Archive for July, 2007

David Attenborough and the Botherers of God

July 30th, 2007 by Reinder

I was going to write about this, but I was too lazy to look for an English-language source. Luckily, Martin Wisse has been more dilligent:

Dutch broadcaster censors DavidRichard David Attenborough on evolution:

The Dutch public broadcaster EO (Evangelische Omroep/Evangelical Broadcaster) has a reputation to uphold when it comes to broadcasting quality wildlife documentaries, both their own as well as series they've bought from other broadcasters like the BBC. One series they recently broadcasted was David Attenborough's excellent (as per usual) Life of Mammals. However, something strange has happened with that series when it crossed the Channel: for some reason the Dutch version only has nine episodes, while the original has ten --and that's not the only difference.

It turns out that the EO has deliberately removed all references to evolution from the series, as demonstrated by the three videos below. Which is not too surprising, considering the EO is after all a fundamentalist Christian broadcaster and adhers to the doctrine of the literal truth of the bible. What exactly the EO has censored in Attenborough's series is now documented in several youtube movies, uploaded by somebody called Odurodon...

If the EO had problems with the views expressed in Life of Mammals, they should either have declined to broadcast it or put in disclaimers at the start of the programme, not censor it. That they have done so shows a lack of intellectual integrity worrisome in a public broadcaster. Especially since they are using public funds to do this.

I'm actually a bit disappointed by this. In the past decade, journalistic standards at the EO have actually improved considerably (i.e. they now have people working for them who are journalists as well as foreign correspondents who understand the languages of the places they're posted to), and while they continue to lie on hot-button issues such as abortion, they have come a long way since the days when they classed dinosaurs with fairytale animals in their quiz shows. This may sound like I'm damning them with faint praise but ten years ago I'd have been damning them with profanity on a regular basis. And now this.

I wonder how much of a culture war is going on internally within the EO. I can imagine that the actual journalists and the people who did the Vincent Bijlo interview (several years ago, Christian comedian Bijlo was interviewed about his anti-evolution song, clearly in the hope that they would get a quotable statement out of him about evolution being wrong. What he actually said was that evolution was silly and absurd, just like gravity, and that he didn't see the point in either. The interview was kept) aren't too pleased about cutting up documentaries from such a respected director as Attenborough.

What disappoints me most, though, is that according to the news reports, the BBC allowed this butchering of their work. For shame, BBC!

More on this (in Dutch), on Evolutie which gives a full transcript of the changes in the first two episodes of the series, and brings home just how disgraceful the BBC's collusion is: by selling exclusive rights to the series to a broadcaster that cuts out references to evolution, they have effectively prevented the uncut series being shown by another broadcaster. That way, the EO can effectively censor the series for the general public.

Update: It was David after all. Not Richard. I had it right to start with, then corrected it wrong. It should be correct now. I'm just glad the Dimbleby family didn't spawn a famous nature documentary maker.

Harry Potter and the Botherers of God

July 29th, 2007 by Reinder

While we're on the subject of Harry Potter (and I suspect we will be for a little longer), Sara Robinson at Orcinus wrote a good piece on why fundamentalists are so bothered by myth-and-magic stories in general and Harry Potter in particular:

The common thread that runs through all of these is magic. And that, I think, is the real burr that gets under fundamentalist saddles. In fundieland, magic is the most frightening and legitimate of all the competing myth systems -- the Devil's own preferred alternative to prayer and submission. Other belief systems (Buddhism, Hinduism, the Greek myths) are viewed as sad and rather pathetically delusional; but anything that smacks of magic is feared as actively Satanic.

Why is magic such a hot button? The reasons go to the heart of fundamentalist theology. At their core, fundamentalists believe that humans are wretched creatures who aren't really even human unless touched by God's grace. (And, yes, this does mean that those of us who are unsaved can rightly be considered subhuman.) We cannot do anything right; we do not deserve to have control over our own affairs; and any notion that we have intrinsic power to achieve good in the world (or even the authority to define "good" or "bad" on our own terms) is a diabolical delusion. Left to our own devices, we will not only screw it up for ourselves; we will ultimately ensure the Devil his victory over the world -- including them -- as well.

