80’s Memory 1: Remote Control

Whenever people trash Adam Sandler I always feel compelled to defend him. It’s like what ever pop-culture tribe I consider myself part of, Adam was one of us. I always end up like a broke record saying: “He’s been cracking me up ever since he was on Remote Control.” I’ve recently realized that just remembering Remote Control gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. I’ve also recently realized that I remember less and less about the show to the point where all that is left is just the warm and fuzzy. As with most things that I barely remember, now I can go to the Youtubes for a refresher but before I did that, I wrote down everything I could remember.

Remote Control was both a game show and a party. My memories of watching the show all seem to be on a couch with lots of friends cheering every time something fun would happen. First thing I remember of course, is Adam Sandler playing “The Stud Boy.” If the contestant got “The Stud Boy” category, then Adam would come out in something like a Leopard Spotted Hefner Robe and talk about a romantic conquest with a famous woman and we would have to guess who she was. The next thing I remember is everyone on the couch throwing up our arms and cheering when someone selected the “Sing Along With Colin” category. Colin Quin would sing half assed and out of tune some pop song and the contestant would have to finish the song. If they didn’t actually sing the host would yell at them and make them. Of course I remember Kari but I’m not sure what she did, I guess she was in the Vanna role, what I do remember is every guy I knew had a crush on her. I think many of the categories were great quirky fun, like when the host (can’t remember who he was) would name someone and the contestant had to determine whether they were “Dead or Canadian.”

After Watching an episode on the Youtubes

Wow it really was a party. The contestants sat on comfy lounger chairs and got snacks and one of the most fun things about the show I forgot, at the halfway point, the lowest scoring contestant’s chair would get pulled back into a hole in the set with a horror movie chick screaming sound effect while the audience widly sang “Hit the Road Jack.” I want to do that to people. Instead of having a trap door button I wanna a Remote Control Lowest scoring contestant eject button. I also want someone to open a café/bar thing that is just like the set of remote control and names can get pulled out of a hat for the contestants that day. So some non-lazy person please get to work and let me know when it opens. Maybe Disney will put it on the “It’s an 80s world ride.”

San Francisco Moment 4

I had to do some skillful one handed maneuvering to get my fastpass out of my wallet while holding on to my two dark pink roses for A. Out the gate and up the long escalator ride to 24th street, I noticed that bright shiny Venus had moved in recent weeks from over the left shoulder of the escalator riders in front of me to over their heads. I switched to auto pilot when I got onto the bus my only goal being to keep the roses safe. As the bus got close to the hill I looked up to notice a teen couple standing by the door. The boy was a six foot pink cheeked brown haired white boy wearing a slightly tattered grey hoodie and the bracelet on one of his wrists was made from a bicycle chain. The girl came up to the boy’s chest and was a wholesome looking ABC wearing a black hoodie, a frilly black skirt fanning out and black stockings peppered with a scull and crossbones pattern. They were focused on each other but seemed to be contemplating something; perhaps their next move. Then the bus lights cut out. Now backlit from the glass bus door the girl was a silhouette with cat ears that I hadn’t noticed before. The lights came back on and I faced forward. The bus moved a few feet and the lights went off again. This time everything in the bus was silhouette but the light from the window behind me managed to come in at the right angle to light up the just the roses.

Elevator Theater – Micro Story

It was January fifth and I walked out to the notoriously slow elevator bank to find Attorney M waiting there. The moment I stepped close to the elevator the red down arrow light pinged. Attorney M looked up and smiled.

“Finally!”

“Long wait? I guess I’m fortunate, I’ve good luck with elevators all year.”

Hey raised an eyebrow at me in response. I’m not usually much for small talk but I figure I should start getting to know some of the people I work for.

“Well I’m only five days in, but I love how easy the math is this early in there year. For example, I had my first cup of tea of today and it was the best tea I had all year.”

The beginnings of a playful smile joined Attorney M’s raised eyebrow.

“But did you realize that it was also the worst tea you had all year.”

My eyes opened wide as the compelling truth washed over me.

