“Raising Awareness” vs. Getting Results

I really don’t want to write this post. I probably shouldn’t. I guess I can take solace in the fact that nobody reads my blog, so I can write whatever I want. But I also don’t want somebody to stumble by and misunderstand me. Some people can be incredibly irrational, and from the depths of misguided emotion, will draw conclusions that were never intended.

For instance, I once wrote a post that did little more than make my reader(s) aware of a humorous post Tim Challies wrote comparing Joel Osteen’s (ghostwritten) sayings to fortune cookies. Somebody stumbled across my post and somehow drew the conclusion that because he had a fortune cookie with a proverb in it, we should stop reading the book of Proverbs.

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The Burning of Any Book

I’ve been tempted to write this only as a journal entry. I want to organize my thoughts, but not to take any real risks. But few people read my blog anyway.

I pay very little attention to the media. Too much bias, and too many non-issues blown out of proportion. Normally, anything important enough for me to know about will find me. Lately, I’ve heard a bunch of noise about some apparent kook from a small church in (nowhere) planning to burn a bunch of Korans on 9-11.

Sounds like a silly and pointless stunt to me. Barely worthy of my attention. Had the Facebook posts stopped after the first one, I wouldn’t have noticed.

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Vampires In Contemporary Culture

Back in February, I wrote a post asking what the deal is with the current cultural obsession with vampires. Since them, I’ve seen elements of Twilight pop up in some interesting places. Oh, come on, where else could this come from?

First up, we have “teen wolves” running around a San Antonio high school. I’m sure they’re in others, but I have a link to a story about them in San Antonio. This is in the school district I graduated from. It’s apparently harmless. Just a wolf pack that doesn’t consider it a gang. I’m sure it will eventually evolve some rituals or initiation and cause trouble for the community, if the culture doesn’t come up with something else for teens to obsess over first. I hope they don’t have to shave their chests and oil up to join the wolf pack.

Next up, from TruTV, some 21 year old, drunk and dirty and caught trying to break into a drug store at 3 AM. So what’s the big deal? I’ve seen enough “World’s Dumbest” to know there’s nothing special about that. But this drunk 21 year old claimed to be a 100 year old, immortal vampire. He threatened to kill one officer and his family. He wanted to eat the kidney of a female officer.

How Madoff Got Away With It: The SEC Was Surfing for Porn

I stumbled across this today, ironically enough, through a humor site. And I am not surprised at all. Apparently, while Madoff was ripping people off and banks were getting ready to siphon billions off the economy and collapse, the SEC was too busy surfing for porn to care.

“During the past five years, the SEC OIG (Office of Inspector General) substantiated that 33 SEC employees and or contractors violated Commission rules and policies, as well as the government-wide Standards of Ethical Conduct, by viewing pornographic, sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images using government computer resources and official time,” said a summary of the investigation by the inspector general’s office.

More than half of the workers made between $99,000 and $223,000. All the cases took place over the past five years.

Believe it or not, I’m not shocked by this. I’m also not surprised. If anything, it explains a lot.

If you think this is an isolated incident, you need to get out more. You wonder why government bureaucracies have to be so large and inefficient? It’s probably because of the amount of people not getting anything done while they look for porn. Or play golf. Or do anything but the jobs they’re supposedly hired to do. You know, like watch over the economy. And regulate the banks.

MSN: 8 Lottery Winners Who Lost Their Millions

I’ve written several times about why I don’t waste my money on the lottery. I waste it on a lot of things, but not lottery tickets.

I know a lot of people who believe they can become “rich” through the lottery. I don’t buy it. I’m hardly an expert, but I have done more research on the lottery than anybody I know. That’s kind of sad, actually. I have 6 articles bookmarked on delicious. I’ve probably read a few more, but forgot to socially bookmark them. But that’s far more research than most people do on actual lottery winners.

It’s funny though, how I’ve read and bookmarked 6 articles, and nobody believes me that I can’t find evidence of a single lottery winner who didn’t blow the whole wad and end up worse off. They keep telling me “but, isn’t it possible that there’s somebody out there who won the lottery and was smart with the money?” I reply “Sure, it’s possible, but I haven’t come across one in my research. If you find one, please get me the information.”

