Kirk Cameron, and stealing video from

Last week­end Kirk Cameron and Ray Com­fort debat­ed some smug athe­ists over the exis­tence of God. Kirk’s and Ray’s claim was, to para­phrase, that they could prove, 100%, sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly, the exis­tence of God, with­out invok­ing faith or the Bible. The athe­ists were to prove, not that God does­n’t exist, but that Kirk and Ray can’t prove oth­er­wise. The debate took place on Sat­ur­day night and was taped to be streamed on the fol­low­ing Wednes­day and Thurs­day, with select por­tions being tele­vised on an episode of Night­line.

Here’s Slate on the sub­ject:

First, I grew excit­ed at this promise, then began to won­der why no the­olo­gian, philoso­pher, or sit­com star in record­ed his­to­ry had done it before—Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, Tina Yothers, whoever—and real­ized I was in for a let­down. Com­fort’s cadences were not even those of a preach­er but of an infomer­cial host, and the God Squad had but three argu­ments on behalf of the big guy: All things have mak­ers; the human con­science is evi­dence of a high­er moral pow­er; if you read the Gospel, then Christ will be revealed to you. For rea­sons too stu­pid to type, this was not an air­tight case, and the athe­ists made quick work of it in tones of juve­nile sar­casm.

They also threw in the first mover argu­ment, which tech­ni­cal­ly dif­fers from the watch­mak­er argu­ment. The con­tent of the debate is of almost no inter­est, of course, as it close­ly par­al­lels count­less con­ver­sa­tions that have tak­en place before it. But its being pre­sent­ed by ABC is sig­nif­i­cant, even unprece­dent­ed by recent stan­dards of net­work tele­vi­sion. Which isn’t to say that reli­gion and God are nev­er men­tioned on TV, but that when they are, they are dis­missed as irrec­on­cil­able, deeply per­son­al things that don’t invite inspec­tion beyond that of the effects they have on peo­ple’s behav­ior. They are approached as moral and cul­tur­al issues — nev­er as meta­phys­i­cal ones. And the idea that a large-ish por­tion of the Amer­i­can pub­lic might see peo­ple earnest­ly dis­cussing the nature of infin­i­ty and causal­i­ty, even if inept­ly, only hours after Ugly Bet­ty, fas­ci­nat­ed me, despite my con­fi­dence that none of it would be illu­mi­nat­ing, and that it was a rat­ings stunt.

I did­n’t see the “dis­tilled” ver­sion on Night­line, and the YouTube videos were removed before I could watch or save them, but I hear they did a pret­ty bad job with the mate­r­i­al. At the moment, the entire debate is still avail­able at the sto­ry’s ABC page, but, know­ing that they prob­a­bly won’t last, and with a ten­den­cy toward obses­sive archivism and a dis­dain for ABC’s intractable flash play­er, I col­lect­ed them myself. Alto­geth­er they’re about 97 min­utes. If you’re short on time and have to be choosy, watch the “Mock­ing Dar­win” seg­ment, which con­tains the most lolz, and a guid­ed, pic­to­r­i­al tour of an under­stand­ing of evo­lu­tion so pro­found­ly mis­in­formed that even Lamar­ck is rolling his eyes. And he’s dead. As I watch this debate, I keep expect­ing Kirk to break char­ac­ter. Then I think, Ray must have some dan­ger­ous­ly com­pro­mis­ing pho­tos of him.

From the Colum­bia Jour­nal­ism Review:

We could go on, but why? Night­line felt no respon­si­bil­i­ty to take the issue seri­ous­ly enough to include, say, a sci­en­tist or a the­olo­gian in the debate, so oth­er than point­ing out the dumb­ing down of the nation­al con­ver­sa­tion, we’ll just leave it at say­ing that we expect more of Night­line, and the Amer­i­can peo­ple deserve bet­ter than being forced to endure half-baked pub­lic­i­ty stunts dressed up as news.

Thrown in at the end are some recent dis­cus­sions Bill O’Reil­ly has had with Kirk Cameron and Richard Dawkins, in which Bill presents his own fucked ver­sion of an anthrop­ic argu­ment, express­ing amaze­ment that we could have “lucked out” by hav­ing such a hab­it­able plan­et land on us, and plen­ty more frus­trat­ing­ly neb­u­lous rea­son­ing for your teeth-gnash­ing plea­sure.

The videos were record­ed using a years-old tool that I’ve want­ed for as long as I can remem­ber. Cam­Stu­dio records the activ­i­ty in a select­ed por­tion of your screen, and spits out an .avi. Its cur­rent ver­sion is from 2003, but, thanks to its open-source­ness, is still being devel­oped. It gives you the option to use dif­fer­ent record­ing codecs and to tweak their para­me­ters, but the only way I was able to get results was with enor­mous files, approach­ing 1GB for 15 min­utes of 320×240 video. Which is a pain in the ass, but it works.


