One of the (many) things that baffled me when I came to Canada was the “missing” 13th floor on so many buildings. It tasked my rational and orderly mind to see an elevator panel that had two columns of buttons with even numbers on the right up to 12, then odd numbers from 15 up. Canadians I asked about it all found it just as silly, but familiarity made it uninteresting to them. Me, though, I indulged in a number of fantasies about hidden floors that could only be accessed by knowing some kind of elevator button Konami code, or perhaps by jamming a crowbar into the doors at the right moment, and speculation that the CN Tower height might be overestimated because of including the non-existent floor in the calculation. Continue reading
My thoughts have been mixed over the recent brouhaha over the revelation that a Toronto public school is allowing Muslims to pray during lunch hour on school grounds (it also allowed an Imam to come in and segregate the students, especially those who were menstruating).
On the one hand, I really don’t like the thought of aligning with the usual suspects who simply oppose Islam out of bigotry. I further would rather see these kids in public school, getting a secular education than to have them either home-schooled or sent to private Islamic schools.
Perhaps I also have a slight anti-Toronto bias (as is Canadian, note to Torontonians: electing Rob Ford will not make the rest of Canada like you), and just glazed over the stories.
But in a discussion today (not at the BC Humanists meeting I attended, but at a political meeting for a civic party whose endorsement I’m seeking to run for Vancouver School Board) I realized that it’s really quite simple:
Prayer does not belong in public schools.
It’s a simple concept, and one we’re used to fighting over when the prayers are Christian. Swap the Christian for a minority faith, like Islam or Hinduism though, and something seems to change.
Perhaps I’ve gotten too soft and accomadationalisty lately, and for that, I’m sorry.
The rule is simple: Prayer does not belong in public schools. It does not matter whether that prayer is Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or even aboriginal, the rule applies to all Canadians. Our public schools are secular places where people are included, which means that religion and its divisiveness are out.
An upcoming show at a Toronto’s Fringe festival looks interesting.
From the press release of The Society of Skeptics:
A religious faith healer, a spirit medium, and a telekinetic young man are targeted by The Institute of Skeptics and Freethinkers, in a show that forces a close examination of our most curious convictions. The Society of Skeptics engages audience members through several interactive moments, as the crowd variously plays church congregation, seance participants, and laboratory observers, while the personal struggle of head skeptic Dr. John Alfonse underscores the dramatic action.
The show features evangelist Paul Solomon, psychic Madam Mona, and curious university student Ethan Thorpe applying to the Institute’s 100 Grand Challenge, a scientific test of paranormal ability with a cash prize awarded on success. Based on several real organizations with similar challenges, The Society of Skeptics was exhaustively researched by writer-director Brent Wells, with visits to actual psychics and religious sermons. As part of the show’s immersive universe, playgoers may apply to the Institute’s 100 Grand Challenge on the website www.societyofskeptics.org.
The show is clearly based on the James Randi’s popular Million Dollar Challenge so I wonder why the writers kept the prize money so low when the real thing is so much better? Oh well, I don’t think there’s ever been a play about a skeptic activist group so they win points for ingenuity and it’s nice to see science and critical thinking go mainstream.
I’ve been to a few Fringe plays over the years and they’re a hit and miss (reviews aren’t available yet). The listing says ‘Audience Participation’ so be warned, as Fringe plays can get a little weird. (My little brother, an actor, was in a Fringe play a few years ago and he was naked the whole time, bleh)
I’m actually really surprised when I hear people use that argument. It’s horribly disgusting and makes the men of our species out to be primitive primates who are unable to control any urge that runs through their bodies. I understand, we bitches be hot, but I don’t believe that women can hurl men into an uncontrolable sexual frenzy with short skirts.
Well… some police man in Toronto made this argument, saying women shouldn’t dress like sluts if they want to stop being abused and out of his asshole-ry there spawned a new phenomenon: “Slut Walks“.
While I don’t support women being told to cover up and while I certainly don’t support women being called sluts… I also don’t really support these slut walks. I find it hard to believe that after generations of fighting to be taken seriously modern-feminists movements have turned the reclamation of a derogatory word as something worth putting their time and effort into. But that’s not all I’m befuddled and disturbed by… Keep reading for all the arguments and I actually have to give credit to Feminist Frequency for listing a lot of great resources to find these arguements.
I should also say that I understand the Slut Walk is a form of activism against a rude and ignorant man in Toronto – but I still think its problematic.
Christopher Hitchens writes in Vanity Fair about his debate with Tony Blair in Toronto last November.
Blair on the platform was an almost complete contrast. He virtually pantomimed reaction: smiling readily if a joke was at his expense, wincing here and there, spreading his palms resignedly once or twice. Yet this body candor, too, can have its iffy aspect, like Clinton biting his fat lip in fake empathy. I couldn’t quite make up my mind until after the debate was over.
Even after trouncing his opponent in the debate, Hitchens went on to summarize the debate by pointing out the more admirable qualities of his opponent. Using any objective standard, well-rehearsed atheists will win every debate but we need to avoid the urge to keep kicking them while they’re down. Hitchens always stays classy. Even in victory, he stays humble and maintains respect for his opponent which guarantees he’ll always be invited back.