“I hadn’t thought of that. At that moment, that cup of tea was both the best and worst tea I’ve had all year. It would then require a second cup for one to be the best and one to be the worst and the slightest difference would decide.”

“Then you might experience anxiety over your third cup of tea; it could throw your absolutely binary experience out of whack.”

Then the elevator stopped with a ping a few floors down. Our expressions changed from animated to indifferent as we both faced forward to greet the elevator’s new guests. But no one stepped in. Instead we were witness to the following scene: Perfectly framed on the other side of the elevator doors were three people; two women on the left facing a man on the right. The taller straight black haired woman with a look of sad compassion spoke:

“I just heard.”

The shorter brown haired woman tilted her head and looked up at the man. He appeared as if all the air had gone out of his chest. He was a head taller than the black haired woman, had curly hair, and his face had a strange pale color as if the fluorescent lights were revealing light pink stage makeup. He lifted his arm in a half shrug and in a voice that quickly ran out of air said:

“I’ve only told four people, J. and you and . . .”

His arm dropped to his side.

“I’m so sorry.” The black haired woman’s head tilted to match the angle of the shorter woman’s.

And no one stepped in the elevator.

And none of the three people framed by the elevator entrance acknowledged the two silent witnesses.

Then the elevator door closed and proceeded down. Attorney M and I exchanged guilty glances of unwitting trespassers.

Ten People/Things (mostly people) that my 28 year old Co-worker has never heard of.

I’ve been comipling the list over the last two months. How many of these are a mystery to you?

1 Ed Grimley

2 Peter Gabriel

3 Wilfred Brimley

4 Ella Fitzgerald

5 Dinah Shore

6 Captain Lou Albano

7 Hair/the musical

8 Fred Blassie

9 Billy Mummy

10 Welcome Back Kotter

Three Atheist Signs Part Three: Rancho Cucamonga

The Sign

The last sign seems the most innocuous and yet it’s the one that underwent government censorship. This sign was part of a bigger campaign of the Freedom From Religion Foundation but the specific sign in question went up in the city of Rancho Cucamonga, California and it was a stained glass window design with fancy calligraphic letters that read “Imagine No Religion.” We go from the combative: “there are no gods!” of the Olympia sign which was stolen, found in a ditch and returned (thou shalt not steal anyone?), to the next sign: “Why Believe in a God? Just Be Good for Goodness Sake,” of the D.C. metro system to: “Imagine No Religion.” I think the last two signs are pretty much on the same level only the D.C. metro system sign provides and answer to its question. People reading the Rancho Cucamonga sign are free to let their imagination inform their own reaction. An extremely religious person could imagine “no religion” as a world with a giant homosexual junky murder party where everybody just does what they want. A more extreme atheist might imagine a world with no religion as a place where nobody flies planes into buildings for their gods, no authority figures ever get away with child molestation and everyone embraces science as the one path to truth and humanity expands into the stars until we evolve into beings of pure light. Those last ones sound good to me but are probably a bit unrealistic; logic reason and science can be misused just like religion. A more rational religious person may see that sign and think “I don’t think I’d like that,” and an atheist can think “wouldn’t that be nice, one less thing to worry about.” And not to beat a dead horse with this series but a newly realized atheist might look at the sign, find out that an atheist organization exists and realize: “Hey, I’m not evil and I’m not alone.”

Here’s the Kicker

The city government of Rancho Cucamonga told the sign company to take it down which they did as well as destroy. Like with the D.C. metro sign I think the best reaction of people who are offended is for them to pay for their own sign that supports their view not take down someone elses. Now the FFRF is suing Rancho Cordova, as well they should (link to the full complaint here). The billboard company would have been within their rights to refuse the FFRF’s money but they didn’t. They took the money and put the sign up. They may even have refunded the FFRF and taken the sign down because of complaints but that might have been a breech of contract. It was the city government, however, that unilaterally ordered the sign come down and the FFRF argues that this action not only deprives them of their first amendment rights but it also violates the separation of church and state. It may seem a bit of convoluted reasoning but they argue that by censoring a message that questions religion, the government entity is publically endorsing religion.

What is offensive about the sign?

