Around the World Pic: Disturbing Parthenon Statues at the British Museum in London

centaur-in-bm

Most of what could be taken off of the Parthenon in Greece was taken off of the Parthenon in Greece by the British. Now it can be seen in the British Museum. This is one such piece, if I recall approximately a meter squared. It depicts a centaur carrying off a captured woman who he obviously intends on raping.

The depiction itself is far less grotesque than the reality it recalls, in which women were carried off as spoils of war – the stronger the man the more women he has and the more progeny he begets.

Apparently 1/6th of men in the Asian steppes and the surrounding areas are descended from Genghis Khan, who sired a crapload of children as he conquered and raped and pillaged.

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Religion in the News: Will Atheism Be Advertised on London Buses?

The Situation

The British Humanist Association has decided to run advertisements on buses that say, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” After raising more money than they expected for this endeavor, they may even get some in-bus ads going. Richard Dawkins, world renowned atheist and author of The God Delusion has supported the group.

The idea, the group claims, is to make people think. Religious posters often adorn the sides of buses, and no one gives it a second thought as these religious groups are given liberties like tax breaks and the right to never be offended and more. This group seeks to put a stop to that free ride. At the very least, they hope to make people smile and think.

Compared to the many advertisements threatening eternal damnation or salvation through Jesus, the BHA hopes that its posters will be a breath of fresh air for commuters and locals. Some local religious figures made appreciative comments about the campaign because it encourages people to engage in deep and important questions about life.

My Thoughts

On the one hand, this seems antagonistic to me – trying to get people riled up about their beliefs. On the other hand, I love riling people up about their beliefs. It’s true, religious people do think they’ve earned the right not to be offended and it’s true that they’re allowed to preach at everyone else all the time and we are subject to their nonsense way too often. Just the other day I couldn’t get through a hoard of Scientologists without taking their stupid and nonsensical flier.

Putting posters up like this could make people think because many do worry too much about the next life and God and salvation and all that jazz to live enjoyable, meaningful lives here. Not all religious people, mind you, but there are enough to make this a valid comment.

Funny enough, England seems like a silly place to do this. England has one of the least religious populations and believers in God of nearly any country in the world. It seems like this is something better suited for a generally devout country (or part of it), like middle America. I’d like to see somebody try that here. But hey, I suppose it’s only a matter of time.

What do you think? Do you like the sentiment behind the posters or do you think it’s unnecessarily antagonistic? Do you think that religion deserves the free ride it’s on?

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Around the World Pic: Westminster Abbey in London for Some Good ol’ Anglican Times

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

No, I’m not in this photo, but I did take it (or my traveling companion at the time, Jennifer, took it – forget).

I love London – it’s a great city, and I may be moving there in the summer of next year (but we’ll see). Westminster Abbey is a central part of the Anglican Church and is actually the place that, traditionally, all of the English monarchs are crowned there.

It’s a neat place right next to the Parliament and Big Ben, on the Thames and in the center of this amazing city.

Have you ever been to Westminster Abbey? London? What’d you think?

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Around the World: The Acropolis in Athens is an Incredible Place

Enjoying the View from the Acropolis

Enjoying the View from the Acropolis

Greece is a spectacularly beautiful place. Most of my time there was spent hopping around a few islands, and I only spent about 4 hours in Athens before I caught a plane to London at the end of my trip. All I really cared to do was explore the ancient forum and climb up to the Acropolis.

Like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that is currently home to the Dome of the Rock, the Acropolis, meaning ‘sacred rock’ is an elevated mountain platform that has always been associated with the sacred and the holy. Since the sixth millennium BCE it has been inhabited or built upon and though it is no longer in use for worshiping the gods, it’s still a breathtaking place to visit.

The 360 degree views from the top are spectacular. The columns are insanely enormous and the entire structure dwarves you and all the people hopping around the edges of it. Funny enough, I saw the friezes that adorned the Acropolis a year earlier when I was in London visiting the British Museum. They’re also incredible, and I can’t imagine what they would have looked like at the top of this amazing structure.

Have you ever been to the Acropolis? What did you think? Have you seen the parts of it that are in the British Museum?

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“Trapped in the Closet,” is South Park’s Big Shot at Scientology

Episode 912 is infamous. In fact, it couldn’t even be aired in the U.K. because of its content. It’s also the episode that resulted in Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef, quitting the show.

The episode itself lampoons Scientology by knocking its methodology, allegedly scientific basis, and status as a big, fat, global scam. It also lambasts the various celebrities that the so-called religion claims as a foundation for its legitimacy, including Tom Cruise (whose alleged homosexual proclivities give the episode its title and caused him to flip his shit just around the release of Mission Impossible 3 – which for the record was a bad-ass movie), and John Travolta.

