Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 9.18

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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  1. Although I no longer associate with the Masons, interestingly it is rumored that to become a 33rd degree Mason you must renounce all religion and declare yourself an Atheist. Also from personal experience wine is drunk from a Human Skull that sit on top of a closed Bible during a ceremony associated with York Rite (Knights Templar Degree).

  2. One thing that never ceases to amaze me-how people can look a fiction-obvious fiction, and say its based on a true story, or true legends, or something. Freemasonry as been around for as long as I can remember. I can’t vouch for anything beyond that.

    I sometimes think people need conspiracy theories so there is a thing/group/person to blame…kinda like evil in religion.

  3. I love the masons. They fund a hospital in Dallas that treats my son’s scoliosis for free. It is the cleanest, best run hospital I have ever been in. I wish I could be a mson but with the requirement that you have to believe in god leave me out. But I do donate money. Their charity work has improved the lives of millions of children. They are good people and they do good.

  4. I always get uncomfortable when someone starts going off on how AWESOME Dan Brown and his books are. It makes me D: because all I want to do is go, “Nooooo they are CRAP! COMPLETE AND UTTER CRAP!”

    But I have to keep my mouth shut.

  5. @QuestionAuthority: Damn straight. I read the crap fest that was the Davinci code. As bad as it was the movie managed to be even worse. Between it and the love fest that is showered on Twilight and those damn dragon books written by a 15 year old and I start to wonder if universal literacy really helps improve the world.

  6. Frank Schaeffer got a few things wrong I think. First of all, to assume that Beck and Limbaugh’s audience is made up of stupid people is simplistic at best. The reality is actually much more frightening, because they are actually taking people who are otherwise intelligent rational beings and turning them into people who continue to, if not compare Obama to Hitler, at least condone the people who are doing it. It’s very easy to believe that this latest movement is made up of nutjobs. The more frightening reality (I’ve seen it in my own friends) is that intelligent people are being caught up in the mob mentality.

    Another minor gripe: EVERY president has been pointed at by Fundies as being the anti-christ. AT the very least, every Democrat.

  7. Dan Brown is a dreadful writer. He has interesting, perhaps even fun story ideas, but he is simply a terrible, terrible writer.

    I had a friend who adamantly insisted that the Da Vinci Code was based on fact, and was itself basically true. When I began debunking both it and that scam book, Holy Blood and Holy Grail, he literally left the room in a steaming huff. Remarkable.

    @marilove:

    Exactly. Baffles me too. The Da Vinci Code is the best selling book of all time with something like over 80 million books sold. That is simply astounding.

  8. @durnett: Easy-Every time Dan Brown researches a topic, there is always the possiblity of him coming to the wrong conclusion, and, according the Schrodenger, whenever there are multiple possiblities, the universe splits, so all possible outcomes happen. Thusly, while in this universe, he is always right, in another universe, he is always wrong. That being said, there is almost certainly a universe where Dan Brown is made of tofu.

  9. @Amanda: There are so many great writers out there that write books that are easy reads and yet … not horrible. Christopher Moore comes to mind (anyone else love him as much as I do?). Hell, there’s always Stephen King! He’s not the best writer ever, but man can he tell a good story. Why people feel the need to stick to Twatlight and Dan Brown, I will never know.

    Of course, I loooove bad memoirs. That is my guilty pleasure. Once I read some bad memoir about a girl that grew up around/in the Playboy mansion in the 70s. It was awesome.

  10. @marilove: I can’t stand Stephen King’s novels, actually. He’s a wonderful guy and does so much good with his philanthropy work, though. And he held a door open for me once.

    I really really liked Lamb so I should read some more Christopher Moore.

  11. @James Fox: LMAO that sounds exactly like the Elk’s Lodge, of which my dad is a member (that’s an odd place to go to on a Friday night when you’re visiting your home town right before the elections — EVERY SINGLE local politican in my tiny home county was there and you could feeeeel the tension in the air).

  12. I’m going to buck the trend here re Dan Brown. I won’t argue that he’s a good author, but I will argue that it’s not bad for people to read and enjoy his books.

    To quote Roger Waters, who was speaking of music, but I think it equally applies to writing:

    In the finished article, the only thing that is important is whether it moves you or not. There is nothing else that is important at all.

    At the time (this was prior to Dark Side of the Moon) Pink Floyd took a lot of flack from critics because they did everything so wrong.

    I am a Hedge

  13. @Im a Hedge: It’s … not so much that people enjoy him, it’s the fact that the majority of those that do take him seriously and think his books are based on fact.

    Also, no, he really is a horrible writer. Just because Pink Floyd did “everything so wrong” (for the time) doesn’t mean anyone thought they were horrible musicians.

    But yeah, Dan Brown is a horrible writer, there are no bones about that.

  14. Christopher Moore is a good writer, though I’m not a big fan of his books. There are many authors that I truly envy for their writing skill, including:

    Carl Sagan
    Terry Pratchett
    Garrison Keillor
    E.B. White (Yeah, ,i>that E.B. White. Ever notice how well his children’s books like Stuart Little are written?
    Peter K. Hamilton
    James Michener

    Many, many more…

  15. @marilove:
    People, at least music critics, did think they were bad musicians. They didn’t follow the rules of proper music. They made noise and relied heavily on electronic wizardry. They didn’t follow proper chord progressions or song structures. That’s the kind of criticism Waters was responding to when he said the thing I quoted earlier.