Although I believe the folks behind the Olympia nativity scene protest sign were well within their rights, I found their sign unnecessarily inflammatory and a bit intolerant. Even if you do choose to protest a religious display outside a government building, I believe there are more constructive ways of offering an alternative point of view. The same amount of people may be offended but I believe it’s always better to take the high road. The Rancho Cucamonga sign does just that; takes the high road by choosing not to make direct criticism to any specific religion. The sign does not say “Imagine no Christianity” or “Imagine no Jesus.” It doesn’t choose to point out all the instances of the bible condoning slavery, violence, adultery, lying, incest etc. but rather opens a dialogue for those of us who might have trouble with some aspects of our religious upbringing and would like to investigate further whether it suits us or not. Trying to put myself in a religious person’s shoes I can only speculate that the offense comes from a perceived implication that those who choose to believe are fools, but it seems that this reactions reflects more on the insecurity of the believer than on the actual intention of the questioner. I wanted to share some quotes from some of the offended that I lifted from the following forum: (http://www.topix.com/forum/city/jacumba-ca/T9PJEDOBMUFFLR1C2/p4).

1 )“Thank you Rancho Cucumonga. Let’s show the athiest and the ACLU that Rancho Cucuamonga will stand up to them!”

My thoughts: Simple enough sentiment but what this poster fails to understand is their freedom to worship as they please and our freedom to question religion are two sides of the same coin; a threat to one is a threat to the other. Also I find the Anti ACLU sentiment interesting seeing how the ACLU helps protect the rights of religious as well as non religious people. Right now the ACLU is representing a prisoner and ordained Pentecostal minister in New Jersey who is fighting a ban on preaching by prison authorities just to name one.

2) (in response to an earlier post in the forum) “And because Rancho is a “bible thumping” city, as you say, it’s a nice, livable one. Low crime, nice neighborhoods and a church almost on every corner instead of a pawn shop or bar. The only goal of an atheist is to tear down any religion that worships God. Rancho Cucamonga has just told you were to take your sign and stick it. 😉 God Bless you…you need it!”

My thoughts: I believe the first statement is an oversimplification of what makes a place low crime and a nice neighborhood. I have been through high crime neighborhoods that not only had a church on every corner but even some houses between the corners were converted into places of worship. Also in the bay area there are neighborhoods that are very low crime, nice neighborhoods where a large variety of different points of view, religious and non-religious, co-exist peacefully. I would assume that nice neighborhood/low crime has more to do with money and access to education than local faith but the community activities of churches certainly can play a beneficial role. As for the “goal of an atheist,” well the statement just doesn’t jive with my experience. There may be, however, unrealistic atheist extremists that do want an end to all religious activities but most of the ones I know are moral decent people who came to atheism for well thought out reasons. In the same way gay people aren’t seeking to destroy heterosexuality, atheists are not out to destroy religion. Also similar to the gay movement, atheists who have had a really hard time of it, seek to support others who are going through the same things some of us went through when we chose to think differently than the majority. Finally on this post if I were religious, I would be really offended by the words “Stick it” right next to “God Bless you.” It’s shocking to me to see “God Bless you!,” flung like an insult.

Conclusion

I suppose the reason I chose to start writing about atheist signs was that it represented a silent minority that I’m a part of going more public. Since we rarely have churches or gatherings in our local communities (that may be changing) it was a big comfort to look out on the internet and find I wasn’t as alone as I thought. I have to admire Reginald Finley aka The Infidel Guy for broadcasting his internet radio show and helping create an online community of Atheists, Agnostics and free thinkers of many stripes. I live in a very multi-cultural part of the US where I’m much more likely to find myself debating with fundamentalist astrologers than Christians so I always admire the bravery of people who come forward in lest tolerant communities. But in all matters of public discourse I want to say to devout religious folks that if you don’t like someone’s view on an issue then make a case for your own and if all else fails, pray for us. Usually “I’ll pray for you,” the nicest ending to a discussion between a religious and non-religious person. If someone says they will pray for me I go away feeling honored and respected. Instead of taking down my sign, just make a sign of your own or boycott the sign company and any other company that does business with them. In doing research I did wonder if any religious groups had sign campaigns, and do the answer is yes and one of them is a doozy. Just as a teaser I’ll relay that one sign that was part of a bigger campaign was just white lettering on a black background and it read: “Evolution? You’ve got to be kidding me. –God.” (you can see more at http://www.godspeaks.com) A big list of response sign ideas starts to spill from my head but I wouldn’t even consider asking the local government to take the sign down. Let them show all their ignorance on bold white letters. I think it’s foolish for anyone to claim to have all the answers which is why I love science so much. Science is not about knowing the answers; it’s about learning and discovering the answers and then dealing with a whole new group of questions. I’ll end this post with a big thank you for all people of every point of view who can non-violently disagree, debate and work even hard to find common ground to build a better world.

