7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.8)

1. The Dalston House. The Mom from The Cat in the Hat vs. the Man in the Yellow Hat. “I don’t have to outrun the bear …”

2. Ever since the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and Prop 8, the professional fundraisers of the religious right have been warning that Christians will soon be thrown in jail for being anti-gay. This is stupid on at least two levels: First, because not all Christians are anti-gay and, despite their assumptions and insinuations to the contrary, being anti-gay is not a necessary trait or a defining characteristic for Christians. And second because no one wants to throw them in jail, no one is threatening to throw them in jail, and no legal basis exists for anyone doing so.

The clearest piece of evidence for that latter point is the continuing freedom of the Rev. Fred Phelps. In 2011, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church have every legal right to continue their hateful, loathesome “ministry.”  And if Fred Phelps ain’t in jail for being anti-gay, then no one ever will be.

More recently, the White House responded to a series of online petitions calling for the president to officially designate Westboro Baptist as a “hate group.” The White House pointed out that the president isn’t in the business of designating hate groups — he doesn’t have the power to do so and isn’t inclined to try to change that, even in the extreme case of Westboro, whose behavior, the White House notes, is “reprehensible.”

“As a matter of practice, the federal government doesn’t maintain a list of hate groups,” the White House said. “That’s the prerogative of private organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.”

That won’t stop the fundraisers of the religious right from continuing to insist that President Obama is about to designate them as hate groups, or from falsely claiming that their organizations have somehow already been listed as such.

3. When you find yourself praising Vladimir Putin as your ideal moral leader, you’re doing it wrong.

4. Since Friday’s Left Behind post here dealt both with the Two Witnesses and with a trip to Galilee, here are a couple of recent items of related interest. First is James McGrath’s discussion of Lee Harmon’s speculation as to a historical basis (or identity) for the witnesses in the book of Revelation. McGrath finds the idea interesting, but he’s not buying it. Check the post out, though, for a good example of how theologians go about considering such things (and for the awesomely awful “Bible prophecy” artwork of the fire-breathing witnesses). The second item is the news of a weird discovery beneath the waves of the Sea of Galilee:

Researchers stumbled upon a cone-shaped monument, approximately 230 feet in diameter, 39 feet high, and weighing an estimated 60,000 tons, while conducting a geophysical survey on the southern Sea of Galilee, reports Prof. Shmulik Marco of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences. The team also included TAU Profs. Zvi Ben-Avraham and Moshe Reshef, and TAU alumni Dr. Gideon Tibor of the Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute.

Initial findings indicate that the structure was built on dry land approximately 6,000 years ago, and later submerged under the water. Prof. Marco calls it an impressive feat, noting that the stones, which comprise the structure, were probably brought from more than a mile away and arranged according to a specific construction plan.

Dr. Yitzhak Paz of the Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University says that the site, which was recently detailed in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, resembles early burial sites in Europe and was likely built in the early Bronze Age. He believes that there may be a connection to the nearby ancient city of Beit Yerah, the largest and most fortified city in the area.

That’s a cool piece of archaeological/historical news, but I’m also waiting to see what the End-Times enthusiasts and the “Bible prophecy scholars” will concoct in response to this story. I can see some Ken-Ham-types deciding this is a remnant of the Tower of Babel or evidence of Noah’s Flood. Or some enterprising huckster might decide it’s a kind of Asherah pole and start raising funds to have it torn down lest we risk incurring divine wrath. For folks like Tim LaHaye, John Hagee and Jack Van Impe, I’m sure this will be seen as yet another sign of the imminent End of the World, but how exactly they’ll go about spinning it as such I can’t guess.

5. On a related note about biblical study and the study of history, Paul at Disoriented. Reoriented has a nice overview of the very weak case for a historical interpretation of the story of Exodus (or, if you like, an overview of the very strong case against interpreting the story of Exodus as actual history). And Darrell Pursiful guides us through a discussion of some of the other, non-historical content in our King James Bibles — namely, the bits about unicorns, dragons, satyrs and onocentaurs.

