Plan 9 from Ed Wood

Ed WoodThis is quite a day for birthdays. And frankly, I threw a bunch of people into “other birthdays” that I normally would have highlighted. So don’t take offensive. Not that you would.

On this day in 1917, the great jazz pianist Thelonious Monk was born. I am not often in the mood to listen to him, because he is challenging. But if I’m up to really listening, there really is no one better. Here he is with his quartet doing his most famous song “Round Midnight”:

The great playwright Harold Pinter was born in 1930. I like his work, but I’m not a big fan. In fact, I’m only listing him because I had no idea that he died back in 2008.

Musician John Prine is 67 today. I still love his very first album and listen to it at least a few times per year. He is a great songwriter. Here he is doing “Hello In There,” which still gives me chills:

Julia Sweeney is 54 today. Here she is doing the beginning of Letting Go of God:

Other birthdays: scientist Henry Cavendish (1731); the Romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813); art forger Han van Meegeren (1889); actor Charles Dance (67); and complete entertainer Ben Vereen (67).

The day, however, belongs to the film director Ed Wood. He is known for making “bad” films, but people who think this are idiots. Wood made low budget films with lots of problems. He certainly could have used a second unit crew because his films often lack proper transitions. But at their best, they are wild and wonderful. My favorite thing about his films is that they are subversive. Plan 9 from Outer Space attacks the whole idea of the Cold War nuclear arms race. In it, the aliens have come to earth to destroy the human race because we are about to develop a new bomb that will destroy the universe and they don’t think we are mature enough, “See! Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!” And so we were and are. Here’s the scene; it’s great:

Happy birthday Ed Wood!

In Which I Am Tested for Personality Disorders

PersonalityLast night, I came upon the word “schizotypal.” I have come upon the word in the past, but I didn’t know exactly what it meant, so I entered it into Google and was offered up “schizotypal test.” I love tests! So I made my way to Personality Disorder Test at Given my mood, I can think lots of terrible things about myself, including that I am a psychopath, or as the test would say, that I suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder. For the record, the way this would work is that I am such a psychopath that I have convinced myself that I have empathy for others when I really don’t. We psychopaths are so clever!

So I took the test and I am please to inform you that I am not suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder. (Or am I?!) Because my results indicate that I am much more normal than I ever thought, I will present them:

Disorder Rating
Paranoid Personality: Low
Schizoid Personality: Low
Schizotypal Personality: Low
Antisocial Personality: Low
Borderline Personality: Low
Histrionic Personality: Moderate
Narcissistic Personality: Low
Avoidant Personality: Moderate
Dependent Personality: Low
Obsessive-Compulsive: Low

I suspect that my results here would be a good deal worse if were in a worse place in my life. Strangely, despite the fact that I’m broke and nobody loves me, I’ve been in a really good mood this year. In fact, I dare say this is on target to be the best year of my life. And yes, I know that’s really pathetic. The strange thing is that when I got a lot of my best work done, I was miserable. And even when life was going well, I didn’t feel a general sense that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Mostly, I’ve always felt that I was in the process of getting somewhere else. Now that’s not true. Except, I hope I am in the process of making slightly more money so that next year I can buy season tickets to the San Francisco Opera.

But enough about my function; my dysfunction is ever so much more interesting. I was surprised to see that I scored moderate on the Histrionic and Avoidant scales. This is because they are more or less opposites. (Maybe I have a split personality!) Someone suffering from Histrionic Personality Disorder needs to be at the center of attention. Someone suffering from Avoidant Personality Disorder is basically afraid of being the center of attention. That’s me! Well, not exactly. Let me explain.

I have no problem standing up in front of a thousand people and doing my thing. Actually, I relish it. But that isn’t the real world. I think the hardest thing for me is to not have someone’s attention. A common experience of mine is to be at a social function and being in the middle of a sentence and have someone turn away so I’m left talking to no one. These people who just turn away are not critics. They aren’t giving me a bad review. I simply don’t register as important enough to notice. An audience will not do that to you. Being booed is nothing compared to being a non-person.