A Longevity Poll

I know some people may have several conditions. You can assume it’s available to everyone who chooses to take it. “Comfortable” means it keeps you physically healthy and re-grows any lost limbs. That’s all ya get.

Comments welcome.

San Francisco Moment 3

On a Bart train, the seats facing the doors, black wool buttoned all the way up listening to Liquid State; doors open and small Vans™ with a tropical fish design attached to red cotton leggings step in. One foot stamps down on a discarded newspaper and then step swish step swish step swish over to me. The feet then turn the paper right side up and open the first page without picking the newspaper up off the floor. After two deft page turns by feet I gotta look up. She’s a short haired petite Chinese woman in a beanie and small coat and, yes, she does have arms and they are both supporting a tall (not the Starbucks drink size but the old fashioned adjective) paper tea cup with a green and red snowflake design. At the next stop the seats to the left of us open up and, step swish step swish step swish, occupies them. I guess she didn’t like me blogging about here in the future. She continues to read the paper on the floor hunched over the chair and she aint letting go of that tea cup for nothin’. My stop comes and as I’m walking out she gives a loud short “YIP!” for everyone to hear.

Best Dream EVER: The Pig-Eared Baby Alligator

(We were talking about dreams at a party and even though this one is close to 15 years old now, I still haven’t had one come close to this one in terms of content, strangeness and clarity.)

Scene 1

It started in a package sorting building where I worked for UPS at the Oakland Airport. Inside were three platforms with conveyer belts. Usually an assortment of delivery trucks or air cargo containers were parked next to the middle platform but today the building was empty of all vehicles. I saw my crew standing on the middle platform wearing rain gear so I stepped up to ask Mike N. what was going on.

“We’re waiting for the boat.”

“Boat?”

I looked around to find the building was filled with water that wasn’t there when I walked in. Mike N. pointed and a flat pale blue plastic boat with enough room for all five of us pulled up to the platform.

Scene 2
We were floating down Main Street in my home town of Benicia. Main Street had basically become a river with debris covered land on each side. On the east side I recognized Ann P. from High School whom I hadn’t seen for about 7 years. She was cheerfully distributing lunch boxes to victims of the flood. I waved and she stepped away from the group to come talk to me.

“Hey S., long time no see.”

“It’s good to see you. How’s your brother doing?”

“I’m sure he’s doing fine.”

“I guess we’re here to help, where do you need us?”

“Nothing much left to do today, just relax.” Ann walked back up to continue her work.

We docked the boat on an elevated grassy area and walked to the top. The other side of the hill descended into another flood-made river starting with a circular pool below us and extending south. A few tall dark buildings loomed in front of us on both sides of the river. The sun came out and we all threw off hooded raincoats and stretched with the satisfaction of hard work. From behind us a school of strange fist sized black fish hopped quite efficiently on their bellies and before getting a good look they hopped down this hill and dove into the river in front of us. The crew exchanged surprised looks of wonder. An unspoken agreement came over all our faces as if to say “let’s go for it!” Our aches of work left us as we all stripped down nude and jumped in to chase the fish.

The black fish jumped in and out of the water as they swam forward. The dark buildings on each side gave way to shorter light brown buildings. The fish increased their lead as they swam under low bridges. As we swam further, the buildings on each side grew into a single apartment complex structure with a series of bridges crossing the river to connect them. The structures were generally boxy and straight but were constructed from high quality stained wood in a variety of shades, darkest around the edges. Of the original crew, only Mike N. and I remained and I got the feeling that this was his home and it was a place he had told me about so I was curious to check it out.

