Fight pantslessness

November is officially Pants Awareness Month, which makes this a good day to recommend some of my favorite trousermongers, the wacky guys at Lindlands’ Cordarounds. They’ve invented reversible smoking jackets, authentic black sheep sweaters, bike to work pants, vagisoft pockets, and, most ingeniously, the word’s only corduroy pants with horizontal waling.

It’s no secret that I think corduroy is the king of fabrics (not quite literally), but the hot and humid DC summers made cords a strictly fall and winter thing. It’s why I had to move to Portland. But last year Lindlands launched (literally) new summer weight cords, proving their lightness by giving flight to a pair with the aid of a few helium balloons. They sounded good, but I wasn’t quite sold until I saw where they landed: Nearly two weeks later, they hit ground at Spring High School. As in Spring, TX, the town where I grew up, and the very high school where my mom taught English for many years. If that’s not a sign from the pant gods, I don’t know what it is.

I bought a pair and now I’m converted to horizontal corduroy. If you or someone you know is pantless, check ’em out.


Secular separatists

The Wall Street Journal ran an article last week with more background on the “Imagine No Religion” ad campaign and related developments:

Late next month, atheists, humanists, freethinkers, secularists — in short, nonbelievers of every description — will gather in dozens of cities to mark the holiday they call HumanLight.

Whether by singing from a Humanist Hymnal, decorating a winter wreath or lighting candles dedicated to personal heroes, they’ll celebrate what has been an exhilarating ride for the faithless — a surge in recognition that has many convinced they’re on the brink of making a mark on mainstream America…

Building on that momentum, nonbelievers have begun a very public campaign to win broad acceptance. On billboards and bus ads, radio commercials and the Internet, atheists are coming forward to declare, quite simply: We’re here. And we’re just like you.

The article is interesting throughout and includes the revelation that atheists now fund a congressional lobbyist. I’m looking forward to receiving a federal subsidy for the time I spend not worshiping. Hey, it works for farmers.

So what is this HumanLight day and what happened to its founders’ space bar?

In Western societies, late December is a season of good cheer and a time for gatherings of friends and families. During the winter holiday season, where the word “holiday” has taken on a more secular meaning, many events are observed. This tradition of celebrations, however, is grounded in supernatural religious beliefs that many people in modern society cannot accept. HumanLight presents an alternative reason to celebrate: a Humanist’s vision of a good future. It is a future in which all people can identify with each other, behave with the highest moral standards, and work together toward a happy, just and peaceful world.

I don’t want to denigrate a holiday that’s clearly filling a need for some people, but it seems a bit overly sensitive to think that Christmas is unfit for non-believers. The holiday has already become highly secularized and represents the very things listed above to millions of Americans, leaving them free to attach specific Christian meanings only if they choose to. For many non-Christians the day has as little do with the birth of Christ as it does with the pagan festivals that give it form. Given that HumanLight is not going to knock Christmas off its perch as the primary winter holiday any time soon, this is a good thing. It seems to me truer to the theme of universal good will to continue co-opting Christmas and making it our own than to replace it with an esoteric, separate celebration two days earlier. And if our aim is to make secularism more accepted and appealing, then we should perhaps not send the message that being an atheist requires giving up a treasured holiday with centuries of tradition behind it. (Though if HumanLight makes you happy, by all means enjoy it. The group responds to criticism, including discussion of the capitalized ‘L’, here.)

On a semi-related note, head over to the new Secular Right weblog. It’s got some good names behind it and is off to a promising start.

[WSJ link via Freedom and Shit.]


How to get rid of camel crickets

About half my traffic right now seems to be going to that old post about camel crickets. These things really freak people out, so that page is filling up with fun comments like this one from bobbie jean:

just reading all of these entries makes my skin crawl. i lived in virginia for 20 years and never got use to them. they are the scariest alien/predator bug i have seen ever. i also noticed the bug disappearance. i started thinking there sinister buddies came and picked up there dead bodies up after i killed them. another thing i noticed or maybe just imagined is that the nasty little sprickets would jump at you or towards you instead of away from you. glad to know im not the only one terrified of them.

According to the Wikipedia article these creatures have been known to eat their own limbs if there’s nothing else available, so the stories about dead crickets disappearing might not just be paranoid fantasy. But my favorite part of the article is its suggestions for getting rid of the bugs. Along with ideas like setting sticky paper, spraying insecticide, and getting rid of hospitable breeding areas, it recommends releasing centipedes into the house to hunt them. That’s fantastic! People who can’t stand having crickets in their homes will just love having these guys crawling around:

House Centipede

Follow them with Bolivian tree lizards, then Chinese snakes, a few gorillas, and winter will take care of the rest. Cricket problem solved.

