Wednesday, February 07, 2024

The Biblically Foretold "Alien Invasion"

 It's common in Christian religions to find a few Bible verses to make a particular point, but then leave out any context that might be completely contrary to the point that is trying to be made. It's not merely common -- entire doctrines of a great many religions rely on this practice, and the members of those religions either lack curiosity or they just follow along out of tradition and faith in their churches' leaders without questioning whether or not what they are learning and teaching others is what their Holy Book is trying to tell them.

I see this very often in religious memes that are shared online. Take the one below, for example. The point the person who shares this wants to drive home is that "FOREIGNERS ARE GOING TO TAKE EVERYTHING THAT'S YOURS!!! IT'S RIGHT THERE IN THE BIBLE!" There it is, angrily underlined in red ink with a digitally-added pink border (in case you miss the red ink emphasis). And then people will comment, "Yup. That's what's happening now!" and "They're letting it happen, just like the Bible said!" and "Amen!" while they rage against foreigners and rage against people who don't want to let them drown and against people who want to adopt sensible immigration laws. But the people who share and praise this meme seem to ignore everything written below the highlighted part.

Had I been using this Bible page to create a meme that would use selective verses, I would have underlined and higlighted the next few sentences which explain why this could potentially happen to a society. 

In the first place, this isn't "end-times prophecy". It's a section of the Book of Deuteronomy where Moses is telling the people he had led out of Egypt about the blessings that will happen if they obey their God, and of the curses that will befall them if they don't. The first part of Deuteronomy 28 talks about all of the wonderful blessings that would be in store if these people would conduct themselves as they are supposed to. Then the second part of Deuteronomy 28 (part of which is shown above) lays out what would happen if these people choose instead to reject what Moses had told them that God commanded. The choice was theirs to make, whether they were going to obey the commandments of God or not. Did these people want to be blessed or cursed? Moses let them know what was at stake. It had nothing to do with "end times". All the same, a curious Bible reader might want to have a look at what God was commanding, just to be on the safe side.

Let's be real -- most Christian religions don't give a hoot about the Laws that God gave to the children of Abraham in the Old Testament outside of the "Big Ten" Commandments (with the exception of those very few verses about homosexuals some always seem to have on hand). They are taught that the Laws that Moses gave don't apply to them. In the popular series "The Chosen" the actor playing the role of Jesus Christ says, "I am the law of Moses", and even though Jesus never said that, a lot of Christians have lately been quoting those words as if Jesus of Nazareth actually did. They completely ignore what Jesus said about these laws in Matthew 5.

But back to Deuteronomy 28 -- the blessings and curses -- if you keep reading, it goes on about how after people who have been cursed decide to obey God again then they'll be blessed again. So if you're a Christian it might be a good idea to find out exactly what those commandments are that the God people are sharing these memes about finds so important. They may be surprised to find out how many of those laws command people to be kind to the foreigners -- as one rare, sensible commenter pointed out after seeing the meme above:

There are lots of laws and verses about being kind to foreigners, poor people, widows, orphans, and you fellow human beings in general (even the ones who don't share your political beliefs). So instead of taking things that Moses said out of context to stir up political hatred on social media against people who weren't born here and those who want to help them, perhaps they should try to do what God actually said to do so that they don't bring all of those horrible curses they are trying to frighten people with upon themselves. Just go for the blessings instead.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

James Dean (Small Screen)

 When I heard that my beloved Turner Classic Movies is in trouble I decided to dip down a rabbit hole for diversion and in preparation for a potential Warner Bros. boycott. For years I've noticed that many of my favorite movie directors and writers (George Roy HillPaddy Chayefsky, et al.) began their careers working on short TV movies that were broadcast live in the 1950s. It didn't take long to stumble across many works of James Dean, who only made three films for the big screen before his tragic death in 1955, but did a lot of work on these anthology series. I thought I'd share some here.

A Word about Kinescope Recordings: Before 1956 the only way to record live TV shows was by pointing a movie camera at a television screen and filming it that way. These recordings are called kinescopes, and their quality is nowhere near as good as the original broadcasts must have been, but at least they were preserved.