Scene 3

I walked around the internal maze of the complex. It was much like a hospital but not as sterile; all the light was natural sunlight and everything was well crafted out of natural materials. We were in clean comfortable clothes now and Mike’s wife, a fit and curvy woman with long brown hair wearing a light purple sun dress, came to take him home. I explored further and found that at regular intervals the hallways opened up into research areas where people worked cheerfully. Most research tables had a single plant on them each with different qualities; one with green bulbs reaching up toward the sun roof, another a dark purple mass contained in a tall square aquarium. It became clear that everyone lived and worked here in cheerful wonder and I was treated as a welcome guest. The end of the next hallway opened into a hub of activity and one exhibit attracted the biggest crowd. I overheard someone say that everyone was here to see the “Pig-eared Baby Alligator.” I heard the name a few more times as the crowd parted for me to get a look.

Sitting at the side of a shiny wooden table, was not so much a baby alligator but more like a human baby with alligator qualities. He was about twice the size of a healthy three month old infant but with the same head to body ratio, maybe a bit bigger head. His skin was green and scaly and his ears were large but disappointingly just like human ears. Although he had the look and proportions of an infant, he had no trouble sitting up and looking around at the visitors. The Pig-eared Baby Alligator had large black shiny eyes with no whites at all and his mouth was like the ball shape of a chimpanzee’s but less flexible and with fangs on each side of the bottom lip. There was something terribly charismatic about this creature and everyone around seemed to be enamored with him and eager to hear what he had to say. He turned those black eyes toward me and in a deep male voice that reverberated in my head and chest said: “you were a seagull in your former life.” I chuckled nervously and spoke to him as if I was humoring a child. “Oh is that so? So what am I in this life?”

“You are nothing.”

His words were full of emphasis but it wasn’t a shout. It was loud and clear as if he was speaking from inside my head and as the dream vision went black, I felt myself dissolve and expand into dark oblivion. The next moment I was wide awake.

San Francisco Moment 2

This might be more of a 21st century moment in that it’s probably more ubiquitous in space but not so much in time. I was feeling icky on this day so I was going in late to work waiting at the bus stop at around 11:30 on a Friday. Groggy as I was, I forgot headphones so I had an ipod in the backpack but no way to connect it to my head. I’d grown so used to the constant chatter of podcasts’ news/education/infotainment and occasional music that I felt a bit off standing there with just the wind. I thought this might be a nice chance to listen to the sounds of the neighborhood, appreciate the bits of nature dispersed throughout the city and. . . nah, I really wanted my headphones the lack of other voices in my head was making me edgy. Then I heard and “excuse me!” the kind of excuse me that precedes “commin’ through.”

A six foot human male with brown hair wearing grey nylon jogging shorts, matching shirt and grey and black headphones attached to a content delivery mechanism that I couldn’t see (wait for the verb) was quickly jogging down the hill and pushing a three wheeled sports baby carriage. You know the kind of carriage; handle bars, inflatable tires, encased in flashy REI nylon (couldn’t tell if the kid had a blue ray display inside, wasn’t a lot of space so he probably just had on demand with a wireless connection). This may not have seemed all that unusual but I found it interesting because if you turn the clock back 30+ years, well to the time traveling 1950s native this would look all kinds of strange. First of all, it’s a man pushing a baby around by himself. Second, it’s a man who has the free time to push a baby around on a weekday so he either works from home or has vacation time and wouldn’t that be an odd way to spend vacation time? But the big thing I chose to notice was all the multi-tasking. He is not content sitting at home and listening to audio content. Neither is he content taking the baby for a stroll. And think of all the time he would be wasting if he just went for a jog; not our 21st century man. No, He’s jogging while receiving his content and taking the baby for a brisk stroll. I bet this slacker probably had a dog at home too that would have loved to have been going for a run and he had a hand free that could have been texting but he was in his 30s so three things was probably enough for him. So he jogged down to the flat part of the hill, turned the sports baby carriage to face him and held onto the sides for a lunge stretch while making faces at the baby. If you just stretch you’re missing a golden opportunity to play with your toddler while receiving content through your headphones. I wish I had the omnipresence to know what was in those headphones because it could have been stock reports or an audio book which would have added more layers of complexity but for all I know it was the best of Hootie and the Blowfish. Who has time for music anymore? Crap, what am I gonna do for a whole day without headphones.