[Photo from the Flickr stream of David Reeves.]


Ban the Bacardi?

I’ve never been a fan of flair bartending. I’d much rather have an accurately measured, balanced cocktail than watch some jackass spill flavored vodka all over the floor, twirl bottles in the air, or set his customer on fire:

A bartender’s flaming drink stunt at a popular Upper West Side bar left a Manhattan woman “engulfed in flames” and horribly burned while “Great Balls of Fire” was playing on the jukebox, court papers charge.

Lauren Sclafani, 31, says she suffered second- and third-degree burns on her face, arms and hands thanks to the Bacardi 151 stunt at Brother Jimmy’s gone terribly wrong…

As “Great Balls of Fire” came on the jukebox, the bartender poured 151-proof rum across the bar and deliberately lit it on fire, according to a lawsuit she filed against the bar. The flame blew black into the bottle, turning it into a “flamethrower,” said Sclafani’s lawyer, Tom Moore.

“I was just about to leave, and the next thing you know, I’m lit on fire,” Sclafani said. “My face was burning, my hands were burning, my clothes were on fire. I was just praying to make it stop.”

It’s a horrible story and I hope the victim wins truckloads of money in her lawsuit against the restaurant. Yet my sympathy does not extend to this:

The bar pulled the drink off its shelves at all its locations the next day. Sclafani’s lawyer said they’re hoping to 86 the 151-proof drink everywhere.

“This is a product that has no value except for this kind of purpose,” Moore said. “One hundred proof is serious enough for anybody.”

Unlikely, I hope, but New York City’s not exactly known for its laissez-faire approach to regulating bars and restaurants.

[Via Behind the Stick.]


God smites

A billboard conveying an atheist message has been taken down in Rancho Cucamunga:

The billboard, at the busy corner of Archibald Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, says “Imagine No Religion” in large letters on a stained-glass background. Underneath is the name of the group, “Freedom From Religion Foundation,” and the group’s Web address…

Judy Rooze, administrator of First Baptist Church of Rancho Cucamonga, which is two blocks from the billboard, was relieved it was coming down.

Rooze said it was unsettling.

“I understand people have freedom of speech, but this is taking it too far,” she said. “It’s very jarring.”

The request to remove the billboard came from the city, which had received 90 complaints from tolerant people of faith like Judy Rooze. It’s not clear from the reports how voluntary that request was, but that’s getting dangerously close to censorship. Cities have no business asking a billboard companies to take down signs just because they have an anti-religious message.

I wonder if Ms. Rooze was offended by the clever “God speaks” billboard suggesting that non-believers will spend eternity in Hell? I’m guessing not, and it’s hard to imagine a city asking that it be taken down so as not to offend secularists.

Unfortunately, this isn’t even the dumbest anti-atheist prejudice I came across today. That dubious honor goes to Wall Street Journal editor Dan Henninger, whose columns I’m embarrassed to admit I enjoyed in college.


The steady erosion of freedom

Nick Gillespie’s excellent new video for examines how in the course of a decade smoking bans went from Californian absurdity to national trend:

In related news, Michael Kinsley raises the question of whether Barack Obama has truly quit smoking or not, rightfully concluding (after a bit too much fawning) that’s it’s the president’s business if he hasn’t. But I have to wonder: When Obama feels like lighting up, does he have to step outside? The White House is a public building, after all. It would be fitting to see the most powerful man in the country reduced to huddling beside a doorway like the rest of us common folk, forced out of comfortable surroundings by meddling bureaucrats.


Links for 11/20/08

“A search of his car uncovered pornography, a home-made sex aid, women’s stockings and a Jack Russell terrier.”

Eric Holder, another troubling Obama nomination

eHarmony, under duress, allows same-sex searches

Why Drudge Report’s basic design rocks

MN recount: Let the controversy begin

Schmuck Alert: Documenting reporter harrassment

FP’s physics lessons for the new administration

Cowgirl Creamery meets Counter Culture

Dubious financial gains from culinary school

Theo’s quest for better chocolate

McCloskey’s tips for writing


Blunt racism

Prince George’s County, MD has approved a measure banning the sale of individual cigars. Stores must instead sell them in packs of at least five. But there are exceptions:

Tobacco stores that specialize in cigar sales, and often sell high-end cigars for as much as $5 apiece or more, are excluded from the legislation’s restrictions, as are other locations that are sometimes age-restricted, including golf courses, fraternal lodges, bars and restaurants.