6. From Brian McLaren:

Gregory of Nyssa said that sin is essentially a refusal to grow, and I think, in many ways, he is right. One narrative looks around and says that every day, in every way, the world is getting worse. Another narrative looks around and says that every day, in every way, the world is getting better. A wiser narrative might be — every day, and in every way, we are always negotiating between regression, stagnation, stability, and growth.

That’s why I would rather say that our strongest and best tradition is a willingness to learn, change, and grow. To be carefully and wisely progressive is — traditional in the best sense.

7. Want another seven things? Here’s Omid Safi offering “7 observations on North Carolina’s anti-democratic, anti-Muslim, anti-women legislation.” Appropriate reading for this, the 11th Moral Monday. (See also Ed Kilgore on North Carolina’s “Selective Fundamentalism“: “Having resolved to protect the Tar Heel State from the entirely imaginary threat of Islamic theocracy, the solons figured they’d show the world what home-grown theocracy looked like. …” )

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  • Daniel

    If you live in a society where marriage is financially rewarded then you should have every right to enjoy that too. Good luck to you, and congratulations!

  • EllieMurasaki

    If anybody ever delivers one of those end-of-comment quotes of yours to me concerning my art, I shall laugh in their face. Yeah, I’m writing for the money. All forty, fifty dollars of it, lifetime total, before deducting expenses such as paying CreateSpace for copies of my book that I can sign and sell. That’s not devaluing my work, that’s pointing out that I am self-published and have only been published for a few months and am shit at marketing. And if they’re happy to read what I post for free but balk at paying the artist because it’d be a waste of money (rather than because of a sucky money-to-buy-media:media-on-the-wishlist ratio or what have you), well, fuck ’em, why are they reading my free stuff anyway.

  • Daniel

    It’s far more likely to be the lovely eldritch horrors. Lovecraft only wrote about a few of them, in his largely unknown pre-school books “Counting with Cthulu”, “the Wonderful Picnic of Unknown Kaddath” and “Nap Time for Nyarlathotep”. I strongly recommend the last one- not to ruin it but Nyarlathotep DOES NOT want to go to bed at all!

  • Alix


    What gets me is when people come off with “but I could totally do that, so you shouldn’t charge that much!” or some variant. I hear that all. the. time. – concerning my work, the work of my friends, the work of local artists, the stuff sold at the farmer’s market, etc. And I always want to scream – well then, go make your own and stop ragging on us.

    A friend of my mom’s knits beautiful scarves and recently started selling them at $10 a pop. That covers yarn, but nowhere near the amount of time she puts into knitting them. She’s only making a profit if you don’t count the hours she spends making these and are looking solely at cost of materials – and even then, it’s not much profit, given some of the yarns she uses. And every single time she tells people how much the scarves are, folks balk. And while most people aren’t quite rude enough to make nasty comments to a nice old lady’s face, it’s even odds that they’ll make some snide remark about overpricing behind her back.

    But they think her scarves are gorgeous and she should totally sell them, they totally want one! Until they learn that yes, she’s actually charging them for one, and more than just $5 or less.

    The reaction’s worse with things like photography or painting or – as you point out – writing, because it’s like people don’t even realize those are skills. :/ There’s a huge local-artist gallery/studio thing near here, and I try my damndest to go at off times, because otherwise it’s inevitable I’ll run across other visitors mocking the artists for selling their paintings for $100 or their photos for $30 – which is way cheap – because “they just slapped some paint on a canvas” or “anyone can point a camera, so where do they get off charging that much?”

    And literally just before looking at the price tags, these same people thought the works were beautiful and the artists so talented and amazing. Which they are.

    …this hits a nerve with me, not that it’s obvious. XD

  • Alix

    Been turning this over in my head for a while, and I have three things to say:

    1. To me, if you’re not remaining static, you’re growing. It’s just a question of whether you’re growing in the ways you like.