Three Atheist Signs Part 2: DC Metro System

The Washington DC bus sign campagn

The next Atheist or perhaps I should say Humanist sign was part of an add campaign by the American Humanist Association and the venue was the sides and inside of busses in Washington D.C. This one was much simpler than the one outside the Olympia Legislative building, but there were many of them. Most of the signs were simple green and red lettering with some snowflakes falling with the slogan:

“Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”

My Reaction to the sign

I must admit that if I saw this on the side of a bus I would smile and have warm feelings because I would feel represented and I would know I’m not alone in my views. Also it questions one of the fundamental problems many have with Christianity. It is this assumption that one must believe in a god in order to be a good person. Furthermore, I’ve heard Christians on several occasions say that even if you do charity and good deeds all your life, you’re still going to hell if you don’t believe in their god. That theme always leads me to ask: “is it better to do good because it’s the right thing to do or because you think that if you don’t you will burn for eternity?” In fact you can make the argument that allowing for forgiveness for the worst of human crimes grants enables sinners.

Is the Sign attacking God/Christmas?

Unlike the Olympia, Washington sign, instead of making one sided all or nothing statements, this one asks a question and makes a suggestion. The sign is much more encouraging contemplation and debate than attacking a cherished symbol. Also the images in the signs have no overt symbols. For some reason that I can’t discern, however, the version of the sign that goes inside the bus has a Jamaican looking guy in dreadlocks wearing a Santa suit and shrugging. Definitely a more innocuous sign but still I have to ask, why have a Christmas themed sign at all? For me the one reason might come with the understanding of a former Christian Atheist’s four stage understanding of Christmas.

Stage 1: As a child Christmas is about Santa and Presents.
Stage 2: As the child grows older he/she is taught that Christmas is really about the celebration of the Birth of Jesus.
Stage 3: As an adult Atheist the person no longer believes in the Christian mythology and may feel like a hypocrite for celebrating Christmas.
Stage 4: The person uncovers the many layers of history behind the Winter Solstice and Winter Seasonal celebrations that pre-date Christianity and understands that most of the traditions existed outside of Christianity. Therefore the Christians don’t own Christmas and all the trappings so one is free to celebrate all they want (Yuletide, Solstice etc). We can also enjoy the Christian mythology that is part of our personal history even if we no longer practice the religion it is based on.

This campaign is partly to reach out to our fellow atheist stuck in Stage three. The sign provides the website address http://www.whybelieveinagod.org/ that is full of information about the origins of the Christmas holiday. The website also provides a very concise definition of what a humanist is and what they are about.
Among the active people who found the sign offensive most chose to either complain or create a sign of their own. Many complained to the DC metro system who chose to take payment in return for displaying the signs. One of the response signs answer to the “why believe” question was “because he created you and he loves you.” Now it’s really hard for a non-believer to not add “and you will burn forever if you don’t” but I feel providing a counter sign is the most American way to respond. If someone is out in the world putting out a message you don’t like or believe is dangerous, you have the right to go out and counter that message. Clearly there is a lot more to cover about perceptions of atheists and free speech but I think I’ll try to tackle that in the last section of this series. The D.C. bus system is much more on the right track with its intended goals. It doesn’t spout absolutes but rather encourages discourse and thought. It’s not intended to take Christmas away from Christians but more to reach out to those who have left religion for good reasons and to educate and expand knowledge about the winter holidays. It lets the Atheists/Agnostics etc. know that they are not alone and it offers and alternative to the people on the fence who may feel isolated for even questioning long held beliefs. It may also be a way to gather the non-religious community so we can better exercise our power in politics on issues that are important to us and that has never been about taking away religion from people but protecting the rights of all Americans with regards to religion.

« Older entries Newer entries »