Katherine Mangu-Ward cries racism:

In short, the only thing that has been banned are cheap cigars in places where poor black people buy them. Carry on with your commerce, white men, in your cigar stores, Elks Clubs, and golf courses.

But Katherine, you’ve got it all wrong! In today’s world, it’s treating people like adults and letting them purchase what they want that’s racist. That’s why everyone was so upset about the racist FDA tobacco bill that would have outlawed all cigarette flavorings except for menthol, that being the flavor preferred by three quarters of African-American smokers. The PG County ban disproportionately protects blacks, leaving middle class white guys unrestricted to indulge their deadly preferences.

As one of those middle class white guys who’ve been known to enjoy an individual $5 cigar from time to time, I’m terribly offended. I demand equality before the law! Prince George’s County, ban my purchases too!

Cigars for me, but not for thee
Freshly minted bias


Announcing the Arthur Kaler Award

If you follow tobacco policy, you’ve probably heard by now that Atlantic City is reversing its smoking ban after just one month of implementation. Just like the hypocrites in the Iowa legislature, the Atlantic City Council’s concern for workers ended when the city’s tax revenues took a hit; the double-whammy of an economic recession and driving smokers away from game floors was too much for casinos to handle. When private businesses that cater to smokers are hurt by smoking bans, of course, governments are rarely so sympathetic.

No surprises there, but blog pal Rogier van Bakel spotted a particularly galling passage in an article about the reversal:

The ban will end Sunday, and the situation will again revert to what it was before, where smoking is restricted to no more than 25 percent of the gambling floor… Arthur Kaler, a 25-year dealer at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, felt betrayed by the council’s reversal.

“If we are here next year to revisit the smoking ban and I have fallen victim to lung cancer, will each of you look my family in the eyes?” he asked council members at a recent meeting. “Tell them how brave I was to fight secondhand smoke every day to save the economy of New Jersey. A ballpark or street could be dedicated in my honor, and my family can be bestowed a plaque.”

Sorry Arthur, I don’t think you’ll be seeing a bronze plaque anytime soon, despite your noble efforts on behalf of the economy of New Jersey. Yet you clearly deserve something. But since I can’t deliver what you truly deserve via html, this blog’s going to go Andrew Sullivan style and name an award after you: The Arthur Kaler Award for Sanctimonious Nannyism, dedicated to those whose self-righteous paternalism goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Our first nominee is the Portman Group in the UK. You may remember their ongoing campaign against Skullsplitter Ale for the beer label’s “violent” overtones. Today they have a new brewery in their crosshairs:

An “aggressive” beer sold under the name Punk IPA faces being banned after a ruling that it would promote irresponsible drinking.

The drink and two others made by BrewDog in Fraserburgh, Hop Rocker and Rip Tide, were found to have breached marketing rules in a provisional decision by the Portman Group, a self-regulating industry body.

It decided Rip Tide’s description as a “twisted merciless stout” would be associated with antisocial behaviour, while the claim that Hop Rocker was a “nourishing foodstuff” and that “magic is still there to be extracted” implied that it would enhance physical and mental capabilities.

Note that the Portman Group is funded by alcohol giants such as Coors, Carlsberg, Diageo, and InBev, suggesting that their moralizing has less to do with protecting helpless drinkers than it does with hurting small competitors. BrewDog managing director James Watt calls for getting rid of Portman instead of his beers. I haven’t seen BrewDog available here in the US, but I hope UK readers will pick up a few bottles in his support.

We’ll doubtlessly have more Kaler Award nominees coming up, so follow along here and when the time is right we’ll pick a winner.

Update 11/20/08: BrewDog is available in the US! I grabbed a bottle of their Punk IPA and one of their Scotch barrel aged ales today at Portland’s Belmont Station.


Links for 11/18/08

The New Yorker(!) samples acclaimed TX barbecue

Jason Wilson compares orange liqueurs

The Libertarian Party’s disappointing ’08

Obama vs. the Senate

The difficulty of predicting financial crises

Why the Mars rovers don’t have dust wipers

Won’t anyone think of the Starbucks?

What Starbucks employees regret saying

MA study refutes short-term smoking ban claims

Vanderbilt faculty upset about on-campus boxing match