    2. Learning how to act in public entailed (and continues to entail) huge growth for me, that most introverted of introverts. Let’s put it this way: I honestly told my HS guidance counselor that I had no career plans because I fully intended to be a hermit. XD Social interaction – and even desiring it – is growth on my part.

    3. I’d say there are also a lot more forms of growth than just things people see in public. I’ve grown internally – I can recognize my own emotions now, I have a better handle on my temper, I know how to handle being overstressed – even when no one else is around to see, and it’s still valuable growth even when it’s something impacting only me. I’ve grown intellectually – same deal. We grow and change as people even only in relation to ourselves, in ways no one else will ever see, in ways that only matter to our internal lives. I don’t think that kind of growth can be classed as learning how to act in public.

  • EllieMurasaki

    A lot of that is mass production and outsourcing. Labor cost has been mostly cut out of most things, and people think a mass-produced scarf where the only worker involvement is somebody monitoring the machines, or somebody being paid jack shit in Bangladesh, is worth the same as a similar scarf handmade in the USA. It’s not about art being somehow worth less when it costs money than when it’s free.

    But the difference in reasoning doesn’t change the effect.

  • Alix

    I think you’re right to a large extent, but when it’s combined with the also-common attitude of “you’re only a real artist if you’re not doing it for the money” then yeah, I do think that it is in part fueled by the idea that real art should somehow be free (or at the least cost no more than the cost of materials, the other common attitude I hear). I could also mention here the number of people who get irate when reading the price tags on famous works of art in museums. (Why the museums even display those tags, I don’t know. I really don’t.)

    But I think both sides here – mass production/cheap labor and “it’s only real art if it’s free” – are two sides of the entitlement coin, really. Paying people fair value for their labor is right out, apparently. :/

  • Salt Lake City proper is quite a refreshing surprise, actually. It’s just as fun-loving and tolerant as any other large western town and doesn’t fit the stuffy old Mormon stereotypes at all. There’s even this great little microbrewery along West Broadway called….
    Oh, you’re just being an asshole then? Well carry on.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Flip side of that coin is, money might not always be an incentive to create (and frankly, if one’s tailoring one’s art to what’s likely to sell, one is in my opinion doing art wrong), but an artist at work as a waitress or an administrative assistant is an artist who is not at that moment creating art. (Unless she has a really tolerant boss, but even then, if she’s doing what she’s paid to be doing then she’s not arting.) The need for money, in a world that doesn’t believe in reasonable payment for artwork, is a disincentive to create.

  • Alix

    Exactly. And it frustrates me to no end that the people who get all pissy about artists charging for their art can’t see that.

    I mean, if you can’t afford something you really like, that sucks. I get it. There’s a lot of stuff I’d love to be able to buy, and if they were priced cheaper, I could get some of them. But it would never occur to me that the proper response would be to berate the creators for charging for their work. That’s … really entitled. And really ridiculous. And counterproductive, ultimately, for exactly the reason you lay out.

    If you value what I make, pay me fairly, so I can make more of what you value. That’s how this whole thing works. :/ Devaluing what I make so I’ll sell it to you cheaply … that’s not how this works.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    People on the internet honestly expect to pay $20 for a professional quality, colored image (which is generally 8-12 hours of work). I usually charge between 100 and 140, for reference. That barely covers the time I put in, much less the education and equipment needed. I’m fortunate enough that this art is just side spending money and I can just turn away people who don’t want to pay.

    The best advice I ever got was to raise my prices. The people who understood how much art costs were happy to pay them and were much better customers than the people who might be able to pay the lesser price, but would begrudge it every step of the way. Price wise it balances out; you get fewer commissions but you get higher pay.

  • Alix

    I had a very good friend, who was also my mentor, who told me very bluntly: whatever I think my painting is worth, double it. Then double it again, and charge at least that.