Implicit in this is the idea that all authority is necessarily, rightfully external. The fate of the entire world depends on how completely we can give up our desire to control our destinies, and submit to God and his appointed earthly overseers. This obsession with the need for external authority is, in a nutshell, is why fundamentalism is a form of religious authoritarianism.

Stories about magic openly defy this whole belief system. Magic-using characters like Harry usurp the supernatural power and prerogatives of God -- a sufficient heresy in its own right. But it's worse than that: they're also exercising their own internal authority, and acting out of their own agency. And that's the last thing fundamentalists want their children -- or anyone else -- learning how to do.

That's why we're hearing all the shrieking hysterics from the fundie side.

Read the rest, and read the comments, as Orcinus is one of those sites where the quality of commentary is usually high.

“Tamlin! NO!”

July 28th, 2007 by Reinder

We interrupted Feral back in November, 2006, with this cliffhanger:
Last time on Feral.jpg
It's not exactly the threatened end of the Universe, but it did get some long-term readers all excited. And on Sunday, July 29, it's finally time for that cliffhanger to be resolved! From then on, Feral will update every Sunday on Modern Tales.

... the plotline about the woman living alone in the woods who was accused of being a werewolf will also be focused on again. Eventually.

Test entry

July 28th, 2007 by Reinder

Trying to figure out why using the extended entry feature in Movable Type breaks the archive in Opera (though not in other web browsers)... So far, I'm stumped. A minimalist version of this entry, with just the word "Less" in the entry body and "More in the extended entry, inside an LJ-cut, displayed correctly.

Maybe the entry doesn't break until I have multiple paragraphs above the cut. (Answer: No)

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows spoiler-free capsule review

July 28th, 2007 by Reinder

(Note: When I say "Spoiler-free", this should be taken as a statement of intent. I can't second-guess what other people will consider spoilers, and even minor revelations about the content of Deathly Hallows can be used to piece together the puzzle of what happens in the book, who dies, who wins, etcetera, before actually reading it. So while I go out of my way to avoid spoilers in this review, it still goes below the adcut (I removed the ad in an attempt to figure out what's breaking the template when the cut is used) in the blog, and under an LJ cut for those reading it through the Livejournal feed)

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Silverstripe

July 27th, 2007 by Reinder

I'd never heard of Silverstripe before, but it's probably worth a spin in case I ever need to get a (non-blog) website off the ground quickly.

Thanks to studio-mate Jeroen, I'm back in the market for web development work. It's been a long time since I've done web development for anything other than my own sites, though, so I'm reading up and looking for some experience-builders. Simple things to do so I can say I've done them and know how to do it, and get a feel for the snags. So if anyone reading this needs, say, WordPress installed on a clean system, or some WordPress templates made, you just might be able to talk me into doing it for free if it's not a big job. I do hope to get past that stage soon, though.

Quick life updates

July 25th, 2007 by Reinder

- The two best-match vacancies I wanted to apply for evaporated on closer inspection. One had expired in June, one was run through an intermediary who was under strict instruction not to pass on resumes from people who didn't have a University diploma in English/Dutch Translation. I might still send an open application to the first firm though.

- Lifestyle-wise, I'm still moving towards more of a normal worker's schedule. I'm working on my habitual procrastination. I found out that not having music on over breakfast gives me more of a desire to get out of the house - today, I managed to cut half an hour's worth of dawdling that way. Dawdling in the morning is my biggest time sink - all the other distractions during the day are minor compared to that.

- I'm also looking more closely at my own assumptions on how I go through the day. I've always thought of myself as "not a morning person" but this only really holds true for my writing and drawing. Anything else, from dentist appointments to swimming to photoshop work on my art can and should be scheduled early in the day. I think. Maybe. Possibly.

- I did a bit of teaching work today. Fun. Well-payed too, and the contact who got me this gig may be able to get me more.

- I still haven't read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and I really should get started on it as the spoiler policies in the various Livejournal communities are more laxly enforced by the day. Even the HMS_STFU community on Journalfen, which is run with an iron fist and sarcasm, had a partial spoiler above the cut in one post.

- After today's training, I think I may be able to run a half-marathon in not-embarrassing time and without arriving at the finish limping and puking. I'll see how my bad knee feels tomorrow and then, if it's not killing me, start looking for a suitable event in September or October to train towards.

