most–perhaps all–cultures have, somewhere down deep in their collective folklore, some very strange embedded ideas that simply refuse to go away no matter how implausible (or impossible) they are.
In the Congo, for example, there is a deeply held belief that sorcerers can use black magic to steal men’s penises. Despite how absurd this belief is on the face of it, every so often there will be a penis-theft panic that results in suspected penis-ensorcering black magic users getting killed in the streets. Apparently, one’s penis grows back after this is done. Seems to me a quick status check of a purported victim’s trowser snake might be a good idea before lynching someone, but what do I know?
Here in the States, we have a couple of these bizarre nuggets of superstitious moose dung, sitting buried deep within the veneer of civilization surrounding us.
One of these is the notion that there are people who produce snuff films–movies intended for sexual entertainment in which a person is actually killed on screen for the sexual gratification of the audience. A lot of folks believe that these movies actually exist (and some folks believe them to be the logical end result of any interest in porn), despite the fact that thousands of investigations by law enforcement on several continents has yet to turn up even one example of such a thing.
Another common cultural trope is the notion of ritual Satanic human sacrifice. This idea is so firmly engrained the in the American psyche, despite its ridiculousness, that even ordinary crimes can end up being reported with breathless hysteria if there’s even a hint of violent religion tangentially associated in any way, however ephemeral or indirect, with perpetrators or the victim.
Or, any violent religion other than those which are culturally endorsed, in any event.
So it is with some amusement that I direct your attention, Gentle Readers, to a series of events that took place on November 6 of this year, and more to the point, on the way those events are reported.
Let’s start with CBS News. According to a CBS News article headlined Cops: Man bound and stabbed over 300 times by two women, a rather unfortunate 18-year-old kid met a couple of women on the Internet, and then travelled to Milwaukee with the hopes of having a kinky threesome with them. The women tied him up and then over an extended period of time inflicted 300 cuts on him. He escaped, called the police, and they were arrested.
Pretty straightforward, seems to me. Some folks, including several sweeties of mine, are into erotic knife play as a kink. I’m assuming that’s what this is based on the notion that if one intends to kill one’s victim and after 300 cuts fails to do so, one is either using the wrong tool for the job or is so stunningly incompetent as to be quite unable to work a typical, average doorknob, much less a computer. Hell, even a pair of those blunt scissors they give you in kindergarten can be used to kill someone, if you’re willing to put that much effort into it.
But there is one additional little detail in the CBS News report, a tiny little inconsequential thing that has turned the whole affair, sordid and sad as it is, into a bit of a circus.
Apparently, you see, one of the two women involved owns some books that might be about pagan or occult stuff. They were sitting on the bookshelf when the police arrived. And so…
It ratcheted up quickly. Before long, the headlines started featuring the word “Satanic” prominently.
In the UK, where the news-reading consumer likes a bit of salaciousness with their Satanism, the Daily Mail went for the sex angle, with a headline reading Two female room-mates ‘tied up teenager and cut him 300 times during two-day satanic sex torture marathon’
Over on Whacktrap, the headline read, Teen Plans Sex with Two Women But Instead Gets Cut 300 Times in Satanic Ritual Stabbing.
By the time the story had spread across news outlets, it was all about the Satan. By far the most common headline on the story reads “US Teen stabbed 300 times in Satanic sex ritual”–in fact, it’s actually pretty tough to locate news articles that don’t play up the Satanism.
And finally, by the time it got ’round to Glenn Beck (a man who is, I have it on good authority, personally knowledgable in all things Satanic, seeing how he has the Great Horned One on speed-dial), the sex bit had disappeared entirely; Beck’s take is Man stabbed over 300 times in satanic ritual. The first version of the article claimed the luckless teen had been killed–Mr. Beck has never met a fact-checker, or a fact, that he doesn’t want to drag out behind the chemical shed and shoot in the head, as his regular listeners know–and the URL on his Web site still reflects that mistaken notion. It has better narrative value, I’m sure.
