Watch Cosmos, be less dumb

I wouldn’t be much of a television professional if I didn’t watch a lot of TV, have an opinion on all of it, and insist on sharing that opinion even when you don’t ask.  But I do; I do; and even though you didn’t, here goes.

I hope you’re watching Cosmos.  If you’re not, you can catch it online here as well as on Fox and a few of the Fox-affiliated networks; next new episode is Sunday night.  Astronomer/rock star Neil deGrasse Tyson is an engaging if slightly self-absorbed host for a journey of the imagination that’s not only exploring out in space, but back in time.  This version takes full advantage of the capabilities of the medium in the modern day and tells a great story.  I don’t find it as enthralling as the original with astronomer/rock star Carl Sagan back in 1980, but it’s not fair to compare the two, not for people like me who saw the Sagan series when we were young and the things he talked about were actually new and unknown to us.  For me, it had the advantage of provoking wonderment in a way the current version just can’t; I hope it does for the kids of today.

The new series, produced by Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan, Seth McFarlane and others, is providing easy-to-follow explanations of some difficult scientific concepts.  The writers and producers have found a way to lay things out so you can understand the concept in the same way you eat an elephant (one bite at a time); it’s not scary to learn new things here.  I particularly liked Episode 2 for the explanation of evolution by natural selection.  Anyone who didn’t watch that show with a preset determination that evolution is for atheists could grasp the basics; yes, you’ve got to give up the notion that the Earth is only 6000 years old and that people and dinosaurs lived side by side, but you will understand what the scientific terms “evolution” and “natural selection” really mean.  It should be required viewing for the members of the Texas State Board of Education, that’s for sure.

If you prefer yours in a handy graphical form, here’s a swell chart from Reddit user SlipperyFish done for The Infographics Project (thumbnail image via Thinkstock).  Thanks to Upworthy for the link to this short answer to a perennial favorite dumb question:


The ACLU explains why even non-terrorists should care about NSA spying on Americans

Since the news broke last month about the domestic spying programs laid out in the secret documents Edward Snowden leaked I’ve tried to make the case why all of us should be angry that our government is spying on us. Some have argued, “but I’ve done nothing wrong so I don’t have anything to worry about.”  Well, you may not have done anything illegal…but do you really want the government knowing and storing information about everything you do?  The folks at Upworthy tweeted a link to this ACLU video that has an answer for those people.

Support gay marriage or the homos will marry your girlfriends

Sitting at home on a cold weekday afternoon while the plumber worked away in our master bathroom, I went bopping around the Inter-Webs looking for something fun—at Upworthy I found this video which they found at Mediate but which originally came from College Humor.  Click the pic to see an inspired argument for why it is in the self-interest of all straight young men that they support legalizing same-sex marriage!


“We’re doing you a huge solid by being more attracted to each other than to your girlfriends, but if you stay closed-minded about this we will take one for the team and marry the crap out of them.  So don’t make us marry your girlfriends; support gay marriage.”

“American Taliban”

From time to time I find something I think is worth recommending that other people check out; I found such a thing last week.

This is about politics; this is about the people I’ve accused of hijacking the Republican Party and turning it into a secular curtain that they hide behind in their fight to impose their religious beliefs on all Americans through civil law, despite what the First Amendment says about that in this country (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”); this is about us all getting a clear look at what’s going on back there behind that curtain.

Political parties are not mentioned in the United States Constitution; they don’t exist as a part of government to promote the common good, they exist as private organizations to promote themselves and those who support them.  In the last generation, the Republican Party of Lincoln and Reagan has been take over by people who played the political game according to the rules, who participated and organized and worked their asses off, until they were in a position to control the outcomes of party primaries.  Today, anyone who wants to be the Republican candidate for anything has to please a small group of religious extremists, even when doing so means abandoning their own political heritage.

Some Republican candidates these days are true believers; others sell a bit of their soul in hopes of winning an election so they can do some good, and maybe someday move beyond the control of the extremists.  But make no mistake, the radicals are in charge of the GOP.  And they are now passing “voter ID” laws in most of the country to prevent voting fraud, laws that, arguably, have the real world effect of limiting voter participation by people in groups that have historically been reliable voters for Democratic Party candidates.  Pretty smart, and sneaky: no one can be in favor of voter fraud…but what they don’t like you to realize is that the incidence of actual voter fraud is on the order of 4/100,000ths of one-percent, or just 86 cases out of 196,000,000 votes cast over a five-year period of the early 2000s.  Thirty-three states have passed voter ID laws; in 32 of those states, the laws were proposed by Republican lawmakers and passed by Republican-controlled legislatures and signed by Republican governors.  If there’s no significant voter fraud to stop, then what are they after?

The people who control today’s Republican Party have been as successful as they have because (1) some Americans agree with their goals, (2) most Americans aren’t paying attention, and (3) the news media is too occupied with what David Shaw in the Los Angeles Times called “the four horsemen of the journalistic apocalypse: superficiality, sensationalism, preoccupation with celebrity, and obsession with the bottom line.”  So, we have to rely on fictional journalists to do the heavy lifting:

“American Taliban.”  Yep; that’s perfect.  Spread the word.  And thanks to for the tip.

Hey mister—look over here!

Recently I stumbled on a relatively new Website that grabbed my attention by being different.  It’s called Upworthy, and it bills itself as a social media site with a mission “to help people find important content that is as fun to share as a FAIL video of some idiot surfing off his roof.”  That’s something worth checking out.

I have been for a week now, and decided to pass it along to you and recommend you do the same.  It’s continually updated, although I can’t tell yet if there’s a real schedule for updates or not, and has enticed me with fun and interesting images and clever text it hopes I will click.  It has a sense of humor and a progressive/liberal political point of view, at least what I’ve seen so far does…but then, it does seem to be the work of young people (and you know how they can be!).  They’re tilting at the windmill of an Internet composed of the following:


I agree with their premise that “things that matter in the world don’t have to be boring and guilt-inducing,” and give them credit for trying to prove the point.  Give Upworthy a look yourself.