I entirely agree with South Park‘s sentiments about this wretched attempt at a religion, and appreciate that Parker and Stone stepped into Scientology’s own line of fire when they made this episode. In The Zen of South Park I compare the show’s portrayal of Mormonism and Scientology in order to show how two religions that are totally invented (and in quite an obvious way) are not evaluated similarly.

Are you a Scientologist? Do I have it all wrong? Would you like to come on my blog and do a guest interview?

What do you think of Scientology? Do you know any Scientologists? Have you ever known anyone who converted to Scientology? Did that person change into someone you don’t know any more?

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Topical Tuesdays: E-books, Kindle and Books Not on Paper

As many of you know, on Tuesdays, Chandler and I each take on an issue relevant to the writing and publishing world and discuss it. You are invited to comment on both of our blogs with your own thoughts and to blog about the topic and send us links to what you wrote.

This week’s topic is, as the subject line would indicate, e-books, Amazon’s Kindle and basically, the fact that many books and publishing are moving to formats that are not ink on paper. How do I feel about this? Well, it’s a mixed bag, to be sure.

On the one hand, reading is reading and whether it is facts or fiction, stats or imagined tales, history or futuristic sci-fi, it’s valuable for the information contained in those words to be in our heads (unless it’s, say, Nazi propaganda or something, though even that has its place in a history class). They work our brains and imaginations no matter how they get in there: visually, orally, through Braille, sign language or ESP. Stories are good, facts are great and both are fantastic. Should it really matter if we’re holding a book open in our hands and running our eyes across ink blots on pulp? No, probably not. Running our eyes across zeros and ones on liquid gel or iPhone screens or Kindles from Amazon (a handheld device into which full length books are purchased and downloaded) probably ends up with about the same results. But there are two issues to consider (actually plenty more but two that I will raise): the wonder of discovering something in a book and the effects on the publishing industry.

In my experience, it is exhilarating to discover something in the actual pages of an original book. Allow me to elaborate. When I wrote my thesis, which can be read online at http://repository.upenn.edu/curej/10/, I had two options for doing research on eighteenth century Unitarian writings: 1. I could read the scanned versions of the books online at a repository for like books or 2. Fly to England and look at original copies of these texts in the British Library. Well, after a scholarship that allowed me to pursue the research, the decision became obvious. I went to England and read these books for information that no one had before and wrote my thesis, partially inspired by my experiences reading the original published texts of these eighteenth century brilliants. I even opened the handwritten sermons of eighteenth century Unitarian ministers and saw the words they crossed out and what they chose to say instead. Of course, that could suck for many, but for me it was a great experience, and I think that in the world of research, the experience of sitting in the archives and pouring over old texts is very important.

On the other hand, that anyone has the ability to research what I did because the material is available online is incredible! Many (i.e. enough) of these amazing books were online and anyone could have done what I did. It would have been less enjoyable looking at them on a screen and because of a variety of other factors I probably found more relevant materials but people could still enjoy these books because they’re online. More importantly, the information will not be lost as quickly: though a fire or time could destroy the original texts, they are now online forever (presumably). That’s a great thing.

The second issue is the effects on the publishing world. More people, through online publishing, have the ability to get their books out there because the publishing industry – which is picky, slow, cumbersome and elitist – is kept out of it. So, while we as readers may have more crap to filter through, potentially, everyone gets a chance, which means that more people can be discovered.

This also coincides nicely with the Long Tail theory of Chris Anderson, who explains that 1/3 or more of the market today, in books, music and movies, due to the democratization of instruments and the low/no-cost availability of them because of digitizing everything, is in the long tail of products – that is, those things that aren’t mainstream hits. That is, if there are 10,000 books worth publishing and they sell 6 million copies, and another 90,000 not worth publishers’ time but that get out there online, 3 million copies of those 90,000 books will still get sold, and even though it’s way more books our there, if it doesn’t cost anything because they’re digital, that’s still a third of the books sold getting rejected by traditional publishers and making up 90% of the available material (numbers are invented though they scale). That’s incredible and ebooks and Kindle are playing their parts in this expanding marketplace and the democratization of instruments and access. I think this is wonderful and if it happens to force the publishing world (as well as Hollywood and the music industry) to rethink its approach to who gets made then great. Sure, it could shake things up for a while but ultimately, just because things have been done one way forever doesn’t mean it’s right. Tradition is not sacred – especially not in business. Innovation is king, and if ebooks are changing things, rock on.

How do you feel about ebooks’ effects on the publishing industry? Do you disagree with me? Why? How about the democratization of instruments? Pro or con? Do you like books in your hand or do you mind reading from a screen? Love to hear what you think!

And don’t forget to check out Chandler’s thoughts at chandlermariecraig.wordpress.com.

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