Anniversary Post: Halloween

HalloweenIn the United States, Halloween is the favorite holiday of many — adults and children alike. Celebrated on October 31. All Hallows‘ Eve originated from the ancient Celtic festival Samhain (for some reason pronounced “say-win”) which celebrated the end of the Gaelic harvest season. The Gaels believed that on that day the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead became fluid, allowing the dead to come back to life, bringing illness and other evils. Masks and costumes were worn to appease the dead. Of course, the living were also capable of wreaking havoc. Trick-or-treating, for example, began as a fun bit of extortion: give us a treat or else.

Scottish immigrants brought their versions of Halloween when they came to North America in the 19th century. Other western countries didn’t embrace the spooky fun until the late 20th century, developing all the imagery of witches and ghosts, bats and ghouls that delight and terrify.

A similar holiday, celebrated November 1 and 2, comes from southern and central Mexico: Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). The indigenous peoples also believed that, at midnight on October 13, the boundaries between the living and the dead opened, not to let evil into the world, but  to allow the spirits of angelitos (deceased children) to reunited with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come to enjoy the festivities prepared for them. That afternoon families go to the cemeteries to clean tombs, listen to music and reminisce about the loved ones no longer with them.

The holiday also corresponds with the annual migration of monarch butterflies, which, according to traditional belief, are the souls of ancestors returning to earth for their annual visit. Such a beautiful thought.


It’s a charming variation of Halloween, based on close family ties and community. It’s filled with sugar skulls (calaveritas de azúcar), ornate costumes, flowers and food. If you’ve never seen an ornately painted sugar skull, you’ve missed out. My paternal grandmother was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. I don’t know if she ever celebrated this holiday as a child since her father was German, but I’m sure she must have experienced some of the treats.

I found an image at that I modified to possibly embroider.



Mexican Sugar Skull
Halloween History

WTF? What a Way to Ruin a Beer!

Brew Dog Taxidermy
If you’re looking for something with a nice blend of weirdness and a package certain to catch the eyes of your guests, try getting your hands on Brewdog’s “The End of History,” a 50 percent ABV beer released in 2010 that sold for the absurd price of $765. But you weren’t just paying for potency at that price: “The End of History” was a special, limited-edition Belgian blond ale. Only 12 bottles were made, and they were all contained within the taxidermied body of a squirrel or weasel. [Read the full text here at mental_floss!]

Guess how you get the bottle into the squirrel. I hope they’re insulated, otherwise condensation will puddle up and the poor rodent will look like it’s (understandably) peeing itself.

Nathan Phelps, Survivor

Frank commented on one of my last posts and informed me that Shirley Phelps-Roper’s brother, Nate, is now an atheist. That makes me feel better. Rational thought and escape are possible. According to the only source on the Internet:

Nathan “Nate” Phelps is an American-born Canadian author, LGBT rights activist, and public speaker on the topics of religion and child abuse. He is the sixth of the thirteen children of Pastor Fred Phelps, from whom he — along with three of his siblings — has been estranged since his eighteenth birthday in 1976. Phelps permanently left Westboro Baptist Church in 1980. In the 20 years following his departure, Phelps tried to find a milder form of Christianity, and raised his own children within an Evangelical church, but his doubts only grew as he continued studying religion. At the Reason Rally in Washington on March 24, 2012, he told that the events of 9/11 finally brought him to disbelief:

“Then, one sunny September morning, the illusion of a personal God that I tried so hard to believe in, exploded over the skies of Manhattan. Even as the ashes and ruin of this horrific act of blind faith settled over New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, I watched people across the country scrambling to that same irrational altar for their answers. In the fierce storm of emotion that rolled across this country, one realization rose to the surface of my mind with blinding clarity: certainly this mechanism of unassailable blind faith is one of the greatest risks mankind faces today.”

He is known for his criticism of the Westboro Baptist Church through literature, interviews, public speaking at atheist conventions and his website. He states that his father physically abused him and the other Phelps children and he believes that the church is an organization for his father to “vent his rage and anger.” Phelps’ brother Mark supports and repeats Nathan’s claims of physical abuse by their father.

I Think Your Bible is Broken

Reading comprehension is not encouraged at Westboro Baptist Church…

Proverbs 6:16–19

There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him
[because the Bible tells me so]:

haughty eyes

a lying tongue
[saying gays are evil, etc.],

hands that shed innocent blood
[gray area],

a heart that devises wicked plans
[such as picketing soldier’s funerals],

feet that make haste to run to evil
[or fly hundreds of miles to picket a soldier’s funeral],

a false witness who breathes out lies
[“You’re going to eat your babies!”],

and one who sows discord among brothers
[the definition of a WBC follower].

America’s Most Hated Family Update

TextBBC’s Louis Theroux had the stomach, once more, to talk with batshit crazy Shirley Phelps, her unfortunate children, and the seriously fucked up Westboro Baptist Church in his documentary, America’s Most Hated Family in Crisis.

If only Shirley Phelps could keep her crazy to herself rather than poisoning the minds of her children. Kids at risk can be removed from a physically or emotionally abusive environment, but with families like these all you can do is feel sorry for them and hope they never have children of their own.