    Calculating it out – it more or less covers all costs + labor, with a bit of a profit. Charging what I’d snap-value my paintings at barely covered materials, because I (and a lot of people, really) was very bad at estimating how much effort and time I’d put into any given piece.

    I’m lucky, too – currently a homemaker and online-uni student, so if I actually plan my days right I have a decent amount of free time, and I don’t pay my bills with my art. Which is good, ’cause I suck at marketing and currently sell almost entirely to my family-friends/FOAF network. XD

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah. How much can you (thing the English language needs, right up there with a commonly accepted third-singular gender-neutral pronoun: different words for general and specific you) possibly actually value my work if you try to get me to value it less so that I’ll sell it for cheaper?

  • Alix

    I was just thinking – I think I end up with more actual profit on the jewelry, actually. It takes considerably less time to make, but people are willing to pay more. :/

  • Daniel

    The best reply to the “I could do that” (or my personal favorite “my kid could do that”) is “but you DIDN’T”.

    If it was so bloody easy then why didn’t you paint it/sculpt it/film it/write it? I’ve heard it said about Picasso, Miro, Chagal and Rothko so you’re in good company.

  • I bought a really pretty glass bowl at a market a while ago.

    I couldn’t afford the original marked price ($125), but when I mentioned that, the crafter asked how much I could afford. So I thought a bit, and decided that I’d probably be able to manage $100.

    …and she thanked me. Because I was willing to pay a reasonable price rather than trying to get the bowl for 20 bucks.

    Seriously. Hand-crafted bowl. Gorgeous hand-crafted bowl that would have taken her hours to make. And it’s so common for people to value it at almost nothing that my asking for a $25 dicount is worthy of thanks.

    Makes me weep, it really does.

  • Jesuswouldbeashamedofyou

    Go fuck yourself.

  • Daniel

    Concise, eloquent, to the point.

  • The_L1985

    This is some kind of sick joke, right?

  • *nods*

    For the record, folks: crochet is impossible to do on machine. A handy-dandy way to send less of your money to slave-labour? If you see a crocheted object being sold for less than $50, don’t buy it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I did not know that. I suppose I could have known it if I’d thought about it, but I did not know that. Thanks.

  • Woo-hoo!

  • Brian Baresch

    Interesting reply; thanks. I waver between hope and cynicism, myself (those are imprecise terms but they’ll do for the moment). Today was a cynicism day, but I appreciate your providing an opposite perspective.

  • Daniel

    Right, non-US person asking this: How? How is the SPLC a hate group? What do they hate? Why do they hate it? Can you please explain for the benefit of someone with no awareness of this?

  • Anonymous

    The Obama administration’s reluctance to label churches as hate groups would indeed be an admirable display of executive restraint if the same administration were not executing Americans without due process, indefinitely detaining suspected terrorists without charge, or getting allies to kidnap the heads of state of other countries. Let Obama call the Roman Catholic Church a hate group if he would then cease committing international crimes.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I have no idea what, other than criticism of Obama, you’re trying to say here. And you’re obviously trying to say more than just that Obama is worthy of criticism.

  • Alix

    They hate the haters, and dare put up lists and information on hate groups and hatemongers, not to mention that they are “a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society” who also teach people about civil rights!

    And they ask for donations! Clearly, SPLC is evil.

  • Anonymous

    I just think it’s pretty rich that labeling hate groups is the thing Obama decides he doesn’t have the right to do qua president of the United States.

  • Alix

    Sarcasm not directed at you, by the by.

  • Alix

    …but it’s not something the president has the right to do. :/ Just because he’s doing some things wrong, some things he should stop, doesn’t mean he therefore has to do everything he’s not entitled to do.

    Also, I’m following most of your criticism, but not this: “getting allies to kidnap the heads of state of other countries.” I clearly missed something – can anyone enlighten me?