Today on MSN, I found an article 8 Lottery Winners Who Lost Their Millions. Once again, it’s an account of people who won the lottery and lost everything. Some people lost families.

I do believe it’s possible that there are lottery winners out there who didn’t ultimately lose at life. But I don’t have any accounts of them. If you know of one, please let me know.

Cracked: The 6 Most Insane Moral Panics in American History

I came across an interesting article at Cracked about the 6 Most Insane Moral Panics in American History. As with all Cracked material, the language can be a little raw, so you should know that going in if it's an issue for you.

The article discusses moral panics like Comic Books, Dungeons and Dragons, Satanic subliminal messages in heavy metal, and Satanic ritual abuse.

Dungeons and Dragons

I was growing up when most of the moral panics were happening. I can remember some kind of stink about video games as well. As with all moral panics, I think there is a lot of excitability and a lack of critical thinking involved.

Let's take Dungeons and Dragons as an example. I remember one time in the early 80's when we were stationed in Germany. My dad came home with some D&D material. I don't think he had much. He had some cardboard tiles to make a dungeon out of. Maybe a book or two. He was excited about playing D&D with my brother and I. Then, nothing happened.

I asked him later why we never did anything with it. He said something about some kids were playing in a storm drain, and it flooded and killed them. Somehow, it was the fault of Dungeons and Dragons. I never really understood it. I even asked him if he really thought I was so stupid that I'd think it was OK to play in a storm drain just because I played Dungeons and Dragons. He didn't think so, but somehow the idea that some kids' deaths were related to the game kept him from playing it with us.

When I got a little bit older, I bought a Basic D&D kit. I played a little bit with a friend of mine. Then we got into AD&D for a while. Then I realized it was boring and I walked away from it. I couldn't get into it, and it wasn't worth trying anymore.

I've read some of the literature against D&D. I've read Jack Chick's stuff. I read William Schoenbelon's claims that the creators of D&D consulted with him as a high-level warlock to ensure accuracy of the material with the occult. Even if it's all true, I still believe that if people are going to do stupid, insane, or unsafe things, they don't need D&D to do it.

Comic Books

I never could get into comic books. The villains were dumb, the heros were cheesy, I wasn't impressed with a panel taken up by a "BAM!" or "SOCK!", and I had better things to do than worry about "Wait! I'm missing the 4th issue of the 31st edition!" I don't know the difference between Marvel and DC Comics. That is, I couldn't tell you which comic went under which label. I also don't feel like I'm missing out on anything because I can't. I'm not likely to end up on Jeopardy. 

I bought a Lobo comic once. It was amusing. I could have followed Lobo, but I couldn't be troubled to make sure I had EVERY SINGLE ISSUE so I didn't bother.

I think the moral panic surrounding comic books was silly.

Satanic Subliminal Messages in Heavy Metal

I agree with Cracked's assessment of this one. If a metal band had the idea to implant a subliminal message, "Buy more of our stuff!" would be more like it. Actually, I'd expect that to be placed by the record companies, which seem to have a direct communication link to evil. Of course, the Compact Disc rendered the "play a record backwards to hear our Satanic altar call" obsolete. When I was a teenager and this was going on, I couldn't understand why everybody appeared to be worked up over this. Of course, I didn't listen to much Heavy Metal at the time. Trans-Siberian Orchestra didn't exist.

I can remember an image of old people sitting around churches late at night listening to metal records backwards and painstakingly transcribing the Satanic messages supposedly implanted in them. 

I think history bears out that this moral panic was a huge overreaction to nothing.


I'm not denying that there are moral reason why we should get worried. There are moral issues that need to be confronted. But most of the moral panics that show up in popular culture are not those moral issues. At best, they are symptoms.

Cracked: Lotteries

Looks like somebody wrote a topic page for Cracked about lotteries. I figure I’m better off linking to it than quoting much of it directly. This is almost exactly what I would write about the lottery if I were capable of the kind of biting satire Cracked is known for.

From the page:

Even the Wikipedia article says that “buying a lottery ticket reduces the buyer’s expected net worth,” and when someone writing Wikipedia articles on lottery systems starts to call you worthless, you should probably be returned as defective by organ farmers.

I’ve made it sort of a hobby to study the lottery. Or, more specifically, lottery winners. I’ve written many times that I don’t “play” the lottery. I’ve found more constructive ways to waste my money.