I made a lot of drawings yesterday, but I’m only showing you these two

July 24th, 2007 by Reinder

I promised a few people to show them sketches from the sketching trip to Emmen zoo that I took with some of the guys from Gr'nn. Unfortunately, I'm not all that happy with how the sketches turned out; it's hard to be satisfied when you're in the company of four others who kick your ass at drawing from observation, and even the good sketches came out very light and hesitant.
I'll post two, though.
Kodiak Bears
I thought these Kodiak Bears, lounging at the top of an artificial waterfall in their enclosure, looked bored and unhappy. Then again, these bears have face masks that seem to droop a bit anyway. There was a third bear that showed signs of neurotic behaviour, pacing around separately from the other two.
The view in the bear enclosure isn't too good; you can only really get a good look at the bears when they're in that waterfall spot. This turned out to be a blessing, because that one spot makes a very pretty picture. I tried to capture some of those surroundings, which made for a nicer sketch in the end.

Giraffe
Most animals make terrible models. I did several pages worth of sketches of meerkats that were ruined by the little buggers' inability to sit still. The others, particularly Erik Wielaart, did well in spite of the lack of cooperation from the animals; it's a matter of drawing what you can and then waiting for the animal to return to the position you were drawing them in, which they often do. I guess I'll have to develop a knack for this.
This juvenile giraffe, on the other hand, sat perfectly still for the better part of an hour, allowing me to make several drawings of it from various angles. This one is the best of mine.
Giraffes are actually very interesting to draw. I had prepared myself by looking at Mithandir's safari pictures beforehand, so I had some idea what the shape and the mechanics of a giraffe's head were like (even though the ones in Mithandir's pics are a different species), which helped a lot. Still, I was surprised to find myself spending so much time on drawing them because I'm not normally interested in charismatic megafauna. I think trying to draw made them less familiar and brought home just how strange these animals actually are.

I will be doing this again. Like life drawing, I expect to get better at it with practice. For now, though, you'll be spared my sketches of meerkats, prairie dogs, gnus, porcupines, sharks, sturgeons, geckos and various unidentified fish. I also apologise for not drawing any cephalopods; the zoo didn't have any.

Feral to resume on Sunday, July 29, on Modern Tales.

July 21st, 2007 by Reinder

The storyline I interrupted last year, Feral will finally resume publication on Sunday, July 29, 2007. It will run as a weekly comic updating on Sunday, on the Modern Tales ROCR archives.

I've been sitting on new Feral material for a long time, and used the fundraiser I did in late May to preview some pages in varying stages of completion, just to make the point that the story wasn't abandoned. The plan then was to resume work on it after Invasion was finished. However, Invasion has turned out to be one of those stories that overrun hideously, and while it is approaching the end, it has been ten pages away from the end for two whole chapters now. Also, there's a strong likelihood of a major continuity change at the end of that story, one which would take the edge off Feral if people didn't get to read that story first. The corners I paint myself into...

Anyway, I've thought about it for a while, and the recent server hiccups on ROCR.net made me realise that I have more than one website to put regularly-updating stuff on, so here's how things will proceed:
- I will publish Feral once a week on Modern Tales;
- I will mirror the already-published episodes of Feral on the Chronicles of the Witch Queen website, on days when Invasion doesn't update, in the hope of gaining some new readers for the series through Webcomicsnation's internal cross-promotion features. This rerun of the story will update three times a week, on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, until caught up. It will not show up on the COTWQ front page, though; Invasion is going to keep that spot.
- I may or may not decide to interrupt Invasion at some later point and switch back to running Feral on the ROCR.net front page. I'm leaning towards letting Invasion run its course through the expected continuity change, if only because interrupting a storyline just once was enough of a wrench for me not to want to do it again. I'm still undecided on this point, though.

Feral was, at the time I interrupted it, a very popular storyline and I know quite a few readers are looking forward to it. One update a week should be easily doable. I hope you won't mind bookmarking the ROCR on Modern Tales pages, and that you'll enjoy the new episodes of Feral!

Because it’s You-know-who day

July 20th, 2007 by cmkaapjes

The Hermione Crookshanks Experience
Harry and the Potters
The Remus Lupins
Draco and the Malfoys
The Harry Potter Allience
The Mudblood brothers
The Hungarian Hornbloods (just 8 years old!)
Neville and the Longbottoms

There are many, many more. You can spend all day on Myspace to get in the mood!