  • Daniel

    Donations=socialism. That’s maths, and you can’t argue with maths. (as proof, where U>T, U=FT where U= Us T= Them and FT= well I think that’s pretty obvious.)

  • Ben English

    Wait what? That happened? It sounds like it’s been ridiculous for quite some time.

  • Alix

    Not gonna lie, I’d totally read all of those to my nephew.

    Two years old is totally old enough to be introduced to eldritch horrors. Heck, two-year-olds are eldritch horrors!

  • Daniel

    I think that’s the Bolivian aeroplane problem. Not a kidnapping, not done by Obama’s executive order, but certainly strongly influenced by US attitudes toward Edward Snowdon and by implication at Obama’s behest (as in Obama is conflated with US policy to the rest of the world)

  • Anonymous

    I agree that he doesn’t have the right to call the Westboro Baptist Church a hate group in his capacity as President. The world is marginally better place because he hasn’t done that. I do feel, however, that the world would be a much better place if he abused his office by making a list of hate groups and closed Guantanamo Bay, say.

    As for the kidnapping, I’m referring to Austria’s detention of Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia.


  • Daniel

    All the drawings of Cthulu I’ve seen make him look like something bubbling from a two year old’s nose.

  • Alix

    Thanks. I hadn’t heard about that.

  • Sorry to say, no. Of the several gay rights groups of which I’m a part on Facebook, replies like this are a daily occurrence.

  • Ben English

    I’m pretty sure the only equation people like him understand is the Anti-Life Equation.

  • This is about asserting dominance. No one’s going to be turned away from an emergency room. Rather, what will happen is that all aboriton clinics will be forced to shut down, because the law requires them to have an agreement with a nearby hospital, and this law will preclude hospitals from making that agreement.

    It’s almost like some kind of Kafkaesque deal, where they deliberately set up a law so that it is required for X to obtain Y but illegal for Y to be given to X.

  • Ben English

    Executing Americans without due process? The fuck?

  • dpolicar

    If only it were.

    This sort of framing is precisely how jojoes and their ilk justify treating their families (which receive all kinds of incentives for being families, but of course aren’t defined by those incentives, because they’re capable of and defined by genuine love) better than mine (which is of course defined by those incentives, because we aren’t capable of genuine love).

    The jojoes are thankfully losing power as that framing is increasingly revealed as simply deceptive, but that process will take time to complete.

    In the meantime, jojoes are fairly common and do seem to be perfectly serious. Fortunately, this one is only able to hurt anyone by being insulting on the Internet.

    The many many jojoes who remain in actual positions of authority do a lot more damage.

  • Ben English

    If that’s not unconstitutional by the letter of the law, it certainly sounds as though it should be by the spirit. Ex post facto or something. You’ve required something by law yet prohibited that thing with another.

  • J_Enigma32

    I think you made a mistake. You clearly mean “NOM,” “FRC”, “FOF”, “TVC”, or “AFA.”

    You must be a special kind of stupid, since SPLC doesn’t look anything like those up there.

  • J_Enigma32

    Well, the old saying: If you can’t win, cheat and claim to win.

    It’s getting to the point where I should start charging the assholes for positive advertisement just by putting the word “moral” in the same sentence – need to have the lawyer fees covered for the inevitable false advertising lawsuit, after all.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    Yeah, artists are genuinely terrible at setting prices, for the most part. I keep pushing the artists I know online to stop undercutting themselves, but it’s an uphill battle. A lot of them have esteem issues, and a lot of them are scared of provoking community wrath.

  • mathbard


  • Pam

    Re: No. 7: Can someone PLEASE explain why the hell a significant number of elected officials seem to think that Sharia law is about to be implemented as law in the US? Like… where on earth did that even COME from?

  • themunck

    I don’t remember his name, but of the people killed by drone strikes was an american citizen. And being blown up by a missile fired from a remote controlled plane doesn’t constitute “due process” in the US, as far as I’m aware.