Review: “Penny Dreadful”

The cast of Penny Dreadful.On the surface, the first season of Penny Dreadful, by Showtime, is about a group of monster hunters trying to save Mina – the girl from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I think it’s a TV show that most will either love or hate. The critics seem to like it overall, but I know some viewers who have had trouble adapting to how it tells its story. This is understandable. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it or leave it during the first few episodes. Then I figured out what Penny Dreadful was really about and how much I was missing. Even some of its fans have missed the real point. (Keep reading to find out what that is.)

The most obvious comparison to make with Penny Dreadful is surely League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which did some things well and some things badly. (The ending of League was pure stupid on buttered toast.) Both feature characters and settings from Victorian England. But Penny Dreadful is not a ripoff of League. Or if it is, then it does whatever League was striving for and does it far better.

When I first started to watch the show, I thought it didn’t know where it was going. Now, I realize the show wasn’t the problem. I was. That’s because I didn’t understand the show’s central conflict. You could say that I was paying attention to the wrong things and waiting for the story arc to turn on the wrong axis.

Here’s the secret to Penny Dreadful: It isn’t about killing vampires or rescuing Mina. These are just the things that get the characters working together on screen. Instead, Penny Dreadful is about the monsters within us all. This isn’t unusual by itself, but the show truly revolves around this theme and focuses on it almost exclusively. The battle against external monsters all but slips into the background. If you pay too much attention to this outer conflict, you’ll miss the good stuff and be underwhelmed. There’s only so much I can say without spoiling it for you, but a closer look at the major characters will give you some things to think about when watching the show.

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Review: “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Days of Future Past PosterX-Men: Days of Future Past is the sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand (which was sort of decent, but not great), and X-Men: First Class (which was shockingly good), and even The Wolverine (couldn’t bring myself to see it). That’s right. This movie is the unholy offspring of a cinematic three-way. And it’s legal to show in theaters. Who could resist that? I had to go see it. It’s the law. No wonder the reviews for X-Men: Days of Future Past were so high!

Rotten Tomatoes gave DOFP a 92% freshness rating, while Metacritic gave it a 74% metascore. Geek blogs were raving about it as well. Still, any time travel movie that is the love child of a menage-a-troi is bound to have issues. Continuity issues, that is, which is something that geeks have been whining about with the X-Men movie franchise for years. Legend has it that DOFP is out to fix those issues, as well as erase the blasphemous turd that is Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand.

Were the rumors true? Did this movie change my life the way that Avatar (which has 3 more sequels coming out because DAMMIT JAMES CAMERON!) changed the wedding plans of thousands of nerds? Or did it make X-Men Origins: Wolverine look like a masterpiece of cinema? (Shudder.)

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News And Links For Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses: Video And Interview By Max Elfelt

VIDEO: Video & Interview – Jehovah’s Witnesses: An in depth look

Watchtower’s First Step Toward “Tithing”?

More on this can be found at this link as well.

NGO calls on Ministry to probe closed religious groups; Jehovah’s Witnesses under scrutiny

The UUT – the Support group for the Victims of Religions – has asked the Ministry of Justice to study ways in which to intervene in the activities of closed religious communities.  The group released a report Saturday on the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which UUT claims uses its own internal judicial system with a board that interrogates members and hands down sentences for infractions.

The Watchtower and Mental Illness

An article from AAWA.

Being a Jehovah’s Witness is, as they say, “no walk in the park.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses live a very stressful lifestyle. While some find comfort and acceptance within the organization, a growing number realize that they are “living a lie.” They can not possibly live up to the standards the religion sets for them. Their sex lives are restrictive, they can not carry on normal relationships with non-Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they are banned from any contact with former Witnesses – including members of their own families. They have limited options for employment or expanding their education. The Watchtower Society even limits their medical options and choices for professional counseling or treatment.