So what we seem to have is that this kid decided to have a kinky threesome with a couple of women who were into knife play, they had some books on werewolves and pagan ideas sitting on the bookshelf, and these things combined into “ZOMG Satanic ritual stabbing!” Even though there seems to my eye to be nothing particularly ritual or Satanic about it.
Though I bet they totally used sorcery to steal his penis. It happens, you know. All the time.
If you drive across the American Midwest on Interstate 70 for long enough, a sort of hypnosis begins to set in. The road goes on and on and on and on, and there’s nothing interesting on it, save for the occasional dead animal of indeterminate species on the side of the road.
If you continue driving, eventually your brains will liquefy. Your eyes will begin to bleed. Strange apparitions of Hunter S. Thompson doing battle with Napoleon against the backdrop of war-torn Sarajevo while gibbons drift high in the sky strumming gently on lutes will slide in and out of the corners of your vision. When that happens, keep driving until you find your happy place. You know, the one where small insectoid life-forms crawl out of unexpected parts of your body demanding Pop-Tarts.
It is about then that you will see Prairie Dog Town, in Oakley, Kansas, just a stone’s throw from the interstate.
Prairie Dog Town is a microcosm of everything that is strange and horrifying about Middle America. It is the quintessential slice of Americana. Ray Bradbury could set horror films there. It advertises the world’s largest prairie dog, among other wonders and atrocities too numerous to mention. So it was a given that we had to stop there.
But before I talk about that, I need to talk about the Jesus of Wheat.
The Jesus of Wheat adorns a series of billboards that cluster along the interstate near a small town almost exactly an hour west of Prairie Dog Town. We pulled off the interstate to eat, as up until this point we had subsisted largely on lovely, succulent grapes hand-fed to us by Claire. This is a wonderful way to dine, and I highly recommend it, but inevitably we hit Peak Grape and it was all downhill from there. Soon we were forced to confront a stark reality: There Were No More Grapes, and it was time to deal with that, whether we liked it or not.
So we stopped for sandwiches, and met the Jesus of Wheat.
I don’t know what this billboard means, other than Jesus really, really loved wheat. This image occurs on every onramp and offramp in the town, as near as I can tell: Jesus, looking enigmatic, holding a stalk of wheat in His freakishly-long and perspectively-challenged arm.
Or at least I think it’s his arm. Maybe that hand is thrusting up from the ground, clutching wheat in its cold lifeless fingers, as a parable for the cycle of all life and the inevitable coming of the Zombie Apocalypse, I don’t know. I spent some time trying to work out the mechanics of whether He could actually hold wheat that far from His body, and I will admit, ultimately, to theological bafflement. Perhaps there are some things Man was not meant to know.
At any rate, I really had to record the billboard for posterity, by which I mean my blog. So while my companions dined, I slogged back up to the interstate on foot in 99-degree heat, roughly a half mile away or so, to get this shot.
The 99-degree heat turns out to be relevant later, as we shall see.
The theological ambiguity of the Jesus of Wheat left all of us, I think, in a fragile state of mind, so when an hour later we saw signs advertising Prairie Dog Town, our natural resistance–what little was left after the endless drive, anyway–was already considerably eroded.
Prairie Dog Town is a small, dilapidated building with signs promoting the World’s Largest Prairie Dog and other wonders beyond mention. It’s the sort of place that serial killers stalk in Oliver Stone movies, or the Great Cthulhu might seek out for a midafternoon snack of moon pies and the souls of the damned. We went in the front, picked our way through a gift shop overflowing with rattlesnake egg paperweights and small carved wooden toys, and bought our tickets in the back.
The back of the shop is crowded with the fruits of the taxidermist’s art, applied to various abominations of nature like this two-headed
It’s also lined with a series of very large wooden crates, about five feet tall and topped with wire mesh. “Go ahead!” said the lady working the till to my traveling companions. “Look inside! See what’s in there!”
As soon as they did, she hit the crates with a stick. About a dozen rattlesnakes, all of them more pissed off than Dick Cheney on a quail hunt, immediately started rattling and striking at the wire mesh, much disconcerting both of my companions. The smile on the woman’s face suggested that she lives for that.