So, as promised, here are some early James Dean "movies" for you:

From the Schlitz Playhouse of Stars we have "The Unlighted Road," broadcast live on May 6, 1955:

Campbell's SoundStage brings us a presentation of James Dean in "Something for an Empty Briefcase", was broadcast live on July 17,1953:

James Dean and Natalie Wood starred in the live broadcast of "I'm a Fool" for General Electric Theater on November 14, 1954. This video shows a version that was aired following the death of James Dean in 1955, with an introduction by Ronald Reagan

From the Kraft Television Theatre we have "A Long Time Till Dawn," written by Rod Serling and broadcast live on November 11, 1953:

Less than two weeks later, on November 23,1953, Dean appeared on the Johnson's Wax Program's production of "Harvest" (with several other faces classic film fans will find familiar):

November of 1953 was a busy time on the small screen for James Dean, as you'll see in the Armstrong Circle Theatre production of "The Bells of Cockaigne", which aired live on November 17 (between the two films above):

There are several more of these that can be found on YouTube, and a seemingly endless number of teleplays featuring classic film stars and future Academy Award winners early in their careers. That being said, please, dear God, #SaveTCM!

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Lamentations En Français

 Chaque jour, elle voit des photographes d'endroits comme l'Europe et Hawaï partager de belles images de lieux et de choses qu'ils capturent de leurs propres yeux. Elle voit des peintres de New York et même de sa ville natale créer un art qui remue son âme. Mais elle ne peut pas voyager en Europe, à Hawaï, ni même à New York. La plupart du temps, elle ne peut même pas quitter sa propre maison. Elle trouve donc un moyen de créer des images intéressantes qui lui viennent à l'esprit - des endroits dont elle rêve et de choses qu'elle aimerait voir.

Elle crée des images de choses qu'elle envisage parce qu'elles satisfont quelque chose en elle. Et elle les crée de la seule façon dont elle peut, de la meilleure façon dont elle peut, et elles la rendent heureuse.

Et puis arrivent les détracteurs - peut-être prennent-ils des photos, peut-être peignent-ils, mais la plupart du temps ils ne font ni l'un ni l'autre... ils tapent simplement des mots parce qu'ils le peuvent. Et ils disent qu'elle n'est pas une artiste. Ces images ne sont pas de l'art. Elles ne méritent même pas d'exister.

Et dans son confinement, elle ne s'en soucie pas vraiment. Elle veut juste se sentir mieux. Les images sont faites pour son propre plaisir. Si d'autres les apprécient, c'est encore mieux. Elle souhaite les partager avec sa famille, ses amis et tous ceux qui aimeraient les voir. D'ailleurs, elle n'est heureuse que lorsqu'elle crée des choses. Quant aux cyniques, ils sont inévitables. Pour elle-même, ils ne la concernent pas. Mais pour d'autres comme elle, elle ressent la douleur de leur condescendance. Elle les voit plaider leur cause: "NOUS SOMMES des créateurs!" Quant à elle, elle est trop fatiguée pour se disputer avec "ses supérieurs", et elle est suffisamment âgée pour savoir que cela n'a pas d'importance. Et elle espère que vous aimez ses images.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Fake Memes



The fake meme above was created using Midjourney, the same program that fooled the world with a picture of the Pope wearing a puffer jacket, and again when supposed images of Trump being arrested enraged MAGA Republicans and delighted much of the rest of the world. It was able to do those things fairly realistically because it created the images exactly as it was told to without having to think or reason beyond its programming. 

People worry about the impact that Artificial Intelligence will have on the work force and, in fact, the very existence of humanity. I'm more optimistic. Take, for example, the person who demonstrated how he was able to launch and market a product in 30 minutes, complete with a website, promotional video, and even email and social media ad campaigns. This shows how AI tools can enable people with little capital and/or advanced education to start a business they may never have been able to otherwise, and I think that's awesome. But if you're really worried, take heart in this quote from an earlier article I linked: 

Luckily, by Hinton's outlook, humanity still has a little bit of breathing room before things get completely out of hand, since current publicly available models are mercifully stupid.