Watchtower word games – letter orders changes in terminology and assembly arrangements

News And Links For Atheists: A Discussion Between Atheists and Mormons: Exposing Myths and Dispelling Stereotypes

VIDEO: A Discussion Between Atheists and Mormons: Exposing Myths and Dispelling Stereotypes

As a prelude to the American Atheists National Convention taking place this weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah, a panel discussion was held Wednesday night between atheists Dave Silverman and author Joanne Hanks and Mormon authors Drs. J. B. Haws and Richard Holzapfel:

Atheists conduct friendly march around Mormon Temple Square

Most of the marchers were former Mormons and many mailed resignations to the LDS Church at the end of the short trek around the square. Ellis dubbed it “the Mormon exodus and mass resignation event.”
“It’s our right to resign from the LDS Church and support others who would like to,” he told the crowd.

Another related article can be found here.

VIDEO: Scientology’s dirty little secrets

From MobileMedia, the great-grandson of L. Ron Hubbard washes the family laundry in public.

The worst atheist-bashing article of the year

This one’s actually a response to this article at Salon.

For some reason, Salon is on a crusade to bash the hell out of atheists, living and dead. Their editors might want to question what the deuce is going on (unless it’s a deliberate editorial decision), for the proliferation of anti-atheist pieces is eroding the site’s credibility. It makes Salon look like an apologist for religion. And the latest atheist-bashing piece is particularly bad, because it’s not only written very poorly, but its argument is so incoherent that I can barely even summarize it.
The new piece is by Sana Saeed, and although it might pain you to read it, it’s not too long, and I’m curious what readers make of it: “Richard Dawkins is so wrong it hurts: What the science-vs.-religion debate ignores.” Its point seems to be that there is no conflict between science and religion, but I don’t understand how Saeed’s arguments support that view.
Here’s Saeed’s profile from the Guardian:

NJ bank won’t notarize American Atheist documents for ‘personal reasons’

According to Knief, she and American Atheists president David Silverman were in the process of getting documents notarized by one of the bank’s notaries public when the woman asked them what the documents were for.
“The documents were charitable organizations registrations for American Atheists in several states,” wrote Knief. “So I told her what AA is about. She looked down, then looked at me and Dave Silverman and said she couldn’t sign the documents because of ‘personal reasons’ and went to find another notary who was eating his lunch to come do the authentications.”
“I have been called names, threatened, hated on and all manner of ridiculed because of my atheist activism, but I think sitting in a bank and having another professional refuse to do business with me because I am an atheist was the worst slight I have ever received,” she continued. “This is completely unacceptable, and far from over.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson Shows Why Small-Minded Religious Fundamentalists Are Threatened by Wonders of Universe

Religious belief systems prefer a small cosmos with humans firmly at the center.

Pope Francis asks forgiveness for priests who sexually abused children

It’s more than the Watchtower Society has done…

A Postscript on My Post about Evidence for Dinosaurs and Jesus

I’m actually not all that impressed with books that claim to debunk the “Jesus myth.” Not because I’m a believer, but mostly because those books seem to have a knack for getting their facts wrong. I’m not saying there really was a Jesus (even a merely mortal Jesus) only that there could have been. For those who subscribe to the Jesus myth books, I would only recommend you research secular sources for the other side as well.

What scholars like Bart Ehrman don’t tell you (likely because they don’t fully comprehend it themselves) is that the Jewish-Christian world was totally awash with forged stories of divine divine men of miracles. Ancient Biblical figures from Israel’s mythic past had either written new books about themselves or were written about by unnamed Jewish authorities who were in the know. Although I did my under graduate work in Bible and graduate work in Christianity while having been an active Church member most of my life, I had never realized, nor was I told, that there were more than 295 divine histories and sacred texts about miracle workers sent from God. (I discussed these HERE )

Fred Phelps Created the Monster that Betrayed Him

One can only wonder if the phrase, “et tu, Brute” ran through Fred Phelps mind when the congregation he nurtured and, in most cases, literally spawned, excommunicated him from the Westboro Baptist Church. The sense of betrayal must have been crushing. As Fred’s estranged son Nathan Phelps said, “They took the one thing that meant everything to the man…That old man and his reason to exist have gone away.”

PODCAST: The Angry Atheist #137 w/ Lucien Greaves from The Satanic Temple

The Gospel Isn’t Gospel

This one has a chart examining contradictions in the Gospels and how different groups cope with them.

9 Questions That Atheists Might Find Insulting (And the Answers)

10 Mistakes New Atheists Make