Payment appropriately rendered, we walked out the back door into Prairie Dog Town. This…is Prairie Dog Town.
Each cage contains a forlorn animal or three. There are two aspects to the Prairie Dog Town Experience which this picture cannot convey: the brutal, oppressive heat that settled on us like a tangible, suffocating thing; and the smell. Oh, God, the smell.
Though, in all fairness, most of America’s heartland smells that way.
Beyond the eponymous prairie dogs, the pride of the collection at Prairie Dog Town is their herd of mutant five-legged cattle. Yes, they are mutant cattle, and yes, they have five legs, the fifth one of which dangles pathetically from their back.
This is exactly the sort of thing one sees when something goes wrong with an organism’s hox genes, as I was talking about a bit ago.
The place also offered for our amusement birds of various descriptions, some really forlorn-looking foxes behind a wire enclosure, a couple of pigs, and a very friendly donkey who was quite happy to see us.
And, of course, it had prairie dogs, who perched in the heat and chittered at us reprovingly, as if to say “You paid money to be here? Didn’t the Jesus of Wheat warn you about this place?”
It also had, true to the billing, the World’s Largest prairie Dog, which is neither a prairie dog nor particularly large. It’s a big fiberglass sculpture of something that’s vaguely reminiscent of a prairie dog in overall body plan, though the artist seems to have missed some ingredient, some artistic flair that might have captured that spark, that fundamental essence of the Platonic ideal of prairie dogs, or for that matter even of mammals in general.
That’s Claire standing next to it, using the high albedo of her sweater as a partial defense against the blistering hot radiation of the uncaring sun bombarding us from above.
A bit dispirited and lighter of currency, we finally wandered back to the safety and relative sanity of the car, each of us bearing the psychic scars of the time served in that place.
Fortunately, the most amazing thing the eight-year-old within me has ever seen was in our near future. Unfortunately, the time was now close where we would lose one of our numbers to the Guatemalans. But both of those stories will have to wait.
Welcome to Earthlink LiveChat. Your chat session will begin in approximately 1 minutes. Feel free to begin typing your question.
‘Michael’ says: Thank you for contacting EarthLink LiveChat, how may I help you today?
Me: You have been hosting a “phish” page that is intended to steal sensitive financial information from people for more than two months.
Me: Repeated emails to your support and abuse addresses have been ignored.
Me: Months later, the phish site is still active on your network.
Me: Who do I need to call to get you to take responsibility and clean up your network?
Michael: What phishing site are you referring to?
Me: Went live on June 18, first notified abuse about it on June 20, have since sent a number of emails to support and abuse addresses.
Michael: Have you tried to contact 1-800-955-0186?
Me: I have not. Is this standard accepted practice for notifying Earthlink of phish sites?
Me: Can you explain why your abuse and support email addresses don’t appear to be read?
Michael: What abuse address are you sending the reports to?
Me: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Me: These are the abuse addresses defined in the ARIN Whois information and at abuse.net
Michael: I am not sure why our Abuse department has not responded, but it is best you contact the number I gave you
Me: OK, I will give them a call. Let me say, though, that I am extremely disappointed by Earthlink’s lack of responsiveness and willingness to permit this kind of flagrant network abuse.
Chat session has been ended by the agent.
Welcome to Earthlink LiveChat. Your chat session will begin in approximately 2 minutes. Feel free to begin typing your question.
Please hold for an agent. While you are waiting, please feel free to begin typing your issue in the box below. Try to be as descriptive as possible. Once an agent is assigned to the chat, click SEND to transmit what you have typed.
‘Michael’ says: Thank you for contacting EarthLink LiveChat, how may I help you today?
Me: I just spoke to you about the phish site you were hosting. The 800 number you gave me to call directed me to a recording telling me to use the support chat, and disconnected.
Me: So, your abuse email doesn’t work and neither does the phone number. Any other ideas?
Michael: Can you please try again
Me: Try the phone number again?
Michael: i am not sure why you cannot connect to the number I gave you, as we have persons right now ready to take your call
Me: I’m calling right now, ending up in a voicemail system. I am not an existing customer, I have not recently placed an order.