I work with them every day and can attest to their frustrating deficiencies. A good example of their limitations is trying to get AI image generators to make funny memes. Midjourney, considered by many to be the gold-standard, has a grasp on common meme formats, but when left to its own devices to come up with great images using only the prompt, "funny memes with text," proves that its intelligence is indeed truly artificial.  So while we bide our time waiting to see if modern technology is an existential threat that will destroy all humanity, I thought it might be fun to offer you a gallery of AI-generated memes to show how far off-base so much of the artificial intelligence you may have been hearing a lot about it is (for now, at least).

Sunday, February 05, 2023

The Bitter Taste of Chocolate

The chocolate industry is worth over $100 billion annually as we gobble up millions of tons of chocolate every year. But there's a secret, bitter ingredient hidden deep inside of the smooth, indulgent sweetness that most of us crave so often. What's the secret? That so much of it is STILL produced using child slave labor.

In countries like the Ivory Coast, hundreds of thousands of children work in harsh, dangerous conditions to harvest cocoa beans. These children are trafficked or forced into labor, sometimes working 12-14 hours a day wielding machetes to cut cocoa pods from trees, facing threats and physical abuse to keep them moving. This rampant child exploitation is what powers the global chocolate industry, fueled by high demand for cheap cocoa to produce more, and more, and more.

Despite decades of promises by industry giants like Nestlé, Mars, and Hershey to end child labor in their supply chains, little has changed. As recently as the 2020s, myriad reports found that child labor was still common in West African cocoa farming. Why have these companies failed to deliver on their pledges? Largely because ending child labor would cut into their already obscene profits. Stronger action—like paying cocoa farmers fair prices and ensuring fair wages and safe conditions—costs money that might prevent a chocolate baron from buying a sixth superyacht. It is far cheaper to maintain the status quo, turning a blind eye to the abuse and simply issuing new promises to address the problem each time it's exposed.

This is a global injustice. Western consumers and corporations have leveraged disproportionate power over producers in developing nations, prioritizing low costs and high profits over basic human rights. Until we DEMAND change by insisting upon ethically-sourced chocolate from these billionaire chocolate barons, until companies are forced through regulations and consumer pressure to clean up their acts, the bitter truth will remain: the chocolate we love so much is too often produced by those whose suffering we continue to ignore. It's on us to stand up for what's right and use our democracy and our pocketbooks to reform this broken system.


If you've read this far, I'm wondering at which point you started suspecting that the above was AI-generated, or if you suspected at all. Don't get me wrong, I didn't just tell ChatGPT to "write me a blog post about child slavery in Côte d'Ivoire." I spent a couple of hours discussing and learning about the history and political structure of the Ivory Coast, finding out that country's GDP is peanuts compared to the annual revenues of the chocolate barons, and learning how quickly efforts in Congress to pass slave-free certification laws for chocolate are shot down. I made a web page about this more than 20 years ago and am dismayed to realize it's still as bad as it was then. It's been on my mind, what with heart-shaped boxes everywhere I look and Half-Price Chocolate Day, aka February 15, being right around the corner.

Still, it did give me something to blog about. I've been meaning to write on here for more than a year. Indeed, I have several drafts that I started but never finished -- with titles like, "My Pro-Life Abortion" (about the time a surgeon saved my life after a fallopian tube ruptured and I was bleeding to death internally, but I was begging him to save the baby or let me die with it as I was being wheeled into the operating room) and, "The Bonus Round (When You're Tired of Playing)" about some of my other narrow escapes from the hereafter, and how each era that followed has been another bonus round in this game of life. I'm on my fourth, by the way. 

I needed something to break the writer's block, and the previous paragraph should give you an idea about my mindframe, and why I felt that letting a very eloquent and skilled (albeit non-human) writer help me out of the corner I've painted myself into was a good way to try and come out of exile. 

Please visit to learn more and find ways to help put at least one thing right in this world of human suffering.