    That comment by Waters actually had a big effect on me when I was much younger. I used to quite a music snob. The stuff I liked was good and everything else crap. As I considered what Roger said, I came to at least appreciate that different people had different tastes. I stopped thinking about some music being ‘bad’, and started thinking of it as something that didn’t move me, but did move someone else. I still don’t like hip hop or country, but I no longer think that the people who do are making some kind of mistake.

    Likewise, people who read novels I don’t like are moved by different things. I doesn’t mean the novels are bad and that the people are fools.

    I am a Hedge

  16. @fcmk:

    Well, not really, no. All fiction writers do invent, of course, and that’s what fiction is all about. But good fiction writers maintain plausibility, create characters who are believable and act in a way that real people would likely act (and this is true even when the characters are outer space aliens from wayoutthere), or at least they act in a way that is true to the story — and more importantly, true to the laws of reality of the invented world.

    The best fiction writers can create really outlandish worlds that are nonetheless quite believable because they maintain some degree of realistic plausability.

    One (of many) of the problems with Brown’s writing is that he invents extremely implausable (and deeply cliched) worlds, and characters to populate them, where people don’t act anything like real people would act; extremely implausable events happen leading to even more implausible results, and so forth. But his most serious flaw is perhaps that he doesn’t even stick to the laws of reality of the worlds he creates.

    All fiction writers must create the laws of reality for the worlds they create. And the best writers adhere very strictly to those laws. Brown does not. He frequently breaks the laws of reality of his invented worlds.

    He also breaks the known laws of physics in the most ridiculous ways — in one of his books, I think it was Angels and Demons, he has an aircraft taking off and reaching something like 3000 miles per hour in a matter of a few seconds, and no one onboard feels any kind of gravtity pull at all. And it wasn’t some kind of anti-grav space plane. And that is just goofy.

    In the same book he actually had a major scientist who was unfamilar with, I think it was either Newton’s, or Copernicus’s scientific work.

    Good fiction doesn’t need to echo reality, but it does need to maintain some level of plausability whererein the reader can comfortably suspend their disbelief. And yes sure that is going to be different from one reader to the next.

    So, in that sense, along with his poor technique and weak skills as a writer, he is rather more full of crap than many.

    In my opinion.

  17. @Im a Hedge:

    That’s perhaps a valid point, but it may point more to the inexperience, or lack of well grounded knowledge on behalf of the critics. And that’s an important distinction.

    There does come a time when it is fair to define a work of art, whether it’s music, narrative fiction, painting, whatever, as being poorly done. Especially when the critic actually knows what he or she are talking about.

    However much a devoted fan may want to claim otherwise, Britney Spears simply does not have very much musical talent at all. And, unlike Pink Floyd, time will not prove her to be musically, or artistically talented despite any critical claims to otherwise. Like Madonna before her, Spears’s primary talents and skills lie in self-promotion, not in music.

    In the case of Dan brown, whether one likes him or not, does not make him a talented and skilled writer. He is, however, a fairly good story teller — and there is a difference there. Stephen King is not a particulaly good writer (he even makes that claim himself), but he is a first rate, world class story teller. John Steinbeck, on the other hand, is both. And on reading such authors back to back, it becomes very clear who is and who is not a skilled and technically talented writer.

    And Brown simply is not. He is a Britney Spears of the narrative fiction world. So to speak.

  18. @SicPreFix:

    Ok. I’ll take your word for it, since I don’t think myself as a much of a book critic. For some reason, I don’t seem to have any standards or I have just had amazing luck on my book selections. I have not read a bad book in my life. Never have I put a finished book back on the shelf in dissatisfaction. Doesn’t matter what genre it is and who wrote it.

    Maybe reading lots of fantasy has melted my brain. After reading on ‘n’ on about magic-wielding trolls, portals (with seemingly unlimited energy sources) to another dimensions and actual gods walking on land stopping time and such, a mere airplane going way too fast doesn’t strike me as a very alarming thing in fiction.

  19. @fcmk:

    After reading on ‘n’ on about magic-wielding trolls, portals (with seemingly unlimited energy sources) to another dimensions and actual gods walking on land stopping time and such, a mere airplane going way too fast doesn’t strike me as a very alarming thing in fiction.

    Well, when you put it like that it’s kind of hard to disagree.

    :)

  20. @Im a Hedge:

    Oh balls. You’ve had more valid points around this here locale than almost anyone else.

    You’ve already earned, at the very least, the complete Lego set of Shermer’s Complete Libertarian Scrolls of Majik, equalifying two points double plus personality, one point character, minus one point pseudophilis flora

    … and like that.

    I am a Fan

  21. @SicPreFix:
    It’s probably a joke that I’m just not getting, because, you know, I figured you didn’t like me (because figuring people don’t like me is just something I do). I’m going to take it at face value nonetheless, because you made my day.

    I am a Hedge

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