Michael: What is the system asking you for?
Me: The phone number associated with my account.
Michael: Just provide your phone number
Me: I say “none,” and I hear a recording about “We are experiencing high call volumes. Please call back later or use our online support at support.earthlink.net”
Michael: Try 1-888-3278454
Me: Ah, now someone is on the phone.
Michael: Thank you for using EarthLink LiveChat. Should you need further assistance, please contact us again.
Chat session has been ended by the agent.
(A long and frustrating conversation ensues, in which I try to explain to a person whose native language is not English what a “phish” site is and what the Web domain in question is)
Guy on phone: I do not see anything on that Web site.
Me: The top level of
Guy on phone: Please hold.
Bad hold music plays…
Guy on phone: What company are you working for?
Guy on phone: I have been instructed to ask, what company are you working for? What is the name of your company?
Me: I’m not working for any company. I’m trying to tell you about a phish site on your servers.
Guy on phone: Please hold.
More bad hold music plays…
Guy on phone: I have spoken to our engineering team. They have inactivated the Web site.
Me: *does a little dance*
Seriously? This is abysmal. A (quasi-)reputable Web hosting firm that allows phish sites to remain active for months on its network, doesn’t pay attention to abuse reports, and makes people call on the phone to report phish pages? Now that
I suppose I shouldn’t attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stunning, jaw-dropping, jesus-christ-you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me incompetence, but still. Past a certain point, any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
From The Pharyngula blog comes this little gem, a page from a Fundamentalist Christian textbook about electricity.
Now, anyone who’s read my blog for any length of time will know I’m no fan of right-wing religious zealots. But occasionally they manage to surprise me. Sadly, they tend to surprise me by not even rising to the bar of my already abysmally low expectations; no matter how bad, how ignorant, how credulous, or how dishonest I think these guys are, they somehow manage to be worse.
Here’s the page, scanned from a fourth-grade home-schooling textbook on science (click for a larger version):
This kind of thing is the reason I cringe whenever I hear the phrase “home schooling.” I know there are home schoolers who aren’t ignorant Fundamentalist boobs, but damn, they sure do seem to be a small percentage.
The notion that someone can spout nonsense like “We can not even say where electricity comes from. Some scientists think the sun may be the source of most electricity. Others think that the movement of the earth produces some of it” interspersed with Biblical passages and call the result a science textbook is, to me, beyond belief.
A part of me wants to think that whoever wrote this nonsensical tripe was deliberately lying, because the notion that the author genuinely doesn’t know what electricity is, and furthermore can’t be arsed to look it up on Wikipedia or something, blows my mind. But, no, I do think it’s at least possible that whoever wrote this passage sincerely believes what he wrote.
Taken in a larger context, though, it doesn’t matter whether or not he believes it, or understands enough basic science to understand what electricity is. (“We cannot say what electricity itself is like”? Seriously?) The goal of this book is not to educate the reader about science; indeed, I think the goal of any home-schooler using this material is not to educate their child about science.
No, the goal is something very different. It’s twofold, really. The most obvious intention here is to present the world in a way that makes it as opaque as possible, while simultaneously denigrating the ability of science to make any sense of it; science, in the minds of the Fundamentalists who write and teach drivel like this, is a haphazard conglomeration of a bunch of competing wild-ass guesses about the way things might work, each of which has no real basis in fact. Some scientists think our electricity was produced in the sun; others think that some of it might have come from the movement of the earth. (As a person in the dismal movie Jesus Camp says, “science doesn’t prove anything.”1)
The second aim of this textbook is something more subtle. There is an axiom among many religious Fundamentalists that we can never know something which we do not observe directly. This argument pops up in Creationist arguments with depressing frequency; since we can not go back and directly observe, as a firsthand eyewitness, the creation of the earth or the advent of life, we can never know how it went down; ergo, all ideas about what might have happened are equally likely. And since only one of those ideas has the imprinteur of God, that’s the most likely one. All the other ideas are merely idle speculation; since we can’t go back and see it happen, we can’t actually say we have any evidence for it. Only eyewitness evidence2 matters.