I once found a very insightful quote in 1984 about the lottery. I should rewrite that post. Even I can’t stand my writing in it.

The last bit of text on that topic page contains a very saddening development:

Make Me A Millionaire

In final proof that He Who Is Satan has not only come to Earth but set up
a business, California is combining reality TV and scratch cards in
“Make Me A Millionaire” – a game* where contestants pay for scratch
cards for the chance of winning an appearance on TV. The moment people
stopped dreaming of being millionaires, and instead dreamed of maybe
having the chance to be on reality TV, is recorded as the exact date
hope died.

*God awful moron experience

Statistically, I’d say you stand a better chance of winning a spot on a reality TV show than you do of winning the lottery. Maybe it’s not that sad.

What Is The Deal With The Current Cultural Obsession With Vampires?

I’m trying to figure out exactly what it is about Vampires right now. They’re everywhere. Every time I turn around, there’s a new show or movie about them.

They have long since come to my house. My wife and her sister have read all the Twilight novels. I’ve even seen the movies. I guess the best I can say is I didn’t not like them if that makes sense. I rolled my eyes a lot during the dialogue but the story wasn’t too bad. I think they seriously overplayed the “lovesick teen girl” angle though. I also have trouble comprehending why a 109 year old vampire would want to spend his immortality as a junior in high school.

I’m probably not aware of all of the movie and TV offerings dealing with vampires. I couldn’t keep track of them if I wanted to. I know there’s a show called “The Vampire Diaries” and an HBO series called “True Blood”. I tried to watch True Blood, but I can’t get into it. Like most HBO series, it seems to be based on the following premise:

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An Exciting Project: 10 Million Words

For 2010, Tim Challies has embarked on what I consider to be an exciting challenge: 10 Million Words.

10 Million Words is a year-long project by Tim Challies to learn about life and culture through the lens of all of America’s bestselling books.

Tim, a Canadian, will be reading all of the New York Times’ non-fiction bestselling books in 2010. He is doing this to:

America’s bestselling books tell us, I’m sure, who America is, who her people are, at this time and place. Surely they will give me a glimpse into the world’s most powerful, the world’s most fascinating nation.

So why am I doing it? That is a fair question and one that does not offend me in the least. There are a few answers. First, I love to read and this project gives me an opportunity to read a lot. That, as I see it, is a good thing. Second, it is a challenge and I like to face a good challenge. I expect this project to involve at least ten million words of reading–break that down and you’ll see that it comes to at least three books per week over the course of an entire year. Third, I am interested in the cultural and worldview implications of all of these books. They will provide, I’m sure, a snapshot of where America is at as she enters a new decade. And for me, as a Canadian who spends a fair amount of time wandering the United States and who has family living in the United States, this stands to be particularly interesting.

Tim’s project excites me, and I’d love to embark on a similar project, except that I read a little too slowly. I like to study ideas though. As I look back through history, I like to focus on what ideas had the most influence on a culture. Just as the enlightenment had a massive influence on America’s founders, Robespierre had an influence on the French Revolution.

I’m excited by Tim’s challenge and I’m eagerly following along by his RSS feed in Google Reader. I can’t wait to see what conclusions he is able to draw from studying the ideas behind a years worth of non-fiction bestsellers.

This Is Why I Pay So Little Attention To The News

Here’s an RT hitpiece on Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. I believe RT stands for “Russia Today”. Apparently, RT interviewed Bill Ayers, a known former terrorist and close associate of our current President. O’Reilly attempted to “no-spin” the whole thing, which resulted in motion sickness for most of his viewers. Hannity also devoted 4 minutes of one of his programs to this “non-issue”.

I pay little attention to any of the mainstream media outlets. Considering how much time they spend on what amounts to hot air, I always wonder what they’re not telling us. They seem to spend more time on celebrity affairs than they do on issues like the NAFTA Superhighway.

As for Bill Ayers comments, I agreed with one thing. Get your news from places like The Daily Show and The Onion. During my teenage years, I went through a period of time when I got my news almost entirely from Mad Magazine. I was amazingly current with the issues. To this day, I still prefer to get my news from satire, which at least amuses me while I’m getting current.