This will come as a shock to any­body who knows me, but I’ve all but stopped using foobar2000. A cou­ple months ago on the indi­etor­rents forums, some­body men­tioned MP3Toys, and I’ve been using it almost exclu­sive­ly since.

MP3ToysAs I men­tioned in a pre­vi­ous post, all the chores I was made to do in foo­bar seemed to keep me from lis­ten­ing to music: I was work­ing for my soft­ware, and not vice-ver­sa. My col­lec­tion of music felt cold and dead and frag­ile in the hands of foo­bar, and none of the fea­tures I had ide­al­ized in my mind were any­where near fruition (true hot­ness, sim­i­lar­i­ty-by-mood fil­ters, etc.). I des­per­ate­ly want­ed some­thing to get me back in touch with my music, some­thing that deliv­ered music to me in a way that felt as nat­ur­al as buy­ing a CD and putting it in my stereo. I even con­sid­ered switch­ing to iTunes.

MP3Toys isn’t for every foo­bar user; I just got lucky enough that it emu­lates my ide­al behav­ior in foo­bar. It’s a liv­ing, breath­ing pro­gram, and using it is a human­is­tic expe­ri­ence. It under­stands not just that you lis­ten to music, but why you lis­ten to music. Some of its intel­li­gent fea­tures include:
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Firefox “Phrase Not Found” Noise

Praise Jesus.

One of the hand­i­est fea­tures in Fire­fox, and one that I use fre­quent­ly and absent-mind­ed­ly, is the “find as you type” short­cut. Press for­ward slash, and Fire­fox will jump to the next text that match­es what you type; press sin­gle-quote, and Fire­fox will jump to the next link text that match­es what you type. So fast and invalu­able.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, if the string you type turns up no results, Fire­fox alerts you with what sounds like “a hoarse dog bark­ing.” Not just once, but for every sub­se­quent char­ac­ter that con­firms your search fail­ure: a curse for fast typ­ists.

This annoy­ance was not even solved by Flash­Mute [via], a tiny and amaz­ing pro­gram that mutes all sounds orig­i­nat­ing from your brows­er, or just those from embed­ded flash objects.

After not try­ing very hard to find a solu­tion via Google, I thought “what the hell” and went to about:config. Searched for “sound,” and voilà. “accessibility.typeaheadfind.enablesound”. Dou­ble-click once, restart Fire­fox, and no longer will you be plagued by the hoarse dog.

Intelligent browsing in foobar

Col­lect­ing my thoughts here…

foobarSo, iron­i­cal­ly, music is becom­ing increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult for me to lis­ten to. As though wor­ry­ing about an exten­sive gaunt­let of tag­ging pro­ce­dures isn’t enough, I just have too much damn music. Brows­ing alpha­bet­i­cal­ly through upwards of 500 artists is not the best way to go look­ing for some­thing when you have no idea what you want to hear.

I’ve audi­tioned var­i­ous meth­ods of tweak­ing foo­bar to ‘deliv­er’ music to me more or less auto­mat­i­cal­ly, and I’m close to hav­ing some­thing ide­al. The playlist tree com­po­nent allows for dynam­ic tree struc­tures (which, unfor­tu­nate­ly, can only be rebuilt man­u­al­ly or every time a new song begins); using the title­for­mat­ting lan­guage, I’ve gen­er­at­ed five queries whose pur­pose it is to ‘coax’ cer­tain albums to stark­er vis­i­bil­i­ty from the fea­ture­less and indif­fer­ent music library, to greater or less­er suc­cess.

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Firefox, video, MST3K


I still don’t get why Fire­fox is bet­ter and more pop­u­lar than Mozil­la ever was, but okay, I’ll play along. Espe­cial­ly giv­en these enhance­ments:

  • Cook­ie But­ton: one of the best fea­tures of Mozil­la that inex­plic­a­bly did­n’t make it to Fire­fox.
  • Flash­block: Only see Flash when you want to! This is a mir­a­cle.

Final­ly found a video play­er to be hap­py with: Media Play­er Clas­sic. It’s also bun­dled with Real Alter­na­tive, which allows you to play Real for­mat files with­out rely­ing on the night­mar­ish RealOne play­er. This week I also dis­cov­ered Net Trans­port, which does the best (i.e., quick­est, eas­i­est, and most free) job of sav­ing stream­ing video I’ve seen so far. And final­ly, MST3K is still kick­ing: there’s this gigan­tic ref­er­ence site, the still-exis­tent info club, and a legal­ly ambigu­ous Shout­Cast video stream. Shh­h­h­h­h­hh.