And on those counts, I think this passage does precisely what it intends to do.
1 Which might be true from a particular perspective, in the sense that the scientific method seeks hypotheses which are falsifiable, and model is only as good as the next data point which contradicts it. But the Fundies who spout “science doesnt prove anything” mean something quite different; they’re basically saying that science is not useful as a tool to understand the physical world. And that blatantly isn’t so.
2 Or the scribblings of a bunch of barely literate Bronze Age tribesmen which have been shuffled around, rearranged to suit various political factions several times throughout history, and then badly tanslated into a succession of languages, presumably.
So, let’s say you were a fan of 80s music. And let’s say you weren’t terribly particular about which 80s music you liked; if it was recorded in the 80s, it’s all good.
And let’s further propose that you’re a fan of Metallica’s particular brand of pop-mental, too, while we’re at it.
Well, then, if this is you, rejoice! Your ship has arrived!
This video is a mashup of the Journey song “Don’t Stop Believing” set to the music of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” And that combination fits surprisingly well, for some value of “well” that means “for the love of God, make it stop! My ears are bleeding!”
So a few weeks back, zaiah and I went shopping, and found a bargain basement bin of B-movies (say that ten times fast!) for about five bucks each.
Some of the movies were cheesy old low-budget horror flicks that have been re-released on DVD by a company which uses a woman being ravished by a tentacle monster as their logo:
Now, I may be a purist, but I don’t think that anyone should be allowed to put a picture of a woman being ravished by a tentacle monster on the front cover of any DVD that does not actually contain scenes of a woman being ravished by a tentacle monster. That is DEFINITELY false advertising, it is.
I also think it’s kind of interesting that “woman being ravished by a tentacle monster” has apparently become kind of synonymous with “horror movie.” I <3 living in this society...
Yesterday, NASA’s LCROSS mission impacted the moon at high speed.
The purpose of the mission was to create a large plume of dust from impacting the bottom of a deep cater near the moon’s south pole so that the plume could be analyzed for signs of water ice. In that particular respect, it went swimmingly, no pun intended.
However, the mission also revealed something totally unexpected–a treasure trove of barking moonbats here on planet earth. The moonbats have set up a Web site in which they claim the LCROSS mission is a part of a conspiracy by a “powerful syndicate of military-industrial criminals” that was “inspired by fanatical terrorist airline hijackers” to bomb the moon. From the Web site:
Of course, there is much more behind this attack than casual scientific curiosity on whether or not there is water on the Moon. First of all, since the long-range accuracy of intercontinental ballistic missiles has never been proven to work, the LCROSS suicide mission serves as a live-fire test exercise for US war strategists with an interest in the precision of orbiting satellite weapons—in other words, the southern hemisphere of the Moon will be turned into a firing range, making this mission one giant leap for the global reach of space warfare. Secondly, LCROSS has been promoted as “the vanguard” for the US military-industrial-entertainment complex’s return to the Moon—according to NASA, finding water is a necessary first step for “building a long-term and sustainable human presence” there. Historically, the purpose of exploration has always been the exploitation of resources and the colonization of territory without regard for ecosystems or indigenous peoples, and clearly the Moon is the next territory coveted by imperialists.
This so-called “NASA experiment” is a hostile act of aggression and a violent intrusion upon our closest and dearest celestial neighbor. Does any love song or poem or fairy tale worth its salt not mention the Moon? Who can take a walk in the Moonlight with a lover and not feel the romance to your very soul? At night, when the Moon rules, we sleep, and we can visit the Moon in our sleep with ease. The Moon is our night light, our blanket, our grandmother, our mother—it is woman, child, domestic life, tides, bodies of water, liquids, circulation, comfort, nurturing, paintings by Remedios Varo, stories by Jules Verne, and so much more.
It’s not entirely clear to me that the authors of this Web site understand what the word “ecosystem” means or why the moon doesn’t have one, but I’m particularly curious about who, exactly, the indigenous peoples in question are.
On the bright side, at least they’re not trying to deny that we ever landed on the moon at all…