Regardless, I believe what the test is really noticing is that I am socially awkward but also need social validation. I suspect there are a lot of people who would score like that. But I’m kind of proud to score high on histrionics. It’s a character flaw I can get behind. As for avoidant, what can I say, I’m well aware of that. Hey! Where’d you go?!


Andrea took the test too. Man, is she messed up!

Principled GOP Stand

Ted YohoAs the Republican demand for not destroying the economy continues to change, I am curious. If the government had to be shut down because Obamacare would otherwise destroy the very fabric of our society, how is it that they would accept something else for returning to regular order? First it was just a repeal of the medical device tax. That at least had the advantage of relating to Obamacare. More recently, it is entitlement and tax “reform.” (Note: entitlement reform is entitlement cuts; tax reform is tax cuts for the wealthy.) Why don’t the mainstream press admit that the Republicans are only interested in, “Winning!”

By that I don’t mean to suggest that the Democrats aren’t trying to “win” this political crisis. But it is clear that the Republicans caused this crisis because they wanted to win. They wanted to defeat Obama. And all the talk of Obamacare and budgets is just a cover. If they were honest, the Republicans would have said, “Unless Obama admits that we totally rock and he totally sucks, we will shut down the government.” Because that’s all it is about. And that’s all it has ever been about.

But what a dangerous game we are now playing. This morning, Paul Krugman wrote, Automatic Destabilizers. It’s a tad technical, but the bottom line is terrifying. If the Treasury Department manages to pay bond holders and the banking system doesn’t flip out, a long term Debt Ceiling crisis (and if things are quiet in banking, it will be long term) will cause the economy to contract by 10%. A normal downturn of this absolute magnitude would cause a decrease of 6%, but because automatic government stabilizers would be unavailable, the effect would be much worse.

This amounts to a loss of five million jobs on top of our already large 11 million unemployed (pdf)—not to mention the under-employed and discouraged. Yet we have increasing talk that a Debt Ceiling breach wouldn’t be that bad, or if it was, it would be just because Obama made it that way. Representative Ted Yoho even went so far as summon the Confidence Fairy, “I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets.” Let’s think about that for a moment. The 2008 crisis caused a contraction of the government of about the same amount. So what Ted Yoho (Personally!) thinks will add “stability” will in fact, be as bad as the downturn we saw 5 years ago.

So right now we stand on the verge of hurting not just our economy but the world economy. And that will hurt countless people. In fact, it will cause people to die. And what is the reason? Is it Obamacare? More tax cuts for the rich? More benefit cuts for the poor? No! It’s the oh so principled stand that Republicans don’t like the president. This is what they would destroy the world for.

Atheist Among Us

According to CNN’s Belief Blog, there are six types of atheists:

1) Intellectual atheist/agnostic: This type of nonbeliever seeks information and intellectual stimulation about atheism [and] like debating and arguing, particularly on popular Internet sites. They’re also well-versed in books and articles about religion and atheism, and prone to citing those works frequently.

2) Activist: These kinds of atheists and agnostics are not content with just disbelieving in God; they want to tell others why they reject religion and why society would be better off if we all did likewise. (Basically, the antithesis of evangelicals.

3) Seeker-agnostic: This group is made up of people who are unsure about the existence of a God but keep an open mind and recognize the limits of human knowledge and experience.

4) Anti-theist: This group regularly speaks out against religion and religious beliefs, usually by positioning themselves as diametrically opposed to religious ideology.

5) Non-theist: The smallest group among the six are the non-theists, people who do not involve themselves with either religion or anti-religion.

6) Ritual atheist: They don’t believe in God, they don’t associate with religion, and they tend to believe there is no afterlife, but the sixth type of nonbeliever still finds useful the teachings of some religious traditions.

I identify myself as an atheist just because it’s easier, but it seems that I am a particular “type” of atheist more accurately categorized as a non-theist. It’s comforting to be put into the tiniest box possible; it makes it so much easier for people to quickly assess whether or not I’m best avoided.

As a non-theist, I thoroughly enjoyed this video from The Atheist Voice.