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The redemption of Smaug

Smaug, as depicted in’THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG“ a New Line Cinema and MGM production. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
I am afraid I am unable to reveal how the following manuscript fell into my possession. Ever since the initial anthropological work done by J.R.R. Tolkien on Middle Earth and the life of Smaug, almost 80 years ago, it has been almost impossible to publish research questioning the perspective that he laid down in his work. However, the following letter, transcribed here from a document found locked in a chest that was originally part of the treasure hidden under the Lone Mountain, completely undermines the dominant theoretical depiction of Smaug as nothing more than an evil and greedy creature.

Why do conservatives hate Obamacare?

This conversation happened on my most recent airplane trip.
This is a rough transcript of a conversation that I had with the man sitting next to me during a flight from North Carolina to Dallas. The main described himself as conservative, and I just couldn't resist: I had to bring up Obamacare. Now, I'm not saying that all conservatives are exactly like this guy, or even that all conservatives dislike Obamacare. However, I do think this conversation illustrates one of the biggest factors in conservative resistance to the Affordable Care Act... in a fairly dramatic way.

On Brendan Eich and anti-anti-gay bullying

Brendan Eich
In case you haven't heard, the story goes like this: Once upon a time there was a man named Brendan Eich. He co-founded Mozilla, the company first behind the Netscape browser and later behind the Firefox browser, and was one of the originators of the Javascript programming language. He also donated a bunch of money to the California Proposition 8 campaign, which had the goal of making gay marriage illegal in California. Recently, he was appointed to be the CEO of Mozilla. All hell broke loose, people protested, and he ended up resigning. The question of the day is: was he unfairly bullied out of office for his anti-gay beliefs?

Some of your religious beliefs might be stupid

Flying Spaghetti Monster
Based on the title, you're going to assume that this is just another religion-bashing article. It isn't. This article is about finding a way to deepen your faith by understanding that many people have faith, and not everyone agree with you. This means that one of the projects of faith should always be to understand your own relationship to the truth, as a human being who is flawed. In the end, that means that if you believe in God, the first step to deeper faith is understanding that your beliefs might be stupid.

Do you believe in a higher power?

High as in up? Or high as in big?
I. Foititus: Do you believe in a higher power? Didaskalus: Higher? In what sense? Foititus: Do you believe in a power greater than yourself? Didaskalus: Absolutely! Gravity. Electromagnetism. That force that holds protons together in the nucleus of an atom… Foititus: No, I mean do you believe in a will, or a consciousness that is […]

Art-naming becomes a psychology experiment

Migration, by Greg Stevens
I added my newest digital painting to my DeviantArt profile under the title “Migration”, although I wasn’t totally satisfied with that name: Migration by GregStevens on deviantART So, I decided to turn to social media to help me find something better. I posted the image to my Facebook profile, with this comment: “I have not […]

Does science explain the origin of the universe?

The universe
I. Foititus: Which does a better job of explaining the origin of the universe, religion or science? Didaskalus: Neither. Foititus: You surprise me, Didaskalus! Knowing you as I do, I was certain that you would choose science! Didaskalus: Hmm… maybe I misunderstood your question. What sort of explanation do you think that science has for […]

Everything happens for a reason

These are things that have a purpose.
Didaskalus and Foititus discuss what it means to say that everything happens for a reason, and whether it is true. Understanding what people really mean when they say that "everything happens for a reason" requires peeling back some layers of meaning, understanding different types of "cause", and understanding how causes work in large and complex systems.

You have no right to be offended by “Happy Holidays” (VIDEO)

You have no right to be offended by Happy Holidays
I made a video about the whole issue of "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas". It's actually kind of dark, but I think it's something that needed to be said. This video is a first for me in a few ways. It's the first time I've been this negative or aggressive with a political message - usually I opt for being sarcastic or funny in some way. This is also my first video doing the "talking to the camera" style of monologue. So check it out, and let me know what you think. Is it too much? Does it get the point across?

What if the people are just wrong?

Founding Fathers
I hear this argument a lot recently: "Sure, the people want X or the polls say Y, but what if the people are just wrong?" We need to be honest about the answer to this question. In some ways, the fact that this question is cropping up is a symptom of the escalation of our rhetoric in American politics today, and the rhetorical division between differing sides in political debates. We when we reflect on our own cultural consciousness, there is a sense that we feel like the "other side" is alien and unknowable: not only do "those people" disagree with us, but we can never truly comprehend how they think. There is no hope of compromise or intellectual discourse, because the other side is constantly being presented as though it is incomprehensible, baffling, and alien.