Shirley Phelps and Her War on Sanity

Westboro Bastards

As a sentient citizen of the U.S., I am well aware of Westboro Baptist Church and the appalling, vicious hatred of its “ministry.” In this country that they scream God hates because of gay people, they are allowed, by law, to publicly propagate their twisted version of Christianity. That’s the price we pay for having the right of free speech. So, even though the very existence of these heinous people is abhorrent, we can’t shut them up. Or kill them. And that really annoys me. If I were inclined to be a card-carrying AAA (Armed Atheist Activist), this human cancer cluster would be my first — possibly only — target.

I came across this documentary today, The Most Hated Family in America, and it is infuriating. The matriarch of this family cult could be Ann Coulter’s missing fraternal twin — they don’t look alike, but in tone, attitude, ignorance, and density of hate, they are very much the same. Coulter’s only saving grace is that she isn’t breeding. Shirley Phelps-Roper has spawned eleven children whom she vigorously indoctrinates in fanatical dogma of irrational hatred.

I became an atheist based on rational thought. The disturbing and incredibly frustrating fact is that these people think they are being rational too. People like Shirley Phelps contradict themselves without any sense of the bizarre dichotomy of their own arguments. If someone is stunned into silence by the sheer absurdity of her hate-fueled “lines of reasoning” she thinks she’s won the debate. It never is a debate though. She and her herd, for all their smiling and smug self-assuredness, have no interest in hearing someone else’s point of view. There is no room in their minds for ideas that, deep down, they must know make real sense.

Ricky Gervais NEVER Sleeps

I don’t suppose it’s a secret (or important for that matter), that Ricky Gervais is one of the five people on the planet that I would pay to be stuck in an elevator with. Recently he tweeted something like “hard work never killed anyone, but why risk it.” To which I responded, “What if you’re only saying that to quell competition?” Unfortunately I think I may have tweeted it completely out of context which thoroughly undermines my squeak for attention.

One of his other tweets mentioned something he wrote for his blog:
Creativity is the ability to Play
. I read it and came to the conclusion that either he has had himself cloned or he never fucking sleeps. Jesus Christ. I’d call him a workaholic attention-whore if I didn’t value his very existence so much. Rather than let his superhuman prolificacy cause me to curl up into a sad ball of why-the-fuck-botherdom, I am trying to put a positive spin on his attempted encouragement.

I’m loving having a YouTube channel to dick around on. I know I’ve always dicked around, whether on radio, TV or at the Golden Globes, but with this it’s actually expected of me.

I discovered that this is the best thing about Twitter too. Just playing; mucking about for the hell of it. Although, I could technically count that as work. Dicking about should be tax-deductible for me.

Let me explain. Scientific studies of creativity have basically concluded that it can’t be taught, as it is a “facility” rather than a learned skill. Putting it very crudely, creativity is the ability to play. And, to be able to turn that facility on and off when necessary. This makes perfect sense to me. Everything I’ve ever written, created or discovered artistically has come out of playing.

Stephen Nachmanovitch said that, “Creative work is play. It is free speculation using materials of one’s chosen form.” Basically mucking about with the stuff you have in front of you. Experimenting with it, seeing what happens, and keeping the stuff you like I guess. In fact Scott Adams said, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

Now I don’t know which I feel more inspired to try: dicking around on Twitter or start making “art” with objects within easy reach. He ends by comparing Twitter to a public restroom bathroom stall which is brilliant. And I say brilliant, not because I think he shits diamonds, but because his observation is accurate and pithy.

Everyone is famous on Twitter. Everyone has their platform. There are downsides to this and sometimes the internet seems like everyone is just emptying a drawer out of the window, but that’s freedom of speech. You can’t censor things based on quality. Nor should you. To each his own. I’ve been critical of this sort of non-regulation in the past and I think I described forums and chat rooms as graffiti. Well maybe Twitter is just another big toilet wall, but there’s as much clean space and spray paint as you’ll ever need. What are you going to do with it? Create something or destroy someone else’s picture?

Create or destroy? That’s a tough one. If only I had the power to create a tweet that would destroy all the assholes on Twitter.

I found this image on the site of the young man who made the 15 Things to Never Say to An Atheist.

Guns Are Not Sexy! Guns Are Sexy!

Woman with GunDoublethink again. As Frank pointed out in his post Police Oversight and Dead Children, “Our society is all about guns; men are supposed to like them; boys are supposed to play with fake ones. I wish it weren’t so. But it is wrong for a society to tell a boy in a million ways that guns are cool and then blame him for getting killed.”

I was looking for an incendiary image that I could use for my last post. I wanted a picture of a woman looking afraid while holding a gun, so I typed “woman holding a gun” into Google search. The images that popped up were disturbing, but not in the way I was expecting.

I understand the phallic nature of guns, the sense of control and power that holding one apparently exudes, but I still think it’s a stupid and dangerous fetish. I presume that’s the reasoning behind making paintball and other types of “toy” guns look so realistic, so boys can play men (and by “boys” I mean grown men who don’t want their toys to look like toys). Actually, I understand that too.

Unfortunately, there are too many real guns in the world and therein lies the real problem.