Useless Money: A Humanist Sermon

This is 432 Park Avenue:It's the newest addition to the New York City skyline, an ultra-luxury residential skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. With a top height of almost 1400 feet, it's the tallest residential building in the world and the second tallest building in all of NYC, ahead of the Empire State Building, behind only the new One World Trade Center.Despite its neck-craning height (it actually required approval from the FAA), 432 Park Avenue has only 104 apartments. The first … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: The Top 100 Women Authors

My familiarity with the classics of sci-fi and fantasy is patchy, and I've been trying to make it more systematic. As part of that goal, I want to diversify my reading selections, and pay adequate attention to the excellent women and minority authors who are too often overlooked in favor of the white male authors who've historically dominated the field.So, I was very pleased to see this top-100 list of SF/F novels by female authors from BookRiot. I was curious to see where I stacked up in … [Read more...]

Why Do Anti-Choice Christians Believe Abortion Is Bad?

The Colorado courts have unsealed some documents in the case of Robert Lewis Dear, the Christian terrorist who attacked a Planned Parenthood in Colorado and murdered three people. (Since it seems clear that Dear isn't denying his guilt, I think we can dispense with words like "alleged".)The new documents confirm that Dear's motivations were explicitly religious. Among other details, we're told that he repeatedly quoted the Bible, "called President Barack Obama the antichrist" and "thought … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Mystery Science Theater 3000

The whole East Coast is snowed in after last night's blizzard. If you're feeling a touch of cabin fever, I've got a suggestion for how to while away the time.Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a cult-classic TV show that came out of Minnesota in the late 1980s. It's about a mild-mannered janitor named Joel (series creator Joel Hodgson), who had the misfortune of being employed by two mad scientists. As part of their evil, never-fully-specified plan to conquer the world, they kidnap him, shoot … [Read more...]

If You Won the Powerball

OK, I admit it: I bought a ticket for the Powerball lottery this weekend. After multiple drawings with no winner, the grand prize hit $800 million, and could surpass $1 billion before tonight's drawing.I'd argue that it's not totally irrational to play. At $2 a ticket and jackpot odds of 1 in 292 million, that's a positive expected value (although of course taxes complicate the picture, and it's less if you choose to take the winnings as a lump sum).Still, it makes no sense to me that … [Read more...]

Open Thread: Star Wars

I saw The Force Awakens last night, and I have thoughts, so here's an open thread to discuss the movie. Warning: spoilers ahead!As Lore Sjoberg once said, the best Star Wars will always be the one that reverts you to the wide-eyed 8-year-old you were when you saw it for the first time. By that standard, this movie delivers the goods. It doesn't just hit all the nostalgia buttons, it plays them like a symphony: the scavenged, used-future technology, the desert and ice planets, the colorful … [Read more...]

Beware the Man Who Knows One Thing

OK, let me admit this first and get it out of the way: I used to be a big fan of Scott Adams.In the early 2000s, I regularly read Adams' Dilbert strip and subscribed to his newsletter, "Dogbert's New Ruling Class". I signed up for the jokes, but in retrospect, what I overlooked was the condescension. In between the office anecdotes and corporate-jargon humor, Adams insisted that his fans were naturally superior, that they're the ones who see how the world really is. In Ayn Rand-esque … [Read more...]

Some Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

This summer, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts staged a "Kimono Wednesdays" event where visitors were invited to don the traditional Japanese garb and pose with a Claude Monet painting of his wife wearing a kimono. But the museum was taken aback when protestors showed up in force, accusing the event of perpetuating dehumanizing "exotification" of Asian culture. Ironically, the Japanese cultural attaché didn't see what the big deal was:"We actually do not quite understand what their point of … [Read more...]

SF/F Saturday: Jessica Jones

I have a new favorite show to recommend: Marvel's Jessica Jones, just released in its entirety on Netflix. It's technically a superhero show, but unlike any superhero show I've ever seen before.Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a private eye living in the New York City neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen. She doesn't look intimidating, but she has superhuman strength: she can throw a man twice her size across a room, twist a padlock off a door with her bare hands, or jump so high and so far that … [Read more...]

If John Galt Invented the Internet

A hero's work is never done. I've been recapping Atlas Shrugged, including the movies, for over two years, and the end was finally drawing into sight. But now I've found out that yet another adaptation is being planned, this time a TV series. The new producer, Albert S. Ruddy, plans on taking some liberties with the source material:The main thing, Mr. Ruddy said, is to honor Ms. Rand's insistence on making a film for the future. That means redrawing its capitalists and creators, who go on … [Read more...]


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